Thursday, January 28

New York International Gift Fair

I will be in New York over the next few days for the International Gift Fair. I will be at the SFERRA booth on Sunday and Monday. If you are at the Javits Center stop by and say hello. We will post some of SFERRA's new lines on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend. See you next week.

Tuesday, January 26

Profile: Melissa Rufty

Like most talent in life, natural ability plays a leading role. Whether it’s drawing, dancing or designing. You've either got it or you don't. Well, New Orleans based interior designer Melissa Rufty has it, and with plenty to spare! I have been a big fan of Melissa’s colorful and sophisticated design aesthetic for the better part of two years. It was from Courtney Barnes that I first learned of Melissa. I think my heart actually skipped a beat the first time that I laid eyes on her work. Layer, texture, color, refinement and personality were all in attendance.

Thanks to our friends Michael and Quinn, Melissa and I finally had a chance to meet in person last summer. The Southern raised, Tulane educated Melissa is as affable and interesting as the interiors she fashions. Drawing inspiration from the bewitching city that is New Orleans, Melissa imbues the same alluring style in all that she creates.

How would you describe your style?
Ever changing but always rooted. I am easily and often inspired, but somehow all of my rooms end up with beautiful antique wood and an oil painting or two. Someone recently described my design style as - southern elegance with a modern edge. It really resonated with me, so I will hang my hat there for now!

What is your most prized possession
The fabulous antique chandelier that hangs in my dining room. My parents purchased it fourteen years ago from Gerrie Bremermann's shop in New Orleans. It was a 30th birthday present.

My father suddenly passed away just three weeks before my birthday. My mom, who never lets a birthday go unnoticed, regardless the circumstance, surprised me with a tiny wrapped box. Inside was a miniature crystal chandelier and a note that read, “He would want you to sparkle always.” Bottom line, things are simply just that—things! It is the sentiment that accompanies most things that makes them priceless.

Who has most influenced your direction in life?
Without a doubt my parents. My mother is the epitome of southern style. She is old fashion in her values and ahead of her time in fashion and entertaining. And did I mention that she is always right (I mean ALWAYS). We have a funny expression in our office…”What would Beulah say?” My father was a creative genius. He is legendary for his elaborate parties, practical jokes and surprises. I’d like to think I got her taste and his imagination!

What virtue would you most like to possess?

Who are your style icons
Sienna miller. You just never know what she’s going to put together, and yet it always works and seems effortless. And of course Aerin Lauder, she has so much of her famous grandmother’s timeless grace. She looks as wonderful in a ball gown as she does a pair of jeans.

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
I really adore the design work of Amelia Handegan from Charleston. She is a color savant! Her low country, effortless approach to design is unmatched.

What is your idea of earthly happiness
The smell of salty seaside air, my children, belly laughs and my sweet husband pouring me a great glass of wine (while fanning me of course)!

Who do you most admire?
Kay Thompson’s Eloise. She lives at the Plaza, she has a never ending imagination, an unbreakable spirit and an unmonitored charge account—a girl after my own heart!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising three wonderful daughters. However, I’m not done, so I guess the verdict is still out.

Profile by Ronda Carman

Sunday, January 24

Soup on Sunday: Tortellini-Parmesan Soup

Do you have an easy weeknight favorite recipe? One that you go to ad nauseam? And then, without reason, it fades away? Such was the case with my tortellini soup. I guess it was forgotten in the move. Too many new foods and recipes to explore I suppose.

Thanks to a Facebook message from an old friend, I was recently reminded of this wonderfully simple soup. I have altered the ingredients from my original version, as Mr. Man does not like tomatoes. Perhaps our son will outgrow this phase or “forget” his dislike in the near future, just as I had forgotten this recipe.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
10 - 12 cups vegetable stock
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
5-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 cup coarsely chopped fresh baby spinach
2 packages fresh cheese tortellini

In a large stockpot heat oil on medium-high. Add onion and garlic. Sauté 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add vegetable stock and pepper. Bring to a soft boil. Stir in Parmesan cheese, basil, spinach and tortellini. Cook 6-8 minutes on a low boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to individual serving bowls. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4 - 6

Thursday, January 21

SFERRA Announces Haiti Relief Effort

A Letter from SFERRA President Paul J. Hooker:

We extend our deepest sympathies and greatest hope for the people of Haiti. The devastation in Haiti is beyond belief. Now is the time for everyone to join together in responding to this tragedy with great generosity.

We urge you to give what you can afford. As a company, SFERRA pledges to donate 10% of all orders received between today and January 30, 2010 to Partners in Health, an organization that I have researched fully. They have been doing work in Haiti for over 20 years, and I feel that they are best equipped to put our funds directly to work. Please help us to help others.

You can also donate directly to Partners In Health on our website. You will find their logo and link on the upper right hand corner of our site.

We thank you in advance for your support in the Haiti relief efforts.

Paul J. Hooker

Tuesday, January 19

Bradley Thiergartner Interiors

Thanks to Amanda Nisbet, my husband and I were introduced to the delightful and talented Benjamin Bradley last April. At the time I was unfamiliar with Benjamin’s work or that of his business partner David Thiergartner. After getting to know Benjamin, his work and design philosophy, I knew that I had to meet David. After a recent dinner with David and Benjamin in New York, David proved equally charming, possessing talent in spades.

David and Benjamin first met in the early 1990's at ABC Carpet & Home. Realizing they shared many of the same goals and design principals, the two founded their New York City firm, Bradley Thiergartner Interiors.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, David was educated at San Diego State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Benjamin attended Purdue University in Indiana and graduated with honors from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Drawing on their distinctive and complementary skills, the duo creates well-edited interiors that are both tailored and traditional. "One of Ben’s many tremendous talents is to sketch or draw the most important details of a room," says David. “And, David's capacity to see the big picture and to imagine the possibilities, has always inspired me," Benjamin adds. If the hallmark of a great partnership is achieving together what cannot be achieved separately, David and Benjamin are a textbook definition. Of course, these images of their work speaks volumes.

Profile by Ronda Carman
You can view Benjamin’s home on
New York Social Diary

Monday, January 18

Traditional Home 20 Young Designers 2010

I was thrilled to learn from Brad Ford this weekend that he was named by Traditional Home as one of the 20 Young Designers to Watch for 2010. Not only is Brad a great designer, he is taking the world of social networking by storm (listen to our podcast here).

A huge congratulations to all who were named! I have listed all the designers below. Make certain to pick up a copy of the March issue of the magazine to see their work.

Elizabeth Bauer (New York, NY)
Meg Braff New (York, NY)
Paul Corrie (Washington, DC)
Julie Dodson (Houston, TX)
Marshall Erb (Chicago, IL)
Molly Frey (Marblehead, MA)
Brad Ford (New York, NY)
Eric Ford (Little Rock, AR)
Christopher Gaona (Santa Monica, CA)
Jessica Helgerson (Portland, OR)
Ondine Karady (New York, NY)
Garrow Kedigian (New York, NY)
Kelly LaPlante (Venice Beach, CA)
Katie Leede (Santa Monica, CA)
Emily Miller (Dallas, TX)
Julie Massucco, Melissa Warner, Carrie Miller (San Francisco, CA)
Erin Paige Pitts (Baltimore, MD)
Jack Poles (Atlanta, GA)
Todd Richesin (Knoxville, TN)
Mark Roberts (Cedar Rapids, IA)

Sunday, January 17

Soup on Sunday: Lemon, Spinach and Lentil Soup

I adore spinach and lentils! I make this soup for lunch at least once a week. Not only is it easy, but also it is healthy.  It’s the ultimate comfort food in my book!

1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils (brown can be used as well)
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 litres vegetable stock
1 bunch baby spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
1 lemon juiced
finely grated lemon zest to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. Add carrots and sauté for another 3 minutes. Add lentils and stock. Bring to the boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove from heat. Add spinach, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Ladle into bowls. Top with lemon zest.  Serves 6

Friday, January 15

Happy Weekend

I am so looking forward to having a few girlfriends around tonight for a casual dinner, drinks and lots of laughs. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Image via Elizabeth Messina

Wednesday, January 13

MLK Studio

This past October I had the privilege of meeting the dynamic duo Meg and Christos Joannides. Christos is the founding principal of Flat 6 Concepts, a branding and marketing agency that caters exclusively to interior designers, furniture designers, architects, photographers and artists. Meg is the founder of MLK Studio based in Los Angeles.

Meg’s firm specializes in large-scale renovations and new construction, as well as kitchen design and custom furniture for her projects. Prior to founding her own firm, Meg spent five years with Hugo Boss, Inc., at the company's New York City headquarters as Vice President of Store Planning and Visual Merchandising. She also collaborated on the concept, planning, and execution of Hugo Boss's unique 40,000-square-foot corporate offices and showrooms in Chelsea.

Meg recently sent me photos of an amazing home she designed in the beautiful Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. “It was a dream project for great clients with lots of style,” she confessed. Meg undertook the three-year project with acclaimed architect Hagy Belzberg. Again, much like the Homewood house I featured last week, this home inspires a sense of order, calm and peace. And, on a grey winter's day in Scotland, I would love to spend a few days in this wonderful light-filled home.

Tuesday, January 12

Profile: Tammy Connor

Tammy Connor is the talent behind the beautiful home that I featured yesterday. What I admire most about her work is a refined, traditional style that is marked by warmth, comfort and originality. When you study each of Tammy’s various projects you notice a sincere dedication to each client's unique lifestyle.

Prior to founding Tammy Connor Interior Design in 1999, Tammy received a bachelor's degree in Studio Arts magna cum laude from Wake Forest University and a graduate degree in interior design summa cum laude from The American College of Applied Arts in Atlanta, Georgia. While in school, she was the recipient of several scholarships and was named design student of the year. Upon graduation, she apprenticed with the esteemed design firm of Gandy/Peace Inc.

Many thanks to Birmingham Home and Garden for letting me know that Tammy's own home is featured in their latest issue (she is the cover girl too). You can see photos of her home on the blog Blueprint Bliss or pick up a copy for yourself. I have a feeling that Tammy Connor’s work (and name) will soon join the ranks of well-known, established interior designers.

How would you describe your personal style?
Inviting, refined, collected, timeless, and classic with a twist. I think that it is imperative to understand the rules of design (principles, elements, and history) in order to successfully break them! I aim to create spaces that are not only beautiful, but also comfortable. Perhaps it’s the Southerner in me, but I want clients and their guests to feel comfortable curling up on a fabulous antique settee barefoot and to relax in their surroundings.

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Traveling to interesting and beautiful places and peaceful sleep.

Which talent would you most like to posses?
Opera singer. There seems to be something therapeutic about belting out a romance language in beautifully appointed historical buildings. And, the fabulous sets and costumes are the icing on the cake!

What is your most prized possession?
Photos of family, friends and travel. We once had to evacuate our home in Charleston for a hurricane. All I took with me was my computer and boxes upon boxes of photographs. Now, if only I could find the time to organize all of them!

Who are your style icons?
Albert Hadley for his design sense, longevity, and candor.
Coco Channel for her determination, commitment, and style.
Charles D Gandy, (an early mentor of mine at Gandy/ Peace Inc) for his refined approach to interiors and for role-modeling his open and honest business practices.

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
I would love to collaborate with creative clients on a villa on Lake Como (my husband and I are Italophiles), a safari lodge in South Africa (my favorite vacation spot), or a boutique equestrian B&B (I think I am an undiscovered equifile).

Who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day?
In a fantasy world, I would have to go with Jackie O. I would want her to plan the itinerary, but would hope that there would be time for an insightful conversation on style, philanthropy, politics and motherhood.

What inspires your creativity and designs?
There is inspiration through every open door. Travel, architecture, nature, people, and their lifestyles are some of the primary sources. Nature often inspires color schemes that I incorporate into interiors. For example, when I was last in Charleston I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful blooming magnolia trees and their sophisticated color palette of evergreen, cinnamon, and crisp ivory.

With which iconic designer or architect do you most identify?
Rose Tarlow. Her interiors are always refined but inviting, and she achieves this through her distinct use of scale, texture, and color. I especially love her living room in Bel Air that allows the exterior vines not only to enter, but also to grow in the room.

And, while I am not sure I would be brave enough to live with this visitor, it certainly adds great texture and life to the space. It is this unexpected juxtaposition of refined, rustic, and natural that I admire her for the most.

Profile by Ronda Carman

Sunday, January 10

Soup on Sunday: Tomato-Fennel & Grilled Gouda Sandwiches

More heavy snow and freezing weather swept into parts of Britain overnight. According to weather forecasters there is no immediate let-up in sight! This is the coldest spell in more than 30 years, and I for one am searching for ways to keep warm!

My latest antidote is tomato-based soups. This tomato-fennel soup from Country Living, paired grilled Gouda sandwiches, sounds like the perfect solution for today.

Tomato-Fennel Soup:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups (about 1/2 bulb) chopped fennel
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cans (28-ounce) peeled whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/3 cup heavy cream

Pour oil in a large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened. Add the fennel and onions and cook until onions are translucent (about 5 more minutes). Add the tomatoes, zest, rosemary, and pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the reserved tomato liquid, 2 cups of water, sugar, and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until fennel is very tender, about 45 minutes.

Transfer the soup (in small batches) to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Add the parsley and thyme to the last batch and purée until smooth. Return the soup to the Dutch oven and stir in the heavy cream. Ladle hot soup into bowls and serve immediately.

Grilled Gouda Sandwiches

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoons ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoons) fresh-ground black pepper
8 slices (1/2-inch-thick) rustic bread
1 clove garlic, halved
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
8 ounces Gouda, sliced 1/4 inch thick

Assemble the sandwiches: Combine the butter and peppers in a small bowl and set aside. Rub one side of each slice of bread with garlic and place 4 slices, garlic-rubbed side down, on a work surface. Spread the top of each of the 4 slices with 1 teaspoon of the mustard and 2 ounces of the Gouda. Place the remaining slices of bread, garlic-rubbed side up, on sandwich bottoms and set aside.

Grill the sandwiches: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Using a pastry brush, coat one side of the sandwiches with the butter mixture. Place the sandwiches, buttered side down, in the hot skillet and cook until golden -- about 2 minutes. Brush the tops of the sandwiches with the remaining butter mixture, turn the sandwiches over, and cook for 2 more minutes. Place the skillet in a 400 degree oven and bake until the cheese is completely melted -- about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Photo credit: Beatriz Da Costa

Friday, January 8

The Homewood

When it comes to architecture preferences, modernist is not a word that I would use to describe my personal style. And yet, I am constantly drawn to its beauty. In part, I suppose, I have incredible admiration for people who are disciplined enough to live in such an orderly manner. The Stahl House, The Glasshouse and The de Ménil House are all homes that inspire in me a sense of calm and peace.

The same holds true for The Homewood, a modernist house in Esher, Surrey, designed by the architect Patrick Gwynne. Built in 1938 The Homewood is a rare example of British, pre-war international style. What makes the house exceptionally rare is the continuity of its ownership.

During the mid 1930s, when increasingly heavy traffic on nearby roads concerned the the Gwynne family, Commander Alban Gwynne decided to knock down their large Victorian house and build a smart Modern replacement on a more favorable part of the eight-acre estate. He sold some property in Wales to finance the staggering £10,000 bill and commissioned his 24-year-old son to design the house. Commander Gwynne often to referred to the house as "the temple of costly experience".

The timing of the house was most unfortunate. War broke out just after its completion. Commander Gwynne resumed his naval duties, but died along with his wife in 1942. Patrick and his long-term companion, pianist Harry Rand, moved in to the home where Patrick would remain until his death in 2003.

The Homewood, like many of the houses Gwynne went on to build for celebrity clients, including actors Jack Warner and Laurence Harvey, was a party house. During the 40s and 50s, the large sitting room was furnished with movable furniture to make room for dancing on the sprung maple floor. In the 60s, one wall of the room was remodeled with fiberglass sheeting to improve the acoustics. Hi-fi equipment was integrated into the room's design, as was a serving table that pivots out from the wall for serving cocktails.

Purists visiting the house now may be dismayed that it is not a shrine to late 30s design. "But that's what's so great about the place," says V&A curator Gareth Williams, who visited just before Gwynne died. "It's a 30s, 50s and 70s house in one. There are layers of living there, and all the many things he made over the years."

The south front of the house was strategically placed to provide views over much of the garden. Overhanging the terrace are Japanese maples. Originally, there were great oaks, pines and conifers crowding near the house, but these were removed by Patrick Gwynne to create the view to the main pond and the long south vista. The large cast sculpture is Stalking Figure, dated 1963, by Oliffe Richmond.

The large, multi-functional and open-planned living room is the principal space of The Homewood. There are two seating and lounging areas for day-time near the windows, another for the evening centered on the fireplace, as well as two work spaces.

Wanting a place to work in the living room, Patrick Gwynne created this dual-purpose desk over looking the gardens from one of the three windows of the living room.

The Homewood incorporates an almost detail-free modern European look. The house was intended to be a new form of non-hierarchical design. Over the years, Patrick Gwynne altered, adapted and refurbished the furniture, designing many new pieces for the room to meet his changing needs and aesthetic taste.

Patrick’s father purchased the delicate antique blue and white Bristol glass chandelier. Although many visitors found it incongruous in such a modern house, Gwynne always thought it ‘perfect for the situation’. He was inspired to put it here after seeing a chandelier used in a similar way in a Le Corbusier house in Paris. The abstract mural on the curved wall was drawn in colored wax crayon on brown lining paper by an assistant of the artist Peter Thompson, and was originally intended to be only temporary.

The tiled shared powder room, between two bedrooms, follows the convex curve of the wall. Inset with a pair of round mirrors on metal stalks, there are matching stools beneath. The wall is covered with hand-painted silk. The rear wall has a wash-basin flanked by two full-length mirrors.

Luxury is inherent in the interiors. Leather, birch, Gabon Mahogany, French walnut, copper, and Japanese grass cloth create a rich color and textural experience throughout the house.

The Homewood is now owned by The National Trust
Photographer - Tim Beddow/ The Editor at Large/ TIA Digital Ltd

Thursday, January 7

Lisa Sternfeld

If you have not yet listened to Stephen Drucker, Editor and Chief of House Beautiful, on The Skirted Round Table, I would encourage you to do so. He makes many great and interesting points regarding magazines, designers and blogs. One thought that stuck with me is the sheer number of talented designers who have yet to be published in a national magazine or gain name recognition. Truly, there are so many that are a constant source of inspiration when writing my blog each day. As Stephen reminded us, “Style and great design are everywhere!”

Certainly that is true when it comes to Lisa Sternfeld. A graduate of Parsons School of Design (she also studied art and design at the University of Florence, Italy), Lisa creates rooms that are both highly sophisticated and exceptionally inviting.

After working with such industry greats as Thomas O’Brien and Adam Tihany, as well as Walt Disney, Coach and Victoria’s Secret, she founded her firm, LSID, in 2006. Lisa recently completed phase one of a “dream project” for clients on Martha’s Vineyard.

Wanting a formal, yet elegant beach home, Lisa selected a color palette reflecting the pale colors of the sky and warms blues of the sea. Bespoke furniture and accessories, including chairs finished with ancient gilding techniques and jewel-like lighting crafted by hand in bronze, crystal and enamel, adds a summerlike sparkle year round. Come spring Lisa will start work on phase 2 of the home (the private spaces). I for one can’t wait to see what she has in store.