Friday, April 29, 2011

WHY: Charlotte Moss

“To express the things of the spirit in visible form”: it’s my belief that our spirits are most honestly expressed not by sofas, curtains, and carpets, but by the stack of favorite mysteries and gardening books on a side table, flowers on the windowsill, or porcelains displayed in the dining room. These “telling details” – our objects, bibelots, whatnots, and knickknacks – say the most about who we are. They are as honest as a diary. - Charlotte Moss

To purchase a copy of “The Poetry of Home, Volume 1” by Charlotte Moss, please visit

Thursday, April 28, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog …

Knock-offs have been in the news a lot lately. The Bloomberg administration is weighing putting a $1,000 fine on buying counterfeit handbags. Zara’s Spring collection had some bloggers doing a double-take at its striking resemblance to Prada and Celine.

Meanwhile in the home furnishings world, J. Crew stands accused of ripping off a Tony Duquette design for a sweater. And Restoration Hardware faces accusations it copied antiques without proper attribution. But unlike the fashion industry, the design community hasn’t been in an uproar about fakes and knockoffs. No shelter or design publication runs an awareness campaign about knockoff home furnishings like Bazaar’s campaign against fake fashion accessories. Few furnishings designers engage in high-profile lawsuits to stop copies, as Tiffany, Louis Vuitton and Kate Spade have.

Knockoffs cost less for a reason: they are often poorly made, unimaginative products that prey on people’s bargain-hunting instincts. But the real prices of so-called bargain products are high: financial hits to the home furnishings industry, reputational damage to creators of original designs and loss of creative incentive among designers.

Despite the efforts of a few dedicated groups and individuals, including Emeco, The Eames Office, M2L and the now-defunct Foundation for Design Integrity, the knockoff issue never gains much traction in the home furnishings industry.

Why is there such silence from the design community? Do knockoffs cause real problems for product designers and artisans, or do copies just make good design available to a wider audience?

What do you think?

Image courtesy Unbeige.

WHERE: “Rooms with a View” at the Frick Collection

The Frick Collection is located in industrialist Henry Clay Frick’s former home at 1 East 70th Street. In the 1930s architect John Russell Pope undertook the conversion of the Frick family home into a public museum, nearly doubling its size.

In 1935, journalists wrote of the graceful mansion-turned-museum as a “legacy of beauty” where the quality of its collection was “unsurpassed anywhere.” Decades later, it remains one of New York City’s cultural treasures, drawing approximately 275,000 visitors annually to see masterpieces by Bellini, Fragonard, Gainsborough, Goya, El Greco, Holbein, Houdon, Ingres, Rembrandt, Renoir, Turner, Vermeer, Whistler, and others, as well as related special exhibitions, education programs, and concerts.

“Rooms With A View” is a ten-minute presentation about a distinctive and beautiful room of The Frick Collection. These talks are presented throughout the year free of charge, and they do not require reservations.

For more information, please visit

Image and info courtesy The Frick Collection.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WHEN: Kips Bay Opens!

The most high profile renovation project in the country opens its mansion doors tomorrow, April 28 at 163 East 63rd Street. The striking, neo-Federalist style residence was once owned by John Hay "Jock" Whitney and boasts unique historic details acquired during his travels abroad. Each of the 16 rooms in the four-story, 10,000-square-foot mansion will delight design enthusiasts and anyone looking for decorating inspiration.

The participating interior designers include Amanda Nisbet, Aurelien Gallet, Barbara Ostrom, Bilotta Kitchens of New York, Brad Ford, Campion Platt, Cayley Barrett, Stephen Fanuka, Richard Heller, Gunn Landscapes, Harry Heissmann, Jamie Herzlinger, Jeff Lincoln, Celerie Kemble, Mary McDonald, Matthew Patrick Smyth, Richard Mishaan, and Robert Stillin.

Admission is $30, which includes the Journal and Source Book. Group Admission is $25 per person for groups of 20 people or more. Proceeds benefit 10 afterschool programs in the Bronx.

For more information, please visit or call 718 893 8600 x245.

Image and info courtesy Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WHAT: Chintz

Chintz was originally a woodblock-printed, painted or stained calico produced in India from 1600 to 1800. The familiar design of small florals set on a neutral ground is so commonplace today for bed covers, quilts and draperies that few could imagine it was once considered so exotic as to be banned in Europe.

Around 1600, Portuguese and Dutch traders began bringing Indian chintz to Europe. English, French and other European mills couldn’t manufacture chintz, and their governments acted to protect them by banning the textile. However, like most laws these decrees had loopholes, and creative and entrepreneurial individuals found ways around the bans. By the time the prohibitions were finally lifted in 1759, English and French mills had perfected their own chintz manufacturing processes, and the French had even developed their own signature style: Toile de Jouy.

Image (“Avion – 415” in Cornflower by Pierre Deux) courtesy Kravet. Info courtesy Wikipedia.

Monday, April 25, 2011

WHO: Frances Adler Elkins

Frances Adler Elkins was one of the most prominent designers of the early 20th Century. Her formal introduction to interior design came during a trip to Europe with her brother, famed architect David Adler. After she established her interior design practice in 1918, she championed the work of artists – including Jean-Michel Frank and Alberto Giacometti – who she had met on the trip.

Her career took off after she and her husband purchased and restored Casa Amesti, a crumbling and run-down but historic abode in Monterey, California. She added classical details such as dentil cornices and fluted door casings; arranged English, French and Chinese furnishings symmetrically (in deference to her brother’s taste); and kept to a strict palette of blue, yellow and white. Casa Amesti was the talk of the California design community and firmly established Elkins as a style-setter and tastemaker.

She went on to decorate homes, private clubs and resorts from Pebble Beach to San Francisco, as well as in Chicago and on the East Coast. Though best known in California, her dramatic mix of bold, sunny colors and eclectic European art influenced designers and décor across the country.

Info and image courtesy Thanks to House Beautiful for the inspiration!

Friday, April 22, 2011

WHY: Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, April 21, 2011

WHERE: Monticello

Situated on a mountaintop outside Charlottesville, Virginia, Monticello, a 5,000-acre plantation, was the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia. Monticello is the only historic home in the U.S. on the United Nations’ World Heritage List.

Monticello is the autobiographical masterpiece of Thomas Jefferson – designed and redesigned and built and rebuilt for more than 40 years – and its gardens were a botanic showpiece, a source of food, and an experimental laboratory of ornamental and useful plants from around the world.

This is Historic Garden Week at Monticello, with special programs focusing on the grounds, horticulture and nature. What better way to celebrate spring and all its new beginnings than with a visit to this historic site?

“If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous, you need to go to…Monticello.” – from “And the Pursuit of Happiness,” by Maira Kalman

For more information, please visit To purchase “And the Pursuit of Happiness,” please visit

Image and info courtesy Monticello.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WHEN: East Coast/West Coast Design: Is It Apples and Oranges? Tuesday, April 26

For all their differences – geography, typography, what constitutes “dressed up” and what counts as culture – New York and Los Angeles also share traits including high-profile designers, tightly-knit design communities, and a passion for creating beautiful spaces that exemplify each city’s unique lifestyle.

On April 26, two leading designers will explore the similarities and differences between these two high-profile markets. Christopher J. Grubb, President of Arch-Interiors Design Group Inc., and Darren Henault, President of Darren Henault Interiors, Inc., will share their experiences in designing in New York and Los Angeles. The designers will discuss factors such as materials, scale, finishes, and more that determine each coast’s design style.

The presentation will be held in New York’s Decoration and Design Building at 9:30 a.m., with a reception at Fortuny to follow. For reservations, please call 212 759 2969.

For more information, please visit

Info courtesy the D&D Building. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What: Federal Style

The Federal Style coincides with the early years of the Republic, 1780-1830. The style is completely classical, with traces of antique Pompeiian and Greco-Roman design coming through Adam; Hepplewhite, Sheraton, and regency influences from England; and Louis XIV, Directoire, and Empire influences from France.

Federal furniture is predominantly mahogany, though curly maple and fruitwood were used also. This furniture featured brass accents on ring handles, casters, feet and ornaments. Feet and legs were mostly turned, and reeding was more typical than fluting. Common decorative motifs range from elements of the natural world, such as lions heads and leaves, to classical touchstones such as scrolls and lyres.

The Federal Era was marked by a great interest in architecture and archeology; leading citizens like Thomas Jefferson brought this enthusiasm to a high pitch. Interiors and furniture reflect in pure outlines and refined detail the classic stateliness of Palladio and Vignola and their European followers.

Info courtesy The Encyclopedia of Furniture, by Joseph Aronson. Image courtesy

Monday, April 18, 2011

WHO: Ruby Ross Wood

Ruby Ross Wood, one of America’s first decorators, started her career writing about design. Her writing appeared regularly in The Delineator, a popular women’s magazine. The columns she wrote under the byline of Elsie de Wolfe formed the basis of de Wolfe’s decorating manual “The House in Good Taste.” Columns she wrote about architecture under her own name became the basis of The Honest House, a popular book in the early-1900s.

Though her first design firm, the Modernist Studios, folded, Ruby Ross Wood went on to run Belmaison at John Wanamaker, and to work with Nancy McClelland at Au Quatrieme. In the 1920s, she opened her own firm. Her most famous employee was Billy Baldwin, who said Wood’s professional credo was “The final judgment in decorating is not the logic of the mind, but the logic of the eye.”

Info courtesy Wikipedia. Image courtesy All The Best. Special thanks to House Beautiful for the inspiration!

Friday, April 15, 2011

WHY: Albert Hadley

“The essence of interior design will always be about people and how they live. It is about the realities of what makes for an attractive, civilized, meaningful environment, not about fashion or what’s in or what’s out. This is not an easy job.” – Albert Hadley

Thanks to Traditional Home for the inspiration!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

WHERE: Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights holds the title of America’s first suburb. It became New York’s first commuter town in the early 19th Century when a new steam ferry provided reliable service to Wall Street.

Well-known for the Brooklyn Promenade, which offers unbelievable views of the Manhattan Skyline across the East River, Brooklyn Heights is well-loved for the three-, four- and five-story houses that line its shady, narrow streets.

This charming neighborhood features a great range of architectural styles, including a few Federal-style houses from the early 19th Century in the northern part of the neighborhood, brick Greek Revival and Gothic Revival houses, and Italianate brownstones. A number of houses, particularly along Pierrepont Street and Pierrepont Place, are authentic mansions.

Brooklyn Heights was the first neighborhood protected by the 1965 Landmarks Preservation Law of New York City. Its dedication to preservation, architectural authenticity and timeless charm make it an ideal destination for architecture enthusiasts and history buffs.

Image courtesy Time out New York Kids. Info courtesy Wikipedia.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

WHEN: Great Escapes: New Designs for New York Hotels, May 5

Since the 19th century, New York’s hotels have provided glamorous, romantic, relaxing and stimulating respites from everyday life. What role did hotels play in the life of the city in the past, and how do contemporary designers imagine the place of their hotels in today’s New York City? Trace the history of the hotel experience and hear how contemporary designers are creating the next generation of urban retreats at “Great Escapes: New Designs for New York Hotels,” presented by the New York School of Interior Design and the Museum of the City of New York.

Speakers will include Todd Schliemann of Ennead Architects on the Standard Hotel; Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz of BNO Design on the Mondrian Soho; and Scott Salvator on redesigning the interiors at the Carlyle.

This presentation will be held on May 5 at 6:30 p.m., at the Museum of the City of New York. Reservations required. For more information, please visit

Image courtesy the Carlyle Hotel.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

WHAT: New York Interiors: Furnishings for the Empire City

The Museum of the City of New York offers a glimpse into domestic life in New York in New York Interiors: Furnishings for the Empire City. The ongoing exhibit features elements of the city’s domestic environments reflecting work, life, technology and entertainment and recreation. From chandeliers to settees, the exhibit provides insight into New Yorkers’ lives and lifestyles from the late 17th century through the early 20th.

For more information, please visit

Image courtesy the Museum of the City of New York.

Monday, April 11, 2011

WHO: Albert Hadley

Among the few designers who qualify as legends, Albert Hadley stands apart for creating interiors that are chic and timeless, elegant and livable. He began his career at McMillen Inc., and went on to form the legendary partnership of Parish-Hadley before starting his own firm, Albert Hadley, Incorporated. His clients included Vice President and Mrs. Albert Gore, Diane Sawyer and Mide Nichols, and Mrs. Vincent Astor.

Interior Design magazine described Albert Hadley as “defined by his keen sense of architectural detail and proportion, his carefully edited decorative schemes, sustained sense of tradition, combined with an inexhaustible curiosity for the new.”

“Albert Hadley: The Story of America’s Preeminent Interior Designer” by Adam Lewis is available through

Image courtesy Elle Décor. Special thanks to House Beautiful for the inspiration!

Friday, April 8, 2011

WHY: Mies van der Rohe

“A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous.” – Mies van der Rohe

Thursday, April 7, 2011

WHERE: Washington Square North

Washington Square North, also called “The Row,” presents a unified line of Late Classical townhouses along the northern side of Washington Square Park.

In the 1840s, New York City’s elite established Washington Square, far from the increasingly commercial environment of Lower Manhattan, as the address of choice. Anchored by the mansion of William C. Rhinelander at the center of Washington Square North, “the Row” of Greek Revival townhouses on either side of Fifth Avenue presented the unified and dignified appearance of privilege. When the center of New York society moved north after the American Civil War, the houses on the square came to represent the gentility of a bygone age. Henry James, whose grandmother lived at 18 Washington Square North, brilliantly depicted this nostalgic view in his 1881 novel “Washington Square.” Today, most of the buildings belong to New York University’s campus facilities.

“The ideal of quiet and of genteel retirement, in 1935, was found in Washington Square, where the doctor built himself a handsome, modern, wide-fronted house, with a big balcony before the drawing-room windows, and a flight of white marble steps ascending to a portal which was also faced with white marble. This structure, and many of its neighbours, which it exactly resembled, were supposed, forty years ago, to embody the last results of architectural science, and they remain to this day very solid and honourable dwellings.” - “Washington Square,” Henry James

To purchase “Washington Square,” please visit

Info courtesy Wikipedia. Image courtesy Dwell.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WHEN: Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay, through June 5

Known primarily as an abstract painter and colorist, Sonia Delaunay applied her talents and theories to all areas of visual expression, including interiors, fashion and textiles. A trademark of Delaunay’s work is the sense of movement and rhythm created by the simultaneous contrasts of certain colors.

This exhibit highlights the intersection of interior design, textile design and fashion design. It includes several pieces from museums and collections around the world, with a special focus on fashion designs from her own Atelier Simultane in Paris during the 1920s, as well as textiles designed for the Metz & Co. department store in Amsterdam in the 1930s.

“Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay” will run through June 5. For more information, please visit

Info and image courtesy Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

WHAT: Colonial Style

New York City – the ultimate modern metropolis – would seem unlikely ground for anything evoking the past. Yet, surprisingly, this most up-to-date city has long been home to some of the country’s best examples of classic architecture and design.

One of the most recognizable styles is Colonial Revival. The designs hallmarks – red brick walls, limestone trim, multipane windows with shutters – powerfully connects the city to its past. New York architects designed museums, apartment buildings, churches, private clubs, and residences throughout the city and its suburbs in the style; designers and manufacturers created popular lines of furnishings; and museums and civil organizations promoted the style through exhibitions and events.

From June 14 through November 6, the Museum of the City of New York will present “The American Style: Colonial Revival and the Modern Metropolis.” The show will feature photographs, furnishings and an array of decorative arts, which explore this enduring American style.

For more information, please visit

Info and image courtesy The Museum of the City of New York.

Monday, April 4, 2011

WHO: Dorothy Draper

Dorothy Draper was the first to “professionalize” the interior design industry by establishing, in 1923, the first interior design company in the United States, something that until then was unheard of, and also at a time when it was considered daring for a woman to go into business for herself.

She helped inspire a generation of home improvement devotees with her 1939 book, “Decorating is Fun! How to Be Your Own Decorator.”

Dorothy Draper’s style was big, brash, bodacious, bold, and bordered on what some would consider gaudy, with color combinations, outsize furniture, and embellishments that shocked both men and women of her day. Projects included makeovers for the Hotel Carlyle, New York’s Hampshire House, Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, West Virginia’s Greenbrier and others. Among decorators, it was said that these locations had been “Draperized.”

Her style influenced a range of architects and designers, including Morris Lapidus, Robert Denning and Philippe Starck. Carleton Varney, her protégé and and the current owner of Dorothy Draper and Company, Inc. has written several books about her work.

For more information, please visit To purchase “Decorating is Fun!”, “Entertaining is Fun!”, “In The Pink,” and related books, please visit

Image courtesy Wikipedia. Info courtesy Wikipedia and Thanks to House Beautiful for the inspiration!

Friday, April 1, 2011

WHY: Winifred Gallagher

Like the old song says, there’s no place like home, not because of the real estate, but because of the sense of shelter and nurture that it provides. This deep, wordless experience can’t be manufactured in an instant but develops slowly, one birthday party, convalescence, Thanksgiving and cup of tea at a time.

From “The Other Real Estate Value,” by Winifred Gallagher, New York Times Opinionator Blog/Living Rooms, June 28, 2010