Hey there design fans! I've been super busy working on my inn and working for interior design clients, but I feel inspired to blog today about my experience participating in the Saugerties Artists Studio Tour. I got to visit the studios and in most cases home studios of about 20 of the 40 artists on the tour. Wow! It's like every artist from NYC retires up here so they can just be cool in the woods and go about making their work peaceably. The following are my favorite artists from the tour. Please check them out!! (P.S. If you haven't already noticed, I have totally eclectic taste, people!)
I attended the 2014 Dwell on Design NY trade show a couple weeks ago, and I can't tell you how thrilled I was to be among the lucky designers who got to hear about what is happening on the cutting edge of design. Here are some of my favorite things from the show:
The Danish Ambassador personally introduced four young Danish modern furniture designers!
Semi-precious countertops from Caesarstone's Concetto Collection
A private screening of the new documentary "Toxic Hot Seat," which addresses the toxicity of flame retardants that were developed in the 1980's for the furniture industry in response to fires caused by cigarettes.
And the lovely self-watering wall gardens of French company Plant Wall Design.
It's been two months since I last wrote a blog entry. I do apologize for that, things got very hectic all around. I thought it might be nice to report on some of the interesting things I saw at the Architectural Digest trade show I attended last weekend.
Among other delights, I found a rug made of recycled silk saris that was so soft I wanted to purchase it and use it for a bed. From Creative Touch Rugs in Secaucus, NJ.
Also incredibly sensuous and appealing to the eye were the wall papers of de Gournay located on E. 59th St. in Manhattan. They specialize in antique Chinese and Japanese inspired drawings on silk.
There were some talented furniture makers among the exhibitors. In particular, I enjoyed the innovative walnut scrap patchwork of Texas based Peter Clark of Kith and Kin. His speakers were so gorgeous.
Finally, I'd like to leave you with an image I took at the show. There was some sort of bizarre wing of the building that contained dining tables laden with tableware. My favorite was done by Calvin Klein. Feast your eyes on this moss laden minimalist table. I'd like to eat here.
I'm back from upstate with more footage for you! In five and a half days, my general contractor got a lot done! He's incredible. Check out this new vid to see some awesome transformations. So excited to see what another ten days will do...
Side note: The neon sticky notes are messages to the electrician connoting exactly where the boxes and switches will go. He will be installing electrical boxes when I am not there. Leaving sticky notes is a handy way to ensure things go the way you want, although to err is human!
Ashley Strout is a talented fabric designer and aspiring tattoo artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She started out modeling in her 20's, then studied fashion design in Manhattan, and eventually got a degree in fabric design from Central St. Martin's in London. A native of LA, Ashley is a self identified California girl, although she prefers living in New York because it has seasons. Four years ago she started her own textile design company Black Rose LA Textiles. Her designs are a dark nod to vintage fabric designs and cartoon art of the 1940's. Here's what she has to say about being a freelance fabric designer in NYC.
T: When did you begin drawing?
A: I guess every since I was little, when I first could. Kindergarten! I’ve always drawn. My dad built me this little easel in my room, this little art center. He customized it for me. And I’d sit there and draw. He was always really supportive.
T: I love that. How did you get into designing fabrics?
A: Well, when I was living in California, I started painting designs on vintage clothing, but I didn’t know that I was creating textile designs. I was just doing what I wanted to do. And then when I went to school here for fashion design, I kind of realized after taking a textile design class, that’s what I wanted to do.
T: Oh, where’d you go to school in New York?
A: Katherine Gibbs. It was a secretary school for women originally. It’s just a trade school here in the city, but it doesn’t exist anymore. I got a two year degree in fashion design and merchandising there. Originally I was going to design clothes.
T: What inspires you to create?
A: I’ve been really into old illustration and old advertisements. I like the characters. Old 1940’s cartoons. I pretty much get all my inspiration from anything that’s vintage or antique.
T: So you’re in New York City now...why did you keep LA in the name?
A: Even though I can’t stand Los Angeles in a lot of ways, I feel like it’s a part of who I am. It’s important to me because I’m a California girl. You know?
T: Is there anything specific to NYC that inspires you to create?
A: I really like the architecture here, like the old churches. yeah, mostly the architecture.
T: What are some of the biggest jobs you’ve had in fabric design?
A: I would say when I did the big project for the Macy’s/Milk Studio collaboration. It was advertised in the subways and everywhere. As far as my work being publicly seen, I guess that’s the biggest project. And I’ve done stuff for Urban Outfitters. For me, it’s been more about finally being able to get to a point of drawing the way I want to. My own personal work has flourished, so for me that’s bigger.
T: What is the most fun you’ve had at a fabric design job?
A: I guess when I was doing stuff at Urban Outfitters. There were times that I got to be creative–the most creative I’ve ever been able to be as far as working for a company. But it’s hard, you know, people see a certain thing as being attractive and I don’t. It’s not very often that I get to be the way that I want to be with my work in a company.
T: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced, being a fabric designer? I guess you’ve answered this one already...
A: I guess I find it difficult to take common prints like leopard and polkadot and find ways to recreate them. I find it kind of boring. You know, I was working for a lingerie company and I designed fabric with these little bobby pins and they thought objects like that were too sharp to go on clothing. It’s hard because there are so many rules about what can go on the fabrics.
T: You’re a little bit more progressive.
A: Yeah. I think fabric can be taken really far. Vintage fabrics is where I get my inspiration from, and it’s very edgy and it’s very weird and it doesn’t necessarily make sense. But you can do that with textiles. It doesn’t have to be conventional. You know? People love that kind of stuff, it’s just no [fashion clients] want to take that chance, unless you’re doing something high end.
T: What’s your favorite fabric design you’ve ever done?
A: Recently I just drew this haunted looking house.
T: Oh yeah, the one that looks like the Psycho house?
A: Yeah, that one. So far I think it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done. I just like the positioning of it, the way it reads.
T: Haha! Do you pursue other forms of art?
A: Yeah, I’m gonna be a tattoo artist. I’m apprenticing at Magic Cobra in Brooklyn. I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but I want to travel and hopefully tattoo at shops all over the place. Maybe in LA too.
T: So are you still going to design fabrics in addition to tattooing?
A: Always! I’d like to just keep selling my prints. Design them and sell them to design companies. Give them ownership and have them do what they want with it. I mean, it would be nice if I could do a collaboration and have my name attached, but it’s difficult. People want to put their name on things. I have to get one good job that puts me out there in a big way, not just one piece of fabric I designed.
Olana is a Victorian estate, created by landscape painter Frederic Church, of the Hudson River School of painters, who died in 1900. Church purchased the land in 1860 and oversaw the construction of his Moorish style mansion between the years 1870 and 1872. Church was always active in the planning and development of his home and estate. In his later years when he was less able to paint, he became something of a full time amateur interior designer in his own home, devoting much of his time to the endeavor of decorating and embellishing Olana. The estate is now owned by the State of New York and is available for tours. I went on such a tour last weekend.
I am inspired by this home both negatively and positively. The floor plan is a complete nightmare, and I wish I could show it to you. Owners of Victorian homes can attest to the fact that dimensions and layout of space are often cumbersome in these old homes. People were smaller back then. They also had very different lifestyles. And there were no building codes. All of these elements contribute to smaller than average hallways and rooms, and other hallways and rooms that have no apparent purpose and are difficult to use, with bizarre locations and multiple points of entry.
However dysfunctional the floor plan, there were some awesome architectural elements. I love the windows. To the left is a window that Church created by stenciling designs on black paper and inserting the stenciled papers between two pieces of yellow glass. Genius! This is much easier to maintain than leaded stained glass windows. Over time, those windows sag and fall apart.
The doors and doorways were also inspirational. I love how Church created 6" wide panels of plaster around each doorway that were separated from the rest of the plaster wall by a thin material. They were decoratively painted and served as trim, instead of the traditional wide fluted wooden molding of the Victorian era. It was a very original detail that I enjoyed. Church also created stencils for his doors and painted them with silver and gold leaf paints. It's like Rivendale!–not necessarily my cup of tea, but I admire his innovation. Check out Olana for yourself! The view of the Hudson River is incredible.
Hello enthusiastic Thistler fans!
I have purchased a house in upstate New York and I will be posting videos of my progress on the interior decoration as well as the cosmetic renovations of this property. This first video includes the main house. I will show you my house in its current state and talk a little bit about its history. Stay tuned for more videos at this location and for a video series that focuses on the 2000 square foot studio building on the property, which I will be turning into a four room Bed and Breakfast. I've got my work cut out for me!
Please note that this video was taken on an iphone and it was pretty impromptu. Subsequent videos will be of higher quality. And so will the house. Check out my silly face in this thumbnail.
Because almost any object can be made into a light fixture or lamp, decorative themes can be expressed through light fixtures in innumerable ways. A good fixture will cover up any defects in your space. You can draw the eye to a pretty fixture when your budget disallows you from replacing your old couch with the shiny new one you want. Expensive fixtures will make a modest home look high-rent, while cheap looking fixtures will attract negative attention in an otherwise expensive dwelling. So, it's not just about what type of bulb is in there, or how bright it is, or where the fixture is placed in a room! It's very important that you use a light fixture that is in keeping with your period or style of architecture, the mood you want to create, the price range of your other furniture and finishes, and the themes you have chosen.
Left: I found this light fixture at the Chelsea Market. Even though the high ceilings, large spaces and raw walls of the market are very much industrial, this Deco fixture works because it evokes a sense of style and sophistication that their target shoppers probably identify with. Also, it's large, about 26" high by 10" wide, so it is proportionate to the space. Pairing industrial with ornate early 20th century is a thing, by the way, and it is not going away.
Below: These green lights adorn the entrance to a police building on Grand Ave in Prospect Heights. These lights are original to the building (unusual in NYC!), they are inviting, yet they command respect and attention. I've seen a few precincts in Brooklyn with these antique green lights. I guess they're perfect for connoting a place of importance. Side note: I've noticed that NYC doesn't have a lot of its original outdoor light fixtures, whereas Boston does, by comparison. I'm sure it's something about which Ken Burns would have some handy information.
Right: Here's a cool little fixture in a trendy restaurant on Washington Avenue near the Brooklyn Museum. It looks custom made to me, like a fabricator took some chicken wire glass, cut it up into a rectangle and bolted it to a metal plate with a socket in it. I love it. It's modern industrial but it's reminiscent of the 1920's. Or it's maybe even from the 1920's. Either way, it makes me think of a farm, and it's perfect for a restaurant that caters to the hip crowd who want to eat from farm to table. It's small, but that's okay, because there was a series of three of them, located above the table areas. Appropriate.
Above: This gem of a light fixture is mounted above a bike shop on Conselyea St. in Williamsburg Brooklyn. It's a light fixture made from a tricycle, mounted above a motorcycle shop. Need I say more. I want it, everywhere.
So! There you have some examples of cool light fixtures that are appropriate for their environs. I hope they inspire you like they inspire me. Remember: your light fixtures can make or break your space!
Technically they're called "hues," not colors, but I don't care and I'm not going to split hairs here. I want to tell you about how I choose a paint color. Whether it's walls, furniture, picture frames, ceilings, doors, trim, outdoor things...this is how I do it.
It begins with my handy paint chip book from Benjamin Moore. Benjamin Moore paints are the best. Their water-based paints contain low to zero VOCs, which are Volatile Organic Compounds. This means it's safe for my clients to hang out in the room as soon as the paint has dried to the touch, which takes about an hour or two. It's also safe for the painter as he or she is working. These are high quality paints–you don't need to repaint for years, and it still looks great. And they are self priming, which means that if you or your contractor are experienced painters, you only have to do one coat. The money you spend (the cheapest type is around $30 a gallon) is well spent.
So, on to choosing a color! Let's talk walls because that's usually what we're painting. I try to choose paint colors during the time of day when the light is at it's strongest in whatever room I'm painting. I ask my client what they want to do in the room. Do they want to watch TV, read books, eat, relax, sleep, work, socialize? How do they want to feel in the room? Neutral colors, light colors, and those with more gray in them are soothing and calming. Bold colors are energizing. Next I find out what is their favorite color or group of colors. What is their favorite type of architecture or do they have a theme for their home? Is there a cultural influence that may be a deciding factor in the choice of color? Is there a piece of furniture in the room that necessitates a certain color choice so that we don't clash? Once I have these answers, I can go to a group of "hues," let's say green, in my paint chip book. I look at all the greens and the green-blues and green-grays too.
Once a client can agree on a strip of greens to choose from, I hold it up on each wall of the room. One wall will almost always look grayer than the rest. The spot with the most sun will look brighter. The color has to work with the amount of light coming into the room, and the way that light affects each wall. In a darker room, it has to have enough gray in it to look like the same color is gracing all the walls. In a brighter room, a bold color will look more even, but could be overpowering. What I can tell you is that most people enjoy neutral colors. Even if it's a softer version of the bold color they thought they wanted so badly. It's just more relaxing to be in a space where the color isn't distracting you from your activity; it's the backdrop. I'm going to end by saying that I love dark colors. They make small spaces look bigger. And I also love metallic paints. They are yummy and fun and Benjamin Moore does not make them, but I don't care.
Shou-sugi-ban is the ancient Japanese technique of charring wood boards to create an exterior siding that is resistant to rot, insects, and fire. It lasts up to 80 years, without requiring maintenance. According to shousugiban.com, "sugi" means cyprus, and was the original type of wood used in this tradition. People are now using it in the west, and they are using woods like oak, cedar, and douglas fir, in addition to cyprus. Once it cools, it's oiled and it's good to go!
This stuff is so awesome, I want to pretend that I was born with an extensive knowledge of shou-sugi-ban. But I read about it in Dwell magazine. Aside from my embarrassment over this sad fact, I am also upset that the Japanese get to have such a rich history of practical yet aesthetically pleasing architectural traditions. Shoji screens? Tea houses? Large soaking tubs? And now I realize they have had shou-sugi-ban this whole time? Unfair. Check out this video on how it's made, also from shousugiban.com.
Luckily, there are companies in the U.S. who make this stuff. GOOD. Because I just bought a house and barn in upstate New York, and I think the charred black siding against the vibrant green leaves of the trees up there is going to rock. Here are some American companies who are making it:
Delta Millworks, TX
If you know of any other suppliers in the U.S., send me a private message; I'd like to list them! I'm especially interested in NY suppliers. ..
I went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden today and was surprised to find something in their new welcome center that I would consider installing in my own home—vertical hydroponic planters by Danielle Trofe Design. While both mid century modern furniture and indoor gardening have each become seriously popular within the past five years, I find this design to be a successful marriage of the two. These futuristic pods hold small succulent gardens, sustained by a watering system contained within the vertical part of the structure. So cool. This particular set of indoor hydroponic planters seems to have been designed specifically for the large commercial space of the Garden's welcome center, reaching about 15 feet from floor to ceiling. A smaller version can be purchased for the home. See the bottom pic from the designer's site. Imagine this piece paired with a luxurious mid century couch or chair and coffee table. That's it, I've convinced myself to get one.
Check out this treehouse in Florence, Itlay. I love the use of space. Being a New Yorker for the past ten years, I have become totally pre-occupied with getting the most out of a small space. I'm also intrigued by any building that incorporates nearby trees. I'm deprived of nature!! Anyway, check out the floor plan.
Also, check out this link. http://www.treehotel.se/
IT'S A TREE HOTEL IN SWEDEN. They have multiple tree house units which you can rent hotel style for the night. They were designed by leading Scandinavian architects. Did I mention there is a tree sauna that fits up to 12 people? This is inspiring me to create a tree house room in my soon-to-be-realized inn located in Saugerties NY. So incredible. Ugh. My favorite one is the house that looks like a mirrored box floating in the trees. Do tree houses get cooler than that? I dunno. My older brother built this suite of three tree houses when I was a kid. Two of them were linked with a draw bridge. One of them was three stories high. It's a toss up for me. Ultimately, the floating glass box is more comfortable, that's for sure. haha. Enjoy your newfound desire for a modernist tree house!!