Wednesday
Feb082012

Jumping the Shark

I judge when an item or trend has "jumped the shark"--a phrase I picked up from listening, albeit occasionally, to Howard Stern--when it's so ubiquitous that "knock-off" companies have their own versions. That's when you know it's time to rethink a design. Sadly, the knock-offs happen all too quickly lately. All the more reason to invest in classics. It's okay to mix things up with trends. That's what accessories are good for. It's like building a wardrobe: buy good quality classics (you know, the navy blazer), and then spice it up with trendy accessories--the things you won't mind discarding after a few seasons.

Here are my picks for designs that have jumped the shark. If you go here, be cautious and spend wisely.

1. Industrial Coffee Tables

Industrial Maison Coffee Table at HomeDecorators.comI first saw tables like this several years ago at Brimfield, the antique and flea market that's held three times a year in Brimfield, Massachusetts. Vendors selling industrial salvage had these tables made out of reclaimed wood, pallets and industrial parts. Clever and environmentally sound, this table is now available on HomeDecorators.com.

2. Grain Sack Decor

         

B. Gover Limited Grain Sack Chair     Pottery Barn Vintage Grain Sack Pillows

Vintage grain and feed sacks made the home decorating scene a while back. Again, I first noticed this trend at Brimfield about seven years ago. Vendors of vintage textiles were selling washed linen originally made for grain and feed storage sacks. Purveyors of country goods were fashioning the cloth into decorative pillow cases and reupholstering French bergeres with it. Now everyone is on the bandwagon, mimicking the look of the vintage cloth. Pottery Barn must have gobbled up the bulk of the inventory because now it's selling the vintage cloth on its site.

3. Moroccan Themed Textiles

         

         Shades of Light Rug                           Ballard Designs Fabric

I'm not sure who or what brought Moroccan tile patterns to the forefront of design. Maybe Kelly Wearstler, the iconic designer credited with re-inventing Hollywood Regency Style (see more below). Moorish influences in architecture date back to Byzantine times, so its understandable that Moroccan motifs would have staying power. But Moroccan patterns, as lovely as they are, are EVERYWHERE (and in case you didn't notice, even grace the background of this page). 

4. Mirrored Hollywood Regency Style

        

Viceroy Hotel Room designed by K. Wearstler    HomeDecorators.com Cabinet

We can thank Kelly Wearstler for re-inventing Hollywood Regency Style, a style connected with plush tufted upholstery, high chroma lacquered finishes and bold geometries. So much of what is ubiquitous in design today--mirrored furniture, chinoiserie motifs, rococo mirrors, among others--can be credited to Wearstler. There are many beautiful mirrored cabinets on the market today. I have even spec'd some for my clients. But knock-offs have taken this style from classic and tasteful to tawdry.

What's soon to be on the cusp? Beware the Union Jack.

Friday
Feb032012

Super Bowl Fever

I am an avid sports fan. It's in my blood. My parents grew up in New York City in the glory days of the baseball rivalries between the Giants, Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers. When the Giants moved to San Francisco, my parents stuck with the National League and switched their loyalty to the New York Mets. I know exactly where I was when the Mets won the World Series in 1969 and 1986. I married a Yankee uber-fan and, given the paltry post-season record of the Mets, I've migrated to the Yankee side (except, of course, during the 2000 subway series). For two-thirds of my life, I lived in New York and with that came allegiance to the football Giants. But then I moved to Massachusetts. While I can't for the sake of my pride and my marriage become a Red Sox fan, I have very easily transitioned to being a devout Patriots fan. Let's just say that Tom Brady is my idol. I believe he is the embodiment of professionalism: his talent, his integrity, his study and dedication to the game and his teammates combine to form an athlete and man worthy of reverence.

With the Super Bowl this weekend, and the buildup for the rematch from Super Bowl XLII between quarterbacks Tom Brady and Eli Manning, I decided to interpret the design styles of these sports heroes. I'm envisioning the Studies of these athletes: the spaces in their homes where they retire when alone or to conduct business (the non-athletic kind). To set the stage, Tom is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen and together they have built a palatial estate in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, California. (Their Boston Back Bay penthouse is on the market.) Eli is married to his college sweetheart, Abby McGrew, and splits his time between a 3,000 square-foot condominium in Hoboken, New Jersey and a home in Oxford, Mississippi (where Ole Miss, his alma mater, is located). Tom grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and Eli in New Orleans. You may see infusions of these influences in the selections I've made, but mostly it's how I see their on-and-off-the field personas expressed in their home furnishings. I know I'm biased and that may be evident in the designs I've created. How'd I do? What's your take on the styles Tom and Eli gravitate to?

Tom BradyRalph Pucci Sofa and Table Lamp, Dessin Fournir Chair and Coffee Table, Holly Hunt End Table, Wall Sconce and Silk Area Carpet, Ironies Bow Front Chest, Kravet and Donghia Fabrics

Eli Manning: Kravet Sofa, Barclay Butera Home Club Chair, Dessin Fournir End Table, Ironies Console, Desk and Table Lamp, Holly Hunt Wall Sconce, Elizabeth Eakins Area Carpet, Fabrics by Kravet and Lee Jofa

Tuesday
Jan312012

The Elephant in the Room

I admit it. I am a fan of vintage things. I love things with a pedigree and the chippy quality and patina of something old and weathered. I like mixing old and new and coming up with surprising juxtapositions. Sometimes the thing that's old deserves center stage. Especially when that old thing is a kitchen stove.

In my childhood home, we had a Chambers Oven. I LOVED that stove. If you watched Rachael Ray's "30 Minute Meals," it's the same stove she had on set. We had Chambers model 61C--white enamel with aChambers Oven Model 61C chrome stove top and cast iron burners. My mom who, to this day at almost 90 years old, keeps an immaculate house, kept this stove in jewel-like, sparkling condition. (Our family joke is that my mom, who was never into exercise, kept fit by doing power aerobic cleaning.) When my parents sold their house about 20 years ago, I wanted the stove. But this stove is hefty (to say the least), and my mom decided it was not worth the cost of trying to move it from Long Island to Massachusetts. Nuff said.

A stove that unique that it has a dedicated fan club deserves to be the design focus of a kitchen. Which brings me to the point of this post. As designers, one of our tricks is to create focus. In certain rooms there is an obvious focal point: a crib in a nursery, a bed in a bedroom, a fireplace in a living room or family room. Sometimes a spectacular piece of art is the focus or sometimes it's a spectacular view. In a kitchen, a special stove--like the Chambers--is indeed the focus.

I decided to pay homage to the Chambers stove I lost by featuring other special stoves that command focus in a kitchen. Some obvious choices are the Aga stove from England made of cast iron and clad in Elmira Stoveenamel (your choice of 11 different colors). Or La Cornue from France, the Rolls Royce of ovens, each hand made. If you're really into vintage, you might consider a stove from the Elmira Stove Works. But I saw one of the best illustrations of a stove as focus at the 2006 Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York City. In a kitchen designed by St. Charles of New York, a red enamel Molteni by Electrolux stood front and center, an island in a sea of walnut cabinets and stainless steel appliances. The Molteni Podium is a free-standing unit, made in France, and customized to the needs of the user. The Show House stove had a refrigerated sink for a raw bar, refrigerator drawers, an induction cooking unit and a wok unit. The Show House stove, 5 years ago, had an $85,000 price tag. Definitely for the serious cook or the person who wants to look like one. And to think the thousand or so dollars to move the Chambers was too costly. By the way, Mom, a refurbished Chambers can run anywhere from $5,000 to $9,000.

          

  Aga Six-Four Range                            La Cornue Chateau Range

 

                      Aga Stove in Contemporary Kitchen

  

                                  La Cornue in Rustic Kitchen

    2006 Kips Bay Decorator Show House Kitchen by St. Charles of New York

Tuesday
Jan242012

Navy Blazers

My dad was in the menswear business: he designed and sold knitted shirts for a company that had its heyday in the '70s. The shirts were decent--good for their price point--but trendy and didn't last for more than a couple of seasons (whether due to workmanship or style is anyone's guess).  One of the many lessons my dad taught me from his experience in the apparel business was to spend a little more and invest in well-made classic styles.  He said, you can never go wrong with a navy blazer.  This advice has always stuck with me and is one of my guiding principles as a designer.

I have many "navy blazers" in my "closet." [Note to spouse: I meant that figuratively, NOT literally.] One ofCirca 1870 Uzbekistan Ikat my all time favorites is ikat. Dating back to the first millennium, ikat is a textile which originated in central Asia. The word "ikat" stems from the Malay-Indonesian word “mengikat” which means “to tie” or “to bind.” Ikats' watercolor-like quality is achieved through a multi-step process beginning with a pattern. Based on the pattern design, the horizontal (weft) or vertical (warp) threads of the textile are resist-dyed in a process similar to tie-dying. With careful planning, the fibers are woven to create the complex pattern. Today many ikats are simulated without the complex dying process by using space-died yarns, by weaving with a jacquard loom or by simply printing the pattern onto cloth. But a true ikat is a beauty to behold.

What I love about ikat is that it works in any decor from traditional to contemporary. Underlay furniture with a flat-weave ikat area carpet and you create a casual environment. Use a colorful ikat with luminescent fibers in draperies and you create drama. Ikat's pattern is strong enough to stand on its own mounted and hung as wall decor. Or simply take a piece and create a throw to lay on the foot of the bed. Instant classic! Daddy would be proud.

                 

Ikat Collection by Azra Imports               J.Crew Perfect Shirt in Wild Ikat

               

 Ikat by Donghia Textiles                             Spice Market by Donghia Textiles

            

 Sahana Ikat by Schumacher                        Madeline Weinrib Ikat Pillow

 

Thursday
Jan192012

Up Against the Wall!

When I was growing up, my mom had a penchant for wallpaper. I grew up in a 1950's multi-level suburban house in Garden City, Long Island. My parents bought the house new in 1956 when my sister was five years old and I had not yet entered the scene. Mom decorated, putting wallpaper in all the bathrooms, the kitchen and the two-story foyer. Back then, foils and flocked wallpaper were all the rage. (Who knew they would come back?) Being the youngest, I got my sister's hand-me-down furniture. But when I became a teenager, I asked my mom to re-do my bedroom for my birthday. It being the '70s, she papered two walls of my bedroom with a big pattern of glossy yellow, orange, white and--yes, 1970's avocado--floral wallpaper. My mother loved it. I kinda liked it, but was upset with the beige carpeting that she had cut and re-purposed from the living room (who knew my mom would be a pioneer of the re-use and re-purpose movement?). It just wasn't the shag carpeting I coveted.

Wallpaper lost a bit of its luster when faux paint finishes became popular. But I've always been a fan. Maybe it's genetic. Certain rooms scream for wallpaper. The powder room, for one. It's a room that guests always see. I like to go bold and dramatic in the powder room. Also in the dining room: I love a classic pattern above the wainscot. One of my current projects is a restaurant in Davis Square, Somerville, Massachusetts that will feature Mexican Oaxacan cuisine. It's called The Painted Burro. When I first saw the space, I instantly thought it needed a wallpapered accent wall. Most of the finishes in the restaurant are natural: wood, stone, and metals. I strongly felt we had to add some contrast with a burst of color and pattern. This led me on a quest to find just the right wallpaper--edgy but ethnic. In my search, I discovered a bonanza of boutique wallcovering studios that print papers that are not only edgy; they are outrageous! There are so many, I'll have to do many posts to cover them all. Guess which wallcovering here will grace The Painted Burro?

                  

 Grow House Grow Cattle Kate                   Ferm Living Fashion Wallpaper

            

          Jill Malek Maidenhair                        Elitis Cuirs Leathers Seville

           

Flat Vernacular Toile de Derby                      Paper Mills Little Havana