Friday, February 19, 2010

Take Me Away

      “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
                                                                                       - Mark Twain

My son, exploring the woods of Andrew Molera Park in Big Sur, CA
Longevity runs in my family. My maternal grandmother lived until she was 97, a more sedate, mellowed, skinny and gnarly version of herself. My memories of her tell me that she spent at least 90 of those years being the fiery, dynamic, hardworking and fast-talking woman that she is. The rest she spent in quiet solitude on her favorite chair, weaker and quieter, yet just as feisty. She was an amazing woman; somebody whose accomplishments far exceeded the lot that was given her. Yet one of the things I would never understand about her was that she did not go out much. In fact she spent her last few years being exactly where she always was--at home. 

Walk (or cook) on water. Photo left: Hiking at Santa Rosa Island, Channel Islands National Park, Below: Detail of back-lit blue agate countertop,

Given the luck to inherit those genes, I still do not think I will have enough years left in me to visit the great number of corners and places that I have on my list. Though I always perfectly happy where I am, rarely a day  goes by that I'm not wishing to be somewhere else;  hiking up and down the valleys of Yosemite, staring out at the majestic vistas of the Grand Canyon or swimming in the warm, opal waters of Boracay, Philippines.
Let this chair take you to Bali. Above: Barcelona Bronze Sun Chase, $999/set of 2, www., Below: Animal Jacquard bath towels, $14-24,

With each separation, the welcoming familiar smells and light of my home that I love so much, gathers depth, intensity. Each motel and hotel , good or bad, cheap or expensive, is a curiosity because it is not home. Over the years I have noticed that the best hotels are the ones that go to great lengths to make you feel at home. Yet when at home, it is sometimes nice to be transported somewhere else.
 Dream of exotic places. Photo credit: Ralph Lauren Home,, Below: Ghana vase, $24.95, Z Gallerie

Ralph Lauren, the most successful American purveyor of glamour largely bases his success on the idea of escape--safaris and ranches, rocky beaches, shiny white boats. His clothes are supposed to be able to transform you into a tan, weathered sailor, a preppy polo-player, an experienced traveler back from a safari adventure. Even if they weren't the real deal, an ensemble consisting of a striped t-shirt, crisp white pants and a blazer in the color combos of red, white and navy blue---will make you feel like you're really going sailing. He specializes in transporting his audience out of the everyday experience. It was said that his art was an expression of his own "yearning for something beautiful and timeless that conjures up a world and takes you there."
Sail to faraway shores (or Dana Point, CA below) with vintage nautical lighting. Below right: Maritime pendant, $495, Below, center, Royal Master Sealight pendant, $359, both from Restoration Hardware

This credo I think, has a lot to do with the timelessness of his design. A striped t-shirt, whether it is a Ralph Lauren original or from Target, will always look right. In the same way at home, if you surround yourself with the things you love, or that tell stories about the places you've been (and would like to be), you will never get tired of it. You can change the carpet that is worn, or buy a new sofa, but your rooms will always have that soul that is not apart from your own. You will imbibe your quarters with a timeless allure that will never cease to inspire and provoke.

Pick color combinations that either speak to you or about you. Look out into the sea with an accent wall of turquoise, or stare out into the amber sunset with orange. Express a modern attitude with striking combinations of gray and primary colors, walk through an English garden with dusty lilacs and pale yellows.
Vintage luxury train ride to Istanbul by way of wall sconce. Above: Meridian demi-sconce, $219, Restoration Hardware
Beyond the photographs and the souveneirs, other items like plants, the fabric on your sofa and pillows and the kinds of flowers that you bring in; all have the power to transform. It all depends on the choices you make. It does not have to be a lot. A single, large artisinal vase made from your birth country or your favorite place, filled now and then with your favorite flowers, so simple and basic yet speak volumes, will always please you when you behold it. Neither does it have to be obvious to everybody. When it comes to having a look that will be pleasing for years to come,  a room's real power lies in it being able to speak to and satisfy ones who inhabits it the most--you.