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.
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