Monday, February 8, 2016

Creating Beauty: San Francisco jewelry designer Alina de Albergaria’s elegant new jewelry collection, Designs by Alina, highlights baroque South Sea pearls, beautifully crafted pavé diamond pendants, flirty earrings, and romantic leather thong bracelets

I met Alina and her Italian husband Bernardo last year—and fell in love with her jewels, especially the casual/chic pink opal necklaces, her shimmering pale grey Tahitian pearl necklaces, her oxidized silver pavé clasps, and the discreet and versatile pearl drop pendants.

Come with me this week to meet the delightful Alina and her family and to discover her stunning new jewels for Designs by Alina.

Alina’s collection includes earrings, pendants, bracelets and Tahitian pearl necklaces. They’re modern and classic—and look beautiful with a white t-shirt or a pretty sundress, or beachwear, and a dinner-date black dress.

I can reveal exclusively: coming this spring are Designs by Alina sleek rings inspired by her travels in Greece and Portugal.

About Alina

Alina's cosmopolitan approach is not surprising. She was raised in Los Angeles, Venezuela and England. Following a successful career in Hollywood behind and in front of the camera, she moved to Santa Barbara where she married her husband, Bernardo, who was born in Rome (also grew up in Italy and Portugal).

She studied figure drawing, jewelry making and painting, always returning to the art of jewelry design, and was drawn to the allure of working in gold, silver, pearls, and gemstones.

Now her exclusive designs feature grey, white and lavender Tahitian pearls, 14K or 18K gold, pavé diamonds, natural leather, and oxidized silver. 

The designs are hand forged and/or assembled by Alina in San Francisco. Her designs are inspired by travel.

The angular earrings were inspired by a recent trip to Greece and are hand forged by Alina.

Designs by Alina introduced pavé diamonds because she loves the juxtaposition of hand-chosen baroque pearls with the sparkle of precious gems. Components are fabricated exclusively for the line.


Pearl Collection: And Diamond Makes Nine, And Diamond Makes Eight.

Tahitian: Diamond Flame" mixes diamonds and pearls.

Diamond collection: Newlyweds (earrings) and My Diamond Trio (bracelet) are diamond pieces from the latest collection, Winter 2015.

Price range: $180 - $1,980

The World of Designs by Alina

Spring/Summer 2014:
Designs by Alina launched. The de Albergaria family moves to San Francisco.

On arrival Alina serendipitously shops at Elizabeth Charles fashion boutique on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Elizabeth, the boutique owner (originally from Melbourne) purchased a pearl necklace literally off Alina's neck and began to carry the line.

Fall/Winter 2014:
Designs by Alina unveiled The Diamond Collection.

Spring/Summer 2015:
Becomes the first company to collaborate with online retailer Road Twenty-Two. Alina’s jewels are carried at Whistle Club Boutique,1235 Coast Village Road Montecito, and Satine boutique on Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice.

Fall/Winter 2015:
Designs by Alina teamed up with Children of Shelters at Elizabeth Charles to formally introduce the collection.

Alina is meticulous about all aspects of design, including her packaging. The informal kraft jewelry box with custom wax seal is lined with elegant Belgian linen, which she hand-frays and pre-washes in her studio.

Where to Buy

San Francisco
Pacific Heights: Elizabeth Charles boutique (full collection), Fillmore Street, (near California Street).

Presidio Heights:  Pascaline Paris, Sacramento Street.

Santa Barbara
Whistle Club boutique

Los Angeles
Satine boutique

Satine boutique

Alina’s necklaces range from $180 for a small Tahitian or baroque pearl on leather to $2,200 for a necklace with large Tahitian pearls, a diamond pendant and diamond clasp.

Bracelets range from $180 for a small Tahitian pearl or baroque pearl on leather to $750 for a diamond centerpiece and diamond clasp on leather.

Photography by Alina de Albergaria and Bernardo de Albergaria, used here with express permission.

For more information:

Monday, February 1, 2016

Creating Beauty—San Francisco Artist Stevie Howell Creates Exclusive Textiles, Scarves and Shawls and Elegant Fashions of Worldly Beauty

I love to see my artist friends creating beauty and becoming successful. Stevie Howell gained recognition first as a fine artist. Now as a textile designer and fashion creator she is selling her beautiful fashions around the US.

Stevie’s shawls and scarves are made of silk twill fabrics printed with abstract imagery that are also delicately translated across dresses, tunics and robes. Her collections of cashmere shawls are graced with subtle imagery taken from her floral paintings.

In her tranquil bay-view studio, surrounded by an historic former naval headquarters, Stevie is currently dreaming up her spring/summer collections. She recently returned from Uruguay. She finds design and textile inspiration on her travels and adventures. 

Come and look at Stevie’s newest creations. I especially love her hand-embroidered shawls made in India of boiled wool. They feel as soft as cashmere and are in styles that are very versatile. And there are gauzy cashmere scarves in graphic prints that bring her floral paintings to life.

Stevie travels the world for inspiration. India filled her with ideas for her recent fall/winter collection. Recently she has been traveling in South America, where she found vivid inspiration in Brazil and Uruguay. Marfa, Texas, has been an artistic pitstop, and San Francisco Bay’s piercing transparent light bounces into her studio, offering constant uplift.

Stevie wears her designs every day, with jeans or with an evening dress, and she recently sent me the following email:

“I love my new embroidered shawls in boiled wool. I wore a beige and white one on the plane to New York yesterday and on arrival it was perfect worn with a jacket. It’s softer than traditional wool, but still substantial. I've been wearing it over the winter in San Francisco in place of a jacket.”

Stevie’s range of shawls is crafted in boiled wool (with a soft cashmere touch), as well as cashmere, silk, modal and cotton.

Her original designs are created by hand and digitally—and her prints range from bouquets of flowers to witty abstract scribbles and nature-inspired leaf and tree motifs.

I’m especially impressed by the chic recent designs of leaves and trees and branches that were translated into graceful embroidery on versatile shawls.

Stevie Howell Studio 

Stevie Howell Studio is available for custom commissions of scarves, robes, and home decor. Stevie has worked on collaborations with large retailers such as Anthropologie and Intermix, as well as one-offs for special occasions weddings and other celebrations, and non-profit events. 

Stevie Howell is a former student of both the Glasgow School of Art and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

A few projects have included bridal party robes, custom bedding, wallpaper and headboards.

Custom pieces are printed in India with organic dyes and natural fabrics.

Where to Buy
Stevie Howell designs are all limited edition. Prices range from $195 for the printed Picasso sienna scarf in model, and $295 for the embroidered boil wool shawl collections.

Contact the studio to make an appointment or email Stevie via her website, or

Fashion photography courtesy Stevie Howell Studio.

Monday, January 25, 2016

For the Love of Books and Reading: A Journey Around My Library

Happy New Year. I wish all of my dear Readers inspired reading and exciting books.

This week, it’s all about books. I was inspired by recent passionate conversations with friends about the books they’ve been reading. I’ve been re-reading and loving ‘The Leopard’ by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (inspiration for the Visconti film). I'm in the middle of 'The Garden of the Finzi-Continis' and then onward to Dorothy L. Sayers and 'Gaudy Night'. Then more research on India.

This week we’re taking a private visit to my library. I photographed some of my favorites. There are books on India from Bahrison's in Delhi, as well as Mr. Jain's bookshops in Jaipur, India, as well as art and design books, reference, fiction, books by friends, photography volumes, biographies, and stack of Persephone Books volumes

I propose that you make a pot of tea (green or Darjeeling). Or chill a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and pour a glass or two. This is longform, with lots of detail. If you’re in a hurry, please bookmark.

Below I have an extensive list of my favorite book sources, online newspapers with great book sections, and sites with essential information on new books, authors, upcoming books, catalogs, rare books, and special interest books. Yes, I’m obsessed with books.

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you. –W. Somerset Maugham

Heywood Hill

I want to introduce you to the great Heywood Hill book shop in London—and it’s great programs of ‘A Year in Books’, ‘Expat Selections’. Those who love books and love to find new books will be happy for this discovery. Over the holidays I ordered a Heywood Hill book selection by author/potter Edmund de Waal. Above are the books that arrived…some unwrapped and some still in the Haywood meticulous be-ribboned packages.

Some Recent Favorite Books, Trusted Book Sources, Inspiration, and New Authors to Discover

I’ve gathered a fantastic collection of bookshops, book websites, book review magazines, catalogs, and vivid sources for information on books.

Yes, I love They sell lots of my books—and I reciprocate by ordering many books from Amazon (often at midnight before I turn off my computer). I love the idea of ordering months in advance on Amazon—and anticipating.

Every day I read and research trusted sources—The New York Times, NPR, The Guardian (which has a fantastic books section and blog and newsletter), New York magazine, The New Yorker, the Paris Review, the Financial Times and many opinionated international publications. And NPR is a fantastic source for new books of compelling interest.

In San Francisco, I love Browser Books (my neighborhood bookshop), as well as Russian Hill Books. And no week passes without a stop at the greater-than-great Green Apple bookshops on Clement Street in the Richmond. 

I often stop in late in the evening at City Lights in North Beach to find their latest picks, or paperbacks or arcane beat and culture books. The ghosts of Ginsberg and Kerouac hover.

In Paris, I stop in every day at the oldest European bookshop, Gallignani on rue de Rivoli, to peruse art and design books (they always have copies of my books there), as well as an amazing collection on international royalty, fashion, French literature and English literature. If you’re lucky, Karl Lagerfeld will dash in and scoop up all the new books (with his bodyguard to carry the bags).

In the summer, I walk over to Shakespeare & Company, and there’s often a reading, a signing, a lauded poet to meet. Head upstairs and someone night be playing the piano, or snoozing on an old sofa. The book selection charges through English and French literature, history, culture, and poetry. A must.

I discovered historic Bertrand in Lisbon, Powell’s City of Books in Portland (chaotic and fantastic). One of the most beautiful is Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal, with its Art Nouveau interiors and romantic mood. And in Italy, a chic stop must be made to Corso Como Bookshop in Milan, for definitive volumes on fashion, style and design.

Book Sources I Love

Rizzoli Bookstore
1133 Broadway (in NoMad), near Madison Square Park, New York

I’m delighted to say that Rizzoli is my publisher—so I’m a little bit biased. I love Rizzoli, and was so happy when this chic and elegant new bookstore opened last year. Specializes in an international host of illustrated subjects – fashion, interior design, art, architecture, photography, design – and literature, in Italian, French, Spanish, and English. All subjects of general interest and many publishers are represented, along with European magazines and newspapers. Be sure to pick up a copy of my latest book, ‘Jean-Louis Deniot Interiors’ for inspiration.

Heywood Hill
10 Curzon Street, Mayfair, London

I recently stayed at The Beaumont hotel in Mayfair—and discovered that the astonishing collections of books in each suite had been curated by Heywood Hill. Bookshop specialists work closely with hotelier Jeremy King to find vintage books on London history, and definitive books on chic Londoners. And if you’re not in London, you can order signed books, but also ‘A Year in Books’ (a fantastic gift), as well as recommendations from trusted ‘readers’ like Jayne Wrightsman who last August recommended ‘Napoleon the Great’ by Andrew Roberts. Stoker Devonshire recommends ‘The Ash Tree’ by Oliver Rackham. David Mlinaric proposes ‘Noisy at the Wrong Times’ by Michael Volpe.

The last time I visited Heywood Hill, I glanced at shelves of neatly wrapped books adjacent to the biographies section, and noted labels such as ‘Haslam’, Astor, and ‘Buccleuch’, and ‘Devonshire’ and ‘Blenheim’. It happens they’d all been paid for by these notables, who, I was told, would eventually come and pick them up. I love London, and I adore Heywood Hill.

Persephone Books
59 Lamb's Conduit St, London (Bloomsbury)

Founded by Nicola Beauman to publish mid-century women writers, Persephone Books offers 115 volumes, beautifully presented with exclusive endpapers. I propose: email Francesca Beauman and ask her to send a sample of her top ten bestsellers. Below are some of her recent recommendations.

Notes from Francesca Beauman: — Persephone Books highlights:

The Home-Maker (1924) by Dorothy Canfield Fisher: One of the best-selling books of the 1920s, this ahead-of-its-time novel is about a New England husband and wife who swap roles so that he stays at home and she goes out to work, and the positive effects this has on their children.

To Bed with Grand Music (1946) by Marghanita Laski. A novel about sex during wartime. This near-harlot’s tale shows a completely different side of the Second World War to anything you’ve read before. The endpaper is taken from a Jacqmar scarf, c.1940, in a private collection.

The Blank Wall (1947) by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. A thriller by “The top suspense writer of them all” (Raymond Chandler) about a mother is accused of murdering her daughter’s lover.

How To Run Your Home Without Help (1949) by Kay Smallshaw. A housework manual which tells the newly servantless housewife what to do and is a perfect gift for the newly-wed in need of some guidance or the son or daughter who has just left home; a fascinating and at times hilarious historical document.

Good Evening, Mrs. Craven (1945) by Mollie Panter-Downes. Short stories written for the New Yorker between 1939 and 1945 about domestic life during the war. The endpaper is a 1941 fabric called ‘Coupons’, which shows women’s clothes against a repeat of '66', the number of clothes coupons allowed a year when clothes rationing was in force.

Longitude Books

Longitude specializes in a very diverse range of books on travel, geography and biography. I always check their catalog or website before a research trip and find in-depth offerings including history, culture, the arts, specialist guides and maps. Highly recommended.

John Sandoe Books
10 Blacklands Terrace (off Kings Road) London

I’ve shopped and browsed and slunk around this legendary bookseller since I first arrived in London as a young student and journalist.

The Maharani of Jaipur was a longtime customer and I often saw her here (her London townhouse on Draycott Gardens was nearby).

What to look for: Eland books on travel, plus travel guides, biographies, superbly edited literature, English history, colonial history, always avoiding ‘commercial hits’. You can linger and browse and chat and read here for hours. They also ship books everywhere.

(Since 1797)
187 Piccadilly, London

Hatchard’s is usually my first stop when I arrive in London (it’s a twenty minute walk from The Beaumont, where I stay) and it’s handily adjacent to The Wolseley, Jeremy King’s brilliant all-day-all-night restaurant/social meeting place.

Hatchard’s has an excellent online catalog, and offers a fine selection of signed books. Send a note to Mark Hammett, the mail order manager, at and ask him to direct you to available signed books. Or send a note to to enquire about a custom annual subscription of books. Great for inspired gifts.

Biographies: I ordered signed copies of all recent Mitford/Devonshire books from Hatchard’s. And I ordered Patrick Leigh Fermor books, signed by Paddy until months before he died. I treasure them all. Be sure to visit when in London, and look for recently signed books.

I hope you enjoy these singular book sources as much as I do. I hope you discover new books, new ideas, new authors, and all of these excellent online sources from which you can order books at any time.

Let me know. 


All photographs of Diane’s books and library and study were photographed by Diane Dorrans Saeks with her iPad.