By Stephanie Cavanaugh
I KNEW THERE WAS a reason I subscribed for over 100 bucks a year to World of Interiors, a British magazine with a bit of a cult following (see 100 bucks a year).
This month, in the section called “Aesthete’s Library,” writer Mitchell Owens features the now-out-of-print Maisons de France, a book published in 1950, when France was scratching a recovery from the “deprivation, occupation, and genocide” of World War II. Showcased are 96 residences . . . gathered into an “album of domestic escapism,” that were selected from the pages of French design magazine Plaisir de France.
On page 57, should you get your hands on the September issue (you won’t find it online) is the perfect repository for one’s dead parakeets (or canaries, doves, or vultures if you have). Would that I had noticed this before the deaths of Vinnie and Shakira, Buddy, Bossy, Blue, and Boychic. . . Peaches escaped, so she doesn’t count. Still with us are Cooper and Bonnie, who appear happy and healthy enough.
They were with us in pairs (we’re not insane). Each death was a tragedy. With each demise we swore off birds, but dammit, they’re entertaining, colorful, and make a design statement, which is, to my mind, the bottom line.
Getting to the point of the story: Filling a niche in the dining-room wall of a “suave country home” is an arched “vitrine of taxidermy birds set into the boiserie,” also known as wood wall paneling. Within the vitrine, which appears to be about 7 feet tall, is a small leafless tree, espaliered* against the back wall, with what appear to be 7 or 8 small colorful birds, presumably budgies perched on the branches. Judging from the number of photos of stuffed birds I found by Googling (see photo above and on the front), such displays were considered quite chic in Victorian homes, and are apparently collectible today. Keep your eye out!
So! To the point: Instead of a burial under the Kwanzan cherry tree, currently our feathered friends’ plot of eternal repose, Vinnie, Shakira, and those that followed could have been with us forever, some with wings spread as if about to take off, others sitting placidly, watching us dine.
Is this not the perfect accompaniment to oeufs cocotte or poulet chasseur? No feathers flying or raucous chirruping in the middle of dinner (they do like to chime in, opinionated little sots. The live ones, I mean).
Our friend Robert had his black cat taxidermied, a move I find strange. He’s an artist and architect of some renown, so one doesn’t question his sometimes peculiar ideas. Where has he put said cat, I have yet to see.
*Espaliered plants, says the agriculture wing of the University of Nebraska, are most often fruit trees trained to grow flat against a wall, which is useful in tight, confined areas where wide-spreading shrubs or trees won’t work. And that is all I have to say about gardening this week.