Thursday, March 31, 2016


There's always been a struggle between the Architectural Digest Show and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. Both focus on the design industry, both combine high-profile manufacturers with up and coming one-man shops, both work with an international assortment of vendors, and, unfortunately, they both end up being uneven shows.
The Architectural Digest Show was held from March 17th-20th at the Piers in Manhattan. The show differentiates itself from ICFF in that it's more consumer directed.
The layout of the Piers is in an upside down "T" making three wings. One wing is devoted almost entirely to appliances with all the big guys taking up the majority of space. It's a consumer high-point as do-it-yourselfers flock to Sub-Zero and Viking to see the newest upgrades in kitchen wine cabinets and self-cleaning griddles. My favorite is Smeg, if only for their name. Their claim to fame isn't so much around technology as it is around retro design.
Bathrooms weren't left out of the mix in this wing of practical necessities. I loved the look of this stone free-standing bathtub but a comfortable soak looked as if it would be difficult to obtain with the straight angles and its defiance of ergonomics.
Art, furniture and accessories populated the other two arms of the Pier. It was a mixed bag going back and forth between genius and ridiculous.
On the side of genius was the ever-present Wud furniture company. They are masters of flawless design and construction. Their invisible welds and meticulous attention to detail are hallmarks of their refined product line.
On the other side of the coin the show went to extremes offering the quirky with armoires dressed up as butlers in  tuxedos and automobile grills masquerading as bars.
Making a standout statement doesn't have to be kooky to get attention. Kim Markel has spent the last few years developing a recycled product out of discarded eyeglasses, soda bottles and cafeteria trays. Mixed with resin on a seventy to thirty percent ratio the pastel chairs, side table s and accessories are softly charming in their imperfections. I can't wait to see how Kim expands her product line and her color palette in the next rendition of her jellybean delicious artistry.
If you were looking for whimsical it was there in spades or more like magic marker with the booth from Flat Vernacular.
A wallpaper and furniture company their space populated with colorists dressed in white paint suits and pink sneakers mounted scaffolding and worked and worked on coloring in the black and white coloring book wallpaper.
Splattered around the booth were upholstered pieces from their Dondi Collection making a real splash. The whole booth was shear entertainment and inspiration for anyone willing to move to the wild side.
If you were really looking for the wild side a stop at Forsyth specializing in natural hides was worth the trip. The aesthetic here was well honed as long as you can get past the source of its beauty. I don't necessarily have an issue with natural hides. I've used suede fabric on a number of projects so it would be hypocritical of me to condemn their product but I understand how some could find their source repugnant. If you can get by your opposition to a hide company go to their website: and sign up for their Saturday marnin cartoons. It's a graphic and design treat that goes well beyond their product.
If you looked hard and sifted and winnowed through all of the lighting, there were treasures to be found. Luke Lamp showed off their bendable lighting, a fixture you could leave as a linear as snake or twist into a knotted chandelier.
When I think of Hubbardton Forge my image of them is more wrought iron, arts and crafts and outdoor lighting even though I've used them for some of the most contemporary applications in former projects. That's why one of my favorite finds at the Architectural Digest Show was Hubbardton Forge's Link collection of glass and chrome pendants. I thought this low voltage fixture was stunning. I'm hoping it also comes as sconce.
ABC Carpet and Home had its usual eclectic booth but there was a lighting fixture of mini bulbs that projected a pastel rainbow. You'd need to have a simple wall to project on but the effect was so playful and unique I'm dreaming up ideas of how and where to use it.
I began with pointing out that I thought the show was uneven and I still feel that way. There was an emphasis on putting out design that was forced outside the box and not in a good way.
There were too many artists and vendors trying to draw attention by over embellishing or forcing the imagination by turning objects that had no need into being something other than what they were intended to be.
I far more appreciated those designers that kept to their design principles like Vetro Vero Glass turning out exquisite examples of great design through shape, color and material.

Star of Bethlehem (#98), 1997
Masatomo Kuriya, photographer
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery

Thursday, March 24, 2016


DIFFA and Dining by Design have always been close to our hearts. DIFFA, Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, began with a covert meeting back in 1984 when AIDS was only mentioned in whispers. A group of concerned industry personalities got together at textile designer, Pat Green’s office, to try to figure out a way to help other industry members who were succumbing to this mysterious disease. The organization has grown over the past thirty plus years with a national presence and having raised over forty-one million dollars in the fight against AIDS. We started our relationship with Dining by Design with our own table in 2004 and were given the opportunity to continue for the next three years designing tables for the New York Design Center one of the most prominent supporters of the event ever since its inception. We followed that up as mentors for the New York School of Interior Design the first year student tables were added to the mix.
Every year since I’ve made the pilgrimage to each new venue to see the amazing creativity put forth all in the name of this worthy cause.
The event has had its major sponsorship jump around from one shelter magazine to another. The torch has been passed from Elle Décor to Architectural Digest to its present torch holder Interior Design magazine and the guidance of Cindy Allen. The venues have changed as well from the Hammerstein Ballroom to the Tunnel to the Piers and its alliance with the Architectural Digest Show. The event has shrunk a bit but the quality hasn’t diminished. 
Technology has become a testing ground for some of the new entries and as always the Rockwell Group is at the head of that vanguard. The LAB at Rockwell Group partnered with Lightwave International and installed a mist wall that they then were able to project on creating a gossamer curtain of bubbling lights reminiscent of city lights reflecting off of wet pavement. It was impossible for most people walking through the exhibit not to run their hands through the curtain of mist as they walked by.
White worked for Benjamin Moore when they chose Simply White as their color of the year. They continued to play this up with their table this year where the art on the walls was nothing more than crumpled paper painted various shades of Ben Moore whites.
The result of the whole room was irresistibly sophisticated and elegant. The mid-eastern inspired chairs from Global Views and the white candelabras made for a table set for a sultan.
Not to be left on the dark side Crate and Barrel concocted their version of the white room. Their fluffy faux fur seating was in direct contrast to their back wall exploding in broken shards made from porcelain dishes.
Far from the white of Benjamin Moore and Crate & Barrel, Ghislaine Vinas created a deeply eerie dinner setting with an indigo blue room for Sunbrella fabrics. A canopy of blue leaves dripped a trio of banana bunch light fixtures spreading their light onto a plateless table top. The moodiness of this tableau was mesmerizing and enchanting.
Continuing around the color wheel Arteriors chose agate green with brass accents for their salon. The stone inspired wallcovering along with the velvet covered benches reflected in the circular mirrors provided an ambiance of haute cuisine.
Architectural Digest decided on a very African inspired direction with their table. Their use of juju hats as wall décor along with African mola applique art add to the free trade hand-crafted appeal of their table.
I arrived early on Thursday afternoon, the day the event opened. The cocktail event was scheduled for that evening. What I was surprised to see was some of the tables were still under production. One was the second Rockwell table, an entire room scribbled by Jon Burgeman. The fact that the table was a work in progress may have been the intent here. It gave all of us a chance to see Jon at work making his very famous doddles.
Another table still under construction Thursday afternoon was Kravet’s entry. This one may have been the result of miscalculated time rather than an opportunity to see an artist at his craft. The chairs, all done in Kravet fabrics were designed by a Canadian wedding dress designer making all the chairs bride’s maids with billowing skirts and flowing trains.
Like many a bride’s maid there were some last minute fittings necessary to get all of those corseted bodices securely sewn in.
One of the stalwart supporters of DIFFA and an annual presenter at Dining by Design is the New York Design Center. They chose Antonino Buzzetta to design their birthday table in honor of NYDC’s ninetieth birthday. Set in a New York City backyard complete with graffiti walls the food here is already on the tables and it is sweet.
From the funky to the classical, The New York Times table employed the design expertise of Lladro and Darrin Varden. With classic marble panels, hints of gold and silver and topped with Lladro chandeliers and sconces this was an exceptionally traditional entry into the fray. The royal red doesn’t hurt either with cementing this very classy room.
And now for a trip from the classic to the whimsical, Robert Allen’s table designed by the very talented duo of Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke of Madcap Cottage renown. Known for their eclectic design and putting pattern on pattern you can’t look at their table and not breakout into an ear-to-ear grin.
Their new line of fabrics referencing the floras and geometrics of the 1930’s and 40’s has a spirit defined by joy.
As I mentioned earlier student tables were a concept pulled into the mix several years ago. One of the goals with these tables was to show the young talent ready to enter into the design community as its next generation. A second goal was to show what could be done with a limited budget and that good design is not contingent on the amount of money one has to spend.  A great example of this is the table by Parsons The New School of Design.
The goals of this event have always been to generate awareness of the disease and to help develop a plan for creating a cure for a disease that for decades was a death sentence.
With the help of organizations like DIFFA the disease is no longer a ticket to the graveyard. Thousands of people are now able to live full lives while living with HIV and AIDS but many more are still unable to get that necessary help. There are still many hurdles to jump for the disease to be only a part of our history and until that happens I’ll be supporting DIFFA and the Dining by Design event.
Please consider contributing to this remarkable organization.

AIDS Memorial Quilt on the Washington Mall

From the National Institutes of Health

Thursday, March 17, 2016


New York City has always been a magnet for the physically gifted ever since the gritty city became the American hub of the beauty industry. Artists, models and wannabes have migrated to the desks of gallery owners and the casting couches of those looking to be the next Cindy Crawford. Model hopefuls come from far and wide to be discovered wishing to land the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue or to earn a pair of wings for the Victoria's Secret runway show. Statuesque beauty is a confrontational sport on the streets of Soho and intimidation is everywhere for those of us less physically endowed.
The same occurs in the arena of Architecture where buildings rise all hoping for their chance at a pair of wings and a walk down the city's runway to the applause of architectural critics and connoisseurs. Many fail, but with the partial opening to the public earlier this month of the Oculus in lower Manhattan a new set of wings was literally bestowed on a new steel and stone supermodel.
Here's some history and facts. The Oculus is the design child of Spanish Architect, Santiago Calatrava.
For all Wisconsin readers, he is the same architect who designed the Milwaukee Art Museum. Both designs take flight as a concept as both structures stand poised to take off with their graceful white steel wings.
The Museum functions as a repository for some of the world's art while the Oculus moves people and trains. Both structures make people stop to look not only at the art and humanity but at the building itself.
The design for the Oculus began in 2006 and construction commenced in 2008 with the arrival of the first fabricated ribs.
Because of the structural accuracy necessary, each rib could be no more than an eighth of an inch off, there were only four firms capable of manufacturing these ribs and all of them were located in Italy.
Each rib had to be brought in by boat to Red Hook and then transported over the Manhattan Bridge to the site, all 11,500 tons of steel ribs. Eventually all 588 pieces would make their way to the site at Liberty Plaza.
Finally after 612,330 man hours and counting and a bill of almost four billion dollars, double the original projected cost, the Oculus' grand hall has now been open to the public. I'm not sure if any landmark building has come in on or under budget and
I'm not sure if ten years down the road anyone will care. What I do believe is the building despite some of the features that had to be eliminated will be a vilified addition to the list of the top architectural highlights in the city.
No true original finds its way onto that list without controversy and the Oculus has met its share mostly from those opposed to the budget and allocation of funds some felt could have been better spent elsewhere. For me the money spent to transform the idea of the Oculus into a reality was money well spent.
It provides another reason for people to come to the city. It pins a badge of civic pride on the financial district that makes the area more desirable and that makes the area safer. Take a walk through the Path station at Herald Square and then go down to the Oculus. You tell me where you'd rather be.
Architecture can be inspirational. The religious world found this out very early on and secular architecture continues to be a tourist draw in almost every major city.
You can not help but be intrigued by the unique structure hovering with outstretched wings on the ground as you approach Liberty Tower, its skeletal asymmetry spreading out over the grounds of the 911 Memorial.
Experience the sensual curves overlapping the shear walls of glass of the surrounding structures.
Walk into the great hall of the Oculus with its soaring wings and feel the power of architecture and be overwhelmed by the purity of the minimalistic interior and stark holiness of a white on white arena.
There is a correlation between its blinding brightness and the light many have equated with the entrance to heaven. Go to the Oculus and try not to be inspired. I dare you.

Swimming Pool, Russia, 2003
Andrew Moore, photographer
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, NYC