by Marisa Marcantonio

Here are some uber last minute holiday gift ideas for yourself and your nearest and dearest. Some gifts you might never buy for yourself because you are so busy thinking about everyone else or you feel they are too decadent, so provide this list to a person that needs a nudge, and point them in the right direction. These goodies can help you get ready for the New Year, relax, recharge and get cozy.

Photo courtesy of Random House
If you want to harness your inner style, turn to this new book from Monacelli Press A Life of Style by fashion and luxury lifestyle icon Rebecca Moses for her wise words about what style means and how you can access yours both through your look and how you live. Now is the time to rethink it all, especially if you want to turn over a new leaf in the new year.

Photo courtesy of Rifle Paper Co.
When the holidays are over, you may or may not be into talking about, eating and looking at food. After you have swapped recipes and finally gotten your Aunt to divulge her famous Chili recipe, you can write the secret ingredients down in Rifle Paper Co's Heirloom Recipe Card box. The old timey box is painted in with a floral design and looks as though it was passed down from generation to generation, but that can be our secret. This is a nice time - consuming project for when you feel like opting out of the after dinner walk with the entire family to get some time to yourself. Does this sound familiar?

Photo courtesy of Canvas
Illuminate a Canvas Back to Basics candle to start off the new year-- after all, isn't that what resolutions are all about -- a return to the basic, easy stress-free life you once had? Fig and Orange Blossom scents will fill the air with a serene aroma.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany
Brew up a spot of tea and sympathy in Tiffany's bone china Sea Urchin Teapot. It is the perfect time out and a way to take a moment for yourself.

Few things are as cozy as crisply pressed cotton classic pajamas. Finally, they are being made in a wearable (not massively over sized) cut with beautiful accent colors. Lounge around well into January with luxe in a 140 thread count cotton poplin pajama top from Marigot. They are available with pretty contrast piping colors like lime, shown here, and get better with time.
Complete the set with Marigot cotton pants, and begin your collection of PJ's.

Photo courtesy of Waterworks
A gift box like this will make your friends feel like they are staying in a 5 star hotel from Waterworks. The box includes a white hand towel and Apothecary Hand Cream, Liquid Hand Soap, Bar Hand Soap, Shower Gel and Room Spray. Give it as a party thank you or keep it for the cadre of relatives that will soon be descending on your home for the holidays. Waterworks is offering Stylebeat readers a special 20% discount for the holidays and you can use the code STYLEBEAT10 at checkout!

Photo courtesy of Nina Campbell
Keep your toes warm with an adorable hot water bottle designed as only the British can. From Nina Campbell.

Photo courtesy of Kate Spade
If you must go outside, be ready for a flash snowball fight with these Kate Spade Snowball Mittens that read, "place snowball here" on the right glove.

Photo courtesy of Glamourpuss
It has been so cold in New York it is hard not to look like Nanook of the North bundling up to go outside. But since ski slope chic has hit the city hard, you may need this fur funnel neck piece to keep your head and neck toasty from Glamourpuss. A little bit Alps a lot warm.


by Marisa Marcantonio

Photos courtesy of Monacelli Press
Scholar, designer, auction house appraiser, museum fellow, and historical aesthete. These are just a few of the esteemed titles that apply to interior designer Thomas Jayne, one of the most academically advanced and erudite interior designers of our time. In his new book, The Finest Rooms in America from Monacelli Press, written with Ann Walker, Jayne gives his take on what he deems to be the fifty rooms that are the most beautiful examples of American decoration today. Arranged chronologically, beginning with Mount Vernon and Monticello, important rooms are highlighted from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as a selection from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Mixing diversity of periods and styles, the eclectic assortment reveals how people have lived in the past up to current day environs. Alas I could not show all 50, but this should give you a sense of the depth and breadth of Thomas Jayne's vast knowledge on historically important rooms across the US.

A rarely seen angle of Albert Hadley's New York apartment with Robin's Egg blue wall framed in brass and graphic borders above upper and lower moldings.

Casa Amesti, a Colonial adobe home in Monterrey, California. This is the beautiful blue and cream living room designed by the legendary Francis Elkins. It is one of the finest surviving examples of her work.

The living room shown here is in Beauport, a house museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts. A colorful and inventive mix of historic styles and color combines Windsor Chairs and vivid painted trim. With over 40 rooms created by interior designer Henry Davis Sleeper in the mid 1900's, the home provides endless inspiration for interior designers.

I asked Thomas about the book recently and he shared his insights with me:

Why a book about the finest rooms in America?

Considering all the books and magazines devoted to interior design, there are very few that firmly declare that a room is refined. Refinement and its estimation is, of course, subjective and stating personal opinion is risky. The value in this book, and the risk it takes, is that it starts a conversation about what are the finest rooms and that a fine room is a worthy goal.

How did you ever decide what to include? You have travelled extensively and seen so much

The book illustrates a selection of fine rooms, beginning in the 18th century up to the present, starting with Thomas Jefferson ending with Albert Hadley. Virtually every style and type of rooms is present. There are comparable rooms that are not illustrated but I encourage readers to think about what makes a fine rooms and to make their own list (as a matter of fact, I am creating a website, that will allow people to suggest their own finest rooms.)
Some of the rooms are surprising choices; they do not seem obviously fine. One room, a rustic but highly refined room of Mary Cooper’s in New Orleans was greeted by some of the people of taste that I consulted about the book with “are you nuts”? The room is furnished with modest examples of the decorative arts, but painted and arranged with much sophistication. The point is that refinement is not about expense.

What made these rooms catch your eye?

I found in writing the book that a fine room is usually focused on a work of art, object of beauty or sentiment and then arranged with great thought and care. The art does not have to be an expensive masterpiece-- it can be a work by an artist that is not famous, but it does have to resonate with the room’s owner. Same with objects—their significance to the owner comes through in looking at the room.

Does every room need to be comfortable?

To the degree that you want it to be -- if you aspire to make a room more than just utilitarian and consider its decoration an important element, it would be something to aspire towards.

What makes a room successful from a design standpoint?

A room is successful if the owner and its visitors want to be in it and that it works for its purpose. A living room where company is expected should be comfortable for a visit and the decoration must be pleasing.

What does every room need to be comfortable?

There is no single furnishing that makes every room comfortable. All comfortable rooms are appropriate for their purpose. The notion that every comfortable room requires a place to set cocktails is a fallacy.

What is your favorite decorative detail?

Paint -- the remarkable and transformative power of paint. The paint in every room in The Finest Rooms in America, is well considered and beautifully applied -- even the white ones. Paint is also about the texture and light it brings to a room.

If there were one place everyone could visit, what room would you recommend?

I would send every American to Monticello. It represents much that is paramount about American design and its philosophy

What is a favorite room abroad?

Can I answerer that favorite room in each country? The Pantheon in Rome, the Salon at Hotel de Soubise in Paris, The Throne Room of the Royal Palace in Madrid

If there was one historical fact you could impart about the history of design what would it be?

I encourage people to consider the value of design – just think how costly bad design always turns out to be. I often paraphrase Oscar Wilde who said beauty has no value unless it is realized in form – meaning we must pursue the higher ideals of beauty and try to achieve them in what we create.