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Of royal shades and friar fragrances

Castle Gray, perhaps?

There’s never been a better time to cover those Navajo White walls with something more inspired. Enter English paint manufacturer Farrow & Ball, which recently opened its first U.S. retail store in West Hollywood.

Founded in the 1930s, the company is the last of a dying breed of Britain’s traditional paint manufacturers and has one of the most elegantly timeworn color palettes. Of its 132 highly pigmented hues, many were developed for the National Trust in England with the help of decorator John Fowler, and they are still used in places such as Windsor Castle and Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate.

The new location, at 8475 Melrose Ave. ([323] 655-4499), carries the entire F&B; spectrum, along with block printed wallpaper. Perhaps best of all are the sample color pots. For $5, you get enough Minister Green or Castle Gray to cover 10 square feet.

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Still having doubts about painting your dining room Geranium Red? Farrow & Ball’s first book, “Paint and Color in Decoration” (Rizzoli, $45), due next month, has pages of lavishly painted interiors for inspiration.

Alexandria Abramian-Mott

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The funky goes funkier

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Libby Simon has a fever for the funky. After transforming the lower half of a cinder-block building on Rowena Avenue into a general store filled with California cottage and country goods, she has just relocated her shop, Libby’s Vintage Home & Garden, to an even more unusual venue.

Hidden between storefronts and down a driveway in the bustling bohemia of Sunset Junction in Silver Lake, the new Libby’s has taken over a sculpture studio and courtyard underneath a giant wisteria.

At the grand opening over the weekend, Simon used her alley entryway at 3815 1/2 Sunset Blvd. ([323] 663-2600) to show Mel Weiner’s intricate portraits created from Italian tiles. Though his portraits are largely by commission, he also has designed dazzlingly colorful mosaic squares (from $45) and made renderings of Muhammad Ali and Dodger pitcher Hideo Nomo from plastic love beads.

They’re next to the outdoor furniture, potted succulents, cast-concrete statuary, Frankoma ceramics, 1940s linens and knickknacks that make the new Libby’s feel like home.

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David A. Keeps

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Scents from the monks

European monks have long been known to make beer and wine -- but perfumes? Potpourri?

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Santa Maria Novella may be another among L.A.'s newest store openings, but the products it carries are part of an ancient line. Founded in 1612 by Florentine monks who were asked to create a fragrance for Catherine de Medici, Santa Maria Novella says it’s the oldest continually operating beauty line in the world.

Although primarily known for its body products, the company also has a small but excellent home line. Among its newest products (those introduced in the last 300 years) are seasonally inspired room sprays, pomegranate candles, iris candles made from the entire flower and potpourri based on a centuries-old recipe.

The potpourri, an unusual and highly fragrant blend, is created by steeping various flowers and plants for six to eight months in giant terra cotta pots and is said to last as long as a year -- and even kill moths. The store is at 8411 Melrose Place, L.A., (323) 651-3754.

Jake Klein

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What’s that in dogspeak?

Ever wonder what your dog really means by a tail wag, nose lick or a stare-down with the mail carrier? Similar to its ancient predecessor, author Cheryl S. Smith’s “The Rosetta Bone: The Key to Communication Between Humans and Canines” (Howell Book House, $24.99) provides a key to unlocking a secret language.

Learning what she refers to as “doglish” involves going beyond understanding obvious nonverbal signals, categorizing canine body language into eyes, ears, mouth, tail and body posture. The book also includes tips on teaching English to dogs by using a system for voice commands. Plus, there are sections on dog vocalizations and the ties between kids and dogs.

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Smith’s reproving tone is at times a drawback, but considering how some humans treat their pets, this is understandable. She succeeds, however, in making the book more than a simple how-to guide by touching on emotional, spiritual and philosophical reference points throughout.

Abra Deering Norton

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He doesn’t do plants

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John Danzer, founder and lead designer of the outdoor furniture company Munder-Skiles, was in town last week from New York to consult on a private golf course. He also squeezed in time for a cocktail party in his honor at Jacobs Van Dyke, a home furnishings store on Abbot Kinney Boulevard that carries his teak and mahogany benches and tables, as well as his historical reproduction pieces such as George Washington’s fruit tree box and Edith Wharton’s bench and chairs.

The outdoor furniture guru mingled with guests including decorators Michael Smith, David Desmond and landscape designer Patricia Benner, who sat on Munder-Skiles pieces drinking white wine and nibbling oversized green olives.

“I couldn’t care less what’s on the inside of houses I work on,” says Danzer, who refers to himself as an exterior decorator. Asked to describe his work, Danzer said he does everything that doesn’t include plants. “I do things like lighting, cushions, pots, and, of course, the furniture.”

-- Alexandria Abramian-Mott

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