It’s 94 degrees outside today in Syracuse. With humidity factored in, the heat index is flirting with intolerable, somewhere slightly north of 100. I’ve got not one, but two fans running in my bedroom, and the curtains drawn to help beat the heat. Whether I like it or not, the sun is on my mind. Tomorrow is July 1st and the 4th is coming up quickly, so I may as well lean into the summer heat and look for a silver lining. If you’re a type who hosts, there’s no end of options for outdoor entertaining, a fête in the afternoon sun.
I’ve recently been enviously eyeing Aerin Lauder’s collection for Williams Sonoma, and I think it’s the seasonal ideal. Not terribly expensive. Bowls as low as $20 on sale for a set of 4 and a serving platter only a few dollars above that, on sale. I’m thinking a 4th of July outdoor get-together. Red meat on the grill, blue and white dishware, and plenty of cold drinks. I’d skip the table clothes, the vases with expensive flowers, the poshness of it all. Simplicity works, let your guests enjoy the backyard, the grass, the foliage, the unpicked flowers. Picnic tables or even sitting on the grass, buffet style. I’m imagining just stacks of these beautiful dishes and good food and you’ve got yourself an unpretentious gathering but with an element of refinement. However, the styling in a few of the photos puts them in a more styled context, and of course they’re equally beautiful, if not quite “me”. Nothing terribly original about this idea, it’s been done to death, but these items are all beautiful enough that you wouldn’t want to put them away even when the weather turns cold. These dishes could hold a place of pride in any stylish home, if you ask me.
There’s also a smaller selection of blue, white, and green dishes that I love also. For those who find blue and white china a bit passé, maybe this would be the ideal twist. It retains the classic look of blue and white china but the green twist feels more quirky, personal, whimsical.
About a year ago, in the midst of one of my endless “what should I watch?” netflix scrolling sessions, I stumbled upon a documentary series titled ABSTRACT: The Art of Design. Each of the 8 episodes focused on a designer at the top of their particular field, be it architecture, illustration, automotive design, or photography. The episode I was immediately drawn to watch first, however, was the very last one, focused on the celebrated interior designer Ilse Crawford. I’d heard her name, knew she was the founder of Elle Decor magazine, but not much else. After the hour-long episode, she had my full respect and admiration. I loved how she thought outside the box, how she never sacrificed comfort for style, that she didn’t follow trends, she created them.
One example of Ilse’s work highlighted in ABSTRACT was a hotel she’d been commissioned to design. Built in 1910 as a private arts and crafts style Mansion in Stockholm, it was to be converted into an upscale hotel called “Ett Hem”, which is Swedish for “A Home”. Ilse’s revolutionary idea, before the craze of Airbnb had really taken off, was to rethink what a traveler who takes the time to seek out a boutique hotel might want. She reasoned that there was something glamorous and aspirational about the idea of being handed the keys to someone’s home, having free reign of the place. And so she set about creating a hotel that didn’t feel like one, with 12 private bedrooms/suites, but with fully a stocked, residential-designed kitchen, library, dining room, sunroom, living room, etc. It’s meant to be a home away from home, or as I like to imagine it’s as if you have a wealthy friend with a country house and you’ve been invited for the weekend. You’re encouraged to live in it, treat it as your own. Perhaps the idea, years later, doesn’t feel so revolutionary, but I believe at the time it was. Especially for a 5-star luxury hotel. You’ve got talented chefs and a full staff at your beck and call. I’ve seen the idea imitated several times since. A stay here is definitely on the ol’ bucket list.
Winter ended, I hope, this past Sunday with a last snow flurry, and just a few days later, it was nearly 90 degrees. To my dismay, it would seem we skipped Spring and headed straight from Winter to Summer. But, as they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Since I’m no Beyoncé, my lemonade won’t be in the form of a hit Grammy-winning album and since I’m trying to kick my sugar habit, it wont be the Minute Maid variety, either. Instead I’ll sweep my own particular brand of summer-induced seasonal effective disorder under the rug and lean into Summer by way of blogging about it from indoors, with the fan turned as high as it will go.
Thinking about Summer design, wicker came instantly to mind. Most people may associate wicker with outdoor furniture and as such with summer (at least for people living in locations with distinct seasons), and I do too, but I also remember a large wicker basket in our house when I was growing up, that at times served as a kind of family roof coffee table/toy bin/blanket storage. Indoor, outdoor. Seasonal, year-round. Wicker’s like that, it’s versatile. It’s warm, it’s natural, it feels casual as is often the case, there can be glamour to a piece that feels handmade with skill.
I have long kept an eye out for wicker furniture to store in the massive imaginary furniture warehouse inside my head, for future use. The key, I think, is often unusual shapes or unusual uses. A wicker lighting pendant would catch anyone’s attention. A midcentury modern piece with clean lines that incorporate wicker would be a sharp look as well. And of course the classics never go out of style. Below are a few samples of wicker items I’ve scoured the internet for, ranging from $150 (the handmade pendant lighting I found on Etsy) to $3,000 (the 1960’s vintage German pair of chairs, found on 1stdibs). Warm weather may have inspired wicker as my blog post topic today, but I’m standing firm in my conviction that I prefer being indoors. As you can see, I chose pieces for the indoors. However, since wicker is versatile, a few could be used outdoors – and certainly on an enclosed porch or sun-room – as well if need be. These selections, I feel, would add that extra something to a room or backyard patio.