Monday, September 30, 2013


I love when people start their own companies based on that which they are most passionate about. Bramalta, a new Italian-inspired printed fabric collection out of Pennsylvania started by John Donis, came from years of working in and loving the fabric industry.  It is so exciting seeing boutique fabric companies get started, and see their creative point of view emerge. Starting Bramalta, Donis was able to re-connect with the creative process.  He used to create custom fabrics for clients while working at Scalamandre, which is where we met way back when.  After many years there, he learned the art and process of the weaving mills and appreciated their vast, treasured historical archives. Venturing out on his own, he had total creative flexibility to bring something new to market with a nod to the past and his Italian roots.
When describing the leap he took, he explained, "textiles and making things, practical things which have personal meaning are important to me. I had the Bramalta designs in mind, and I do all the drawing and coloring myself.  I kept searching until I found the best people to work with. Then, I had to teach myself how to design a textile and just be an editor." A love of textiles and historical archives stemmed from Donis's Italian heritage, travels and inspirational grandmother. As a child, he would join her on fabric and lace buying trips in the Puglia region, famous for its wool, where his appreciation for the textile arts began. The creative process takes time, having created over 10,000 sketches and ideas for designs, he acknowledges the execution of a pattern is complex and varied.
What appeals to me are his vivid color combinations and playful patterns like the flamestitch, for their updated historical reference points. You can find the prints at Travis and Co in Atlanta, and if you are interested in carrying the Bramalta Collection, reach out to them here.

Zig Zag in Aqua is inspired by a classic Egg and Dart motif

Zig Zag in Fuschia

Zig Zag in Orange 

Zig Zag in Red

Zig Zag in Yellow

Zig Zag in Blue

Rosette and Fret in Green

Rosette and Fret in Red

Arts and Crafts in Blue

Arts and Crafts in Red

Boccanera in Aqua and Green

Kerman in Blues

Fiamma in Green

Fiamma in Blue

Friday, September 27, 2013


Just when you think you have seen malachite's many incarnations, it pops up for a second go round, in even more exciting ways. From veneer to decoupage, the luxe emerald green stone is still having a moment.  What can I say, except solid as a rock?

Photo courtesy of Bungalow 5
Stop the presses. A malachite faux finish painted on a classic streamlined Parsons style 3-shelf console from Bungalow 5 is a dream. Hearkening back to Billy Baldwin, this piece is an instant icon. And, its on brass casters. Did someone say pop-up bar? 

Photo courtesy of West Elm
Richly striated shades of green in an wavy agate decoupage pattern make this high sheen jewelry box by West Elm an eye catching piece, it would look great on a stack of books on a coffee table.

Photos courtesy of L'Objet
Newly launched,  the luxe hyper-realistic malachite patterned porcelain tabletop and decorative accessory line from L'Objet.  The pop of green with the thinnest gold border is beyond. Find it online at Gracious Style.

And for those cocktails, show up with a set of canape plates in hand and be the life of the party--

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Photos courtesy of Claire Coles
Claire Coles in her London studio

While checking out some emerging talent out of London, I made a design discovery that stopped me with Stendhal Syndrome. Clare Coleses stunning embroidery defies anything you have ever seen. I have been feeling a "return to pretty" and this surely signals its comeback.  Her beautiful, highly detailed sewn wall panels take on a life of their own, while they teem with life-- that of birds, flowers and fauna. Captured with quirky charm,  in hand and machine led embroidery, she combines silk threads, vintage wallpaper flowers and leather in scenics that awe. Her artistry with embroidery takes it beyond the surface, with 3D relief, and the panels make them portable to move around at will like a piece of art.  She also creates custom installations and fashion collaborations, so far only in England. I love the presence of the artists hand, and how the work takes on a different feel, depending on if it is on a light or dark silk background. Coleses work is extraordinary- I am so taken with her talent. The Brits really know how to move the needle.

On a dark, brooding steely gray silk ground, a classic vase in monochromatic threads holds an ebullient, free-form still life flower arrangement called Dutch Masters. Coles has tremendous skill capturing a hand-drawn quality out of threads.

Leather and silk threads in closer detail

Vivid tomato red, teal blue and spring green in Tropical Garden take their cue from hand-painted chinoiserie papers.

The movement and realism her work captures is truly astonishing.

Bird on a wire, a chic bird, surrounded by bright blooms.

Miami Deco, inspired by Florida's unique pastel facades, shows flowers strewn about as if blown by a gust of wind.

The applique flowers add such a delightful charm.

Another view of creeping flowers and stems.

In Hollywood Pineapple, she takes a classic symbol of welcome and hospitality and goes glam, with gold leather and palm fronds in flashy colors.

Set against a green silk background, the unusual color pairings and artistry really emerge.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Next week is a BUSY week at the Design and Decoration Building. They have some excellent panel discussions and launches, not to mention the opening of new showrooms, like a personal favorite, Claremont.
 If you happen to be hitting the market for inspiration on October 1st, I hope you will stop by the David Sutherland Showroom in Suite 813 at 4pm.  Ann and David Sutherland, along with House Beautiful Magazine's Kate Kelly Smith are hosting an event I will be moderating.  The topic,  a panel discussion on "Building The Perfect Team" to create the best design experience should be a lively one. We will discuss the process of working with an architect, builder and landscape designer, and the panel includes classical architect,  historian and ICA fellow  Philip James Dodd,  master builder and developer John Finton and landscape architect Kathryn Herman of Doyle Herman Design Associates.  Their expertise and wisdom gleaned from years in the business, at the highest level, will help guide you and the choices you make with clients, relationships and helping them realize a mutual vision. Plus, they all have recent books out, and will discuss the process and how being published has advanced their businesses.  It should be a lot of fun --  I know I always learn so much from the conversation and being part of the design dialog moderating provides.  Then join us for a book signing and a cocktail afterwards. RSVP:

Monday, September 23, 2013


 Lately I have been thinking about the art that adorns my walls. Or, lack thereof.  I have lived with white wall space for a long time, probably because I have a hard time committing to art. The first rule of collecting is buy what you love, and I appreciate so many styles and periods that I have become stuck. This is to be expected from an art history major, so I decided to start now,  set my budget, and really start looking from the many great places to buy art today. For prints, visit Pocker and Natural Curiosities; for all types of highly-covered major art, Artsy; for talent discovery, U Gallery; to shoot and print your photos check out Uplo;  and scope out art prints, click on over to Clic Gallery
When I got my first "serious" piece of art recently, a stunning Paul Lange Big Bloom photograph of an over-sized flower, I knew it needed to be framed and hung with care.  I called upon ever-knowledgeable Robyn Pocker of J. Pocker, the framing experts who excel at conservation and restoration in Manhattan since 1926. Their array of beautiful and unusual custom crafted frames, on display in their New York, Bronxville, Westport and Greenwich locations is unmatched, as is their ability to pair art with the most appropriate surrounding. Frames enhance the experience of looking at art, be it a treasured masterpiece or favorite note from a child. Pocker, whose father started the business,  will find the best home for it, consider budget and time frame. Since every piece of art, from a memento to an oil painting can benefit from the proper surrounding, I like that the process of selecting a frame and mat is a considered process, where advice is dispensed with wisdom accumulated over the past 80 years. It also helps that Pocker's workroom is near NYC, and its nice to know that things like this are created locally.
To really pack a one-two punch, it helps to hang your art properly. I turned to ILevel, the New York/Connecticut-based art placement and installation pros. By considering the wall space and interiors, they advise optimal placement for collections large and small.
There are many reasons to treat your art like it is priceless, but if it means something to you, that is really all that matters.

I went in to visit with Robyn, and she guided me through the process of matching my print with its surroundings. When she proposed a clear lucite frame I knew, that was the perfect match, to create a seamless look, keeping the focus on the vividly colored flower. With a white matte to surround it, the look is crisp, clean and fresh.

The handcrafted wood, metal and painted frames range in styles from classical to minimalist. I love bamboo, and the gold shimmer of the gilt version above is a special statement.

Frames can really capture a sense of place as well as the period and style of the piece being framed. The white Birch frame is so beautiful for a rustic country setting.

When I got the call that my print was framed, I could barely contain myself. The result was more than I could have hoped for. Let the collecting begin!

As much as I love my Karen Robertson coral, I knew this was not the best place for it. For starters, I had it hung to high, and it looked like it was orbiting in space. It had to be moved.

When Scott from ILevel showed up, he shared all sorts of great advice on hanging art. The biggest thing people get wrong, as I did, is hanging art too high. The rule of thumb is to hang art 8-12 inches above a sofa or piece of furniture, so it relates to the piece and interacts with it. Since we were hanging one large piece, it was straightforward, but when hanging salon and gallery style, it helps to map out the whole thing with sketches before getting to work.

Voila, the result of a beautiful frame and proper hanging advice. Scott created a handy paper envelope that he taped to the wall to catch any debris created from drilling the wall. Nice touch.

Photo courtesy of ILevel
Once I start amassing enough artwork I adore, I plan to take on creating a gallery wall. 
Here are some helpful tips ILevel provided:
1. To create the most cohesive result, look at the whole piece as a singular work

2. If you have the space, start by creating a template -- measure the wall, create paper cut-outs, and lay the arrangement out on the floor to see how it will look. From there, you can re-jigger 

3. Don't try and find the center, instead, map out interrelationships and start in a corner

4. Work inwards, to create a balanced whole. Think of it as free-form,  align to what is above or beside each piece

5. Putting the biggest piece in the middle looks like a satellite, so try doing it off center, it is easier on the eye Discover your style, the way you like to hang pieces can vary from someone else. 
When Scott shared that each person at ILevel has their own hanging style, I was fascinated by that. The very way you approach the assortment can vary, depending on what the highlights and proportions are.

Here are three stunning moments ILevel created:

Photo courtesy of ILevel
A wide ranging assortment of family and vacation photos.

Photo courtesy of ILevel
How do you hang a Damien Hirst and Antlers? Now you know, courtesy of ILevel.

Photo courtesy of ILevel
The chic pine-panelled J.Crew Men's Store on Madison Avenue got a big dose of personality once the artwork livened things up.

Photo courtesy of Elle Decor
Kristen Buckingham's collection is filled with brights

Photo courtesy of Elle Decor
This picture may be old, but it sure is good. making the most of a high ceiling eave, Early American-themed art work is tied together by being put in black frames.

Photo courtesy of Steven Gambrel Elle Decor
In a hall with white walls, Steven Gambrel accentuated family photography by framing them in red frames. This image had always stood out to me for its personal approach and punchy color use.

Photo courtesy of Nate Berkus Elle Decor
Nate Berkus created a unified presence with all black and white artwork, varying the frames of wood and lucite for interest. The result is sultry against a deep blue lacquer wall.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Sometimes in design, you just need a quick fix. Whether you are in need of window coverings to tide you over until your custom window treatments arrive or you are looking for an economical solution, buying ready-made panels can be a great solution. Here are some printed, patterned and plain panels to make your view even better.

 Photo courtesy of World Market
With a charming bird and flower tree of life print in chic "off" colors, the Whippoorwill panels from World Market are an incredible value.

Photo courtesy of Urban Outfitters
Get global boho with a silk sari at your window. Urban Outfitters can send you on the magic carpet ride.

 Photo courtesy of Anthropologie
Go bold with color. Anthropologie's crewel embroidered Tavi panels have an Antique Turkish textile influence.

Lacefield Designs, the Southern source for incredible pillows, recently launched ready-made window treatments that have a subtle sophistication to them. The Amalfi looks custom, with a ribbon tape trim running down the leading edge.
It comes in easy to use colors

For a bit more pattern, there is Zoe, a graphic geometric with tribal overtones.
This palette is a rich one, with deep navy and chocolate brown options.

Photo courtesy of Ballard Designs
Embroidered burlap never looked as good as it does in Ballard Designs Crewel Damask panels. Love the contrast of materials and textures.

Photo courtesy of Ikea
Ikea's Lappjung curtains have a small red floral print and can be used on a curtain rod or a track.

Photo courtesy of West Elm
For something with an all-over pattern punch, West Elm's Ironflocked Curtains have a curving, soft geometric design on linen.