marley was dead, to begin with.

I know. You have it memorized. At least to the line: Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

And you undoubtedly recall that Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks in 1843. But did you know (I didn't) that when the original manuscript was returned after printing, Dickens arranged for it to be finely bound in red morocco leather and presented the volume as a gift to his solicitor? In the 1890s, Pierpont Morgan purchased the bound manuscript. And now - right now - visitors to The Morgan Library & Museum can see said original manuscript in the rotunda of the museum's McKim Building. It will be on view from November 20 - January 6. This post is sorta a bookend post to the LAST post - with nothing in between. Lame.

Oh, a couple more things. Consider the characters from A Christmas Carol. Do you identify with Ebenezer Scrooge? Jacob Marley's Ghost? Mr. &/or Mrs. Fezziwig? Bob Cratchit? Fred, Scrooge's nephew? Belle, Scrooge's ex-fiancée? Tiny Tim? Any of the three apparitions?

My answer: Yes. What's yours?

One more. Favorite screen portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge?

My answer: Mr. Magoo.

What's yours?


new york feature: mr. morgan's library

In 1902, owning more treasures than his Madison Avenue home could hold, Pierpont Morgan commissioned Charles Follen McKim (1847–1909) to build a library for them. McKim was regarded as the dean of American architecture; his style infused classical discipline with measured grandeur and opulence, and he proposed to build Morgan an Italianate marble library that would pay architectural tribute to the High Renaissance. In 2006, a century after its completion, the McKim building has remained little changed since Morgan's day. Both the exterior and interior of the original building are designated New York City Landmarks; the secretary of the interior has designated the library a national historic landmark.

The Library (shown above) is by far the largest and grandest of the rooms in the McKim building. This room, with its triple tiers of bookcases fashioned of bronze and inlaid Circassian walnut, originally housed most of Pierpont Morgan's books. Above the fireplace is a sixteenth-century Brussels tapestry. Harry Siddons Mowbray's ceiling paintings feature portraits of great men of the past alternating with female muses and signs of the zodiac.

Now open to the public for the first time, the Librarian's Office (above) is located at the north end of the Rotunda. This is the smallest of the McKim rooms and was the office of Belle da Costa Greene, Morgan's personal librarian, a leading figure in the international art world, and the first director of the Morgan. In addition to a number of original furnishings, the Librarian's Office contains, among other objects, a bronze candelabrum with figures of Juno, Minerva, and Venus by Antoine-Louis Barye, and a bronze sculpture of John Ruskin by Gutzon Borglum. The bronze bust over the mantle, formerly thought to be of Petrarch, has recently been identified as Boccacio, and was made after a marble bust by Giovanni Francesco Rustici. The ceiling paintings are by James Wall Finn and his studio.

The Study is the most sumptuous and yet personal of the rooms and the one that best reflects the personal tastes of its original occupant. It was here that Morgan met with art dealers, scholars, business colleagues, and friends. With few exceptions, all the paintings, sculpture and decorative objects in the Study were here in Pierpont Morgan's day. The paintings are primarily by Italian and Northern Renaissance masters; the objets d'art range in date from the third millennium B.C. to the nineteenth century, and give some indication of the original scope and diversity of Morgan's once vast holdings.

The interior of the McKim building consists of three rooms radiating off the east, north and west sides of the Rotunda, a vaulted entrance foyer. The restrained simplicity of the building's façade yields to the splendor of color and texture in the Rotunda, supplied by variegated marble surfaces and columns, mosaic panels and columns of lapis lazuli. The marble floor, with its central porphyry disc, owes its design to that of the Villa Pia in the Vatican gardens. The decorative programs for the apse, ceiling and lunettes of the Rotunda were designed and executed by Harry Siddons Mowbray.

:The Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Avenue (at 36th Street); for more information on the permanent collection, current and future exhibitions, visit The Morgan website.



Happy Holidays!

I took a bunch of photos (of course!) from our perch above The Parade yesterday morning. This is one of my favorites. (I like the subtle ogre-sized Letterman promo.)

Next we have a colossal example of classic design genius.

Followed by the Mystery Rabbit. (If you think this is the Energizer Bunny, it's not. Design Wonks will likely i.d. this fellow in a flash. Others might consider a Times consult for assistance.)

On the way home, a certain someone gathered up an armful of luminous yellow roses to add even more color to our Thanksgiving table.

Good weekend, everyone!



kandinsky: tone & timbre

Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle), 1913.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944) trained and practiced as a lawyer in his native Russia, but in 1895 he saw Monet's Haystacks at Giverny at a French Impressionist exhibition. He was so inspired, he moved to Munich to study art in 1897. After successful avant-garde exhibitions, he founded the influential Munich group, Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider, 1911-14), and began to paint in a completely abstract style.

Also an accomplished musician, Kandinsky embraced the concept that color and musical harmony are linked. He used color in a highly theoretical way, associating tone with timbre, hue with pitch, and saturation with the volume of sound. He claimed that when he saw color, he heard music. His artwork contained greater abstraction than the Impressionists, and it cannot be overstated how much music influenced his paintings, even down to the names of his paintings: Improvisations, Impressions and Compositions. His forms evolved from fluid and organic to geometric and finally, to pictographic.

Bright colors, like those in Farbstudie Quadrate (above), also held exceptional fascination for him, even as a child. He was profoundly affected by the houses and churches of his native Russia, whose glistening colors gave him the sensation that he was not walking into a building, but into a painting. Credited with painting the first modern abstract works, Kandinsky was gripped by what he called "inner necessity," a compulsion to relentlessly create. He believed that if this drive were pure, it would inspire a correspondingly powerful response in viewers of his work.

Munich-Schwabing with the Church of St. Ursula, 1908.

Blue Mountain, 1908-1909. Oil on canvas, 41 3/4 x 38 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.


and the winner is...

...um...er...my Mom.

Two weeks (or so) ago, I posted a couple photos (one is reposted just below) that I described as "orange underground" and asked willing readers to participate in a little i.d. contest.

From both e- and blog-responses, I received the following guesses:



São Paolo.


Chicago O'Hare Airport.

Penn Station.

Good guesses all. But none are correct.

Correct answer IS:

Moscow (москва). That's Moscow, as in the Russian Federation, to be clear. And the shot is from the Tverskaya (Тверская) metro station on the Zamoskvoretskaya Line. (Mom didn't know all THAT - in fact, her first answer was simply Russia. I pressed her just a titch to get her to specify Moscow. I report this in the interest of full disclosure.)

Thanks to everyone who participated. Such fun! There is absolutely nothing about this photograph that would tip you off. You had to know something about me/us and where we've been in order to make more than a spin-the-globe-and-stop-it-with-your-finger guess. So Mom had an advantage, no question. But fair is fair, and my absolutely fabulous Mother will take home (or, more accurately, receive via snail mail AT her home) these beautiful note papers from Albertine Press.

I have another photo in mind for this week's contest. Also orange, but the subject is an animal. Oh, heck, I'll go to iPhoto right now and find it. Okay. Here it is.

Give this a try: As you can tell (hopefully), this is a camel (Camelus dromedarius). Where was this photo shot? That's the question.

Clue(s): this charming dromedary is in captivity (as you can probably see); the shot was NOT taken in Africa.

So start your guessing. I have another beautiful etsy-letterpress find to give away. It's waiting in the wings.

Ding ding ding ding ding. We have a winner!! My old friend, Anna, from the great state of OR pulls it out. Our single-humped camel friend was featured at the Bronx Zoo's Holiday Lights in 2005. Anna, be on the lookout. Lovely papers will find their way to your mailbox very soon.



feature: julie neill illuminations

Each Julie Neill creation is at once elegant, dazzling and completely unique – much like the designer herself. Many of Julie’s fixtures and furnishings are even named after the person for whom they were designed. I caught up with Julie at her shop on Magazine Street in New Orleans to discuss her work and inspirations.

How did you become a designer?
I think I became a designer when I was six years old! One day I was looking at the bookshelf in my room and realized that it was screaming at me to become a doll’s four-story townhouse. I consider that my first decorating project. I’ve had a lifelong love of beauty and beautiful things.

How did your career develop?
I received a Fine Arts degree from Agnes Scott College outside of Atlanta. After that, I pursued a career as a painter. But I found painting on canvas very confining and I began painting on other things such as walls, fabrics and furniture. I started selling my painted pieces as well as doing freelance decorative painting.

After my two children were born, my pediatrician asked me to do some decorative painting at his home; he liked my work so much that he asked me to help him decorate the entire house, and this led to other decorating projects.

As a decorator, the most frustrating thing was finding good lighting, especially chandeliers. New Orleans is full of wonderful craftsmen, so I asked around and found some talented, artistic craftsmen who helped me create special pieces for the special people for whom I was decorating.

Tell us about the names of your products.
Every piece that you see on my website was custom designed for a particular client and then added to my line. That's why most pieces have the names they do - they're usually named after the person they were first made for. If someone gets more than one piece, we name them after one of their friends or a member of their family. I’m pleased that my business has that personal touch, and that I get to continue the tradition of making a well-designed, handcrafted product. (Find photos and names of Julie's products right here.)

I’ve just begun making my pieces available “off the rack”, so I can offer my line to a much wider market. But I’ll continue to make custom sizes and finishes available.

What do you like most about your studio/workspace?
I opened my shop on Magazine Street in 2000. It’s a great place - a 120-year-old house with our showroom in the front and workroom in the back. I like working in such a gorgeous historic New Orleans building. It has 14-foot ceilings with old cracking plaster medallions - we hang our chandeliers from them. The other thing I love about my studio is that it is usually occupied by very creative and talented people who work with me to turn my design inspirations into a reality. Each person is a true character so that it feels like I’m at a party all day long. It’s a great environment for creative give-and-take, and the process always produces something unique and beautiful.

And I love being near so many antique shops! When I need inspiration in creating our signature handpainted finishes, I just take a walk and soak up all the colors and patinas of the very old places and pieces that inspire me.

Who/what/where are your greatest design influences?
Far and away, the city of New Orleans: my home, my heart, my native city. This wonderful place has the greatest influence on my work. New Orleans is a city of artists; it’s an antique city that’s beautiful and decaying and intense and European and peopled by an amazing array of characters. The beauty of the architecture and the elegance of the old homes inspires me in every way. It’s a city of decoration and grandeur that’s tempered by a patina of decadence, a city that thrives on celebration, a city that stimulates all your senses. In this place, there is no way to escape being inspired.

What four (or five or six) people (artists, historical figures, people you know) would you like to have as dinner guests?
Mario Fortuny for his multi-disciplinary art and design genius, but mainly because I am completely wowed by his fabric designs. Caio Fonseca for his many layered and simple/complex dynamic paintings. Richard Serra for the monumental simplicity of his sculpture. Gerrie Bremmerman because she is the goddess of interior design in New Orleans. Patty Griffin because when she sings, I am moved to tears. Miranda Lake because her wonderful encaustic collage pieces poke me in the soul. My son Henry and my daughter Isabelle because they love to party with interesting people.

What is your most valued possession?
Right now I’d have to say my most valued possession is my beloved 1880 house in the historic Garden District where I live with my two children and my three cats. We all agree that this house is a treasure and we absolutely enjoy living here.

Tell us about your connection to New Orleans.
I am a third generation New Orleanian. It is my home and my heart. When you are from New Orleans, you are not like other people. New Orleans people love their homes and they love to decorate, and they decorate to please themselves. New Orleans people are easy going and love to party and to just visit. They are passionate and often favor thinking with their hearts and not their heads. This is part of what makes New Orleans special.

This wonderful city was truly knocked over by Hurricane Katrina. We will never be the same. But we are rebuilding and remaking and reinventing and renewing ourselves. This is a city that doesn’t give up.

Which products from your line do you have in your home? Do you have a favorite?
I have several pieces which I have designed for my home. Most of them are custom pieces that I’ve had made for myself. My favorite piece is my Isabelle chandelier because it was one of my first designs, and because it embodies everything that’s important to me - it’s classical in form, its details are simplified and modern, it has a certain lighthearted elegance and it’s hand made - it doesn’t take itself too seriously and it gives a sense of celebration to the room and the people in it. It is also named after my daughter.

:julie neill website and contact


piranesi's continuing influence

Although Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) is best known today as the supreme master of the art of etching, his early training and lifelong concerns as an architect and designer were essential to his brilliance and versatility. His chosen profession as architect was the dominating factor throughout a highly productive career of nearly forty years, which included not only the graphic arts, archaeology, and polemical debate, but also interior design, decorative arts and the restoration of classical antiquities.

Piranesi as Designer (on view at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum through January 20, 2008) examines the artist's role in the reform of architecture and design from the 18th century to the present. This is the first museum exhibition to show Piranesi's full range and influence as a designer of architecture, elaborate interiors and exquisite furnishings. On view are etchings, original drawings and prints by Piranesi, as well as a selection of three-dimensional objects. In addition to his better-known architectural projects, Piranesi also designed fantastic chimneypieces, carriage works, furniture, light fixtures and other decorative pieces.

The impact he had on subsequent generations of architects and designers was profound. His manifold influence continued throughout the nineteenth century, evident in both architecture and stage design, and then reemerged in twentieth-century film-set design. Today, Piranesi’s ideas have surfaced in the work of leading architects such as the Postmodernists Michael Graves, Robert A. M. Stern, and Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, as well as in the Deconstructivist work of Peter Eisenman and Daniel Libeskind.

Piranesi as Designer is the first museum exhibition to present Piranesi’s full range and significance as a designer, by means of etchings, original drawings and objects. The core of this exhibition has been drawn from the riches of the Smithsonian Institution and from New York City public collections, most notably from the Cooper-Hewitt, Morgan, and Avery Libraries.

Featured alongside these drawings is an unprecedented display of objects gathered from prestigious collections around the world, especially the magnificent chimneypiece and pier table from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Together, this testament to Piranesi’s continuing influence eloquently conveys the impact of historic design on the present (italicized for extra-super emphasis - consider it a virtual hit over the head).

Pier table designed for Cardinal Giovanni Battista Rezzonico, ca. 1768. This carved and gilt wood table, together with its pendant (in the Minneapolis Institute of Fine Arts), were integral elements of the lost state rooms of Monsignor Giambattista Rezzonico in the Quirinal Palace. Ornamented by stylized natural forms from antiquity.

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is located on Museum Mile, at the corner of 91st Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City.

:Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum; check out the stunning exhibition website here


peace is our gift to each other*

Worldwide, only 22 World War I veterans are known to be alive.

Veterans Day traces its origin to the armistice that ended World War I, which came on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

: *elie wiesel, nobel lecture, 12/11/86; image dianamuse


Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. --NM

:nytimes, ny review of books

orange underground: clue number two

So far, I have two responses to the "location identification" query I posed yesterday. Answers (from readers who chose to e me rather than post a comment - believe me, I understand) are:



Neither is correct. A worthy effort, nonetheless.

So have another go at it. Here's a second orange image from the same underground system. Anyone? Anyone?

(Oh. Two more. São Paolo (cool). And Berlin. Again, not correct - but I'm getting a hankering for travel. Keep trying. We'll give this a couple more days.)


can't take my eyes off of you

I'm strangely fascinated by this. And, you might ask, what is it?

I'll tell you. It's a Jon Eric Riis tapestry, and it hangs in the living room (see below) of a house that Andersson-Wise Architects renovated in Austin, Texas.

I had to post it here. Just because.

:interior design, art gray photography


fornasetti in situ

I did a Fornasetti wallcoverings post (is that the correct verb? does one DO posts?) a few weeks back, so this really caught my eye (pun acknowledged). The red lacquer cabinet is beautiful, don't you think?

:elle decor italia

orange underground

I spent about 30 seconds skulking around a favorite haunt looking for a nice bit of "orange artwork". Then it dawned on me to plumb the depths of my iPhoto archives. Man, there's a lot of great stuff down there. I gotta do me some excavatin'.

This one's a fave. (BTW, if anyone can guess the location, there's a prize for you. And, besides that, you'll really freak me out.)


paula scher @ home

Great interiors from the great Paula Scher's Flatiron apartment. Check out the "fantastic and alarming" list on the sofa pillow.

Good weekend, everyone.

:these images (+ more) and lovely interview at nysocialdiary


shop ny: dulken & derrick

Dulken & Derrick has been manufacturing and importing the finest silk flowers since 1941. Located in New York City's Flatiron District in a 5,000-sq-ft loft, their workshop's ambience resembles that of an old-world European atelier. Hundreds of antique bronze molds, bolts of silks, satins, velvets and organzas adorn the space. Colorful pistils, oak, maple and rose leaves fill the shelves. Everywhere, boxes overflow with thousands of beautifully crafted flowers.

Eleanor Roosevelt (!) bought her silk flowers here, and so should you.

:h&g (sniff)


deepening hues

This miraculously-hued image suggests the sidelong amber light that is a trademark of NYC in the fall - and one of the (gazillion, maybe? just a guestimate) reasons I love this town. On a clear autumn day in the late afternoon, if you face east, the light reflects off the sides of buildings facing west. The effect is extraordinary, outside and in.

:sarah kaye


golden days

Some beautiful interiors to welcome in this lovely autumn weekend (remember clocks back this Sunday) - and to remind us of the importance of rest, reading and relaxation in the comfort of home.

Good weekend, everyone.

:sarah kaye, 30elm