In 2005, when domino magazine first came to be, I was an anomaly: an antiques dealer in my early twenties. Most of my peers were attending graduate school or exploring new career paths, I had been enchanted by the family business. The industry publications I was required to peruse were just that: required reading, all business, no pleasure. Who came to my rescue? domino. It was a publication that believed in beautiful environments and spoke to the reality of someone my age. It layered old and new, high and low, business and pleasure.
So you can imagine my delight when a few kindred souls decided to bring domino back to life last year. And maybe you can feel how thrilled I was when I found editorial director Robert Leleux at our table in April, when The HighBoy sponsored a table at the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club’s annual President’s Dinner. In Robert, I found a like-minded friend. Amidst conversations that ranged from the Ballets Russes to traveling to India, Robert and I decided we should meet again. And that finally happened last Sunday when he and his talented colleague, Brittany Ambridge, came to photograph our home for the fall issue of domino.
Without a doubt, I was a nervous wreck for the entire week preceding the shoot. I kept having nightmares in which Robert and Brittany showed up at my door and ran away within minutes of seeing our home. At the root of my worries was the question: Is our home, our imperfect but beloved 1950s South Florida ranch, worthy?
Much to my delight, Robert and Brittany arrived at 10 AM and didn’t run away. They walked inquisitively through the house and we began our conversations just where we had left off the last time we’d seen each other. They began in our living room, where they had to work around a misplaced AC vent and thermostat. (It reminded me that the great design is the art of circumventing obstacles.) Next, Robert styled our dining room table, trying to arrange some lilies and hydrangeas before abandoning the combination in favor of simplicity. When Robert and Brittany included our six-year-old daughter’s paintings in the background of the dining-room shot–the same images that cover our refrigerator every day–I felt a sigh of happiness: domino embraces real living, not staged appearances. Why had I been so worried?
We moved to our “Florida room”–a staple of homes built during the post-war Miami boom before the days of AC, when no house was without an indoor-outdoor screened porch. With the advent of AC, most of those porches were enclosed. Here, Robert borrowed my succulent garden from the front porch and brought them inside to feature amidst a worn leather club chair from the 1920s and a devotional painting of the Madonna and Child I’ve owned since I was a child. This is a trick Robert employed almost magically during the entire shoot: He managed to highlight the things that are particularly special to me, even when I’d banished them to a dark corner, perhaps out of a sense of vulnerability or fear that they wouldn’t be up to par.
And as the shoot wound down, if I had any remnants of anxiety, they faded away when Robert insisted on unmaking the bed because he’s trying to tell a story about our life–real people in a home full of life, in all its beauty and imperfection. I thought about that reality when the incessant rain stopped for 10 minutes, so my family of five could stand by the pool and smile for the last shot of the day.
It seemed that Brittany took hundreds of photos, and my hope is that when people see those images in the pages of the magazine, they’ll have a sense of the day’s beauty and vitality: Over those hours, we talked about Dorothy Day, yuca, traveling to Cuba, popular music from country to rock, Anna Pavlova, and the process of collecting. Robert has an amazing ability to memorize lyrics or lines from his favorite books and recite them when appropriate. His literary references accentuated the anecdotes I told about being surrounded by all my favorites objects. For our family–and for Robert and Brittany, I hope–the memories of that day will be about hours of conversations, stories, and laughs, flavors and scents, colors and sentiments: the stuff of life.