I have fallen in love with Florence. This is surprising as till recently I’ve always felt Rome the ne plus ultra of Italy, yet I’m smitten! I was last there on business eons ago but recently a friend (a former colleague and buyer herself) said, “Kim have you been to Florence lately? There are still many small workshops with people making things in their ateliers, there is so much for you there.” As promised, an endless range of wonderful product abounds, such as the pillows above and suede fringe wraps we’ve sold out of again, awaiting a new shipment. Wherever you glance there is beauty; the buildings, the food, the gentility, the elegance of an European life – that grace is lost in so much of the world but it lives on here and may it always reign! Pictured here is the exquisite 14th century Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, built by the Dominicans. They also began making an antiseptic rose water to combat the plague and in 1612 founded the “Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella”, one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, still home to exquisite fragrances, bath and body care products.
Long on my must see list in Paris has been the Picasso Musée. Closed for a 2 year renovation in 2009, it ended up taking 5, finally reopening in 2014. After all my business was complete (all the new spring accessories from Paris are in store now!) we headed to the Hôtel Salé, the grand 17th century home of the musée. It was a cool grey day, and as we approached the narrow entrance, the portal opened into a majestic courtyard. The exquisite baroque design, particularly the grand stairwell, is the perfect contrast to all the work inside, showcasing Picasso’s multi genre artistic range; ceramics, found objects, paintings and sculpture are all beautifully presented with meaningful english translations. There is a lovely garden and cafe as well, so one can make a great day of the visit soaking up a glorious range of art, history and architecture.
Here is another example of that beautiful pale copper shade paired with bright white. Pictured, is a stairway in the grand courtyard of Palazzo Doria Tursi in Genoa, Italy. It’s one of the 3 stunning 16th century palazzi on Via Garibaldi which comprise the “Musei di Strada Nuova.” Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Doria Tursi are architectural gems of a bygone era. The buildings themselves and the artworks therein exemplify the great wealth of the aristocrats in 16th century Genoa. The entire street was inaugurated in 2006 as a UNESCO World Heritage sight and is composed of 42 restored palazzi. One such palazzo is now an exquisite boutique called Via Girabaldi 12. Stay at Palazzo Cicala across from San Lorenzo in the medieval area of this fascinating seaport city. Remember too, this is the birthplace of Cristoforo Colombo.
There was promise of rain, but instead the skies parted as we ambled down the granite path, past the 1919 Reginald Johnson villa of Lotusland. (Johnson was Architect of the main SB Post office and Bellosguardo as well.) Surrounded by magnificent stands of “dragon trees“, euphorbia, cactus, palms,
ginkgo, on and on, a tour here is a grand adventure in a peripatetic garden of Eden. The property was founded in 1882 as the commercial nursery of Ralph Kinton Stevens. Santa Barbara’s rare Mediterranean climate proved an idyllic atmosphere where rare and exotic plants flourish. Fast forward to 1940. Madame Ganna Walska, a much admired personality and opera singer, leaves her native Europe, on the last ship out before the war, and purchases the property in 1941. Over the decades, she worked with numerous renown architects and landscape designers to evolve the property. In fact, she herself evolved from grand opera diva and socialite into a passionate visionary and creative landscape designer in her own right, leaving us with a magnificent, creative, horticulturally significant gift for all time.
Recently, I’m making more trips to LA – there are gift shows to attend, vendor meetings and inspiration in the myriad of shops and restaurants. At the end of one such visit recently, we went to the Sunset Tower Hotel for an early evening cocktail. I’ve long wanted to visit this Art Deco gem and landmark on Sunset Boulevard. Indeed, it’s a deco beauty and so chic in it’s thoughtful restoration and keeping. The restaurant and bar are located on the ground floor, and because the tower is perched on a hill, this affords an almost arial view toward downtown Los Angeles. It’s a warm, wood paneled room, with plush cushions to melt into, framed vintage portraits on the walls, candlelight and a huge bouquet of white roses on the bar. Next time dinner too! But this evening we were heading to our tried and true favorite Lucques on Melrose. We dined on the prix fix Sunday Supper and promised to be back again for this feast. Bon appétit!