Thursday, July 26, 2012

SPAIN, Part 3: Riding with the Gypsies

When we decided to go to Spain, the first thing I did was call my friend (who happens to be my husband's first wife) to find out where we should take our horse-fanatic daughter riding in the countryside. The first Mrs Brooks is a fan and connoisseur of all things riding and all things Spanish and she has great taste, so I knew she was just the person to ask. She thought Trasierra would be prefect for us, as its causal enough for kids but chic-enough to make adults happy, and there is great riding nearby.

So on our third day at Trasierra we booked an 8:30pm ride (it's way too hot to ride during the day). We were driven through a valley and over a hill and arrived at a lovely but run down farm just as the sun was lowering in the sky. We were greeted by two gypsy men in incredibly cool riding gear, who were waiting with the horses. We weren't sure if it was polite to ask, but we were so intrigued by the farm house that we just went ahead and enquired about a tour. We didn't exactly get a tour, but we were given permission to walk through the house, inhabited by one of the gypsy men and his daughter. I was so charmed. It was stylish in the most authentic and unpretentious way. A rifle sat next to a pile of beautiful old rugs which sat next to paintings his daughter made, carefully hung on the wall. It was a wonderful reminder that YOU ABSOLUTELY DO NOT NEED TO HAVE MUCH MONEY TO HAVE STYLE.

Once mounted on the horses, we were lead down an old road, through olive orchards, grassy meadows and a handful of rundown old farms with charming houses in need of love. It was real estate porn at its very best.

After our ride had a hard time leaving the farmyard - too many cute puppies to play with! - but with the sun disappearing and dinner time approaching we slowly tore ourselves away from this humble, yet magical world.

The gypsy farm where we arrived to go riding. Don't you love that they have solar panels??

The humble yet stylish front hall.

It's obvious from this picture that a single man lives here. What mother would allow a gun to be left lying around like that with a child in the house?!?

I love these rugs. I imagine he pulls them up in the summer to make the house cooler.

The gypsy's daughter's paintings proudly displayed around the house. Beautiful colors.

The horses, just before we mounted them.

Our host. Don't you love all the buckles on his half chaps? The next say I made a beeline for the local tack shop in Seville, and found a similar pair. But I didn't buy them. I thought I'd look silly wearing them in the English countryside. One day I want a full Spanish riding outfit. Not sure where I'll go in it. But I want it.

Coco, in her element.

This was the most comfortable saddle I've ever ridden in. The whole thing was lined with fleece! My husband was mortified when I asked about helmets. "The Spanish are way too masculine for helmets," he said.

My favorite fixer upper. I love the little walled garden right at the entrance.

 Cooling down as we left.

An unlikely face off!

Monday, July 23, 2012

SPAIN, Part 2: Trasierra

Trasierra may be the most inherently stylish place I have ever visited. A former private house lovingly rebuilt, restored and redecorated by English ex-pat Charlotte Scott, it sits on a 450 acre site just 30 miles north of Seville. The house has everything you need - chic, cozy rooms done up in a mixture of English chintz, Spanish pottery and classic antiques; fantastic home cooked food using fresh fruit and vegetables from their massive kitchen garden; and most importantly, a laid back and personal vibe that has you feeling you're staying in someone's home, rather than in a hotel. Perhaps my favorite thing about the house is that it skips the inessentials, namely TV's, telephones and computers.

After two solid months of packing and unpacking, we arrived at Trasierra on the night of Coco's 11th birthday ready for some downtime. We were encouraged to jump in the pool before dinner, even though we arrived at 10pm - early for dinner by Spanish standards. We then had a fantastic dinner on the terrace under a canopy of wisteria. Charlotte's daughter Gioconda, whom we'd never met before, presented Coco with a homemade flourless chocolate birthday cake and a lovely summer dress from the chic gift shop (I'll have to do an entirely separate post on practically buying out the entire gift shop). We couldn't have felt more welcome, and by the next morning, more relaxed. We had 4 blissful days of pampered do-nothingness.

I can't wait to return again and again.


Everywhere you look are old olive oil vats, used as decoration.

Our lovely bedroom.

The breakfast room, decorated with Charlotte's collection of vintage straw bags.

One of the many walking paths.

The private section of the house, where the Scotts continue to live.

My new sunglasses from The Row (on Zach).

The lunch room. It's hard for me not to love any room with kumquat trees in it.

I love the combination of dry and lush in the landscape and trees.

The driveway leading up to the house.

After a rain drenched summer in England, I finally got to wear my favorite new summer dress from J.Crew.

The steps leading to our bedroom.

Our dinner terrace. We ate here every night. So lovely.

The local swimming hole. The prettiest one I've seen. I am a sucker for oleander - I usually love the ones with white flowers, but in Spain the pink looked especially pretty.

Relief from the heat! 


Friday, July 20, 2012

SPAIN, Part 1: Malaga

Although we were headed nearer to Seville, we flew into Malaga because it meant my sister could get a direct flight home to NYC at the end of the trip. We didn't have high expectations for Malaga (its pretty industrial at first glance), but we were landing at midnight and the next day would be my daughter Coco's 11th birthday, so I figured we had to do something fun before we headed off on a three hour drive to Trasierra, our real destination. In researching what there was to do in Malaga, I found out that Picasso was born there and that they had a great Picasso museum, designed by Gagosian architect Richard Gluckman. The Picasso museums in Antibes and in Paris are among my favorite museums in the world, so I was very keen to go.

Only problem? It was NOT Coco's idea of a birthday celebration. I reminded her that we had already had a big birthday party for her with all her friends in NYC before we left and that this would be more of a family day, not solely focused on her. She still wasn't having it. A museum and three hours in the car was not her idea of fun. Then I found my hook. Twenty minutes outside of Malaga is a giant water park! I promised the kids they if they indulged the adults in the Picasso Museum and a lovely lunch at Bottega El Pimpi afterwards, we would give them two hours at the water park before setting off on our drive. Done deal.

The day turned out to be a win/win for everyone. The kids actually loved the museum - how could you not? There is a reason Picasso is the most famous artist in the world. And flying down the freefall waterside with my kids on either side of me - screaming our heads off and laughing at the same time - has been one of my highlights of the summer.

Equally as impressive as the artwork in the Picasso museum was how Richard Gluckman combined the decorative aspects of the original building with a very chic minimalist gallery aesthetic to serve as a backdrop for the work.

I am always on the hunt for photographs of Picasso. I am going to do a post on his style soon. I think of him often when getting dressed - for real. I love the casual and unpretentious, yet inherent style in the photograph of him in his study. 

This is the only photograph I got to take of the actual work before getting busted by a security guard. Luckily it happens to be one of my favorite pieces. 

There was this incredible fig tree in the courtyard outside the museum. I love how it is planted inside a circular wall. I have to be very very selective of the moments when I ask my husband to pose for a family photo - he is very resistant to posed pictures - but I thought this was a good opportunity and when I asked, he went for it! It will be a couple of months before the next one now....

We were already overwhelmed with aesthetic delight when we left the museum, and we turned the corner to be face to face with this incredible ruin. Coco sat there staring without even realizing I was there for a long time. She had never seen anything like it.

Bottega El Pimpi is a very chic restaurant in Malaga, and it sits right in front of the above ruin. They have local celebrities sign the wine barrels. Paloma's was by far the most exciting. I love her heart.

Our first taste of jamon at El Pimpi. I will never forget it. Its unlike anything I've ever had. Delicious!

I love all the decoration in Spain. Literally EVERYTHING is decorated! Its very feminine and very charming. 

The view from our hotel in Malaga. As you can see its not the most beautiful city, but I loved looking into the bull ring. 


Monday, July 16, 2012

Printed Matter: My favorite book covers

Books and magazines are my lifesavers when decorating a room. My nature is compulsively matchy-matchy when it comes to choosing colors for fabrics, rugs and paint in a room, so I've come to rely on "my stuff" to make it all appear less perfectly put together. Sometimes art on the walls or a pillow in an odd color can do the trick, but mostly I rely on printed materials both old and new to add both personal style and a more realistic lived-in feeling. I never grow tired of my books, they're relatively affordable and the array of colors to choose from is endless. Here is my Hall of Fame of great "decorating" book covers:

The first time I saw this book I wanted it right away, but when I went online to buy it, it was a fortune. I found it years later for sale on a sidewalk on the Upper West Side. It was $1.

I went to Taryn's show at Gagosian Gallery in LA a few years ago. I loved the show. And I found this catalogue irresistible. It's front and center in my living room.

This picture captures everything I love most about DVF. She's an empowered woman who exudes self assurance and freedom. 

Francesco is one of my favorite painters and this is my favorite catalogue of his - partly because of the exquisite watercolors inside and partly because of the vivid purple looks so good on top of a book pile.

I found this at the JCrew "Liquor Store" in Tribeca when it first opened. I love the old school men's vibe, and you can't help but pick it up and look through it.

This is a book about Wimbledon. I bought it solely for the chic 70's preppy cover. Reminds me of my childhood summers in Palm Beach.

This is a fantastic book both inside and out. I'm sure a lot of designers have used it for inspiration, especially Nicolas Ghesquiere. If you like the 70's, you must buy it. Mine lives at our surfer-y beach house in Long Island.