Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


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!



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.


Dragons in Bama

Just as Laura Vinroot Poole's Charlotte boutique, Capitol (the shop with the incredible garden wall designed by Patrick Blanc), delights even jaded New Yorkers, the Birmingham Museum of Arts' Asian ceramics continue to command international attention.

For the past few months I've been sharing my excitement about the Museum's soon-to-open exhibition, Dragons and Lotus Blossoms, the largest Vietnamese ceramics show ever mounted in the U.S. So, I was thrilled to learn that the BMA's Le Dynasty glazed stoneware jar, one of the pieces in the exhibition, was recently ranked by Apollo as the Ninth Most Important Acquisition Worldwide in 2011. Even more reason to head to Alabama this winter. Congrats BMA!


For the Older Kids

[Photo my own.]

I know that many of my creative readers are pretty handy with scissors and tape, and experienced shoppers as well, so I'm popping in to help spread the word about an important volunteer opportunity that's right up your alley: Atlanta-based CHRIS Kids needs Holiday Helpers to shop (using provided gift cards) for the teens and children served by the organization and/or to wrap presents. Specifically, helpers are needed Monday, December 19 through Wednesday, December 21.

CHRIS serves abused and neglected youth who've typically spent years in the foster care system and don't have a traditional family support system. Older kids and teens often get lost in the shuffle of holiday toy drives so the staff does their best to buy simple items on the youths' wishlists. For details click here.

Similarly, my friend Meg over at Pigtown Design works on behalf of youth served by Maryland-based Woodbourne and she recently explained their current holiday needs (batteries for handheld games, neon shoelaces, Target gift cards and other humble things). Moreover, Toys for Tots distributes presents to tweens and in some cases teens. Click here for deadlines. We're in the final crunch!


Shopping with Benson and Whitaker

[The Benson-designed café, wine bar and specialty retailer, Reid's Fine Foods, in Charlotte, North Carolina. All photos of Reid's are by Chris Edwards.]

It's been a widespread trend but particularly where I live, in the Southeastern United States, some of the most interesting retail-related design projects of the past decade have involved smaller niche shops. Boutiques seem to be where the creative action is.

[Capitol photographed by Brie Williams. Architecture by Perry Poole with interior design by Barrie Benson.]

If we have a Wearstler-designed restaurant, like venerable Bergdorf's BG, in one of our department stores than I've been asleep on the job and am not aware of it. What we do have are some very chic locally owned boutiques including Laura Vinroot Poole's much buzzed about Capitol and her eponymous Poole Shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. Interior designer Barrie Benson is responsible for the look of both, along with architect Perry Poole.

 [Again, Capitol with a view of the amazing vertical garden wall by Patrick Blanc.]

Well known in the design world for her signature mix of modern style with classic Southern elements, Benson is definitely comfortable with glamour. However she sees beauty in straightforward, utilitarian design too. Take for example Reid's Fine Foods, Charlotte's 83-year-old specialty retailer. When Benson was called upon to breathe new life into the place, she brought back the down-to-earth look of an old school green grocery.

Still, this is Charlotte in the 21st century, so Reid's offers an abundant wine department with bar and a café. Apple-green bar stools and a few Thonet chairs with leafy-green floral seats are nods to the region's agrarian roots, softening the shop's more masculine natural materials -- richly stained wood, metal, leather -- without being fussy.

I tend to gravitate to relatively intimate shops like this rather than the big emporiums.

[Harrods, London, dressed in holiday lights as seen in The World of Department Stores,Vendome Press 2011.]

That said, Jan Whitaker's book, The World of Department Stores, is giving me a new appreciation for the wonder of the big, multi-level spaces.

[Cover of Nordiska's style magazine, Stockholm, summer 1932. Nordiska Kompaniet archives as seen in The World of Department Stores,Vendome Press 2011.]

Months ago, when Vendome asked me if I'd like a sneak peek, I envisioned a book with a brief history of a handful of iconic stores, such as Liberty, accompanied by lovely images. Instead what I found was an incredibly in-depth study and an array of pictures encompassing vintage ads and striking architecture photography.

[An example of national advertising, this Marshall Field ad ran in The New Yorker in 1971. Image from as seen in The World of Department Stores,Vendome Press 2011.]

 [Glass funnel inside Berlin's Galeries Lafayette, designed by Jean Nouvel, as seen in The World of Department Stores,Vendome Press 2011.]

Whitaker makes the case that, long before museums welcomed the masses, department stores introduced the public to unfamiliar ideas and styles -- modern furniture and decor, fine art, monumental architecture, couture and even fine dining.

She explores stores across the globe from France (birthplace of the department store) to Japan to the U.S., explaining why these businesses became the heartbeats of their communities. In their golden era they provided jobs for large segments of a city's population and they were frequented by, well, everyone from the society matron to her housekeeper.  For housewives, especially, the hometown department store of yore was a sort of oasis -- according to architect Louis Parnes, the equivalent of the businessman's clubhouse.   

[1925 poster by Marcello Dudovich highlighting luggage at La Rinascente as seen in The World of Department Stores,Vendome Press 2011.]

With Whitaker's expansive section on architecture (she covers innovative design from the 19th century to present day), I think there is plenty of material here to interest design enthusiasts. In fact, architect Stefan Hurray recently weighed-in here. But I have to add that I really got into the psychology. Whitaker is a sociologist whose area of interest is retailing and restaurants. While business psychology isn't a particular interest of mine, her exploration of marketing -- how the merchants courted children by creating fairyland toy departments, zoos, and more, and how they shaped the way we celebrate Christmas -- held my attention.

And of course stores used to have larger in-house creative teams with graphic designers and other artists. This history (with details including shopping bag design) should interest today's art students.

Gift wrap departments still exist and many people look forward to seeing a store's signature box under the tree. Since Barrie Benson is so creative, though, I did ask her how she wraps her own presents. The Duquette fan said Paper Source's peacock satin ribbon is her go-to choice. "I think it looks great with most red papers," she added.

[Paper and ribbon via Paper Source.]

No over-thinking it. Just the dynamic combination of blue-green against red. Her extra effort goes into food prep: a scratch-made batch of brandied cherries for friends and a copy of her French 75 recipe from a fave cocktail book, The Art of the Bar.


Up Next: Shop Girls

 [The Benson-designed wine bar and café at specialty retailer Reid's Fine Foods in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo by Chris Edwards.]

From designer extraordinaire Barrie Benson's commercial projects including Reid's Fine Foods and Capitol to sociologist Jan Whitaker's exhaustive (and lavishly-illustrated!) study, The World of Department Stores, later this week we'll explore some shops. In the meantime, if you haven't seen it yet, Charlotte-based Benson has a new site beautifully created by multi-talented Atlantan John Lineweaver (he's a graphic designer, art director and product developer). BTW, Lineweaver did all the graphics for Reid's too.

[Detail of turquoise doors at 310 Rosemont boutique on North Highland Ave. in Atlanta. Photo snapped by a seven-year-old and tweaked by me.]

You might also like Beckoning Doors and Windows.


Color and Light

[Photos directly above and below are my own. Mosey's ornaments, the citrine glass shown here, are currently available in many other colors at Saks as part of the Spotlight sneak peek. $30. The acqua ceramic is just an experiment of mine.]

Chattanooga-based Christopher Mosey's tactile glass work is raw and natural. But when I came across his brilliant ornaments at the Spotlight on Art preview (proceeds benefit Sheltering Arms and Trinity School scholarship funds), I thought of Luca Guadagnino's supremely stylized scenes in I Am Love.

 [Screengrabs from Magnolia Pictures I Am Love starring Tilda Swinton.]

While the acid-green shades in the ball I bought did remind me of the shimmering glasses in the film's birthday scene, it was really the sense of dappled sunlight that made me connect the two.

Beautifully diffused light is a major element throughout the movie.

Bars and grids are another visual motif, but truth be told I was so taken with all the jaw-droppingly well-framed shots that I didn't pick up on the cage symbolism until I read set designer Francesca Di Mottola's production notes. The idea was to use the sets to underscore main character Emma's (Tilda Swinton's) sense of isolation and an entire family constrained by tradition. Once you're aware of this, you can't stop noticing vertical bars.

A few months ago I mentioned another sumptuous flick about an old Italian family going through upheaval, The Leopard. Roger Ebert compares the two films here, observing that director Guadagnino "makes the connection inescapable by the use of the name Tancredi [Emma's husband in I Am Love]; in The Leopard, Alain Delon pays the Salina nephew of that name."

I'll interject a visual connection: sunlight streaming through white curtains.

Of course, the best way to watch I Am Love is just to drink it in -- not intellectualize it. Like my December 2010 pick for aesthetic inspiration, Orlando, Love has some dreamy wintry scenes too. But don't forget to lookout for the many appearances of the book Atelier Simultane di Sonia Delaunay, 1923-1934 (explanation in the previous post) and the use of orange. Love is set about thirteen years ago; coincidentally, as everyone has heard by now, Tangerine Tango, a red-orange, is Pantone's color of the year for 2012.

[Image via Pantone]

If you want to celebrate the hue right now, Mosey made some orange spheres as well. Stop by the preview installation, on view through January 31 at Saks (women's shoes adjacent, main level, Phipps Plaza, Atlanta).

And those African beads I like -- the ones sold at Ann Mashburn -- are now available in carnelian (check out the purple too).