Don’t wipe your feet on my cow rug – Kimberley Bulletin

I have a dark secret to confess, friends.

I am addicted to home decorating shows. Seriously, if my TV is on, it’s tuned to HGTV and other channels of its ilk.

I feel like I am BFFs with Chip and Joanna Gaines, and Dave and Kortney Wilson, and Drew and Scott, the Property Brothers.

Vanilla Ice and I are still getting to know each other. Yes, former rapper Vanilla Ice has a home makeover show, and no surprise, his design style is a little, shall we say.. blingy.

Anyhoo, I am learning a great deal from my friends on these shows.

First, if you walk into someone’s kitchen and all the appliances are not stainless steel, you must turn up your nose and sniff that “the appliances could use some updating”. Doesn’t matter if they are relatively new — which for a fridge would be anything made post 2000 — if they are white, or black, or God-forbid, avocado, they need updating.

Secondly, take another look around the kitchen. Are the countertops granite? Or at the very least, quartz? No? Just laminate? Oh dear.

Your bathroom has just the one sink? How do you manage?

Also, I have apparently been displaying my books wrong, for lo, these many years.

Yes, according to the designers, hard-cover books are now displayed spine-to-the-wall. I know! Crazy!

But there they are in these newly designed homes — row upon row of books on a shelf, all with pages facing out. I mean I guess it looks interesting, but it reduces a book to merely a design element. I’m imagining wanting to read a few passages from a beloved leather bound book, perhaps Don Quixote, on the weekend. You walk to the shelf and pull the first book out. Nope. Not Don. Next one. No Don. Do you carefully put it back, or do you toss it aside and keep searching?

This is a design idea that could lead to anarchy. Or a lot of not-reading.

I don’t know which designer began this craze but once I saw it the first time, it began popping up on all the shows.

Much like the cow rug. You’ve seen these — cow patterned, throw rugs in the shape of well, what a cow skin would look like if you peeled it off the animal. I’m sure these are synthetic but just the idea gives one pause.

Also the ‘farmhouse sink’. Everyone has to have one, whether you live country or city. It must be big enough to wash off a side of beef — perhaps after you’ve peeled off its skin for a rug — and deep enough to drown in.

A bed must have a minimum of 26 pillows, all artfully arranged, with different colours and textures. And if you put a tray with a vase of flowers on the bed, so much the better. Because what better, safer place for a vase of flowers than a bed?

Another designer has a thing for swings and is constantly installing them in people’s living rooms. That one doesn’t seem to be getting much traction though.

Yet despite some of these weird design choices, I just can’t get enough of the flipping shows and the find-me-a-waterfront-home shows.

I live vicariously through these house hunters as they wrinkle their noses in dismay at the many upgrades needed before their homes are up to snuff. I envy them as they choose between one gorgeous home or another, or view the results of the makeover.

And I gasp in awe as they tell the realtor, “Our budget is $1.2 million and that’s final”. The realtor then makes a sad face and says with a budget that tight, they may have to make some compromises.

But it always works out in the end, and the homeowners have their stainless appliances, backward facing books, cow rugs everywhere, a deep and cavernous sink, mounds of pillows and maybe even a swing in their living room.

It’s magic, I tell you.

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Karl Lagerfeld, The Impresario –

Today, at the age of 85, Karl Lagerfield, one of the most legendary designers of the 20th and 21st centuries, has died. Below, we reprint Kennedy Fraser’s profile of Lagerfeld, “The Impresario: Imperial Splendors," which first appeared in the September 2004 issue of Vogue.

Karl Lagerfeld is a complex, brilliant, postmodern sort of man. He gives the impression that there is nothing you can think—especially nothing you might think about Karl Lagerfeld—that he hasn’t thought of for himself. “Perhaps I am pretentious,” he will say with a smile. Or “In a way my life is bizarre and eccentric, but to me it is the most normal thing in the world.” His life is ceremonial, even when he is alone. On the eve of a recent collection, I saw him pause at the top of the famous mirrored staircase of the Chanel salon in the rue Cambon. There (where Mademoiselle once sat on the third stair down, in her tweed boater, surreptitiously watching the audience for her shows) was Lagerfeld reflected by the angles of the Art Deco walls. Many Karls, wearing their hair in a white-powdered ponytail, lifted a hand with knuckles half-hidden in biker rings to check the knot below a starched collar a full four inches high. The same platoon of Karls gazed back through dark-tinted spectacles as if checking up on their collective mood. “I am a puppet of my own life,” he once told me. “A marionette. Not a human being.” The mirror moment passed. There was another pause at the threshold, a perceptible presentational instant, as if he were poised on the balls of his feet in order to see and be seen. Now he stepped into a square of brightness, already speaking to the people in the room. His step is light and quick. He loves ballroom dancing, and one friend compares him to Giacometti’s striding man. He looked inquisitive, happy, eager to work with the people from the ateliers and the models. He treats these co-workers of his with courtesy and kindness.

Rilke, a poet he reveres for the untranslatable beauty of his German, once wrote, “We are born provisionally, it doesn’t matter where. It is only gradually that we compose within ourselves our true place of origin, so that we may be born there retrospectively and each day more definitely.” Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg in 1938, but his life could have flowered the way it did only in Paris, where he moved when he was a teenager. He trained at the couture studios of Pierre Balmain and became head designer at Patou when he was 20. (Yves Saint Laurent, a friend of Karl’s in their youth, became the head of Dior at 21. “There are no young designers or old designers,” Karl says, dismissing the way new names are now pushed as if they were rock stars by the moneymen in corporations. “You’re there as long as you’re OK for the job. It’s like movie stars—based on nothing. There is no justice. You cannot expect pity.”) He became well known when designing for the luxurious ready-to-wear firm of Chloé, in the seventies. He has designed furs and fashions for the Italian firm of Fendi since 1965. And he has been a freelance designer for various manufacturers of shoes, jeans, and knits. He produces a line of his own, called Lagerfeld Gallery. And these days he works continually as a commercial photographer—a second career that enables him to create many of his own advertising campaigns, editorial coverage of his fashions, and portraits of himself. But in the blossoming of Lagerfeld’s celebrity—if not his rebirth as a Parisian—nothing has the weight of his masterminding fashions at Chanel.

After a triumphant comeback that began in 1954, Coco Chanel withdrew into a shadowy and embittered old age and died at 87 in 1971. Her house belonged to the Wertheimers, perfume manufacturers who had invested in No 5 in the early twenties. In 1983 Alain Wertheimer, having taken the reins of the privately held company, asked Lagerfeld to give the kiss of life to the house. For a decade the fashion had been ticking over in a shadowy backwater, taking care of aging clients. “If you want to ruin a business, be respectful,” Lagerfeld says. “Fashion is not about respect. It’s about fashion.” With an impeccable sense of timing he created the clothes, the publicity, and the atmosphere that drove the Chanel company forward. In German, French, English, and Italian, he sweet-talked the fashion press, giving them visuals and witty sound bites on demand. He made sensational shows, subverting and redefining the Chanel look in every way imaginable (trashing, slashing, parodying if need be) but perpetually filling the stores with a fresh supply of wearable sexy clothes, often with the magic logo of the double C. The new designer stretched to the limit Coco’s maxim “Luxury is not the opposite of poverty, but the opposite of vulgarity,” the way the special machines in the factories stress-tested handbag-chains and tweeds. “It worked,” Karl says simply, of the company’s remarkable success. The couture, the 134 ready-to-wear boutiques on three continents, the fragrances, the cosmetics and skin care—it all became the model of how to rebrand and make sales in the billions from a dead designer. Wertheimer, Karl says, has been “divine” as a boss. They trust each other completely; and there are no stockholders to whom they have to “streetwalk.”

The people at Chanel like to talk about the chemistry between Lagerfeld and Mademoiselle—such a productive one for the company for more than 20 years. Just because she’s been gone so long and he never met her doesn’t mean their relationship isn’t alive. When he was young in what was then the small, familial, still craft-based world of the Paris couture, the extraordinary comeback she had made at 71 was rolling along; only Balenciaga rivaled her influence on fashion. Lagerfeld has a grounding in the tradition, in the ancient techniques of hand-making luxurious clothes, that few if any designers can now rival. In his teens, he learned from elderly seamstresses at Balmain “stiff dressmaking” methods from the 1920s and 1930s. “In a way, I knew more than Yves, who had only the Dior techniques,” he says. He also had in his head a capacious image store of fashion history. His designs for Chloé seemed fresh in the late sixties—the age of Quant, Courrèges, the miniskirt—in part because of their old-style femininity and their postmodern nostalgia for the thirties. He was rich enough to build what became a world-famous collection of furniture and decorative objects by then unfashionable Art Deco masters such as Ruhlmann and Dunand. The seventies was a great age for dandies. Karl had a beard and a monocle, double-breasted suits, and then in his close friend the limpid-eyed, elegant, and aristocratic Jacques de Bascher a man whom Proust himself could have fallen for.

Karl’s vigorous, ironic, and knowing modernity, and his long experience in the business, made him just right to colonize the legend of Mademoiselle. “I want to be part of what is to come,” she used to say. What was to come, for fashion, was multinational luxury branding; fashions aimed at a broader, richer, and more “aspirational” market than the world had ever seen. Like Mademoiselle, Karl was a genius of self-presentation. He understood the value of a carefully controlled personal image as engine for the house’s sales: the designer's life as icon and artifact. For sheer fable, few lives could rival the life of Coco Chanel: the low-class provincial origins, the orphan years in the Cistercian school, the glorious progress from kept woman to independence and entrepreneurial wealth. The small daily journey (for, like Karl, she loved to work) across the rue Cambon from the Ritz, where she slept, to the salons that were spritzed before her arrival with her own perfume. The famous photographs of the enduring beauty that attracted a lifetime of loves—Balsan, Capel, the duke of Westminster (“the richest man in Europe,” she said), Iribe the ultra-reactionary illustrator, and more. Then there was the dashing “Spatz,” a Nazi officer and propaganda attaché. All through the Occupation she went right on living in great comfort at the Ritz, which had been requisitioned for use by the German high command.

In the new world of Chanel in the eighties, Karl chose a design strategy based on what the house referred to as “les elements eternels,” including the quilted bag, the camellia, the two-tone shoe, the braided trim. He embraced her continual play of contrast and contradiction: tweed and satin, black and white, and the “democratization” of jewelry by mixing priceless things with flashy fakes. Like most couture houses, Chanel had no archives, and Mademoiselle kept none. “She survived everybody,” her successor says. “She pushed the image of what was important in her own past, and there was nobody left to say it was different.” At first, he was like another admirer, wooing the now-virtual Coco: His published sketches of her—he is a brilliant draftsman—were tender and even romantic. But by this year, when he acted as the photographer for a Chanelish story for French Vogue, his cartoon of Mademoiselle—old, and with an exaggeratedly jutting chin—wanted only a pink tweed broomstick to be a picture of a witch. The photographs were shot in the private apartment of Mademoiselle, on the floor between the public salons and the ateliers at 31 rue Cambon. Visitors from all over the world come to pay homage to the Coromandel screens, her ashtrays and reading glasses, the white bergère where she was photographed by Horst, and the quilted-suede sofa, where she was photographed reading or entertaining friends. In Karl’s shoot the apartment looks gloomy and claustrophobic, reflecting his distaste for the decor of rooms he says he never enters as a rule. (Their occupant, he says, was nasty. He doesn’t think that he and she would have got along.) The model wears a Chanel suit from 1961 and a couple of pieces from the current Chanel couture, but the clothes are mostly copies of Chanels by designers other than him—worn with real diamonds from the fine-jewelry division of Chanel.

PARLOR GAMES: Lagerfeld is famous for taking the classic, iconic pieces of Coco Chanel’s day and rethinking them with provocative originality. From left: Chanel Haute Couture navy tulle dress with feathers. Chanel tweed jacket and embroidered lace dress with tweed detail. Neiman Marcus. Chanel lilac tweed jacket with lace sleeves and sheer camellia-print mousseline dress.

“Nobody believes me,” he tells me over lunch in his own enormous, light-filled, eighteenth-century apartment on the Rive Gauche. “But I have limited ambition. I only wanted to have a privileged life. A civilized, elegant life that is right for now. You have to have ambition to get to that level. But the minute you are there, you don’t have to kill your mother, your father, and the rest of the world to stay there. No. To go ahead—to go on doing it—is already a big ambition. One day I may be old, tired, bored. I don’t know. I don’t think like that. For me it’s six months. Six months. Six months.” He knocks his knuckles emphatically once, twice, three times on the tabletop, setting the iron-cross biker rings clicketing away like chain mail. “There’s always another collection.” (Eight of them a year, just at Chanel. And there are rumors that he is about to take on a big new challenge, as well.) “I have no idea of the future, never, ever. That’s what I like about fashion. It’s paradise now.”

Where Mademoiselle was reinvigorated by collecting and deacquisitioning lovers, Karl sheds his skin from time to time by divesting himself of houses and collections of priceless things. He lives in a palatial hôtel particulier—grand, high-ceilinged eighteenth-century rooms with historic wood paneling. For years the rooms were filled with furniture and rugs that had been made for King Louis XV and his queen at Versailles; Karl slept in a brocade-curtained bed topped off with a canopy of bird-of-paradise plumes. He became a world-famous connoisseur. He is a voracious reader of historical memoirs, among many things. As he sat on their chairs beneath their pictures, was he a character in the world of Madame de Boigne and the duc de Choiseul, or were they characters in his?

“The eighteenth century was a most polite century,” he once told me. “And so modern. It was perfect. The rooms were so flattering to live in. You can age gracefully in them. No one was young; no one was old. Everyone had white hair. Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry wore the same sort of dresses. Age is a racisme that showed up later.”

Then at a stroke he guillotined his dix-huitième: the little chairs and escritoires were shipped off to Christie’s or banished to the Louvre. He says he didn’t want to live any more as his own curator. “I like to collect things; I don’t like to own them. What I like about collecting is to create a mood, to put things together, then . . . gone.” The great Art Deco collection went under the hammer. The Memphis pieces went next. He has bought and sold a number of houses, including some where he is reputed never to have spent a night. But the apartment in Paris is where he has put down roots since 1977. “This is where I fit,” he says.

In decor he seems to be moving at lightning speed back up the rabbit hole to the present. He sleeps now in what he calls a “very funny” modern bed made with columns of light and metal. At the top of the great marble stair leading from the courtyard, the anteroom is a mirror image of his contemporary design for a reception room at the Chanel jewelry showroom in the Place Vendôme. His salon at home now has elongated, modernist white sofas and white flowers, as neutral as a luxury hotel. On the walls behind the sofas are giant plasma-TV screens, while the space at the center of the room is filled with towering stacks of extraordinary books on art, decoration, history, and philosophy. (He is the proprietor of a bookstore, at 7 rue de Lille; in addition, through the German firm of Steidl, he publishes what interests him.) He has never disposed of a single book, but he claims to want less and less of everything else. “I sold so many things, but I still have zillions.”

If he has been a shapeshifter in decor, he has also made dramatic changes in his personal style and most dramatically, in recent years, of his body. His response to entering the twenty-first century as a man in his 60s was to go on a strict diet and emerge, thirteen months later, looking like an insect. He lost such a large amount of weight (some 90 pounds) that people suspected an eating disorder. He had fallen for the narrow-cut clothes of the designer Hedi Slimane, who had taken over men’s fashions at Dior and was showing them on boys scarcely old enough to use a razor. Out went Karl’s roomy black Japanese suits (and his trademark fan, which had hid the double chin from the camera), and in came Dior Homme.

Karl was wearing a chalk-striped suit at our luncheon. A dark jacket, jeans, a high-collared shirt, and cowboy boots—for the present, that is his more usual uniform. He waxes enthusiastic about the cut of the Slimane sleeve: high in the armhole, tight, yet mobile.

“That's all Chanel was about—the tight sleeve. I won’t say Hedi invented it, but he put it back on the market for men.”

In his youth Karl was a bodybuilder, before it became the fashion. In 1971, he played a role in L'Amour, one of the movies Paul Morrissey made in association with Andy Warhol. There is a young Karl, with a head of thick, short black hair and bulging biceps, doing chin-ups in an undershirt while Jane Forth and Donna Jordan, naked, giggle and paint their nipples (a sight only slightly less startling than to see him passionately kissing Patti D'Arbanville). But happily he long ago gave up building muscles, which would not have worked with his Slimanes. (“Ugh, how grotesque!” he thought on waking up one morning.) He also stopped going to the beach, although he loves fresh air and has homes in seaside places (Monte Carlo and Biarritz). For exercise, he does the tango with Hedi.

Like Mademoiselle mixing precious stones with paste, Karl wore the tacky Chrome Hearts biker rings with a rare black diamond ring. He said he had owned this for six years.

“It’s very simple but very beautiful,” he said. “I always wanted it. But it belonged to somebody who refused to sell it. It took me 20 years to buy it.” As his house pares down, ornament sprouts on his person like an irrepressible efflorescence of his inner rococo. Round his neck, over a narrow necktie, he had a necklace of Napoleonic bees, from Dior Homme, and a Chrome Hearts chain, designed for backstage passes at rock concerts, holding the wedding rings of his parents.

He often talks about his mother and his early childhood on a huge family estate in Germany near the Danish border. The deer his mother would feed from the balcony, the cow barn like a palace, with fancy brass name plates for the pedigreed cows.

“I was lucky; I escaped everything. I saw nothing of the war.”

His father was a Hamburg-based industrialist with a fortune made, Karl says, from introducing condensed milk to Europe. His mother (who was in her 40s when he was born) was an aristocrat whose salad days had been in the 1920s. In later years he would have liked to talk to her about that era. “The twenties are over,” she said. “Who cares?” His father spoke Chinese and Russian; his mother could translate philosophy from the Spanish. In any of the languages he is fluent in, he rattles along at top speed—a habit he has often ascribed to his mother’s telling him to hurry when he was a little boy, because his stories bored her. “You may be six years old, but I am not” was how she put it. “Make an effort when you talk to me, or shut up.” She said he reminded her of von Ribbentrop, a statesman she thought particularly stupid.

He was, by his own account, an infant prodigy who by the time he was five could write, speak English and French, and demand his own valet. His whole ambition was to be grown-up. As a little boy he bought himself a print depicting a fashionable gathering in the Age of the Enlightenment—men and women in the fashionable dress of the day, with intergenerational powdered wigs—and hung it in his bedroom. Presumably when he imagined himself up there with them, they had all the patience in the world to listen to him.

His sisters, who were older, were sent away to boarding school—a fate he sought as a small boy to avoid at any cost. “I understood that if you were a troublemaker, you could do what you want,” he says in his forceful, enigmatic style. His parents were away sometimes. He learned to entertain himself. “I hate it when people say I was alone,” he says. “No. I was enchanted to be free. To read, sketch, learn languages.” The estate was filled with Eastern European refugees, one of whom taught him French.

Right up to the moment when lunch was served the day I went to his home, Karl had been working in his cavernous studio—the largest room in the house. As I sat waiting for him I heard his Afro-Cuban music and then some Beethoven float out through the door. The uniformed maid stood in the hall, awaiting the slightest signal that the wizard was ready for his low-fat lunch. (He keeps a large staff, including bodyguard, chauffeurs, butler, laundresses, and chef. “Do you think 40 servants is too many for one man?” he once asked.) When at length he emerged, he invited me to peek inside at his seven different tables, each with giant piles of books, dedicated to the different tasks—making his sketches for his collections or the cartoons and caricatures too mean, sometimes, to be seen while their subject is living; reading; writing the notes (sometimes illustrated) in his boldly sloping handwriting that he faxes or sends round by chauffeur to a network of friends. Somehow this luxurious workshop (whose disorder the maids are categorically forbidden to touch), this dream factory and power plant for thousands of jobs reminds one of the little boy alone. Like a dauphin’s, his private routine is often observed. Meanwhile, he conceals his reactions to the world by wearing sunglasses indoors and out. Even in the frolicsome L'Amour, he projected a blithe, good-humored detachment that is still characteristic of him.

“I am a watcher,” he says. “I have a kind of voyeurism in my relationship with periods and with persons. I never want to change people. I am the way I am, and I like people who are very different from me.” He never drank to excess, smoked, or did drugs like so many people he knew in his youth. “Somebody said the most important thing in life is not how to save yourself, but how to lose yourself. I wasn’t very gifted for that. My deep nature is Calvinist.” So many people of his own generation, he says, are “ruins” by now, who want to talk about their health or—worse still—about the good old days. “Fuck the good old days,” he says. “Today has to be OK, too. If not you make something second-rate out of the present.” He reads serious books, but for conversation he likes gossip. Mostly, he says, he spends time with people far younger than himself, people who are 30 or 35, like Hedi. He says he hates the louche. “I only like the light side of life.”

He was fourteen when (with his parents' consent) he moved to Paris to continue his education. He lived in the house of a woman who had been his mother's vendeuse at Molyneux in the thirties. He was supposed to go to a private school but spent more time walking the streets in a kind of rapture, looking for the hôtels particuliers that once belonged to the titled ladies he had read about in memoirs. He kept his own journal at this time and sent it to his mother. In 1954, at sixteen, he entered a contest sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat; he won the prize for a coat, while Yves Saint Laurent won with a dress. Saint Laurent, who triumphed so early and had Paris at his feet after he had established a fashion house of his own, faltered and ran out of ideas before retiring two years ago. Now his work is to be found only in his museum. As it turned out, Lagerfeld, with a far more complex career than designing clothes, was the survivor. “I was too pretentious to want my name over the store,” he says, laughing. He doesn't care if you call him an artist or not, and he is almost superstitiously opposed to designers’ having retrospectives.

For a man with such an interest in letting go of things and who swims so serenely through the modern world of image, subversion, and the context of no context, he is tremendously cultivated in a way that seems almost quaint. He has a phenomenal memory, and his conversation is continually peppered with quotations from poetry and the classics. At his huge house in Biarritz, he has three miles of books. He may be friends with Sir Elton and Sir Mick, with La Kidman and Princess Caroline, but he remains at heart an eighteenth-century scholar-gentleman whose inquisitiveness about the world is boundless. You get the impression he has worked to know himself and to accept what he finds, however nice or nasty. His virtues are eighteenth-century virtues: stoicism, a lack of sentimentality, and the rejection of hypocrisy. “It starts with me and it ends with me,” he says. “I never wanted anything that looked like a family.” He and de Bascher, who died in 1989, never lived together.

And all appearances to the contrary, there is a kind of modesty to him, a part that is very simple. He is supremely loyal to a few old friends; the gestures of affection he makes to someone who is sick or who has suffered a bereavement are experienced by recipients as a minor art form. His graciousness as a host is legendary: Decades later, people remember parties lit by candles, with footmen in powdered hair and breeches. An American friend, flying over to visit him in France for two nights, was astonished to realize that he had put himself and his whole staff onto Eastern Standard Time to spare her from jet lag.

Many of his staff and the people in the ateliers have worked with him for decades. “Il est un ange, Karl,” said Anita, the head of studio at Lagerfeld Gallery, who has worked with him for 40 years. He smiled when I told him. “I am an angel with the angels. And a devil with the devils.” Like many witty people, he can be cruel about others in conversation. Stupid and ugly are words he uses almost as freely as interesting and boring. If someone violates what he perceives to be his code of honor, if they “overstep the mark” with him, he will cut them out of his life, and he sees no need to forgive them.

“My mother was quintessentially Prussian,” he told me when we were talking about his high shirt collars, which are more like corsets. “Her idols were Walther Rathenau, the German foreign minister murdered by the Nazis; Koestler; Stresemann. They were all dressed like this. These clothes are cut like the clothes of those chic people.” After the war, his parents moved to Baden-Baden. His mother retired completely from social life (“She was not unhappy; she liked to read and be alone”), and then his father died—Karl likes to say of boredom. She didn’t tell her son about the funeral until weeks later. “You don’t like funerals,” she said. “Why should I tell you?” (It’s true; he also doesn’t go to weddings.) She disposed of many things, including young Karl’s journal (“The world doesn't need to know you were that childish and stupid”), and moved to France—a small château in Brittany, with four formal gardens. At 70, she threw out every last one of her skirts; from then on she wore only pants and cardigans. Frau Lagerfeld herself died, he says, of thinking she knew better than the doctors who told her she should take more exercise. She had the flu and sent for her doctor. Before he came, she got her hair done. She died as she crossed the room to greet him.

“She looked chic,” I said.

“I don’t know,” Karl said. “I never saw her. She left a paper to say I was not allowed to see her dead. Or go to her funeral.”

Normally when Amanda, Lady Harlech, Karl’s confidante and “muse,” comes over to Paris from her home in the English countryside, she stays at the Ritz, which stores her clothes from the Chanel couture. But she told me once that she had stayed in a little green-walled room at his house, with shelves of poetry and furnished with the pieces from his childhood bedroom. After lunch, I asked my host if I could see it. We went down a tiny hallway and into a room of such modest proportions, compared to the rest of the place, that we seemed to be in another country. When his mother closed the Baden-Baden house, she had it all shipped to him: his narrow French-style bed, the little Biedermeier chairs, the desk, the table where he used to sit to sketch and eat his breakfast, the German romantic landscape paintings with cows and stags and mountains. “The same,” he said, as we stood there in this green-tinted daze, with a garden outside the window. “Exactly.” His dream, he says, is to have a comfortable little apartment, with his books and this furniture from his childhood. “To have no appointments, never look at my watch, go to the movies in the middle of the night, read, sketch, daydream. Totally free, the way I was in Paris, those first two years before I started working.”

MASTER OF CEREMONYKarl Lagerfeld, photographed in the Jardin du Luxembourg. “If you want to ruin a business, be respectful,” he says. “Fashion is not about respect. It’s about fashion.”

PARLOR GAMESLagerfeld is famous for taking the classic, iconic pieces of Coco Chanel’s day and rethinking them with provocative originality. From left: Chanel Haute Couture navy tulle dress with feathers. Chanel tweed jacket and embroidered lace dress with tweed detail. Neiman Marcus. Chanel lilac tweed jacket with lace sleeves and sheer camellia-print mousseline dress. Jacket at Bloomingdale’s. Dress at Neiman Marcus.

Karl Lagerfeld has taken a legend and turned it into a masterpiece. Out of a remembrance of things past, Kennedy Fraser writes, come the design ideas of an ultra-modern connoisseur.

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Things to Consider Before You Buy Cowhide Rugs – Times Square Chronicles

Things to Consider Before You Buy Cowhide Rugs


There are some products that are available in the market that add charm to the house. Suchof a thing is the cowhide rugs. They add glamour to yourhouse and makes your house look move more attractive than the rest of the options.There are people who have a bad impression about the cowhide. The reason for that is that they had a bad experience with their purchase. If you didn’thave a clear idea of what you are going to buy, then you are sure to have a negative perception of the item.

To buy any items isn’t that easy. The thing is tougher if you don’t have much of an idea of the product. Hence before you buy you need to have a clear idea of what you are going to purchase. Different purchase items have a differentthing to be taken intoconsideration. Even in the same items,you have to judge the different specification that the products have to supply. If not surveyed carefully you may miss out the best one.

If you are thinking to buy a cowhide rugs, you have to have an idea of it. Here are some of the considerations that you need to know to make sure you make a perfect purchase. These factors would greatly helpyou in your purchase.


The color of the cowhide rug is one of the considerationsthat is much recommended. The color is the component that adds up the beauty of a product. If the color is best suited to the eyes,then you are expected to get a lot of appreciation for the crowd. There are a lot of cowhide rugs that are available with a variant of colors.All of them has a different impact on the eyes of the viewers.

The color that the rugs have are natural and hence theireffect look really good to be looked at. They have neutral could without much of the contrast which is soothing to the overall eyes. You can find the color ranging from the black to black or adding more variation to it by choosing white to tan.

To confirm that the color would look good in your hose make sure to compare it with your room. If you wish to make it a floorrug,looki nto a design that would match will the floor as well as stand out from the design of the floor. A dark tan is a nice color to match with any color of the floor. It makes the mat sand out from the rest of them. There are also certain patterns that you can look into in order to make it the best one to be looked at.



If you want to have the high-qualitymaterial, then you should be looking into the hides that are originated from Brazil. The Brazilian cowhide isconsidered to be the best one all across the globe. The way the cows are maintained is really great here. That is the reason that the skin of the cows in thisregion is far better than the rest of the cows available all around the world.

In addition to that,the taming process of the cows also adds to the overall quality of the cowhides that are made. If you want a quality product that you can look at the Brazilian cowhides. However,there are cowhides that are available from Mexico or Argentina which aren’t that bad either, hence you can choose to look at that as well.



If you set to the market to buy one cowhide rug, make sure that you look intoa cowhide that is thick rather than thin. The thin ones are most likely to wear off pretty soon. The thinner ones may be less expensive than the thicker one but it is better to have a product that is expensive but durable rather than one that is cheap but is sure tonot last long.

The thin cowhide will also be prone to curls more easily than the thicker ones. The edges of the thinner cowhide will start to trip off easily. If you are looking for a material, then look for the best one available. The thin cowhide is cheaply produced adding synthetic material to make it look more attractive. Hence don’t go by the look go for the thickness.


The size

The cowhide is available depending on the size. This entirely dependson the personal choice of the user. However, to help you decide better you look up to the room where you plan to set up the rug. If the room where you want to place the cowhide is big whenyou consider for the bigger one. However, the smaller one isalso as catchy as the bigger one.

You also have to look at the place you going to spread the rug. If the rug is going to lie somewhere where a lot of people is going to step in, the bigger one is a better option. However, if you are thinking to use it to place a glass table then the smaller one is not a bad choice either. Rugs under the furnitureis also a good designing skill. This really helps to give an impression of a well-maintainedroom.

Choosing the right cowhide rug is always an important thing. Without that,you are sure to be having a negative thoughtabout the item even if that be not the case. More a bad cowhide rug is a waste of money and nothing else. Always first look for a Brazilian rug because they are the ones that havebeen votedto be the best one in the category of cowhide rugs.

However, these considerations are sure to help you choose the perfect one for the whole lot ofavailable products. Once making the judgment to come to a conclusion make sure that your choice satisfies all the mention points of consideration.

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Vegan Leather Made From Palm Leaves Is a Cruelty-Free Alternative to Cow Hide – LIVEKINDLY

Dutch designer Tjeerd Veenhoven makes uniquely textured vegan leather rugs with palm leaves.

Veenhoven has worked on rug design for eight years, starting his palm leaf research by asking an India-based friend to send him leaves to research. Initially, he felt the material was “super brittle and not very useful,” but after it was treated “with a special material of glycerin and water, and some other materials” it became soft, Veenhoven said to Dezeen.

The Dutch designer’s vegan palm leather rug range is made from thin strips of palm leaf material, created in a Dominican Republic-based factory. The strips are placed “end to end by hand” and “attached to a woven base,” Dezeen reported.

The automotive industry has expressed interest in using the vegan leather alternative in car interiors. “We have to focus more on plant-based systems and we have to encourage them more because they are essential to our livelihoods,” Veenhoven said.

The Growing Vegan Leather Industry

Around the world, brands are taking a shine to vegan leather and vegan leather products.

Earlier this month, Harper Crossbody bags by K. Carroll Accessories, a vegan handbag brand, were placed on Oprah Winfrey’s “Oprah’s Favorite Things 2018” list. In September, Nasty Gal added vegan leather jackets to its line – the first time a vegan leather piece was available in sizes up to 18. This past summer, James&Co, a cruelty-free fashion brand, revealed it was working on a vegan leather jacket made from pineapple skins. The already 100-percent vegan, cruelty-free, and PETA-approved brand launched the line to become more sustainable.

And Galina Mihaleva, a Bulgarian-born fashion designer, is using kombucha to make vegan leather. Mihaleva made a temporary leather-making lab at the School of Art at Arizona State University, where she’s working as a visiting professor. 

“This is an old thing,” said Mihaleva, referring to the process. “Two thousand to 3,000 years ago, the Chinese were doing (this) without knowing they were making biotextiles.”

Other companies are also experimenting with mushroom leather, apple leather, and coconut water leather.

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Vegan Leather Made From Palm Leaves Is a Cruelty-Free Alternative to Cow Hide

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Vegan Leather Made From Palm Leaves Is a Cruelty-Free Alternative to Cow Hide


A vegan leather palm leaf material is a cruelty-free alternative to traditional leather. The palm leather rugs were designed by Tjeerd Veenhoven.


Abbie Stutzer

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Tempting, Tasty Ways To Be Wooed By Tampa Bay – Forbes

Florida’s pretty city by the Bay shows off its cool personality these days at plenty of head-turning, tasty hotspots. Buzz-worthy? You bet. Beloved classics as well as razzle-dazzle newbies make a vacay in Tampa Bay deliciously fun. Here are favorites:

The Epicurean hotel lobby, where a state-of-the-art Culinary Theatre showcases classes.© Epicurean Hotel

A GREAT GOOD NIGHT  Unpack your luggage at Epicurean, an Autograph Collection Hotel in Tampa’s Hyde Park District. Hip and handsome, spacious and gracious, this chic boutique property with an eye-catching, heart-calming lobby harbors 137 contemporary guest rooms and suites. Its interior design by The Gettys Group is fashioned in serene earth tones, wine-motif accessories, appealing stonework, reclaimed wood, bead-board paneling, natural texture-rich fabrics, crushed bomber-jacket leathers, butcher-block cabinetry and cowhide rugs. Guest rooms delight with generous rain showers and pantries stashed with top-flight liquors, five half-bottle wine varietals, craft beers, espresso and artisanal snacks. Developed by Mainsail Lodging & Development and the Laxer family, owners of Tampa Bay’s landmark Bern’s Steak House across the street, this hospitality haven celebrates the tasteful life with a devotion to food and wine. Sip and quip with a sommelier in the hotel’s well-balanced, on-site wine shop. Muse with a mixologist about novel cocktails in the lobby bar.

CLASSY RECIPES  At the Epicurean Hotel, attend lively cooking demonstrations (bonus: eat the results) at its Culinary Theatre, which spotlights gifted Tampa chefs, such as Michael Buttacavoli of Cena and Beth Lukens of Cloud 9 Confections, who teaches the popular “Cupcakes & Cocktails” (video above) — replete with bartender tips.

NOSTALGIA UPDATED  Dine in the Epicurean Hotel’s Élevage restaurant, mastered by award-winning executive chef Chad Johnson. He and his accomplished chef de cuisine Jonathan Atanacio refresh time-honored fine fare with modern imagination: bronzed scallops with maque choux, verjus and Fresno chili pepper; shrimp-and-lemon grits with glossed vegetables, chervil and absinthe; and sorghum-glazed filet mignon accompanied by goat’s milk pommes purée, watercress, hen-of-the-wood mushrooms and truffle vinaigrette. Then scoot to the rooftop for late-night revelry at EDGE Social Drinkery, an al fresco lounge with city views.

Chill out by tuning into the couples room at the hotel’s Spa Evangeline.© Epicurean Hotel

SPA-LICIOUS  Epicurean Hotel’s full-service, elegant Spa Evangeline pampers with fruit scrubs, fresh herb-infused oils, an agave nectar scalp massage and grape-centric treatments, such as the “Lost In Wine Country Body Treatment” (intriguing idea, yes?) — a skin-smoothing crushed cabernet scrub, warm head-to-toe honey drizzle and steamy shower followed by hydrating, buttery-like rub.

Osteria’s tender braised octopus.© Laura Manske

CELEBRITY EATS  Italian-born, celeb chef Fabio Viviani has touched down in Tampa to serve up soothing, packed-with-flavor Italian cuisine at his new Osteria Bar & Kitchen in a Downtown see-and-be-seen, rustically refined space (with patio) — a collaboration with Lanfranco Pescante and David Anderson of Nocturnal Hospitality Group. This charismatic and funny restaurateur, cookbook author and “fan favorite” from Bravo-TV’s Top Chef Season 5 champions a necklace of eateries across the USA. Leap a deep dive into Osteria’s Mediterranean menu: housemade pastas with savory sauces and sensational seasonings; wild-caught fish and seafood; fired pizza crowned with an ample array of toppings; and slow-roasted meats. Especially notable are the Chianti-braised short ribs with creamy polenta, hazelnuts and zesty parsley gremolata; the squid ink gargarnelli with rock shrimp, cherry tomatoes, white wine and sea urchin uni butter; and rigatoni presented in an oversized Mason jar — its sauce of Parmesan crème, house-smoked bacon (can be omitted), Brussels sprouts, farmed egg yolk and Grana Padano cheese is vigorously shaken tableside by the waiter and then poured with aplomb into the serving bowl. Hungry yet? Cocktail aficionados appreciate the gusto of Osteria’s drinks, such as the Smokey Italian Mezcal and the Maple Walnut Old-Fashioned. Finish up with a Bombolini made memorable with vanilla custard, Key lime curd and chocolate ganache.

Bern’s Steak House — like no other.© Laura Manske

MEATY ICON  The boxy, white, virtually windowless exterior of the building that holds Bern’s Steak House belies the dynamic dining experience within. Step through the double set of doors and a singular Tampa luxury unfolds: immense in size and impressive in clubby adornment — ruby-red walls, dark carved woods, a golden-statue staircase, chandeliers and antique paintings. The restaurant was founded in 1956 by ambitious New York natives Bern and Gert Laxer, a husband-and-wife team whose son David, now president and owner, stays true to the family’s mission to maintain excellent eats even as the company’s purview has grown. This mesmerizing extravaganza is a go-to spot for jubilant engaged couples (or those ready to pop The Question), wedding anniversary celebrants, new job high-fivers, school graduates and birthday merry-makers. Racking up accolades galore, Bern’s Steak House won a James Beard Award in 2016 and Wine Spectator’s prestigious Grand Award annually since 1981. 

Eight rooms of various shapes and sizes seat diners. The many-paged menu with detailed cuts of beef (as well as appetizers, other entrées and sides) may take engrossing minutes to read, although waiter pros help eaters zoom in on preferred dishes. Chef de cuisine Haptead Habeb and his team keep expert reins on a bustling, galloping operation. Highlights include French onion soup, chateaubriand, rack of lamb, American red snapper à la plancha and charcoal-grilled jumbo shrimp on creamed corn and beurre blancWith dinner reservations, join an optional eye-opening tour of the kitchen and part of the massive wine cellar; there are 6,800 different selections with more than half-a-million bottles, overseen by wine director Eric Renaud and senior sommelier Brad Dixon. It is said that Bern’s owns the largest private wine collection in the world. The ornate bar — run by manager Doug Hoe with ace know-how by director of spirits Nate Wilson — delivers hundreds of stellar stirred and shaken libations every night. Upstairs is The Harry Waugh Dessert Room, named after one of Bern’s mentors, where 48 private booths with tables are encircled by floor-to-ceiling redwood wine casks. Each secluded refuge has a six-channel stereo system, which diners can switch to classical, contemporary, jazz, new age and progressive recordings as well as to live music as performed by a pianist, who tickles ivory keys nearby the maître d’ station and who will take song requests from patrons via a phone wired into their booth. Pastry chefs Amber Menendez, Heather Birr and their team of nearly 20 sweets-makers prepare approximately 50 dessert choices. The macadamia nut ice cream is a winner. At this unusual and alluring hideaway for confection consumption, more than 1,000 after-dinner drinks, cordials and dessert wines are available, plus 200 scotches.

At Rooster & The Till: Fantastic flavors mingle.© Laura Manske

SMALL PLATES, BIG IMPACT  Chef Ferrell Alvarez — a shooting star in Tampa Bay’s culinary sky — and his longtime business partner and pal Ty Rodriguez (who tunes the wine list) wow a devoted clientele and waves of eager new fans at Rooster & The Till in Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood. Its visionary small plate combos are ever-evolving, even audacious: Unexpected flavors, textures, aromas and colors strategically mix and match. The awe is that such a union of diverse details work together so well. Order the charred-salty-smoky-crunchy Brussels sprouts with tasso ham and aioli; barbacoa squash with raisin mole, radish, escabeche and epazote cream; beets with avocado, mango, pepitas and chili; gnocchi with short ribs, smoked ricotta, stewed tomatoes, and spicy pickled peperonata; and lamb top round with eggplant mango amba, fermented beet, marcona almonds and skhug. The Instagram-worthy cheese plate and its accompaniments are frequently changed. Alvarez and Rodriguez’s motto is “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.” Their chef de cuisine Brian Lampe is key to this success and the server staff rocks, too. Rooster & The Till recharges and invigorates its creative zone via fraternization with other local chefs as well — a “be better by sharing and caring” vibe. At the squared bar, tell the mixologist your favored spirit and flavors, then let a surprise cocktail be born. Eye the to-and-fro in the open kitchen — like watching a dance. In the usually packed dining room, simply decorated with artisan tiles and succulents in planters on tables, notice the steady hum of conversations, the clink of glasses, the laughter…the win.

Tampa Heights: a revival in the making.© Laura Manske

FOOD HALL HAPPY  Tampa Heights neighborhood is undergoing a rebirth (ripe for real estate investors). Its energizing new 22,000-square-foot Armature Works is set in a restored former train trolley barn perched on the bank of the Hillsborough River. This pleasing gathering place with community-building activities boasts tall ceilings, natural light, an open floor plan, communal seating (dig the leather sofas), co-working spaces and events (its Show + Tell interactive culinary and wine-tasting classroom shines) — with more than a dozen on-the-ball curated restaurants and bars, among them these three:

A warm greeting at Steelbach.© Laura Manske

BEEFEATERS  Steelbach, led by carnivore-savvy executive chef Nathan Hardin, is a Southern-inspired chophouse in Armature with an oak-and-mesquite open fire grille. Its grass-fed cattle are raised on a range about two-and-a-half-hours east of Tampa. A roaring fireplace, exposed brick walls, sumptuous bar, cushy indoor banquettes and outdoor patio tables, and an extensive whiskey collection are welcoming. Order the popovers with smoked honey butter; sweet corn soup; deviled eggs; Maud’s fried chicken; and spit-roasted chicken, too.

ITALIAN INSPIRATION  At Ava Restaurant’s outpost pizzeria at Armature, executive chef Joshua Hernandez is dedicated daily to perfecting his pizza. Using a natural sourdough starter, the dough rises over three days before he adds locally sourced ingredients and then fires the pies in a wood-burning oven. Bite, chew, smile and dream of Naples.

FRENCH FLAIR  Chef Brad Sobo at Cru Cellars — a swanky Armature bar — finesses steak frites; roast chicken; duck confit with onion soubise, fig jam and fennel straws; and roasted baby carrots with ginger, miso, basil, chimichurri and macadamias. The wine list is stocked with small batch productions from around the world; choose from more than 35 wines or seven wine flights. It also regularly hosts sociable wine education seminars. Stop by Cru Cellars for a quick swirl or stay longer for a dining whirl stacking multiple Farmer’s Platters: artisanal cheeses and charcuterie. Voila!

Columbia’s Café Room is the original 60-seat space with mahogany bar that opened in 1905.© Columbia Restaurant

LATIN LEGEND  A cornerstone of Tampa Bay’s historic, fascinating and colorful Ybor City neighborhood is Columbia — Florida’s oldest continually operating restaurant. Since 1905, the Hernandez – Gonzmart family, now in its fourth and fifth generations, has owned and managed this commitment to Spanish and Cuban cuisine, expanding the festively decorated property over the years from a bar-and-sandwich shop to more than 1,700 seats in 15 interconnected dining rooms that stretch an entire block. Gustatory trendsetting or avant-garde fusions here? Nope. Go, instead, for an authentic, comforting, special slice of Tampa past and present, cherished and venerated.

Built in 1937, Columbia’s Patio Dining Room resembles a gracious outdoor eatery, like those in Andalucía, Spain.© Columbia Restaurant

Its best-selling Original Cuban Sandwich, known as The Mixto, was first concocted in the 1890s for the influx of cigar factory employees who lived and worked in the burgeoning area. As those immigrants from many countries built futures here, the sandwich, like Tampa itself, enlarged, incorporating layers of flavors. Cubans contributed marinated roast pork. Spanish added fine ham. Sicilians supplied Genoa salami. And Germans provided Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. Daily baked Cuban bread from the 104-year-old La Segunda Central Bakery continues to wrap together this medley of meats, brushed with butter and pressed to a toasty finish just as it was done in Columbia’s 1915 recipe. Corporate chef Geraldo “Jerry” Bayona directs a warmly dependable menu. Enjoy the Cuban black bean soup, empanadas de picadillo, stuffed piquillo peppers, shrimp and crabmeat alcachofas, red snapper Adelita, fideua de Mariscos, paella a la Valenciana, café con leche and flan. Jim Garris, Columbia Restaurant Group’s director of operations, supervises the 240-page wine list of 1,056 labels among a 50,000-plus bottle inventory. Columbia is said to have the world’s best collection of wines from Spain. Six nights every week, flamenco dancers perform. Olé!

Paintings, photos and mementos of family and friends integral to the restaurant and its community’s storied stature are on display throughout Columbia Restaurant.© Columbia Restaurant

Columbia Restaurant Group’s president Richard Gonzmart heads six additional Columbia restaurants in Florida, as well as seven other restaurant concepts, one of which is Ulele, where Native Floridian ingredients are applauded. It is located on Tampa’s recently completed Riverwalk, which has opened public access to beautified waterfront and connected pathways among museums, parks, restaurants and hotels.

Smiles across the miles: Riverwalk brings Tampa together.© Keir Magoulas

LET THEM EAT BREAD  Owned and operated by the More family for four generations, La Segunda Central Bakery in Ybor City has produced well-loved Cuban bread for more than a century. Sought-after by Tampa residents and supplied to scores of Florida restaurants, the bread is also shipped to customers across the USA and around the world.

Some of La Segunda’s employees have been with the company for decades.© La Segunda Bakery

Baked in earthen molds as they have been since La Segunda first fired-up its ovens, doughy loaves are each prepped with a single strip of palmetto frond on top, creasing a line down the middle. When the leaves curl and tinge brown, then the bread is completed.

Cuban bread: Warm, crusty and fresh from the oven.© Laura Manske

A second new café location with seating and a wider menu of sandwiches and sweets in South Tampa features a hearth oven and open-view finishing table where bakers and pastry chefs prepare many of La Segunda’s signature items — all handmade from scratch.

At The Restaurant, Oxford Exchange.© Laura Manske

ROOMS WITH VIEWS  In a brick building that tracks back 128 years, near the University of Tampa, the charming transformed space that is now Oxford Exchange exudes a gladdening ambience that feels a bit like a brainy British hub for best buds. Linger in the heady bookstore. Sip specialty coffee and loose-leaf tea. Nose around a design-forward store brimming with tableware, travel accessories, jewelry, candles, soaps and more. Then excite your appetite at The Restaurant, which sports an open kitchen, an eye-candy bold art-filled main room and a sunlit greenery conservatory with retractable glass roof. Chef Richard Anderson’s menus are accented with bright-idea ingredients that give pleasant oomph and ahhh to dishes, such as a tomato soup with Cambozola (a soft-ripened, creamy cow’s milk cheese) and cornbread croutons.

Get thee to this glorious gin joint.CW’s Gin Joint

THIRST QUENCHER  The tagline for CW’s Gin Joint is “where style and grace have an attitude” — a darling apt description of proprietor Carolyn Wilson’s vintage-retro, chandelier-glowing, classy-sexy Downtown oasis, where patrons are encouraged to dress to impress. Peruse the wide-ranging repertoire of spirits — from Armagnacs to whiskeys — and feast on nourishing nibbles (angeled eggs, oyster soup, braised mussels, trout roe on blinis, mac ‘n’ cheese and white chocolate mousse). The lights are low. The mood is high. And the live music hits all the right notes. Cheers!

For more Sunshine State info and ideas: Visit Tampa Bay and Visit Florida.

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5 things you could be allergic to over the festive season – Health24

As we’re heading into the festive season, you’re probably getting the house ready for the celebrations, writing up shopping lists and planning for guests – but bear in mind that some of them might suffer from allergies.

The human body is a wonderful thing, but sometimes our immune system goes into overdrive when something is not “quite right”. From seasonal respiratory allergies to food allergies, here are some triggers that you might need to look out for:

1. The Christmas tree (and all those decorations)

Sorry for being the Grinch, but if your artificial Christmas tree with baubles and tinsel is packed away for months, it can gather dust and mould – all triggers for respiratory allergies and asthma.

Do you prefer to use a real pine tree? While the tree itself might not necessarily cause allergies, its fragrance, pollen spores and possible mould might. According a study conducted in 2007, a Christmas tree in a room could increase the number of mould spores sixfold. A small sample of Christmas trees carried about 53 different strains of mould. According to Dr Kelly Rose from Allergy Partners, California, USA, this can cause all types of symptoms from an itchy, runny nose to coughing and sneezing.

What to do: Store artificial trees and decorations in a cool, dry place during the year and give them a good dusting outside before starting the decorating. If you’re using a real tree, shake and rinse it before bringing it into the house.

Dad and daughter decorating Christmas tree

2. All the different types of food

Where do we start? With so many different traditions, the culinary assortment is vast and there can be loads to choose from. Unfortunately, for those who suffer from food allergies, things may end up not being so festive as they never know exactly what they’re ingesting, especially at someone else’s house. Nuts, eggs, cow’s milk, shellfish, wheat, soy and sesame allergies are among the most common food allergies.

What to do: Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask your hosts what will be on the menu – you are not being fussy, you’re simply trying to avoid a potentially serious medical situation. Read the labels carefully when buying ready-made food and treats such as Christmas cake, mince pies, glazed ham and sweets as many of these contain common allergens. Make sure that your treatment is up to date and that you carry the necessary medicine or an epi-pen with you when visiting family or travelling.

If it’s your turn to host, be mindful of family members with food allergies. Ask beforehand and make sure that there are options for them. Also make sure their foods are not accidentally contaminated by any allergens.

Festive cookies

3. Your aunt’s cat (or dog)

Pet allergies are caused by their dander that can release dust and tiny bits of allergens into the air. These allergies are common and can cause watery, itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing.

According a previous Health24 article, cat allergies are more common than dog allergies. The reason for this is a specific protein found in cat hair. Cat allergies are triggered by the overreaction of the immune system to a protein called FEL d 1.

And while your own pets might not trigger your allergies, someone else’s cat or dog could do so. 

What to do: Asking a relative to remove their pet from the scene might not be appreciated, so rather take your antihistamines well before the visit and wash your hands frequently, especially after handling any animals.

Hosts, be mindful of those with pet allergies by ensuring that rugs, carpets, couches and linen are cleaned properly. Make the guest room a pet-free zone if you have someone with allergies spending the night.

cat perching over table

4. Gifts

Never look a gift horse in the mouth but be careful of what you put in your mouth or on your skin if you don’t know the ingredients. From cosmetics and bath products, edible treats, soft toys and novelty items, the numbers of allergens are endless. Even wrapping paper or adhesive can cause an adverse reaction on the skin.

What to do: If you have a specific allergy and you receive a gift that might cause a flare-up (e.g. a scented candle, a bath product or chocolate-coated almonds), accept it politely but never use or eat anything without first checking the ingredients.

When you are buying gifts and you know someone has a skin allergy or hay fever, refrain from buying them cosmetics or fragranced products.

Man with unwanted gift

5. The sun (and everything that goes with it)

The festive season in the Southern Hemisphere is associated with long summer days around the pool or on the beach. But summer fun can turn into an uncomfortable nightmare if you have an allergic reaction to the sun – a very real condition. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity) can cause your immune system to react and cause an allergic reaction, often with symptoms such as an itchy, painful rash or even hives. Other factors such as sunscreen or chlorinated water can also cause a skin reaction.

What to do: Stay out of direct sunlight if you are prone to photosensitivity. If you are taking any form of antibiotic, check whether this can make you sensitive to the sun. Stick to a brand of sunscreen that you are familiar with and won’t cause an allergic skin reaction.

Family running on beach

Image credits: iStock

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Remembrances of Christmases past: Wild fowl, weeping willow and Junkanoo – Cayman Compass

Trees cut fresh from the beach and decorated with shells. The sweet aromas of turtle or wild fowl cooking in the kitchen caboose. The glow of heavy cakes baking on an open fire. The sights and sounds of a Cayman Christmas have changed dramatically over the decades. From fearsome Junkanoo masks to the gruesome spectacle of draining and butchering the cow for Christmas beef, some of the island’s favorite traditions are being kept alive this festive season.

Caymanians harbor many Christmas traditions that have persisted into the present day. One of them was not, however, a shortage of Christmas trees.

Long before Cayman Islands residents began importing exotic firs and pines, Caymanians had their own special wild trees to symbolize the yuletide season.

Finding and cutting your own “real” Christmas tree was a tradition everyone looked forward to in every household back in the day.

Sometimes it was a willow or casuarina tree, or a rosemary bush – decorated with red ladybug seeds, seashells, stringed popcorn, silver thatch ornaments, cloth dollies, painted sea shells, wooden toys, wild flowers or strips of colored cloth.

A few lit candles were placed on the window ledge to illuminate the tree and surrounding area.

A faint trail of smoke from a smoldering fire pan, lit near the doorway to keep the mosquitoes at bay, gave the tree a smoky look, almost like a light covering of snow.

Harvesting the Christmas tree involved work, trekking the beach and getting outside for some good old-fashioned seasonal fun.

It was always up to the children to scout out the best-looking tree, which could sometimes take hours and a lot of discussion.

Either the tree was too skinny, was too big to carry, did not have enough branches or was just too small, as everyone came up with their idea as to what the perfect Christmas tree should look like.

Dragging the tree back home through the sand often tore off many of the branches.

On the way home, empty paint cans were filled with white sand to plant the tree in and to decorate the yard.

Most families did not have much money and store-bought items were scarce. Come Christmas morning, a mix of presents wrapped in brown paper and adorned with colorful thatch string could be found under the tree, containing perhaps sets of playing Jacks, boxes of Cracker Jack with their surprise gifts, wooden trucks, stitched dollies, slates and pencils, flower sack dresses or khaki pants.

Caymanians enjoy a Christmas meal in earlier days.

No one was forgotten at the Christmas tree gathering. Children in the community would make a penny hauling a tree and a penny for each can of white sand delivered to a neighbor’s house.

My childhood friend Martin Bodden recalls hunting the perfect Christmas tree.

“A couple of days before Christmas, my parents would head to South Sound where some of the prettiest willow trees could be found,” he said.

“Most Caymanians will tell you, the best trees were always found around a cemetery. It was also the most feared place that most Caymanians, whether young or old, went to cut a tree.”

Begging his daddy not to cut the tree so close to a graveyard just fell on deaf ears.

He remembers his mother using a pan filled with white sand and rocks to keep the tree upright. It had to be watered each day, so it would keep fresh.

“I look back at those beautiful days with mixed emotions … thoughts of fearing the dead, old people, and how it used to be. Sadly, each year we use an artificial tree to decorate, it’s not the same. One day, I will go back to cutting the tree … that’s where the spirit of Christmas all began for me,” he said.

Christmas preparations

Bodden Town resident Neville McCoy, age 79, remembers the Christmas days of his childhood as being magical – it was “so quiet you could hear a pin drop,” he said.

Christmas preparations started with the “backing” of white sand in paint cans from the beach.

Junkanoo was used to scare people in a spirit of good fun while collecting money for the church.

The sand was collected during moonlit nights and sold around the community for a penny. Sometimes, the sand was carried to homes as far as Lower Valley in Bodden Town. Three trips a night for a week for a fee of sixpence, he said.

The men in the neighborhood would cut “grass fields” and get paid one cow when the job was done. The cow was divided among the men who participated, Mr. McCoy said.

The houses also had to be painted, new flour sack curtains hung on the windows, plantain leaf bedding restuffed with fresh dry leaves, firewood collected, new shag rugs made for the floor, and the oil lamps topped up with kerosene.

Paint could not be bought those days, so residents made their own from a mixture of “white lime,” sea coral and coloring powder to whitewash the house.

Yard cleaning and the spreading of white sand was also a big deal just before Christmas.

The piles of white sand had to be raked evenly over the ground at the front of the house and the walkway lined with fresh conch shells. No one dared to step on the sand after it was evenly raked, Mr. McCoy said.

The exciting part came just before Christmas Eve, when families would sweep the sand and make it smooth. For the children, playing in the freshly piled white sand Christmas morning was a treat.

To get children to bed, parents would tell them that, if they were not asleep, the mysterious entity named “Junkanoo” would come calling instead of Santa. But by the crack of dawn, everyone was awake and under the Christmas tree.

Traditional foods and music

Special foods and seasonal music were also a big part of the holiday celebrations, Mr. McCoy said.

As Christmas approached, families obtained whatever they could to prepare for the feast.

He said in those days there were no fridges, nor gas or electric stoves, but mostly fire huts.

This wall mural, painted by Joyce Hoff, at the Bodden Town Mission House shows what Bodden Town looked like in the 1800’s, featuring a wattle and daub house, a caboose, a white sand yard and conch shells.

Some people had wood stoves, and the men would cut firewood and put it by the roadside for sale. People would come from all parts of the island to buy the wood to use for fuel, for cooking or for burning to keep the mosquitoes away.

Getting nearer to Christmas, farmers would go to the plantation to harvest crops. Sweet potatoes, corn, cassava, yams, breadfruits, sorrel and watermelons were favorites for Christmas.

The air was flooded with sweet aromas from freshly baked cakes and breads, stew beef, rabbit, wild fowl, turtle or stew pork cooked in the outside kitchen caboose. Oddly, although eaten the rest of the year round, hardly any fish dishes were seen at a Christmas venue.

Several weeks before Christmas, Caymanians would bake the traditional “heavy cakes,” made from cassava, yam, sweet potato, pumpkin or breadfruit. Basically, any produce the men would bring from the land or from what the women grew around the house were used to create this dense and sticky sweet treat.

Everyone in town claimed their heavy cake was the best, even when there was no recipe to be had. Most bakers just said, “Add a dash of this” and “a pinch of that,” and “Everything will be just fine.”

Traditional heavy cakes are made by grating the root, adding flour, spices, sugar, salt and coconut milk and baking for hours over coals in a cast iron pot on a wood fire.

At almost every house in the community, you could see the glow from the outside fire where the heavy cakes were baking.

“Those who didn’t bake had no need to worry. Everyone around would bring over a piece at Christmastime,” Mr. McCoy said.

In West Bay, Chris Christian recalls his grandfather Andrew Powery digging a hole in the ground for grandma Ellen to bake her cassava heavy cake in a cast iron Dutch pot.

He said a hole was dug in the cliff rock, maybe 2 feet wide and one foot deep. Dried grape tree or logwood branches were added to the hole and burned into coals.

Phillip Sciamonte and children Malachi and Sari drag a Christmas tree from the beach. – Photo: Jewel Levy

While the fire was burning, grandma Ellen was in the “out kitchen” preparing the cassava mixture.

The pot was placed on the coals in the hole, more coals covered the pot sides and a sheet of zinc with coals was placed on the pot top. “That was the easy part,” Mr. Christian said.

“Granny spent several hours making sure the fire was a constant temperature by adding coals and taking time to baste the cake with a mixture of coconut milk and sugar.”

Basting was a necessary technique used for keeping the cassava cake moist while cooking in those days, Mr. Christian said.

“We just couldn’t wait for a piece, and hung around taking in the delightful aroma.”

Mr. Christian said his favorite part of the cake was the scraping from the pot bottom and the sugary sticky pieces left around the pot sides.

For him it seemed it took forever for the cake to cool, but once this was done, it was served with fresh boiled cow’s milk or sorrel.

Cows were butchered on Christmas Eve or a day before.

The men would kill the cow and hang it to drain, and butchering was carried out early in the morning under the grape trees on the beach. This was because shopkeeper Logan Bodden, who was the meat inspector in the Bodden Town community, had to inspect the meat before it went on sale.

“Mr. Logan didn’t know a horse from a cow, much less if it was good for consumption or not,” Mr. McCoy said with a laugh as he explained how as health inspector, Mr. Bodden had to be given a choice lot of meat as his fee.

“The saying was at the time, ‘Don’t touch a thing until Mr. Logan comes.’”

Santa makes a Christmas visit to Cayman in earlier days.

Before Mr. Bodden came to carry out the inspection, the men would cut meat from the cow’s neck, make up a fire under the sea grape trees and cook up a big pot of beef stew seasoned with shallots, bird peppers, and salt and pepper. This was eaten with either roast, boiled or steamed soft or waxed cassava, pumpkin, sweet potato or breadfruit. Bammy, a sticky flatbread made from peeled cassava grated, squeezed, pan fried and then soaked in beef stew gravy was also enjoyed by the older folks.

“My, what a treat that was … We had those elderly people who could prepare the beef so good it would make you lick your fingers. Beef was only had once a year and that was at Christmas, and everyone was anxious for a taste,” Mr. McCoy said.

The kids would hang stockings over the bed. Sometimes those stockings on Christmas morning would contain a gig [spinning top] if it was available, or a yo-yo, or sometimes, if the parents could afford it, a little toy gun, which looked like the “real McCoy” and gave off quite a bang when it was fired, he said.

After all the preparations for Christmas were completed, people started having fun by attending numerous quadrille “kitchen dances” around the community and visiting friends and family in other districts.

Caymanians would gather at neighbors’ homes and have kitchen dances with whatever homemade musical instruments they could find. Those days, it could be the fiddle, the flute (made from a papaya stalk punched with holes), homemade drums stretched tight with cow skin, pots, pans, maracas, graters and forks. “It sounded good too,” Mr. McCoy said.

Christmas caroling was also a part of the Christmas traditions. Jolly bands of churchgoers, dressed in knitted shawls and long frocks, went door-to-door spreading the spirit of Christmas through hymns such as “Deck the Halls,” “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” or “We Three Kings.”

Christmas morning

On Christmas morning, the most delicious breakfast awaited: freshly baked bread and Anchor butter, fried fish, Jamaican cocoa spiked with fresh cow’s milk and warm eggnog, and heavy cake. By midmorning, the women were drinking sorrel while eating spiced Christmas cake and preparing clothes for Christmas church.

The men prepared their fedora hats and jackets while savoring a spiked-up version of sorrel. Other men in the community gathered under the grape trees at the beach behind Miss Lorna Bodden’s shop to drink and retell old stories.

Ann Walton prepares the fire to bake a cassava cake. – Photo: Jewel Levy

Christmas Day was a holy day, said Mr. McCoy. There was no one on the streets after church. After Christmas service, families gathered at home to celebrate and enjoy the Christmas feasts everyone had been preparing leading up to the holiday.

The rest of the day was either spent visiting friends in other districts or quietly respecting the day.

The day after Christmas, Boxing Day, was nothing special – just another day for most residents. Only Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day were celebrated, according to Mr. McCoy.

New Year’s Day Junkanoo

Early in the morning on New Year’s Day, Caymanians in Bodden Town celebrated Junkanoo as they prepared for the New Year’s Day Garden Party at the Manse.

“Few people are alive today who can tell us where this age-old tradition came from, but I can say it dates way back,” Mr. McCoy said.

The ladies in their bonnets or hats and long plaid dresses and the men in khaki and bowler hats made a charming panorama on the grass as they enjoyed the joyous occasion with old friends and family.

For the Junkanoo, a few men in the community, especially the men from Gun Square, would dress up in costumes made with whatever material was handy – bits and pieces of brightly colored fabric, cow’s skin, seaweed and sea fans, and other discarded items.

The ghastly Junkanoo face mask was made from a dried-out whitewashed cow’s head. Pieces of dried coconut bark were used for the hair and beard. An old straw hat tied with thatch string finished the get-up.

“We were really scared of the Junkanoos as they came riding down the street, especially when it was getting dark” Mr. McCoy said.

Blowing cow horns, banging on homemade cowskin drums and shaking tambourines, the Junkanoos would parade through the district collecting money for the church with a band of revelers in tow.

Those were made up of adults and children following the horse as they wove their way through the streets of the community on their way to the Webster Memorial United Church where the New Year’s Garden Party was being held.

Caymanians enjoy a Christmas meal in earlier days.

The garden party was an amazing event and one that was waited upon all year with great anticipation. It was exciting and great fun, especially for us children who looked forward to watching the ladies dance the Maypole.

A main draw was the town’s auctioneer selling off the most prized produce and fruits. For the occasion, everyone had saved the best of produce, craft or homemade food to be on display during auction time.

Some overzealous bidders often paid triple for what the produce was worth, because they knew all the proceeds would go to a good cause, the church fund.

The children also got to sample the delicious homemade peppermint and coconut candies and cakes.

The Junkanoo was the highlight of the whole holiday season, Mr. McCoy said. “If there were 10 cars on the island, all 10 of them would be in Bodden Town for the party on New Year’s Day,” he said.

A dance at the Town Hall, the lighting of lots of firecrackers, thunderbolts and cherry bombs wrapped in decorated Chinese paper, food and drinks ended the season’s festivities with a bang.

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The Best Hotels in the World: 2019 Gold List – Condé Nast Traveler

Remember when some places used to call themselves art hotels, for the sake of a few second-rate daubings on the walls? Well, this opened in 2013, a key player in Oslo’s waterside reboot, and has the sort of collection many urban galleries would kill for. There’s a genuflecting bronze by Antony Gormley outside by the revolving doors, a Julian Opie animation in the lift, and you’ll spot pieces by Warhol, Richard Prince, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Tony Cragg dotted around the public spaces. The Thief is the work of Petter Stordalen, who drives a biofuel-powered Ferrari and has banned bacon in his hotels for sustainability reasons. It straddles the water on the reclaimed islet of Tjuvholmen, a sheeny-shiny place of glinting bridges and new builds, many of which are home to small independent galleries—though the big-hitter is the neighboring Astrup Fearnley, from where much of the hotel’s artwork is borrowed. The spa and pool are accessed via a secret underground tunnel—locals come for the Sauna Gass experience, inspired by Dr Kneipp’s immune-system-boosting methods, with a dip in the icy Oslofjord followed by a sauna using essential oils. Rooms are clad in touchy-feely textures, golds, and grays, with picture windows to slide wide open for gulps of Nordic sea air from the harbor below. (Two of the biggest rooms were designed by Lee Broom and Peter Blake, riffing on Fifties and Sixties London—a cubist coffee table here, a geometric-patterned sofa there.) The rooftop restaurant was recently revamped, British chef David Taylor has fun with regional ingredients (scallops, turnips, monkfish, lamb neck) at the FoodBar restaurant, the bar has helped up Oslo’s cocktail game (try the Michael Jackson and Bubbles—rum, banana cordial, green tea, Champagne, in a ceramic monkey head). London-born Dominic Gorham is the personable go-to guy for guests, taking it to the stage to MC regular unplugged music sessions. It’s a 15-minute walk from the town center—this is a city for striding out, along the Aker Brygge waterfront, over the glacier-like Opera House and up for more sculptures in the hillside Ekeburg park. The Thief’s new art collection is set to land soon, along with a sister hotel in town. Oslo’s overflowing oil wealth meant this was a place that never bothered itself unduly with drawing visitors, but that’s changed and it now rocks a go-getting international outlook—this is the best place to feel you’re part of that.

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Vegan Linoleum 'Lino' Leather Soft and Durable Enough to Replace 'Rumen' Cow Hide – LIVEKINDLY

Designer Don Kwaning has created a material that mimics leather but is entirely vegan, architecture and design magazine Dezeen reports.

Called Lino Leather, as the name suggests, the material is made from linoleum, commonly used as flooring. Kwaning, who specializes in finding creative ways to use natural materials, teamed up with flooring manufacturer Forbo to generate new methods to treat linoleum to make it more versatile.

The Lino Leather comes in two forms. The first type, which is thicker than the other, is similar to rumen leather, usually made from a cow’s stomach. Kwaning has used this material, which has folds and a honeycomb structure, for wall panelling that has acoustic dampening properties, Dezeen reports.

The second Lino Leather kind is softer, closely replicating saddle leather, and could be used widely in commercial settings.

The materials are double-sided, unlike linoleum flooring. To do this, Kwaning placed the textile backing that is usually needed to stabilize linoleum in between two layers of his vegan leather. He believes it could be used in furniture design and upholstery.

According to Kwaning, linoleum, which has existed for more than 100 years, is an “overlooked material” with “great future potential.” 

“Many people don’t even know it’s made from only natural materials,” he added.

Linoleum is made from plant-based oils and resins combined with minerals or fine powders, like ground cork. It is then placed onto a textile backing, like canvas, and tinted various colours.

“I took out all the pigments to give the material more depth, which also gives the Linoleum Leather a more natural look since the materials that it is made from show in the colour,” Kwaning told Dezeen. “The colours that you see are the colours of the wood-flour which is one of the Linoleum Leather components.”

“I like projects that aim to change the industry by introducing new ecological substitutes for existing materials that are toxic or harm animals,” Kwaning said. He has also used wetland weed to make furniture and packing.

Kwaning joins other innovators using vegan materials to craft cruelty-free leather. Hugo Boss uses pineapple to make leather men’s shoes, coconut water has been used to make leather-style handbags, and rugs made from palm leaves could replace cow-hide leather carpeting. German sneaker brand nat-2 uses coffee grounds to make leather shoes – they even smell like coffee.

The vegan leather industry is only becoming more popular, with the market set to be worth $85 billion by 2025.

Image Credit: Don Kwaning | Dezeen


Vegan Linoleum ‘Lino’ Leather Soft and Durable Enough to Replace 'Rumen' Cow Hide

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Vegan Linoleum ‘Lino’ Leather Soft and Durable Enough to Replace 'Rumen' Cow Hide


Designer Don Kwaning created Lino Leather, made from linoleum, as a cruelty-free, vegan alternative to rumen leather, made from the stomach of a cow.


Jemima Webber

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Rug Report: Creature(-free) comforts are popular – Home Accents Today

Creature DomadaDomada’s cowhide rug

Without sacrificing good taste, area rugs are joining the list of vegan goods.

No animal products or byproducts used here.

“We’re capitalizing on cow-friendly hides,” said Blake Dennard, senior vice president of Kaleen Rugs. “Our new Chaps Collection answers to the growing population on the vegan side.”

Chaps, which Kaleen launched at the October High Point Market, is a collection of replica cowhides handmade in India of viscose and wool.

“No cowhides were used in the making of this product,” the company emphasized.

The same is true for Kas Rugs’ new indoor-outdoor selection of animal-inspired rugs. The Provo

Creature Capel SafariCapel Rugs Safari Leopard

Collection encompasses textured machine-woven rugs made of UV-treated polypropylene in a variety of spotted skin patterns.

“Our new Provo Collection has some animal inspiration behind it,” said Brianne Coradini, Kas Rugs’ marketing associate. “Faux animal designs are still a hot trend that is not going away. We [weren’t] offering any animal patterned outdoor rugs, so Provo [now] rounds out our assortment perfectly.”

Capel Rugs’ Luxe Shag collection of animal looks presents “a new take on shags” with its longer acrylic/polyester fibers. Plus, they “can even be cut into a pelt shape,” according to Cameron Capel, president of sales and marketing.

The company has several other species of animal-friendly rugs, like the machine-made Leopard that is based on a textile design by Kevin O’Brien, a licensee of Capel Rugs for the past eight years.

Animal prints, O’Brien said, “connect with us on several levels. Even though they have a practical purpose for the animal, they are naturally elegant and by definition perfect.”

He continued: “In our DNA, there is a connection to the wild origins of our own species and the wildness still very much present in these animals. We revere the primal nature of these beautiful animals and know that we are not really that far removed from them.”

For her latest introduction with Loloi Rugs, designer Justina Blakeney of “Jungalow” fame dreamed up a contemporary faux-tiger series in both native and exotic colorways. Ironically named Feroz, which means fierce in Spanish, this tame version of animal skin is hand-loomed by artisans in India and then feline formed.

Creature loloi verticalFeroz by Justina Blakeney x Loloi

Blakeney said the idea for Feroz came from an antique Tibetan prayer rug found at a flea market.

“I researched the history of these prayer rugs and learned that they tell a rich story of Tibetan culture and are full of Buddhist symbolism. They are traditionally on the smaller side and can be prohibitively expensive,” she said. “I wanted to put my own spin on them while paying homage to their Tibetan roots. My reinterpretation is a larger scale rug made of 100% wool and is a fanciful depiction of a tiger — an animal I love.”

Domada is a newcomer to the upscale rug industry, paving its path with a niche business: cowhide-shaped vintage rugs.

Launched earlier this year as an e-commerce business and now expanding into wholesale, Domada sources its products from Morocco, India and Turkey, with more countries currently being explored. Most of its rugs average about 70 years old and feature a range of classic and traditional Oriental designs, and many are one-of-a-kind.

“I want my pieces to be unusual. I look through thousands and thousands of rugs looking for special pieces,” founder Katherine Stevens said. “Hides bring an organic sense to spaces, but many responsive to this aesthetic shy away from them out of respect for the natural world,” Stevens said. “Conscious consumers are driving design away from doing harm, and our fusion of traditional, ethnic rugs with hide and skin shapes speaks perfectly to this market. Domada is proud to offer its cruelty-free collection. I love that we can make something special that feels organic but doesn’t harm any animals.”

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