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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gut fish, not houses.

"Because of its devotional, graceful attraction to food and gardens and architecture, Charleston stands for all the principles that make living well both a civic virtue and a standard ... There is a tastefulness in its gentility that comes from the knowledge that Charleston is a permanent dimple in the understated skyline, while the rest of us are only visitors."- Pat Conroy, South of Broad

Although I am running the risk of sounding chliched, for those of you who haven't been to Charleston, get on a plane. It is possibly one of the most beautiful cities in the United States.

It has an old south sensibility with an almost European aesthetic that makes it absolutely irresistible to out-of-towners. From the moment that I touched down in Charleston after WWB moved here, I have never looked back.

Obviously, for a preservationist, Charleston has its charms. However, for those of us who are aesthetically inclined, the city offers a respite from the unsightly structures that dominate our cities.

And yes, Charleston is a city. Although not the capital of South Carolina--Columbia is--Charleston offers a top tier college, a diverse art scene, beautiful architecture, and access to the Atlantic Ocean.

Charleston boasts architecture dating back to the 18th century, as evident on its High Battery, which overlooks Fort Sumter--the hallowed place where the Civil War began.

Some of my favorite things about Charleston are its walls. Built in the 17th Century, Charleston was once a walled city, built to protect itself from its unknown foes. Today, many homes' original walls are still extant, and their patina adds to the exemplary architecture of the homes they protect.

However, today, the walls are not to protect the homeowners from rioting slaves, but rather nosy tourists who ignore property lines in order to achieve the perfect picture.

Charleston was the first city in the country to enact an historic district zoning ordinance, which allowed a Board of Architectural Review to restrict and comment on any development, redevelopment, or addition within the historic districts of Charleston.

Many other cities followed suit, and historic preservation was born.

Clearly, there is an obvious reason why I love Charleston, however, there are many reasons why you could too! The food is amazing, the people are charming, the shopping is fabulous, and above all, the weather is perfect. Palmetto trees and crescent moons, what could be better?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Off to Charleston!

I'm headed down to Charleston tonight for a whole week! I cannot wait for a restful week in the holy city. Stay tuned for some postings from south of the Mason Dixon line.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

One Book at a Time

Henry Ward Beecher, famous abolitionist preacher and father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, said this with regard to books, "Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house." As in the photo above, of a library decorated by the revered Albert Hadley, nothing could be more true. However, a person does not have to have a library in order to use books for decor. I like to use big cocktail table books and stack them throughout my apartment with decorative objet on top. In my apartment in New York I had a coffee table with three large stacks of books and the books essentially became part of the table. Stacked on side tables, chairs, under tables and chairs, or even used as tables--books add a certain colorful classy expression to any space.

One day I will have a real library, but in the meantime, I will continue to use books for decoration. And will most likely continue to do so even after I have the library of my dreams. Since everyone knows that books are so important to me, they are always a big winner as Christmas gifts. Below are some of the books that I gave and received this year which I highly recommend.

If any of you are fans of Elle Decor (which we all know I am!), you should rush out and buy this book. It is a compilation of the best of the best of the magazine from over the years. The book is organized into sections such as kitchens, bathrooms and so on, and it is so cool to see the amazing range of interiors that the magazine has featured during its tenure as one of the top decorating magazines. Side note: in the January/February 2010 issue of Elle Decor, the magazine's editor-in-chief, Margaret Russell, writes her editors letter about design blogs!

David Hicks is a must have. Aside from the beautiful pictures, this text of this book is fascinating, and describes Hick's changing aesthetic over the years. So amazingly British. The book is also huge, and would provide a great anchor for a tall stack of books!

Speaking of huge books, this one is a behemoth--but is full of the most fabulous pictures of the world's chicest people. It covers some beautiful society weddings, Truman Capote's black and white party, and the Costume Institute galas. What a treat!

The cover of this book should read: a book for italiophiles and romantics. This book is a compilation of stunning photos from beautiful homes in Italy which were lovingly restored by their owners. The perfect gift for any preservationist--we love before and afters.

Finally, Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire. A compilation of all the questionnaires from over the years coupled with their signature cartoon. Vanity Fair is my favorite magazine, and Proust Questionnaire, on the inside back cover, is always the first thing I read every issue. This book is great for just picking up and reading--and would do well on a coffee table where friends can open it and take a look.

I don't have a library yet, but for now, my single shelf filled with books and back issues of Domino, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful will have to do!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Favorite Sale

Hope everybody got all that they wanted for Christmas--and a Happy Boxing Day! I have always loved the day after Christmas, when the family has left and you have time to sit down and really appreciate all the things you have been given. However, I also love the day after Christmas because Dovecote in Westport, CT has a blowout sale every year. There are great deals on books, pillows, candles, and an assortment of home decor items.

Although the sale runs through January 4th, it is imperative that you arrive promptly on the first day, because people start to line up outside before the doors open at 10am.

The store features many different things including furniture, pillows, jewelry, picture frames, books, candles ... and some of my favorite decorative objet around. Today I got a book at a deep discount which I have been lusting after for some time now!

I am so thrilled to have gotten this book for half off! The book features gorgeous photos by Derry Moore of amazing homes all over the world. My favorite of which is definitely Houghton Hall in Norfolk, England. In building the home, the architect referenced the famous 18th century pattern book, "The Designs of Inigo Jones" by William Kent for many of the decorative architectural elements throughout this vast estate, which is evident in the similarity between the mantels at Houghton Hall and Drayton Hall in Charleston, SC, which were built around the same time.

Houghton Hall

Drayton Hall

I can't wait for my visit to Charleston next week, so I can get back out to Drayton Hall--it is possibly one of my all time favorite places in the world. Happy Boxing Day everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Roberta Roller Rabbit Discontinued Prints Sale!

Earlier today I posted about Roberta Roller Rabbit, and this evening a got an email about their discontinued prints sale. I checked out the website, and the napkins are down to $5! Great deals on some great prints -- I have the flavia place mats, very mod, very chic. What a Merry little Christmas gift for yourselves!

Cheap and Chic of the Week: A Little Cheat Goes a Long Way

Merry Christmas!--and to all of you who are running around trying to get organized for that Christmas Eve cocktail party you are throwing ...
You told all your guests that it was going to be "casual cocktails" but for you a lot of work goes into making it look as though you didn't do any work. Last year, I threw a Christmas Cocktail on a Sunday evening at my tiny little apartment in NY, and after I had organized all the food and the booze, I was stressing about the smallest final touches. There are two schools of thought on this: "don't sweat the small stuff" or "its all in the details." In my mind, it is certainly all in the details. For everyone there is a different detail that they want to get just right. Last year I found myself running around NY up until the last minute looking for a hand towel for the bathroom. I think that for those of us who are renters without wallpaper as an option, a hand towel can add that great hit of personality and pizazz to a room that is often overlooked. However, you would be surprised how hard it is to find a chic, colorful hand towel without spending a ton of money. After many hours of searching, I found an amazing cheat that I Must share with you. Perhaps this week "cheap and chic of the week" should be called "cheap and cheat of the week."

Roberta Roller Rabbit is a gem of a shop on 73rd and Lexington in NYC. You can also visit them in the Hamptons, as well as online. They have pareos, loungewear, tunics, sheets, bags, and items for the tabletop. The people who work in the store in New York are lovely, and always willing to help you pick something from their wide array of gorgeous patterns. This is where I found my cheat.

The napkins at Roberta Roller Rabbit are $8!--and instead of wasting more time trying to find an actual hand towel, I bought one of their napkins, which I promptly folded and put in the hand towel ring in my bathroom. Perfection. And like so many details in party planning and decorating, the hand towel was one of the things most complimented by my guests.
Merry Christmas!

Photos courtesy of

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's a Wonderful Town!

New York, New York! I'm back, and finished with my first semester of graduate school. I couldn't be happier to have arrived in NYC over the weekend, just in time for our first real snowfall. Don't you just love cities in the snow? Something about that blanket of white just makes everything more beautiful. I am always amazed at how quiet New York can be when it's snowing. New York, you look fabulous under all this snow, and everyone's outdoor Christmas decorations look even more festive.

Park Avenue in the snow is truly a sight to see, and even better at night when the lights on all the Christmas trees are lit. It's hard to believe that an elevated train used to run right down the middle of the street.

One of my favorite streets in New York is east 70th Street, and my favorite block is between Park and Lexington Avenues. This street is a beautiful mix of Georgian Revival, Federal Revival, French Second Empire, and Victorian High Gothic town homes that I absolutely adore. Each individual building is beautiful, however, it is the block as a whole which is truly exceptional.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tardiness and Society Hill

To all my readers out there, I apologize for not blogging in over a week! Although it is no excuse, I am in the middle of finals here in Philadelphia, and my time is being eaten up by a cumulative history of a Philadelphia Row house and a site critique on Society Hill. It looks like I will not be able to resume my daily blogging until this Friday when all my work is due and I will be free and clear for a full three weeks! Although I run the risk of boring you, my inner preservationist just can't help it! Today I will leave you with some photos of Society Hill, here in Philadelphia, before and after the urban renewal project that took place in the 1950s and 1960s.

400 South Second Street, or West Side of Head House Square - present day

400 South Second Street, or West Side of Head House Square - 1950s

100 Delancey Street - present day

100 Delancey Street - 1950s

Thanks again for reading, and to all of you who have written me such lovely comments - thanks for the encouragement, and keep on the lookout for upcoming "Christmas in Connecticut" posts!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baby it's Cold Outside!

I am sorry for the short post, but there is no heat in my apartment, and typing with my chilled fingers has proven harder than I imagined! So I leave you with this beautiful picture of Van Cortlandt House Museum. Built in 1748, this Georgian House is located in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, and is open to the public. Check their website for eighteenth-century holiday themed events. On a cold night like this, I would love to be inside a house as warm and inviting and this one.

Furthermore, cozying up to a fire in a fireplace as beautiful as this one, at Gracie Mansion, sounds like the perfect cure for a winter chill. Although a townhouse on the Upper East Side is lovely, with fireplaces this beautiful and interiors by Jamie Drake, I often wonder why Bloomberg doesn't live at Gracie!

Photos courtesy of the Historic House Trust of New York City
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