"It seems to be attached," said a guest at Nathan Turner's West Hollywood antique shop on a Saturday night, as her fingers grazed an obelisk of coral rising from an 18th century wooden box. Was it a handle? Should she give it a tug?
"It doesn't open, it's just a plinth," said Turner, as he handed 'round glasses of Campari and soda. "What you see is what you get."
What visitors see and get in Turner's shop, which is really a rambling apartment, range from Italian frescoes to Gothic revival bookcases to fabrics whose hues recall the roofs of Siena and mah-jongg tiles, displayed in the sort of casual synchronicity that requires a very good eye indeed. It's not everyone who can load a mantle with a hundred orange tulips, three 1860 tortoiseshell boxes, a painting of a Venice canal and a bowl of goldfish.
"If I bring something into my store, it has to be different, with a European edge," Turner said, "and Sole's work is amazing, beautiful and feminine."
"Sole" is Turner's friend Soledad Twombly, the Argentine designer who'd just finished a two-day trunk show of her clothing at the shop and who was standing with interior designer Joe Nye, who'd just admired her necklace, its centerpiece an apple-size cluster of diamonds.
"It's an antique, from the Mogul dynasty in India," said Twombly, married to Allessandro Twombly, son of artist Cy Twombly. She was wearing one of her own designs, a wrapped silk top in a saffron-and-squid-ink print and an obi-like sash at the waist.
"In order to be a good garment for me, it has to first be a good object," said Twombly, who proceeded to deconstruct the blouse: The stitching on the inside of the sleeves was khata work, from India; the edging, organza; each piece is one of a kind.
"It has to look as good on the body as on the couch," she said, and waved her hand toward a fainting couch, where Sam Fairchild Storkerson was in conversation with director Robert Luketic.
The couch, as is everything else in the shop, was for sale, though so discreetly that the 30 guests invited to the Feb. 7 dinner in Twombly's honor -- Turner hosts dinners at the shop several nights a week -- treated the pieces as their own. To put or not put one's glass of wine on the 1820 cherrywood cupboard from Italy, priced at $4,875? Put.
"Oh! I almost bought that one," said designer Molly Isaksen, who arrived wearing a top almost identical to Twombly's, which she'd purchased the day before. How did she like it?
"Oh, I love her stuff. It makes me feel very ..." She turned to Turner. "How does it make me feel?"
"Very chic," he said, and then waved guests toward a table laden with garlic-sausage sandwiches, empanadas, pyramids of clementines and a pitcher of white narcissus.
"Usually, I cook," Nathan said. "But tonight, we're having Argentinian food, from Patagonia Grill in Hollywood. My friend owns it, and his wife is walking around. She's very stylish."
Was there anyone here who was not stylish? "I hope not," Nathan said, deliberately the imp.
Dining by candlelight, textile designer Nancy Corzine explained how her Yorkshire terrier had known it was not coming with her tonight because she had not put on the pup's special going-out collar. (Corzine herself wore twin diamond necklaces by jewelry designer Judith Ripka.)
"She was getting upset, so I called her nanny," Corzine said. The dog has her own nanny?
"Yes," she said. "She also eats at the table. She has very good manners, and she never drinks too much."
Around 10 o'clock, guests helped themselves to the Tiffany's of Scooter Pies, paper-wrapped dulce de leche tartlets dipped in chocolate, called Alfajores Marplatenses, which Turner buys at the Mexican food shops on Western Avenue.
"Take as many as you want, take some for your kids," he insisted. Perhaps Corzine might take one home for her dog....
"I'm actually surprised; this is the first time she's come without her dog," he said, and beamed. "Welcome to my world."