Transient Comforts: Paul Redier Ladd Senior

Silence, silence. I know, it's been far too long, and for that I have no excuse but a crazy schedule of late. But! A special treat: my good friend Eva's great grandfather Paul Redier Ladd Senior's photos. Eva has easily the most beautiful family photos I've ever seen; I've often thought of posting them.

Presumably her great grandfather's bedroom, which looks precisely as I wished my teenage bedroom to look, complete with Stickley:

And camping -- what I love about this photo is that it's clearly play-camping -- note the crenelated roof of a mansion with mansard roof in the background, peeping over the tent. And the furniture! I'm all about this type of rustic:

And later, on his grand tour, in Capri. Blue grotto, anyone?


Kicking. My. Self.

Okay. Every Sunday, Steven & I go to what I believe to be one of the great undiscovered flea markets in America. It's tiny and very hit or miss, but I consistently find wonderful things that I sell through my Etsy shop, and things that I keep for myself. This morning my run of luck continued at the market, but I made a stunning, unaccountable error -- I failed to buy these:

What was I thinking? Or not thinking? When I first saw them, jumbled in a box on the ground, I assumed they must be old Spode or Wedgwood, the precision and complexity of the decals used was so high. But no, Villeroy & Boch (the Anjou pattern); perhaps it was bourgeois snobbery, in discovering that they were what I consider a lesser maker than I assumed, that led to my stupidity.

The coffee cups:

I know hunting isn't everyone's cup of tea, and I certainly wouldn't partake in the activity. Though the idea of accounting personally for one's source of food is appealing -- and I like that this set points out where the meat being served came from! At least if you're having squirrel, fox, venison, hare, etc. At last, dishes that acknowledge the chase that feeds us.

It probably bothers me less than most. I spent a lot of time in Wisconsin growing up, where a deer strapped to the top of a car or hung from the basketball hoop on a family garage is a common autumnal sight. Moose antlers, collected from the source by my grandfather in Jackson Hole, adorn the top of a hutch at the Red House. Anyway, off topic: dishes.

Luckily, I pointed the set out to Steven's mother (who likely would have found them herself anyway), who was also out this morning, and she immediately fell for them, and wisely claimed the lot, for less than the price of the cheapest set of dishes at Wal-mart. I'm happy they're in the family, and look forward to seeing them at Thanksgiving. The enormous tureen (curiously identified as a vegetable dish):

But really, this has led to a crisis of conscience: do names carry such weight in my appraisal of objects? Gross.

The seller told Ellen (Steven's mother) that she bought them directly from the factory during a trip to Munich with her mother in 1972 (just before the massacre at the Olympics). Portentious pottery?

Mistake. Mistake!


Christmas Comes to Nick, c/o Swedish Classical Modernism

So, my mailbox and email have been overloaded lately with fan mail demanding to know what I would like for Christmas. I'm hard to shop for, and I'm not at all surprised that you, my savvy readers, have stepped up to the bar and begun to plan your gift giving to me before Black Friday. I really respect you for it. And to that end, I've decided to simply come out and tell you what I'd like for Christmas, just to make your lives easier.

I'd love it if you could pool your funds and pick this up for me:

Sublime, coolly elegant and even a little whimsical (the curved pom over the glass shade, looking everything like a dandelion pod), this lovely object was created by one of the most important, least well known designers of the 20th century, Gunnar Asplund. Consummate classicist, with the heart of a modernist (or vice versa), Asplund's works have literally brought me to tears, on multiple occasions (Skogskyrkogården and the Stockholm Public Library and the Gothenburg City Hall, each one separately, first in Winter 2006, then Summer 2008. Six weep sessions).

His interiors are simply flawless. And so, dear readers, I must have this chandelier. Or, alternately, this sconce, which is definitely a second choice, but lovely nonetheless:

Subtle detailing throughout:

It's almost as though the light has taken blob-like form and is being wrung through the arm of the sconce.

Both the chandelier and sconce are up for auction in Chicago at Wright, on November 18th. I'm anxious to see how they fair -- he's not at all as well known as most of the big Scandinavian architects, but objects associated to his work almost never come up for auction. It could go either way, but whatever way it goes, they are way out of my league. Sigh.


Rare and Subtle Creature of Sky and Tree

Spied this summer, at long last and after years of effort on the part of some of our party, I present the Boreal Chickadee:

They travel in flocks of plane-jane chickadees, but are rare in the extreme, and nearly impossible to see. Boreal Chickadees go about life discreetly, unaware of their celebrity in certain circles of bird watchers -- pursued and desired, ever elusive and seemingly pedestrian.

When finally we saw them, flitting through a copse of trees near the edge of a cliff overlooking the Bay of Fundy, it felt invasive and satisfying at once -- like peering into the windows of a house a dusk. I would love to see the little beasts again.

How sweet and secretive they are. I very much admire their subtle coloring and incognito ways.

All photos taken this summer on Grand Manan Island by Steve Thompson Sr.


The Flat Files, Part 1: Princess Diamantine

A recent upgrade in furnishings threw off my schedule the last few weeks, and caused disorganization in our house the likes of which I've avoided for months. But it did lead to the emptying of drawers and clearing of boxes and tabletops, and in the process I discovered things I'd forgotten for years.

In a hidden folio I discovered a group of scraps I picked up while living in Rome, which I bought because they were so strange and out of place; they appeared to be American, and I was missing home something fierce. Pages of newspaper clippings from the second half of the 19th century, text relating humor that is in no way humorous (ex: the comedic trials of a minister named Cleveland living in the city of Cleveland), with one dazzling exception:

"A BLAZE OF DIAMONDS --At a ball recently given in the
Fauxborg St. Germain, at Paris, the diamonds outshone every
specimen of Parisian splendor which has yet been beheld.
One lady, who stood for a moment motionless in a doorway,
forced thither from the crowd, forming the focus upon which
were directed the rays of the waxlights in the chandelier op-
posite--literally produced an exclamation of surprise from the
whole company from the absolute blaze of light which she
seemed to project from head to foot. This lady is the wife of
a Brazilian gentleman, the owner of the most productive dia--
mond mines in the world, and, for many years, it has been his
custom to bestow opon his wife the whole produce withdrawn
from the mine during the whole month of the year in which
they were married. The number and value of the ladies jewels
have thus gone on increasing until the collection she owns at the
present moment is said to throw that of many crowned heads
completely in the shade. To give an idea of that quantity of
diamonds which decorated her person we can only say that the
whole stomacher of the dress, and the quilles on each side of
the skirt, were formed of a net-work pattern of diamonds ;
while the corsage was surmounted with a row of larger size,
and the headdress composed of resille of the same, from
which, of either side, and down the back of the neck, hung
tassels, entirely of diamonds. The lady has received, ever since
the display, the sobriquet of the Princess Diamantine."

The absurd thing is that I briefly dated the son of a Brazilian gem magnate, and can't help but wonder if I could have been Prince Diamantino. But more importantly, I love Princess Diamantine's confidence in the credo "more is more," and the hoarded-splendor of her person makes me worry less about the absurd accumulation of things in our apartment.
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