12 Mar 2017

Literary Classics by The Folio Society

The old adage, 'Don't judge a book by its cover', is a cracking old chesnut - especially when aimed at... books! We understand it unwise to base an opinion upon the look of a book alone, and by extension to everything and everyone we come into contact with in life. As much as we are trying to underplay this though, poor artwork does no justice to a good story whatsoever!

A novel, a political treatise, or a poem anthology, for example, might not command the imperious need for illustration per se, yet a little visual wouldn't go amiss. We would expect a few lithographs or photographs for a cookbook, travel guide or garden book - as essential descriptive triggers that entice you to turn your hand to a recipe, visualise a place or identify a particular plant - yet in my life I have come across books within those disciplines that were devoid of such illustrative artefacts. A big let down!

Overall, books with any sort of visual appeal (binding, jacket, slipcase, illustrations, endpapers, etc.) are bound to be more eye-catching and engaging than those that puritanically resemble an austere brick on the outside, and open up to an uninterrupted flow of words, cover to cover, without much as a blank page or typographical embellishment to punctuate - lighten up - the flow. War & Peace, anyone?!

Inveterate book worms might shrug this off as a bout of coquettishness, superficiality or distraction on my part. But bear with me on this one; our modern times are so infused with visual stimulus that we find it hard to imagine a book without the seeming artifice of decor. Artifice, come again! If you come across a book you know nothing about, your first opinion will be subjectively based upon its looks. To the design-conscious and those in touch with their feminine side, the book cover is an appetizer, the first encounter, the deal breaker as to whether or not they will wish to find out more about the book, grab it, leaf through it and purchase it... or leave it behind on the shelf and walk away.

A book makes more sense when it is illustrated. It makes it whole; it personifies it and makes it come to life. Of course disaster may strike there too: you do get those books with great word content, marred by a disappointingly poor set of images - I have encountered those in spades! Not helping the final purchasing decision, unless you can just blank them out and concentrate on words alone.

As a niche upmarket publishing company that respects both authors and readers in their expectations, with collector appeal and hence no compromise over quality of detail and creativity, The Folio Society (est. 1947) understands that literary classics deserve impeccable styling. The house delivers "carefully crafted editions of the world’s finest literature". There you are welcomed by creativity across the board and books that are anything but bland, cheap and predictable. Literature is praised and embraced as an art, where it feels special once again. A nice observation to be had when Amazon's mass-consumerism is pretty much crushing out the last gasps of what a great book should be looking like: fine and regal! A beautiful book makes for a beautiful read.

"We believe that great books deserve to be presented in a form worthy of their contents. For nearly 70 years we have celebrated the unique joy to be derived from owning, holding and reading a beautiful printed edition." - The Folio Society

Sources: All books published by The Folio Society, do check out the production credentials! (1)  Paradisaea apoda, illustration by John Gould and William Hart, from A Monograph of the Paradiseidae, or Birds of Paradise by Richard Bowdler Sharpe, 1891–98., © The University of Manchester. Extracted from The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-Utan and the Bird of Paradise by Alfred Russel Wallace. Introduced by George Beccaloni, preface by Steve Jones. Bound in printed and blocked cloth. Set in Dante. Volume one: 392 pages; volume two: 352 pages. Frontispiece and 32 pages of colour plates in each volume. Maps and over 60 integrated black & white illustrations in total. Blocked slipcase. P.S: The Paradisaea apoda illustration is also found in the limited edition, Sharpe's Birds of Paradise by
Richard Bowdler Sharpe, which collates his 79 plates. Introduction by Sir David Attenborough.

(2-5) Montage by Mirabelle, assisted by Picmonkey. Clockwise from left: (2) Paradisaea apoda, cf. (1) for details.

(3) The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates. Introduced by Ian Jack, illustrated by Alice Tait. Bound in cloth. Printed with a design by Alice Tait. Set in Bembo. Frontispiece and 6 colour illustrations. 160 pages.

(4) The Camberwell Beauty and Other Stories by V.S. Pritchett. Selected and introduced by William Trevor, illustrated by Clifford Harper. Bound in cloth, printed and blocked with a design by Clifford Harper. Set in Goudy. Frontispiece and 10 colour illustrations. 408 pages.

(5) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Illustrated by Eric Fraser. Bound in paper blocked in gold with a design by Francis Mosley. Set in Fournier with Omnia display. 19 black & white illustrations. Printed map endpapers. 248 pages.

"In the digital age, information is served to us instantaneously. Success is measured by speed, and we can dispose of the written word at the click of a mouse. This is why Folio books are the perfect tonic. We offer the reader an opportunity to pause and reflect; to spend time appreciating beauty and wisdom. The books we select for publication are timeless – and in the editions we produce, they will be enjoyed and valued now and in generations to come." - ibid

(6-9) Montage by Mirabelle, assisted by Picmonkey. The Temple Flora, by Robert Thornton, a Folio Society limited edition, introduced by Stephen Harris. Illustrations clockwise from top left: The Queen Flowers, The Aloe, The American Cowslip, Night-Blowing Cereus. Quarter-bound in Nigerian goatskin, cloth sides. Front board printed and blocked with design by David Eccles from 'The Night-Blowing Cereus'. 232 pages with 9 preliminary monochrome plates, 5 preliminary colour plates and 29 flower illustrations. Text printed on felt-marked Modigliani Neve paper and plates printed on Modigliani Insize. Green ribbon marker, coloured top edges. (10) Commentary volume by Stephen Harris, The Temple Flora, presented in solander box, bound in buckram, 128 pages.

6 Feb 2017

How Unopiù Ushers Italian Riviera Into the Home

If there is ONE catalogue release that fills me with both excitement and anticipation, Unopiu's catalogue is it. Year upon year it comes up with a feast for the eyes, as much in terms of innovative product design and quality of materials, as in the photographic style and select photoshoot locations of geographical and architectural interest (Italian lakeside, Tuscany and seaside as appetizers, anyone?). We are talking the stuff of glossies, so if you happen to be an Architectural Digest aficionado, Unopiù is of that sleek calibre.

Therefore no dreaded dingy studio with zero art direction and snapshots on the cheap here! Everything is carefully thought out in its minute detail, and to the highest spec, from the products to the catalogue layout and quality of the paper itself. Talk about immersive experience, you got it right here at Unopiù!

Of course the catalogue's aim is not to detract, distract or deflect from the product ranges themselves. This is a retail company after all. The marketing material enhances what is to be expected when you shop from a place like Unopiù. Expect no-negotiable quality: weatherproof garden furniture, sturdy pergolas, homeware pieces that are made to stand out, and ingenious carports and greenhouses that become one with their surroundings.

All is delivered in style and originality and Unopiù shows us how it's done. I might be French and credit a little patriotic excellence in arts and design to my country where credit's due, there is however nothing like Italian design to tone that French chauvinism right down! Design italiano e bellissimo!

Source: All photography by Unopiù.

23 Jan 2017

Marble Effects

Spider veins, ombré streaks, swirls and translucence. Over its lifetime, nature has mastered the art of the marble effect to the point of sublimation where imagination becomes restriction. For us mere humans, to aim to emulate it in its depth of colour palette on a compressed timeline becomes a superfluous bout of vanity. But let us not be deterred by the feat. As long as it is not overdone, a marble effect is a chic and effective way of carrying a style or brand identity. The beauty of it is that, with a little talent and persistence, you can create it from scratch, without a slab of marble in sight!

Sources: (1-3) Nothing does it better than nature itself. Take a height and keep those peepers peeled because marble patterns occur naturally in the wild... with no marble in sight. Their majestic occurrence stands at the confluence of rivers, deltas and shorelines; it covers wide perimeters! Aerial photography in Australia by talented French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. (1) Sandbanks on the coast of Whitsunday Island, and (2) ibid., Queensland, Australia. (3) Shark Bay Sandbanks, L'Haridon Bight, Peron Peninsula, Western Australia. Those aerial seascapes exemplify nature's artistry at play. (4) In Chilean Patagonia, the aptly-named marble caves (Cuevas de Mármol) on Lake General Carrera display nature's intriguing marble sculptures. 'Marble Cathedral, Chile', photography by Karl-Heinz Raach, laif/ Redux, via National Geographic. From this point forward, anything manmade will irrevocably pale into less significance compared to nature's feat. (5) Yet would you believe this to be faux marble? Grand Antique by BVK Paintworks. Dutch master painter Barre Verkerke stands as close to nature as possible in his decorative representations. He applies his specialist skills to decoration and restoration projects alike. (6) Marbleised stationery is ever so stylish; when this is achieved by putting those seldom-used nail varnishes to good use, it's creative upcycling! Marbleizing Stationery by Kendra Smoot for A Cup of Jo, photography by Seth Smoot. (7) Why sweat the small stuff when you can purchase the template? Nude + Pink Marble Business Card Template by The Design Label (Meera G), via Creative Market.

P.S: Marble effects take on another dimension when paint is applied to a viscous water solution under the Ebru technique in order to (re)create a Fine Art painting that is then transferred to paper. Turkish artist Garip Ay shows us his step-by-step approach, recreating Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night (1889) and Self-Portrait (1887) to great effect:

12 Jan 2017

Plein Air Paintings by Calvin Liang

You do not get more outdoorsy than 'Plein Air'. And when nature and the elements lend themselves to the painter's magic, you get luminous landscapes that breathe the strength of the outdoors. Calvin Liang is a Plein Air painter who obviously loves sunkissed coastlines, and to view one of his paintings is to immerse oneself in a daytrip from the comfort of home. I wouldn't mind a couple of those on the walls of my living room, let me tell you! As much as I am sold, all of those paintings herein have been sold, which is usually (figuratively) the price to pay when faced with talent. This little daytrip of a post is also a trip down memory lane as I am revisiting places which I discovered back in Spring 2001, when I travelled to California; Laguna Beach and Carmel were firmly on my roadmap. Will be back!

Source: (1-7) Calvin Liang Fine Art. Chinese-born Calvin Liang is a highly-esteemed American Plein Air painter, a Master Member of Oil Painters of America and American Impressionist Society, and a Signature Member of California Art Club and Laguna Plein Air Painters Association.

Plein Air painting is an immersive Fine Art technique popularised in the 19th century in France. It takes painters out of the art studio and into the great outdoors, where the aim is to strive to recreate movement, light effects, luminosity as it is being experienced on location, at a particular time of day. Historically the mastery of natural light was the key element that defined the Impressionist movement. Plein Air developed further into Realism, Naturalism and Luminism, via the French Barbizon School and the American Hudson River School, praised for the detailed, lifelike, almost photographic quality of their landscapes.

Further Reading:

2 Jan 2017

Palm Beach for Starters

How else to start up 2017 than on a high note? As President-Elect Trump celebrated the holiday over at his Mar-a-Lago estate with his family and friends, Mirabelle is taking over Palm Beach for the New Year! Throughout the coming weeks, Mirabelle's #TrumpPower series will boldly bring you lifestyle examples that make you unashamedly aim high. The mindset is setting the tone for the forthcoming Trump presidency, where everyone will be encouraged and incentivised to aim high for themselves and their families, not to content with little or expect from the State to provide that meal ticket for life.

The new presidency is heralding an era that I define as hope materialised. Hope materialised takes off where the Obama & Co. administration failed as it promised hope and delivered nothing but division and warmongering under a socialist regime, where the idea of a strong, hard-working, ambitious, successful, proud, independent and patriotic America was derided. Hope materialised means the American nation's return to full-scale employment and prosperity. Now I am no fool: not everyone will ever be able to afford the Palm Beach lifestyle, and we do realise that even Palm Beach has its fair share of social problems. Yet I chose the locale specifically for my post because of its overall symbology of success and prestige - and good design. Don't look at Palm Beach as a tall order, look at it as a high aim!

If you seek Coastalicious and prestige rolled into one, Palm Beach - a stretch of barrier island in southern Florida a hop away from the Bahamas - is sure to cut the mustard. I have gleaned a few pictures and thrown in some decorative elements for good measure. Palm Beach shall be unashamedly recreated closer to home, courtesy of a colour trio scheme of pink, white and dark green, a gold lining for good measure, and a tropical theme of palm décor and wicker... and a pink flamingo or two. Entertain a little flamboyance (Chinoiserie) combined with a little restraint (design balance, geometric patterns, treillis and planters) and voilà! the Palm Beach theme is demure and sparkles like a Cotton Candy Champagne Cocktail at the exact same time. I believe Palm Beach has that Gemini kookiness!

"It is this eclectic mix of old and new, of Spanish and Caribbean, of contemporary design and sun-faded WASP thrift, that makes Palm Beach chic." - The Vendome Press

Sources: (1) The Palm Beach architectural style and interior design coffee table bibles include Palm Beach Chic by Jennifer Ash Rudick, photography by Jessica Klewicki Glynn, published by The Vendome Press in October 2015. The book gives us a ravishing insight into 25 exclusive Palm Beach homes. Daydreams to your days and sweet dreams to your nights are guaranteed! Book cover photography via The Glam Pad. (2) The essence of Palm Beach is encapsulated in this very picture: design-led poolside lifestyle of showroom quality, overpowering striped awning, oversized luxuriant flora (here hibiscus), rattan furniture, pink and dark green colour scheme, and an overall sense of design formality having fun. Historic renovation and extension ('Windsong Too' pavilion) of Windsong (cf Pict. #7), a 1939 Georgian Revival Palm Beach property, by Thomas Kirchhoff & Associates, interior decorator Mario Buatta. Photography by Scott Frances for the 'Master of Ceremonies' article by Architectural Digest magazine, July 2013 edition. (3-4) More stunning photography by Jessica Klewicki Glynn for Palm Beach Chic, via The Palm Beacher. (3) Welcome to the garden of Eden: lush and evergreen. Better come prepared: your furry friend and you might get a close poolside encounter with a snake or gator! (4) The magnificent stucco veranda serves as an outdoor living room that is anything but stuck up! Tchin-tchin to the blue chintz and rattan! (5) Dahlia Porcelain Flower by AERIN, via Neiman Marcus. No stranger to Palm Beach or to the coastal lifestyle for that matter, Aerin Lauder has produced a range of stylish homewares that will find themselves at home in coastal environments - and elsewhere. If beauty is on your mind, Aerin has it covered too. More about Aerin's collections from a previous Mirabelle post(6) The banyan trees of yesteryear are still to be found today around Palm Beach. This one, 'The Banyan Tree' was immortalised by American artist Emile Albert Gruppe (1896-1978); image via The Athenaeum. (7) Talking of banyan, those in the background at Windsong (cf Pict #2), frame this side of the garden in their curtain-like embrace. The stately exterior of the distinguished 1939 property is there to remind us that Palm Beach has been here a while. Traditional exterior designer, Bunny Williams Inc. Photography by Oberto Gili for the 'Glory Days' article by the now-defunct Home & Garden magazine, March 2006 edition, via Architectural Digest. Check out The Glam Pad for more Windsong sassiness! (8) Escape the Palm Beach locale and stay chic; a few miles down the road, quench the thirst of the day with a snazzy cocktail and soak up the retro-vintage ambience at Marion Miami. Take a 360° virtual tour peek here. Take a sip: Sherry Cobbler cocktail photography by Nicole Franzen. (9-10) Playa Grande Beach Club by Palm Beach-based Kemble Interiors marries Dominican insouciance with Palm Beach exuberance in order to produce "a fantastical medley of historic Dominican Victorian architectural elements mixed with the whimsy of Palm Beach garden follies."

31 Dec 2016

Uncork the New Year and Serve on Ice!

Can you believe how fast the year's gone? Or am I just being melodramatic? Years are catching up and yet it is impossible to catch up with them in their relentless travel. Meanwhile we can still catch up with things we would like accomplished and package them up into the sacro-sanct New Year's Resolutions so they don't merely sit on our mind like co-opted ideas - cue the Palm Beach post I had intended for Mirabelle but stalled on halfway through! The flipside about resolutions is their propensity to turn into resolutions of the unresolute variety: they end up diluted or deleted.

This shall be different in 2017. I'll see you on the other side of the New Year with my Palm Beach regalia! Until then, Cheers to NYE, My Lovelies!

Sources: (1) Twinkle, twinkle little star! Photography by Mirabelle. (2) Glam up the Champers with a dash of ice: Pomegranate Champagne Sorbet by The Cookie Rookie. (3) Lash out the cream: Chocolate Mini Cakes with Hazelnut Buttercream by The Vanilla Bean Blog. (4) Feel fruity for the New Year: A Fresh & Fancy Girlfriends Brunch by Coco Kelley.