blue and white

Living Lavender Dreams

What does a girl do with unmade decisions hanging over her head? Sulk? Panic? Nope! Fantasy decorate is the answer!

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Ever since this time last year, I have been obsessed with designer May Daouk’s Beirut home, which was featured in Architectural Digest, stunningly photographed by Simon Watson. The luminescent lavender living room, chock-a-block with blue and white porcelain, comfy seating and that divine 19th century Oushak spoke eloquently to me. And those arched windows – those windows! – maybe I really need to go back and start with them. The fact that her home was in the Middle East didn’t particularly register with me at the time and only came to seem like an important point much later. While I am only showing the living room in this post, the entire space is fantastic so click here to see the slide show over at AD.  And please be sure to click on the photos themselves in this post to see the enlarged versions which truly show the spectacular details.

Simon Watson May Daouk LR

I might not have imagined trying to apply the wonder of this space to my life before, even though it is my favorite color and holds so many favorite things. But it got me thinking…Many houses that I looked at in Doha had arched windows and large rectangular living spaces – granted not quite like this – but lovely nonetheless. So what in this photo don’t I already have? Neutral linen covered sofa? Check! A pair of velvet armchairs? Check? A big dark trestle table like the ones along the side of the room? Check! (That one is down in the garage for those of you wondering). Antique global textiles turned into pillows or throws? Check! Gobs and gobs of blue and white porcelain? Check! 19th century carpets? Check! (Although much smaller ones that could be laid over jute or seagrass perhaps). Could I be happy in Doha if I lived in a room like this? Somehow I think the answer to that is Yes!

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I’ve even got a pair of antique slipper chairs with a bullion fringe and their original coral pink velvet fabric – definitely in the same spirit as these. And you all know I’ve got a gorgeous blue & white garden stool – just got to get it there. Should I be sure to put an IKEA Rand black and white striped dhurrie in my shipment? No, because IKEA opened in Doha just a month or so ago. Check!

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Before you start scratching your head and thinking I am off my rocker, let me show you a few more inspiration examples, like this Alberto Pinto Moroccan fantasy from the late Domino magazine. Remember those pink chairs I just mentioned? And how divine is all that inlaid furniture? (More on that below). But the pièce de résistance has to be that armless settee upholstered a la suzani!

moroccan lavender Domino

Instead of blue & white, painted  and glazed earthenware is featured.  That would be a chance to start a whole new collection!

Moroccan lavender detail Domino

Perhaps a new collection isn’t the answer – after all I do love my porcelain. Maybe going a bit more formal – soft with a bit of whimsy actually – with the lavender and blue in the space would be lovely, just like at Aerin’s place?

Aerin lauder ED0709 pc Simon Upton

Tufted Chesterfield? Check! Queen Anne tea table? Check! (That one is in the garage too!)

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Katie Ridder gets the formal but whimsical combo down just right too.

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Another choice would be to use the fresh slate to steer off in a more modern direction. This is not my usual style but speaks to me nonetheless. The mix is outstanding! Orangey-toned tribal carpet? Check! Moroccan side table? Check!

lavender moroccan room coco kelley

It seems as if the flea market gods are having their say as well. Speaking of Moroccan side tables, I found this one at the market last week and had to buy it. Trying to decide if it should go to the beach or if I should take it with me.

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Kinda seems like carrying coals to Newcastle, no?

And breaking news…In the time it took me to write this post I got a fresh email in my inbox with my elder daughter’s acceptance into school in Doha. Looks like the pendulum may be swinging that way. Hello lavender!

Related Posts:
Major Life Changes Ahead…Shall We Let the Architecture Decide?
Colors of the Rainbow…Blue and White Porcelain is Neutral
Lavender Love…John Saladino and Me

Image credits: 1, 3-4. Architectural Digest May 2012, photo credit: Simon Watson, 2. via Simon Watson, 5-6. Domino magazine, further credit unknown, 7. Aerin Lauder in Elle Decor July 2009, photo credit: Simon Upton, 8. Aerin Lauder in Vogue, via Habitually Chic, 9. Katie Ridder via Galbraith & Paul, 10. via Coco & Kelley, 11. me.

Takamakura…A Geisha’s Hard Night Sleep

“…a young apprentice geisha must learn a new way of sleeping after her hair is styled for the first time. She doesn’t use an ordinary pillow any longer, but a taka-makura-which I’ve mentioned before. It’s not so much a pillow as a cradle for the base of the neck. Most are padded with a bag of wheat chaff, but still they’re not much better than putting your neck on a stone.”
Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

It doesn’t sound to me like a very comfortable way to pass the night, but sleeping on a takamakura (tall pillow) was instrumental in preserving the elaborate coiffures worn by geisha.

geisha taking nap on pillow

These days, they make wonderful decorative collectibles, like this one tucked against the books in the side table of a room previously featured in my Provenance column on kasuri over at Cloth & Kind.

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The base is made of lacquered wood that is gently curved, to allow for some rocking movement while in use. A silk or cotton-covered pillow, filled with buckwheat hulls or chaff, crowns it and provides some limited comfort. Dark or orangey-red lacquer is most common and sometimes the pillows are made from interesting textiles, like in this case, covered with asa-no-ha (hemp leaf) pattern. And if you are thinking Kelly Wearstler’s Katana, now you know where she got her inspiration!

takamakura

A similar takamakura rests on the top shelf of a very large collection in a Westchester, NY bedroom. As you can see, most of the geisha pillows are either red or black and the finer ones have detailing in the lacquer. This collection also boasts a few wooden examples as well as some blue & white porcelain ones.

LJ geisha pillows

While many of the lacquer and cloth takamakura date from the 19th century, most of the porcelain ones commonly found are early to mid 20th century. The porcelain ones seem even less comfortable to me, although some are designed with special comfort features, like these two. The top one has small porcelain squares strung together almost like a hammock that allow for movement. The one with the kanji marking on top can accommodate hot water and/or medicines in its hollow cavity and the gaps in the top of the pillow let the steam or aroma rise. I’ve actually seen takamakura with pharmacy labels or stamps.

blue white porcelain geisha pillow

Regardless of their functionality, they are supremely decorative and look great mixed with books in shelves or on their own…

blue white porcelain pillow display

…or combined with other porcelain pieces like these jubako here in a Tokyo entryway…

cate geisha pillows

…or here in a cubbyhole in a girl’s bedroom in San Francisco.

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She should be happy they rest on a shelf and that she does not rest on one of them!

N.B. You’ll notice repeats in these photos, but it is not a styling trick. All of these takamakura belong to different people, it’s just that many models were produced on a large-scale. Hand painted ones tend to be older and more individual than the inban, or transferware, versions.

Vintage geisha photo, most probably by T. Enami via Geisha Moments Facebook page.  Thanks to everyone else who provided photos for this post.

Object Obsession…Jubako Boxes

Seto jubako

An absolute favorite of mine, porcelain jubako, stacked tiered food boxes, are harder to come across than more standard porcelain shapes such as plates and bowls. That being true, it hasn’t kept me from accumulating quite a few and helping others do the same. I always refer to them as jubako, but it may be that the porcelain ones should be called danju, while the lacquer ones are officially jubako. Shrine sale dealers call them jubako, so for now I will use the terms interchangeably. Personally I’ve never put food in mine. Instead I like to use them for trinkets on night stands, spices in the kitchen and anywhere you need to stash some small valuables.

In my entryway they hold extra keys to the house and car, buttons and hooks that have fallen off jackets and other odds and ends. Mine are unusual in that they are square, much less common than round ones, and the larger one has lovely scrolled feet. The bright cobalt and densely pigmented karakusa (scrolling arabesque pattern) are typical of Seto porcelain, and although purchased at very different times, seem to have been painted by the same artist.  I have enough Seto ware these days that I can see the hand of distinct artists on certain pieces. As for the cloth dolls on the right, they have their own extraordinary tale to tell and will be featured in an upcoming post for Hinamatsuri or Girls Day.

Seto jubako

Over the years I have helped to put together numerous collections.  It seems once bitten by the jubako bug that one is never enough. They look wonderful grouped together or mixed in with other porcelain. It’s always important to vary shapes and heights as well as the density of pigment and painted motif. This collection of five hand painted Imari jubako has a lovely balance of stylized and naturalistic motifs.

Imari jubako

This collection is used in the bathroom to hold cotton balls, Q-tips, make-up, make-up brushes and jewelry. Again note the variety of height, shape and painting style. The three outer cases are inban, Japanese transferware, while the two center ones are painted in a naturalistic style.

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This trio represents three very different styles and eras and you can see those differences reflected clearly in the various shades of blue pigment.

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Here jubako are mixed with two geisha pillows, the porcelain neck rests used for preserving elaborate coiffures when lying down. I think there will have to be a post on those in the near future too.

jubako and geisha pillow

Blue and white jubako aren’t the only porcelain types out there.  I have a weakness for the prettily painted Kutani ones. This style of Kutani ware isn’t the densely pigmented and almost brocaded paint commonly associated with the best pieces from that region. (It occurs to me that I have never properly written about Kutani porcelain, so that will be added to my check list for spring.) Instead, they have a soft painterly naturalistic style.  The little sake cup warmer in the center makes a great votive candle holder.

kutani jubako

For all the thousands of ginger jars we see each month in the design press, I have almost never seen jubako featured, other than this one in John Anderson’s New York home.

jubako John Anderson

But recently I spied a lacquer one in this Vincente Wolf designed apartment on the January cover of AD – you can just see it on the table in the center of the room. While I am drawn to the porcelain jubako, the most common material they are made of is lacquer and examples of antique and new ones can be found everywhere.

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They are used for traditional osechi ryori (New Year’s food) which is served room temperature in the layered lacquered boxes. For more details on the food in this photo check out Savory Japan.

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The contents and the containers are things of beauty both!

O Genki Benki…Antique Blue & White Porcelain Potties

So, if a picture paints a thousand words, what does this one paint for you? Do you see antique blue and white porcelain umbrella stands and plant holders? Or do you see three squatty potties and two urinals? If you chose the latter, then you have chosen correctly. Antique blue and white toilets called benki were popular in the late Meiji and Showa periods, often installed in fine ryokan (inns) or wealthier people’s homes. Fairly rare as singletons, to see an entire collection of five all together is almost unheard of, but this dealer at Kawagoe shrine sale last month bucked the odds. I assume he salvaged them all at one place, perhaps as an old building was being torn down.

Most of these painted pieces are in the Seto style, my favorite, although some seem to be Imari as well. And they were definitely produced on some kind of large organized scale as I have noticed there are only a few basic shapes and patterns that are repeated in all the ones I have seen.  The toilets tend to be rectangular, with a squared off front or oval, with a rounded front. The rims always have a tiny detailed painted pattern, quite often traditional karakusa (scrolling arabesque), while the under hood area has a large bunch of flowers.

The urinals fall into one of two categories, either the more tubular umbrella stand shape on the right or the more cornucopia shaped one laying on the ground on the left. Older examples, both of the toilet and the urinals, like the one I saw before here, are hand painted, while the later versions are often more heavily transfer printed.

Somushi Tea House in Kyoto looks as if it has been around for ever, but actually was renovated to look old. To give it that Meiji feel they installed vintage bathroom fixtures. If you were at all confused about how this functioned as a toilet, here’s your answer. And note how similar this one is to two of the toilets above.

On the left is the urinal at Somushi which is more of a cornucopia shape and looks like an earlier hand painted Seto piece. The photo on the right is not as finely painted and looks to be Imari, but it is quite similar to the one laying on the left in the Kawagoe photo above. Umbrella stands seem to be the standard use du jour of retired urinals. The toilets make good planters and I have even seen one turned vertically and used as a garden fountain.

Now for those of you who don’t know, there is complicated toilet etiquette in Japan. In addition to taking off your shoes upon entering any home and putting on slippers, there are special separate toilet slippers kept inside the bathroom. Normally these are ordinary slippers, but I have actually seen painted porcelain ones on a few occasions, out in the markets that is, not in someone’s home. Were these really worn? Or are they just ornamental? I’m not sure, but I didn’t buy this pair last May because their condition wasn’t great. I think they’d make a witty addition to a vignette.

I have seen a few other pairs in my travels and they have always been similar to these, with that distinct feathery Seto style painting.

Without any formal knowledge on the subject, my instincts tell me that the idea for the painted fixtures comes straight from the West. It was not unusual to have painted and transfer printed toilets in the 19th century, like these Victorian versions from Great Britain. There was a tremendous amount of cross-fertilization in the porcelain industry going on in the late 19th century, with ideas, motifs and techniques (such as transfer printing) winging their way back and forth.

And the title of this post? It roughly translates as “feels good toilet,” but maybe “looks good toilet” would be even better. And I know my Japanese grammar isn’t actually correct, but I couldn’t resist the rhyme…

Related Posts:
Made for Export and in My Basement…Seto Porcelain Garden Stool
Shop Talk…Discovering Antique Treasures in Nishi-Ogikubo

Ways to Display…Porcelain on Brackets

A few great shrine sale finds and a good friend’s decorating plans got me to thinking about blue and white porcelain again last night – as if that is an uncommon thing for me to think about…

I had long been saving photos of groupings of porcelain on brackets or corbels, a classic way to present a collection en masse. For example, this 1959 photo of Jayne Wrightsman’s Palm Beach library designed by Maison Jansen, with a grouping of what looks to be Meissen figurines.

Figurines not withstanding, Asian porcelain, whether Chinese or other, blue and white or polychrome, tends to be the most commonly presented in this fashion. Aerin Lauder inherited this collection as well as the house from her grandmother Estée…

…and it still looks fresh today in that East Hampton home.

Carolyne Roehm went completely blue and white in her bedroom, even painting the brackets to fit in with the decor. Can’t imagine doing this in Japan, as the earthquakes would be sure to give you an unpleasant surprise one night.

Thomas Burak went with an all out chinoiserie theme in this Bridgehampton bedroom, pagoda bed, and all.

And another view.

Designer Mary Watkins Wood simplifies the look with a white background, white linens and white brackets, using mainly Chinese ginger jars. I think Japanese jubako (stacked lunch boxes) would give a similar effect. Gotta love that fantastic Portuguese bed!

Did Dallas store owner Betty Gertz have this niche custom designer for this amazing grouping of Chinese vases or was it already there? The vases themselves are Ming dynasty antiques, part of the Hatcher trove. Now how’s that for provenance?

I had never seen this show house hallway by Mary McDonald before – thanks to Jennifer at The Peak of Chic for the photos.

I love the blue and white against the grey.

Not limiting the post to blue & white, here Robert Goodwin uses a collection of Blanc de Chine figurines in a similar fashion. The fabulous wall color is Benjamin Moore’s Iron Mountain.

Miles Redd turns up the modernity a notch in this celadon dining room with a grouping of simple celadon vases on plainer matched brackets.

Here Oscar de la Renta does the same with coral in his Punta Cana home.

And perhaps the most tongue in cheek is this simple bathroom with the grandest of porcelain displays.

My question for you readers, is whether you like this look? Do you find it traditional? Elegant? Fussy? Do you like the brackets to all be the same? Or a variety? Painted like the wall color, contrasting or gilded? I am thinking on it too, considering it for an upcoming project…

Related Posts:
Colors of the Rainbow…Blue and White Porcelain is Neutral

Image credits: 1. via The Peak of Chic, , 2-3. Elle Decor, 4. Veranda via Chinoiserie Chic,  5. via The Enchanted Home, 6. House & Garden via Chinoiserie Chic, 7, 11-12. House Beautiful, 8. scanned by me from magazine tear sheets, but credit unknown, 9-10. via The Peak of Chic, 13. via Habitually Chic, 14. Martha Stewart Living via The Enchanted Home.

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