I did pass ...

and now, since we're not worried about looking capable, I think I need red lacquered shoes:

The key, I think, is to wear them with an otherwise completely prosaic outfit. They remind me of these ammmmmmmaaaaaaaaaazzzzzzzing Dr. Martens (which, despite their recent resurgence, I almost entirely despise) that were vividly colored in primary hues (plus green), everything in one bright color: sole in matching colored rubber, eyelets enameled, laces DTM. They were in some English store or other, on sale, and I didn't buy them. Never to be seen again. Wait, I've found an image:

They were called "Dr Martens Primary Pascal 8 Eye" and I still want a pair. But those more subtle reds depicted at the top of the post are just as good, and certainly more wearable. Found here, care of Todd Snyder.


My Most Capable Looking Outfit

Believe it or not, my driving test is today, after 13 years of putting it off. I've always lived in urban areas and never bothered to learn how to drive, not to mention that I much prefer various forms of public transit (ferries, trains, buses, in descending order of preference).

So: what is my most capable looking outfit? Will I pass? And will I end up with Paul Rudd after a series of comic mishaps? Boring blue shirt and jean, maybe, and probably not. Only time will tell...

But if a fail, I'll just go back to my public transit ways. Maybe I'll run into charming Jonathon Richman.

Isn't it so fantastic he uses the word swain? When's the last time you heard that one?


Y Bwythyn Bach or Little House

In truth, for years I have dreamt of having a little house next to my normal sized house -- I've looked at impractically tiny houses with the thought that perhaps I could do away this a main house altogether, but when it comes down to it, I need my little house to be a retreat. Thus my recent focus on restoring our little outbuilding.

But where did I get this notion, of a little house? There are a few possibilities, a strong contender being Y Bwythyn Bach:

"In March 1932, on the occasion of Princess Elizabeth's sixth birthday, when the Duke and Duchess of York had started work on the grounds of Royal Lodge, a little straw-thatched cottage, 'Y Bwthyn Bach', (The Little House), was presented to Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in the name of the people of Wales. The gift was received by The Duke and Duchess of York in a ceremony at Cardiff on behalf of the young princesses. It was subsequently re-erected in the gardens of Royal Lodge in April 1932 and was furnished both inside and out. It had its own front garden with scaled down hedges and flower borders. The cottage survives to this day much to the delight of royal children visiting Royal Lodge."


I recall hearing about it during a documentary on Queen Elizabeth when I was 6, and ever since I've been smitten.


My Little Shed, With Little Men

You only realize how diminutive the scale is when there are figures all over it. Meet Dave, and his assistant Clayton, both of whom worked through all of my absurd concerns:

The ridge of the roof was so very off kilter mainly because the building had no ridge beam, only a series of independent rafters joined at an angle. Charming though this was, it had failed terribly over time, and a ridge beam had to be introduced:

Additionally, collar ties, or horizontal structural members, were added on both sides of each rafter. Though I was repeatedly assured these were unnecessary, I'm a belt and suspenders guy, and I never want to address this problem again.

I'd also like to show this odd little detail that as of yet I haven't mentioned:

This slotted stone is the stoop to the outbuilding (temporarily removed to jack up that side of the building); story goes, a past owner was friends with the caretaker of a cemetery (likely the lovely North Cemetery) who would give him obsolete stones. This stone was the foundation for a state tombstone, which would have been fitted into this slot.

We have several others in the yard, and large slabs of slate and white marble that I need to turn over -- no text is visible on any of them, but doubtless hidden somewhere.


My Little Shed, Naked

Stripped bare of its roof, the poor thing. This cockeyed roofline was one of many problems needing correction:

I must admit a certain fascination with the interior during all of this -- one of those beautiful moments never to be seen again:


Tableau Vivant

Alanna's Marat:

After this one:

I can't claim to have witnessed the performance, but I was around for the too-much-champagne, dancing, chair-carrying mess of a fun wedding that led to this late night tableau vivant.

Uh, happy Valentine's Day? No, this story doesn't relate at all, but maybe I thought of it because of the love-fueled gaiety of the wedding that day. Nice bit of post-rationalizing, that.


Lonely She-Wolf

Lost, and with neither Romulus nor Remus, on the Blvd. Saint Germain:

Oddly, this relief produced in me an acute melancholy. The stance of the she-wolf, tail straight down, ears up and head raised in expectation, longing or searching. It made me think of all the empty nesters, of my parents without me and my brother, of all my friend's parent who now live alone.

Maybe I was in this mood because of the rain, or because I hadn't had lunch, or that the Dries Van Noten shop was closed and we couldn't find Deyrolle. There were a lot of very serious problems at the time.


House Update: Green Painting In Progress

Soooo behind on posting images of our house, but here are a few of the progress shots from the epic painting of the room with the fireplace -- as always, Steven and I were assisted by Steve Sr., Steven's dad.

The color is less violent than it appears in this image, though it does have some vim and vigor.

It's Cottage Green by California Paints, from their Historic Colors of New England line. We weren't manic about using historic colors, but liked the look of it -- this was the 5th green we tested.

We started out with Seascape Jade, also California paints, as it's the exact color used in the Golden Steps dining Room at Beauport, but that color looked completely insane in our room.

We toned it down quite a bit, and now it's closer to a true verdegris. The white on the walls is a color I mixed myself and had matched -- that seriously took like 8 or 10 tries.

I promise you, I used to make fun of people agonizing over whites, but I get it now.


A Slow Dribble, Please: The Mossy Rocks of Aix

I have to admit something ... I don't like fountains. Or really, I should qualify: I don't care for water thrown artificially into the air -- no Jet d'eau or Buckingham Fountain for me, thank you. I do however love a still pool, or water flowing in a stream (a la Villa Lante or the Alhambra). But what I enjoy most is a slow drip, the sort of mossy dampness of a good old grotto.

As far as I'm concerned, these mossy old rocks are perfection:

Lovely. Aix en Provence, August, 2011.


Urban Endangered Species. Also, Mark Hearld.

Have I told you about they squirrels in our outbuilding? No? Well, they're very cute, and the scamper around a lot, and Aesop the Cat loves watching them, and they chewed three large holes through the roof of my outbuilding. Also, completely stripped about 4 feet of electrical wiring (thank god it was disconnected) -- how much will it cost to fix all this? Let's just say I could visit London for a few months for less. With airfare.

I don't get it -- Squirrels, I have been your champion! As a child, I read an article in National Geographic about how squirrels were the urban endangered species, and ever since I've done everything to support squirrel's rights. I have to say, they look a lot less cute to me now.

Nonetheless, I do find the latest Mark Hearld print offered from St. Jude's quite charming. Less so the actual squirrels in my yard.


More Nautical Melancholy, This Time in Newport

The week after Christmas, all of the Chicago Heywoods (plus Steven) trekked out to Newport to look at the seals in the Bay. Out of curiosity, we visited the Seamen's Church Institute of Newport, and I discovered the marvelous little chapel while trying to find the bathroom:

Every surface in the small room is mosaic, terrazzo or fresco -- a jewel box, with the dull grey light off the water; a little bit melancholy, but so beautiful. Little cushions with needlepoint seashells line a low bench of stone set into the walls:

It reminded me of being underwater -- it had that feeling of stillness and filtered light. The frescoes are pretty great, too -- here a very specific dog, certainly a portrait, gives St. Roch (who protects against storms) a biscuit. It is said that St. Roch was nursed through a life threatening illness by a dog:


Oh, Gio

I've had a design crush on Gio Ponti for years, but it has gone into overdrive in the last 6 months -- Wright sold an amazing number of objects from the Villa Arreaza in Caracas that had me drooling for days, and I seem to keep running into his works. Late august I spied these marvelous jars in Milan:

The same room had a masterwork portrait by Ribera -- I didn't even bother trying to photograph it, knowing how poorly it would translate. But trust me ...

I'm painting the diagonal brickwork pattern found on these jars in the back of a bookcase built into our upstairs hall ( a la Charleston) -- love it.

This beauty would have looked quite fine on our downstairs mantle; we need nautical crap with an edge. No pleasure craft, this -- try a ghost ship come to get you:

Reminds me of lacquer ... Dunand? Anyway, I want it but can't have it. Sold for 13,750 USD.


Cezanne's Studio in Aix en Provence

Not surprisingly, this was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The colors, the quality of light and the proportions of his large studio were pure perfection.

The narrow slit was installed to easily move large canvases into and out of the studio. It reminds me of the ventilation doors at the Carpenter Center at Harvard, by Le Corbusier. One wonders if Le Corbusier ever visited.

And look at the color of light through the leaves:


I would like to thank the distracted youth docents who were making out in the corner -- their negligence made these photos possible.


So Close to Home

Yesterday's post was from thousands of miles away -- today's is from 5 blocks from my house. Behold, some of the most beautiful Colonial slate carving I've seen:

It almost looks like Dagobert Peche, with that sinuous curve of the willow trunk:

And the fluidity of these lines!

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