December 21, 2009

The Design of Time

Timepieces and clocks make for endless interesting design opportunities. Here are a few cool contemporary clocks that make nice holiday gifts and aren't too expensive either, all from Chiasso.


September 20, 2008

Trend Forecasting

Trend forecasting in all its aspects is big business.

trend forecasting

Funky headphones

On October 14th, the IDSA will hold its next lecture in their Inside the Designer's Studio series. This time, the topic is trend tracking and forecasting. Diverse companies pay experts huge fees to track and predict current and upcoming trends. The success of many products rides on what can be a gamble that tastes will coincide with developments. On the surface, this may sound superfluous (pun intended) but when you start to hear the details, the work is fascinating and rich with human psychology as well as artistic impulses.

September 17, 2008

Asian Design Today

Monday evening, I attended a lecture and exhibition reception at Sotheby's titled Creative Hong Kong. The event was co-chaired by the IDSA, which is how I got invited and heard about it.

Creative Hong Kong

Established designers from Hong Kong spoke about their work and thought process. All were men and all were well-traveled and spent plenty of time in the U.S. and Europe as well as Hong Kong, although all were born and raised in Hong Kong. Their approaches ranged from playful to serious. All the designers spoke about not maintaining a primarily Chinese or Japanese focus, however, there were elements in their work, in both practical and philosophical terms, that came from an Asian aesthetic. They were influenced greatly by practical needs of space constraints and traditional ways of living in Hong Kong. I had never been to an event at Sotheby's before so it was a nice opportunity. The building is very nice and the larger exhibition of which this lecture was a part was on display. It was a civilized New York art event; nice to be a part of it.

August 12, 2008

Cool Stools

One of the coolest looking stool designs is by artist Eric Ziemelis.

Coolest Stool Designs

Available through the Artful Home online, this sculptural seating is handmade of cherry wood and chrome-painted steel. There are some other beautiful stool designs at this source too.

July 21, 2008

Business & Art Are Buddies

My instinct tells me that business and art are allies, not enemies. This has been proven true in my work in graphic design. This week at a lecture by Ran Lerner on his excellent product designs, the same message came through.

Products designed by Ran Lerner

Products designed by Ran Lerner: candle, cutlery set, salt and papper set, wine rack

Ran spoke about the process of bringing products “to market” and I was struck by how similar his working process is to my experience in graphic design. Not having designed mass market products yet, although my rugs are beginning to bloom, I didn't realize that many of the same principles apply in the day-to-day work challenges of product design as in graphic design. Ran works with manufacturers such as Umbra. When presenting to companies, you must take their market into account. So your design is not just about taste; it's about satisfying a company's vision and their client base. This is very much like graphic design where the client's subject matter, audience and goals are key. Learning to work with different clients and audiences challenges your sense of creativity and visual expression. It doesn't need to be a restriction in a negative way. It's certainly a challenge but constraints build new solutions.

When I was beginning to design things, I did some pro bono and low-paying work for broke musicians who needed materials. They had no budget. I had to produce ads, posters, invitations, tickets, CD packaging and business cards in black and white on whatever paper was around. And my creativity soared. I talked to my father about it and wondered why I couldn't be that creative (and cost-effective) for my own projects. He said that constraints are a great and eye-opening tool in all artistic work. The validity of this became evident to me from working on these very constrained projects that were deeply satisfying. Yet another of life's conundrums: sometimes less really is more and even leads the way to more.

July 4, 2008

Patriotic Recycling

Recycled sweaters are the forefathers of this patriotic blanket made by Crispina.

Recycled Sweaters Blanket and PillowsThe company specializes in blankets but also offers some really cute toys and other items. The fuchsia and orange add much pizzazz to the traditional red, white and blue.

Sustainable living and products are terms I'm hearing constantly, meaning to reuse materials and create less waste. These items made from fabrics that have already served people well but can live again in beautiful pieces are a great example of smart recycling. No reason to throw something away that has tons more life left to love in it. Refurbish and refresh, baby.

Recycled Possum

Possum made from recycled materials by Crispina is ready to be loved by a new family, like yours.

Happy Independence Day 

July 4th means it really is summer now. Summer means fun. Summer means swimming. Summer means dinner while it's still light out, sometimes at Leno's Clam Bar.

Leno's Clam Shack

Leno's Clam Bar really hits the spot. The best fried clams and huge portions. Fantastic corn on the cob. This is the kind of place that will always seem nostalgic and is very American. The present owner's family bought the place in 1967 and the building has been there as a joint since the 1920s.

Summer means walks down to the tiny beach with bare legs and feet in the water. Summer just feels so darn good. Give into it. Happy summer and Happy July 4th.

July 1, 2008

Float on Down

IDSA is the Industrial Designers Society of America.

Ran Lerner Designed Forks

“Float” flatware designed by Ran Lerner

Come join me and my new IDSA friends for Inside the Designer's Studio on Thursday, July 17th, co-sponsored by Design Within Reach. Cost is $15. Wine and light snacks will be served. I designed the announcement for this upcoming event. Ran Lerner of Ran Lerner Design is the guest speaker. Ran designs items including cutlery, lighting, watches and kitchen tools. He is a down-to-earth guy and I am looking forward to hearing him discuss his successful company and designs. His work is carried by stores such as Bloomingdale's, The Conran Store, Bed Bath & Beyond and MOMA. Hope to see you there. 

Time: Thursday, July 17th, 7pm
Place: DWR Tribeca, 124 Hudson Street, NYC

June 30, 2008

Symphonic Tableware

Iridescent tableware in transcendent hues helps makes dining an art form.

Gorgeously colored iridescent dinnerware

Pieces above are by artists Diane Bonciolini and Gregg Mesmer and are available through The Artful Home. The “unity in diversity” approach to the colors and textures appears to be at work in this collage of tableware. I've always thought of the best art as needing to work the way a symphony is structured, with a theme and variations. You set the theme, then amend it, play with it, move it around and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Works in so many areas of life but then you knew that life is a symphony.

June 29, 2008

It's a Pleasure to Serve You

These beautiful pewter serving pieces are designed by Patrick Meyer.

Pewter Servers by Patrick Meyer



These and more items by Patrick Meyer and other talented artisans can be found at Uncommon Goods, a great resource for gifts. Items at this online store are often beautiful, unusual and not priced to break the bank.

June 15, 2008

Our Cup Runneth Just Right

My kitty's favorite drinking vessel is mine also. She never seemed to drink water before. When I got these hand-painted goblets, I found that water tasted especially good in them. It must be something about the shape and finish and thickness. Soon, my kitty also started to like drinking water out of them. She climbs up to them on my bedside table at night.

Our Favorite Goblet at Red Elephant Gallery

Finding her favorite mug

Drinking from favorite mug from Red Elephant Gallery

Sticking her whole little head into the goblet

Finished with Goblet from Red Elephant Gallery for now

Done for now

Even animal lovers can be astounded at how “human” our critters are. They have likes, dislikes, feelings, moods and emotions just like we do. They're just better at coping with life's mixture than we are. Great-tasting goblets are by artist D. Lasser and available at Red Elephant Gallery.

June 10, 2008

Streamlined Shopping Carts

Recently, I've set up or am in the process of setting up four online shopping carts using PayPal as the merchant provider.

Recent shopping cart sites

Shopping carts set up for, left to right above:
Kitty Cat Loft, Liz Ward Art, Gotta Have It NY, modern rug site

My brilliant designer friend, Tracy Schloss, is the one who put me onto this offering from PayPal. This system is a great way to set up relatively simple online stores. Customers can pay using any major credit card, PayPal or a bank account. Advantages include:

  • NO up front fees

  • NO monthly fees

  • NO higher percentages for using certain credit cards

  • NO need to obtain a merchant account

  • NO need to obtain a secure shopping certificate (SSL); you use PayPal's

Merchant accounts are not easy to set up, cost more money and require a difficult approval process. The only negative to this PayPal option is its limited depth, which is part of why it's relatively easy to use. Things such as inventory levels and other nitty gritty details are not within the scope of this setup.

From the designer's end, the programming is simpler than with carts such as Zen Cart, OS Commerce or Miva, all good solutions for more complicated scenarios but much more work. From the vendor's end, the fees and hassle are considerably less. From the customer's end, any payment option carts normally let you use is available. This solution has made quite a few of my clients very happy and has enabled them to offer shopping on their websites when they could not do so with a regular merchant account.

June 6, 2008

Cautionary Tails

Kitty Puke SignThis simple graphic says it all. Created by Ellen Gibbs, this great design is available on mugs, t-shirts and mouse pads too. Protect your vulnerable friends with a warning of the inevitable kitty puke in any cat lover's life. Items are available at Cafe Press (the signs are no longer available but shirts, mugs and mouse pads are). 

Cat Vomit Products

June 5, 2008

Form Follows Function:
Design & Engineering

"It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
of all things physical and metaphysical,
of all things human and all things super-human,
of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that FORM EVER FOLLOW FUNCTION. This is the law."

— Architect Louis Sullivan

Miele Vacuums and Jiffy Steamers

L to R: Lightweight Miele stick vacuum and Jiffy professional quality clothing steamer, both masterful combinations of engineering and design

Things that work well get me excited. Engineering is the inside to the outside of a beautiful design and as with people, if the inside is rotten, the outside is pretty much irrelevant. Gorgeous design should lead to gorgeous guts or it isn't really successful. Great design needs to start with great engineering for anything with more than a superficial purpose. It makes sense that an architect, Louis Sullivan, for whom Frank Lloyd Wright worked, would coin the phrase, “Form Follows Function.” If a building falls down, it really doesn't matter how nice the drawings were.

Here are two items that do what they are supposed to do very well: Miele vacuums and Jiffy steamers. The Miele stick vacuum works better than most larger industrial models with a fraction of the required effort. Miele makes numerous models but this lightweight one wins the award for me, as it's so much easier to work with and does a better job than I've ever seen a vacuum do. The Jiffy professional quality steamer is similar in expertise. It heats up almost instantly and never stops its powerful yet gentle-on-fabric steaming, as you see in the photo above. Both these products are amazing labor-saving devices that will make you realize what it really means for a piece of equipment to work well. Good tools change your life.

June 4, 2008

Cool Critters Deserve Happening Habitats

Let your critters lead the way to a super stylish pad for you and them.

Really Cool Pet Furniture

Above: Stylish and comfy pet beds from Hepper

I've found some really cool pet furniture and accessories with which to assuage my cognizant felines' cravings for superior designs. It takes hunting to find great pet stuff, which is odd, as people are fanatical about their pets. But the quest is being quenched. Not too long ago, I finished a website design for Kitty Cat Loft, makers of a great-looking spiral cat staircase. While checking out their search rankings, which often leads to nice discoveries in different categories of my clients' work, I came across several satisfying makers of furniture and items for pets. Previously, most makers of this caliber and style level were not American (there are some great German designs) — not true any more. Check out Modern Cat for links to lots of items besides the great beds above. I also met Akemi Tanaka at ICFF last month, who makes an adorable “curve” cat shelf. Lots of good things are brewing for critters in industrial design these days.

June 2, 2008

Mood Lighting

Phosphoria creates custom-made lighting in a wide range of styles.

Gorgeous Lighting from Phosphoria

Unique and stunning lighting designs from Phosphoria

Creator Noah Prince has a background in movie and television lighting and realized that regular life was getting short shrift. Nothing sets a mood more than lighting.

Phosphoria Brooklyn lighting design

Thanks to Greenjeans Brooklyn for citing these beautiful lighting designs from Phosphoria in their report on the Brooklyn Designs show in May. Phosphoria also showed at the ICFF

May 29, 2008

Music, Food, Hardware & Art
Amp Up in Brooklyn

For those who love artistic things that function well, the upcoming Crest Hardware Art Show in Brooklyn with a fun opening celebration June 7th and running until July 11th hosts a satisfying concept.

Crest Hardware Art Show

Here's what store manager Joseph Franquinha says about the recurring show:

“As manager of Crest Hardware, I am thrilled to provide a unique, non-traditional atmosphere to showcase the artwork of the creative and vibrant community we service. I have such a love and appreciation for art and I am fascinated with seeing the transformation of basic hardware materials into something other than what they are intended for.”

Hardware as Art at the Crest Hardware Art ShowThe celebration offers music and food as well as hardware and art. Great hardware really is art anyway but in this show, they get carried away.

One of my talented musician friends, Bill Bell, is performing. Bill's musicianship is superb (he plays pretty much every instrument and plenty you've never heard of) so stop by Saturday, June 7th if you can.

May 25, 2008

Bedroom Sanctuaries

Furniture maker Maine Cottage does especially well with beds. They love color.

The bedroom as santuary

Above: bed, sidetable and footstool by Maine Cottage

This simple New England-rooted furniture is available in gorgeous hues and can be custom-combined in some pieces. While you may not have the tranquil view shown above, it's really the interior of the bedroom that matters. You don't want light to pour in usually so the main ingredients are within one's control. For my money, besides a beautiful color scheme, a great mattress, plenty of super comfortable pillows, enough spaciousness to feel soothed and a good reading light next to the bed are elements that make for a bedroom where you can rejuvenate yourself.

Heavenly pillows, a good reading light and he's out

Above: Great pillows, good reading light and Sasha demonstrating the art of the nap

My girlfriend had bought herself an expensive Kingsdown mattress a few years back and encouraged me, as a lover of well-made things, to see what a difference it makes. She was right, although to me, great pillows are even more important to a good night's sleep. And don't forget soft bedding. Everyone's different in this area; some people like to be buried in covers and others want the whisper of a fairy's breath as a coverlet. Whichever you prefer, do yourself a favor and take care of your bedroom. Nighttime comfort matters as much as daytime pursuits and in fact prepares you to take them on. But yes, you're allowed to nap during the daytime too.

May 24, 2008

Fine Furnishings Bloom in Rhode Island

Red Elephant Gallery, which carries my rugs in their online store, calls home base Bristol, Rhode Island. They sell beautiful handmade designs ranging from striking affordable jewelry to tactile-friendly goblets and more.

Items available at Red Elephant Gallery

Above, from Red Elephant Gallery: copper and brass wine glasses by Morningstar and pewter handcrafted salad servers by Michael Michaud

Red Elephant Gallery is a great place to find gifts (and things for yourself) because items are unusual, beautiful, often functional and reasonably priced. You usually won't find their offerings at larger design resources. Speaking with Karen, the owner, today, she told me about another furniture fair that may be a welcome opportunity to display my new rug line: the Fine Furnishings Show, which takes place annually in Milwaukee and this October in Providence. I am excited to learn about this potential showcase, which introduces diverse designs for the home. There's a lot of talent blooming in the design world. After attending ICFF last week, it's nice to know that more lies in wait. I'd love a trip to Providence and it looks like there's one in my future.

Fine Furnishings Show in Providence

Above, bench by Todd Ouwehand and large sideboard by Frank Procopio

May 21, 2008

Charismatic Clocks

Designer Emi Ozawa's imaginative and colorful clocks are available at The Artful Home. More styles are there, including nice wall clocks and abstract desk clocks.

Fantastic clocks by Emi Ozawa

By Emi Ozawa: Cat Clock and Coffee Cup Clock, both available in several colors

George Nelson's Brilliantly Simple Clocks

George Nelson's Brilliantly Simple Clocks: The Ball Clock and The Watermelon Clock

George Nelson's brilliant designs have been reissued by the Vitra Design Museum and are available at numerous design resources, including Nova 68. Here's his great story about how his famous clocks came to be:

“And there was one night when the ball clock got developed... Noguchi came by, and Bucky Fuller came by… we started making doodles. Then Bucky sort of brushed Noguchi aside. He said, ‘This is a good way to do a clock,’ and he made some utterly absurd thing. Everybody was taking a crack at it, pushing each other aside and making scribbles… and the next morning there was this roll of drafting paper and somewhere in this roll there was the ball clock.”


May 18, 2008

Wood Dances with Light

The International Contemporary Furniture Fair or ICFF is currently on display at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York (May 17–20). I wanted to go last year when I first learned about the show and I did go this year. It's considered an important annual trade show for contemporary home design.

Wood Lampshades

Wood lampshades from Madera

These wood lampshades from Argentinian designer Marcelo Dabini for Madera above were a standout in what I saw today. With luck, I will display my rugs there next year and I had to get ideas on how to set up a booth. The lampshades above are more beautiful in person, as light weaves its way through the slats. The workmanship and dimensions are sublime. In addition, in general, designers are a great lot: open, bright, friendly and intelligent. Inspiring.

May 14, 2008

Fast, Cheap and Great Dinnerware

In my business (design / advertising / communications), they say you can only have two of the three: FAST, CHEAP AND GREAT. Well, that is almost always true but the dinnerware below achieves all three with rare elan.

Super Well-Priced Dinnerware at CB2

These nice square white plates are priced from $.95 to $4.95/each at CB2 and are just $1.95 for the medium 6.5" size. They are sturdy and look great. White looks soothing on your table when added to other striking colors. Every now and then, a real bargain comes your way. Also check out CB2‘s stemless glasses for another good deal in pretty housewares that will leave you enough money to consider owning a bed and chairs.

May 13, 2008

House Becomes Home

My great friend, mentor and co-worker, Barbara, in California, with whom I worked for five years at Price Waterhouse, as I grew to love animals, told me, "Animals make a house a home." She nailed it.

As I was snapping some pictures to show interior designs on my rug website, my kitty followed me around. Here she is in the living room. You never need to pose critters; they always look amazing. They do not always do what you want them to do when trying to take their pictures but they do always look great. They add so much to one's life, I am eternally grateful. They crack you up constantly just by being themselves. They always help put things in perspective. They keep you company when everyone else has confused you or just has something else to do. The ideal mixture of soulfulness*------ (my kity typed that) and silliness, you can always count on the kitties for a sense of well-being.

May 11, 2008

Successful Steps

Stepladders are an item the average person wouldn't probably think too much about in terms of design. But it's often precisely that type of item that is in the direst need of good design, either because it's been neglected or because you use it regularly and a good design could make work more efficient and more of a pleasure.

Well-Designed Modern Stepladders

L to R, Nuovostep stepstool designed by Andries & Hiroko Van Onck, the Tiramisu stool by Andries Van Onck for Kartell, the Flo stepladder by Marcello Zliani for Magis, available at Unica Home, the Museum of Modern Art store and elsewhere

A good stepladder is an engineering challenge because it should be collapsible to the smallest size possible, offer sturdy support for a large amount of weight, look good, reach as high as possible while maintaining its small footprint and be durable to withstand constant use. The answer is modern materials that are both light and strong. There are ways in which our world keeps getting better and one of them is in the development of materials that can accomplish difficult tasks with ease. Pay attention to the height of top steps and the top support bar is a good feature for safety and comfort.

The Great Z Rack

Great engineering and great design go hand in hand. These ladders remind me of another product that is a fine work of engineering: the “Z” garment rack. Features that distinguish this rack are that it is exceptionally strong and exceptionally maneuverable. When I moved apartments, putting clothes on this rack saved a lot of time packing and sorting. I used it again this December at a party and it allowed me to store many coats in a small space with no organizational problems. Its parts are easily reassembled. The “Z” base allows it to turn corners where other racks are clumsy. Using well-designed and engineered products changes your life. 

May 10, 2008

Colorful Finds

New York hosts great museums — imposing ones like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art and smaller gems like the Frick. In between are some of my favorites, such as the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Art and Design (with a recently changed name from the American Craft Museum). The Whitney has a good online store where you can find some unexpected designs.

Cool Things at the Whitney Museum Store

Above: A set of beautifully colored practical melamine bowls and artistic and fun card cases from the Whitney Museum store

Museum stores online carry different merchandise than their physical counterparts so they are resources for good-looking, unusual and well-designed items either for yourself or to give as gifts. One other non-New York online museum store that has interesting items belongs to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Don't overlook these arty avenues for something refreshingly different. 

May 8, 2008

Moving Through Space: Visionary Frank Lloyd Wright

Larger than life architect Frank Lloyd Wright had a chaotic personal life yet created soothingly organized architecture and designs.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum

Frank Lloyd Wright's dramatic Guggenheim Museum interior, designed when he was in his 80s

I popped his logo on the image above because as a graphic designer, it's something with which I'm so familiar and I love it. His architectural handwriting has been made into gorgeous typefaces by several prominent type foundries.

Frank Lloyd Wright's personal life created scandals in his time (wouldn't as much so now, although he wasn't an easy guy) but his driving passion for work outwitted and outlasted his personal turmoil. His life would be splashed all over tabloids today. He was a flamboyant and unique man.

Frank Lloyd Wright chairStructures should come out of nature, he believed, and blend with it and he accomplished this in a way no one else has done, almost like a poet to my mind. Although I find his continuous earth tones to be too monotonous, I still love much of the design, both architectural and in the countless other items he designed. He designed everything inside the house as well and a client had to conform to his dictates or they could not have his house. He designed furniture, tableware, lighting and even one hostess' dress. Numerous “in the style of” designs have been spawned by present-day manufacturers.

He went through long periods of disfavor but was most successful from age 70 to 90, a true artist in his approach to life. Asked how he could work so hard in his later years, he said he could shake the designs out of his sleeve and couldn't get them out fast enough. He hit his full stride at a time in his life when some people have "turned in.” One worker described him as “200% alive.”

His Imperial Hotel in Japan was the only building in the city that survived a massive earthquake right after it was completed. The building had been constructed of  non-standard materials and as an engineer, Wright had calculated that earthquakes were regular occurrences in Tokyo.

Here is a link to a beautiful new structure created 50 years later from an unbuilt Wright design. 

May 4, 2008

Tantalizing Teapots

Teapots, like chairs, have caught the imaginations of many superb designers who have created gracious, amusing, soothing and surprising versions of this tableware.

Artistic Teapots from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Two teapots, both from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Why do certain objects attract the creative juices of artists so much? In the case of the chair, there are endless possibilities for design coupled with a highly practical need. In the case of the teapot, however, I think it's just the gracious spout shape that for some reason beckons for design experimentation. Whatever the reason, beautiful teapots are all around us.

April 17, 2008

A Craft Store Grows in Brooklyn

I've been frequenting a pretty little high-end craft store in Park Slope, Brooklyn called Greenjeans, run by Amy Shaw and Jae Kim (wife and husband; I love it when couples work together).

Some of Greenjeans' Wares

Some Greenjeans products I really like: maple cutting board, original toy animal, scented soap

Greenjeans carries an eclectic and selective mixture of jewelry, toys, artwork and housewares. All are made in the U.S. by hand, a requirement for their merchandise. Amy and Jae quit their corporate jobs to start the store a few years ago — more power to them. I found them while looking through Park Slope and am very glad I did.

More Greejeans Brooklyn Goodies

More nice things: graceful earrings, chic metal evening bag, toasty handmade socks

Taking a drive down to the store for an unplanned outing is a reward for me. The part of Park Slope in which the store stands is a bit at the edge of what I'd known previously. The store is located on 7th avenue between 15th and 16th streets.

Fanciful Greenjeans Angel SculptureSmall casual restaurants and stores dot the area in Brooklyn and although the main section has gone well past emerging, outer areas are still stretching their legs. It's like boutique shopping, which I have always found more satisfying than department store shopping, although naturally the selections are more limited. Today, with online shopping resources so grand, you can have the best of both worlds. Go online when you're driven to find something specific and go strolling to a store like Greenjeans for the pure pleasure of it. Amy and Jae, you'll be seeing me again soon.


April 16, 2008

Art for Your Eyes and Mind

Artist Maira Kalman has an interesting approach and took part is a wonderful blog art/story series sponsored by The New York Times.

Maira Kalman Illustration 

I feel a kinship with her, as I care about words as much as images. Her beautiful artwork is enhanced by the fanciful and thought-provoking little tales she winds around them. A well-known artist, Ms. Kalman has created numerous covers for The New Yorker.

She has also designed very successful products sold at the Museum of Modern Art, among other places, such as the umbrella with the sky on the inside. Sky Umbrella





Stay Up Late by Maria Kalman

She has published many children's books and has another book forthcoming from her blog column called The Principles of Uncertainty, from which the image above left is taken.

At left, one of the artist's children's books — I love the title, as anyone who knows me would understand. 

Below, one of Maira Kalman's great covers and a whimsical photo of the artist.


Maira Kalman Cover and Photo


April 12, 2008

I'm a Little Teapot

These graceful little teapots by HuesNBrews come in a variety of sizes, styles and colors and reminded me and my friends of beautiful housewares by Russell Wright from the 1930s.

Great Tea Pots by HuesNBrews

In person, there's a slightly antique quality to the ceramic as well as the Deco-ish design. The above pots hold tea for two but these come in a few sizes. The coolest thing about these — and other similar designs that can be found lately — is the easy-to-use removable strainer. The strainer sits neatly inside the top and makes using tea leaves a breeze. It also makes the brewing process simple since you can remove the tea leaves after two–five minutes, the recommended amount of time to not over-brew your tea, which varies based on the type of tea being brewed (black, green, oolong, white or herbal).

Caffeine Reduction Tip 

You can make caffeine-reduced tea by steeping for 30 seconds, discarding the liquid and re-steeping for the recommended amount of time. This in-the-pot strainer makes that easy to do. I got mine at the Silver Tips Tea Room in Tarrytown, mentioned a few entries ago, a very relaxing place to spend time. Really nice designs.

March 14, 2008

Design Great Verner Panton

By now almost everyone has seen the ubiquitous Panton chair designed by the venerable Verner Panton.

Verner Panton, the Great Designer

Even if you don't know the name, which design afficianados will, you have seen the chair in lots of catalog layouts and even in movies (it appears in Woody Allen's fantastic movie, Sleeper, as a future icon, in his predominantly white future). It's also in the permanent collections of many museums.

The Gorgeous Panton Chair

Doesn't he look like someone you'd like to know in the picture above? I have one of these gorgeous chairs in a limited edition fuchsia color from Design Within Reach — absolutely comfortable and beautiful. For those of you who care, besides its cool S shape, this chair is famous for being made from a single piece of injection molded plastic, is incredibly resilient and can be stacked, used indoors and out, fits with casual and sophisticated decor. Lots of cool design isn't comfortable but this is!

“Choosing colors should not be a gamble. It should be a conscious decision. Colors have a meaning and a function...”

— Verner Panton

Since its inception, the chair has been updated with even more resilient plastic and although vintage editions are pricey, the current model can be had for $245. A great source is hive modern

Designers like this got me hooked on mixing modern sculptural furniture with antique, gorgeous wood pieces. As I was taught in my religion major classes, ”The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” That applies to mixing old and new styles and to the Panton chair, whose parts happen to be just one single piece of polypropylene. I love it! 

“Most people spend their lives living in dreary, beige conformity, mortally afraid of using color. The main purpose of my work is to provoke people into using their imagination and make their surroundings more exciting.”

— Verner Panton

January 5, 2008

All Wrapped Up

2007's all wrapped up — welcome to 2008 and a heaping helping of opportunity and new beginnings for us all.

At my first ever small party on December 29th, my place was festooned with leafy garlands and blue LED lights. Some time around November, it struck me that I should decorate my place for the holidays. The staircase was begging for garlands (never had a staircase before). I haven't had a tree in a couple years because although they're festive and pretty, they're expensive and drop needles everywhere. But I had had a break and was ready to do it again. Plus, I'm evolving as a designer and moving into interior design so I was itching to express myself this way. It was rewarding and the party was much fun. Thanks to all my lovely guests, who were very well behaved too. Guess who's the only one who spilled? That would be me. And no, I was not tipsy. I didn't see someone's glass and knocked it over onto light carpet, dousing the area with rich red wine. The amazing thing is that I got the stain out by using seltzer right away and two pet cleaning solutions the next day. 

October 7, 2007

The Good Life

"The good life" is a phrase that intrigues me. It gets my imagination going. What do you think the "good life" is? I think it's many things, both material and immaterial and striking a delicate balance in focus on both. On the material level, to me, it connotes gorgeous luxury (because there's an aspect of indulgence implied) objects that serve their purpose well.

Salviati Wine GlassesSalviati Blue and Green Glasses

Two lines of luscious stemware and drinkware by Salviati — left to right, water and wine glasses in their Fenice grouping in blue/green and orange/black combinations plus highballs (tall) and old fashioned (short) glasses in their Stringa offering — work together well

Good design should enhance your life. Glasses should fit well in your hand, feel smooth and satisfying on your lips and allow the beverage(s) for which they are intended to breathe or maintain their flavor as best as possible. There is both a scientific and an artistic element to this undertaking, as people will always have differing sensibilities — and that's as it should be in a rich and varied world. Still, designers who create objects that delight our senses are to be applauded. Thank God for the "good life!"

September 26, 2007

Tall Tails

While talking on the phone today to my new friend, Brian, I was surprised to turn around and see this view.

A Delicate Balance

Freestanding and quite tall, this cabinet has never been the receptacle for a kitty on top before. This cat has super long leaping legs and obviously got up there by sailing from a fairly good distance. I couldn't be mad at him — he looked so great and he didn't hurt any of the many glass and ceramic breakable things on top, below and inside the cabinet. Cats' stealth and poise catches me by surprise, even though its fame goes back to ancient tales (and tails).

September 5, 2007

The Exquisite Cat

Cats are so elegant, it astounds me.


I'm still fostering a kitty named Sasha and trying to give him the best possible experience he can have and assure him that life is going to be good no matter what from here on in. Above is a captivating photo I took of him in a deluxe carrier I just got him because he was discarded with a carrier that would only hold a newborn kitten, it was so small. Below are a few more shots of this great carrier that I highly recommend. It's lightweight, comes in striking colors, has numerous compartments to store papers, toys, treats plus multiple vents and mesh windows to allow the kitty to see outside. It's meant for airline travel and complies with those standards. Get it at The Cat Connection — ask for the XL size for $5 more to allow for more room. The standard (large) size is fine but I like the bigger one (this cat is exceptionally tall too, which you can't see in these shots) and both are very light. More good colors are available than what they show if you ask. The carrier folds up easily for storage but I like to leave carriers out so cats relax in them and when it's time to go out, there is no fussing — it really works.

Sasha the KittySasha the Kitty

Sasha the kitty checking out his new Sturdibag from The Cat

August 29, 2007

The Cat Connection

Cats fascinate me. For my fellow ailurophiles, Texas boasts a superior store and animal shelter called The Cat Connection.

Cat Connection

Their site is fun and easy to use. As a designer, I am always interested in great-looking and great-functioning  — not to mention, gorgeous colored — products. Animals often get short shrift when it comes to well-designed, eye-catching wares. Not here. Hey, if you're happier using the stuff, your cats will be too. Besides which, I presume that cats of my acquaintance can tell the difference between a well-designed object and a poorly designed one and will turn their discerning noses up at inferiority. Staff and owners at The Cat Connection are knowledgeable about cats since they run a shelter besides selling excellent cat-related merchandise. Here are a few examples of their products I love: the best carriers, beautiful ceramic dishes and helpful behavior-related items, such as litter that attracts felines to the litter box and hard-core stain removers.

Katie Recommends The Cat Connection 

August 27, 2007

Design by Color

Easily sorting by color is one of the things I love about shopping online.

Shopping by Color

Well-organized online stores such as Bluefly, Nordstrom and Zappos make it easy to shop by color and find just what you're looking for if they have it. This concept is at the center of You will be taken to multiple retailers but you choose a color to begin. I think it's a great idea. I find that thinking in color categories gets the creative juices flowing. The ability of web stores to let you think this way is a tremendous capability. I no longer want to go to physical stores to plow through racks to find what I might like. It can be fun occasionally to meander with a friend and wile away an afternoon but then I'm really just hanging with that friend, not shopping. To find what you like quickly and plentifully, being able to sort by colors and other smart categories is a huge boon.

January 1, 2006

New Beginnings: Modern Art Rugs Take Off

Happy birthday, world. It's 2006.

modern art rugs take off in 2006 
I wish everyone the best year of their lives. My personal good news is that my modern art rug design business received its first really significant retail store order on December 31, 2005. It was a nice way to bid adieu to 2005 and usher in 2006. The unique colorful rugs are being carried by Hers & Mine, an enticing furniture store in Park Slope, Brooklyn (250 Fifth Avenue; call 718-783-3500 for information). Owner Akua Hendricks has big plans for both the custom rug designs and the rest of her store this coming year. Akua loves color, among other design elements. The colorful rugs speak to that. She will have a full wall display of the unique rugs for your viewing pleasure as well as full size area rugs, to give you a rich taste of the line. Also find great armoires, wood tables in perfect sizes and many small decorative items such as picture frames and pillows at Hers & Mine. Akua is wonderful so pay her a visit and enrich your home decor.

Our modern art rugs can be ordered through Hers & Mine. You are welcome to direct any custom rug or other questions directly to us. Please note that one feature of the custom rug line is that you can order all sizes and shapes, including, for example, round area rugs, square rugs, extra long rug runners and more.

Up the street a couple of blocks, at 152 Fifth Avenue, is At Home on Fifth (718-399-0091), a sister store, that carries dazzling home decor such as glassware, tableware, bowls etc. from respected vendors such as Vietri. Akua's mom owns that store. An aunt owns a bustling candy store next door. This family is an inspiration.

Park Slope is a great place to spend a day or weekend, filled with delectable stores such as these, the beautiful Promenade for romantic strolls, Prospect Park and more restaurants than you could ever find time to eat in.