How to live like Joan Didion with 11 products inspired by her real estate sale

Last week, along with many other people on the internet, I spent my lunch hour window shopping in Joan Didion’s gallery real estate auction on the staircase galleries. The sale features some of the beloved author’s belongings from his California and New York homes, with prices currently ranging from $175 to $25,000 (and surely rising as the auctions continue). While some read with the intent to buy, I think most of us (or maybe just me) took the opportunity to stick our noses up on our screens to get a glimpse of the real Joan.

Celine sunglasses. The portrait personally drawn by Les Johnson. Mother-daughter photography taken by Annie Liebovitz. Elegant crockery and cutlery. The original works of art, an extensive library of books and a collection of blank notebooks. Not only was it representative of a life that I wish I could copy and paste like my own, but it told the story of someone who had lived to the full, and it was heartwarming to take a peek to that.

Although I’m not in an income bracket that allows me to spend $400 for a set of four books, let alone $8,500 for a painting by Richard Serra, I like the challenge of finding a good dupe. So here are 11 products from Joan Didion’s auction to help you channel your inner literary icon.

Of course, many of the pieces in the Joan Didion estate sale are either one-of-a-kind or rare pieces that you would be hard pressed to find today. But some pieces are still currently at retail, like the beloved cookware from his Le Creuset set. While unfortunately you won’t find anything that shows the same nicks, dings, and wear courtesy of Didion herself, Le Creuset still sells cookware like Didion’s and in the same burnt orange color.

Le Creuset Signature 8-Piece Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Set

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Round Oven

Wooden goblets don’t just belong in medieval times – they were also in Joan Didion’s house and they can be in yours too. Moreover, they are a lot sturdier than a typical wine glass.

Vintage Jujube Wooden Wine Goblets

Crystal glass decanters are essential for any bar cart or dining table, and sometimes even decanters need their own personalized accessories too. Take a page from Didion’s book and add labels to your bottles to help you identify spirits and add extra character to your glassware collection.

Waterford Crystal Lismore Decanter

Treasure Gurus Silver Floral Blank Decanter Labels

You can never have too many trays, bowls, vases and platters in pastel colours, and obviously Didion was inclined to agree.

Bowl #3 deflated orange in sticky glass

Gary Bodker Designs Blue Nesting Bowl

Mid-Century Vintage Glass Dish

Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne and their daughter Quintana Roo Dunne (then aged six), as seen in a vogue characteristic of the Issue of October 1, 1972.

Photo: Henry Clarke, vogue, October 1, 1972

Didion spent the first 22 years of her life in her native California, then bounced around a bit on each coast during her adult life. The sunny state influenced much of his work and the decor of his cooler Manhattan home. This throne-esque rattan armchair has a timeless coastal bohemian vibe that’s just as much at home in 2022 as it was for Didion when she moved into the apartment in the ’80s.

Everyone needs an intricate gold mirror in their home. Bonus points if he can give the same royal vibe as that of 1stDibs.

Baroque gilded wooden mirror from the 1930s, France

Plain old candle holders are fun, but what about candelabras? Let’s bring them back. I want to wear my flowy white nightgown and walk the halls of my house holding one of these babies aloft to light my way. (Or you can be normal and use it for Friendsgiving and other cozy dinner parties.)

English candelabra in silver metal

It’s still “minimalist ceramic plates” this, “solid color melamine bowls” that. Personally, I want to go back to when part of your coming of age meant receiving an incredibly intricately patterned dinnerware set, and the colors and prints on Didion’s porcelain medallion set still make me do not want anymore. So for any family member or friend of mine who is currently reading this, I would like to point out these salad plates from Williams-Sonoma for a holiday gift.

Plates Mixed Salad Famille Rose

Similar to dinnerware sets, cloth napkins are a marker of sophistication and adulthood for me. Of course, Didion embodied both of those things and shouldn’t we all aspire to those heights? Of course, they require a little maintenance and require washing. But Didion inspired me to de-stigmatize the frivolity of cloth napkins, and I’m starting with this damask set from Bloomingdales.

Villeroy & Boch Barcelona Jacquard Damask Napkins

Saro Lifestyle Striped Damask Napkins in Cocoa

The classic, clean design of this marble table means there are many others like it, making it a particularly accessible Didion-inspired piece of furniture. Although this Pottery Barn option features a different shape, it has the same chic Parisian cafe vibe.

Rae Rectangular Marble Dining Table

The iconic photograph of hanging storage baskets at the Malibu home of Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, as seen in the October 1, 1972 issue of vogue.

Photo: Henry Clarke, vogue, October 1, 1972

Hanging Storage Baskets

At least once every spring cleaning season, interior design enthusiasts and organization fanatics share images of Didion’s hanging produce baskets documented by vogue for a feature film in 1972. Although they are not available at auction, I would be remiss if I did not offer an option to recreate the look in your own home. Now, these aren’t your average three-tier hanging baskets. The ones in Didion’s house hung individually under the cabinet and could stack on top of each other using little hooks to help optimize a small space (we love a resourceful queen). They were also made of clean yarn, so the storage tactic didn’t look like an eyesore. While these copper wire baskets from Wayfair aren’t stackable or attach directly to your cabinets, they’re compact enough that you can stack them on top of each other when hanging or spreading them out.

3 Piece Wall Mounted Storage Basket

About Rodney Fletcher

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