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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Peace Bringing Back Abundance

Vigée Le Brun’s Passion for Painting

  A Passion for Painting Billowing ruched fabric, pointy toes of dainty shoes visible from beneath flounced skirts hemmed in gold fringes and ornate trims. A bejeweled crown on a pillow festooned with gold fleurs-de-lis; and a red velvet tablecloth flowing downward, its gold trim cascading onto a floral rug. Sumptuousness at every turn. Painting in […]

Bernardaud produces the Marie-Antoinette pattern of porcelain

Dining with History

A month from Sunday, I’ll be winging my way to Paris to attend Maison & Objet, and I’m thrilled to say I’ve been invited to Limoges to visit the Bernardaud factory while I’m in France. This invitation from the porcelain manufacturer means so much to me because I will be able to see, in person, […]

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 […]

Ally Coulter at Holiday House 2014.

Ally Coulter and the Opulent Salon

  Ally Coulter’s grand salon on the first floor of the Holiday House NYC took my breath away the minute I entered the room. It was as if I’d stepped into a Romanesque nod to modernism that intermingles a smooth mix of time-honored and modern elements—Otto Naumann art and Newel antiques hold court alongside Fendi Casa […]

Parma Italy's Riserva Palace

Rococo Style in Italy

  If I told you the most surprising thing I found in Parma, Italy, was France, would you think I’d lost my mind? I’m not speaking in concrete terms, of course; I know my European geography. I’m referring to a remnant of the French aristocracy tucked into the Riserva Palace on Strada Melloni, one of […]