Thursday, December 29, 2016


When you travel with a college age dependent and a girl at that (in this new era I've been told it's alright to be politically incorrect so back off all you feminists) getting started and out the door is never going to happen on time. The Thursday before Christmas, the day our holiday trip started was no different. Getting an early start for a girl who doesn't rise before noon stretched hours beyond our designated and agreed to departure time. But Emmy, Rick, our pups Joey and Phoebe and I made it on the road at a reasonable enough time to still make some stops at a few of our favorite small towns along the snow encrusted trail to Galena.
Just outside Madison is a secret few know about, the hamlet of Paoli. The town consists of a small central park, a church and a strip of perhaps a dozen restaurants, galleries and shops.
Our go to (and I've written about this on several occasions) is the Cottage Goddess. I hate letting this secret out but since I've done it before and it doesn't seem to have made a big difference this store is a gold mine for anyone interested in vintage or antique. Lori, the goddess herself, holds court both in front of and behind the counter and entertains with stories that seem to dim her retail prowess as she ends up almost giving the store away.
For example, take this incredible vintage bathrobe in perfect condition, I'd try to make you guess at the price but the price tag said forty-two dollars. Try to match that in New York.
Or look at this woman's jacket for the hefty price of twenty-four dollars. Everything is in mint condition. We walked off with more than we should have since with just this one stop the back of the car was so full I would have to use the side mirrors to drive the rest of the way. Our purchases had made it so I could no longer see out of the back window.
Precariously packed we continued on to Mineral Point, another favorite that we'd have to drive through to get to Galena. Mineral Point is a tiny village originally established as a Welsh mining town. It's another artist's haven filled with galleries and specialty shops and always decked out for the holidays.
It's towns like Mineral Point that attract shopkeepers and artists with an eye to the unique and well styled. We should all be willing to support these entrepreneurs. This new addition to the Mineral Point shopscape was worth the extended time we ended up spending there along with a few dollars.
The five of us, dogs included, lifted our imaginary glasses and toasted the quality and joy of spending just enough time to catch the last bit of light as dusk closed in on our first day on the road to Galena.
Galena is an amazing time capsule lost to the world when the continental United States travel moved from barges and covered wagons to trains. Galena's economy was wrapped in its shipping capabilities along the Mississippi. When it was time for the railroads to map out their new routes the shipping magnets in Galena feared the railroads would destroy their business. They decided not to let the railroad come through Galena that at that time was the largest city in Illinois, even larger than Chicago. It was a decision that eventually made Galena into a ghost town abandoning the city to decades of cobwebs and vacant buildings.
Lucky for us. This preserved the town with the beauty of another time and revitalized it into an amazing tourist town with all the charm of its past intact.
Before we left we had searched around for a place to stay and decided an authentic log cabin in the snow with a big stone fireplace was the right place to hang our Christmas stockings.
We had brought a little tree with us that we decorated with snowflakes, acorns and a string of lights we tacked to the wall. The larger outline drawn by the string of lights only made the smallness of our little artificial tree seem like a grander gesture in an Appalachian country kind of way.
Day two was devoted to our little luxury. We had originally planned on staying at the Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa but ultimately decided against it, our dogs weren't exactly welcomed or they were but at a cost of $75 a day - each. We decided we'd each put that money into a day of massages and facials.
We put a final cap on the day by driving to Galena's Main Street to do some last minute shopping as the snow really started to fall, a gentle snow the kind with flakes the size of silver dollars.
Even the shop windows were dressed as if by an Oscar worthy set designer with gingerbread houses more magical than Disney or Pixar could have done.
879Of course, it wouldn't have been Christmas if we hadn't been able to find Santa perfectly attired in his red velvet robes.
It was a lite dinner before we were back at the cabin
About fifteen miles outside of Galena is the village of Elizabeth, a small Midwest main street town filled with antique shops. On Christmas Eve day morning we headed out to satisfy our fix for anything antique or vintage
The afternoon took us back into Galena for one more snowy trip around the center of town
and a drive through the residential streets filled with incredible architecture and an abundance of Bed & Breakfasts.
We had planned out our culminating Christmas Eve evening well in advance. It started with dinner back at the Eagle Ridge Resort
where we dined on crab cakes, French onion soup, Caesar salad, and ten ounce filet mignons.
then finished it off with a Christmasy peppermint cheesecake before we headed back to our log cabin.
That night we lit the fire one last time with logs we appropriated from a gas station halfway between the resort and our log cabin (we tucked a ten dollar bill with a note between the crack in the front door - we didn't want to ruin our karma), took the dogs for a little walk in the field outside our cabin and settled in to open a few presents but the biggest present of all was having such sweet family time, something we need to incorporate more of in the coming year.
White Stoops, NYC, 1952
Ruth Orkin, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Friday, December 23, 2016


"Just because it's Christmas and at Christmas you tell the truth" from Love Actually

1.When Hillary lost the election.
For me I can pinpoint her lose to the day. It wasn't about the emails or the FBI and director Comey. It was the day she became the Democratic nominee. The day she pocketed enough votes to be the party's contender for the President of the United States. It was the day Bernie Sanders decided not to acknowledge her triumph and not to bow out gracefully the way Hillary did in 2008. He had the ability to turn his thousands of followers into enthusiastic supporters but ego got in the way. He'd accomplished his initial goal: to have an impact on the platform but it wasn't enough. Instead he chose to fight on and by doing that he disenfranchised thousands of voters, voters who didn't turn out and are now standing on the outside looking at their future as dismal and powerless. The real agent of change was more the woman who lost than the man who was too weak to do the right thing.

2.Gun control
On June 12th a gunman walked into an Orlando nightclub and murdered fifty people using an arsenal of firearms. There was such sadness and outrage and demand for legislation but as each day passed those national and local legislators' turned deaf ignoring the pleas of their constituents and only listening to the dollars and clout of the NRA. Gay groups organized. The parents of the kids killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School raised their voices but those voices weren't even a whispers in the ears of those with the ability to make a difference. We're a nation numb to gun violence even when it's children.

3.My 2016 word of the year.
"Mandate". If I hear the Donald or any of his minions use this word in relation to the election I'm calling Merriam-Webster and Funk & Wagnalls and demand a recall on its definition. How someone who can lose a popular vote by almost three million votes and still say they have a 'mandate" defies all laws of mathematics. No-no, that ain't no mandate

4.Wisconsin: We should have seen this coming
Lets go all the way back to 2010, the year of the census and the State's gerrymandering, when the Republican majority locked themselves in a room without bi-partisan involvement and cut up the state so the Republican party could guarantee their party's majority in state government for at least the next ten years. It should have been a sign foreshadowing what would be the year of hypocrisy in 2016 when Wisconsin went through a heated Supreme Court election where the Republican candidate and winner had written articles calling AIDS patients and gays degenerates, compared abortion to the Holocaust and slavery and stated that women play a role in date rape and are partially to blame. All of this under an umbrella of conservative religiosity held by another Republican candidate for the presidency, Ted Cruz. I mean come on, what happened to the Wisconsin of Gaylord Nelson and William Proxmire. I know that shows my age but look it up. I used to be so proud to tell people I was from Wisconsin...not so much any more.

5.How I could see myself becoming the tiniest bit religious
His name is Pope Francis. Where previous Popes have been steeped in oppressive doctrine holding social issues in antiquated reverence and then turning a blind eye to their own corruption and inappropriate behavior while waltzing around in ruby red slippers and bejeweled gowns this Pope has chosen a much different path. He rides in a Fiat, shuns the robes of royalty, acknowledges the plight of our planet and global warming and dines with the homeless rather than elite. Most world leaders should be taking notes.

6.Michelle and Barrack
Their legislative legacy may not last the length of time it will take to swear in the next President but their moral compass, their impeccable style will always be remembered as America's second Camelot.

7.The best joke of 2016 curtsey of John Stewart 
An airplane was about to crash. There were four passengers on board, but only three parachutes. The first passenger said, "I'm Steph Curry, the best NBA basketball player. The Warriors and my millions of fans need me, and I can't afford to die." So he took the first pack and left the plane.
The second passenger, Donald Trump, said, "I'm the newly-elected U.S. President, and I am the smartest President in American history, so my people don't want me to die." He took the second pack and jumped out of the plane.
The third passenger, the Pope, said to the fourth passenger, a ten year old schoolboy, "My son, I am old and don't have many years left, you have more years ahead so I will sacrifice my life and let you have the last parachute."
The little boy said, "That's okay, Your Holiness, there's a parachute left for you. America's smartest President took my schoolbag."
Rick has always reprimanded me for going off course on the blog and taking its content away from design or issues of style but following the lead of Love Actually at Christmas you have to tell the truth.

New Year's Eve, Grand Central Station, 1969
Leomard Freed, photographer
Represented by Clark Gallery, Brooklyn

Sunday, December 18, 2016


The Holiday House started out as a designer event in 2008 under the inspiration of founder and event chair, Iris Dankner. It was her guiding hand that connected the design industry with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
This year the event was held in the Sullivan Mansions on Sullivan Street in Soho. The Holiday House designers took over two of the townhouses and transformed them floor by floor and room by room into the designer's inspired holiday moment. The townhouses are each five stories high highlighting New York's vertical living conundrum. Each townhouse is equipped with an elevator and a call button on each floor for the concierge or to summon your car, luxury knows no bounds.
As with most designer show houses the emphasis swings toward being editorial over really livable so for starters lets look at the living room designed by wunderkind and design chair, Ryan Korban. It's a mix of interior design and fashion in a very black and white amalgam with a little touch of grey and a big touch of pretension. For an interior design show house the wow here is the fashion and I don't think Ryan had much to do with that.
Black and white oozed from the Korban room right into the African/animal inspired room by Harry Heissmann. It was hard to find a place to focus on, a place to rest your eye. There wasn't an inch of space left that hadn't been sprayed with pattern. I doubt I could get much sleep in here.
If it weren't for the multitude of patterns it was the carousel  zebra positioned on the windowsill that would have given me nightmares. It still gives me a bit of a shudder when I see it.
Although I'm missing the holiday connection in Patrick McGrath's gentleman's dressing room the subtlety of the design was a relief and appreciated. The beautiful 19th-century Louis XIV canope was beautifully upholstered and a perfect compliment to the off-white cashmere drapes that I would have walked out with if I could have gotten past the security cameras.
There was a definite masculine air to the room from the minimalistic approach accentuated by the beautifully uncluttered writing table and handsome chair. I would love to be writing this post sitting at that desk instead of the kitchen counter on an extremely cold Wisconsin afternoon
Unfortunately from there it was back into the world of ungapatchka in a Lady's boudoir over-stuffed by Patrick Mele. From the old-fashioned balloon shades to the under-sized chandelier to the daybed with a backdrop of way too many orchids the room dripped in an aesthetic only the ladies who lunch might have appreciated but then only back in the 1980's.
The aubergine walls would have been sufficient along with the gorgeous painting but ditch the chair in matching velvet and a rug in the same tones as the walls. There's a lot to be said for editing.
Tina Ramchandani Creative used the soft shades of the beach in sand and soft sea green to evoke a space soaked in Hamptons sun and panache. There's something almost mid-century in the use of the Scandinavian inspired chair and the multi-fixtured pendant.
One of the biggest disappointments in this year's Holiday House was the two outdoor roof gardens. I had plunked down my forty dollars at about the mid-point of the show house's run. The roof was left unattended and neglected. It would have been more appropriate to have left the outdoor locked and off limits.
My favorite room titled, "Solstice", was pulled from the imagination of Tori Golub. It was a haunting black box that had the editorial appeal necessary for a show house yet the livability factor necessary to make it inviting.
This living room titled "Artistic License" by Bradfield and Tobin had the sleek modern minimalism that made it a perfect backdrop for the art sprinkled around the room. They created their envelope with wallpaper and draperies from the London firm JAB. This very subtle, monochromatic palette was the right choice for a room where art was the hero.
A constant on the New York Showroom scene Champion Platt was once again featured at the Holiday House with his "Black Friday" dining room. This was one of the rooms that actually seemed to have sought out the thematic intent of the show house emoting a festive holiday feel. Formal dining rooms can handle more drama than most rooms and Champion Platt's use of a black enclosure paired with his edited restraint made for a very sophisticated final product.
Bedrooms had their own challenges. The design of the Sullivan Mansions left the master bedrooms squeezed into a very narrow space with barely room for a bed and bedside tables. Juan Carretero chose to embrace this narrow footprint and valiantly tried to make us look upward by accentuating the vertical with lush off-white drapery panels on either side of the bed along with the wallpaper that soared over a low headboard. All of this pointed to a golden ceiling and magnificent ceiling fixture.
Whether you were just coming in or finally going out Sarah Bikoff's rose colored dining room needed no rose colored glasses. It provided its own deceptive idea of reality. This room was strictly editorial or at least way out of the wheelhouse of any client we've ever encountered.
This year I felt disappointed in the Holiday House. From the outside to the roof gardens there was insufficient maintenance and what seemed to be a lack of interest in sustaining the appeal of the house once the initial benefit parties had ended. There was work going on outside requiring you to walk through a construction zone to get in. Workers were replacing floorboards in the entry while I was there, a task that should only have happened when the house was closed. The elevators were not operating and dead flowers were everywhere. In this picture you can see the top of a pink port-a-potty just outside the window. It seemed like the perfect accessory.
Highgate Party, 1955
Thurston Hopkins, photographer
Reproductions available through Trowbridge

Thursday, December 8, 2016


I must admit I get a little obsessed with the holiday season when I'm in the city. It's my plight, my delight and my obsession to walk the miles and miles of the city soaking in every blinking light, sauced up Santa and peppermint candycane from as low as I can go on the island to has high up the avenues I could find strings of lights, wreaths and decorated trees.
My sleigh and I started at the Oculus, as far down the island as I was willing to go. 608This was the Oculus' first Christmas and like parents on their baby's first they decked the halls, here with a fantastic light show that rippled across the ceiling's webs in a sea of psychedelic snowflakes.
Then as a gift to all needing a little holiday beauty help MAC set up a free make-up station giving all of us the opportunity to look their best for those office parties.
Even the staff at the Westfield Shops looked Christmas spiffy in their holiday best cleaning up the floors with appropriate red mops
At the new Brookfield Place a tremendous new food emporium has opened up with gifts, food purveyors and a ton of restaurants just in time for the on slot of hungry holiday shoppers.
Even the office buildings pitched in with their contributions to the holiday spirit in what was here an understated but elegant way.
It seems every landmark in the city now has its own significant live fir tree wrapped with millions of lights. The New York Stock Exchange was no different perched at the south end of the Exchange the tree looms large and gives Rockefeller Center a run for its money
Although surrounded with construction the back entrance to the Stock Exchange was no less beautiful than the front. Sometimes a little dinginess adds a sense of reality and counterpoint to perfection
From lower Manhattan it was a leap up to lower Fifth Avenue and the entrance to my favorite department store, the Club Monaco at the corner of 21st Street. Their holiday take was very organic, a fairyland entrance to almost anything I'd covet.
From there it's up Fifth to 40th and Lord & Taylor. I miss their animated windows with their historic renditions of Christmas pasts at the city's most memorable landmarks like Luchow's and the Rainbow Room but technology has intervened and their new look is now more video screen and two-dimensional.
Still the family of snow owls had its appeal, the mother owl's comforting wings wrapping her warm feathers around her clutch of young.
It was a bit of a crisscross over to 42nd and Grand Central Terminal. This is a must every year for the holiday market, the food court, the Transit Museum's miniature city with its model trains and of course the central lobby.
From there it was back across 42nd to the skating rink at Bryant Park. I hit it the night they lit their tree along with a skating performance I couldn't see for all the crowds, but the smells of cinnamon and live Christmas music satisfied two other senses. I might have given up one but got two and that's not a bad trade.
The windows at Saks Fifth Avenue had their own magic this year.
Under the theme of "Land of 1000 Delights" their heroine, Clara, dreamt of her favorite nutcracker battling an army of marshmallow mice and whipping them into a sea of sweet cream
or a pair of harlequin gingerbreads dancing out from under the queen's skirt to the delight of a sea of children passing by
But the highlight is the light show that goes on every ten minutes from five until eleven pm to the track for "Carol of the Bells" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Thousands gather across the street waiting for the clock of lights to run its ten-minute cycle and start the castle of lights action over again.
If this doesn't get you in the mood then turn around and walk to the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Hovering over the skating rink the tradition of the Rockefeller tree has been around since 1933. Along with the miles of lights on the tree there's the skating rink and Prometheus to add to the excitement.
A little further up Fifth Avenue and just to the east you can pop into the St. Regis for a drink at the King Cole Bar alongside Maxfield Parrish's famous mural.
Or you can cross to the other side of Fifth and stop by the Peninsula to try out their holiday treats.
There's no way Harry Winston would even let me in the door of their famous jewelry store but peeking in through the window was a luxury I could afford
At the corner of Fifth and 57th Street is another icon of New York's gem and luxury industry, Tiffany & Company. The crystal snowflake festooned over the intersection has been a recent annual decoration.
Around the corner on 57th is another prominent name in the hotel business, The Four Seasons, whose holiday display is as subtle and elegant as you'd expect
I don't usual play favorites but Bergdorf gets my vote as best of show. They always tend to incorporate their merchandise within their holiday windows and this year was no exception but the detail that each window goes into is sheer magic.
Their windows require great scrutiny or you'll miss so much of the information behind each green leaf or spidery vine
Looking at a pair of winged carousel horses bucking up to support a bejeweled goddess was a work of mythology
And a contemporary cowgirl riding atop her jack-a-lop into a cactus filled western oasis. All of it was really the work of a genius mind whoever the designer was.
From there it was up the eastside to Bloomingdale's whose windows gave Berfdorfs a run for their money.
Inside Bloomingdale's has gone neon for the holidays with a display of white light rings in colorful plastic string bondage.
The Met was as far up as I was going to go. Stopping to see their tree and crèche was important even for those who don't believe.
The crèche a gift of Loretta Hines Howard in1964 is an assemblage of over two-hundred eighteenth century Neopolitan Baroque figures including the holy family and fifty silk gowned angels.
Whether you're looking for the spiritual or just a ho-ho-ho New York is holiday magic and a bucket list item for anyone needing a little cheer in their life. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

South Philly Xmas Window, 1972
Will Brown, photographer
Represented by Laurence Miller Gallery, NYC