The Slightly Wacky and Totally Wonderful Madoo Gardens in “World of Interiors”

Just the word “Madoo” makes me smile. It means “my dove” in Scots and is but a hint of the charm, whimsy, and wonder that is this jewel of a house and garden in Sagaponack, New York. How great that Madoo gets its due in the vaunted British World of Interiors magazine here this month.

Home of the late painter, poet, and pianist Robert Dash from 1967 until his death in 2013, Madoo is a romp of plants, paintings, rooms, and more. The more you see, the more you want to see, the more you want to know. And there is much to know.

Kendell Cronstrom‘s superbly written text brings the man and his passions to life, from his wont for reading French literature and singing show tunes, to drinking (a lot) with gardening legend Rosemary Verey  and dancing with vacuum cleaners. It is possible one lead to the other. Just saying.

I met Bob Dash briefly and late in life, but the twinkle was still very much in his eye. I am lucky to own one of his sketches, and luckier still to have become friends with Madoo’s executive director Alejandro Saralegui, who is a gem.  Alejandro’s shepherding of the Madoo Conservancy is a godsend to the place, and he and Madoo are on Instagram here.

Photographs are by the wonderful Miguel Flores Vianna, whom you can also follow on Instagram. Gorgeous. The photos are nice, too ;) Ba-dum-boom.

Like another of my favorite eccentric houses, the Bloomsbury Group’s Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex, England, there is little doubt that muses dwell here, and that the muses like to have fun. 

Cronstrom’s only lament is that the prodigiously gifted Dash, friend and contemporary of such luminaries as Willem de Kooning, Fairfield Porter, and writer Frank O’Hara, has never  fully been recognized for his own gifts. That may change in time, of course, and WoI‘s bringing him and Madoo afresh to the world will help.

Robert Storr, now dean of Yale’s School of Art, said his longtime friend Dash “believed in things that were lovely in their own right and thought about style as being organic, something that connected people.” I can’t think of a higher calling, can you?

Btw, Charlotte Moss and I will be doing a little panel discussion and lunch thing at Madoo this summer, during the Much Ado About Madoo weekend, which is really fun and has a great garden market. Not that shopping would interest you of course. 

If you find yourself out East, as the locals say, or in the Hamptons, as others say, put Madoo on your list. Open May 8 to September 19 on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 4 pm.

Posted in Blog, Decoration & Design, Flowers & Gardens | 6 comments

Hello Spring, a Toast to Green and Lavender, and a Contest!

Hello Spring, a Toast to Green and Lavender, and a Contest!

Spring began officially on March 20 with the vernal equinox, when the sun appears directly above your bathing suit drawer. Easter eggs appear the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, causing items in bathing suit drawer to shrink. Astronatomy* aside, spring is about green, which I love. I'm throwing in lavender for fun, because I love them together. So here's the contest! Cash prize! The first person to write in the Comments who this is on this book cover wins a nickel: Green: The History of a Color, by Michel Pastoureau, I recently found at the legendary (Off)Square Books on a trip to Oxford, Mississippi (a whole 'nother story--see my Instagram #oxford). I had to have it. Being a green person is a bit like being an anchovy person, either you are or you aren't. With all those jungles he painted, Rousseau must have been a green person. By Henri Rousseau Here is a picture from our Santa Ynez valley in a rare state of green, taken the other day  on a morning walk with a friend. I want to paint this. On my Instagram, taken on a morning walk with a friend near Solvang, in the Santa Ynez Valley, California Ol' Paul Cezanne knew from a green apple. Green Apples, by Paul Cezanne See the lavender in the shadows? Notice how in paintings the shadows are often tinged with lavender? They like each other, green and lavender. Felix Vallotton, The Ball. So what does it mean to love green? In a piece by Annie Bond, Your Favorite Color: What It Says About You, based on The Healing Power of Color, by Betty Wood, it says: Green: The color of harmony and balance, Green symbolizes hope, renewal and peace, and is usually liked by the gentle and sincere. Greens are generally frank, community-minded people, preferring peace at any price. As long as it is under $20. Green people can be too self-effacing, modest and patient... Wait ... no I hate waiting. I am so fabulous. I wish they would hurry. They are usually refined, civilized and reputable. Whew. The Romanian Green Blouse, by Henri Matisse  One of the prettiest greens in nature is that of new growth. Here in our vineyard, backlit by the afternoon sun, it is so clear and bright it can't help but make you hopeful. See the purple in the shadows? Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca David Hockney does amazing landscapes with green and lavender. I would give my last Cheet-o to have one of his crazy-great iPad paintings, like this one: David Hockney, from the series The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, 2011 So, here's Lavender: Often chosen by a person who lives “on a higher plane,” I do travel a lot. ...who never notices anything sordid and who is always beautifully dressed. I wish you could see me right this minute. Talk about sordid. Lavender people may be on a quest for culture and the refined things of life. A Lavender person is usually creative, charming, witty and civilized. In the words of June Carter Cash, I'm just tryin' to make a difference. But thank you. Here is the I hope charming green and lavender garden room at Bee Cottage**, completely changed from its first appearance in House Beautiful a few years ago: Garden Room at Bee Cottage, photo Tria Giovan ...and a little green and lavender nook of Staffordshire and Sunderland jugs at Bee. Hall detail at Bee Cottage, photo Tria Giovan And our bedroom in the City is, well, lavender and green... Frances Schultz Manhattan bedroom, headboard designed by John Oetgen  And ladies and gentlemen, the grand finale: Right here is a 20-inch Lolita wig with pigtails in mint green and lavender, which at this writing was available for $46 on eBay. It is a Princess Lea hairdo on LSD.  lavender and purple wig with pigtails, which is sort of obvious, I reckon To conclude, we'll come back to earth with a parting shot of new growth and its promise of renewal and peace. In his Green book, author Pastoureau concludes that green, which he writes has a checkered history at best, "has become the messianic color. Green is going to save the world."  Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca Pastoureau's first two color books dealt with blue and black, respectively. Wonder what he'll say about lavender. It's a little early, but Happy Spring, Happy Passover, and Happy Easter, xo Frances  * Astronatomy is the effect of astronomy on anatomy. The winter solstice in December, when diets are in retrograde and the moon is in the planet of cocktail parties, is one of the most powerful of astronatomical events. ** The Bee Cottage Story is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. The Bee Cottage Story, by moi. Photography by Trevor Tondro, Foreword by Newell Turner

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Posted in Art, Photography & Culture, Blog, Decoration & Design | 51 comments

Sure Cure for Post-Downton Abbey Depression: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Sure Cure for Post-Downton Abbey Depression: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

I have been about to bust to write this but was saving it for the perfect time. Which is now. If you, like me, have gone into a post-Downton Abbey decline, take heart.  Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries will have you obsessed anew. Men like it, too. If not for the fabulous clothes, then for the murder, scandal, sex, glamour, good stories, and great characters. Essie Davis stars as Miss Phryne Fisher, private detective. Unlike Downton, which His Grace (my husband, for new readers) does not watch on account of the absence of heads being blown off; Miss Fisher he loves. The balance of un-gratuitous violence, gleeful-but-tasteful sex, and a sassy, hot star seems to work for him. But then he is a man of simple tastes.  Period costumes and settings add to Miss Fisher's allure Set in the roaring '20s in Melbourne, Australia, the series is based on the novels by Kerry Greenwood and produced by the Australian Broadcasting Company. After two seasons, there was such an outcry for a third--I mean people went crazy-- that there is indeed a third. Yay! Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Netflix. Sadly it hasn't been widely broadcast in the States, but maybe that will change. Here is a taste via YouTube  trailers. Or you can take my word for it and order the DVDs on Netflix, or your indie bookstore, or Amazon now.  Some of you already know Private Detective Miss Fisher. I learned of her when a friend  emailed to ask if I'd seen it, because she said Miss Fisher reminded her of my mother, which she totally does, btw. I ordered the DVDs quicker than you can say stiletto-in-her-garter-belt--which Miss Fisher keeps, along with a pistol in her minaudière. Did I mention the fabulous clothes? Phryne (pronounced FRY-nee) Fisher is as glamorous and mercurial as her counterpart Detective Inspector Jack Robinson is earnest and no-nonsense. The tension between them, sexual and otherwise, is as fun and suspenseful as the crime-solving itself. Dot and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson Love interest notwithstanding, even the most casual observer would note that Miss Fisher is in no hurry to settle down. She is most enthusiastic for the opposite sex, however, be he aristocrat or  circus performer. An equal opportunity inamorata and feisty feminist, our Honorable Miss Fisher is quite the sport. Let's just say she was not observing this partially clad fellow on closed circuit television... ... ...or that she was not feeling "up" to it when her maid called. His Grace thinks she has nice... hats. Miss Fisher Well, Melborne is a long way from Downton. Australia is not England, in other words, much as Aunt Prudence would like it to be. (Of course England is not always England, either, even in Downton A.) You will love Aunt Prudence. Aunt Prudence There are a bunch of other characters, too, like Cec and Burt, "wharfies" and small-time hustlers she recruits to her cause; a super-cool butler named Mr. Butler; and a doctor who is likely a lesbian with a strong penchant for scotch. Assistant-slash-maid Dot is turning into a feisty little thing herself, having overcome her deathly fear of the telephone, if not her devout Catholic upbringing. ... The show is also beautifully shot. Even in death-defying feats of derring-do, Miss Fisher wears high heels. Apart from the absence of heads bowing off, there is barely a meth lab in sight, nor is there a preponderance of bleakness, negativity, and despair. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be banged over the head with all that  in my "downtime."  Or ever, for that matter, but life doesn't always let us change the channel. TV does. HG and I may just find ourselves re-watching Phryne and Jack. They are on a first-name basis now, and when we last left them, they were at the piano together singing Cole Porter's "Let's Misbehave." Season 3 should be a doozie. Let us know if you hear anything, and we'll watch for local listings. Oh, and thanks for the great recommendation, Miss Sandra! Miss Fisher does kinda favor Mom... Wonder if there's something she didn't tell me... Ruth Clark, aka Mama, on her 70th birthday, 1999

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Posted in Art, Photography & Culture, Blog, Fashion & Style, Little Life Enhancers | 21 comments

A Texas Antiques Shop and Visual Feast–Vignettes at Every Turn

A Texas Antiques Shop and Visual Feast–Vignettes at Every Turn

Rarely do you visit a shop where everywhere you look is an artfully arranged tableau. Except maybe in Paris, where they invented it. But this is Texas, hun, in the charming Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, where I was last week. Carol Hicks Bolton antiques is an acre of heaven for the vintage/rustic/industrial-chic set, and oh, what fun. Ladies and gentlemen, start your Pinterest boards... Carol Hicks Bolton antiques in Fredericksburg, Texas Who knew a bunch of weeds tacked to a wall could be so beautiful? Carol Hicks Bolton antiques, Fredericksburg, Texas Or watch faces in a muffin tin? If that's what it is (?) Or what-all in a what-not. Carol Hicks Bolton antiques in Fredericksburg, Texas At the risk of appearing lazy, which I am, I give you the description from owners Carol and Tim Bolton themselves, who say it as well as I could, if not better, from their website here: "For individual decorators, collectors and resellers, ... magnificent antiques sourced from Europe and beyond.  Carol Hicks Bolton antiques in Fredericksburg, Texas One-of-a-kind beds, french cabinets & curiosities, huge farm tables, fabulous upholstery, romantic bed linens, industrial objects, illuminations, and tons and tons more. Carol Hicks Bolton antiques in Fredericksburg, Texas     "There is nothing precious here. The furniture we exhibit is a reflection of who we are, what we love, and what we believe in.   "It is old and new at the same time - deconstructed and stripped down to the bones to reveal the original story underneath all the layers. Every piece has been found, measured, curated, cultivated, sorted, sifted, adjusted, adapted and loved. The first person who can tell us what this is wins a nickel. I have no idea, but I love the light on it. Carol Hicks Bolton antiques in Fredericksburg, Texas  "Each item offers an unscripted authenticity, and becomes a continuing story of others’ histories that you can write into your own."  Preferably involving stuffed weasels...    Love a little slipper chair by the bed...  These two look smack in the middle of a conversation. "Does this mount make my beak look fat?" So what did I buy? A wonderful extra-slim oak bench that came from an old railroad station, and a dozen botanicals which I do not need and am not sure where to put, but I just couldn't help myself. Don't be like me. Not these, btw. They are attached directly to the wall, with nails holding the glass covering. No frames. Genius. FYI I was in Fredericksburg for a painting workshop with the talented Michael Workman. We talked more than painted, alas, but I learned a lot. Was insane for me going in middle of The Bee Cottage Story book deadlines but went anyway.  (Managed to  resist this antique bee skep, but it wasn't easy.) Antique bee skep, Carol Hicks Bolton antiques in Fredericksburg, Texas Hope my editor is not reading this. Heck it was so close to Hondo, Texas, where we were quail hunting the weekend before, it was practically obligatory, right? And besides, #playinghookyishealthy every now and then, right? This sweet sign was behind the counter. Carol Hicks Bolton antiques, Fredericksburg, Texas I actually met "Daddy," aka Tim Bolton, at least I reckon he is the daddy mentioned here. He was hospitable and lovely to everyone who came in. I bet lots of people love him. And I know they love his and Carol's shop. I bet (again) that lots of people thought they were crazy with what they wanted to create here, and now look. Amazing what happens when you  follow your passion. Carol Hicks Bolton antiques, Fredericksburg, Texas

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Posted in Art, Photography & Culture, Blog, Decoration & Design | 26 comments

The Soulful, Delightful Art of Children’s Book Illustrator Benny Andrews

The Soulful, Delightful Art of Children’s Book Illustrator Benny Andrews

In the spirit of Black History Month, here is a stupendous book celebrating an  African American artist with the bonus of being illustrated by the artist himself. How did I not know about Benny Andrews? His art is like, Modigliani meets Grandma Moses meets Maira Kalman. Soulful, delightful. Draw What You See: The LIfe and Art of Benny Andrews, by Kathleen Benson Haskins, Benny Andrews Illustrations  Review in The New York Times here. It is a children's book, but that is a technicality. Kathleen Benson's text is plain spoken and straightforward, but not baby-ish. No "See Benny paint," no. As the Times said, the author lets "the inspirational facts of Andrews's life speak for themselves." From Draw What You See: The LIfe and Art of Benny Andrews, by Kathleen Benson Haskins, Benny Andrews Illustrations Benny's parents were Georgia sharecroppers. One of ten children, he worked the cotton fields like everybody else, but he always loved to draw. Showing aptitude and ambition, he made his way to high school, the Air Force, and eventually to the Art Institute of Chicago (no less) on the GI Bill. An accomplishment for anyone, but a heck of a thing for someone like Benny. From Draw What You See: The LIfe and Art of Benny Andrews, by Kathleen Benson Haskins, Benny Andrews Illustrations And by all accounts, he was a heck of a guy. Before his death in 2006 (well, obviously before his death), he illustrated many children's books. His work is still exhibited in prestigious museums and galleries, most recently in a special installation at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York.  FromDraw What You See: The LIfe and Art of Benny Andrews, by Kathleen Benson Haskins, Benny Andrews Illustrations Janice Shay of Pinafore Press, the un-sung instigator and designer of this book, is a book packager and agent in Savannah, hence the Georgia connection to Benny.  From Draw What You See: The LIfe and Art of Benny Andrews, by Kathleen Benson Haskins, Benny Andrews Illustrations Janice sent me the book the other day with a note telling me in part,  "...Benny was a dear friend of mine. He and I did three books together, and I asked his widow immediately after his death if I could put togther a children's book proposal about his life, using his own art. It took four years to sell--a lesson in patience that you understand." Amen sister. I love this scene at the Cotton Club. I wish I'd been there. Me and Rose from Downton Abbey. From Draw What You See: The LIfe and Art of Benny Andrews, by Kathleen Benson Haskins, Benny Andrews Illustrations Yes I do understand about lessons in patience, and you do, too.  I like having  this reminder, though, especially during Lent, which is about patience, and waiting, and preparing. Not unlike Andrews's life itself. Or dare I say all of our lives. Here is Benny at work, and here are links to buy this and other books illustrated by Benny Andrews:  From publisher Clarion Books for Houghton Mifflin here. On IndieBookLove here. On Amazon here. On Barnes & Noble here. Benny Andrews at work in his studio

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Posted in Art, Photography & Culture, Blog | 8 comments