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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Frugal Bliss with Diana Phipps: More Frugal Decor, with a Luxurious Air

In case you don't know, Diana Phipps is a countess, whose family had to leave their ancestral castle in Czechoslovakia, owing to political changes. She now has returned and fixed up the castle, but for many years, she practiced frugal home design, while hanging out with the social and cultural elite.

Many years ago, when I was in graduate school, I spent a lot of time going to yard sales as a way of avoiding finishing my dissertation--oops, I mean, as a way of making ends meet. I bought a copy of Phipps's book Affordable Splendour. I was transfixed by her tales of ingenuity and making do; the results were luxurious and elegant, though not to my taste at the time.

Naturally, a friend borrowed the book right after I got it and lost it (her name was Rose). And I always wanted to look at it again. So, I put it on my wishlist at And lo and behold, it arrived yesterday.

Unlike those days, when I thought I might one day cover walls with fabric, figure out how to do staplegun upholstery, paint lovely trompe-l'oeil pictures on cabinets, make a wall look like tortoise shell, I now know that I hate doing things that require fine-motor skills. Plus, I lack Diana's fearlessness and patience.

As it happens, I--older and wiser--love her style. I will never attain it, because, in addition to lacking her skills at DOING all these things, I lack the discrimination that let her find all these neat bits and pieces (which she uses in clever ways) at flea markets and auctions. Here is the picture of her living room, courtesy of another blog.

And her writing style! It probably helped that she numbers among her friends Gore Vidal and Antonia Frasier; still, the book has a really distinctive voice.

I look for frugal friends everywhere and how thrilling to find a frugal countess. This is another book to check out of your library (or buy on Amazon). I link to one that shows the cover, but there are copies available for under $1.00!


SewingLibrarian said...

I swear, Frugal, you and I must be bookstore twins! I have (or had) this book, too! I'm not sure that I still have it. At one time I thought I could replicate her work with my trusty sewing machine, but making curtains (that look good) is more difficult than one might think. To say nothing about slipcovers. I'm glad to hear she got her property back - didn't know that.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Sewing--You can find the castle on the web and see some of her work! Oh, read the book again if you still have it--it is wonderful.

Morgan DeWinter said...

I have used her book for many years, it has made many a dump look like a home fit for a king and queen, she has kept my butt out of hot water for many years,love her Marty

Morgan DeWinter said...

would love to meet her one day in person and shake the hand of the person who has been my partner in crime opps redoing many of my apts and homes,

Shelley said...

Oh, too funny! I didn't ask for this book (Affordable Splendour), Bill just found it on Amazon when buying others for my Christmas presents. Not sure I fancy putting fabric on my walls, but there are plenty of other ideas that are tempting. I am writing about the books I got for Christmas, Googled the author's name and found your blog...I'm sure there is some cosmic conclusion one can draw from all that! Anyhow, Best Wishes for 2014!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Shelley--I can't do any of her projects, but I love her spirit!