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Karen’s Quirky Style: Mrs. Mole Visits Toad Hall

BY KAREN REMPEL | Toad Hall is a charming neighborhood pub in Soho, named after the famous manor in “The Wind in the Willows.” Drink prices are pre-pandemic, and there’s a gorgeous pool table in the back. Phil happened upon this little-known spot on a midafternoon meander and stayed for a beer.

The wooden bar is more than 100 years old, from a long-closed establishment in the East Village. According to Mils, the bartender on duty on Saturday afternoons, “It had been sitting collecting dust in an empty space.” It has original features, such as the built-in wooden cooling fridges that used ice to keep bottles cold.

When he suggested we do a shoot here, I immediately borrowed Kenneth Grahame’s storybook from Jefferson Market Library. The library has a lovely edition from 2017, vividly illustrated by the German artist Sebastian Meschenmoser.

I loved this tale of a more innocent time. Before any of the world wars. Before radio, TV and the Internet. Before Facebook and smartphones. I loved all the animals, and I was especially inspired by the Mole’s sweet, naive, open character. And his spirit of adventure! He famously said, “Hang, spring-cleaning,” cast down his duster, and went out into the sunshine, setting off on a new life of adventure and friendship. Hence the mole-like countenance you see here. Of course, this being Karen’s Quirky Style, I found a dazzling floral print dress that is more tropical than English countryside, with mind-blowing psychedelic shoes to match. And thus the anachronistic Mrs. Mole was born.

It being a children’s book, there was no mention of romance or marriage in “The Wind and the Willows,” but perhaps at some point between the original publication date of 1908 and today, Mole met the love of his life and settled into a nice underground warren with his spouse. Close to Toad Hall and his best friend Ratty’s riverside home, of course!

Style Notes:

  • Floral Harlow satin minidress in vivid tones of red and magenta on a black background. Dolls Kill.
  • Hot Hypnotic Habits Platform Heels in sizzling pink and red satin with wrap-around gold chains. Dolls Kill. (Dolls Kill has the world’s best selection of platform boots, sandals, shoes, and sneakers. I love this site!)
  • Mole makeup by the author.

Rempel is a New York-based writer and artist. For her past columns and more Philip Maier photos, see


  1. Janet D Eviston Janet D Eviston September 3, 2023

    Dolls Kill and that one really slays! What a look! Thanks for the refresher on Mr. Toad. It was a cozy time. Nice to reflect on it.

  2. Carol Frances Yost Carol Frances Yost September 2, 2023

    I loved this article, but think the Mole makeup could have been scrapped for something more glamorous while being in the Mole spirit. I don’t know what that might be. It would have gone along with the outfit.

  3. Lisa Ricci Lisa Ricci September 2, 2023

    OMG the shoes!! Outfit is the best!

  4. JEFFREY JEFFREY September 2, 2023

    I love these little stories about Village spots. You give it such great life and will add this to my bucket list.

  5. Pat Lynne Duffy Pat Lynne Duffy September 2, 2023

    I have heard of “Toad Hall”–and now can’t wait to go there after I’m back in NY! The “Wind in the Willows” is one of my absolute favorite books of all times…love your tribute to Mrs Mole! Hope there are more literary-fantasy-inspired characters coming!

  6. Jessica Jessica September 1, 2023

    Delightful Toads Hall write up. Love the light literary tone and fab floral fashion.

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