Gimme shelter…magazines!

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By Caitlin Kelly

I need help!

Everyone has an obsession, right?

Mine seems to be shelter magazines, the industry word for magazines focused on interior design. Stacks of them fill baskets, bookshelves and bags around our apartment, and I part with them reluctantly, only because there’s no room.

I grew up, ages 8 to 16, in boarding school and summer camp, which I’m sure has something to do with this. Boarding school meant sharing a room with at least 3 or 4 others, sleeping in a twin metal  bed with an institutional chenille or cotton bedspread. Summer camp meant sharing with 3 or 4 others and sleeping in a wooden bunk-bed, its only “decoration” the graffiti of earlier residents on the raw wood.

So beauty, comfort, style and elegance matter a great deal to me.

I’m able to keep my wallet snapped shut and stay off of most on-line shopping sites, but…but…oooohh, I do love a gorgeous fabric and have splurged multiple times ordering fabric-by-the-yard and having it made into custom throw pillows or curtains.

 

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I had our old Crate & Barrel sofa refreshed with new bold piping on the seat cushions and had these throw pillows custom-made. Adding piping or welting always makes it  look more finished.

 

Our most recent purchase, from an antiques show in town, are four 1960s pale gray Chinese Chippendale-esque outdoor chairs, fabric for their cushions and a new outdoor rug for the balcony.

Because Jose and I so enjoy entertaining, it’s nice to open the door and feel completely at ease that our guests will enjoy a pretty, comfortable environment.

I also studied interior design seriously in the mid-1990s at the New York School of Interior Design, planning to ditch journalism and change careers. But my husband bailed and I couldn’t afford to work for $10/hour to start at the bottom. I loved my classes and  now really appreciate what training and skill it takes to create a spectacular space.

My parents each had terrific taste, collecting art and antiques. My father had a gorgeous Knole sofa I still remember decades later. My mother brought home lovely mirrored textiles from India and pale mantas from Peru.

And my maternal grandmother inherited a pile of money and hired Toronto’s best interior designer to furnish her apartment and, later, carriage house. I still remember a spectacular orange wallpaper from her powder room.

 

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Our living room curtains, lined, custom-made maybe a decade ago. Lots of colors to work from in here; that pale yellow-green (Farrow & Ball’s Gervase Yellow) is one of them.

 

So I happily spend hours paging through other people’s homes, whether a villa in Tuscany, a cottage in Muskoka, Ontario or a 17th. century pile in some bit of rural England. I’m not especially drawn to opulence, and much prefer simplicity, like 18th century Swedish designs or the work of Axel Vervoordt.

I love The English Home, as much for  its amazing early houses — some 400 or 500 years old — as the distinctly British sense of color and design. All those tall, tall windows, lined chintz curtains and dressing tables.

On my last visit to London, my pal Cadence, author of Small Dog Syndrome blog — who knows my love of textiles — took me to the Cloth Shop, a legendary London store that supplied fabrics and ribbons to the costume-makers of the Harry Potter films. I bought a lovely teal fabric that now covers our bed headboard.

 

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Two Farrow & Ball colors; French Gray and Peignoir (the lavender one). The drawers were custom-built into a former closet and this is the corner of our small dining room.

 

And, because I am a complete Farrow & Ball fangirl, I traveled 2.5. hours one-way by train and taxi in July 2017 to visit their paint and wallpaper factory in Dorset and meet one of their two heads of color, Charlie Cosby; here’s an interview with her and some explanations of their quirky paint color names, like Dead Salmon, Clunch and Elephant’s Breath.

Here are a few of my favorite go-to design retailers: Wisteria, Ballard Designs, Jayson Home, Anthropologie, Mothology, Dash & Albert, Serena & Lily.

 

Twelve Things I Can’t Live Without

Iridium fountain pen nib, macro.
Old school, elegant, lovely! Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite columns is this one, in Elle Decor, called Twelve Things I Can’t Live Without.

It’s too often something of the esthete’s Olympics — Pratesi or Frette sheets (check), Cire Trudon candles (check) — with every Stylish Person selected vying for the podium position of Most Elegant Designer In The World.

Here are my twelve:

The anticipation of an imminent journey — preferably one overseas, (preferably to a country that rhymes with pants)

Earl Grey tea, loose and fresh, in a glass jar

A bone china teapot in which to brew tea and a bone china teacup from which to sip it slowly

Fresh baguettes

Pale pink silk lampshades

The weekend Financial Times

A bottle of Blenheim Bouquet cologne, (a 109-year-old scent, officially for men, but so delicious!)

A Big Turk candy bar: pink Turkish delight surrounded by dark chocolate = heaven

Candles: scented, votives, tapers…everywhere, used nightly. 

My Moroccan lantern, (which I painted a soft red), whose candle-cast shadows make my suburban New York living room feel like Fez

My passport and green card

My Lamy fountain pen and some beautiful stationery on which to write thank-you and congratulations notes


How about you?

What are some of the lovely necessities of your life?

No Shelter For Shelter Books — 'Metropolitan Home' Shut Down After 26 Years

Magazines
Image via Wikipedia

Another shelter book, and another longstanding national magazine devoted to celebrating the good life, has bit the dust. Metropolitan Home has been killed after 26 years. Parent company HFMUS plans to focus its resources on its in-house competitor, luxe, international Elle Decor instead.

I remember Met Home back when it was Apartment Life, long before Dwell, Nest, Wallpaper or Domino (now-dead) showed up. I was much sadder when House & Garden was closed and I still miss the elegant reflectiveness of Dominique Browning’s letters from the editor, but every time another shelter book dies so does a place for a different point of view and an outlet for talented writers and photographers and designers to celebrate domestic beauty, something I believe passionately in creating and sharing.

I studied interior design full-time for a while, intending to flee journalism, and came away from my studies in awe of the intelligence and drive it takes to create and promote great (even mediocre) design. I’m personally not a fan of the cavernous and relentlessly modern houses Met Home focused on, but many people are — while dozens of shelter books remain safely focused on cozy, pre-digested ideas.

It’s sadly ironic that now we’ve got designer garbage cans and toasters and lighting a mouse-click away, available from even mass marketers like Target or Pottery Barn, we’re losing places like Met Home that salute design’s cutting edge.