Thursday, July 2, 2015

Restrained Exuberance

I painted the floor of my oldest's nursery almost nineteen years ago.  It was white with a Wedgwoody blue border.  I have longed to paint another floor since and have measured and sketched meanders and hexagons, but have not again taken brush to wood.

The first thing I did to my current house was rescue her from the troubling orange cast of the light stain of her floors.  (Who thinks that color is a good idea? It should be illegal.) Having invested a good little bit in the no-red-not-too-black-just-rich-brown shade that runs throughout, I can't come to terms with painting over it.

But, oh, that blue in Christopher Spitzmiller's country house! Bold, yet grounding (no pun intended - okay, maybe a bit) this floor made my pulse jump and fingers itch for a brush the second I saw it.  This is one of those great rooms that if someone were to describe it to you - "Under the eave, snappy red and white chrysanthemum wallpaper, painted furniture, bright blue floor." - might make you say, "Hmmm." And yet, on sight, it's perfection.

I still can't cover my floors; there were too dear.  But my porch floor, she who was cracking and peeling not one but three layers of paint, was recently stripped.  The poor darling, I had planned on leaving her bare, to recover and breathe a little bit.  I'm not going to break it to her yet, but I have a colorful future planned.

Image, Christopher Spitzmiller's farmhouse in Architectural Digest, July 2015.  Photography William Waldron; produced by Anita Sarsidi.  Spitzmiller's spool bed once belonged to Albert Hadley.  If you can find one with similar pedigree, I say, do. But I run across these beds pretty regularly and they do look awfully swell painted.

This seems the perfect image to kick off the holiday weekend! Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Moving Forward

In the cool and quiet of Sunday morning before my boys are awake, I read the papers on the porch.  The dogs sit, tethered, at the top of the steps, their eyes following the paths of the rabbits.  If one is particularly audacious, nibbling its breakfast particularly close to the house, they whine quietly at their restraints.

I have a newspaper-reading ritual.  I slide both papers from their plastic sleeves and sort the sections from my most favorite to least.  I used to feel guilty that I did not read the front page first.  The hard stuff.   The meaty stuff.  The stuff that challenges both my brain and my tolerance for human behavior.  But last year as I toured a museum with a friend who is a designer, he snapped a picture of a painting and said, "Do you know who the artist is?"

"No," I replied. "But sometimes I take a take a picture of the label as well and look up the information later on-line."

"That's the difference," he said as he turned to me and smiled.  "You're curious about things.  I just need the visual."

He's curious about things, too, otherwise I wouldn't like him so well.  But the thing that struck me was how comfortable he was with taking what he wanted, in this case inspiration for a painted floor,  and not turning it into homework.  He was secure in his knowledge of himself and I admired that and wanted to adopt it.

So now, I begin each Sunday with the New York Times "Style" section without guilt. I spend more time here and with "Arts" and "Travel" than I do anything else. And it is only with the slightest bit of embarrassment that I read the "Vows" section.  I skim, really, looking for stories of people who are beginning again. I have an outward shell of practicality, but inside I am a gooey mess of a romantic.

This last week there was a story of a New York psychiatrist who fell in love with a man who took her on their first date to a church in the Bronx where he sings gospel music. They began going to church together, eating together, cooking together, traveling together.  They were equally delighted and devoted. Still, for more than three years he asked her to marry him and she demurred.

"What is it going to take to not be afraid?" he asked her.

"I have no idea," she replied.

This is the thing, isn't it? The fear of getting hurt is what trips us up. But all we are doing really is controlling who delivers the pain, as we are surely hurting ourselves. We create invisible tethers that keep us from the danger of the street, when usually there's nothing more than rabbits in the yard.

I particularly enjoyed the story of Jason Rand's apartment in Elle Decor, May 2015.  His home is a collaboration with designer, Alexandra Loew, who is a lifelong friend. Remarkably personal, I relish that he has bravely surrounded himself with all this good stuff in a moment where "edit" is on the upswing.  Living like this, I think, is like wearing a little bit of your soul on the outside of your body. 

Image, Elle Decor, May 2015.  Photography, Simon Upton; produced by Robert Rufino.

The story in the Times is here.  The bride wore raspberry.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hooray! KC Needlepoint Opens Today!

A few weeks ago I started seeing KC Needlepoint popping up on my Facebook feed.

"KC Needlepoint? What gives?"

I was thrilled to learn that two fringe friends of mine have teamed up to open a new needlepoint shop in town.

Clean, bright, fresh and well-stocked, I was there this week as they were wrapping up training their new associates.  (A few of whom I know to be veteran and prolific stitchers themselves.)

They open Friday, but have already had people dropping in to buy.  Their open house is Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m at 105 East Gregory in Waldo.

Stop in to see what's up.  Food, drink, prizes and giveaways make it a party.

Don't stitch? Don't fret! There are quick and easy projects - and lots of friendly and patient help - for beginners.

KC Needlepoint
105 East Gregory
Kansas City, Missouri

You can find them on Facebook here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Walking the dogs last week during a break in the rain, I realized the Linden Trees had bloomed. I did not notice because I was looking for them or even looking up, but rather because I walked into an invisible cloud of their scent that stopped me in my tracks.  There were Linden Trees on my old walk route by the yellow house and I would slow my pace as I approached them.  I have not imprinted their placement on my new path, though to tell the truth the dogs and I are more flexible than we used to be and do not follow the same route every day.  Because of this, the intoxicating sweetness of their scent is always a delightful surprise, like running into a former lover and finding that all that's left is fond memories.

I'm working on a project for a friend and there's a large Linden Tree in the front yard of her house.  I stop under it as I come and go and close my eyes and breathe.  The smell is so sweet; it is as thick as syrup and I have the feeling that if I open my mouth and stick out my tongue I would taste it. I never remember when the trees are going to bloom and I never remember when the scent fades.  So each year, I drink them in, thrilled that they have bloomed, grateful as long as it lasts.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Class of 2015

My oldest son is graduating from high school Wednesday.  As I scan my Facebook and Instagram feeds I am seeing dozens of faces of his classmates and my friends' children as they take next steps.  So many people comment that it went so fast.  They say that they blinked and suddenly there is an adult standing before them.  But it doesn't feel that way to me.  Though I can still feel the fleshy pillow of his hand, it seems a lifetime ago since I walked him into pre-school with his security blanket tucked discretely into his bag.

In a way, we have grown up together.  I was a woman when I had him, thirty-one, but he made me an adult.  It occurred to me the other day, that for the most part, I did what I set out to do.  He is kind and he is curious.  He is funny and he can laugh at himself. He is tolerant and he is not afraid to take risks.  He is a horrible slob and an incorrigible procrastinator, but I fear he gets those things from me so I cannot complain.

He was an old soul when he came to me, and subsequently, easy to raise.  I have ferried him to the threshold of adulthood; the joys and challenges and responsibilities of his life will take him the rest of the way there and I will no longer have a leading role, but will instead be a supporting player.

My middle son is not taking the idea of his brother going away to college very well.  He does not like to talk about it, and when we do I smile and tell him how excited I am that his brother will have the opportunity to see the world in a new way.  It is thrilling.  "Aren't you going to miss him?" he asks me.  Of course I am going to miss him. But I feel so fortunate to have had him with me nearly every day for his whole life until now.  If he stayed with me, I would not have done my job very well.  Besides, as he goes into the world, just as he carried that blanket into school, he will carry a piece of my heart inside of him wherever he goes.  I hope he takes it far.

Out and About - KC CO.

Part of the impetus for starting Mrs. Blandings was to let folks know that there was a lot of great stuff going on in Kansas City.

In the last seven years, there's been significant growth and coverage of our creative community.  This makes me happy.

But I've found that recently, I have started to travel the same paths and frequent the same joints.  Last week, I decided to get out a little more.

I've covered KC CO., a local leather brand, before, but I had not seen the studio.  So I emailed the owner and craftsman, Dominic Scalise, and asked if I could come down and poke around.  See his process.  Ask some questions.

People here are, on the whole, friendly and creative people are, on the whole, excited to show someone what they are doing.  Scalise was no different.

He showed me the prototype for the new briefcase/portfolio he is working on.  He ran his finger over the loop of the closure and told me how there is metal underneath the leather to keep it from collapsing.  He furrowed his brow ruminating on the kinks he is working out, though they were not visible to me.  KC CO. shares space with custom furniture maker, David Polivka, and while the room was quiet when I was there, there was a current of energy in the air.  It's a pulse of new ideas paired with old world skills, not unknown to the types of people who are excited by not only finding the best thread from France, but also who are delighted by its label. 

Scalise started by making watchbands for himself.  Now he has a collection of belts, bags - including the new tote and the clutch,in the picture above, that is one of my favorites - and a really swell keychain.  You can find his entire collection here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Just a Shade to the Right of Fantastic

After my noodling around about drawing on lampshades instead of walls for a change, Temo Callahan emailed to say, "You must see the painted shades done by that kid George Venson. Divine!"

Mr. Callahan knows a thing or two about these sorts of things, so I quickly clicked over.  I spent more time than I care to admit (on more than one occasion) on Mr. Venson's site, Voutsa, but I cannot discourage you from doing the same as it is, beyond product, something of a keyhole view into the artist's creative process.  

Perhaps not everyone is interested in such things, but I can't imagine why one wouldn't be.  Venson's site is an explosion of color and creativity. If it doesn't make you want to break out a paint brush, I don't know what would.  (He'd probably like it better if you'd just buy one of his pieces, and I can't discourage that, either.)

I've grabbed a few of my favorites to show you here, but there are more as well as wallpaper and a clothing collection.  

If you're smart, you'll unwrap your PB&J and have your lunch there.  If you have a little more flexibility, you can find George Venson and his wonderful products at Maison & Objet in Miami through tomorrow (Hall C 327) or at ICFF in New York May 16-19 (Level 1, 0959.) He's on-line here (I signed up for the newsletter; what joy to receive an email filling me in on his latest adventures.) And you can see his collaboration with Printworks here.

Monday, May 11, 2015


I have a few peony bushes on the east side of my house.  Last year they didn't bloom.  They are in the shade of an entirely unappealing tree that is skinny and tall and drops fuzzy pods in the spring. It is also too close to the house.  The peonies do not like the tree and neither do I.  It does, however, have a thing going with the hydrangeas.

This year the peony bush that is furthest north and receives the afternoon sun has offered a few blooms in appreciation. Saturday I cut them all and brought them in just minutes before a charming pink truck delivered flowers to my door.  The white bouquet and the peonies did not acknowledge one another.  I think they were both a little threatened, so I spoke to each pleasantly, but did not expect them to become friends.

Monday morning as I was reading the paper, I heard a sound behind me.  It was as if someone had tipped a box of new leather gloves onto the floor.  Soft, but distinct, like fingers drumming without a rhythm. I turned to see a pile of petals in a heap on the table.  The bloom had held them as long as she could and finally had to let go; she seemed a little relieved. As I turned back to the paper I thought that if I had made my coffee five minutes later, even two, I would have missed that magical sound and would have only seen a mess as I came into the room.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Noodling Doodling

Doing an interview last month I visited a local designer's home. In the bunk room for her grandchildren hangs a large board featuring each member of the family's name; all visitors to the house are encouraged to sign. What more significant gesture of welcome than to have your hostess invite you to draw on something of hers in permanent marker? It is as if you become part of the house.

It reminded me of Cecil Beaton's powder room with its clever handprints. (I'm especially fond of the women who drew in their bracelets.)

I like drawing on walls, as maybe you've noticed, but the idea of doodling on lampshades has come up before.  (I'm quite taken with Temo Callahan's home and his bedside lampshade decorated by his friend James Shearron, which was featured in House Beautiful.

Which leads me back to Nicky Haslam's new book and its applicable inspiration.

 A few of Haslam's rooms feature these exquisite lampshades with highly detailed illustration.  It's the sort of thing that makes a room undeniably personal.

Lacking Mr. Haslam's skills, I'm mashing together all of these ideas and ordering a paper shade for the entry lamp that my friends can sign or doodle on their way in or out.  (The current shade came on a yard sale find and, until this picture, was still dusty from the basement when I shifted the lamp downstairs. I worry that she thinks she's living there, and am avoiding telling her that it's only temporary.) That is, I'm ordering the shade just as soon as I finish painting the interiors of the dining room built-ins, a project that I had not planned that has turned that space upside down.  How do these things happen?

Inspiration, it seems, comes when it comes.

For those who asked, the paint of the dining room that you can see just beyond the stairs is Benjamin Moore Queen Anne Pink.  The interior of the cabinets is - almost - Goldfield.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Weekend in Bed with Nicky

The appeal of design books is not just the beauty that they bring into our homes in tidy little packages, it's the inspiration that they unleash.  With luck, ideas leap from the page like the most delightful pop-up book.

A couple of weekends ago we were shrouded in relentless gloom.  I was reminded of my desire to flee our dreary, rainy Spring weather when I was in college and head south to the consistent sunshine of Texas. Now I do what I did then; I take a book to bed.

Or books. But in this case I snuggled up with Nicky Haslam and read his words and his clippings and slid my finger over the thicker end of the post-it note marking pages.  Mr. Haslam likes iron railings.  I sometimes like iron railings, like the one in the Musee Rodin.  But I very much do not like the iron railing in my house.

Mr. Haslam made me see it in a new way.  Another friend had suggested painting it black and all I could think was, "Whatever for? It will still be the swirly, girly nonsense that I cannot stand." But that image, above, with the black and white floor and the pale walls and the much-more-beautiful swirly railing made me think, "Well, maybe...."

You can find Mr. Haslam's book, and maybe an epiphany therein, here.  

Image, top, from Nicky Haslam: A Designer's Life, by Nicholas Haslam, Rizzoli New York, 2015.

(And, get ahold of yourself.  I know the lampshade is wrong, but it was handy.  We're going to talk about it tomorrow.)