Northeast Notebook: Autumn Reading List

Greetings LDV readers, Stefanie Scheer Young here with an installment of Northeast Notebook.

There is nothing like a chill in the air to make a reader want to settle into the chair by the fireplace and dive into a new book. A number of wonderful new titles being released this fall speak to our newfound appreciation of home at the center of our lives. I look forward to adding these volumes to my library to reference again and again.

As Ashley Whittaker says in her book The Well-Loved House, “everything I do as a designer stems from the love of home.” Whittaker is the master of the L-shaped sofa and the decorative thread (who doesn’t love a chain of prussian blue woven through a home?). She explains that, while she likes a house to feel like it is collected and always evolving, it is important to her that it feel complete. To this end she works forward from the entrance hall as she works backward from the last piece of art in a child’s room, allowing the spaces to knit together into an organic, cohesive whole. She speaks so eloquently of the ways she works out flow and layout it makes us wish we could see the floorplans, or better yet, visit in person. Whittaker’s work is always fresh, polished, livable and elegant and leaves us wanting more.

In Janie Molster’s book House Dressing she showcases her own gracious home as well as those of many long term clients, illustrating how to make a space dressy but not stuffy. She believes that truly pretty and quietly elegant will always stand the test of time. When picking hues, Molster advises readers to look for the tried and true, the color that dominates your choice of handbag, your wardrobe or even your car. She’ll let you in on the secret to pulling off a lot of pink, she believes in the durability of antiques and in her hands a brass range hood looks like jewelry. Molster’s best advice is don’t wait, life will never be pristine, live your life to the fullest right now, create a home that reflects you, built for all the glory and chaos of real life.

In the early, horrific days of the pandemic Charlotte Moss took inspiration from a book Edith Wharton created in 1916 as a fundraiser for refugee children during the dark days of World War I and assembled her answer to it, Home A Celebration. In collaboration with No Kid Hungry she asked scores of talented friends to contribute a personal take on the meaning of home, gathering these to make a memorable keepsake that also benefits vulnerable children. One hundred and twenty-two generous spirits answered the call, from Joyce Carol Oates to Duro Olowu to Alice Waters, in thoughtful, unique and creative ways. The reminiscences, works of art, even recipes, add up to a fascinating ode to sanctuary and portrait of the way we see home. As Susan Wissler, the executive director of The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts writes, “Wharton’s novels often portray how people are shaped by, and in turn shape, their places.” Wharton was always seeking and ultimately found her own “Great Good Place” and Moss helps us to think creatively about our own.

The tireless Moss lends her editing skills to another new release, joining president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Leslie Greene Bowman in creating Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Six acclaimed arts and cultural luminaries pay homage to this imperfect but fascinating man with texts that present a current assessment of Jefferson’s cultural contributions to his noteworthy home and the fledgling country, while considering the important role and painful reality of the enslaved workforce that made his lifestyle and plantation possible. Jefferson built a Palladio-inspired villa (Monticello is Italian for “little mountain”) and groomed the landscape as an agricultural enterprise that also resulted in a retreat for pleasure. An innovator in landscape design, architecture, and the cultivation of food and wine, Jefferson celebrated his nation and devoted himself to improving it, not just in politics but in diverse disciplines. But the star of this volume is photographer Miguel Flores-Vianna whose visually stunning photography allows us to delight in exploring Monticello close up and in depth. Any one who has visited and observed the “no photographyā€¯ rule, as I have, is in for a treat.

Fittingly named, Collaborations Ferguson & Shamamian the firm’s second monograth is an in-depth exploration of fourteen private residences across the country and the way the architects complete each project working with a dream team of partners. Though collaboration is not often the first word one associates with world class architects, Mark Ferguson and Oscar Shamamian began their careers as proteges of Albert Hadley on the staff of iconic decorating firm Parish Hadley and they are well acquainted with the value of working alongside top interior designers, landscape designers, trade people, artisans and clients. Their calm, practical, pragmatic, thoughtful and client-focused approach blended with their understanding of classical proportions, scale, detail and functionality, as well as creativity, leads to outstanding outcomes, almost cinematic in quality and often for repeat clients. A fascinating set of projects, to this city apartment dweller, is the treatment of two basically identical full floor layouts in a classic Rosario Candela apartment building which, by virtue of different collaborating teams, results in two diverse, highly personalized, gracious homes. The firm creates classically oriented projects, conceived and created in a traditional idiom that translates perfectly to modern life and they generously credit and share information about the partners, from stylists to engineers to stoneworkers, that are involved in each project.

A scholar and an artist, Aldous Bertram brings us Dragons & Pagodas a book examining the cultural phenomenon that is Chinoiserie, the decorative movement that first swept Europe and America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries bringing to interiors and gardens all manner of things inspired by the Far East. So many of the motifs, patterns, materials and objects explored have their roots in past obsessions with exotic Eastern shores, together creating an entire genre of decoration that continues to be repeatedly referenced today. Organized by theme Bertram examines porcelain, flora, fauna, architecture and more as each chapter bursts with inspirational images of astounding and lasting beauty. Uniquely charming, colorful and at times chaotic, Chinoiserie is designed to both amaze and amuse and its immediate success ignited a mania that raged for decades in great houses and royal palaces. In this sumptuous volume Bertram shows us how the applications are woven through the past few centuries and how the lasting influence of Chinoiserie is more prevalent in our surroundings than we often realize.

Now we turn from the exotic to the sublime! Rose Uniacke At Home is a big book in every way. Oversized, expensive, welcoming… wow. Filled with grand gestures (the glorious winter garden) and refined details (a tiny brass bird that looks as if it has hopped in from the garden), even its large folio format can’t contain Uniacke’s home and the reader is treated to gatefolds that open to reveal more. She documents the restoration and decoration of a Scottish artists’ grand mansion, later a bohemian art school and a victim of World War II bombing, applying the lessons learnt in years of design and restoration work. Uniacke animates her family home with deft juxtapositions of texture, color, light, shadow, and scale and with a sense of discovery. While she charts the difficulties of deciding how to treat elements of the project, and of identifying the precise degree of renovation, repair, and replacement required, she uses the same mix of instinct and precision to regularly rearrange the art, furniture and objects filling the house. Uniacke collaborated with Tom Stuart-Smith on the exquisite garden spaces and architect Vincent Van Duysen to rethink the architectural scale and spatial character of the building, but the aesthetic and atmosphere are entirely her own. Francois Halard’s photographs capture the spirit of the house, showcasing the balance between the fine architecture and exquisite furnishings. While grand, the house achieves a warm, elegant ease and feeling of welcome.

I’m looking forward to adding these volumes to my library. Please let us know in the comments below some of the new books you are looking forward to enjoying this fall.

My library, photo by Cody Guilfoyle for Domino
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