Interiors: My All-Time Favorite Abode. For Now.

This place in Madrid, which appeared in one of the most recent issues of Elle Decor, belongs to designer Lorenzo Castillo. This vast apartment is a study in contrasts. Both old world and absolutely modern, packed with objects but streamlined, intimidatingly sophisticated yet comfortable. The more I look at the photographs, the more impressive this feat of cohabiting contrasts seems. This sort of deftness cannot be taught; clearly Castillo has an innate sense of what just works. And the fact that he knows a whole lot about art and antiques doesn’t hurt either. I’m always amazed when designers can apply layers of stuff to an interior without suffocating a room. Read the online article and view the rest of the photos to get a better sense of the space HERE. But really, you should pick up a newsstand copy because reading about Lorenzo Castillo in print is so much better. (shhh! don’t tell my blog I said that!)

Interiors: Relentless Chic

From Elle Decor: Jackie Astier's dining room. All I can see is blood and spaghetti sauce when I look at that rug. Pops of color.

When I read the March 2012 issue of Elle Decor I was struck by the fact that so many of the featured interiors seemed very of-the-moment. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Then I took a look at supercalefragelistic stylist Jackie Astier’s apartment. Her place is so on-trend it is probably already considered outdated. At least by those in the know, including Jackie Astier herself. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that since publication, she has traded her Karl Springer kidney cocktail tables for a stack of cinder blocks and a few planks, the latest in cocktail table chic. (Except that cocktail tables are now back to being called coffee tables. Hey: who started calling them cocktail tables anyway?) Speaking of the word chic, after reading, and, I’ll admit, genuinely enjoying the Jackie Astier feature, a phrase popped into my head: Relentless Chic. It must be exhausting to make being amazing seem so effortless. A round of applause, please, for all the cool girls in design. Especially for Kelly Wearstler, who would be the head cheerleader of them all — if only being a cheerleader was the type of thing these relentlessly chic girls did.

Compulsive re-decorating is the least of their troubles. They also must compulsively re-invent themselves, wardrobes and all. Not to mention come up with suitable names for their equally fascinating, equally beautiful children. I admit that the first thing I did after finding out that Kelly Wearstler had two sons is to track down their names. It turns out that she has named them Oliver and Elliott. Just perfect. Unusual but not wacky, memorable but not freakishly so, ideal for a lifetime of making music or public policy. Oh Kelly, where were you when I named my own son Phineas? I should have consulted the chic brigade before I saddled my son with the name of a character from the Young Adult section of the library. (But I loved A Separate Peace so very, very much!)

I read Jackie Astier’s bio and discovered that she was an assistant to the designer Muriel Brandolini. And then I realized that the circle is complete, because Muriel B.’s brand of Relentless Chic predates Kelly Wearstler’s by (is this reference to age just too gauche?) a few decades. Muriel B. practices what I like to call contrarian design. Meaning, whatever you think looks current in interiors is old news to her — she bypasses convention, whatever it is — no matter how lovely it may be — to recognize what’s coming ’round the bend and her high-dollar clients submit to her like french fries to hot oil. People pay her serious cash money to cool up their homes to the point of abstraction. Her interiors have one consistent quality: they are always so chic that they look sort of crazy. And just when you think you have a handle on her sectional couches in chunks of primary colors, or the fact that she actually removes large, beautiful windows from a house to make a room feel more like an opium den, she has moved on to a period sofa covered in a tasteful beige linen.  You thought beige was over, or, at the very least, boring? Well guess what, it isn’t, and the contrarian designer is here to tell you so.

I love these designers, because they represent interior design as more of the art it is than the sort-of science it tries to be with home values based on kitchens with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances (what is up with our obsession with granite and stainless steel?). I wouldn’t want to share a coffee with these women — I would be far, far too frightened and ugly to stand it — but I love the fact that they are out there, fashion-stomping their way through their own homes and yours, if you have the money to buy their special brand of them-ness. Here’s to Relentless Chic! I’m exhausted just writing about it, so I can only imagine how tired Jackie Astier must be right now, lugging cinder blocks into her living room for her new cocktail coffee table.

Relentless Chic Hall of Fame

Jackie Astier, from Elle Decor, having a laugh.

Kelly Wearstler, Head Whatever-is-Cooler-Than-a-Cheerleader. Image from T Magazine.

Muriel Brandolini, the Grande Dame of Relentless Chic, staring meaningfully while perched on a futuristic beanbag. The force is always with her. Image from Architectural Digest.

Magazine (Ad) Talk: Elle Decor

First up: Good Upholstered Furniture/Bad Upholstered Furniture (which could just as well be titled: Please Don’t Anthropomorphise My Chair.)

The following ad stopped me in my tracks. Now I’m all for egalitarianism. I can accept Martha Stewart’s longstanding collaboration with K-Mart and I can try to understand respected designers (and a bunch more I’ve never heard of but no doubt would respect if I had) putting their “collections” in Target stores. But this?  It is too much. Really.

File under “Just Another Nail in the Coffin Bearing the Prestige of Print Magazines”: