When is a Book not a Book? When it’s a Blook

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Tea caddy, the perfect gift for tea-loving bibliophiles.

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For the smoker determined to keep the habit hidden, between the covers of this blook.

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Portable camera is somewhat bulky by today’s standards.

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James Bond camera with built-in flash, circa 1890s.

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Noel Coward signed flask, for the literate drinker.

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Mid-century alarm clock in three volumes, with the title Time.

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Open the cover of this blook and the hidden snake will take a bite of your finger.

I have used fake books for a variety of decorative purposes, but it wasn’t until I heard of an exhibit at the Grolier Club in Manhatten that I became aware of the fascinating diversity of the genre. Mindell Dubansky started collecting fake books twenty years ago, and even coined a name to describe them: blooks, for book-look. It seems they’ve been around virtually as long as bound books, and their uses defy categorization.

How about a carved box with a hidden snake, ready to snap at the fingers of those who dare open the cover? Or a tea caddy blook with a paper theatre embedded on the lid. A sub-genre of camera blooks arose in Victorian times when it was considered rude to use hand-held cameras (hard to imagine in the era of the selfie). Pin cushion blooks, alarm clock and radio blooks, blooks with alcohol flasks or perfume bottles, even blooks made of stone. There seems to be something about the book as object that people find irresistible. I know I do.

 

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Paris Postcards

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Top photo is the view from the apartment where we stayed on the edge of Paris. Below from my brother-in-law’s car on a quick tour are the Arc de Triomphe and Gare du Nord (train station). Finally, we ate well, of course, and among the delights were cheese. There is simply no comparison with what is available in the US. The goat cheese in the picture, Sein de Nounou, means nanny’s breast. Something to do with the shape, one imagines.

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Typically Quiet, Well-Behaved French Children

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Spent Christmas in Paris with my family, including a cheery party at my sister’s place on Christmas Day. The youngest of the four generations attending were certainly cute, though given some provocation they were not exactly shrinking violets. It was a joy to be part of the celebration, as I do my best to attend every year.

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Sailing on the Bois de Boulogne

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Nestled like a nineteenth-century clipper ship in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris is the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the new museum designed by Frank Gehry. We trooped off one cold Parisian winter morning, my parents, my sister, her husband, Mitchell and I, to see the latest addition to the ranks of Parisian art museums. We all came to the conclusion that the exhibits were as dreary as the museum was spectacular. The glass, wood and ceramic sail-like panels appear to be floating on air above the park. The large, multi-layered roof is the highpoint of the experience, as you are enveloped within the rolling, constantly curving structure, on a sea of grass and trees, surrounded by the beauty of Paris.

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There Will Always be an England

Objects of Use outside

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Brush and Comb Cleaning Rake

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Japanese Harimi Broom

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Finnish Carpet Beater

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Green Woodpecker Call

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English Oak Dibber

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Paté spreader

 

There is a small shop on a back street in Oxford, among the spires and greens of the ancient colleges. The shop is called Objects of Use. The English family of my longtime accountant and mentor, Saradj Avaregon, took us there during our recent trip. Objects of Use is quintessentially English—eccentric, charming and baffling in equal measure. They believe that “having the right tool for the job vastly improves the experience of completing our daily tasks.”

The job in question is predominantly, though not exclusively, cleaning, and the tools include: radiator brush, Venetian blind brush, multiple size and shape dust brushes, book brush, bathtub brush, milk bottle brush, to say nothing of carpet beaters, horsehair Vienna broom, Finnish Caretaker’s broom, and all manner of mops, buckets, soaps, scissors, and combs. Because brushes can become clogged, there is, of course, the brush and comb cleaning rake, a dainty metal device used to “help clear and unclog brushes and combs from unpleasant accumulations of loose hair, dust, fluff and lint.”

But man or woman does not live by cleaning alone.

The Dutch Asparagus Knife, Austrian Scythe Sickle and English Oak Dibber are several of the vast selection of gardening tools, and bird lovers can croon with their pals using the cuckoo call, blackbird call, mallard call, or goldfinch call. Perhaps my favorite tool in the shop, deep among the kitchen tools, is the paté spreader. The description says it all:

“A natural ox-horn paté or butter spreader of a type common before the advent of stainless steel as horn does not tarnish like silver or carbon steel, or taint the flavour of foodstuffs in which it stands. Made from the horn of Nigerian long horned Fulani cattle and hand cut, shaped, and polished in Carnforth, Lancashire – site of Britain’s one remaining commercial hornworks. The colours range from white, to translucent amber, through all the shades to black in natural tortoise-shell variations. About 15cm long.”

Rule Britannia!!

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The King Who Loved Interior Design

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Few royal marriages were as disastrous as that between the future George IV and Queen Caroline, in the 1790s. When they first met George staggered away immediately, saying “I am not well, pray get me a glass of brandy.”

On the plus side, it was George IV who renovated Buckingham House, turning it into the Buckingham Palace we know today (he also spruced up Windsor Castle and created the stunning Royal Pavilion in Brighten). He filled his palaces with the finest in decorative arts, among them Boulles cabinetry. I was most impressed by the collection during our recent tour of the palace (the Queen was away).

André-Charles Boulle and his sons were the most remarkable of all French cabinetmakers. They had the good fortune to have Louis XIV, the wealthiest and most ostentatious monarch of his day, as their patron. George loved all things French and purchased an immense quantity of Boulle’s pieces. He also loved fashion but had little self-control. As his tailor mercilessly recorded, his waistline ballooned to 50 inches and George, addicted to alcohol and laudanum in addition to beautiful palaces and fine furnishings, died in 1830.

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Visiting England for the Weather

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Had a glorious week in England in early January. And what weather! Sure, it rained, but it never poured, at least when we were outside. Temperature was mostly in the 50s, and we actually saw the sun with a remarkable degree of regularity. Here we’re checking out the tropical greenhouse in Kew Gardens, home to the world’s largest collection of living plants. As you can see, the grass, as in the rest of London’s many parks, is a lush green, year round. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that weather is the reason to go to England, but it sure beats New Jersey in January.

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Comfy Feminine Domains

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Chokidsaft3W

My clients have two girls ages seven and nine. Their rooms were the first priority in a new project and I’ve created comfy feminine domains for these sweet children. They are really variations on a theme, one with pink walls and a hanging chair, the other, taller space for the elder girl with a canopy metal bed and Thibaux papered walls. She hangs her artwork on the bedposts. For one recent school assignment, she wrote an essay about the joys of her new room. I’ve had articles about my work in design magazines, but an essay by a nine year old is much more gratifying!

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Master Bath Renovation Progress Report

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We’re in the final phase of an extensive master bath renovation. The bottom picture shows the space before work began. Ceiling angles were modified, walls were shifted, and the colors, tile, and fixtures were chosen to cultivate the tranquil feel my clients are partial to. The freestanding tub is mirrored by a pair of vessels above the floating vanity. The glass tile above both tub and vanity suggest the look of running water, and the stone tile in the shower and behind the tub offer different patterns within the gray and white palette. The shower needs a glass enclosure, windows need covering and accessories need placement. Will post a finished photo with everything in place.

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Eggplant and Cream

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The clean sophistication of my client’s living room starts with a palette of cream tones, with dabs of eggplant. Window trim was lightened and ceiling color darkened, for a more intimate feel. The two barrel chairs in eggplant fabric with ebony frames really pop against the cream, in addition to providing blissful comfort for all shapes and sizes. The simple, custom panels on the windows feature lovely embroidered edges, with a hint of eggplant accents. The tone on tone Nepalese rug is understated and chic, while the Boone table with solid brass legs and polished wood top, adds a touch of glitz to the understated scheme. The sconces (there are four in the room) give a soft yet substantial glow, and fit the space far better than what they replaced. The style is elegantly transitional—refreshing, cool and comfortable.

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