I'm almost always surprised by my own art purchases. Intellectually, I would say I know exactly what I like. But then something totally different will grab me in a way I hadn't anticipated. That's how I felt when I first saw Sheila Smith's "Shreds," a recent series of acrylic and shredded paper paintings on canvas.
Reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionist and Non-Objective schools of the 50's, Shreds is all about color, texture and design. The works would beautifully complement a modern interior that could benefit from a punch of color as well as some softer lines.
Influenced by Joan Mitchell, Willem De Kooning and the repetitive, emphatic brush work of Van Gogh, Sheila returned to painting late last year after a decade of devoting her talents to art photography. Spurred by her own photographs of street art - from graffiti to rust stains on dumpsters - she describes their effect on her as "so painterly that I felt the tug to return."
In the Shreds series, long strips of paper have taken on the central role of the flowing brush strokes seen in some of her earlier paintings, such as "Yellow Dream." Her appreciation for the beauty of the stroke she attributes to her father's wonderful handwriting, while many other aspects of her work reflect her own light-hearted, fun-loving and engaged personality.
A number of pieces in the Shreds series by this Brooklyn-born, long time resident of Manhattan will be featured in a group show at the Caelum Gallery in Manhattan from July 14 - 25. If you're local, plan a visit to see Sheila's work. And, if you're in the market, you'll be happy to know that the works, which range in size from 11" x 14" to 30" x 40", are very affordably priced.
[Top to bottom: Anxiety 16" x 20"; Here Comes the Bride 20" x 32"; Feeling Good 16"x 20"]
(Click on pictures for full sized photos.)
Bathrooms are fun - that is if you're a designer and not the person cleaning them. There are literally thousands and thousands of choices when it comes to tile and a wide ranging selection of bathroom fixtures to complement any choice.
One thing I tend to avoid studiously is overworked trends - and that's how I was feeling about mosaic glass and subway-style tiles in the latter part of 2008 with three bathroom renovations, in three different homes, on my upcoming project list. One of the baths, in a condo that was going on the rental market, was very small, lacked any character or style, and was sorely in need of an update. The homeowner wanted the room to feel modern and special, and be a real selling point for the apartment.
From my design perspective, two considerations were key. The first was that to appeal to the broadest possible audience of potential renters, we should keep to fairly a neutral palette. Secondly, to visually enlarge the space, we had to keep the room light, the design simple and the eye moving around the bath without any unnecessary breaks in the flow. For the wow factor, I looked to materials.
High quality "wood-look" tile has been around for a while. With lots of wood-toned colors to choose from, it's an easy means of extending your wood floor into wet areas or outdoors where real wood can be very high maintenance and become problematic. Inspired by a Zen sensibility as well as the construction of saunas, I decided to clad the walls of the bathroom in plank-sized wood-look porcelain tiles.
Selecting the lightest one I could find that noticeably retained the character of wood, I used Rex's Abisko in a plank-sized 4' x 24", in betulla, a color which looks like pickled wood. The tile is rectified so very little grout is seen, enabling you to avoid the traditional "boxy" look of tile. The long planks helped as well in this regard, minimizing the number of vertical lines and keeping the eye flowing in a horizontal direction. To really get the look of a wood-walled bath, we decided to mitre the tile corners throughout the room, as you would do with real wood. It worked beautifully - the first words out of everyone's mouth upon seeing the room were, "Wow! You put wood on the walls!"
Another great source for wood-look tile is Mission Stone and Tile which carries the LEED-certified, green-friendly Vintage Wood Planks collection, a great look for your weekend home or anywhere else you want a more rustic look.
Mary Elizabeth Hulsey, who owns the company and runs it like a family, regards Mission as a "bargain boutique" for stone and tile and is committed to selling at affordable price points.
(Click on pictures for full-sized photos.)
Technorati Tags: Abisko, area aesthetics, bath tile, bathroom, ceramic tile, decorating, interior design, life and style, Mission Stone and Tile, porcelain tile, renovate bathroom, Rex, Vintage Wood Planks, wood tile
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Finally after 12 days of rain, the sun came out yesterday, only to disappear again behind this morning's thunderstorms. It's been a gloomy two weeks of gray skies and and indoor living. It helps to have things in your home that make you smile.
For me, it's framed photos that bring back memories of fun times and some of the pieces in my collection of John Lennon's artwork. (A great songwriter, but also a great humorist, which comes through in many of his drawings.) Then there's the "happy mistake": The bathroom the painter painted the wrong color - but which I ended up keeping because every time I walked in the room, it made me smile.
Walking thorough ICFF this year, there were a few home accessory designers who set out, tongue in cheek, to give you a chuckle and, perhaps, bring a smile into your home.
The first table I saw at the back of the show in an area known as "The Mart" was Heather Lins Home. I immediately loved this couple. They were having a great time exhibiting their line of screen-printed accessories and were fun to talk with. Heather calls her business a "doodle factory" where sketches grow up to become real things. She's inspired by the ordinary and has based her collection on images that are readily identifiable but show up somewhere unexpected.
Her square and rectangular "Conversation Pieces" are a series of throw pillows that she calls "an ode to the art of conversation." Her "Eye Chart," with what appears to be a slightly blurry rendition of the familiar on a 17" x 17" pillow, is packaged with a pair of 3-D glasses that will bring this playful take on an icon of modern life into full focus. Heather also showed a line of place mats, napkins and coasters called Numbered Edition.
Further down the aisle where the British were bringing their wry humor to the party, I found Thelermont Hupton. This award-winning team of designers from London reinvent everyday objects with an irreverence for the mundane. They showed a range of witty home accessories and table top items, but it was their collections of wall hooks that brought a smile to my face. "Hand Jobs," lacquered coat hooks - or wall art, if you prefer - are modeled on familiar hand gestures. The kitchen themed "Stuck on You Hooks" are described by the designers as "pre-thrown cutlery."
(Click on pictures for full-sized photos.)
Technorati Tags: area aesthetics, conversation pieces, Heather Lines Home, home accessories, ICFF, interior design decorating, life and style, sofa pillows, Thelermont Hupton, throw pillows, wall art, wall hooks
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Confession: I'm one of those people who actually hired someone to line sit for me for two days in front of the Apple Store to get one of the first iPhones. And the next year, I upgraded to the 16 meg phone so that I would have plenty of room for apps, which for me held the promise of having everything I need in the palm of my hand as I race around town for my design clients.
With 88 apps on my phone, I pretty much have almost everything I need - my client database, a level, a clinometer, rulers and calipers, a protractor, unit converters, shipment trackers, geo-locator apps, and a fair sampling of e-books and games to keep me occupied should I get stuck in an elevator cut off from the world for a few hours.
I also have quite a few color apps, more than I need and more than I use. However, as someone who is totally bewitched by color and the endless possibilities that color offers in interior design, I figure you can never have too many of those. But, I was still waiting for the perfect color app. So I was excited a few weeks ago to read on Benjamin Moore senior interior designer Sonu Mathew's blog, that the company whose paints I spec most often was releasing a color app of its own.
It finally became available on Monday and I tested it, comparing it to my other color apps, through the wee hours of the morning. The bottom line is that I'm still searching for the perfect color app, but one of these may meet your needs. Here's the lowdown.
I'm not sure that Benjamin Moore's ColorCapture app is ready for prime time. It's a very slow launch and seems to have a few serious bugs, such as your workspace disappearing and occasional freezes. Like many color apps, it starts with the assumption that you want to match a color, either already in your photo album or in a new photo that you take from the "capture" screen. Unlike Sherwin Williams' Color Snap, a similar app, choosing your key color from the photo by tapping is hit or miss and often takes a few tries to grab the color you want. Color Snap, by comparison, uses an arrow cursor with an enlarged view of the target pixel that you can drag around the screen, making it very easy to hit the exact color.
Interestingly, when I took a new photo, a small object on a large Benjamin Moore color swatch, ColorCapture missed by a mile trying to match the color swatch. However, once that photo was saved to an album and I repeated the process choosing the saved photo, its performance improved, but wasn't perfect. Color Snap hit the color dead on using both methods, perhaps because it saves the photo before it allows you to target the color.
ColorCapture generates a harmonizing palette of 4 or 5 colors from a broad spectrum, and a strip of darker and lighter values. Importantly, it also gives you the flexibility to select another color in the palette as your key color and a shake of the iPhone will bring up new palettes. However, it only saves the key color from the palette. ColorSnap on the other hand offers just one simple three-color palette, but saves the entire color scheme, and the developers have thoughtfully provided RGB values so you can easily move the colors into a computer-based design program.
Both apps have retail store locators that utilize GPS. ColorSnap warns you that you are exiting the app to find a store, but Color Capture doesn't. A "Ben" button at the top of ColorCapture's locator screen doesn't take you back to the app's functions as you would expect, but rather, is just a drop down ad.
ColorCapture also includes a rudimentary color wheel, but I'm not sure why. There doesn't seem to be any way to move your key color into the color wheel without selecting it again from the wheel - no quick task with the hit or miss fingertip at work. Both apps would be vastly improved as palette generators with the additional ability to directly enter a specific paint color as your key color, and ColorCapture's color wheel could be really useful if you then could choose the section of the wheel from which you wanted harmonizing colors.
Both of these apps are free and have their strengths. But neither comes close to being a fully functional color app for design such as Color Expert or my personal favorite, Palettes. When it comes to interior design, I don't know how many people pick the key paint color in their scheme from a photo. But I do know that many people, including many professionals, will pull paint colors from a multi-colored fabric or need to match paint colors from a logo when working on commercial interiors.
While Palettes will let you choose a single pixel in an image, it also can capture up to 25 colors from a single source - photo, web page, computer image, CSS file or third party palette. It generates a swatch palette comprising all of the captured colors, which you can manipulate with drag and drop ease to test out key colors, as well as blends, and monochromatic, analogous, complementary, triadic and split complimentary color schemes. Rather than have the app dictate the fleshed out color scheme from a single target color, Palettes gives you a lot of control over the scheme and the number of colors used and saves all of the colors in your workspace.
What Palettes lacks is the simple functionality of both ColorCapture and Color Snap when it comes to interior design: the ability to match paint colors to your scheme. Palettes makes it easy for you to email or export your schemes in a variety of common application formats and so my work-around has been to export the scheme as a Photoshop palette and then match it to a paint color using the free downloadable Photoshop palettes available from the Benjamin Moore web site.
It works, but I'm still searching for that perfect iPhone color app.
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Discovering an artist after his work has already been curated in such vaunted venues as The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian Institute and the White House Collection of American Crafts among others, often means that acquiring his work will probably be out of reach for most of us. Fortunately for us, works by Bennett Bean, noted ceramicist, sculptor and painter who brought his unique sensibility to textile design in collaboration with Elizabeth Rand, remain very accessible.
Last week The Museum of Art and Design (MAD) feted Bean on the occasion of the introduction of a collection of area carpets that were commissioned by the museum in honor of its inaugural. The limited edition collection, "9 for 09", which was unveiled at ICFF, is exclusively available through The Store at MAD.
Although he has worked in a variety of media and one of his minimalist sculptures is in the Whitney's permanent collection, Bean is most recognized for his ceramic arts. With influences ranging from Japanese and Native American pottery to the works of English potter Bernard Leach, Bean works in the vessel tradition. Pit-firing earthenware vessels, he uses a variety of techniques to apply elaborate decorative motifs post-firing, producing masterful works of complex form and color.
The "9 for 09" collection was inspired by Bean's ceramic works with mesmerizing motifs of color that appear to overlay the ground in successive layers. Available in three designs, in two colorways each, the carpets are 100-knot Tibetan silk and wool and are offered in both 5' x 7' and custom sizes.
If you're in the area and haven't yet visited MAD, which is located on Columbus Circle in Manhattan, this is certainly a good reason to plan that outing.
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With the weekend upon us, it's definitely time for some fun! And what could be more fun than the imaginative, quirky furnishings of Straight Line Designs.
Just when my aching feet were begging to call it a day at ICFF, I saw what at first glance I thought was a slinky little black dress being used as an installation prop. Now my feet are no match for my shopping mojo when it comes to anything slinky and black , so I headed down the aisle to get a closer look.
But all is not what it seems in Wonderland. That little black dress turned out to be a little black dresser from the mind of Judson Beaumont, who turns the outrageously fanciful into furnishings that make you smile. What tweeny-teeny budding fashionista wouldn't love one of these hanging in her bedroom? (And, I bet there's more than a few post-teens who would love it as well!)
Judson, who is based in Vancouver, says he is inspired by Walt Disney, Dr. Seuss and Saturday morning cartoons, as well as likes of Phillipe Starck and Frank Gehry. And it shows. Melding his interest in childlike imagery and design with exquisite craftsmanship, he creates extraordinary furnishings for children and the child in us all.
Interesting and whimsical with a bit of the anthropomorphic thrown in - what could be more fun than Judson's Sobey Dressers. Unless it's his Knick Knack shelves.
Take a look at Straight Line's web site and don't forget to peek at Judson's sketchbook - it's a trip down the rabbit hole that just gets "curiouser and curiouser." Trust me, Lewis Carroll has met his match!
(Click on photos for full sized images.)
Okay, here's the Pomp part... John Pomp, an incredible Brooklyn-based artist whose blown glass collections of tabletop items totally captivated me last year with their vibrant colors and definitive lines, just blew me away at ICFF with this chandelier.
A collection of hand-blown glass orbs housed in a simply framed glass box enclosure, I'm convinced it's called the Infinity because you just want to look at it forever. One of the most commanding fixtures i've ever seen, the surprisingly low 6-watt candelabra bulbs just sparkle through the irregularly shaped orbs, magnifying the luminance as they seemingly dance off each other in a festive celebration of light.
Now here's the not-so-great circumstance... if you desperately covet this chandelier and are thinking, "I wouldn't change a thing," you had better be doing your thinking in a pretty large space. The Infinity, available in two sizes, 54" x 30" and 48" x 20" x 20", with considerable length in the drop as well, is undoubtedly aimed at the hospitality market.
According to his studio, John will create a custom version for an upcharge, and he does have a vertically-oriented version that measures 12" x 12" x 24". But wouldn't it be nice to see this design scaled down to something that can be comfortably accommodated over your dining room table?
Are you listening, John?
(Click on photos for full size pictures.)
Five or six years ago I wrote an article about the smallest studio I ever designed - a paltry 225 square feet of living space - which seems to have a life of its own on the internet. Rarely does a month go by without a few calls from prospects hoping I will help them figure out how to manage their entire lives in a space that is often dwarfed by what our suburban neighbors usually turn into a walk-in closet.
Although I think a convertible sleeper sofa is fine for the occasional guest, as I said in that article, I'm not a fan of the arrangement for everyday use with its demanding nightly pull-out-the-bed ritual that usually involves rearranging some of the other furniture in the room as well. I've worked with many clients who have just given up, leaving the sofa bed open and the coffee table and other furnishings that had to be moved strewn dysfunctionally around the room. The other seating and oftentimes the tabletops are then permanently occupied by the displaced sofa cushions. The studio may be working as a somewhat disarrayed and cluttered bedroom, but at that point, it has ceased to function on any other level.
So I'm always on the lookout for great convertible furniture - with easy to open and stow beds that minimize the daily inconvenience and disruption, and look fabulous as well.
One of my great finds at ICFF this year was Clei's convertible pieces available from Resource Furniture. Beautifully designed, they are so incredibly inventive that you will find yourself wondering, "Where's the bed?" Many never even alter the footprint of the furniture when opened and all have been designed with an eye towards convenience.
Not what you expect! Two bunk beds from one sofa, available in two sofa styles.
(Click on photos for full sized versions)
This post would go on for days if I showed you just half of what I loved. So if you're local, head into their showroom at 969 Third Avenue in Manhattan. If not, do check out the "Space Savers" section on Resource's web site.
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Now and then, clients will have a treasured family heirloom needing repair or will need to match an existing furnishing. Invariably one of the missing pieces is matching the decorative molding.
The more common moldings and trims are pretty ubiquitous: Home and hardware stores and many lumber yards carry a good stock. However, when you need to find something more unusual, the search can be challenging. A few years back, one of my contractors let me in on his little secret - and I don't know how I ever got along without it.
Celebrating its centennial year Dyke's Lumber, with 10 locations in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, is the best place to find decorative moldings and trims, with a huge catalog of in-stock profiles as well as the ability to create a custom piece to match an existing profile.
Their complete 112-page catalog, with clear, easy to appreciate drawings and dimensions, is online. If you're daunted by the task of measuring an irregularly shaped molding, or are having difficulty reverse engineering one that is a composite of several trims, you can order a hard copy of the catalog with its full-scale (life size) line drawings that will make it easy for you to figure out and order what you need.
The sales staff at Dyke's is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. If you're near one of their locations, you can walk in with a sample or picture of what you need. If you're not, you can always give them a call - they ship nationally.
If you're a fan of Grand Slam tennis, as I am, you've undoubtedly noticed how pervasive hot pinks and oranges are on the clay courts of Roland Garros at this year's French Open.
Always a court style-setter, Serena Williams, who is also a fashion designer with her own Anares lines of clothing and accessories, has been turning up for her singles matches in a bright orange and black dress, and for doubles in a hot pink outfit. Other players, including Li Na and Nadia Petrova, are wearing the colors as well. Even men's draw favorite and four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal has been sporting hot pink shirts this year, both on the court and at his off-court press conferences.
If you're looking to dress your home in Grand Slam style, there's plenty to go around. Fabrics and trimmings in these hot colors abound in the market this year.
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I've never been a stamp collector, but I've always selected my stamps with a very personal eye. No staid American flags or Liberty Bells for me!. For years, I've been choosing stamps that represent things I love and one of the things I really love is great design.
So when my cache of wonderful, oversized Eames and Noguchi commemoratives depicting some of their most notable achievements in interior furnishings and design ran out a few days ago, I did what I always do. I headed to the U.S Postal Service's Web site to purchase some more, fully prepared, with the recent postal rate increase, to find a two-cent issue worthy of standing alongside these great icons of design.
Alas, with the exception of the 4-cent Chippendale Chair and the 1-cent Tiffany Lamp, none of the stamps commemorating great interior design are available any longer. If you look beyond the online store and search the site, you can still find a collector's series first day issue pane of the 16 Eames stamps for sale (premium priced and unusable as they are already cancelled). However, it's as if Noguchi, a sculptor by trade who viewed his furnishings and interior designs as a way to make sculpture useful in everyday life, never even existed.
I admit, it seems a little silly to be lamenting the passing of postal stamps, especially since I mail so very few hard copies these days. But that momentary connection with these two great masters of design while stamping my envelopes always put a bit of joy in the chore.
I'm in the design centers in New York - where we have many such buildings and hundreds of showrooms - sourcing furnishings for clients every week. Racing around from showroom to showroom with my "shopping list", it's easy to glaze over, especially when looking for an item as common as a contemporary glass coffee table.
So when one jumps out at me, as did this two-tiered table from Disegno by James Dipersia at the NYDC, it stopped me in my tracks. Not a big fan of tiered tables, this one caught me by surprise. Beautifully designed, its profile suggests a graceful sculpture with two framed glass tiers in perfect balance over its fluidly arced legs.
Earlier tonight, I was sifting through the literature-laden tote bags and the 70-odd photos I took at ICFF a couple of weekends ago. My trade show rule is to let it sit for a week or two and then see what really stays with me. Of the 30 or 40 items that made an impression, most turn out to be fleeting and only a handful are really lasting.
This year, fewer than usual have made the cut. While I'll get around to posting most of my favorites in the next few days, in honor of my bulldog Spike's 5th Birthday today, I thought I'd tell you about my favorite accessory from this year's show which happens to be a pet accessory.
A client once asked me to figure out where to put her cat litter box. There was no room in the bathroom and, like most new construction in New York City, her apartment afforded none of the nooks and crannies or out of sight hallways that you can find in pre-war buildings. We ended up ordering a small wooden bench with an open side, which we faced away from the sightline, into which a litter box could slide.
It was a serviceable, but far from perfect, solution. The bench could be placed in plain sight without giving away its secret, but there still remained the problem of "wandering litter" as the cat left the box. And while the agile cat had no trouble getting in and out, it was a bit less convenient for a human being to scoop.
The ModKat Litter Box I saw at ICFF, is a stylish, fresh approach to litter box design that promises to best the "wandering litter" problem as well. As the name implies, it will look best in modern interiors, but no matter your style, it is unquestionably a great improvement over the standard litter box look. A perfect blend of form and function, it comes with a washable, reusable deep liner making it an eco-friendly choice as well. As someone who can't figure out how to get the cat box liner out of the box without spilling half of the litter on the floor (yes, Spike lives with some feline friends), I especially appreciated that the designers have incorporated handles on their liner for easy lifting.
It won't be available until later this summer, but you can sign up on ModKat's Web site to learn about availability.
As for Spike, I'm afraid the days of poking his nose into the litter box to see what those cats are up to, are soon over!