Sunday - July 20, 2014

You Can (Wall) Hang Just About Anything

Filed in: Frames, Wall Decor

Yes, tennis rackets, hats, umbrellas (even towels) can cohabit your wall interspersed with more standard paintings and art.




Frames can go over to areas where wall sconces are- you’ll be surprised they look quite right with each other.




And throw in a TV in between all that for good measure…




Yes, there are a multitude of ways. If you don’t have windows but have walls instead, you can make them just as beautiful and just as functional.




Photographs from Designers at Home by Ronda Rice Carman. Published by Rizzoli.

From Top to Bottom : Homes of Eric Hughes and Nathan Turner, Robert Passal, and  Brian Patrick Flynn.



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Thursday - July 17, 2014

What is it about Tangier ?

An article in the NY Times magazine last April 11, 2014 featured 10 foreigners who came to visit to stay a while and decided it was the place to stay. Since then have made the city their home and let the years go by.

Morocco has always titillated me and long been on my travel wish list. This article describes vividly where my curiosity lie. It begins with the definition of AESTHETE.

aesthete |ˈesˌTHēt(also esthete)nouna person who has or affects to have a special appreciation of art and beauty.


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Article by Andrew O’ Hagan

Photographs by Will Sanders

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Sunday - July 13, 2014

Dark Painted Ladies

I live in an Edwardian 100 year old house, not a Victorian. But living amidst these “painted ladies” or the Victorian houses that you must have come across at some postcard buying chore on a visit to my city,  compels me to have an opinion on the latest dark color trend that seems to sweep the city.

I want to share an article in last month’s San Francisco magazine entitled “The Dark Art of the Painted Lady” .






The concept of a dark colored Victorian is novel and fresh. Yes it is radical but give it a few years when people have grown accustomed to seeing darker colors and soon the trend would revert to light again.

Last week, when my mom and aunt were visiting, I did get my fair share of driving around town and taking more notice of these Victorians, Edwardians and turn of the century homes in the older neighborhoods of San Francisco. It made me recall our decision on colors when we painted our building. The mid-tone neutral for the base with a darker or lighter contrast color for the trim, and the darkest or lightest color for the window frames and sashes. Shutters were usually the same color as the trim. Solid white buildings were a rarity and even if modernity scorns on gingerbread pastel color combinations, these still prevail. In fact, it is what is expected when the term “Painted Lady Victorians” are mentioned.







The book, Victorian Exterior Decoration: How to Paint Your Nineteenth Century American House Historically by Roger W. Moss and Gail Caskey Winkler is a resource, not only for Victorian fanciers but for any design student and enthusiast. Even the big paint companies have ready palettes that honor traditional colors for Victorians: Benjamin Moore has its Historical Colors series and Sherwin Williams has their Preservation series.

As an residential designer, I abide by no rules when it comes to color. I explore possibilities but more than that, I opt for the practical option: if the current paint is light, I would most probably go with only a tone lighter or shade darker, lest the need for multiple coats of paint that can impact a remodel budget. I would also consider the orientation of the house and how much sun exposure it gets. But above all, like choosing an item of clothing, color is very personal (a shade or tone lighter or darker is very personal) and in the end, what pleases the owners’ eye is what counts. Preservationists and historical buffs may scoff at your choice. But in design, it is impossible to please everyone.  I remember that each time I pass my neighbor’s cement colored, lifeless facade as I walk into one that has my version of the perfect shade of green.

Article from San Francisco magazine, June 2014.

Photographs courtesy of Terry Way and Kathryn Mann.

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Wednesday - June 18, 2014

Bette Midler’s Manhattan Penthouse Apartment

A penthouse, in Manhattan belonging to Bette Midler but unlike most Hollywood celebrity homes, hers is restrained with details carefully chosen.

It is a true testament to the adage that a lifestyle dictates the design. When that is achieved, it is the mark of good design.
































All photographs courtesy of Architectural Digest, June 2014 issue.

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Thursday - June 5, 2014

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Filed in: Art, Personality

On a Memorial Day weekend trip to D.C., I introduced myself to the artist ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER and some of his work at the National Gallery of Art.

Kirchner is an Expressionist.

Expressionism is a style in which the artist seeks to depict not objective reality but rather one’s subjective responses.  This is accomplished through distortion, exaggeration and fantasy. In a broader sense Expressionism is one of the main currents of art in the later 19th and the 20th centuries, and its qualities of highly subjective, personal, spontaneous self-expression are typical of a wide range of modern artists and art movements. Expressionism can also be seen as a permanent tendency in Germanic and Nordic art from at least the European Middle Ages, particularly in times of social change or spiritual crisis. The roots of Expressionism were laid by the likes of Van Gogh and Edward Munch. It was about 1905 when a group of German artists led by Kirchner formed a loose association called Die Brucke (The Bridge)  with Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Fritz Bleyl.

These painters were in revolt against what they saw as the superficial naturalism of the Impressionists.

This work is titled “Bather”. I was attracted to the study-like quality of the sketch but with some colored strokes, it looked complete.


“Nude Girl Lying on Sofa” (using wood cut ) reminds me of Matisse’s many nude sketches in solid black marker.



And here are more of his work from KIRCHNER by Norbert Wold, that I thought showed his breadth and style.










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Monday - June 2, 2014

Geoffrey Lynch’s Manhattan Classic : New York’s Finest Pre-War Apartments

The Dakota. The Apthorp. The San Remo. The names of these legendary New York apartment buildings evoke images of marble-lined lobbies, uniformed doormen, and sunlit penthouses with sweeping Central Park views. Built from the 1880s through 1930s, classic prewar apartments were designed to lure townhouse dwellers reluctant to share a roof with other families. These downtown enclaves, ten to twenty stories high, whose popularity emerged in 1890 to 1900 were the solution to a population that doubled in New York. At the onset, these city buildings did not attract the wealthy as they disliked the idea of being too close to their neighbors. This was a time when the rich inhabited estates and their property lines were so vast that neighbors were not visible from the homes. It required a luxurious, exclusive and prominent way of life to entice them to leave the estates behind for city living.

Rosario Candela, Emery Roth, Robert Lyons, JER Carpenter and Bing & Bing- all became prominent in the era of these private mansions in the sky. These apartments promised a charmed Manhattan lifestyle of elegance and luxury in a building inhabited by a certain class and stature. These architects were self taught. They were immigrants who could not afford first rate architectural schooling but were propelled to fame as a result of the construction boom in the 1920s until 1929, when the stock market crashed.

Here is a peek into some of the most celebrated Manhattan pre-war apartments. The staid exterior facade shows a reverent although limited glimpse- into the grandeur and magnificence of these apartments.




Take note of the generous square footage for rooms and the presence of wide and long hallways, foyers, butler’s pantries, maids and servants quarters (even separate entrances).

Although many of them have maintained the same footprint, there are a number of coop buildings that have subdivided these units into smaller, less lavish floor plans.













The courtyard is one of the most distinct feature of pre-war buildings. It provides an area of open space and light and air, elements that the wealthy former estate dwellers enjoyed in their country homes, and now in their new modern city apartments.








Pre-war buildings abound in New York and although the ones that are high profile are along Fifth Avenue, Upper East and Upper West Sides, Downtown and Riverside Drive, there are many less opulent ones (though not less note-worthy) in less prominent areas of the city.

Photographs by Evan Joseph and Mike Tauber from Manhattan Classic : New York’s Finest Pre-War Apartments by Geoffrey Lynch.




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Tuesday - May 13, 2014

Giambattista Valli’s Kitchen in Paris

There are many advantages to new construction. Building and designing on a blank slate provides everything you need, where you want it, at the scale you need. It makes it all practical and custom to your needs.

But in my lifetime, I have never moved into a house that was constructed from the ground up. That’s not to say that I have not made many moves. I have packed and unpacked homes, on an average of every five years. With each exercise, I have learned to make do with what is existing and with my experience in design, have made the challenges work for me, for function and for my love of beautiful things.

And taking over something that was created, used, embellished many times before you, is what gives a space character. Like this Parisian kitchen of fashion designer Giambattista Valli. Besides a new hood / exhaust, there is nothing modern or added in this little space. But it is a space that works. Vintage tiles as backsplash, butcher block type island, hanging rod on counter and possibly a bronze storage cabinet with an accordion door, mismatched checkered floor tiles- these are the details that give its appeal.



Old houses may not be practical and easy most times. But it imparts wisdom to the occupant. How ? Getting the stove to the right temperature, for one. But there are those handy oven thermometers available most everywhere (and thank God I am not a baker). But that said, sometimes the mark of a good cook is making do with the simplest of things.

Apart from modern amenities and better technology, then and now, kitchen needs have not changed. And its living with less that makes us live a bit more.



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