Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Charlotte Moss casts a boho spell in 'A Visual Life'

This boho mama just finished exploring Charlotte Moss’ A Visual Life. Though published in 2012, I only just asked for and received it as a gift this past Christmas. To say it was worth the wait doesn't go nearly far enough in describing how it enchanted my gypsy soul.

The book is made to look like Moss’ own scrapbook of images, quotes, photos, inspiration, ideas, and memories. Many of the photos actually ARE her scrapbooks, and the text is set in typewriter font, as if she saved it that way long before the invention of computers, cut it out, and pasted it in. 

And perhaps she did.

Moss’ scrapbooking passion predates her decorating career, and she shares its history and developed preferences while also making room for essays from friends who share her passion. 


And there’s another, even more special surprise


The book draws from Moss’ collection of the papers of famous women with connections to the design world—Elsie de Wolfe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Pauline de Rothschild and Gloria Vanderbilt, to name a few. 

We see actual notes and lists these women made, as well as personal notes and drawings Moss has received over the years from more design celebrities whose names you'll surely recognize. In sharing her “scraps,” Moss gives us intimate portraits of the life she’s lived and of the lives of the people she has known and admired.

She truly makes you see “decorating,” which some might describe as materialistic and frivolous, as a way to celebrate the beauty of this created world and who you were meant to be in it. That said, it only seems only fitting to me that I should make of this post a bit of a scrapbook—snippets that I will cherish about living and about making a home. 

Moss titles the central portion of the book “The House in my Head” and shares inspiration pages that helped shape her homes in Aspen, New York City, and East Hampton, and it’s these photos I’ve interspersed with her words. First you’ll see the inspiration collage, then the room that grew out of it.


The 'houses in my head' come to life


Her Aspen living room:



“There are no new ideas in the world, only new arrangements of things,’ Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, and I will add that I believe one must know what came before to rearrange in a new way, to contribute something fresh today.”


“I’ve learned that the most ordinary of found objects artfully considered and arranged can be elevated. And it’s in these created environments that we share a specific point of view, a personal aesthetic, a vision, and a passion for life.” 

A New York City guest room:



“In essence, creating a composition is about seeing. And sometimes it’s seeing the beauty in ordinary, everyday found objects.” 

 Her East Hampton living room:



“FAY CE QUE VOUDRAS. I once saw this medieval French expression carved in stone above a door in France. The perfect location for 'do as you will,' the portal that greets us and our invited guests everyday.” 


“Fay Ce Que Voudras, peel back the fear, throw away the rule book and make your own.” 


“Romantics see the adventure in everyday life; a routine bores them. Romantics are opportunists; they love any chance to stretch their imaginations. Romantics believe in decorating for delight. Is there another reason? Fay Ce Que Voudras. WHY NOT?”


Other voices worth heeding


Like Moss, I’m someone who likes to record the quotes of others, and these are a few of her favorites that also resonated with me…
  • From Elsie de Wolfe: “I am going to make everything around me beautiful, that will be my life…A house will speak for a woman’s life…it is a dead giveaway…A house should be a synthesis of comfort, practicality and tradition…What is the goal? A house that is like the life that goes with it, a house that gives us beauty as we understand it—and beauty of a nobler kind that we may grow to understand…From the moment I was conscious of ugliness and its relation to myself and my surroundings, my one preoccupation was to find my way out of it…In my escape I came to the meaning of beauty.”
  • From Clare Boothe Luce: “Memory gives time elasticity. The happy time is short as it passes, but there is all of life in which to look back upon it.” Pair this with closing comments in Candy Pratts Price’s included essay: “I save days. That’s what scrapbooking does. It allows you to save the days of your life.”
  • From Gertrude Bell: “Already I want the next thing.”

Seems I am always wanting the next thing


The next beautiful room, the next beautiful moment, the next beautiful task. But this book made me yearn for a slower life, one in which I make time for cutting, collecting, pasting and later looking back and “re-membering” the “exquisite corpse” that is my life.




Time to put away my laptop and find my scissors and a gluestick. Won't you join me?

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