Do you wear your style on your back or on your walls?

Peggy Guggenheim - who put much as much thought into her sunglasses as to what went on her walls, ceilings and floors

A conversation with one of my students reminded me of the saying of some fabulous jet-set socialite* whose name escapes me. She asserted that one must choose between being beautifully dressed or collecting art. I would amend the latter to having a well-dressed home.


Peggy at home in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni - previously inhabited by another lady of style, the Marchesa Casati

This student who is a professional set designer for magazines told me an interesting story. One of his assignments was to redecorate and style an independent art dealer's apartment - a classic before and after story. She was impeccably dressed, with a new Catherine Malandrino dress for every occasion, but her apartment was a typical white box affair with no effort or expense apparent in its appearance. After the shoot was over, he later found out, she sent everything back.


Particularly in a city where most of us live in small spaces and don't entertain at home, it is our personal appearance that announces who we are or aspire to be. Just as women of some tribal communities put all their wealth into their jewelry, we may carry a Birkin bag or wear Manolo Mary-Janes. The disconnect is that we may look like a million-bucks, but once home we're eating ramen noodles and sitting on an Ikea sofa.


In the evening, look up at the windows of apartment buildings, and you know what you'll see? my student said. Paper or metal blinds which the owner probably inherited from the previous resident.

Peggy's bedroom where according to this biography she spent a lot of time


Even with our limited budget and full schedules, I believe we CAN have it all. Your home is your cocoon - it nurtures and comforts and energizes you to go out into the world. Making it a place where you love to be will be just as rewarding as looking like the person you want to be.

But how? you may ask. Quality over quantity. Consume less but better. One black cocktail dress, but it's Chanel. (Read any style book on Audrey Hepburn who learned how to wear an Hermes scarf 100 different ways as a teenager during the war.) A sofa from George Smith but it will last you for decades. Over time, it will have paid for itself.

* The omniscient GG has reminded me that it was Gertrude Stein, who he rightly points out wore "brown corduroy sacks so shapeless and frumpy that Spanish peasants thought she was a nun" rendering my description "fabulous jet-set socialite" a bit questionable.