Irwin Weiner ASID - Perfect hot summer weather greeted us as Jay and I went with friends Ed and Rick to the 2014 New Hope Historical Society Garden Tour. A true highlight of the six gardens we saw was a formal parterre garden lines by an allee of carpinus trees (ah, those trees were trained within an inch of their lives and were truly magnificent!). While a formal garden isn't my personal style, there's much to love about the great design and execution of this space, combining beautiful views of the Delaware River with a garden to die for.
Irwin Weiner ASID - I promised to update D2S readers about the progress on our new home improvement project which started around Easter 2014 in New Hope, PA. It's a joy to work with IWI clients and help them beautiful their homes, but it's a nice change of pace to also be working on our own property. There is much that has been happening, starting with the hay field (about 7 acres) in the front of our property. On the April weekend when we officially took possession of the 12.5 acre farm, we saw our farmer out in the field spraying "something" on the hay that made the field look emerald green. Fertilizer? Water? Both?
On July 5, the hay was cut in the afternoon and sorted into rows to dry in the heat. On Sunday, July 6, the field was alive with tractors and balers and the hay was rolled into bales but most were baled as the traditional "long squares." We've got crops!
Jay took some pictures of the process, and he got a bit of poison ivy as he moved closer to the action (wearing shorts). The farmer told us that we might get another cutting/baling this year if the growing season continues to be rainy and sunny/hot as it has been so far. More house progress to report:
- We've reclaimed the little guest cottage on the property as our weekend home and will be living there while the main house gets remodeled. We've been adding lighting, painting walls, cleaning, and filling the space with items we've borrowed from friends and purchased at area flea markets and country auctions. Our vegetable patch is growing well, with two kinds of tomatoes, honeydew melon, cucumbers, herbs, and red peppers maturing nicely. We've already had some great tomatoes and have barbecued whole chickens, sausages, and burgers on the grill. It's been a wonderful summer!
- With the help of Jeffry and his brothers, our new best friends from Honduras, we've been gradually clearing brush, limbing trees, cutting down dead trees, and burning debris in our favorite thing ever: a fire pit! The house is in an agricultural township that permits open burning of organic refuse, so we have huge bonfires every so often. We're shaping up the outside and maximizing the incredible views from the house, overlooking the hay field, our neighbor's corn field, and forested land all around. We have to pinch ourselves sometimes - we're only 5 minutes from all the action of New Hope, PA/Lambertville, NJ, but we're in the country. It's so peaceful, too, with the calls of wild turkeys and our neighbor's sheep being the only things you can hear on occasion.
- The plans for remodeling the main house have been drawn up and we've met with several area contractors to bid out the job. In the meantime, we've cleaned the house, top to bottom, and will have a big "before" summer BBQ party for Bucks County friends and family on July 19 to officially kick off the project.
More progress to report in a few weeks. I hope you and your family are having a great summer, too!
Irwin Weiner ASID - Who doesn't remember the Rose House from the iconic movie Ferris Beuhler's Day Off? Modernist, clean, and stately, you can see from the video below that it was an endangered property that could have been torn down. Luckily, the house sold earlier this year (click here to read more about the Rose House sale), and the owners will restore the house and the nearby pavilion to their original condition. Don't you love happy endings?
Stepping off the back porch, covered by a blindingly immaculate white pergola and a styled-to-the-hilt brunch party table, we began to follow the brick terrace, flagstone, and crushed gravel paths that led us through secret gardens and outdoor rooms. Let's just say the garden crew needs to make weekly visits to maintain the lush grounds.
From the bricks and flagstone path, we were led to lawn and an allee of trees - note the amazing swaths of lily turf surrounding the trees in gently crowned beds - that led us to a beautiful secret garden. A clever raised flower arrangement (urn on a pedestal) provided the focal point at the end of the allee. "Allee" is "avenue" in French, and the joke is that, like all things French, the allee is very high maintenance. But if you're the gardener, this is no joking matter; they're a lot of work to keep looking nice, and this home's allee was in fine form.
The Secret Garden ended in a series of meandering paths bordered by viburnum, hellebores, hydrangea, perennials, birdhouse apartments, garden sculptures, and lots of manicured lawn. One of my favorite features was a little cottage in the middle of the backyard. A small herb and vegetable garden was added to the back of the cottage, enclosed by a charming white picket fence.
Next post: another highlight of our tour. I hope you and your family are having a wonderful summer and enjoying your outdoor rooms, wherever they may be!
Irwin Weiner ASID - This fascinating video by James Munn will take you into a variety of movie sets, located in stunning modern homes. Movies love over-the-top locations, and oftentimes the architect, interior designer, and set designer can create mood by choosing a specific style of home.
These homes all had starring roles, both for their architects and for the roles they played in memorable movies. Which one is your favorite?
Irwin Weiner ASID - As global fashion became a huge multi-billion-dollar business, everyone wanted to expand from clothing and accessories to "lifestyle," and that means plenty of fashion houses that have gotten into designing and manufacturing their own furniture line. Here are some of our favorite fashion houses who have taken their trend-setting ways from the runway and turned them towards your home.
- Hermes: home goods ranging from decorative objects and linens to fine and casual dinnerware, all with French flair.
- Fendi Casa: a robust whole-house interior design approach, complete with furnishings, home fabrics, whole-kitchen systems, and outdoor furnishings. An impressive, all-encompassing design approach, geared to upscale contemporary lifestyles.
- Ralph Lauren Home: another whole-house design, with the upscale casual "preppy American" vibe, you'll find everything from paint and tableware to lighting, case goods, and upholstered goods for inside and outside your home.
- Alexander McQueen: the late fashion designer reached the heady heights of UK/global fashion through sheer imagination and genius, and the Rug Company's Alexander McQueen collection shows off the vivid patterns and colors and themes that made his art famous, this time in rugs, wall hangings, and pillows.
- Versace Home Collection: the Versace brand is synonymous with over-the-top Italian adornment, and you'll find the almost-baroque assortment of pillows, linens, tableware, crystal, and glassware a fun way to add punch to your home decor.
- Missoni Home: shop here for your home textiles, throws, pillows, poufs, candles, and bath linens and you'll be adding Missoni's distinctive, sophisticated eye for colorful patterns.
- Oscar de la Renta Home Collection: beautiful, romantic, colorful tableware, entertainment accessories, linens, and carpets - and his Century Furniture line, too.
- Etro Home Collection: Italy's oft-imitated, but never surpassed collection of home textiles is astounding. You can build a whole-house color scheme around their fascinating patterns and schemes and not go wrong.
- Vera Wang: her lifestyle collection and licensing efforts have extended her brand into everything from tabletop lines to home linens and textiles. The look is clean, classic, and romantic.
- Armani Casa: another whole-home experience, the world of Georgio Armani, tailored and richly masculine, extends to wall coverings, home textiles, furnishings, lighting, rugs, and accessories.
- Calvin Klein Home Decor: here is another example of fantastic brand expansion into home territory, with Calvin Klein branded furniture, accessories, bedding and bath collections, and other products.
There are many others we haven't gotten to, including Diane von Furstenberg, Pierre Cardin, Donna Karan, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Matthew Williamson, and others. The list of talented fashion designers whose brands have branched out into lifestyle is endless. But lucky us for this injection of beauty, style, and design into our decor selections!
Irwin Weiner ASID - Most world religions talk about stewardship. We must take care of whatever it is that we're in charge of and leave it in better condition than when we found it. If you're a farmer, you must be a good steward of the land, making certain that your agricultural practices don't deplete the soil or pollute nearby rivers and streams. If you manage a retail store, it's your responsibility as a good steward to build up your employees and the condition of your shop, making everything better than when you took over. And if you're a homeowner, you should maintain your home well and improve it so that it can be passed on to others in a better condition than when you found it.
Home stewardship is one reason why I love the interior design industry so much. IWI's work with clients helps to improve the function, beauty, and livability of a home. We improve curb appeal, we change the architectural structure so that the bones of each room are enhanced. We help clients make decor choices that have great foresight, that won't date in a short period of time, and that can be enjoyed for many years in the future.
With my own new home, we took on a property in Pennsylvania that needs lots of TLC. We know of people who were interested in the potential of what we just bought, but they were ultimately overwhelmed by the work it would require to update the house. Fortunately, it's my job to improve properties, and it's a pleasure to tackle this new home improvement project and practice good home stewardship. From time to time I'll be posting some updates on our house progress. The basic architectural drawings are completed and we're about to have the new renovation plans finalized and filed with the township. Then it's taking the project out to bid with contractors. The fun begins!
Irwin Weiner ASID - Christopher Hyland is a dynamic, energetic force in design. His contract and residential fabrics are well curated (see his showroom at the D&D; it's a must-see stop on your next visit), and he also finds the time to put together a beautifully produced online design and lifestyle magazine. Visit the Hyland Magazine website for more information and subscribe to this inspiring digital publication.
Jay Johnson - Irwin and I enjoy Sunday flea market jaunts now that we've moved into our new home in Bucks County, PA. The main house will be renovated and sits empty for now, leaving all our furniture in storage and us living in the guest cottage (which will eventually be demolished and rebuilt). We're furnishing the cottage with loaned furniture from friends and items we buy at country auctions and the flea market in Lambertville, NJ. This past weekend's top find was a Bruno LaVerdiere vase. The dealer was very well informed about the former monk who began his ceramics work in the 1950s and 60s and built up a reputation in the Pacific Northwest as Brother Bruno. Devoted to his art and teaching, Bruno's work is simple, elegant, and stylish. His work is widely collected and appears in top museums, like NYC's Museum of Arts and Design (click here to read his bio). It was a great flea market find!
Irwin Weiner ASID - For today's busy family, we interior designers are constantly looking for better fabrics for indoor use on soft goods like upholstered chairs, benches, sofas, love seats, chaises, ottomans, and banquettes. While the bulk of today's design is championing sustainability, fabrics seems to be veering more towards the petrochemical path. And it's difficult to deny that acrylic fabrics that have been solution-dyed are ideal solutions to fabric problems of staining, fading, mildewing, wearing, soiling, and moisture damage. For a client with active grandchildren, I'll be presenting Dwell Studio for Robert Allen, Pindler & Pindler, and Duralee Fabrics that will wear like iron, yet come in color-fast, attractive colors that have a nice feel.
Most fabric companies now offer solution-dyed acrylic fabrics, many being blends of polypropylene and polyester. While the acrylic fabrics are still in the liquid state, dyes are injected so that the color is integral to the fabric fibers.
- Look at pioneering Sunbrella for both outdoor and indoor hearty fabrics, and Sunbrella fabrics private-labeled for other fabric companies (like Dwell Studio fabrics for Robert Allen).
- Look for indications of solution-dyed fabrics with their characteristics, which can range from being water repellant and mildew and fade resistant to soil and stain resistant and bleach cleanable.
- There are many indications of fabric durability. Look for abrasion or durability comments on fabric sample labels; there are two main tests: Wyzenbeek test and the Martindale test. You might see labels attesting to durability like "45,000 Wire Mesh Double Rubs" (double rub: a back and forth circular rub with wire brushes on the fabric to test when the fabric starts to wear). You might also see limited warranties which will give you extra confidence. See fabric test specification guidelines from The Fabric Project to get a better ideas of how the industry tests fabrics.
Jay Johnson - I've decided that I'd like to spend the rest of the year in this bed! Designer Eric Gizard has really hit a homer. The pigmented grain leather headboard is quilted, with nubuck exterior sides that wrap like a cocoon and form a space for adjustable side lamps (the black shades are sophisticated) and bedside tables - available in six lacquer colors. And I'd like this new bed from Roche Bobois to be precisely in the space shown in this picture: a European villa overlooking my own private formal garden, complete with topiary and classical statues. Do you have a bed that tops this one? Let me know.
Irwin Weiner ASID - The color predictions for 2014 from Benjamin Moore promote their "new neutrals." It's hard to think of coral, which usually has a touch of brassy pink shining through, as a neutral, but their Red Parrot (see living room above) is toned down and browner than the usual pinky-coral. Look how great the wall color looks with the Guilford Green trim and the Meditation ceiling and shelf inserts.
The coral used by Pottery Barn Kids in the bedding shown above is more traditional, softer and pink for a tween or teen's bedroom. Coral is the official Pottery Barn Kids "color of summer" - what do you think your summer favorite will be?
Irwin Weiner ASID - I always like to give a tip of the hat to companies who are trying to do old things in new ways. Whirlpool's Duet Designs line of washers and driers are adding a touch of decorating to our laundry rooms. These appliances have a finish that allows you to choose many pattern and color combinations. They're coming out with some of this innovative line this spring.
Irwin Weiner ASID - We're constantly looking for smart house design elements to improve the quality everyday life, and the August Smart Lock system is a great way to give anyone a virtual key to your home. You program on your smartphone who can enter, you can find out when and for how long they've been in your home, and you can take away or limit their ability to access the lock. The system is installed on the interior side of the door, a Bluetooth LE connection and smartphone app does the work (it has its own independent power source so if your power goes out, your door is still secure), and the system works with your existing dead bolt. There's no more need for physical keys, although you can still use keys if you'd like.
Irwin Weiner ASID - Today's interior design client requires a beautifully decorated space, but at the heart of the beauty, there must be comfort. I wanted to share three thoughts about the "comfort factor."
- Internet shopping for home goods is everywhere, but what's missing is the client being able to see how upholstered goods "sit." Are the cushions too firm, too soft, or poorly constructed? How does the piece sit for a tall person or a very short person? How is the sofa or chair pitched for back support and ease of getting in and out? How can you tell any of these important utility factors when you're only looking at Web photos?
- My clients like to shop with me for casegoods at auctions, antique stores, and online sites. The comfort factor is negligible there. But we go into showrooms to test drive soft goods. We sit in each chair, lean back in each sofa, lay back in recliners, and check out headrests. And we sometimes change the cushion firmness by customizing it to what the clients want - and sometimes with couples, one prefers firm and the other soft, so they get their own custom cushions in a sofa or their own comfy chair.
- Part of the comfort factor is not having to worry about how active families can destroy fine furnishings! Choosing durable, washable, and resilient fabrics are important for families with young children (frequent clean-ups required), pets (hair shedding all over), and lots of entertaining (spilled food and drinks need fast-and-easy removal). Besides durable fabrics, also look for additional stainguard protection options. And if fabrics are exposed to bright indoor sunlight, look for fade-resistant materials and/or window coverings that will help keep fabrics looking vibrant for a long time (cutting out harsh sunlight is also good for your wall art, too).
Irwin Weiner ASID - As a New York interior designer, I realize that I am part of a pool of home decorating resources for perhaps the world's most select group of homeowners. These people, whether they own a condo, an apartment, a townhouse, a house, a pied a terre, or a weekend home, are mostly Type A folks. They expect perfection, and they have a keen eye for detail. They keep a designer on his toes!
Having vendor resources like Samuel & Sons is an important part of the service we offer. If an upholstered piece of furniture or sets of luxe draperies are to be custom made, I try to design them with those special extras that please the eye, satisfy a hunger for beautiful details, and surpass my client's expectations. Having special trim or unique borders (passementerie) woven into the design elevates the whole piece.
The goal is not to look "too designer-y." (It can't look like an over-decorated space from Bonfire of the Vanities, for instance!) The finished piece must look natural, fit the mood of the room it's designed for, and add just the right color and texture elements my clients and I are looking for.
Irwin Weiner ASID - It's interesting to note that paint manufacturers have finally begun to "feminize." By that I mean that the wall coatings industry used to be aimed right at do-it-yourself men and male house painters. Picture man, dripping paint brush, lit cigar.
Not any more. Martha Stewart has her Martha Stewart Living Paint line at Home Depot, women are directly appealed to in Lowe's Buying Paint guide, and now Target has come out with Devine Color, a paint line created by artist Gretchen Schauffler and produced by Valspar (which cleverly also does a paint line for Lowe's). Devine's paint cans look wider and are less cumbersome than traditional paint cans; they have softer, attractive color palettes; and the color schemes are put together in 19 color stories that are editorially geared directly to DIY women - they're even called "boutique collections." Pure marketing, and completely geared to women. I'm sure this trend will continue, don't you?