barbara barry on beauty

photo: Mark Edward Harris for Traditional Home

I had the great good fortune to be among a small group of people to hear Barbara Barry speak about design recently at the Kravet showroom in Toronto. It is a pleasure I have had a few times before and one I will never miss if given the opportunity. Barbara is a gem. She has a voice like silk velvet. It's refined and soft and luxurious. She could read the dictionary and make it sound chic. In fact, I'd love to hear her read the dictionary. That night she was plucking from the stories compiled in her recent book Around Beauty. I had just rushed to the event after wrapping work on the high-stress all-hands-on-deck Trends issue of House & Home. So I was very amused when Barbara shared this pearl:


Beauty is always in. Ain't it the truth! An old tree, a peeling onion, a peony, pond scum (yes!) - these are some of the things Barbara finds beautiful. The evening inspired me to look back at my photo library to see those times when I have felt compelled to document a beautiful little moment with my iPhone.

This is a pile of coiled rope on the warf at Covehead, Prince Edward Island. That aqua colour is so pretty but I also love the mezmerizing pattern of swirls the rope makes. Layers and layers and layers.

Ferns ferns ferns. Always and forwever. I am so captivated by ferns. I snapped this pic on a bike ride between Morell and St. Peter's, also in PEI.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted this guy while golfing last month at the course near our place in Tweed. He was pretty big - about 6inches long! Just look at that muddy green colour of his shell and the bits of red at the edges and some pale yellow too. And that pattern. Wow.

These are some stunning candycane beets I bought last week at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Can you believe how pretty!? My only disappointment with them is that the colour gets much more subtle when you cook them. But as Barbara says "Subtlety is always in."

This is a detail of an old fishing shack at Red Head harbour warf in PEI. I could stare for hours. I know, I'm weird.

Here's a little peek at one of my favourite secret spots. This is the wooded path behind our place in Tweed. It's where we walk the dog on Sunday mornings and I love watching the seasons change here. The colours and patterns and textures are magnificent: moss on rocks and a carpet fallen leaves (oak are my favourite) and pine needles. It's so peaceful here. Beautiful. 

buddy, can you spare $49.5mil?

This, my excellent blog reading friends, can be yours or mine for the cool listing price of $49.5million. It is the extraordinary Water Mill, NY house of Nine West founders and gajillionaires Vince and Louise Camuto. Despite it's insane size (22,000 sq ft) I find it to be a total dream. The interiors are by Louise Camuto and Carol Egan. Nicely done. The house has heaps of grandeur yet still manages to look relaxed and inviting — that's no mean feat.

Enjoy this tour...

Super dreamy kitchen!

Just take a gander at the detail of the edge profile of the marble counters...amaze.

Blueberry waffles and mimosas anyone?

A little bit of Canada representin' in the media room as the sofas are by our very own Montauk sofa (don't be fooled by the New Yorky name, Montauk is Canuck).

The formal dining room has a decidedly Gustavian feel, perhaps because the lady of the manor is an ex-Miss Sweden. Also, masterful photo styling here by Howard Christian - hat tip to you, sir. That tree branch in the background...makes the shot.

Aaaaaaaah. Cashmere robe, a must.

oh. my. heart.

The story of the full renovation was published in the July 2013 issue of Architectural Digest, with these stunning photos by Scott Frances and styling by the aforementioned Mr. Christian.

Check out more deets on the real estate listing at Curbed Hamptons and Sotheby's 

PS, this marks my return to the blog...I hope.

rest in peace lillian bassman


The world lost a great talent today. Photographer Lillian Bassman passed away at the age of 94.

I was so thrilled to have the chance to interview her about 12 years ago. Her work was truly the convergence of art and commerce: Fashion photography to sell and promote garments that seem an afterthought at best and are utterly undistinguishable at times. It's an observation made by National Post writer Nathalie Atkinson, who just reviewed Bassman's latest book, Lillian Bassman Lingerie, in the Saturday paper. It's an observation also made by editors at Harper's Bazaar when Bassman was shooting for the magazine in the '50s and '60s – and the fodder for many disagreements, as she told me. As a longtime magazine editor I considered Bassman's story a cautionary tale. I imagine the editors with advertisers breathing down their long fashionable necks, "Who is this you have photographing my dress. I can't even see it in the photo. How is my customer supposed to recognize it and find it at Saks?" And yet then there is the work – the utterly breathtaking work. Sometimes the art must come first, the commerce will take care of itself.

Bassman's art began with obviously incredible skill communicating with extraordinary models. I don't forget their role. She mastered light to get a shot, but the click of the shutter was far from being the completion of her task. Through darkroom manipulation and, later, Photoshop, Bassman explored every nuance of light, shadow, fabric, shape.

One of the stories Lillian Bassman told me that stuck with me over the years is that the rule of publishing at the time dictated that any model being photographed in lingerie, or any state of undress should have her face partially obscured in the interest of modesty. Look again at these photos. It's fascinating to do so once you know this. I recalled this story reading a post Jane Flanagan did a while back on Faceless photos. They are so dreamy and often a bit sad. And a variation on this idea, I also find Jen Gotch's defaced self portraits haunting.

But back to Lillian Bassman. I leave you with just a few of my favourites from her vast body of work. I just hope someday to own one. Someday.

I turned a version of the one above (notice how the model's neck is extended and chin up in mine) into a silhouette for my former apartment (displayed it with a famous Man Ray portrait of Coco Chanel that also got the silhouette treatment) PS. UGH, I friggin' hate that this was shot with the lamp on - forgive me Lillian Bassman!:

A postcard of this one – the promo for the exhibit which was the occasion for my interview with her – lived on my mantel for a time (notice that the image is flipped for the postcard):

rest in peace Lillian Bassman. Thank you for your art.


happy birthday kate!

She's a Capricorn. And today is her 30th birthday. Happy Birthday Kate. Well, last night this is what she wore to the premiere of War Horse in London. So much could be said about the outfit, her birthday, the jewels, the charity etc etc. But I have only three observations to share.

1. Just look at the expressions on those faces. These two are really loving it all and each other. Warms my heart.

2. THE FUTURE KING OF ENGLAND IS CARRYING A GROOVY '70s BIRDCAGE UMBRELLA FOR HIS BRIDE. I've done some digging and looks like it is a bona fide Fulton (holders of the Royal warrant as official umbrella manufacturers for the Queen). Yes, that's right, the Queen has an official umbrella manufacturer, natch.

This little beaut sells for 16 pounds, and is apparently a favourite of the Queen. I guess it's a little like the equivalent of the Popemobile for the Royals - protection that allows maximum visibility. (Though I'm guessing not bulletproof)

Alas, my last observation:

3. She DOESN'T CARE that he's holding the brolly or that she's getting WET. I adore her for this. You know those girls, the ones who think all their powers will vanish if a single drop of rain touches them. They cower and grab their man and hog the brolly and dash into wherever they're headed. Not our Kate. A little drizzle doesn't get her down. She's having a laugh.

Happy Birthday and God bless Catherine, Her Royal Highness Princess William, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus.

(ps. Thanks @RevDaniel for the proper title -- there, that's two blog mentions.)

just like conan

Last weekend I saw one of those hipster graphic prints (you know, the 21stC version of Successories). Well, the print said "Work hard and be kind to people." It's not poetic or clever. There's no rhyme or play on words. It's the kind of advice a grandparent gives: old fashioned, simple, wise. I internalized it immediately. It stuck with me so I made a remark about it on Facebook. That's when my friend Noreen pointed out it was taken from Conan O'Brien's last Tonight Show. Of course! I had seen it but forgotten. Had you forgotten? If so, here's the link:

"Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." 

Watching this clip over I felt a kinship for my tall ginger hero. Conan made these remarks at a time of transition from his dream job. Despite farewell circumstances that were unpleasant, Conan took the opportunity to give thanks for the many great years he had with his soon-to-be-former employer. Hmmm, rang a bell with me. 

As many of you will know, I recently left STYLE AT HOME magazine. Some of you have been coming here to see what I have to say about the whole thing. So finally, here it is. My thoughts are much like Conan's. I feel lucky and thankful to have had so many fantastic experiences. What a thrill it was to help build an upstart into a contender. I feel particularly proud to have styled/art directed shoots that have graced the last 5 covers of STYLE AT HOME. I call that ending on a high note. 





To that chapter I say "So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye" 

Now opens an exciting new chapter