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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Visual Treats (forallofmydesign-obsessed peeps) Vintage Remix for the End of Summer


Atlanta's Nancy Braithwaite has almost single-handedly redefined the design vernacular of Georgia, the Carolinas, and parts of Virginia.  She makes no attempt to replicate fantasies of Tara, or recreate pastiches of French and English royal estates; instead she delivers well-edited and thoughtfully conceived interiors which are just right for their locale.  Nancy's expansive portfolio offers evidence of consistently achieving that 'timeless' factor.  Today's featured interior is quite striking it its simplicity:  a cozy seating arrangement comprised of two linen covered bergeres facing a slip-covered love-seat.  (Note: here a custom tailored slip-cover fits taut and is self-piped with hems just barely grazing the floor.)  Instead of a coffee-table which I frequently find to be too low/bulky/casual, Nancy employs a beautiful tea-table with wonderfully cabriole legs, and then repeats the shape of the legs in twin tables flanking the love-seat.  On the tables sit classically inspired reading lamps in a style much favored by English designer David Hicks and our own John Saladino.  A highly tactile zebra skin (laid on antique flooring of limed oak) introduces the exotic.  A bold contemporary painting by Robert Mangold and a modern table-top sculpture (by Joel Shapiro?) introduces visual contrast and provides a counterpoint to any inferred historicism.  Truly a lovely room and an inspiration for all of us who are planning to implement a summer look in our homes.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Visual treats for all of my Design-obsessed Peeps (Sunday Evening Remix)



Thomas O'Brien, cofounder of AERO, and designer of carpets for SAFAVIEH, furniture for HICKORY CHAIR, fabrics for LEE JOFA, and assorted (if somewhat over-priced) bric-a-brac for TARGET, cleverly utilizes his NYC loft as both impromptu design studio and private retreat.  Although this pre-war residence boasts an 18ft high ceiling, the only bedroom was tiny, had a low ceiling, and connected to the living area by a dark, narrow hallway, so the owner opted to move his bed, bedroom furniture, and personal effects into the open, airy, light-filled salon.  Borrowing from the page of tricks and visual illusions of other designers who prefer small-space living, O'Brien hangs art right up to the rafters, and wrapped his entire space in a soft-grey color upon which everything appears to float.  As master of the 'vintage modern' trend in decorating, this highly successful designer mixes updated creations from his licensed lines with vintage pieces.  Georgian-period antiques, over-scaled paintings, and primitive decorative objects for a cool and clever look that seems personal, un-fussy, and quite attainable!!


PS: Make a difference in our planet's future by purchasing thrift, vintage, and antiques.  Please remember to recyle.

Visual treats for all of my Design-obsessed Peeps (After the Storm Vintage Remix)


You all know that I have always found the color pink to be one of the most versatile colors available, and one which I use frequently in bedrooms and living rooms.  When grounded by classical elements, it is quite sophisticated and elegant as demonstrated in this interior by the fabulous and talented Mary McDonald.  Balanced symmetry of slipper chairs with centre table, chinoiserie elements such as the wall mirror and blue/white vases adds visual zip, a zebra skin on the dark floor introduces the naturally exotic, and the arrangement of exquisite little plates all contribute to this striking composition.  Truly, a wonderful and dramatic entry!!


PS:  When Diana Vreeland famously said, "Pink is the navy-blue of India," could she have foreseen its easy assimilation into every aspect of design within these shores?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Visual Treats for all of my Design-obsessed Peeps (Falling Rain/Relax/Frankie Goes to Hollywood)


The rain keeps falling outside as the storm rages, and my underground lair rocks with the sound of 'Relax' by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.  Who could ever forget the excitement this song generated on and off the dance-floor.  Who thought of leaving the club with this vibe remixed/respun/revved/k-grooved??  Not I!  There is much to be said for passion and the singular vision of musicians and artists.  Coming across this image in our vault of past postings, I was still struck by the interior's unconventional beauty and the skill of pairing these vibrant colors.  I wish more folks would embrace change (in all aspects of one's life) as the world around spins even more rapidly, the sun seemingly leans closer, and the time of prophecy draws near.  Whose words are prophetic and which are pathetic at this time remains undecided and unclear.  


PS:  Shout-out to David da Silva Cornell, for being a great point-man.

For all of my Design-Obsessed Peeps -- Weekend Treat/Vintage Remix


This charming old kitchen reminds me of my childhood home.  In my mind's eye I can still clearly see the yellow-painted wall of my mother's kitchen which had two windows--one with a long wooden counter beneath it, on which all of the rolling of pastry dough was done, and under the other window sat the double sink, drain-board, and a white rubber-coated drain rack for holding glasses, plates, silverware and such.  If the person who had wash-up duty that particular evening could manage to do so, then the frying pan and heavy dark skillets were carefully balanced on top of all the clean dishes and cups and saucers, in order to avoid having to hand-dry with a cotton tea-towel.  

This was a special place to grow up; it was light years before the avalanche of product catalogues, life-style magazines, and HGTV shows convinced some of my friends and acquaintances that heaven on earth must entail a Viking 60-inch custom sealed burner range, smudge-proof French doors on the fridge, and that a second dishwasher was necessary for the times when the first dishwasher hadn't been emptied, and no one showed the slight inclination to do so.  It's not that my parents were unaware of the changing trends in kitchen design and upgrades, because we did receive copies of Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal and Reader's Digest from my sister in Pensacola who liked decorating and fixing up her house on the air-force base.  It's just that with so many kids to feed and clothe and get through grade school and into hight school, the idea of calling in a carpenter or plumber to talk about changing anything other than what was rotten or broken seemed strange and a little wasteful-as wasteful and unthoughtful as not remembering to mix the last of the ketchup with water to make it just go a little further.   Or refusing to eat the ends of the bread-loaf. 

Funny the things we remember about our families and about growing up.  Memories triggered by an image gleaned from an online blog about place and sanctuary.  Or triggered by the faint tinkle of the ice-cream vendor's bicycle-bell, or the aroma of frying eggs and sizzling pork sausages, or the excited chatter of neighborhood children on their way home on weekday afternoons between 3 and 4.


PS:  Hope you enjoy today's visual treat and the weekend, and all of life's beauty.

For All of My Design-obsessed Peeps (Hurricane Vintage Remix)


Today my thoughts turned to Mexico after hearing about the re-enactment of the Crucifixion  in the Mexican suburb of Ixtapalapa, which has has been held yearly since 1843 and one of the premiere performances of faith in this deeply religious country.  Many residents hope that this event will act as a catalyst, a miracle of sorts capable of galvanizing social reform at a time of severe economic duress coupled with the continued risk of personal safety as drug gangs compete in deadly battle over territory and shipping routes.

Mexico is a country of long and deeply held traditions; concurrently it is a place of creative and artistic innovation in the visual, performing, and decorative arts, as well as the applied sciences.  It has produced so many stellar artists of vision and imagination that my head spins at the sheer number. I am forever and hopelessly indebted to Octavio Paz, Frida Kahlo, Carlos Fuentes, Tomas Segovia, Diego Rivera and so many others who skillfully initiated, nurtured, and defined the culture and identity of Mexico.  Foremost among these pioneers is the architect, landscape and furniture designer Luis Barragan, winner of the 1980 Prizker Prize, and considered one of the most important architects of the 20th century. 

Influenced by the French intellectual Ferdinand Brac and European modernism, especially Le Corbusier, Barragan designed and constructed homes of humble materials such as wood and poured cement, shaped in a hybrid form clearly influenced by the International Style, yet suggestive of the proportions and details found in old colonial buildings such as the convents, monasteries, and haciendas that dotted the rural landscape or centered town squares. These remarkably unpretentious buildings were painted the vibrant hues of traditional clothing and festivals:  purples, pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges; frequently were oriented inward towards private courtyards and patios; incorporated water as a design element; and nurtured a feeling of solitude by eliminating distraction and superfluous elements.  Suggesting the past, yet embracing the future, the Barragan home is a triumph of design, nature, and the human spirit.

Barragan wrote (that), "In alarming proportions the following words have disappeared from architectural publications: beauty, inspiration, magic, sorcery, enchantment, and also serenity, mystery, silence, privacy, astonishment.  All of these have found a living home in my soul."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps (Summer Victory Remix)

The thought of endless falling rain (in today’s forecast we expect it tomorrow evening and thru Sat) fills me with delicious anticipation.  Here at home in Arlington, just outside the nation’s capital, things have been quite pleasant.  The weather has been cooler and less humid than expected; even yesterday’s mild earthquake played second fiddle to the news of our fellow peep’s win at the primaries.  With Adam at the helm, I feel a little more confident that pragmatism, honesty, and clarity still prevails--as well as representation in Congress for the remainder of the populace not contained within the ruling minority.  Do you think he fully realizes the upcoming fight against the antics of the ‘The Coiffure’ and the Wicked Witch of the 2C (M. Bachmann)?  Should Adam call on ‘The Situation’ to help them ready for 2012?

I received many numerous emails in response to the previous blog posting in which I discussed the probable design inspiration for the ‘Belgian Look’ carried by many of the furniture stores.  I posited that Belgian antiquarian Alex Vervoordt’s subliminally austere interiors have seduced many a shop-owner, dreamy home-owner or magazine editor into such an undertaking, and sadly in some instances without benefit of context or content, the result has been most unpleasant.  Two wonderfully written and beautifully photographed books by Mr. Vervoodt offer valuable insight vis-à-vis his approach to art, antiques, interiors, and gardens.  Combing through our vault of past visual treats, I came across a photo of one of my favorite Vervoordt interiors, and thus I share for the enjoyment of all our recent peeps.

Enjoy today’s visual treat.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Visual Treats for Recent Peeps/Weekend Mix (Diamond-Baratta)



This past week unusual objects popped up on grassy knolls, perched in street-boxes and at the center of round-abouts, as well as fastened to lamp-posts and utility poles.  Brightly colored, graphic and designed for quick and easy reading, the signs announcing the Democratic primaries in our districts of Arlington, Alexandria, and parts of Fairfax, seemed to multiply overnight;  similarly prolific, teams of polite and earnest young canvassers  appeared more frequently in the neighborhood streets at about 5 or 6.  While I may not show it when hidden beneath a oversized straw-hat and the armor provided by multiple applications of OFF, I heartily applaud their efforts to get the apathetic, the undecided, and the ambiguous down to the voting stations.  Likewise, I applaud noteworthy candidates such as Jaime Ariega-Soto, Walter Tejada, and Adam Ebbin who have pledged to advocate for better funding of public schools and our teachers, comprehensive plans for even smarter growth, and a more balanced representation for the many silent and forgotten minority groups that live within our communities.  Wish them all the best on Tuesday as concerned Virginia residents wisely cast their votes.

This weekend I had the leisurely pleasure of flipping through countless design magazines and shop catalogues, and it seems that the love affair with the color grey and that mix of worn, rustic, sparse Flemish-inspired furnishings is over, or best left to A. Vervoordt who remains the undisputed master of that look.  Across the pond it works beautifully; when viewed in residences in West Sprinfield (VA) or Bowie (MD) something seems painfully wrong.  For starters, townhomes in suburban sub-divisions cannot substitute for the aesthetics of a 17th century estate/farmhouse or city-house; secondly, the light of our area is so much different from that of Belgium or Amsterdam, that it’s almost impossible to successfully incorporate those pale and smoky greys, whites and chalky whites, browns and earthy-browns into a light-starved colonial or split-level without lots of artificial illumination.  Attempt this (meaning the Belgian Look) only with guidance of a proficient lighting designer and talented colorist, lest you spend the next ten years moody, morose, or maudlin, whining to your significant other or pet, and upon return home after a day’s work, always within close proximity of the liquor cabinet.

A kind plants-woman graciously gave with me two large pots of dahlias.  I must confess to adoring their bold shapes and intense color; yet I have never attempted to grow them from tubers because of some inner reluctance still not understood.  More experienced gardeners have also stressed the importance of having tropical annuals such as dahlias, lantanas, marigolds and others to offer some color against the monotony of green which is prevalent at this time.  I am eager to see the brilliance of these dahlias which I recently placed in a bed filled with yarrow, pineapple-sage, spirea, fennel, bird-peppers, lavender, and iron obelisks of climbing sweet-peas (that refuse to bloom for no apparent reason).   Patience, cautions Lady Emblom, who wisely points out that Mendel worked at it for quite a few years before any degree of success.

Please enjoy this new work-week, as well as next weekend’s visual remix.


PS:  Talented mix-masters (and interior designers) Anthony Baratta and William Diamond of Diamond Baratta Design advocate color, pattern and fun to keep the spirits up (especially during the dog days of August).  

Monday, August 15, 2011

For All of My Design-obsessed Peeps/WEEKEND REMIX



It has been a somewhat difficult weekend; the weather channel had predicted thunder-storms and showers yesterday, and only a brief sprinkle was in our favor.  Today, the anticipation and expectation of rain kept me on edge; I weeded and re-potted right after breakfast, and briefly considered getting out the water-hose for the front garden, yet the promise of abundant showers at noon or late afternoon delayed any action on my part.  Sure we’re not parched as in parts of Texas where my friend Andy lamented that Houston has not received any rainfall but once in three months, nevertheless our small lawn had recently began turning brown.  Yet I prefer not to run the sprinkler, especially when I think about parched countries where water is precious and scarcely sufficient for growing crops or raising animals.  The idea of 13 million persons at risk of starvation in the Horn of Africa is sufficient to make me pause, and keep waiting for at least a few more hours.

This evening I had the opportunity to review earlier posts, and came upon one of my favorites:

               The Paris loft of Frederic Mechiche is undeniably a cult favorite among the design-obsessed. The historic interior has been reduced to essentially a shell for the display of art, furniture, lighting, and assorted ephemera. Against while walls and upon bare floors, the renowned interior and furniture designer has skillfully conjured his highly personal and idiosyncratic version of a design palimpsest.  Spanning periods and styles, Mechiche collects photography by Mapplethorpe and Serrano/sculpture by Beuys and Dubuffet/chairs, tables and lighting by mid-century masters/carved and beaded creations from African, Oceania, and the Americas/and artifacts ranging from Roman helmets to Chinese temple guardians.  Limited to a palette of grey, white, black, antiqued mirror, chrome and other metals, this apartment tantalizes us with allusions of a rain-swept afternoon in Paris.

Hope you enjoy today’s visual treat.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weekend Visual Treat --Summer Remix



This week, feelings of uncertainty, hesitancy, and worry seem to have become the norm for many Americans.  Even a year or two ago, summer was about getting the family and pooch all packed in the station-wagon for a fun-filled fortnight at the beach; the absence of workers meant less time spent on the highways during morning and evening rush-hour commute; summer barbecues extended far into the evening as frothy concoctions proved more potent than anticipated.  DJ’s, producers, and musicians all jockey to capture the zeitgeist of these precious weeks before Labor Day and the end of summer; this week the retro grooves on Horse Meat Disco’s double CD perfectly captures the sensual euphoria of the discoteque just before 1 or 2 when it seemed that a rhythmic nirvana was magically present—and the dancers responded in sustained adoration until closing time at 4 or 5.

Today I had the opportunity to visit Old Town Alexandria, a place of quaint shops, side-walk cafes, and historic homes enhanced by charming formal gardens filled with boxwood, ivy topiaries, carpets of pachysandra, and statuesque urns overflowing with geraniums, ferns, and trailing annuals.  Quick stops at my favorite haunts proved quite enjoyable as treasures were plentiful, as was ample parking on un-metered streets.  Verdigris Antiques on King Street must be visited in order to experience the visual cornucopia comprised of coral objects, chinoiserie, bibelots, mid-century lamps, tramp art, and Ash-can style paintings.  A Mexican tin mask proved irresistible and now joins my growing collection; a lenient lay-way plan by the owner allowed me to finally acquire a brilliantly carved Zulu bowl that I had coveting for quite some time.  Next stop was the Prevention of Blindness thrift shop where once a week or so, the surplus inventory from chic clothing boutiques and local home-furnishings stores are graciously received and generously discounted.  The turnover rate is very high, and a Jacobean-style shaving mirror glimpsed earlier last week was gone.  The second floor galleries were filled with brimming racks of coats, suits, and other apparel, but I was in no mood for thinking of winter necessities.  After a quick lunch at my favorite  osteria -- A La Lucia, run by the charismatic Michael Nayeri, I headed for Trastevere Antiques on Cameron Street where the inventory is small, yet carefully selected to the owner’s discerning eye and Continental sensibilities.  Wendy Abbruzetti’s shop is filled with lamps, Oriental carpets, chandeliers, and English furniture.  I was most interested in her collection of garden containers and statues which are displayed to great effect in a small courtyard garden, where I found a pair of stone grey-hounds in repose, which are perfect for flanking the front door, and now at the top of my want list.  Now, if only one of my devoted peeps could remember that next month is my birthday, and ….

The continued popularity of Ruth Bolduan’s art, its relative scarcity, and her imminent move to Quatar forced me to break from lazy beach days and drive to Richmond, VA on Wednesday afternoon.  I did find a few prints for patiently waiting collectors, but many of the drawings I had hoped to procure had already been sold by her California dealer.  Still, the trip was not wasted.  One of my favorite paintings now hangs temporarily in our foyer, awaiting delivery to its new owner.  Whenever I see it, my mood almost immediately improves, and my spirit lifts.   And I like this (feeling) a lot.    


PS:  Thanks for being a devoted peep and hope you enjoy today’s visual treat by artist Ruth Bolduan.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Weekend Visual Treat with Guest Writer Iris White (on the launch of IWI)


Blog readers and friends,

We have a natural and constant drive to take better care of ourselves. We look for ways to eat healthier, live greener, work-out, meditate, practice yoga, and so forth - it seems that it is part of our DNA to enhance our lives. Yet one area that we often overlook is our home. Much research has been conducted and published on the effects of good design in work settings and healthcare facilities; articles which dealt with the residential sphere proved more scarce. Why is this, I wondered; we spend over half our lives in our homes, so the omission of information in trade publications and other journals was troubling. The benefits to our psyche which can be attained through good residential design are numerous.

Fortunately, bringing smart design into our homes can be easily done, and does not have to cost a fortune. Working with both individual and families, I make sure that I fully understand the priorities and interests of my clients in creating a home that reflects their lifestyle and personal taste. I am a strong advocate of using the things we already own, reassessing belongings, and eliminating what is unnecessary (if we can muster the courage to do so). We can create a natural flow of energy by rearranging furniture, removing obstacles, and optimizing illumination.  Color, aromatherapy, and music can be used to make a significant and positive change within the home. 

Recently, a client of mine found that she was unable to sleep upon moving into her new home. I noted the bed room had been painted in a highly saturated red color, and a heavy ceiling fan hovered dangerously close to the bed. Changing the mood and energy of the room was accomplished by changing from the highly stimulating and excitable red to a cool and calming green, as well as selecting a smaller model for the ceiling fan. The color we chose worked well with existing pillows, bed linens, artwork, etc. The result was that she felt better in her bed room and she actually looked better, too. Keep in mind that we all have a certain color type and bright red was not hers. Most importantly, this simple change brought real health benefits as she can now sleep well again.

Our homes should be places we long to get back to; places to sustain us and help us move forward in life. When our home becomes a place that nourishes us in these ways, we gain a sense of well-being which enables us to grow and enjoy life on a different level. My goal is to bring this experience to all of my clients.


Iris White Interiors

Sunday, August 7, 2011

For all of my Design-Obsessed Peeps -- Weekend Treat/CONTEMPORARY ART



Nothing compares to the luxury of sleeping undisturbed save for the lucid dreams of sailing through falling rains towards open seas, or flying weightlessly over ancient cities of fog-obscured piazzas and towering gold-tipped spires.  For between dusk and dawn, the realm of endless possibilities and infinite probabilities becomes reality; Everyman and super-hero intertwine and coexist, and the absence of a totem precludes that jarring dissolution much favored by Dom Cobb.  Inception to the sound of endless waves, the taste of salty kisses, and the fecund smell of a new eternity seems a construct most appealing to my receptive mind. 

Upon my return this morning, I had the opportunity to examine the contents of an art portfolio holding papers and prints destined for the frame-shop.  A surprise came in rediscovering several drawings by artist Tim Beard.  The works were riveting, lyrical, and entirely relevant.  A close friend, upon viewing them, gasped that, “they are so beautiful.”  I heartily agreed and forwarded one such gem for your enjoyment. 

A review by Fausto Lorenzi reads, ‘Beard is without a doubt interesting in his reaction to the depersonalization and lack of expressiveness that dominated the American Art scene.  Since Warhol, a culture of mere symbols has developed; the mundane elevated to become aesthetic myth.  Beard instead traces a map of individual stories; tribal signs, like ghostly footprints, sometimes menacing and disconcerting, have their presence rooted in magical symbolism.’

Other images by Tim Beard can be viewed at


PS:  Hope that you are enjoying the summer.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Visual Treats for Recent Peeps/Weekend Mix--Stone(d) In the Garden


As a devoted reader of Shane’s blog for quite some time, I was both pleased and apprehensive at his invitation to contribute an article during his absence.  During our many chats, I was encouraged to write about subjects I enjoyed most.  Unfortunately, and under the advice of my attorneys, such incriminations would serve me poorly!!  Subsequently I have selected hardscaping; specifically, the enhancement of texture in the garden through the appropriate use of stone materials.

In my view, the two basic components of any garden is the softscape—plant material, and the hardscape-inanimate materials.  Hardscape materials range from pink flamingos to drainage systems.  There are three basic types of stone materials to select from:  First, surface stone(s) which are any stone(s) harvested from an exposed vantage.  Commonly referred to as weathered stone, this type of stone is ideal for wall materials, as well as steppers.  Often this stone can be found with both moss beds and lichen growing on the surface.  Both are quite beautiful.  Available sizes can range from coffee-table books to the coffee-table itself.  This stone has a natural appearance and needs to be placed accordingly.  Second, is a quarried stone.  This stone is just that.  It is typically sized to specific measurements, and is most often used as thread and paver material; for example, a quarried stone such as flagstone has the appropriate qualities for patio, pathways and wall-caps.  An interesting note on quarried stone(s) is that the depth of the stone’s location is dramatically reflected in the character of the stone.  For example, flagstone, bluestone, and slate are all the same stone, the differences in characteristics are due to the influence of heat and pressure on the mineral deposits within the stone.  Third, and lastly, is washed stone.  This stone’s characteristics primarily reflect the influence that water has had on the stone.  A washed stone typically has a naturally rounded formation.  The stone can range in size from a beach pebble to large boulders deposited millennia ago by glacerial movements.  Often, a cold water stone has greater varieties of color hues:  blues, pinks, and purples.  The warm water stone—typically, tans and beiges.  Personally, I prefer a warm water stone as it seems to blend more naturally in this region.  As to the use of this stone, dry river beds and French drains are a natural place for their placement.   As to the larger boulders, they are ideal for specimen stone in an Asian-inspired garden and in my opinion, little else!!

Finally, for those kind or charitable enough to still be reading this guest-posting, the selection of stone and placement is of great importance.  I believe that if your garden holds the idealized view of nature, such as the English garden, a natural weathered surface stone should be considered.  If your sensibilities lean more to the structured formality of the Renaissance garden, most often known as the French garden, a quarried stone will continue the qualities of these geometrics.  And of course, if calligraphy and ink paintings are your thing, go with the washed stone.

Whatever you choose, choose appropriately.  The architecture of your home should blend smoothly with the architecture of your garden.  Select a regional stone and place it accordingly.  Remember, the lighting in your garden is as important as the lighting at your dinner party.  Stone will work well if you let it.

Best regards,


PS:  Go get stone(d).