Elegant Mayhem | A haven for lifestyle and home inspiration.
Elegant Mayhem blog, Lee Prince, Leland Prince, home lifestyle inspiration
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I have been slightly obsessed with Carolina Herrera for years – from investing my own meager funds in college to buy her eponymous perfume, to more recently ogling her at NY Fashion Week. So you can imagine my shock when I opened the New York Times 2 wks ago to find she is “stepping down” and handed the creative reins over to a young designer, Wes Gordon. What??! I’m in a bit of withdrawl so I decided to create a post on her and sum up the things I admire about her so much:

Lesson #1:  It’s never too late to pursue your passion or start a business.  Mrs. Carolina Herrera was 40 years old when she started her fashion house. And according to the research, older entrepreneurs often have more success and staying power than their younger cohorts. (If you don’t believe me, there’s lots of data on Harvard Business Review site – I just grabbed one quick study in the link here).

Wall Street Journal

Annie Leibovitz

….but she had always been a clothes horse & took the plunge into creating the kinds of sophisticated but wearable clothes she wanted for herself. The rest (designing Caroline Kennedy’s wedding gown, dressing legions of successful working women and Hollywood actresses) is history!

Lesson #2: Dressing appropriately does not have to mean being boring No one else seems to make a crisp poplin shirt and a pencil skirt look as chic – and effortless – as Carolina Herrera.

Veranda

It’s clear she knows what is flattering for her and she edits out anything that doesn’t! As she told the Wall Street Journal:  “The secret to aging gracefully is knowing what looks good on you at all ages. If you try to dress in a young way when you’re old, you’re going to look even older.”  

Mimi Ritzen Crawford

She sticks to tried and true formula of clean lines, impeccable fit & tailoring with quality fabrics – which is pretty accessible advice for all of us, regardless of age, size, budget…(Note to self: get to the tailor!)

Lesson #3: Creativity and style have so many different forms – why not have some fun and explore things a little bit more??  Whether her choice of museums (i.e; The Frick in NYC) as a backdrop for her fashion shows, her support of artists over the years or simply upholstering her living room in silk, Mrs. Herrera certainly knows how to put exuberance into everything she does — and have fun along the way!

Her NYC dining room and dressing room (via InStyle):

Her portrait by legendary photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe:

Her NYC retail headquarters in her signature brown and white stripes:

Always with a dog nearby…even in the office:

So in conclusion, I love that she embodies the French expression “il vaut la peine” – meaning, it’s worth making the effort to do things with a little extra oomph…but she also has a well-rounded approach that seems to say – and YET, don’t take things too seriously. Have some fun!  That’s a formula for living well that makes me smile – and sit up a little bit straighter.

 

Hope she inspires you as much as she does me. If not, tell me who does so I can soak up some more inspiration!

 

Thanks & cheers,

Lee

It’s the time of year when we all need a boost to stay motivated, right? For me, that energy almost always comes from entertainment or infotainment — some way to get out of my own head & think about or LAUGH about something else. I’ve been lucky lately, finding all kinds of stuff to keep me engaged. Check these out & feel free to add your own favorites in the Comments so we can ALL enjoy!

 

Here goes:

 

SHOWS

 

I’ve recently been binging on Netflix “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” (never mind that Jerry Seinfeld was sued for creative rights yesterday — just enjoy it while you can!). The one with Chris Rock is great, so is Obama, Steve Harvey, Kristen Wiig, Julia-Louis Dreyfus….and all of them really. They’re short, snappy pieces – highly recommend. (Note: the ones with Steve Martin & Tina Fey show them to be much more shy in real life & are a little slower).

Also Jerry Seinfeld related – the documentary “Jerry Before Seinfeld” is hilarious. Set in NYC & Long Island in the late ‘70s, the documentary showcases Jerry Seinfeld’s unbelievably modest beginnings in comedy and gives very entertaining behind-the-scenes look at stand up comedy.

On the other end of the spectrum, check out Finding Vivian Maier (also Netflix). It is a crazy but true story of a prolific, rock-star talented photojournalist who was NEVER published in her lifetime. Vivian Maier worked as a nanny all her life and no one even knew she was a real photographer — until after her death when boxes of negatives were discovered by accident.  She’s now worldwide famous & collectible…Must see!

PODCASTS 

 

I’ve got all of these in rotation on my iTunes line-up….some are nourishing for the soul, others for the bottom line….all interesting & useful!!

 

* She Did It Her Way, with Amanda Boleyn

* Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice by the Best in the World, hosted by Tim Ferriss

 

* How I Built This, with Guy Raz (check out the one on my friend, Framebridge CEO & Founder Susan Tynan!!)

 

* The Influencer Podcast, by Julie Solomon

* Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations

 

* The Moment with Brian Koppelman (thx to Virginia Onufer for this suggestion from my last post on podcasts!)

ONLINE

I’m going to do a whole other post on the online course landscape because there are SO many great offerings out there right now. For the moment, I’ll just throw out one: Skillshare. They have a combination of free and “premium” classes, which are still very inexpensive — with lectures and really hands-on info about branding, design, productivity, marketing, fundraising, you name it.

I signed up for the premium subscription & have loved the classes taught by Seth Godin, Bloglovin, Wit & Delight & more.

 

Please throw out any other suggestions you have so we can all stay inspired through these dark days of winter!!

 

cheers,

Lee

If you missed the epic Bunny Mellon sale a couple years ago, here’s your chance to ogle another great American collection, which Christie’s and all experts agree could easily be the highest-grossing auction of all time. But much more important than the sheer size of the collection is how clearly personal it is, representing a lifetime of thoughtful collecting by the late David & Peggy Rockefeller who were married for over 50 years.

 

Here, one of my favorite paintings by Jamie Wyeth:

As art doyenne Agnes Gund told Vanity Fair:  “David and Peggy’s houses were always . . . very warm and homey” and that comes through in the residential images from Christie’s photographs.

While grand and rarefied, their houses were family houses – not museums. Their rooms were filled with children, art, flowers, and layers of real life….

You can get a better sense of David & Peggy Rockefeller’s point of view and lifestyle in this fascinating video narrated by their son. What impressed me was how he discusses his parents’ love of beauty, whether formal art or in nature (the couple was deeply involved in philanthropy, of course, including many conservation causes).

Edouard Manet (1832–1883), Lilas et roses, 1882. Oil on canvas. 12¾ x 9¾ in

I’m kind of OBSESSED with their art. I want to say “who wouldn’t be?!” but lately I feel like I’m the only one who likes representational, pretty paintings. As a friend with a great eye said to me, the zeitgeist is now towards art that is “challenging,” which makes you confront certain subjects (like dead animals floating in formaldehyde a la the Saatchi collection – remember the controversy at the Brooklyn Museum with Mayor Guiliani a few years ago??).

Claude MonetNymphéas en fleur, circa 1914-1917. Oil on canvas. 63⅜ x 71⅛ in

Henri Matisse, Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, painted in Nice, 1923. Oil on canvas. 23¾ x 31⅞ in

The collection also has some beautiful works by Picasso, Ingres, endless sets of porcelain, furniture and antique accessories, you name it.  AND lots of Asian art – hence the show is going to go to Beijing and Shanghai this April. The NYC auction date is still TBD, but expected to be announced soon. I’ll keep you posted!

 

I myself am an armchair collector, with my major inve$tment being the auction catalogs which are AMAZING. Mine from the Jackie O. auction is completely dog-eared (& btw, highly collectible now that it’s out of print!).

 

Are there any auctions coming up that you’re following? If so, please let me know & it would be fun to explore/share with rest of the readers! (email me Lee@ElegantMayhem.com)

 

Enjoy,

Lee

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege and fun of going to London with friends and discovering neighborhoods I’d never seen before – Shoreditch, Clerkenwell, and Islington – which were full of young professionals, working artists, graffiti murals and amazing original boutiques.

We stumbled into the studio/shop of Charlene Mullen, whose name was new to me (& of course since then, I’ve seen her name and her work everywhere!). She has a background in art and worked for years in fashion before making her debut in luxury homewares — now with an active shop in London, a line for Royal Doulton, private clients for custom work & frequent exhibits in Milan, Paris, et. al. 

If you’re looking for a fresh, original souvenir from London, Paris, New York or any of the other locales she illustrates, you’ll find great options on her site. Here are a few of my favorites:

I LOVE this lamp with illustrated shade featuring London skyline!

How great would this extra long pillow of NYC look on a sofa??

Or these fun ones of the London Eye – in daytime or night time palettes…

Here’s a shot from her store – beautiful graphics everywhere!

In a world where home goods can be so homogenized now, I just love that she has such a specific design point of view. She seems to soak it up from the surrounding neighborhood & her classical training in illustration….

(Graffiti mural nearby)

Her calling card:

Even the floors in the shop are stylized! Geometric, colorful tiles….(also avail for sale)

Charlene was creating sketches and putting together pieces on her drawing table while we there — if something is sold out online, you can connect with her to discuss a custom project or two. I’m obsessed with the work she had on display in the shop (also does embroideries that can be framed, etched glass, you name it), seen here:

I highly recommend this area of London is you want a very original, non-touristy view of their thriving artistic community. But if you can’t get there, enjoy a snippet of this little video that gives you a flavor of what Charlene’s creative world is all about…

Enjoy & thanks for your patience with me in my blogging break!  I’m VERY excited for this New Year, my improved health and many upcoming creative projects. My friend Jen & I will be at the Design Bloggers conference in LA, March 4-6 so West Coast friends, I hope to see you soon!!

 

Cheers,

Lee

If you enjoy feeling all the highs and lows of every emotion, why not move from a big house in the suburbs with 25 years of marital accumulation and squeeze into a tiny rowhouse downtown? Oh, and don’t forget to bring the husband, the 2 kids and a couple of dogs – it will be fun!

 

The kitchen in my new house (before we landed there & covered the counters with appliances & condiments!:)

Our ingenious builder, Linda Battalia, designed the kitchen with a ladder that can be moved all around the room to reach the pretty mirrored upper cabinets for extra storage.

No time to prune and deaccession your belongings before the Big Move Day? No problem! You can figure that out when you get there….right??…maybe???

 

Yes, this is a true story of how I moved my family & all our worldly possessions into the rowhouse below, a mere 4 weeks ago. It has been an epic adventure and completely worth the effort….but  moving is truly NOT for the faint hearted!

 

Mid-progress move-in to new house….what once belonged in separate living room & dining room in our old house are now essentially one shared room, in about 1/3 the overall space. Lots of decisions to make about what stays vs. what goes…

This is how the dining room in our new house looked when we bought it, all pretty & staged:

I’m an eternal optimist and I ADORE our new house, so as customary, I downplayed how hard it would be to in fact, downsize. The actual move was pretty straightforward, but the MOVE IN was really hard because we couldn’t figure out what would work in the new space — and we might have had a few dozen too many chairs, tables, lamps & random boxes….

 

Below – our trash on the curb in front of our neighbor’s house (she must love us!:(

However, when you move to a smaller place, you end up using the space differently than you think you will, so in some ways I’m glad we took more than we needed because it gave us options to make adjustments. We’ve become a familiar face A Wider Circle, an incredible DC-based charity that helps families in need get established in new housing, as I’ve made literally dozens of drop-off of furniture/household items.

 

So there you have it – a snapshot of my past 6 weeks! I will be back to writing you 2x weekly blog reports from now on and have so much new material to share. A trip to London sandwiched in between the move-in date was a great visual feast of great design inspiration — stay tuned & hope you all are taking good care of yourself during the Holidays!

 

At the end of the day, we do what we can and that’s ENOUGH.

 

(Where I put my head down at the end of hard day of unpacking:)

Cheers,
Lee

I’m not a real estate professional, but thankfully I work with a great one, my longtime friend Hans Wydler of Wydler Brothers!  Hans sold our previous home in record time and did so again this time around, with contracts submitted just 1 week after first listing.  My husband & I were not “planning” to move from our house below this Fall after 12 happy years here, but the chance to try a different lifestyle (moving from Washington DC suburbs to closer downtown, in Georgetown) kind of fell into our lap & so our move is ON — officially set for 10 days from now (gulp!).

I’ve learned so much from Hans about how to properly stage & present your house for potential buyers — am slightly too exhausted from the frenzy of past 2 wks to do this justice, but here are a few shots from the photo shoot his team did at our house, and some suggestions I learned along the way…I hope they might be helpful to you if you are in the market too!??

1. The front hall: first impressions count. You don’t have to clean out every single closet, but make sure the ones near the entry are fairly tidy. And keep the palette as neutral as you can, as well as clearing all non essentials (the umbrella stand for instance was in the garage by time that potential buyers came through!).

2.  Living Room – I’m not a big tchotke person, but even I had to go through it with a fine tooth comb to remove extra knick-knacks that might not appeal to everyone. I collect decorative turtles for instance (my favorite childhood pet!), and have some very special ones – my brother in law brought back a carved one from South America, my mom gave me a sweet little brass one… But poof! They did not make the cut for the Open House.

3. Master bedroom – lose all the personal momentos and family photographs. Apparently no potential buyer wants to really visualize WHO lives in the house — they want to picture themselves in the space, kind of like a hotel – keeping it a blank, but hopefully inviting, slate.

4. Get the exterior shots done on a sunny day, or at least a clear one. Hans’ team purposely timed the brochure shoot for a bright day and the results below (no filter as far as I know!) were great.

5.  Take out the screens for increased clarity of window scapes during the shoot and the Open House.  It takes some effort but really does yield a clearer view, as you can see in our Family Room/Breakfast area below….(PS, the flowers throughout the house were via Lilac & Page (follow their amazing floral images on Instagram @lilacandpage!).

6.  Edit, edit, edit!!  My dressing closet below got a good thorough purge (yes, most of my clothes are now in the basement so you will no doubt see me wearing the SAME thing every day for a while. We can’t have it all, can we??:)

MORE RESOURCES — I am indebted to my very talented friend Carol Seitz, who is a partner in Cull and Tend, a concierge home and move management firm in the DC area. Carol is incredibly supportive and gets how stressful moving can be – but gently prods you to make really effective choices and decisive action in the process.  Thank you, Carol!!

I also benefited from a consult with staging expert and designer Tyler Whitmore (sample image of her work below). Tyler walked through all my piles in all four floors of our house as I was figuring out how in the world I could get it ready for an Open House in 5 days!  She encouraged me to just keep winnowing things down so that potential buyers can really see the space and envision themselves there. I loved her artistic eye combined with good practical sense. Very helpful!

SO there you have it. As my brain cells return later in the process, I’ll try to pass along more tips. I would never have thought we could have made such a big undertaking happen this Fall, but with great advice & support from these kinds of professionals (& good friends!), it really was a pretty straightforward process. I won’t say “easy” because it is definitely a ton of work. But knowing that there’s a clear path – a method to the madness – made it quite doable.

 

Stay tuned for Part II – the actual moving process! Ayayaya…

 

Cheers,

Lee

1. Get inspired: listen and read everything Morra Aarons-Mele! Morra’s podcast via Forbes, called Hiding in The Bathroom, is fantastically good.

Morra has an intense but gentle style that makes for an easy, informed listen. I particularly loved Episode 40, her conversation with Stacy London about “what to wear” – which hints at dressing for work but is really for all occasions – I found it very helpful! Also loved the episodes #32 & #36 on Self-Care, which we all need more help with, right??

Morra’s new book of the same name just came out & I’m delighted to be able to go to party in her honor tonight.

She & I spoke a couple of weeks ago about some career questions I was wrestling with and she gave me terrific insights – and encouragement. She’s got very substantive but practical advice in all her platforms….

2. Serena & Lily’s new home collection for Fall. I’m a huge fan of this brand but have felt, and heard others comment, that their catalogs were getting really stale – so little new inventory, high price point, repetitious design style…. BUT this Fall’s lineup offers 500+ new pieces, expanded color palette –more gold and grays — has lots to enjoy…

I still think the price points are too high overall (I’m not in the market for a $600 casual throw blanket and won’t pay $2,500+ for a dhurrie rug), but I found many great new pieces that had right value & look for me. Some favorites:

Trestle Coffee Table – $898. I’m obsessed with this and wish I didn’t already have a blue one I loved!:)

I also love the Reese Coffee Table – a little more expensive but also probably much more versatile too so you can use it in different rooms/houses over time…

Knolls Wood Trimmed Pendant – $198. ADORE this!! I think I have the perfect spot for it in New Hampshire…if I go for it, I’ll send along updated post with them installed. Please let me know if anyone has this or would use it in a kitchen??

3. Behold the power of ThumbtackMaybe you prefer Task Rabbit or another online helper service?

I find Thumbtack has greater network in my area (Washington DC metropolitan area) than other services, but that’s personal preference. The point is to explore some kind of of online helper service so you can outsource things you are NEVER gonna finish yourself!!  

Since I’m in the midst of moving, my needs have expanded & I’ve found GREAT helpers — a carpet cleaner who was more than 50% less expensive and just as good as my usual service….local movers who helped me take heavy boxes from inside the house to the garage…a handyman to do bunch of last minute fix-its….

I’m going sing the slacker song again – I just think that TOO much is expected of all of us and that we need turn-key, affordable support to get certain tasks done! So let go of the guilt and know that you can easily get qualified help asap. No haggling over fees or scheduling – it’s all online & super straightforward (including customer reviews & transparent feedback).

 

Now, with my tasks done, I will be turning my attention to HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 9 Premiere — which could be a 4th thing I do really love!!

Hope you all are feeling a little more inspired…?? Shoot me an email (lee@elegantmayhem.com) with other tips that work for you & I’ll incorporate into upcoming posts! (MBT, you know who you are — thank you for the update re: Coatigans….I’ll be sharing that with everyone soon!)

cheers,

Lee

Last week was my husband & my 21st anniversary, bittersweet because it was same day as a memorial fundraiser for our late friend & Best Man, Bob Miller. So there was no celebration exactly but there was some talk about our time together. “You’ve done some CRAZY stuff in the decades we’ve been together,” Ted said, “but THIS… is by FAR…. the craziest yet,” shaking his head. “This” is our decision to put our house on the market and move to this place….a 19th century row house in a historic part of DC, Georgetown.

Limited parking. Urban hassles. FAR less room. Practically no storage. But with one daughter in college and another one on the way, we just don’t need as much room anymore and it felt right to make a move.

 

I’ll send along more photos and projects as we get further along, but for starters, here’s the Master Bedroom…..

And there are charming touches throughout – how do you like my reflection in the vintage doorknobs? I’m SO professional, I know! 🙂

Second floor bedroom – great light (arguably too much, my daughter Avery will say – note to self: visit The Shade Store asap)

I completely adore my current house & I’ll be nostalgic to leave. For example, this is the last house that my mom visited us at (but ironically, the Georgetown house has a very similar feel to HER last house, in Guilford, Connecticut in a renovated 19th century foundry building).  It is where our kids rode their bicycles in the cul de sac and the site of not just our 50th bday party but our 40th as well…

The blogerati will tell me this photo below is not crisp enough, but who cares, I’m just showing you a “real” slice of how we live – so many meals eaten, newspapers read, homework completed at this table (which my mom bought at a private sale at The Pierre Hotel in NYC when they updated their conference suites a few years ago).  A lot of history. So yes, the table will come with us. And a lot of great memories…

Has anyone else made a move when their kids finished high school? any tips much appreciated!

Hope everyone is enjoying Fall –

Stay tuned….!

Leave it to the British to come up with the perfect word for that in-between layer everyone wants when it starts to turn chilly: the coatigan.  Part coat, part cartigan, 100% comfortable & ideally not a mushy sweater fabric that loses its structure over time. I got a great one last year from MM LaFleur but couldn’t find any from them this season so I rounded up a few alternatives, below.

Do you have any sources you like for this in-between season layer? Please comment or email me (lee@elegantmayhem.com) so I can spread the word – thanks!

Love these two options from London-based (now Stateside too), The White Company…..contrast lined one in taupe/marl:

And another one with black leather piping and sleeves (also from the White Company) – great accent…

While not “technically” a coatigan – I doubt anyone enforces the term:) — this wrap from J. McLaughin is super useful because it’s reversible and serves as that in-between kind of layer…

I’m having deja vu that I’ve posted this alpaca cape from Cuyana before, but I still haven’t ordered! I find Cuyana to have really high quality at good price point.

Also from Cuyana, this oversized turtleneck looks like really versatile piece:

Last but not least, this sleeveless wrap vest would be great instead of a bulky jacket (& arguably more attractive than the shrunken, faded down vest from J. Crew that I inherited from my teenage daughters’ middle school closet….which I CONTINUE to wear! Someone please force me to make an effort in this category – it’s time.

Happy Fall to everyone!

Best,
Lee

I recently had a really cool experience in NYC as a guest panelist on Sirius XM’s “Tastemakers” show, hosted by the multi-talented Pauline Garris Brown, a friend and fellow Dartmouth classmate.  Her show is packed with tips and inspiration for living a beautiful life, so I was honored to be included in the conversation!

Photo by Albert Cheung, courtesy of Shoptiques

The episode I was on featured the legendary interior designer Jamie Drake of Drake/Anderson (you know, Madonna’s decorator, no big deal:) — here are images of his  redesign of NYC’s Gracie Mansion for former Mayor Bloomberg….

— and architect Tom Fox of Fox Diehl who has done projects all over the world, including a beautiful house for Pauline & her family in Long Island. Below is a recent residential project by Fox Diehl:

We all got to weigh in on the very fun subject of creative expression in home design — how to make your space personal and unique to YOU.  You can listen to the full discussion HERE, which was packed with so many interesting tidbits including:
Without ______, Jamie Drake believes your room will never truly be alive or successful
 
What’s the quickest, least expensive way to freshen a room? (hint, it’s much easier & less $ than paint)
 
* How to ensure that your home renovation grows WITH you and your family’s needs over time
 
* The role of color, millwork and unique details (i.e; window style, outdoor lighting) in giving your space a distinctive identity

Bellport residence by Drake Anderson

Pauline brings together diverse guests (top photographers, landscape architects, fashion designers, and design enthusiasts) who share one big thing in common: a passion for beauty. She’s also a senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School and teaches a course called “The Business of Aesthetics” — a subject she knows well, since she was previously Chairman of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH)/North America. Below is an out-take from our session — we had a great time together!

Tune in on Sirius XM “Stars” channel 109, Saturdays at 5 pm, or Sundays at 9 am ET for more great conversations about incorporating style into your day to day life.
 
Thanks to Pauline & everyone at Sirius XM!