Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Classic Glamour and Grace

California Fashion Designer Karen Caldwell Creates Gowns and Cocktail Dresses of Timeless Beauty and Grace

Beauty. That is always my focus. The gala gowns of Karen Caldwell are a vision of beauty—lovely, feminine, powerful, and enchanting. Come and view her newest designs and be inspired.

Designer Karen Caldwell, who lives in the Napa Valley and commutes to San Francisco, started her couture fashion company, Karen Caldwell Design, just over a year ago.

Now women all over the US are clamoring for her gorgeous evening gowns and chic cocktail dresses for their superb craftsmanship, body-conscious silhouettes, and one-of-a-kind individuality. Each gown and dress and Karen’s gloves and obi sashes are made to order.

In just a year, Karen has received national recognition. Town & Country recently published Karen’s lovely evening dresses (worn at recent galas in San Francisco). Fashion fanatics custom ordered her lovely ensembles for the opening nights of the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Opera.

Pared-down, elegant, classic and utterly flattering, Karen’s gowns are individually made of opulent Duchesse satin, luxurious silk jersey, ethereal silk tulle, fine woven wool (with the look of silk) , and rare silks that Karen hand-dyes.
“Karen’s gowns are a dream to wear. They’re so elegant. I feel like a goddess.” – San Francisco interior designer, Jean Larette
Yes, they are startlingly glamorous. So is Karen, a stately blonde with movie-star glamour (well, a movie star from the thirties or forties). She’s also a fabulous individual—kind, generous, the mother of two boys, wife of Oliver Caldwell (an art dealer), as well as a wine-grower, and beloved friend.

“I grew up in Los Angeles and loved to sew and make clothes from the age of seven,” said Karen to me in a recent conversation. “My grandmother, who was a noted choreographer and dancer, was a best friend of Edith Head, the Hollywood costume design. One of her clients was Elizabeth Taylor, in her heyday. I was exposed to Hollywood style and glamour even as a young girl. I’ve always loved fashion, especially simple, timeless designs like those by Balenciaga. I collect vintage fashion, and study the lines, the lining, the patterns and art of couture.”

“I have such fun creating these gowns,” Karen told me. “I travel all over the country to find the best fabrics and then drape them on the body. And the linings and inside are as carefully made and shaped as the gown itself. We also introduce very custom-made finishing touches like special buttonholes and hidden zippers. I often add jeweled buckles, shoulder ornamentation, and vintage jeweled embellishment.”

“I make each gown to order, and each is fitted several times until it is perfect,” noted Karen, who is in negotiations to sell her collections at a Los Angeles fashion store, and a top San Francisco retailer.

Describing her gowns, some of which are shown here, Karen notes, “I also use non-Merino wool, and fabrics that are produced with no animal cruelty. Even my silk, called Peace silk, is produced with silk yarns made without harming the silk worm. I always try to think of ways to be honorable and conscious in my fashion craftsmanship and philosophy.” 

“Karen’s cocktail dresses are beautifully crafted and feel wonderful on the body. I wore a one-shoulder gown by Karen Caldwell Design to a gala recently and have never had so many compliments. I love Karen’s couture.” – San Francisco philanthropist Clara Shayevich

The pink one-shouldered gown is in 100% silk.

The dramatic red dress is also in silk knit jersey dyed to the perfect crimson red, with an organic dying process. 

The yellow gown is in stretch wool with 100 % silk lining. 

The sunset blue one-shoulder Grecian gown is in 100% silk knit jersey. “I love working with these fabrics,” said the designer.

All custom-crafted gowns shown here, priced from $1,500, were designed by Karen Caldwell, Karen Caldwell Design, and made in her atelier. Readers can contact Karen on her site: www.karencaldwelldesign.com and e-mailing Karen directly from her site. Custom designs can he ordered directly from Karen Caldwell Design.

Photographs of Karen Caldwell Design gowns by Drew Altizer Photography at the Penthouse Suite of the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco. All images used with express permission. www.drewaltizer.com

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A World of Discoveries, a Year of Friends

Thank you for Coming Along for the Journey!

Happiness and Joy To Everyone 
(and a gift of three of my favorite poems, 
for inspiration and uplift in the coming year)

I received a note recently from a longtime reader in Paris who said, “I love all the features on THE STYLE SALONISTE written by you and your team. They are always so inspiring.”

Lovely. But the phrase, ‘you and your team’ was such a surprise.

I don’t have a team of writers. THE STYLE SALONISTE ‘team’ consists of Brian Dittmar, the wonderful and talented art director, and me! I write every word. A team of two.

I plan and write every feature, and I research and select all images. I’m the fact-checker, proof-reader, copyeditor and headline writer and editor. Triumphs, a few, are my pleasure. Errors, all of them — mine alone.

Brian Dittmar, who, like me, is based in San Francisco, is responsible for the elegant and polished art direction.

The accomplished Brian designed the logo — which I requested should look ‘very Alexey Brodovitch, very Harper’s Bazaar sixties, very classic and modern and chic and unchanging’. Brian created the design. I love it.

We are, indeed, a team of two

Brian is a fine graphic designer and art director — and he is also (mostly) an interior designer with lots of adoring clients. See my feature on Brian’s room at this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase.

Brian Dittmar's room "Poetry in Time: A Horologist's Laboratory" at the 2010 San Francisco Decorator Showcase.

I give warmest thanks and credit to Brian for his beautiful layouts and for the consistent clean-lined look and style for THE STYLE SALONISTE.

Brian, you are brilliant and it is such a great pleasure and honor to work with you every week. Fun, too. Thank you.

But it takes more than our team of two to create a lively and vivid and jumping and vibrant blog.

THE STYLE SALONISTE members and readers and visitors and discoverers from around the world are essential for this colorful picture. I love your feedback, your responses, your insight, your constancy and worldly humor. Divine friends, I appreciate every word.

I adore it when you write ‘thank you for taking me along for the ride’, or ‘thank you for introducing me to this designer’ or ‘you’ve inspired me to travel alone’ or ‘I felt as if I was with you on this trip’. It’s my great pleasure. Thank you so much.

We now have readers in more than fifty plus countries—at last count on the traffic tracker—and in every corner of the world. Every day and every hour returning visitors arrive from Paris, Moscow, Santiago, Auckland, Houston, Dallas (I love my Texas readers), and all over California (so very happy), and the East Coast (just great) and Southern States (love you), plus Melbourne, Miami, Hong Kong, Brussels, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver (so happy I am ‘big’ in Canada), and Phuket, Delhi, Jaipur, Sydney, Stockholm, Athens, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, and Warsaw, St Petersburg, Dublin, Cracow, Belgrade, and Tokyo and Amsterdam and beyond, how fabulous. I am so honored and thrilled. Returning visitors (love) and first time visitors, thank you!

I’ve also made lots of great friends through THE STYLE SALONISTE, and women and men around the world I hope to meet one day.

I hear from longtime friends like best-selling author, Carol Troy, who is now a popular photographer. She loved the photography of Guy Hervais.

Favorite bloggers (who inspire me endlessly) drop in, much appreciated.

The salon I dreamed of — a constant dialogue with readers — is vibrant and witty and heartfelt. Readers’ comments are the oxygen that pumps and propels each week.

I recently received the following message from Annette English, a new friend in Australia: Annette was inspired by my features on Jaipur and India, where I travel several times a year:

‘Hi Diane,

You are a gem!!

Your advice was so helpful for my India trip that after several weeks of going back and forth, I was able to book my trip yesterday based on your feedback!! Thank you so much! It's always tremendously helpful to share with someone who has traveled territory that is unfamiliar. When I have a drink at the Umaid Bhawan Palace... I will think of you! I can see that you have a fondness for India and I'm truly excited about my trip.

‘Looking forward to your next posts Diane and once again, thank you. Have a wonderful and merry holiday season.

Wishing you a New Year filled with more love, joy and happiness than you dreamed possible!!

-Annette English

Annette is heading for Jodphur and Udaipur, inspired by my Rajasthan tips and feedback.

And there was the following message via email from a new friend who lives in Munich (via Athens and Berlin):


I have been following your blog since you began it and am always so pleasantly surprised by how much I see and learn each time, and by how well written all your posts are.

It is clear that you are not just dashing them off between other more important obligations. It is a relief and pleasure whenever I see you in my Inbox. It is like getting a letter from a really good friend who values my intelligence and my opinion.

Thank you,
Margot von Muhlendahl

The pleasure is mine, Margot.

Now, as our team of two heads into 2011 (it seems that the recent lunar eclipse, so very beautiful and mysterious and lovely, did not signal the end of the world) — I have lots of surprises up my sleeve. I’ll take you to unexpected places, introduce you to new designers (I know you love that), and inspire you with ideas and fun.

I’d like to leave you with three of my favorite poems — for inspiration as we head into this glowing year, full of promise. Please print them out and keep them on your desk for inspiration at odd hours.

Traditional Gaelic poem:


I arise today
though the strength of heaven, light of sun
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

by Hafiz

The craziness,
All the empty plots,
All the ghosts and fears,

All the grudges and sorrows have

I must have inhaled
A strange

That finally



A poem by Antonio Machado


Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
That I had a beehive
Here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
Were making white combs
And sweet honey
From my old failures.

Primary photography here is by my dear friend Guy Hervais (
www.guy-hervais.com), a brilliant photographer who lives in Provence. Guy travels the world—for clients as diverse at Taj Hotels and Vogue international editions and many French publications. I love the richness and sensuality of his images and the emotion he pumps into every pixel. Thank you, Guy.

The two photos of Brian Dittmar's room at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase are by the Bay Area's brilliant David Duncan Livingston (www.davidduncanlivingston.com).

See you next week! 

Happy Holidays and Joy Forever, 


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Chic World of Guy Hervais

French photographer Guy Hervais travels the world — and captures remarkable interiors, dramatic chateaus and palaces, along with romantic houses and sexy and stylish people. There’s a chic perfection to his work, and a glorious sensuality that is rare and to be celebrated.

You’ve seen his richly colored and beautifully composed images in all the top French style magazines, as well as travel publications and Vogue and The World of Interiors. They are always joyful, capturing a sense of love for people and the world.

He lives in Provence with his wife, Bibi, and photographs the most beautiful gardens there.

Come and meet Guy — and enjoy my picks of ‘The Best of Guy Hervais: India, Paris, Provence, Africa, and every divine corner of the world.’

Portrait of Guy Hervais:  Guy is a very private person—he says he distrusts self-portraits by photographers—so these are the only portraits I could drag out of him. You'll have to use your imagination. He's handsome, he's French, and he's a rather private person. And he takes wonderful photos.

Great photography is essential to my work. Dedicated and genius photographers are important collaborators in all my books and magazine features.

I research, find and write about the best interiors and style and travel and architecture. Photography captures and distill and hyperventilate the story, the concept and the ideas I am writing about.

Photographer Guy Hervais is one of the great photographers. His work has a natural elegance. His styling and approach to tech, and his understanding of his subjects are evident in the heightened colors, the intelligent composition, and the vibrating sense of being ‘in’ the picture.

My features — and THE STYLE SALONISTE — always include the best photography I can find in the world. Guy Hervais is among the top of the top.

My ideal: accompanying photography must exaggerate and enhance the story. Images that print themselves indelibly on the most refined and hypersensitive parts of your eyes and brain are my dream.

In the following selection of the photography of Guy Hervais—‘Diane’s Picks’—you will see why Provence-based Hervais works for all the international editions of Vogue, as well as Town & Country and Taschen and the European and international editions of AD. He shoots all the palace hotels for Taj, and you’ll see these images below.

He travels the world — and returns with luxuriant images photographed at the perfect time of day, and with a beauty that stops you in your tracks. Bravo, Guy!

The legendary Taj Mahal Palace, Bombay

Guy Hervais first came into my orbit a few years when I was working on "Seaside Interiors" for Taschen in Paris and Cologne.

As I researched a hidden world of private coastal houses and exceptional beach houses around the world, I found the portfolio of Guy Hervais.

Here were the dreamiest and most stylish photographs, each with a sense of wonder and ecstasy. But I was given a jolt by a series of impromptu traditional Tahitian houses on remote islands — driftwood lashed together and palm fronds and so glorious. I contacted Guy, who had captured the rare beauty of the Tahitian dwellings. Sensual, languid and delicious, they were far from glossy or overlit or commercial. I published his images in the book, which was a worldwide best-seller.

I did not hear from Guy for some years — until earlier this year when I received the first release of images of the Taj Falaknuma Palace hotel in Hyderabad (see last week’s feature on this remarkable hotel below, for the Hervais images and my report).

The work of Guy Hervais, they were technically complex and highly detailed. I saw these elegant images Guy had created at this historic palace — and I knew I had to go there. I went. 
Too, too divine.

Then, out of the blue last week came the following message:

Chere Diane,

I'm an "adorator" of your blog that I received regularly for years.

This morning, as I was working on my images from Falaknuma,
What a shock to receive and see my own picture of the palace's dancing hall!!

I do travel and work in India pretty often.

I do actually live in the Luberon / Provence and always look for exclusive productions on design, interiors, patrimony and gardens worldwide 

I would be very glad to get some words from you.


He sent me some recent images from his work—and as I swooned I decided I must share this beauty with you.

Lake Palace Hotel, Udaipur

The Maharajah of Jodhpur is one of the great characters in India—owner of the grand Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel that is now superbly managed by the Taj Hotels group.

The hotel was built in the thirties—and still reflects European Art Deco interiors and furniture that was all the rage in India in that period.

This palace hotel — situated in the Rajasthan desert in a region that is still very traditional and where women wear traditional saris and men on special occasions wear jodhpurs and turbans. It’s very popular for weddings — Liz Hurley celebrated her marriage there, and prosperous Indian families take over the whole hotel so that the diaspora of their families (London, New York, Paris, Dubai) will come and celebrate.

Guy is fortunate to live in Provence—and then is sent to work in Africa, Sri Lanka (Serendip), and green parts of Africa. Paris! He’s shooting models and designers and talent in vibrant rooms in Paris and London.

It’s a wonderful life, well-lived, and he captures and presents them to us through his lens and his sensibility.

Guy Hervais and his wife Bibi created the glorious Pavillon de Galon near Curcuron, in the Luberon region of Provence

The gardens have been named ‘national treasure of French patrimony’, a high honor.

“And another little one, to understand 'my life' a little bit more is a look to my adored place in Provence, which made me quit Paris some years ago, for restoring and creating gardens 'et un petit b&b' magique,” — Guy Hervais

Le Pavillon de Galon: Le Pavillon de Galon, a former hunting lodge, is only a short walk from Cucuron, in the heart of wildly beautiful Luberon Natural Park (scene of many films, including 'Manon of the Spring'. Cucuron is a charming, unspoilt, atmospheric village with plenty of good restaurants.

Day excursions: Within a one hour drive are the Palais des Papes in Avignon, Aix en Provence, the antiques markets at Isle sur Sorgue, the Roman arenas in Arles, and just beyond is the Mediterranean coast.

Exploring: Closer to Cucuron are the hill villages of the Luberon — Lourmarin, Gordes, Bonnieux, Menerbes, Ansouis, Lacoste. Dreamy!

For more information on Guy’s beautiful b&b and divine garden check on www.pavillondegalon.com

To see Guy’s portfolio and contact him: www.guy-hervais.com.  Watch for more of the photography of Guy Hervais…coming soon on THE STYLE SALONISTE.

Guy Hervais with Paloma