"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hollyhocks (and kids) In Bloom!

As many of you know, my quest for hollyhocks began last March when I ordered seeds from Rareseeds and Hudson Valley Seed Library

Here's how I thought it would go: bury seeds in dirt, water and wait for flowers to pop up.

Simple, right?

Turns out, there was a little more to it --and I found myself often drawing parallels to raising kids.

To say I have been feeling nostalgic lately, is a bit like saying Serena Williams knows how to swing a racket. With my oldest son heading off to college in the fall, I have been an easy mark for Hallmark commercials, sappy Facebook videos, absentmindedness (more than usual) and reflection. Or as the SNL skit used to go: Deep Thoughts.

I had an idea of how I thought the process might go --and ended up learning so much along the way. 
Luckily, both because of my efforts and sometimes in spite of them --both flowers and kids are growing up and reaching for the stars. 

A few photos of the hollyhocks (and Dylan) doing their thing!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Dwelling On The Future: The showcase for modern design turns ten

If you’ve ever had the urge to step inside the pages of your favorite magazine, you’re not alone –in fact, it’s a concept Dwell Media president and CEO Michela O’Connor Abrams successfully used to breathe life into Dwell magazine and the industry of home design more than a decade ago. She may not be the mother of dragons, but Abrams is most definitely the proud mother of the Dwell on Design show and a contender in the game of media thrones.

Interra Designs

In addition to celebrating the 10th anniversary of the annual design event for modern living at Los Angeles Convention Center (May 25-31) boasting more than 32,000 attendees, and the largest audience to date, Dwell on Design had yet another reason to break out the bubbly: the newly disclosed multi-million dollar sale of the show to UK-based Informa, operated by Informa Exhibitions U.S., Construction and Real Estate –and plans for international expansion.

Designs at Lounge 22.

Abrams said selling the live event portion of Dwell Media to one of the world’s largest producer of design construction shows was a natural next step, a process she likened to speed dating. “I was seeking someone to help make us global,” she explained during a sit down at the LG Re-Imagination Pavilion. “Someone to help put the scale of underpinnings that a show this big really needs…we couldn’t possibly continue to scale this by ourselves.” Abrams said it was only last February when she entered into discussion with Informa in earnest. “They came to us, we went to them –it started moving very quickly because they absolutely understood why the brand was sacrosanct.” Abrams and vice president of content/ editor in chief of Dwell magazine, Amanda Dameron will continue their roles shaping the show to maintain its voice and integrity. “We’re not just selling off a piece of Dwell…it’s about getting a bigger team that knows how to do the much bigger operational piece.” Still, she admits the move is bittersweet, “because even though this is what we wanted to happen and we’re very excited –it is a chapter closing and another opening.”

Rocking modern style at Fermob.

Abrams said the journey to becoming “the largest design event in America” began when she and Dwell founder Lara Hedberg Deam decided to build a media brand of the future --one she envisioned, “providing the company mission at any time, in any place, in any form.” Not only in print, but online, via broadcast and up close and personal –i.e., the show. Thirteen years ago, the idea was a game changer.

At that time Abrams said US design shows could be categorized as either decorating events for the public or construction and building shows for the trade. It was not until she traveled to Europe with Deam that Abrams found a muse for her vision. At design shows in Milan, Cologne and Paris, Abrams remembers although the shows were still huge, the vibe was very different. “You were immersed in an experience, and it felt like the brands were welcoming you into a home. They did installations,” she explained, “you felt like you were somewhere in between a museum and a show…this was what we had to bring to the United States.”

Cooking demonstration and tasting at the LG Re-Imagination Pavillion.

Today, the Dwell in Design shows held annually in New York and Los Angeles attract both professionals and enthusiasts and incorporate everything from cooking and DIY demonstrations to home and loft tours, on-stage presentations, workshops and experiential exhibits that encourage meandering, not speed walking.

Abrams admits seeing the show in action on its tenth anniversary is, “kind of surreal”. She said, “I can tell you exactly what I was wearing when I grabbed Lara [Hedberg Deam], our owner and founder, and boarded a flight down here [from the Bay Area] to tour the convention center.” Abrams said when they looked out over the expansive convention center floor in the West Hall, the 10,000 square foot space looked daunting. “I thought how will we ever fill it.” This year, the show covered 326,000 square feet. “My dream,” said Abrams, “is by 2017 I want the whole convention center to myself so we can add garden design pavilions and build out things that are resident here…I’m still saying ’17 is possible, but it may be ’18.” Buckle those designer seatbelts.

Making you feel at home.

They grow up so fast.

Up next, the second annual Dwell on Design New York October 2-4 at Skylight Clarkson Square; for Los Angeles, you'll have to wait until June 24-26, 2016. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Finding Prints Charming: How To Get Started Using Wallpaper

Do repetitive prints of cabbage roses give you chills? Floral striped swags from floor to ceiling make you feel faint? You might be suffering from what interior designer, Annie Elliott diagnoses as a 1980’s Waverly wallpaper hangover. The good news? There’s a cure.

“I think a lot of people haven’t used wallpaper [in decades],” says Elliott, owner of Bossy Color in Washington D.C., “because for years everything was just this explosion of flowers room after room…and I think today when people hear “wallpaper” that’s what they envision and they’re appropriately afraid.”

The treatment? Think: hair of the dog. “There are several ways to dip your toe into wallpaper,” says the wallpaper fan and color expert, “one is to use wall covering that is a texture rather than a pattern…such as a grass cloth or faux silk…to add a level of depth that paint can’t always create.”

Subtle Chic

Elliott admits she is a big fan of Phillip Jeffries, who she calls the king of grass cloth wallpaper and favors Cowton & Tout for their subtly striped faux silk patterns called, striae (pronounced ‘stree-yay’). “You can cover walls with a tone-on-tone striae from Farrow and Ball that’s really rich in color but might not feel as scary as painting a room dark blue.”

Small Steps
Another solution: start small. “One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to leave no powder room unwallpapered,” said Elliot. “I think powder rooms are the perfect place to start because they don’t have to relate to anything…you can really have fun with a powder room –I love it when you open the door to the powder room and it’s a real surprise.”

Wallpapering a single wall, especially in a bedroom, is another clever way to test drive a new wall treatment. To achieve this look, use a large wall uninterrupted by doors or windows. “You can wallpaper that wall, place the bed against it…and it essentially serves as a headboard,” says Elliott. Wallpapering the private space within a bedroom is also a safe way for nervous newbies to experiment without jeopardizing the design flow of the rest of the house.

Picking Wallflowers

Of course, once you have designated a space the next step is selecting the design. Although hiring a designer is one way to edit through a vast sea of options, for a DIY approach Elliott suggests befriending the professionals on staff at your local wallpaper retailer. “Say: Listen, I’ve never used wallpaper before and I’d like to try. I’m thinking of using something in the blue family, but my taste is really contemporary (or whatever), which manufacturer should I be looking at?” suggests Elliott. “The people who work in these stores generally know their product, and if you walk into a store and there is just wall after wall, or row after row of wallpaper you are going to be overwhelmed. The first thing you need to do is narrow your field. Tell the sales associate the color palette you’re interested in and what style you’re thinking of,” she advises. Tell them, “My house is very traditional; or, I’d really like to take some risks, or try something fun.”

Elliott says figuring out which manufacturers offer styles that suit your taste will save time and frustration.

Once you are headed in the right direction, Elliott has this advice for determining the size and scale of your design: “You do not have to use a small, ditzy pattern in a small space –that’s thing one.” She clarifies, “If you’re talking about a really small space and you want it to look charming, and maybe a little bit country, definitely go with a smaller, tighter pattern maybe a little stripe or flowers in a stripey pattern –but some people think you absolutely have to use a small pattern and you don’t.”

On the flip side, she cautions that using a too-small print in a big room can leave it looking dated. “I think that’s another hold-over from decades past.”

Instead, Elliott recommends thinking big. “You can embrace big wallpaper in a small space,” she enthuses. “You can use a David Hicks wallpaper that has a great big, gigantic pattern…I think it packs such a wallop and there’s a fun impact when you walk into a room that has a giant scale wallpaper. I think having a large scale [design] distracts you from the fact that the room is quite small.

Elliott says using a geometric design with a regular repeat in the pattern works well in a small room too and may feel less scary than putting up a more zany, loose design. “I think a large scale, loose pattern is hard to pull off in a small room.”

The Ooops Factor
Bottom line, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Yes, it does mean losing a small investment, however, it doesn’t mean you have to live with a design misfire til death do you part. “A lot of people still think wallpaper is irreversible, and once you put it up you’re going to have to use steamers and scrapers and it will be a nightmare to take off --and that’s simply not the case anymore,” says Elliott. “It goes up easily and comes down easily these days.”

Have a wallpaper story of your own? Share it in the comments below!

All photography courtesy of Bossy Color.

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