Tuesday, July 28, 2009


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:

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


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


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. 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Adventuresome D.I.Y.

A fluttering canopy woven with colorful rubber bands? A valance of pop bottles on strings? These are the kind of designs you'd expect to see from avant-garde firms, not another chain store at a mall in Albuquerque.

But following spins around the Mac store, Pottery Barn, and a few more bix, boxy destinations... Mouse suddenly stopped squirming in my purse and popped her head out to point ahead. Her motivation? The entrance to Anthropologie. Shopping is a joy there, but its lure is so much more. 
Are their clever vignettes prototypes for new designs?  Or are they simply there to create a sense of play so essential to their brand? Whatever their reason for being, we're appreciative. The level of invention that goes into their retail staging is always inspiring.

That rubber band canopy, for instance, we imagined executed in wired greenery as the entrance to our next Christmas party. A smaller canopy of grosgrain ribbon ponytail holders or stretchable strands of faux pearls could weave equally well into a do-it-yourself chandelier.

Other sightings included a lamp of stacked teacups and saucers (for sale) and a very nifty garden wall design idea that using faux-moss on paneling. Mouse suggested using moss in a similar way to masquerade the unsightly fencing on Jack's kennel. Not so sure about that one...I don't think we could decorate for Jack with anything inedible. But, like all displays at this store, I'll take it into consideration. 

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Beautiful Bedding

Harry Barker, one my faves, on special at One Kings Lane this week ! (email Karin for an invite if you need one).

Saturday, July 4, 2009


It's the place where we store punch bowls for parties and pots large enough to boil a lobster—none of which is needed everyday. It's also the CostCo closet, where we store items bought in bulk like paper towels. And in my current home, as well as the one I renovated previously, it's proved the trick to cutting a kitchen renovation budget in half. 
My kitchen today consists of a large island with storage on two sides, a tiny builtin wall unit with only two sets of doors, and a large, multipurpose walk-in pantry. No walls covered from floor to ceiling with little boxes, no deep drawers to fumble around in on bent knees. The pantry holds the bulk of our kitchen storage instead. Pans hang from the ceiling, and pots sit stacked in cubbies. After all, who cooks with all at a time? Even the coffeemaker, used once daily, sits plugged-in on its own dedicated shelf in the pantry. 
Every inch of the pantry is open storage, which explains the savings in terms of kitchen cabinetry costs. We find is easier to walk in, see what you're looking for and grab it quickly. But style plays a role as well. It's just too much fun to prop those few shelves you see at the pantry's entrance. In my last house (featured in the Spring 2009 issue of Better Homes & Gardens Kitchen Makeovers magazine), I tiled one wall just inside the pantry's doorway with honed travertine
bricks to add an extra layer of texture. In our current home, a large print of a Savarin coffee can by Jasper Johns (above, left) graces the pantry's entrance. 
Of course, providing Mouse her own comfy spot to rest away from the fray of meal prep is another big pantry perk. Why, when I'm lucky enough to live with her, would I ever invite her to sit anywhere but close by?