Monday, April 14, 2014

Christopher Cope—A Very Talented Young Man

Christopher Cope—A Very Talented Young Man

About two years ago, a young florist came in to show me pictures of flowers and arrangements which he had done.  They were awfully, awfully pretty, and I asked him to do an arrangement for a photo shoot I was doing.  Since that day, I have recommended him over and over, and people always seem to really like him, so I thought I would show you some of his projects.  Always fun!

I guess I already knew about Christopher, because my dear friend, Carol Jankowsky, had already told me about him, but you know how it is.  Someone recommends someone, and you nod and say, yeah, why not? And then forget all about Said Person.  But Christopher followed up, and that’s why we really got together.  Morale of the Story: Follow Up.  Don’t say yeah and then forget about it.

Table setting by Leta Austin Foster
Palm Beach Illustrated Diamond Anniversary Issue

Now. Believe it or not, this picture shows how really talented Christopher actually is, because today, with flowers emphasizing, and rightly so, David Austin roses and lilies and eucalyptus seeds, Christopher was brave enough to do a 1960’s “do” of chrysanthemums and red roses, because the photo shoot’s subject was Jayne Wrightsman and her perfect house in 1960’s and 1970’s Palm Beach, so we were using the Luneville china and the embroidered cloth from Noël of Paris (all of which are still in fashion and thus sold in my boutique) and the flowers  (which are not still in fashion) needed to represent the period too.

Later, we were invited to do a table for the Lenox Hill dinner in New York which was to have a springtime theme.  We chose Springtime in the Serengeti, for which Christopher made a fabulous centerpiece of a giraffe made from leaves and flowers  (the adorable little “leopard skins” were made by Zenon Toczek while the cloth was made by Ven Tran in West Palm Beach out of a perfect Quadrille fabric, "Nairobi” in spring green)

Table setting by Leta Austin Foster
Lenox Hill Dinner in New York

 Every Monday he brings a new arrangement to the boutique—you need to come in on Monday afternoon or on Tuesday, so you can understand how really perfect they are—always original, always beautiful.  And they are usually small, so you can see how much you can do with small vases—even bud vases


Christopher Cope Collection
Images from

You can see how lovely they are—and how different.  These flowers have done him a good turn, too.  He has gotten several customers from them—he already had clientele as varied as Mrs. Rudolph Giuliani and Tiffany’s, and now he is being courted by others.  But he still takes the time to do each bouquet himself and to care about all the details.

Tiffany's 2011
Christopher Cope Event Florals

Christopher Cope Event Florals

That’s Christopher for you!  XOXOXOX  LETA

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Aqua--What Is It? Why Is It?

People are always asking me, “Do you like aqua?”  The answer is, “How could I not?” but maybe also, “How are you going to use it?”

Aqua can be a peaceful, soft colour, and I use it all the time.  Aqua curtains?  I love them.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

 Aqua printed fabrics?  I love them.

Room by Leta Austin Foster
Photograph Credit: Edward Addeo

 The checked fabrics on the sofa and the stool and the curtains are from Chelsea Editions while the printed linen on the walls is from Colefax & Fowler/Cowtan & Tout.  How could I not love these?

Room by Leta Austin Foster
Photograph credit:  Edward Addeo

 Of course, I love the old aqua paint of this lovely 18th century console which was sold by N. P. Trent when he had his beautiful shop on South Dixie in West Palm Beach.  This is just my kind of thing.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

Here we used various tones of aqua in the upholstery to pick up the beautiful pale aquas in the wallpaper (Brunschwig & Fils) and from the usual colour of the ocean outside—the day that picture was taken it was, sadly, more of a blue, but that’s the nice thing about aqua: it looks good with other aquas, blues, greens, and wonderful with beige or brown.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

I don’t just use it in fabrics and wallpaper, but I paint with it too.  This little chest, one of a pair, was painted in the Swedish manner, using Farrow & Ball’s “Pale Powder” and “Pointing”, separated by a thin gold line, by Adra Brown, a remarkably talented (and beautiful, even though that’s besides the point) artist in West Palm Beach.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

Heavy aqua linen makes the most luxurious curtains, especially when they are embroidered along the edges and lined and interlined as these beautiful curtains done by Paul Maybaum were…and the walls are the same “Pale Powder” painted talked about in the blurb about the furniture above.  I consider that paint my neutral.   

Room by Leta Austin Foster

I have used the pale powder blue again in the picture above, this time in the Swedish painting on the walls, again by the very talented Adra Brown and James Garza, both of West Palm Beach, which made a small Dining Room cum Sun Room look bigger and more important.  We used glorious aqua curtains with the leading edges and bottoms embroidered by Michael Savoia, one of America’s great embroiderers (  With the beautiful fabric and the rich linings and detail work by Paul Maybaum, these truly are works of art.  The aqua colour scheme is picked up again on the chairs and even in the table linens.  You can peek into the room behind this room, another Sun Room, and see that I am carrying my aqua colour scheme on in the rattan chairs painted in aqua green, a la Nancy Lancaster.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

So do I like Aqua as a colour inside the house.  I love it, but with a caveat.  Don’t go too strong.  What looks great in a picture in House Beautiful may not be too livable in the long run.  Look at the two pictures below.

These rooms are just not livable—at least for an appreciable length of time.  Those blue-greens are just too! Too!  And they are just too cutsie.  And that brings me to my philosophy.  Houses are NOT fashion.  They are not done with tricks.  No matter how many cunning articles (“101 ways to Use Aqua in Your House” “Fun Tricks with Aqua as shown by a Master”), a house should be decorated to last a l-o-o-o-ng time.  Decoration, especially good decoration, is just too expensive to try and be fashionable.  I will never forget reading the “In” and “Out” columns of a famous fashion newspaper, and in November of one year, they said that the really “In” thing was to have all your linens by Porthault.  Only the following January, Porthault linens were listed on the top of the “Out”.  Might make good reading; certainly wouldn’t make happy readers.

But surely you won’t do any of those horrible things, not you, my loyal readers.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What About Lavender

What do you think of when you think of the South of France?  Besides Cezanne and ratatouille and bouillabaisse and limestone villages with verges of broom along the roads?  I always think of lavender……great fields of it….

With the air around it all perfumed.  Whenever I smell lavender, it makes me remember France and how much I love it.  I must be Nancy Mitford at heart.  And thinking about lavender makes me think of the colour, lavender, that most quintessentially French of all colours.  Lavender as walls…..

 Mario Buatta’s 1984 Kips Bay House Master Bedroom
Photo credit Architectural Digest

Everybody loves this room with its beautiful blue and white curtains and the lovely, airy bed hangings, but did you realize the walls are lavender?  Yes.  It’s the lavender walls that set off so wonderfully those same blue and white curtains.  What genius!

And so are the walls in the two rooms by Katie Ridder shown below.

Pictures by Elle Décor Magazine

Those rooms above had painted walls, but what if the walls were hung in lavender and white striped paper?

Or in a lavender toile?

It’s such a versatile colour that you can use a little or a lot.

A little...
Fabrics  by Cowtan and Tout
Or a lot...

Those were rooms with a lot of lavender, but notice how the little bit of lavender in this whimsical pattern by Clarence House perks up the pillow on the almost white settee.

Fabrics by Clarence House

I love lavender in linens such as these from D. Porthault available at my boutique in Palm Beach (e-mail

 Pois de Senteur 

And if Porthault is too staggering for your budget, then look at these really nifty linens which Matouk has made in collaboration with Lulu D. K. (Lulu de Kwiakowski)—so chic and also available at my store.

Or you could have a desk set including a wonderful lamp from one of our companies which I love the best, Isis Ceramics in Oxford, England.

Picture courtesy of Leta Austin Foster Boutique

I love antique porcelain such as this dressing table set—an early 19th century English one—you could find beautiful ones like this at Sotheby’s or Christie’s, or if you don’t like auctions, go to James Robinson or Bardith in New York City.  They have all sorts of beautiful antique porcelain in lavender.

I love lavender glassware such as these “olde” French glasses from Ballard Designs.

And I can’t help but love this little shield lamp shade from Abat Jour in New York (although I would not have used shiny passementerie on it).  Put in a little dressing room with lavender and white shirting-stripe walls—over a lovely dressing table with a skirt of dotted swiss,  I mean, how could you not?

April is my birthday month, and its flower is a sweet pea—my favourite and the best smell.  Long Live Lavender!!


P.s. While I love lavender, do not—repeat—do not use lavender coloured candles in hurricanes—yuck!  And for those of you who want to read the really “French” books in Nancy Mitford’s oeuvre, they are

The Pursuit of Love
The Blessing

Don’t Tell Alfred

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Outdoor Rugs

I usually hate artificial things—I am your old-fashioned Luddite in love with silk and cotton and cashmere.  Well, who wouldn’t love those?  And when it comes to rugs, I am absolutely Miz Sisal, Miz Wool, etc.  but  now, there are new rugs on the market which really have to be considered.  They are the new outdoor rugs from almost everybody—everybody good, that is.

I think credit for the Really Big Idea and Marketing of these has to go to Dash and Albert

I love this company—their outdoor rugs truly look like cotton throw rugs, and they come in jolly wide stripes such as “Catamaran”, shown here in denim and ivory.  This pattern comes in several colours, including a really bold coral for those of you who want to really say something.

Catamaran by Dash and Albert

They make wonderful multi-stripes too, and over-all patterns.  Go to their website, and go to Outdoor Rugs.  And when you are finished the rugs, you will even find Outdoor poufs.

And if it were your desire, Outdoor Woofs, which are really great looking dog beds.

Just great!

I am working on my project of redecorating The Hillsboro Club in South Florida, and I noticed how tired and stained the rugs in the great Living Room and Reception were.  This is a heavily trafficked area, since the guests come here to read and chat and have tea in the afternoon and cocktails before dinner.  I spoke to my dear, dear friend, Luis Ventura, at Stark Carpet down in Dania, because he told me that Stark was making some wonderful polypropylene carpets for indoor/outdoor use.  I begged for samples.  Luis drops into our office every Thursday, but I am not always there.

Anyway, a month passed—no samples.  I called up and grouched.

“But I brought you those samples a month ago,” protested Luis.

“But where did you put them?” I replied.  He told me that he had laid them on a small stack which I had right by my desk chair, and he had.  There they were.  I just thought they were sisal samples, and didn’t go through them right away.  That’s how real they looked.

Here is one used on an outdoor porch at the Hamptons Show House

 Room by Christina Murphy, Christina Murphy Interiors. Photography by Marisa Marcantonio,

Stark has great sisal designs, with patterns woven in them, but you will need to go to your Stark Showroom (you will need a decorator or architect for this), since they are not yet on their website.  It will be worth the trip, I promise you.

When I finish the big Living Room at Hillsboro, I promise I will post pictures of it, and you will be able to see for yourself how great the rugs are.

Now, look at these rugs.

You can get really almost whatever colours you want, and there is a plethora of designs.  Just remember, don’t go over the top—what you would have like indoors is pretty much what you would like outside.  And don’t get cute.

And remember Astroturf?

It doesn’t have to be like that anymore.


Monday, February 24, 2014

A Great Steak Dinner

There is a restaurant in Tampa, Florida, called Bern’s Steak House, which used to be famous for  having the greatest wine cellar in Florida.  That might very well have been true as this was the late 60’s, and America had not yet gotten into its wine-crazy days.  Anyway, the first time I was taken there (since it was also famous for its dry aged steaks), I saw that they had steak with pasta for a side dish.  I had never heard of that, but I can only tell you that it is a wonderful combination.  

The wine cellar at Bern's Stakehouse

Even though decades have passed,  I still love a good steak accompanied by a yummy pasta salad. Here in Palm Beach spring has already arrived (yesterday was in the 80’s), and that brings thoughts (to me at least) of summer barbeques.  If you are not lucky enough to be in South Florida, you can still practice with this meal, one of my very favourites.


Now, there are certain things you MUST have to make this dish:
1. A gas broiler or salamander—if not, wait for those barbeques
2. A  really good, very sharp knife—it needs to be heavy at the spine and razor sharp in order to chop tomatoes
3. A really good pepper grinder such as a Peugeot

STEAK for two
Ingredients:  a very good strip steak, large and at least 1 ½” thick—I like the grass-fed
Steaks from Whole Foods.  This steak should weight at least a pound
A red chili-pepper infused olive oil such as Pepperolio from Colavita
A good steak seasoning such as Whole Foods own or McCormick Montreal Steak
Fresh new black peppercorns (I keep mine in the freezer)
2 really good medium sized tomatoes—ours come from the Everglades area now, and are quitegood—tomatoes must be good for this dish or omit them
A nice sized handful of fresh basil--I grow my own herbs 
A smallish half-handful of fresh Italian parsley
Olive oil
Freshly chopped good aged Reggiano Parmigiana

At least an hour before broiler pour the tiniest bit of the Pepperolio on the steak and rub it around so that the entire steak is covered, including the fat.  Then sprinkle liberally with the Steak Seasoning—depending on the size of your steak) and give it at least 10 twists of the pepper grinder.  Let it sit on its broiling pan—if you want to cover it lightly, please do, but don’t let the covering touch it or it might remove some of the seasoning.

20 minutes before serving, bring a pot of water to a high boil.  Salt it and add ½ bag of a good pasta—any shape, and bring back to a boil giving it a stirring if it seems stuck together.  Cook according to suggested time on pasta bag.

While water is boiling, chop finely the herbs with your good knife.  Slide to one side of cutting board.  Coarsly chop the two tomatoes by slicing them first and then chopping.  Do not remove the skins which should be tender if the tomatoes are good.  Slide to the side of the board.  Coarsly chop the Reggiano.  Slide to the side of the board.

Turn broiler on high and with rack quite close to the flame.  When it is at full flame, put steak under the fire and broil quickly, getting to a charry crust in places on the surface of the steak, and turning it once only.  Should cook in about 10-11 minutes for charry outside, then pink, then red in the very middle.  Take out of flame and put on cutting board to rest.

Drain pasta quickly.  While draining, coat the bottom of the pasta pot with a thin layer of good olive oil.  Turn heat to low and add back the pasta and any little bit of water that remains.  Add quickly the chopped tomato, herb, cheese mixture, stir in.

Slice the steak thinly and serve along with the pasta.  This is a great meal which can be made very, very quickly.  In fact, it must.  That’s why the practicing is good.

I don’t serve anything with this for just Ridgely and me, but if you had people over, and had double the recipes or more, you could have a good crusty bread to mop up the steak juice.  Yummy.