Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year, 2015!

I started this blog as part of a New Years resolution in 2007 with THIS post. In the past 8 years I've had so much fun sharing my design musings and inspirations and hope to do so for the next 8 years. Thank you for being part of my blogging experience and the best of Health, Wealth, and Happiness to you in 2015!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

From my home to yours, Merry Christmas with wishes for a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Night at the Museum - the National Portrait Gallery

This past Friday I spent the evening at the National Portrait Gallery; at least it felt like evening since it was dark the entire time(they're open until 7pm)
If you haven't visited you really must;it's one of my favorite museums in DC. Housed in the old Patent office building completed in 1840, the Greek Revival structure was the 3rd public building constructed in the United States.
The third floor is a stunning open space which was restored a number of years ago. When built it was the largest room in the United States! President Lincoln held his 2nd inaugural ball here.
The art is thoughtfully displayed throughout the structure to show off not only the art but take best advantage of the architecture.  Enfilades are carefully ended in works of art. Symmetry is key here and nothing is left to chance with a work's placement within the building.
Sometimes the shadows are more interesting than the work itself!
 I've always admired the settings and 'rooms' created around special works of art. The alcove above is decorated as if one were in a cemetery.
The alcove which houses Sargent's "The Spanish Dancer", a study of sorts for El Jaleo housed at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston,  is painted a murky brown to show the picture to its best advantage.
One of my favorite paintings in the museum is Spring Dance by Arthur Mathews from 1917 -but the frame is just as stunning as the picture.
 Sometimes a painting is more interesting when in conjunction with another work of art; contrast.
I'm not sure why Whistler's 'Valparaiso Harbor' is at the portrait gallery but I wasn't complaining -I spent a lot of time studying this painting!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Inside the Place Vendome, Paris

My favorite square in Paris is without a doubt the Place Vendome.  I even have a painting of it in my bedroom by Moura Chabor!
The storied square is actually 26 separate buildings with a unified front designed by Mansart.   Based on the success of the earlier Place des Vosges in the Marais (a similar concept of different buildings looking as one),  it was fully complete by 1720.
The Hotel Ritz, which occupies # 15 ( and possibly 17? ), is currently under renovation and is covered by the scaffolding seen above. This also includes a full restoration of the column in the center of the square originally erected by Napoleon in 1810.
 To the right of the scaffolding you can see what the original mansion fronts look like.
 This corner of the square is still open so you can see the original intent.
Above each archway is a different face -this guy looks a bit constipated!  Notice the lovely ironwork on the guard between houses.
But what lies behind these grand facades? Hotels and businesses of course but at one time they were all private homes.  Go through the vaulted archways and you still find very residential scaled facades.
This little courtyard above would make the perfect Paris pied a terre!
This very grand staircase leads one up into the buildings from the porte cochere.
All of this 'stone' is actually plaster scored and painted to resemble the stone the facades are built of. This is outdoor space but at the same time protected so it wears well.
And a very blurry picture looking into one of these historic building's stair - whats not to like?!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas shopping in Paris

The best part of visiting Paris in the winter, particularly at Christmastime, is the shopping! The city is decked out with Christmas trees and lights hoping to get everyone in the spirit and attract some business.
My favorite area of Paris for shopping is along (and around) the Rue Saint Honore seen in the photos above.
The shop windows are decorated in the most enticing ways. Above at Astier de Villatte the window display was of charming ornaments available on the rarely open 2nd floor.  This is one of my favorite shops in the city and I treated myself to early Christmas gift(s), or to be more accurate, blew my financial load.
Nearby at Goyard the unique leather goods are SO tempting (until one views the price tags). One day I'll treat myself to a wallet but only if I don't visit Astier de Villatte happen first!
For loved ones in the city some roses from the spectacular floral shop adjacent to the trendy Hotel Costes would be stunning.
Don't forget the adjacent Place Vendome, home to the most spectacular jewelry shops in the world. Interesting to note that the central column is being restored as part of the Ritz renovation (which is barely seen on the left in the above photo).
The most popular part of the city in which to shop for Parisians is in the Marais (particularly on Sundays) where small charming boutiques crowd the ancient streets along with friendly bistros.
My favorite shop in the Marais I stumbled upon is Les Mille Feuille which carries architectural models from ArchitectDesign sponsor Chisel & Mouse prominently displayed in their window! I loved the patterned lamp shades they stock and was so tempted to indulge; the store is perfect for small gifts.
A small crowd was assembled outside of this shop to watch this animatronic Hippo play the cello!
The Ile St Louis was competing for most interesting light display with these strings coursing down the central street the entire length of the island.
Small antique shops are to be found all throughout the city, not just in the known districts, and I noted this interesting shop above in the posh 17th arrondissment.
My 2nd favorite neighborhood for shopping is on the Left Bank in chic St-Germain. Here the most impressive museum-quality antique stores jostle with art galleries and home design shops.  I lusted after THESE MOST BEAUTIFUL CHAIRS IN THE WORLD (yes all in caps) at the Galerie Spadafora.
Unfortunately by the time I found Le Cabinet de Porcelaine it was closed for the day! The tiny shop has been written about in most design magazines for the stunning artwork they carry, all done in porcelain.
I surely would have gone home with the small Meissen cabbage covered bowl above! I have to say that I love the European habit of displaying prices in the window.
One mustn't forget the fabulous department stores of Paris located behind the Opera. Printemp's windows rival any of those in New York. The views from the rooftop restaurants (which I will feature in a separate post) are worth the visit alone!
The only thing better than shopping in Paris is being in Paris!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

La Madeleine, Paris

One of the items I can cross off my bucket list is to see a concert in one of the great spaces of Europe. While traveling one often sees posters for concerts in various churches and this past trip to Paris we saw an unexpectedly exciting performance of Mozart's Requiem at La Madeleine.
La Madeleine is perhaps best known for its location: Fauchon and other high end food stores ring the square upon which is rests; Directly to the south is the Place da la Concorde and directly to the east is Place Vendome.
The church was ordered (re)built by Napoleon in 1806 as a memorial to his army but wasn't built for another 20 years by architect Pierre-Alexandre Vignon and following his death Jacques-Marie Huve.
The most striking object other than the Apse ceiling with a painting modestly showing Napoleon in the 'History of Christianity' is this statue of Mary Magdalene by Charles Marochetti rising above the high altar, seen below.
I say the concert was exciting because as Mozart's Requiem was being performed one of the performers passed out and was placed behind the altar while ER staff tried to resuscitate her. The show must go on however and if one had had their eyes closed (to enjoy the music of course, not nap!) one would have missed it.
The unfortunate choral member left the church with the audience, although on a stretcher, thankfully not with her face covered. Talk about drama - fighting for life and death while Mozart's Requiem rages on!
One of the first events held in the church was Chopin's funeral which was delayed 2 weeks as the church finished construction where Mozart's Requiem was also, fittingly, played.
Seeing a choral performance in such a beautiful space was a highlight of my trip and I hope to do this again on future vacations.
For those of you not familiar with the Requiem below is a video with a great performance for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Housetours in Washington DC this weekend -don't miss them!

Just in time for Christmas this upcoming weekend (Dec 6 & 7, 2014) are 2 great housetours benefiting great causes in both my old and new neighborhoods in Washington, Cleveland Park and Logan Circle (home to our new design center). The first tour (Dec 5 & 6) benefits the St. Albans school and features 6 amazing homes in historic Cleveland Park. One of these houses was recently featured in Elle Decor magazine decorated by local talent Darryl Carter. Tickets are $40 and information on picking them up is HERE.
The second house tour takes place in my former neighborhood of Logan Circle. This tour always features a fascinating variety of city living from modern loft-like apartments to historic townhouses.Tickets are $30 and benefit the neighborhood historical society and walking trail. Information on purchasing tickets is HERE.  Hope to see you at both of these great events this weekend!