Friday, October 30, 2015


Time to acknowledge Benjamin Moore's color of the year 2016. In the past the color picked has always had a more terminal feel. The colors have been trendier. This year's selection is hard to disagree with, I mean who doesn't love white? Simply White OC-177.  It's not a harsh white. It never looks muddy or dingy. It's not the white your teeth turn when you smile in a room lit by black lights.
Here's how Benjamin Moore describes it: "It works equally well with cool or warm palettes and retains its neutrality, remaining as constant as possible under different light sources."
According to interior designer Darryl Carter there 179 shades of white. So many amateurs think that white is just white.  Well think again and listen to Muriel Blandings from the 1948 film, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. "Now the kitchen is to be white. Not a cold, antiseptic hospital white. A little warmer, but still, not to suggest any other color but white". Guess how many swatches of white had to be painted on the wall to get just the right white. Sometimes you have to cover the walls of a room with a myriad of two-foot squares of different whites to get just the right one, the one that wears during all times of the day and with all sorts of different artificial lighting.
So as winter approaches and our northern landscape prepares to don its coat of winter white here are some rooms that have embraced white in all its various shades.
Here is a palette of soft whites that absorb that little hint of green in a room that flies from a flock of perfect white geese to walls that look like they contain a touch of moss
The muted white of an antique bust rising above a painted high-gloss white wooden floor contrast to the linen whites crumpled over a club chair and breezing through the fluttering drapes
White ice is reflected in every element in this dining room where texture plays an important part crackling on the walls like a frozen lake in the midst of snow soaked valley
In contrast to the icy  cool whites there's a sense of serenity implicit in warm white. It sooths and comforts and brings summer into a room
There has always been a correlation between white and cleanliness. The minimalist nature of white appearing as the absence of color makes a space seem larger and more expansive and definitely striped of dirt and clutter.
A touch of blue makes a simple room chill when the temperature outside is quite the opposite
Hot white sizzles on the beach. There's no sense that inland mud would ever destroy the purity of this space built on the sand's of this Oceanside property
Cool clear whites mixed with driftwood inspired whites compose a suite so inviting who would want to leave.
There isn't a color white can't live with and compliment. Try to imagine this red with anything other than white
There isn't a style that wouldn't be comfortable housed in an envelope of white. There's a touch of pink in this traditional white that fits nicely into the historic nature of this space.

The Unmade Bed, 1957
Imogen Cunningham, photographer
Represented by Lumiere Gallery, Atlanta

Friday, October 23, 2015


The shadows broadening across Park Avenue stretch their fingers as if playing a tune on a piano going from loud to soft on the boulevard below. The tune being played never sounds exactly the same from each sunrise to sunset and the composers writing the scores have changed ever since the first buildings rose on either side of the boulevard.
One of the newest notes to be written on the Avenue is 400 Park Avenue South, a residential building designed by Christian de Portzamparc.
Portzamparc was the youngest Architect to ever be awarded the Pritzker Prize designating him as one of the most influential architects of our time. 400 Park Avenue South joins a symphony of new residential buildings rising on Streets and Avenues from the Battery up to Harlem, some creating dynamic music while others just playing a cacophony of absurd sounds. As inevitable as change may be New York's skyline is not immune to transformation with new peaks poking through creating new sets of shadows adding to the pattern of the city's lights and darks.
400 Park Avenue South pierces the west side of Park Avenue's silhouette with knife-like precision. It defies the more traditional buildings beings built that climb floor after floor via a series of squares and cubes in a race to see who can build the highest tower. The developers running Manhattan are in a dangerous game of Jenga waiting for the stability factor to kick in and the walls to come tumbling down.
Take 432 Park Avenue between 56th and 57th Street, rising above the city in an obscene gesture, acting as Manhattan's middle finger. It has transformed the New York skyline from every approach into the city, one single slender set of 104 condominiums for 104 residents who need the world to look up to them and who enjoy looking down on everyone else. With that in mind I doubt we'll be designing any residences here.
On the other hand, where I would like to find an interior design entry is in 400 Park Avenue South. The knowledge of the urban canyon known as Park Avenue South is far more sensitively handled by the builders and visionary that have gifted the city with this architectural jewel.
The building includes a long list of amenities for prospective condominium buyers. The offerings are only now coming onto the market. Ownership comes with access to a screening room, indoor lap pool and sauna, a spin studio and 27th floor sky lounge, and then there are the superbly designed apartments.
I scheduled an appointment to look at their smallest units, one-bedrooms ranging in size from 780 square feet to 840 square feet. A young saleswoman met me at the 23rd floor model apartment. The spaces below the 23rd floor were relegated to rental units and commercial space. The views from the 23rd floor two bedroom apartment were spectacular. I can only image how the views as you ascended floor by floor increased in grandeur as well as cost.
The first floor plan I was shown was for a unit on the 24th floor. It included a living/dining area, bedroom with a walk-in closet, kitchen and a single sink bathroom. The size wasn't exactly generous for a one-bedroom but the design was impressive and the quality of the product did not go unnoticed.
The kitchens were done with custom-made Pedini glass finished cabinetry, quartzite islands with a reticulated front reflecting the buildings design and Miele appliances. The bathrooms had heated limestone floors, Grigio Tucci vanities, and Roman soaking tubs. All units came with their own washer/dryer and well they should at $2,039,990 with a monthly common charge of $874.52. Now as most of our Midwest readers pick themselves back up off the floor this is about right for New York real estate. I didn't blink; I repressed the hard swallow of incredulity and asked if I could see any other one-bedrooms.
She pulled out a second plan for the slightly larger units that began on the 30th floor and ran on up to the 37th. The 30th floor began at the same base price but each time you went a floor higher you needed to add another $10,000 to the price. The common charges were also slightly higher beginning at $949.28 per month. I still hadn't broken out in a full sweat but I wasn't going to touch the paper plans she was pushing toward me for fear of leaving a little oily smear on the quality paper document.
The last plan was a single one-bedroom unit on the 30th that included a 200 square foot terrace. The terrace upped the cost by cool a $150,000. Now I know the Beast was in the cost. Living in Madison that's about the cost of a decent three-bedroom home on a quarter acre with a two-car garage and a working fireplace. I took all the brochures she had put together for me and shook her hand telling her I'd be in touch.
For anyone out there looking to purchase at 400 Park Avenue South, we know you probably want to put your own stamp on your space, gutting the unit and starting over. Know we're available for hire and extremely willing to help.

Mike Smith, photographer
Chucky, TN, 1992
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, NYC

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Most of the design photography we deal with focuses on the pristine beauty of space. It's mostly about propping, getting out the wrinkles, and lots of fresh flowers. There's an effort exerted into making space look idealized with the result frequently ending in space that doesn't look lived in . The trick is to make if feel comfortable and ultimately desirable without seeing any of the normal aspects of everyday living having occurred there; no spilled milk, no electronic cables or beds made by army personnel with the ability to make it so tight you could play jacks on it. Making these portfolio pictures is an art form that takes a certain photographic eye and frequently a ton of stylists as well. I do love looking at these images and working with a creative team when the opportunity comes to photograph one of our projects but when I'm out on my own and traveling the real world I enjoy looking at settings that might not be completely pristine but encompass a different beauty that comes completely from its disarray or dilapidation.
Emptiness can be very powerful telling a story that may be more potent than a room full of perfectly placed memorabilia. There's a real sense of loss in this series of doorways that bare enough detail to suggest the sense of a rich life now swept away. As barren as the walls appear they are rich with the feel of hidden stories.
There are times emptiness isn't always obvious at first glance. The story is presumed to be abandonment on this beautiful tile façade until your eye moves upward and the sky pokes through the roofless building. That's where abandonment turns to sorrow. The terminal inevitability rests in the eyes of this façade as if it was a damaged shelter dog doomed to be euthanized.
A tree being striped of its limbs, its needles scattered over the floor its beauty completely rendered to a single unadorned pole has a thousand stories to tell. One of those stories is strength, the strength of still standing tall and still wearing its miniature crown of green needles from a holiday now a part of families history.
The are so many magnificent religious edifices in cities all over the world. The ornate trappings of the secular world display themselves in the form of ornately carved woodwork, sculpted stone and statuary, gilded accessories and museum quality artwork hung on the walls. Finding a piece of the ecclesiastical holding a forgotten history can be more impressive than all the silk robes and velvet carpets of the churches that can still cling to a tithing flock.
The permanent artificial smiles beaming atop a ripped synthetic dining chair, their heads resting against a fiber cabinet topped with a TV almost old enough to have shown original episodes of Howdy Dowdy belie the octogenarian they belong to. The light leaks peaking through the thin walls behind the stuffed toys and the makeshift lock holding the door together signal a sense of time running out but there is tremendous humility in what remains.
Even bad design can go so far adrift it brings its own sense of humor and turns a bad moment into a bursting bubble of joy. The over-the-top chinoiserie of this bedroom bath is so wrong it's wonderful.
The beauty of Europe is usually depicted in its historic architectural gems: The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Big Ben in London or the St. Charles Bridge in Prague. But perhaps the spider webs woven into the lamplights on the entrance to Prague's bridge and the way the light spun the web into gold was more impressive than the bridge itself.
We frequently throw away images that aren't in focus and don't fit the mold of a perfect shot, but perfect can be very hard to define. This technically dirty photo is still perfect to me. The light, the composition of the way the image captures the weather allow the focus to be on the raindrops rather than the plane's wing. Drawing focus away from the exterior and onto the window makes you contemplate what you can't see; what might be happening inside the plane.
There's a quiet quality hiding something more significant in this unattended room. The serenity in the monochromatic hues seems to tell one story of peace but you can sense the opposite may be true. The smallness of the chair, its ripped upholstery and stained cushions tell a story far more complex, like the crumpled toilet paper left discarded on the floor.
Light can make the simplest of compositions come to life. The light through the window, the light creating the patterned shadows on the back wall, the single beam of light slashing like a sword at these garden tuteurs take this image far beyond a garden shed.
The overwhelming assault of color and graphics make the visual debris at this street fair a circus of delight running around and around like a merry-go-round. The layering of banners, colors and letters waste no time in drawing you in and make you swallow it up like a gigantic slurpee.
I'm never one to shy away from a little dirt, even in a photograph. There are times when a building can look its best even in disarray. The open archways can have a dignity in their layers of debris. There is still beauty when things aren't perfectly placed and the floor hasn't been properly swept.

Palace Theater, Gary, Indiana 2008
Andrew Moore, photographer
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery

Friday, October 9, 2015


I've never had the love affair with the Hamptons the way so many of the city's trendsetters and wannabes have. Over the decades we've spent in the city I haven't been able to cultivate a hankering for spending my weekends in the Hamptons. I hate the drive that stretches into hours on a one-lane highway; I've always been reluctant to pull the helicopter out of the hanger to avoid the traffic the way our goddess and jailbird, Martha does. I'm unimpressed with standing in line for my Sunday morning bagel and then being pushed out of the queue by some guy in sweats monogramed WSJ smoking a huge cigar and talking to his broker on his iPhone. We've completed a couple of projects out there but the cost to our sanity has left us without a taste for the hassles that accompany those projects.
So when a piece of the Hamptons decided to do the reverse commute and come to Chelsea I wasn't rushing to see their take on bringing the beach to the smelly trash strewn streets of New York City. It has taken me a year to finally walk in and see what all the hoopla called Homenature was about. I'm still on the fence. If you're out there window-shopping Homenature is worth the trip to Eighteenth Street. It is beautiful.
There's definitely a sea breeze appeal to the store whose envelope wraps the essence of Montauk's sand and dunes around you with its white-washed walls and sea-glass shelves.
You are bathed in the comfort of white linen, driftwood and cowhide as you walk across wooden floors layered in natural jute rugs.
Everything has the look of chic trying its best to not look pretentious. It's pretty easy to get swept into the hip feel and lush design of everything so au naturel.
Their product has a mythological draw like Circe seducing Odysseus and let me tell you it takes the power of an Odysseus to pull away from the accessories and furniture on the floor until you get close enough to see the price tags, a small marble soap tray - $640, a burled credenza - $18,500 or this beautiful bowl for a mere $4,650. Weeping with desire wasn't going to change the prices. Tears were insufficient to wash away the access of zeros attached to those beautiful hand-printed tags, but it was nice to dream.

The California based Restoration Hardware opened its doors on lower Fifth Avenue almost a decade ago. The building they moved into had been left derelict for well before I ever came to New York and that's been quite a while ago. When it first opened it occupied the main floor of the building and a partial piece of the lower level. It was hard to resist its earthy urban appeal. It had you covered in plush bath towels, quirky Holiday gifts and furniture that would literally swallow you up. The appeal hasn't changed
It's hard to resist all that industrial and urban chic they're known for. The appeal of all those weathered woods, rusted metal, reproduction antiquities and oversized lighting is as seductive as a brat and beer to a Cheesehead.
The store has recently gone through a major renovation and expansion. The staircase leading to the lower level has been closed off but two upper floors have been opened up greatly expanding the square footage of the store. The merchandising has also expanded in broader directions which in turn extends its appeal.
The industrial urbanism still exists but references to more classic styles are now set under amber glowing lighting enhancing the romanticism of their products. There's a dark brooding quality to the space that is both enticing and a bit scary at the same time.
There are vignettes that could have been inspired by Edgar Allen Poe with fireplaces set ablaze and distressed leather sofas, a bust of a Greek god staring back at you from atop the mantle.
There's a bit of the curiosity shop mixed in with old black megaphones hiding speakers for you to connect to your iPhone and light fixtures held in check under glass cloches.
One of my favorite things to do is to walk up and down the three story staircase that is a hall of mirrors where you can sometimes catch yourself fading into infinity.
The only downside to their beautiful product line is the scale. So many of the pieces seemed designed for the spacious living of the California coast rather than the tiny quarters most New Yorkers are holed up in. As much as I'd like a twelve foot sectional to lounge around on I can barely fit a full size bed into our seven foot wide bedroom.
The end of the month is to see a whole new line coming to the first floor of their Fifth Avenue flagship store. The line is simply called Modern and I can't wait to see it

In the wake of the shootings in Oregon MSN posted a report online along with this picture of one of the survivors of the shooting.
Another story during the week was the possible discovery of the grave of the woman who is supposed to have posed for DaVinci's Mona Lisa. There was such a strong similarity to me I wanted to post it. Perhaps the spirit of the Mona Lisa was released into this young man's being with her discovery. Like an opening of the Ark of the Covenant the spirit within her grave released to save a young man's soul. She certainly gave him her smile, and maybe that's the mystery behind it.