When I walked inside the main living space at Fallingwater, I immediately felt at ease. I felt sometimes like I do in a wonderfully designed hotel room. Where you can tell someone has thought about exactly what you need to feel comfortable. You felt like you had everything you needed, and nothing you didn’t. There were plenty of areas to lounge and read a book or come together with others and socialize. While it functioned perfectly, it was also quite stylish. Yet not over the top where you felt uncomfortable, just enough to feel special without feeling precious. It was what we can only hope to achieve in an interior space.
As an art history major, I theoretically understand the importance of white space. Almost every work of art has it, and it’s almost always essential to making a beautiful piece. Yet understanding it theoretically is very different from understanding it practically. Practicality is really the realm of the artist. It is the artist that is skilled at saying this painting would be better if I didn’t put something in that space.
The problem with my theoretical understanding is that on some level I’m also an artist. I, like you, have many blank canvases in my life to paint. These include my time, my home, and my wardrobe among other things. I often find that these areas of my life are filled with too many things that I don’t love. One of my favorite authors, Leo Babauta, touched on how to remedy this problem in his article, “Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time.” He writes: “You have too many things to fit into your container, and you’ve decided to only put the important and beautiful things into the container. That means a bunch of things you think you “should” do are not going to fit.” What Leo is essentially instructing each of us to do is to become the artists of our own lives. When you boil it down, essentially the work of an artist is to choose – to choose to only depict what is most relevant and beautiful to the subject matter. And in order to emphasize the subject matter, the artist left out a lot of things he might have felt he “should” incorporate. For instance, think about the painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Picasso. What makes this painting truly beautiful and meaningful is really what Picasso chose to leave out. Rather than depicting the women as they actually were (as he probably “should” have done as a highly trained visual artist), he chose to depict only their most basic forms, and it is what he left out that makes this painting a modern masterpiece.
As you think about those blank canvases in your life today, and your hope that they be a little more beautiful and meaningful, I invite you to ask yourself, “what can I leave out?” You might just find that this white space is just the thing your life needs to truly come alive.
If you’re like me you’re mildly frustrated by your wardrobe. You have pieces you like, but there are just days that it seems like you have absolutely nothing to wear. And this usually happens after a work trip when you haven’t had time to do laundry and before a big meeting when you really need to look sharp or right before you plan to go to an event and you end up blowing your money on things that aren’t really you.
I’m kind of tired of that. I hate to say it, but it kind of comes down to planning. I’ve never, ever sat down and evaluated what I want out of my closet, what I have that I like, and what I would need to get to a place that was less frustrating. For a long time, I put this process off because I felt like I needed to have the “perfect” wardrobe. You know one of those minimalist wardrobes you see all over Pinterest that allow you to be dressed for life with only 3 things? And so I put it off.
But I’ve come back to the idea with a different, looser, more realistic mindset. First off, I’ve accepted that the perfect wardrobe doesn’t exist. There will be events that come up that I never imagined, and suddenly I’ll need or want something I never expected. Second, Fashion is always changing, and if you want to be stylish you will always be trying new things with your wardrobe. Third, I might not be able to get rid of all my frustrations with my closet, but I can be more intentional about my wardrobe.
So what do I want out of my wardrobe?
I want to be stylish, well-dressed, and comfortable with minimal stress for the activities I do on a normal basis.
What are some goals I would like to achieve?
I would like to have two weeks worth of outfits that I like wearing and that are appropriate to the activities I do on a normal basis. One of the problems I run into is that I have a few outfits I really like, but often times when I want to wear them the outfit is dirty or at the dry cleaners or I’ve already worn it once that week. So two weeks worth of outfits seems like a reasonable, but not over the top thing to have.
Basically I want to build a wardrobe foundation. These items might not be all that I own, but they will be key pieces that enable me to not be as frazzled in the morning, know I have stylish and professional things to wear, not have to do laundry every week, and feel appropriately dressed for the normal activities of my life.
I’ll keep you updated on my journey from mildly frustrated to (hopefully) mostly satisfied.
Having grown up in Texas, I wasn’t exposed to much Victorian Architecture as a child. For that reason, I was entranced by the Victorian Architecture in Cape May when we visited this summer. I roamed the streets for hours one morning trying to capture the best of what Cape May had to offer. Cape May is designated the Cape May Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, for it’s high concentration of Victorian buildings so there was plenty to capture.
What architecture did you grow up around? How did that influence what you like now?
I took a tour of McCormick Observatory a few months ago, and came across this old picture of an astronomer at the University of Virginia. I really got a chuckle out of the fact that he was wearing a full suit and tie to stare at the stars. It also reminded me of the famous Oscar Wilde quote “you can never be overdressed or overeducated” because this picture is such a perfect visual depiction of that idea.
As someone who’s interested in both fashion and learning, I’ve always loved this quote because it marries two areas that often seem quite opposed. I think we more commonly think that highly intelligent people do not have fashion sense, and that stylish people are not well-educated. However, I, like Wilde, do not find the realms mutually exclusive.
In fact, by linking these two ideas together, Wilde insists on the importance of both, and that each is dependent on the other. You are not truly well-dressed if you have not educated yourself, and you are not fully educated if you cannot dress properly. While they are distinct arts, they both indicate a level of respect for oneself and one’s world. You are in effect saying I care enough about myself to take care of my appearance, and I care enough about the world I live in to learn about it. Both show gratitude for the gifts you’ve been given and are important areas to cultivate in our lives.
I went to Miami Beach recently for the first time in fifteen years, and one of the highlights of the trip was the Art Deco Walking Tour. One of the most interesting things that we learned is that there are only two places in the world with a high concentration of Art Deco architecture. One is Miami Beach and the other is Napier, New Zealand. Both were devastated by natural disasters around the same time causing them to have to rebuild in the 1930s when the Art Deco style was prominent. Art Deco became popular around the world after the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. Miami Beach’s Art Deco District was the first 20th century neighborhood to be recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world. Much of the preservation is the work of one woman, Barbara Baer Capitman, who had the realization in the late ’70s that these buildings were worth saving and devoted her life to the cause.
A few details to note on the buildings themselves. The buildings that are completely white are actually more historically correct. When the architects designed these structures they were after a streamlined aesthetic and loved the use of white. They were particularly interested in the play of light on the buildings and the shadows created by the “eyebrows” or overhangs over windows and other sculptural elements such as the ziggurat or stepped rooflines and decorative sculptural panels seen on many of the buildings. Other common themes include symmetry, repeated elements in groups of three, curved edges and corners, and the use of neon lighting.
My friend and neighbor, Claire, is starting a dinner series. She has a vision of curating fabulous dinners in unusual places be that a bank, a boutique, or a wildflower field. Last weekend, I joined her for the first iteration at her apartment and snapped a few pictures of the evening. As guests arrived they were greeted by Sangria, passed hors d’oeuvres, and an inviting tablescape on a terrace overlooking downtown Charlottesville. I fell in love with the turquoise plates, which set the stage for a beautiful meal. The three-course dinner prepared by a local chef featured a colorful summer salad, delicious paella, and to top off the meal, a trio of desserts. Not only does Claire have a knack for creating a visual feast, but she always makes sure to include the most interesting people in order to create a night to remember. I’m already looking forward to dinner number two!
I had the unexpected opportunity to go to Cape May last weekend. If you had asked me two weeks ago about Cape May, I could have told you absolutely nothing. However it is absolutely charming and historic to boot. Cape May is one of the country’s oldest vacation resort destinations. The whole town is a a National Historic Landmark because of the concentration of Victorian buildings.
While we stayed in the historic Bradford Cottage on Franklin Street, I spent a day at Congress Hall. Congress Hall is America’s Oldest Seaside Resort. Four different presidents have vacationed there and it was the official Summer White House for President Benjamin Harrison.
I fell in love – mostly with the colors. The outside of the hotel is the perfect shade of yellow and four enormous American flags greet you upon approach. The lobby is a gorgeous shade of green punctuated by a fantastic floral print. The restaurant, The Blue Pig Tavern, where we had lunch has the cutest napkins in a fabulous shade of light blue. Congress Hall also has it’s own farm, Beach Plum Farm, which harvests the most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. I highly recommend the BLT – perfect for a post beach snack. On the beach, you have the choice of a gorgeous yellow and white striped tent or chaise lounges and umbrellas with a pink star. The hotel definitely has me rethinking my use of color. Often times I tend to favor neutrals, but I was amazed to see how well a multitude of vastly different colors paired so fabulously together.
Ray Ban Sunglasses//J.Crew Blazer (similar)//Petit Bateau Tee//Citizens of Humanity Jeans//Steven Madden Wedges//Ithaca Cuff (similar)//Essie ‘Bikini So Teeny’ Nailpolish//Tom Ford ‘Scarlet Rouge’ Lipstick (similar)
It’s become a tradition in our family to go the the Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello on the Fourth of July. There’s just nothing like hearing first hand why new citizens wanted to become Americans to put you in the spirit. The scenery and free coke floats don’t hurt either.
When I was thinking about what I might wear for the ceremony, I knew it needed to strike the balance between the casualness of the holiday and the seriousness of being a witness to 70 people from 40 different countries becoming citizens at an American landmark. For this reason, I chose my most comfortable pair of jeans, walkable wedges, and a sharp blazer to punctuate the look. To make a gesture towards the holiday, I added my favorite red lipstick and painted my toes in my favorite blue polish.
One of my favorite things to do is walk around neighborhoods. One of the things I absolutely loved about London was how much fun it was to walk around various different neighborhoods, and it’s part of the reason I fell in love with the city from the get go.
Since being back in the States, I’ve been thinking a lot about what made walking around London so pleasurable, and I’ve decided that Londoner’s think a lot about curb appeal making the streets particularly nice for passersby.
To illustrate my point, I thought I’d do an old-school art history-style slide comparison. On the left, you see a well appointed townhouse in the Chelsea neighboorhood of London. On the right, you see a townhouse from the historic district in the town where I live.
Let’s start with the similarities, first both townhouses have steps with wrought-iron railings that lead up to a dark door with a white, architectural surround. Each surround has faux columns and a transom above the window. Each door is painted and has brass hardware. As you can see, each door is quite similar and both are working with similar bones. However, the Chelsea door is much more inviting.
The first thing that makes the Chelsea door more inviting is the addition of plants. They add a little liveliness to the door that says someone lives here and offers a nice subtle softening to the entrance as well. I like the choice of white planter boxes as it reiterates the white of the walls and the steps. On the right door, there are no plants welcoming you to the front of the house, and as this porch is slightly bigger, it makes the space feel cold and empty.
The second thing to note on the Chelsea entrance is the door itself. First, the high gloss paint serves to catch your attention and give you a focal point as you approach the door. I also like the subtle rivets on the door as they make a traditional door slightly more interesting. Second, the brass hardware is more substantial and more numerous than on the historic home on the left. I think the addition of the doorknocker and the house number are quite important. The door number ensures that guests immediately feel comfortable as their is no confusion that they are in the wrong place. The doorknocker, with it’s lion theme, shows us a little bit about the personality of the owners even before we enter their home. I find the hardware on the Chelsea door to be much more successful, almost like well-chosen jewelry on an outfit. It adds refinement and a subtle sheen that elevates the whole look.
Finally, there is a cohesion to the Chelsea entrance that the historic home just doesn’t have. The Chelsea entrance uses the power of repetition to make the entrance pleasing. The black is repeated on the door, the railings, and the light fixture. The white is repeated on the walls, flowers, planters, and steps. The brass is repeated on the door. On the historic home, there is no sense of repetition and materials seem to be used willy nilly. The steps are different from the landing, which is different from the walls. Another thing that adds to the cohesion of the Chelsea entrance is the use of quality materials across the board. The steps are marble, the railings are thick, the brass is heavy. While you can tell many quality materials were used on the historic home, the cement steps, flimsy railings, and barely-there door hardware take away from the appeal of the beautiful door and surround.
What I ultimately love about the Chelsea entrance is the fact that it seems to welcome you inside. You simultaneously know where you are headed and that you will be taken care of once you get there. There is something that puts you at ease as you approach the London door, whereas there is a slight apprehension as you approach the American home. Are you in the right place? Will you make it up the steps? Are these people friendly? These are not questions you want guests to your home to ask on approach. You want your guests to have a sigh of relief as they have made it to their destination, and they know there is refreshment, relaxation, and friendship waiting for them on the other side of the door.
Have you come across any particularly appealing entryways recently? Is your own entryway more like the one on the left or the right?