Jungle Fever

The week before last, I started to go crazy on Pinterest. If you are unfamiliar with Pinterest, it is a digital pin board site that allows you to save and comment on images gleaned from the internet. Any image will do, but obviously I use it to inventory notable interiors. I looked up some of my favorite designers and others that are clearly "A list" and pinned noteworthy designs. I sorted the images into boards illustrating the elements and principles of design (like pattern, texture and scale), interesting window treatments, examples of custom millwork, and other topical categories. As I searched, one constant kept cropping up and that was animal print. It's widely known that designers love animal prints. Elsie de Wolfe, the doyenne of American interior decoration, inaugurated this infatuation. And whether in design school or elsewhere, I've learned that peppering an interior with a little animal print is always considered good design. 

Before long, I had accumulated so many pins of interiors with animal prints that I had enough to fill a board. Then my cup runneth over. There were so many interiors with animal prints by so many different designers that it started to seem like overkill. I love a little animal print, but is it something we've overdone?







Using an animal hide as a floor covering anchors and creates focus for a seating area. Interior by Martyn Lawrence Bullard.










Eileen Kathryn Boyd uses a zebra print area rug to add a contemporary twist to traditional dining room furniture.











Eileen Kathryn Boyd cuts the softness and femininity of the pastel palette with the contemporary zebra patterned stool.




Leopard print stools contrast with a tradtional and antique-filled living room designed by Alessandra Branca.

It's one thing to have zebra-printed hide on the stools, but on the mirror too? Overkill indeed!                                            Interior design by Mary McDonald.


Valentine's Day Orchid

One of the pleasures of my job is when representatives from fabric houses visit to show me new additions to their product lines. On one recent visit, a color palette materialized and struck me as so trend-worthy, I really thought I was onto something. How surprised (and truthfully, deflated) I was when I saw the very colors in a House Beautiful magazine I started reading from October 2011. I call the color orchid because it's like a pale mauve bordering on lilac. I see it especially for the "boudoir." Imagine it with polished chrome or nickel and shimmering accents. I can't imagine that anyone would not feel totally glam in this environment. So here are some images of rooms decked in this luscious palette as well as some of the fabrics and finishes that highlight its virtues. Tell me you're not drooling.

Interior Design by Pat Healing of HB Home, House Beautiful October 2011The orchid in the living room above is a subtle accent color, just enough without being overwhelming. I love it in the deeper yet translucent lucite coffee table. Another favorite accent is the metal leaf on the ceiling: a great way to add light and sparkle to interiors.

Interior Design by Pat Healing of HB Home, House Beautiful October 2011The dining room chairs are upholstered in a lilac silk mohair--one of the most elegant and luxurious textiles you can use. The wallpaper is DeGournay--hand painted. Enough said.

Interior Design by Royce Pinkwater, House Beautiful October 2011The orchid is again reflected in a sumptuous mohair on the sofa and chaises. Orange is the accent color here, an interesting counterpoint to the orchid. I love the gold sheer roman shades, diffusing a warm subtle glow.

Bedroom by Martyn Lawrence BullardHere's a great example of orchid used in the boudoir. This room, designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard of Bravo TV's Million Dollar Decorators fame, showcases the lovely juxtaposition of orchid with polished metal represented by the mirrored canopy bed. Add the glossy finish on the flooring and you can imagine the richness of this color palette in the bath between tile, fixtures, lighting and wall treatments.


If I were to use orchid in a bathroom design, I would use it with these two materials. On the left is Pamir Mirror Mosaic tile in Silver by New Ravenna Mosaics. Part of its Ikat Collection, this pattern complements the orchid by illuminating and reflecting its beautiful tones. On the right is an Andrew Martin fabric for Lee Jofa called Baccarat in Silver and Taupe. The damask pattern has a suedey texture on a silver mylar ground. I'd use it on a vanity stool, ottoman or slipper chair near a free-standing tub.


These two fabrics exemplify how orchid and metallics work in the bedroom to add sophistication and shimmer. On the left is an embroidered brocade by Suzanne Kasler for Lee Jofa. And on the right is a jacquard woven fabric by Threads at Lee Jofa.


Two more fabrics that I couldn't resist, here in shades of pewter and aubergine--a deeper, more reddish violet color. On the left is Satara, an ikat pattern by Castel, which has the shimmer and texture of a raw silk but is mostly synthetic. On the right is Junko by Castel, an embroidered fabric of silk and linen. I just love how the illumination cast by the silky pewter tones intensifies the deep, rich reddish violet color.


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

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 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.


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


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