Raphael's School of Athens

The Renaissance Book Club

  I’m on the Acela to Washington, D.C., my favorite way to reach the capital from New York City. The dining car is so crowded there is only one seat left—the one across from me. A man approaches to ask if he can take it and I answer, “Of course!” As he settles himself, he […]

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 […]

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 […]

Classical and Modern architecture meet at Yale

Touching Literary History

  I will once again be touching literary history soon, as the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University reopened yesterday following a 16-month renovation to upgrade the 50-year-old building’s climate-control system, expand its classroom space, and restore the landmark to its original luster. The building’s architectural features—an exterior grid of granite and […]

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 […]

Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen smoking cigarettes at Cranbrook.

The End of an Era

Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.     A voiceover of Don Draper reciting the lines leading this post while thumbing through a copy of Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency bring one of my favorite episodes of Mad Men to a […]