Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My uber chic client - in Faribault, MN - population 3000?

I just finished this wonderful home in Faribault, MN. Although their primary home is in Sweden, their sons attend Shattuck-St. Mary's, she serves on the board and, naturally, they enjoy spending time with their sons. Voila! A secondary home in Faribault. I went to take some snapshots today. This was a really wonderful project - there wasn't one piece of furniture or an accessory in the home when we started last fall. We completed it in 6-7 months. She was on a mission, has fabulous taste and a quick mind - all of which made the project fun, fast, and seem to fall in place like magic. It is a wonderful concoction of Baker, Knapp & Tubbs, Holly Hunt, Jon Frost cabinets, vintage, Aubry Angelo rugs including one by Jan Kath and Rose Tarlow hemp for draperies.

To prove her sartorial taste, Bill Cunningham recently stopped her on Madison Avenue in NY (where she spends quite a bit of time) with her little dog, Ted. She was looking incredibly chic and landed in the NY Times a couple of weeks ago in "On the Street". She's on the far right - with Ted.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Diana Kellogg's Apartment in Manhattan

My dear friend / client Sabena sent me this link today - so much goodness to digest! I had forgotten how inspiring this website can be - so thank you, Sabena, for reminding me. Here is a link to Diana's apartment / loft. So easy, relaxed, natural. Lots to learn here!

Here is a link to her own website - worth taking the time to noodle around! I'm sorry I can't get the photos to transfer.


Back to the Design World

Can you tell I'm back at work? Haven't had time to post for a week. I woke up to this image in one of my emails from Hickory Chair. I don't think of Hickory Chair as a high end company - nice middle of the road company and really useful for that! But, I thought this was a great way to put it all together. Love the one piece of wood. Happy Monday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

There are no chickens. There is snow.

The local rooster - our Italian alarm clock.

My Equipment shirt drying in the Italian sun.

Our final days in Italy...

Lilac - Lee's favorite flowering bush

On the terrace.

We are home from Italy. I should be wrapped in a straightjacket. The sky is not blue. (Please notice the color of the sky in the 2nd photo.) The temperature hovers at freezing and there is snow this morning. I had to scrape it from my car so that I could safely see to drive.

We are lame at planning. The deal was this: we go to Italy Mar 14 to April 14 and, when we return, winter will be a shadowy memory.


Oh, well. The Italian lilac sweetly swirls in my memory. As does the rooster's crow and the ringing of the bells and the breeze that dried the clothing and the beer on the terrace and the morning cappuccino and the sleepy mornings.

Spring will come to Minnesota too.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The News from San Cassione

The chicken that hangs out in our road.

Sugo Gabriella - the tomato sauce our landlord brought to us yesterday. Made and canned in her own kitchen.

How we spent the day in Italy. Doing laundry.

Gabriella's crocheted potholders.

There is no news that we know of.

Last night, we had a dining experience like none we've ever had. We were a little tire of cooking so went to the local "bar" (in Italy a "bar" is a place where you go get coffee or a drink - usually standing at a bar - and small foods that you might also eat standing. This bar also has a restaurant attached, a terrace overlooking a vast expanse of mountains awakening to spring - pale green powder puffs of leaves coming to life on the hills.

We arrived at the restaurant about 7:30 - and, surprise, you silly Americans! - were the first ones there. They kindly led us to a table on the terrace when we said we would like to eat al aperto. A woman asked us what we wanted to drink - she did not speak English - so I told her vino rosso and Lee asked for a vodka. She didn't know what that was so we went into the bar area with her - and pointed to what he wanted "with tonic". She was puzzled, then realized it was aqua tonica. Within moments, I had my wine and Lee had something resembling a vodka tonic without ice.

She returned to bring us plates, flatware, napkins, olive oil and parmesan cheese in a bowl with a spoon. No menu. I thought we were just very early and they weren't even set up to serve yet. But they were very kind and did not kick us out!

About 10 minutes later, they brought us warm focaccia. It was delicious dipped in the oil. Still no menu. Another 15 minutes and someone brought out a plate of maccheroni. It was covered in Bolognese sauce. It was really more like a ravioli without anything in the middle, a flat pasta about 1 - 2" square. Now we knew we weren't going to get a menu.

Because we had no idea what was to follow we heartily ate of the fresh that day pasta and sauce (we smelled it cooking when we were there earlier that day for cafe.) By the time we finished our share of the pasta (and we didn't finish it!) they brought the Secondi (second course.) Lovely little roasted potatoes and a plate of oh-so-amazing-i-don't-really-know-what-all-it-was roast beef - sliced as thin as paper, perfectly medium rare, drizzled in olive oil and served room temperature. OMG. Well, Lee and I inhaled that, but laughed that really this was quite a lot of food! As we sat back with full bellies to catch a breath, the waitress arrived with the next course! Delicately fried fresh from the garden zucchini and a bird of some kind, which we never touched.

We had to tell the waitress (who was also the cook) that the meal was buonissimo! But, it was a bit too much. We couldn't eat everything! I hope we didn't make an enemy for life. I think she was surprised! I ate as many of the zucchini as possible and have sworn to figure out how to make it! Lee was by now leaning back in his chair to make room for everything he had just inhaled.

When, without warning, two bowls of ice cream pie land in front of us. Well, we have to eat it. Who can turn down a nice Italian dessert when the cook is serving it to you. After 2 hours, we asked for the check, she met us at the bar at the register and told us the bill was 40 euro! That includes 2 vodka tonics and a 1/2 liter of wine.

We paid, with great enthusiasm, walked out into the planetarium sky, made our way home stealthily on the tiny paths back to our home in the dark.

I woke this morning - on our last full day here = and feel a deep gratitude for this place. The woman who owns the home came by yesterday with freshly canned homemade tomato sauce and pasta. I know this isn't some Disneyland version of a medieval Italian mountain village (for awhile I thought it might be) because there is not one single souvenir for sale anywhere! Not a t-shirt saying "I was high in San Cassione" (I can't believe I just thought of that.) No
bobble-head Italian grandmother with a broom, an apron and a flowered dress. Nope. It's all for real. And there seems to be no other news than that.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


The view off our terrace - toward another little medieval village with bell tower.

The cobbled street to our little home. Used by chickens, people, dogs and very small cars.

Our "neigborhood". Houses built very closely together here - even though the whole village's population is probably about 350 people.

There was a church on this spot as early as 722! Motifs over the doorway are primitive, almost totem-like. So different than images from a Renaissance church.

Last Thursday, we left Florence by train (kissing the door as I said good-bye to our lovely Il Terrazzino apartment) and went to Pisa. There, we picked up a car and began a harrowing trip to a mountain village outside Bagni di Lucca, where Gabriella waited to take us to her childhood home, built in the 16th C. We are here because last summer we made a home exchange with Ron (Gabriella's son) who lives in London. He wanted to go to NY with his girlfriend and would we, in exchange, like to use his ancestor's home in San Cassiano, Italy? Well, it looked cute enough. Sure. Why not? It will force us to go to Italy in the Spring.

We couldn't have imagined what we were getting into. 4 hours after leaving the Pisa train station, and loaded with groceries because we had no idea what would be available in the village; with Lee at the wheel and me on the email trying to decipher directions which, if printed, are 5 pages long and include detailed photos of milestones; after missing many of said milestones and having to drive miles beyond to find a place to turn around on the narrow country roads; upon reaching the turn off to San Cassiano - a road about one car wide and with instructions to honk at the "corners" = which I think of as a point where two roads intersect, but which, in this case means when the curve is so sharp you cannot see around it and therefore must honk so that you don't run into someone coming around the corner, thus careening one of you over the side of the mountain; after all this, for what should have been a 90 minute drive, we arrived to meet Gabriella.

She couldn't have been more lovely, her hair gray, almost a bob, in a loose flowered dress, a patterned bib apron and spectacles, she showed us her family home and spoke in some dialect that merged English and italian - Engalian? She now lives down the hill and this home is for rent and for extended family during the summers.

I was still in some kind of trauma after the treacherous drive up the mountain - I had no idea this is where the home would be! I imagined the quiet rolling hills of Tuscany set off alone on a winding road surrounded by olive trees. Instead we find ourselves in a Medieval village on the side of a mountain - houses perched one above the other as they move up the hill. The road to our home is cobbled, wide enough for a car if the chickens, dogs and people are out of the way. Most people back down the little hill because there is no place to turn around once down it.

Life here seems frozen in about the 1940's but in the form of an ancient village. There are electric lines everywhere and we have perfect wifi. There are only tiny, mostly older cars - Fiats, Volkswagons. It is silent most of the day except for the chickens. The roosters crow in the morning and again in the evening. Clucking can be heard throughout the day. Territorial dogs bark occasionally. And, there are voices, but rarely. We have seen maybe 10 -15 people in the three days we have been here. The largest groups are gathered, talking at the macelleria (meat market) or the little (and I do mean little!) market next door where we buy water, bira, chocolate and potato chips.

It is also exquisitely Spring here. The sun is burning the winter out of us. The sky is brilliantly blue. The house is deliciously cool. THe flowering trees are awake - magnolia, camellia, apple. Happy tulips fill the clay boxes on our terrace.
We have fires at night; once the sun has descended, the mountain air cools quickly. The rooster awakens me. We make bad coffee and drink it on the terrace in plastic cups.

Yesterday I made fresh Bolognese. We eat rucula salads, lots of eggs, and tonight will go to the only restaurant in the village. Mostly, we read, think, talk, write, walk, cook and eat. It is so clear how important this retreat is after the stimulation of Rome, especially. I feel pregnant with ideas. (Much too old to be pregnant with anything else!)

As early as the 13th C, the word "retreat" meant "to draw back", to "withdraw" - especially from a dangerous situation. By the 15th C it referred to a place of seclusion. As I think of the modern world and the toll it takes on us, I can see that retreat is necessary. I have mine here and I wasn't even looking for it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Lesson for Frank Lloyd Wright from the Florentines

Many years ago I visited Frank Lloyd Wright's own home in Evanston, Ill designed and built in the very late 19th Century.It was fantastic with glorious dark metallic walls plastered the color of bronze. On the tour, the guide mentioned the use of differing ceiling heights - something Wright became known for - to lend the sense of contraction and release as you move through the space (is this a rebirth experience????)

Yesterday, as we prepared to leave our sacred apartment in Florence, Il Terrazzino, I returned from lunch and took a long look at the beautiful Renaissance palazzo for a final time (this trip!) I saw the expression of contraction and release in this home - started in 1495 and completed around 1520. It's an old idea. but a beautiful one.

Here are some of the exquisite details of the palazzo. Bravo to the Di Ginori Lischis for keeping this building so very pure. (You can hardly imagine how bad - as in 70's-80's renovations - many of the ancient buildings are!)

The Entry of Palazzo di Ginori - Lee walking to the lift.

A Hallway to our apartment. Just freshly restored with the most beautiful chalky white plaster! Contraction....


Little passageway to our apartment.

Great light fixture on crisp white stucco. I love the bulbs!

Inside our apartment - the incredible old terracotta floor and armadio from who knows when???? (The armadio, which we know as an armoire - was used originally to store the suits of armor. A fun fact to know and tell!)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Florence as Feeling in pictures

As a visual person, nothing tells me more about Florence than the images. Here are few. I've had very little time to write here. Heading to Bagni di Lucca tomorrow for a "retreat" the last week of this trip. It is an exchange we made for our apartment in New York - we've never been but sounded good! A country farmhouse in the mountains. Will keep you posted.

The oranges at Mercato Centrale - stacked in crates. It is one of our favorite places in Florence and a daily stop.

This guy gets the "Best Butcher" award in Mercato Centrale. He has the most beautiful meats and plays Dire Straight when he's at work.

Bottles of vino everywhere. In Il Magazzino - one of our favorite small osterias.

Insalata di Fagiole e Sopprasata (Salad of Beans and Salami - more like bacon.)

A pair of men talking on a bench near Il Duomo. Such style!

Tourists at the Doors of Paradise at the Baptistry - by Ghiberti - one of the events that started the Renaissance.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Boboli Garden at the Pitti Palace

The Pitti Palace from the garden - Florence is ahead of the home and to the right.

Florence, the city, is not green. The streets are gray stones, the stucco piazzas and commercial buildings are, well, those beautiful shades of stucco. But there is little green. An occasional palm in an entrance. Today we went to see green at the Pitti Palace - just south of the Arno, the grand, very grand palace purchased by Medicis in 1549 (100 years after it was built by Luca Pitti, a Florentine banker.) You would think one palazzo in the city would be enough. i guess this was their suburban palace. Then, of course there is the Medici Villa in Fiesole and some 12th Century fortress of a villa - a working farm with olives and grapes farther out in the country. Oh, to be a Medici.

Into the formal garden

The Limonaia - just LOVED these finishes!!!

The formal garden - too early for flowers, but peonies are here - I'm sure there will be lemon trees later in the Spring.

View from the garden to the surrounding hillside

Part of the original fortress at Pitti Palace.

Monday, April 4, 2011

In Milan - from the Sartorialist Blog

Love this. Someone who is covered instead revealing it all - and still so chic. (Though the sheer skirt does reveal, no???)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dear, dear Florence

The perfect weather, the quiet nights, the scale of the city, the Michelangelo sculptures tucked inside churches like a gift just waiting to be unwrapped, and the friendlier nature of the people have us mesmerized. Falling in love again - with Firenze, with humanity,with each other, with life, with sorrow, with potential - in potentia. It is a place that taps a hidden well. Suddenly, spring is in us - not just in the environment. We feel at home. What is that in a place? More to say once I figure it out. For now...some images:

Yes, this is Lee with a cigarette in his hand.

The cafe at the Palazzo Strozzi where we saw the Picasso / Miro / Dali show today.

The Arno - it is said that Dante and Beatrice fell in love on the bridge - Ponte Santa Trinita that we stand on here. It is our kissing bridge - so seems it may have a history of love!

The Baptistry, il Duomo, the Bell Tower by Giotto.

Looking out the window of our apartment - the Cappelle di Medici. Michelangelo designed it.

In the Palazzo di Ginori - just steps from our own interior apartment door. They have just restored this - I am in awe of their commitment to preserve this beautiful 15th Century building. Available for rent soon!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Where to start? The Anthroposophical Conference in Bologna

The conference - a rather boring picture, but shows you what my life was like for 24 hours at the International Antroposophical Conference in Bologna, Italy. It really was very interesting and quite the bonding experience for Lee and me. I suddenly know a little bit more about which he is talking. It has mostly been gibberish until now. I do wish you could see all the purple.

A quick snippet of Bologna archtitecture.

A Bolognese lunch! So perfectly Atkins and delicious.

So, the last couple of days have been funny, entertaining, hectic, moving, insightful, sad, poignant - I'm running out of words.

On Thursday, we left Roma for a conference in Bologna. I think I can safely say that we were both ready. Rome is very grand, but full of very crabby people. That's all I'm going to say about it. We were leaving to go to the Anthroposophical Conference at the University of Bologna.

It was really a trip. (So how do I even explain Anthroposophy? I'll try.) The event was an international conference on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, celebrating the 100 year anniversary of what is now called the "Bologna lectures." The amazing thing about the University of Bologna is this: it is the oldest university in the Western World - circa 1088. It is FANTASTIC to think of this.

Many of you know that Steiner (please do say "Shti-nur") created the Waldorf School movement, biodynamic agriculture where the organic standards were more strict in the 1920's than they are today (do you use Hauschka skin care???), Anthroposophical medicine, a new form of movement called Eurythmy, and communities for adults with special needs. He also created a system of Contemplation, which my husband has been practicing for years. Many of you know he is also a veteran Waldorf teacher (20 years and so many great kids!)

So, his "guru" (which is not acceptable in Anthroposophy, actually) was speaking at this event (Sergei Prokovieff) so we figured out how to get there - and we did with a lot of emails written in Italian with my Italian dictionary at my side.

The setting was fabulous. Bologna is way cool! Seems intellectual, slightly leftist (there was a communist rally in the square), very good food (it is called the Breadbasket of Italy), and great architecture. It is much more relaxed than Rome and the vendors / waitstaff are English friendly. (We saw signs posted for English speaking waiters.) This is very unlike Rome. I always start with Italian. In Bologna, they sometimes respond in English and they have this lovely attitude that they get to practice their English with us. Of course, that is what I think when they show patience with my cryptic Italian.

The conference was filled with about 800 people mostly from Europe. I was nervous. This is a quirky group. All white. (Literally.) More women than men - and the average age was probably 50. Most looked and and sounded intelligent. They were largely NOT sensates in the Jungian sense of that term (Meyers-Briggs). My proof is that they couldn't get 800 people to exit the building without my being certain I was going to die in a stampede. There were 3 doors and they only had one of them open. This is the problem of a non-sensate. If I was betting, I'd say it was a room FULL of INFPs. (Introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceivers. This is my husband.) There was a lot of purple I noticed. I'm a designer. I notice color and texture. I'm sitting there in my navy suit with black shell and look out on the crowd and suddenly, purple and something like raspberry jumps out at me. Both women AND MEN are wearing this color.

I suddenly feel like I am on the outside of an inside joke. "Hmmmm," I say to Lee. "What's with all the purple? And don't act like you don't know, buster."

"What do you mean?" he says, like he's been caught.

"Lee, there are purple scarves, jeans, leather, sweaters, ties and whole entire outfits here. What's up?"

"I think it's considered a spiritual color," he said and he knew what was coming next would not be easy. He started laughing.

"Grown men should not wear purple. I'm not even sure grown women should wear purple. I feel like I'm at a Barney convention." (Remember Barney from the '80's - the loveable, annoying purple dinosaur on PBS who sings "I love you. You love me.")

He started laughing pretty hard and tried to choke out, "You really need to keep your voice down. This is blasphemy." We now both laughed = mostly uncontrollably and believe me, laughter seems to be a rare commodity at an Anthroposophical conference.

We were fed well - biodynamic food - it was AMAZING! And at only 12 euro for dinner, it was a treat. We also so enjoyed the presentation by an American physics professor at Amherst. He was such an elegant speaker, elegant human being! He knocked our socks off. His speech was on Meditation and The Self. (Part of Lee's dissertation topic.)

His name: Arthur Zajonc - with an uber impressive curriculum vitae. Physics Ph.D., Fullbright, and all round very mellow good guy. We introduced ourselves because we were finally so elated to hear a speech in English (the rest were translated and we had to wear headphones, which seemed very United Nations or something.) He was a gem - looking very smart, happy, peaceful and compassionate. He had some brilliant things to say about the new physics relative to contemplation and spirituality and it was all music to our ears.

Not many interesting photos from this trip, but a bit of a watershed event for Lee - so that made me very happy.

Still more to tell - will write after the pasta fresca with fresh Bolognese, rucula insalata with walnuts and Reggiano. Dinner in the apartment looking at the sunset.