21 July 2011

Laura's BLISS


I emailed Laura to see if she would grace the pages of little augury with a Summer Chat- a few days later I heard from the her. She was in Paris and made her apologies for not getting back to me immediately- that seems to be Laura- an ever the charming, gracious woman that just happens to have a razor sharp bead on fashion. Her shop CAPITOL and her home in Charlotte have been widely touted in magazines, there is a long list, and countless blogs. It's no fluke. This Southerner has a staying power one might expect from a hard driving executive. Whatever drives Laura- it is charged with pure charm that no amount of cotillion classes could ever confer.

so I asked Laura-What were you doing in Paris?

I was invited by the French Federation of Pret A Porter for a conference and also to see the Pre-collections.

What do you love most about the South? 

A tomato sandwich made with homemade mayonnaise, Bunny Bread and a super-ripe Hillbilly Flame tomato from my garden with an icy bottled Coke…I’m not sure if that’s Southern, but it sure feels like home.

"Yet again I had recalled the taste of a bit of madeleine dunked in a linden-flower tea which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long await the discovery of why this memory made me so happy)"


How do you balance your work schedule with motherhood?

photograph by Chris Edwards

I’m not sure that you can ever really balance, you can just try really hard…it helps to have a great husband.

photograph by Chris Edwards

What is your favorite room in your home? 

I love a window over the kitchen sink that looks out onto my out of control garden.
To sit in front of it with my family during breakfast with a cappuccino and the NYT crossword puzzle is my Bliss. 

photograph by Chris Edwards

photograph by Chris Edwards

Your favorite piece of Art at home? 

My Sally Mann photographs.


Sally Mann is a favorite of mine too.Her work defies description. 
What are a few of the pieces you have in your collection?

I have pieces from Immediate Family, Deep South, and Still Time – all gifts from my husband.

What artist’s work would you like to own above all others? 

Sally Mann and Cy Twombly…I must have a thing for Lexington, VA.

 Scenes from Twombly's Rome-photographed by HORST

When you have “down time” what is your favorite thing to do?

from my visit to CAPITOL Fall 2010

Cook for my family.  I am a failed painter, so I think I feel a little creative success when I cook…I know very quickly whether I’ve made something spectacular or something terrible.

one of Laura's Summer Remedies
Salty Spicy Sriracha Bloody Mary

 2 ounces vodka
4 ounces tomato juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce olive juice
1/4 teaspoon horseradish
2 pinches celery salt
3 dashes sriracha sauce
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Combine ingredients with ice (stir, don't shake) and garnish with pickled okra. recipe from laura's blog at CAPITOL

What about the creative success when you cook- What is your favorite thing to cook & do you follow recipes to the letter or find yourself improvising? Cooking risks- as it were! 

"A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness." Elsa Schiaparelli

I can ONLY improvise…
I am literally the worst baker on earth, because everything has to be exact (and you can’t really taste along the way, it seems.)  

My favorite thing to cook is a full Sunday supper with cocktails…most recently it’s Gin Rickeys, chilled Ambrosia canteloupe soup with jalepenos and basil, Julia Reed’s roast lemon chicken, cucumbers and tomatoes from my garden, zucchini and herb casserole and homemade salted caramel ice cream.  
I like a whole production.

this must be the recipe of Julia Reed's Laura made-taken from JR's PICNIC feature in the NY TIMES
(Adapted from ''The Artists' and Writers' Cookbook'')
1 3-pound chicken
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 lemons
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh parsley.
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the chicken in a large baking dish and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Rub the peel of one of the lemons over the outside of the chicken. Then cut the lemon into 8 pieces and squeeze juice over and into the chicken. Put the lemon pieces inside the chicken along with the garlic cloves. In a small pan, melt the butter in the olive oil and pour on top and inside the chicken. Tie the legs together with kitchen string.
2. Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg registers 180 degrees, basting every 15 minutes with pan juices. Half an hour before taking the chicken out, pour the juice from the second lemon over the chicken and sprinkle with parsley.

"A good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, 
love well, 
sleep well, 
if one has not dined well." 
Virginia Woolf

What are  your reading this Summer?

I always have a few books going…I still haven’t finished Life by Keith Richards.  Also, Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra, and The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller.

Did you get that Lagato Romagnolo puppy for Christmas?

Oh my gosh…Sadly, no!  But Santa brought my daughter the most amazing creature…a Siberian kitten.  She is divine and hilarious and a puff of pure joy. Definitely the most puppy-like kitten I’ve ever met (although no truffles.) 

Cats have tremendous personalities! 
Who got to name the cat?

Fifi…She started out being "Pepperpot Sugarplum," and pretty quickly became just Pep.

fifi and pep in their respective hideaways
photograph by Chris Edwards,left.PEP at right from LVP


photograph from Garden and Gun

Your atmosphere at CAPITOL is so inviting. It must bring visitors in as well as shoppers. The Patrick Blanc vertical garden is a must see ! 
Do you have people calling and stopping in just to see the wall?

from Garden & Gun photographed by Stacey Haines

All the time.  It has been an extraordinary addition to all of our lives, honestly.  To be able to work around a piece of Patrick’s work and to be able to be enveloped by such indigenous beauty is inspiring every day.  It is a gift that I really didn’t anticipate when Perry and I decided to include the piece in our store. We had worked for 10 years in a space with no windows and I didn’t realize what life would be like with this garden.  It has changed my life.

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree” Emily Bronte

 CAPITOL's Vertical Garden, photographs from my fall visit

Fashion and interior design overlap so much. Your shop is a perfect example. 
Who did the design work in the shop? 

My husband and Barrie Benson are great collaborators.  He has the best taste of anyone I know and he and Barrie really push each other.  I’m crazy for her and her sense of Southern-ness. 

Do you expect your style to continue to evolve in fashion and in interiors?

I hope so!  I think if you are not learning and listening and evolving then you are dying, no? 
Being stagnant is the end of the world to me.

 Laura's style file

in Lanvin, Celine and very vintage Leonard
far right Bill Cunningham caught Laura at Fashion Week September 2010

Would you be surprised to find yourself clearing out everything in 20 years and embracing a completely different style?

Yes – I am so sentimental about my childhood and really about my whole journey. 
I think every part of what you’ve seen, heard, touched, smelled, experienced…every person that you’ve met along the way makes you who you are and informs your style and taste.

I couldn't agree more about family and roots. 
Did someone in your family particularly inspire you as a child? 
What are a few special pieces that were passed down to you? 

Oh, gosh…everyone in my family inspires me.  I feel totally inadequate when I’m around my family because they are all such adventurers and lovers of life…I treasure anything that reminds me of a journey, whether it is from an actual trip or one I wish I could have taken.  Some of my most treasured pieces are actually kitchen utensils of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Certainly being able to use their silver and china is special, but it feels particularly intimate to use my great-grandmother’s tea strainer  or lemon juicer from the turn of the century.

"To be happy--one must find one's bliss." Gloria Vanderbilt


So many people tire of their surroundings. Do you find yourself wanting to redecorate often?

I live with an architect, so I am resigned to the fact that any of our spaces are a perpetual work in progress.  It would probably drive most people nuts, but I’m used to it.

I know you sell diptyque candles in the shop. 
What are your favorite scents and do your favorites change from season to season? 

I adore Santal and Cypress, every time of year. 

What is your favorite perfume?

Aqua di Parma’s Arancia di Capri.  

In the fall I wear a pure Anatolian rose oil that I got in Istanbul.


“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” 

Joseph Campbell


portrait Laura by photographer Stacey Haines

What is your favorite summer “go to” look?

I love a men’s crisp white Charvet shirt.  
My poor husband has his closet pilfered constantly.

You are known for finding those special things to offer at Capitol-whether it is wearable or not. What is in your shop now that you love that can’t be worn? 

Madeline Weinrib’s new bright, almost neon pillows, Diptyque’s vanilla-rose scented special edition candle and Celine’s bright French blue box bag. Also the book from the Met’s McQueen exhibition, Savage Beauty. 

Madeline Weinrib's pillows are seen throughout the shop

What are you anticipating to be your personal favorite pieces to wear this fall? 

LVP I’m excited about Gregory Parkinson 

Rue de Mail

Meadham Kirchhoff, Proenza Schouler, 
 & Rodarte.  

"Capitol has things that literally no other shop in America has,” says Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte

Do you encourage your clients to take risks when dressing?


Definitely.  I think that’s my job!  I always want the client to look and feel like herself, (only better),

"I think always evolving and changing is part of that, 
while keeping the core of your taste and personal history close to you."

photograph of LVP from the blog ISTOCK

Who has been your personal style role model? 
Who in today’s fashion world has it heads above the rest of the pack?
I love writers and editors…Sally Singer, Virginie Mouzat, Grace Coddington, and Emanuelle Alt.  

the style of Virginie Mouzat
top photograph from Vogue.com 

I question the overuse of the word CHIC in today’s lexicon. 
How do you define it and Who really has it? 

Sofia Coppola.  She always looks natural and confident, and she always looks like herself.  Nothing is forced.   

"Let’s face it…looking uncomfortable in your clothes, not to mention in your skin, is not chic!"

Laura and Perry Poole's latest cover this Spring was Charlotte's Home & Garden magazine. 
It must be all in a day's work - and play for the pair. 

Laura's comment on Chic is something anyone seeking fulfillment-whether it be family or fame or fashion should heed---being comfortable in your clothes makes for CHIC.
Being comfortable in your own skin-makes for Bliss.

laura's hot weather cure alls on her blog here
proust and tomato sandwiches here sally mann on pbs.org here 
take the tour, photographs of the Poole home via Charlotte HOME & GARDEN here
video of Capitol's vertical garden here 
my visit to Capitol Fall 2010 here
more Coppola style at the NYTIMES here
other photographs from the Poole home from the Domino archives
CAPITOL website here



  1. I love the connection to the petite madelaine. This is a wonderful interview. Laura is amazingly talented, yet humble.
    Thank you. Mary

  2. What an enjoyable interview to read, wonderful questions and quotes Gaye! I think Laura can allow herself to feel a lot more than 'a little creative success'...she has so much to be proud of! I see tons of creativity blazing itself across every square inch of her lovley life, along with grace and class. It's very nice to 'meet' someone who encompasses these qualities and yet still seems so very down to earth, must be the southern element!
    Thank you for the introduction...
    xo J~

  3. This is one lovely and chic couple, everything she does is beautiful, especially the Blanc wall and the very idea of doing such a smart thing. I've admired his walls in Paris and Monte-Carlo. There are even some new imitators here in Italy who do a good job of it as well, but to do the genuine article!

  4. You've wonderfully covered many facets of Laura's life so that we get a very full and interesting sense of her work and play. Your posting is well titled because Laura's creative life defines the true meaning of the "pursuit of happiness."

  5. What a wonderful and inspiring post! Beauty abounds. As does grace. And real.

  6. Wonderful post about an inspiring woman. How can you be this perfect?

  7. Great post and inspiring lady
    such poise, taste and grace
    Thank you for introducing me

  8. Great interview and beautifully put together as always. That was a joy to read. Thank you Gaye xx



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