Archive for the 'Fireplace' Category

10
Dec
07

Design Past, Present and Future

It took a 19th century near death experience to get him there, but once Ebenezer Scrooge finally caught his clue he declared that he would keep Christmas past, present and future always before him. In the interior design world I get the impression that most people are a combination of past, present, and future with an emphasis on one more than the others.

I love contemporary design, I really do. Clean, spare lines and an emphasis on materials totally enchant me in public spaces. But for some reason I can only live with a little of it at a time in our home – a danish modern coffee table in our hearth area, a sputnik lamp, which I have yet to hang in our guest bedroom (makes me wonder if I’m subconsciously resisting it even when I love it), and our newish sofa.
New Sofa

The first two of these could hardly be considered contemporary since they were made in the 60s. And the sofa has traditional, even if spare lines.

Sometimes I wonder why I can’t shake a traditional bent. Not that I’m unhappy with our home. Quite the opposite, I love it. This Saturday John and I were sitting in the kitchen drinking our morning coffee, Sam (our wood stove) quietly blazing before us.
Sam

We were talking about how we’d rather be hanging out in our house than in any hotel we could possibly think of (at least at that particular moment), which is a good thing since we pour our spare change into the house and not into big vacations. It is full of stuff that means something to us – family treasures or finds. Auction scores, those trophies from furniture safari’s with John’s mom.

But I like to think of myself as progressive–socially, spiritually, politically. Even when I work in art museums, though I love the earlier pieces, I prefer to spend the bulk of my time with art less than a century old. Why then, when we built our new house five years ago, did we look at southern, country antecedents? Am I a closet conservative?

I suppose part of the answer can be found in how I was raised, not just the regional influence (the Arkansas Ozarks), but the people who did the job. We never had a ton of money so we learned to value the things, fine or not, that we saw at our family gatherings. Plus the 70s had that whole “back to our country’s roots”, folk thing going, which my Aunt Judy turned into a subtle, but elegant homey art form that totally worked.

Then there was my friend Felley’s mom, also named Judy. I know it is a chronological impossibility, but I’m convinced that Margaret Mitchell based Melanie Wilkes on my friend’s mother, who even looks for all the world like Olivia de Havilland, I swear. In addition to her sweetness, charm and patience (I always showed up at her house after school ready for a snack and was never, to my recollection, rebuffed or disappointed), she also had an incredibly refined, but remarkably approachable sense of style.

She was never self-conscious enough to speak in such terms,  but I learned from Miss Judy to think of interior design as one of the three essential tools of hospitality–the other two being good food and genuine thoughtfulness, two things my mom could have written the book on.

For Miss Judy, every furniture purchase or placement choice seemed to be with a visitor’s comfort and timeless style in mind. Those two things became fused together in my psyche because of her, I think. One of my sweetest memories is of sitting on her fabulous, dark blue chintz Chinois floral patterned sofa with her as she talked me through my smorgasbord of adolescent problems.

Then there is my own mom. She also has great design sense, but the most valuable lessons I learned from her were to keep it fun and to never be afraid of color, especially red. And when you get stuck, call a designer (luckily she has a friend and next door neighbor who is one). And never apply your lipstick with the aid of a compact mirror when you’re in public. Oh wait, that was what my sister learned. Sorry.  

So maybe it’s because I’m so attached to these people, ideas and memories that I keep my feet rooted in a traditional style. From a design point of view the south is frequently criticized for being retardataire. I suspect my own observations may point to why that is, if it is. I guess for me the past is a vital part of the present and the future. Maybe there’s nothing I can do about that, and maybe I should stop feeling the need to apologize for it.           

Advertisements
09
Dec
07

Holiday Hoopla on Mass Ave

John and I stayed in our ‘hood Friday night and strolled through Holiday Hoopla on our favorite street in Indy– Massachusetts Avenue.

Fire Pit at Holiday Hoopla

With fire pits set up along the street, no one had to worry about staying warm. I’ve never seen fire this close to art before. All those years in art museums had me feeling a little nervous about it, but I’m sure the sculpture was perfectly safe.

We’re really happy with the way upper Mass Ave is shaping up.

Patrick Wasson

We got to pop in for the opening of our friend Patrick’s winter show, which is really nice. Patrick was an intern at the IMA when I was there, and I enjoy following his career.

Patrick and Kirs

Here he is with Kris, his sweet partner and manager of our favorite store on Mass Ave – Home in the City (at Silver in the City). Totally fun, cool, and beautiful home goods and jewelry. If I ever need any kind of gift, I stop there first. It’s a special place to John and me because we got our wedding rings there.

Best Chocolate In Town

Just a few doors down we stopped in to visit with Elizabeth, owner of The Best Chocolate in Town (or BCT as we call it).

Seriously, how cute is she?Best Chocolate in Town

And her shop’s name ain’t no lie. John got a Champagne and a Lemon Chiffon truffle. I got one of the awesome chocolaty, pepperminty, crunchy, crackly cookie thingies she’s showing here. It was crazy tasty. 

We popped down to Chatham Tap Pub for dinner (great drinks, meh fish and chips, downright decent seafood bisque) and got caroled while we ate. Yummm…tuba.

Chatham Tap Pub

We’re going to tap the Tap again some Sunday night, the only night they serve Yorkshire pudding (yum).On the way back to our car we stopped in at Jill Ditmire’s Mass Avenue Wine Shoppe for a bottle of organic port I’d spotted earlier.

Mass Ave Wine Shoppe

The selection at Jill’s place is great. Boxed dinners are coming soon, and they sound awesome! John and I were surprised, however, to see that they made a point of advertising that they serve Atkins Cheesecake. Jeanne Atkins, owner of Atkins Elegant Desserts went on record that she would prefer to see her comatose gay son never recover than return to life with his partner of 25 years.

Obviously, Atkins is anathema to most Indy gay folks. I let the very nice woman who waited on us know that they may want to reconsider carrying her products. She seemed surprised to hear that their cheesecake was controversial. As much of a local celebrity as Jill is, I would be surprised if she missed the media coverage of the Atkins story, but I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt for now. 

Art, fire pits, carolers, good food, friendly faces, ice sculptures, and an awesome honey to see it all with! The bleak midwinter isn’t so bleak after all.

06
Dec
07

Prairie Creek Farms = Hoosier Folk Center

The first weekend in December means a trip to Duane and Todd’s for the Prairie Creek Farms’ open house. Duane and Todd’s home started as a small farm house, to which a previous owner built an addition. When Duane and Todd moved in they made their own additions. The result is an incredibly cozy homestead that is plenty large enough for giant family gatherings (they have lots of kin). One post isn’t enough room to share what there is to see there, so this time I thought I’d focus on my favorite winter spots in their house.

Window Mirrors

This is their hearth room. Duane had these old farmhouse windows turned into mirrors. He got them for their master bath, but they didn’t fit so he put them here, where I think they look perfect. I like the subtle, old paint finish.New Mirrors

Duane said:

I got them made at Townsend Glass in Westfield [Indiana]. But here’s the catch. Kevin Townsend got the salvaged windows several years ago and that is when I got the frames. I took them home to seal them and never got around to taking them back for the mirrors because they were too big for my original plan of putting them in the master bathroom. When I brought them in to fit with mirrors, he said “it’s a good thing you got those when you did because those old windows are getting hard to find. Most old homes have all replaced their windows now and you just can’t find them anymore.” So I don’t know if that means he doesn’t have any or not. Their number is 896-1259. They charged me only $75 each which I think was pretty reasonable.  

Lesson learned: Don’t wait to buy old, one of a kind things you love.

Loom

As if a hearth and these mirrors weren’t enough to make a room, they also have a working loom that belonged to one of Todd’s relatives. He let some of us try it out.Duane is a ceramicist, and one of the fun things about the open house is that you get to see (and buy if you want) what he’s been working on. I loved this peach vase (I like Duane’s kind of Chinois/Hoosier visual style).Friends from Arkansas were visiting John and me for the weekend, and they went to the PCF with us. Jennie and I both needed Chocolate Gravy pitchers. She got the one on the left and I bought the one on the right. They are the perfect size.Duane, Todd and the kids are so crafty, I’ve decided to refer to their place as the Hoosier Folk Center from now on.Oh, and this is my other favorite winter spot at their house – in front of the living room windows that look out on to apple trees filled with bird feeders.

Bird Watching

My pitiful photos do not do the scene justice, but I could totally survive winter with no problem if I got to look at frolicking birds having fun all of the time.

Cardinal

18
Jul
07

Patterns, Color and Winterthur Revisited

I’m intrigued by how good designers mix patterns. Henry F. DuPont’s, Winterthur, is a great place to see a seemingly infinite number of ways to do it.

I took John there for his birthday a few years back because I knew he would enjoy the craftsmanship of some of the finest examples of wood furniture in the U.S. As DuPont turned his estate into a survey of high quality non-native American furniture (approximately Empire and before), he also created a giant canvas on which to layer his talent for putting rooms together (and gardens, but that’s another post).

Julie and I have been exchanging comments lately about color in neutral rooms. While the elements of DuPont’s dining room are a little more reserved than Julie’s more worldly style, the basic idea of using color with a neutral background is here—the fabrics carry the color.

Dining Room

The architectural elements are allowed to shine on their own with a neutral coat of paint (more of an oyster than the pinkish color you see here), and maybe a few highlights (see the trim on the doors). The rich wood of the furniture also gets to play a major role.

I like that the drapery fabric and the chair covers are the same medium sized pattern. Sometimes I think I’m afraid to use a fabric in other parts of the same room. I don’t know why (maybe it’s an attempt to avoid the catalog look). But a few repeated fabrics, even a vibrant stripe like this one, can give a room unity of design, calming the space. If I remember correctly the stripe and the large pattern of the rug are the only two fabric patterns in the room and the differences in scale work well together.

floating staircase

The stair hall (not a great picture, sorry) is an even more refined space, with light and airy Federalist pieces, which play nicely with the floating staircase – delicate, but sturdy. Anyway, the green of the settee fabric, which in another application might be considered bank-ish or too heavy handed looks downright understated in this setting.

chinese parlor 2. jpg

There’s nothing understated about the Chinese parlor. I love it, with all of its game and tea tables everywhere (mostly, if not all, American Rococo, aka Chippendale), and that great (in every sense of the word) wallpaper that makes you feel like a character in a giant storybook. The whole room is a big, elegant play room for grown-ups, but really, wouldn’t kids be happy here, too?

chinese parlor

I’ve never worked with pattern on the scale of this wallpaper, but I like it, especially that DuPont made it work with two large rugs and the large pattern in the two different green damasks. The sturdy forms of the furniture ground things. And now that I look at it so do the drapery and sofa fabrics, which even though they are a damask pattern read as a solid when seen next to the wallpaper.

If you are a furniture/design or even a garden buff, Winterthur is well worth a trip for inspiration.

22
Mar
07

Hotel Chelsea- A Home In Bohemia

Rosie Lounging

I refuse to stay at hotel chains in NY when there are an infinite number of more interesting places to be that are really no more expensive.  On my last trip I decided I needed creative inspiration so I booked a room at Hotel Chelsea, historic host to folks like Jasper Johns, Joan Didion, Dee Dee Ramone, and Janis Joplin (the list is infinite).    

Online reviews and stories from friends who have suspiciously vague recollections of parties there had me a little worried—no coffee makers in the room because they can be used to cook meth (who knew?).  But the hotel website won me over.  I especially like the resident blog, which is like eavesdropping on conversations in the hall.   

You’re never denied the reality of living in an old building at the Chelsea, but considering the borg-like ethics of Manhattan developers, I was grateful for the lived in smell and the still kicking creaks.  Besides, only the halls smell like everybody’s homes rolled into one (people do still live there after all).  The hotel rooms smelled like hotel rooms.   

Rosie got several good looks at the halls.  She won’t ride an elevator in NY that she can’t see out of, so she walked up to my room on the 9th floor several times (I would make fun of her, but all of her neuroses keep her looking 25 even though she‘s 40).  Good news is that there is art lining the filigreed stairwell all the way up and in the lobby, too.   She never got bored.

  Room

Isn’t this a fun room?  Believe me, for an old NY hotel, it’s huge.  I had a dressing room, walk-in closet, a kitchenette and a really nice bathroom.  I fell in love with these black patton woven dining chairs.Kris

Fireplace

Oh, and a nice bouquet of impossibly colored and dead (real, but dead) flowers.   In fact, one flower was actually just a stem.  I would say it was a sign of neglect, but my room was always impeccably cleaned.  And the flowers kind of worked with my minimalist/traditional fireplace. 

 Kris and Robyn

My friends Kris and Robin who were attending the same conference came down for breakfast one morning.  We popped over to Big Booty Bakery across the street at the recommendation of one of the hotel’s residents.  Big Booty doesn’t open until 9:00 a.m., but they warm the milk for your coffee, which I think more than makes up for that shortcoming.  Plus their baked goods are baked greats—try the Nutella Booty Bun.   

HC doesn’t need concierge services.  The gentle residents, who all seem to own smallish dogs, are constantly draped around the desk with the most useful advice (Good bagels?  Melvyn’s, around the corner. Where did you get that breakfast sandwich?  Venus on 9th.) I maintain that Manhattanites are the Southerners of the north.  New Yorkers would surely hate the comparison, but they are so friendly and helpful.  There are some differences.  If you annoy a New Yorker they are more likely to stab you in the front than in the back. That and they are less likely to pay retail.  

When I arrived on Thursday morning, staff happily offered to let me check in early.  They didn’t have a key for me (“Our engineer is making your key. You’ll go have lunch.   It’ll be waiting when you get back.”).  I may be a rube, but I’ve learned to do what New Yorkers tell me. They know the lay of the land and that they and you don’t have a lot of time to waste, so their recommendations are usually the most pragmatic and logical in the end.  Oh, and they use metal keys, handcrafted evidently and impossible to lose, a winning combination.  

 I’m sure the Chelsea has been tidied up some for timid Southern/Midwestern boys like me, but I can gladly say it hasn’t lost all of its happy hospitable edge.  Hopefully I can call it my Bohemian home away from home again someday.