Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Alexandra Stoddard

I was a young bride when I first discovered writer/designer Alexandra Stoddard. I remember my husband waking up in the middle of the night, rubbing his eyes, and asking me why I in the world I was polishing the doorknobs at one a.m. So inspired by her writings about light in our homes, I couldn't read in bed any longer. I rubbed until I had lifted the black tarnish from our apartment's original hardware to reveal the gleam of soft, burnished brass.

Later that year I read a quotation by William Henry Channing. It seemed so Alexandra! I copied it on a postcard to share with her and posted one above my kitchen sink. She wrote a lovely note in response.

I was even more thrilled to open a copy of her latest book, Things I Want My Daughters To Know, and spot a familiar quotation at the end of Chapter 8:

To live content with small means;
To seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion;
To be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
To study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly;
To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
To bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.

--William Henry Channing


CallaLilly said...

Thank you for this lovely post. I will have to look up both authors. :)

Meredith said...

I should qualify my enthusiasm for Stoddard: her books are not written from a Christian perspective. I know that's an essential to some of my friends. I still think her decorating ideas and philosophy of color/light/mood are great; however, her last few books show much more of a Zen/Unity influence in her own life.

Laura Talbert said...

I read something of Stoddard's a few years ago, don't remember what though. But I do remember being inspired to make the environment around me something I liked, something lovely, something that reflected who I am.
I'll have to look her up again on my next library visit.

Meredith said...

My favorite is Feeling At Home. I also like the early one, Creating A Beautiful Home, and her comprehensive book, The Decoration of Houses, for remodeling/design basics.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Thanks for the quote, very inspiring! And how exciting for you to have the quote you shared used so meaningfully.
I see several Stoddard books at Amazon. We are in the process of building a new home- is there one title in particular you would recommend?

Meredith said...

Headmistress, if you are building a new home, I would read "The Decoration of Houses." Stoddard re-wrote Edith Wharton's design handbook in her own style. She discusses every aspect of home, from architectural elements to furnishings. It's a bit more formal than some of her other design books, like Feeling at Home, but it covers more theory and less practice. For example, what to do about trim and why you should paint it in a glossy finish. I re-read it whenever we move to a new house, to help me with remodeling choices. Luckily, my library has many copies!

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Thanks! It's now on hold at the campus library where our firstborn attends college.