Coffee Table books: Style and Content

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I have the biggest stack of coffee table books on my studio coffee table. Everyone that passes it says, “WOW that’s a lot of books. You must love coffee table books!” Truth is, I do love all sorts of books including coffee table books, but the books in the studio are used for styling. Back in the day, I was only styling interiors for magazines, companies, and designers, so I needed lots of books as props.

I love decorative books for style and content. I only buy books that look great on the outside but also have some great inspiration on the inside. The list below are some of my absolute favorites. In fact, here are my 10 choices to start your own collection of coffee table books. Books are always a great investment. Spice up your coffee table with these gorgeous books:

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1. American Originals- William Abramowicz 

* Note Bill will be with us in Italy leading his own photography workshop October 9-14th at La Fortezza Workshops

2. The House that Pinterest Built- Diane Keaton

3. The Selby- Todd Selby

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4. Wabi Inspirations – Alex Vervoordt

5. House- Diane Keaton

6. Francois Halard

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7. The Wes Anderson Collection

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8. May I Come In?: Discovering the World in Other People’s Houses – Wendy Goodman

9. Simplicity- Nancy Braithwaite

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My Friend Betty of Inkspired

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Recently I met someone I have been following on Instagram for years. She’s someone that I was introduced to by mutual friends when I did a book signing event a couple years ago in London at Summerhill & Bishop. Two of the designers at S&B were Italian and of course our conversation led to all things Italian.

They asked me if I knew Betty Soldi. “No,” I said. “Should I?” They both agreed we would love each other, and so that is where it all began. Last month I had Betty and our mutual friend, Sofie, from S&B over for lunch. They drove from Florence where they both live. Since meeting Sofie at S&B, she’s since moved to work for Betty in her business.

Betty wears many hats, so that’s one thing we had in common for sure. She’s a graphic design working for many brands, consulting on packaging and identity. Read about it here. She’s written a book called “Inkspired”  which is well worth buying if you’re interested in calligraphy and the art of writing. Plus she owns and runs three boutique hotels with her partner, Matteo Perduca. Adastra, SoprArno, and their newest hotel, Oltrarno Splendid  , and a restaurant, Regina Bistecca . So as you can see, she’s a very busy lady. She’s also a mom, which she regards as her most important job, to her 8 year old daughter, Alma.

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Our lunch was glorious. We have so much in common, and yes this is the start of a beautiful friendship. We talked for hours, and then toured La Fortezza on the most glorious afternoon which was topped off by Betty writing on the walls of our guest quarters. She will be back most certainly as we are plotting a creative retreat for 2020. Please head to her sites, and don’t forget to book one of her hotels next time you’re in Florence. Betty, I am a huge fan and friend, and I am so happy we met in real life.

 

I interviewed Betty, too. Read below for some insight to this adorable, talented creative creature:

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What is your favorite thing to do on your off time?

What is ‘off time’ ?! As I am a multi-faceted being, working on creative thinking projects, calligraphic commissions, design consultancy for packaging and branding, co-owner of 3 hotels for which I am the brand guardian as well as managing all the PR for them….my favourite escape time is to be with my 8 year old daughter Alma. She makes me laugh and continuously flabbergasts me with her truth, insights, wit and irony!

Who is someone you admire?

Let’s keep it in the family, my partner Matteo Perduca, a man of incredible depth, culture and curiosity has designed all the hotel interiors as well as his Regina Bistecca restaurant. This whilst also being a lawyer, and creating these projects as creative outlets and expressions of his being. The passion and personal involvement is palpable in all of the spaces. It just goes to show you can reinvent yourself at any stage of life, and I am in awe of his achievements.

If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead who would it be?

My younger or older self  – i would have quite a few things to say, and to learn from!

What is your favorite color combination?

A star-filled sky.
Grey & gold or grey & silver.
Darkness & light.

What is the biggest piece of advice you have for someone wanting to pursue and artistic career path.

Look inside, not outwards at what everyone else is doing. Yes travel, look at paintings, read.
But know that the stars, and a whole universe, is inside of you.

Name your favorite spot in Florence.

I have always dreamed of working in a living space, for me there is no difference or distinction between work and life – artistic beings never switch off, we are sensitive to, and inspired by, anything and everything. I have found my dream space for my studio – or rather the universe has manifested it and I have butterflies inside of me as well as all around this secret garden in the more artisanal and authentic Oltrarno area of Florence.
The adage is “you’ll believe it when you see it” but for me, I have seen it because i believed in it, very Galileo!

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Follow Betty on Instagram

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March visit to Italy 2019:: A Quick trip

The sunset at La Fortezza is insane most nights

Ciao Guys! I made a quick trip to our place in Italy last couple weeks. I am finished with renovation, and now comes the fine tuning. Plus I needed to renew my residency which is the ultimate Italian experience. Renewing is much much easier than getting residency is.

I have loads of people ask me about residency. Honestly there are so many types of residencies and visitor visas available, and I am no expert. My advice if you’re seriously thinking about living in Italy is to head to the Italian Consulate and sort it out. You can start your research here in the US instead of trying it in Italy. My other advice is to start learning Italian, so when you have to do paperwork in Italy, you can understand what is needed and what to do. After all, if you’re planning to live in Italy you should speak the language as best you can. It is also great if you have an Italian friend willing to help you (or you can pay someone in Italy to help you with the process).

That process took up a day of my trip, but it was pretty seamless which was a relief. The one thing about Italian bureaucracy is that it is unpredictable. Sometimes it takes hours and hours, and sometimes it’s super efficient. My point is that when living in Italy, you must be patient and remember it’s not the US; things are done differently and going with the flow is a great idea.

I also started to get ready for our upcoming workshops this year. I did a little prop shopping with my stylist friend Barbara in Modena. She showed me some of her favorite places in Modena to grab props for photoshoots. Oddly the places she goes are not that different from the places I go to in Atlanta. We had and amazing leisurely lunch at her favorite restaurant in Modena Franceschetta 58

It was a lovely meal, and we talked about all sorts of subjects: styling, our upcoming collaboration at my Strictly Styling Workshop June 12-17th,  book writing and media and magazines in general. Barbara is a lovely friend, and I am so happy we found each other; she’s a beautiful person.

Barbara at our lunch date in Modena

Did you know that Modena had canals at one time? This building was on one of the main canals.

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I had the fabulous Betty Soldi come for lunch, too. We had an amazing time, and she wrote on my walls which was a highlight experience for me.

 

 

Forrest and I went to the Parma Antiques Fair as well. I found the perfect bench for our guest quarters, and a fantastic storage piece for my studio. Walking around the fair is so inspirational and fun. Forrest and I discussed possibly leading a shopping trip through Parma including the antiques fair next March. I posted the question on instagram and we got loads of yeses. Please add your yes on the IG post, if you’re interested.

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We had a great time at the Parma fair as always.

The best part of the trip was, of course, cooking at home and visiting with friends on the off season. The weather was great which allowed us all to enjoy the great outdoors.

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Our daughter brought a group of friends my last weekend in Italy. They are still there now. One of the best parts of owning this place it to be able to share it with family and friends which makes these paperwork infused trips worth every hour of time spent waiting and waiting. One of the highlights was watching spring appear on the property. It was magical.

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I will be back for the summer on May 16th. Until then more shoots, finishing my book, Italy is my Boyfriend, and more dreaming of Italy.

xx Annette

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Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Lisa Redgrave

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We’re continuing the excitement of our wedding page launch by introducing you to a few more members of the wedding dream team. Today, I’d like you to meet Lisa Redgrave of Hitched in Italy:

Q:  What is your wedding expertise? How long have you been a part of the wedding industry?

A: My family and I bought our home in Tuscany in 2004. I have huge affection for the region, so it was the natural choice to get married there 10 years ago. It was a small wedding, but I tackled the Italian Bureaucracy and planned it all myself. It went without a hitch. I thought if I could do it for myself, I could do it for others. That was the start of Hitched in Italy. I have since organized over 100 weddings: elopements, same sex ceremonies, Catholic, Jewish and Indian weddings. I’m proud to say I’ve done it all.

Q: What is your role when it comes to weddings at La Fortezza?

A: I’m the bride and groom’s “go to girl.”  I source suppliers suitable for the occasion. I keep a calm head in what can be a stressful environment. I maintain a level of cool when people are feeling far from cool, and I iron out the creases. Once all the planning is done and vendors are in place, I’m there to hold your hand and walk you through the most wonderful day of your life. I stay in the background on the wedding day, but you will feel reassured by my presence. I’m equally as happy adjusting your bouquet or getting you a cocktail. I have my eye on everything, and I’m thinking ahead. You’re safe in the knowledge that I will have already thought of ‘it’ and can fix ‘that’.

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Q: Why does La Fortezza make an exquisite wedding venue?

A: La Fortezza is an incredible venue, not only is the location staggeringly beautiful, the careful and thoughtful renovation and the styling of the property, and it’s private grounds are second to none.  Those who choose La Fortezza as their wedding venue will have a wedding day that will be truly unique.

Q: Why should someone consider planning an Italian destination wedding?

A: The best pizza in the world, cocktails at sundown, endless sunshine, delicious regional wine, breathtaking scenery, rich culture, real coffee…need I go on? A destination wedding is far more than just a wedding day; it’s an opportunity to spend several days with your family and friends, drinking in the atmosphere and making lifelong memories.

Q: What is your favorite part of a wedding day?

A: After the cake is cut and everyone is dancing and the drinks are flowing, I get to sit back and watch everyone literally having the best day of their lives. There is no better feeling.

Q: What is your number one piece of advice for brides?
A: Keep cool! Having organized hundreds of weddings, I know that the brides who are most relaxed have the most fun. At La Fortezza your wedding will be planned and styled with the utmost care and attention. Leave the hard work to us and allow yourself to kick back and enjoy.

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Swedish Death Cleaning and Musings on Marie Kondo

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WARNING THIS IS LONG POST, GRAB A BEVERAGE OF YOUR CHOICE AND HAVE A SEAT.

As you all know, I am a stylist. I edit objects for the camera, so I am great at making sure everything looks perfect and edited at all times. I am not bragging when I say that people look to me for answers about how to style and organize their spaces. I have a big prop collection that I regularly cull and edit. I go through my closet every 6 months, I used to do it every 3 months, but spending 6 months in Italy has really changed my point of view about clothing. Since I am in Italy in the summer, my summer wardrobe in the US  has shrunk considerably. I am cleaning up, throwing out, scanning and donating all of the time. It is part of my weekly routine, sometimes 4 or 5 times a week. I am always editing, asking myself, “Do I need this? Have I used this? Have I worn this?”

I like to think I am a minimalist, but I am not really a minimalist. The truth is that, like everyone, I do have hidden corners in my house, and some things I don’t want to let go of emotionally. I am a prop stylist after all, the collector of beautiful interesting objects that all have a story. So here’s my true story…

Recently our daughter temporarily moved back in with us, and she seriously lives like a monk. No stuff, very, very pared down. She is here with us for a few months while she settles into a new job and looks for a house to buy with her husband. She looked at me about 2 months ago and said, “Mom you have too much stuff.” I thought she was kidding! After all, we had just done a huge purge in the past year thanks to her. But according to her, it was not enough…

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Last year, our daughter had talked to her dad and I about Swedish Death Cleaning . I know, horrifying concept right? Dying. But it’s actually a great concept. You can read about it here.

Here’s the concept in a nutshell: as you age you should simply your life. When you’re young and have kids, it’s natural to have clutter. But as you age, you should work on getting rid of possessions. This is the ultimate kindness to your children and family.

With my daughter living at home and pushing for another purge, I decided we needed to revisit the entertaining pantry (I have 2 of them)–lots of platters, plates, coffee makers and cups and saucers and bowls and decorative trays, baskets and bowls and bowls and bowls. She and I tackled the pantries. It took us 2 days to excavate the items and rearrange everything. Believe me, it was not smooth sailing. She was merciless and ruthless in her editing. Yes it’s true, even I have to have some things pried out of my hands.

I love organizing, and I think everyone needs to do more of it, everyday and every week of the year. That’s why I was very excited to see that Marie Kondo was getting her own organizing show on Netflix.

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizational guru. Her show “Tidying Up” started streaming January 1st on Netflix – perfect timing for organizing and cleaning right?

A little about Marie… Marie Kondo achieved worldwide fame in 2014 when her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, was translated into English and published in the United States, where it became a New York Times best seller and sold more than 1.5 MILLION COPIES!!!

My take on her show...anything that brings awareness to cleaning up your stuff brings me great joy! Anything that makes YOU think about purging and cleaning is a good thing in my book.

On to the show…Marie shows up with her translator and briefly speaks to her clients through a forced smile. First things first, she “introduces herself to the house” by doing some kooky made up woo woo ritual which involves her meditating when kneeling on the floor.

I am an organizing freak and wanted to love the show! But honestly, I found the show very boring. Her offerings are superficial fixes. She never addresses the real issues–like what to do with paperwork? She never talks about technological fixes like a scanning paper and becoming paperless. Instead she has people put things in paper boxes? Huh? She’s very simplistic, and of course, very Japanese in her approach. No one ever reminds her that Americans do not live like the Japanese, we have larger spaces and as a result, MUCH MORE JUNK. Her show features clueless band-aids on the epic problems of the obsessive, non-stop-buying culture of America.

Though entire show, I wondered what she really thought of our culture of hoarding and buying beyond our means compared to the pared-down lifestyle in Japan. I am sure she thinks it is horrible! But her face cracking smile never lets you know what she is thinking. Mostly it just got on my nerves. Basically, Marie offers small boxes to people that have BIG box problems.

The best thing about this show is that purging and cleaning is now the part of a larger discussion in America. And people are indeed looking at their stuff and assessing and tossing and donating it. For us, the Swedish Death Cleaning lifestyle is a better fit, but if Marie’s method is your style, go for it. The truth is: We all need a complete paradigm shift in how we shop, how we consume, and how we teach our children to live.

*to read more about the mental effects of clutter click here

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