Friday, February 26, 2016


Apparently Madison and the surrounding lake country fall on the planet at just the right spot for the insane sport of iceboating. There exists a narrow band of the earth where lake sized bodies of water can freeze over yet have pockets of time where the temperature rises above freezing so the sun can melt the upper layers of ice and then refreezes the surface as the temperature goes back below freezing ending in a smooth Zamboni-esque plane perfect for the skate-like runners of an iceboat.  Couple this smooth surface with a temperature that doesn't normally dip to artic, a snow cover usually thin and lite enough to blow away leaving the ice clean and clear, then add a bit of wind and you've got the perfect conditions for sliding around on water turned solid at speeds that can become death inducing.
Iceboating has been a part of my sporting vocabulary for as long as I can remember, but only as a spectator. Growing up a block away from Lake Monona when winter hit we'd head over to the hill just beyond Starkweather Creek where Oscar Mayer would erect a toboggan slide that looked like a giant ski jump to my eight year old eyes.
The walk from our house to the toboggan run was along the lake shoreline where most days the iceboats were out making figure eights on the lake.
There's incredible beauty in the grace of sailing whether in summer or winter. There's beauty in their effortless movement.
There's also beauty in the crafts themselves. Then there's the beauty in the iceboat rider's abandonment of danger and fear.
With a gust of an unexpected wind surge these riders can reach speeds careening close to one hundred miles per hour. Slamming into an ice floor at that speed is nearly suicidal.
But wind is the clean energy that propels these crafts and without the wind there's no movement, no regatta and subsequently no danger.
Most of these iceboaters thrive on danger.
They move with the wind gliding on one blade
as they shift directions with a ballet dancer's balance and a racecar driver's nerve.
With that in mind I'm fairly confident that I'll be remaining on the sidelines as this weeks Madison regatta continues to play cat and mouse with the winds and the fluctuating temperatures waiting for that perfect moment when they become both professional dancer and supreme athlete.
Ice Skating Waiter, St. Moritz, 1932
Alfred Eisenstaedt, photographer
Available through Gallery M

Friday, February 19, 2016


I overheard the salesman at the local furniture store in Madison that goes by a name that starts with a word for a beer mug and ends with a word that rhymes with "awful", ask a matronly customer if she was looking for a coffee or a cocktail table. She peered over the edge of her black-rimmed spectacles and indignantly said, "A coffee table of course." "Oh then you'll want a rectangular or square table, let me show you what we have" he retorted with a straight face and not an iota of sarcasm.
The truth is there's not any substantial research I could find that found any difference between a coffee table and a cocktail table other than the letters that follow "co" in their names. They're both defined as low tables usually placed in front of a sofa used as a convenient surface for placing a glass or a mug.
I haven't done a very large survey and I think over the past several decades my theory has gotten a bit muddled but the difference seems to be more regional than anything else.  It seems most New Yorkers, North Easterners and those on the West Coast refer to it as a "cocktail" table while those in the South and Mid-West give it the daintier moniker of "coffee" table.
So with no preference to coffee vs. cocktail I present some interesting tables I've admired with some special nods to our own designs.
Here's one on the high-end side that clings to the title of "coffee". Peter Sandback has developed a very loyal following for his nail head collection. Using a variety of nail heads hammered into exotic woods each coffee table is battered and patterned into exquisite designs consisting of thousands of metal nail heads.
Simplicity in design forms the foundation for the design of our Flambeau collection cocktail table. A handsome wooden base supports a concrete top that can be tinted in a range of earth tones.
I fell for the clean lines and feather light appearance of the Sawyer cocktail table. The round forged metal base has an inset top of ambrosia maple, the same species used for bowling-alley floors. That's two for cocktail and one for coffee if anyone's been counting.
Speaking of bowling-alleys and evening up the score the Midland Point Woodshop was able to salvage the wood from a bowling alley that was being torn down and used it to make these unique coffee tables.
Not to be outdone in the arena of repurposing, this entry is both functional with its added storage capabilities and exhibits a real sense of humor to boot. Oh, and its classified as a coffee table by its Etsy seller so I'm not so sure this should count in the tally.
Another unique twist on the cocktail table is the River Stone available from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. It's more art than table and comes in either a silver-leaf finish or warm bronze. It gives "Lets get stoned" a whole new meaning.
For a much softer approach Rick has developed the Marcia Nesting Ottoman as part of our Mendota Collection.
This is a very self-serving entry and even though it's never referred to as either a cocktail or coffee table it tends to offer the function of a coffee/cocktail table plus the added benefit of doubling as additional seating.
I can't do a posting on low tables without referencing the most famous table of all - the Naguchi Coffee Table. Originally design for A. Conger Goodyear, president of the Museum of Modern Art in 1939, it was reproduced for the Herman Miller catalogue in 1947 where it was billed as "sculpture-for-use". It has been in production ever since and knocked off by more retailers than I can count.
The Teso Table is billed as a low table by its designers, Foster + Partners, so they'll have to remain sitting on the coffee or cocktail fence competition. The base of the Teso is actually built from a flat sheet of metal that is perforated by a robotic arm creating the mesh that has been strength tested to hold the etched glass top. It is available through Molteni & C  in either a bronze, silver or gold colored finish.
West Elm is offering a three-tiered painted coffee table they're calling the Clover Coffee Table. It combines both wood and metal in a contemporary nod to mid-century modern.
Here are some coffee tables utilizing live edge wooden tops. Aesthetically there's very little more impressive than a huge chunk of beautiful wood. Wood Land Creek makes these one-of-a-kind rich slabs on a metal base they call the Tree of Life. The base for these tables stays pretty much the same but the slabs are custom and the development of the design is a collaboration between the buyer and the designer and the slabs that are available at the time.
A new favorite of ours is the Live Edge Walnut Slab Coffee Table by Chris Jungbluth of Capital Joinery in Madison, WI. It's live edge wooden top cantilevers off an asymmetrical wooden base made from contrasting wood species.
This table comes with no provenance that I could find but the shear beauty of such a big chunk of wood is unbelievably gorgeous. Unfortunately, with no history I can't label it either coffee or cocktail but either one is a dangerous prognosticator of a major disaster via its big divots that could swallow up an entire coffee pot or a shaker of old fashions.
It feels as if coffee might have won out over cocktail but my research has to be rated as highly suspect given the abundance of tables out there and my ability to quantify anything more than a very small percentage of them. I'll leave it up to you to make your choice for either a cup of java or a margarita.
La Palabra es Cosa de Vida o Muerte (the word is a matter of life and death) 2005
Priscilla Monge, photographer
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, NYC

Thursday, February 11, 2016


We thought we'd left the mercantile aspect of our lives behind us but once you've gone shop owner you never go back. So I wanted to get this out before our brief venture back into retail disappears like the steam off of Lake Mendota.
When Leslie Watkins approached us with her brainchild, a pop-up event centered around the home, we were flattered. She oohed and aahed about our linen collection and seduced us into participating. We thought we were being asked to come in with a table, a couple of chairs, and our tablecloths, pillowcases and napkins. It wasn't until we did our walk-through and she started showing us complete store spaces and asking us, which one we'd like to take that we saw the undertaking of a shop meant more than a table or booth. If we thought we could have backed out then I think we would have if it weren't for Leslie being such a good friend.
We went back to the drawing board to see what we could do to expand our vision. We called our furniture manufacturer, Black Wolf Design, to see what furniture samples we could ship down for the shop.
We went through our storage area to see what we could pull.
We took apart the closet where we store all of our flatware.
We even trashed our garage pulling items we had left over from our store on East Wilson.
Then Rick set up a sweat shop in our basement where we batch dyed vintage linen that needed weeks of ironing and a case of spray starch.
We'd really like to see any and all of you who can make it over to Hilldalle to say hello. The event continues Friday through Sunday, February 12-14, starting at eleven all three days. Hopefully some of these pictures will entice you to make the trip.
And for all of you way to far away to hit the actual shop we hope you can enjoy the scenery and make a purchase in your mind where the price is always in your budget.

Let us know if you see anything you like or just give us a shout out so we know you're out there.

Rick and Lee

Friday, February 5, 2016


I hadn't planned on it but I found myself in New York at the same time as the New York Gift Fair now known as NY NOW. The show has shrunk and is now limited to the Javits. It used to flow over onto the Piers and at one time had a pier devoted entirely to home: furniture and accessories. Since then the Architectural Digest Show and ICFF have commandeered that segment of the market leaving the home section at NY NOW a little on home lines.
With such a thin selection deciphering trends may be a bit skewed but here are the things that either impressed me or made me say WTF.
We've written about color trends for 2016 a couple of times already so bear with me one more time. I kept looking for Pantone's pink and baby blue but didn't see a whole lot of it.
The most prevalent color seemed to be a faded aqua that I felt was far more sophisticated than the baby blue Pantone was pushing.
Orange seemed to be hanging around in all its juice spitting pizzazz.
Tangerine Tango was Pantone's selection last year and it seems to have some real staying power in the world of furniture and accessory design.

It seems everyone was looking to make life a little bit fuzzier and a little softer than I had seen in the past. The fur flew on the obvious elements like pillows and throws but
who thought you'd see it as a holiday Christmas tree
or as jacket for a book.

The use of metal is always present at the show but some of the more ingenious uses could be seen at Zenza with their perforated metal lighting fixtures. There was a definite Moroccan feel to many of the patterns but these fixtures could fit very comfortably into many of the popular interior design styles prevalent today.
One of my favorite design lines for a long time has been Ercole, a design firm whose strength is in its finishes. This year they've unveiled a new finish called Galaxy, a reflective space age finish that shimmers luxury.
Bungalow set out a selection of metal based magnifiers that are both quirky and functional. Perched on pedestals these binocular inspired accessories were something new in the accessory market, an appropriate addition to any library.
It seemed as if every rug vendor was highlighting the very popular over-dyed Oriental and Persian rugs. The process first appeared at ABC Home where vintage patterned rugs that had seen their better days were dyed in vibrant colors allowing the patterns to show through but giving the rugs new life via some very sexy contemporary color palettes.

Several vendors used infinite variety in their color offerings tapping into any color you could imagine.
Thanks to them you can now dress your library in a monochromatic line of faux books or make your bookshelves in a rainbow of color. The faux book library is becoming a popular option for a new generation that no longer purchases their reading material in hardcover but instead stores everything on a tablet or Kindle making all those library shelves obsolete and begging for some faux company.
Candles come in variety of scents but now the containers that they come in can coordinate with your décor, no matter what color palette you've chosen
And now for what to do with all those cords that connect our home outlets to our technology. The Color Cord Company has developed cloth covered cords that will compliment any décor. They look like very fancy bungee cords but how much fun are these. You no longer have to figure out a way to hide those annoying cords, instead let them snake around your home office spreading a colorful smile where just plain ugly used to reside.

The popular West African Juju hat made its appearance in several booths. Now reproduced in a variety of exotic feathers these circular bursts of color have become a popular wall decoration.
Barloga Studios exhibited a selection of fine art photographic prints of feathers. These digital photos are printed on Nepalese handmade papers giving them an old world feel. Reproduced in black and white or sepia toned these twenty by thirty inch pieces come in with a very low price tag. They can be ordered unframed or you can have them delivered handsomely framed in an archival shadow box where the image floats like a feather suspended on a gentle midair breeze.
Since furniture wasn't a hot product for the show it was a real pleasure to see one when it went on display. Some stuck out more than others. Jonathan Adler's take on the medieval jaws of chastity was one that drew my attention. It was like a Venus Fly Trap masquerading in the form of a chair.
Contrasting fabric and big prints were making a statement for people willing to make a statement.
A wrap chair out of worn leather with a very high back made its appearance in the industrial market but keeping a very cozy appeal. It was seating you could really sink into.
Then there was this laminated wooden chair that rode the surprising waves of comfort with a slight bounce incorporated into its design

Here's what I would have bought if I had the need, the money, or the store to put it in. Candles are always a weakness for me and it was hard to pass up some of the new shapes and scents I found at the show. Lafco is always near the top of my list and this year was no different. I'd buy these for their presentation alone but the scents are just as enticing and the bonus is even after the smell has dissipated into the air on a thin trail of smoke you have this beautiful piece of art glass left. Now their incense sticks come with a beautiful glass decanter that can be used as a bedside water container or a vase for a single flower.
Then Zodax came out with a new line of candles that range in size from the diminutive five inches to the incredible twenty inch version with a 300 hour burn time. How do you say magnificent in Italian?
I also loved these utility bags. They're made by eqpd out of coated fabric. They have a holding strength of up to ninety pounds. That's two cement blocks. Function comes first but I thought these bags had incredible visual appeal.
In addition to the utility bag they also make a grocery bag and a tote. And they come in delicious orange as well.

Buy Now, Pay Later
David Graham, photographer
Represented by Laurence Miller Gallery