Thursday, April 29, 2010

Loving Things...

I have three books I'd like to discuss. I am always amazed at how the columnist David Brooks in The New York Times gets many of his columns. David reviews books. (I always smile thinking I am the only one on to him.) I don't use this device that often, but here are three books I'd like to talk about.

The first was a birthday gift this year: The Way we Live with Things We Love by Stafford Cliff and photographs by Cilles De Chabaneix, published by Rizzoli. You guessed it--it has a very European point of view. For those of us who adore beautifully composed photographs, this book is a delight. It is a feast for the eyes and not really meant to have you go to a local flea market and find exotic things to discretely place about your abode. I am especially intrigued by a chapter on antiques. The advice for the reader is to find the best use for your treasured possessions. I'm all for that--but few of us have grand headless statues and alcoves to put them it. I did enjoy seeing the wall of great family portraits, however--each in a similar frame and each with a printed scroll above it.

We can all find ideas any and everywhere, and there are ideas in this book. Take for example the daybed in a house in Budapest--the assortment of embroidered and printed fabric pillow sent me right to Pottery Barn to see if I could find ones like it! Of course they are there--not as marvelous as those in the book, but I suspect not as pricey either. Bless You PB.

The second book, I just received. It has the amazing title Living with What You Love. We all know you can't copyright the title of a book. (I could write Gone With the Wind and get away with it if I'd dare try) but I did do a double take. This book by Monica Rich Kosann, published by Clarkson Potter is definitely American. Like most American-style decorating books it is designed to instruct as well as inspire. The cover tells us that we are going to learn to decorate with family photos, cherished heirlooms, and collectibles. One lesson is called Have Fun With Your Clutter. To illustrate, a rather grand staircase wall is adorned with every family snapshot in the owner's archive--school moments, sports events, and a grandmother or two or three or four. (The staircase, by the way, was designed by Stanford White, one of America's great architects.) Create a Multidimensional Collage is another helpful hint. Basically, this means putting a lot of things on a small table in what you consider an artful way.

The reason I am pointing these things out is not to be critical--I know it may sound that way. After all, I edited a magazine and have produced books dealing with things in exactly the same way these two books are doing. And I'm sure there were readers who said, "You've got to be kidding." Now that I am on this side of the fence, I am at least opening up to the possibility that maybe we pay too much attention to our things--and maybe we love them too much, especially in publishing.

In that regard, you might want to pick up a fascinating little paperback by Richard Todd called,
The Thing Itself--On the Search for Authenticity. It got me thinking about things, especially after just having spend a week with Wendi photographing the things that I LOVE. On antiques, he writes: "Old things sustain me in a way I know not to be wholly rational."

Todd's thesis is way more complicated and I'll leave it to you to delve further if you wish--with compliments to David Brooks--but I think all of these books get us thinking about what we love and maybe more importantly, why we love them. I'm sure you'll find inspiration in both the picture books--and this afternoon take all your teacups and arrange them in some amazing way on that little round table in the library. But maybe we should all think about our loving of things rather than the love of things a bit more. I'm going to--how about you?


  1. So, Nancy, if I read you right, what you're suggesting is that we examine OUR particular attraction to something we own (or would like to) and poke around a bit? I have to agree with the latter author's idea of old things...they attract me but I do know why. I love that they have a story--a story that I'm curious about or can invent or dream on. New things rarely call out to me.
    In that vein, years and years ago I bought a lamp base that was comprised of a colonial man and woman. I'm sure you know the type...plaster, nicely done, but still, a bit chintzy. I couldn't understand WHY it called out to me, but it did and I answered. This past year, I was thumbing through baby pictures of myself and saw, in the background of one of chubby baby me, a lamp in my parent's bedroom. You guessed it. It was nearly identical to the lampbase that had whispered to me in that junk shop. My heart gave a funny leap of recognition and I thought...oh, ho, that's it. I remembered that lamp and needed/wanted to be reminded of the love and care of my now-deceased folks. Mystery solved!
    I wonder how many of the things we love speak to us of connections we cherish?
    Love, Karen Marline

  2. I have been slowly weeding out those things in my life that I have that are merely things - sweet, pretty, admirable - to those that have meaning. I truly cherish those elements of my childhood or my parents and grandparents that I place about and think and talk about that tell me my story.

    I cherish the tinny toy banjo with the button press keys and most of the paint gone that my mother passed on to me. It would be an ugly encumbrance to anyone else. To me, it is part of my history. You see, my mom and her siblings received this toy every year for Christmas. They were very poor with not much hope in sight during the Depression and this was the gift they collectively opened, every Christmas Eve, to be packed away the next day for the next year. She was one of seven and I can only imagine the scene as I look at the toy sitting on a shelf.

    I recently came across a silly picture of my father with a black wig on at a relative's table holding the tin banjo. Daddy was a prankster and here he sits, in the early sixties, pretending to be Paul McCartney, amusing the older relatives. He sits at a table surrounded by "fans" in a plastic frame - and the frame sits in front of the banjo.

    These are the kinds of things that I love, but, I do think I will have a cup of tea now in the Clarice Cliff cup with chipped saucer I found one day adventuring with some close friends in an antique mall.

    Thanks for the provocative post.

  3. I really like this post. I've been thinking about this same issue as I blog. I can MAKE pretty vignettes or I can live my life and wait for them to come to me. Serendipity. That's what I wanted to share when I first started. Serendipity! I've started to not try and grab my camera every time something wonderful comes my way. I want to keep part of me secret so that I can REALLY see what's beautiful around me and not force it. It's all about being authentic! Authentic and pure in heart.

    Thanks for the post! I think that I'm going to go and look up the word "authentic" - it's a deep one. Hope you know what I mean...

    Love, Katy

  4. I have been thinking about this lately and beginning to sort and get rid of the things I don't love and display the things I love. I take pictures, but have never been brave enough to frame any until today. I framed several and placed them on the mantle with other photographs that have been given to me. I love it. So each day I continue to purge and enjoy what I do love. Thanks!

  5. Hi Nancy-I would love to read the books you have mentioned above- I'll add then to my long list. --

    I have a question for you about a book that was due out last March 2009- it is by "Janet Allon"- & is called "French Design,a Touch of Chic". It is listed on Amazon and on my buy it cart/list-. I don't understand why it hasn't been available yet,- I did email the Publisher, etc., but they have not heard of it.-- Do you know anything about as to when this book will actually be available? I love all of the books by Victoria or "The Editors of Victoria"- this one sounds so special too.- Could you let me know if you know why this book by Janet Allon is still not available for purchase?-Thanks much,-Valery