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May 16, 2013
C'est Inspiré is simply that - what is inspiring. Where the words end, images continue to speak. Seeing all that is around us, we seek some aspect of something that is life enhancing... something that you would like to be reminded of - to revisit. Something to capture and bring into your world, not leave behind... . That is why I take a camera everywhere; have spent countless hours organizing images in scrapbooks and pouring over them later to revisit the place, the people, the memory.
So, C'est Inspiré may be a single photo - or it may be 50, it may mean one thing to me, another to you - the meaning isn't important. Did it inspire? Did it make you smile? Did it bring back a pleasant memory? One or all of the above will do.
During a brief period of his life, the legendary art historian Bernard Berenson kept diaries where he wrote about how to see - and what he saw. These diaries were published under the title The Passionate Sightseer and edited by Raymund Mortimer.
Anyone, anywhere, anytime can be a passionate sightseer - just look.
“I can feel the personality of the house…” is how Nancy Lancaster described her skill set as a decorator cum ‘percolator of ideas.’
I can only imagine what she would have said about Cayetana, The 18th Duchess of Alba, who has maintained and lived a very big life in three of Spain’s most magnificent palaces.
Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz – James Stuart y Silva, the only daughter of Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart is a painter, was also a great horse jumper and a Flamenco dancer; she will turn 87 this year.
In a book recently published by Ediciones El Viso, The Great Houses of Cayetana, Duchess of Alba, is a beautifully illustrated photo essay on the five art and treasure-filled, well-lived-in palaces and houses of the Alba family which include:
The Liria Palace, Madrid
The Palace of Monterrey, Salamanca
The Arbaizenea Mansion, San Sebastian
The S’Aufabaguera House, Ibiza
and Las Duenas Palace, Seville.
“I have never needed an interior designer. It never occurred to me to have one…. It was hard work but I loved it, I have the soul of an interior designer.” (World of Interiors, 5/13)
The rich photographs by Ricardo Labougle of the interiors require a special reading of their own. Captions would be superfluous and distracting here as well as guilty of stealing space from rooms that almost require a magnifier in order to capture all of the objects that fill tabletops, the tapestries and the painting-filled walls.
Punctuating the photos of houses are photos of the Duchess herself. A photo by Richard Avedon of the Duchess in a Flamenco pose, as a debutante, a rider in the annual fair in Seville, and a marriage photo.
But the photo that captures the Duchess and somehow ‘predicts the future’ will also have me anxiously awaiting the English translation of YO, Cayetana, her biography. That photo is Cayetana de Alba ca. 1963 standing below the portrait of Gonzalo Chacon by Rolan de Mohs.
The pose, the look, the posture, the tiers and layers of the silk taffeta dress all say ‘grab your reins, brace yourself, it’s going to be a long exciting ride.’
She has never let go.
(Vogue, March 15th 1962)
The Great Houses of Cayetana, Duchess of Alba
Ediciones El Viso. Published 2013.
May 14, 2013
As a decorator, I have designed my share of guest rooms over the years.
I have not slept in all of them and given them the test drive, that’s usually what a client does to ensure that the room is up to THEIR standards.
Recently however, I had the pleasure of visiting one client in California, the other in Colorado, two distinctly different spaces: one a pool pavilion/guest house and the other a cozy upper floor room with multiple dormers covered in a toile with a generous bath dressing area.
As I lay in bed in the morning thinking about the plan for the day I got distracted. As light peaked in through the dormers, I started to think about the installation over seven years ago. The room, the house, has stood the test of time, and that made me feel good about my work and everyone that was a part of the team.
So I got out of bed and photographed all of the decorating details that we agonized over years ago, and, the objects found all over the country and many abroad. A mental skip down memory lane makes me grateful for clients that give you rein to do what you do best and are collaborators in the process, and appreciate the result. The bonus being, we LAUGH….a Lot!
Back to that pool pavilion…
The minute I walked in with my bags I was greeted with flower arrangements in every room.
Here, I was experiencing the ultimate welcome, the goal of every guest room.
The flowers said, “Welcome, glad you’re here,”
My response to that, “Thank you, it’s so good to be back.”
I don’t know how many pages are in Colin Powell’s book, “It Worked for Me,” I listened to the audio version, seven hours and forty-one minutes of HIS voice. I love audios, in fact I have become addicted to them. They have added measurably to my reading time. As I put on my make-up in the morning before going to work I can sneak in a few extra chapters. Sometimes I get up earlier to ‘get ahead’ in my book, on the treadmill, or on an airplane, but wherever I am I can imagine I am “in conversation” with someone EXCEPT they are doing all the talking, and I delightedly am doing all the listening and learning.
Lessons on leadership from life experience, the subject of this book, have always been a subject of interest. Not sure exactly why, but suspect my father being a Colonel could be one of them. Couple that with the fact that I was one of FIVE children, and always charged with those quasi-parental duties, the responsibilities that come with being the oldest. Since that early age, I guess I always wanted to know how I could do it better, was there some trick I needed to learn?
CEO’s, managers, army generals, team captains, parents and employers are just a few of the shapes and sizes of leaders. In fact, most people have probably had a chance to be a leader in their life once, if not more.
Colin Powell’s book is a lesson in leadership via personal anecdotes and some history lessons with his down to earth sense of humor and total sincerity.
As I reviewed all the bookmarks I made in the General’s book I thought to myself…
No, to summarize the points I found of interest might cause someone to cheat and not read the book, thereby depriving them of a very enriching experience. Each of us will take away something different, something that resonates with us, something that is relevant to our own life. There is, however, one line that summed up everything for me about leadership and the character of the author – that is….
“The people in my life made me what I am….”
- Colin Powell
We can’t do it alone.
It Worked For Me, By Colin Powell. Harpers. 2012.
Bill Blass’s meatloaf, Julia’s succotash, and Harriet’s cornbread finished off with bread pudding or then again, maybe rum pecan pie, this is how I started thinking about Julia Reed’s book of recipes …in terms of menus and whole meals, all are food fantasies for sure.
Even prior to my food fantasizing there were the numerous LOLs, in email abbreviation speak.
Julia Reed knows how to entertain, be entertaining, plan the entertaining, do the entertaining expertly, and then tell the story about it in her own eponymous, hysterically funny manner.
Storytelling is a gift and when it comes to ‘eating, drinking and making merry’ Julia has a gift for making you want to drop what you are doing and plan a party RIGHT NOW.
This is a book about real food for real people with real appetites who make no apologies for it, THAT is a ’Yankee thing’ or perhaps California, too. LOL
Now, I know this sounds obsessive, but get over yourself, I am now going to scan my favorite recipes and put them in the my notebooks, the three ring binder shorthand version of a collection of over several hundred cookbooks, a distillation of my favorites, and the ones that get used time and again.
So as I was saying, how about we try Suzanne Goin’s pork shoulder burgers, black-eyed pea salad, Lee Bailey’s steamed okra with warm tomato vinaigrette and a blackberry cobbler to send you home with.
Oh, did I forget to mention tomorrow night it’s crawfish etouffée and….and….
Hey, who moved my gin rickey?
But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria, By Julia Reed. St. Martin’s Press. 2013.
To read the words of one of the world’s most magical alchemists is illuminating, moving and enriching. But, as one would expect, the written word is not his primary method of communication, it is something much more elusive, seductive and magical. In his own words, “Smell is a word, perfume is literature.”
Jean-Claude Ellena is parfumeur exclusif, that is, ‘the nose’ for Hermes, where he has created fragrances since 2004. Prior to joining Hermes, Ellena created the inimitably rich, FIRST for Van Cleef & Arpels and the light and breezy THÉ VERT for Bulgari.
I distinctly remember the summer day when I discovered Jean-Claude Ellena.
On a trip to Italy years ago I went to Hermes in Milan to buy a canvas tote that I had my eyes on. NEVER one to pass an enticing fragrance counter, and I mean, NEVER, I sampled Poivre Samarcande because the name excited me. The name, however, turned out to be only an infinitesimal part of the excitement. My head exploded, I was someplace else, it wasn’t even daytime in Milan it was an evening in a country I have never been to…but could not wait to go. It was a flash of emotion stirred by indiscernible notes of spiciness, sexiness and strength.
Poivre Samarcande, to this day, is one of the two fragrances I wear that is commented on EVERY TIME I wear it.
This is a true DIARY. Each page is a notation of a thought, an event or a revelation all making their contribution in the illumination of Ellena’s creative process and inspirations. Reading about a process is only part of the puzzle, smelling it, being moved by it is the delicious and memorable part you can carry with you everywhere.
A few notes and quotes from a Parfumeur-Philosopher…
‘Pleasures, small pleasures: I like the pleasures we pilfer from
Everyday life, they brighten the day.”
“I have always felt like a writer of smells”
“Perfumes act as a counterpoint to the transient enslavement exerted by fashion”
“…Creativity sometimes needs a deaf ear.”
“I proceed by subtracting, in order to simplify my perfumes.”
“A craft is always extending its field of operations, pushing the boundaries …even further. Inventing means renewing, growing. ”
“I believe that the best way to develop creativity is to work alone…. The majority of ideas are the fruit of assiduous, day -to -day work, sometimes meeting people, country walks, idle strolls, things I have read, moments when my mind is free to roam.”
One cannot extract tidbits from Diary of a Nose and expect to comprehend his process fully. The end result would have little if no meaning at all for you, which is why I am stopping here.
Discovery is the beauty of it all.
The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur. By Jean-Claude Ellena. Rizzoli ex Libris. 2012.
May 7, 2013