A portrait of Louis XV in the Salon de Mercury at Versailles

The Fabric of Design

In their introduction to The Decoration of Houses, Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman, Jr., write, “In the middle ages, when warfare and brigandage shaped the conditions of life, and men camped in their castles much as they did in their tents, it was natural that decorations should be portable, and that the naked walls of […]

A rainy Saturday at Yale is my secret to happiness

The Secret of Happiness

Nestled into her chateau in St. Brice, France, during the summer of 1924, Edith Wharton wrote in her diary, “The secret of happiness is to have forgotten what it is to be happy.” As a writer, I interpret this sentiment as being so absorbed in work that no feelings register at all. Whether she meant it […]

I saw the Arc de Triomphe with new eyes

Seeing with New Eyes

  Day two of my Parisian literary adventure follows a foray I wrote about last week. It turned out to be a long excursion because I decided to walk all the way from my hotel, Le Meridien Etoile in the 17th arrondissement near the Périphérique, along the spine of Avenue de la Grande Armée, past the Arc de Triomphe, onto […]

Chambre Bleu painting

A Backward Glance on rue de Varenne

  The narrow sidewalks push their black iron batons up out of the ground to protect the buildings hemming them; the rain turns the cobblestones to muted mirrors of damp light—I’m visiting her again on the anniversary of her 155th birthday, and it dawns on me that I’ve never seen the statuesque green door with […]

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 […]

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 […]

The luminous stained glass dome in the bar area of The National Arts Club in New York City.

The Red Carpet Treatment

There is a momentum to writing that, once interrupted, is challenging to reboot. I’ve experienced this first-hand during the past two months as I have made some significant life changes, the most chaotic being a relocation of sorts. I’m no longer a full-time New Yorker, as I will now be splitting my time between New […]