Sprouting up at the Botanic Gardens

Booth“a pair of re-imagined chairs receive a dramatic debut”

Chairs beforeLast weekend I had a terrific time participating in the Chicago Botanic Garden’s “Antiques and Garden Fair.” I was invited to provide the furnishings/set for the “Style Blogger Panel” held at the fair that Saturday. From there I decided to take on a booth and put together a small space519 pop-up for the weekend; prominently showcasing a few furniture items I had scouted for the occasion (pictured above).  Central in this dual effort were a pair of Square Chairs circa 1960s. The chairs came to me from Coyle and Herr (a most favorite resource run by my friend MB Coyle and her partner Dot Herr). They were found in a Lake Shore Drive apartment – covered in dated green and white polka dots  – and most certainly surrounded by loads of chintz (pictured above, bottom left). However, when I first saw them I instantly recognized that they had great lines and solid construction. Back in my workshop the chairs were completely reworked.  First order, I removed the skirting around the bottom and had the legs stained dark black. Next up the chairs were completely reupholstered in a felted grey Ralph Lauren flannel. As always, my upholsterer did a masterful job – maintaining the overall square effect of the chairs while softening things a bit through the subtle curved lines on the cushion. These Chairs received a lot of attention throughout the fair and found a great home on Chicago’s North Shore. Not bad for a pair of old bitties.

imageFor the blogger panel set (pictured above) I paired the Square Chairs with a few other great pieces.  An Gilded Italian Rope Coffee Table circa 1960s, a vintage Iron Chair with Moroccan Details and Brass Finials (enhanced by two new midnight blue velvet cushions), a pair of circa 1970s Victorian style Elephant Garden Stools (which I had restored by the folks at Broken Art Restoration), and a Teak “Hand Chair” (an homage to the style made famous by noted Mexican artist Pedro Friedeberg), and some great Hand Painted Throw Pillows from designer John Robshaw.

medium_reedhambiscuitsThe panel was a huge hit with solid design observations from The Peak of Chic’s Jennifer BolesStylebeat’s Marisa Marcantonio, and design historian Emily Evans Eerdmans. But the discussion was certainly dominated by the moderator, the ever-amusing Julia Reed (noted writer, Southerner, cook, Garden & Gun contributor, and a generally savvy lady). Things scribbled in my notebook while she talked: Marshall Biscuits, Sister Schubert Yeast Rolls, Spinach Madeline, VD Spinach, Tomato Aspic and Reed’s cookbook, Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialities. So typical of me, listening to a panel about home design and all I focused on was the food.

botanic gardensWhat a terrific spring weekend.  If you haven’t been to the Antiques and Garden Fair it is well worth attending. They have a remarkable mix of vendors in a truly gorgeous setting. Look for us at the garden again next spring, we are already thinking about our booth enhancements for 2014.  And in the meantime, since spring seems to finally be upon us, head to The Chicago Botanic Gardens for some terrific botanical inspiration. I was really taken by the green houses, filled with lush plants and trees in widely varying hues of green accented with small pops of color throughout (see photograph left ).  Perhaps I’ll even vary my all green and white outdoor color scheme at The Richmond this summer.  After all, a man can not live on box hedges alone.


Chicago Botanic Gardens
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 835-5440


Design Dispatch from NYIGF


“Key trends on display at the New York International Gift Fair”

NYIGFLast week we spent five days in New York exploring stores, checking out what was new in the apothecary world at Elements Showcase, and walking the eye-poppingly expansive NYIGF at the Javitz Center and Pier 94. This has become a twice annual pilgrimage for us, sourcing and stocking for space519.  Before attending my first gift show I pictured aisles and aisles filled with greeting cards, mylar balloons, beanie babies and tender moments figurines. There is plenty of that for sure.  But the show also focuses on personal accessories, home furnishings, apothecary lines, furniture, books and some just generally cool stuff. The brands represented range from the uber tragic to the uber chic, and everyone has their Sunday best out on display for the 30K attendees. And we saw some key trends to watch

There was A LOT of Individualization/Monogramming. Whether in the form of giant Italian Metal Marquee Letters which spell your name (pictured top of the post) or hot stamping gilded initials on your bag or wallet, it seems the monogram trend is making a big come-back. We were so captivated by all this cool stuff that we decided to launch a “The Monogram Shop at space519″ this spring.

NYIGF TopsSomething which we also saw a lot of in Paris during last Fall’s Fashion Week, was Trompe L’oeil (in french, literally “deceives the eye”). The layered rugs pictured right offer a perfect example.  They are not woven or hide, but are in fact photographs of rugs and hides reproduced on PVC. What a fun addition to an office or a playroom? This trend is especially visible in fabric and wall paper this season (for an especially amazing example check out Bibliothéque from Hermès).

My personal favorite was the Urbane Prepster. Gone are the overly toiled and alligatored Muffy and Biff and in their place are a whole new generation of folks who love everything equestrian, plaid and wood paneled.  But this time around the plaid is a little brighter, the wood a whole lot lighter, and the horse themed regalia is in chrome (note horse head bookends above).

The Everything Foodie wave has certainly made it’s way from restaurants and reality TV shows into the world of gifts and home furnishings.  Think luxe wood cuttings boards (shown), fashionable butcher’s aprons and lots of cookbooks about Meat. You used to give dad a tie for father’s day, now he wants a Green Egg Smoker and a hand forged Japanese Knife.

Rocks and Geodes abounded. Don’t worry, these weren’t the silly pet rocks of the 70s, instead they were huge interesting mineral specimens (like the Mineralized Moss version shown) which look oh so sexy a top a pile of art books.  We saw Geode Finials, Pyrite Bookends and lots of cool decorative rocks which had been cracked open like dinosaur eggs.

Statement Floor Coverings, like the tiled natural cowhide rug shown, also impressed. I love the subdued style here – but the hides also come in bright neons and with metallic spatter paint. It seems that the bold striped flat woven rugs first brought to the Park Ave set by Madline Weinrib have distilled down in versions from lines like Dwell Studios and Dash and Albert.

a perfectly kept houseAnd right now I am loving the prominence of a new genre of books, which I am coining The Scrapbook Memior.  These books tell a life story through text and pictures. They often include pages laid out like scrapbooks; featuring mementos, swatches, keepsakes – and notes in the author’s own hand.  Pictured above is “Grace,” a gorgeous example from Vogue’s powerhouse editor Grace Coddington. Last season saw Carine Roitfeld: Irreverent.”  The first time I had seen this done well was with 2010’s “A Perfectly Kept House is a Sign of a Mispent Life” by Mary Randolph Carter (wife of Graydon) and The Selby is in your Place” by Todd Selby.  These titles all remain strong sellers at our store, a signal that this genre is here to stay.

It was a productive trip, one also filed with many amazing meals (see my Torissi post). And look for all of the items pictured at space519 this spring.

900 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611

A Cozy Chic Birthday Supper

Kimberly Birthday Dinner“a stylish December birthday dinner sans kris kringle”

I helped my friend Randy Burt with the decor for a 35th birthday celebration he hosted for his wife Kimberly – also a dear friend of mine.  I too have a December birthday, so I know the angst of seeing Santa invade your big day.  Accordingly, my motif was cozy winter with lots of feminine flourish for the very girly guest of honor..

The dinner was a seated affair in the basement wine cellar of the cozy and always delicious Rustic House in Lincoln Park (kudos to their talented chef Jason Paskewitz). And to keep things super intimate we decided on one long narrow table keep everyone a part of the same celebration.

Kimberly’s favorite flowers are hydrangeas, so to stay in the spirit of the season I paired them with sprigs of winter greenery and white queen anne lace . To build on the outdoor forest feel I lined the clear round vases with pliable 1/16″ sheets of birch bark. One long piece of thick cedar roping bisected the table, weaving through the center pieces.

Kimberly with CakeAlong the long cellar wall I draped twenty yards of fresh cedar roping (accented with juniper) along with metallic pennant banners and jute letter flags which spelled “K I M B E R L Y”) both constructed from children’s birthday supplies found at The Land of Nod. To keep it extra cozy, I turned the lights way down and let three dozen candles (votives and tapers) light the room. It almost felt as if we were dining by firelight.  And then the cake arrived – glowing like a torch in the dim room.

All in all, a warm, chic celebration in the city.  What more could a birthday girl wish for?


“Chairs For Charity” Santa Fe Berger

I was excited to be asked to participate in the 5th Annual DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) “Chairs for Charity” event held on November 7th at Consentino.  The event was sponsored by Chicago Home + Garden Magazine and featured the designs of 15 area design professionals.  The parameters were clear – we were asked to take a vintage chair and rework it as a submission for the event’s silent auction.  My inspiration came from trips to Santa Fe, New Mexico – where my parents live. On my last trip I came across this handsome and very old Mexican Blanket at a local resale shop. In spite of its age, the color and condition were fantastic. The blanket served as the primary upholstery for a circa 1960s Bergere Chair which I came across at a North Shore estate auction. For the piping and trim I used a silk burlap which complemented the geometric pattern in the blanket beautifully. The deep honey color of the wood strongly framed the piece – reminding me of the waxed wooden vigas seen in and around New Mexico.  At the end of the night my chair sold (woo hoo), the perfect finale for an inspiring and affirming night.

Seen & Noted: Remarkable Rosé

7712738094_aece55b599To me (and it seems everyone else of late) the summer months are all about Rosé.  The color, crisp temperature, and flavor seem perfectly suited for warmer weather. And when it comes to dining out, or entertaining at home, Rosé pairs beautifully with the fresh ingredients of the season.

For a recent dinner party at the Richmond (pictured left) I asked my local wine merchant for a reccomendation. I wanted a Rosé which could take me through my whole menu.  From Crab Cakes to Gazpacho, from Beef Tenderloin to Lemon Chiffon pie.  And I wanted a bottle that met somewhere between overly sweet and dry and came in at around $10 a bottle.

He hit the nail right on the head with the Villa des Agnes 2011 Old Vines Rosé. From France, the winery is situated on the ruins of an ancient Roman Villa (and the angel on the label makes a great nemonic for wine novices like myself.)  Described as “a light-bodied wine, intensely crisp and vividly fresh, it offers complex aromas of strawberries and red currants, with a hint of quince” it is a winner.  In fact so much so that a case seemed to disappear quickly at our seated celebration.

Also noted is a new trend of seeing Rosé on tap at some of the country’s hottest restaurants.  I recently enjoyed way too many glasses at The Nomad in NYC. From their sexy dark library bar, through four exquisite courses in the atrium, the wine anchored my experience. There the 20L Kegs of 2011 Syrah/Grenache from Bieler Pére et Fils, Coteaux D’iax en Provence, France come out at $10 a glass.