Wednesday, September 29

Thank you Kravet

Thank you for including me in the most recent issue of You can read the entire piece here on page five.

Tuesday, September 28

Mary McDonald: The Allure of Style

Like so many I have been counting the days until the release of Mary McDonald’s first book The Allure of Style. Now the wait is over! Mary’s exquisitely photographed book includes her own refurbishment of Buster Keaton’s legendary villa, as well as an extraordinary range of client projects.

Mary’s flair for combining old-fashioned elegance with bold patterns, chinoiserie and contemporary style is second to none. Vibrant color and whimsical designs, married with an impeccable sense of style is evident on every page. This book is a must for any design library.

A very special thank you to Mary for including me in the acknowledgments. Unnecessary, but very much appreciated. Mary you are the best.

Photo 1: Simon Upton
Photos 2, 3, 4: Miguel Flores-Vianna
Photo 5: Victoria Pearson

Friday, September 24

Profile: Kevin Isbell

As a general rule, I like to write profiles on people who I have met or have had a chance to speak with a great length. I feel as though I can write a much stronger and personal profile if we’ve had a chance to sit down together and exchange ideas and stories. That said, when my friend Elizabeth Blitzer introduced me to the work of Kevin Isbell I knew that I had to learn more about him and his work.

Kevin founded his New York based design firm in 2009. And while his firm may be young, he is no stranger to the world of interior design. A native of Ohio, Kevin earned degrees in both Business Management and Art History at Ohio State University before moving to San Francisco to pursue his life long passion for design. After graduating from the Academy of Art with a degree in Interior Architecture and Design, he began working for the renowned California designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy.

After relocating to New York City in 2001 he became the Senior Designer for Celeste Copper, working on projects from Pied-a-Terre apartments to Palm Beach estates, as well as a coveted room in the Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse in 2002.

In early 2005 he joined Bilhuber & Associates as Design Director. In the four years he worked with Bilhuber Kevin managed numerous projects in the Hamptons, Nantucket and the Caribbean.

What I admire most is his highly curated and edited style. The interiors come across as fun, not fussy. I also like the way he weaves unique objects into his rooms, never giving in to over-decoration.

I will be in NYC the week of October 4 and will finally have a chance to meet Kevin in person. I look forward to learning more about his passion for creating artful and interesting living spaces.

How would you describe your personal style?
Collected and unexpected. I like to mix high and low. A great pair of shoes, with Levis. I find it much more interesting to find stylish pieces at every price point. I approach my design in the same manner.

What is your most prized possession
Although not exactly a possession, I would have to say my Basenji’s, Simon and Rita. I wish everyone in my life were as excited to see me walk through the door.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Being surrounded by people and things that I love. My New York City apartment is full of things that I love or represent someone special. From a clock given to me by my father, or a shell I picked up on the beach, it all comes together to tell my story.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without
My integrity

What inspires your creativity and designs?
My design is a highly personalized process which I view as storytelling. I try to inject the client’s personality into the space to tell the story that is their life. For example, I have a client who is smitten with Napoleon. For her dressing room, I have lined all the drawers and closet interiors in a Napoleonic bee patterned wallpaper. It’s a special touch that only she experiences.

Who are your style icons
Axel Vervordt, Yves St Laurent, Jacques Grange, Billy Baldwin, Albert Hadley.

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
I would love to collaborate with the sculptor Richard Serra. His pieces have a quiet, subtle strength in their simplicity.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
A first edition copy of the 70’s monograph of Syrie Maughman which I just scored on eBay for next to nothing, Leo and His Circle, the autobiography of gallerist Leo Castelli, and the ubiquitous stack of shelter magazines, naturally

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Freshly ironed sheets.

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
In every major life changing moment there has been someone who helped influence and guide me through that change. I believe that people are brought into our lives at certain times to teach us a lesson. Currently, that would be my partner, Patrick.

Profile by Ronda Carman

Tuesday, September 21

Final Thoughts on La Castellane

Shortly after I met Kathryn Ireland, she said to me in her wonderful British accent, “Darling! You must come to La Castellane! It’s heaven!” She did not need to convince me, the one who suffers wanderlust, to make the visit. Who in their right mind passes up the opportunity to visit heaven on earth? Little did I know that the trip would be so entrancing.

La Castellane has long been available to friends and family, but most recently Kathryn partnered with fellow Francophile Nikki Maxwell, Proprietor of Picnics in Provence. As the name suggests, Provence has been the main focus of Nikki's exclusive guided tours and gastronomic explorations. That was until she met Kathryn and traveled to the Tarn et Garonne region of France.

Convinced that Kathryn’s lovingly restored home was the perfect backdrop for an eight-day getaway, an itinerary was planned. Why limit picnics to only one beautiful region of the country?

Thanks to Nikki's passion and enthusiasm, every day we were offered a unique chance to explore the countryside. No two days were the same. Picnics, yes. Pampering, absolutely. Each morning I awoke to the sounds of crowing roosters (no alarm clock), streams of sunlight, a glorious breakfast and friendly faces. And at the end of the day my bed was turned down with little gifts.

True to Nikki's motto "Unspoilt France off the Beaten Track", staying at Kathryn’s and traveling with Nikki provided a rare opportunity to relax, recharge and drink lots of local wine. Thank you Kathryn and Nikki. It was a wonderful week.

If you wish to experience heaven for yourself, circle these dates:
11th to 18th May
7th to 14th June
17th to 24th June
20th to 27th July
1st to 8th September

A lake side picnic at the home of chef Daniel de la Falaise was just one highlight of the trip. Sitting by the lake I felt as if I were a million miles from nowhere.

Happy chef. Happy guest. The seafood extravaganza was one of my favorite meals. Pure pleasure.

Working lunch

Sadly, I don't think they were sold as pets.

The most beautiful onions ever. I love the shades of purple.

Best not to worry about a low carb diet.

A few of these made their way back to the house. We roasted them whole.

Fruit was literally falling from the trees. So simple and so pretty.

Robert and Bernard Plageoles are perhaps the most renowned producers in Gaillac. The family is committed to using Gaillac's obscure varietals and producing high quality organic wines.

Not only is Gaillac an historic wine region, it is regarded as one of the oldest wine producing areas in France.

Darwin the vineyard dog. He followed us everywhere. We were told that he loves to lick wine from the taps. Sounds like a good life.

A snapshot of daily life

Beautiful flowers at market

A happy and eager little dog.

Who doesn't love an outdoor bed in warm weather?

I adore the way Kathryn's pillows just pop.

Lunch at Le Clos Sainte Cécile in Albi.

The poire William made by Laurent Cazottes is quite extraordinary in its taste and purity. One of the best in France.

Beautiful blues and greens of Kathryn's home.

Nothing beats an afternoon swim and a good book.

Another glorious day comes to an end. I will be counting the days until I return.

Friday, September 17

Daniel de la Falaise's Carrot Tarragon Soup

The renowned German writer and polymath Goethe once wrote that a really great talent finds happiness in the execution. A truism chef Daniel de la Falaise proved time and time again during my stay in France.

If you are a regular reader, you know all too well that I love to cook and that I adore good food. So, as you can imagine, I was thrilled to spend a few days watching Daniel in the kitchen. Of course, the highlight for me was a guided tour of a local market and private hands-on cooking class (we made soup no less).

Much like his beloved grandmother, cookbook author Maxime de la Falaise, Daniel is a passionate cook. He is also a food purest. Everything he prepares is fresh, locally sourced and without extraneous or unnecessary elements.

I will readily admit that I was skeptical when he prepared chicken broth using only chicken and mineral water! I will also concede that the flavor was amazing and well beyond what I could have imagined - proving my point that talent, much like beauty, must eschew ostentatiousness if it is to be fully developed.

So why was the broth so flavorful? The most obvious reason is the better the chicken, the better the broth. I also learned that you should remove all skin to achieve a rich essence. Another important step is to cover the chicken in mineral water, not tap. Mineral water imparts a clean, pure flavor. But most importantly, broths are to be simmered gently, with bubbles just breaking the surface. NEVER boil.

While the soup itself is relatively simple, it’s Daniel’s philosophy and prose that make the recipe:

a bunch of carrots
a leek
chicken broth
olive oil
fleur de sel

The idea is to source the freshest of raw ingredients and celebrate the magic of their subtle flavors. Most vegetables have a mistress in the herb garden. In the case of carrots I suggest tarragon.

The most delicious apple one is ever likely to eat will be the one plucked from a branch in an orchard and bitten instantly. Immediacy is paramount to texture and flavor. The vitality of the green tops of a bunch of carrots will give you a pretty clear idea as to how long they have been out of the ground. Hydrating vegetables in iced water for 20 minutes before peeling them will significantly improve vitality and texture.

The key to soup is organizing your ingredients in such a way that requires minimum cooking time. With this recipe, firstly mandolin your ingredients so they are paper-thin. Then in a generous pan toast them in herb infused fat. Once translucent de-glaze the pan with broth and bring the whole to a simmer.

All that remains to do is cover and stand the pan off the heat to rest. The herbs will gently infuse. Your soup will cook in its accumulated temperature as it rests. Chlorophyll is very fragile and will oxidize at a certain temperature, whereupon greens turn grays and flavors to bitter to tastes.

I aspire to flavors that stimulate, and to tastes that are subtle and clean.

Finely chop a leek. Mandolin and finely chop a bunch of carrots. Heat pan and add olive oil and a knob of butter. Add a generous branch of tarragon to infuse the oil butter mixture. Add the leek and carrots. Gently toast until translucent then remove the tarragon. Taste and season.

De-glaze with a little of the chicken broth working the fat and broth into an emulsion. Add the remaining broth to cover the carrot and leek mixture (less broth for a thicker soup and visa-versa).

Taste and season. Bring the soup up to a rolling simmer and add a generous branch of tarragon. Cover with a lid and turn off the flame. Let it stand covered to rest, allowing it to gently cook and infuse in the accumulated temperature. Resist the temptation of lifting the lid for a good 20 minutes. Then taste. Remove tarragon. When satisfied, liquidize the whole adding olive oil for body and texture. Reheat and ladle into hot soup bowls. Serve immediately.

Photo by Nikki Maxwell

Recipe by Daniel de la Falaise. All rights reserved. No part of this recipe may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying or otherwise) without the express written permission from the author. Written permission is granted on a case-by-case basis. No verbiage or graphics may be altered or modified in any way. Photos by Ronda Carman, except where noted.

Thank You Rue...You Rock!

The fabulous new online magazine Rue debuted yesterday and it is delectable! The co-founders, Anne Sage of The City Sage and Crystal Gentilello of Plush Palate have put together a fabulous premier issue. I was so happy to see the brilliant Ron Woodson and Jaime Rummerfield on the cover. Jamie is one of my favorite people. Not only is she super chic, she is super fun.

I am more than thrilled that my friend and gifted client Mary Douglas Drysdale’s work is included in the premiere issue (page 226 - 237). The home that Mary designed for Sam Gilliam, internationally recognized as one of America's foremost Color Field Painter and Lyrical Abstractionist artists, is a departure from what most believe to be Mary’s style. In my mind, it proves the breadth of her work and understanding of design and architecture.

A huge thank you for including me along with Holly Becker of Decor8 in the Bloggers Side-by-Side feature (page 40-41). The illustrations are wonderful. I especially love the rendering of Eero Saarinen's tulip table that I named as my favorite iconic piece of furniture.

In a few weeks I will be profiling Anne and Crystal on All the Best. They are both so talented and I can’t wait to share more about this dynamic duo with all of you. Congratulations Crystal and Anne.

Saturday, September 11

Tarn et Garonne in Pictures

The last few days at Kathryn's have been amazing. Certainly it is both a cultural and educational experience. How wonderful it has been to pick fresh figs from her trees each day and to feed the horses apples straight from the orchard. I've even had the chance to 'put the chickens to bed' at night. I had no idea that chickens had to be put to's protection from foxes.

Today we had cooking lessons from the fabulous Daniel de la Falaise and yesterday we enjoyed a lakeside picnic on his property. Later this week I will post the recipe for the amazing carrot and tarragon soup from our day in the kitchen. Truly this is a magical part of the world.