Thursday, December 7, 2017


The first time the doors opened on New York's Holiday House was back in 2008. It was the vision of Iris Dankner, a breast cancer survivor. She wanted to fill a void in the design showhouse market that wasn't focusing on women's issues. This year as in the past nine years designers and architects have contributed to creating a showcase for their work and a way of contributing to an important women's cause, breast cancer research. The show came to a close on Wednesday. I toured the house on Monday wandering through the four floors of the historic Academy Mansion on East 63rd Street.
The first thing to catch my eye was  right in the entry designed by BJS Associates.
Hidden under a fur throw was Johnny Swing's signature half-dollar welded chair. I've loved this chair from way back in the 1990"s when I first saw it at an ICFF show. It's a tremendous collector's art piece that's way more comfortable than it looks. Unfortunately, the price tag is not quite as comfortable
Walking through the entry leads right into one of the larger rooms in the showhouse designed by Groves & Company. It's titled the parlor. It offers a sleek contradiction to the very traditional envelope that encloses it. The high contrast black, white and silver design was a bit under-whelming and the issue of how to fill a very tall space seemed ignored with elements that only seemed to the cut the room in half on a horizontal plane. Huge vertical drapes were used to disguise the walls but if they had used a bold print or color other than white it might have solved the issue of ceiling that felt miles above your head.
There's a view from the parlor through a gentleman's lounge to the dining room designed by Kim Radovich Interiors.
This was one of my favorite spaces.
Of course, Kim was given some gorgeous architecture to work with, from the beautifully ornate vaulted ceiling to the arched windows the space was hard to muck up.
I loved everything from the art on the wall
to the exquisite table settings.
This room alone was worth the $40 entry ticket
Usually if you're given a small space you end up stuck with not being able to make a major splash but Stedila Design did a simple but significant creation under the main floors spiral staircase.
Playing off the curves of the staircase and illuminating the space with a cascading angular chandelier were just the right notes to create an eye-catching and an impressive conversation nook.
Sometimes meeting and talking to the designer at a showhouse is just as important as the design itself. That was the case with the tented courtyard supper club designed by Anna Maria Mannarino.
Even though it was the end of the show, Anna Maria remained in her space greeting and chatting. She was gracious and informative. This wasn't her first rodeo. She had done over a dozen shows and unlike most participants had collected commissions from all of them. The credit goes to her personality and willingness to engage.
If this hallway designer had just taken it down a notch it could have been a real showstopper. It was a showstopper but not in a good way.
The room at the end of this striped hallway was in total contrast to the opulent lead up created by that striped hallway. Alyssa Kapito's serene and inviting living room was a space I could live in.
Beautiful furniture
A monochromatic color palette
and a simplicity of design made for a space you could relax in in total comfort.
Two smaller rooms; one by Natalie Kraiem Interiors
and the other by Patrick Lonn Design were well worth walking into
but Robin Baron's elegant sitting room was a treat of two sweets.
The main room was like a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffle, subtle in pastels and highlighting some of Robin's new furniture and rug collections,
the other an Easter basket of jelly beans and hard candy, fun and irreverent. Robin was there to walk you through and explain it all, a total sweet tooth experience.
Young Huh's kitchen in collaboration with Bosch was a hard one to understand.
The circuit board design on the cabinetry and storage wall was confusing and disjointed looking tacked on in the traditionally paneled existing architecture.
There's a fourth floor at the Academy and it seems everyone who gets stuck with this space is up against a losing battle. This year the room was turned into a game room but the result wasn't one I'd want to play in. It was more a promotional space for a sports company combining a foosball corner, pool table and a truck filled with riding equipment: saddles, reins and crops included. It's a huge room and a real challenge. If I was offered this space I'd decline.
Not wanting to end on a down note, James Rixner always comes through with New York's abundance of show houses
I don't know how he does it. His rooms are always beautiful. We know how deep your pockets need to be to do a single showhouse. Our hats are off to James and his company for the tremendous amount of charity work they do.


Snow on Garage Door, Rochester, NY, 1960
Minor White, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery

Thursday, November 30, 2017


The news came in on a phone call from my youngest sister, two days before Thanksgiving. My mother had passed away, silently in her sleep. Her caretaker at the assisted living facility she'd been living at for the past five years had gone in twice to check on her thinking she just needed a little extra rest. Her dementia had left her without her words and taken away much of who she was. The real Florence would have been up way before her caretaker, made her bed, cleaned the kitchen and ironed the dish towels without thinking that maybe just a cup of coffee and donut might have sufficed. She was a ball of energy.
We all knew this day was fast upon us but it still came with a jolt and a tear.  We had spent more than a decade watching the woman who had raised us lose the bits and pieces that defined her. She finally ran up against the one thing that could slower her down.
Her funeral was this past Tuesday. As her oldest son I had the honor of doing her eulogy.
Each of us siblings had a similar story to tell about our Mom. At least once during each of our childhood school days in our grade school or junior high cafeteria we'd end up being the recipient of one of our Mom's favorite practical jokes. She'd have packed a piece of fake fruit along side our peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Some of her fake fruit would be just realistic enough to fool us for that split second before we took a bite sending our tablemates into hysterics.  Returning home she'd try her best to control her laughter but there was no mistaking the shaking of her shoulders as she swallowed a giggle at what she'd done. Being a prankster was just in her DNA. There was a part of her that never left Neverland. The smile on her face that sat between her pair of deep-set dimples was rarely missing and everyone who ever had the pleasure of meeting our Mom couldn't help but smile back.
At a restaurant with strangers or working the counter at the Milk Depot or Light Haus her warmth and humor were the tools of her profession. Sorency could change a day of drudgery to a laugh out loud moment that made your cheeks hurt and your heart burst with undying loyalty. She instantly became everyone's best friend.
No one knew this more than our Dad. Our parents weren't outwardly affectionate; they were German. They didn't walk around hand-in-hand or shower each other with the typical outward displays of affection but there's photograph after photograph capturing my Dad with a look of complete devotion, his eyes brimming with love for our Mom.
Just before my Dad died he bought my Mom a new wedding ring, one he couldn't have afforded when they were first married. We buried him clasping her old ring in his folded hands so he'd never loose the touch of her.
I know my Mom considered herself to be just a little ol' farm girl with not much of an education. She suffered from malapropisms. She could never get it straight exactly where we lived. It was always Heritee Heights rarely was the correct Heritage Heights a part of her lexicon, but she was so much smarter and creative than she gave herself credit for. She was bold. She didn't settle for average or the norm. When we were young she decorated our living room in pink and black with bold floral drapes inspiring us all to step outside the norm and expected. Every year she came up with a new design for felt ornaments for our Christmas tree that she'd sit sewing together after the rest of us had gone to bed. She was industrious. She took in ironing because she could never sit still. She cheated mercilessly at Euchre and laughed with delight every time she got caught. She was generous to a fault selling her blood at donor banks month after month so she could buy us extra gifts for Christmas.
With dementia the process of leaving is stretched out, sometimes painfully. My father's heart attack took him from us without the opportunity to tell him how much we loved him. With my Mom we had to watch as she slowly slid away forgetting our names and losing her ability to speak but she never lost her smile. I'll miss not being able to kiss her forehead, or laugh at her mispronunciations. I'll miss her joy of the holidays. I'll miss her German Sweet Chocolate cake. But she left all of us a traveling suitcase filled with goofiness, a sense that being different is better than being average and that all of us are special and no one is exempt from a good laugh.
Here's the rooster, here's the pullet and here's the hen. Now what did I say this was?
I know my mom isn't resting in peace, she couldn't, but she's out there baking Christmas cookies, charming strangers and down on her hands and knees playing with the world's children, teasing them and giving them a little tug on their noses with her little pullet joke.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Hunting season began last weekend and to soften the thought of shooting Bambi and his mother for all of us anti-gun tree huggers Cynthia Weston hosted her bi-annual Divine Treasure Estate Sale in Lake Mills.
I had attended my initial foray into this estate sale back in the spring/summer of this year. The spring/summer version had no diversionary tactic as its reason for existing. It was just time to welcome the end of winter and what better way than with a great big sale.
The winter version, however, seems as if it might be calculated as compensation to the widowed partners of the dead hunters, or worse, compensation to those having to deal with the likes of the more unsavory prizes of the kill brought back by their hunters
The winter version of the sale didn't hold back and wasn't a disappointment. It was as equally enjoyable as the earlier spring version
Right at the front door Santa was there to give you a big ho-ho-ho getting you in the spirit to buy-buy-buy
The Chihulyesque chandelier still hung from the star encrusted ceiling,
the ladies were again all decked out in costumes and outrageous hats
and there was a slew of vintage and antique pieces all displayed in vignettes making the hunting process so much easier.

Santa not only stood outside the door but he was present in just about every nook and cranny inside as well
He was outfitted, bag in hand, with an armless Mrs. Claus
and captured in miniature form and held for ransom in a birdcage jail under the watchful eye of the stuffed Doggie Deputy
Christmas wasn't the only holiday featured in a vignette spread out around the room
It was followed by this speakeasy sultriness complete with a bevy of beautiful decanters and some fancy attire for your New Year's celebration.
If you dug a little deeper you could find the perfect gift for Valentine's Day
Or a couple of antique bobble heads and some ceramic steins to pull out for St. Patty's Day
And even though Halloween was behind us there were plenty of the things to scare the bejesus out of you.
Our daughter walked away with the this vintage poster for her room as if her room wasn't already scary enough
The sale always has a touch of being one big curiosity cabinet where you'll find the forlorn and discarded hiding in painted boxes
or a carved baby sculpture tucked behind a funeral floral basket waiting to be rescued
Even a stuffed iguana is there for the taking
We succumbed and brought home this amazing collection of insects held securely in place within this glass display box.
The sale also played with my mind faking me out on several occasions as I turned around and excused myself to what turned out to be nothing more than a mannequin.
There was also plenty to ponder over for the kids or the kid within us
From toy boats our father's might have made for us in our youth or a wooden doll brought back from a trip overseas
To beautiful antique baby clothes
To a complete game set of the non-PC Cooties. We couldn't resist the checkerboard game table. It had to come home with us as well.
This sale is amazing and will continue to be in my calendar every time an invitation shows up in my mailbox
Everyone is welcome no matter the species. There's no dress code. You can come wrapped in a blanket
Beauty is lit up everywhere. If all you want to do is observe you're welcome
If your significant other didn't bag the big one you can help them out with a wall trophy sure to please
Or send them off with a lure sure to bring in a real catch next year and giving you the ticket to come back to the Devine Treasure Estate Sale when winter turns to spring

Bee Gee's, New York, 1984
Wayne Sorce, photographer
Represented by Joseph Bellows Gallery, San Diego