I speak often of my heroes, and I count Mr. Coggins among them. He’s too humble to admit it, but the man is a great writer. And he has excellent taste. And in our various encounters, he’s exemplified decency, a lesson he learned from his mother, Wendy.
My mom read to us at a young age — classics like Little Fur Family and In the Night Kitchen, but also the stunning Tyger Voyage, where Ezekiel and Raphael Dubb travel from English club to Gypsy camp and back. My mom is an interior designer and their house is so full of everything that it’s almost incomprehensible: bird feathers, endless stacks of books, Kulicke paintings, medieval shields, and the occasional stuffed wood duck. That always felt normal, and I was surprised when somebody came over and was shocked at how full the house was. And also: why was there a toy car in the refrigerator? Who can say, but now it would feel wrong without one.
She has the knack in the kitchen and I often frantically call for counsel when I’m having issues at the burners. Her advice is spot on, and then she offers what she considers an additional opportunity for dining advancement. Why don’t you try this? The souffle is a nice idea, mom, but I don’t think it’s in the mix tonight.
If somebody ever comments on something in my apartment it’s almost always a gift from my mom or it began as her idea. She finds the right thing everywhere, from an obscure estate sale to a hardware store in Tuscany. Her feeling about design: mix from different eras, different countries, with different patterns, and then repeat. She does it better than I ever could, and her love of art and design is part of a generous belief in living well. She also taught this: if you aren’t fundamentally decent to people design means nothing.
Coggins Studio. Photos c/o John Forsman.