Wednesday, June 30

Profile: Geoffrey Bradfield

Functional opulence, purposeful whimsy, modern art and high tech accessories are all key to Geoffrey Bradfield’s sui generis style.

The South African born designer was a well-established in Johannesburg before moving to New York City in the late 1970s. Initially he worked with the legendary McMillen, Inc. and later as long-time partner of the late Jay Spectre.

Geoffrey has an undeniable talent for capturing the imagination and creating urbane interiors that are lavish, daring, contemporary and sumptuous. Where he truly excels is the orchestration of surprise. The unusual and quirky elements of his rooms never seem overplayed or trite. A perfect example is his Millennium Modern line of furniture, reinventions of traditional forms in Lucite.

His work has appeared in the pages of every leading design magazine including Architectural Digest, Interior Design, Elle Decor, Veranda, Classic Home, House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home and The New York Times. Of course, I was most impressed by his appearance on CNN's Style with Elsa Klensch!

His roster of projects and clients is equally impressive. Geoffrey’s firm played a role in the design overhaul of the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney estate in Old Westbury, Long Island and the restoration of the late King Hussein's mansion in Maryland. Recently he completed a project for director Oliver Stone's New York residence.

Geoffrey’s answers to my questions are fun and most fitting. They made me smile (and laugh) on more than one occasion.

How would you describe your personal style?
I am a modernist and the use of contemporary art is a significant ingredient in my signature style.

What inspires your creativity and designs
To some extent, the Art Moderne period of the 1940s. But, it does go far beyond that. I am very intrigued with the advent of technology.

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
Aesthetically, Le Courbusier from the past. Lifestyle, Mr. Henry Mcilhenny of Philadelphia and Ireland. Spiritually, the Reverend Canon David Painter

What books are currently on your bedside table
Dominick Dunne's Too Much Money and Lady Colin Campbell's Empress Bianca

What is your most prized possession?
Mr. Willoughby, my Yorkshire Terrier

Who are your style icons?
Le Courbusier, Jean-Michel Frank & Gilbert Poillerat

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
Renzo Piano

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
My Bentley Continental Flying Spur and my driver Carlos

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
Aesthetically, Le Courbusier from the past. Lifestyle, Mr. Henry Mcilhenny of Philadelphia and Ireland. Spiritually, the Reverend Canon David Painter

What is your favorite luxury in life?
A kilogram of beluga caviar and an extra-dry vodka martini from La Grenouille

What is your idea of earthly happiness
Do you want the truth? In which case, a good roll in the hay. Or, the sanitized version, Saturdays with no prior commitments.

Profile by Ronda Carman

Sunday, June 27

Visit the Private Garden of Michael Devine

Visit the Private Garden of Designer Michael Devine
10 Broad Street Kinderhook, New York

Refreshments, Live Music & Gardening Tips
July 3rd, July 31st & September 4th
10:00am - 1:00pm (rain or shine)
Admission $10

Your contribution will help to purchase a bike rack
for Kinderhook's Village square.

For more information visit

Wednesday, June 23

Away on Business

I will be away this week on business. I have several great profiles to post when I return, including the lovely Lisa Fine, fashion designer Peter Som and interior designer Geoffrey Bradfield.

Sunday, June 20

Happy Father's Day

My mother and father (1968)

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, and most of all my wonderful father and husband. Both are men whom I love and admire. And, no question, their love and encouragement have profoundly shaped my life.

I owe much to my father. He is one of those remarkable people who is inquisitive, quietly confident, and can bring people together from all walks of life. He also possesses an amazing entrepreneurial mindset, a skill that I was fortunate to witness as a child. Certainly he has taught me much in terms of seeing opportunities and believing in dreams. Thank you Dad.

Friday, June 18

Profile: Matthew White

Having known Matthew White for a few years, and after reading the introduction to Italy of My Dreams, I wanted to find just the right words to describe the breadth of his character. Without a doubt, he is one the most charming, humble and talented people I have come across in recent years. So, when words failed me, I went back to a story that Matthew originally wrote for the September-October 2007 issue of Southern Accents.

I have linked to the article for you to read. Every time that I read his words I choke back tears. It is a wonderful reminder that the richness of our existence comes from finding and appreciating beauty in our everyday life.

How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is steeped in history and clearly influenced by Italy, but always has elements of wit. I’m not a fan of design that takes itself to seriously.

What is your most prized possession?
I’d say my sanity, but that would be a stretch! The carved wood Monkey once owned by Billy Baldwin has a deep, personal meaning for me on many levels. I first saw it it his book, Billy Baldwin Decorates. That book changed my life.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
A day without email, at home with my dog in my lap

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
Great food. And chocolate, but that’s redundant.

What inspires your creativity and designs
Great architecture is a huge inspiration, also travel, gardens and art.

Who are your style icons?
Billy Baldwin, Rudolph Nureyev, Palladio, George Balanchine

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project
Anyone with a palazzo in Venice (as long as they are nice).

What books are currently on your bedside table?
The Edith Wharton biography
Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice

What is your favorite luxury in life?
A Bellini at the Cipriani in Venice on a perfect summer day.

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life
As a child—my parents, and my piano and ballet teachers.
As an adult—an army of dear souls who have mentored and encouraged me.

Profile by Ronda Carman

Photos From Italy of my Dreams
Photographs by Art Grey
Copyright © 2010 Pointed Leaf Press, LLC

Wednesday, June 16

Italy of My Dreams

I know that most of you are like me when it comes to books—you are running out of room and running the risk of being crushed by the ever-growing stacks. However, I highly recommend that you try and squeeze one more on the shelf. Italy of My Dreams: The Story of an American Designer's Real Life Passion for Italian Style (Pointed Leaf Press) is an awe-inspiring glimpse into the private world of interior designer (and fellow Texan) Matthew White.

Italy of My Dreams is a study of classical Italian style in contemporary settings. With nearly two hundred pages of beautiful photos and heartfelt recollections, Matthew takes the reader on a visual journey from his childhood in Amarillo, to his first, life-changing trip to Venice and, finally, the development of his deep personal connection with the art and architecture of Italy. Each project detailed in the book is one that Matthew not only designed, but has also called home.

While in Venice I attended Matthew’s fascinating book lecture. His passion for the subject is evident not only in the pages of this book, but in the way he lives his life and the organizations he supports. His celebration of Italian style is both intimate and inspirational.

Tomorrow I will have a Q&A profile with Matthew.

Tuesday, June 15

Profile: Ginger Brewton

After a five-year absence, I was delighted when House Beautiful brought back the "Next Wave" of designers in its December/January issue. A few names that previously made the coveted roster include Nate Berkus, Ruthie Sommers and Laura Kirar.

One designer who I was happy to see named to the list is Charlestonian Ginger Brewton. Founder of GBI, a full service residential and commercial design firm, Ginger has a knack for combining traditional elegance with understated sophistication. With a keen eye and unbridled passion for creating beautiful interiors, I don’t think that this is the last we will hear of Ginger. I am looking forward to seeing much more of her work.

How would you describe your personal style?
I definitely love a transitional space - mixing old and new, the ying balanced by the yang, layers, textures... I don’t believe in my personal space looking like it is from one specific time period. I want it to look evolved over time from the things I have collected. Buying antiques and updating them with a modern funky fabric and lacquer paint; or simply mixing antiques with more modern pieces and art. I don’t like a space to look too harsh and sterile either – your home always needs to be a comfortable place to come home to.

What is your most prized possession
A ring my mother gave me that I wear every day.

What inspires your creativity and designs?
A number of things inspire me but travel has a lot to do with my inspiration – seeing new patterns, textures, materials; and experiencing new cultures. I’m inspired daily by my surroundings, people I meet, colors I see. The logo I created when I first started my company came from iron work I came across driving down the street. Inspiration is endless, you just have to open your eyes and look around.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
In The Pink – Dorothy Draper
Edith Wharton’s The Decoration of Houses
The Home Within Us by Bobby McAlpine & Susan Sully
The New Traditional by Darryl Carter
The Travel Book - A Journey Through Every Country In The World
My Bible

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Time and travel!

Who are your style icons?
Carolina Herrara, Kelly Weartsler, Phoebe Howard, Mary McDonald, Albert Hadley

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
Without a doubt my mother. She has always supported me and has the best heart of any person I have ever known. I remember when I called her crying my first month in NYC because I did not know anyone and I wanted to quit and come home. She convinced me to stay, which turned out to be the best experience of my life. She has an elegance and beauty about her that she doesn’t even realize.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
My family

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project
Kelly Wearstler. She has impeccable taste and attention to detail.

What is your idea of earthly happiness
Good health, being surrounded by those you love and being able to give back.

Sunday, June 13

Salad on Sunday: Frisee, Wild Mushroom and Poached Egg

As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of eggs. However, I have discovered that I actually like eggs with my salad. Certainly Lyonnaise and Niçoise salads are great examples of this wonderful pairing. This mushroom version of the classic French Lyonnaise would be perfect for Sunday brunch.

1 1/2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms (morels, oyster, and crimini), thickly sliced
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Coarse kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
6 large eggs
2 small heads of frisée (about 9 ounces), torn into small clumps
Crispy pancetta (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place mushrooms in large bowl. Toss with 4 tablespoons oil. Scatter mushrooms on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Roast until tender, stirring occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool up to 2 hours.

Pour 2 inches of water into large skillet. Place large bowl of additional cool water near stovetop. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and generous sprinkling of coarse salt to skillet. Bring water to simmer over medium heat. Crack eggs, 1 at a time, into skillet (whites may spread). Simmer until whites are cooked through and yolks are still soft, occasionally spooning water over, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer eggs to bowl of cool water.

To make dressing, whisk remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in another large bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Add frisée and mushrooms and toss to coat. Divide salad among plates. Top each salad with poached egg and crispy pancetta. Serve with crusty bread.

Beautiful Photo by Heather Christo

Friday, June 11

Hope Star Pendant Winner

Congratulations to Colleen who writes the blog North of 25 A. Elizabeth will be sending you the sterling silver Hope Star pendant with a white sapphire. Elizabeth designed the Hope Star Jewelry Collection to benefit two eating disorder charities, National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and The Elisa Project.

Thursday, June 10

Profile: Stephanie Wohlner

As I mentioned yesterday, I love the relationships that often develop from writing All the Best. Just last month, after writing a profile on Frank Ponterio, I received an email from his friend Stephanie Wohlner—a fellow Chicago designer. The name was vaguely familiar to me, so I had a quick glance at her website. Looking through her impressive portfolio I found a photo of her work from Traditional Home (November 2004). This particular room has been a favorite of mine for years. Stephanie’s quote, printed across the pages of the 2004 article, “Symmetry promotes serenity,” has always stuck in my mind.

Excited to have made the connection, I picked up the phone and called Stephanie. Without a doubt, she is as charming and interesting as the interiors she creates. I am most fond of the way that she mixes periods and textures to create looks that are modern, yet warm, inviting and sophisticated.

A graduate of Harrington School of Design, her work has appeared in many publications including as House Beautiful, Better Homes & Gardens, Traditional Home, Renovation Style and The Chicago Sun-Times. Currently, she is working to complete a project at the renowned 15 Central Park West in New York City. That is one project that I would certainly love to see.

The room from Traditional Home that I have loved for so many years!

How would you describe your personal style?
My style is classic, livable, layered and soulful. At the same time, as reflected by my choice of Hugh Newell Jacobson as a style icon, I enjoy and respect the modern classic as well as traditional. I love mixing vintage with new to achieve depth. I also like to wear Bakelite jewelry and vintage accessories with crisp, white linen or grey cashmere to make ordinary, edgy.

What inspires your creativity and designs?
My primary inspiration comes from nature and natural materials. When I look at my garden I see colors that work together naturally. When I travel I see design in a fresh and new way. I am always inspired by the contrasts and differences.

What is your most prized possession?
My most prized possession(s) is my family photos, of which there are many in my house. The faces of the people that bring me the most joy always surround me.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
As a mother, I cannot live without my three children. Along with them, my husband. He is my best friend.

Who are your style icons?
Ralph Lauren
Jeanne Marie Lanvin
Jackie Kennedy
David Adler
Hugh Newell Jacobson

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
H.N. Jacobson, I.M. Pei or Robert A.M. Stern; they would be able to create the ideal space in which I could achieve my most fulfilling designs.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
Numerous shelter magazines
Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
Little Bee by Chris Cleave

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Travel and staying in the world's finest hotels. I enjoy great service in beautiful places.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
To laugh often, to love much and to be there for others when I am needed.

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
My mother most contributed to my direction in life overall, as everything that she touches becomes beautiful. However, my life's circumstances have influenced where I am today.

Wednesday, June 9

House & Garden 1984: The Victoria Family

I relish the connections that are fostered from writing a blog. Yesterday, after Susan Adler Sobol left a comment about the Victoria's family apartment featured in House & Garden, I knew that I had to get in touch with Freddy once again.

Susan wrote, "My familiarity with the Victoria family began about 30 years ago through the pages of House Beautiful and House & Garden. I must have one of these articles from the 1980's filed away somewhere that has delightful photographs of Freddy and his sister in their parent's exquisite apartment. How wonderful that he is now bringing his own sensibility to the family business. I feel as if I watched this young man grow up."

Luckily, Tony Victoria (Freddy's father) dug through their our old press files and found what they believe to be The H&G article to which Susan referred. What a fun look at the opulent 80s. Enjoy.

Frederick P. Victoria, founder of Frederick P. Victoria & Son, Inc., in the same room as above in 1975.

Tuesday, June 8

Profile: Freddy Victoria

Freddy Victoria is one of the most innovative (and nicest) people in the fine luxury home furnishings and design business. Grandson of Frederick P. Victoria, founder of Frederick P. Victoria & Son, Inc., he is making a big mark on the world of Decorative Arts and custom made reproductions.

A family company known for dealing in unusual 18th century Western European Decorative Arts, especially those from France, they have a rich and wonderful history. It was during the 1940s that Frederick P. Victoria first began to employ very gifted full time draftsmen to produce full size plans of every unusual piece that came through his doors.

As a young boy in the 1980s, Freddy (grandson and namesake) spent many afternoons at the family business watching cabinet-makers precisely turn a piece of lumber into a work of art. One memorable summer was spent cataloging and organizing his father’s art library. Wall-to-ceiling worth of books, varying from small to enormous leather bound tomes (in several different languages), awaited organization. It was Freddy’s first glimpse into what went into creating the many pieces that he had long taken for granted.

Initially taking a different path from that of his family, Freddy attended the University of Southern California. Earning degrees in Economics and International Relations, punctuated by periods abroad in Tokyo, Florence, and the Middle East, he began working at a macro-economic Wall Street research firm.

With thoughts turning to his family, his father Tony approached him about joining the family firm. “I jumped at the chance,” he recalls, “I was particularly attracted to the design aspect of the firm’s custom work.” Other than summers spent in the workshops of the firm’s old 55th street location, cataloging its design library, he had no formal training in decorative arts.

Looking to gain a greater knowledge and education, he embarked on a yearlong study at Christie’s in London. In London, he was exposed not only to Adams, Chippendale, Soane, Hope; but also the contemporary studios of East London, Spitalfields, The White Cube, The Tate Modern, and the Design Museum. He was particularly interested in the individual craftsmanship of William Morris and industrial designer Christopher Dresser.

Freddy now leads business development for Frederick P. Victoria & Son, Inc., and focuses on the 1200+ design library and craftsmanship for which the firm is well known.

Most recently they completed a custom project for their client Albert Hadley—a grand, king size, four-poster bed based on a designs from their Design Library. Each bedpost is made up of a cluster of 4 faux bamboo trees, with matching faux bamboo molding along the headboard and the bed rails.

It was 20 years ago that Frederick P. Victoria & Son, Inc. last created this particular bed design. The actual fabrication was done in NYC by local craftspeople. The bed was so large, and the posts so tall (about 9.5′ tall), that the only space to accommodate the creation was the communal hallway outside their office. True craftsmanship at its best.

How would you describe your personal style?
Evolving. My influences range from anime to C.R. MacIntosh, Japanese Tea Gardens to Christopher Dresser, pop culture to Brunelleschi – I know there is a theme there, but I’m still figuring out what it is exactly. I guess one general goal of mine would be to find the right style balance between traditional and contemporary so that you end up with something classic, which will stand the test of time.

What is your most prized possession
This is a tough question! I would have to say, that while I don’t have a single specific prized possession, I do have a few heirlooms from both my father’s and mother’s side of the family. Small things really, but most are unique items that just mean a lot to us and we hope to keep in the family.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without
Well, I have been studying karate since I was a kid and I still manage to train about 2 times a week. Without that I would probably go insane, or at least drive everyone around me insane. I really enjoy being able to tune everything out for an hour or 2 and focus on the training.

Who are your style icons?
While there are some like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, I would add my grandfather, Frederick, to that list. But I’m also interested by William Morris and Christopher Dresser, who you might not call style icons, but were contemporaries in the same industry and both struggled with the dilemma of craft versus mass appeal, with very different approaches.

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
Well, I would really enjoy creating something with someone that is outside our field. Say, a fashion designer or a jeweler for example. Something like a graphic designer or tattoo artist could be fun too. To mix the two crafts into something unique and special would be exciting.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
Business Cycles by Joseph Schumpeter
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Scandal of Syrie Maugham by Gerald McKnight
The Triumph of the Baroque by Henry A. Millon

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Definitely traveling. Either on a budget or in the lap of luxury, I love being able to explore new places and cultures. My wife’s family live in Cape Town and I particularly like to go visit them down there.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Grilling after a day at the beach. Whether it’s in Long Island or Cape Town, just being making some good food, outside on a fire with cold drinks and with my wife is the best.

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
I bet you hear this a lot, but my parents, Tony and Susan. Stylistically, they are sort of “yin and yang;” one being more whimsical and the other more classic. But from both I have learned the importance of craft and the appeal of uniqueness. Attention to detail and craft are the starting points of the value people place on things. They both have a very well trained eye for style and each is different. I didn’t always understand what they saw in certain pieces, but that has changed and I am learning a bit more each day.

Profile by Ronda Carman

Sunday, June 6

Salad on Sunday: Arugula, Fennel, Grapefruit and Crab

Even in this much milder climate in which I live, I find my thoughts turning from soups to salads. My friend Christina Juarez sent me a salad version of last week’s soup that she was inspired to create—yum!

8 cups lightly packed baby or tender arugula
Fennel bulb, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise as thinly as possible
Ruby red grapefruit slices
Avocado slices
Crab meat

½ cup olive oil
¼ Fresh lime juice
¼ Ruby red grapefruit juice freshly squeezed
Black pepper

To make salad: In a large bowl, gently combine arugula, fennel, grapefruit, avocado and vinaigrette. Toss gently and season with salt and pepper if desired. Top each salad with crab.

To make vinaigrette:
Whisk everything together and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Saturday, June 5

Are You on Twitter?

If you are on Twitter, please let me know. You can follow me @allthebestblog and I will follow you back. Just another way to keep the conversation going in another form.

Friday, June 4

Profile: Elizabeth Showers

One glance at jewelry designer Elizabeth Showers’s blissful collection and it is obvious that she inherited her mother’s eye for color. Beautiful shades of azure, turquoise, pale green and lemon reign supreme. Elizabeth began her creative journey at her grandmother’s kitchen table. “I have such great memories of being with my grandmother. I can remember at age 5 making clay leaf necklaces spray-painted gold with hand-painted ornaments.”

Prior to launching her jewelry collection Elizabeth struggled with an eating disorder. She entered recovery from anorexia at age 20 and soon rediscovered her creative passion while taking jewelry-making classes. Eager to reengage in a creative endeavor Elizabeth began selling her semi-precious jewels to friends. Once she formally embarked on her new career, Neiman Marcus launched her first major collection.

Passionate that women should feel as beautiful on the inside as they do the outside, she created her company logo in the shape of a star. “Hope Star” is the symbol she now places on almost all of her jewelry to serve as a reminder that women should feel beautiful every day.

Elizabeth designed the Hope Star Jewelry Collection to benefit two eating disorder charities, National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and The Elisa Project. Today she is an ambassador for the two eating disorder awareness organizations and a member of The Dallas Museum of Art. You can find Elizabeth’s designs online and through regional retailers. You can also see her new sterling silver jewelry collection on QVC.

Elizabeth is graciously giving away one sterling silver Hope Star pendant with white sapphire to an All the Best reader. Simply leave a comment and one reader will be selected next week.

How would you describe your personal style?
Simple, easy and fun. I am not fussy (well, except when it comes to messing with my hair).

What inspires your creativity and designs?
Bold colors especially turquoise. I also love unusual architecture and art. I am creatively inspired by travel. I absolutely love to travel especially to foreign countries—Thailand, Spain, Italy, South Africa and Botswana are some of my favorites. My two of my favorite places in the US are Orcas Island and New York. Meditation, yoga and kickboxing put me into creative mode as well!! And of course my mom [Jan Showers] will always be a huge source of inspiration.

What is your most prized possession?
My Pug-Lab-Boxer-Mastiff-Mix Mutt dog, Whitney. However I don't think she is really a possession. Truthfully, I think she possesses me. I also adore my chocolate brown 50th anniversary-edition Mini Cooper with it's incredible toffee colored leather interior, turquoise stitching and white piping—when I drive it, I feel like a kid playing in a go-cart.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without
My best friends

Who are your style icons?
Grace Kelly, Kate Winslet (I love how comfortable she is in her beautiful womanly body), Jennifer Garner (I sometimes want to be Sydney Bristow, her Alias character), Tina Fey in all her hilarious glory; my maternal grandmother of whom I called "Mom," and my real mom of course!

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
IT'S A TIE: 1) Tina Fey and her team of writers; 2) I would love to do a project with Kenneth Cole. I love his passion for developing public awareness around important humanitarian movements. He is definitely a great role model in my industry. He inspires me to use my Hope Star/feel beautiful message in an even bigger way.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett and loved it!
Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton
Next by Michael Crichton
The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity by Edwene Gaines
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

What is your favorite luxury in life
Being able to make choices! And, escaping to a great movie, especially when it's TEXAS HOT outside. For the great movie "luxury" I can either be alone or holding hands with the cute man I am dating (like teenagers in the back row).

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Laughing and hanging out with my best friends for a fun weekend getaway!

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
It's a toss-up between the following: my parents, my sister Susanna, my maternal grandparents, my nanny Willie from my childhood and my dog Whitney for her unconditional love.