Thursday, April 29, 2010

Finish Line

The living room and dining room are back to order. Oh, yes, the dining room was piled and stacked and fairly buried as well.

The car is loaded and I am all ready for set up for Dining by Design. I will report back with pictures on Monday (see, only one more post), but if you are in town do pop in to see the tables. Table Hop Friday night 5 - 9, just $25 at the door or the sneak peek Saturday from 9 to noon for $10. All the info is here.

There is a silent auction both Friday and Saturday nights, and I tip my hat in grateful thanks to Margaret Russell who donated a signed copy of Elle Decor's Style and Substance

and Thomas O'Brien who donated a signed copy of American Modern.

Wanda Allen Jewelry and Tom Tivol have made lovely donations as well and these are only a few of the treasures that will be up for grabs.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What Gives, Bud?

I've had good teachers and bad teachers. Most of the good teachers I remember were English teachers or history teachers or journalism teachers. Maybe it wasn't the teachers who were good or bad, but my affinity for their subjects. On the other hand, my high school biology teacher was whispered to have had a fling with a senior and my high school chemistry teacher (also the cheerleading sponsor) spent our hours together monotonously reading aloud from the textbook. She might as well have been reading Greek. So maybe the teachers' skills played as large a part as mine.

Regardless, the little science experiment that has been playing out on my kitchen counter has proved both amusing and frustrating. The tables for Dining by Design (and I am sorry if you are bored of the subject - it is likely to continue all week) are not allowed to have open flame. I like tapers. It's not that I don't like votives, I do, and hurricanes have their place, but I really like a tall, elegant taper.

Enter the bud vase from Nell Hill's. When I spied it I am quite sure the women around me could hear a bell go off. "I can put a taper in there. It will not be an open flame. It will be a perfectly stylish slender hurricane and I am a genius."

So, tra la, tra la, to the register I head with my basket. Nell Hill's manager, who was a manager of mine long ago, cautioned only that as the bud vase was not meant to hold a candle the heat might cause it to break. Good thinking. I'd check it out.

Drip, drip, drip a few drops of wax in the bottom to hold the taper steady, light the wick and wait. I was fixing dinner and helping with homework when the eldest Blandings boy said, "Oh, Mom, the candle went out." "Did someone blow it out?" "Nope." Huh.

I tried again. And again. With different sized candles. Out of drafts. Each and every time, regardless of the variables, the flame went out when the candle reached about two full inches from the top of the slender, genius hurricane. The boys, including Mr. Blandings, thought this was the most interesting thing I had done for a long time.

I get that the candle is not getting enough oxygen; I just don't get why. I mean, people survive for days buried in rubble from earthquakes, it just seems that oxygen would travel a couple of inches to ensure that I have a pretty table. It's the least oxygen could do.

I've asked the eldest to ask his science teacher, Mrs. T, why this would be. Mrs. T is an excellent teacher. If Mrs. T had been my science teacher I would be a modern day Curie. With stylish slender tapers to light my lab.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Kind of Town

Right. Painting, packing, primping to get ready for DbD on Friday (really Thursday as Thursday is set up.) Oh! And. And I'm going to Chicago Friday morning. Chicago really came first. That is, the plan to go to Chicago came first, then I decided to do the table and turn my entire family's week upside down. My friend who looks like a young Carolina Herrera said, "Yeah. Sometimes you have to do stuff like that."

I've never had a bad time in Chicago and with my saying that you should know that I once was involved in an U Haul accident that took out a cash machine there on New Year's Eve. This trip had a similar evolution. I had told Thomas O'Brien that I would come up and hear him speak when he was in Chicago, then my on-line friend Magnaverde emailed to say, "O'Brien is coming on the 30th," and all of a sudden the entire design universe seemed to align.

Really, seeing O'Brien, meeting Magna, I couldn't quite imagine anything better and then Rick Ege emailed to say that he would be exhibiting at the International Antique Fair (also in the Merchandise Mart) and I almost fell out of my chair. Ege's shop is in St. Louis and I keep up on it on Rick's blog. He's friends with Christopher Filley just so you know we are all peas in a pod.

But wait, it gets better. As fortune would have it, I will also have the opportunity to meet Marija, who writes the blog Holding Court. If you haven't checked it out, you should; Marija's got a good thing going over there.

I'd say come out to hear O'Brien, but I fear his talk and book signing are full. Still, the Antique Fair should be great. I can't wait. I just hope there aren't police. With the cash machine thing there were police.

Images from top, Rick Ege's wares at the Chicago Botanic Garden Antiques Fair last week. Don't fall in love with those Saarinen chairs as they sold, but the terrific botanicals in the silver leaf frames could be yours. Marija's stylish tablescape via Holding Court and Thomas O'Brien.

Monday, April 26, 2010


"Could you help me carry a few things in from the garage?"

"What is this?"

"Well. Well, I thought the Dining by Design table needed a rug. You know, to define the space a little better."

"Uh huh. Where did you get these things?"

"Lowe's. Jimenez told me about it."

"How did you get them in your car?"

"Oh, there was the nicest man there; he loaded them up for me."

"And they fit?"

"Well, not exactly. They had to go up over my headrest."

"So, they were basically on your head for the ride home. And you couldn't see out the back."


"And why are we taking them into the living room?"

"I just can't quite figure out what I'm going to paint on them and I can't get a sense of the scale until they are all together."

"You're going to paint them."


"But not in the living room? In the garage. Or how about the basement?"


But he knew from the start that I was going to paint them in the living room, just as the nice man at Lowe's knew that I was not going to come back with a bigger car, but was going to figure out how to take these three four-by-eight pieces of laminate home right then.

I hate math, it's such an inconvenience, but I measured a little then got out the yardstick. I was off, of course, and things had to be reconnoitered. I hate that. So I ignored the incorrectly measured part and went ahead and painted the border. I wanted to paint; I did not want to measure. When I finished the border, I stood back admiring my work, grateful for creative friends and low-priced home goods stores. Painting the floor in the living room was fine, bother Mr. Blandings and his concern.

Then I felt a nudge. Not of conscience or of sense. A nose nudge. About mid-thigh. It's a common experience as it is Rosie's usual way of letting me know I have forgotten her walk or her food or fetch. As I looked down into her amber eyes I realized that I had not quite accounted for keeping the dog off of the "rug." She does not follow verbal instructions as well as the boys, which frankly is not all that well either.

So for a week Mr. Blandings and the boys have said nothing as half of the downstairs is blocked off with chairs and tables as they all work around me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I've wanted glasses since my first eye test at school in third grade. Glasses held such an allure. I talk with my hands and I could imagine, even then, taking them off, chewing on the end of the arm while considering Bomb Pop or Push Up. I could imagine wildly gesturing with them as I made my case for one more episode of Scooby Doo. I could imagine them as the unspoken explanation of why I was reading Nancy Drew instead of playing kick ball. Alas, it was not to be. Worse, 20/10.

On Saturday, after a little running around in the morning, I came home to read in bed. I had about an hour before the next soccer game and I banned the boys from the room so I could sit and relax. I lay in the quiet and cool and read the just-arrived issue of Vogue. When it was time to go I put the magazine down on the bed and placed my glasses on top. With that gesture I realized that I have finally become the age that I have felt that I was since I was nine years old.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Results Oriented

I know that many of you click on that little "comments" link at the bottom of the posts, but many more do not. As there were a lot of interesting responses to Friday's post, I thought I'd sum them up here. Readers overwhelmingly declared that one of the most significant developments in the last twenty years was expansion of the the availability of good design at all price points. Retailers like Target, IKEA and Pottery Barn and designers like Martha Stewart and Thomas O'Brien have provided stylish products at affordable prices; beyond providing the stuff, they have been an interesting influence on design awareness.

Design television. Love it or hate it (or both), television programming has given the average viewer the sense that they can, in fact, do it themselves. Sometimes in a day and under $200. While this can often complicate the expectations between client and designer, I would imagine it has liberated a few folks to give it a go. That's not altogether a bad thing.

I am lumping these major influencers together. Apple and the internet. Many people cited the iMac, iPhone and iPad as significant forces in design. The internet has basically blown the thing wide open. The "democratization of design" has allowed anyone in a developed country to search for inspiration, product and pricing on everything from towels and toothbrushes to Titian and T. H. Robsjohn Gibbings. And, like it or not, that genie is not going back in the bottle. Designers, antique dealers and shop owners have to adjust.

Philippe Starck's Ghost Chair was mentioned more than any other single thing. The marriage of traditional design with a modern composition set it apart as an icon of the turn of the century. (In this little poll, anyway.) This mix of high and low, old and new, was also noted as a significant movement of the last twenty years.

Oh, Tom. You were on my list, of course, but as it turns out there were a few others who could feel your, um, impact. Ford's influence at Gucci as well as Calvin Klein's 90's minimalism and Alexander McQueen's maximalism have made us see all design differently in the last twenty years.

Takashi Murakami and his low-culture/high-art Superflat style came up again and again.

And many of us have gone green. Sustainability in product, architecture, landscaping and design is everywhere so environmental responsibility does not mean you are limited to a 1970's crunchy granola aesthetic.

Readers extolled the work of Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, Richard Meier and Zaha Hadid in architecture.

And, since this is a Kansas City-based blog, the Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins came up as well. Thanks to all of you who took the time to comment or email; I had a blast reading your responses.

Images via Target, HGTV,, DWR, the Fashionisto, the Gothamist, the Guggenheim and the Nelson.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reader Poll

I'm working on a little something for Dining by Design. What do you think are some of the most significant design moments of the last twenty years? Not just interior design. Architecture, fashion or graphic design. Movement, product or influencer.

You don't have to over-think it. You don't have to impress. Just tell me what you think.

Image of Gehry's Guggenheim Bilboa from here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

At Christopher Filley's Today

Working. I was working. But I would have loved to have had Chris wrap this all up for me to take home. You can't really see the painting that is leaning on the chest, but I haven't stopped thinking about it all day.

Conscious Joyce

Yesterday was busy. Good busy, but busy. I'm wrapping up some stuff for our school auction, gathering hither and yon for my table for Dining by Design (nudge - you can buy tickets here), finding shin guards and throwing away forgotten Easter eggs.

You know what could make it all better? One of these dreamy new fabrics from Kerry Joyce blowing in the breeze of my open bedroom windows.

These lovely, muted shades would surely make me forget the bat inspection and standardized tests and handwriting camp. (Mr. Blandings may think I need to attend handwriting camp with the convicted, but I think we may both make a break for it.)

I first spied these beauties in L.A. along with this wonderful paper.

Joyce is introducing this line which can be custom colored, or shipped as is to be painted on site.

The images are not on the site yet, but watch this space for the complete collection. The fabrics are available to the trade through Kneedler Fauchere in Los Angeles and San Francisco and Dessin Fournir in New York and Chicago. Joyce's demeanor is quiet and gentle; I think this comes through on his profile on 1st dibs here.

All fabric images courtesy of Kerry Joyce.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Other Lunch Table

I know all the cool kids are a bunch of Town & Country haters, like Stephen Drucker got ding-dong-ditched or something, but I have to say I think this home issue is a pretty good one. Maybe not life altering, but some good stuff. Let's see, we have a little Michael Smith,

and an incredibly lovely house by Gil Schafer (I really, really like Gil Schafer);

Katie Ridder, working for her family - that should bring kudos on its own -

and, while not very many pictures of the house, this confection of a desk. Pink shagreen for heaven's sake, which I can't get over and I don't even like pink.

I'll admit, I subscribe for the jewelry, but all these projects will eventually find a home in my files.

Man, oh man, I haven't scanned this many images from a current magazine in so long it makes me feel naughty. And a little slackerish. Images from top, Katherine Chez's house by Michael Smith, photos by William Abranowicz; Sarah and Ozrey Horton's house by Gil Schafer, photos by Christopher Baker; Connie and Tony Ridder's house by their daughter, Katie, photos by Luca Trovato, Nadja Swarovski's folks' house, which includes that lifestyles of the rich and famous Barbie desk that I am now asking Santa for, photos by John Huba.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Think it's a Rug

Oh, for heaven's sake, she must be kidding. Surely we do not have to go through this dining room thing again.

You don't. Not really. But one of the interesting comments on the last go round was about the rug. Now, I had originally said that I have no budget. And now, I still have no budget. But the idea of the rug sort of took hold, so I asked Ben Soleimani of Mansour if he had any thoughts.

Mr. Blandings and I have a long-held belief that everyone named Ben is a good guy. Every Ben we have met, anyway. We initially had this conversation in a movie theater when we were first married and it has come up several times since.

We are never surprised when we meet yet another very nice Ben as the name seems to be filled with karmic goodness for us.

So no surprise that this new Ben, Mr. Soleimani, was completely willing to pick a few rugs that might jazz up my space.

He said, in a very nice way, that the room seemed a little dark, a little heavy and that some color and pattern might just wake things up.

This last Sultanabad is my favorite, though I can see how each one would affect the personality of the room.

But, Mansour Modern also offers some terrific choices. The rug from the Chinois collection, above, is particularly dreamy.

And this piece, the Kelly, designed by Victoria Hagan would add a dramatic punch. The exercise made me go back and think again how each element would affect the feel of the room. Perhaps someday my bank account will catch up to all this wonderful inspiration. In the meantime, a girl can dream, right?

For the record, I received no compensation for this post.