Friday, February 5, 2016


I hadn't planned on it but I found myself in New York at the same time as the New York Gift Fair now known as NY NOW. The show has shrunk and is now limited to the Javits. It used to flow over onto the Piers and at one time had a pier devoted entirely to home: furniture and accessories. Since then the Architectural Digest Show and ICFF have commandeered that segment of the market leaving the home section at NY NOW a little on home lines.
With such a thin selection deciphering trends may be a bit skewed but here are the things that either impressed me or made me say WTF.
We've written about color trends for 2016 a couple of times already so bear with me one more time. I kept looking for Pantone's pink and baby blue but didn't see a whole lot of it.
The most prevalent color seemed to be a faded aqua that I felt was far more sophisticated than the baby blue Pantone was pushing.
Orange seemed to be hanging around in all its juice spitting pizzazz.
Tangerine Tango was Pantone's selection last year and it seems to have some real staying power in the world of furniture and accessory design.

It seems everyone was looking to make life a little bit fuzzier and a little softer than I had seen in the past. The fur flew on the obvious elements like pillows and throws but
who thought you'd see it as a holiday Christmas tree
or as jacket for a book.

The use of metal is always present at the show but some of the more ingenious uses could be seen at Zenza with their perforated metal lighting fixtures. There was a definite Moroccan feel to many of the patterns but these fixtures could fit very comfortably into many of the popular interior design styles prevalent today.
One of my favorite design lines for a long time has been Ercole, a design firm whose strength is in its finishes. This year they've unveiled a new finish called Galaxy, a reflective space age finish that shimmers luxury.
Bungalow set out a selection of metal based magnifiers that are both quirky and functional. Perched on pedestals these binocular inspired accessories were something new in the accessory market, an appropriate addition to any library.
It seemed as if every rug vendor was highlighting the very popular over-dyed Oriental and Persian rugs. The process first appeared at ABC Home where vintage patterned rugs that had seen their better days were dyed in vibrant colors allowing the patterns to show through but giving the rugs new life via some very sexy contemporary color palettes.

Several vendors used infinite variety in their color offerings tapping into any color you could imagine.
Thanks to them you can now dress your library in a monochromatic line of faux books or make your bookshelves in a rainbow of color. The faux book library is becoming a popular option for a new generation that no longer purchases their reading material in hardcover but instead stores everything on a tablet or Kindle making all those library shelves obsolete and begging for some faux company.
Candles come in variety of scents but now the containers that they come in can coordinate with your décor, no matter what color palette you've chosen
And now for what to do with all those cords that connect our home outlets to our technology. The Color Cord Company has developed cloth covered cords that will compliment any décor. They look like very fancy bungee cords but how much fun are these. You no longer have to figure out a way to hide those annoying cords, instead let them snake around your home office spreading a colorful smile where just plain ugly used to reside.

The popular West African Juju hat made its appearance in several booths. Now reproduced in a variety of exotic feathers these circular bursts of color have become a popular wall decoration.
Barloga Studios exhibited a selection of fine art photographic prints of feathers. These digital photos are printed on Nepalese handmade papers giving them an old world feel. Reproduced in black and white or sepia toned these twenty by thirty inch pieces come in with a very low price tag. They can be ordered unframed or you can have them delivered handsomely framed in an archival shadow box where the image floats like a feather suspended on a gentle midair breeze.
Since furniture wasn't a hot product for the show it was a real pleasure to see one when it went on display. Some stuck out more than others. Jonathan Adler's take on the medieval jaws of chastity was one that drew my attention. It was like a Venus Fly Trap masquerading in the form of a chair.
Contrasting fabric and big prints were making a statement for people willing to make a statement.
A wrap chair out of worn leather with a very high back made its appearance in the industrial market but keeping a very cozy appeal. It was seating you could really sink into.
Then there was this laminated wooden chair that rode the surprising waves of comfort with a slight bounce incorporated into its design

Here's what I would have bought if I had the need, the money, or the store to put it in. Candles are always a weakness for me and it was hard to pass up some of the new shapes and scents I found at the show. Lafco is always near the top of my list and this year was no different. I'd buy these for their presentation alone but the scents are just as enticing and the bonus is even after the smell has dissipated into the air on a thin trail of smoke you have this beautiful piece of art glass left. Now their incense sticks come with a beautiful glass decanter that can be used as a bedside water container or a vase for a single flower.
Then Zodax came out with a new line of candles that range in size from the diminutive five inches to the incredible twenty inch version with a 300 hour burn time. How do you say magnificent in Italian?
I also loved these utility bags. They're made by eqpd out of coated fabric. They have a holding strength of up to ninety pounds. That's two cement blocks. Function comes first but I thought these bags had incredible visual appeal.
In addition to the utility bag they also make a grocery bag and a tote. And they come in delicious orange as well.

Buy Now, Pay Later
David Graham, photographer
Represented by Laurence Miller Gallery

Friday, January 29, 2016


Nothing says New York as exquisitely as Grand Central Station, a jewel in the city's necklace that was almost lost like a dropped earring. It was only the determination of a woman known for her pearls that Grand Central Station still exists.
"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe... this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won't all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes."
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
With this the historic preservation movement in New York City gained its feet remaining a true defender of our history so that we as a nation do not forget our architectural past.
Grand Central still bustles with travelers chasing after trains in and out of the city.
It amazes and amuses young and old with its Transit Museum.
Conductors still stand sentinel, helping guide the flow of traffic to their destinations.
Men in fedora hats still stop to have their shoes shined now with the 21st century addition of convenient computer screens to help pass the time while a profession that still requires a human shines their shoes.
The Oyster Bar has regained its glory that is as old as the terminal itself.

Newer restaurants from The Shake Shack
to Magnolia bakery have come to join it in the food court that sprawls across the lower level.
The four-sided central clock continues to be a favored meeting place for friends and lovers. "Meet me by the clock in Grand Central".
Most tickets are now purchased at ticketing kiosks or online but the ticket windows in the main floor still remain open with their beautiful brass grillwork.
The cost of a newspaper is no longer a nickel but the news shops still dot the corridors stretching through the terminal
The trains still pull in and exit on the largest track system in the world.
The ceiling has been restored to its celestial glory rubbed clean of the nicotine that had stained it into a cloud of oblivion.  Rick's Tidbit:
Soon after it was painted the astronomical ceiling design was discovered to be painted backwards! The Vanderbilt family was apprised of this snafu and to save massive amounts of money they fabricated the story that it was painted as if seen through the eyes of God.
And the lights of Pershing Square still glow from under the Park Avenue overpass.
Change is constant and needs to be welcomed with open arms but without a link to the past there would be no sense of progress. Each generation deserves to make its mark on the world so that new generations can see what has happened and draw from it to make a new future.
I hadn't intended on doing a piece on Grand Central. I was only walking through on my way from the Westside to the East when this gate caught my eye. I stopped being one of the masses rushing through the main terminal. I was struck in the same way I would be seeing a beautiful flower in a massive garden. It was the beauty of the detail, the fragrance of a single flower. The saying goes, "Stop and smell the roses". Once I stopped I was struck by the beauty of all the small pieces that make up Grand Central and from there it was another hour before I could leave having taken the time to walk each hallway and track trying to grasp that sense of history that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wanted all of us to see and to cherish.
I only just escaped the snowstorm that crippled the East Coast last week. I left New York on Wednesday before Jason blew in and turned the city to a dangerous but beautiful winter wonderland. I know the devastation to the people of coastal New Jersey and those stranded for hours on highways immobilized by the storm is a tragedy but for those lucky enough to be safely at home, a fire burning in the fireplace, a stack of unread magazines now available for perusal while wrapped in a well-worn throw, the storm gives permission to indulge in doing not much of anything more than shear indulgent relaxation. Missing the storm and going back to Madison where snow is common and rarely the cause for being stranded made me a little envious of the friends I left back in the city.
Grand Central Terminal, 1930
Hal Morey, photographer
Getty Images

Friday, January 22, 2016


The wind picked up from Saturday's milder forecast blowing little funnels of fast food wrappers and packing peanuts across Houston Street. Sunday was a gray day with a threat of icy rain or lite snow. It was the kind of weather that would normally keep the sidewalks of most car driven cities and towns empty of anything put the frozen steam erupting from manholes dotting the rock hard asphalt.
The inclement silence in all those small towns and conservative strong holds where according to a Texan Presidential hopeful people are wrapping themselves up in blankets of anger holstered against immigrant intruders seemed the antithesis of the chatter I heard on Houston Street on the northern edge of Soho in lower Manhattan. I had just emerged from the subway's concrete tunnel my hands in my pockets and a warm knit hat on my head. A little wind, temperatures hovering around freezing, a gray sky threatening to blow in the flakes of winter hadn't emptied the street separating Noho from Soho in Manhattan.
Lower Broadway was filled with the languages of South America, France, India, the Middle East and even Kansas as the crowds jostled along some stopping to take selfies using New York's skyline as a backdrop. New York has always been a hospitable host to its tourists and a gateway to its many immigrants. It's a city with its hand out to help and its heart filled with compassion.
As the snow started to descend there wasn't a made rush to get home or back to a hotel room, instead locals popped out their umbrellas and tourists wound another scarf around their necks. The brilliance and the energy of the city seemed to give everyone the warmth they needed to continue on. One man with his umbrella raised pointed out a direction to a young Eastern European couple that had stopped on the corner of West Broadway and Prince holding a map and looking confused.
As the lite snow fell a group of thirty-something's made up of mixed nationalities burst into laughter while waiting their turn in line outside a local restaurant oblivious to the cold or their diverse cultures.
I spent the afternoon zigzagging through the West Village and up through Chelsea where anyone could walk hand-in-hand unimpeded by taunts or the feeling that they were anything less than equal.
In the shelter of the Port Authority an Asian woman went around with a huge cooler of fresh fruit and sandwiches handing them out to the homeless men who gathered inside the back entrance of the bus terminal their clothing insufficient to keep the cold at bay.
As I sat on the subway going back to our apartment on the Upper Westside a young girl and her mother sat opposite me. Before the train got too crowded I could hear the conversation between the two of them. The girl leaned her head on her mother's shoulder and said, "We're so lucky". Her mother, still looking forward, asked why. The girl responded with a list of simple things: her bed, a warm home, her hat. Then she stopped for a moment and said, "and our friends" as she turned with a smile and looked at the stranger standing holding the strap in front of her.
We may pronounce "Houston" differently than they do where Mr. Cruz comes from but that's a difference we can live with. Open arms and the acceptance of those differences is what I see as New York values and that seems a lot better than the rhetoric congealed in anger, fear and divisiveness.
Aiding the Injured
Todd Maisel, photographer
Getty Images

Friday, January 15, 2016


It seems everyone has an opinion when it comes to choosing the color of the year. Certainly every paint manufacturer has an opinion. We did a post near the end of last year when Benjamin Moore came out with its choice: OC-117, Simply White. I was all in on this pick back in October 2015.
Here's what I had to say then:
Time to acknowledge Benjamin Moore's color of the year 2016. In the past the color picked has always had a more terminal feel. The colors have been trendier. This year's selection is hard to disagree with, I mean who doesn't love white? Simply White OC-177.  It's not a harsh white. It never looks muddy or dingy. It's not the white your teeth turn when you smile in a room lit by black lights.
Here's how Benjamin Moore describes it: "It works equally well with cool or warm palettes and retains its neutrality, remaining as constant as possible under different light sources."
Now as we slide into 2016 a whole plethora of voices have added their two cents to the name game of choosing their color of the year.
Sherwin-Williams has followed a similar track to Benjamin Moore going with their SW7008, Alabaster. Their description of Alabaster rings the same bell as Benjamin Moore saying,

"It provides an oasis of calmness, spirituality and 'less is more' visual relief. Alabaster is neither stark nor overly warm, but rather an understated and alluring white." I can buy into this in the same way I bought into Simply White.
Glidden was the third American company to weigh in on a shade of white for 2016. They selected their Cappuccino White, 45YY 74/073. They describe it as "a delicate, creamy neutral that creates a peaceful calm in any space."
Maybe it has something to do with all the craziness that went on in 2015 from terrorism to the Kardashians to Donald Trump the design community seems to think we all need to calm down and find that place of peace in a white home devoid of distractions and contrast.
The Europeans have also weighed in and deservedly so they've chosen to mourn with Fine Paints of Europe choosing Piano Keys #0029 as their top choice,
a high-gloss rich black. It is the opposite of  America's white but the effect is very similar.
Now it is time for the color czar, Pantone, to come out with their selection and for the first time in their history they've announced a double winner: Rose Quartz, Pantone 13-1520 and Serenity, Pantone 15-3919. They chose to explain their choice this way: "Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace". It does seem peace is on the minds of everyone but pink and blue. I'm feeling more like I've been invited to a baby shower. Where the white (and black as well) have a very strong message of regeneration, going back to square one and starting over, the very wishy-washy choice of pink and baby blue seems an odd throwback.
One can go all the way back to the eighteenth century and Thomas Lawrence's Pinky alongside Gainsborough's Blue Boy.
This gender specific choice of side-by-side Rose Quartz and Serenity Blue seems like such a step backwards to the 1950's when we were all swaddled from birth in pink and blue. I know that as a generation ages there is frequently a desire to turn the clock back and wax nostalgic about the times gone by but this combination baffles me. The colors appear very old-fashioned and perhaps by themselves could be interesting and soothing but together they don't seem to help each other out. It's almost an institutional vibe good only in giving a hospital maternity ward a safe non-threating feel.
In spite of my unenthusiastic response I have seen that some major lifestyle stores must have had forewarning of the color edict for the year and have rushed these colors into their product mixes in upholstery and accessories. It will be interesting to see whether the trend sells out or ends up on the discount and sale counter.
So here's the challenge. I've done what research I could to see if I could find any designers who might have found a way of combining these colors into a successful design concept. I couldn't find much. This was the best I could add to this blog: a restaurant where both the pink and blue have been ramped up to a playful level that seems to speak to fun rather than contemplation.
But most attempts ended up looking more like a candy store, way to sweet even for my sweet tooth.
Even Jamie Drake, the master of color, had to emphasize the rose as a complement to grey relegating the blue to the floor to make it work. If anyone else would like to give it a stab I'd be delighted to see your responses.
Good luck hunting!

Sleeping Child. 1950
Arthur Leipzig, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery