Thursday, March 31, 2011



As each day begins with a dusty, indiscernible period of time when the eye has no idea the color about to burst forth so does each season and there is the excitement.  Blue? Rose? Tangerine?   What does the grey of spring hold for us?
Nature shows us a breadth of springtime greys. The cool greys of a spring rain on a bare branch waiting to burst forth with the color of a new season

or the warm greys of the over-dressed sheep waiting to be shorn of its warm winter coat.
The dawn of a new season, that early morning mist time before the sun gets high enough to burn off the fog. Everything is damp. It’s the time of year when depression can take over, even the air can weigh heavily on your shoulders. So we’ve decided to take the grey of winter into spring and celebrate its beauty. We want to pay homage to grey and point out how it can make us both calm and hopeful in a time when the world outside seems to be making that slurping sound a muck boot makes walking through the squishy ruts of a country dirt road after that first early spring rain. 


Not only is this room at an Ace Hotel warm in tone but the raw wood headboards and inviting wool blankets make getting out of bed a challenge on these early spring mornings when the temperature still says winter but the calendar says it should be spring.

Helen Green has taken warm grey almost to the point of brown in this bedroom of tone on tone. The wool of the winter sheep sleeps comfortably in this sophisticated boudoir.

The coolness of the greys in these two living rooms focuses on the calm quality of grey. Whether in the contemporary setting with the faux fur throw

or the lush transitional space by William Hefner where grey verges into blue the serenity of place is evident in both rooms. Grey has the ability to go casual or elegant, you can dress it down or hang it with crystals.

Greys can also walk on the darkside or trot out into the light. The deep shades of grey whether cool or warm can tighten up a room making it feel cozy and inviting.  By contrasting the bold deep tones of grey with white neither of these rooms seem smothering but instead inviting places to sit and read a book or watch TV. A touch of blue over a chair adds the necessary cool moment to a seat by the fire.

By extending the curtains to the ceiling in the TV room it makes the room feel taller and draws your eye to the amazing pattern on the ceiling.

Pale grey works its lightness on the bedroom with a view. The mottled texture of the light grey walls forms a perfect picture frame around the shuttered window and its bucolic view to the outside. This is definitely a room I’d love to wake up in smelling the scents of an oncoming spring.
Frank Roop’s dining room takes the same pale approach creating a sea breeze with only a hint of blue. The beach can’t be far away from this gorgeous room if not literally then imaginatively. Grey has the power to be humble creating whispers of serenity where calm is the desired effect.


Grisaille is a term the French use to describe art created from layers of grey on grey teasing the viewer into thinking they are seeing something in three dimensions. The layers may travel from dark to light or from transparent to opaque. Or as seen on the walls of our Kips Bay show house room from flat to reflective. 

Using a palette of opaque Benjamin Moore greys in a venetian stucco technique and finishing it off with some translucent metallic paint we were able to create a wall that seemed to shimmer as if it were created from water. 

The room seems to float in a tranquil sea of grey from the driftwood cool greys of the cabinetry and the tone on tone, silk on wool rug to the warm grey of the tapestry table and the marble Roman sculpture standing sentry over the serenity of the room.

Sandy Skoglund
Radioactive Cats, 1981

Friday, March 25, 2011


Of the three events, this is the one that blew me away, and it blew my away on so many levels. First, even if you weren’t into photography and you didn’t want to plunk down twenty-five dollars for a one-day trip inside the show, you could still walk into the Park Avenue Armory and explore the building’s public spaces.

It’s like a walk through “The King’s Speech”, peeling wallpaper, and patched ceilings, walls hung with decaying taxidermy and military portraits, and Moorish details so beautiful they make your eyes sore. I’ve got to think dozens of set designers have used these rooms for any number of visually tantalizing films but I can’t remember one. Maybe it takes a British eye to distill the beauty out of the perfectly imperfect.
If you decided to pay the entry fee, and many did, the show was loaded with intrigue. I’ve heard comments that the show seemed a bit stuck in the past. The percentage of vintage to contemporary photography was weighted more toward the old than the new but the vintage images were frequently ones I hadn’t seen before. The world was represented with dealers from Europe and Asia showing their best along with North America.

It seemed as if many dealers had a premonition about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Every other booth had an image either made in Japan or referencing the effects of natural and emotional disasters. At the Amador Gallery booth, Ryuji Miyamoto’s images of twisted buildings (San-no-miya) following the Kobe earthquake in 1995 were particularly moving.
I went on Saturday afternoon when the aisles were teaming with attendees. By this time the show had a running start and as opposed to recent years the walls were filled with red dots. One dealer I spoke to said she had already replaced most of the images on her walls twice and the show still had a day and a half to go. If this show is any barometer of the economic climate it seems people are back out spending, at least for photography.
Here are some of my new find highlights:

Rachel Perry Welty
Lost in my Life (Price Tags), 2009
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery
Rachel’s work is Cindy Sherman without the face. Rachel hides behind constructed sets of repetitious props, her form only detectable by the lighting that hints at her curves and her blond hair. The crispness of the images adds to the mystery and like a game of finding Waldo you’re drawn in to hunt for the human masquerading as the inanimate object

Maggie Taylor
Woman with Bees, 2001
Represented by John Cleary Gallery
Maggie Taylor combines 19th century portraiture adding her face to the image and then layering on the whimsy of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The flatness of the images is countered with the suspicion that a head will open up and flowers will sprout from her cranium.

Michael Massaia
Deep in a Dream – Central Park 12
Represented by June Bateman Fine Art
Michael Massaia’s work is reminiscent of the early Pictorialists. The dreamy quality of his work is the height of romanticism and I’m a sucker for the romantic. His body of work is consistently anchored in this sea of idyllic spaces bathed in mist and mystery.

Sohei Nishino
The Diorama Map Series
Michael Hoppen Gallery
Nishimo’s work just doesn’t translate to the blogging world, but I had to include him in the group of images I spent a lot of time with during the show. Sohei makes intricately constructed collages composed of thousands of images of a city’s landmarks and streetscapes then rephotographs the collages into a single image. First you have to examine the prints to make sure they aren’t original collages, the definition of the cut marks is that deceiving and then you have to marvel at the shear ingenuity of how he could make his maps appear true and fantasy all at the same time.

Doug and Mark Starn
HackelBury Gallery, London
The Starn twins have created a series of leave images made from inkjet prints framed as pieces taped together or mounted with pushpins. The ragged and rich collection works in ways only Doug and Mark can pull off.


Robert Doisneau
Le Regard Oblique, Paris, 1948
Represented by Staley-Wise Gallery, NYC

Thursday, March 24, 2011



Having had the honor of designing tables for NYDC in past year’s it was especially meaningful to be able to return to the DIFFA event to see this year’s addition of Dining by Design. For the past several years the New York installment of Dining by Design has occupied a significant amount of real estate adjacent to the Architectural Digest show at Pier 94. This year as in years past the design community has brought its best together to create a forest of dining delights. Spring came early to Pier 94. Alice would have felt at home in this Wonderland of toadstools, roses and marble chairs. I missed the architectural ingenuity of Lexus or the splashy entries of Disney and GE from years before but the intimacy of this year’s event was as mouth watering as ever. Here were a few of my favorite tables:

Jesgordon/Properfun is an event-planning firm and if their table is any indication you can see why they are so successful and worthy of a coffee table book. Their unique design is an eclectic mix of an antique table paired with 70’s spider bookcases and electric green Lucite placemats, surrounded by contemporary plastic chairs. But what makes the space is the lighting. Lit from above and below as well, everything seems to glow and sparkle as it illuminates the placemats and reflects off of the orange walls

The elegance of a New York supper club is re-imagined in Marc Blackwell’s dining experience. You can imagine Clark Gable leaning in to light Jean Harlow’s cigarette, her arm gently balanced in the soft crook of one of those sumptuous pillows. The marble backed chairs add a contemporary element. The stripes apparent in the wall treatment and on the top of the table repeat a theme drawn from his tabletop designs. Who wouldn’t want to lean back in one of those chairs and sip a martini while listening to Harry Conick Jr. crooning from the stage.

The dramatic quality of the “Angels in America” wings floating above Jeffery Brooks' elegant table were an iconic reminder of the real purpose of this event. The silver and white motif provides a richness to the space. The splash of purple is just enough color to make the space sing with sophistication. This was one of my favorite tables.

Vincent Wolfe’s over-the-top ode to spring was a so lush you couldn’t help but be impressed. It was like the Grand Marshall’s award winning float at the Rose Bowl parade. Vincent Wolfe is known for his polished surfaces and clean lines but here he shows how to do abundance, and do it well. The fiber lighting whips overhead in a swirl of cotton candy adding the right amount of whimsy to an already up-lifting space.

DIFFA Board of Trustees Chairman, David Rockwell, has ingeniously developed a way to float his tableware over a sea of red roses. Red permeates his table from the richness of the rug up through the chairs and onto the table with the delicate roses boldly supporting the red plates and crystal stemware. Only the green of the rose’s sepals provide any remembrance that the world might exist beyond the color red. 


Charles Ebbets
Eating Atop a Shyscraper, 1932

Wednesday, March 23, 2011



New York is crammed from the first of January to the end of December with conventions and events promoting the design industry. From an abundance of designer show houses to the gift fairs to the showroom openings there is always something to attend and some source of new inspiration to absorb. That’s why I was so excited to find out my calendar had me in New York at the same time as the Architectural Digest Show. The show has grown since I first saw it ten years ago. It now consumes the entire Pier 94. The only problem with rapid growth is it frequently engenders a decline in intent and quality. This year the quality was there but the intent of the show seems to have shifted from introducing new ideas and talent to going where the big bucks are in the major, established big vendors. I know their presence insures a bigger purse but these are the guys I can see any time at their numerous showrooms and retail outlets. Still if you dug deep enough into the “made” section you could come away with some excellent finds. Here are a few of the artists who caught my eye.

Dan Levy’s ceramic tabletop and lamps have left me breathless for the past twenty years. His designs are timeless, simple and elegant. There has always been a hint of the Asian aesthetic in his work that references their classic understatement. His quadrille series has been around for a long time but it remains a perfect example of proportion and harmony both in its shapes and color palette. His new platinum and gold-rimmed tabletop are so finely elegant they remind me of perfectly cracked eggshells. It was Dan’s tabletop that guests ate off of at Oprah Winfrey’s fiftieth birthday party.

The delicate craftsmanship of Appelson Design Studios woodworking was perfection in technique and design. Each piece was like a perfectly woven basket made from walnut reeds. You could feel the love of materials in each bed and console. The American roots of the Arts and Crafts movement were a perfect inspiration for their work

Ergonomics, comfort and ingenuity all come together in the chairs and ottomans designed by Spinnaker. It was the use of vintage sails on the backs of their chairs that drew me into their booth. I was initially reticent to being coaxed into sitting down in one but once in the chair I didn’t want to get out. I just wanted a gin and tonic and the sea breeze gently blowing through my thinning hair. I have no idea of the cost of these chairs but I’ve got to think that whatever the price, it’s worth it.

Skatemoderne has developed a material that mimics shagreen but without having to kill any animals in the making. It’s an eco-friendly product that’s as durable as nails, or so they say. They are using it on their own furniture and in wallcovering but you can order it on your own custom designs. It had me fooled. I thought it was the real thing.


Julius Shulman
Case Study House #22, Los Angeles, CA, 1960
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, NYC

Saturday, March 19, 2011



It’s that time of year when the birds begin to chirp, the daffodils start to push up in the iron cordoned little plots of ground lining the residential side streets of Manhattan and the annual eyeglass show opens at the Javits. It’s our fourth year of working with the Vision Council and their PR firm, Images and Details, on constructing and dressing their press booth.

For those who never attended a product convention it’s all about appearance. What you want is to be noticed…in a good way.

That’s why the Vision Council hires Beth Dempsey and her people at Images and Details to carve a path to the press, the manufactures, the vendors and ultimately to the rest of us who’s eyes need the assistance of a pair of glasses to see what we're really ordering at Joe’s House of Crabs and Crustaceans. Beth had done our PR when we originally launched our furniture line and it was through her advice that the Vision Council hired us to design and construct their booth.

This year we were in a new part of the Javits and the management hadn’t quite worked out all the kinks. From day one the space we were to occupy was to be 55’ wide by 19’ deep. We had supplied our drawings well in advance and even met with management at the space to confirm all we intended to do. Never underestimate the power of documentation and asking more questions than may seem necessary. Unfortunately, the management hadn’t checked any of this out with the fire marshal. We were ten feet too close to the fire corridor. It wasn’t until we were finished with our set-up that we were told we’d have to reconfigure the booth before the doors opened the following morning. Sometimes the best path to success is to grin and bare it and take one on the chin for the sake of the team. We begged and pleaded and in the end management let us hold our shape for the press event. It worked out perfectly. Beth was happy. The Vision Council was happy. Someone is doing an article on the booth and that makes us happy.


The best source for inexpensive basic construction components that look both professional and original is IKEA. With a little ingenuity you can transform some standard IKEA expedit bookcase units into expensive looking display pieces. 

Here’s our original drawing for connecting two expedit units using some galvanized pipe, metal washers and carriage bolts. Remember these convention shows last only a couple of days so there can be a lot of smoke and mirrors in putting together a million dollar booth on penny budget. The lower expedit units sell for $69.99, the upper units cost $39.99, and the cost of the bolts and pipe are less than $20 for a set of four. You’ll need a pipe cutter and a wrench to construct the towers. We also purchased insert doors for each of our towers. They ran us $35 a piece or $70 per unit. They aren’t necessary but they provided storage for us and gave a little more weight to the units. Once you’ve got your rhythm down you can knock these units out in no time. And that’s how we did it


Living in Wisconsin in 2011 has put us in the middle of the union war. For me it’s a very thin line I walk in my rationale and respect for unions. There are so many good unions. Unions that work at supporting and taking care of those workers that daily take care of us: teachers, nurses, firefighters, and policemen. In Wisconsin I can be proud of the work unions do for these selfless workers. In New York when I have to install a booth at the Javits the word union can take on a whole different meaning. Here union means unreasonably high pay for unnecessary and unrequested help. When I can’t hang a drape, straighten a picture or screw in a light bulb it makes me a little frustrated. I don't like having to bite my tongue when their hourly wage surpasses mine and my doctors as well. Yet you need to make all of these union guys your best friends. Piss ‘em off and you’re headed down the road of no return. I’ve even sunk to making J-Lo butt jokes so I might look like one of the guys. With a fashion scarf wrapped round my neck making me appear like one of the guys is no easy task. The problem here is the unions aren’t protecting people who’s jobs create a better world. They’re only making sure a carpenter or an electrician make more money than three teachers and one policeman combined.  Unfortunately you can't separate the unions and only promote the ones that still do what unions were originally created to do. Sometimes you have to support both the good and the bad.
I still plan on helping get the necessary signatures to recall the state senators who voted to eliminate collective bargaining and the signatures to eventually recall our governor too, but there'll be a little part of me regretting that this will also help that union guy in New York who charged us an arm and a leg for plugging in three little table lamps from Target.
Please leave your comments. I know you have them.


Andre Kertesz
Mondrian’s Glasses and Pipe, Paris 1926
The Estate of Andre Kertesz

Friday, March 11, 2011



It’s March and winter is on its way out…we hope. This opens up an opportunity to do something wild, like stuff the fireplace with something that you don’t want to set a match to and won’t turn to ash. Using that empty hole in the wall and turning it from black to elegant can add a dimension to the room many people don’t consider. Here are a few ideas we’ve seen where the blaze in the hearth has been lit by a different type of beauty.

When the flue’s been closed, the outside temperature is hovering around ninety and the hearth’s been cleaned but you want to light a romantic flame, think about this. Fill the fireplace with candles and let the real heat come from what’s happening in front of the hearth.
(midcenturyjo's photostream on flickr for Australian Vogue Living)

I’m not trying to channel the book burners of yore but here’s a solution by Dave Coote Design for what to do with your overflow book collection. Using the fire box as an extension of your library can be a beautiful way of showing off your J.D. Salinger and Vladimir Nabokov collection.

If you’ve got a green thumb let it shine in the hearth. Springtime is filled with flowers and that means it’s time to throw out the plastic lilies and put a pot of real ones in that closed up winter fire box.

An unused warm weather hearth can be the perfect place to display a collection, in this case it’s game balls: croquet balls, pool balls, bacci balls. Whatever you have a passion to collect and you can fit in your fire box, put it in and show it off.

If tradition is your firewall and you can’t get past seeing a fireplace as anything else other than a fireplace then stack it with wood, but do it creatively


Chimney Breast Wall
When your fireplace stands proud from the wall, jutting out into the room instead of being flush with the wall, that little push away from the wall is called the chimney breast – much like the prow of a woman.
Here are some examples of chimney breasts dressed and gussied up standing proud of the rest of their bodies without the use of silicone.

How to wallpaper a chimney breast
Ideal Home

Milwaukee co-op
Rick Shaver
Shaver/Melahn Studios

When winter’s gone and the last fire in the hearth has been extinguished for the season or if your room didn’t have a fire focal point to begin with than here are some suggestions for what you can do to create an eye-catcher in your room.
When you walk into a room you’ve not been in before there’s nothing more noticeable then the lack of anything of interest. So many homeowners having purchased the fundamentals for a room fall into despair when their space still seems lifeless and uninviting. 9 to 10 the sofa, the lounger, the table the tv sits on, the end tables and lamps all end up no more than four and a half feet off the floor. It’s as if some one drew a line midway between the floor and ceiling and told the world not to decorate above that demarcation. Well it’s time to erase that line and boldly go where many fear to tread. Let’s tackle that space above the sofa and create some personality on those walls.

Artwork is the most obvious choice to draw the eye to that neglected area known as the upper wall. The possibilities are endless from vintage paintings to photography to work the kids did in kindergarten finger painting. The trick here is scale. If you have a huge wall don’t put a family snapshot there and call it complete. Find something large enough to be in scale with the furniture and the amount of wall space or do a collection of images. If you’re going to do a collection make sure you hang them close together so they work as a unit. We usually hang things from one inch to three inches apart unless the pieces are huge and can carry a more open arrangement. To be safe, the tighter the better. Here's what we did for a client in Tribeca.

Hang a found object on the wall. There are so many pieces you can find rejected by others but with great graphic potential, an old iron gate, a Victorian headboard, old industrial gears. One person’s junk can be another person’s treasure. This one is thanks to the Bachman's Spring Ideas House in Minneapolis.
Add a shelf and display your vintage collection, or fill the wall with old books and bits and pieces of nature you can find just outside your door. At the Fredericksburg home of Janet and Tom Proch the entry wall is decorated with family memorabilia, preserved leaves and pieces of nature their family collected from right outside their home. Try to find pieces of different sizes that will give your focal wall variety and lead your guests to a greater appreciation of your taste and talent.

Masatomo Kuriya
Peony (#114) 1997
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, NYC