Thursday, March 26, 2015

New and Exciting: My Picks of the Best Spring 2015 Style and Design Books—Part Two

In this new report, we will stroll through beautiful gardens and smell the roses with the esteemed designer Charlotte Moss. We’ll taste ‘Simply Delicious’ classic French cuisine in a practical new paperback cookbook by the great Paul Bocuse. (You may wish to scroll down for Part One, posted last week.)

We’ll tour the best of Scandinavian design—both the modern approach and the truly classic ‘cozy’ style. And we will admire John Singer Sargent and his friends. Oh, and take a quick glance at the new Kazuo Ishiguro work. Yes, I occasionally read fiction.

Come with me for highlights of the new Spring 2015 style and design books—and to take surprising and inspiring look at my new favorites.

Charlotte Moss
is a longtime friend, and admire the way she has forged a fantastic career in the design and style world, designing rooms and fabrics and furniture, and publishing a dozen books, all with her focused and cohesive approach to elegance and design and comfort.

CHARLOTTE MOSS: GARDEN INSPIRATIONS by Charlotte Moss (Rizzoli New York) shows the many ways the garden provides her with inspiration for interiors as well as country landscapes, city terraces, and even window boxes and small balconies. Charlotte’s passions for nature and garden style have led her to study gardens all over the world. I often receive emails from her—from Versailles or the Loire Valley or the South of France or Belgium or deep in the Cotswolds—when she is spending summer weeks studying garden design.

Charlotte notes that this book, her favorite so far, is not a "gardening book" but rather a "book on gardens and ideas.”  Gardens have influenced her decorating, collecting, dining, and style of entertaining. There are serene nooks for relaxing, and ideas for sculpture and decorative objects.

In the “Blossoms & Bouquets” chapter, she shares practical tips on floral creations—from single blossoms to wildflowers, foliage, her beloved roses, and edible arrangements, as well as choosing the perfect container and vase to display them in each room.

For entertaining outdoors, the garden is her setting, and with city dinner parties, luncheons, and teas the garden is her muse. The linens, tablescapes—even the menu—are all touched by her garden ideas and artful concepts.

This is a book to keep in hand when seed and garden catalogs arrive, and when nurseries fill with spring and summer planting. Dreamy images.

John Singer Sergeant has long been one of my favorite portrait painters—for the elegant and stylish way he painted his subjects. In particular, I’ve always been captivated by the many portraits he painted in Venice all with the soft-focus hues of summer heat. Sargent’s portraits and watercolor images of his friends lolling on gondolas bobbing on the Grand Canal in the flickering sun beneath the Rialto Bridge capture the indolence of Venice in August.

A new book, 
SARGENT: PORTRAITS OF ARTISTS AND FRIENDS has recently been published by Rizzoli to coincide with the exhibition through May 25 at the National Portrait Gallery in London and the upcoming show at the Met, New York. Look here for a quizzical Robert Louis Stevenson, and the stunning Eugenia Huci Arguedas de Errazuriz, and exquisite portraits of the children of his clients. These are celebratory portraits—flattering, do doubt—and lively studies of character and costume, place and time. 

Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends, written by Richard Ormond, one of the foremost authorities on the artist, showcases Sargent’s cosmopolitan career in a new light—through his bold portraits of artists, writers, actors, and musicians, many of them his close friends—giving us a picture of the artist as an intellectual and connoisseur of the music, art, and literature of his day.

Depicted in well-appointed interiors (a palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal is always a good start) or en plein air, the vivid and playful cast of characters includes Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, Gabriel Fauré, W. B. Yeats, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Henry James. Many of the sitters for these portraits were his close friends who co-operated with the artist and posed, so Sargent was able to take a more informal, intimate approach.

Note: this show moves from the National Portrait Gallery in London to the Met in New York, opening June 30 on Fifth Avenue. Exciting. This book makes a spectacular guide and study session before attending the show. Watch for a series of paintings of Sargent’s friends in a blissful cluster (and possibly a post-prandial daze) in summer linens amidst a garden. Gorgeous.

Long before there were the wonderful Alain Ducasse and the great Thomas Keller, there was the most influential French chef of all, Paul Bocuse.

It was Bocuse who pulled classic French cuisine in a truly modern direction and called attention to the glories of traditional French cooking, in a new and fresh style. Bocuse is still the eminence grise of everyday French cooking and fine dining—and a new highly inspirational and practical cookbook celebrates his approach.

Paul Bocuse, a leader of the culinary world for more than fifty years, has selected 126 of his favorite recipes for this practical cookbook from Flammarion. 

All the classics are there--and any cook would do well to start at page one, and work through each recipe to master French cooking. Roasting chicken and quail, making tasty tarts and perfecting fish and frisky salads, all techniques are here. Organized into sections by course or main ingredient, ‘PAUL BOCUSE: SIMPLY DELICIOUS’ (Flammarion) offers his take on classics such as French onion soup and quiche Lorraine, beurre blanc and crayfish bisque, roasted monkfish and moules marinière, pepper steak and veal medallions, madeleines and iced cherry soufflé.

It’s like having Bocuse standing in the kitchen with you, offering advice and ideas. His authoritative step-by-step instructions allow the home cook to master a Parmesan soufflé, beef bourguignon with morel cream sauce, or the perfect light strawberry tart. 

This invaluable kitchen reference from the “chef of the century” contains 78 full-page photographs, a detailed index, a comprehensive glossary, and an invaluable advice section to enlighten the beginner and expert alike.

Paul Bocuse was named Chef of the Century by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in 2011. 

I know there are many blogs and website devoted to ‘Scandinavian style’ and most of them present either full-on fifties and sixties Danish modern, or that dreamy white-on-white décor of bare wood floors and simple white sofas and chairs with white sheepskins.

But in reality there is no one look, no one approach that exemplifies ‘Scandinavian style’.

In major cities of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark interiors are more likely to look ‘cozy’ with frilled curtains, candles in the window and Josef Frank floral prints on sofas. In the country and on islands of the archipelago, the look is a simple weekend cabin with family heirlooms and duvet-draped beds.

These looks and many others are presented strongly in the new book from teNeues, LIVING IN 
STYLE SCANDINAVIA which takes readers on a tour of rooms in the all-white spectrum, as well as farmhouse interiors and city digs with graphic prints and colorful glass collections. There are enchanted island cottages (open in summer only), as well as city apartments and country houses in traditional styles deeply connected with nature.

The book offers a refresher course on Scandinavian styles, and for me it was inspiration to plan a trip to Sweden as soon as possible.


All images here are used with express permission of the publishers, Rizzoli, Flammarion and teNeues. With thanks and appreciation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Pick of the Best Spring 2015 Design and Style Books — Part One

Come with me to see the latest and newest design reference books—including a frisky and opinionated volume from the great London decorator, Nicholas Haslam.

This week you will discover the fantastic monograph of the very insider Geoffrey Bennison.

The chic Anouska Hempel offers a rich feast of her greatest hits in a book devoted to her illustrious career (she’s even included her legendary classic Turkish sailing ship).

And I discovered a juicy new edition of a classic volume on Havana Art Déco just in time for your trip to Cuba.

It’s three great Brit decorators—with a Cuba Libre to go. Take a break and discover my selections of the best new design/style books.

Next week, more delicious discoveries on Part Two.

English interior designer Nicky Haslam has crafted a fantastic five-decade career designing classic and alluring rooms and gardens. He’s written many design books and an autography, has designed fabric collections and furniture, and is also an occasional recording artist, a painter, and an alluring performer of Noel Coward songs at London nightclubs.

In between, he’s published his latest design book/ biography,

NICKY HASLAM: A DESIGNER’S LIFE: An Archive of Inspired Design and Décor By Nicholas Haslam. Hardcover / 350 pages (Rizzoli). It’s a vivid and lively scrapbook of Haslam’s life, from happy memories of childhood, to his years working with Diana Vreeland in New York, his country life, and always his beautiful and inspiring rooms and décor. It’s gossipy, colorful, and luscious.

Nicky Haslam (I wrote about his highly entertaining autobiography, ‘Redeeming Features’ earlier) has designed interiors for an ultra- high-profile clientele including Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry, Ringo Starr, Rupert Everett, Charles Saatchi, and Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber, as well as social figures and philanthropists who prefer to live very private lives. He’s met everyone fabulous, including San Francisco’s own jet-set darling, Denise Hale.

“I’ve known Nicky for more than thirty years and he’s very talented and always the best company,” said Hale, who recently dined with Haslam at Loulou’s. “He’s very interesting, and wherever in the world we meet, he is always at the center.”

Congeniality and timeless glamour are always part of Haslam’s success—and he is the master of the elegant room, the classic-chic décor. His timeless approach ensures that the rooms he designed thirty years ago are still inspiring, alluring, and fresh.

This is a witty and chatty book to read in bed, to add to a design library, to peruse and study. He’s culled photographs, magazine clippings, paintings, and printed ephemera from his scrapbooks – along with the best of his decorating and gardens. Highly recommended.

“Personal taste, in all its variations—the eccentric, the grand gesture, the flamboyant, the simple, and often downright hilarious—is the grist to my visual mill. It always was, it always will be.”–Nicky Haslam from the Introduction

Geoffrey Bennison was and remains one of the most influential English designers you’ve never heard of. That is, unless you work in the esteemed design studio of Michael S. Smith, who launched his design career several decades ago with his own super-polished and deftly designed rooms that paid elegant homage to the tea-dyed, faded country gentry look that Bennison first perfected.

Smith saw in Bennison a master scene-maker—and even three decades later, Smith’s superbly polished rooms appear to closely shadow Bennison’s worldly and low-key examples.

GEOFFREY BENNISON: MASTER DECORATOR By Gillian Newberry, with a Foreword by Sir John Richardson (Rizzoli New York) is the most beautiful tribute to genius Bennison.

It’s luscious with images and ideas. It’s a feast of fabrics and softly faded tones, and highly understated designs. Beautifully edited, the book is a masterpiece.

I’m so impressed with the quality of the editing, writing and imagery. Designers and architects, in particular, should keep two copies on hand at all times. Make that three.

I just wish the late Mr. Bennison could be here to enjoy the fuss—and to sign some books.

“How cleverly he conjured up atmosphere; how ingeniously he handled old stuffs; and how deftly he enhanced and patinated people’s circumstances for them, as witness his brilliant transformation of a dingy rabbit warren on the Embankment into a suitably stately setting for an upwardly mobile publisher.”– Sir John Richardson from the Foreword

The key element of Bennison’s designs is that they have the whiff of age and time. They look as if they had been assembled over many centuries or decades by a connoisseur and editor. They never seem all-new and shiny.

Geoffrey Bennison (1921–1984) ranks among England’s most influential designers, in the pantheon of British greats such as John Fowler. Defying conventional notions of style he conjured up magnificent settings for clients who loved his theatrical and romantic sensibility. He used antique textiles, and designed a collection of his own fabrics to achieve a complex mix of scale, pattern, and color that changed the way designers and clients on both sides of the Atlantic arranged furniture and did up houses.

Bennison’s talent, very retro at first, was to combine eclectic objects with an unerring eye. He was earlier an antiques dealer and set designer, and his deep knowledge of antiques earned him a reputation for sophisticated originality. Even today, leading designers turn to Bennison for inspiration (with no attribution, of course).

This lovely book is a classic reference, covering Bennison’s career, his greatest hits, his ideas and likes and dislikes. I could not be more impressed.

Gillian Newberry, the author, founded Bennison Fabrics in 1984.

Designers, I propose gathering up three copies. One for the office, one for the bedside table, and another to fill with notes and Post-it notes, to hide in a desk drawer. It’s unexpected—and totally insider. Highly recommend.

Anouska Hempel is one of the most emulated and admired designers…who like Geoffrey Bennison, you’ve seldom heard of. She doesn't do personal appearances, and never seems to have promoted her designs or careers. Discretion is her motto.

Her biography, ANOUSKA HEMPEL by Marcus Binney (Rizzoli) is delightfully whimsical—and her lacquered and polished and highly detailed are among the most thought-out in the world of design.

I’m rather drawn to her life and career. She, like me, grew up in the beautiful countryside in New Zealand always dreaming of more glamorous centers of action like London and Paris.

She arrived in London—and has been a design star since, dreaming up a series of ‘must visit’ hotels like Blake’s London and Blake’s Amsterdam, and The Hempel, all style-setters in their day.

Hempel, still essentially based in London, has designed mansions and interior swimming pools, gardens and weekend chateaus for clients, but it must be admitted that the best rooms, highly detailed, are for herself.

With her own rooms, she is free to gather lacquered urns, lamps, Chinese antiques, Russian bronzes, and sleek chairs and tables, into tableaux of astonishing beauty and plush severity. 

Hempel’s monograph, which covers a diversity of country houses, city mansions, hotels, product, furniture and eclectic commissions—even her yacht—is one to study for artful layers, for color tonalities, and for the polish and perfection of her décor.

Certainly, this is an essential book for a lifetime design and study library.

I was surprised and delighted to see a reprint of Havana Déco among the new Spring 2015 books. Fist published in 2003, ‘Havana Deco’ is still compelling and focused. Clever W.W. Norton and Company has quickly rushed it into print as Cuba/America relations have quickly warmed and every designer and architect has plans to head down to the Caribbean post-haste. It covers the French Art Deco that became popular in Havana between 1925 and 1935, for residences, skyscrapers, hospitals, offices, furniture and interiors.

This is the essential guidebook to a particular Cuban Art Deco—reminiscent of Miami in its earlier days—that still today looks fresh, seductive, and the essence of cool.

‘Havana Deco’ by Alejandro G. Alonso, Pedro Contreras, and Martino Fagiuoli, is a tribute to Havana's architectural gems of the 20s, 30s, and 40s, the heyday of the world Art Deco rage. Havana put its own spin, and Deco is sultrier and lusher in Havana, jazzed up, with Afro-Cuban elements especially in its photography, painting, and graphic arts.

Decorative motifs including tropical fruit, birds, arabesques‹are Latinized, and Deco structures are often flanked by (very un-French) palms and banana trees. Alonso, Contreras, and photographer Martino Faguioli offer a testimony to the need to protect and restore Havana's Deco past.

Habana Vieja was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Until the day when everyone can see these gems firsthand, this lovingly photographed and written book offers a guided tour.

Travelers to Cuba should add this guide to their luggage (or copies of its pages) and use them as a treasure hunt, to seek out hauntingly beautiful and mysterious traces of a glamorous pre-Castro past.

Co-authors Alejandro G. Alonso and Pedro Contreras both work in Cuba and offer a very insider view.

Martino Fagiuoli is a well-known Italian photographer. In 1990, a vacation in Cuba marked the beginning of his love affair with the Caribbean island and led to the publication of several books, including ‘Casas y Cosas de Cuba’, an anthology of architectural styles; American Dream Car in Cuba, a record of the period autos circulating throughout the island; and ‘Isla Grande’, a journey in Cuba.

All images here are copyright, and are used here with express permission of the publishers. With thanks.

‘Havana Déco’, copyright © 2007, 2003 by CV Export S.a.s., Divisione libri. Images here all used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company.