Month: November 2011

More DIY design

I was so pleased with my first picture wall project that I decided to give it another shot in our newly  finished basement. The fun part, of course, was figuring out what to use as a starting point; I had a fairly large amount of wall space with which to work and – as always – a relatively small budget. As it happened, I didn’t have to look around too long, thanks to a lucky find at Winners.
To start off, I should explain again that I love classic botanical drawings. This is one of my favourite books to flip through.
It’s filled with beautiful old illustrations, like these ones:
So I was very excited when I came across this framed print at Winners:
I hesitated to buy at first because, well, I wasn’t entirely sure if I could “sell” it to my husband, and the price was a little steeper than I would have liked. Happily, a few weeks later it was on clearance for a much more manageable $32 – the frame alone was worth it. I lugged it home with me (on the bus, 8 1/2 months pregnant – that is true love!) and started looking around for ideas about how to pair it.

My second bout of inspiration also came courtesy of Winners, where I came across a pack of note cards featuring William Morris prints. For those of you who may not be familiar with his name, Morris was an artist, designer and writer associated with the English Arts and Crafts movement. He is well known for his distinctive textile (and wallpaper) designs, many of which incorporate plants and flowers in gorgeous, intricate patterns. The note cards I found at Winners featured four of his designs, one of which really took my fancy. I remembered seeing wallpaper being used as framed “art”, and decided that this would make the perfect material – and that it might nicely set off my botanical print.

Sadly, the note cards were too small for what I had in mind, and I had no idea where one might go about finding William Morris wallpaper in Edmonton. So I turned to Amazon where, for about $12, I was able to find a collection of Morris textile and wallpaper prints in book form (courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London). Helpfully, the book even came with a CD of all of the prints, ready for personal reproduction. I narrowed my selection down to six patterns that I really liked, and had them printed on 8×10 heavy stock paper. I used IKEA RIBBA frames (love these!), which are both affordable ($12.99 for a medium frame) and have a clean, classic look. I eventually picked four of the six patterns and – voila!

Manicure of the week: Cosmic Violine

Part of Chanel’s Celestial Lights collection, Cosmic Violine is a gorgeous red-based brown (or brown-based red depending on how you see it) chock-full of beautiful red and gold micro-glitter.

I fell in love with Cosmic Violine as soon as I saw swatches of it online, and luckily I was able to pick up a bottle at Holt Renfrew; even though it’s not part of the permanent collection, it’s still possible to find it at some Chanel counters – happy hunting! Once I took it home and painted it on my nails, the love-at-first-sight was explained – it’s a beautiful colour match for my beloved Amarante Alma (although the latter leans more towards burgundy in sunlight).

For my “inspired by” outfit, I picked one of my recent thrifting finds: a BCBG dress I found at Value Village for $20. [Is it just me, or is VV starting to hike up its prices? Almost none of the dresses there were under $10, regardless of the brand – or era. It’s getting harder and harder to find an amazing bargain at thrift stores, especially with all the wonderful consignment stores in town, where prices are often competitive and shopping doesn’t require the same time commitment and patience.] I loved this dress – enough to take it home despite my moratorium on new clothes – for two reasons: the print, and the black side panels. The latter are a simple but effective visual trick for a slimmer silhouette; in this case, the ruching also helps to camouflage any bumps, while keeping a sexy curve along the hips.

The dress was missing its belt, but that wasn’t a problem for yours truly, belt queen. My funky, knotted belt from H&M works great with the abstract print of the dress; ladylike peachy nude pumps finish the outfit.

Happy Friday!

What’s in a name

I love Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. First of all, it calls on my encyclopedic but largely useless store of pop culture trivia, and second (but not entirely unrelated), it’s a fun alternative to Trivial Pursuit on game night. [I like to win. Insert your own Charlie Sheen joke here.] I also love the old TV series Connections, which is a history buff’s dream (you can read about it here). I guess you could say that I have a long-standing fascination with the not-always-expected connections in life – the ways, and by-ways, we take to get from point A to point B – and how various threads can end up converging on one point.

The most recent convergence for me involved two of my favourite hobbies, one old and one new – reading, and nail polish. A few weeks ago, I was craving a dose of glamour and decided to re-read one of my fave books on style: The Way She Looks Tonight, by Marian Fowler. The book covers the lives – and more importantly, the wardrobes – of five famous women: Empress Eugenie of France, Elinor Glynn, the Duchess of Windsor, Marlene Dietrich and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I really appreciate the biographical aspect of books like this, mixed with gossipy anecdotes and descriptions of fabulous clothes and even more fabulous jewels. 

After reading The Way She Looks Tonight, I was interested in reading a more in-depth  biography of Wallis Simpson, nee Warfield, later the Duchess of Windsor. After last year’s big Oscar winner The King’s Speech, and with the upcoming release of Madonna’s movie W.E. on the life of the Duke and Duchess, general interest in Wallis is bound to pick up again. [W.E. stands for Wallis & Edward, an acronym used by the couple in their personal correspondence. Perhaps not unintentionally, it’s also the royal pronoun.] Even leaving aside the “romance of the century” aspect of her life, Wallis lived through some interesting times and was a strong, if divisive, character. Charles Higham’s The Duchess of Windsor: The Secret Life, does a thorough job of covering both the highlights and the darker episodes of her life, sometimes in more than exhaustive detail. There are plenty of juicy tidbits, from discussion of the so-called Secret Dossier compiled by the British government on Wallis’ activities in China, to the Windsor’s ties to various Nazi figures, and their troubled relationship with the problematic Jimmy Donahue. Nevertheless, the book is surprisingly dry in parts, though perhaps that’s not the writer’s fault as much as the result of the subject matter (after the War, the Windsors spent much of their time traveling between various playgrounds of the rich and famous, year after year – a nice lifestyle perhaps, but rather monotonous to read about).

Around the same time that I was reading Wallis’ biography, I came across swatches of a Butter LONDON nail polish that really wow-ed me. A metallic golden, olive green with a bronze sheen, it’s a brasher cousin to Chanel’s Peridot, minus the duochrome effect. Its name? Wallis.

An interesting name choice for this polish, given than Wallis was known for a shade of blue that bears her name, “created” for her by the designer with whom she often collaborated, Mainbocher. He was responsible for, among other gowns, her wedding dress – made in her namesake blue.

I scored a bottle of Butter LONDON’s Wallis at Holt Renfrew, and was impressed with the way it looks on the nail. Although it took 3 coats to achieve full opacity, the polish has some crazy shimmer to it, and is a truly unusual colour.

To make the application easier – and the colour pop even more – in the future I will probably layer one coat of it over a dark polish, like Lancome’s 29 Noir (a shimmery black) or YSL’s Noir Mordore (a black-bronze). Wallis is a great fall colour, a nice alternative to traditional colours for the season, like burgundy or red.
Its name got me thinking about what my namesake nail polish colour would be. There are so many colours I love – from blue and purple, to pink and emerald, orange and even mustard – that picking one as an expression of the essential “me” is tough. As it happens, there already is an “Adina” polish, from Zoya.
I like it, but I don’t love it. And although I’m really fond of Chanel’s Peridot, I’m not sure if I can commit to it as my ultimate polish – it’s a close call though. But there is another polish, also named after a famous style icon, which might fit the bill. China Glaze’s For Audrey (yes, that Audrey) is the closest anyone’s come to duplicating the famous Tiffany blue (one of my other recent obsessions). Though perhaps not a colour I could comfortably wear to the office, I love seeing it on my nails.

What would be your namesake polish colour?