Thursday, April 29

The Perfect Bath

If you are not familiar with The Perfect Bath, written by Barbara Sallick, then you must click here. Barbara is co-founder and Senior Vice President of Design at Waterworks. She brings a lifelong interest in design to her philosophy of modern bath style, employing formal principles of architecture and decoration to make this utilitarian environment as rich and livable as any other room in the home.

I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara in Venice, and she is as lovely as the blog she writes. If you love the bath (like I do) and believe that the bath is an experience that is inextricably tied to our happiness and well-being, then you will love this blog. Not to mention it offers tons of inspiration. Enjoy.

Image Elle Decor

Monday, April 26

Profile: Malcolm James Kutner

It would be untruthful for me to suggest that I had not counted on meeting a few exceptional individuals at the Design Leadership Summit in Venice. Given the impressive roster, that most certainly would have been an impossible feat.

What I failed to consider were the friendships that would form over the course of three days. Take equal parts magical city and stellar company, and no doubt you have solid grounds upon which to build camaraderie. Toss in equal parts intellect, wit and passion and you have Malcolm James Kutner.

By happenstance Malcolm ended up at my table on the first day of the conference. When we should have been engaged in ‘serious’ conversation during breakout sessions, we were busy talking and laughing about life and design.

As I would soon learn, Malcolm is also a native Houstonian, and is as much an academic as he is an aesthete. An English and Humanities major from Kenyon College in Ohio and a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Malcolm has rightfully blazed his own trail in the world of interior design.

After a two-month visit to England that ended in a 12-year stay, courses in landscape design, the founding of Landscape Design Group in London, and the restoration of two historical houses, one in London and one in Key West, he has more than earned his stripes.

Now living in New York City, with clients around the world, he still holds fast to his Southern upbringing, a deep respect for nature and a love of the written word. All traits that continue to endear him to an impressive clientele.

While some designers sketch ideas upon first meeting clients, Malcolm both draws and writes a short story in order to get a grip on the ‘characters’ and to get his ‘own ego’ out of the way. “My job is simply to edit, curate and focus. The lens must always be focused on my clients.” With such humility and dedication, it is easy to see why he has garnered loyal devotees from coast to coast—present company included.

How would you describe your personal style?
I was just reviewing some professional portrait shots of me and I am tempted to say: A sharp suit, good shoes, and a crooked tie. No, seriously now. I am a big believer that personal style comes from a point of view, a perspective, a mentality. With that in mind, I suppose I would need to answer that my personal style is a sort of edited, cleaned up classicism punctuated with a playful modern edge. It is like equal parts selective history, insistent presence, and optimistic future, underscored always with a nod to the natural.

What is your most prized possessio
I don’t know that I feel comfortable laying claim to the “possession” of anything. So I think I have to say that my most prized possession is my own history. It’s the only thing that is all mine, and it’s what allows me to prize my relationships with an infinite variety of other people, places, and things in the here and now. So actually, that's my answer: the here and now.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
Quiet time with myself, preferably in Nature, but I’ll take it alone in my apartment, beach house, or hotel room, too.

Who are your style icons?
I have always been a bit weary of icons and idols, maybe because I am fearful of being too impressionable. But there is definitely a stable of stylish people that I repeatedly refer to for inspiration and sometimes guidance.

The list changes all the time depending on what I am thinking about or designing, and these names appear for different style sub-categories and in no particular order, but for now they include:

William Pahlmann, Emile Jacques Ruhlman, Elsie MacNeill (she being the Contessa Gozzi of Fortuny), Cole Porter, Peggy Guggenheim, Babe Paley, Madeline Castaing, Van Day Truex, Frances Elkins, Syrie Maugham, Rose Tarlow, Cary Grant, Axel Vervoordt, Billy Haines, John F. Staub, Andrew Palladio, Le Notre and Sir John Soane.

But let me also say that probably the most consistent, constant, and accessible style icons to me: Lloyd Clark Byrd and Marilyn Tillery Kutner, my grandmothers.

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
There are too many to name. I think collaboration is crucial. We’re all doing it all the time, and we need more of it. I get to collaborate with the most amazing architects, contractors, engineers, lighting designers, landscape designers, artisans, craftspeople, and on and on. It is one of my key statements—there is no good design without creative synergy. The more the better.

The key for me is never thinking that my work is about me in the final analysis. I am a channel, a participant, between a client and a place, between the place and Nature, bringing people and their environments into harmonious, natural, and essential relationships with each other.

There has to be a lot of collaboration to make that happen. My dream is to have a design version of Warhol’s Factory. Having said all that - sure, I have design crushes on lots of people, but that wasn’t your question!

What books are currently on your bedside table?
I love to read and I love this question! There is a permanent collection and a rotating one (granted this requires some floor space under the bed).

I am preparing for a three week trip trip Asia, so the rotating collection features a bit about that: Beyond the Sky and Earth: A Journey Into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa; Angkor and Cambodia’s Wondrous Temples by Dawn Rooney; The Blessings of Bhutan by Russ and Blyth Carpenter; Bangkok Day by Day by Frommer’s; Gone Tomorrow by P.F. Kluge (my writing professor at Kenyon!); Cradle to Cradle by McDonough and Braungart; Eros the Bittersweet by Ann Carson; Jane Goodall’s Hope for Animals, and The Art of Embroidery by Ianto Synge.

And the permanent collection, those that are always there and with which I often travel, comprises: Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letter’s to a Young Poet, inscribed and given to me by a best friend in college on my 19th birthday; The Dhamapada, Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield, Rose Tarlow’s The Private House, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. And my own book, a notebook with jottings and sketches, reflections and perceptions. You can see why I recently bought a Kindle!

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Good hotels. And I mean, really good hotels. Of which I have found very, very few in my travels. It is a dream of mine to do a really good boutique hotel. I think that has to be part of the syllabus for the next phase of my design career.

What is your idea of earthly happiness
Enjoyment without attachment. All of the people I love in one place at one time. Note the inner conflict!

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
I think that absolutely has to be my mother, Liza Byrd Kutner. Hats off, Mom!

What inspires your creativity and designs?
Nature. I could say any number of other things and they would be true: sun rising or setting over water or mountains, the first ski run of the morning or the last beach swim of the afternoon, Turkish mosaics and Venetian fabrics, Buddhist temples at Borobodur and Catholic churches in Chartres, rice paddies in Bali and salt ponds in the Yucatan, great ballgowns and good jewelry, art, music, food. But it always goes back to Nature for me. The good news is I never have to look far to get inspired. My problem is not so much finding inspiration, but finding enough ways to put the all inspiration to use!

Profile by Ronda Carman
Photo (1) Alexandra Rowley; Photo (2) Chris Baker; Photo (3) Chris Baker; Photo (4) Barry FItzgerald; Photo (5) Jan Baldwin; Photo (6) Barry Fitzgerald; Photo (7) Malcolm James Kutner

Sunday, April 25

En Route to Houston

After being grounded by volcanic ash I am finally on my way to Houston for two fun events on April 26th and April 27th .

On April 26th I will be at Tory Burch in the Galleria from 6pm - 8pm. Come for shopping, conversation and cocktails. Of course you are welcome to bring a friend, and everyone will receive a 20% discount on all full-priced merchandise. You can RSVP in the comment section of the blog or send an email to

On April 27th there will be an exciting panel discussion at the Decorative Center Houston hosted by The Editor at Large from 3pm - 4pm. It will be moderated by Sophie Donelson, and is open to the public. The same panel at WestWeek was standing room only and the conversations were most interesting and very informative. The panel will include:

· Ronda Carman, founder of All the Best Blog

· Brad Ford, designer and founder of Design Therapy

· Jilllian St. Charles, vice president and site director,

· Joni Webb, designer and founder of Cote de Texas

Friday, April 23

House Tour: Ken Fulk

When I was last in San Francisco I had the fun privilege of spending time with the dazzling and decadent designer Ken Fulk. Scot Meacham Wood and I joined Ken at his home/office for a glass of bubbly before heading out to dinner.

When my cab first pulled up in front of the nondescript building I had no idea what to expect. In fact, the cab driver asked twice if it were at the right address. Certainly, nothing could have prepared me for the fabulousness that lurked behind the brick façade. Perhaps my only clue was the Oscar Wilde quotation, "Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination,"emblazoned across a window.

Located in the SOMA district of San Francisco, the first floor of the sprawling building serves as office space for Ken and his design staff, with his living quarters on the top floor. Layered with interesting objects, art, texture and color, it would be difficult to describe fully without images. Luckily Ken was gracious enough to send me photos to share with you. Enjoy and happy weekend!

Thursday, April 22

Peter Som + SFERRA

I am so excited that I can finally share this announcement with all of you! SFERRA and Peter Som have come together in a wonderful collaboration. To celebrate this new partnership, Som will design SFERRA's space at the Design on a Dime benefit event at Housing Works in New York City this May and the full collection is expected to hit stores January 2011.

Here is the Press Release:
"Style and substance can and should be married when it comes to relaxation. Through this partnership we have created with Peter Som, we aim to expand our clientele by reaching the fashion-conscious consumer who carries an effortless elegance and allure," says Aaron Stewart, Creative Director for SFERRA.

"Fashion and interiors go hand-in-hand so I am thrilled to be partnering with SFERRA. Their tradition of using only the finest materials and exquisite detailing is thoroughly inspiring. I used many of my signature prints from my runway collections as the beginnings of this collaboration. Now my customer can be outfitted from head to toe and from bed to tabletop," says Peter Som.

Som's approach to reinterpret the tradition of great American sportswear in his ready-to-wear line has influenced the design of his first bedding collection with SFERRA. Som worked with Stewart to establish a fresh point of view inspired by unstudied elegance and whimsical appeal, while keeping with the unsurpassed quality and stunning Egyptian cotton that defines the SFERRA brand. The collection will be printed in Italy at one of the world's most renowned print houses.

"Peter and I both love home and are thrilled to partner with SFERRA for this special collaboration. Their brand is a wonderful counterpart to ours and we are very excited about the partnership," adds CEO and business partner Elana Posner.

"I've always admired Peter's talent, but his recent runway show was perhaps the best I have ever attended," comments SFERRA President Paul Hooker. "That sealed the deal for me."

Monday, April 19

Profile: Tory Burch

It is hard to imagine that Tory Burch needs an introduction, or that I could possibly do one justice. I have been enamored with Tory’s natural beauty and style ever since she graced the cover of Town & Country in December 2000. Every year I still pull out my well-worn copy when I am in need of Christmas inspiration.

After working in public relations for Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang, Tory launched her first store in New York in 2004. Even after learning of her clothing line, I would still reference her (in my mind) as “the woman from Town & Country.”

Much has changed since 2004; Tory now operates 20 boutiques and sells to 450 stores, such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. And, while the brand and name have grown, there is a constant that remains the same—her impeccable sense of style. Not just fashion, but interiors, travel and entertaining. When you read the Tory Burch blog you quickly realized that Tory Burch (the person) encompasses the whole lifestyle.

Like so many others, I was delighted when Tina Barney and Tory recently collaborated on the Tory Burch spring ad campaign. From the moment that I saw the photos, I felt it was a match made in heaven. Barney, best known for remarkable documentation of lifestyles and relationships, captured the Tory Burch lifestyle beautifully. But perhaps, it is Tory’s and Tina’s refusal to give into predictably, without sacrificing creativity, that I most admire.

What one fact about you would people be most surprised to learn?
Most people don’t know that I’m superstitious. I’m not obsessive about it but, for instance, I carry a red ribbon for good luck in my bag whenever I travel. It’s a tradition my great grandmother started.

Who are your style icons?
My parents. So much of what I do stems from their influence when I was a young girl. I have vivid memories of watching them get ready for evenings out. My mother always styled her gowns so personally and beautifully. My father was incredibly dapper. He used to line his dinner jackets with Hermès scarves.

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
I would love to do something philanthropic with Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation. They has given so much back to the community and have set up incredible organizations that are really making a difference at the community level, where change begins.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
My family—everything else is superfluous.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

I’m as happy as my children are happy. If they’re happy and doing well, that’s what matters most to me.

Past or present, who has most influenced your direction in life?
My parents. They set a great example for my brothers and me in every aspect of life, from the importance of education to being the best role model for my children to how we treat others.

Who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day?
I would love to spend a day with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have read all of his books and short stories—several times each.

What inspires your creativity?
I find inspiration in so many things—art, music, travel, photographs of my parents in the 60s and 70s traveling in Morocco and Greece. My design team and I are always pushing each other to do more and explore new things, which is always a great motivation.

How would you describe your personal style
My roots are in classic American sportswear but with an eclectic, slightly tomboy edge.

What is your most prized possession
A sunflower pendant my father gave my grandmother. It’s the inspiration for the Tory Burch Foundation logo, and something that holds great meaning for me.

You Are Invited
I will be at the Houston Tory Burch Boutique in Galleria I on Monday, April 26. Please come by to say hello and have a glass of bubbly if you can! It is from 6:00pm - 8:00pm and everyone will receive 20% off all full price merchandise. You can RSVP in the comment section of the blog or send an email to ( Happy Shopping!

Profile by Ronda Carman

Sunday, April 18

Soup on Sunday: Creamy Dutch Mustard

Last week during my layover in Amsterdam I had the most delicious and unusual soup—cream of mustard (or Zaanse Mosterdsoep). Certainly this is a new one for me, but mustard soup has a long tradition in Holland. I started looking for recipes to recreate this at home, and found a delicious vegan version. It’s really quite simple and healthy too, as it is creamy without using cream. For a more decedent version you could always add crème fraiche.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
1 leek, thinly sliced
1/2 small celery root, diced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 bottle dry white wine
6 cups vegetable stock
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons coarse, ground mustard*
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
fresh rosemary sprig
fresh thyme sprig
sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add all vegetables and sauté until soft, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and allowing to cook evenly. Add the flour and mix well. Pour in the wine and stir it for a few minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a low boil.

Add the thyme, rosemary and fennel seeds and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the Dijon and ground mustard, simmering an additional 15-20 minutes. Remove rosemary and thyme and puree soup in batches. Push the pureed soup through a fine sieve to create a very smooth soup. Rewarm soup if needed. Serve hot with crusty bread.

*This is traditionally made with mustard from the Zaan. Any mustard with whole mustard seeds will work well too.

Serves 4

Saturday, April 17

Design Leadership Summit 2010

I am still on a high from the last few days in Venice. If the city alone were not intoxicating enough, I had the wonderful privilege of spending time with 200 of the top US architects and designers. The Design Leadership Summit is an invitation-only event hosted each year by Peter Sallick, Keith Granet and Meg Touborg. First held in 2003, it brings together a community of design leaders for the purpose of learning, support and inspiration.

It goes without saying that being a speaker on a panel with Michael Bruno, Jill Cohen, Stephen Drucker and Giulio Capua was amazing. But to hear Nicky Haslam, Axel Vervoordt and Matteo Marzotto speak was simply astounding. Combine the fantastic speakers with a dinner at the historic Palazzo Corner Spinelli that houses the beautiful Rubelli Collection, a cocktail reception at the The Peggy Guggenheim Collection hosted by Director Philip Rylands, a cocktail reception at the breathtaking Fortuny Gardens and a dinner at the Fortuny Museum hosted by The Riad Family and it would not be an understatement to say that it was beyond my wildest dreams.

The panel sessions and talks were inspiring and very informative—ranging from How to Develop Social Media Strategies for your Business to Insights and Outlook for Affluent Consumer Purchase Behavior. I am working to get the notes on some of these to share with all of you.

A huge thank you to Peter Sallick, Meg Touborg and Dana-Christine Colla of Design Investors and Keith Granet of Granet and Associates for inviting me to the Design Leadership Summit in Venice. You all are the best. I have posted more photos on

A special thank you to the Venetian fabric house Rubelli for hosting our Sunday night dinner at their beautiful palazzo.

The lovely Amy Lau, Paul Hooker; President of SFERRA and Aaron Stewart; Creative Director for SFERRA

One of the highlights of the trip was meeting so many interesting and talented people. One of my favorites was Malcolm James Kutner - my new best friend and design crush.

For me, the most magical moment was the cocktail reception at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The collection is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, an unfinished 18th century palazzo which was never built past the ground floor level. The courtyards between the main buildings act as sculpture gardens.

The 1948 bronze "The Angel of the City" by Marino Marini is positioned at the front of the palazzo, facing the Grand Canal. It is rumoured that this nude originally possessed a screw-in, erect penis so that it could be removed in order to avoid offending VIPs. This may very well be an urban myth, and I would love to hear from any of you who know more about Marino Marini’s work.

Fortuny hosted a cocktail party in their gardens before dinner at the Fortuny Museum. The weather was absolutely perfect!

The attire for the evening was cocktail chic and for the men scarves were all the rage. Don't they all look sharp!

The newly renovated Fortuny headquarters. The interiors were recently designed by Barry Dixon in collaboration with the Riad Brothers Mickey and Maury.

One of my favorite people in the world, the brilliant Brad Ford.

Two super talents Brooke Giannetti and Darryl Carter

Heading to the Fortuny Museum to hear Axel Vervoordt speak, followed by a private dinner. It felt a bit like being on a pilgrimage. A bittersweet end to a perfect few days.

Tuesday, April 13

Updates Coming Soon...

Sorry for not posting in a few days, it has been a wonderfully busy few days in Venice. So many amazing speakers and talented attendees - I am in awe. I have heard so many interesting panel discussions, and hope to recap a few on All the Best later this week. This morning I am speaking on a panel with Jill Cohen, Michael Bruno and Stephen Drucker talking about the changing face of media. It should be very enlightening. I will post more photos tomorrow.
All the best,

Saturday, April 10

Off to Venice

Tomorrow I am off to Venice for The Design Leadership Summit. DLS is an annual event hosted by Peter Sallick and Meg Touborg of Design Investors and Keith Granet of Granet & Associates. This amazing event is dedicated to inspiring community and improving business practices amongst accomplished design professionals. Discussions on leadership, people management, business strategy and media marketing are the backbone of this event. And, while I am thrilled to be speaking, nothing comes close to my anticipation of hearing the keynote address tomorrow night by Nicholas Haslam and a dinner at the Fortuny Museum featuring keynote speaker Axel Vervoordt. You can follow me on Twitter, or look for photos on All the Best Portfolio.

Friday, April 9

Thank You Mrs. Howard

Thank you to everyone who attended the SFERRA party at Mrs. Howard in Atlanta. And a HUGE thank you to Leah Kennelly for all of your help and to Phoebe and Jim Howard for hosting!

I have been a big fan of Jim and Phoebe’s phenomenal work for a several years, and seeing it in person is better than any photo. Both have become widely recognized in the design world, and their work is synonymous with inviting, yet sophisticated Southern style.

The three-story building that houses Mrs. Howard is designed to look like a home, with each room offering a distinct look. The attention to every single detail in each room is astounding. Mrs. Howard was the ideal location for the SFERRA Lose Count event—truly a perfect pairing. Phoebe’s bedrooms are sheer perfection—refined, tranquil, and always dreamy!

If you are in Atlanta, you must stop by and see for yourself. You can also, visit their other locations. Not only will you love Mrs. Howard the store, you will also love Phoebe. Her sense of humor and honesty are both fun and refreshing. You can see more photos on All the Best Portfolio.

Leah Kennelly (soon to be mom) with Phoebe and Jim Howard