Thursday, October 31, 2013


I guess there are fans that are in it for the blood, although I think most bloodsuckers are into the sports where death is a constant thrill and the infliction of pain is the main attraction. I never understood NASCAR or events in the boxing ring. I love football, but its brutal aspect is not its enticing feature at least not for me. I'm in it for the competition. I love to root for my team as if it's an extension of myself and my very being is affected by the outcome of the game. Win and I'm ecstatic, lose and I can't sleep. I understand how fans can literally die from heart failure while watching their team, the anxiety level so high and the results so precious. We all want to be winners and supporting a team that has a winning record by some extraordinary feat of transference gives us that winning glow and sense of being a part of something great. There is so much superstition connected with being a sports fan that grants us the permission to take some credit for a win because we wore our socks inside out, or drank precisely 13.6 ounces of beer at 6:13pm the day before the big game and it was due to that that our team won. The reverse is also in the mix when our team loses. We chose the wrong socks to turn inside out or we accidently spilled point two ounces of beer laughing at a rerun of Will & Grace tainting our karma and destroying our luck.
This was the enthusiasm I took to the Kettle of Fish, a New York bar that embraces Packerdom for every game the Packers play. I had read about the bar when surfing the web for the Packer-Vikings starting time for last Sunday's game. We had recently decided to bite the bullet and rent an apartment in New York. October was our first month in the apartment and true to New York living the cable was first late on delivery and then installed incorrectly with a cable box that didn't work. I had no TV of my own and there was no way I was going to miss the game, even in New York.
The Kettle of Fish is located on Christopher Street right next doot to the Stonewall, site of the initial gay uprising. What one has to do with the other I'm not quit sure but the lady at the door to the Kettle I'm sure could have broken my arm in several places if she really wanted to.
There's a twelve-dollar cover to get in the door. For your twelve dollars you get two tickets worth two drinks and a seat or standing space near one of the many TV's showing the game. Unlike other sports bars there is only one game on all the monitors and it's the Packers. The added bonus is they pump the volume up so you actually get to hear the commentary as well as see the action. There isn't one person in that bar during game time that isn't completely focused on the game.
You'd think most establishments catering to a crowd ready to spend on food and booze would be prepared to do whatever it could to make those patrons drop as much coin as they could squeeze out of them. Unlike those other bars the Kettle only serves brats on game day but lets you order in from any other restaurant or pizzeria willing to brave a rowdy crowd. Some fans had been stacking out their viewing tables hours before kick-off. That meant there was a steady stream of delivery boys running through the front door carrying hot boxes of pizzas and paper bags full of ribs.
The bar is divided into two rooms: one with the bar, bathrooms and counters and the other with a scattering of tables. The tables are filled well before game time by regulars all dressed in their appropriate green and gold. Your status is measured by which table you are allowed to sit at. These tables are reserved well in advance and the Kettle has a punch card system that gets you entry into the bar for play-offs if you have enough holes punched in your card. Prior to game time pitchers of Wisconsin beer splash and swill as their liquid gold makes its sloppy journey from the pitcher's mouth to the pilsner glasses bubbling and frothy with foam.
Just before game time and over Jon Gruden's pre-game jocularity the room breaks out into the Packer song. As a new initiate I didn't know the words but by the end of the game I think I had most of the verses down. This was quickly followed by a very loud rendition of, "The Bears Suck". You definitely don't want to show up here in any combination of blue and orange or wearing a Jay Cutler jersey.
The Kettle is owned and run by Patrick Daley, a man with more energy and Packer pride than any one person should have. When he's not hoisting trays of clean glasses back to the bar and dirty ones back into the kitchen he's circulating from table to table high-fiving the crowd over a Jordy Nelson catch or an Aaron Rodgers touchdown. I don't think there was a patron at the bar whose hand he didn't shake or shoulder he didn't squeeze and there was a big crowd.
Now the hoot of the evening for me was just before game time, Madison's local CBS affiliate news team waltzed into the bar with a film crew in tow.  Apparently Susan Siman and Mark Koehn had been beating the streets of New York looking for stories connecting Wisconsin with the Big Apple. What better way than with a beer and brat and crowd of Packer Backers screaming for the home team in a home far from home.  Too bad they didn't call us for a look at a couple of Mid-Costals commuting weekly from our comfortable Madison home to our New York energy intensive lifestyle and the design connection between the two. Come on Sue, you missed the boat there.

1897 Harvard Football Team
Pach Brothers, photographers
Vintage print

Thursday, October 24, 2013


It's time for Martha to roll her outrageous pumpkins that no layman could possibly duplicate and every blogger is turning out a post on black candles and toilet seats, I kid you not. So I've decided to buck the crowd, go in a different direction and follow a path more whimsical than scary. What in the world of design can make you smile more than a shot of unexpected, uncharacteristic, or completely outrageous color?
A well-designed living quarter should be an expression of its inhabitant's lifestyle. Some of us show our sophisticated side, some show our more casual comfortable side, while others put on display their sense of humor. Some do it with a hint, a nod to the unexpected. As if the cuckoo clock wasn't enough painting it pink tipped the scales and rang my chimes. Who wouldn't smile like the Joker every morning you walked into this room for a cup of morning Joe.
Others throw subtlety out the door and go full speed ahead with their comedic approach. Granted this is probably the dream of some pre-teen little girl but who secretly isn't going to squeal with concealed appreciation for this room that's gone to the dogs.
Kitchens seem to be targets of amusement for many of us. Maybe it has something to do with our culinary capabilities. If we can make them laugh our lack of cooking skills may be overlooked. I know I'm going to have fun in this kitchen because the person doing their meal preparation here is always going to be cooking for an audience. I think even Julia Child would have felt comfortable here, there's no need for tidiness in kitchen where spilling the tomato sauce would only enhance the kitchen d├ęcor. But what's with all these cuckoo clocks?
Maybe it was a sale on cabinet doors that precipitated this Pantone color sheet of cabinetry. The humor here is more sophisticated, the colors are less raw, but the ability to smile at this design solution is still in play.
The sign on the wall here sort of tells it all. A couple of drama queens have taken trailer trash to an award worthy position in the Hilarity Hall of Fame. These guys know how to excess-orize.
We always give kids permission to have fun in designing their private quarters. What kid wouldn't want to spend time in here texting their friends and Vining selfies with a background looking this good?
It's a rare occasion when adults get into the act of color splashing especially when it's in a place as public as their living room. You have to give this color lover kudos for not holding back on this crazy living room. From multiple fabric patterns layered over a leaf inspired rug to the wide-striped walls to the swaged Federal clock draped over the sofa to throwing in those fire engine red pillows, you've got to give them credit for letting their fearlessness show.
An adult bedroom is rarely an appropriate place for bold color statements but this bedroom does it with panache. The subtle soothing grey tones here are enhanced by the staccato pops of canary yellow. Makes you want to know who is that man behind the yellow dot.
No color whimsy post can be complete without a nod to the master of color, Jamie Drake. Jamie may not look it but he's a gutsy man's man when it comes to color. The man is totally unafraid of being in your face with color splashing. Who is going to come into this bedroom and not want to jump into this bed. You know you're going to get lucky in a place that makes you feel this good. Thanks Jamie for making me smile in places where my insecurities reign. Who's going to think about their performance in a space that is so geared toward making you feel like you don't have to be someone you aren't, you don't have to take yourself so seriously, and life is about having fun.

Exposition a la Monnaie de Paris, 2009
David LaChapelle, photographer
Represented by Paul Kasmin Gallery

Saturday, October 19, 2013


There was the possibility of calling this post, "fifty shades of blue". For me there is almost an erotic reaction to blue. The right blue can be like the soft trail of a single finger's slow soothing caress down my bare back from the nape of my neck to the well just above the curve of my cheeks.
It's that pale watery blue that comforts and relaxes like a warm bath where eucalyptus scents the air.
It can be a stairway that elevates you into a blue sky softened by a thin layer of wispy clouds.
The softest of blue can transport a traditional entry into Alice's threshold into Wonderland.
It can be the whipped cream of a kitchen.
There are way more than fifty shades of blue
Blue isn't always somber. It can be strikingly bold and hot when it shows its Mediterranean side
There can be an unexpected whimsical side to blue.
You can buy it at IKEA in more shades than you can count
It's hard for me resist the beauty of blue.

We're in the process of renovating our house in Madison...and moving into a new apartment in New York City...and taking care of a new set of clients...and raising a seventeen-year-old who still hasn't gotten her drivers license and needs to be driven to swim practice at 5:30 in the morning...and the list goes on...and on...and on
Part of the renovation was to have been a minor repair to the ceiling in the living area. It erupted into a completely new ceiling. Of course it's blue.
We've been trying to enhance the mid-century cottage aspects of the house. After the thought of minor repairs got tossed out the window we toyed with the idea of adding rafters but with a relatively low ceiling height we opted for slated pine that we stained a driftwood gray-blue. The process was pretty simple once we had worked out the right combination of stains.
Here's what we did. We bought stain grade pine v-groove lumber. We decided the more knots and imperfections the more interesting and authentic the ceiling would appear.
Next we laid out some sawhorses in the front yard Clampett style as the base for our painting stage. We used rubber gloves and had a tub of rags set at the ready.
For our stain we chose Cabot semi-transparent deck and siding stain. We chose two colors: Chesapeake blue and Fieldstone gray. It's a rare day when we can find a color that works for us all by itself. The combination of these two colors gave us the right shade of blue we were looking for.
We bought a couple of those small rollers and brushes, a couple of tray liners and we were set.
We started with the blue, rolled it on one slat at a time,
went back over it with a brush to get any missed crevices but mostly to brush off any excess stain
and then went back over it with a rag wiping off the remaining stain. We had to use some muscle power here. We wanted the wood to be almost wiped dry. What we ended up with was a translucent stain with a lot of the original wood color showing through.
If we had left it here we would have had a very baby blue looking ceiling so we repeated the process with a coat of Fieldstone gray.
This toned down the blue giving us a more sophisticated subtle blue color.
The key with the staining is to do the rolling, the brushing and the wiping without letting any time lapse between each part of the process. You don't want to let the stain set too deep. You want to preserve that translucent quality that lets some of those gold tones of the wood shine through.
Our contractor had just torn a fifty year old rotting wrought iron porch off the front of the house and then ingeniously reconfigured it into a drying rack for us in the garage.
The ceiling is now done. The crown molding is going up and the world's ugliest carpet has now been replaced with real red oak floors. We will keep blogging the progress on the house with both its successes and failures

L'Atlas Imaginaire
Didier Massard, photographer
Represented by Julie Saul Gallery, NYC

Saturday, October 12, 2013


The first time we saw Susan's print of "Cordia's Rose" we were hooked on becoming photography collectors. It was on a trip to Santa Fe at a time when money meant very little to us. Life was rich. We worked hard as only youth can do. All-nighters were a part of the price you paid for a room next to Don Imus at the La Fonda hotel just off the square in Santa Fe. We stuffed ourselves on lime and tequila prawns, got naked in the communal hot tub at Ten Thousand Waves, and walked the art galleries on Canyon Road from one end to the next. It was here that we discovered The Platinum Gallery run by John Stevenson. John dealt in photography but specialized in platinum prints signed and in limited editions by world famous artists. John wore his passion on his sleeve. He knew everything there was to know about photography and his eye for quality was impeccable. He described the richness in tone of platinum printing in such colorful descriptive language it was hard not fall in love with the works he hung on his walls at the gallery.
We spent hours with John picking out the beginnings of our collection. The vintage prints were out of our price range but there were plenty of contemporary artists to pick from and at the top of our list was "Cordia's Rose" by Susan Johann. The purchase brought us in contact with the artist and this began an almost 30 year relationship with Susan, her family and us.
Since then we have purchased several additional works by Susan and two years ago hosted an opening of her work at our store in Madison.
Susan is currently finishing up a book of photography on American playwrights but her recent body of work is a series of flowers all shot in a tiny Tiffany box. The prints are large. They blow the scale of the box and its contents to gargantuan size yet the delicacy of the tiny blooms is not lost by this but enhanced, making what you might not see visible.
The veining of a leaf, the golden hint of decay on the edge of a petal, the touch of pollen on the tip of a stamen are all made easier for the eye to feel.
Each of Susan's images rests on a field of black just outside the sliver of Tiffany blue announcing the upper edge of the Tiffany box.
There's something about the aqua blue of a Tiffany box that lifts the pedestrian to elegant. In Susan's photos the box isn't lit from within which makes the box fade into darkness leaving the rim to define the box. But it's this rounded edge and its aqua blue color that are so universally understood you immediately connect its contents with everything that is Tiffany and sophistication.
Each of Susan's blooms becomes a precious jewel gift-wrapped for our astonishment. They become diamond necklaces, precious jewels or a string of pearls.
Throughout the years Tiffany has designed broaches and pins to replicate the beauty of nature with precious stones.
Susan's approach to beauty only borrows the box to lift her incredible flowers to the height of million dollar jewels.
Life presents us with exquisite beauty. Every time I look at Susan's work I feel like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" as Richard Gere opens that box of jewelry. There's a squeal of such joy. That's the squeal of seeing something that sparkles while lighting up your mind.
Go to Susan Johann's website to see more of her Tiffany series.