Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Homes and Gardens, February 2010

If you’ve been reading this blog you know that I am fond of traditional Japanese rooms.  Those rooms usually take cues for color from the exterior surroundings as well as the interior.  If there is a view of the garden the greenery and blooms will be reflected in the color choices for furnishings.  Living in a Baltimore row house,  I see neutrals outside of my windows.  Asphalt, concrete, and varying shades of brick from brown to yellow; steel, wire and mostly gray skies.  These neutral rooms represent that urban landscape palette.

Loft Life, March 2009

Loft Life, March 2009

Loft Life, March 2009

Living Etc. June 2008

Canadian House & Home TV

Living Etc. April 2009


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I love artists’ homes.  Brooklynite Zach Motl’s tiny place is featured in the February 10, Home and Garden Section of the NYT.  Zach is a designer  but he clearly doesn’t give a hoot about any of the design rules.  Maybe it’s because he studied sculpture?  The small one room apartment is filled with stuff, and color.  That sofa!   The studio looks comfortable and fun and surprisingly uncluttered.  You can check out the article and more pics here.  Photos by Robert Wright for the New York Times.  More fabulous photos can be found at Zach’s webite.

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Teenie Harris for the Pittsburgh Courier

The best advice I’ve received regarding filling your home with art–always buy things that hold some history for you. The photograph above is my very first art purchase– a  Teenie Harris photograph taken of a line up at the Hill District police station in Pittsburgh, PA.  My first job out of college was working in the classified section of the New Pittsburgh Courier, formerly the Pittsburgh Courier.  The paper is America’s oldest black newspaper.  Harris was a fellow Pittsburgher and took photos for the Courier from 1936-1975.  The year Mr. Harris died, I interviewed him and sculptor Thad Mosley for a piece in the Pittsburgh City Paper.  The two worked with one another at the Courier–Thad as a sportswriter and Teenie a photojournalist.  So much of my life seemed to intersect with Teenie’s…we had mutual friends and I worked with some of his old Courier colleagues .  He was a founding member of the Pittsburgh Crawford’s, a Hill District baseball team  that my Uncle Ralph “Lefty” Mellix pitched with when they went to the Negro Leagues.

Two Friends, circa 1930’s

Teenie had no formal training but clearly had loads of talent.  He was wonderfully warm and generous during our interview.  He made me feel at home-showing me a picture of his beautiful wife and other photos of his family.   When I asked Teenie if he would sign the photograph he’d taken of the police line up he did so gladly.  Charmingly, Teenie commented that he stood amazed when people asked him for these signatures.  Teenie’s work was propagated around the time of his death and his children fought a hard battle to keep the rights to his photos.  The Courier hadn’t catalogued the mass of work Teenie left behind.  The photo images here belong to  the Carnegie Museum which is now undertaking the task.  See the Documenting Our Past project by visiting the Carnegie’s website.

Posing Beauty, circa 1940's

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The decor in this 1890’s brownstone on 123rd in Manhattan, the Harlem Flophouse, is so effortlessly chic.  The single family home turned Bed and Breakfast reminds me of my best friends grandmothers home.  I love the early-American furniture Chinoiserie accents, vintage wallpaper and ornate woodwork.   I feel as though I could find a Nella Larsen heroine living in one of these rooms.  These images are from pillowsandpancakes.

Harlem Renaissance interiors originated the boho-antique vibe which owner Renee Calvo has accomplished in each of the inn’s rooms.  There is a love of the far-flung grounded by the traditional.   Great color and pattern.  Touches like  exposing some brick and using simple window treatments keep things very un-frou frou. Putting this place together took lot’s of confidence, I’m sure.  Note to self…I am going to find one of those waffle duvet covers.

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I think that each of us has one particular home, that of a friend or relative,  that shapes our aesthetic.   From the first time I visited  Thaddeus Mosley’s home I was in love with every bit of it.   Last year, Pittsburgh museum The Mattress Factory put up an installation–Sculptor— which replicated his studio/home in the city’s historic North Side.  Albeit irreducible, his sensibility is indeed captured in these make-believe rooms.  The photos are from The Mattress Factory Flickr photostream.

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Japan Country Living, Photo by Shim Kimura

So, the orange upholstery on the old-new chair didn’t stand up too well to the cleaning.  There were some stains that would not come out and some wear that I mistook for stains.  I’ve sent it off for re-upholstering.  Ah, no orange.  Sorry, William. Long story short….a clean slate.  I love, love, love  the calm tones in these Japanese interiors–a Wabi Sabi palette.   Wabi Sabi is the Japanese art finding beauty in nature and the cycle of growth and decay.  As natural things age they take on a pretty patina in ways that artificial materials can not.

Japan: Art of Living photo by Shim Kimura

My all-time favorite design book is Amy Sylvester Katoh’s Japan: The Art of Living. These images are from that volume and two other titles by the author:  Japan Country Living and Japan Blue and White.   Katoh is American and moved to Japan in the 1960’s.   I’ve been collecting Japanese and African textiles, which share similar hand and form, for years. I’m drawn to the deft  geometrics and the beautiful colors.  I love  ikat, aso oke and kasuri especially, and also kuba shoowa.  I think it’s why I am fond of these rooms.  The palette in these rooms is drawn from the materials used in furnishing them–the natural dyes of the textiles, walnut, teak, straw, bamboo, linen and rice paper.  A Wabi Sabi palette is quiet–brown, blue, black, white, gray, rust and indigo.  Look here to read more about it http://nobleharbor.com/tea/chado/WhatIsWabi-Sabi.htm.

Japan : The Art of Living photo by Shim Kimura

Japan Blue and White photo by Yataka Satoh

Japan Country Living photo by Shim Kimura

A traditional Japanese home

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Interior designed by Stephanie Couchaix photographed by Jean Demachy in "Parisian Interiors"

So many things in our living room feel trite.  I’ve been pouring over photographs of collectors homes and would love to create highly personal rooms like those in this post for my family. What the rooms do have in common are a sense of capriciousness and wit .  Take the full-sized artist mannequin in Stephanie Couchaix’s design above.  What fun this room must be?

Photo by Marc Rogoff, David Carter's London boutique hotel featured on pointclickhome.

While there is much of the unexpected here nothing is shocking or prone make us uneasy.   You just get the feeling that the homeowner has a lot of gumption and a sparkling personality.

wary myers living room

Design by Robert Stilin, Traditional Show House 2009

In an austere setting these chrome-framed chairs would be  perceived as uncomfortable.   But, here the padded seats and headrests and the soft fabric look downright comfy.  This sense is punctuated by contrast to the curious wire chair.

Design by Robert Stilin

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