Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Guiding Light

Have you ever lost your way? I mean, really lost? It's something that happens gradually, a left turn when you should have made a right, and a right turn when you should have made a left. Eventually you're so far off track that nothing looks familiar anymore, and you're ready to give up all together. Know you're not alone ... for I too, had lost my way; I left the strong and passionate design voice I had in search of the popular and new, and in the process made too many left turns and ended up in a place I didn't understand ... or like, quite frankly.

It wasn't until I started working on the dining room that I realized how desperate I was to impress all of you. I'd self edited, redirected my vision and my design ability into a style and a trend that I don't really know how to do, doesn't fit with this house, and I'm not sure has staying power. I had to take a moment - a long moment - and figure out how lost I was so that I could get back to where I am happiest. Thankfully, I'm there ... and RUNNING down the path where I'm most productive, inspired, and I believe - inspiring. What was the beacon of light that pulled me back on track?

This cover page. The minute I saw the richness of it - the layering, the play of pattern, and the depth of space and finish I knew that this was truly where I am, where I love to be. Ralph Lauren - be my guiding light! (Okay - no more soap opera cheese from this point forward, I promise!) So what is it about Ralph Lauren that inspires me? What about these images reminded me why I love this style so much? It's the controlled chaos, the artful clutter, the textures, the layers ... it's an English Country style that (though Veranda will tell you is so 2004) is classic, lasting, and always beautiful.

Here, in the dining room of the Lauren home in Bedford, NY as featured in Architectural Digest in 2004 you can completely see the RL preference to layer and mix. In fact, layering, lighting, and color are the RL staples of building a room. The beautiful blue and white porcelains, paired with rich warn leathers, equestrian plaids and wools, along with glass, silver, brass, and crystal. It's a combination that speaks leaps and bounds about the sophistication of the people who live in a space, and I believe, separate true visionaries from the rest.

In the same home, from the same feature - the Lauren study. Now, what don't I love here? The eclecticism of the space, paired with it's obvious English study foundation makes my heart go pitter pat. I could be well appointed here, with a good book and glass of brandy. Something I've always loved about RL is the fabric pairings. Things that seemingly wouldn't dream of working in the same room come together effortlessly: cheetah, zebra, tribal Persian rugs, suzani's, plaids and paisleys ... all working together, sometimes on the same piece of antique furniture.

The creative mixing and matching, done so masterfully, shows us that you can insert your personality in any space and still live in covetable, magazine worthy room, at home. The only rule seems to be: don’t be afraid! Throw it in and watch the symphony hum.

The RL bedrooms are always spaces you can curl up in and fade away, enveloped in luxury, and surrounded by beauty. Mixes of fabrics, textures, and the sheer volume of layering is so indicative of the RL style, and IMHO, among the most beautiful of any "catalog" bedrooms.

And even when the RL collections change, and the foundations move to more solid palettes, it still remains instinctively recognizable. Why? 1. Layers. A RL room, and really an English Country base is all about layers, layers, and more layers; dark woods, rich textures and patterns, and warm metals - golds, brass, and copper.

Check out the many layers upon the floor here: 1)hardwood, 2)seagrass, 3)vintage turkish rug, 4)antique Persian rug - it's gorgeous! And the rich infusion of rosewoods and mahogany along with the deep sapphire of the wall and curtains provide the most sophisticated of backdrops for the mostly white bedding and artful display of genuine Asian porcelains.

Just like Mary McDonald, and Barclay Butera, RL rooms are infused with Blue and White. They're as mandatory as drapes and rugs, and are always well positioned.

So many bloggers, interior designers, and novice decorators are using inspiring RL vignettes like this one to style entry tables, bedroom dressers, and hall consoles. The attention to detail, the pairings ... it's awe worthy really, and best of all - classic.

I've loved so much about blogging. Especially meeting all of you, and being invited to many of your homes via the Internet daily. When I happened upon the blog: The Adventures of Tartan Scott and I found my way to his delicious website: smwdesign I had a feeling he shared my love of RL and the RL way. Little did I know it was because he had worked for RL as a window/showroom stylist in San Francisco prior to venturing into his own business. More than all of that, Scott had clarity of his vision. He knew himself well enough to create inspired and beautiful spaces without fear. So beautifully obvious in his own apartment in San Francisco.

Here in his living room, immediately you recognize the RL way. Tweeds and herringbones, mix with plaids, floral, and animal hides all on the same piece! The layering of supreme accessories, all with seeming history and definite star quality work in the same space without overpowering it. Large scale renaissance art, mixed with smaller modern black and white photography with a harmony unparalleled.

Dark walls throughout the apartment allow Scott's artwork, furniture, and accessories to take center stage - so appropriately. Skirted tables, layered and sumptuous bedding, the mix of antique with modern, strange with traditional - it's welcoming, sophisticated, and inspiring.

Yet again, Scott teaches us, like RL, that patterns can work together in tandem creating awe worthy spaces in even the smallest of rooms. No doubt, Scott believes that lighting is key. Look at the lamps doubled up on tables, just below sconces. Some say overkill - I say send it my way!

I understand that the look isn't for everyone. Shoot, I bet staunch minimalists are in hell over the clutter ... but I love it, and I know that in the depths and hollows of my design soul, this is where I am meant to play - forever.

With that said, I can't wait to show you the dining room ... but I need some time. Till then, feel free to share your favorite Ralph Lauren links in the comment section of this post. I know there have to be a great deal of RL lovers out there! See you soon!



  1. Sometimes we need to remember "our" style and not get caught up in someone else's! I've lost my way at Linderhof a time or two . . . but I think I've found myself -- and it is myself -- clutter and all!

    I can't wait to see the dirction that you're going -- I know it will be wonderful!

    Linderhof, too, has blue and whtie in ALL rooms -- somewhere! It's one of our trademarks!

    And I don't think 2004 RL is dated -- to me, RL is timeless!

  2. Artie, I about fell off my chair when I read this! I JUST had this conversation with someone but you said it SO much better. I, personally, LOVE the RL look- actually my own style would probably be "European Country"- that elegant, mix of fabrics, antiques, modern pieces and family history that just always seems to "work". One of the keys is quality. Fabrics may be old and slightly faded, leathers may be a bit worn, but the quality always shines through-layers of well-loved pieces and rich colors NEVER go out of style. Can't wait to see your room. Now I have to go save all these pics of Scott's apartment- "drool...."
    xoxo Pattie

  3. Always be true to yourself, that's when you're happiest! Love the RL look, and those plaid fringed table coverings, wow!

  4. I see many touches of this style in your living room ... so you haven't wandered too far!!

  5. It's so important to be true to yourself (in many ways, but in decorating too).Our homes are an extension of ourselves. when the hype and fad are over, we're left with ourselves in our homes. They need to be us.

    I too love English Country. It's so real and lived in, not staged and untouchable.

    Looking forward to seeing your dining room. Don't be afraid to share the steps along the way. Remember, it takes many layers.

    - The Tablescaper

  6. I agree -- I love the richness of this look -- to me, it's quite "classic" -- which often means it's not ever out of style -- and often not really in style either. I say, make your home reflect you -- since you're the one who lives there!

  7. Yeah, Artie! I'm so glad you're back on track. I love the RL style. I know it's easy to be influenced by the light, white, breezy decorating style going on right now, but sometimes we have to step back and realize we don't all live at the beach. I love that look too, but I have to admit that during the long, cold winters we've had the last few years I've so enjoyed my deep, rich colors and textures in our home that have kept us warm and cozy. I appreciate that to keep designers new and interesting they have to come up with new and unique ways to decorate. Believe me though, having grown up on a farm, I would much rather lay my head on a soft, lush velvet or wool pillow than a rough, scratchy burlap one. I don't think that trend is going to last long at all. Keep up the good work and hope to see the dining room soon. Did I miss it or did you do a total bathroom reveal yet?

  8. Rule number # 1 Follow your heart
    Rule number # 2 Be fearless
    Rule number # 3 Have some fun!
    My three favorite decorating rules.

  9. Artie,

    Ralph Lauren is one of my favorites. If you remember, when I entered one of YOUR contests, I used RL as the fabric I wanted to use to redecorate our FR.

    Just yesterday, when I received an email from Calico Corners, the first thing I went too was the RL collection.

    I might have the rich, dark reds and greens in my FR that are shown in the first picture you have posted, but the room doesn't look anything like his.:( I can't wait to see what you do in your room, I know it will be great.


  10. Artie, Oh Happy Day! I can't see that your far off track. Your home is coming along beautifully. The transoms were a brilliant idea. Masterfully executed. Congrats.

    I love the richness of RL and the black walls in the diningroom, wow. Don't know if I would have the guts to do it. Artfully arranged clutter was your statement, I think? Now I can really relate to that and it sounds so much better than too much stuff and I love it too! A few stacks of books on the floor and I'm home.

    Make it a great weekend!
    ~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

  11. It is YOU. I don't think you have ever strayed. Very masculine...very lovely. You.

  12. A friend "made" me visit your affirm my own love/style. Give me clutter, layering, fabrics galore, RL..anytime! Away with the white, grey, pale blue, airy, crisp, clean lines. Shoo!

  13. Artie,
    Sometimes I think you can read my mind. I too have strayed at times, being influenced by current trends. I need to remember what I love and who has influenced me along the way, starting with Ralph Lauren. Then let's move on to Bunny Williams, the late Mark Hampton, Charles Faudree and currently Barclay Butera. I also love Scot Meacham Wood of San Francisco. They all use color, pattern, accessories--lots of accessories! All of it takes up tremendous "design thought" to pull it off. Enough of white and gray. Warm, not cool.
    Enough said. I'm glad you are back on track my friend! Delores

  14. Artie, I hear ya and understand completely.. I've been saving RL photos for several years and sometimes I look at them and cry becuase while I want to just step into the photo and live, I cant seem to make it happen in my own home.
    You take your time- follow your vision and the true Desire of your Heart and I'll wait patiently to see the transformation you make. I have not a single doubt it will be Marvelous~!

    one of your biggest Fans

  15. This is how I started out-wanting the English country look, but then somehow I got sidetracked into thinking I liked British colonial...(and it was everywhere and so easy to find that style and decorate that way)...then I saw the white, beachy look...which I also love and then the French look..oh so lovely...but I really think I'm going to try and go with the English country look again.....thanks for reminding me!
    (after all I still have all those pheasant feathers...they fit in with English country right?)

  16. Artie,

    Yesterday when I left a comment,I forgot to mention that I am also drawn to the Ernest Hemingway Collection, when I browse one of our local furniture stores. Hemingway and Lauren, two special men in my decorating life. Of course it would help to have a 'sugar daddy' in there to help pay for it too. ;)


  17. Yes, I was going to mention the Ernest Hemingway collection too...very nice!...Artie, I have been searching and searching the Ralph Lauren site for the comforter on the 6th picture down on your blog...cant seem to find it....I gotta have that...where did you get that photo?!

  18. Dear Artie,

    I LOVE this post! I of course adore all that you do, but this...sharing your heart and soul....your inspirations....your losing your way and your FINDING your way....

    Well, BRAVO! Life is so short dear one, so you are SO RIGHT about following your own light.

    You are IMMENSELY gifted. And a divergent thinker of the best kind (hence your wonderful blog title).

    I, too, love this CLASSIC RL style and it's SO HARD sometimes when everything around the blog world is all white.

    Don't get me wrong, I love all white, too, but I dont' want to change everything I love and feel MOST AT HOME IN in my own home just to do what Veranda says is most chic right now. (Hence one of my most recent blog posts on COLOR and all that Red/Yellow china/classic decor in my office/library!).

    Anyway.....I adore you and am proud of you! I know you will continue to dazzle us and be inimitably YOU!


  19. I love your style, I think you can give RL a run for his money.

  20. I can't tell you how much I identify with your comments about loosing your say, especially with decorating. I am a Texas raised with a very, very Southern influence, but I lean toward more traditional decor. I see all the blogs with the florals, white, and that sort of thing, and while I think it's pretty, it's way too much for me to take on a daily basis in my own home. I think I must be a little hyper as I just can't take all the stimuli. On the other hand, I don't own a set of white dishes!! Isn't that funny.

    I'm glad you went back to what touches you. I can't wait to see how your dining room comes out. And, besides, I like to LIVE in my home with my dogs, my grandchildren and my flowers drug in from the garden and plopped in a vase.

    Sorry for the long comment, and by the way, I was looking forward to your "rant" but you must have thought better of it and deleted it. I've done that MANY times, kiddo.

  21. I LOVE the RL look, too, Artie. I was afraid it had gone out of style...but at the same time, I really don't care. I've always done what I loved and not worried about what's in or evidenced by all the shiny Virginia Metalcrafters and Baldwin Brass in my home...everyone keeps telling me to paint it!!! LOL Not gonna happen!
    I adore the dining room...same reasons you do...all that divine layering. I'd honestly never thought about layering rugs on the have my wheels turning now! Bet it feels great underfoot. Great post...and I LOVE Tartanscott...subscribe to his blog postings. :-)
    P.S. How the devil did someone spraypaint your patio furn and car? I'd be beyond upset. I wish you hadn't deleted the post because I want to read it. I'm so sorry that happened and I truly pray it was an accident and not done on purpose. What goes around comes if it was intentional, I feel sorry for the folks who did it! It will catch up to them, sooner or later.