As Designers, we are always looking for inspiration. It can come from color, retail therapy, vendors, vacations, magazines, nature, and architecture. It can also come from a good meal, a deep breath of fresh air, and a hearty belly laugh with friends.
Friends Rose and Karen in the Merimekko Store on 5th Ave.
I got all these things this past weekend, on an impromptu visit to NYC. It was a gorgeous sunny winter weekend away with my besties, and it truly energized my mental place, my zen, but most importantly my design brain! Sometime some unstructured time, helps us later “put all the pieces back together again” to create a design masterpiece.
Snowy skyline view of Central Park and on foot with Linda Smith, Blulens Design
Inspiration can be drawn from a culinary experience. And every meal in NYC was fantastic. From the Spanish lamb and tapas at Tartulia, to the complex ramen at Ma Peche, to the Italian street fair at Eataly, we ate well! Each of these experiences were truly unique, and very intimate all in the same sense.
Delectable dishes, and all sorts of debauchery in Chelsea
Walking around the city during fashion week #FWNY was a treat as well, with extra special window displays, and a buzz in the air with celebrities on every street corner. The link between fashion, interiors, and graphics is tangible, and something to keep track of. A trend on one side, is always and often quickly reflected on the other in the world of design.
We took pause to stroll around The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and enjoy a glass of wine overlooking Central Park, even in the winter this is a beautiful sight. Such a natural beauty within the concrete jungle is awe-inspiring and rewarding.
Truly unique culture is also where it’s at in New York. The performance theatre “Sleep No More” was just that. A dramatically soul wrenching voyeuristic personal experience. The recreated McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea was live performance art loosely based on the Shakespearean MacBeth, with mind-blowing set designs that the crowd participates in but not, there is no talking and you wear a mask…this cult performance was an experience and truly could set the stage for design trends to come. Dark, mysterious, and yes…sexual…my brain is still trying to figure it all out. See the New York Times review for more thoughts on this performance.
New York….where dreams are made of. And inspiration!
We are all obsessed. With the lovely Abbey, it’s Lords and Ladies, the servants, and all that delicious drama. The show is so visually stunning, with the fashion and set design it is truly a feast for the eyes. I feel like you could watch it numerous time to soak it all in.
Last night, I found myself fixated on a Queen Anne Chair in the background. It was so superb and set just so. Living here in Shaker Heights, we get to see much beautiful traditional design. But everyone asks for clean, simple, modern these days. Have we lost the art of elaborate, overdecorated, traditional design? Not if you are a DA fan, Hooray! So if you want to do it right, remember these rules.
Deck It Out – Windows and Trim: At Downton Abbey, the windows are layered in miles of silks, tapestries, damasks and more, and loaded up with trim. And truly, doesn’t that just look luxurious? I know we don’t want all that these days, but it does add a layer of elegance. So the take away, is attention to detail, layers of treatments, and elements of style. Clients sometimes are shocked when they get the bill for window treatments. No Pottery Barn panels are going to achieve this look. Custom window treatments with stellar pleats, tons of interlining, trims, and gorgeous hardware are expensive but worth it. Prepare yourself for sticker shock, but know that this makes all the difference in the world when it comes to finishing your Manor.
Load It up – Brocades, Damasks, and Velvets – Layers and layers of rich fabrics can be seen on all the elegant furniture, wallcoverings, pillows, windows, and beds at the Abbey. It’s astounding. I love the red velvet sofas in the Library at Downton, not to mention all those books and oil paintings! People are shocked at how much good design costs. But that’s because we have retailers that promote, and furnishings that come from China, and are truly disposable these days. Back then, they layered their walls in silk. I have not done this today, but I hear it is done. It is truly cost prohibitive for even the healthiest design budget. But even investing in a few of these fabrics and details will provide the elegance. We often have clients that want to stop after the furniture and lights arrive, the room needs to be finished to the last detail for a true Designer effect.
Pile it On – Bed Décor – Linens, fabrics, and drapery – Don’t you love how much time Cora spends lounging in bed, and at her dressing table,…and on her chaise lounge. To truly not have to worry about anything except where your next maid comes from. But don’t overlook those bed details. The carvings on the bed, the chinoiserie inlays on the nightstands, the layers of canopy design, are worth noting. You had to have beautiful things to look at while you lounged around back then. Even though we are always on the move now, it’s still nice to fall into a gorgeous bed of sumptuous linens and cottons. Don’t underrate the furniture and linens on your bed. Decking out a king size bed can cost in the thousands. Yes, I said thousands.
Pimp It Out – Crystal, Table Setting, Gilded Mirrors, and Floral – You have to be a good entertainer when you are English. I love the gowns these ladies wear to dinner. And it has been interesting to see how the fashion and room décor has evolved over the years at the Abbey. Elegantly and properly set tables, crystal, gold, and mirrored décor are a must for even the most casual of dinners. Crystal is on everything these days. Even my most modern-minded client said he would “tolerate” crystal in his master bath because it was true to the home. Even modern lighting incorporates crystal, but there is nothing like the real thing, such as Schonbek or Fine Art Lighting. As are as decking out the table, if you are looking for table and floral ideas see our post from November 2013, (Entertaining by Design II-Setting the Perfect Table).
Keep It Real – Classic English Furnishings – I think my favorite design element in Downton Abbey is the juxtaposition of Mrs. Patmore’s simply elegant kitchen with the big farmhouse table and the classic white pottery next to all the glamour above. We get asked for this look a lot these days because this is how we really live. Designer Jennifer Monachino of Monarch Interiors calls it “Modern Farmhouse”. We get asked for this look a lot these days, especially with younger clients. On the flipside, the upstairs stays true with authentic Chippendale chairs, that lovely Queen Anne chair I admired, and other elements of classic 18th and 19th century English furniture. Even if you aren’t an antiques connoisseur, it still is important to recognize the iconic design elements that still lend themselves to good design today.
As we head full steam ahead into the Holiday Season, it makes sense to cozy up with some Plaid décor. One of my favorite holiday movies is “The Holiday” with Cameron Diaz and Judd Law. Gotta love everything that has to do with romantic English films. With that said….the countdown to Downton Abbey season premiere Jan. 5th is on the radar as well! We are so ready!
A designer friend of mine, Sophia Burkart, designs custom luxurious robes and lounge wear. She also happens to be British. We had a chat about her friend’s home project in England. Here is her commentary, “Turkeys & Hummingbirds“.
After reading her post, and after considering multiple photos for English décor, here’s my conclusion: No one does plaid better than Burberry and Ralph Lauren, and our friends across the pond. Plaids and tartans evoke a certain level of warmth, coziness, style, and comfort. So of course they make sense for hearth and family rooms during the holiday season.
Everyone is Mad for Plaid this season in fashion, accessories, and the home. So go for it. A little goes a long way. All of our favorite fabric Designers, Romo (a British company mind you), Brentano, and the like have come out with menswear plaids that well, we just love. I keep saying I am going to make a blanket out of them…for my clients (read…myself!).
As Sophia says…”An Englishman’s Home is His Castle”, so put your luxurious robe on, grab a fancy coffee or hot tea, and cosy up in some plaid and give yourself a break this Holiday season, you will be so glad instead of mad!
I just got back from a leisurely visit to Chicago with friends. Of course I couldn’t visit Chicago without checking out the Merchandise Mart. This historic Design Centre sits on the Chicago River and is full of Art Deco architectural design. Recently the building was taken over by Google, and the residential design showrooms are all newly renovated and moved to the 6th and 11th floors. The whole first floor know as “Luxe Home” is all hard surfaces – tile, flooring, cabinetry, and more! It truly was a treat to spend some design time exploring there! During our weekend, we stayed in the hip Wicker Park neighborhood and shopped the boutiques on N. Damen and Milwaukee. All uber cool and trendy – the shops called Stitch and Roslyn and P45, all showed the same trends, a wave back to warmer metallic and metals. We are stepping away from the cool tones of silver and pewter and loving the luxuriousness of coppers, rose gold, and antique brass.
This is all over the interiors markets – appliance hoods, lighting, and accessories especially. We all want the warmth and old world quality of these metals. And also more importantly, mixing them up. My Grandma Louise had a gold necklace from Italy that was a beautiful combination of these metals. And Rose Gold….does has such a Victorian feel, but it was EVERYWHERE!
Belts, jewelry, clutches – everything. Watch for this trend to hit hard in kitchen hardware, plumbing fixtures, and lighting. I predict that oil-rubbed bronze will be a thing of the past in a few year… except for more rustic and masculine designs, or period designs such as arts and crafts.
Just like everything else, this is a trend, so keep your eyes wide open when going down this path. But warming up your home with these gorgeous metals is a perfect way to transition into Fall. Just like pulling out a copper pot and making a yummy cassoulet tonight for dinner, warmer metals in your home are inviting and welcoming so give it a try!
Brian and I love to travel to the Pacific Northwest. We have friends in Portland and Seattle. We always try to go in the fall because the weather is gorgeous, sunny, and with perfect, crisp blue skies.
Ten years ago, while visiting the Pike Place Market in Seattle, I was blown away by the huge bouquets of Dahlias in amazing colors for give-away prices. Later that trip, we visited the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. As a garden lover, I will tell you, that is one place – You. Must. Visit. Nothing can compare. The gardens are breathtaking, but the display of dinner plate sized dahlias, bed after bed, in saturated and vibrant color was stunning. Something about the climate, makes these flowers grow there like they belong in a Jurassic Park set.
Northwest flower market, Portland, Oregon Fall 2010
Dahlias are actually rhizomes that you plant close to the surface in the Spring, and they grow tall and with stalks thick as a trees by August. In this planting zone, they need to be stacked and require a little tender loving care. But once they start blooming, they keep producing until it frosts later in October, the more you cut them, the more they produce. They need their own home in the garden, and I usually dig them up every Fall, let them winter overnight in the garage and replant them the following Spring. Gorgeous!
In colors of deep plum, bright pink, persimmon, and glowing blush, how can you not appreciate their dazzling display? So while it’s too late to plant them this Fall, pick some up (I just bought some gorgeous ones at Heinens!), and enjoy the beauty of Fall. And mark you calendar alert to plant some in your garden next May, it’s well worth it!
My son Cooper’s first halloween in the dahlia garden, Fall 2003
Who hasn’t done something they have regretted, and had to muddle through it? It’s happens to the best of us. Well, it happens a lot when it comes to design. I often get the call – “Help -we’ve made a big mistake!”
I often wonder why people venture down this path, just like going to a doctor to fix a broken bone, or even better for preventative care, is the same as calling a Designer for your home project…before the emergency.
One of the last items on the design “to do” list for most people is the Master Bedroom. It’s always fun to be invited into the most personal of spaces. Yes, I know you all make your bed, hide the laundry, and hang the clothes before I arrive, but I am always stunned by the lumpy old bed that has mismatched, or threadbare bedding on it. Sometimes these are clients that can afford a nice bedroom. It’s time to address our own personal oasis. This is where we want to relax and rejuvenate. Let’s make it right.
beautiful sheeting with layered duvet and coverlet
I have always loved my bed. Even as a child I had tons of pillows, comforters, etc. When I graduated from college, one of the first things I purchased was a great mattress, and all the decked out bedding. And I mean… Decked. Out: 600 thread count sheets, down feather bed, euro shams, boudoir pillows, the works. It was my favorite place to be…and still is.
one big statement with ruffles, or monochromatic elegance
But just like everything else, bedding has scaled back a bit over the years. With platform beds, and better quality sheeting, less is more. Less pillows, let fluff, just high style and more decorative elements.
Do you have a headboard? An upholstered headboard is a great way to add warmth and style, either tufted, or with nailheads, straight across or sculpted, adding a designerly fabric makes this unique, and can be all you need.
What about a fully upholstered frame? this means the fabric or leather runs all along the base, where the boxspring used to be…this look is really popular and modern. Also, cuts down on the need for a box spring.
Pillows – How do you sleep? Do you make your bed everyday? How many pillows do you and/or your partner actually sleep with? Euro shams, regular shams, and decorative pillows, all make up “the look” you are trying the achieve.
Do you have pets that sleep on your bed? The right fabric and washable fabrics will make a huge difference, and make your bedding stay fresh and last longer.
Do you sleep soundly or flail around? Do you get hot or cold? again, breathable fabrics are the way to go. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be designerly. There are so many gorgeous wide width fabrics so custom bedding is all the rage now.
Sheeting – Seriously, this is MOST important, and not as daunting as it seems. Yes, there tons of European brands such as Frette, Peacock Alley, and Yves Delorme, that are amazing and a fortune. A set of these sheets are definitely luxurious, but I find great bedding basics at Nordstrom, Garnet Hill, and Restoration Hardware for my clients. And here’s a little secret….great sales at TJMaxx and Tuesday Morning if you are lucky, you may find those European brands for a steal.
As the leaves start to turn and the evenings grow cooler, consider your bedding this season, and get ready to snuggle into the best decision you can make, treat yourself to some peace and comfort this Fall. You won’t regret it.
Nothing but white, and a terrific throw. Easy to wash and bleach
Recently, I had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of Deej Lincoln, President of Reclaimed Cleveland. While this company has evolved over the years, their mission is strong and oh so important to the redevelopment of our lovely city.
Reclaimed Cleveland is a retail and custom furnishings company, which re-purposes local materials that would otherwise be bound for disposal. The goal of the company is to serve Cleveland’s progression into a sustainable 21st century, while preserving its history in heirloom quality furniture.
Well how cool it that. Clearly, one man’s trash is another Designer’s treasure. Deej and company salvage old hardwood timber from homes, schools, factories that are slated for demolition and upcycle then into objects of beauty. With skill and craftsmanship, they know what they are doing too.
Located in the hip Tyler Village commercial development in the rebounding Superior/St. Clair neighborhood, This is where it is at. Hosting the Cleveland Flea, a monthly market of upcycled finds, this neighborhood is hot. Truly earning the name “Rustbelt Chic”, this community eludes what this new Cleveland book is all about. It’s cool to live in Cleveland, and hey if your from here, own it!
Reclaimed Cleveland runs it saws and does their thing all right there where it is happening in town, and my client and I got a personal tour by Deej himself who lives and breathes what I wrote above.
From super cool foundry pieces from old factories to planks upon planks of gorgeous wood, it’s truly a Designer’s dream to imagine what can be done. And the best part, is each finished piece is stamped with the origin of the harvested wood. It seriously is like being a kid in a candy store, limited only by our imaginations.
With light reflecting from the Lake, and sawdust in the air, we created a custom kitchen table: whitewashed wood planks, that look worn and used, buffed to a functional polish, and painted refashioned foundry pieces used as pedestal bases to give it a more eclectic look. I am so happy my new to Cleveland clients get this custom piece of Cleveland to add to their collection of furnishings!
These guys are growing, and its rewarding to be part of the process. You’ve probably eaten on their tables in restaurants, and shopped from fixtures in your favorite retail establishment. And while Restoration Hardware can mass-produce a reclaimed look, why not order up an original, from your hometown nonetheless?
So even if this isn’t your look, the whole industrial thing, it’s in, it’s hot and it’s not going away. So mix it up and mix it in. Be a part of the process. Shop local, and our Green City on a Blue Lake will be better than ever.
In closing out the summer, we spent the day at Cedar Point with the kids. Growing up in Cleveland we take this amusement park of some of the world’s fastest, tallest, and inverted roller coasters for granted. Not having been there for over 10 years, it was a real treat to share the thrills and chills with a 10-yr old daredevil, and the 48” 7-year old adrenaline junkie – I call my children.
Throughout the day, Sophie was willing to try the Gemini, Magnum, etc… but had issues with going upside down. With all the new crazy rides like the “Top Thrill Dragster” and the “Power Tower”, we must have walked by the iconic “Corkscrew” a hundred times. This coaster is my memory of what Cedar Point is all about, those first few times of being inverted and spun around in a spiral pattern back in the day. Built in 1976 (would this classify as Mid-Century design?) the loading station still sports a seventies design, and the corkscrew name is still emblazed in red, white, and blue typography (Spirit of 76’ , I believe). While waiting in line, I began to ponder the spiral in design.
A few years ago, I took a continuing education class on Biomimicry – “this is the imitation of models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems” – Wikipedia. Simply said: why recreate the wheel, nature has a lot of our engineering and design problems worked out, so let’s learn and imitate nature.
It was a fascinating lecture, and one of their prime examples was a nautilus shell and the spirals and swirls that follow a complex algorithm. Hence, the success of the corkscrew pattern.
Think about the rooms we live in: squares and rectangles, with rectilinear rugs, windows, and sofas. As a Designer, it always feels better to introduce some curve. It breaks up the room, softens the space. Introduces an organic quality. I love throwing in a spiral chandelier, or swirly wallpaper. Or amazing circular rug or cocktail table. It allows the space to breath….and feel well…more natural.
Everyone always thinks of a spiral as a staircase. Well, see above – a solution to a tricky stair problem, solved by the Nautilus shell. But spirals and swirls are everpresent in our homes: knobs in the kitchen, carpet patterns, fabric on bedding. Take a chance and add a little curve to your life.
Many years ago, Brian and I took a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington. We visited a little town called Sequim. A perfect place in the shadow of the mountains that was ideal for lavender growing. Purple Haze Lavender Farm was the most peaceful place in the world. While I have never visited the lavender fields in Provence (although Rachel brought me home some), I have to believe it was a similar experience. Waves of lavender bloom, buzzing bees, and the most magnificent fragrance assaulting the senses. It was a relaxing and complete zen experience! Some of these images are from a photographer, Colleen Cleveland, whom we met among the blooms.
Every Saturday at the North Union Farmers Market here in Shaker Heights, Daybreak Lavender Farm hocks their homemade concoctions of lavender scrubs, oils, lotions and potions. This farm is just down the street in Streetsboro, Ohio. So today the Cooks decided to take a visit. And it was just as memorable as my first visit to a lavender farm all those years ago. The kids ran around the grids of lavender bushes, we picked blossoms, and then we laid in the field and just…. breathed. It was lovely. We trekked around the fields, pond, and paths on the property and just enjoyed the moment. There were even exotic chickens hanging out in the adjacent yard. We smelled all the candles, crèmes, and culinary delectables and then we were on our way.
With the blooms only lasting a few more days in this part of the world, it was great to fit it in this summer for a mini moment.
Sophie Cook at DayBreak Farms, Summer 2013
I’ve had a passion for lavender my whole life. My Mom and I used to always make floral arrangements for fun, and visited the The Village Herb Shop in Chagrin Falls to stock up on it. I always drag Brian to herb farms to seek it out. Despite the medicinal and relaxation qualities, it just works for me, soothing, calming…it must be a natural ying to my crazy Type A yang.
Sophie Cook at DayBreak Farms, Summer 2013
So how does this romantic herb and sedate purple fit into our decor? Calmly, casually, and with many shades of grey mixed in. You can’t overdo it, or it gets to be too much. Muddied down with tones of grey, it is sophisticated beyond belief. I designed a great room for a family with twin boys: Greys, Lavender, Chocolate, and Walnut. It was masculine indeed. Another client has a super elegant modern living room with lavender grey sectionals. Hot! Too much of a good thing can throw you back into the Victorian age, so don’t over do it though. It looks great mixed with persimmon, or cerulean blue, or even citrine. But definitely in moderation.
As far as displaying the herb, it’s always going to have a Country French effect, but if you love it like I do, put it out and let this magical herb do its trick. Here are the efforts of our day displayed on my dresser. I know I will go to bed a lot happier tonight.
My dresser filled with Sunday’s treasures
Visit Daybreak Lavender Farm at www.daybreak. Time is running out!
Bundled lavender and other flowers we found on our visit
I have always loved everything French. French décor, French wine, French living. This week I was with a road biking-obsessed friend who spent some time explaining the Tour de France to me. While it all looked so intriguing and athletic, I was gripped by the gorgeous French countryside, scenery, and choreography of the event. (For you biker aficionados we were watching the team time trials in Nice). Oh and of course, the yellow jersey…while that color and role has been tainted by all the rhetoric around the famous Lance, it is still so powerful and quite an honor to obtain.
I have a yellow living room. With some country french décor – that I still like – a lot. But I always think of how I can take it to the next level of design and modernize the color and décor a bit. So Linda and I played around with it and omphed it up a bit this week. Hung some modern art, changed some of the accessories.
But the ideal would be to execute one of these amazing yellow designs! Still a little fussy French, still a little mellow yellow. Mixed with stark white, shades of grey, charcoal or black. More modern lines would change the flavor significantly. Someday!
What makes French Design so appealing?…the intrigue of Versaille and the Hall of Mirrors, the classic Fauteuil chair, the Rococo silks and damasks that remind us of Marie Antoinette. (An amazing movie of rich French eye candy of scenery and fashion, a must see) Even this fancy, overdecorated look can be executed with a modern flair. And yellow will always be in fashion for French style. Even today, fashion forward design still dominates in this cosmopolitan city of glamour and culture. A continual influence on our interior design aesthetic. Just recently we saw the Christian LaCroix collection for Designers Guild..magnifique!
“The Tour” as bikers call it, will be on for a few more weeks, so make sure you check it out, eve just to appreciate the sheer athletic prowess of these riders, but also to catch some amazing shots of the French countryside and a little yellow power along the way.