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Book Friday: Country & Russian Textiles

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One benefit of all of the April rain is the lush greens of grass and the vibrant, feel-good flower colors that greet us in May.

The books this week perfectly illustrate and celebrate everything natural, colorful, and full of life.

Jasper Conran’s Country, published by Octopus Publishing Group and photographed by Andrew Montgomery, is a surreal yet realistic view into true country living as it exists today.  This book reminds us that the pleasure that can be found in country landscapes is something that humans innately desire.

Conran -- one of the UK's most talented (not to mention successful) designers -- gives the reader a down-to-earth look at country and asserts that a “country life” is a state-of-mind and does not require fame or fortune.

Refreshing, given Conran himself has achieved greatness designing interiors, furniture, clothing, costumes, jewelry, ceramics, and crystal.

Accompanying the beautiful collection of earthy photographs, Conran explains that the purity and honesty of nature can be obtained by the yearning, searching, and understanding of a simpler kind of life that connects us with how people used to live.

The worlds of true country people that the book explores only deepens your appreciation of nature and will increase your anticipation of the coming months.

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1 "'Country' is an idea -- a texture, a flavour, a state of mind -- and can be perceived in many different ways" (Conran 6).

This classic country space lends its identity to the eclectic mix of objects from both the past and present.

2 This classic country space lends its identity to the eclectic mix of objects from both the past and present.

What a surreal and breathtaking landscape.

3 What a surreal and breathtaking landscape.

The incredible chinoiserie wallpaper in this country house study is known for having been wrapping paper holding imports of tea.

4 The incredible chinoiserie wallpaper in this country house study is known for having been wrapping paper holding imports of tea.

This calm creek resting under this old stone bridge is nothing short of enchanting.

5 This calm creek resting under this old stone bridge is nothing short of enchanting.

The details of this bench nestled in a stone nook are so charming and unique.

6 The details of this bench nestled in a stone nook are so charming and unique.

Country living is nothing without animals, who according to Conrad, bring a broad and interesting perspective into the world.

7 Country living is nothing without animals, who according to Conrad, bring a broad and interesting perspective into the world.

It's hard to believe that this old Elizabethan manor -- enveloped by romantic wisteria and built from local stone -- is not straight out of a fairy-tale.

8 It's hard to believe that this old Elizabethan manor -- enveloped by romantic wisteria and built from local stone -- is not straight out of a fairy-tale.

A hardy country kitchen ideal for throwing together delicious meals, made from home-grown ingredients of course.

9 A hardy country kitchen ideal for throwing together delicious meals, made from home-grown ingredients of course.

Nowhere else besides the country will you find an old working bathtub secluded in the corner of a cottage garden.

10 Nowhere else besides the country will you find an old working bathtub secluded in the corner of a cottage garden.

Conran explains that English gardens are not only places for solitude day-dreaming, but also for pride-filled, community-wide social entertainment.

11 Conran explains that English gardens are not only places for solitude day-dreaming, but also for pride-filled, community-wide social entertainment.

This gorgeous shot captures the

12 This gorgeous shot captures the "love that is to be found in a garden" (Conran 155).

This photograph captures proof of nature's brilliant and mysterious power in epic proportions.

13 This photograph captures proof of nature's brilliant and mysterious power in epic proportions.

Look at how deliciously fresh these vegetables look at the Royal Bath & West Show, an agricultural show held in Shepton Mallet.

14 Look at how deliciously fresh these vegetables look at the Royal Bath & West Show, an agricultural show held in Shepton Mallet.

One of Conran's subjects finds great joy and contentment in foraging the countryside for 80 to 90 different kinds of wild foodstuffs.

15 One of Conran's subjects finds great joy and contentment in foraging the countryside for 80 to 90 different kinds of wild foodstuffs.

The large hall of a restored medieval manor in Bristol becomes a place to house everything that the owners love and cherish.

16 The large hall of a restored medieval manor in Bristol becomes a place to house everything that the owners love and cherish.

The next book provides us with pages and pages of incredible floral prints, revealing a world of unique mastery and vivacious color.

Susan Meller’s Russian Textiles, published by Abrams, holds a collection of exquisite Russian representations of nature in printed cottons made for the Bazaars of Central Asia.

Over 250 works are displayed, giving us a look into the history of this prized craft from 1860 to 1960.  These textiles also give the reader an idea of how nature was interpreted by and for the region of what was once known as Russian Turkestan.

Together, these titles reveal two interesting viewpoints on nature; one as a “universal aspiration” and the other as a model of inspiration.  Either way, our natural surroundings are a powerful force that cannot, and should not, be taken for granted.

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In

1 In "Russian Textiles," Susan Meller reveals her personal collection of incredible Russian textiles, photographed by Don Tuttle.

This photograph from the Library of Congress, focuses on a fabric merchant in Samarkand, surrounded by brightly colored merchandise.

2 This photograph from the Library of Congress, focuses on a fabric merchant in Samarkand, surrounded by brightly colored merchandise.

The colors in this country palace for the Bukhara Emir are incredible.

3 The colors in this country palace for the Bukhara Emir are incredible.

Made in Moscow around 1930, this Turksib depicts the

4 Made in Moscow around 1930, this Turksib depicts the "Turkestan-Siberia Railroad" and the "Daily Life of the Peoples of the East."

This pre-revolutionary roller-printed cotton cloth follows a star and crescent motif, made towards the end of the 19th Century.

5 This pre-revolutionary roller-printed cotton cloth follows a star and crescent motif, made towards the end of the 19th Century.

Here is an early 20th Century woman's munisak lined with beautiful and ornate Russian printed cotton.

6 Here is an early 20th Century woman's munisak lined with beautiful and ornate Russian printed cotton.

An interesting choice of color on this lining of a silk brocade munisak.

7 An interesting choice of color on this lining of a silk brocade munisak.

A lovely example of the Russian Art Nouveau style.

8 A lovely example of the Russian Art Nouveau style.

This woman's munisak from Uzbek was created with chartreuse handwoven silk and four other lavish patterned cloths.

9 This woman's munisak from Uzbek was created with chartreuse handwoven silk and four other lavish patterned cloths.

Such an appealing pattern in this lining of a boy's coat from Bukhara.

10 Such an appealing pattern in this lining of a boy's coat from Bukhara.

Here is a post-revolutionary machine printed cloth in a popular pattern from the mid-twentieth Century.

11 Here is a post-revolutionary machine printed cloth in a popular pattern from the mid-twentieth Century.

Another fantastic machine-printed cotton cloth that was used on the back of an Uzbek embroidery.

12 Another fantastic machine-printed cotton cloth that was used on the back of an Uzbek embroidery.

This post-revolutionary-modern cloth made for a unique horse saddle cover from the 1930s.  Many of the designs are specifically Soviet symbols.

13 This post-revolutionary-modern cloth made for a unique horse saddle cover from the 1930s. Many of the designs are specifically Soviet symbols.

A Russian early 20th Century print that was inspired by the romanticism of European home design.

14 A Russian early 20th Century print that was inspired by the romanticism of European home design.

The particular design of the peacock, branches, and large roses suggest that this Russian lining was inspired by a Manchester design for India.

15 The particular design of the peacock, branches, and large roses suggest that this Russian lining was inspired by a Manchester design for India.

This block-printed cotton chit from Uzbekistan from the 1920s-1930s is characterized by repeating floral motifs and borders.

16 This block-printed cotton chit from Uzbekistan from the 1920s-1930s is characterized by repeating floral motifs and borders.

Park Avenue Flowers

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Park Avenue flowers are an eagerly anticipated harbinger of spring in New York City. Every March, hundreds of tulips, daffodils, and other annual beauties rise from the busy thoroughfare. Blossoming trees line the sidewalks and fill the air with a sweet and fresh scent.

This year, a Brooklyn-based artist heightened the spectacle of Park Avenue with his installation entitled, "The Roses." Will Ryman constructed, by hand, 38 colossal rose blooms and "planted" them on a 10-block stretch of Park Avenue.

The roses, ranging in height from three to 25 feet, are a fanciful tribute to the larger than life nature of New York City.

The other day, I took an afternoon stroll down Park Avenue to admire the sculptures and lush floral displays.

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Park Avenue is home to some incredible flower displays.

1 Park Avenue is home to some incredible flower displays.

2 "The Roses" is the dazzling focus of the flower display on Park Ave right now.

The colossal blossoms begin at 57th and Park.

3 The colossal blossoms begin at 57th and Park.

Artist Will Ryman created 38 gigantic rose blossoms.

4 Artist Will Ryman created 38 gigantic rose blossoms.

Ryman chose red and pink for all of the sculptures.

5 Ryman chose red and pink for all of the sculptures.

The vibrant colors were wonderful to look at during the bleak winter months.

6 The vibrant colors were wonderful to look at during the bleak winter months.

I'm thankful these giant critters aren't real..

7 I'm thankful these giant critters aren't real..

A beetle ascends one of the tallest blooms.

8 A beetle ascends one of the tallest blooms.

This exhibition is Ryman's first public art installation.

9 This exhibition is Ryman's first public art installation.

New Yorkers and tourists were constantly stopping to admire them.

10 New Yorkers and tourists were constantly stopping to admire them.

The Roses evoke the

11 The Roses evoke the "larger than life" nature of the city.

Some tower as high as 25 feet!

12 Some tower as high as 25 feet!

The Roses are

13 The Roses are "planted" among a field of tulips that will be blooming soon.

They photograph well against the backdrop of the skyscrapers.

14 They photograph well against the backdrop of the skyscrapers.

The beautiful curves of these sculptures remind me of Georgia O'Keefe's famous floral paintings.

15 The beautiful curves of these sculptures remind me of Georgia O'Keefe's famous floral paintings.

Ryman also constructed 20 individual rose petals.

16 Ryman also constructed 20 individual rose petals.

The petals are scattered among the trees between 63rd and 65th streets.

17 The petals are scattered among the trees between 63rd and 65th streets.

Ryman says the scale of the sculptures reflects his love of the absurd and dramatic.

18 Ryman says the scale of the sculptures reflects his love of the absurd and dramatic.

Imagine getting an arrangement of this size for Valentine's Day!

19 Imagine getting an arrangement of this size for Valentine's Day!

Some of the buds are almost ten feet in diameter!

20 Some of the buds are almost ten feet in diameter!

I love the sculptural detail of the prickly thorns.

21 I love the sculptural detail of the prickly thorns.

A fiberglass and resin bee perches atop a beautiful bloom.

22 A fiberglass and resin bee perches atop a beautiful bloom.

The blossoming trees on Park brighten the morning commute.

23 The blossoming trees on Park brighten the morning commute.

I was drawn to this handsome scooter sitting beneath one of the beautiful trees.

24 I was drawn to this handsome scooter sitting beneath one of the beautiful trees.

Third Church of Christ on Park has these bright planters outside of their doors.

25 Third Church of Christ on Park has these bright planters outside of their doors.

Tulips and daffodils are springing out of the planters on Park.

26 Tulips and daffodils are springing out of the planters on Park.

The hyacinths are gorgeous.

27 The hyacinths are gorgeous.

How can you not stop and admire these beauties?

28 How can you not stop and admire these beauties?

Or these?

29 Or these?

Magnolias are beginning to open up as well.

30 Magnolias are beginning to open up as well.

I love the smell of magnolias.

31 I love the smell of magnolias.

A crowd of daffodils in the Park Ave. median.

32 A crowd of daffodils in the Park Ave. median.

These tulips caught my eye right away.

33 These tulips caught my eye right away.

Their coloring is magnificent.

34 Their coloring is magnificent.

Take some time today to look up, down and around you to admire the spring blooms.

35 Take some time today to look up, down and around you to admire the spring blooms.

Decluttering for Spring

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Spring is the time of year when most of us think about getting our homes in order and getting rid of the excess.  Doing a seasonal inventory will help you make better use of the things you want to keep.

In addition to donating items, there other great options for getting rid of the things you no longer need.   Tag sales, online auctions, and consignment shops are perfect ways to recycle your goods and chances are there's someone who's looking for what you have to unload.  I also love the idea of holding an office or neighborhood swap.   It's a fun idea and great way to get together with friends.

I hope these ideas and tips help you with your spring declutter...

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Clutter accumulates quickly so staying on top of it regularly is a top priority for me both at home and at work.

1 Clutter accumulates quickly so staying on top of it regularly is a top priority for me both at home and at work.

Take an inventory of what you have and sort out items you no longer need.  Set up bins and label them to sort belongings.  Make it a project for the entire family.

2 Take an inventory of what you have and sort out items you no longer need. Set up bins and label them to sort belongings. Make it a project for the entire family.

If you're short on space, designate a tote bag or basket and keep it in a closet so that unwanted items can go right inside.

3 If you're short on space, designate a tote bag or basket and keep it in a closet so that unwanted items can go right inside.

If you have the space in the basement or garage, set up a system for sorting items year round.  Once a bin is full, donate it.

4 If you have the space in the basement or garage, set up a system for sorting items year round. Once a bin is full, donate it.

It's helpful for donation centers if you separate clothing from other household goods.

5 It's helpful for donation centers if you separate clothing from other household goods.

Make donations regularly.  A good rule is when something new comes in, some old goes out.

6 Make donations regularly. A good rule is when something new comes in, some old goes out.

Organizing a tag sale takes a little planning, but it's another great way to declutter.

7 Organizing a tag sale takes a little planning, but it's another great way to declutter.

Online auctions are a fun way to purge.

8 Online auctions are a fun way to purge.

After the  auction, pack up your goods and ship them out to the highest bidder.

9 After the auction, pack up your goods and ship them out to the highest bidder.

Consignment shops are another alternative for getting rid of your unwanted stuff.  Check before you haul though since they often specialize in a narrow range of merchandise.

10 Consignment shops are another alternative for getting rid of your unwanted stuff. Check before you haul though since they often specialize in a narrow range of merchandise.

The entry is one of the areas that can get out of control quickly.  These rolling bins tucked under a bench keep belongings looking neat.

11 The entry is one of the areas that can get out of control quickly. These rolling bins tucked under a bench keep belongings looking neat.

Hooks are another must in an entry.  Great for jackets, keys and pet leashes.  Hang a few baskets on them too for sorting mail.

12 Hooks are another must in an entry. Great for jackets, keys and pet leashes. Hang a few baskets on them too for sorting mail.

A message board in an entry or mudroom keeps everyone organized and in the loop.

13 A message board in an entry or mudroom keeps everyone organized and in the loop.

A roller shade installed above makes a perfect cover.

14 A roller shade installed above makes a perfect cover.

A  tray in an entryway keeps boots and shoes neat and contained.  In the spring, add some river rocks to help the water drain off and evaporate.

15 A tray in an entryway keeps boots and shoes neat and contained. In the spring, add some river rocks to help the water drain off and evaporate.

An entry should always include a landing place for keys, mail and other everyday essentials.  A low console gives a modern look.

16 An entry should always include a landing place for keys, mail and other everyday essentials. A low console gives a modern look.

A marble shelf with carved brackets is the perfect fit for this formal entry.

17 A marble shelf with carved brackets is the perfect fit for this formal entry.

As you change out clothes for the season, be sure to edit out clothing you haven't worn or anything that doesn't fit.

18 As you change out clothes for the season, be sure to edit out clothing you haven't worn or anything that doesn't fit.

Changing out the hangers in your closet to one kind will make it look more orderly.

19 Changing out the hangers in your closet to one kind will make it look more orderly.

Desks are other places that accumulate clutter easily.  A small picture ledge hung above is perfect for keeping accessories in reach and off your work surface.

20 Desks are other places that accumulate clutter easily. A small picture ledge hung above is perfect for keeping accessories in reach and off your work surface.

Replace a desk blotter calendar with a more graphic wall calendar made with chalkboard paint.

21 Replace a desk blotter calendar with a more graphic wall calendar made with chalkboard paint.

Flip front kitchen cabinets work well in a home office to conceal supplies.

22 Flip front kitchen cabinets work well in a home office to conceal supplies.

Accordion folders keep papers ordered and organized so that they can be found easily.  No file cabinet needed.

23 Accordion folders keep papers ordered and organized so that they can be found easily. No file cabinet needed.

The cubbies in this drop-down desk keep small items organized.

24 The cubbies in this drop-down desk keep small items organized.

To keep small papers and notes from getting lost, use a cafe curtain rod and clips to hold them.

25 To keep small papers and notes from getting lost, use a cafe curtain rod and clips to hold them.

A curtain is a great way to close off an office space in from another space in a multipurpose room.

26 A curtain is a great way to close off an office space in from another space in a multipurpose room.

The desk in my bedroom has plenty of drawer space to keep supplies.

27 The desk in my bedroom has plenty of drawer space to keep supplies.

I use caviar tins that I've collected over the years to contain push pins, paper clips, rubber bands, etc.

28 I use caviar tins that I've collected over the years to contain push pins, paper clips, rubber bands, etc.

Martha's office supply drawer in her kitchen stays organized with metal drawer dividers.  Don't even think about removing the label maker.

29 Martha's office supply drawer in her kitchen stays organized with metal drawer dividers. Don't even think about removing the label maker.

These chunky, stacked shelves hold toiletries as an alternative to a medicine cabinet.

30 These chunky, stacked shelves hold toiletries as an alternative to a medicine cabinet.

To maximize space in a traditional medicine cabinet, line the inside back of the cabinet and door with sheet metal, then use magnetic containers and hooks to hold supplies.

31 To maximize space in a traditional medicine cabinet, line the inside back of the cabinet and door with sheet metal, then use magnetic containers and hooks to hold supplies.

I keep my bathroom supplies on a silver tray on a shelf below my sink.

32 I keep my bathroom supplies on a silver tray on a shelf below my sink.

Built-in nooks around tubs and showers are made for holding soaps, shampoo and conditioner.  I like them much better that shower caddies.

33 Built-in nooks around tubs and showers are made for holding soaps, shampoo and conditioner. I like them much better that shower caddies.

Martha's kitchen in Bedford is always the picture of organization.

34 Martha's kitchen in Bedford is always the picture of organization.

Pin-up boards installed in this family's kitchen organize kids' art work and school papers.

35 Pin-up boards installed in this family's kitchen organize kids' art work and school papers.

Wall mounted bins labeled with family members' names keep things from getting misplaced.

36 Wall mounted bins labeled with family members' names keep things from getting misplaced.

Cleaning up as you cook instead of allowing pots and dishes to pile up makes clean-up after a meal much easier.

37 Cleaning up as you cook instead of allowing pots and dishes to pile up makes clean-up after a meal much easier.

Opaque glass in cabinet doors gives the kitchen a light feeling while still concealing cabinet contents.

38 Opaque glass in cabinet doors gives the kitchen a light feeling while still concealing cabinet contents.

The risers in my cabinets keep my dishes and glassware in perfect order.

39 The risers in my cabinets keep my dishes and glassware in perfect order.

A simple cake stand on a kitchen counter can keep everyday essentials neat and within easy reach.

40 A simple cake stand on a kitchen counter can keep everyday essentials neat and within easy reach.

A junk drawer doesn't need to look junky.  Wood organizers separate items to help you find what you need.

41 A junk drawer doesn't need to look junky. Wood organizers separate items to help you find what you need.

Get in the habit of sorting the mail as soon as you bring it inside.  Doing it each day will only take a few minutes.

42 Get in the habit of sorting the mail as soon as you bring it inside. Doing it each day will only take a few minutes.

A made bed makes the entire bedroom seem more orderly.

43 A made bed makes the entire bedroom seem more orderly.

Making your bed everyday will make you less likely to let other things pile up around it.

44 Making your bed everyday will make you less likely to let other things pile up around it.

Sharkey loves to take naps on freshly made beds.

45 Sharkey loves to take naps on freshly made beds.

The slip-on cover for my bed makes it easy for me to make my bed up in no time every morning.

46 The slip-on cover for my bed makes it easy for me to make my bed up in no time every morning.

Wiping up spills while they're fresh makes them easier to remove.

47 Wiping up spills while they're fresh makes them easier to remove.

Bar mop cloths are better than paper towels.  More absorbent and reusable.

48 Bar mop cloths are better than paper towels. More absorbent and reusable.

Sweeping the kitchen floor after dinner each night will keep dirt and grime from building up and make weekly mopping much easier.

49 Sweeping the kitchen floor after dinner each night will keep dirt and grime from building up and make weekly mopping much easier.

Now that you've decluttered and cleaned up your home for spring, open the windows and sit back and enjoy it's sweet smells.

50 Now that you've decluttered and cleaned up your home for spring, open the windows and sit back and enjoy it's sweet smells.

De-cluttering is an ongoing process and there are definitely hot spots where clutter tends to settle in quite easily.  These areas tend to be the ones in the home that get the most use, the entryway, closets, desk, the bathroom and kitchen.

Once you have these areas under control, try getting in the habit of doing these six tasks every day to help keep chaos at bay.

*Make the bed

*Return things to where they belong

*Sort the mail

*Clean up as you cook

*Wipe up spills while they're fresh

*Sweep the kitchen floor


Martha Stewart Clean Giveaway

kevin_sharkey_declutter_ms_clean_giveaway

To help with your spring-cleaning chores and show off  the new product packaging (we redesigned our labels) on our Martha Stewart Clean products,  I'm giving away a set of our cleaning basics (dish and hand soap, all-purpose cleaner, and glass and mirror cleaner) to five readers who submit their biggest decluttering challenge for the spring.

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. (Read the Official Rules for this giveaway)

I can't wait to read them. Good luck!