Friday, November 27, 2015


The holiday never really starts on Thanksgiving morning for us. Planning begins weeks if not months before the actual meal begins. Hours are spent mulling over recipes and making lists of ingredients. The save the dates and invitations can happen months in advance especially if we are intending on breaking bread with a group of friends who we've shared this holiday with many times throughout the years. By now this group is so spread out it would have required coordination of flights from San Francisco, Atlanta and New York, a task too daunting for all of us to try and make happen this year.
So our family of three decided we'd do something we'd talked about ever since Madison became our main address. This year we were going to travel back to the city of Christmas lights and Thanksgiving parades and make our holiday meal in our tiny apartment right off of Central Park West, about seven blocks north of where Macy's parade would make its start. The three of us booked our flights to New York. It was time to take advantage of our location so close to the parade route and all of the activities that go along with a New York holiday adventure.
We arrived late on the Monday before turkey day. Tuesday and part of Wednesday were devoted to shopping and the beginning of preparation for the meal.
Our tradition has it that we do a ham and biscuits the night before. Since there would only be Rick, Emmy and myself on preparation Wednesday we only purchased a half of a smoked ham. At about three on Wednesday afternoon Rick started the glaze, a mixture of apple cider, brown sugar, dry and dijon mustard and cloves brought to a boil to thicken while I scored the fatty side of the ham and then smeared it with Dijon mustard and studded it with whole cloves. The ham then went into the oven at 375 degrees for three hours basting the ham every twenty minutes.
While the ham was in the oven Rick start the biscuits modifying his recipe so the biscuits came out more with the consistency of croissants, flakey and buttery. I put together a salad of organic arugula, fresh figs and chevre. Rick made a dressing of fig jam, balsamic vinegar and a fruity extra virgin olive oil.
Emmy and I had planned on walking down to see the balloons being blown up for the parade. Rick had timed dinner to happen after what we had guessed would be our return time. This didn't quite work out but that will be a story yet to come.
When we returned Rick was working on a few things he could prepare for the following days main event. It's a very southern thing to plan the next meal before the current one has even been served. So when we got back he was elbow deep creating a carrot salad of grated carrots, scallions, parsley, mustard, olive oil and a bit of honey that would go into a bowl and then into the fridge as well as a cranberry sauce at the request of Emmy made from what else but the recipe on the bag.
I'm not a big turkey guy. The ham, biscuit and salad is by far my favorite meal of the season and leftovers of ham and biscuits can go on for a long time as far as I'm concerned.
Thursday morning the final construction of the meal began. We had planned a sit down time of around three in the afternoon. We had invited Emmy's former nanny and our long time friend, Angelina to complete the maximum seating available at our tiny dining table which was four.
There was a turkey breast to roast, more biscuits to bake made from the dough that had been put in the fridge from the day before, and a vegetable dish of sautéed Brussels sprouts.
For Rick it wasn't going to be Thanksgiving without a huge casserole of Mac & Cheese. I had Cuisinarted several pounds of a combo of Wisconsin and New York cheddar cheeses the night before and Rick whipped up the final concoction with a golden breadcrumb crust.
I was in charge of making Potatoes Anna, a layered cake of sliced russets with butter and salt and pepper compressed in a skillet on the stove and then finished off in the oven leaving a crispy crust and a soft, creamy center.
The final touch to the table and the meal was a non-alcoholic sangria made from sparkling cider, cranberry juice and garnished with sliced apples, clementines and grapes.
We are not good cooks when it comes to portion projection or refining a menu down from a dozen to four guests. In addition to the three pies we purchased from the Little Pie Company: pumpkin, Southern pecan and sour cream apple walnut we had enough leftovers to last until if not beyond our scheduled Tuesday departure.
We gathered around the table at just about three having set up the kitchen island as a buffet and staging ground for a meal that was just a tad overproduced. But I have to admit I'm looking forward to my Friday ham and biscuit sandwich with a little smear of Dijon mustard.
Hope y'all had a terrific and safe Thanksgiving!

Dairyland, Provincetown, 1976
Joel Meyerowitz, photographer
Represented by Danzinger Gallery

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Friday the thirteenth blew onto the calendar in November. It would be my last day in the city; on Saturday I'd board an early morning flight back to the Midwest. I'd finished my last meeting earlier than expected. I'd cleaned the apartment and done the wash before the sun had a chance to paint shadows on the streets in deepening strokes of black and gray. By mid-afternoon the sun had made its arc over the island taking its light show to the city's pillars of brick and glass splashing them with glints of gold and amber.
My bag for the next day's flight had been packed and zipped. The beauty of the day was pushing me out the door for one more visual adventure. I found myself on the subway with no destination in mind. I took the first train that came into the station and rode until the conductor said, "Next stop Broadway-LaFayette". It would be Soho. I got out. The magic of fall light was warming the city in a bath of bursting bubbles as the sun popped  a coruscation of diamond-like sparks on the castiron windows of Soho's century old buildings.
I didn't want to lose the spectacle the sun was providing for free and the only way I could think of to chase it was to walk west into the light.
Every corner you turn in Manhattan hides a surprise; some that may have existed there for decades while others are new and fleeting only staying for a moment before they are lost to everything except your memory.
One of those magic fleeting moments of Manhattan happened as I turned from Greenwich Street onto Gansevoort. I had followed the street's cobbled path and as if I had been dropped into the rabbit hole I found myself in the midst of the world of advertising as a surreal commercial was being filmed. Cadillac had blocked off the street, watered down the nineteenth century bricks and lit the street with a huge klieg light turn each brick into a gleam gem.
A production assistant kept us off the street while a black Cadillac SUV rolled over the brick road and then back again followed by a camera rigged like a cantilevered transformer from the roof of a trailing car.
Once the last shot had been put to bed the production assistant put down her rope and let us onto the sidewalk with the warning to try to keep close to the sides of the buildings as people started to cover the wet walkway, some on their way to the New Whitney, some to the shops and cafes of the Meat Packing District and some like me onto the southern entrance to the Highline.
The warm amber light of fall was slowly rolling up the facades of the manufacturing buildings now turned to luxury residences like a brilliant Roman shade being raised to reveal the darkness of night.
The length of the Highline still contained the golds of native grasses stripped of their summer greens, the plants now relegated from being the divas of the walk to lowly extras behind the overpowering majesty of the buildings from centuries ago. There is so much new trying to sprout along the Highline. New construction seemed to arise from every available lot previously housing open-air parking lots and abandoned buildings.
The skeletons of new high-rises and the infrastructure of the Highline became the strokes and palettes now colored by the sunset. In no time the sunlight would wane and the artificial lights of city would take over the leading role in the play with the longest run in the Great White Way's history.
It was an eerie beauty, a beauty that held me transfixed and peaceful while miles and oceans away the darkness of a totally different nature was playing out in streams of liquid red.
I had no way of knowing what was going on in the city of lights as I stood mesmerized by bliss ignorance can provide.

Luca Campiotto, photographer
Gotham City no. 25
Represented by Laurence Miller Gallery

Thursday, November 12, 2015


LOG 11.9.2015
6:45am-The sun is just starting its journey over Central Park and down West 89th Street. Enough light is slipping in between the slit in the curtains to penetrate my thin eyelids and get me moving. I reach for the remote and turn on CBS to catch the weather before the national news starts. Then I swallow the five pills I now take for maintenance issues that I can no longer remember the reason for their necessity
7:00am-I'm up and the bed is made. I'm a creature of habit with a bit of OCD and a big superstition that if I don't get the bed made the whole day will go down from there. I roll out the yoga mat as Charlie and Gayle begin with the ninety-second rundown of the day's top stories
7:15am-It's a tray of ice cubes, a ripe banana, a sprinkling of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, an extra helping of fat-free, sugar-free vanilla creamer, a couple of cups of 1% milk and a packet of Starbuck's original roast instant coffee into the blender; it's my liquid breakfast
7:23am-I'm at the bathroom sink for a quick shave and shower after which I delude myself with the idea that the eye cream, spot remover and body lotion I smear over my body will in some way halt the inevitable.
7:45am-I'm dressed, respectable clothing today that will need to get me through the gauntlet of varying degrees of respectability and physical punishment I'll have to endure during the rest of the day
8:00am-Time to sit down and go through the collection of emails that have accumulated on my computer during the evening.
8:45am-It's off to the subway to catch the "C" or the "B" downtown which I'll then need to transfer to the "7" so I can make it to the BDNY show at the Javits and get registered before the show opens. The new Hudson Yards station is such a vast improvement over the grimy old stations on the rest of the "7" line. It doesn't quit rival the new Fulton Street station but the mosaic work is still pretty impressive.
9:15am-I make it to the Javits just in time to find a bathroom. The morning blender concoction caught up to me somewhere between getting off the "C" train and hopping on the "7". I get through registration at BDNY and wait for the show to open. This is my first time at the Boutique Design New York show. A show dedicated to the hospitality industry. I didn't know what to expect but the show was much larger than I had thought
9:30-10:30am-I put on my imaginary racing shoes trying to see as much of the show as possible. Note to self (next year give yourself at least a full morning to do the show).
Approximately five miles of aisles of vendors looking to entice designers and hoteliers to pick up their contract worthy products.
As time was running out I ran into the girls from Global Views who accost me for taking pictures of their booth. It wasn't until I presented my credentials and association with Maura and Sharon from the New York showroom that they relented and allowed me take a few pictures. Apparently there's a cadre of Asians who scout the show and then show up two weeks later with reproductions of what they've seen at the show at an inferior quality but with a discount price tag
10:30-11:30am-I'd signed up for a seminar titled Boutique Design's 2015 Up-and-Coming Hoteliers moderated by Mary Scoviak, Executive Editor of Boutique Design with a panel including Brad Wilson of the Ace Hotel Group, Enrique "Kike" (pronounced key-kay) Sarasola of Room Mate Hotels and, and Josh Wyatt of Generator a hostel based hospitality firm. The thrust of the discussion seemed to be about the emerging awareness of the youth travel market. The trend most talked about was the extended experience hotels are offering to a younger traveling market: more in hotel cafes, nightclubs, health clubs and game rooms.
11:45am - A mad dash back to the Hudson Yards station and another multi-layered subway trip first across town and then downtown to 200 Lex, The New York Deign Center. Grabbed a sandwich and brownie cube from Pret-a-Manger to take with me.
12:00-5:00pm-Time to put in this month's office hours at the Access to Design office. We're required to spend five hours of design time to maintain our position as one of the thirty designers represented by the referral agency that is a part of the Design Center. During this time Claire, the new director of Access to Design, and I updated our portfolio, I did a tour of the showrooms to see what was new (this is when I found these rose gold and pink leather dining chairs at Cliff Young that I fell in love with), went over the fifty new emails that had come in between my 8:00am check-in and now,
and had a conversation with Maura at Studio A thanking her for her review of us on HOUZZ and my incident with her co-workers at the BDNY show.
5:00pm-Left NYDC and ran across town to Organic Modernism to check on a dining table replacement for a client.
Then walked to Macy's where the decorations are already going up for Christmas. While standing next to a display of ugly holiday sweaters I took a call from Rick about a perspective client in Hoboken, fingers crossed. Interrupted by a phone call from a client cancelling Tuesday's shopping trip and changing it to Wednesday.
6:00pm-Back on the subway up the Westside to 72nd Street and an event at the Chatsworth Residence sponsored by Domino Magazine, Stark Realty and Theory.
6:15pm- Final spotted a Hunter-Douglas vendor. They were closed but I made a mental note to stop by the following day so I could take care of a client's mother's request to fix her broken vertical blinds
6:30pm-After having turned the wrong way on 72nd Street I backtracked to the West Side and found the Chatsworth at the far end of 72nd. Built in the French Beaux Arts style in 1904 it was one more wedding cake in a series of upscale marriages between the city and its nouveau riche. The building has  undergone a major renovation and many of the units are now for sale.
I had RSVP'd and was on the list for the open house event.
Thinking I'd make an appearance and with luck fall into a conversation with a perspective buyer looking for a designer I picked up a glass of sparkling water and started touring the rooms.
When I turned around from the bar set up in the kitchen island I ran smack dab into Kathrrine Scully and her husband, Dennis. Kathrine is the national home furnishings director for Luxe Interiors + Design and Dennis is the President of Avery Boardman the company responsible for all the upholstered pieces in the apartment and Vice President of Business Development for The Editor at Large. They took hold of me and we toured the four bedroom, $6.5 million dollar condo together bumping into industry friends in every room.
Our favorite hangout and where Katherine and Dennis held court was the master bathroom that was beautiful but had a glass enclosed toilet that none of us could figure out.
8:00pm-Left the Chatsworth with a very impressive goodie bag. Decided on taking the subway at 72nd up to 86th and then walked to D'Agositno's, the local grocery store, to pick up dinner. Buying food in New York is painful now that we live in Madison. I was never one to do a lot of comparison shopping but I can't help it now that the discrepancy between my two extremes is so great.
8:45pm-Made a microwaveable dinner and sat back down with my computer, my emails and writing down notes from the day.
10:00pm-Began research on an upcoming project and prepared a bag of tools for an 8:30am meeting the next morning with another client to develop a strategy for hanging art and mirrors that would be happening the following day
11:30pm- Turned on Steven Colbert as I slipped under the covers my eyes closing sometime before he finished his monologue.

New York, 1900
Photographer unknown
Available through Detroit Publishing Company

Saturday, November 7, 2015


Neither Rick nor I were ever schooled in merchandising. We came to being merchants and retailers on a whim and a prayer. It was a situation of jumping in and then sinking or learning how to swim real fast. Brooke Alderson, our neighbor in a small village in the Upper Catskills where we had a second home, had opened a little shop in the late nineties with tons of quirky charm. Brooke had opened her shop in half century old building that had originally been a feed and grain store and most recently a lawnmower and small tractor shop. Brooke shared the building with another merchant but it was an oil and water situation. What Brooke brought to this little hamlet was a new vitality and sense of pride that had been absent for decades. Once the woman sharing the other half of the old mercantile building decided she didn't want to return for the following season it looked as if the small spark of growth Brooke had brought might be blown out. Living right in the village we had taken to making daily trips to the new social hub of the village perusing the funky painted furniture, oilcloth brought in from Mexico, the counter filled with penny candy and the incredible entertaining conversation under the savvy direction of Brooke.
At the end of the season Brooke phoned us in desperation asking if we knew anyone who might want to take over the soon to be vacant half of the building. We were flea market and antique junkies with a cellar full of collectables. We looked at each other and within that conversation and without hesitation said, "We'll do it". Completely inexperienced in opening a shop we were winging it and wing it we did.
We opened Mercantile the following season with a look we neither researched nor planned. It was intuitive to display our mix of vintage and new in a way that let our customers see how they could fit our sense of design into their homes. We staged vignettes of beds made up with vintage linens and dining tables set with dinnerware and flowers. It was the way we saw things and somehow it seemed to work and it worked for almost a decade.
When we moved to Madison we carried the idea of creating settings that were more home than store into our new venture into the world of retail with our little jewel of a shop, Pleasant Living.
Since the store was so small, interior real estate made for tinier vignettes but we always felt providing a vision of how a piece of furniture could be used or how a table could be set were a way to show off our wares and help customers see our vision.
There's now a store in New York that has taken this idea of blurring the lines between home and shop to the extreme. It's called The Apartment and is the brainchild of fashion stylists Vanessa Train and Morgan Wendelborn.
The Apartment is on the third floor of a flatiron building in Soho. This is their second venture following their first Apartment in Los Angeles.
There's a bit of voyeurism in walking into The Apartment. The feeling that some one might pop out of the shower wrapped in a towel and saying, "Who the hell are you" rests at the back of your head the minute you walk in the door.
The Apartment is set up as an apartment with everything for sale from the clothes in the closet to the knives in the flatware drawer.
The only thing missing are the leftovers from last nights dinner showing up wrapped in Saran on a shelf in the frig.
You can walk from room to room opening up drawers and rummaging through closets finding lingerie, fine art photography, beauty produces and an array of designer furniture and home accessories.
The Apartment is open Tuesday through Saturday noon to six and by appointment. It's worth a trip to another one of Manhattan's little secret finds.

Untitled Film Still #2, 1977
Cindy Sherman, photographer
Represented by Gagosian Gallery