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Organizing the Bookcase

25 Feb

As someone who loves both books and design, this stop-action video made me grin from ear to ear, and I definitely pressed repeat a few times. Enjoy!


Just Being Audrey

9 Feb

Just Being Audrey, a children’s book about the life of Audrey Hepburn released on January 25, is simply stunning. The illustrations by Julia Denos are the type that I just want to swim in. They’re so lively and lighthearted and perfectly capture Audrey Hepburn’s unmistakeable style.

This drawing highlighting the clothes and mannerisms of some of her most famous characters is one of my favorites, but honestly it’s hard to choose favorites.

Another lovely addition to this already lovely book is the book trailer that accompanies it.

To purchase this charming book, go here.

All images courtesy of Julia Denos.

My Favorite Bookcase

26 Jan

There’s something really magical about a bookcase. It’s a very telling glimpse into someone’s personality both by what’s on it and how it’s organized, and it can be a wonderful conversation starter when you discover books you have in common, shared favorite authors, and copies of new titles you’d like to read sitting on someone else’s bookshelf. When given the opportunity, bookcases are one of my most favorite things to look at in a person’s home (tied with the art on their walls).

About five years ago when I was living in San Francisco, I dreamt of the bookcase I’d buy when I finally settled somewhere. It was at the top of my furniture wish list (you can bet I had a list), and I even drew a picture of what I wanted in my sketchbook. This is the sketch:

When I moved to Birmingham and knew I’d be staying awhile, the bookcase I’d drawn was the first piece of furniture I began hunting for. It took months of searching, but I finally found the perfect one in a local antique shop that has since gone out of business (Crestwood Antiques for those who may be curious). Here it is in my old home (left) and my new one (right). It’s a pretty close match, don’t you think?

As I mentioned briefly here, this piece of furniture houses memorable tchotchkes from our travels, most of my favorite books (my Jane Austen and Armistead Maupin collections, some of my favorite art and illustration books, and other life-changing books I’ve read over the years), and my favorite magazines (a complete set of Cottage Living, copies of Domino, a handful of How magazines, and the new and utterly gorgeous Anthology magazine). It makes me uncommonly happy when I look at it.

And for those like me who enjoy browsing a little closer, here’s a shelf-by-shelf look at what makes up my list of favorites. Maybe you’ll find some common titles or ones on your to-read list. If so, let’s chat. I love talking about books.

The Fabulous Tim Gunn

17 Jan

I’m a huge fan of Tim Gunn. He’s smart, witty, gracious, and a consummate gentleman and is one of the reasons I love watching Project Runway.

I read his most recent book, Gunn’s Golden Rules, over the weekend. In it he shares his rules for “making it work” in your career, relationships, and life in general. He tells entertaining behind-the-scenes stories from Project Runway and gossip from the fashion world (including more than one story about both Anna Wintour and Martha Stewart), but what I appreciated most was his desire for and encouragement of more politeness and manners in everyday life. He says, “…we are confronted with choices on how to treat people nearly every waking moment. Over time these choices define who we are and whether we have a lot of friends and allies or none.” So true.

He also shares some pretty personal stories that have made him who he is—a humble person who is thankful for unexpected success later in life. The writing style of this book mirrors the person you’ve come to know from television, which makes it seem like the reader is simply having a chat with him. Check it out. It’s a lovely, easy-to-read book and you’ll be happy you did.

Photo courtesy of

Bucket List

26 Nov

I’ve had a bucket list since I was 16, only I usually refer to it as a Things to Accomplish list, which is certainly cheerier. Over the years, my list has evolved. I’ve marked through things I’ve done, deleted ones that are no longer priorities, and added new items. So, I thought I’d share a portion of my list as it stands now.

1. See the Great Wall of China.

2. See the Egyptian Pyramids. (November 2009)

3. Live in London.

4. Write a book…

5. …and have it published.

6. Read a 1,000-plus page book.

7. Learn to sew well.

8. Go to New York City. (November 2006)

9. Visit the Musée d’Orsay. (July 2002)

10. Pass the R.D. exam. (October 2005)

11. Visit a concentration camp.

12. Float in the Dead Sea.

13. See Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, England. (July 2002)

14. Attend a symphony. (2005 in San Francisco)

15. See Fiona Shaw perform in the theater.

Nicholas Le Provost and Harriet Walter in Much Ado About Nothing, 2002. Image courtesy of

16. See Harriet Walter perform in the theater. (July 2002 in London. She played Beatrice [my favorite Shakespearean character] in Much Ado About Nothing [my favorite Shakespearean comedy].)

17. See Kate Mulgrew perform in the theater. (June 2005 in San Francisco. She played Katharine Hepburn [one of my favorites!] in the one-woman show, Tea at Five.)

18. See Cherry Jones perform in the theater. (October 2010 in New York City. She played Kitty Warren in Mrs. Warren’s Profession.)

19. Skydive. (Summer 1999)

20. Go on safari in Kenya.

21. Go to Turkey. Visit Istanbul and Cappadocia.

22. Go to Peru and see Machu Picchu.

23. See a space shuttle launch.

24. Work as an illustrator.

25. Own an English cottage–style house.

26. Visit all seven continents.

27. Visit all 50 states.

28. See the salt fields of Bolivia.

Image of the salt fields courtesy of The New York Times

29. Study Spanish and gain some level of fluency.

30. Become fluent in French (or any language).

Ode to Domino

10 Nov

Like so many others, I love Domino and miss seeing it on newsstands every month or two. Go on any design blog or check out any design blogger’s home tour, and you’re bound to see old issues of the magazine sitting around and the Domino book situated front and center somewhere in one of the pictures, usually on a coffee table nestled among a tray or stacked on top of other design-related books with a paperweight or some other sculptural element sitting on top. My copy is sitting on a bookshelf with my other design and art books. It seems you can’t be a design blogger without one.

So with that in mind, I drew this, my first Ode to Domino based on the colors of the book. It’s sort of a synopsis of all the homes I’ve seen that have this book prominently on display. There are many other variations that I’m sure I’ll draw someday, but this is the first.

(Note: The colors are coming in really funky on my screen, but I assure you the seafoam green and pink used in the drawing match the cover of the book.)

Jane Austen’s manuscripts

3 Nov

There’s just something magical about seeing an original. It could be a painting, classic car, monument, place, or, in this case, handwritten manuscripts by one of the world’s most well-known British novelists. And while these aren’t originals per se, they’re the closest thing Austen fans on this side of the pond are likely going to see without hopping on a plane. This particular image is taken from a page of Jane Austen’s manuscript for Persuasion, which happens to be my second favorite Austen novel behind Sense and Sensibility. (You can go here to tell what the text says more clearly.)

What’s interesting about the manuscripts is that they suggest Austen required heavy editing, which goes against what Austen’s brother Henry always said, “Everything came finished from her pen.” Apparently not. Oxford University Professor Kathryn Sutherland has studied more than 1,000 original handwritten pages of Austen’s novels, and she’s found some significant differences between these handwritten pages and the finished published works—namely that the manuscripts contained misspelled words, bad grammar, and minimal punctuation. Sutherland was interviewed on NPR about her work. You can listen to the interview or read the transcript here.

While these may show that Jane Austen wasn’t the infallible writer that history has made her out to be, she was, without a doubt, an exceptional writer with a gift for creating wonderful, timeless stories. As a book editor myself, I can attest that any manuscript, no matter how brilliant the writer, always, always contains mistakes, has omissions, and requires revisions and corrections to be made. It’s simply impossible to make sure everything is 100% perfect when the deadline comes around, and it’s why so many editors and copy editors read it before it goes to press. I for one love seeing the scratch outs. It reveals the lightbulb moments writers get when they discover a better word or phrase to make their work even better. It also shows that every writer, even great ones like Jane Austen, needs a good editor.

You can read about my experience visiting Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, England here.