Saturday, March 24, 2007

Strike a Match!

Smart women do indeed light the way. This box of matches is obviously a gift from my mother, and it forms the centerpiece of my collection of matchbooks and boxes. I grab one from every bar or restaurant that has them printed up and keep them in a fishbowl on my bookshelf. Sorting through them brings memories to mind of nights out with friends and favorite spots in cities near and far. But these matchbooks are charming not only for their associations but also as marvels of design.

Sometimes it is the construction of the box itself that makes you smile. This mini box of Marlboros, filled with matches rather than cigs, was grabbed for me by Danielle, whose zeal often adds gems to my collection. In the center is an extra-small box from The Room, a truly tiny Soho wine bar. On the right an oblong triangular box encourages us to light up.

Any good matchbook brings to mind the spot that it advertises. The book on the left obvioulsy uses a compass to refer to the name of that restaurant, but it also alludes to the restaurant's atmosphere through its color scheme and typeface. Similarly, the box on the right, with its silver art deco lettering on a shiny black background, admirable recalls the vintage chic of Circa Tabac, a smoking lounge in the Village.

Chinoisoire goes to town in these matchbooks. On the left is a spoil from the most recent Restaurant Week, when Ricardo and his mom took us out to dinner at a new place called Chinatown, right around the corner from his loft. The restaurant was like a set out of Shanghai Express, and I kept expecting Marlene Dietrich to come swaning through the door. I must admit I have no idea where the box on the right came from, but isn't it fun?

Figuration rarely makes an appearance on matchbooks, but in these cases it does so with aplomb. I love the rather surrealist femme fatale, reflected by a billard ball, that is used as the mascot for ABC. The book on the right exudes all the latent tension and glamour of film noir, through the figure of a fuzzy man in a fedora.

Here is the best of the rest, and what memories they bring to mind! There's Hideout, our nighborhood bar in Paris, and Old Glory, a monument to preppy slumming in Georgetown. Uptown locals like Henry's and Lime Leaf mix with dowtown haunts (Milady's!). I'll always remember a roadtrip with Laura by this matchbook from the Firefly Cafe in Savannah, while underage evenings dancing along to George's band, the Philadelphia Funk Authority, are immortalized by the matchbook from Le Bar Bat.

I'll close with this lovely red matchbox from Balthazar, which is novel for using both sides to fully illustrate that restaurant's glamorous bistro atmosphere. Do you have an unusual matchbook kicking around somewhere? Stick it in a fishbowl and watch your collection grow.


Anonymous said...

Aw, thanks Katharine Lina for putting my matchbook first! I think the other one that looks Chinese could have come home from China.


Karin said...

Man oh man . . . even the stuff that just sits on your dresser is super- stylish ;) I love your matchbook collection, always have, and these photos are great!