Pull up a Fermob and relax

As you may know, Paris is a very walkable city, and Luxembourg Gardens provides a wonderful opportunity to step off the city streets, relax for a moment and ponder your plans for the day. Or tune out the world, commune with nature and share a baguette and a glass of wine with a friend.

The City of Light is like the perfect host, always offering up to its guests and residents alike, just what you didn't realize you wanted until it is placed in front of you. Strolling through the gardens, you will spot, improbably, garden chairs arranged in clusters throughout. Individual seating in a public garden? How thoughtful! The chairs can be moved around to suit your fancy - facing a friend or a splashing fountain, or turned to follow the sun. Although they are all nearly identical, the most coveted have arms and tilted backs, creating a lounge effect.

Fermob custom designed this seating for the Gardens, but did you know that you can order up a little bit of Paris and furnish your own outdoor spaces with the same chair? It is available in a wide range of colors, but my favorite is Willow Green, which looks closest to those in the Gardens.

Whenever you're in need of a mental escape - grab your Fermob, and sit back and relax with a glass of wine. Were it me, I'd choose a Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge 2008 La Tourtine, or Bret Brothers Pouilly-Vinzelles La Soufrandiere 2009. One is a red, one is white (a chardonnay), but both are decidedly French and among my favorite wines ever. Domain Tempier made this month's issue of Food & Wine as one of the great French wineries. And the Bret Brothers organically produce small batches of their own wonderful vintages (with the help of a beautiful horse named Coquette).

À votre santé.


Beautiful Fakes

Sometimes a fake can be just as good as the real thing. Where there is integrity of design and exquisite execution - an object of beauty will stand on its own.

See more good things at The Green Vase.



My New Loves

Latest movie love ...

And music  ...


Snapshot of Paris

What is there to say about Paris that hasn't already been said? I can say simply that I'm making reservations post-haste to go back next year – and I can provide just a few photos that only hint of the experience of actually being there.

The tower – impressive and imposing – stands alongside the Seine.
(All photos are my own. Click to enlarge.)

Les Deux Magots, located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés, became a meeting place for the café-drinking and people-watching literary and intellectual élite of the early-mid 1900s. Dalí, Picasso, Camus, and of course, Hemingway, along with a cadre of their pals could often be found lounging here, at the sidewalk tables. Café de Flore, another popular coffeehouse from that era, is located nearby.

Also in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood ...

Outside of Paris, inside the Palace at Versailles.

The Hall of Mirrors, arguably the most famous room in the world, at Versailles.

A view of the gardens from inside the palace.

Back in Paris, the aerial hedges at Jardin du Luxembourg create wonderful allées.

My favorite sculpture in Jardin du Luxembourg.

Laduree''s lovely shop and tea room.

In the garden at the Louvre.

The Temple of Love, in Marie Antoinette's domain at Versailles. Don't miss seeing the hamlet - it was my favorite part! It's a long way out from the palace, so hop on the mini-tram or rent a golf cart, unless you have a lot of time.

Closeup of Cupid in the Temple.

Citroen for rent and drive-by shootings, near the Louvre.

At L'Orangerie, permanent exhibition of Monet's Water Lilies.

More Citroen love beside the Seine.

The Thinker takes center-stage in his own private garden, outside the Rodin Museum.

Inside the Rodin Museum.
Formerly the artist's home, this was one of my favorite stops.
The Villa des Brillants is a Louis XIII-style house of brick and stone, surrounded by lovely gardens.

Rue La Cler.

Jardin du Luxembourg and the wonderful steel garden chairs that are randomly placed throughout.
Inside Marie Antoinette's domain at Versailles.
A cottage in Marie Antoinette's domain at Versailles.
The entire lawn is a flower bed, filled with all white blooms (daisies and lilies).

For an even better look at Paris, get to the nearest theatre and see Woody Allen's new movie "Midnight in Paris." It's beautiful, funny and wonderful (I've just seen it for the third time). A couple of things to look out for: Carla Bruni (the first lady of France) as a tour guide, and the Hall of Mirrors, which appears in a scene near the end.



Charlotte Moss Decorates

Right now I'm totally in love with a shade of green that Charlotte Moss compares to boxwood hedges and rolling parkland. (Perhaps the color should be named Moss Green?) The brilliant hue, which can be seen on the velvet pillows and accents in the room pictured on the cover of her new book, Charlotte Moss Decorates, is lush and bright and fresh – especially when composed alongside muted wood tones and neutrals.

The green comes alive in those settings, and I'm reminded of learning about the juxtaposition of colors in landscaping (from the gardening great, Penelope Hobhouse). A beautiful blooming plant or flower is quite nice, but takes on full visual impact when placed in front of a leafy backdrop. (And landscapes can be just as beautiful without flowers, by using varying shades of green to provide depth.) These techniques transfer of course quite nicely to interior decorating - and perfect examples can be seen in Moss' interiors. Her love of gardening and flowers is evident in most every room she designs. While some spaces veer toward a more tailored and masculine interpretation, Moss especially seems to relish creating rooms that are reminiscent of flowery, leafy bowers – in high shade on a spring day.

An entree into the world of Moss, the book reveals her inspirations and approaches to projects in a way that makes the process seem easy and natural – and her idea boxes are treasure troves (and a great tool that anyone can adapt). You will also learn that there is considerable intellectual thought that goes into every job – partially explaining her reputation as one of the foremost decorators of our time.

I love her attitude about design:

Decorating is just
a background.
Give me atmosphere—
rooms that have
soul, seduction, and

If you missed it, jump over right now to The Style Saloniste for Diane Dorrans Saeks' enlightening interview with Ms. Moss.


Paris Bound!

I'd love to say that I'll be blogging from Paris next week ... but I'm pretty certain I won't. I WILL be dusting off the passport and jetting over to explore the City of Light on my first-ever visit, but I'm quite sure I'll be preoccupied soaking up the ambiance of the French way of life. And on my return – I'll hopefully have some wonderful photos to share.

While I'm savoring café au lait and croissants in an outdoor café on the left bank and reveling in Paris in the spring, here is a charming little movie for you to enjoy. Luke Shepard, a student at The American University of Paris, created this time-lapse video based on over 2,000 images, inspired by his love of walking the streets of la ville lumière at night. The name of the movie was no doubt derived from Baudelaire's interpretation of le flaneur as a person who walks the city in order to experience it.

Le Flâneur (music by The XX) from Luke Shepard on Vimeo.

A bientôt!


Now In Bloom

On a recent trip to Bloom garden shop in Tampa, I found peonies, monkey paws and hydrangeas - which now grace my dining room table.

The dining room in soft morning light.

Outside, the window boxes are happy to be overflowing again ...

... while a bucket of hydrangeas provides nice diversion from the demolition at the front entry.



Finding the WOW factor ...

A few days ago, I received three magazines in the mail at once – Elle Decor, House Beautiful and Architectural Digest. I admit that the only reason I have a subscription to AD is that it was subbed in for another magazine that folded - so, I took my time about picking up the new issue. After all, I usually give it a quick glance, and then hand it off to my neighbor to take to the assisted living facility where she works (ouch). HB and ED are perused (many times) and then filed in my magazine archives – where I have kept most of my favorites since 2000!
Margaret Russell in her new office at Conde Nast, decorated by none other than Michael S. Smith. Lucky lady. Photo New York Times.
Click to enlarge any image.
When I finally picked up the AD today (the cover WAS beckoning), I was gobsmacked (kinda love that word – do you think a little British ancestry gives me the right to use it?) and so happy to finally see Margaret Russell's influence come to life on the pages. Since her appointment as editor last September, I've been waiting. And in fact, she has just announced (via The New York Times) the makeover and a new editorial staff (including a few who came over from Elle Decor). She has also picked up some of the best photographers in the field, including François Halard and Pieter Estersohn! Every home featured in the March issue has the wow factor that I'm always looking for. Even the obligatory celebrity feature is quite nice (designed by owner Sheryl Crow herself). 

A Michael Smith designed NY apartment is a bit of a shift for him (with a more uptown feel and an ultra-modern kitchen), but is stunningly executed with his usual attention to detail and history.

The living room features a pair of gilt-wood armchairs of Smith's own design. Parquet de Versailles wood floors covered in hammered German silver run throughout the apartment, and a bath with walls and ceiling paved with Davlin tiles (European gold leaf fused between two pieces of handcrafted glass) is quite a dazzling jewel box.

Daphne Guinness' place has the wow factor multiplied –   fierce, girly and luxurious. 

The Muriel Brandolini redesign of her own NY apartment is an evolution of her fabulous ethnic Vietnamese-modern dream into a calmer, more sleek and sophisticated version. 

As best as I can tell, this is the same room as above, before the recent makeover. It looks like the overhead fixture was swapped out for the crystal and jade ship chandelier (which I believe was in the entry hall, at one point), the wall shelves were removed, and the color palette tamed down. Which version do you prefer?

By the way, her redesigned dining room is not to be missed – as it features corduroy walls that have been hand-beaded with abstracted letters.

Pierre Passebon's Paris flat is just what I love – a quirky and artful combination of European sensibility and  individuality. The design is a collaboration with his partner, Jacques Grange.

As great as it is, the new incarnation of AD doesn't seem like it has quite reached its full potential. With the fairly small page size, the features feel confined and tight compared to ED, with its extra-wide, more luxurious size, but I'm sure Margaret will continue to work with her designers – and I can't wait to see how it evolves.

Looks like I'll be making more room on my bookshelves, because Architectural Digest is now a keeper!

(Oh, and don't miss the tented exercise room/gym.)


Window Shopping in Palma Ceia

Working with some of my favorite shop owners in the lovely Palma Ceia area of South Tampa, I've put together a list of the best – from interiors and antiques, to new home furnishings, accessories and fashions – in the new Insider's Guide To Shopping & Dining. Click to open the brochure and you'll find maps, short descriptives for each shop and restaurant, with locations and contact information – plus a direct link to their websites. Once you sign up on the Issuu site, you can also download a pdf and print it for a take-along. However, every shop listed will have copies of the printed brochures on hand, so you can pick one up on your first visit and keep it for reference.

The Palma Ceia area is one of Tampa's oldest, and is home to some of the best shops and restaurants in town – most of which are independently owned.

A visit to the area is a much more interesting and creative option to shopping at the mall, and there is a nice mix of lunch or dinner spots, all within a short drive or walk.

The Red Herring's new location on MacDill Ave..

A peek into the Royal Tea Room.

Blue Moon Trading Co.

An exterior fountain at Spa Jardin and Melt Out.

Another glimpse into the Royal Tea Room.

The Potting Shed.

Mayfair Antiques is a must visit when you're in the area. I'll be featuring a shop tour soon, so that you can see for yourself the exquisite furnishings and accessories.
A little modern flair, a la these gorgeous townhomes.

Casa Nova.

Jennie Smith Interiors.

Beautiful estate homes line scenic Bayshore Boulevard nearby, where hundreds of joggers, cyclists and skaters convene daily to take advantage of the bay views from the "longest contiguous sidewalk in the world."
Horse sculptures frolic across the median. In the background, bleachers are being set up for the upcoming Gasparilla parade.
Right along Bayshore is the best rose garden in Tampa, in my opinion.

Roses are notoriously hard to grow here because of the heat, but this garden always looks wonderful.
Wouldn't you say that this looks more like Atlanta, with the grand colonial house in the background?

The roses are spectacular but the rest of the grounds are beautiful too, and deserving of a magazine spread.