Friday, October 21, 2011


Last Friday night was Gallery Night in Madison, an event sponsored and created by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA). They hold the event twice a year, once in the spring and then again in the fall. This fall 67 different venues participated on the same night as the fourth ranked Wisconsin Badgers homecoming. It's becoming more and more difficult to schedule an event in Wisconsin that doesn't coincide with an important sports competition, the sacrifices we have to make for living in a state that boasts the Badgers, Packers and Brewers. If you didn't catch the gloat, it was there.
This was our first official entry into Gallery Night. We lucked out with a balmy night. The wind had blown most of the leaves off the tree next door leaving a layer of tiny golden coins over our pea gravel front yard. The porch was lit with candles swaying inside rusted hurricane shades in the brisk breeze.  Rick had prepared a fruit and cheese plate along with miniature BLTs made with an amazing pesto mayonnaise.
Susan Johann's amazing photographic images were the first thing you encountered once you entered through the black front screen door. We've now added photography gallery to our store's description and Susan's work was the perfect way to inaugurate the tradition of photography exhibitions into our business. With any first attempt there's a certain amount of angst. The event was scheduled to begin just before dusk. We told ourselves, "Well, if no one shows we'll have all this food and wine to ourselves". No one wants to be the first to arrive at these events so the first hour went by and only a handful of people had turned out for the show, but as the sun started to hide behind the capitol the crowds started to grow. At one point the narrow alley between the front and back rooms was packed to the point of not being able to get from one room to the other. It was a tight squeeze and guests were forced to wait their turn to make it through the space.
Susan's work will up through the end of November but we will continue to represent her work here in the Midwest. Selling art is always a tough business. The selections are so personal. Either a piece speaks to you or it doesn't. Susan's work has always spoken to us. We promise to continue showing work that we feel exemplifies the best, work that motivates and inspires us, work that we would want to hang on our walls.
We scoured the internet for other architectural and interior design obsessed fanatics looking for the perfect Halloween costume embracing their love for a special building or design element. Our unofficial poll placed the Chrysler Building with a huge following and the Empire State Building holding on to a very solid number two position.
History has shown some extraordinary examples of connecting the holiday with the design fields. From the famous Society of Beaux-Arts Architects annual costume ball in 1931where prominent architects of the day were asked to come as their favorite building
to this intricate recreation of Vienna's Stephansdom Cathedral, don't even think about trying to do a Viennese Waltz in this get-up.
Oskar Schlemmer, noted German designer, brought his costumes down to these magnificent geometric shapes.
His work was the inspiration for second year graphic design students at RISD to come up with their interpretations of current architectural designs. Even kids have gotten into the act like these three precocious New Yorkers dressed as Marcel Breuer's Whitney, Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim and SANAA's New Museum in New York City.
In our popularity poll the world of architecture far surpassed the field of interior design and window treatments were by far more popular than upholstered pieces or casegoods. I guess going out on Halloween as a Ruhlmann breakfront puts a crimp into your dance moves,
although I do love this trio of wallflowers who were creative enough to put themselves out there as a settee. It's a very creative way of getting someone to sit on your lap without having to pay for it. 
Others have taken to their beds for the event
but my favorite is the man who puts it all out on display in one of the architectural and engineering wonders of the world, the Port-A-Potty. If any of you out there have any images you think can compete with these, send them on and we'll make one last effort to get the word out before the Halloween parades begin.

Providing food for an event like our Gallery Night when you have no idea how many people will show is difficult. So here is what I do. A beautiful fruit and cheese platter is always nice to have even if somewhat expected.  It is very easy to assemble and I always buy more than I think I will need. Then if there are leftovers my frig is stocked with some good nibbles for the next few days. I make one main hors d'ourve like the BLT's (you can find cocktail size loaves of bread in most supermarkets) or sometimes mini cheddar and sage biscuits stuffed with ham, tiny blintzes smeared with a flavored cream cheese topped with rolled slices of smoked salmon or prosciutto.  Just keep unopened back-ups of things like nuts, flavored crackers, cheese sticks or bread sticks and bowls of olives or cornichons.

I have always contended that good design doesn't depend on money, at least not money alone.   I've spent a career matching "the proverbial Gap T-shirts with Armani suits "or the decorating equivalent to that fashion trick employed by many even the ever stylish Sharon Stone in order to create beautiful spaces while trying to stay on budget.  The trick here is to watch the quality quotient.  Finish is usually the first give-away of a poor quality item.  Wood should look like wood, stone should look like stone, and you get the idea.  These days construction doesn't have to be flimsy to make something for a lesser price and veneers are used throughout the industry whether high or low.  Just pay attention to how they are cut, glued up and used.  MDF is not a four-letter word but particleboard is.  Structure is important.  Chairs, sofas and benches should support people of substantial size and tables should never wobble.

This week's finds:

More: The Sorraia Queen Bed in walnut at Holly Hunt $9,120

Less: The Pavillion Queen Bed from Crate & Barrel $1,199

Winter Hydranga
Susan Johann, Photographer
Available through Pleasant Living

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