29 November, 2010

The Duchess Was Thankful . . .

For a restful Thanksgiving

The Duchess indulged herself in four or more days of respite from her typically busy world, spending time only with family, friends, and lots and lots of food.  She hopes everyone's Thanksgiving holiday was as lovely and enjoyable as her own.

And speaking of holidays -- the tree is trimmed, the garland is hung, the wreath adorns the door.  Yes, indeedy, even as the gates opened onto the Christmas tree purveyor's lot at Ventura and Woodman, the Duchess was there, never one to miss a moment of Christmas decorating.  It's that time of year, when the emphasis shifts from outdoors to indoors, and we welcome people into our deeply personal environments -- our homes.

It's appropriate, then, that the holiday season nicely coincides with the recent release of "Classic Homes of Los Angeles" by Douglas Woods.  This scholarly tome delves into the architectural pedigree of the breathtaking historical homes of an older Los Angeles; for the most part, these homes are located east of La Brea, in Pasadena, in West Adams, and concentrated in Hancock Park. 

Published by Rizzoli

Together with the Senator, the Duchess attended a cheery but light fete in honor of Mr. Woods's publication at one of the homes featured in the book.  Strolling through whisper-quiet Italian gardens only a stone's throw from some of Los Angeles's busiest streets reminded the Duchess how lucky the denizens of Hancock Park truly are (if somewhat retail- and dining-deprived).

The Beaux-Arts home of Anna and Alan Clark, Windsor Square, Hancock Park

Another landmark Hancock Park home (not featured in "Classic Homes") is that of Anna and Alan Clark, whose residence sits in the plummiest acreage of Hancock Park, Windsor Square.  The Clarks' home was photographed for the magazine "Traditional Home" and it is an excellent example of the type.

The butler's pantry (transl., the spoils of law firm partnership)

22 November, 2010

The Duchess Enjoyed Immensely . . .

"The King's Speech"

The Duchess was privileged to have attended "The King's Speech" Tribute Gala during AFI Fest 2010 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on November 5.  Mr. Colin Firth, Mr. Geoffrey Rush, and director Tom Hooper ceremoniously provided a discussion of the film before its showing, moderated by renowned film critic Leonard Maltin.  The film itself premiered to tremendous excitement among the audience, none of which was misplaced or left unsatisfied.

Mr. Firth and Mr. Rush at AFI Fest

"The King's Speech" was an incredible movie.  Mr. Firth stars as King George VI (Albert, former Duke of York), the second son of King George V, who ascends to the throne after his elder brother, Edward (a captivating Guy Pearce), abdicates the throne in order to marry his mistress, the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson. 

Aided by his devoted wife, Elizabeth (the late Queen Mum, portrayed by a likeable Helena Bonham Carter)), Albert secures the tutoring of Lionel Logue, a speech therapist (played with explosive derring-do by Mr. Rush), to assist him with the transition to the throne -- and a role involving considerable public speaking, both in person and on the broadcast radio -- by ameliorating his stammer.  The friendship that develops between Albert and Lionel is one of the most charming alliances seen on screen in quite some time.

The film was met with a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Rightly so.  It's fantastic and merits much more praise than that. 

17 November, 2010

The Duchess Poses a Very Serious Question . . .

Who is eating at Gordon Ramsay at The London West Hollywood?

By the looks of it, not nearly enough of you.  As we near the end of the year, confronted by the inevitable exercise of making "top ten" lists and the like, the Duchess considered (post-meal) that it had to be among the best of 2010.

There hasn't been sufficient brouhaha about Gordon Ramsay's West Hollywood outpost, or if there has been, the Duchess missed it all.  It opened quietly, along with the equally quiet opening of The London hotel (a New York favorite of the Duchess's).  But it deserves much more attention.

A view of the dining room.

A meal begins with extremely attentive service (almost too attentive, the one negative the Duchess found) and a serving of crostini with a truflled mascarpone and ricotta spread.  If the crostini and truffle spread do not suit one, never fear:  a basket of warm, deliciously crusty bread with salted butter immediately follows. 

The three course meal is reasonably priced (for this market) at $64, exclusive of beverages.  One may substitute a second appetizer for the dessert, and the Duchess is divided on whether she would recommend doing so.  A roasted chestnut soup with foie gras and fried duck arancini is a divine starter; the hamachi is quite good; and the crispy pig with fig is melt-in-the-mouth rich and buttery. 

A second view of the dining room.

As a main course the John Dory cannot be beaten.  Though we also ordered the halibut, of the two fish (predictably) the John Dory was far superior in preparation and flavor.  It was accompanied by a smattering of brussels sprout leaves, peas, diced carrots and a half or two of fingerling potatoes.  The fish is the feature of the dish and the serving size is robust but not rotund, if you take the Duchess's point.

For dessert we had the pumpkin souffle.  It was served with (the Duchess recalls) a nutmeg glace and a little bit of sweet cream.  Breathtaking. 

Please, please, please.  Head over to Gordon Ramsay at The London.  You won't be disappointed.  

16 November, 2010

The Duchess Admires . . .

The Home of Lela Rose and Brandon Jones

The October edition of Interior Design magazine featured the New York home of fashion designer Lela Rose and her husband, hedge fun manager Brandon Jones.  Rose and Jones, together with their children, live in a converted 6,000 square foot industrial space in an 1867 landmarked building, replete with skylights, a basement and subbasement.  They tasked their architects, Dan Wood and Amale Andraos (the husband-wife team of Work Architecture Company) with creating a livable space for family life that could double as a party/runway show location too.  The Duchess thinks Wood and Andraos succeeded in spades. 

A rear view of the skylights.

The children's shared bathroom, with epoxy floors.

A child's work space; floors in epoxy, with vintage desk and chair by Eames.

The loft's living space.  Unsure where they hid their 52 inch television for watching football.

In the bar space, which connects the kitchen with the living area, a mechanical table lifts from the floor to seat 60 guests for dinner, or to serve as a runway for Rose's fashion shows.

A view of the living room through the bar, from the kitchen.

The eat-in kitchen, with its tabletop covered in placemats. 

Photographs by Elizabeth Felicella for Interior Design.  

The Duchess Recommends . . .

The Well-Appointed House

For those of us with Christmas fever, the Duchess recommends a visit to The Well-Appointed House for holiday decorations and table ware, and throughout the year, for much, much more.  The Well-Appointed House offers a dizzying array of home decor items (including furniture and lighting) and perhaps the best online pillow selection around.

A wreath with chilies, artichokes, and dried pomegranates.

A tree skirt featuring alpine skiers.

Adorable salt and pepper shakers.
A chip-and-dip platter with a handful of Christmas presents.

Though not Christmas-themed, this chip-and-dip platter with a lobster and crab is fabulous, and would make a lovely gift for the seafood-feasting host or hostess.  Too cute for words!

15 November, 2010

The Duchess Suggests . . .

A Trip to Mona Moore

The holidays are fast approaching, and with them, the pressure (within some circles) to dress fabulously and (within all circles) to gift well.  Some of this pressure would surely be alleviated by a trip to Mona Moore on Venice's Abbot Kinney Boulevard, local purveyor of excellent Dries Van Noten, Balenciaga, Pierre Hardy, and Haider Ackermann shoes and accessories.  The Duchess dies for the Raven Kauffman Garbo box clutch (featured in photograph below).  Enjoy the journey and bring along some plastic.

13 November, 2010

The Duchess Returns . . .

to Los Angeles

The Duchess is extremely happy to return to native soil.  Though still a bit jet lagged, she hasn't yet stopped moving since the wheels touched down at LAX.  And the fun continues . . .

This afternoon at Gagosian Gallery the Duchess will attend the opening of "The Last Decade", an exhibit of paintings by Joan Mitchell, a reknowned Abstract Expressionist painter.  Quite exciting.

Around this time several years ago Gagosian exhibited some of the neon work of Tracey Emin, a Young British Artist, in the show "You Left Me Breathing."  Emin's work is widely collected, as evidenced below.

in a home in Cape Town

in Elle Decor (Simon Upton)

"Trust Me" in the UBS Building

in Elle Decor (Simon Upton)

In the bedroom of Elton John and David Furnish, by Mr. Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, in Architectural Digest

More on Joann Mitchell soon.  Until then, besos! 

09 November, 2010

The Duchess Dispatches . . .

from Nashville

Greetings from Nashville, where the Duchess enjoys a steady diet of country music, ham and biscuits.  Now the Duchess is well aware that much of her devoted readership lives within easy driving distance of Nashville, and comes to town every now and again, but for those of you not so fortunate as to venture to the Music City often enough, the Duchess presents a little local flavor.  Nashville offers that great balance of a uniquely Southern, artistic town with the sophistication and cool of a metropolis. 

First stop Flyte, a wonderful restaurant nestled between some train tracks and the Frugal MacDougal liquor store (also worth a visit).  Our inaugural Nashville meal was at Flyte, and the Duchess was very pleased with the warm atmosphere, cheerful service, robust wine list and delicious lamb saddle.  The house made bacon and egg appetizer is also incredible, by definition. 

Located near downtown is the relatively new development The Gulch, which for you Durhamites is reminiscent of Brightleaf Square or the American Tobacco district.  Formerly underutilized warehouses on the perimeter of the urban area, The Gulch now features a number of local favorite restaurants (Watermark, Cantina Laredo, Urban Flats to name a few), independent retailers, and apartment housing.  Very convenient to Music Row.

Not very convenient to Music Row but completely worth the venture is the legendary Loveless Cafe, located near the intersection of I-40 (to Memphis) and Highway 100.  It's a glorious drive from downtown Nashville down Route 100 to the Cafe, where the typical breakfast dish includes biscuits, ham, eggs, hashbrown casserole, coffee and orange juice.  Be sure and pick up a country ham or two for the holidays while you're there.

More to follow readers!  And please let the Duchess know if you have any Nashville recommendations for her.

05 November, 2010

The Duchess Sadly Missed . . .

Mary McDonald at Nathan Turner

Sniffle, sniffle.  The Duchess sadly missed last night's fete for Mary McDonald at Nathan Turner in celebration of the publication of her new book, "Mary McDonald Interiors", published by Rizzoli.  

Ms. McDonald, a Los Angeles-based designer, is garnering much attention with her new tome, a collection of her impressive work (selected examples shown below). 

The Duchess couldn't make it, no, because there was much too much work to be done before she makes her getaway to Nashville, to take in the legendary skyline and a little time with the Prince of Corbin.  Dispatches to follow! 

Photographs of interiors designed by Mary McDonald available at http://www.marymcdonaldinc.com/

04 November, 2010

The Duchess Attends . . .

Tierney Gearon at Soho House

Photograph by Tierney Gearon

Last night the Duchess had the always tremendous pleasure of spending time at Soho House.  The expansive views of Los Angeles alone are enough to solicit romantic notions of this dark, kinetic city . . . 

But, oh, the Duchess had the loveliest view of all.  

She was tete-a-tete with the Marchioness, that's why!  We sat here, didn't we sweetie?

But only after taking in a lecture by (in)famous fine art and commercial photographer Tierney Gearon in the newly opened screening room (christened last week by none other than Bob Evans himself -- the Duchess tried to swipe some of his DNA from the cashmere blanket under which she swaddled).

Ms. Gearon is popular world-wide for her remarkable images primarily of children, though she photographs all manner of human subjects.  She began her career as model, and while traveling for that profession took many so-called "beauty shots" of fellow models on Polaroid.  From these beginnings she went on to show her work at the Saatchi Gallery ("I Am A Camera") and at Phillips de Pury (under the title "Explosure", later exhibited at Ace Gallery), and her images are featured regularly in editorials. 

The lecture, for the Duchess, was quite interesting not only because she had not known so many details about the life of Ms. Gearon leading her to the present day, but because it raised (or reiterated) the issue of how clearly delineated are our identities within the family structure.  Ms. Gearon, made notorious by her Saatchi Gallery show in 2001 because of some public reaction to the nude pictures of her children, wrestles with this question in almost all of her fine art photography, and it is a proper subject to tackle. 

Of course, her commercial work also raises important questions.  For example:

Ben Silverman at the Beverly Hills Hotel for W Magazine.  Is that a Porthault tablecloth?  OMFG.

All photographs of the Soho House, West Hollywood at http://www.sohohousewh.com/.  All other photographs copyright of the captivating Tierney Gearon.

02 November, 2010

The Duchess Loves . . .

"Boardwalk Empire"

The loss of "Mad Men" inflicted quite a Sunday night sting, but it has quickly been replaced for the Duchess by the terrific "Boardwalk Empire."  "Boardwalk Empire" is a period piece, set in the Prohibition Era at the dawn of the Jazz Age.  It's historical, complex, and lushly produced.  And much like a fine wine, of which we may enjoy copious amounts in these freewheeling days, it too improves with age. 

Happily "Boardwalk Empire" provides far, far more eye candy that "Mad Men" too, at least for the Duchess!  The gorgeous Michael Pitt plays Jimmy Darmody, an intense aspiring gangster who has returned from the first World War with more than a handful of chilling stories to tell.  Frankly were Mr. Pitt to keystone any television show the Duchess would stake out a front row seat. 

Jimmy Darmody is the former protege of Nucky Thompson, the ruling don of all Atlantic City, whose tinny commands bring women to their knees and men to their mothers.  Steve Buscemi is somewhat surprisingly cast as Nucky (a lethal, powerful lothario), but viewers are no worse for the wear.

Jimmy Darmody dispatches to Chicago, aided by Al Capone (the terrific Stephen Graham), to mark his own territory and establish dominance in his own right, outside the shadow of Nucky Thompson.  Nucky has his hands full in Atlantic City anyway, what with his live-in girlfriend (Paz de la Huerta) nagging him over his affair with Irish widow Margaret Schroeder (the quietly alluring Kelly MacDonald, of "Gosford Park" fame), and with lawman Nelson Van Alden forever at his heels.   

The masochistic Van Alden 

The temptress Margaret Schroeder

The nudist (thank God) Lucky Luciano

The Duchess already despairs the season finale of "Boardwalk Empire", still weeks away.  Though filmed primarily in Brooklyn (what's new?) it lacks hipness and cool, two things the Duchess will never understand.  What it lacks in vibe, it more than makes up for in character development and plotline, and even putting that to one side the introduction of Jack Huston as the literally wartorn sharpshooter Richard Harrow is enough to engender a DIRECTV season pass. 


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