Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Memories of Tangier Part 1

If you see her, say hello, she might be in Tangier
- Bob Dylan - from 'Blood on the Tracks'

Ahhh, Tangier.  Ruled, shaped and formed by the Phoenicians,  Romans, Portuguese, Arabs, English and Spanish. Painted by Matisse and Delacroix. Home to eccentric British Ex Pats straight after the war. Made culturally hip and artistically fascinating by writers such as Burroughs, Kerouac and Bowles, with frequent visits from Tennessee Williams. All this international flavor and yet, at sunset when the calls to prayer begin, it couldn't be anywhere but Africa.

I had the extraordinary privilege of staying at one of Tangier's most beautiful properties on the 'Old Mountain'. Acres and acres of rambling gardens spread across the cliff, a bountiful pomegranate tree here, a lavender hedge there, an orchard elsewhere, and always a wondrous view over the Straits of Gibraltar. For someone who lives in the concrete jungle and yearns for green and silence, it couldn't have been more perfect.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Off to Tangier for a much-needed break!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"The Audacity of Taupe"

There has been a lot of chatter this past week about the redecoration of the Oval Office. No matter the pull out from Iraq or the fear of a double dip recession, the main preoccupation here for bloggers and journos alike has been what on earth we think of the President's seemingly bland new color scheme.

Apparently it is customary for new Presidents to redecorate the oval office and the colors seem to reflect the mood of the times. FDR appeared to have some german reich moment with his curtain design, while Bush Jr. went for bright gold and blue stripes. Here are some key moments throughout the office's history:

Recreation of FDR's office, 1936

President Ford in Nixon's Oval Office design

JFK's office!

Clinton Oval Office

Bush's Oval Office

Which brings us to the present color scheme. The New York Times devoted 2 full pages to the revamp, using words like "tweaked," "subtle redo," etc. Style arbiters have been debating the sombre use of beige and more beige.  And here are some interesting decoration points from various Oval Office analysts  - if indeed you are interested:
  • The desk has not moved or changed. It was a gift from Queen Victoria to Rutherford B. Hayes and was built from salvaged pieces of an Arctic discovery vessel. Apparently every president has used it with the exceptions of Ford, Johnson and Nixon.
  • The rug is new. it is woven with quotes from Martin Luther King Jr, JFK and others.
  • Apparently there are usually flowers on the coffee table. Now there are apples. This seems to have caused great consternation for some and merriment for others, as commentators have tried to determine if in fact a guest of the president would actually eat in front of the "leader of the free world."
But let's turn to the comments of the "taste makers" to really get a sense of what the world is thinking:

...It's very cautious, neutral, inoffensive, neither one thing or the other - like Audacity of Taupe.
Arianna Huffington, Editor of The Huffington Post

...Do we really believe any head of state, dignitary or staff member is going to help themselves to an apple while meeting with the president? Besides, what would you do with the core when you were finished?
Sheila Bridges, Decorator

...If Obama leaves a mark on his presidency, I don't think it will be through his fabric choices.
Jacob Weisberg, political columnist and chairman of Slate group

...What about the fruit bowl? Who is eating in there?...What visitor would grab an apple to eat with the President?
Tucker Viemaster, Lab chief at the Rockwell Group

...What we Americans want is good solid comfort, and I think the room delivers.
Miles Redd, Decorator

...Personally, I prefer a more regal office to the muted earth tones of the family den."
David Gergen, Senior political analyst at CNN and advisor to four presidents

Decorating is the last subject we need in the national debate right now. Even in the best of times, taste is not a subject that brings people together.
Stephen Drucker, Editor in Chief, Town & Country

...[The Presidents] can decorate the room in all black or purple or like a circus tent if they like. Whatever works for them is fine with me.
Sally Quinn, Washington Post columnist

At the end of the day, I guess Obama just wants to feel comfortable in a room where he more than likely spends more time than his own living room or bedroom. So if beige or taupe or camel or toffee makes him happy, does it really matter what we think? Maybe he is just a secret fashion devotee and wanted to be totally on trend this season by injecting some camel into his lifestyle - the political version of investing in heavenly Chloe this fall!

Images: (1-3) doug miller/new york times, (4-5) villainous company, (6) kennedy library, (7) clinton library, (8) ron edmonds, AP, (9) style.com

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Surrey

We are hosting an international PR Managers meeting here in New York later this year. Bizarrely, it is quite difficult to find a beautiful, chic, modern hotel uptown, that also has conference facilities. But we finally found the perfect place; the new Surrey Hotel. It is an aesthete's dream.

Built in 1926 as a residence hotel, it has been home to many characters over the years, including JFK, Bette Davis and Claudia Colbert. In 2009, it was given a $60 million overhaul by architect and interior designer Lauren Rottet and has gone from pre-war elegance to super-chic contemporary. Think calming grey, black and white palette, art deco feel, peppered with fabulous contemporary art pieces.

The lobby includes an interactive video by South African artist William Kentridge, and a giant Kate moss tapestry greets you as you make your way up to your room.

The quilted walls in the Bar Pleiades - named in homage to the original French restaurant frequented by the worlds art elite from 1971 - 1992 - are reminiscent of Chanel's famous handbag.

All the bedrooms have the out-of-this-world Duxiana beds.

The bathrooms are spacious and classically elegant with modern finishes and gorgeously packaged Surrey amenities.

And the Presidential suite where we are hosting our meeting is to die for! With views over Madison Ave, Central Park and the beautiful architecture of the UES, it has a huge living room, TWO bathrooms, a bar, dining table for 10 and a grand piano in case you are staying there with Billy Joel.

The piece de resistance is the roof garden, where you can sip a cocktail and watch the sun set over Manhattan.

The Surrey is in a perfect location. You are on E 76th St, with Michael Kors opposite and every other fashion brand imaginable around the corner on Madison Ave. And it's only a hop skip and jump the other way to Central Park, with a 10 minute walk to the Met, Guggenheim, Neue and Whitney! And if you are looking for a real New York experience on a Monday night, nip across the road to the Carlyle, where you can hear Woody Allen play the sax. You can't get more New York than that!

images: (1) gawker, (2-9) the surrey, (9) luxury hub, (10) village voice

Friday, September 3, 2010

Happy Labor Day

This Labor Day long weekend officially marks the end of the summer season here. So I will be making the most of the three day weekend at the eastern most tip of the Hamptons, in Montauk. Here's to the last beach hurrah for the year.

Happy Labor Day dear readers. x