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Thursday, July 31, 2008

horst p. horst, a mainbocher corset, and a material girl

Horst Torso, George Hoyningen-Huene, Paris, 1931

 horst p. horst (1906-1999)

Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann is probably the most famous Vogue photographer of all time. Born in Germany, Horst had an early eye for avante-garde art which blossomed further when he met Baltic nobleman, established Vogue photographer, and future lover George Hoyningen-Heune (credited with the gorgeous portrait above). Horst partnered with Vogue in 1931 and became an instant success, photographing portraits of celebrities and winning the favor of famed French designer Coco Chanel. His legal name was changed to Horst P. Horst when he was granted American citizenship in 1943. He continued to contribute to Vogue and House & Garden until his death. His iconic photographs continue to inspire artists and designers alike.

madonna & the mainbocher corset

One of Horst's most famous images is The Mainbocher Corset photographed in the Paris Vogue studio in 1939. The photograph features the intricate work of American couture designer Mainbocher (1891-1976) whose haute couture gowns were favored by Wallis Simpson, Dutchess of Windsor and Gloria Vanderbilt. The photographer's fame and prestige reached its pinnacle when pop-diva Madonna recreated the enchanting and erotic image in her video homage to fashion, "Vogue" (1990). When you're loved by Madge, you're loved by all...

The Mainbocher Corset, Paris, 1939
horst p. horst

still shot from madonna's famous "vogue" music video (4:25/4:52)

selected inspirations...

Fur, pearls and diamonds, 1940

Jean Patchett in long fur cape

Gene Tierney, 1940

Ginger Rogers, 1936

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

bali ha'i: andrianna shamaris

a peak at the beautful textiles and accessories

Every time I visit my sister in New York I bring a mapped list of all the fabulous stores and outposts I want to check out. On my last excursion I had the opportunity to visit the newest outpost of designer Andrianna Shamaris in fashionable Soho. It's a wonderland and luxurious imported goods, many of which are hand-crafted from exotic woods, with a modern twist.

A native of London, Shamaris is a self-taught designer who gained her first retail experience working at the fashionable Ralph Lauren store on Bond Street as a teenager. She first began designing after living in Bali and falling in love with the culture and lifestyle of South Asia. In 1999 she was discovered by Fred Segal and began selling her furniture through his retail store in California. Her portfolio includes an entire line of casegoods as well as accessories (like picture frames and butler's trays with mother-of-pearl inlay), textiles, and resort wear. 

Personally, I was most intrigued by a pair of end tables made from wormy tree trunks filled with bold resin. It is definitely worth stopping by... if not to shop, to momentarily be transported to the exotic serenity of the Bali shores...

Andrianna Shamaris New York
121 Greene Street
New York, NY 10012

Andrianna Shamaris Malibu
3825 Cross Creek Road #9
Malibu, California 90265

a contemporary l-shaped sofa, part of the developing furniture line

a detail of wooden trays

special mentions to my mother and her mother alyce, two perpetual hummers, who used to sing the south pacific soundtrack like they were juanita hall herself (hence, the title of this post...)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

love songs

gratitudes & notes

Today was a very exciting day for shades of grey... I got my very first FAN mail! When I started this blog I was feeling quite ambitious. I had a fabulous vision of the greatness and need for this type of forum, as well as too many ideas to keep to myself. I've come to realize that blogging is a bit harder than I expected... There are thousands of blogs out there, it takes a lot longer than I thought to pick and edit blogs (because I am a perfectionist), and not having installed google analytics (a hit counter), I have absolutely NO idea if anyone is reading or if I am simply talking to myself unless you post a comment or view my full profile... In short, I am VERY appreciative of people who give me feedback. I want to know what you love, hate, or want more of because it makes my job more fun! You can even leave an anonymous comment, if you wish.

A word about the lust and listen sections: I try to highlight affordable and young items from emerging designers in my blog, but I am an absolute fiend for all things bespoke and couture, so these rare diamonds will appear in the weekly lust column, with links on the photo for anyone interested. The listen section is just an added bonus, and a way for me to give a nod to some of my greatest inspirations as well as my favorite cheap thrills. I am archiving my weekly picks from both columns as a way of tracking my developing taste... I also might think of something swell to do with these later.

So keep reading, and I'll keep writing! 

'the cure' to any life problem

People deal with stress in different ways... I have this doctor friend who is a workout machine -- no really, he recently broke two ribs lifting at the gym, which is pretty funny since he's an orthopedic surgeon (and apparently quite a 'man')... I listen to music. Honestly, I'm a bit of a music snob, although I am getting better.

Today, for example, I am listening to The Cure (ahhhhh). It got me thinking of things so classic that they just can't go out of style... like "Lovesong" from the 1989 release Disintegration. A really, really great tune that should lighten anyone's day... but since everyone has different taste, I thought I would compile some of the wonderful tributes (of various genres) to this musical masterpiece. 

the cure themselves...
robert smith, simon gallup, porl thompson, boris williams, roger o'donnel, & lol tolhurst
love song - the cure, disintegration, 1989

a singing/songwriting goddess...
love song -  tori amos, live on KROQ Radio, 1993
welcome to sunny florida tour, 2004

an irish songstress...
love song - naimee coleman, bring down the moon, 2001

some surfer punks...

a metal medley...
song - a perfect circle, eMOTIVe, 2004

and an unforgettable indy entity...
love song - death cab for cutie, live, 2007

Monday, July 28, 2008


a box of assorted macaroons from laduree

macaroon (en.), macaron (fr.), maccarone (it.)

I fell in love with baking sometime during high school. I watched marathons of the old Food Network stars... Sarah Moulton, Ming Tsai, and (of course) Martha Stewart. I became a bit of a cookie monster, constantly baking and nibbling on all sorts of concoctions from shortbread lemon "scotty" dogs to enormous glazed sugar cookies and crunchy chocolate chip cookies with coconut... fortunately I had quite a metabolism. I still have a sweet tooth, and I make it my business to find the best sugary confections everywhere I go... which brings me to the macaroon.

The delicious little European confections have a somewhat mysterious (and confusing) history, as the definition and ingredients vary depending on locale. Most Americans are familiar with the coconut macaroon, a super-sweet and dense confection of flaked coconut commonly dipped in chocolate. In Europe (France and Italy) macaroons are almond-flavored cookies or biscuits made from almond powder and meringue. They are light and fluffy on the inside with a flaky exterior... a work of art.

According to legend, the macaroon originated in an Italian monastery and was brought to France during the French Revolution by two nuns living in asylum known as the "Macaroon Sisters" who paid for their living expenses by selling the treats. Fact or folklore, Parisians are serious about their cookies. 

For the ultimate macaroon experience Ladurée, the historic tea salon, can't be beat... The establishment at 16 rue Royale in Paris dates back to 1862 and is where Louis Ernest Laduree first conceived the ganache-filled cookie. The shop is traffic jam of hungry locals and bewildered visitors... but it's worth it. The boxes are gorgeous (famous textile designer Tricia Guild of Designers Guild just designed a new line) and the cookies are spectacular. They are the perfect souvenir if you can avoid eating them on the way home...

inside the famous Laduree

traditional flavors: chocolate, dark chocolate, vanilla, coffee, rose petal, pistachio, salted butter caramel, cherry amaretto, raspberry, orange blossom, and liquorice

special flavors: lemon, praline, ice mint, coconut, grenadine, java pepper, indian rose, aniseed, champagne, orange-saffron, lily-of-the-valley, white amber, strawberry-poppy, gingerbread, candyfloss, havana, and muscovado

pretty packages by textile queen Tricia Guild

Friday, July 25, 2008

tray fabulous

faces tray 12" x 8.5", $28.00

shopping with a cause

My favorite home magazine by far was House and Garden, which bit the dust and was replaced by the younger Domino. It had a fabulous column called "At Home With," which featured cool nick-knacks from the houses of designers, artists, and stars. I saw these plexiglass serving trays when runway model Carolyn Murphy was featured and was absolutely smitten. They are bohemian cool and global fabulous. Each tray is an original work of a disabled child of the Future School in Hue, Vietnam and proceeds are used to fund medical programs in Vietnam via The SPIRAL Foundation. 

Since 2003 the purchase of these items produced at The SPIRAL Foundation Workshop in Hue has helped fund 230 heart surgeries of poor Vietnamese children affected by congenital heart disease.

At just under thirty dollars, I think it's money well spent!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

go bananas

art, food, & squashed dreams

Andy Warhol is one of my great inspirations for a number of reasons, but primarily because he elevated screen printing from a commercial technique to fine art. It's a bit ironic that he himself is now a household product (you can go to your local Urban Outfitters and buy plates and coffee mugs covered in his prints). I'm not crazy about much of the Warhol memorabilia, but I do love his prints.

Some of you may know that at one point when I was in high school I fancied myself the next Martha Stewart, was constantly in the kitchen experimenting with recipes, and began writing a cookbook, which was several hundred pages when I ditched the project for more fruitful pursuits... like college.

banana bread

This banana bread was one of the first recipes in my repertoire when I began to cook. are one of those "tempting" foods that I buy and forget to eat before they start turning too brown... thus, my love for banana bread -- the browner the banana, the better. To speed up the ripening process, place the bananas in a perforated paper bag at room temperature. Thankfully, it is light in both calories and fat because I can't have just one slice. I find that the loaves are fluffier if 1/2 cup Splenda is substituted for half of the sugar. If you want extra decadence, try adding 1 cup nuts or chocolate chips.

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1 2/3 cups mashed ripe banana (from about 4 bananas)
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup non-fat or reduced fat sour cream
2 large egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until butter is smooth, fluffy, and lighter in color, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Add banana, milk, sour cream, and egg whites. Beat well. In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring until combined. Add flour mixture to banana batter, mixing on low until just combined.  

Spoon banana batter into a greased loaf pan (or four mini-loaf pans). Bake banana bread in center of oven until tops are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes for mini-loaves and 45-55 minutes for large loaf. Let bread cool slightly before removing from pan. Cool completely before storing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

lovin' leo

july 23 - august 22


behold the lion...

If I had to use one adjective to describe the leo it would be a good way. As an aquarius, I could not be more dissimilar; however, many of my closest friends are leos because they possess an amazing and infectious magnetism. Lions and lionesses are bold in disposition, action, taste, and style. They know what they want and aren't afraid of chasing it. They are confident and self-indulgent... to a meek individual they might appear pompous, patronizing, or superficial. 

Leos are ruled by the strength of the sun. They are powerful leaders, consummate entertainers, generous friends, and respected individuals... the kind of people who take life to the limits. They enjoy the luxurious and the exotic... from precious jewels and foreign travel to an interesting or rare drink and an amusing book.

famous compadres: napoleon bonaparte, coco chanel, kevin spacey, bill clinton, mick jagger, madonna, jacqueline kennedy onassis, henry ford, yves saint laurent, jerry garcia, aldous huxley, hulk hogan, arnold schwarzenegger, martha stewart, charlize theron, andy warhol, and tori amos.

Here are some LEO-inspired items that I think are interesting (and so would just about anyone)... Veuve Clicquot ("the black widow") is one of my favorite champagnes, and a rose makes it that much cuter... Red wines from Italy's Piedmont region (such as barolo or barbaresco) are considered to be some of the best in the world... I'm not much of a beer drinker, but I am a fan of Harpoon's IPA (and it's such a pretty bottle to bring someone)... and Young's Double Chocolate Stout made with real coco and malt is anything but ordinary... an old fashioned board game like Monopoly to bring out their playful side... since leo is ruled by the sun, a fabulous pair of sunglasses is a safe bet... in terms of flowers, go bold/exotic/luxurious with a monochromatic bouquet of orange orchids or ruby roses... the lioness loves chic underpinnings like this pretty little set from genius John Galliano I've been obsessing over since I saw them in Paris (good luck finding them in the U.S.)... celebrity chef Mario Batali (of the Food Network and Babbo NYC) has opened a wine store dedicated to selling fine Italian wines and has cool accessories like vintage cork screws... and for the astrology novice (or when you just have no clue what to get someone) there is always a pretty candle like this one from Soular Therapy, a pungent citrus that could bring out the inner prowess in just about anyone...

roagna 1999 paja barbaresco, italy
harpoon ipa, windsor, vermont
young's luxurious double chocolate stout, england
veuve clicquot rose champagne, france

monopoly by parker-brothers
marc jacobs sunglasses, barneys co-op
a gorgeous vase of golden orchids
john galliano pinstripe lingerie

vintage corkscrew, $52.50
"american walker patent with beer advertising" (1890-1910)

soular therapy astrological "leo" candle, $26.00
essential oils: orange & lemon

Monday, July 21, 2008

the art of stitching

antique suzani, uzbekistan, 20th century

suzani (english), suzankāri سوزنکاری (persian) -- n. needlework, the art of stitching

I'm crazy about textiles, particularly the rich weaves from the East. I discovered the Uzbek suzani a few years ago and fell so madly in love that I devoted my entire semester screen printing portfolio to them. The textiles themselves are so vibrant and uplifting they seemed to make my hours alone in the studio late at night more manageable. 

Suzani is a decorative tribal textile from Central Asia, most commonly Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. My personal favorites come from Samarkand, conveniently located along the famous Silk Road that has connected trade from Europe and China for centuries. The Samarkand suzani tends to favor vibrant reds, pinks, and yellows in large-scale patterns that add to the bold beauty of the textile.

beautiful umbrellas made from various antique suzanis

The textiles are all hand embroidered, using two primary stitches--the chain stitch and couching. In the chain stitch, a series of looped individual stitches form an apparent chain that easily curves and is used to follow loose floral drawings. This technique is also applied in lace and crochet. In couching, thread or yarn is laid across the fabric and fastened with perpendicular stitches of yarn or thread. This technique allows the artisan to cover large areas with thread and lends a 3-D quality to the textile.

Historically, the suzani has been used as a young woman's dowry in Uzbekistan; according to legend, the mother begins embroidering when her daughter is born and when the girl reaches adulthood she finishes the textile before giving it to her betrothed. The emphasis on floral motifs is generally assumed to be a reference to fertility. Recently, the ancient textile has been adapted for a variety of applications and is now gracing the people and places of the West! Check out some of the great suzani-inspired products available:

what's in store (from top right):
suzani boxes, jayson home & garden
embroidered suzani peacock pillow, ruzzetti & gow
vintage suzani chair, abc carpet & home nyc
matthew williamson africa enamel bangle,
cloisonne pot with lid, jayson home & garden
high top suzani boots, ottoman collections
madeleine weinrib pillow, madeleine weinrib atelier

Friday, July 18, 2008

ice cream dreams

image courtesy of
Signiture Nine $85.00
You Pick Six $70.00
Each extra pint $7.00

what says summer more than a good scoop of ice cream? 

I've been in love with ice cream for as long as I can remember, which is rather unfortunate for someone who has been lactose-intolerant since birth. I think it must have had something to do with my childhood friend Scoots who appeared to live off the gallons of "Lemon Custard" made by her family's boutique ice cream company. The basement of her house had an enormous industrial freezer that acted like a magic hat for the delicious icy confections. Sadly for us, her father sold the business to become a successful banker... 

We lived in a drought of decent ice cream until the discovery of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Jeni Britton, the Cincinnati-based ice cream aficionado hand crafts ice cream in small batches using only top quality ingredients while lending her own creative touch in flavor development. The result is stunning ice creams that range from traditional to outrageously inventive and tasty. I haven't come across one I dislike yet. They are the perfect WOW ending to a dinner party, a much better corporate gift than a basket of canned "gourmet" items, and a fabulous treat for any time you want to feel special. Here's just a few flavor options and suggestions:
  • Queen City Cayenne: Condensed milk chocolate "Cincinnati style" with cayenne and cinnamon
  • Gravel Road: Our Salty Caramel with coarsely chopped smoked almonds
  • Maker's Mark Buttered Pecan: A big bourbon with toasted, buttered, and salted pecans
  • Wild Berry Lavender: Cream steeped with lavender, orange zest, wild blueberries, and black currants
  • Lemon and Blueberries: Fresh lemons and fresh yogurt with Jeni's handmade Ohio blueberry sauce
  • Strawberry Buttermilk: The flavor of fresh strawberries and cream is highlighted by the addition of buttermilk
  • Goat Cheese with a Red Cherry Compote: Fresh, slightly tart goat cheese with spiced Merello cherries

Thursday, July 17, 2008

kate & mario

mario, mario

Mario Testino is one of my favorite modern fashion photographers. He routinely shoots for Vogue and Vanity Fair and, as a resident of London, he is the official photographer of the British Royal Family. His book Portraits is a catalogue of beautiful people... actresses, celebrities, musicians, and of course... Kate Moss. Testino isn't one to be shy about his favorites, and he loves the scandalous beauty even more than I do. Here's a little tribute to a fantastic photographer and his cosmic fairy:

photography by Mario Testino

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

you are art

Silhouettes by Karl Johnson

When I was in elementary school, my third grade class did a silhouette project for our bulletin board. Each student posed in front of the light projector while his or her partner traced the enlarged image onto pieces of pastel paper, which would later be mounted onto dark cardstock to make a modern cameo. I cannot remember which classmate was my partner, but I remember thinking they needed work. Call it artistic license or premature cosmetic surgery, but I took my scissors and started to nip/tuck--much to my teacher's (and now my) dismay. I did not understand the value of the project until after it was completed and our classroom wall was smattered with a series of variable portraits as unique and interesting as each student.

This idea has been adapted by Los Angeles artist Karl Johnson, who practices the almost extinct art of cutting to create amazing and individualized portraits. Johnson's work has graced the walls of trendy homes of the Hollywood elite, been featured in a slew of publications from InStyle to Martha Stewart Weddings, and appeared on television shows and movies.

Johnson's silhouette portraits are a fresh take on a vintage tradition that dress up any wall. In addition, pet silhouettes and specialty orders are available. Just email your profile photo and receive a fabulous 5"x7" one-of-a-kind portrait for just $25.00. The website also offers cool signed prints ready to be framed and hung.

Monday, July 14, 2008

get organized

Cubicle Notes by See Jane Work, $3.25

As you can see by my tardy posts, like most creative people, I get distracted easily and have a tough time keeping on track. The good people at Apple have given me every modern gadget to keep myself organized from iCal to iPhone to an updated address book that syncs with my email... but I still have no reminder to blog, take my vitamins, or even eat dinner. So, I have decided to jet back to the stone age and actually use paper reminders for a while. 

When I was a kid, one of life's greatest pleasures were the days my mom would reluctantly buy me a "While You Were Out" pad at the office supply store. I documented (and invented) all sorts of urgent phone calls and messages... I have the carbon copies to prove it. I suppose some things never change, as I am completely tickled by these adorable, fun, and potentially useless cubicle notes from my favorite organization spot, See Jane Work. In addition to my cool new note pads, I am getting a journal so I can log all of my potential blog ideas and keep some kind of checklist when I complete them. I can tell this is going to work, and I will be organized in no time (or in 3-5 business days when the postman delivers my new mail).

Friday, July 11, 2008

love bangles

bracelets by maison jaques, $95.00

I have a bangle obsession. It started small with a few thin bracelets but like any addiction, it quickly grew out of control. I recently saw a photo of myself from college where more of my arms were covered with Indian bangles than not... yikes! I think I'll file that with the picture of those turquoise jeans. I really do love all types of bangles and cuffs--metal, resin, ivory, glitter--I just try not to over accessorize. 

I'm crazy about these resin bracelets I found at Calypso by Christiane Celle in New York. Some are decorated with whimsy snakes and patterns while others read the sweet words "All you need is love." The perfect summer accessory, they're bold and colorful and oh so much fun... but I recommend wearing just one.

NOTE: Sometimes flair is not wired. I searched and searched but could not find any information about the genius behind these little gems, an illusive manufacturer or artist called Maison Jaques... I decided to feature them anyway with the hope that some day they will discover this little jewel called the internet.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

sweet sangria

Sangria is a Spanish party punch comprised of wine, fruit juice, spirits, and soda water. The beverage's name is inspired by its deep red color; sangria is a derivative of the Spanish "sangre" meaning "blood." Because it is iced, fruity, and highly alcoholic, it is the perfect drink for a summer party with friends. I know I have a few good stories that begin with a pitcher of sangria from Barcelona to Memphis, Tennessee... The amount of sugar used depends on the characteristics of the chosen red wine and personal preference. I recommend using diet soda to minimize the sweetness of the drink. Bottoms up!

1 750-mL bottle of dry red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, or Shiraz)
1 1/2 cups Fresca or other diet lemon-lime soda
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
2-3 limes, cut into 16 slices
2 lemons, cut into 16 slices
1 large orange, cut into 8 slices
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur
2 tablespoons grenadine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Ice cubes
Red wine glasses

In a large pitcher, stir together wine, soda, orange juice, 8 lime slices, 8 lemon slices, 8 orange slices, brandy, sugar, grenadine, lemon juice, and lime juice. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature. Fill glasses with ice cubes. Divide sangria among glasses and garnish with remaining lemon and lime slices. Serves 8.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

dame viv, i love you

dame commander of england, queen of draping.

I am an absolute fool for Sex in the City.  Don't even try to play the trivia game with me, because I could hold my own in a room full of Stanford Blatch's and Anthony Marentino's.  I made my first movie theatre debut since Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds just to see Carrie Bradshaw throw her hands together and squeal with delight... and, of course that glorious Vivienne Westwood gown...

It was bigger and better than I could've imagined -- let's just say Carrie Bradshaw wasn't the only one who "eeked!" when that dress arrived in her mailbox.  My greatest objections to modern fashion are that so many designers don't know how to drape fabric worth a darn, or they are creators of "concept clothes" that are innovative in design but do little to flatter anything more than a coat hanger.  Westwood is neither.  She worked as a seamstress for ten years before designing, and her clothes are all about playing with femininity.  

Westwood gained first recognition in the 1970's when Malcom McLaren, future manager of The Sex Pistols, opened Let It Rock (later called SEX) on King's Road selling records, Teddy Boy clothes, bondage gear, and Westwood's original and outlandish designs.  She is said to have given punk rock its visual style.

image courtesy of V&A museum

Following the success of SEX, Westwood began designing lines of clothing inspired by music, film, and history.  Her most famous designs--the Mini Crini, bustle skirts, and 12-inch platform shoes--are derived from the designer's understanding of fashion history, particularly during the Victorian age.  Her designs are both playful and elegant, always sexy and never ordinary.  It's no wonder Carrie Bradshaw loves them so!  Here's a little peek at Carrie's best moments in Vivienne Westwood.

Her first day of work at Vogue: "I'm drunk... at Vogue."
Hesitantly announcing the Aiden engagement to Samantha over drinks.  
Running into Berger's friends at BED after receiving "the post-it"
Being upstaged by Mr. Winkles the dog at her L.A. book signing
images from

The best part?  The quirky designer known for donning horns and  blue eye-liner in lieu of eyebrows (and, oh, forgetting to wear her knickers in front of the Queen) apparently only survived the first 10 minutes of the film's opening, and allegedly found the fashion "dull."  Oh, viv... if you keep creating masterpieces I guess I'll forgive you.