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I was in a clothing store in the Notting Hill neighborhood and I was suddenly "overcome" with a scent that had wafted into my air space. It was the absolute most heavenly smell of warm, rich, lucious, hypnotizing milk chocolate. I am not a cookie, candy, cake, bon bon chocolate lover but I was, again, "overcome." I had to follow that smell. It was coming from a darling little perfectly English white townhouse of a shop called MELT. 

They had me at the door.

The entire design/merchandising/concept was fantastic.
"...the cool minimalism of Melt, an elegant lab-like boutique in London's Notting Hill that looks like a branch of Space NK than a bonbonnerie." Metro Newspaper

My favorites at Melt were these little Melt Drinks Stirs.
Made of 4 different single origin chocolate...Venezuelan, Caribbean, Madagascar, Columbian
You stir these in hot milk and cream. So cute!!!!
I never actually had the chance to try it out because it was the dead of summer and I wanted to save it for my daughter. These travelled with us from London to Annency to Spain and then when I was ready to give it to my daughter, I pulled it out and it was covered in sunscreen from my bag. I was and am still devastated.

Visit Melt at:
59 Ledbury Road
Notting Hill
W11 2AA

or online at:

Divine Inspiration...Ralph Lauren Home

Ralph Lauren Home

Ralph Lauren
I was in London this summer and walked by this Ralph Lauren shop and saw these great baskets with the boxwood and ivy and it reminded me why I love Ralph.
I got my first job at Ralph Lauren in Beverly Hills when I was 18 years old. I had zero retail experience but I wanted to just be in that store. So, I started out as a gift wrapper during the Christmas season. I loved every minute of it. I loved all the "senses" of Ralph Lauren. The sense of luxury, refinement, style, drama, detail....all of it. After gift wrapping, which I apparently excelled at, I moved on to cashier. I hated the math and counting aspect of it because I can hardly subtract but I loved seeing what people were buying and being in the center of the action. Then I was asked to be a salesgirl in the accessories department. OMG! I was in heaven. I was the first person to arrive in the morning with my head to toe Ralph Lauren outfit, coffee in hand and I would go up those glorious faded oriental rug steps with the overscaled paintings of ( I wished) my ancestors and up to the home collection. I would sit on an overstuffed armchair, soak it all in and pretend I lived there. My ENTIRE paycheck went back to Ralph Lauren so it was a win win for Ralph. Then, here is the best part.... (21 years later I am still regretting it) I was being considered for a position as assistant buyer for the women's collection in the NY store. Total dream job. But do you know what I did?  I quit Ralph and went to St Tropez with the world's most notorious Swedish playboy. What is wrong with me? But, I have to say, I did get a lot out of my St Tropez trip. I went to the chicest wedding I have ever seen to this day and my eyes were exposed to the big world of Europe. So, in the end, all worked out.

Do you remember when Ralph Lauren would completely remodel the home collection every few months into a whole new world from London to Marseilles to New York.  It was so exciting. Every collection was so detailed, the mood so perfectly expressed, the ambiance so crafted. Every room was like a still life painting. I have too many favorites to count.  I wish someone would put together an entire retrospective in the Smithsonian of all of the Ralph Lauren Home Collection looks over the years. In fact, maybe I will write a book on it. I would love to interview all the people who made those "looks" come alive from the conception to realization. Here are a few of my favorite ad campaigns from the Ralph Lauren archives.

New Bohemian Collection
Rich and red
Rich textures...velvet and fringe

Harrowden Collection
More is more
Layering layering layering
If you notice there are 4 layers on the floor...hardwood, seagrass, turkish rug, then fluffy heaven.

Rue Madame Collection

Marseilles Collection

Rue Royal Collection

St Germain Collection

It is interesting to research through the archives of Ralph Lauren Home.  Other favorites of mine include Sheltering Sky, North Atlantic Coast, Tourville, Bedford Manor, Old Mill, Le Marais etc
all images courtesy Ralph Lauren Home

To see Ralph Lauren Home archives go to:

La La LaChapelle

David LaChapelle

David LaChapelle Exhibit
On a freezing February day in Paris,  as I was riding along on the metro I saw an ad for the David LaChapelle exhibit. The metro has all the latest "happenings" plastered on the walls. This is why I love Paris, there is culture even underground. So, the next day I headed to the exhibit. LaChapelle's
retrospective of his controversial work was being held at the La Monnaie de Paris. The perfect juxtaposition.

Statue Los Angeles 2007
There were at least 200 photographs of his work. Read HERE for a comprehensive review of the exhibit .

Deluge:Museum 2007
I bought this the form of a poster... from the gift shop.
How lame am I?

image courtesy of LaChapelle website
The exhibit was an eye opening experience.
You can check out upcoming and previous exhibits on the official website of David LaChapelle:

Reservation for Ms OConnell

Chic Hotels of Europe

Trains, Planes and Automobiles
I was all over the map this summer. My 13 year old daughter, Grace, and I traveled to Paris, London, Annency, Mallorca, Geneva, Zurich and probably some some little towns in between. I had 3 giant suitcases, 2 laptop computers, 1 new, in the giant box, desktop computer, one box filled with my daughter's homeschooling books and supplies, 2 carry ons, 2 purses... and oh,  a 3 month old French bulldog only partially potty trained named Leo. So, I had to be slightly organized which is not in my nature and also have an flexible frame of mind.  I have a fear of big chain hotels. I like small boutique hotels. I typically do a ton of online research before I book anything. One online source that is perfect for boutique hotels is Mr and Mrs Smith. They were a lifesaver this summer.

Le Dokhan
I have stayed in this hotel in Paris many times and I am always received with such a nice welcome. It is a Haussman style 18th century little gem of a mansion. Baron Haussman was a French civil planner  whose name is associated with the rebuiding of Paris. He was hired by Napoleon III to "modernize" Paris. More about Baron Haussmann HERE The hotel was formerly a private residence of some lucky family. Le Dokhan is located in the "tony" (don't you love that word) 16th arrondissement. Famed interior decorator Frederic Mechiche designed the interiors of the hotel adding an elegant neoclassical touch. The service is discreet and accommodating. Everyone had such nice manners. I left a few of my extra bags in their storage for about a month while I was gone.  The doorman walked my puppy with me in the evenings.

The color scheme of this hotel is really what sets it apart. The little cozy salon was a mixture of seagrass rugs, lavender and charcoal colors, chinoiserie tray tables, deep lavender velvet chairs with striped cushions, rich warm woodwork, marble demilune tables, original Picasso and Matisse line drawings in subtle gold frames, Giacometti-ish figures on columns and busts on the mantle.

The champagne bar and dining room.
This room is a perfect marriage of sage green velvet chairs, sage green paneling with gold trim, black topped tables with tiny gold filigree. Chandeliers are black and gold Empire style. The room is separated from the lobby by thick sage green and eggplant colored striped curtains held with gold curtain backs. My favorite part about this room is the little clever bar tucked into a recessed antiqued mirrored armoire stocked with champagne, vintage glasses, candles and books. Each table has a slendar tall candlestick that is lit morning, noon and night.

I have stayed in every type of room at this hotel.  The one pictured above is their deluxe room.  Although, my favorite room was the top floor suite. It was like a glorious attic. You are lead up a private internal flight of seagrass covered stairs which open up to the living room with a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. There is a little pine fireplace, chinoiserie coffee table and a petite couch. The bathroom is all marble top to bottom. The bedroom is separated with voluminous, thick, heavy, blue printed curtains held with gold curtain backs. The walls are striped navy and ivory cotton fabric.

The elevator is made from a single vintage Louis Vuitton trunk thought to have belonged to the Dokhan family.
Even though this hotel is part of a large chain of Radisson hotels, the ambiance and style evoke that of a family owned residence.

Le Dokhan is listed in teNeues' Cool Hotels Paris edition
available at the havesomedecorum bookshop

Visit the hotel's website at:

Hotel Particulier Montmartre
"In the heart of historical Montemartre between Avenue Junot and Rue Lepic nestled in a secret passageway Le Passage du Rocher de la Sorciere (the witch's rock passage) a big white townhouse Directoire style is hiding behind a discreet black gate," so says the hotel's website.
 Reason enough.

Staying at this hotel is like a visiting your aristocratic avant garde great uncle's fabulously eclectic home. This is definitely not a Marriot hotel. Thank god.

In the "salon prive" the huge windows are framed out to show the garden as the artwork. The gardens were designed by the famous landscape architect, Louis Bénech, who designed the renovation of the Jardin des Tuileries. The salon showcases furniture designed by Meis Van der Roohe and an original Arne Jacobson "egg chair."

Renowned artists were invited to interpret their designs in each of the 5 suites. The above suite was designed by Pierre Fichefeux, an illustrator and art director. Other designers include Martine Aballéa, photographer Natacha Lesueur, Oliver Saillard and Philipe Mayaux.

FYI: The hotel takes doggies

Visit their website at:

Charlotte Street Hotel
This hotel is just what you want for a cozy visit in London, even in the summer.  Charlotte Street Hotel is one of a group of boutique hotels run by the Firmdale Group. Designer/owner Kit Kemp mastered this one. It "feels" like London inside. Cozy eclectic furnishings, fireplaces lit, candles glowing, afternoon tea (but not in a stuffy way) in the drawing room, books stocked in the library, movies in screening room. The bedrooms have dreamy duvets, fluffy towels, aromotherapy bath oils... all in a stylish hip setting for a 30's to 40's aged crowd.

The hotel is on a quaint street that looks like it should be in a movie. There are great restaurants (lots of delicious thai food) and pubs right outside the door.

The drawing room has a warm Michael S. Smith-ish feel with the blue paisley pillows and curtains.

The "library" had a discreet, fully stocked, off the wagon honor bar.

Charlotte Street Hotel also has an awesome screening room to watch  Bridget Jones's Diary I and II, The Holiday, and Notting Hill over and over and over again.

Visit the hotel's website at:

Rough Luxe Hotel
When I showed my daughter a picture the Rough Luxe hotel I booked, she looked at me like I had gone off the design deep end.  You have to visit this 190 year old building (now transformed into a hotel) with an open mind, an wide open design mind. I loved it. This is how I would live naturally. On the hotel's Home at Last welcome page of their website reads, "Half rough, half luxury. A little bit of luxury in a rough part of London. A little bit of rough in luxurious London." Sold.

The genius hotel with its genius style was designed by genius designer Rabih Hage.  Have you ever stripped wallpaper off of the wall of a very old house, witnessed that there was a layering of years and years of "Let's paint the walls pink," moments of inspiration all mottled together through years of partial sanding , repainting, wallpapering, and then painting again and then suddenly thought to yourself, "Oh my god, that's actually beautiful." Has that ever happened to you? Well it happened to the designer and that is why he is a genius. Rabih Hage had the forethought to leave the walls in their naturally layered loved state and then added contemporary artwork as the top coat.

If you do not like this,  you might want to cancel your subscription to my blog because clearly we are not in design sync, nor will we ever be.

The hotel states that the "luxury" in the hotel (and in life for that matter) is how you are treated (and life's  bed linens should be nice too, which they are here). The staff is so kind and welcoming. They mention, (because they do not have a restaurant) "If you are stuck for something to do in the evening, let us know and you can either eat with us or we can go out and grab a bite." That is a nicer welcome than I get at my own mother's house for god's sake.

The Rough Luxe is a very interesting design philosophy that is emerging on the scene. I hope it does not get out of hand like "shabby chic" did. The theory behind "rough luxe "is about the experience, the surrounding, the intrinsic value of objets, art, culture and the people surrounding us as well, "according to their website. You can join the "rough luxe" movement on their network if you adhere to certain qualifications which I have listed below from their website. This is how one should operate and design in everyday life.


* Unique location of the business in an exclusive site or address (example: mountain retreat, a beach building or an important location in an international city).

* Special or unique architectural and/or historical building where the (Rough-Luxe) business is established or operating from. 

* The interior and architectural design are based on the mix of old and new elements; showing original parts of the building, preserving the memory of the site and built environment as well as adding new, useful and original elements to the property.

* The design is based on a mix that looks random but in fact is done with a conscious transmission of social and philosophical messages that put intellectual enrichment prior to the physical well being.

* Rough-Luxe is about the exclusivity of the experience and its uniqueness in time.

* Physical comfort is important. However, it comes second to intellectual exchange of ideas and personal enrichment through the time spent in a Rough-Luxe business.

* The quality of food and beverages (organic and well chosen ingredients) is also part of Rough-Luxe priorities.

* Rough-Luxe will only have original art and design pieces (no copies or prints of existing art or design).

* Rough-Luxe will have rare books and poetry collections as well as original manuscripts.

* Rough-Luxe will have original and exclusive food providers and food ingredients based on ethical commerce and environmentally friendly methods of trade (to the best of the -Rough-Luxe- ability and knowledge).

* In a Rough-Luxe business; Luxury is original materials with a unique appearance and historical elements not solely rare materials and expensive finishes.

* Rough-Luxe concept is about location and material which give an intellectual and physical experience based on the provenance of the objects and goods.

To visit their website go to:

Mallorca Spain
I call it a hotel, she calls it home.
More on this one in the future.

Covent Garden Hotel
Back to London and another impressive Firmdale  hotel. British Marie Claire says, " It oozes style."

This lobby alone makes me want to move to London, marry a polo player, name my daughter Annabel and live in a townhouse.

And we would dine here with our fabulously smart friends with accents whose job titles are "philanthropists."

Then we would retire to our drawing room for some scintillating conversation about how great our lives are because we get to live here. The End.

To see more fab Firmdale hotels go to: