Sunday, December 20, 2009


I ran into my friend Laren Stover, the author of the Bombshell Manual of Style, the other night at Sally Randall's fabulous and fun holiday party. I asked her if she was on facebook and she responded "no but I'm on LibraryThing!" She and a number of other friends of mine who embody style as well as substance. So I finally decided to join LibraryThing also. It's yet another internet timewaster but at least a highbrow one that also has some practical benefits. You enter the titles of the books in your collection into LibraryThing and it creates a catalogue of your personal library. A few of my favorite rarities from my collection are shown below and you can see the beginnings of my catalogue on the site (these books are in my permanent collection so none of them are for sale). Plus LibraryThing has social networking features: you can see the profiles and catalogues of people who have the same book that you do, etc. Check out Laren's profile.
              I Am A Cliche, 1979:                     

Les Lalanne, 1975:

Improbable Memories by Sarah Moon, 1981:

Oscar Niemeyer: Works in Progress, 1956:

Bjorn Weckstrom, 1980

The World of Carmel Snow, 1962:

Your Home and You, 1963

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Please visit my new online bookstore: Some of my favorite books are shown below. Full descriptions and prices can be found at the

Quant by Quant:

Glow of Candlelight:

La Decoration:

The Fountains of Rome:

Inside Design:

Charas: the Improbable Dome Builders:

House &; Garden's Complete Guide to Creative Entertaining:

Bureaux et Bibliotheques:

The Beautiful People:

My Years and Seasons:

Friday, November 20, 2009


I haven't seen it yet myself but just thought I'd spread the word that there is a Pedro Friedeberg exhibition here in New York at Henaine Fine Art (until 11 December) and, if you happen to be in Mexico City, another at the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes (until 17 January). In 1966 Crafts Horizons magazine (precursor to American Craft) published an an exquisitely composed autobiographical poem/manifesto by the artist. An updated version is on his website and my transcription of the original is below, and a picture of his famous hand chair, shown above in situ in the home of fashion designer Arnold Scaasi, circa 1965. The hand chairs are just one motif in the artists extensive iconography.

I was born in Italy
during the era of Mussolini
who made all trains run on time.
Immediately thereafter
I moved to Mexico
where the trains are never on time,
but once they start moving
they pass pyramids.
My education was first entrusted
to a Zapotec governess
and later to such brilliant mentors as
Mathias Goeritz
who taught me murals,
Jose Gonzales who taught me carpentry,
and Gerry Morris
who taught me to play bridge.
I have invented several styles of architecture
as well as one new religion
and two salads.
I am particularly fond of social problems
and cloud formations.
I am an idealist.
I am certain that very soon now
humanity will arrive at a marvelous epoch
totally devoid of Knoll chairs
or Danish coffee tables,
and the obscenity of Japanese rock gardens
5,000 miles from Kyoto.
At present I work in a circus.
I live on the left bank
of the Paseo de la Reforma
where I pursue my deliciously futile
but absolutely useless existence.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


My friend, interior designer Adrienne Neff, has just debuted her sensitively designed line of wallpaper, available to the trade in New York at Holland and Sherry. The Uzu collection is "inspired by ancient decorative arts" and "the universal symbols of organic growth, rejuvenation and renewal: water, earth, clay, rock, and vegetation." Although the nature inspiration is evident there is a strong geometric component that makes the patterns look like mod for the new millenium. Depending on the colorway the patterns would look equally lovely on the walls of a quiet country retreat or a hip urban habitation. There are seven patterns with an almost infinite number of custom colors available. I'll let the designer describe the story of each pattern:

Uzu (spiral water in Japanese) pays
homage to 17th century Japanese ceramics

Jagged Agate is an abstract interpretation of the patterns formed by cut agate rock

Yamanoma (hillside in Japanese) evokes the spirit of 16th century Japanese screens

Renjyu (spiral repeat in Japanese) is inspired by Japanese Neolithic pottery designs circa 2,000 B.C.

Giant Onion is an abstract geometric celebration of the
humble onion.

Acoma This lively pattern is inspired by Pueblo Indian ceramic water jars circa 1,000 A.D.

The wallpapers are hand-block-printed in Brooklyn (where the blocks were hand carved) in water-based inks on recycled and renewable paper.
Adrienne collaborated with photographer Don Freeman and stylist Becky Hubbert on the images below for which they bound books with her new wallpapers (the bindings were done in a traditional Japanese technique).

Friday, November 13, 2009


I am decluttering again and editing my collection of books and magazines. I dropped off a donation of a big bag of books at the Zabar Art Library at Hunter College (I'm a Hunter alumnus) and then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Modernism show at the Armory. In the process of sorting through my books and magazines I decided to let go of the copies that I had accumulated of the "Tresors de la Rive Gauche," a lavish annual promo compiled by the art and antiques dealers of Paris' chic left bank. The annuals were filled with images of the fantastic treasures on display in the galleries but nothing was quite as splendid as this 23 inch wide block of amethyst mounted in gilt bronze offered by Babylone International. The mount was created in 1919 by Bachruch, a jeweler with workshops in Vienna and Budapest. Another reason to get myself over to Paris.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Just came back from a trip to Ohio to see my 94 year old aunt Dolores. In Akron we visited Stan Hywet, which is not a person but a marvelous house surrounded by lovely gardens (stan hywet--pronounced STAN HEE-WIT--means "stone quarry" in Old English). Stan Hywet was built for the Seiberling family, of Goodyear Rubber fortune, in 1912-1915. The architect was Charles Sumner Schneider of the Cleveland offices of George B. Post. The Stan Hywet website credits the interiors to a long list of outstanding designers and craftspeople:

Interior Decorator ~ The H.F. Huber Co. of New York City
Woodwork & Paneling ~ The Hayden Co. of New York City
Plaster Ceilings ~ The Hayden Co. Of New York City & McNulty Brothers Company of Chicago
Leaded Glass ~ Heinigke & Bowen (later known as Heinigke & Smith)
Stained Glass ~ Thorton Smith & Otto Heinigke
Iron Work ~ Samuel Yellin
Rugs ~ Beloochistan Rug Weaving Company of India, Wilton Royal Factory of England
Tile Work ~ Mary Chase Stratton, Pewabic Pottery, Michigan & The American Encaustic Tile Company, Zanesville, Ohio General Contractor ~ The W.B. McAllister Co., Cleveland, Ohio

Tudor revival is not usually my thing, but the interiors were unusually lavish for that style with richly layered Chinoiserie and baroque undertones, more eclectic than strictly baronial. Much of the furniture was reproduction when it was installed but those pieces are antiques in themselves now and have acquired a fine old patina. Also lavish but refreshing were the large potted plants throughout the interiors that are carefully nurtured in the estate's own greenhouse--I have rarely seen such large and carefully tended potted plants. The estate originally comprised more than 1000 acres but is now reduced to 70, beautifully landscaped by Warren Manning with a walled garden by Ellen Biddle Shipman. Unfortunately I didn't take too many pictures and none inside and mysteriously there aren't too many on the estate's website. I did get a great picture of the brick-walled service court.


There is a fascinating new exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion examines "the relationship between the “philosophy of beauty” and the technical craft of dressmaking in the United States." Beauty as examined by curator Patricia Mears is expressed in line, cut, color and form. Ornament, embellishment and printed pattern are minimized. One treat in the exhibition is a two-piece evening dress by Mainbocher that was worn by the Duchess Windsor and in which she was photographed by Horst (see below). There are several amazing pieces by the late Pauline Trigere who, though legendary among the fashion-informed, never really was as appreciated as her masterful work warranted. To use a cliched fashion phrase, her work was "as good as Paris haute couture." That description is often applied to James Galanos (also represented in the show by a few magnificent pieces) but Trigere is definitely up there and her work has a recognizable signature (to the knowing eye) that is sometimes lacking in Galanos' diversity of design. Dare I say that Trigere was often as good as Balenciaga?


Duchess of Windsor
Three 1940s suits by Adrian:

Pauline Trigere:

Galanos, left; Trigere, right:

A fabulous lady at the opening at FIT:

Sunday, September 27, 2009


My friend Nina Bovasso is an artist and one of her watercolors is now a rug. Nina shows at BravinLee Programs and had an exhibition of her beautiful, demented, touching floral watercolors there back in March:
Her 60 x 40 inch watercolor has been translated by Himalayan craftspeople into a 9 x 6 foot 100% wool rug in an edition of 15. The original painting, the rug in progress and the finished rug are shown below. I have known Nina since we were both about 16, growing up in 1980s Manhattan and in the downtown bars and nightclubs like the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, the Peppermint Lounge and Danceteria. She now lives and works in New York and Amsterdam where she also runs a small gallery. More on Nina Bovasso at
. And on her gallery at

Monday, September 14, 2009


My article on 84 year old silversmith Dane Purdo is out now in the September/October 2009 issue of Silver Magazine: Some pictures of his work from the 1950s and an excerpt below. See my previous for more on Purdo.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, regional and national juried craft shows were an important and exciting aspect of the crafts scene. It was an honor to be invited to show one’s work and a further distinction to be recognized by an award or prize. Purdo exhibited in numerous competitive shows throughout his career and served as a juror at many as well. His display at the Wichita Art Association’s Decorative Arts and Ceramics exhibition received a special award for best group of works in metal three years in a row, from 1959 to 1961. Purdo participated in the Fiber, Clay, Metal biennial at the St. Paul Gallery in Minnesota in 1955, 1957, and 1959. From the 1959 biennial, one of his pieces was selected by the United States Information Agency to be exhibited abroad in a show of works by American craftspeople. His 1964 entry to the Annual Exhibition of Michigan Artist-Craftsmen at the Detroit Institute of Arts received the highest honor awarded, the Founder’s Society Purchase Prize. In all, Purdo exhibited in almost seventy shows over a period of nearly forty years.
After 1991, Purdo continued to make jewelry and now enjoys complete retirement in Appleton. In conjunction with the 1958 Fulbright exhibition, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. wrote that “in design, as in other fields, we are learning that America’s advantages, while great, are not guaranteed; we can maintain them best by a friendly participation in world activity and in the accompanying criticism and progress.”7 E. Dane Purdo’s career was marked by participation in the crafts community on the regional, national, and international levels—as a student, teacher, exhibitor, colleague, and craftsman. The words he applied to the rim of a 1961 punch bowl, although written by Ben Johnson 400 years ago, would seem to be the message that Purdo has sent out to those who have had the pleasure to use and view his works in silver: “Let those who are learned, sophisticated, cheerful and honest gather around.”


Aesthete's Lament recently had a fascinating post about , Mrs Paul Mellon's extraordinary garden library at Oak Spring, Upperville, Virginia:

More about the library at its own website:

The library is one of several structures on the Mellon's extensive property. I had the opportunity to visit the Mellon's estate about 20 years ago. Although I did not visit the library I had the great privilege to spend an afternoon at the Brick House, a large house on the property that the Mellons used as a gallery for their collection of British sporting art and their large group of Degas waxes. The guests that day were myself, my brother Charles and our friend Kristin Leachman who is a neighbor of the Mellon's. There was no "tour guide" and in fact we had the house completely to ourselves. We were simply visiting as neighbors and art lovers (I am told, though, that the requests to visit submitted by many eminent art historians over the years were declined). The d├ęcor was reminiscent of an English country house with walls carefully painted with oil glaze over pale ground in a delicate striated effect. There were very large rooms (a large gallery with several sporting paintings by George Stubbs) and very small ones (a cozy den or reading room with little ivory ornaments displayed on the lamp table). The Degas gallery was pale pink and green with the waxes, including the Little Dancer, displayed on open pedestals (no plexi covers). Degas' fingerprints were easy to discern on the wax. After Mr. Mellon died in 1999 the collections were dispersed with the sporting art going to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and the Yale Center for British Art and the Degas sculptures going to the National Gallery of Art. After the dispersal of the collection a little booklet was sent out as a reminiscence of the Brick House, to those who had enjoyed its pleasures (see scan of cover below). The booklet tells some of the history of the house:

The Brick House at Oak Spring, Upperville, Virginia was completed in 1941 as the residence of Paul and Mary Mellon. The architect, William Adams Delano of New York, had been persuaded by the Mellons to copy the principal exterior features of the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis Maryland . . . the house was occupied by the family until the death of Mary Mellon in October of 1946. . . . Paul Mellon and Bunny Lambert Lloyd were married in 1948 . . . they decided to turn the Brick House into a library and gallery . . .

The black-and-white photo below is from the Gottscho-Schleisner archive where there are many photos of the Brick House, however they were taken soon after the house was built and before it was remodeled by architect Page Cross in 1961. Nevertheless there are great pictures to be seen in the archive at the Library of Congress:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


If I make it to Paris in the next few months as I plan I will definitely go see the exhibition of the wardrobe of Marie Jose of Savoy (who was briefly the Queen of Italy) at the Mona Bismarck Foundation:

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I'm planning a trip to Paris soon (I hope it's soon) but am also thinking of other places I'd like to go someday. I'd love to go to Eastern Europe--like seriously EASTern Europe: Belarus, Romania, Ukraine. I started peeking around the internet and was fascinated to discover that their are some great historic houses in Belarus--who knew they had palaces there? Highlights below; more details and more palaces and villas at:
On an open terrace of the bank of the small river Snovka there rests a monument of classical architecture — the Rdultowski Family Residence. The palace-and-park ensemble was built in 1827 by architect Tychetski. The palace has a very impressive look — it was 140 metres long with 100 rooms and a spacious hall. There was an English park around the palace with a small artificial water pond. The park was cut into groves by a system of water channels. Today the Palace of Snov is recognized cultural and historical value in Belarus.

The Farmstead of Loshitsa is one of the most romantic places of the Belarusian capital. Visitors are equally attracted to the beauty of the park and the mystery of the place. Loshitsa was first mentioned in the chronicles in 1557 as the land of the Drutski Count Family. In 1582 they built a stone house at the juncture of the River Svisloch and the River Losha. In 1719 the place was bought by Jerzi Antoni Prushinski. The Pruzhinskis had been in ownership of the farmstead for over 150 years. Each proprietor would add something to the place to make it one of the most beautiful residences in the neighbourhoodThe last owner of the farmstead was Yevstafi Liubanski, who turned a provincial house into modern residence for his bride Jadwiga to enjoy. The life story of Yevstafi Liubanski is a sad one ― in 1905 Jadwiga drowned at the most beautiful place in the park. To commemorate his wife the inconsolable Yevstafi planted near the mansion a Manchurian apricot-tree ― the only such tree in Belarus. Legend has it that since then at night during the apricot blooming season in the park of Loshitsa one may come across the White Lady ― the ghost of the drowned beauty. They say she is keen on prophesying the fate of loving couples that happen to wander into the park at night.



The Zhemyslavl farmstead on the left bank of the River Gavia, an 18-19th century architectural monument, looks very much like Lazenki — the residence of Poland’s last King Stanislaw August. Lazenki is also known as the Isle Palace. The palace-and-park ensemble was built by the Umestowski Count Family, who acquired ownership of the place in 1805. In 1828 the governor of Oshmyany District Kazimierz Umestowski got down to rebuilding the big wooden tiled roof baroque house he had bought along with the farmstead. He added two brick pavilions with pillar-resting porticos, a cellar, a hothouse, stabled and a manege. After Kazimierz died in 1863 his wife Yuzefa continued rebuilding the house. Mrs. Umestowski hired one popular architects of the time — a certain Marconi — to make a copy of the Lazenki Royal Residence, built in 1784-1795.
It was a classical two-storied building with arch windows and stained glass in them. There was one open loggia resting on four pillars above the central entrance. On both sides of the palace there were balconies. The inside of the building was also copied from the royal residence. The rooms were heated with marble wood-burning stoves, Paris style. The walls were decorated with oak panels and frescos. There was a small English park around the residence with a boat station. The park was set up on both sides of the river, so one has to make a boat trip to get to the warehouses, the stables, the family chapel, the winery or the cheese mill. During WWI in 1914 the Germans would convert the place into a rehabilitation centre for army officers. After the end of the civil war and the armed conflict between the Soviets and Poland the farmstead found itself on the territory of Western Belarus that had not become part of the USSR till 1939.
The last owner of the farmstead, Wladislaw Umestowski donated the place to the University of Vilnius to be used as a scientific base for land exploration and agriculture. The farmstead along practically all buildings have survived all through the wars and upheavals of the 20th century.


Friday, July 10, 2009


After a hiatus of several months I am blogging again! I just finished an article on silversmith E. Dane Purdo which will be published in the September issue of Silver Magazine. An excerpt and some pictures of his exquisite work below.

E. Dane Purdo's work in sterling silver displays the highest level of skill in both handcraftsmanship and design. His long career as a silversmith and teacher is highlighted by a distinguished list of exhibitions and a legacy of outstanding hollowware. . . . The sterling hollowware that Purdo created was characterized by carefully controlled contours, perfect balance between convex forms and concave outlines and mirror-smooth surfaces. The fitted lid and integral hinge on a 1957 teapot reveal perfection of technique and design. Occasional incidents of restrained ornament include little protuberances like a patch of mushrooms growing from the convex lid of pillbox and a "crown of thorns" disposed around the stem of a chalice which is visually balanced between prickly verisimilitude and gnarled abstraction. . . . In 1960 Purdo's hollowware was exhibited in a three-person exhibition, called "Dimensions 1960" at New Mexico Highlands University Art Gallery in Las Vegas, New Mexico. The other two exhibitors were weaver Lenore Tawney and ceramist Peter Voulkos, both renowned today for their pivotal positions in 20th century crafts. Writing in Craft Horizons magazine, Ray Drew acknowledged Purdo's "excellence of craftsmanship" and observed that the works shown were "quietly pleasing" but "not as unusual as the ceramics and weaving"
Shown below, works from 1955 to 1958:

Saturday, April 11, 2009


The magnficent Death of James Lee Byars (1982--below) is on view at the Guggenheim Museum in a moderately successful show full of great art. The exhibition, “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860- 1989” includes an exquisite small section of Japonisme in 19th century painting and one sculpture (Augustus Saint Gaudens' Adams Memorial), some wiorks by Morris Graves and then right on to abstract expressionism. From there on, the greater part of the show, it really should have been called 'The Zen Buddhist Influence on the Avante Garde." There are wonderful pieces by Agnes Martin, Walter de Maria, Robert Irwin et al., but who really cares about the theme. Zen contemplation is destroyed by the crowds and the noise in the Guggenheim. In any case just go to see work by Byars and the other art, as always.