Navy Blazers

My dad was in the menswear business: he designed and sold knitted shirts for a company that had its heyday in the '70s. The shirts were decent--good for their price point--but trendy and didn't last for more than a couple of seasons (whether due to workmanship or style is anyone's guess).  One of the many lessons my dad taught me from his experience in the apparel business was to spend a little more and invest in well-made classic styles.  He said, you can never go wrong with a navy blazer.  This advice has always stuck with me and is one of my guiding principles as a designer.

I have many "navy blazers" in my "closet." [Note to spouse: I meant that figuratively, NOT literally.] One ofCirca 1870 Uzbekistan Ikat my all time favorites is ikat. Dating back to the first millennium, ikat is a textile which originated in central Asia. The word "ikat" stems from the Malay-Indonesian word “mengikat” which means “to tie” or “to bind.” Ikats' watercolor-like quality is achieved through a multi-step process beginning with a pattern. Based on the pattern design, the horizontal (weft) or vertical (warp) threads of the textile are resist-dyed in a process similar to tie-dying. With careful planning, the fibers are woven to create the complex pattern. Today many ikats are simulated without the complex dying process by using space-died yarns, by weaving with a jacquard loom or by simply printing the pattern onto cloth. But a true ikat is a beauty to behold.

What I love about ikat is that it works in any decor from traditional to contemporary. Underlay furniture with a flat-weave ikat area carpet and you create a casual environment. Use a colorful ikat with luminescent fibers in draperies and you create drama. Ikat's pattern is strong enough to stand on its own mounted and hung as wall decor. Or simply take a piece and create a throw to lay on the foot of the bed. Instant classic! Daddy would be proud.


Ikat Collection by Azra Imports               J.Crew Perfect Shirt in Wild Ikat


 Ikat by Donghia Textiles                             Spice Market by Donghia Textiles


 Sahana Ikat by Schumacher                        Madeline Weinrib Ikat Pillow



Up Against the Wall!

When I was growing up, my mom had a penchant for wallpaper. I grew up in a 1950's multi-level suburban house in Garden City, Long Island. My parents bought the house new in 1956 when my sister was five years old and I had not yet entered the scene. Mom decorated, putting wallpaper in all the bathrooms, the kitchen and the two-story foyer. Back then, foils and flocked wallpaper were all the rage. (Who knew they would come back?) Being the youngest, I got my sister's hand-me-down furniture. But when I became a teenager, I asked my mom to re-do my bedroom for my birthday. It being the '70s, she papered two walls of my bedroom with a big pattern of glossy yellow, orange, white and--yes, 1970's avocado--floral wallpaper. My mother loved it. I kinda liked it, but was upset with the beige carpeting that she had cut and re-purposed from the living room (who knew my mom would be a pioneer of the re-use and re-purpose movement?). It just wasn't the shag carpeting I coveted.

Wallpaper lost a bit of its luster when faux paint finishes became popular. But I've always been a fan. Maybe it's genetic. Certain rooms scream for wallpaper. The powder room, for one. It's a room that guests always see. I like to go bold and dramatic in the powder room. Also in the dining room: I love a classic pattern above the wainscot. One of my current projects is a restaurant in Davis Square, Somerville, Massachusetts that will feature Mexican Oaxacan cuisine. It's called The Painted Burro. When I first saw the space, I instantly thought it needed a wallpapered accent wall. Most of the finishes in the restaurant are natural: wood, stone, and metals. I strongly felt we had to add some contrast with a burst of color and pattern. This led me on a quest to find just the right wallpaper--edgy but ethnic. In my search, I discovered a bonanza of boutique wallcovering studios that print papers that are not only edgy; they are outrageous! There are so many, I'll have to do many posts to cover them all. Guess which wallcovering here will grace The Painted Burro?


 Grow House Grow Cattle Kate                   Ferm Living Fashion Wallpaper


          Jill Malek Maidenhair                        Elitis Cuirs Leathers Seville


Flat Vernacular Toile de Derby                      Paper Mills Little Havana



Good Things Come In Small Packages

In my arsenal of design "weapons" is a piece so versatile, so affordable that hardly a space goes by where I don't try to use one. This piece is the ceramic garden stool. It's just the right size -- Antique Garden Stoolabout 18 to 20 inches tall and widths from 12 to 20 inches -- to suit a whole host of design situations. I use it as a resting place for a drink or book when a chair sits too far from a coffee table or end table. I've used it as a nightstand in a teen girl's bedroom (my client's daughter wanted her room to feel like a lounge so instead of a nightstand, I proposed a silver ceramic stool). It is equally suited for a bathroom next to a tub or a patio next to a Lutyens-style garden bench. Its origins go back to China in the first millennium and early examples were typically made of stone, ceramic or wood, but modern interpretations are cast in resin with finishes that add drama and dazzle to any interior or exterior space. What's great about this piece is that invariably you can find it in a material or finish to suit any decor. Here are just a few of many, with some variations on the traditional drum shape. Do you have a favorite you don't see here? Do tell.


 Wisteria Chinese Garden Stool      Pottery Barn Metal Drum Table


 Oly Studio Twilite Table        Barbara Barry Quarry Accent Table


Anthropologie Honami Ceramic Stool  Oly Studio Meri Side Table


                    Tucker Robbins Bangle Stools


Winging It

Ever since I saw and, more importantly, sat in the Brunschwig et Fils Mr. Wing Chair, I have been in loveBrunschwig et Fils Mr. Wing Chair with today's re-interpretations of the classic wing chair. First introduced around 1680, the upholstered wing chair has been a staple of traditional style. Its "wings" were originally designed to protect occupants from drafts in dwellings heated only by fire. The style of the chair changed little over time varying mostly in the shape and carving of the legs. I hadn't been much of a fan -- way too stodgy and conservative for my tastes. Okay, maybe if it was upholstered in a fabulous flame stitch textile and adorned with nailheads (I love practically anything with nailheads), but not in my house. A stately wood-paneled library or ivy league clubhouse, yes. My house, no.

Then in the mid-1990s, Ralph Lauren reinvented the wing chair with his Writer's Chair--a high-back scrolled-arm button-tufted leather easy chair. I remember testing it out and feeling like I was in chair heaven. The chair enveloped me, and the soft, buttery leather felt like a vintage bomber jacket -- worn but yielding. It was instantly a hit. But its massive size and leather upholstery relegated it to the study, den, or family room. It was Ralph Lauren Writer's Chairjust not slender enough for a contemporary or transitionally-styled living room.

Along came the Mr. & Mrs. Wing Chairs by Brunschwig et Fils. I was surprised that a house like Brunschwig would invent these chairs. It just seemed out of character for a company aligned with everything traditional. But that didn't matter. Sitting in the Mr. Wing Chair is heavenly. And oh, the lines. My fantasy living room has a pair of the Mr. Wing Chairs opposite each other flanking my Barbara Barry Loose Back Sofa for Baker (that subject is for another blog post). I love everything about this chair: the low seat, the high back, the slender tapered legs and especially the silhouette. I just love a piece of furniture that looks good from multiple angles.

Since falling for Mr. Wing Chair, I've seen many other re-interpretations of the iconic wing chair that I present to you here. Modern heating systems may render wings unnecessary, but I say style like this trumps the need for functionality.


    Brunschwig et Fils Mrs. Wing Chair              Dessin Fournir Collins Wing Chair


Dessin Fournir Tuva Club Chair                          Donghia Egret Wing Chair


   Ironies Tule Lounge Chair                       The James Wing Chair by Victoria Hagan


                                 The Villa Chair by Thomas Pheasant for Baker


                                        Cisco Brothers Uncle Jim Double Chair



Why a blog? Why now?

Several years ago, when I first launched my website, the art of blogging was new.  Social media experts said only blog if you can create fresh new content and if you can keep up with it.  I wasn't sure that I could do that: the design bloggers out there were already doing a good job.  And . . .  they still are.  But everyone has a unique voice, and while I might not be discovering anything new, my way of looking at things and presenting them, may be new. 

I went back to school in my 30s after a career as an attorney to study design.  School is something I excel at.  The joke in my family is that, even with all the academic degrees I've earned, I'll probably go back to school for more.  No joke, really!  I love to learn, and I love to impart that knowledge to teach others. 

So maybe that's what this blog is about: educating you, my readers, about good design.  What makes a design good?  What criteria do you use to judge good design?  Why are good designers so good?  We'll look at interiors and the items that shape them.  In addition, I'll bring you sources (like where I like to shop or products I love), process (projects I'm working on) and stories (what's happening in the world of design).  Welcome to my laboratory.  Or, should I say, my blogatory?  Enjoy.

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