Friday, March 31, 2017


For the past couple years Dining by Design has paired with the Architectural Digest Show sharing an entrance fee allowing you to see both venues under one ticket. The Arch Digest show occupies the larger space, Pier 94. Pier 94 has a t-shaped configuration. If you go to your left as you enter you'll find mostly small shops with little inventory in very specific categories ending in a lecture space where design royalty hold panels on current design issues. If you go to the right you'll see more established vendors and if you go straight ahead you'll find that is where the big guys hang out selling mostly kitchen and bath appliances and design.
The first several days of the show are supposed to be for design professionals only but clearly a lot of client types roam the aisles during this time as well. The last day of the show is then open to the public for a fee of $40 a head.
I went over to the show on the weekend and did a three hour tour of both the Arch Digest Show and Dining by Design using my free pass as a designer. I had a few things for clients I was looking for so there was a bit of purpose to my search.
I headed right and unexpectedly I ran into some old friends. ILevel is a terrific source and a company we have contracted on numerous occasions. They hang art and they really know what they're doing. We've worked from plans we've previously drawn out with very precise measurements for a picture wall that they've laid out meticulously and they've also worked with us when we've had no preliminary plan and we were out there winging it. They're not cheap but knowledge and creative ability comes with a cost. You try to hang a wall with twenty images in a grid and have the space between measure exactly 1.33" between all twenty. Or try hanging a seventy pound sculpture on a wall without dropping it and cracking it into a million pieces.
We'd just come from The New Traditionalists' showroom at 200 Lex where we had purchased a gorgeous sofa for a new client so it was good to see them represented at the show. They have a quirky take on design that makes their product unique and youthful.
Novacolor was a new find for me. They're a wallcovering company with some innovative product. The product itself isn't that new, others have developed metallic and concretes but Novacolor did it the best I've ever seen. Their dripping rust spots were spot on. Where others have tried to duplicate these surface materials Novacolor has done it so that the lines between reality and faux are indiscernible and I like that.
Jan Kath is a company I come back to every time, and every time they come up with a new look for rugs that the industry continually rips off and reproduces. My guess is you'll be seeing these patchwork Boro rugs showing up at ABC Home in the next six to nine months. Borrowed from an ancient Japanese technique of combining worn-out remnants of silk, wool and nettle rugs and sewing them together the look is elegant and an instant heirloom.
The technique of over-dying old Persian carpets that I first saw in their booth well before it became a trend at other rug manufactures was also taken in a direction I hadn't seen until this show. Here they've incorporated metallic threads into their worn-out Persians to a totally dramatic effect.
I hadn't seen Gargoyles, a Philadelphia based company, at the show in quite a while but they were there and had a presence again this year. They specialize in antique and vintage accessories and their collection is right where the current trends are hanging out. Their booth this year was a little tattered but the quality of what they were showing was still worth a very deep look.
Another company that tried to cash in on a trend was Classic Rug and their Gee's Bend collection. I've seen this done before and with much better success. Reproducing the patterns with hooked wool was interesting but too clean lacking the funkiness of the real pieced quilts of Gees Bend.
I don't usually spend too much time in the long part of the "T" that makes up the configuration of the Pier's interior. It's mostly kitchen appliances and I'm sure I should be paying a lot more attention to the newest innovations but I'm no techie and the sales pitches are so ardent I tend to breeze on by. But there were a few vendors who did stand out, not so much for the their technology but for their design. Brown Jordan was one I really loved. Their rusted version of the outdoor kitchen was beautiful. It also came in several different finishes but this rusted version really stood out. I'm sure the cost is in the tens of thousands but would I love to add this to our wish list for our new backyard patio? The answer is a definite yes!
Smeg is always a kooky alternative to the standard appliance fare. There signature is a throwback to the fifties but they've gone completely loco with these new highly decorative designs. Not for my kitchen but it was great fun.
The final leg to the left as you entered the pier focused more on the small entrepreneur. Ercole has been a long time favorite with their mirrored and ceramic mosaics. I loved this metallic table. I just need to convince a client that the money is worth the design.
Glass artists are also a big find in this section of the show. I have my favorites and Vetro Vero Glass and Gordon Auchincloss are two of them. Vetro's round disks, vases and pitchers in these rich colors always stop me in my tracks.
The beautiful shapes created by Gordon Auchincloss
were only bested by his lyrical lighting fixtures in seafoam and brass
The furniture made from reclaimed plastic for Glow by Kim Markel were another innovative use of material transforming traditional furniture forms into untypical pieces of art. The transparency of this green material is amazing to look at especially with the right kind of lighting to make them look more like mirages than actual pieces of furniture.
A last note as to diversity. This always surprises me at the show. I know the Amish are famous for their furniture but it still throws me when I see so many of them attending the show. I'm sure it's a way of culling out new ideas for them and I'm not so sure that many of the artists are too keen on them coming if their goal is to rip off their ideas but since they are so identifiable it's a nice remembrance of how tradition and innovation can come together and meet in a common place.

In memorial
Don Jumping over Hay Roll no.1, Monkton, Maryland, 1999
Rodney Smith, photographer
Available at

Sunday, March 26, 2017


For twenty years the design industry has come together sponsoring an event raising awareness and financial support in the fight against AIDS. After twenty years the event and its purpose are still relevant. Research has enabled AIDS to no longer be a death sentence but many infected do not have access to these life-saving drugs. New drugs continue to be in development to entirely eradicate the epidemic and the design industry continues through events like Dining by Design to support the elimination of this horrible scourge.
Here are some of the participants in New York's 2017 entry into the Dining by Design franchise held in conjunction with the Architectural Digest Show at Piers 92 and 94.
Crate&Barrel set their table as if it was a counter at a highly sophisticated restaurant and you had a prime seat at the bar
Ralph Lauren took us seaside with a fresh west coast look
They set a table any yacht would be famous for with red, white, blue and gold you were definitely sitting at the captain's table.
Blue Ocean Design and Charleston Limewash created this suspended table in an olive green box with contrasting flashes of lavender. This table combined both rustic elements with contemporary flair.
You have to love those simple metal stools with the white duck seat covers held in place with those huge grommets strung with naval rope.
AJ Madison is an online company offering a huge line of appliances at competitive pricing and shipping nationwide. The wall behind their table depicted the logos of many of the brands they represent.
In contrast the actual table resembled a medieval banquet. I have to assume you tore at the feast like heathens and dueled with your competing quests as you walked around the table fighting for food with your bare hands since there weren't any chairs for you to sit at or utensils for polite eating.
2033The collective of Perkins + Will, Steelcase, Coalesse, Designtex, Empire Office and Arktura produced a sleek black table with chairs strung up like some sort of S&M bondage event. The orange chairs counter-weighted with black weights were anything but Halloween.
Interior Design magazine has been a major sponsor of the New York event for the past several years. Their table anchored the far end of the pier. Their very graphic table has deconstructed their theme, "Love".
The table by M Moser Associates was a favorite.  It was not only visually stunning but it was an education in the history and future of AIDS on the "Race to Zero".
While the written wall at M Mason's table told the history of the struggle the mirror on the side was like a look into the future
I've been on a search for art for one of our clients, first here in New York and then online where I found a company named Twyla. We were on our way to South by Southwest on another assignment when I discovered that this company, Twyla, that we had been communicating with was an Austin based company. While in Austin we tried to meet up with them but it didn't work out.
So when I got back to New York and got to Dining by Design I wasn't expecting an Austin art house to have come all the way to New York to set up a table and that this would be the place we'd finally connect; at their very beautiful table.
The New York Design Center took on a different tack by pairing with Fair, a new showroom at 200 Lex started by designer Brad Ford, selling product from Fair's collection of ceramic vases and cups to benefit the event.
Gensler + Knoll gave us magenta and a lot of it in there space emphasizing the reality that the fight is far from over
I don't like to be disappointed and especially by my idol, Ellen, but I've got to say her collaboration with Thomasville was a bit of a letdown. The furniture seemed a bit more appropriate for a homogeneous corporate office than a residential dining room.
Even the faux painted walls had the look of a concept that wasn't fully thought out or fully executed
Constructed by students from Parsons from debris collected throughout all five boroughs in New York City this table was one of the most original. It was also built and conceived with the purpose of giving back. Since all the materials used to build their table were found objects the students donated their allotted budget back to HIV/AIDS activism
Each year the richness of talent displayed at the Dining by Design event is only matched by the generosity of an industry stricken so heavily by an epidemic that saw so many loses. Each year the advances in care inch closer to a full cure so that seeing zero infections is no longer a dream and a prayer but a possibility.
Ranch House Cafe, Route 285, Vaughn, New Mexico, 1997
Jeff Brouws, photographer
Represented by Robert Klein Gallery, Boston

Friday, March 17, 2017


The Vision Council, a non-profit trade association for the eyeglass industry, had hired us several years ago through a PR firm we had done work with and used as our PR firm when we first launched our furniture line. The PR firm and the Vision Council parted ways a couple of years ago and our relationship went with it.
So it was a total surprise when earlier this year TVC came calling saying they were in a desperate situation. They were going to sponsor a lounge at South by Southwest commonly referred to as SXSW for those like me who had no idea of the acronym and they needed someone to design their lounge. It was several weeks into the design phase before I realized what the event was since our communications were all through email and they always used the acronym when referring to the event. I was delighted and excited to work on the project and also to cross off my bucket list a trip to Austin. Living much of my life in Madison I had frequently heard Austin and Madison referred to as sister cities mostly for their liberal and unconventional outlook on life.
I took my daughter along as my co-pilot and we arranged to spend an additional two days to see what we could see of Austin. So here are some images of what we found, our lounge, SXSW and the fact that although the feel may be very similar certainly the weather and the size of each city are vastly different.





We loved our stay. We only touched an infinitesimal part of our Southern sister city, we're hoping to be invited back for next year. Fingers crossed, see y'all in 2018.