ELLE (Canada) - - Insider -

here are plenty of trends this sea­son, but the one that captivates me most is the de­light­fully zany— some might say kooky—cel­e­bra­tion of ec­cen­tric­ity that we saw at Mai­son Margiela, Gucci, Miu Miu and even Cé­line. In “Women on the Verge” (page 84), Clara Young de­scribes the trend as “nutty” and “whack,” but to me there’s noth­ing more in­spir­ing than an orig­i­nal point of view. How­ever, I do con­cede that inspired ideas—like Gucci’s Big­foot-es­que bed­room slip­pers—aren’t al­ways prac­ti­cal. I was think­ing about the whole form-ver­sus-func­tion bal­ance re­cently when I stayed at The Palmer House in Ann Ar­bor, Mich. It’s one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s fa­mous Uso­nian houses, a bril­liantly de­signed—but in many ways ec­cen­tri­cally un­liv­able—home. I started to write this note while sit­ting on a par­al­lel­o­gram-shaped bed in a room that con­sists of a mes­mer­iz­ing grid of equi­lat­eral tri­an­gles, hexagons and trape­zoids. (At least I think they were trape­zoids! My mem­o­ries of high-school ge­om­e­try are a lit­tle hazy.) Although this is a deeply in­tro­spec­tive and peace­ful home, it wasn’t de­signed to make life easy. Case in point: the kitchen. Wright, who was no­to­ri­ously ec­cen­tric, ab­horred the “vis­ual clut­ter” of han­dles, so he didn’t in­clude them on cup­boards. If Mary Palmer, who owned the home with her hus­band, Bill, wanted to open a top drawer, she first had to open all the draw­ers be­low it, start­ing at the bot­tom. “Mary was as ec­cen­tric as Frank to put up with this,” quipped Gary Cox, who man­ages the prop­erty for his son, who bought it from the Palmer fam­ily in 2009. “That said, Mary wasn’t like some of Wright’s other clients, who con­sid­ered their homes to be shrines. She treated this as her stage—where she could play her Stein­way grand and en­ter­tain her many guests.” Based on what I’ve read, it seems that Mary was a re­mark­able woman with a pas­sion­ate ap­pre­ci­a­tion for art and de­sign. She’s not un­like another in­spir­ing woman whom I have never met but would like to pay trib­ute to this month. Nancy Phillips was a writer, an artist and a phi­lan­thropist from Toronto. Like Mary, she re­garded her home as a grand stage. Her par­ties were leg­endary for their guest lists, their ban­ter...and their carousel rides. In the ’70s, Nancy pur­chased a dis­man­tled vintage carousel and de­cided to bring it back to life. When I first heard about her Ge­or­gian-style home, I knew it would be the per­fect set­ting for our ec­cen­tric-inspired shoot. (See “We’re All Mad Here” on page 145.) Nancy passed away ear­lier this year, but her fam­ily gra­ciously let us in­habit her beau­ti­ful and mag­i­cal world for two days. Nancy once told a re­porter that the carousel was a metaphor for her life, which she de­scribed as “a wild and won­der­ful jour­ney full of crazy an­i­mals.” Sounds like a per­fectly im­per­fect life well lived. Chan­nel a lit­tle Mary and Nancy this month and ap­proach life like it’s one un­con­ven­tional—and fash­ion­able—merry-go-round ride.

Noreen Flana­gan


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On the set of our ec­centrics shoot with Liisa Win­kler

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