Personal Effects

My father is about as unflashy as they come — he’s modest, totally un-label-conscious, and could care less about how much so-and-so’s something-or-other cost.  But he lives his life in great style, and it’s all in the details: a flash of the novacheck on the lining of his timeless Burberry trench; the discreet luxe quality of the Mont Blanc pen always in his pocket, at the ready for scribbling notes to his five children along the margins of whatever article he’s just ripped out of this month’s Economist or today’s Wall Street Journal; the vintage sophistication of the inherited mother of pearl button covers that accent his tux shirt, which makes (grudging) bi-annual appearances at whatever black tie event my mother’s dragged him to.  I was thinking about this the other day, realizing that the chicest of the bunch may not own the latest It bag (anything Celine) or the hottest new heels (Isabel Marant’s Poppy pumps), but she leads a well-curated life, surrounding herself with carefully selected, meaningful items.  It’s that girl in your office who wears the vintage crocodile leather watch she inherited from her grandmother, or that classmate who has a luxe leather (label-free) tote she found in France.  This post is therefore a bit of a moving target — how to characterize those little details that add up to a well-heeled little lady?  A few thoughts on some of the items that I find most telling…

1) Monogrammed Smythson Diary ($155+)  For whatever reason, I take this as the ultimate sign of a classy lady — its just so old world, so 19th century, to “keep a diary” in a leather-bound book.  I also read in one of the bajillion and one wedding-themed/wedding-related magazine articles/blog posts/books I pored over during my year long engagement (best year of my life, hands down) that one very dapper gent gifted his bride-to-be a monogrammed Smythson Wedding Planner.  What an exquisite keepsake.

2)  Tiffany Pen ($65+)  Sort of goes without saying that with such a luxe diary, you need an equally impressive writing implement.

3)  Custom Letterpress Stationery ($$$$).  I’m something of a letterpress fanatic — all of our wedding stationery was letterpress (from the um.may.zing. folks at Bella Figura), and as one of the many stationery “experts” that I consulted with prior to going with Bella Figura put it, “when you have letterpress in your hands, it just feels like a special occasion.”  I’d love a bespoke letterpress job by Dauphine, Elum, or Bella Figura’s sister company, Smock.

1)  A Mason Pearson Brush ($128).  They are pricey.  But they last a lifetime and are of the highest quality, while my drugstore purchases find their way into the trash every year.  If I spot one of these chez une amie, I think “Ooh la la, she treats herself well.”

2)  Vintage Perfume Bottles.  There is something lovely and old-school about a vanity set with a collection of vintage bottles, collected over the course of lifetime.

3)  Enorma-puffs ($40).  Every diva deserves these…just because.

4)  Luxe Body Cream.  I’m smitten with the entire Tocca line, but nothing is more indulgent than their gorgeously luxe body cream ($45).

5)  La Perla lingerie.  There is absolutely nothing more indulgent than La Perla lingerie — and I’ve carefully collected sets and separates over the past few years, buying them on sale at Neiman’s or at TheOutnet.  They are lovely, but I cannot imagine paying full-price.

6)  Bombshell Chanel makeup.  We might never be able to afford a Chanel wardrobe, but we can still enjoy the luxe label with some classic rouge a levres or nail lacquer.

1)  Diptyque candles ($60).  Though I am a huge Tocca candle fan (I pretty much buy the Florence scent in bulk), I feel as though Diptyque candles are the hallmark of a well-dressed home.

2)  Hermes Avalon Blanket ($2,575).  Did you die when you saw the price tag?!  I just choked.  But having one of these draped over your chair = true class.

3) High-end linens.  I go bananas over Leontine Linens and D. Porthault in particular.

4)  Personal library.  I know m0st people snoop around the medicine cabinet, but I prefer to check out the book collection — so much more telling about a person’s interests.  I have a cartloads of books over at my parents’ house (we don’t have room in our newlywed nest…), but if I were to consciously work towards re-creating my own library from scratch, I’d look first for a set of Harvard Classics.

You can find them on Etsy, in used book shops, and probably on eBay as well.  I’m also a sucker for all things pretty, and am seriously head over heels for Penguin’s re-released hardcover classics:

Just check out LonnyMag’s “bookshelves” section for inspiration…

{images from LonnyMag}

1)  Cookbooks.  Mr. Magpie and I have an extensive collection of cookbooks {we’re both seriously into cooking} — Mr. Magpie’s most loved include Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Meat Book and anything by Steve Raichlen {grill expert}, while I absolutely cherish my Martha Stewart books.

2)  Fine cookware.  Mr. Magpie and I own All-Clad pots and pans {before we tied the knot, my parents took to giving me one piece per birthday/Christmas, which was a fantastic gift for me, and the wedding registry completed the set}, and a budding Mauviel copper collection, which is pretty much the creme de la creme as far as cookware goes.  Also insanely expensive {and heav.y.  I can barely lift our fry pan — definitely need two hands, and often Mr. Magpie’s backup.}  At any rate, when I see a kitchen stocked with Mauviel, I’m totally wowed.

3) Rosle implements.  They seem obscenely overpriced for what they are — but are they?!  I almost threw up when I picked up a Rosle can opener at Williams-Sonoma and saw that it was $37.  For a can opener?!  But then — every Rosle brand implement in our kitchen is geniusly engineered, works without a hitch, and lives on into perpetuity, while that semi-functional $7 can opener I bought at Safeway will rust, dull, and find its sorry way into the trash.

4)  Fine foodstuffs.  Mr. Magpie and I have made a practice of stocking our pantry with staples of the highest quality — we buy our spices at Penzey’s, our vanilla from Nielsen-Massey, and our olive oil from Frantoia.  It’s amazing how much better everything tastes when you start with good quality basics.  I’m always on the lookout for others who take care when purchasing these sorts of staples, hoping to lift tips from them.

1)  Monogrammed Goyard Bags.  These are a lot less “in the spotlight” than their Louis Vuitton counterparts, but they are terribly chic nonetheless.

Just take a look at Gwyneth, Diane Kruger, and Nicole Richie.

2)  Charm bracelets and other personalized trinkets.  While we’d all love the latest Alexis Bittar bangle, or the newest Lizzie Fortunato bib necklace, there’s something to be said for the appeal of timeless, heirloomable jewelry.  That signet ring that belonged to your great aunt; that engraved watch that your grandfather gave your grandmother; that charm bracelet you’ve been adding to since you were 3 years old.  I love the way they tell stories.

3)  Annick Goutal parfums.  When I lived in France, I found my way into the Annick Goutal storefront every now and then, and was totally wowed by the shop itself and by the class of lady found shopping there.  It just seemed to be the place to purchase fragrance.

Just a few ideas for this (blah) Monday morning.


  1. I love this post – classic and quality pieces are well worth the investment. I would definitely go for timeless pieces over ‘of-the-minute’ flash trends any day of the week!

  2. Don’t get me wrong, I love your posts and understand having some items that are gorgeous and expensive, but I wish that there would be a post of affordable things once in a while. This one starts by saying that you don’t have to buy expensive new ‘it’ items, and then goes on to talk about a $125 brush and a $2,575 blanket. A $2,575 blanket doesn’t scream class, it screams I have insane amounts of money that I can throw around on nothing. It’s less inspiring and more irritating.

    1. Yikes! I feel your pain, and apologize for the oversight! I usually treat this blog as a space for total indulgence, for dreaming about all the things I wish I could own…but will definitely take this to heart and put together some more wallet-friendly options. Thanks!

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