A French design-duo who have put a new spin on opening and closing the door.
Puglia, located in southeastern Italy (aka the heel of the boot), has been exalted as the last undiscovered gem in Italy. (It also happens to be the region of my Azzarito ancestors). Nestled between two blue seas, the Adriatic and the Ionian, filled with Baroque cities and hilltop villages, the leisurely pace of Pugliese life is certain to relax even the most committed Type A personalities. The region is filled with olive groves, dotted by masserias, ancient fortified farmhouses found only in Puglia. During the last twenty years, as Puglia has become a favorite of in-the-know travelers looking for an Italian summer refuges, those masserias dotting the countryside have been slowly transformed into luxury accommodations. This hotel, Masseria Moroseta, may be a new structure, but the building takes its design cues from those ancient traditions.
After finding land, Carlo Lanzini approached his old friend, Barcelona- based designer and magazine editor (founder of Openhouse Magazine , Andrew Trotter, for an architect recommendation. Never one to turn down a good design opportunity, Andrew volunteered himself. For the next three years, he worked closely with Carlo to realize a vision for a Puglian retreat that combines a minimalist aesthetic with the spirit of those ancient farmhouses. And while this may have been Andrew’s first architectural project, it opened to such critical acclaim, that it’s unlikely to be his last.
Carlo’s modernist vision of a masseria became a reality in 2016. The building was conceived and built using traditional materials and techniques. Not only does this ensure that it fits into the visual landscape of Puglia, but it also takes advantage of centuries-old environmentally friendly practices. The whitewash exteriors, vaulted ceilings and walls built 2.5 feet of sandstone tufo (a soft rock used in local construction since the Romans), are aesthetically pleasing and organically fit into the local design vernacular, but they also keep the Masseria cool even when temperatures soar. When the Puglian sun makes air conditioning unavoidable, solar panels are used to channel those rays into electricity. There’s enough sun (300 day/per year in Puglia) that the building runs virtually off-the-grid.
Masseria Moroseta, with its views of the Adriatic Sea, is only a ten-minute drive from the white hillside town of Ostuni. The property is set in the midst of 12 acres of olive groves, with 500-year-old trees, that are now producing olive oil for the property. The hotel’s six rooms are nestled around a central courtyard. Each has a slightly different design feature – room number 6 has monochrome tiling behind the bed, while number 3 has an antique iron bedhead and a plaster monkey lamp hanging from the ceiling. Rustic bathrooms feature battered copper fixtures, heavy marble sinks (which were sourced from an old laundry) and exposed pipework.
In the short time it has been open, the Masseria Moroseta, has become one of the most beautiful places to escape in one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy. But hurry. Unspoiled, beautiful escapes in Italy don’t tend to stay secret for long.
The fact that I'm obsessed with balloon installations is a slightly incongruous with the fact that I detest the sound of balloons popping. This is a fact that my fiancé (who shares my balloon-popping fear) frequently reminds me of when I tell him that I'm considering a balloon installation as part of our wedding decor scheme. But I am a girl who will suffer for fashion, and balloon installations are certainly fashionable.
While it may seem as it if balloons have burst on the scene recently, the myth of overnight success has been debunked by Psychology Today, Forbes and Entrepreneur. The same is true for balloons. It was nearly eighteen years, that the British genius photograph Tim Walker shot Eglingham Hall in Northumberland for Italian Vogue. Walker has credited Albert Lamorisse’s book and film 'The Red Balloon' as an early influence for his fanciful set designs. You can certainly see the influence in the Eglingham Hall shoot.
Since Walker's image, balloons en masse have become a playful party feature. And if you're looking to add some balloon decor to your next soiree there are certainly plenty of options from companies like Poppies for Grace in Australia and Geronimo in Los Angeles to creatives like Brittany Watson Jepsen from the House that Lars Built. With so many options, the only thing between me and my balloon dreams is my fear of the sound of that popping.
Time to call a spade a spade. It's hard to keep up a blog while also trying to meet a book deadline! I'm racing to meet a manuscript deadline for Domestic Bliss: The History of Luxury at Home. I'm living in the world of Turkish carpets, Chavari chairs and champagne coups. The finished manuscript is due in March, and I'll be back after then. In the meantime, I'm still writing for Design Milk (just published my NYC highlights!) and starting school libraries in Uganda (here's a video about our 2017 project)
Got something interesting to talk about? All ears. Email me at: amyazzarito at gmail dot com
Lately, I've been mired in research for Domestic Bliss (forthcoming from National Geographic Books in 2017), but a couple of weeks ago I took a little break from the Library to talk to Washington Post author, Lindsey Roberts about the history of chandeliers. Not only was it nice to talk to a human (writing is not the most social of occupations), the timing was also pretty perfect as I just finished the chandelier essay for Domestic Bliss so the history of our home's most glamorous lighting had been on my mind. Is there anything quite as luxurious as a chandelier? For a little insight into the chandelier and how the favorite light choice of kings found its way into the modern homes check out the Washington Post story.
It's official. Neon lights are the new marquee letters lights. And I'm not just saying that to make myself feel better about the fact that I got in the car last night at 8pm after calling all my local Targets in order to snag the last Oh Joy! neon heart light in a 35 mile radius . Well, I'm not entirely saying it to make myself feel better. Neon colors have been trending for a couple of years now (when Money reports on neon you know it's real) so it's not entirely out of left field that the lights themselves would make a play for center stage.
I've previously felt a little intimated by neon. I've been a long time fan of the work of Brooklyn's Lite Brite Neon, but the look still felt a little out of reach. But I've started warming up to it -- particularly in pink. Turns out. Pink neon is the gateway drug for all things neon so just be prepared. If you like the look, Michele Varian sells customizable neon signs, there's this neon sign DIY or you can start dialing your local Target stores.
I thought I had it pretty much all covered when I heard of Japanese author Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. After all, I had just got through an intensive closet cleaning (nothing like a little public airing of some literal dirty laundry to motivate a reform) and then I pared down even more moving across the country from New York to California. Let's just say, I felt pretty smug. But then, I wasn't quite happy with the way that things were fitting in the new space so one night, without anything to read, I downloaded a Kindle version of the book. I was so fascinated that I got an Audible version to listen to while I drove, and I started cleaning out the closet, the very next day.
There is one principle concept that makes this book life-changing. It's the way that Kondo teaches you how to evaluate whether you really love something. The oft-repeated William Morris quotation, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful" seemed like an impossibility until I read the Kondo book. The exercise is simple. Hold every object and ask yourself if it brings you joy, and if the answer is no, then get rid of it. Simple, but unbelievably difficult. "Keep only those things that speak to your heart," she explains. "Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle." But once you begin to pay attention to how you feel about your things, some thing changes. It's an true exercise in mindfulness.
1. Organize by category, not room.
2. Chose what you want to keep rather than what you want to get rid of
3. Nostalgia is not your friend.
4. Don't be afraid to talk to your things
5. Get it out of the house asap.
I've always love a good late bloomer story. So I was particularly fascinated by the tale of Jane Digby, who after multiple marriages and love affairs, didn't give up on her hunt for true love. Now, admittedly Jane was drop-dead gorgeous so she was playing at the game of love with a fully stacked deck. But even so, she followed her heart at the risk of losing family and friends (which she did), but her quest wasn't just about love, it was also about creating a life full of adventure.
Learning Lessons in Love
Born into a well-off family (her father was an admiral who seized a treasure ship -- and perhaps the source of Jane's adventurous spirit.), Jane's early years were fairly unremarkable (except for the foreshadowing time that she nearly eloped with the groom). There was the requisite early marriage to a Baron (she was 17, he was 34). Things started getting interesting, when after the birth of the couple's first son (who died in infancy), she had an affair with her dashing first cousin.
Then, there was the affair with Prince Felix Schwarzenberg. That was more serious and Jane was so in love with the Prince that she demanded a divorce (she also happened to be pregnant with the Prince's child at the time) A divorce could only be granted by an act of Parliament, and the resulting scandal meant that Jane was unwelcome in polite society. The couple moved to France and three children together, but the Prince had a wandering eye and when that relationship ended. Jane moved to Munich where she became the mistress of Ludwig, King of Bavaria, and then married again. Although, this third husband was devoted to her, Jane was not quite so enamored, and she she soon found herself attracted to a Greek Count, to the utter dismay of her husband, who challenged the Count to a dual.
Meeting and Marrying the Sheikh
Not sure if you're counting, but we're up to three husbands and many more lovers. So the relationship with the Count ends, Jane has a couple more love affairs, and then when she was forty-six years old, Jane set out on an adventure. She traveled to the Middle East (what is now Syria), where she met and fell in love with Sheikh Abdul Mijwal. Al Mezrab, who was 20 years her junior. It was during a punishing 24-hour camel ride through the Syrian desert, that he was so captivated by Jane's charm and courageousness, that he asked her to marry him. By all accounts (including hers, Jane left a detailed journal), the marriage was a happy one. Jane wore Arab clothing, learned Arabic (she was fluent in eight other languages), and spent half the year living the nomadic life of her husband. The other half of the year she spent living in a grand house that she built in Damascus. She died when she was 73. Her husband never married again nor lived in the Damascus home without her.
If you're as fascinated by this story as I was, then I recommend delving into Mary S. Lovell's biography, Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby. Jane's story is fascinating but Lovell delves into all the details -- even the most mundane, so good skimming skills come in handy. If I've just turned you off of the bio, but you'd still like to read more about Jane, then I highly recommend Betsy Prioleau's deftly written Seductress: Women Who ravished the World and the Lost Art of Love. Prioleau includes Jane in her chapter on Siren-Adventurers and but there are other fascinating portraits like that of Wallis Windsor (in Belles Laides: Homely Sirens), Mae West (Silver Foxes) and Josephine Baker (Sorcières: Siren-Artist)
When I was younger, I met my newest friends at summer camp -- preferably on horseback. My summers as a adult look a wee bit different, but making new connections is still just as much a part of summer as swimming pools and iced tea. Jaime Derringer of Design Milk wasn't exactly a new connection. I've been a fan of her site Design Milk for ages. But this summer, I got the chance to join her super awesome team as a contributor. Considering she was also a former East Coaster who heard the call of California, it seemed like a perfect fit.
So far, I've written about a multimedia experience/installation, how the high real estate prices in San Francisco are changing the landscape of the city, updated subway tiles and the ins and outs of online auctions. Whew! I think it may have been a little easier to meet friends on horseback! But I'm looking forward to an upcoming series on the Nau design team and I may have a little DIY in the works if I ever get a spare moment!
You can check this page for my latest.
I am a huge fan of late bloomers like Julia Child (who started cooking at 37) or one of the most influential British gardeners, Gertrude Jekyll (who didn't start gardening until 40), but crafter Mary Delany has them all beat. She didn't even conceive of the idea for her famous floral collages, which are in the British Museum, until she was 73. Amazing. I wrote about Mary Delany's crafting life this week on the Creativebug blog. Promise you'll be inspired.
(The Mary Delany Collection at the British Museum is efinitely worth a look)
Is there any other material that leads such a double life? Lace is at the same time fussy and restrained yet provocative and sexy. It’s province of grandmothers and antique shops but also keeps stores like La Perla and Victoria Secret in business. How can the same material be used to represent the virginal purity of a white bridal veil, the rebellious punk look of fingerless lace gloves, and also manage to be seductive in a négligée? And that’s just for starters. Somehow lace manages to do it all.
See the history behind this multifaceted material on Creativebug
In our color saturated modern world, it's hard to appreciate how much of a luxury color once was. This week, over at Creativebug, I wrote about a moment in the history of one of my favorite colors: indigo. From the Ancient Egyptians to the Mayans to American colonialists, I'm certainly not alone in my obsession with indigo.
When I have the chance to go to the Metropolitan Museum, I usually try to pay the period rooms a visit. In the museum curatorial community, there is a bit controversy as to how education a period room actually is. But I love see all the “stuff” arranged. The highlight of this room is paneling from the Palais Paar in Vienna. The Palais was built in about 1630 for the postmaster of the Holy Roman Empire, Baron Johann Christoph von Paar. (Obviously, a pretty lucrative position. There was actually an entire post office with stables behind the house.) The fortune of the family continued to grow and these rooms were remodeled between 1765 and 1771. A French-born architect was hired and the sculptor Johan Georg Leithne was commissioned to carve these magnificent panelings out of soft pinewood.
All images courtesy of de la Barra Photography
By the 19th century, the climate in Europe (particularly for aristocrats) had changed since the late 18th century. And the 19th century the Paar family descendants were relatively uninterested in family’s Viennese palace, renting it for long periods to Russian aristocrats. By the end of World War I, the palace was a shell of it’s former shelf. It had been stripped of furniture and was dark and deserted. In 1937, family sold the building to developers and it was demolished and replaced by a modern apartment building. But before the sale, the boiserie (carved paneling) was salvaged and was acquired by a firm in Paris to be sold. One of the finest examples of boiserie was purchased in 1938 by the Bolivian tycoon, Antenor Patiño to embellish his recently acquired Paris home. When Patiño moved to a new house in Paris in the early 1970s, he gave the panelings to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon.
The boiseries acquired by the Metropolitan Museum were intended for the family’s living quarters and so were much smaller than those acquired by Patiño. Before they found their way to the Museum, in 1934, a well-known English collector, Sir Philip Sassoon bought them and had them installed in his London home. When this house was about to be demolished in the mid-1950s, the original Paris firm reacquired the boiseries and sold them to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman in 1963. The couple donated them to the museum.
Above: Some of the room’s many details. The ceiling rosette is based on photographs of the family living quarters in the palace. The 12-branch gilt-steel and rock crystal chandelier dates to the period of Louis XIV about 1730. (I wrote a piece about the history of the chandelier for Design*Sponge right here)
If you’d like to see it all for yourself, head to Gallery 526 – French Decorative Arts: Paar Roomand for more about the Period Rooms at the Met, check out Period Rooms in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
It’s 20 degrees tonight in New York and it’s that moment in the winter where you’re not sure if it’s ever going to warm up again. I’m reminding myself that summer is just around the corner by looking through my photos from Italy in August. I spent nearly two weeks with my girlfriends in Italy (It was nearly as glamorous as it sounds except for the layover in Russia and the ant infestation in the rental car) For my decorative arts soul, one of the best parts of the trip, was the chance to see Pompeii with my friend and archeologist Gina Tibbott. I had been to Pompeii before but without a guide had missed many of its treasures, including this storage faculty on the edge of the site. You have to look at the objects from behind a chain link fence (you can bet my face was pressed up against said fence). The forms are so beautiful and simple that it’s hard to believe they were used by ancient Romans. What I wouldn’t give to have something like this in my house.
I’d need a bigger house.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since I shared my house in New York Times. Even though, I talk people into sharing their homes on a daily basis. Sharing mine in a paper of record felt unbelievably scary. But it was also incredibly exciting to have all of the work I had done on my home take front stage.
I shared a behind-the-scenes peek at the house on Design*Sponge where you can find all the product details.
All Photographs by Maxwell Tielman