Thursday, November 29, 2012


Way before the mega-story apartment rental units went up on Sixth Avenue, the weekend flea markets stretched out into the open lots that ran from 25th Street to 27th Street. The four seasons of New York had this part of the flea market expanding and contracting depending on the weather. Winter would see them disappear as the snow piled up in big black sooty hills where the vendors stalls had been. During the summer a Saturday and Sunday with a forecast of storms would only see the hardiest of vendors under white vinyl tents and buyers holding black umbrellas against a horizontal rain, but when Willard was forecasting nothing but sun the lots would be filled with a packed crowd some showing up with flashlights well before the sun even began to think about rising.
We never considered flashlight hunting but we knew on a good day you had to get there early to see the full magnitude of vintage and antique goods for sale. Each vendor had an assigned space making it easier to find certain sellers selling the specific pieces we sought out. It was our house in Andes that inspired most of our shopping and this led us to a wonderful black woman selling vintage barkcloth and French ticking. She wore the garb of a Harlem woman in touch with her African roots. Her hair was wrapped in a fabric turban and she wore multiple layers of long skirts and colorful tops. She always had a smile when we showed up. She told us she had a storage unit filled with fabric she had pulled from an abandoned department store that had been closed for over forty years. She had pre-made drapes and bolts of uncut yardage that even back in the late-eighties and early-nineties was a rare find.
Every week she pulled out another cache of fabrics, enough to fill her booth and our eyes with averice and greed. We started hording fabric, much of which we still have: sets of barkcloth drapes, bolts of 40's damask and yards of beautiful antique ticking.
Ticking began showing up in our own design work rather rapidly. We used it foe pieces we designed like the set of stools surrounding our kitchen island which were a combination of our scavanged vintage French ticking we used on the top cushions and linen napkins we bought through William-Sonoma for the pleated skirts.
On a journey with a client through one of the most famous flea markets in the south of France, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, we picked up this bolster made of blue and white ticking with red fabric buttons.
The marche aux puces is held every Sunday with vendor's boothes wondering along the canals and in front of the many antique shops that have made L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue a mecca for ephemera hunters like us.
The British are not ones to be left out of the discussion on ticking. One of our most recent finds is the shop of Ian Mankin in London whose use of ticking makes my heart puump indigo tainted blood. He offers a wide range of ticking and denim fabric, enough to make anyone's imagination explode with possibilities.
The origins of ticking have a very utilitarian past. The cotton fabric usually identified by its contrasting stripping was first mentioned as the material used by brewers and waiters as their apron material. From there it became the material used for mattress and pillow covering because of the denseness of the material. Since pillows were made of feathers and many mattresses were straw filled the material was perfect for keeping the feather points and straw spears contained and away from poking mid-eighteenth century sleepers.
It wasn't until the mid-twentieth century that the designer, Sister Parish, brought ticking out of the bedroom and started using it as a shabby chic upholstery fabric in the high-end homes of the rich and famous.
Today the beauty of ticking is duplicated by many of the finest fabric houses around the world and used by designers like us who want the casualness and simplicity of this durable, beautiful fabric.

Save the date and come and join Rick, myself and as many of our friends and customers as we can squeeze into 1227 for some holiday cheer.

We were lucky enough to have one our designs highlighted in a before and after posting on ivillage. Click on the following link to have a look. Getting published in the midwest is not an easy task so you'll have to excuse us if we do a little back patting.

John and Yoko, Bed Peac/Hair Peace
Room 902, Amsterdam Hilton, 1969
Nico Koster, photographer
Represented by Nico Koster/Galerie Moderne, Amsterdam

Friday, November 23, 2012


The days are becoming crisper; you can smell snow. Santa has made his entrance down Broadway ushering in the Christmas season. Shopping madness has began...earlier and earlier every year. Wal-Mart's 6pm extension of the Black Friday shopping fiasco into Too Much Too Soon Thursday has made me think about one of the better shopping experiences that have delighted shoppers for centuries.
Started in the Late Middle Ages in German speaking towns in the Tyrolean hills, the Christkindlmarket began unfurling its red and white stripped vendor's tents selling snickerdoodles and mulled wine with a shot of brandy.
The European tradition has continued with Christmas markets dotting many towns and cities from the British Isles to the former Iron Curtain Countries.
It wasn't until recently that America caught on and now the smell of cinnamon and the fare of local artisans can be seen in our own version of the Christmas Market.
New York has taken hold of this idea and spread it throughout the city. There are outdoor markets in Union Square and at Bryant Park and an indoor market inside Grand Central Station.
The bustle of Grand Central extends into Vanderbilt Hall where three aisles highlight the handcrafted ware of regional artists selling beautiful wool jackets and delicate fairies to delight the sugarplum dreams of any little girl.
The smell of evergreen permeates the aisles of the Union Square market. The sounds of the Holidays are piped through speakers and into your heart as you walk the winding lanes of food and fare.
One of our daughter's favorite stops is at No Chewing Allowed, a vendor selling melt-in-your-mouth truffles that are impossible to resist.
Soxeteer sells socks; socks about New York, socks about basketball, socks that allow little kids to wear ladybugs all over their toes. We bought several pair for every Sockofile we knew.
Then there was the food, the mulled apple cider, meatballs - the new New York street food craze, and cinnamon and raisin pretzels.
I had a crepe filled with tart apples and gruyere cheese made as I watched by Suzette. I then managed to dribble it's juices all over a new scarf I had purchased three vendors down.
There were vendors selling the nostalgic artifacts of the hip generation.
Asia made itself felt and easily incorporated it's Buddhist philosophy into a Christian event.
The feel at Bryant Park was very similar
with the added touch of a skating rink donated by Citibank.
Surrounding the rink are several restaurants in addition to the vendors that line the lanes and a giant Christmas tree towering over the fair.
I got sucked into a booth selling sea salt scrubs and nail treatments created from the distilled salts of the Dead Sea. The woman who pulled me in had my hands feeling like a baby's bottom within seconds and within a minute I'd paid $60 for an entire year's supply of body scrub and fingernail tools I'll have no idea of how to use once I get them home. I'd also forgotten about the three ounces of liquid airline travel regulation. Until I can get it together to wrap it up and send it back to Madison in time to put it in Emmy's stocking on Christmas Eve I'm out sixty bucks.
I'm a sucker for this kind of shopping where the vendors are mostly one man operations creating things that you're not going to find in door buster bin at Wal-Mart. If you get the chance check out the New York version of an old European tradition and walk the enchanted aisles of New York's Holiday fairs.

We''ll be here all day Saturday with some great deals and some Holiday cheer. Hope to see those who can make it to our little Holiday bungalow

New York, New York
Lee Melahn, photographer
Represented by Pleasant Living

Thursday, November 15, 2012


According to my numbering system we've reached the one hundredth posting with this entry. That means that for every week during the past two years we've found something interesting enough to write about. I can't say that it's been easy every week. There have been weeks when the Wednesday before our self-imposed Thursday deadline I've felt desperate and drained of an idea, but there have also been weeks when I've had to shelve some little bits of inspiration for a future posting. I have a folder on my desktop and another one in my bookmarks titled, "Blog Ideas" and until those folders are empty I guess I can still come up with a reason to keep my fingers running over the keys on my antiquated Mac.
I have no idea of what metal or material is assigned a one hundredth anniversary. I don't want to look it up and find out it isn't silver because I've chosen silver as the topic for this anniversary blog. Since I'm in New York and it's Wednesday I don't have time or an available internet connection to switch gears at this eleventh hour. So trust me, my one hundredth anniversary is silver.
Here goes. Silver. It's not the most expensive or prized of metals, platinum and gold probably take those honors. Yet it's more revered than iron or brass. I know in my own design preference I'm more attracted to silver than I am to the other metals. I know there's the gold standard but for me there's always a silver lining in everything we do. That said, there's nothing wrong with shimmering gold tones or an industrial inspired rusted wrought iron, but because it's our one hundredth anniversary I get to promote the reflective, watery finishes of silver.
I'll start with our own uses of silver. The Venitian Stucco walls in this library were hand applied by David Wilson in soft grays with an undertone of metallic silver. The result of five different layers of paint gives a watery effect that ripples across your eye as the sun plays on its sparkling surface. To this we added the silver-gelatin prints of Lynn Gessaman bringing the outdoors inside creating a serenity that made reading books turn into long afternoon naps.
Who could resist the luxury of a sea of silver bubbles foaming up from this silver clad pedestal bathtub?
There's a luxurious benefit to silver. Imagine slipping under these silver sheets and resting your head against this silky silver tufted headboard. It's almost as if you're living in a thirties black and white romantic comedy where everyone's eyes glisten with silver flecks.
Old Hollywood sparked the inspiration for our "Dining by Design" table where black and white formed the platform for our design and silver reined as its star. It was old Hollywood inspired and I had the honor of sitting next to Carleton Varney the foremost authority of the era and Dorothy Drapers protégé.
The canvas side screens, that we painted ourselves, were inspired by the amazingly talented Edgar Brandt's 1924 metal screen that sold at auction for $1.8 million in 2006.
Silver is the color of winter. It's the way those glints of light reflect off of snow. It's the color of the moon in December. It's the holidays.
Silver is elegance in a traditional scheme.
It is appropriate in spaces that exemplify the transitional.
Silver can be minimalist. Its power is extraordinary in its ability to hold focus.
Silver can also be the unexpected. Take this silver clad chesterfield sofa.
So in honor of a hundred posts, I can sit back and close the top of my laptop with the knowledge that even though our list of friends is small the drive still exists to write and be inspired by the world we live and recording its high points and its lows is still as stimulating as it was on our first posting.

Lost in the Fog
Jan Machata, photographer
17 year old beginner

Thursday, November 8, 2012


On the Tuesday night of Sandy there were no howling winds in Madison, no high tides, and no surges of water from Mother Nature. We shared a full moon with the east coast; ours spread a beautiful creamy white glow over our northern landscape, theirs was hidden under massive swirling clouds and horizontal rain. We weren't a tenth of the way through unpacking our boxes from our move from our apartment to our house. I found a corner of the sofa where I could curl up. It was the only space where there weren't piles of unhung clothes or heaps of packing blankets. The light from my computer lit up my face and paired with the light from the moon were the only illumination I could find. It was a comforting warm glow just the opposite of the darkness facing so many of our New York and New Jersey friends. With New York in my thoughts I started clicking through some of the old photos I had taken of New York and pulling out the ones that made me smile. So here's a reminder of some of the things that make New York not only the city that doesn't sleep but the city that will always take my breath away and keep my heart beating a tad faster.
I've heard New York has gone to the dogs. I'm not sure what that means. I don't know if that homily is meant to be a bad thing or a good thing.
In New York there seems to be no shortage of available jobs where the application description reads: Must be able to walk on four legs, the hairier the better and under language must be able to speak barkinese. We saw this dog parked on Bleecker in the West Village. I thought it was just someone trying to be cute but this is a serious organization that trains dogs as companions for the elderly or those with health problems. These dogs really do work but on top of a car they also make us smile.
We ran across this dog out walking the streets around the Museum of Natural History. A dog walking the streets in a polka dot dress isn't all that unusual for New York but it was the cross-dressing that caught our eye. He had us completely fooled, you go girl.
Laughing out loud in the environs of a Noho atelier is usually not tolerated. This time it was not only tolerated but encouraged. This alphabet by Brooklyn artist, Mark McGinnis, made me laugh until I snorted.
When "Q" stands for quaalude and "C" stands for camel toe who is going maintain a straight face.
Even Paul Ryan's Eddie Munster frown would change to the Joker's smile with a clandestine peek at these letters from "A" to "Z".
From provocative to inspiring this window display at an upper eastside establishment had me totally joyous. Comprised of a bunch of Barbies and Ken set in a tableau to promote breast cancer awareness the photographic trompe l'oeil wasn't as evident in person as it was once I saw the pictures I had taken.
I had to do a double take when I saw the first image. It almost had me fooled; and that also made me smile.
Anytime I'm in Soho I find myself pulled down Broadway farther than I had intended and sucked into Pearl River. This Asian mercantile has everything and most everything is on the cheap. I've contemplated buying a kimono jacket that looked beautiful on the hanger at less than $30 but would have been totally ridiculous on my growing frame at any event other than perhaps Halloween. And these masks were almost too much to resist. The thought of a row of these pudgy cheeked cherubs setting on a shelf in an urban loft is a design idea I'm dying to bring to fruition.
The last time we were in New York, less than a month before Sandy made her visit, I forced Rick into a sports bar so I could cheer on my beloved Packers on their way to another victory. He wasn't interested, he was almost resistent but he gave in. We found this bar on Amsterdam with what looked like a reasonable bar menu with a decent hamburger. Rick wanted a hamburger so it made the sports bar less a battle. Now I expected to find a room filled with Giants fans but sitting at the biggest table was a huge group of Packer backers all wearing Packer jerseys. I was at home and loving it. Best of all the Packers did win and that always puts a huge smile on my face.
New York has so much to smile about even under five inches of new snow. The electricity will come back on, the snow will melt and the joy of this magnificent city will continue as it always has. You go New York. Where else can you find a man who makes his living selling vintage toasters. I know I'd buy one

We will once again participate in Small Business Saturday, the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you want to participate go to American Express' website:
and register for your $25 discount card. They are opening up their giveaway registration on November 18th and the amount of cards they will give out is limited. Give it a try and bring in your card to receive a $25 reduction on purchases of $25 or more. We'll also be running a special discount on that Saturday. Hope to see all of you.

Chrysler Building, NYC, 1988
Marilyn Bridges, photographer
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, NYC