Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beautiful in the Details

I have a dear friend who also happens to be a neighbor. She and her husband and two young children live 3 houses down from me and our kids play together while we pour over magazines, ooohing and aaaahing over swedish antiques, white washed floors and beautiful painted furniture. Seriously, no two people spend as much time looking at every inch of magazines as we do. Her house is very much like mine, all white, and our styles are so similar that it is great to obsess together.

Hilary and her sister own a trendy and very fashionable clothing shop, Ah-ha, also on Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans (where the likes of Kate Hudson and Sandra Bullock have been spotted) so between her clothes and my furniture, we've got each others' backs.

Her mother, Niki Rubenstein, co-owner of Rubenstein Brothers in New Orleans, another fabulous clothing shop that is a legend in New Orleans, also happens to be a talented artist and Hilary and I keep her extremely busy doing artwork for our walls. Niki's soft pastels are gorgeous and her attention to the little details is extraordinary. Her paintings are small as she likes to truly control her elements yet they are elegant and virtually pull you in. They are truly little jewels that decorate our homes beautifully.

I know she will kill me for showing these to the world but I wanted to share with you some of the paintings I have in my house that she did. I absolutely adore them!

Gilded fragment on canvas. This piece is three dimensional and just looks like a piece of jewelry on my swedish commode at the entrace foyer.

This one is made on cardstock and it is probably my very favorite. Isn't it the sweetest piece you've ever seen????

Look at the details in her dress...

Finally, this was one of my first pieces by Niki Rubenstein. The colors are all my favorites in hues of whites and pale blues with a hint of gold.

Niki Rubenstein's paintings range from $250-500. Please email me for additional information.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Aim for the Stars

To all of you who, like me, aim for the stars whether it is in every day chores or in life changing dreams..... One thing I've learned through life's ups and downs is this -- Hang your own stars..... work hard every day to make your dreams come true. And however discouraged you may get at times, don't wait for someone to make you a star or hang that star for you. Make your own path, wait for no one to do it for you. I promise you, you will get there and feel all the better for it.

Have a fabulous weekend and remember, "Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire." ~Arnold H. Glasow

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Lady in White

Many of you may be very familiar with long time blogger and talented self taught designer, Sandy Foster, from My Shabby Streamside Studio. If not, let me refresh your memory....

Sandy singlehandedly renovated this cottage in the Catskills of Upstate NY. Her talent and beauty caught the attention of The New York Times, The Nate Berkus Show, and most recently, Elle Decor Germany, to name a few. Sandy is one of those people who walks right into your heart and takes a hold of it.

Sandy visited my family and me in New Orleans a couple of months ago and stayed at my house where she almost died (okay, so I'm being a little dramatic, but I'm sure she felt like dying at the time) from a severe allergy to shellfish which she didn't know about. But that's another story for another day....

When I flew alone to New York for the grand opening of my showroom at the 1stdibs floor of the New York Design Center (200 Lex), I must admit I was nervous and overwhelmed by the enormity of this huge step for me. I had been to NY to set up my showroom two weeks before that and much to my surprise, I ended up having such an acute panic attack on my way back to the airport, that they almost did not let me on board. I had never had one of those before and felt that I was having a heart attack. I was told that the combination of the stress, anxiety and lack of food (from running around and not stopping for even water) caused the panic attack.

So imagine my nerves when 2 weeks later I hopped on a plane again to go face a multitude of Whos-Who at the biggest party in Manhattan? I had already planned on taking the subway to Midtown from the airport (why not a taxi, you ask???? well, part of my panic attack had to do with the taxi driver's driving, if you know what I mean), changing trains at Jamaica from the green line to the Number 6 that would take me downtown and then getting off at Lexington and walking the few blocks to my hotel. From there, I had 1 hour to go from sweat pants to cocktail attire.

So just as my plane was landing at JFK and I turned on my cell phone, who should call but Sandy, telling me that she is outside by baggage claim with her car ready to take me to the city. That's so Sandy!!!! There she was, cute as a button in her black leather high heeled boots and little black dress and within 30 minutes, I was infront of my hotel. As she went on to do some shopping in the garment district before the party, I changed into a little black dress that I had bought for $100 at a sidewalk sale in Covington, LA, where we evacuated and lived post-Katrina for 3 years. I figured, "they don't know and I'm not telling." I also stepped into some fabulous Christian Louboutin black patent leather peep toe pumps that turned that dress into a million dollars. Okay, so I'm lying. The shoes look just like Christian Louboutin pumps but they are BCBGeneration that I bought the day before at Marshalls for $39. Shhhhhh! No one needs to know that either.

So dressed in my $139 outfit, I went to face the beautiful people at the New York Design Center. I cannot tell you how many people wanted to know who designed that dress! Perhaps it was because it was Fashion Week in New York and everyone had designers on the brain. I don't think anyone would have believed my story. I am, afterall, a frugalista when it comes to fashion. The way I look at it, you just have to feel beautiful and confident and no one will ever know that you are wearing anything but Prada or Gucci. A good lipstick doesn't hurt either. But I digress.

So still having all those nerves in my stomach (after all, I was going to be meeting Michael Bruno and Mario Buatta and Alexa Hampton, et al), I walked on over to my space and there was Sandy, with her camera, shooting photos of my showroom. People thought she was with the press and just fixated on my showroom. They don't need to know otherwise, do they? So dear Sandy, the only familiar face amidst this sea of designers and fashionistas and socialites. Thank goodness for Sandy!!!

So when Sandy called me up just last week and asked to borrow a pair of little french 19th century tufted chairs that are in my showroom in NY to shoot in her studio over the weekend for a project she is working on, I called the NYDC and had them waiting for her.

In addition to being a dedicated blogger, Sandy has taught herself the art of photography. She is taking classes and seriously studying the ins and outs of photography as that is one of her passions. So I wanted to share with you some of the photos she took this weekend of a little pair of chairs (there was actually a pair of them when she picked them up but one sold a few days ago in New York, leaving only this one).

First, the chair on 1stdibs as it appears in every day life:

This chair was completely renovated by me. It was originally black and with a yellow upholstery. Blah! But I had a vision in white....

Now, here is Sandy's own vision in white of this little chair:

My little chair earned those angel wings!

Thank you, Sandy, for taking such good care of my little angels and thank you for being such a good friend. It is one of the true joys of blogging for me -- meeting wonderful people who end up actually becoming friends and helping each other out. Afterall, aren't we all in this together?

Oh, almost forgot, if you were wondering about my little black dress.... Sandy took a photo of that too.

Now, if I could only work on Sandy to take photos when I'm not in the middle of talking....

Michael Bruno and me. Do you think he can tell they are not Christian Louboutins????

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stealing Magnolias

I just happened to run across a copy of Debra Shriver's new book, Stealing Magnolias, and it was love at first sight for me. And what makes it even more lovely for me is that it is a book about Shriver's love affair with New Orleans -- my own city and home. I am dying to share it with you.

I am always amazed how people who visit New Orleans fall in love with this city -- all of it. From its architecture to its culture and food, New Orleans is one of those unique cities that gets under your skin. It is different from any other place on earth -- and I've been to quite a few.

In this dreamy and seductive entree into the magical city that is New Orleans, Shriver, a 12th generation Southerner, Francophile, passionate preservationist and jazz devotee creates a book that is part love letter, part scrapbook, and gives readers a rare tour behind courtyard walls and private gates of this enigmatic city, which is often considered the Paris of America.

Blue Dog Artist, George Rodrigue, offers a beautiful and touching preface. Having moved to New Orleans in 1989 from his home town of New Iberia, Louisiana, he writes:

"I never imagined as a child that I would one day call New Orleans home, and yet after Hurricane Katrina, I could imagine living nowhere else. Water has flowed through this city forever, long before "the storm," and yet the original footprint remains intact; the old buildings change hands and fulfill dreams; and the people stay loyal to this place. Once it gets a hold, there is nowhere else to go. I relate to Debra Shriver's ongoing passion for this city, and like many locals, I understand the emotion and excitement she describes throughout this book, because in 2010, after all this time, New Orleans, through this incredible combination of art and narrative, has seduced me once again."

When people ask me why I rebuilt in New Orleans after Katrina took everything away, I often don't know what to say. It is my hope that in looking at these photos and reading Shriver's wonderful book, you will understand why so many of us choose to stay, time after time. New Orleans has been an inspiration to me and with every piece of this city I restore and bring to New York or 1stdibs, I try to keep the dream alive.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Orleans' Charming Irish Channel

Although I have already written a post for today (St. Patrick's Day), I felt that I neglected to truly pay homage to the wonderful heritage that the Irish people have given not only to the United States in general, but to New Orleans in particular. While many of you have probably heard of the various charming neighborhoods that make up New Orleans (such as the Garden District, or Uptown, or the Bywater), none is perhaps more picturesque than the cozy and modest part of town referred to as the "Irish Channel."

The Irish Channel is a true melting pot of cultures and peoples. Many consider it one of New Orleans most interesting neighborhoods.

Irish peasants fleeing the potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s debarked at Adele Street and were channeled from there to the rest of the country. There are several versions of how the Irish Channel got its name. One story is that Irish seamen coming up the river would see the light outside Noud’s Ocean Home Saloon on Adele Street and cry out “There’s the Irish Channel!” Another story is that Adele Street was often flooded after a rain and it seemed like a channel. The truth is that it was probably called the Irish Channel because so many Irish immigrants lived there.

(Photo by Peter Sekaer 1901-1950)

While there were wealthy, prominent Irish people, the Irish who came after the 1840s were largely penniless and had to work as laborers. With no money to explore beyond their debarkation point, many lower-income Irish settled right on that spot. Along the river there were slaughterhouses, tallow factories, steam driven cotton presses and even a sugar refinery. Work could easily be found in the area for butchers, blacksmiths, bricklayers, saddlers and draymen. As was true elsewhere in the country, the Irish of New Orleans were often considered "expendable" labor. Many were killed while employed at dangerous construction work and other manual labor. The riverfront was also home to petty thieves and prostitutes. Those who survived the recurring epidemics of yellow fever and saved their money became small businessmen or entered local politics, which helped them to prosper and gain prestige.

Rolland Golden, one of New Orleans' most prominent artists, posing with his mother in late 1930s New Orleans (Irish Channel neighborhood)

The Irish lived simply in small cottages. Shotgun houses – single, double and camelback – predominated the neighborhood. Whereas the Irish Channel neighborhood itself was respectable, the riverfront saloons gave it a bad reputation. Today, many of the neighborhood bars are gone, but several bars, including Parasol's on Constance Street are still present to entice Irish people to celebrate their heritage. In fact, Parasol’s is the starting point for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade that marches through the Irish Channel.

The "Irish Channel" was originally home to many of the Irish workers who came here in the 1830s to dig the New Basin Canal, completed in 1840. This area of small cottages and "shotgun" houses, located on narrow lots, continued to be inhabited throughout the 19th and 20th centuries primarily by blue-collar workers, who could afford the more modest prices. The houses here are smaller than those in the Garden District and Uptown, but what they lack in square footage, they more than make up for in fine decoration and charm. Their close proximity creates a feeling of community and coziness, where neighbors can still share a cup of coffee or a moment of gossip over a backyard fence.

Today, the Irish Channel is one of the most eclectic neighborhoods in the city, with residents drawn from every walk of life and every income level. Many families are multi-generational, having raised children and grandchildren here, while others are among the city's newest arrivals. Located along the strip of high ground facing the Mississippi, the "Channel" has gone from being a less-than-desirable address to being one that's extremely valuable, if for nothing else than its elevation. And the cultural variety here, from the heterodoxy of Magazine Street to the beautiful serenity of St. Mary's Assumption Church, offers something from everyone, whether or not he or she comes from the Emerald Isle.

Hope you enjoyed this little history lesson on one of New Orleans' most beloved neighborhoods.

Have a great night.