Light and Dark

Architectural Digest

I'm just back from visiting my parents in Florida and did not have a chance to keep up with my daily perusal of the New York Times. So, on the bus to work today I read this article in the Times from last week about Duane Hampton, wife of the late interior decorator Mark Hampton. Mrs. Hampton is quite a lady and it seems she and her husband had quite a life together.

This is the living room of the Hampton's Southampton home from 1996. According to the AD article, Hampton painted the walls dark brown because "dark walls are warm in winter and cool in summer." Oh, of course. Perfectly logical. He makes it sound so simple. Yet, perhaps there should be a caption for us average folk...don't try this at home. I wish I'd had the foresight (not to mention the nerve) to try this, including the jumble of different style chairs. The room looks so undecorated and unplanned. Was that the point? I am curious about what Hampton's process was for creating this room, if there was one. Maybe I'm over planning and over analyzing when it come to "decorating" my own home. Could it really be so simple? Naturally, I'll spend some time pondering this theory. On the bus.

Shells, Part II

You may remember the Shells, Part I post from a few weeks ago where I was looking for inspiring ways to display my shell collection in a non-beachy way. I asked readers to leave comments with suggestions and not only did some great ideas come my way, but also photos too. The above photo was sent to me by reader and interior designer, Sue Murphy ( This is a display Sue created for a client and the image really knocked my socks off. It's a brilliant idea to pile large shells in an antiqued wire urn. The urn has a classic shape, gives some height to the arrangement and lets one see the color and texture of each shell. This is gorgeous and definitely a departure from the beachy look.

Here's another photo from Sue Murphy of the same home and it also has a decidedly French feel. Shells are piled high into a silver bowl on a silver tray, surrounded by old books and candles. A huge French trumeau reflects the vignette and tops an elaborately carved console. I love everything about this image and the soft coral colored accent wall and iron lantern contribute to the vintage French feel.
A close-up of the photo above. If this is a small area of the house, the rest of the home is sure to be just as beautiful and detailed. Maybe Sue will fill us in (hint, hint)!

This image is stored in my "The One That Got Away" file. A pretty silver tray like this that I saw on ebay would be an elegant way to display a collection of shells, don't you think?
Sue also shared this photo of shells in a concrete urn from her own kitchen. Such a classic look!

Here's a more holiday type of display for shells, but this could work year round too. A French gilt console with a black lacquered top holds topiary, lamps and shells in glass vessels. This is the home of Luce Gayrard and was featured in the November 2008 issue of Canadian House and Home (photo by Angus McRitchie).

A close-up of the above image. The glass urn in the background is so versatile for displaying shells, flowers or Christmas ornaments. Again, I like how the individual shells can be seen through the glass and the black accents of the console and lamp shades really set off the pale colors of the shells. Beautiful.

When looking for over-the-top elegant inspiration, I always turn to Veranda Magazine. There's a lot to see in this photo of Kay O'Toole's former home in the April 2007 issue. But, my point is that although most of the elements in this room may be unattainable for most of us--the antique chairs and French Aubusson rug, among other things--anyone can find an old metal urn and fill it with shells for a pretty display. I plan to try this for my dining table this summer and put flowers elsewhere in the room for a change of pace.
Lastly, here's a photo of a table in my home with coral and a small sample of my shell collection.
I hope you enjoyed this post about displaying shells and please let me know if you have any other ideas or images to share.
Happy Shelling!

Happy Weekend!

Wrest Park near Bedfordshire, England
photo via