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Book Review: Richard Avedon: The Kennedys Portrait of a Family; Feng Shui: The Book of Cures; Downsizing Your Home with Style

November 25th, 2007

Richard Avedon took some pictures on January third, 1961 in Palm Beach, Florida. They were nice photos. So nice, in fact, that people are still poring over them, almost fifty years later. They were of the most famous four of the Kennedys — Jack, Jackie, Caroline and little John-John, and he took them at the family’s compound. They were gorgeous photos, of course. Have you ever seen a bad photo of any of them? You’ll find sad photos, sometimes, but never bad ones. So you have a brilliant photog, coupled with one of the most photogenic families of all time. Excellent set-up. The original pix ran in LOOK and in Harper’s Bazaar, and you’ve seen a few of them here and there. But the entire shoot, with proof sheets? That’s something you haven’t seen before, and that’s what you get with this collection from the Smithsonian. (Collins Design, $29.95, 127 pages.)

It’s the ultimate coffee table book and a nice holiday gift, for yourself or someone else.

Next up for gift ideas: Feng Shui — a complete house re-do would be nice, or at the very least one of those sweet little ceramic tiles that says JOY or BLISS or something. Those are good — they look nice just about anywhere — on a shrine, in the entryway, on a nightstand, paired with one perfect white tea light. Yes, dear, as long as we’re at it, let’s talk about the concept of feng shui. Mine is a mess. Nancilee Wydra gives us “150 simple solutions for health and happiness in your home or office.” (McGraw-Hill, 276 pages.) The cure for my karmic twist-up can be found on page 26:

“To be in the Tao is to be connected. Whether your home is rural, suburban, or urban, to feel deeply at peace you should feel positively enmeshed with your surroundings.”

I. Do. Not. The immediate surroundings? Yes, enmeshed. Beyond that? No.

Thus, we continue packing. We’ve moved more things into storage. We’re still hashing out the whole do we or do we not decorate for the holidays? I say, no. Hockey God and kids say, yes. I’ll let you know how it turns out. In the meantime, how do you feel about pre-lit, fake Christmas trees? Yay or nay? Please advise.

Lauri Ward’s book, “Downsizing Your Home with Style: Living Well in a Smaller Space,” was just the handbook I needed and received a few weeks ago. (Collins, $24.95, 182 pages.) Turns out when you’re packing and repacking, painting and patching up, pruning, mowing, raking and tidying — you can get burned-out pretty dang fast. I’ve got a second burst of adrenaline from reading Ward’s tips. (I appreciate, too, that she gave buying tips — stores, prices — for furniture, containers, screens, etc., but was discreet about it, with product round-ups at the ends of the chapters.) I have been devouring this book. And it’s a little mis-titled. It could have just as easily fit under the categories of simplifying your life, home decor, or “how to get your tail in gear and pack to move.”

A few suggestions:

*If downsizing, stick with a bed that does not have a footboard. (Also nice if you’re looking for clean lines in a room.)

* Using artwork properly means not hanging things too high and not scattering it all over the place, and always leaving one blank wall for the eye to rest on. (Extra tip: Hold up the art where you think it should go, then lower it three inches.)

* Try for multi-sectioned furniture when possible to add versatility.

* With limited space, a writing table can take the place of a larger desk and offer a comfortable place to work on a laptop or write thank-you notes.

Happy reading.



  1. megs says

    I saw a guy carrying out a lovely live Norwegian pine in a pot yesterday at Fred Meyers. Better than those fake thingys. I had a friend who decorated her large cactus plant with red lights one year. Looked very Salvador Dali.

    November 25th, 2007 | #

  2. LIB says

    When I first became handicapped (and my kids were still at home), my DH got a tree, put it in the stand–straight, and put on the lights. It was up to my kids only to put up the decorations. Did they? NO!! Next year–same experience for DH–get tree, etc. My thinking was, “Surely the kids couldn’t be so selfish again this year!” Well, they could be and they were. For the second year in a row we had a tree with lights only.

    The next year, I didn’t have it in me to ask DH to get a tree again. I mean he is long-suffering, but why find out the limit of it?

    I got a pre-lit, artificial tree that my aunt can put up for me. My friend Debbie helps me put on the decorations.

    If it wasn’t for that pre-lit, artificial tree—I wouldn’t have a tree.

    I say go for it!

    November 26th, 2007 | #

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