Monday, February 23, 2009

In the City - Horns in Honor of Domino

Found at Center 44 - an antiques and boutique "mall" on the 2nd floor of a building on 44th

Loved this! Want my client to have it for her entry.

My favorite "horns" - found at Ted Muehling's (the fantastic jewelry designer) shop in SoHo. Just a simple set of elk horns wrapped with gold wire and hung from the ceiling.

Another specialty of Domino Decorating were the horns. They were everywhere (along with acrylic, Morcoccan rugs and sheepskin!) So I have been noticing them lately. Here are three I have seen in the last few days here in New York. Top two were at an antique "mall" - the last was not for sale, but loved the idea of it. I think with horns you either go all out or take it easy - one is probably enough for a whole house. I like a small set on a large wall or the only thing over a fireplace. My new thing is small art on big walls. Not sure why. Seems like everyone is doing big art these days. I just love how much attention a piece gets when it is small.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Contemplating New York

Street scene on snowy day - 5th Avenue

On the E Train to downtown.

I'm reading a wonderful book called Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnick, a writer for the New Yorker, about the five years he spent with his wife and baby son in Paris from 1995 - 2000. So far (and I am about 1/4 way through the book) it is tender, funny and acutely observant of the detailed differences between life in the US (specifically his own New York) and life in Paris. It required him to be a witness while simultaneously living into this new place, an immigrant.

It inspires me to begin my own journaling on New York - an entirely new experience for this farm girl from Iowa who spent a few years in the belle of the South - Charleston - and twenty-four years raising a family in the hardy and hard-working Minneapolis. New York is a different world, but that is the point.

As I lay awake at night listening to the annoying, but ever present percussive pipes surrounding the walls of my bed in my prewar apartment, sounding alternatively like an orchestra of tympanis or someone slowly, rhythmically sharpening a knife on a sharpening strap, my mind latches onto some details of my day. In the night, the thoughts expand, bigger than they are in real time. And last night I began to think about a part of life here that is unique to a walking city, which I mostly enjoy.

The Street Dance.

When I am out and about in the city, I do have recollections of our time in Florence. The scenery, the smells, the textures of the buildings are a bit different, but the street dance is taking place in both cities. It requires that one's senses be heightened to others, to their movement, their intention, their discomfort and maybe even their power. Not required, but included for me is the pleasure of the visual display of fashion, of gait, of studying the people with confidence, of the elderly making their way around this city and of the diversity of skin color and ethnicity and languages.

In New York, unless you are shielded by a car or cab, you are among people. It is making me more observant and sensitive. Sidewalks don't have yellow lines down the middle, no passing zones. There is no speed limit. The streets of New York allow for any and all varieties of walkers. There are moms with strollers, often covered by a plastic shield to protect from wind and rain. There can be a sea of umbrellas on a rainy or snowy day, making the maneuvering only more treacherous or you lose an eye. There are the elderly, beautifully dressed, sometimes with a cane to overcome the insecurity of a curb or the inequality of concrete. There are the young and hip, often walking to a beat, a beat provided by the white headphones hanging iconically from their ears, tucked into a black and slightly wrinkled coat. There are the Europeans, often (but not always) still identifiable here in New York because of the way they look just slightly different. The men look like men with a scarf and great shoes, hair slightly longer. The women confident and feminine, long hair, sometimes messy on purpose, precise and complete in their style, whether it be French deconstructed or Italian sexy. Then, the lilt of their beautiful language confirms the suspected difference. There are the worker bees, bikes with delivery baskets parked in front of D'Agostinos and restaurants, descending to the depths delivering boxes of food to the storage areas, packing away the unsold flowers from the street and storing them below for the night, only to be brought up into the light of day once again the next morning. There are the smokers from whom you can't seem to get out of their exhaust. There are hand holding couples; love seems to shield them from the sound and fury of the cityscape. They move at their own pace, usually slower than the pack. There are men in long coats, tailored, beautiful, strong and middle-aged, moving and shaking this city into its form; you imagine them the deal makers. There is the vast middle class, mostly wearing black or variations on the theme, dressed for the weather in boots, hats, gloves, coats that won't show too much wear and tear. I read recently that only very wealthy women own a white coat in New York. You would have to clean it after each wearing. In the summer, stripped of the bondage of winter gear, women show skin, bare legs and painted toes. Shoulders are loose. Streets are less crowded. The scene is prettier.

So, if this is the company of dancers, what is our coreography? There is none. It is purely improv out there. Yet, it seems to me there is a basic agreement toward kinship, a kind of "We're all in this together, so let's generally make it pleasant." New Yorkers don't saunter, unless they are window shopping on Madison. They move with purpose. They have places to go and things to do.

I've come to enjoy this dance. It is the corps of humanity, all on this stage together and we learn how to swing a hip to avoid collision in any given moment, whisper an "Excuse me," with a meager smile and, if really awake and not distracted by one's own mental minutiae, join in emotionally. I sometimes feel suddenly sad. It isn't the homeless that do it - there aren't all that many. It is a tired face that will do it to me. I think, "What is their burden today?"

In a car, we are completely protected from those faces, a huge, expensive metal defense and, given what our cars say about us, a social barrier. I know our country was not designed in a way that most of us can avoid using a car. But, for Lee and me, after living in Florence for a month a couple of years ago, we realized that we are happiest on our feet, interacting with the architecture and people of a city more intimately. It is why we chose New York. It is insecure, out of your control, human intimacy. There are smells and people you won't like. I see aging in all forms every day and therefore, I am more sensitive to what I see in the mirror. I don't like it sometimes. Here, life happens. No covering it up. People get old and they still sit next to you at the restaurant. It is wonderful. People are homeless and you walk past them on the street (not drive past them as I do in Minneapolis.) People work hard and look worse for the wear. Others are beautiful and frivolous in their furs and fashion. And I am coming to appreciate it all. The range of emotion I can feel in a day is broad. Sometimes it is not very comfortable, but I am alive here and I know it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What am I doing Wrong?

From the New York Times, 2/18/2009

It's 8:00 and I'm in my pj's - reading. Last night, it was 8:00 and I was in my pj's - reading. Now, don't get me wrong. I love reading. But just you go to this link and see what some of New York was doing last night!

This is Giorgio's blog on the opening of his 5th Avenue store. Now, I have loved Giorgio Armani for a long time, like since the '80's, and still I didn't get invited. Lee and I thought maybe we could dress as the waitstaff and scoot our way in. But, no, I was home in my pj's. I didn't go out once today either. I just worked at home all day on my computer. I'm in a slump. I'll start calling my little apartment "The Hermitage."

There is a world out there. I saw on Huffington Post that Angelina was in town, shopping for art supplies around the corner. Had I gone out for coffee at least, maybe I would have run in to her. But, no....I was probably in my pj's most of the morning too. that is how I work when I work at home - writing, ordering things for my clients, etc.

Anyway, the party sounded fantastic and wish I could have been there, Gio. Next time. Ciao.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Requiem for Domino

Playroom for boys. Love the IKEA sofa!

A corner of the dining room - great displays.

Another - High/Low - Target window panels, old silver.

Living Room - with hand-stenciled walls - collection of glass.

My 30 and 40-something friends couldn't believe it! (And, neither could I since I live vicariously through them.) Domino magazine is on its deathbed. How could this be? It is without a doubt THE most cherished magazine among my hip, urban, educated, tasty friends. Even I got bitten by the Domino bug when I realized there is a place for both acrylic and sheepskin in each and every room!

But, alas, the economy has taken yet another life - it is merciless. No matter how many magazines this demographic buys at the newstand, it can't support a company going into $300,000,000 of debt over three years. (Did I get the number of zeros right? That is a slightly inside scoop.) In the magazine world, you have to be a whore to the advertisers, not your fans.

So, I'm feeling like picking up a little of the slack and will show you some really great rooms I've seen recently - a tribute to Domino's spirit of young, fresh, affordable, creative spaces. I'll see how long I can keep this up!

Here's a wonderful example of the creative spirit on a budget - from the home of Paul and Anne Cramer of Minneapolis. Anne is the genius behind this look, down to the hand-stenciled walls in the living room and fuzzy IKEA sofa in the playroom that looks like some Italian thing I saw at Moss in NY a few months ago (for $15,000!) Anne has a great eye! We sing the Domino dirge for Anne this week.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

So Far Away

I have an iphone. It has this feature on my itunes called "genius," which figures out which songs go together. I think they copied Pandora. So I start out with a little Van Morrison and, before I know it, Carole King is singing So Far Away. Now this takes me back to 1971 when I graduated from high school, I was 17 years old. I wore low riding bell bottoms, puckered tops and a particular midriff top that made my mother and father cringe - and, yes, hot pants. All my friends were 18 and were legal to go to the bars in Okoboji and Arnold's Park that summer. I was left out. I hadn't yet figured out the system of fake IDs. But I could go to the Roof Garden in Arnold's Park and dance. The most perfect way to spend a Saturday night. A friend of ours, Bobby, got so drunk one night while we were all there dancing to the Buckinghams, that when he took a break to go ride the roller coaster, he stood up at the peak of one of the hills, celebrating youth and immortality and was thrown out. He died. We were there. We were too young to die. Life had just been laid on our doorsteps.

Tapestry was THE album that summer. It was still THE album when I went to Iowa State that fall. Now, my 19-year old daughter likes it. What did we tap that spans two generations? My parents generation didn't do that. I was not listening to Frank Sinatra.

Now, it just takes me back. And still seems so relevant.

So far away. "One more song about movin' along the highway. Can't say much of anything that's new. If I could only work this life out my way, I'd rather spend it close to you. Doesn't help to know that you're so far away."

Reminds me of my marriage. Makes me miss Lee.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Shoemaker's Child

My cat's scratching post for the last 4 years. GONE!

My just re-decorated library using "only what I had in the refrigerator."

Details of these fabulous Italian candlesticks I got late last year for $116! Love them on a modern glass table.

I hear this all the time from designers and architects, after requesting a peak into their own private lives, perhaps for a magazine story: "NO, you can't possibly see my home. It's awful. It's not ready. I'm working on it. I'm one of the shoemaker's children."

Welcome to the club. Many of us are designers because we can't NOT be. We aren't all in it for the money. The big bucks seem to fall into the hands of the lucky (and not necessarily talented!) few. Of course, many of them are talented and smart and living in just the right places. But many really do this for the love of it and the lifestyle and income are perfectly fine, yet not extravagant enough to afford us the luxury of filling a home with beautiful furnishings, art and accessories - especially all in one fell swoop. We are, however, grateful for the people out there who do this!

So, when it comes to our own homes - most of us just get by. (Unless, of course, you are one of THOSE decorators whose entire life and business is funded by a husband. Is that a business, some of us would ask, or a hobby?) We wiggle along, finding this bargain, and that throw-away at an estate sale, and say, "Yes, Mom, I'd love that painting of Aunt Esther's," and save, save, save for the one amazing sofa that is worth more than everything in your home put together and probably 1/2 year's tuition for your child's college. (Not kidding.)

And we get depressed. I've long gotten over the "Gim-mes" when showing clients a Christian Liaigre sofa dressed in white linen, every bit as elegant as Jackie Kennedy in a Chanel chemise or a 19th Century Spanish table that is the bargain of a lifetime, but still not in this month's budget. (I have NOT gotten over the "Gim-mes" for antique rugs and Italian sofas, however.) I really do say that when I find something I love and can't have it, it must be meant for a client of mine. My clients love these finds and I live vicariously through their happiness.

A good designer is like the chef who has no plans for dinner, yet six guests show up at the last minute and he/she can dig around in the fridge and the pantry and pull together a culinary masterpiece. And more than most of the time, this is what we do with our own homes. This weekend, returning from New York, where I mostly love our apartment (and, at 450 sf it is easy to fill!) I just felt UGH at the site of my Minneapolis apartment, which has been ransacked so that I could enjoy New York. I feel like I live in a first college apartment again, with the ratty stuff - the stuff I wouldn't send to my new life on the Upper East Side.

I had to do something or I would abandon this post entirely, burn it down and send love letters from New York explaining my abject melancholy trying to live like a 22-year old as a 55-year old.
So I got to work. First, out with the ratty, scratching post of a chair. Wow. Did that feel good! Then, I just moved all of what was left into one room and made it as nice as possible. Now, I have one nice sitting room and an empty living room - without any seating at the moment. But, I have a plan.

What is interesting and a lesson for your own home is this: IF you buy things you love, over time, they WILL generally go together. Maybe not every last thing, but this room above is an example of how I think things work when you buy eclectic. A little traditional, a little modern, a little antique. This room is Room & Board (tables, sofa and leather chair, lamp - all Room & Board Outlet!) and the other stuff is just collected. Ralph Lauren leopard pillows, rather expensive Christian Liaigre fabric for a pillow, a painting by a great grand uncle but framed nicely in gold leaf. The rug is vintage 1930's Chinese Deco - a period I have always loved. Now, I wouldn't have painted the trim in this room blue, but que sera - it is quite European. And I wouldn't use a blue rug and a blue-gray sofa together for a client, but again....kind of European to just use what you have and make it look somehow intentional.

I'm working on the living room next. Budget? About $200 right now - I may have to stretch it a little. Will keep you posted and show you photos when I get it together. For now, do some digging and see how some of your own things might be re-arranged to make a room feel new.