Friday, January 29, 2016


Nothing says New York as exquisitely as Grand Central Station, a jewel in the city's necklace that was almost lost like a dropped earring. It was only the determination of a woman known for her pearls that Grand Central Station still exists.
"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe... this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won't all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes."
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
With this the historic preservation movement in New York City gained its feet remaining a true defender of our history so that we as a nation do not forget our architectural past.
Grand Central still bustles with travelers chasing after trains in and out of the city.
It amazes and amuses young and old with its Transit Museum.
Conductors still stand sentinel, helping guide the flow of traffic to their destinations.
Men in fedora hats still stop to have their shoes shined now with the 21st century addition of convenient computer screens to help pass the time while a profession that still requires a human shines their shoes.
The Oyster Bar has regained its glory that is as old as the terminal itself.

Newer restaurants from The Shake Shack
to Magnolia bakery have come to join it in the food court that sprawls across the lower level.
The four-sided central clock continues to be a favored meeting place for friends and lovers. "Meet me by the clock in Grand Central".
Most tickets are now purchased at ticketing kiosks or online but the ticket windows in the main floor still remain open with their beautiful brass grillwork.
The cost of a newspaper is no longer a nickel but the news shops still dot the corridors stretching through the terminal
The trains still pull in and exit on the largest track system in the world.
The ceiling has been restored to its celestial glory rubbed clean of the nicotine that had stained it into a cloud of oblivion.  Rick's Tidbit:
Soon after it was painted the astronomical ceiling design was discovered to be painted backwards! The Vanderbilt family was apprised of this snafu and to save massive amounts of money they fabricated the story that it was painted as if seen through the eyes of God.
And the lights of Pershing Square still glow from under the Park Avenue overpass.
Change is constant and needs to be welcomed with open arms but without a link to the past there would be no sense of progress. Each generation deserves to make its mark on the world so that new generations can see what has happened and draw from it to make a new future.
I hadn't intended on doing a piece on Grand Central. I was only walking through on my way from the Westside to the East when this gate caught my eye. I stopped being one of the masses rushing through the main terminal. I was struck in the same way I would be seeing a beautiful flower in a massive garden. It was the beauty of the detail, the fragrance of a single flower. The saying goes, "Stop and smell the roses". Once I stopped I was struck by the beauty of all the small pieces that make up Grand Central and from there it was another hour before I could leave having taken the time to walk each hallway and track trying to grasp that sense of history that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wanted all of us to see and to cherish.
I only just escaped the snowstorm that crippled the East Coast last week. I left New York on Wednesday before Jason blew in and turned the city to a dangerous but beautiful winter wonderland. I know the devastation to the people of coastal New Jersey and those stranded for hours on highways immobilized by the storm is a tragedy but for those lucky enough to be safely at home, a fire burning in the fireplace, a stack of unread magazines now available for perusal while wrapped in a well-worn throw, the storm gives permission to indulge in doing not much of anything more than shear indulgent relaxation. Missing the storm and going back to Madison where snow is common and rarely the cause for being stranded made me a little envious of the friends I left back in the city.
Grand Central Terminal, 1930
Hal Morey, photographer
Getty Images

Friday, January 22, 2016


The wind picked up from Saturday's milder forecast blowing little funnels of fast food wrappers and packing peanuts across Houston Street. Sunday was a gray day with a threat of icy rain or lite snow. It was the kind of weather that would normally keep the sidewalks of most car driven cities and towns empty of anything put the frozen steam erupting from manholes dotting the rock hard asphalt.
The inclement silence in all those small towns and conservative strong holds where according to a Texan Presidential hopeful people are wrapping themselves up in blankets of anger holstered against immigrant intruders seemed the antithesis of the chatter I heard on Houston Street on the northern edge of Soho in lower Manhattan. I had just emerged from the subway's concrete tunnel my hands in my pockets and a warm knit hat on my head. A little wind, temperatures hovering around freezing, a gray sky threatening to blow in the flakes of winter hadn't emptied the street separating Noho from Soho in Manhattan.
Lower Broadway was filled with the languages of South America, France, India, the Middle East and even Kansas as the crowds jostled along some stopping to take selfies using New York's skyline as a backdrop. New York has always been a hospitable host to its tourists and a gateway to its many immigrants. It's a city with its hand out to help and its heart filled with compassion.
As the snow started to descend there wasn't a made rush to get home or back to a hotel room, instead locals popped out their umbrellas and tourists wound another scarf around their necks. The brilliance and the energy of the city seemed to give everyone the warmth they needed to continue on. One man with his umbrella raised pointed out a direction to a young Eastern European couple that had stopped on the corner of West Broadway and Prince holding a map and looking confused.
As the lite snow fell a group of thirty-something's made up of mixed nationalities burst into laughter while waiting their turn in line outside a local restaurant oblivious to the cold or their diverse cultures.
I spent the afternoon zigzagging through the West Village and up through Chelsea where anyone could walk hand-in-hand unimpeded by taunts or the feeling that they were anything less than equal.
In the shelter of the Port Authority an Asian woman went around with a huge cooler of fresh fruit and sandwiches handing them out to the homeless men who gathered inside the back entrance of the bus terminal their clothing insufficient to keep the cold at bay.
As I sat on the subway going back to our apartment on the Upper Westside a young girl and her mother sat opposite me. Before the train got too crowded I could hear the conversation between the two of them. The girl leaned her head on her mother's shoulder and said, "We're so lucky". Her mother, still looking forward, asked why. The girl responded with a list of simple things: her bed, a warm home, her hat. Then she stopped for a moment and said, "and our friends" as she turned with a smile and looked at the stranger standing holding the strap in front of her.
We may pronounce "Houston" differently than they do where Mr. Cruz comes from but that's a difference we can live with. Open arms and the acceptance of those differences is what I see as New York values and that seems a lot better than the rhetoric congealed in anger, fear and divisiveness.
Aiding the Injured
Todd Maisel, photographer
Getty Images

Friday, January 15, 2016


It seems everyone has an opinion when it comes to choosing the color of the year. Certainly every paint manufacturer has an opinion. We did a post near the end of last year when Benjamin Moore came out with its choice: OC-117, Simply White. I was all in on this pick back in October 2015.
Here's what I had to say then:
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."
Now as we slide into 2016 a whole plethora of voices have added their two cents to the name game of choosing their color of the year.
Sherwin-Williams has followed a similar track to Benjamin Moore going with their SW7008, Alabaster. Their description of Alabaster rings the same bell as Benjamin Moore saying,

"It provides an oasis of calmness, spirituality and 'less is more' visual relief. Alabaster is neither stark nor overly warm, but rather an understated and alluring white." I can buy into this in the same way I bought into Simply White.
Glidden was the third American company to weigh in on a shade of white for 2016. They selected their Cappuccino White, 45YY 74/073. They describe it as "a delicate, creamy neutral that creates a peaceful calm in any space."
Maybe it has something to do with all the craziness that went on in 2015 from terrorism to the Kardashians to Donald Trump the design community seems to think we all need to calm down and find that place of peace in a white home devoid of distractions and contrast.
The Europeans have also weighed in and deservedly so they've chosen to mourn with Fine Paints of Europe choosing Piano Keys #0029 as their top choice,
a high-gloss rich black. It is the opposite of  America's white but the effect is very similar.
Now it is time for the color czar, Pantone, to come out with their selection and for the first time in their history they've announced a double winner: Rose Quartz, Pantone 13-1520 and Serenity, Pantone 15-3919. They chose to explain their choice this way: "Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace". It does seem peace is on the minds of everyone but pink and blue. I'm feeling more like I've been invited to a baby shower. Where the white (and black as well) have a very strong message of regeneration, going back to square one and starting over, the very wishy-washy choice of pink and baby blue seems an odd throwback.
One can go all the way back to the eighteenth century and Thomas Lawrence's Pinky alongside Gainsborough's Blue Boy.
This gender specific choice of side-by-side Rose Quartz and Serenity Blue seems like such a step backwards to the 1950's when we were all swaddled from birth in pink and blue. I know that as a generation ages there is frequently a desire to turn the clock back and wax nostalgic about the times gone by but this combination baffles me. The colors appear very old-fashioned and perhaps by themselves could be interesting and soothing but together they don't seem to help each other out. It's almost an institutional vibe good only in giving a hospital maternity ward a safe non-threating feel.
In spite of my unenthusiastic response I have seen that some major lifestyle stores must have had forewarning of the color edict for the year and have rushed these colors into their product mixes in upholstery and accessories. It will be interesting to see whether the trend sells out or ends up on the discount and sale counter.
So here's the challenge. I've done what research I could to see if I could find any designers who might have found a way of combining these colors into a successful design concept. I couldn't find much. This was the best I could add to this blog: a restaurant where both the pink and blue have been ramped up to a playful level that seems to speak to fun rather than contemplation.
But most attempts ended up looking more like a candy store, way to sweet even for my sweet tooth.
Even Jamie Drake, the master of color, had to emphasize the rose as a complement to grey relegating the blue to the floor to make it work. If anyone else would like to give it a stab I'd be delighted to see your responses.
Good luck hunting!

Sleeping Child. 1950
Arthur Leipzig, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery

Friday, January 8, 2016


Time to close out the holiday season so we can move on to the New Year. We closed out the year with the week between Christmas and New Year spent in Tennessee where the weather soared to the mid-seventies, the grass was emerald green and all but this one Christmas tree was made of plastic.
Chattanooga remains a city that has transformed itself into a major cultural hub for the South. Every time we get a chance to visit there are a couple of sites that are mandatory stops no matter how short our time on the banks of the Tennessee River. The holidays and the requisite required family affairs didn't leave for a lot of free time but we still managed to hit the Hunter Art Museum and our favorite shopping space, Warehouse Row. We've written about these two attractions before but I can't help repeating the travelogue because each time we come and the tour the experience is different.
For years the Hunter Museum of American Art remained a little collection of regional works and Hudson River School paintings exhibited in a classical revival mansion perched on a cliff overlooking downtown Chattanooga and the Tennessee River. For almost fifty years beginning in 1952 when the Hunter opened the museum's biggest draw was less the collection but its Christmas tree display that attracted locals to the mansion on the hill.
In 2002 the museum partnered with the city of Chattanooga expanding the museum with an addition designed by the architect, Randall Stout.
This raised the museum's visibility to where it is now considered to contain one of the most extensive collections of American art in the Southeast.

I love roaming the rooms of the new addition with its collection of works by such art world icons as Thomas Hart Benton, Robert Rauschenberg, Mary Cassatt and Frank Stella.
There is also an extensive collection of pottery, tabletop and glassware but a large part of its attraction is the building itself.
From the old world charm of the 1904 mansion
to the award winning metal cladding of the exterior of the new addition
to the beautiful simplicity of the interior exhibition halls it remains a must for us every time we travel to Chattanooga.
Warehouse Row has had a very up and down history ever since its original repurposing in the 1980's. I've envied the industrial heritage of Chattanooga ever since we started coming here. The architectural history that industry has left to cities like Chattanooga is something we Madisonians have missed out on.
The Warehouse started out as a high-end outlet mall that slowly sank into disuse with the fall of the economy. In 2006 the buildings were purchased by a development company, the Jamestown group, and reinvigorated into what they have labeled: a community retail concept.
They employed the same kind of attention to the architecture's humble grandeur that can be seen in other Jamestown properties like Chelsea Market in New York City and with this a new success story has been written in Chattanooga.
Jamestown's attention to incorporating the manufacturing style of the building into its public areas goes way beyond any mall you'll see across the rest of America.
There is a high style projected through out the building utilizing industrial materials in ingenious ways: recycled metal sheets as wallcovering and then bent into cones as a lighting pendant.
A huge nautical rope suspends a chandelier made from leather straps, a metal barrel rim and Edison light bulbs.
Even the painted floors in black and white stripes are integrated in a way that reflects the retail stores that line a part of the interior.
The shops that have now taken up residence all qualify as unique boutiques. The only chains posting a storefront are Anthropologie and J. Crew yet both seem right in place here.
Even though there wasn't a bookstore on board many of the shops used books as an adjunct to their blend of products. Some of my favorites were published by one of the South's most famous magazines, Garden&Gun.
Who could resist a copy of The Southerner's Handbook, A guide to Living the Good Life.
We once again crossed the threshold at Revival, one of the best-orchestrated home design stores anywhere in the U.S.
Their product mix of furniture and accessories both vintage and new is amazing.
There are exceptional pieces left to stand on their own,
small vignettes of collected memory pieces
and areas set up to replicate rooms showing customers how they can mix pieces together to get the Revival look.
It's impossible to walk through Revival with Billy, one of the owners, and not be inspired. As I mentioned in the introduction this is not the first time we've done a blog on Revival and my guess is it won't be the last.
If you find yourself in Chattanooga or even near it stopping by Revival and Warehouse Row is worth a stop and don't forget it has one of the South's best regional restaurants, Tupelo Honey, for some fresh, scratch-made southern comfort food.
On our way back to Wisconsin we had scheduled a New Year's Day stop in Sevierville to see friends who had just moved there the past fall. Sevierville rests in the mountains where Dolly Parton grew up. On the first turn of our journey up the mountain we passed the Blowing Cave  Mill built in 1880. It was only the start of our postcard trip up the mountain.  The roads to get to our friends cabin in the sky was over some of the most heart-stopping hairpin turns I've had to drive on but the scenery was worth the damage to our collective nerves.
Having gone to the top of the mountain we could understand why our friends decided to move to Tennessee where the air is cool and fresh, although they are planning on coming back to Wisconsin once the heat sets in and the bugs get too overwhelming. Still its hard to resist this amazing natural beauty.
Robert Frank's Studio, 2011
Christopher Rauschenberg, photographer
Represented by Laurence Miller Gallery