St George's Kermis with Maypole

Everyday Life as Literary Concept

  As mundane as the phrase everyday life may seem, it can be an extraordinary notion. Think about how the major players in the French salons during the ancien régime believed their everyday lives would be relevant after they were long gone because they were advancing human gracefulness and intelligence. They were certainly right, as […]

Henry VIII swathed in cloth

Henry VIII’s Cult of Cloth

A trip to Frankfurt to attend Heimtextil a week from today has inspired me to share one of my favorite anecdotes about Henry VIII and his court, as it describes how the Tudor King doted on textiles. I came across the depictions of his wanderlusting ways in Nicola Shulman’s book Graven with Diamonds: The Many […]

Edith Wharton's home in France

What Libraries Might Teach Us

  I’m on my way back to Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University tomorrow, one of my all-time favorite research libraries, and it occurred to me that it would be a good time to share with you what I’ve learned so far from delving into the papers of some heavyweight writers at […]

Château Pédesclaux in Bordeaux

Architecture with Heart in Bordeaux

In the preface to the book Grand Bordeaux Châteaux: Inside the Fine Wine Estates of France, Philippe Chaix describes discovering Bordeaux as a bewitching act: on foot, he reports, it means ambling through the city of stone and gazing into its mirror-like river. Setting off to explore the Mèdoc and Saint-Èmilion, he notes, the experience makes […]

Reception at Malmaison in 1802 François Flameng

Transitory Spaces

  The beginning of one of Napoléon Bonaparte’s earliest letters to Joséphine de Beauharnais simply oozes sensuality: “Seven in the morning. I awaken full of you…the memory of yesterday’s intoxicating evening has left no rest to my senses…Sweet and incomparable Joséphine, I draw from your lips, from your heart, a flame which consumes me…A thousand […]

An abandoned home on the Great Plains. Image © Saxon Henry.

The Soul of Great Leaders

  Whenever I see a photograph of a Native American, I can’t help but think of Crazy Horse, and I’ve seen a fair number of them in my lifetime given the years I spent in the mission field, traveling to and from the Sioux and Athapaskan reservations in South Dakota and Alaska. During one late […]

The Palette of van Gogh in Starry Night

The Palette of Van Gogh

  You can see the passion in Vincent’s stare. Is there a hint of malice or is it a touch of despair? He was certainly a tortured man, though such a talented one. I stood and stared at this self-portrait hanging in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, for quite some time one […]

Antonio Cotti paints "Dante in Verona"

Reading Dante in Milan

  “I’d like that sunny table near the windows under the beautiful mirror,” he says to the hostess at Le Vrai, pointing to the niche set with two café tables, perfect for reading Dante all afternoon. Only a few decades earlier, the waistcoat and watch fob dangling from its pocket would have been out of […]

Three children painted in the Elizabethan style.

Narratives That Illuminate Design

  Narratives That Illuminate Design If you believe that design-centric coffee table books contain nothing more than visual surveys of portfolios, I am out to change your mind today by presenting my choices for narratives that illuminate design. What has prompted this quest? Two intelligently written books in Rizzoli’s holiday catalog—both of which were published […]

DXV Design Panel detail by Justin Shaulis

A Room with a View x 2

When I saw the expressive twin spaces Justin Shaulis created as one of American Standard’s 2015 DXV Design Panel participants, I knew I had to feature him for two reasons: the sensual storytelling he achieved within the spaces he designed and the novel he chose as his inspiration, A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, […]