Home: My New Best Friend: Smarty Pants

In a stylish study, there’s room for lounging and learning

I’M A LITTLE ashamed to admit it, but I’ve always had a thing against decorators. Maybe because I always thought I could be one. But when Ashli Mizell, global-chic interior designer, walked in my front door — well, let’s just say she had me at hello. I loved her stylish outfit: black blazer, navy tee, cool black boots and a very punk rock white silk handkerchief with black skulls, tucked neatly into the breast pocket. It was like expecting Martha Stewart — and Gwen Stefani turning up instead. Suddenly, I didn’t just want Ashli to be my interior designer; I wanted her to come clothes shopping with me, too.

The purpose of Ashli’s visit: She came over to help me spruce up my study. Every fall, Poindexter that I am, I set myself up for some kind of learning experience. One year, it was a photography trip to Morocco. Another year, it was a class in floral design (with somewhat disastrous results, unfortunately — at the end of the first session the teacher recommended I leave and never return). For a few seasons, I did French lessons, which I loved. This year, I’m planning on taking private classes in Portuguese to help me with a book that I’m working on about Carmen Miranda.

The only thing holding me back: My study had become, as these rooms sometimes do, a dumping ground of tomes and papers, gifts that I buy in advance of people’s birthdays, and thank-you notes I still haven’t gotten around to sending. The only thing that is right about this space, as Ashli pointed out, is one very nice chair, a beautiful, old, cream-and-black upholstered chair-and-a-half that reminds me of a vintage Chanel bag.

Other than that one piece, it certainly wasn’t the study of my dreams. What I wanted was something like one of the rooms I saw on Ashli’s eponymous website. Just about everything in her online portfolio will give you a serious case of house lust, but I was struck in particular by a corner photo of a room that featured a Corinthian column stacked with beautiful hardcover books topped by a beautiful little Moroccan jar. I wanted that beautiful column. I wanted the books. I wanted the petite jar on top. I also wanted the teal-blue Moroccan slippers that sat on the floor by the column, because all of a sudden, I wanted nothing more than to wear a djellaba (or its modern interpretation, a Tory Burch tunic) and those slippers, while pacing around my study, thinking deep thoughts.