Style Court

Nine Years of Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes


Romantic Readiness II

I ended 2008 with a nod to Jay Gatsby's romantic readiness. Seems hard to believe that was four years ago, when F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel was Atlanta's choice for The Big Read. Now that we've all been teased by those stills from Baz Luhrmann's highly anticipated Gatsby film remake, a lot of us have 20s fever again. For Christmas, I even treated myself to the Zelda-inspired Paris Pairing.

 [Book photos my own.]

[Detail view, Ralph Lauren's soft, bohemian take on Roaring 20s style for spring 2012.]

In January, we'll explore Nancy Milford's seminal biography of Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda -- the contents and the wild 1970s peacock feather book jacket -- along with a host of other jazz age things. 

[Zelda in 1931 from the back of the book jacket.]

Wishing you a wonderful start to 2012!



Storage Trunk with Jollifier

 [Photo via Anthro catalog, January 2012.]

Hoping to spend the first day of the new year lounging, reading, or daydreaming about future projects? In case you're thinking about the latter, I thought I'd share my DIY trunk. Boxes like this are fun because, in terms of design, they can be interpreted in so many different ways. It's another project with endless possibilities.

[My dad got things started by building a pine box strong enough to hold weighty stacks of books.]

[Unless otherwise noted, the following photos are my own.]

Just to recap, I originally wanted an antique dhurrie-covered trunk like the ones I've seen at Guinevere. But with no striped dhurrie remnants stashed away in my closet and a strong desire to keep costs under control, I changed the focus to a simple, readily available solid fabric (fewer yards are needed with solids).

Inspired by classic canvas-covered steamer trunks and Billy Kirk's waxed cotton bags, I gravitated to the rich, dark Australian canvas available over at Mims Maine.

This rugged waxed cotton would've been a really pragmatic -- and beautiful -- way to go. It can be wiped clean and it's meant to have a complex patina. Plus, MM owner Natasha is incredibly helpful. And she has all sorts of terrific textiles. Her super-sturdy gray-green linen canvas caused me to shift course yet again.

Apparently a lot of other people loved this particular linen too; most of the yardage was already sold by the time I stumbled across it. In the end I picked up an ample roll of artist's linen canvas, with the idea of painting stripes on the fabric. Binders (adjacent to Atlanta's disco Kroger) is where I found the unprimed variety available by the roll or by the foot.

The flaxen shade and texture appealed to me, but to keep expenses to a minimum, I'd recommend cotton canvas instead.

Depending on the size of the trunk, three to four yards allows a little breathing room for mishaps.

Speaking of which, the fabric-appropriate spray adhesive typically suggested for projects like this didn't work so well for me. At first it was perfection -- we followed the directions carefully and kept the linen pressed flat to the wood, weighted down for added security with heavy books. The results were initially crisp and seamless but 48 hours later the linen puckered. So, we turned to the backup plan: staples and nailheads.

Boxes are ideal for first-time experiments because, with no pesky curves in the way, it's relatively easy to do the math, wrap fabric around corners and cover raw edges with trim. While leather is my preferred look for trunk edging, I had no prior experience with it and was a bit hesitant. As an alternative, my dad shaved down wood (corner moulding available at lumber supply stores and flat strips generally used for lattice work) to make it much thinner. Sheet metal is another option.

Painted stripes were scrapped in favor of military-esque webbing from Hancock's and twill tape from Paper Source. Glue didn't enter the picture. Again, staples and antiqued brass tacks from the neighborhood hardware store did the trick. More nailhead styles and finishes (like pewter, my next time choice) can be found here.

[Screengrab from The Darjeeling Limited.]

Remember the elephants inside the train cars in Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited? And of course the animal motif of the film's ever-present bags and trunks? For my trunk's interior jollifier I was fixated on these.

I wanted to come up with something a seven-year-old could help with. 

Stencils were my first thought, but the examples I came across were a bit off -- either in scale, style, or price. Decoupage and rubber stamps were the final choice. (If I get to the VMFA in the summer of 2012 to see the East Coast debut of Maharaja: The Splendors of India’s Great Kings, the Indian painting will be a happy reminder each time I open the trunk.) For something more personal, a child who loves to draw could do a freehand embellishment or you could do an inspiration board-style collage similar to Schuyler Samperton's bathroom wall.

[Image courtesy Schuyler Samperton.]

The other hardware I've covered in previous posts.

To review, I was very drawn to Sibella Court's luggage-inspired pulls (actually intended for drawers not trunk lids) so I'm trying them in lieu of a latch. However, if you're searching for something heavy duty, I spied a selection of vintage locks here.  And, again, Horton Brasses offers beautifully crafted hardware. The leather handles I ordered were a breeze (for Dad) to install and are very durable.

Court's nautical pliant rope handles caught my eye also; these are currently in stock at Atlanta's Westside Anthro, BTW.

[Image via Anthropologie.]

Happy brainstorming.

I'm not affiliated with or sponsored by the designers, stylists or businesses referenced in this post.


Happy Birthday Matisse!

 [Francoise Gilot's letters from Matisse as seen in Matisse and Picasso: A Friendship in Art.]

It's New Year's Eve but Saturday, December 31 is also Matisse's birthday. To celebrate, the High is offering kids and teens age 17 and under free admission on the artist's big day and again on Monday, January 2. (Younger visitors must be accompanied by a paying adult, though.) The museum will be open until 6 p.m. both days. With a handful of Matisse's most iconic works, including Dance (1), currently on view at the High in Picasso to Warhol, it's a great time to pop in. Click here for details.

[Top right: Kate Carr photo of Matisse's monumental La Gerbe (The Sheaf) (1953) commissioned by  Sidney and Frances Brody of L.A. for their mid-century A. Quincy Jones-designed (and Billy Haines-decorated) house -- image via Christie's. Lower left: Sidney and Frances on their patio with the piece -- image via LIFE.]

And something to look forward to in 2012: LACMA will exhibit Matisse's enormous, stops-you-in-your-tracks La Gerbe for the first time alongside its full-scale maquette and other materials that tell the story behind it (you may recall that in the early 1950s art patron Frances Lasker Brody and her husband commissioned this ceramic piece for the large patio of their A. Quincy Jones-designed house where it remained, according to the late Mrs. Brody, the heart of her home for more than 50 years).
   [Henri Cartier-Bresson Henri Matisse à son domicille, Vence, France, 1944 via Christie's.]

On view at LACMA beginning June 2 will be: nineteen of Matisse's original hand-painted color samples cut and sent to the Brodys during the process of the commission; original documents such as letters from Pierre Matisse, son of the artist and his U.S. dealer; Frances Brody's in-depth account of the commission written in the 50s; and again, the enormous maquette plus final piece -- recently given to the museum by Mrs. Brody. A bonus is Jazz; Matisse’s much-loved print portfolio will be included in the exhibit too.



Poinsettia rendered so beautifully that I was inspired to deviate from my usual camellias and share a tiny peek at some lovely cards the mailman brought today. Above (top left corner) is just a snippet of one friend's Rifle Paper Co. choice handpainted for her by the wonderful Anna Bond (don't want to reveal the customized family portraits without the sender's permission but you can see other examples here).

From me to you, it's virtual tidings of joy: again I send you and yours warm wishes for the happiest of holidays!


[My little nod to the 'Year of Delaunay.' I thought the paper kind of echoed some of the textile designs seen here. The poinsettia postcard was made by Cavallini & Co.]


The Paris Pairing: A Very Last Minute Gift Idea

[Clockwise from the left: 'Peacock feather cover' image of Zelda: A Biography by Nancy Milford from WeRead; still from Midnight in Paris -- left to to right: Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald and Owen Wilson as Gil. Photo by Roger Arpajou © 2011 Mediapro, Versátil Cinema & Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics; Zelda's own novel, Save Me the Waltz as pictured at Amazon.]

Granted, this may be more predictable than the I Am Love/Delaunay pairing, but I still think the right book combined with Woody Allen's now-out-on-dvd Midnight in Paris could make an inspired present. If you saw the comedy last spring, you know that the story centers on time traveling Gil (Owen Wilson), the 1920s Paris salon of Getrude Stein, and Lost Generation artists Scott and Zelda along with Hemingway, just to name a few. 

Obviously anything by Hemingway or something on Stein, the collector, and her circle would pair well with the movie. Since I've already highlighted so many Picasso-related books, I decided to go in a different direction: painter, dancer and writer Zelda Fitzgerald. Specifically, Nancy Milford's landmark Zelda: A Biography.

Unless you live near a stellar vintage book shop, there's not much time to track down an older edition with the striking peacock feather cover, or the image of Zelda sitting on the stacked trunks, but wherever you are, you can pick up the newest edition, released last month, for around $10 at most major retailers.  

Interested in the now classic covers of Zelda's husband's books? There's background on Francis Cugat's Art Deco work used for the original 1925 cover of The Great Gatsby here.

[Duncan Grant, The Mantelpiece, 1914, Oil and collage of paper laid on board
support, Tate Collection ©The Estate of Duncan Grant.]

Fast-forwarding to 2012, I do have a bit of fresh Picasso news. Picasso and Modern British Art opens at Tate Britain in February. The exhibition will look at Picasso's major impact on British painters, such as Duncan Grant, with 60 important pieces by the master shown alongside work by seven of his British admirers.


'Tis the Season

 [Unless otherwise noted, photos my own]

The other day I popped in Bella Cucina and came across one of the most appealing things I've seen all season: a row of simple clear jars, each holding a single pink camellia, that ran the length of a rustic farm table.

The display looked incredibly fresh and luxurious (but not ostentatious) and served as a nice counterpoint to the denser clusters of evergreen and magnolia placed around the shop. In season throughout winter, camellias may just be the only thing I love for Christmas and still love in January (excluding hot chocolate and Black Watch scarves).

[Photo via Ann Mashburn.]

That said, a 2008 post about John van Doorn's ornament collection is inspiring me to keep one piece -- maybe Chattanooga-based Christopher Mosey's glass ball -- out after all the others have been packed away. If you've accumulated more ornaments than you care to have, Magnaverde's comment (same 2008 post) and recap of his mother's Twelfth Night party with her many ornament-filled compotes is a must read.

The chic editor I mentioned the other day has been inspiring me too. He's got a virtual greenhouse going in his apartment that makes me want to continue forcing bulbs after New Year's.

Collector and philanthropist, Doris Duke, didn't have to think about how many or how few seasonal things to put out at her Newport house, Rough Point, because during Christmas she always jetted off to Hawaii. A special tour scheduled for December 28, UnDecked Halls: Behind the Scenes at Doris Duke's Mansion in Winter, will give the public a chance to see the home as it was kept throughout the colder months, experience the livelier, decorated staff wing, including the staff dining room, and learn more about Duke's tropical holiday.

[Doris Duke with surfer and musician Sam Kahanamoku at the entrance to Shangri La, circa 1939. Photo copyright The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.]  

[Circa 1960 Velzy surf board image via Dressed to Play: The Sporty Style of Doris Duke.]

More on tartan and Anglo style here.


Warm Wishes

[Unless otherwise indicated, photos are my own.]

I hope the coming week brings some happy surprises your way.

My special present arrived early: an ultra-sturdy linen-covered trunk built by my dad (with an interior jollifier painted by a second grader).

While it's been essentially finished and functioning as a workhorse table for about a month, a couple of things need to tweaked before it's ready for its close-up.

At the end of December, when we're all thinking about new projects for 2012, I'll review the supplies we used (artist's canvas, webbing and twill tape, leather handles from Horton Brasses, etc.), plus cool things I stumbled upon but ultimately didn't incorporate (waxed canvas from Mims Maine) and post a picture of the completed piece. Earlier, I said that everything except the handles came from a hardware shop or routine craft/fabric/art supply store but in the end I also added Sibella Court's hardware -- her luggage pulls to be exact. After a bit of searching, I finally uncovered a couple tucked away in a bin at Anthro's Lenox Square location.

[Screengrabs from Louis Vuitton's Travel to India video.]

[Billy Reid canvas bag.]

[Billy Kirk carryall.]

 [Clockwise from the top left: bag my own; photo by Jonny Valiant as seen in Martha Stewart Living, September 2011; sketchbook page of Edwardian-era Olivia Tonge from The World of Interiors, September, 2008; screengrabs from Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited.

Trunks can be about memories but they also represent the possibility of adventure. Above are more inspiration boards used for the interior and exterior of mine.

[Mary Randolph Carter photographed by her husband, Howard Berg, in their snowy apple orchard in upstate New York. Photo courtesy Carter.]

If you're planning on staying away from the blogosphere for the next couple of weeks, I want to go ahead and send you warmest wishes for a magical holiday. On the other hand, if you've landed here searching for a little last minute inspiration, I recommend Mary Randolph Carter's approach, shared here in 2010. The post is filled with timeless, no-fuss ideas. (And I still like Mary Laura's playlist.)


As always, I'm not affiliated with or sponsored by the designers, stylists or businesses referenced in this post.