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August, 2013 | Manolo for the Home
Archive - August, 2013

The Kitchen Clock

Kit-Cat WallClock in Black
Even though every appliance I own has a digital clock on it (everyone of which my husband insists on setting to the exact time, to the second) I still feel the need to have a analog wall clock in my kitchen. For many years, I had one of those typically retro, novelty cats with a wagging tail, the Kit-Cat Wall Clock, which you can see here to the right, here…

The problem is, during our last move, I broke the tail off when I dropped the clock into a box full of kitchen crap (the box was actually marked “Kitchen Crap”). I’d had that thing nearly 15 years, and it had become a sort of heirloom, although, my husband, who appreciates digital precision, didn’t seem to mind that it had disappeared from our life.

When we got into the new place and it came time to buy a new clock, I opted for a perfectly functional, perfectly blah, circular white wall clock purchased from Target for less than $20. For some reason, I just felt a Kit-Cat wall clock wouldn’t go with the decor in the new house, and perhaps that I was too mature for something that kitschy. (In hindsight, I’m probably not that mature, despite all the gray hair.)

Ice Wall Clock in Blue

In any event, it’s time for a new wall clock, and I think I’ve settled on something modern and mostly un-kitschy; the Ice Clock (available from The Best Gift Company).

Well, maybe no totally un-kitschy. It does look like a wrist watch, instead of a wall clock. But, that blue goes with my blue Stand Mixer, although, I think I’ll have to get a new set of curtains for the window over the sink.

The Ghost Chair

I call myself a home blogger, but here’s a trend I have completely missed: The Ghost Chair.

Actually, I had noticed these translucent chairs all over, mostly at social functions, but I hadn’t known that they’re called ghost chairs, and I hadn’t known that Philippe Starck Louis Ghost Chair was considered one of the “iconic chairs of the 21st century.” I just thought they were cheap, injection-molded plastic rental chairs provided by wedding planners for receptions and engagement parties.

Who knew that they were so trendy, showing up in all sorts of places, from trendy kitchens, to newly remodeled offices, to fancy bedrooms in swanky homes.

Ghost Chairs in Dining Room

The Ubiquitous Louis Ghost Chair

Now that I’ve noticed that this is a thing (several years too late, apparently) I know I’m supposed to admire the clever way the chair makes me think of more substantial and elegant pieces of furniture, while (almost) disappearing into the woodwork.

I’m not buying it. I don’t really want that much plastic in my house, and I don’t want that much plastic touching my bare legs in the morning when I’m sitting at the dining room table drinking coffee and reading the New York Times. You can count me out of this trend, in fact, I’d like to go back to the period when I thought these were just cheap chairs you bought at Wal-Mart, for $19.99 each.

Wallpaper Love

French Wallpaper in Andrew Jackson's Home, the Hermitage, Nashville, TN

French Wallpaper in Andrew Jackson’s Home, the Hermitage, Nashville, TN

I’ve got to say that until two years ago, I had never particularly cared for wallpaper. Probably because most of the wallpaper I’d encountered had been installed in the 1960s or 70s and never updated. I equated it with fusty, musty, old-fashioned homes gone out of style. It was paint, or nothing for me.

What turned me around on the wallpaper issue was a visit I made to The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson in Nashville, Tennessee, where I saw the magnificent, hand-painted, scenic wallpaper Jackson had imported from France at great cost. It was drenched in color, mostly blue, and gorgeous. And it convinced me to give wallpaper a second look.

Since then, I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at sites like I Love Wallpaper, trying to figure out how to fix up my walls with a splash of textured, paper color. The problem I’m having is that I can’t afford to hire French craftsmen to paint delightful garden scenes on Chinese silk. I’ve found plenty of great swatches of wallpaper, for example, I like this Eden Bird pattern in cream, green and pink, but it’s hard for me to imagine an entire room decorated in this.

I think, I’m just going to have to take the plunge and order something.

The Necessity of Waterford

Waterford Butterfly Vase

Waterford Butterfly Vase

There are certain things that, after the bare necessities of life are met, everyone needs. Near the top of the list is Waterford.

It doesn’t have to be an elaborate piece of crystal, something simple like this butterfly vase to the right is more than enough to satisfy the requirements.

I say that Waterford is essential, not just because I’m Irish-American, and as such have a natural affinity for shamrocks, Notre Dame football, Guinness Stout, and Waterford Crystal, but because a simple Waterford vase with flowers from the garden does more to make a room a happy place than all of the fancy furniture in the world.

For less than $200 a piece of Waterford cut crystal can become a family heirloom, or a suitable wedding gift for almost anyone. My husband and I received a pair of Waterford champagne flutes for our wedding and we bring them out each year on our anniversary and toast our marriage, our family, and the giver of the gift.

That’s why Waterford is a necessity, because it’s memorable and it’s beautiful.

(Waterford image via Treasure Box.)

Bakokko: Lessons in Style

As in many areas of style and fashion, the dividing line between exquisite good taste and execrable bad taste is remarkably thin. The same company that produces achingly beautiful objects one day, can produce items that are almost comically over-the-top the next.

Take, for example, the Italian furniture manufacturer Bakokko, producer of this beautiful, restrained, classical love seat (found at the LA Furniture website):

Bakokko Loveseat

I love everything about this piece of furniture; the green leather, the curve of the legs, the figured wood with that finish. I want this piece for my house so bad it’s making my teeth hurt.

Now, consider this divan from Bakokko, the San Marco in green and white:

San Marco Divan from Bokakko

It’s ponderous, squatting on the floor like an upholstered chest freezer, dominating any room that’s smaller then a squash court. Worse, the busy pattern of the fabric and the gilded filigree on the frame are both fussy and old-ladyish, like something your great aunt would choose for window treatments.

I wouldn’t want this piece of furniture, and I probably wouldn’t want to live in any house that this divan was appropriate for. It’s just not my style, no matter how well made and richly upholstered it is.

Ultimately, I suppose what I’m really complaining about are the vagaries of personal taste. I’m clearly not the market for that white and green divan. Bakokko is aiming to sell furniture like that to people with more baroque sensibilities, perhaps someone like a Russian oligarch, who appreciates heavy furniture, brocaded fabric and ostentatiousness. So, one could say that it’s not Bakokko’s fault that they occasionally make furniture that seems over-the-top, because they’re catering to a clientele that likes over the top.

Deocrating My Imaginary Restaurant

Il Milione Restaurant in Hong Kong

Sometime I like to imagine that I’m opening up a high-end restaurant or bar, which is odd, because my very brief brush with working in a restaurant, bussing tables, left me scarred for life. But then I see a picture like the one above, of the restaurant Il Milione in Hong Kong, and think that I’d like to own a restaurant.

I have to clarify that I don’t want to be a celebrity chef, I just want to be the owner, the guy who sits at the bar talking to customers and occasionally easting tasty things my chef sends out from the kitchen.

Here’s another picture from Il Milione (taken from the website of Hill Cross Furniture, the English firm that provided all of the furnishings.)

Il Milione Restaurant in Hong Kong

This is the real reason why I want to own a restaurant, because I want to hang out in semi-public spaces that look like this, and because I want people to admire my good taste.

Also, because building a restaurant is the ultimate exercise in remodeling, you find a space, imagine what it will look like, and then try to impose your vision on that space given your budget and the competency of your workmen and contractors. Picking out chairs and tables to put in my imaginary restaurant is my idea of fun.

Happily, I know my limits. Building the restaurant according to my vision, and sitting at the bar in it after it’s open, is about as far as I want to actually go in the food service industry.

The Mid-Century Moment

Looking through the catalog of an furniture company called FusionLiving, I came across this bookcase:

Libra Furniture Retro Bookcase

Look at those legs. Some of you might be too young to remember those legs, but for those of us who grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s those tapering legs, part Danish Modern, part George Jetson, were on almost everything from television sets to dining room tables.

I can’t say I’m a fan of that look, but apparently many of you are, because all of the style blogs are talking about a return of mid-century modern.

Here’s another example from the same company, Libra Furniture, this time a geometric-style retro wing chair.

Libra Furniture Retro Wing Chair

I know, it’s supposed to make me think of Mad Men, but it doesn’t. It makes me think of the furniture that used to be in my parents’ living room and how I was glad when my mom finally threw out that giant console combination hi-fi stereo and television that used to dominate one side of the room.

The Goldilocks Pendant Lamp

I’ve been thinking lately that I’m out of step with the rest of society. For example, in the matter of home lighting I find that when I look through the various online lighting catalogs I’m rarely satisfied by what I find.

For example, in the matter of hanging pendant lamps everything is either too modern…

Wofi Sevilla Pendant Light in Black

Too plain…

artemide float suspension lamp

or too ornate…

Arrow Crystal and Chrome Pendant Lamp

I’m like Goldilocks. I want something that’s just right, which I would define as semi-traditional but not boring, a little filigree and folderol but not weighed down with ornamentation. In other words, I won’t really know what I want in the way of lighting until I see it.

Until this, this fairly traditional lamp, the Milord from Korlarz.

Kolarz Milord Pendant Lamp

It’s very attractive, and I’d happily hang it in my house, but it’s not exactly perfect. A little too much gilding, a little too little…what? Verve, maybe.

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