Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

December Nerves

December 7th, 2022

December, that jolly month, is always a tricky time for me. I recently saw something on Instagram that triggered my Martha Stewart insecurities —In this case a pair of bookcases. I know, bookcases. Get a grip Elena. Is this really a cliff’s edge moment? Well, to be fair these bookcases were the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg was the room itself.

It appeared on Cutter Brooks Insta post.

The shelves are jam packed with books on either side of a cosy fire with pretty stockings hanging by a crackling fire. Thick fir garlands and twinkly candle light are reflected in a giant antique mirror. A vintage lamp gives off a warm glow. A big comfy sofa with bold striped pillows beckons. All it’s missing is Nat “King” Cole crooning at the piano. I want this room, and I want it now. Readers, I know you are pulling out your phones and searching for Cutter Brooks on Insta. You have been warned- open that post at your peril.

Cutter Brooks is a lifestyle brand by style maven Amanda Cutter Brooks, a native New Yorker, who used to be a fashion director at Barney’s. She’s written for Vogue, The New York Times Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal, not to mention penning three design books, one of which is called Always Pack a Party Dress. You get the idea.

After conquering New York, as one does, Amanda (I don’t know her, but feel I know her) managed to land herself in the British countryside with her adorable English husband (seen here with Amanda)

and children. She got better at cooking, gardening, riding horses and making jam. And then with some  spare time on her hands, she launched this enviable lifestyle brand, “a chic version of a country store”  that I for one should not look at during the month of December because IT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A TOTAL FAILURE

If you are a fellow sufferer of compare-and-despair-syndrome that photo of Amanda’s living room will definitely leave you feeling less than. It is so warm and welcoming that if I were Santa that would be the first and last chimney I would descend.

I saw her bookcases and thought, OMG, I have zero bookcases in my living room! How did I forget that Xmas is not really Xmas without a bookshelf, actually a pair of them?

Do I have time to install similar looking bookcases by Christmas? It’s December and the clock is ticking. IKEA clearly won’t do. They have to look old and English and meant to be. Even if I had the time, it would involve blocking two windows showing a few lovely trees.

Then I zoom in on those darling crochet stockings ($169 on the site I should never have opened).

Why did I let Stretch order that monogrammed set from Amazon ($29.95)? Not exactly “chic country store.”

I think to myself, Well, maybe I could emulate Madame Perfection by buying a few of the ornaments on her perfectly trimmed tree. To my horror, the pink parakeet that was on the site yesterday is gone today. Sold out! I am soooooo behind.


I could always make my own ornaments. That would be so Amanda (and Martha). Crafting seems to be the latest sign that you’re a true creative.
After about an hour of trawling all things Amanda, an hour that I could have been crafting some candle stick holders in red and green, I finally accept that I’m a woman who spilled coffee all over her duvet this morning. I’m also the kind of person who forgets the dog. On our way from Manhattan to Connecticut where we have that house without the bookshelves, Stretch says “Where’s Josephine?” as I get in the running car. I turn around and head back into our building. “You forgot Josephine!” he calls behind me. I’m that kind of person. Crafting is not in my toolbox. Josephine barely is.

I revert to my old favorite—Mark Manson’s bestselling book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. If you don’t know this book, it’s a lifesaver during times like these, when every radio station is playing It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (is it, really?), and every house seems to have multiple wreaths.

Our house is in Greenwich Ct—the wreath and xmas light capital of the world.  As we drive past a house where I count 10 wreaths, one in each window, I lament our pine-less house.

Stretch,” I say after the nursery was closed where we had intended to buy a tree—”who closes a nursery on a Sunday in December?”

Maybe they want to spend time with their families,” he replies, which of course adds to my guilt.

“Does seeing all these wreaths make you feel a little wistful? Like our Xmas won’t really live up to these standards?”

  Xmas is a loaded time. Lots of emotions, expectations, families in close quarters with no distractions.

My husband starts singing Mariah Carey’s, All I Want for Christmas is You. I smile at him, because the truth is, he’s right. That’s all I want for Christmas too.

Well, that, and Amanda’s living room.

December, 2022

One thought on "December Nerves"

  1. I guess it won’t help you to know that her husband is so good looking he is known to this day as “Looks Brooks” and so is her son….. alas

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