WHY?

WHY?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

BETTER THAN RED


There's red and then there's scarlet: Scarlet lips, Scarlet O'Hara, The Scarlet Letter.... From the Persian (säqirlāt) this hue is pure chroma on the color wheel. Redder than red yet softer than vermillion, it tempers the danger of flames with the sweetness of orange Even if it was Prof. Plum with the candlestick in the library, Miss Scarlet made him do it. And in our furious search for fixtures during the new house renovation, it's this color that's sparked our imagination. Whether the mix of scarlet and intricately rippled crystal on Eurofase's Luxuria chandelier above or the more simply tailoring on the Meridian Pendant from Lights Up, we just can't resist coming hither. Come to think of it, this is the same hue on Kitty's new collar from D.O.G. Boutique in West Hollywood as well as the Schumacher grasscloth we once papered onto a certain former bachelor's bedroom walls (yes, I married him), so I guess you can say Mouse and I have Scarlet to thank for a life so saucy-sweet.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

HEAVENLY LIGHTING



As avid stargazers who also hate the cold, we're thrilled that a little piece of the heavens has finally come indoors. One of our favorite lighting spots in the universe, YLighting online, is debuting the Raimond, a new suspended sphere of sparkling star shapes by Moooi. Designed by mathematics professor Raimond Puts, in association with OX-ID, the light's intricate inner and outer frames of stainless spring steel are joined at LED terminals. The driver is located in the canopy and the wire—as clear as the air for a floating effect. Oh, and YLighting also happens to be giving one of these $1626 value fixtures away for FREE via an online raffle now through December 31st. Click at the bottom of the product description to enter and, while you're there, check out a few of their other exclusive designs as well. I'm a fan of the Obi series lights while Mouse, a hopeless romantic, loves the mellow, black-pearl effect of the Kiss Table Lamp.


Monday, October 12, 2009

CAMEO CRAZY



Our girl knows what she likes. A touch of George III hangs from Mouse's collar and if she had her way, she'd use the same cameo decoration on our walls. Oval bas reliefs, ribbon-tied bow knots, and berried husk wreaths... this collection of wall moldings inspired by the pattern books of Robert Adam would look correct in a Charleston townhouse remodel, and surprisingly modern used solo on a smooth lacquered wall. All are by The Rotshchild Collection, and surprisingly affordable averaging around $125 per piece retail. And, oh, of course, all are found on Decorati.com!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

VACATION'S OVER! LIFE MOVES ON


It's been a few weeks since our yearly break and we have so much to fill you in on. I'm readjusting to architecture school and dreaming up new things to post on Decorati. And Mouse is gaining speed to weigh in on the remodel of our new home, closing date October 1st. Here's a sneak peek of our little gem, pictured in a 1974 Des Moines Register insert reporting on the "new" uncluttered look in design. It looks essentially unchanged today. Even when it's modern, our girl hunts the classic.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SLEEP WELL, BABY



Another momentous occasion to catch up on: Friend and fashionista, the beautiful Maggie MacK, has blessed us with a new follower below who brings a host of design issues to bear on this blog. What color should his sheets be and how cuddly? What style of crib? His first chair? And as he's resting those beautiful cheeks against any of these, will toxins to permeate his perfectly soft skin or damage his small yet mighty lungs?True, it's difficult to think about this little fellow leaving a zero carbon footprint while measuring his daily number of disposable diapers. (Judging from his photo, even he's worried). But we've all got to start somewhere. Protecting his health today is protecting our future. But the best hemp hammock is just not a precious enough gift to send Baby. So we went hunting. And here are the contenders.

Since he lives in L.A., we began with AFK who recently opened their first flagship boutique on Wilshire Boulevard (see twin cribs above). Their classically styled, bench-made furniture features solid wood construction and artfully applied handwork, from intricately carved appliqués to exquisite, multilayered water-based non-toxic paints and finishes. Dreamy, but Baby's parents lean much more modern. And our budget leans more, well, lean.


















Q Collection is a favorite of ours, their Abigail bench on our home's wish list for several years running. We checked their Junior Collection and found some super cute stools in our price range as well as a beautiful winged-back glider. And we learned even more about baby-safe construction. There's no formaldehyde in the glue that holds their wooden furniture together, no polyurethane in their foam bedding and plush toys as well as their wood stains and paints. This company goes so far as to consider whether pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers were used in growing the cotton of their generous-thread-count sheets. (Note: In California it is illegal to feed the leaves, stems, and short fibers of cotton to livestock because of the concentrated levels of pesticide residues. Meanwhile, this same residue is commonly used to make furniture, mattresses, cotton swabs and cotton balls).

Mouse, however, took one look at Mom and Dad and came to another conclusion. "This boy will be a chick magnet. He needs a chick chair from the ever eco-conscious Roebuck Studio. Maybe a few in different colors to share with his many future fans and friends." Look out, Hollywood. She could be right, but I'm still searching. (Forgive me Maggie). We'll let you know the fabulous result soon.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

MATERIAL WISDOM

How do bloggers go on vacation? We throw each other a helping hand. Recently, while the talented kitchen designer Paul Anater was soaking in some Caribbean sun, we had the opportunity to post on his informative site,KitchenandResidentialDesign. Although tempted to take our "we only had a staycation" envy out on someone, we resisted and stayed on topic with kitchen wisdom. ...But.... this is the voice of a girl and a dog who wear matching jewelry, so a little fashion had to play into the topic as well. I reprint it here while Mouse and I take a long awaited break this weekend. Thanks for the soapbox, Paul, much obliged!

*****

You know the expression "It's not the clothes you wear but how you wear them?" Well it's the same with kitchen design. Materials only make the difference if you know how to parade them, play with them, and, ultimately, push them to your best advantage.

So let's stop thinking what comes next after stainless steel. Because the answer is more: More stainless steel, more wood-stain cabinets, and more stone. Knowing this..Can we be as innovative as the Romans? or Corbusier? Some of the greatest contributions to architecture, after all, owe to rethinking the most traditional materials. The art lies in the application. So let's take a closer look at the most commonplace kitchen materials, one at a time.


WOOD
Wood is easily cut, carved, pierced and joined. So why not manipulate the same wood in different ways, as seen in this highly textural kitchen by Jim Livingston of Livingston Kitchens in Deer Park, Illinois? Lattice work, decorative aprons and baroque corbels are lively layers when harmonized with the same wood stain.

Grain is another consideration. The fewer seams, the stronger its graphic impact. Try matching long expanses
of grain from surface to surface, as seen on this zebrawood island by Zack Simmons of CKS Design Studio in Durham. Or consider how distinct grains can be artfully combined with shape and volume, as on this complex edge profile by Craft-Art wood countertops.








MARBLE
Anyone with deep pockets can impress their neighbors with a huge slab of beautifully veined
marble. But who would think to bookmatch smaller slabs into a butterfly pattern? The cost of the material is often less and any extra installation time minimal. But as Bethesda MD designerBradford Creer proves in this marble-clad kitchen, the return makes a one-of-a-kind pattern out of a naturally varying material.

Now up the ante a bit more. Marble isn't quarried by the slab. It comes in blocks that can be cut into several slabs of the same grain.
Karen Williams ofSt. Charles of New York shops this way, always on the hunt for blocks of stone that can be cut into slabs of different shapes and thicknesses and installed one luxurious layer over another.

Combine the potential of nature and technology, and you haveStile Artistic Designwho create intricate inlays of aluminum in marble using laser-jet technology.

STAINLESS STEEL

As restaurants have known for years, this cool industrial surface is virtually impenetrable, easily cleanable, and therefore both safe and hygienic for use on hardworking countertops and appliances. But why lay it flat only? It can be quilted (as seen in 1950s diners), woven in strips, or manipulated in more painterly ways as seen on the Coquille hood byCheng Designs. Here a 16-gauge stainless steel is hand burnished with a ribbon finish that brings hard steel the look of streaming water.

Another cool option is to juxtapose machined steel with its thermal opposite—natural, warm-stained woods. The pairing is even more striking in the kitchenbelow, another bySt. Charles of New York, where the choice to wrap wood cabinets with a steel toe kick makes every use of the material appear purely decorative.

And speaking of decorative, the ever-practical stainless steel sink is also available with couture touches. Among the many new customizations offered by Elkay is a new etching technology. Choose a greek key border design or your own monogram—however the surface is etched, its smoothness (as well as durability and longevity) remains the same.

Some may say what's old is new again. Cliché or truly unique, even when using the most common materials, the choice is up to you.

ROCK ON LITTLE DOGGIE


It's advertised as "15 karats of unconditional love..." from I Love Dogs. Granted, Mouse would look radiant in such a collar. But really now, a girl does have her limits...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

KITCHEN FAIRY TALES

It's time for another kitchen post. Click HERE to link up with Karin's latest contribution to DECORATI and meet Beverly Ellsley, a Connecticut designer who ups the dream factor for residential kitchens. And while you're there, check out other kitchen designer profiles new to the site including the ever-talented Mick De Giulio, Karen Williams, Matthew Quinn, Scott Grandis, and Fu Tung Cheng.

IRON WILLED



I've loved this company's masterworks in iron since the day I first spied their marble-topped French Bistro work table used as the island in a St. Charles of New York kitchen showroom display. A new discovery, however, is their brilliant website. Every piece, every chair, rotates on screen as if on a lazy susan. With designs this intricate, it helps to know each piece's impact at every angle of aproach. Kudos, O'Brien Ironworks!

Monday, August 10, 2009

BULLETIN POINTS

It's back-to-school time for some and for the rest of us, a time to get organized nonetheless. Tradition? Perhaps. Force of habit? Not sure. But reorganizing our lives at the end of summer feels as natural as spring cleaning.

I'm focused on my desktop. With new projects at hand, those unsightly piles have to make way for sketch pads and model building as well as some video equipment. Yet, as appealing as a clean slate may be, any decorating in the office has to embrace the creative process.

My piles can actually be efficient. Professional organizers suggest leaving papers visible until they're no longer needed. The difficulty lies in limiting the depth of these piles. What I need is a system that keeps their height down to a few essential papers. Or better yet, I'd like to find a way for those papers to stand up straight and stare me down. I imagine them next to a certain photo of my great grandmother—her expression stern, her arms bent on her hips— ensuring that I pay every scribble and tear sheet its due respect.

I need a message board. Badly.Or something that will function as one. But I can't work in a space that feels like a cubicle. Mouse just wouldn't find that homey. I thought of hiding a bulletin board behind closet doors but I know I'd never open it. Distance only makes tasks grow more yonder. What I'm really after is the design equivalent of my great-grandmother's gaze in that photo— a subtlety so persuasive there's no need to shout.

Visiting the Russell + Hazel flagship store in Minneapolis I saw that anything with a frame is a potential message board. A picture frame leaned against the wall, or even an upholstered giltwood headboard above.Take away any evidence of cork or upholstery and my little post-it center grows even further discreet.

















I'm thinking of a lady's dressing room, where photos and other souvenirs are quickly tucked into a mirror's frame. I found a few wall mirrors atLayla Grace that also happen to be magnetic boards, including the faux-aged mirror above, top whose golden botanical decoration includes coordinating brass magnets. Taking a truly luxurious route, I also located a message board by Christofle below in the sharp, modern style of their Fidelio frames sold with sassy silver magnets. (Notice how Mouse has already begun decorating this). Or maybe that frame could be architectural, like a wall panel? Or the panel on a piece of furniture?
















Delving into the depths of my piles, can any of these beautiful boards be my solution? Or am I only adding another surface to clutter? Maybe organization is, like decorating, best conceived in layers. The "to-do" notes sited nearest, "tomorrows" just behind, and "somedays" on the horizon. A desk with tiers? or shelves above? All encased as furniture? And a bulletin board to one side, as if those post-its were eyes staring over my shoulder? Food for thought...stay tuned to see what our renovations yield.

(photo of black and white office with Graham Secretary Desk above via Pottery Barn; Christofle magnet board also available at Vivre).

GARAGE MAKEOVERS


We're gearing up for an addition and, confused with siding options, we realized our obstacle. The same old garage door. Like far too many suburban homes, it faces the street in a 1:3 ratio of garage to exterior. How can we think about siding without considering that hunk of vinyl? So our search for panels siding led us to garage makeovers at GarageWowNow. The concept of many of their remodels is simple: Match this necessary surface to the materials and style of the home's windows. The closer the match, the more likely this surface is to disappear as (un)seen in the before/after home left, where Avant doors by Clopay disguise the garage as another cozy interior. You can't actually see in, but now you may want to. And siding choices as a result? Wide open.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

MYSTERY REVEALS

There are those who prefer to make a grand entrance. A wide foyer with a center table holding books never read, benches never intended as seating, and, if at all possible, a tall, winding staircase to let guests know at first glance that there are rooms outside the scope of their welcome. Surely many historic homes call for such generous anterooms and, for those who hold parties that begin with name-tag tables, that kind of design can be useful. When it comes to new construction, however, I have to side with more humbler openings.
Maybe my preference comes after years of apartment living, and having to make do in smaller spaces. Or maybe I'm reacting to seeing too many builders homes on the newly developed edges of suburbia with doors to rival the bulk of the garage.
But a narrow console table to hold mail and keys and a mirror to check oneself on the way out the door is all I can think of as essential to this piece of floorspace. Russell Groves thought as much in their pared-down entry above, where the small scale of a mirror by BDDW offers a luxurious escape from big, bold statements.
"Let things start out small," says Mouse citing how the gestures of Jack, our affectionate and sometimes overeager labrador can give guests the wrong impression.  "The best architecture is revealed over time." 

JOIN US WEEKLY FOR



SUNDAY STUDIO VISITS

  • Today, we visit with Stephen Hay at the source of his inspiration,  where he revisits the modern potential of Renaissance art techniques as well as luminous, new paint finishes.  




Thursday, August 6, 2009

SPARKLING CLEAN


It shimmers. It's lovely. Luxe. And it clears your kitchen of smelly fumes. It's a kitchen vent hood-cum-chandelier by Scavolini and it will be released later this Fall. Thanks to Mitchell Obstfeld of i4design, who saw it at the Scavolini showroom in Chicago (where a prototype is on display) and asked all the right questions. To clean it, "simply snap the crystal ball into four pieces and put it in your dishwasher". If only all chandeliers could be that way. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

FOR C. SMITH

Some patterns have no repeat. It's one of the many intrigues of antique Chinese blue-and-white ceramics, where the lie of dragons, peonies and scrolling foliage falls to intuition as often as it claims order and symmetry. And one of my favorite places to hunt the depths of these ceramics is C.W. Smith Imported Antiques in Minneapolis—a rare outpost of treasures from China, Tibet and Burma as well as British, Dutch and French Colonial furniture.    
I came seeking a desk, the kind that looks European Baroque but on closer inspection yields humbler, more irregular and slightly rustic carvings. I found a small stout painted gray Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) jar, an early 1800s Indian rosewood cabinet carved with sunbursts in the British fashion, brass jewelry masterfully mounted as abstract sculpture, and a range of ceramics in unusually bright and lustrous green and turquoise glazes. 
 And I trust that none of the above was ordered by the crate. Each piece was hunted,
 inspected and  genuinely loved by gallery founder Carol Smith or daughter, Vanessa, who I knew insisted on handpicking all items "in country." No shopping by photo, and no restoration beneath Smithsonian standards. 
 
Thomas Gunkelman shops here as do many galleries that designers haunt in other cities. (Carol used to smile with pride leafing through an Elle Decor or Met Home to see where some of her old finds eventually landed). 

I was lucky enough to meet Carol on my first trip to her shop in late 2005, while scouting locations for a Beautiful Homes photo shoot. I was struck by the unique combination of her obvious passion with a warm, serene and welcoming presence—an aura that the design of her eponymous shops exudes. I was saddened to learn that she was in fact ill at the time and, in May of this year, lost a long and painful six year battle with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease).  
Her namesake shop is now in a new location, even more homey than the last, and its objects and exhibitions are in the very knowledgeable, very capable hands of daughter, Vanessa Smith. Both owners sharing traits with their ceramics sold: each intuitive, original in their own right, and having established a pattern that bears repeating. 


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

MIRROR MAGIC

Mirrors, Mirrors on the wall..Whose designs outshine them all?  RRRrrrrreynaldo! 

We first learned of Reynaldo Gonzalez via his shapely, handmade mirrors cut to put a modern edge on tradition. (from left to right, above: Esplanade, Prentiss and Antonine). Soon after, we learned of the trick with mirrors played by his clever table designs. 


































His Julia coffee table, above top, appears to float on chunky, transparent Lucite legs while his Maraise Beveled Cubes, above bottom, all but disappear with beveling on a five sides and a low profile mirrored base.

"Mirrors make the best lovers" says Mouse quoting Margaret Atwood's poem, Tricks with Mirrors:

 Mirrors
are the perfect lovers,

that's it, carry me up the stairs
by the edges, don't drop me,

that would be back luck,
throw me on the bed

reflecting side up,
fall into me,

it will be your own
mouth you hit, firm and glassy,

your own eyes you find you
are up against closed closed


 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

OUR GARDEN DESIGN HERO



Yes, it's true that we give a fresh coat of green paint to the shrubs on our front deck each spring, after they died two winters ago. (see our June post, "Forever and EverGreen"). And yes, our idea of weeding is Roundup. I should also confess an aversion to most flowers, which I often prefer cut in vases and which Mouse prefers to nibble on much like the rabbits she chases. But make no mistake, we have a deep affection for garden design. So deep, in fact, that we have our outdoor architectural heroes. And at the top of that very short list is Craig Socia.

The best designers can make a truly great room on any budget. Likewise, Socia has no need for big, showy blooms. The simplest shrub or paver stone is rich building material in his hands. Soft blue hydrangeas rise in stacks to create a cushy garden wall, while shrubs are pruned into full, round tufts of fun. The result strikes a delicate balance between this designer's sheer control over nature and his utter respect for how each plant material wants to grow. And if you look at where his carefully sculpted garden paths lead, they always take you into the wild—or at least a sense of it.

But have no fear. Socia drops
breadcrumbs to let us know that the further we wander on a path, we remain inside his artful plan. A sole spot of red grows in a formal urn sited amidst depths of green or— more fun yet— one of the designer's fanciful twig constructions rewards explorers with their own secret spot to hide away. Outfit, of course, with sophisticated twig furnishings—also of his own design.

Closer to home, the reverse is true and Socia welcomes wildness where others would impose order: in the meandering plantings of a poolside container, for instance, or the tufty vines that engulf a terrace portico.

If Socia has a formula, it's a one-to-one ratio of structure to fantasy. That's the kind of gardening we enjoy: an artful, succinct statement of our own bravado at trying to tame Nature who remains defiantly at play.



Thursday, July 16, 2009

POSH EFFECTS WITH A PEDESTAL SINK


Fine sculpture is displayed on pedestals. And sinks on columnar bases do much of the same, isolating and, therefore, showcasing the daily art of primping. The very dapper interior designer Marshall Watson understood as much when creating this stunning bath, where a pedestal sink stars in its own mirrored niche. Seating is key to this room design because who wouldn't want to watch this level of chic being created?

Dedicating space to a pedestal sink is not a solution for every space. Often used for guest half-baths, it means foregoing counters as well as storage. In practical terms, an installation like Watson's in a master suite means separating the sink where you do a few final touchups from the place (a vanity or dressing desk) where the real work gets done. 

Space is lost. But there's no substitute for the aura of glamour gained—especially if you start with a four-star sink. To view a few of our favorite designs, follow these links:

 As close a match as you'll find to the fixture used by Marshall Watson in the photo above.

A modern glamour piece with a widespread basin for minimal splash and a strong, geometric silhouette.

A sleek form that echoes midcentury designs in a gentle, timeless way. As a plus, it includes matching fixtures from Hansgrohe.

A great transitional piece that bridges classic form and minimal detail. 

A contemporary fusion fixture inspiring for its elegant, traditional Japanese style handpainting in your choice of  four seasonal motifs including this plum tree design with silver branches to symbolize Spring (above, right)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

24 Karat Art







A great art find. I love how these tiny, meticulously crafted paintings by Stephen Hay revive the techniques of Medieval era illuminated manuscripts for a modern graphic punch. 

Only 3 x 3 inches, these are painted in gouache with 23.75 karat gold leaf and take approximately one month each to execute. And that includes 
a shortcut. Stephen tries to use a synthetic size (the substance that adheres the gold to the paper), but sometimes cannot stop himself from working with gum amoniac, an ancient gilding size that proves even more time consuming. Fortunately the paper he's using is 100% archival, so if properly cared for, these works could very well last as long as their 14th Century inspiration.  Priced very reasonably! I'm buying one to frame and display on a tabletop, where guests can examine its luminous surface and finely rendered detail up close. Write stephenhayart@gmail.com for inquiries. 

Louis Louis !


Who's your favorite Louis? 

As a Baroque historian living in a modern house, I have to go with Louis the Last (XVI). Probably much too straight-forward a person to be king, his namesake style chair has an essential geometry that's proved iconic, yet flexible through the centuries. 

Unlike the continuous curves of its predecessor (a Louis XV chair), my Louis pairs straight legs with oval or circle backs. (Actually, they did square or almost square too, but oval is my preference). No fussy curlicues and no irregular shapes.

The greatest complication to its form lies in its precise proportions. Legs are slender and gently taper downwards— a fact often emphasized by carved fluting. Arms, if they exist, are shorter than the depth of its seat to echo how far elbows extend in relation to our knees. 

A mixture of Baroque elegance and modern sobriety, it's no wonder the birth of this chair coincided with revolution. 
And survived it. 


Unlike its unfortunate (beheaded) namesake,
the essential form of a Louis XVI chair has transcended centuries of style coups—from Queen Victoria to Phillipe Stark. 

The first image, above, is an 18th Century period piece upholstered in Aubusson and recently featured on a blog we love, Decor to Adore. More recent incarnations include (clockwise, from top to bottom)

  • The ethereal, stackable, iconic-in-its-own-right "Louis Ghost" chair by Philippe Stark for Kartell,
  •  available in transparent and colored polycarbonate through Design Within Reach. (Note: the manufacturer's website quotes Louis XV as inspiration (?)...a question for Mr. Stark oneday). 
  • The Tyler Armchair by Oly Studio captures the chair's basic form all tidied up for modern rooms, and void of surface decoration. (Mouse loves it upholstered in cozy mohair as shown).
  • All the grace of Louis the Best times three: the Triple Medallion Settee by Wisteria
  • Fashion designer Charles Nolan's spiffy redo of a vintage Louis style chair, repainted and tailored to perfection in a Holland & Sherry wool flannel with sharp red trim. Available at his impeccably decorated New York shop and by inquiry online.
  • An ingenious window display of surrealist-inspired "melting" chairs in the windows of Moschino's NYC shop during Design Week 2009.

  • "Lou Lou", a child-size version of the Louis Ghost chair by Kartell. Sized well for a certain cocreator of this blog, but lacking the extra plush padding she desires. 
  • The Comtesse dog bed by Prestige Houses. Okay, it's not a chair. But it is an impeccably crafted Louis XVI reproduction piece just perfect for our resident design diva, Mouse.