My Slow Luxe Life, Unplugged and Recharged

I just spent a week unplugged.  Not wireless, but totally unplugged.  Off the grid.  As in no iPad, iPhone, MacBook, iPod or other devices.

First, my husband and I spent a few days in Texas with my parents and my 99 year-old Grandma Lola.  Fortunately, there was not enough time for a Scrabble game because she still beats me every time.  It must be all that practice doing the New York Times crossword puzzle….

After that, we headed to my parents’ cabin in Ruidoso, in the mountains of southern New Mexico.  We loved being in the cabin and in the pine forest, hanging out on the porch with my folks and starting the day together with a long hike.

The deer and elk, by the way, live on the river facing their cabin and they come right up to the house every morning.
As always, I was inspired by my mother’s design sense.  While my parents’ home in Texas is edited and sophisticated and the cabin in Ruidoso is full of unusual collections and it’s a bit intentionally rough around the edges, both homes have a distinctive narrative.  They tell the stories of their city life and their country life, their family and friends and they tell the stories of artisans and craftsmen who have contributed to them.

The cabin is full of art done by local artists (friends of my parents), books, family photos, quirky collections like my mother’s paint-by-numbers, embroidered testers, Western bronzes, bears in trees and the menus she collected when we lived in Paris.  In anyone else’s hands, it would be a horrifying hodge podge, but Phyllis May’s curatorial eye organizes all this into something so wonderful you don’t ever want to leave.

Moving on, we spent the last few days of our vacation in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with my brother and sister-in-law and our cute, cute nieces, Tessa and Samantha.  Hiking through the mountains in the morning is awe-inspiring.  It reminded me of something I was told years ago and try to remember:

All of your design problems are solved in nature.

What do you think of that?  Is Mother Nature ever “off”?  How are you inspired by nature in your own design?

Happy to be back and feeling quite energized by my technology break!  Have a great week…..

My Mid-Week Made-In-America Slow Luxe Design Series: KGB Limited

As I was agonizing over which Slow Luxe Design company to feature this week–this one or that one or perhaps the other one–a miraculous thing, indeed, occurred.  The decision appeared via email.

I opened my email and the answer was staring at me, in the form of this spare little caramel-colored leather table by KGB Limited.  Otherwise known as My Current Crush, Emile.

The table is handcrafted with a centuries-old technique where water-saturated leather is stretched over a maple frame and molded into shape.  And it’s made in New York City.   So sweet, sleek, chic and altogether irresistible.

Who is this KGB, you ask?   Well, I would tell you but I might have to kill you.  Okay, not really….  KGB Limited is Khouri Guzman Bunce Limited, founded by architects David Khouri and Roberto Guzman and interior designer/sculptor, Christiaan Bunce.  Together, they create a line of handcrafted American furniture which can be seen at their stunning showroom in Chelsea’s Gallery District.

The line is, as they put it, “unapologetically modern but executed in materials and utilizing methods associated with older levels of craftsmanship.”

No apology necessary, gentlemen.

KGB works in some of my favorite materials, including fumed white oak, silicon bronze, Statuario and Nero Marquino marble (and some surprisingly amazing materials I never considered, like Pyrex).

And yes, I am somewhat obsessed over the finger-jointed walnut detail in the Statuario marble.  In fact, it is the thoughtful detailing of all of the KGB pieces that really makes this collection special.

KGB Limited has fashioned sophisticated pieces that employ marquetry, leather molding and precious metal plating techniques.

So, what do you think, my Slow Luxe sweeties?  Which of the KGB Ltd. pieces do it for you?  

My Mid-Week Made-In-America Slow Luxe Design Series: Edwin Blue Furniture

Here’s what it says on Edwin Blue Furniture’s Facebook Page bio:  “At Edwin Blue, our mission and namesake is dedicated to reviving the spirit of a time that treasured things built to last.”

Okay.  My knees are weak.  I think I’ll have a seat.  (This one is the gorgeous Rise Arm Chair…..)

Edwin Blue was founded by industrial designer Clayton Vogel and architect Matthew Hufft.  The two longtime friends set out to put their unabashed idealism into practice, designing and building beautiful, functional, inheritable furniture.  Vogel and Hufft were inspired by the reputation the United States once held as a nation of makers.  They sought to do their part to earn that reputation back with their collection of thoughtfully-designed, hand-crafted furntiure.

Simple lines, generous proportions and a focus on sustainable, high-quality materials distinguish Edwin Blue furniture.

Designed for the contemporary market, the furniture is built through mostly traditional means by a team of craftspeople in the century-old stable that now houses the Edwin Blue studio.

“We create furniture that people want,” Clayton recently told Architects + Artisans.  “To do that, it has to be executed in a timeless manner so that not only will you like it, but your children and grandchildren will too.”

This kind of precise detailing–the type that appears clean and simple–is anything but simple.  The process is excruciatingly precise, much like creating a fine piece of jewelry.

Edwin Blue only uses responsibly-harvested lumber, and chooses locally-produced or salvaged wood whenever possible. Currently they work with locally sourced timber like Black Walnut, White Oak, Sycamore, Sinker Cypress, as well as FSC-certified Machiche. Grown in Guatemala by local farmers, Machiche has the rich grain and durability of a tropical hardwood and is one of the most sustainably-grown woods in the world. Edwin Blue uses only VOC-free finishes on its wood furniture.

“It’s as green as we can make it, and still make it heirloom quality,” he says.

Edwin Blue’s work is aimed at accentuating the owner’s experience (of course, it elevates the maker’s experience, too.)  Every piece is made to order with the client in mind, like a limited edition art piece.

All this, of course, is Slow Luxe Design–the farm-to-table of the home.  Thoughtfully designed, heirloom quality, sustainable materials, handmade in America.

For more information on Edwin Blue furniture, go to http://edwinblue.com/.  All images via Edwin Blue.

My Mid-Week Made-In-America Slow Luxe Design Series: Christopher Peacock

I’m delighted to tell you that the one and only Christopher Peacock is in the Slow Luxe house this Mid-Week.  Yes, my dear friends.  That Christopher Peacock.  The Christopher Peacock who has been whipping up some of the world’s most delicious kitchens in his company’s American workshop going on twenty years.  And to celebrate this twenty-year milestone, they’ve recently debuted the highly anticipated Culinarium Collection.

This spectacular collection is a nod to the color, style and the romantic countryside of Denmark, The Netherlands and Flanders. The Collection exemplifies the ultimate in luxury and quality.  “Culinarium is an important part of our global luxury strategy.  I’ve chosen a blend of painted cabinetry and hand-selected white quarter sawn oak to exist together in a room.  Culinarium takes on a more traditional feel as I’ve chosen to use cladding on the end panels in the room and I’ve made the door styles and rails wider.  There is a chunkiness to the entire Collection, including the rounded hutch.  What’s always thrilling for me is the hardware. I’m introducing polished copper hardware for its first showing.  The rounded pulls and chic knobs are truly elegant, stunning and are destined to become iconic, and, I believe, fated to become the fashion.  To say the least, I’m extremely proud of our work,” says Peacock.

Headquartered in Connecticut with showrooms in Greenwich, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco, and representation through a select group of design associates, Christopher Peacock products have been manufactured exclusively in the United States for 20 years. Every room of cabinetry is made to order and specifically detailed for the individual client. Using only the finest materials, his team of craftsmen fashion raw timbers into cabinetry suited for every room in the home. From kitchens to libraries, to spectacular bathrooms, Christopher Peacock remains the benchmark of taste and understated elegance.

I find the detailing of the new Christopher Peacock collection entirely fresh.  I admit I was smitten by the hardware from moment I laid eyes on it.   What do you think?  Can you see polished copper handles in your future?  What do you think of the chunkiness of Culinarium and the mix of materials?

Or do you prefer some of the past work we’ve seen from Christopher Peacock Home pictured below?  For me, it’s all about the perfect understated mix of ingredients, whether traditional or modern, kitchen, bath or library and impeccable American craftsmanship.

Drop me a line, darlings.

I’ll be curled up with a good book in that bottom photo waiting to hear from you….

All images via Christopher Peacock Home.

Mid-Week Made-In-America Series: The New Traditionalists

Well, hello there, Slow Luxe Design darlings! I’m not sure how it got to be the middle of the week quite so quickly, but here we are–and I have a great treat in store for you. Today’s Mid-Week Made-In-America Slow Luxe Design spotlight is pointed at The New Traditionalists.  This is one of my favorite furniture discoveries over the past year!  

In their Soho studio (above Balthazar–how chic is that?), the New Traditionalists design a handsome, timeless line of case goods and upholstered pieces that are custom tailored and handcrafted to order using sustainable hardwoods and stunning nontoxic finishes in their New England  factory.

And who are the New Traditionalists?  Well, they are childhood friends, Phillip Erdoes (CEO) and Brady Wilcox (Creative Director), along with designer David Harris (Director of Communications), who first joined forces to create ducduc, an eco-friendly modern baby and children’s furniture company.  This successful line was the result of Phillip being unable to find any nursery furniture that was both stylish and consciously constructed and eco friendly at the time of his first daughter’s birth.

In 2009, the team created The New Traditionalists.  The furniture is inspired by memories, iconic people and locations–like Park Avenue, Charleston, Truman Capote’s Hamptons, the Colony Club–but, although rooted in the past, this furniture is definitely of the moment, with infinite ways to customize each piece with non-toxic finishes, elegant hardware and a myriad of upholstery options.  The factory where all of the work is done is a renovated and restored 1897 factory in Connecticut.  Here, they bench-make all their furniture using sustainable hardwoods (never any MDF) and lead-free paints.  The proximity to their design offices in Manhattan gives them control over the impeccable fit and finish of each custom piece.  

But, as beautiful as their furniture is, this is a company that has a heart and soul, too.

The New Traditionalists care about the impact they make on their environment and in the communities in which they do business. They care about providing jobs and they offer living wages and health benefits to their employees.  And they believe in giving back to their community through charitable donations and community service.

Handsome. Caring. Intelligent. The New Traditionalists is the whole Made-in-America package.  It is that rare furniture company that cares as much about creating goods that not only look good but do good.  And that, my friends, is truly a beautiful thing.

Images via Pinterest, The New Traditionalists

Is This the Best Design Advice You’ll Ever Get?

I just read my latest issue of House Beautiful, as I do every month–cover to cover. And this month it features an impeccably decorated New York prewar apartment by one of my personal favorites, Suzanne Rheinstein.

Whether or not you like Rheinstein’s restrained aesthetic (I love it!), this article contains what I would say is the single best piece of design advice you might ever get. Says Rheinstein,

Have fewer things, but better things.

So, there you have it. The best piece of design advice you’ll ever get. And it just happens that these six words are the essence of Slow Luxe Design.

What I call “inheritable design” doesn’t happen overnight. Or, as Rheinstein puts it in the HB article, “It’s not 10-minute decorating. But, I’ll tell you what I tell the young people who work for me: If you buy one good thing a year, in five years, you’ll have five really good things.”

To me, having a few good things and working toward adding more good things makes more sense aesthetically, financially and even environmentally than serially consuming trendy mass-produced goods with a big carbon footprint.

Here’s one way to think of Slow Luxe Design decision making. It’s like making a choice to eat a fresh vegetable every day instead of grabbing a bag of potato chips. Is it easy to do? Yes. Once you’ve made that commitment, you know it is pretty easy to choose something nutritious over something filled with fat, salt and chemicals. Is it hard to do? Yes. It means overcoming a strong habit. Is it worth it? Yes! Because, over a year’s time, if you choose a half-cup of broccoli over the chips, you will take in about 65,700 fewer calories. That’s a weight loss of about 19 pounds.

And the same goes for making the commitment to fill your home with good things, however slowly, and not the empty calories of cheap, trendy overseas mass production.

Am I saying that Slow Luxe Design is good for you? I am. In many ways. And it’s not just good for you. It’s the farm-to-table of the home. It’s good for the artisan who creates it. It’s good for the environment. It’s good for the economy which makes it good for the community. It’s a thoughtful part of your personal narrative. And I think all of that is worthwhile.

What do you think? Is this the best design advice you’ll ever get? And if so, what are you dreaming of adding to your home?

Bob Vila Welcomes Me to His Family

In case I haven’t mentioned it previously, in addition to being a designer/decorator/blogger, I am, above all, the mother of three (fantastic) kids.

David is 20 and winding up his sophomore year at Tulane in New Orleans.  He’s a pre-med Econ major.  Alisa is an 18 year-old high school senior, heading to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts in the Fall to study journalism.  (Maybe she should be writing my blog.) And Max is a 13 year-old 7th grader who likes to surf, cycle, play basketball, read, swim and play tennis.  He will be hanging out with me and my husband right here in La Jolla in the Fall. Hooray for Max!

My kids have grown up around construction and design.  With both David and Alisa, I was in labor while designing bathroom tile.  I like to immerse them in the process early! Max started visiting job sites and showrooms when he was just a few weeks old and he’s been riding shotgun ever since.  He could probably specify my jobs for me in a pinch.

As a family, we’re always involved in building something, whether it’s a job in our own home, a development project, renovating one of rental properties or helping a family member with their home.  Fortunately, my husband, Ira (a veterinarian) also loves building and we are a great team!

When David was about 3, the two of us discovered This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop on PBS.  My then-toddler and I spent hours discussing Bob Vila and Norm Abram and their projects. I really can’t admit how many hours we logged watching woodworking projects on the “New Nankee Workshop” and broadcast visits to various This Old House construction sites. Many hours.

Well, a few days ago, I got an email letting me know I had been chosen to be one of the featured national contributors for Bob Vila Nation. I’ll post about Slow Luxe Design–inheritable spaces that celebrate the luxury of mindfully curated vintage and antique pieces and locally handcrafted goods. To say the least, I am beyond excited about this opportunity.

Unbeknownst to him, Bob Vila has been a part of my family for years, but it’s a huge honor to be welcomed into his. So, please be on the lookout for my posts on Bob Vila Nation soon. And in the meantime, check out some of the great articles on the Bob Vila nation site about home design and renovation.

Well-Considered Detailing: That’s the Benchmark of Slow Luxe Design

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    In my last post, I showed you a happy selection of textiles from Studio Bon’s handprinted collection through Schumacher in the color way Sun.  In it, was a custom end-of-bed bench that I had done in Studio Bon’s Bellows fabric.

I thought I would show you in this post what went in to creating that bench for my client on my end, the design side.  And first, I want to tell you that the bench you see at the bottom of the page is not the bench that was originally part of my design.  So, here’s the story:

Originally, I had ordered a bench from a supplier in Los Angeles, along with the bedside tables.  When I followed up on a delivery date, I was told that I had picked up the bench.  “Uh….why would I be calling if I picked it up?” I asked.  Well, as it turns out, two of the same bench were ordered the same week by my firm and another firm, but only one bench got ordered–and, you guessed it, it was the other designer’s.

Okay.  Here’s the first thing about design:  We are all about contingency plans.  Things happen.  The show must go on.  I already had the Studio Bon fabric in my office.  I couldn’t wait for the bench.  So, after thinking it through, I came up with a plan.

I got quotes and determined that I could execute my plan within budget and on time and then I put together a small concept board with a sketch, a photo of a similar vanity bench with acrylic legs, a swatch of the fabric and I headed over to see my client.

I know my client well and know that she loves Hollywood Glam, so I thought the acrylic legs had a good chance of selling the idea.  I also thought they would do something fun visually with the zigzag rug that would relate to the Webster border on the Leontine Linens blanket cover.   Long story short, she very thankfully signed off on the idea.


The next step was to take the Bellows fabric and design the bench.  You can see by the drawing that I sweated the detailing, making sure to center the pattern and size the bench exactly so that it would scale properly to the bed and have the exact number of full repeats across.  I also wanted to make sure that the pattern would line up from the front with the top.  Finicky business, but worth the trouble, and all the information on the drawing takes the guess work out of fabrication for the workroom.

By the way, I ended up making the side view of the legs look the same as the front view after I got a call from the acrylic manufacturer, telling me my leg design wasn’t going to be stable.  One of the best parts of design is that I have had the opportunity to learn from experienced craftspeople, trades, suppliers, vendors, reps and colleagues every day.

So, there it is.  That’s what went into this Slow Luxe bench.  It was made by hand locally, not overseas in a factory.  The fabric is handprinted in America on natural linen.  It was mindfully designed and crafted by hand in my own community.  It’s inheritable, unique and it celebrates the luxury of artisan craftsmanship.

O&G Studio: A Synthesis of Memory and Invention

I’m just back from a week in the beautiful city of Vancouver and I’m absolutely buzzing with ideas and inspiration.  First, I went there to attend a True Colour Expert Workshop led by none other than Maria Killam, so I’m returning to work seeing the world with a different pair of eyes.  Color is such an important part of telling my clients’ stories so I feel especially grateful to have had this energizing opportunity to learn from Maria.

And speaking of effective use of color, as I was poring through this month’s issue of House Beautiful (all about American design!), well hello, I came across a sassy little chair by O&G Studio.

O&G is the partnership of jewelry designer Jonathan Glatt and architect and theatrical set designer, Sara Ossana, who met in a welding class at the Rhode Island School of Design. Together, they create innovative, high quality, sustainable modern furniture with a nod to the past, made by hand in America.

It’s beautiful, inspiring Slow Luxe Design.  And it’s certainly inheritable.

Watch.

See?