Tuesday, April 6, 2010


When Heath Lee, a friend of my sister's in Des Moines, told me she was attending an interesting event with Sara Ruffin a few weeks ago, she asked if I wanted her to cover it for me. I jumped at the chance, knowing she would report back with a great piece, given that she is an integral part of the organization, and a terrific writer to boot. The Woman's Club of Richmond, Virginia hosted the compelling talk, Decorating in a Down Economy with two former Domino editors.

The gals: Sara Ruffin Costello and Cynthia Kling-a former Creative director and columnist for Domino

Although the magazine closed in 2009, happily for its devoted readers, Domino’s talented former staffers are still actively working in design and décor. On March 1, Sara Ruffin Costello, Domino’s former Creative Director, and Cynthia Kling, Domino’s “The Adventuress” columnist spoke at The Woman’s Club in the historic Bolling-Haxall House in Richmond.

Costello is the co-author of the domino Book of Decorating: Kling was also a contributor to this New York Times bestseller. Costello started her career at Martha Stewart Living, and then moved on to become Style Editor at Glamour and Cosmopolitan. Costello also acted as Architecture and Style Editor at Metropolitan Home. Kling began her writing career at Harper’s Bazaar, and then moved on to Garden Design as Features Editor. She is a frequent contributor to Vogue, the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler and Elle Décor.

Kling began the talk by discussing “Why We Created Domino”, illustrating her points with fanciful castles and pagodas referencing the “over-the-top” decorating of the late ‘90’s and early years of 2000. One of the first issues of domino featured homage to such over-the-top décor with an “Age of Decadence” slide inspired by Sofia Coppola’s impressionistic movie, “Marie Antoinette”. While this style has its place, Kling explained, Domino was created to allow those without deep pockets and to-the-trade only resources to decorate beautifully on a budget.

The Domino girls quickly dispelled the gloom and doom of the recession with their focus on current trends and tricks to make the home sparkle on a shoestring. The “Get to Know Yourself” portion of their presentation featured images of seven distinct decorating personalities. Several of these vignettes were based on Richmond family members or friends, such as Katie Ukrop, owner of Quirk Gallery in Richmond who had been previously profiled in Domino.

They discussed several decorating personalities one can channel:

Unbuttoned Preppy: “feminine but a little bit naughty”

Bold Trendsetter: “A Kelly Wearstler, Post Hollywood Regency look”

Urbane Organic: “Europhile, modernist with handmade objects woven in”

Costello and Kling also spoke about one of the most budget-friendly ways to change your décor: paint. As Kling noted” “painting a room is better than therapy and cheaper!” Costello noted that “jewel tones from the 80’s are back!” Here the girls referenced the ease of which one can change their space with the title “Toe-Dipping into Color.”

Costello emphasized the need to use these colors in tandem with softer whites and creams such as Early Morning Mist and White Dove by Benjamin Moore. She felt that these jewel tones look best in either a very small or a very grand room and suggested “pairing a rich palette with more humble fabrics.”

Decorating with young children in mind was another topic of interest. Parents in the audience whole-heartedly agreed with Costello that kids “are just going to ruin good fabrics anyway!” She advised investing instead in “some important pieces of furniture with multiple uses” such as a pretty chest or secretary that children will (hopefully) not destroy. One illustration pulled from a domino shoot involved using sheets as curtains to create an attic bedroom haven. The owner of this home invested practically nothing, made her kids deliriously happy with their hideaway, and still retained a semblance of chic.

Other advice from Costello and Kling about decorating on a dime involved the grouping and placement of art that you already own. The girls’ images from their “Moonlight as a Curator” vignettes illustrated creative ways to hang your prints and paintings. Costello noted that “you can get the scale of large pictures with a grouping of smaller pieces.” Another suggestion: “lean your art against a mantel or wall instead of hanging them. This tells people you are really cool!”

A final bit of wisdom from Costello and Kling perfectly captured the easy-breezy domino style philosophy: “80% of decorating is just to be confident in your choices. And to remember that your decorating is good enough-don’t sweat it!”

Where We Go For Inspiration-
The Top Floor of Ralph Lauren on Madison and 72nd. A series of exquisite rooms redecorated every couple months by RL designer and secret weapon, Alfredo Paredes.

Neue Gallery at 86th and Madison. Viennese expressionism including warm woods, threadbare rugs and low lighting. Go for espresso and art

Frick Collection at 1 East 70th. This is a small, quiet, perfect art moment – especially during the week

Morgan Library at 225 Madison. Stop by to see their beautiful floors

Highline Garden on 10th Avenue and Gansevoort Street. This old New York subway line was turned into an amazing modernist garden/elevated park.

Highly Curated, Overpriced Shops where you can Develop an Eye-

Moss – at 150 Greene St. This was the first modernist tchotchke shop and is still the best – almost like a museum.

Ochre – around the corner on 462 Broome Street. Think Neo-Edwardian armchairs and wide plank floors

Partners and Spade – at 40 Great Jones Street. Andy Spade, the husband of highly successful handbag designer, Kate Spade, has his own unique take on shopping. Visit.

Cove Landing – at 995 Lexington. This shop is owned by two former Christie’s executives who’ve filled it with European antiques. It’s Charles Darwin on a binge.

Louis Bofferding – at 970 Lexington. Edith Wharton could have invented this guy. Each month, his store window, pays homage to a different design star. Go in the store just to find out what the window “means.”

Markham Roberts and James Sansum – at 1020 Lexington, upstairs. This well-known (and friendly) decorator and his partner have an incredible collection of Old Masters Drawings and Asian art.

Great Websites-
Sheherazade.com – very reasonably priced Ikat pillows, Moroccan rugs, lamps, etc.
Jamali.com – great cheap gardening stuff from vases and floral supplies to outdoor lanterns
Robertarollerrabbit.com – brightly colored, hand-blocked, inexpensive fabrics
Pearlriver.com – the secret source of New York’s swankiest decorators for really cheap shades, ginger jars, trays, etc.


Living It At Home said...

This was a very informative post. I can't get enough! I loved seeing those few pictures...need more to see please! I miss Domino magazine and was happy to read some tips from them.


A Perfect Gray said...

excellent review. thanks to your sister's friend...