Happy Anniversary to the Urban Electric Company!

I’m thrilled to tell you that my great friends at the Urban Electric Company in Charleston are celebrating a special milestone:  A decade of American craftsmanship.

I placed my first order with UECo nine years ago and instantly fell in love with both their handcrafted lighting and their incredible service.  This is a company in a class by itself, as you’ll see in this celebratory anniversary video.

Thank you, UECo, for including me in your celebration.  Happy, happy birthday and many more!

sunroomThe Urban Electric Company's Garrison Wall Lightkitchen clg052410920053

My Mid-Week Made-In-America Series: A Sneak Peek at the Urban Electric Company’s New Steven Gambrel Collection

Did you pick up a particularly lucky penny recently?  Are your stars in perfect alignment?  You must be doing something right because today is your lucky day!  Today is the day you are getting a behind-the-scenes v.i.p. preview of The Urban Electric Company’s  drop-dead gorgeous new Steven Gambrel collection.

I sincerely hope that you are sitting down.  I have to tell you that, when I first got a glimpse of this stunning collection, I personally had a bit of an “I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up” moment.  This sophisticated collection, which officially launches June 1st, is a merging of one of the most talented designers in the country, Steven Gambrel, and the unparalleled bench-made American craftsmanship of The Urban Electric Company.

Based on utility fixtures, such as those from the shipping industry, Gambrel then mixed in elements that were more decorative, so that the collection feels both familiar and completely unpredictable, utilitarian and entirely sophisticated.  The Malplaquet, for example, is based on an industrial light, but it’s fitted with striped custom glass that pushes it well beyond convention.

If you want the full behind-the-scenes experience, I invite you to view this video, The Making of the Steven Gambrel Collection.  It really showcases Gambrel’s inspiration and vision for the collection and the amazing collaborative process that went into the collection.

Here’s a peek at the Gilfroy and the Boxbridge:

Here are some other highlights of the Steven Gambrel Collection–and my personal favorites, by the way.

Kardamyli offers a great-looking flush-mount option, which is not always easy to find.

The Abbott wall light has clean, go-anywhere good looks, smart details and I can see it in so many different finishes.  (Okay, I admit, I’m a sucker for a well-placed slotted screw…..)

I’m completely smitten with the Erddig fixtures for their timeless simplicity.  One for the table.  One for the wall.  One for the floor.  And the split finish possibilities!  Well, for me, these are the classic Chanel cap-toes of the collection.

And then there are the lovely lyrical Suffolk chandelier and the handsome Houghton.

Every time I look at the collection, I notice another delicious detail.  Like the petite glass ball at the bottom of the Suffolk.  Stunning!

What do you think?  Tomorrow is the official launch.  Will you be heading to The Urban Electric Company web site to see the rest of the collection?  Drop me a line, darlings!

My Mid-Week Made-In-America Slow Luxe Design Series: Lindsey Adelman Studio

This week, more than 500 exhibitors showed their beautiful wares at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in NYC.  One of the standouts was the Lindsey Adelman Studio.  And that, my dear friends, is where I will be shining my Mid-Week Made-In-America spotlight today. Of course, if you already know this studio’s work, such as the Bubble Series, you know it shines all by itself, thank you very much.

Since the studio’s inception in 2006, the Lindsey Adelman Studio’s focus has mainly been on hand-blown glass and brass lighting.  (Or should we say mind-blowing hand-blown glass and brass lighting?  You decide….)  In their NYC studio, this team of ten artisans designs, builds and shows their work.  Lindsey Adelman Studio’s globes are hand-blown in NYC by glass artist Michiko and parts are machined out of solid brass in the U.S..  Through 1:1 scale model-making and testing, forms and ideas evolve collaboratively.

Now, this talented team, led by Creative Director, Lindsey Adelman, is branching out into jewelry, vessels, tiles, and wallpaper, in materials including wood, concrete, porcelain, gold, and stereolithography. With skill and care, the team of 10, along with its small network of local artisans, manufactures each piece to order.

One of the truly unique offerings from the Lindsey Adelman Studio is the You Make It lighting series. This democratic design concept is a whole new chic twist on DIY.  Definitely not the rug-hooking kits of my youth.  This is a series of lights designed with standard industry parts that you build with the Lindsey Adelman Studio’s instructions.  You can make a chandelier, a mobile, a clamp lamp or a sconce. As the studio explains it, experimenting with off-the-shelf parts is how Lindsey Adelman herself got started before designing and manufacturing the custom system for the Bubble Series.

So gorgeous.  So amazing. Now, even one of the most luxurious handcrafted American lighting collections is available for DIYers. What do you make of that?  Something stunning, no doubt.

Doodle Home Illuminates Some Great Strategies for Choosing the Right Light

One of the first changes we made in our home when we moved into it 19 years ago was adding dimmer switches to many of our lights. They make a lot of sense, adding more light when needed and allowing for a softer glow for parties or a romantic dinner. Those dimmers were smart remedies, says North Carolina-based Margi Kyle – “The Designing Doctor.”

“We live with way too harsh of a lighting system in our homes,” the “doctor” recently told me. Kyle, who has worked in interior design for some 40 years and was based in San Francisco, Vancouver and Toronto before moving south, is sharing those thoughts and others this month at High Point Market (April 21-26) in High Point, N.C. Kyle’s “Power of Color & Light Working Together” seminar helps attendees narrow down the selection of colors in a home and then discusses how to properly illuminate the spaces.

As past national chairman of the board of the Interior Design Society (IDS) and vice president of networking for Women in the Home Industry Today (WITHIT), Kyle has much to offer.

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Margi Kyle, “The Designing Doctor”

Here, the good “doctor” sheds light for Doodle Home members on ways to illuminate interior spaces:

Q: What type of lighting should every room have?
A: There are three levels of lighting that every room needs. First, consider, say, an overhead light, like a fan with a light on it, which I try to turn off as fast as I can. That overhead light is just for getting into a space – anytime you have lighting from above, it causes stress so I try to turn that off quickly.

Then you need task lighting, which are lamps and pendants, etc. for reading, crafts, writing, etc. And finally there is atmosphere or mood lighting, which comes from below and shines up. And don’t forget about unusual lighting, like rope lighting for the outdoors or a porch, candles and more.

Q: How do you get it just right?
A: Play with it. Get different looks and feels. When it seems just right, keep it. When I do a house, I’ll go in with different types of bulbs, lamps, etc. and play with the effects until we’ve reached the best for the client.

Q: How do you feel about LED (Light-Emitting Diode) lights?
A: Designers are freaking out about the new LED lights. I absolutely love them. I switched my whole house to LED, which provides triple the light and less wattage, less energy. It’s cleaner lighting; you can see better and you don’t get that yellow glow, which in my house looks ridiculous.

Q: Do you have any unusual lighting in your home?
A: I’ve got rope lighting in my laundry room. It’s fun and creates a super-cool ambiance.

Here, we flick the switch on some of our favorite lights:

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Photo Credit: Bronson Pate of Bauman Photographers

SHIP SHAPE “I try to look for great stories in lighting,” says designer Andrea May of California-based Hunter/Gatherer. “My passion is ‘slow luxe design’ – inheritable design, which is mindfully choosing high-quality, handcrafted and vintage pieces with a story. I can’t think of an area where that is more important than lighting.” For about 40 years, this chandelier sat over the bar at an elegant seafood restaurant that May and her family would frequent for special occasions. “My 20-year-old son, from the time he was a very small boy, loved to look at the ship,” May recalls. About 13 years ago, the designer noticed the restaurant had undergone renovations and the ship was gone. “I asked the manager what had happened to the chandelier and he told me to call someone at a warehouse.” Long story short, a week later, May was the proud owner of a beautiful 1940s French ship chandelier.

Recently, the chandelier went into this kitchen cupola, which is papered in gold Threads Raindrops wall covering. (“It looks like tiny champagne bubbles drifting up from the ship.”) For contrast, May partnered the ship with more modern lighting from The Urban Electric Company over the sink and across the kitchen over the banquette (not shown). “These lights are handcrafted, timeless and made in America, which are the things I look for in new lighting.”

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Photo Credit: Grey Crawford

BRANCHING OUT Lighting makes for interesting focal points in this room, designed by Elizabeth Gordon of Elizabeth Gordon Studio in California. “The hanging fixture was a custom faux bois piece that I designed to add an organic element, in lieu of a more traditional chandelier,” explains Gordon. Her goal was to tie the lighting in with the cool-green palette and woods-inspired wallpaper. “It’s a wonderful tongue-in-cheek take on what a light source would look like if it were made from tree branches,” she says. The lamps on the sideboard are vintage ceramic pieces that Gordon found locally. She paired them with new custom linen shades. “Their color and classic urn shape added enough of a classic traditional touch to keep the room truly transitional in style.”

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Photo Credit: Alexia Fodere

SOME SIXTIES SASS The artichoke Murano glass chandelier in this room was created in the 1960s, explains Ivonne Ronderos, owner of DKOR Interiors in North Miami, Fla. “We wanted to balance the space,” Ronderos says. The dining table is a midcentury modern piece refurbished with brass. “We didn’t want anything with metal on top; that way we could keep the balance.” As for the ceiling, Ronderos says that if it were all white, the glass in the fixture and beyond would not be as appreciated as they are with the special papered backdrop.

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Photo Credit: Lesley Anton

ORIGINAL ORGANIC Ceramic artist and designer Lesley Anton is inspired by many sources – the natural world, architecture, the human form, and machinery. Her lighting designs are a surprising and intriguing addition to any interior. Take, for example, this barnacle pendant, a departure from her traditional table and floor lamps. “The pendant elevates our ceramic forms to new heights,” says Anton. A cluster of peaceful, organic forms hovering in the atmosphere, the light’s design features a sea green glaze on the interior with an unglazed exterior. “It’s wheel-thrown porcelain with satin nickel hardware,” adds Anton.

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SMOOTH IN SILVER This table lamp from the Allegretto collection by Fine Art Lamps comes in a platinized silver-leaf finish and features subtle brown highlights. Its white textured linen shade adds a polished touch.

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A NEW LEAF A wrought iron, lighthearted sconce with delicate twigs and leaves adds character to interiors. From Currey & Company, the Tivoli Wall Sconce can be hard-wired or plugged in.

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KING OF THE LIVING ROOM Not just for Leos, this 20-inch-high Barbara Cosgrove lamp with a lion’s head evokes a regal feel, thanks to the intriguing resin sculpture.

Megan Swoyer is a Midwest-based lifestyle editor and writer whose work appears in Michigan Blue magazine, Sherwin-Williams’ swstir.com, Detroit Home magazine, Country’s Best Cabins magazine, Shore magazine, patch.com and other print and online publications.

The Camera is Mightier than the Keyboard

I have to thank Julie Hussey profusely for introducing me to The Makers Project.  Julie writes a wonderful blog called Quartersawn, which celebrates Everything Slow in Charleston.  Charleston, you might already know, is the home of my favorite lighting company, The Urban Electric Company.  It is also just one of my favorite towns, and perhaps even more so as I read on Julie’s blog what a wonderful vibrant, tight-knit community of artisans it has.  That community includes Julie’s husband, Bill, who is a woodworker specializing in custom doors.

Now, about Jennifer Causey and The Makers Project.

Jennifer is a Brooklyn-based photographer whose exquisite photographs celebrate those who “make things and make things happen.”  Her shots of such diverse artisans as a chocolatier, a food stylist, a jeweler and even an axe maker inspire and amaze me.

I could ramble all day on the Slow Luxe Life and never communicate all the inheritable luxury of just one of Jennifer Causey’s shots.  They say everything I want to say about eschewing the mass-produced and embracing the handcrafted and local.  Only they say it so much more beautifully.

Day #24: Create a Framework

Credited to Life on Michigan Avenue
29 Ways to Stay Creative

Welcome to Day #24. Today we will be Creating a Framework.

And it’s a good thing, as Martha says. Because, if you’re anything like me, with a tendency to get a little, uh, tangential, in your creative problem solving, a framework can keep you focused.

Your framework is your narrative structure. In my case, the overall framework for my interior design work is Slow Luxe Design–Inheritable Design. Then there’s the framework of the project itself: What is the style? What is the scope? Who are the clients? I design within this framework, with well-considered, high-quality, local, handcrafted, vintage and antique items that tell a unique story.

When I look at products to use in my design projects, I look for those that fit within my framework. If you look at some of the companies I admire, you can see that.

Leontine Linens’ offers heirloom quality, handcrafted linens, made in Hardinsburg, Kentucky. The Urban Elelctric Company’s offers beautifully designed, timeless, handcrafted luxury lighting made in Charleston, South Carolina. Madeline Stuart’s upholstered and case goods combine stylish comfort with a refined aesthetic–and they have a small carbon foot print, being made right up the road from me in Los Angeles.

Without a starting point it can be difficult to even get going on some projects. If you want to flesh out an idea, you have to have a skeleton, right?

Okay, final thought on Creating a Framework. Sometimes, when I start a project, I use a piece of fabric or a tile detail, for example, to help me create my framework. Then, I start building my design narrative around that particular item. The palette comes out of it, the materials and finishes are inspired by it, and I let it guide me through the design process. I’m not trying to “match” it–I’m just using it to stay focused on my vision.

Speaking of projects, I’m starting an exciting project soon. It’s a Slow Luxe Design Project–and I plan to take you along as I post. It’s two lots in the village of La Jolla with knock-out ocean views. I can’t even tell you how rare an ocean view is in the village. Definitely worthy of some Inheritable Design. Can’t wait to share this process with you!

See? I’m off on a tangent…..

Love it! Day #16: Go Somewhere New

Credited to Life on Michigan Avenue
29 Ways to Stay Creative

When I see the words “Go Somewhere New”, I feel a little spring in my step. I imagine myself in far-flung countries, picking through treasures at antiques markets, perusing sculptures in magnificent museums, people-watching in outdoor cafes and meandering through formal gardens.

Last year, I visited Charleston, South Carolina for the first time. If you haven’t been there, and you want to Go Somewhere New, go there. What a fantastic city, full of history and architecture. I was there in the spring and everything was in bloom. Wow! That’s all I’m going to say. I also had the opportunity to tour The Urban Electric Company‘s workshop. Another wow! All of their lighting is bench made to order right there in Charleston. By the way, I just received a sneak preview of their 2012 Collection. Extra wow! This collection is designed by Michael Amato, who must “Go Somewhere New” often, because he is so incredibly creative.

Anyway, as creatively inspiring as world travel surely is, changing the scenery with a quick visit to something in your own backyard can be equally energizing. I know that, because the majority of my clients are in my own neighborhood, La Jolla, it is easy for me to go for weeks without getting out of my area. So, when I go out, I try to get out of my neighborhood and my element and see things in a different way.

A few weeks ago, I went out with my husband to a craft beer and pizza establishment in the North Park area of San Diego. The crowd was young and hip–but not trying too hard to be hip–families. The atmosphere was Slow. Slow Food. Slow Beer. Slow Design. Lots of recycled and repurposed materials and big, friendly tables. The owner, my husband told me, was a former graphic designer and the place had been a window blind factory in its previous life. Hence, the name: The Blind Lady. It sure perked me up creatively speaking. I’m pretty sure that even if I go there again, it will still help me stay creative.

So, how about you? Going somewhere new to stay creative? Drop us a line!

Hey, it’s Day #13: Collaborate!

Credited to Life on Michigan Avenue
29 Ways to Stay Creative

In 2004, Fast Company published the results of a study on workplace creativity in an article entitled 6 Myths Of Creativity by Bill Breen. Number 5 on the list of Creative Myths was that competition fosters creativity. According to the report, the opposite was true. “In our surveys, we found that creativity takes a hit when people in a work group compete instead of collaborate. The most creative teams are those that have the confidence to share and debate ideas. But when people compete for recognition, they stop sharing information…..”

In my own work experience, both as a writer and as an interior designer, collaboration is one of the highlights of the creative process. Whether it is with colleagues, clients, vendors or artisans, I always find that working with others enhances the end product and makes the process more engaging.

One of the best examples of this is one of my final advertising projects before I transitioned to full-time interior design. The project was a TV and radio campaign for the American launch of Red Bull Energy Drink. I was given a set of spots from the European market with existing animation to use and a tag line (Red Bull gives you wings.) I went to work writing scripts to the animated spots that would play to an American audience and then auditioned improv actors from groups like Groundlings and Second City in Los Angeles, as well as some known stand-up comedians. Ultimately, we went into the studio with “safety” scripts, but gave the actors the freedom to stray from script and put their own improvisational spin on the spots. It was a wonderfully collaborative effort. Not only was the process fantastic; it yielded some of the best work I did in fifteen years as a writer.

As a designer, every day brings some sort of invigorating collaborative effort. I especially enjoy working with work rooms and craftsmen on custom furniture, lighting and draperies. I truly value the input I get from these artisans. Their ideas, attention to detail and constant desire to keep pushing the design beyond the obvious solutions are what make working with them such a pleasure.

Finally, I want to say that the ideal situation is when I have a client who wants to collaborate in the design process. After all, this is their story. It’s just my job to help them tell it. So I really love it when I get a client who comes with pictures, ideas, swatches, colors, opinions and feedback. “Bring it!” I say, “This is your story. Help me tell it.”


Yay! It’s Day #11: Surround Yourself with Creative People

Credited to Life on Michigan Avenue
29 Ways to Stay Creative

Ok, I was trying to love all 29 days equally, but I have to be honest: I’m a little partial to Day #11. It’s hard to stay creative in a vacuum. Being around other creative people is energizing and inspiring.

Part of why I started this blog has to do with this: I wanted to carve out a meeting place for anyone who is interested in Slow Luxe Design–inheritable design! This would be a place to inspire, collaborate, teach, share ideas, stories and resources.

Do you want to know how the amazing artisanal mirrored glass is created for the Urban Electric Company’s new Globus fixture? You would read about it here. You want to know how many pairs of hands work on each hand-embroidered piece from Leontine Linens in their workroom in Hardinsburg, Kentucky? I want to bring you that story. Want to hear about the abandoned factory that The New Traditionalists rehabilitated in New England to build their line of sustainably harvested neo-trad furniture? I want you to meet all of my Slow Luxe Design friends and hear their fantastic stories right here!

What I envision is creating a consortium of vendors, suppliers and designers who are committed to Slow Luxe Design. I really want to surround myself with others in the design trade who care about taking time to source high quality, well-crafted American made items or vintage, up cycled and antique items for the home instead of going to mass-market goods.

What do you think? Do you want to come to the Slow Luxe Design party? Do you know of anyone who might like an invitation?

The more creative people we surround ourselves with, the more we’ll stay creative. And the more fun we’ll have doing it. See you tomorrow!

Day #4: Get Away From the Computer

Credited to Life on Michigan Avenue

29 Ways to Stay Creative

Welcome to Day #4: GET AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.

Yes, even if Leontine Linens just launched their new web site and Jane Scott Hodges’ blog and you’re just dying to peruse it. It’s clean, classic and altogether fabulous–like everything they do.

Yes, even if you just got a preview of the new 2012 Urban Electric Company lighting collection by Michael Amato and you could sit and gaze at it for hours because it’s absolutely stunning.

No. It’s Day #4: GET AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.

If you need me, I will be having my favorite Slow Lunch: Veggie chile at Zinc Cafe in Solana Beach with my friend and client, Susan, who has a formidable Slow Luxe Hedi Schoop collection, a wicked sense of humor, a pretty darn cute dog by the name of Lucy and the ability to whip up a mean plate of Snickerdoodles when the situation calls for it.  What more do you need?

This concludes today’s post.