Friday, November 14, 2014

Prince Charles' garden at Highgrove House

Spend an hour touring Highgrove's gardensthey're spectacular. Plus it's Prince Charles' birthday today, so why not?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Early 18th-century pattern books—a wealth of inspiration

When I was did the Christie's Decorative Arts program at the University of Glasgow, the course was divided in to five categories. First we studied the history of interiors, then it broke down into media: ceramics, glass, textiles and silver. As the course went along, we were encouraged to focus our studies and were allowed to drop one of the four media. I dropped textiles... which I've regretted ever since, especially when I stumble upon treasure troves of historic patterns, like these by James Leman at the V&A. Leman was born in Spitalfields, London, in 1688 to a Huguenot family of weavers, and became a successful designer, providing hundreds of patterns for woven silks produced by some of the most fashionable factories. Most of the patterns posted here date between 1706 and 1716, making them some of the earliest silk patterns known to exist. I love the old color combinations, the stylized fruits and flowers, and the exotic bits of architecture. A single page could inspire a dozen new designs. I've always said I'll be a landscape designer in my next life. Perhaps I'll be a textile designer in the one after that. So much beauty, such endless possibilities!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Behind the scenes at designer Kathryn Ireland's new LA studio

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting designer Kathryn Ireland at a photo shoot for a story I was writing for Interiors California. I **love** being on shoots, and while Kathryn and photographer Robert Benson did their thing, I tiptoed around with my phone and snapped a few pics of Kathryn's new studio/office. Its as charming as you might expect... There are antiques from London dealer Christopher Hodsoll, racks of hand-printed textiles, sitting areas that display Kathryn's designs and, of course, all the working parts of the shop, from the long printing tables to the sewing rooms. Below are a few pictures from the day. Enjoy!

Kathryn and Robert in the studio's kitchen. I covet her Aga.

The entryway leads past the workrooms, sitting rooms and kitchen to the big living room and meeting space.

Everything Kathryn in one cheerful room.

Textiles, wood, tufting... texture, texture, texture.

A tabletop laden with the designer's many decorating books.

Where the magic happens... the printing room!

Sew, sort, sell.

Kathryn's new book, Inspired By, pays homage to the many people who have inspired her over the years. 

Monday, October 06, 2014

Who's *your* favorite?

I must be in an angular mood, as these are some of my top pics on Interior Design magazine's Best of Year 2014 list. Show your favorite designers some love and vote!

To vote, click here.

STRATA is an innovative collection of MeldStone™ benches and tables. Created in collaboration with industrial designer Jess Sorel, it is specifically designed to employ the company's proprietary MeldStone™ Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC) technology. The collection includes a straight bench with and without back, a backless angled bench and an asymmetric six-sided table, all of which can be combined in multiple ways to create out-of-the-ordinary social settings.

Part of the collection titled "Hamel + Farrell for Jean de Merry", the Module Side Tables were inspired by sharing gourmet chocolates. Each elements is whole and equally interesting whether employed in single or triplicate, and they fit together in jig-saw format as a single form. Shown in ebony grain wood finish with antiqued bronze, each element is approximately 34 x 30 x 18.25(h). The table was designed by Dylan Farrell and commissioned by Thomas Hamel for production by Jean de Merry.

The new standard of luxury glassware is the Nero Limited Edition Box Set. This set of impeccably designed spinning glassware features a rich, black-crystal finish. These pieces are designed to spin without toppling or spilling while aerating your favorite spirits. The Nero series includes two black Cupa whiskey tumblers and a black Vaso decanter, complete with a polished Amish-made wooden stopper. Each set is hand-signed and numbered by the designer and comes in a custom designed collector's box.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wise words from Chuck Close

This is precisely what I needed to read this morning, and what I need to remember every morning:
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case.” Chuck Close, from Andrew Zuckerman's book, Wisdom

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Rem Koolhaas lights up the Venice Architecture Biennale

This year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, which kicks off in just a few days, will display an illuminated archway designed by biennale director, Rem Koolhaas, and created in collaboration with Swarovski.

Luminaire is installed at the entrance to the Monditalia exhibition, where Koolhaas tells the history of Italy through its relationship to architecture. The wooden structure (some 20 feet high and nearly 65 feet long) was built by a family of craftsmen in Puglia and references the grand Renaissance façades of the city’s famed palazzi. The arch is decorated with over 30 pounds of tiny crystals that sparkle against thousands of colorful glass lights.

A brief video from the biennale’s set-up (oddly set to music that sounds like Sweet Home Alabama) gives a glimpse of the arch’s installation, and perhaps new meaning to Koolhaas’ famous quote, “Infrastructure is much more important that architecture.”

The 14th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia runs from June 7 to November 23, 2014.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Good advice from Hutton Wilkinson

I stumbled across Hutton on television this morning... just in time to hear this little kernel of wisdom: 

"If you hate your house, you hate yourself." 

He's right. 

Make your home beautiful and comfortable, a respite and an inspiration. You'll feel so much better for it.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Playful palaces designed by Alessandro Zambelli

I first learned about Italian designer Alessandro Zambelli when I included his recently released 3D-printed pendant lamps in my Whole Home column for Take Part (which you can find here). But I've only just now seen the Palace line of porcelain and glass table wares that he designed in 2011. (Where have I been?!?)

The dishes and glassware (all inspired by Italian architectural monuments) play on the idea of tourist souvenirs but are an entirely charming, practical, and cleverly designed presentation. Am absolutely in love with them. The rooftops double as serving dishes. The plates have floor plans! Part bento box, part doll house, part puzzle. It's a tabletop toy for grownups.

I'm sold.

Palazzo Ducale, with two bowls, a dish and a tray

Palazzo Signoria, with six plates and a serving dish

Battistero (my favorite!) is a breakfast set comprised of six cups, a creamer and sugar, a tray, and a covered container

Torrione, with six square dishes and a small container... for jewelry or hors d'oeuvres, you decide

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Dainty but potent

I've been in love with the work of Swedish ceramist Åsa Lindström since finding her little snaps cups in a shop in Gothenberg years ago. She's long been involved with the Stockholm craft collective Blås & Knåda (such an incredible place!) but I think it's wonderful that she's also now opened her own little boutique in the city, as well as in Gustavsbergs. Though I'll always be partial to her original series (Torsten, Vera, Anton and Ellen are in our cupboard), her new floral designs are definitely calling my name... especially the blackberries, heather and tulips. Perfect for spring. Pass the akvavit!

Monday, February 10, 2014

When "seeing red" is a good thing

Cherish wearing red lipstick, 2000, Guido Argentini ~ Preiss Fine Arts

It's February, the month of lovey-dovey red, and I've just spent entirely too much time alighting the virtual galleries of 1stdibs looking for items in the rosy hue. Herewith, my favorite finds, and a few fun quotes about the color.

A pair of 19th century-style chandeliers in the manner of  F.C. Osler ~ Guinevere Antiques

“If you are inclined to a hasty temper, for instance, you should not live in a room in which the prevailing note is red. On the other hand, a timid, delicate nature could often gain courage and poise by living in surroundings of rich red tones." Elsie de Wolfe

Mario Cananzi and Roberto Semprini's Tatlin sofa in red velvet, 1990 ~ The Gallery 

Tiffany & Co. Venus and Cupid brooch, c. 1890-1910, Enamel, gold, rubies, diamonds ~ Chas. Schwartz & Son

“Red is such an interesting color to correlate with emotion, because it’s on both ends of the spectrum. On one end you have happiness, falling in love, infatuation with someone, passion, all that. On the other end, you’ve got obsession, jealousy, danger, fear, anger and frustration. It’s an interesting color to correlate with all the really intense parts of a relationship, whether they’re good or bad.” Taylor Swift

Christian Louboutin patent leather sandles with velvet trim ~ Exquisite Finds

“All reds go together.” David Hicks

Sunday, February 09, 2014

In honor of my favorite Beatle, George Harrison, kind words from an old friend

The Beatles perform on the 'The Ed Sullivan Show' in New York on Feb. 9, 1964. | AP

Tonight marks fifty years since the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan and music changed forever. I can think of no better way to mark the occasion than by sharing a tender insight into the wonderful George Harrison that was sent to me when I was an editor at Architectural Digest

It was June of 2007 and we were hard at work on the August issue and a special feature written by Paul Theroux on the Hamilton Island home of George and Olivia Harrison. (You can read the article here.) Because of the hefty time difference between California and Australia, I was in touch with the Harrison's landscape designer Malcolm Hunt by email. We had several delightful exchanges, which I've kept filed away all these years because of their poignant charm. Whenever I'd stumble across the now slightly tattered pages tucked away in my closet, I'd read through them and think about how incredible it is when we connect with one another—how magical and transformative friendships can be—and that coincidences are really just answers, answers for which we should be immensely grateful.

Below are Malcolm's messages, exactly has he wrote them:

"I thought I should give you a brief history - the garden was done in two stages, 1st stage mid eighties when the house was being built then it languished with nothing being added - because of a disagreement between the lessee of the island and George - when the lessee was forced out George contacted me again and we finished the job in the mid nineties. I lived in the house at that time. I have a great affection for that job as I was involved from the very beginning and was able to complete the job for a man who I truly loved.

George was a passionate gardener and we could converse in the latin names of the genus and species of plants - in the book George wrote 'I Me Mine' the dedication of the book was to 'gardeners everywhere.'

As you can imagine, the garden involved some serious man hours and heavy earthmoving machinery with dams to dig and planting of many mature trees - some over 60 feet in height. George had a great sense of fun so I was able to incorporate fun things like my signature in the garden - if you stand at a certain spot on the pool deck and look upsidedown at the coconut palm trees around the pool you can see that they form a gigantic M for Malcolm.

One of the greatest compliments I have ever had in my life came from Olivia - George rang me at home one day from the house on Hamilton Island and after our chat he said Olivia would like to talk to you. She said to me 'Malcolm, when you were building the garden I always thought you were mad but being here now we just want to dig it up and take it home with us.'

So all the hours of hard work had all been worth it because at that moment they had loved something that I had co-created with the help of God. Our journey continued with us both being diagnosed with cancer and even though he had been attacked and stabbed in the lung he still rang me up and took me to a clinic in Boston - to me he will always be the greatest."

After sending Malcolm a copy of the issue late the following month, he sweetly replied with:

"Hi Maile, I received the Digest - thank you very much - but I just had to relate to you this little story. So the very second that I sat down to read the 'Harrison Haven' article and I mean the very second, over the radio came the very familiar strains of George's guitar and him singing 'all I got to do is to love you, all I got to be is happy, all it's got to take is some warmth to make it.' His words still bring me guidance and comfort. Especially when the communication is so synchronous. Thank you, Malcolm"

Blow Away by George Harrison, 1979

Monday, February 03, 2014

A horse is a horse, of course of course, even when made of leaves

As of last Friday, January 31st, we entered the Chinese Year of the Horse. I've resisted posting anything of the equine sort but have just learned about the work of 17th-century German artist Wolfgang Hieronymus von Bömmel... And, well, I have to share some of his drawings.

Von Bömmel's fantastical designs depict animals made up entirely of scrolling acanthus leaves. There's remarkably little known about the artist but it's believed the drawings were done some time after 1660. They were made into engravings and published widely in Germany and the Netherlands at the very end of the 17th century. The designs were intended as studies for goldsmiths, who would have used the popular acanthus ornamentation in their work.

The curling foliage so acutely expresses the energy of the animalstheir fur too, especially in the case of the little dog below. I'm completely blown away.

A spirited horse

Soldiers fighting on horseback

A dog and a cat

A lion and a hare

All images via the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection database.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Happy New Year!

It's January 6, epiphany, so in honor of the day, Warren Prosperi's Museum Epiphany III from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. I love this painting for the fact that it could be me. My sister and I were raised by parents that took us to museums and concerts at a very young age. What some people might even think of as too young! But it's never to early to introduce children to beauty. My epiphany, the very reason I went on to study the decorative arts, came during a family visit to Neuschwanstein. Walking through the 19th-century German castle at precisely the time I was being read fairytales at bedtime had an absolute and profound affect on me -- it was my first sense of time and history -- and I'm forever grateful to my mother and father. We just never know when inspiration will strike. May 2014 be a year of epiphanies and blessings for all of you. xx