chaises and armoires and mirrors, oh my

January 19, 2021

Antiquing is one of my favourite pastimes. Before we had children, it’s how Jason spent our weekends, scouring antique shops in search of a gem. Our home is littered with relics from that life; vintage chairs, lamps and teacups. I could spend hours on 1stDibs fantasy shopping for velvet chaises and rococo mirrors, and recently, I discovered L’antiques in the U.K. I love this Swedish cupboard and this 19th century clock. This 19th Century Lyonnais bistro table (spotted in the home of fabric designer, Emma Grant) is a dream. I imagine long, decadent dinners and fried, morning after breakfasts around this table. Don’t you?

garden party

January 16, 2021

Don’t these hedges look they just popped out of jelly moulds? Or fancy copper cake tins? I’m waiting for a Tim Walker dream to take place here. I know topiary is a bit pompous, but I do love it. How about a Gugelhupf in the garden?

paper chase

January 14, 2021

In the last twenty years, I’ve written upwards of twenty stories on wallpaper. “Wallpaper makes a comeback!” “Out of the doldrums with a splash!” “Getting the hang of wallpaper!” It’s one of those decor trends that sticks around. And with fabulous reason. Wallpaper is divine. It broke my heart to peel away the poppies from Luma and Antimo’s room when we renovated our home. I even framed a square of it for posterity. And when we moved back in, I watched with glee as a wallpaper I have adored for years went up in the guest loo. Loos are the best place for a decadent wallpaper, because you get to sit there (preferably, alone) with time to contemplate the room around you. Loos are also small, which makes the experience rich and intense. There’s a dizzying array of papers out there, and many are cheap as chips. But if it’s a small wall you’re decorating, I say, splurge. Pierre Frey makes beautiful papers, as does Le Manach, the 18th century French fabric house Frey acquired in 2014. This short film is captivating, as we watch the many steps involved in making the wallpaper, the traditional techniques, the history, and the number of hands that work on every roll. Of course, they make it look easy. And the classical music helps it all feel like a dance.

top layer

January 14, 2021

Every time one of my kids stabs through ice with a stick, it makes me think of cracking a crème brulee with a fork. It was one of my favourite things to do as a child, crushing that beautiful, super fine layer of caramelized sugar on the top. My Mum’s boyfriend of many years loved crème brulee. And he’d always let me crack the surface. It’s such a small, and yet satisfying pleasure in life. Like stabbing ice with a wooden stick.

stan’s world

January 12, 2021

It’s Stanislas Piechaczek‘s vivid use of colour that draws me to his work. And I love how his people look like highly embellished stick figures, with weird proportions, small heads and exaggerated shoulders. David Hockney, Julian Schnabel and Jean Michel Basquiat are all inspirations. Although they’re all in black and white, and Stan’s world is technicolour, I do love these images of the artist moving around his Brisbane studio. It’s like he’s just another zany character in his own painting.


January 11, 2021

It’s funny that they’re called English muffins because the only place we ever ate them was in Florida and Bermuda when we visited our grandparents. My grandmother ate a lightly buttered English muffin for breakfast most days. And on days when she drove my grandfather into work (he was blind as a bat) she’d stay in town for a croissant. She was a creature of habit, my grandmother –– white shirts, Van Cleef Arpels perfume, Pinot Grigio with a glass of ice on the side –– and incredibly disciplined. Punctuality was so important. We never brought our bare feet to the dinner table or licked a finger to pick up breadcrumbs off a plate. Denim was for daytime. Decorum and discretion were cornerstones. She and my grandfather had a 17-year age gap. The sun rose and set with one another. I wonder how much of her discipline was a way of coping with his deteriorating health, caring for a man for as many years as she did, and knowing that she would spend a decent chunk of life without him. As it happens, it was more of a soupçon than a chunk. She was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years after he died. In the years in between, my grandmother para-glided off an Alpine cliff, drove her convertible along sandy beaches, took skating lessons, sang 60s ballads at karaoke, air ballooned around Dijon, wore sweat pants, ate a lot of cheese (my grandfather had an intolerance for any kind) and threw herself a big party. “Athinoula, I was in the Meatpacking district today, and I wore jeans,” she’d call to tell me. “Did you get a door for your bathroom yet? I won’t visit you until you do.” Her emails were the same. “Just arrived back an hour ago from new York with Jane and Pary and another Jane Saw Spamelot and DonQuito performed by the Bolshoi which doesnt get better than that. Yiayia.” You’d think she knew all along that her time was up.

concrete jungle

January 8, 2021

I love the city. I love nature. And I love when the two intersect. There is a tiny forest on the UofT campus where Beech trees and Sugar Maples grow. In the summer months, native wildflowers spring from the ground. It’s an urban treasure, and so well hidden amidst the concrete and brick that most of us don’t even know it’s there. London based ceramicist, Katie Spragg avidly seeks out nature in the city streets where she resides. “There is something magical about seeing dandelions appear on the roadside, or a length of bindweed crawling up the edge of a parking lot.” she says. Somehow, it’s almost more poignant than bluebonnets growing in a field. City wildflowers are resilient and adaptable, and Spragg’s exquisite porcelain flowers are emblematic of that. Watch Spragg making a flower; it’s quite mesmerizing, as are her animations. The Bloom series –– tiny, delicate flowers and grasses peeping through slabs of concrete –– is quite moving.

NHS heroes

January 7, 2021

As a tribute to hospital workers and the humble heroes that they are, New York-based artist, Aliza Nisenbaum set about painting a series of portraits of NHS workers for a solo show at the Liverpool Tate. The sittings were done in the summer by Zoom. There is a chaplain, a hospital porter, and a respiratory doctor who came home to his pregnant wife, and then new born baby, after every shift. “Ryan wanted to be painted with his child in their allotment garden,” recalls Nisenbaum. Sharing these people’s stories was central to the project. “In some ways my paintings are about the individuals and their faces, but the formal elements of the work are kind of a fleshing out of their stories.” Ann Taylor says she always wanted to be a nurse. “I don’t care who you are, whether you’re the prime minister or somebody that lives on the streets, from me you’ll get exactly the same level of care.” Portraits are historically associated with Kings, Queens and dignitaries. “Portraits are for those with status and stature,” says consulting physician, Lalith Wijedoru. “But this is something very different. We are being immortalized in a form art. We are being exposed to the public in a way that perhaps the public are not used to.” It was a gratifying project for Nisenbaum and uplifting for the health workers. “To be a painting on a wall is longevity,” says Taylor. To bring colour, personality, emotion and struggle to groups of people that may otherwise go unrecognized is at the heart of Nisenbaum’s work. “When I paint these small passages of people’s skin it’s kind of a reflective space where I have the memory of the conversation we had. I think about what they’re going through, how they must be on the front lines and how they must be quite afraid. A lot of them are facing patients with Covid in their daily lives. I am thinking about them, and how they must need a renewal.”


January 6, 2021

Once you’ve drunk tea from a handmade mug, no ordinary, mass made one will do. I came across Beth Katz’s beautifully hand-carved mugs today, (this one looks like a Doric column) and I want one. I like the simplicity of Michelle Organ’s mugs, and Laura Wolfgang’s earthy coloured glazes are lovely, too. These rainbow hued mugs from Knotwork L.A. are charming, as are the mugs over at Franca NYC. The shape on this Whiskey and Clay mug is kind of perfect, and I like the size and shape of this lovely mug from Parkway Pottery. So many mugs, so much time to drink tea. Now, be a dear, and put the kettle on.

colour story

January 5, 2021

I happened upon this image of a woman arranging dahlias in the 18th century Tangier home of architect, Roberto Peregalli and I was struck by the deep red of the flowers against the watery blue of the housekeeper’s uniform. It’s a regal colour combination, and one we don’t see nearly enough. The entire house is featured here, with Tuareg blue, inky blue and vermillion weaving its way throughout.


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