Friday, March 28, 2014


The complete transformation of the first floor at Macy's Herald Square into a secret garden is anything but a secret and I assume that's what was intended. The front of the store's display windows are treated as if it's Christmas where the displays are thematic rather than product driven.
In one window the undersea world is created with flowers viewed through the portals of a submergible ship. Schools of fish swim by in the background while coral reefs made of flowers line the floor of the ocean and reeds seem to sway with the current
Tropical forests and gardens from around the world are showcased in flowers like this Asian inspired view from a porch. The dwarf Japanese maples along with drooping willows create the garden's yin-yang of fire and serenity.
Talk about turning the world on its side, this window does just that so that as you look at it you get to see a patio garden from a bird's eye view. All the rooftops of Manhattan should be so well dressed.
The revolving doors at the front of the store usher you inside the secret garden where the Rose Queen of the realm spreads her arms in welcome from under a willow twig arch.
It's like the Rose Parade times ten as her spiral dress of ruby red roses serpentines around her lifting her above the crowds like an erupting volcano.
The aisles of the first floor drip with molten color spiked by pink-blossomed trees standing as sentries keeping watch over the Queen's garden.
Fuchsia orchids mingle with chartreuse hydrangeas and peach colored daisies making up the inhabitants of the harmonious garden.
Like in a Night at the Museum one can imagine all the flowers developing faces and running around on their tiny stems once the doors have been locked and the gates to the garden have been closed.

Each day of the show a new floral designer has sway with the center point of the floor creating a centerpiece of outrageous imagination.
On my day the designer made a tree of twigs spun with ferns, hot tangerines, cool purples and fluttering butterflies.
This was the first year in a while that the flower the Herald Square Macy's was moved back onto the floor. The last few years the show was shoved into a temporary structure that required waiting in line to tour the show. The shows were beautiful but I always felt the need to move through at a rapid pace so I wouldn't hold up the person behind me.
With the show back on the main floor you don't have to feel rushed and there are tons of opportunities to add your face to the photos of all the Asian tourists posing in front of the Michael Kors counter or by the Viktor&Rolf counter, one of the only counters to really get into the garden spring spirit.
With winter seeming to never end this year Macy's secret garden has truly been a spring breath of fresh air. The show runs March 22 to April 6. Indulge your senses; let your eyes drink in the color and your olfactory smell the bouquets of jasmine and hyacinth.

Certosa di Pontiganano, Italy, 2000
Lynn Geesaman, photographer
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery

Thursday, March 20, 2014


We don't get out much in Madison. It's a universal story. You see more of a city you vacation in than the one you live in, but last Saturday night was an exception. Rick had just driven back from Milwaukee after having flown in from New York. It was around 4:30 when his car pulled in the driveway, too late to start dinner (neither of us had the energy or inclination) yet early enough to be able to look at menus online and decide we weren't too old to want to try a new trick. We've been on an eat local, eat fresh kick. Rick found a listing for a relatively new restaurant located on East Mifflin, Heritage Tavern that touts itself as a farm to table venue. The building is right off the Square, a four story building the son and girlfriend of close friends had lived in until a fire in June of 2011 gutted the building destroying all their possessions. Rather than tear the building down it was resurrected and that's when the Heritage Tavern was reimagined from the ashes as the first floor cornerstone of the building.
The restaurant is the inspiration of Chef Dan Fox. Originally from Kenosha and Chicago trained, Dan got his cooking feet wet working in France and Austria before returning to Chicago and working at Spring, an established Chicago institution. From there Dan made his way to Madison and the Madison Club. It was while at the Madison Club that his interest in local sustainable food led him to getting involved in the pig raising business. He partnered with Micah Nicholes and began slopping away with Hampshire-Yorkshires, Mangalitsas, Swabian Halls, Red Wattles, and Tamworth-Herefords.
Now with a name in the pig industry Dan was able to initiate an event titled, SloPig where chefs from as close as Madison and as far away as Chicago are invited to the Madison Club to compete in an annual pig based food contest using Dan's heritage pigs.
Having established his culinary credentials it was a natural progression to finally open his own restaurant, Heritage Tavern. You should plan ahead for a reservation but they keep a bank of tables along the bar for walk-ins, our timing was right on. We were the first walk-ins to arrive that evening and were escorted to our pick of  tables with the bank completely open. Neither of us are drinkers so I settled on a Wisco Pop ginger beer and Rick went for a German non-alcoholic beer. From there it was on to the appetizers. The menu isn't huge which is a plus in my book but the selection is hard to narrow down, everything sounds worthy of a taste. Not being able to settle on just one to share we decided to choose two to pass between us.
We went for the deviled eggs that you order by the half dozen although you can add their signature truffled eggs at an extra charge. We added two. We've kinda had an obsession with deviled eggs lately and this combination of deep-fried and marinated whites topped with an array of imaginative combinations was worth every bite.
Our second choice was a crisp pork belly and blackfin tuna sashimi with foie gras swimming on a pond of mango-pineapple-Thai chili compote. As good as the deviled eggs were the pork and tuna was a worthy of making a comeback reservation right then.
For entrees we stuck with the same plan. We'd order two and trade plates halfway through the course. We settled on the bouillabaisse and Wagyu beef, a prized local breed raised in Mineral Point served with mashed potatoes on a bed of kale and root vegetables.
As a sidebar, last night's Modern Family was a rerun about the Pritchards getting together for a meal at an exclusive restaurant where Jay had been waiting for months to get a reservation so he could finally order their Wagyu beef. He could have just walked into our Madison Heritage Tavern, grabbed a table at the bar, no reservation needed, and ordered his Wagyu.
The bouillabaisse was a little thin on content and flavor but the roast was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Jay would have loved it.
I'll always look at a dessert menu, Rick is never as interested as I am but he indulged me this time and we settled on made-on-site berry ice cream filled profiteroles topped with Wisconsin sweet cream placed on a base of caramel. I was so eager to dive in I forgot to take a picture. You're just going to have to imagine this one.
Beyond the food the architecture of the space is worthy of many a New York venue.
The listed architect was a young man we had been introduced to on one of our first attempts at getting into the Madison design market. Jacob Morrison was the designer of record. Jacob transformed the blank space

Ice Skating Waiter, St. Moritz, 1932
Alfred Eisenstaedt, photographer
Available through:

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Spring was such a big tease today. It's actually sad when the thermometer straddles the fifty-degree mark and we're so winter weary that's enough to make us feel like we can actually smell the Hyacinth. My mind is willing to create groves of forsythia up and down Fifth Avenue while I'm fully aware it is only a mirage. With such a beautiful day I had made a plan that included getting out to enjoy as much of the heat wave as I could stand and then catch a movie in the late afternoon.
The Grand Budapest Hotel had just opened and I had been waiting to snag a ticket. I'm a sucker for any Wes Anderson film. They could play like silent movies with only a pipe-organ as accompaniment and I'd be happy with the visuals alone. It was playing at two movie theaters at the same movie house on Broadway. I figured if I got a ticket for the 4:15 I'd beat the crowds thinking most everyone would still be out enjoying the outdoors. I had a few errands to run all in and around Chelsea. I thought that would pretty much fill out my day, at least until the movie was over. So with a smile on my face a lite three-season sport coat and a dapper scarf knotted exactly three inches below my neck so that the collar of my Banana Republic white shirt could be seen I made the trek downtown.
As I've mentioned so many times before if I get anywhere near the flea market on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon it's like a magnet. It casts its magnetic field on me and won't let go. On my last trip I was able to walk the aisles with the mantra, "I need nothing, I need nothing", but this trip the mantra wasn't doing its job. I only made it to the entrance of the first aisle on the second level when a distant light locked eye to eye with my resolve. There on a raised shelf was a handmade fabric globe lit from within and wired to an old iron base. It was just the kind of thing I couldn't resist. Pieces like this I see as comfort food for the home. They make me feel warm and happy and oh so trite (I resisted the word - fuzzy).
It has been a real weakness for me, those objects that tend to sit on the back shelf for what appear to be years in need of repair and some tender loving care. It explains why we have a wire basket filled with stuffed toys I've collected over the years with broken arms or stains you can't wash out, Teddy Bears with two different button eyes or an oil-cloth elephant with a torn ear.
The owner of the booth came over feeling the need to explain to me that it was a globe.
"Most people think it's supposed to be a hot air balloon but it's a globe. See right down there's Africa and here's Australia, I think. I had it in my bedroom and it casts cool lines of light all over the room."
I fell for a hand-sewn ottoman of the world at this same market several years ago. In my over productive imagination it spun a tale of a gray-haired twenty-six year old Appalachian grandmother saving scrapes of canvas and old feed sacks then sewing them together by candle light after the kids have all been put in the corn crib to sleep and the old man has passed out his arms wrapped around the prize sow in the backyard pig sty. A year later while touring the Gift Fair I saw the same ottoman sold in quantities of six or more and made in China. I still loved that globe and I kept my fantasy.
Not worrying if I was being tricked again but concerned about what my family would say. I left the market and left text messages with those closest to me and most likely to object if I bought it. By three in the afternoon and at this point all the way down in Soho I got a response giving me permission to go ahead and buy the globe. It was kind of a mute point any way, I knew it was going to be mine if no one else had purchased it. I hopped the subway and made my way up to the market passing the bank for enough money to make the vendor happy. The minute I entered the market I could see the beam from "my" globe casting a beacon and beckoning me on. I bought the globe at approximately 3:45. The guy wrapped it in an oversized dark green garbage bag and I was off. I had thirty minutes, too little time to take the globe back home so I decided the globe would just have to be my date wrapped in its dark green plastic coat. I figured I could put it in the seat next to me and I'd be okay. How full could a 4:15 movie be on the first spring-like day in the city? I arrived at the theater with five minutes to spare before the endless line-up of trailers was to start. They took my ticket and I walked in to one of their larger screens, globe in hand. The theater was packed. Even the mezzanine was packed. Not only wasn't I going to have an extra seat for the "globe", my date, but I wasn't going to have a seat for my own seat. They had oversold the movie. It was an older crowd and apparently the geriatric set like an early film like they like an early dinner. No matter what the weather their legs are going to give out and they need a seat by early afternoon. I looked east, west, north and south with no luck before I left the theater and went to the service desk thinking I'd just wait until the next showing that was about an hour away. This, unfortunately, was not only my idea but the idea of a dozen other people. We all stood there as the agent behind the desk began telling each of us the next movie was also sold out and so was every other showing all the way to ten. Four women from Manhasset threw a perfect Long Island fit demanding he bump four people from the next show and get them seats or they were going to rip the hair off his chest one hair at a time. He told them and the rest of us he would find us seats but for those who came in a group they wouldn't be able to sit together. Huge screams foamed from the Manhasset quarter. I, being alone, grabbed at the chance until I remembered my globe. The agent said he'd hold it behind the counter if I still wanted him to find me a seat. Low and behold, he spotted a seat almost center center next to two huge women with very short hair who because of their size had an extra seat that you couldn't really see unless you knew it was there. It was perfect as long as I didn't have to get up for a pee break. And that's how I got to see Wes Anderson's, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

I have no idea of how this movie will play outside of New York or maybe LA. The movie is quirky beyond belief and belief is one thing you need to leave at the door.
The characters are drawn almost as cartoons. The story is filled with impossibilities.
The screen is filled with magical imagery sketched against a theatrical painted backdrop.
The result is a total delight for anyone willing to suspend reality and be swept away in a fairytale as sweet as the desserts being served at the movie's fictitious Mendel's
or as fragrant as a spritz of L'air Panache, Gustave H's must have scent.

I had other plans for the globe but when our daughter saw it, it pointed out that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. She took full possession of the globe. It now graces her bedside table and casts marvelous rays of magical light across her walls and ceiling.

The Hotel Series
Willem van den Hoed, photographer

Friday, March 7, 2014


For most people the dining room is often the most unused room in the house. Oh sure, the china is dusted off and the silver is polished for a couple of holiday events throughout the year but it's mostly a room off a hallway that you glance at as you walk to the kitchen to pull yesterday's leftovers out of a plastic container, popping it into the microwave and bringing it back to that comfy chair in front of the wide screen down in the man cave.
The set up in our suburban cottage is a little different. The real estate our dining room occupies is a leg off a t-shaped arrangement between the dining room, the kitchen and the living room. This makes the room hard to ignore if food or relaxation is a goal.
Coupled with that if you want to go to the snug, our version of the man cave for sissies, your only way in is through the dining room. Perhaps if the snug had been in the original plan and subsequent layout of the house it might not have ended up in its current location but somewhere else more separate and secluded. What has resulted due to the openness of the heart of the house is you can see clear through from the snug over the dining room and into the living room with a right side glance into the kitchen. Since both Rick and I enjoy a nap on the chaise or some peaceful meditation our trek from anywhere else in the house to the snug requires a trip through the dining room. With a motto of neatness first and everything in its place this kind of openness means that the dining room needs to keep its face washed and all its paraphernalia in place. Our rigorous attention to detail and dust requires a regimental enforcement that the two of us religiously adhere to setting up the typical conflict between parent and teen where our daughter uses her independence by displaying her defiance leaving dirty dishes and ketchup smears on the end of the dining table and anywhere else she can.
Given the central positioning of the dining room and our need to put our decorator's stamp on everything we do we've finished off the room with several of our prize possessions. The dining room table is from our original line of furniture and one of the last pieces we added to the line. The Hanson table base is a set of double cerused oak "X's" held together by a faux parchment disk. We've always shown the table with a sandblasted glass top but the top has taken several different forms. For it's introduction at our first entry into DIFFA's Dining by Design the table took the form of a circle with seating for ten.
We had persuaded our friend, porcelain pottery impresario, Dan Levy to create the tableware as a custom set based on the color palette we'd chosen for our installation. The benefit from this was that we were able to finagle some sort of exchange with Dan that allowed us to keep this amazing set of dishes
that now grace the shelf of our Mendota console, a piece from our newest line of furniture that we've developed for Black Wolf Design. We bargained with BWD's Terry Sweeney for this piece, a hand-rubbed walnut version with a grey concrete top. Score two for us, we're really pretty good at this bargaining game.
After the round top version at DIFFA our next incantation of the table paired the base with an oval racetrack shaped glass top in our apartment on 30th Street in that unnamed area of New York by Penn Station.
The most recent rendition and the one we are using right now is a rectangular top that if set right can handle eight comfortably and ten in a pinch.
The vintage chairs are Bank of England. We had purchased them in several batches over a span of years and used them at our dining table in the Catskills. If you look closely you can see that they don't match but that's part of their charm. I put them on Craig's List right after we moved back to Madison and were short on money and storage space but I couldn't find any takers, sometimes things turnout for the best. We had them painted by Sue at BWD in a sage green, one of their classic colors. It updated the chairs from vintage to really cool.
The hutch in the corner next to the fireplace is a real family affair. The design is Rick's from decades ago. The glass knob he found at an antique store that now adorn the front of the hutch inspired the design. He had the cabinet built and then he painted it with this amazing crackle finish. When we had our weekend home in New York we became really close friends with two local women who called themselves the Paper Dolls. June and Linda meticulously papered the interior of the piece. Rick then turned to my family and had my brother's stained glass studio build the leaded glass doors. This is a piece I could never part with. It now holds a small collection of ironstone tureens and platters and decades of memories.
As a final touch the photo over the console is an image of a dance troop in homage to the last supper titled, The Last Supper of Hiawatha by Tony Hauser. It seemed the most appropriate piece to hang in the dining room. My assumption was that hanging this photo was tantamount to having Jesus with the bleeding heart hovering on the wall thus absolving us of having to say grace as our piety was sufficiently on display. If I've offended please forgive. I know Jesus would.

Parlourmaid and Underparlourmaid ready to serve dinner
Bill Brandt, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery