Tuesday, March 29, 2022

At Home with Designers and Tastemakers

This blog post written and produced by Valorie Hart

It's been a long time since I have done a bona fide blog post. Like many, I "evolved" to Instagram and Facebook. Scrolling, not reading has become most popular. In recognition of all the old time bloggers that started a like minded community of decor and design enthusiasts, I'm doing a blog post. One of those bloggers is Stacey Bewkes of quintessenceblog.com 

Stacey started blogging in 2011 (I started in 2008) and added fabulous house tours (At Home With)  beautifully produced and edited videos, forerunners of what we now think of as vlogs. She started this endeavor with her partner, the author of many, many wonderful design books, Susanna Salk. Susanna says, "I had only met Stacey for a couple of minutes when I had the idea for our video series. Of course, I already followed the much revered blog Quninessence". Susanna is the on-camera person guiding the tours and interacting with the homeowners (who for the most part are designers, decorators, and what we now refer to as tastemakers). Stacey is behind the camera, video and still. You can find these delightful videos on Quintessence, and on it's own YouTube channel: Quintessence YouTube.

Partners Susanna Salk and Stacey Bewkes

I have seen everyone of these videos. Millions have viewed them too. Every time I am captivated, inspired, and transported. So now these two have done a fabulous book together based on the videos. I used to screen capture images from the videos for my photo collection file. The quality was lacking to say the least, but I often gladly referred to these poor things. Now we have Stacey's beautiful photos in a book to have and to hold, along with Susanna's always charming, chatty, and informative writing. Wow!

At Home with Designers and Tastemakers by Susanna Salk and Stacey Bewkes published by Rizolli


From the moment you open the book with the beautiful end papers of the Schumacher wallpaper print "Plates and Platters" first seen tacked to the kitchen walls in the video house tour of Johnson Hartig's Los Angeles home, you know this book is going to be exciting. Susanna has the wonderful viewpoint of us using things seen in these marvelous homes, reinventing a version of them in one's own space. She tacked a yard of this wallpaper to her own kitchen wall, and I in turn cobbled together a few samples of it, and stapled it above my stove after I saw the video. The whole idea of paying forward beauty is a continuation of the way the bloggers of yesteryear shared ideas and encouragement.

Sixteen homes are featured in the book. A couple of my favorites are not included, Ken Fulk's in Provincetown, and Christopher Spitzmiller's Clove Brook Farm. To be fair Spitzmiller has his own fantastic coffee table book of the farm, and Fulk's body of work has also been widely published. It must of been very hard to narrow it down to just sixteen. Maybe At Home2 will be forthcoming (fingers crossed). 

I "know" so many of the sweet sixteen from following their work over the years. The tagline for the title of the book is "Creating Beautiful and Personal Interiors". It's always rewarding to see how designers decorate for themselves. The common denominator is a love of beauty, of travel, of high class hoarding collecting, of entertaining, of art, of friends and family, of wit and humor, of years of experience, of a love of books, of a love of gardens.... Many of us can relate. Even though their are some deeper pockets than we mere mortals might have, the creativity if there for the taking. I love expensive wallpaper and I was only able to use it once in my bedroom in my New Orleans home, a mural from Anthropologie that coincidentally Susanna used in her son's bedroom. Otherwise I stapled inexpensive fabric to my walls, and lately did a a wall in my living room of stapled up wrapping paper with a whiff of DeGournay chinoiserie.

Jill Sharp Weeks has always been generous corresponding when I reached out to her since her days at Ballard - Even though we never met I feel the connection as I do with many of you. Her Charleston home featured in the book is a thoughtful study of the natural and organic.

Besides my admiration for this book, I admire Susanna and Stacey for sharing their vision. They financed the videos (travel, etc.) from their own pockets. They came together in their love of beautiful places. Their "overnight" success many years in the making is well deserved. My work with the photographer Sara Essex Bradley is like this. We have shared ten years of producing articles and books of things that inspire and excite us, and that we want to share.


As you scroll through these few images from the book I have added here, Susanna's home, Martin and Karen Cooper, Lulu Powers, Johnson Hartig, be excited to get the book to treasure for years to come. It will be a great reference source, an inspiring read, an impetus to recharge your home decor, and just generally fun and uplifting. 

I dedicate this return from the blog crypt to the wonderful community of bloggers past and present. So many of you have stayed in touch with The Visual Vamp for so many years, and I am grateful.