Iris Thorpe, Niermann Week’s stocking dealer in Birmingham, Alabama, recently invited me to visit. Her business Iris & Co. took space in the antique show, Antiques at the Gardens, which supports the enchanting Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Iris (standing on the right) and her associate Leigh Ann Moore displayed their varied wares – Niermann Weeks, antiques, modern goods for the interior, collectibles, and party munchies. At the show, only her booth offered such a wide range of goods.
I also got to enjoy presentations throughout the day from Margot Shaw, the owner/publisher/editor-in-chief of flower magazine. Starting with empty vessels, she showed about 25 people in each tour how to use common cuttings from a home garden to make seasonal arrangements. Here she started with magnolia branches. Happily for me, in Iris’ booth Margot always stood under my Capucine Chandelier, giving it visibility that turned into quotes and even some orders. How cool is that?
For fans of okra – like me – a florist showed this exuberant autumn centerpiece. Although I photographed it on the floor, it soon rose to become Iris’ centerpiece.
My hosts then kindly made sure I could sneak into the sold-out lecture by famed architect Bobby McAlpine, in which he discussed his newest book The Home Within Us. On my way to the auditorium I passed this centerpiece which used tall, mid-century pots on loan from Iris, and on sale after the show.
In his lecture Bobby’s project photos show how over time he had augmented and changed the personal space of several clients and even inside his own home. His approach to home exteriors and interiors has always fascinated me in its respect for both the standards of the past and the needs of the present. I am always thrilled when his firm places new orders with Niermann Weeks, as it’s a major honor to be included in his body of work. And now I know something else about Bobby’s unique appeal; he has a magical way of speaking – low, slow, intense, quiet, and utterly mesmerizing. If you ever get a chance, do go hear him. In the meantime, to enjoy his work right now, you can order his books and also Google images.
During his lecture, I sat next to an old friend, Katherine Pearson. When she edited Southern Accents, Katherine gave Niermann Weeks some of its first national publicity, for which I have always been grateful. Her career path has morphed so that now she and her sister Jean Galyon own and operate their own company, Time Frame, which Niermann Weeks represents in our DC showroom. Katherine and Jean comb the world to find fascinating oddities that they bring home to clean up and frame. In Iris’ booth, we had a bidding war on sets of sketches of dancers in motion. A favorite of mine is this framed epaulette worn by an 18th century military officer. Katherine and Jean present their finds in really handsome frames, and they also attach a small card explaining the history and original use of the object. The card for this epaulette taught me that all the gold thread in this fancy shoulder strap indicated an officer of exalted rank.
Throughout the day, we all hopped around the booth, quoting and selling, making our hearts happy.
Just when our bodies were about to drop with fatigue, Karen Carroll dropped in, always a welcome visitor. Karen had also edited Southern Accents and is now a roving editor for flower. Iris’ cold had almost felled her by that time, but Leigh Ann somehow maintained her sunny face. Karen introduced us to Clinton Smith, the incoming editor of Veranda, whom I harangued to return the magazine to its southern roots. I hope he didn’t take offense at my point of view, but the Southern lifestyle reflects a studied graciousness and a closeness to the earth that is often mis-represented by slick eastern editorial types.
At night Margot and her husband Gates let me stay in their guest house, whose unusual trim mimicked the chartreuse blouse I wore to the big evening gala.
On day two of my visit, I enjoyed this display from the botanical garden’s own store.
Iris and Margot began their day with yet more floral tours. Iris’ chain link belt provided a fascinating attraction that many women wanted to handle.
At five o’clock that evening, all selling stopped so customers and workers could go home to freshen up for the gala under that stars. While we were away for a few hours, our venue transformed with draperies, floral garlands in harvest tones, and greeters in exquisite gowns.
Here’s Katherine Pearson all dolled up in a black dress and aqua necklace for the evening.
The outdoor patio twinkled with lights, beautifully dressed guests, and yummy canapés, if canapés can twinkle.
About 10:30 my hosts and I retreated to our own comfortable slippers and beds, pleased that we had met so many nice people, sold so many of our goods, all the while helping to raise funds for Birmingham’s botanical gardens. These lush gardens are open free all year long, and throughout the school year garden docents help about 10,000 children appreciate the glories of nature. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens are worth all the effort to keep them flourishing.
Thanks for reading my blog!
Websites for further reading:
- www.bbgardens.org – the Birmingham Botanical Gardens
- www.bbgardens.org/antiques.php - the show, Antiques at the Gardens, Oct3-6, 2013
- www.flowermag.com – Margot’s magazine about all things floral, to which I immediately took out a two year subscription
- www.irisandcompany.net – NW’s stocking dealer in Birmingham, AL
- www.mcalpinetankersley.com – Bobby McAlpine’s firm
Well, the soft launch in the New York Design Center went wonderfully, attracting magazine editors, bloggers, interior designers, and customers. Phew. Amanda was surrounded all evening by fans, students, bloggers, and editors. One never knows how people will respond to prototypes of a new line, so it’s always pins-and-needles time until the show opens.
For her premiere Amanda designed and Niermann Weeks made four products, shown below from the left: a V-table, a round mirror, a fabulously comfy chair, and a cool palm lamp. She and her VP Raymond Schneider designed a story board for each product to show development from initial drawing through close-to-final form.
Her V coffee table anchors itself sturdily to the floor, while expressing lightness with its inset glass top in ultra-marine blue. As you know, I love intense color, and so does Amanda; therefore, for me we’re a match made in heaven.
Her round mirror combines two media (wood and metal) with a cherry frame finished to a glistening darkness, and highlighted by overlapping, overlaid metal circles finished in a faux zinc. The final layer of occasional brass nail heads add a final note of zing, a touch that really pleased Amanda’s public.
Her chair wins my personal prize as a favorite. First of all, it looks stunning with its mélange of interesting form, component shapes, white and gold leaf finishes, seat cushion in an intense dark blue, and knobs at the arm rests. Beyond those attributes, it’s also really comfy to sit in while being light enough to easily carry around a room.
Our artisans had a ball cutting out the leaves for her signature palm lamp, and then had even more fun with gold leafing.
Not to be outdone, Niermann Weeks also presented our own new designs, including this Damon Lantern with its rectangular silhouette oak domed in goldleaf. The lantern hangs over our new Tissage Table, a vignette that mixes the bold weight of the mixed media lantern with the cool lightness of the table. Both are finished in different tones of goldleaf.
Going deeper in our showroom, we placed our Serpentine Bed, introduced last year but always wonderfully, amazingly popular. To its right in this photo sits our brand new Caron Cabinet with its smart inset brass diamond in the drawer and brass arc in the door. The Caron’s swankiness makes me want to replace my own night tables at home.
I will replace my chandelier in the dining room with a custom, larger version of the new Greek Key Pendant. I have always loved Greek key as a design motif and simply must have this fixture in my own home.
Returning, however, to our NYDC market, we also re-created elements of 2013 North Carolina showhouse by Bradshaw Orrell and Randy McManus. For their room at Adamsleigh in North Carolina, we designed this pair of Melbourne Settees, useful for indoors and poolside use. I can’t yet show you their room, but you can soon see it in the forthcoming showhouse issue of Traditional Home.
Next day Niermann Weeks’ Eleanor, Claire, and Justin met with Amanda Nisbet’s Raymond and Amanda herself to plan the new products for our complete launch at High Point in the spring. I thought a soft launch took lots of time, in a few months, just ask me how much time will go into creating all 15+ new products.
Training home, happy and exhausted, my heart exulted to see the new Freedom Tower rising above lower Manhattan. My eyes will probably always look for the Twin Towers but now the new single tower makes me happy in the Big Apple.
Thank you for reading my blog!
Websites for you:
All of us at Niermann Weeks are going a little nuts right now as we prepare for our big fall market in the New York Design Center. My daughters have created new designs for Niermann Weeks, and they have re-arranged our showroom to look as spiffy as possible. They also had to leave room for the last minute delivery of new, exciting products for the soft opening of Amanda Nisbet Designs for Niermann Weeks. As an interior designer Amanda has a sense of color that thrills my heart, plus she and my daughters really understand the transitional look that the market finds appealing these days. This announcement doesn’t give you much idea of the excitement we have in store for you, however our landlord Jim Druckman has scheduled public events in his building throughout the day, so please come on down to 200 Lexington between 32nd and 33rd.
Niermann Weeks will be open all day on September 19 from 9am on, but our special event time is 6:15 to 8:15 pm in Room 905. At that time you can visit with Amanda and her VP Raymond Schneider as well my corporate family: our designers Eleanor and Claire Niermann, our President Justin Binnix, and our incomparable manager Sandra du Plessis. We’ll be happy to give you a personal show-and-tell of all our new designs, both from Amanda and from Niermann Weeks.
Amanda Nisbet has won many awards for her interiors, which in my opinion combine the best in form, function, and vitality. She keeps her business small and personal, just like Mario Buatta, so her clients deal with her and she creates the perfect space for them. In fact, the night before our soft opening, New York Spaces will honor her among the Top 50 NY Metro Designers, esteeming her trademark as Intriguing compositions of quality materials and one-of-a-kind finds. So we at Niermann Weeks are pleased to combine our range of extraordinary finishes with her original furnishings’ designs. Together we will fulfill her website’s promise to provide products with a special alchemy of refinement and livability.
Further, Amanda will also do a book signing for her new book, Dazzling Design, which will save you a trip to the bookstore or to Amazon plus let her autograph it just for you.
Then in the coziness of your own home, you can always reference her creativity, whimsy, color, and practicality. Who else is creating such energizing vibrance, like this den with our Capucine Chandelier?
Or this chartreuse study?
Would you even dream of a magenta dining area?
And to end this sample of Amanda’s interiors, here’s a calmer living room that includes our Gabrielle Sofa.
Personally I could happily live in an Amanda Nisbet room, but now to the new goodies from Niermann Weeks. My daughters will have stocked our showroom with almost thirty products, a few new to NY, but many new to the world. As usual, everything is hand-made here at our factory outside Annapolis, Maryland, using just-in-time manufacturing processes that allow us to make perfect products in a timely manner. I find it fascinating that every first-time visitor to our plant freaks that our artisans make our goods by hand. A comment of praise that lives in my heart came from Katherine Pearson, editor of the late and always lamented Southern Accents. She considered Niermann Weeks a reservoir for American crafts. I think Katherine would approve of my favorite new NW products: the Greek Key Pendant, the Tissage Dining Table, and the Damon Sconces flanking the Marlene Console.
Look at the Greek Key fixture in detail. Steel banding frames the tension of the oversized Greek keys in gold leaf, and a slightly antiqued mirror under-plate helps diffuse the light softly downward. I want one in my own home.
The delicate tracery of the Purcell Console also pleases me. It looks so small and slight in its Venetian silver leaf lines, but, bolted to a wall at top and bottom, it can hold a metaphorical elephant.
Please remember that Niermann Weeks will be open all day at the NY Design Center on September 19 from 9am on, but our special event time is 6:15 to 8:15 pm in Room 905. At that time you can visit with Amanda and her VP Raymond as well my corporate family: our designers Eleanor and Claire Niermann, our President Justin Binnix, and our incomparable manager Sandra du Plessis. We’ll be happy to give you a personal show-and-tell of all our new designs, from Amanda and from Niermann Weeks. Come on over!
Thanks for reading my blog, and do come see us in New York – either on the 19th or at a time more convenient for you.
All my best,
Websites for your further reading include:
Baltimore interior designer Brad Weesner very kindly invited me to an opening at the Maryland Institute Academy of Art. On a perfect (non-humid) summer day, Trustee Wendy Jachman cut the ribbon into Leake Hall, a wonderful new facility for students to live and work in. Brad had contributed his interior design skills to this project. He and the overall team deserve kudos for creating a space with great attention to detail, practical use, and visual stimulation of the students. You are surrounded by created and natural beauty both inside and outside of Leake Hall, named for a former president who presided over the Maryland Institute’s transition to a fully accredited art college in 1967. The school has come a long way since its first public lectures in 1826.
Now let’s step back from the ribbon-cutting so you can see the entire front façade.
Stepping into the lobby you enter a gracious high-ceiling space, but then things just keep improving. Around a corner you find this auditorium with staggered seating. Glass doors on the far side roll up into the ceiling to let people step out to enjoy the fresh air of an adjacent garden.
Around another corner you step into a large lecture hall with similar access to the outdoors and to a garden.
The next giant room on the main floor will support the creation of wet and dry art in it. Imagine your joy as a student in cleaning your brushes and your hands in the same room in which you’re painting. Imagine being able to let in the natural air and daylight. Imagine looking outside at the beauty of nature. Maybe your school was better than mine, but my classrooms were dirty, poorly ventilated, inadequately lit – in short, rat holes. The students here will have an entirely different environment, and that will enhance their learning experience.
Walking up one floor, you come to a new state-of-the-art media auditorium.
The upper floors comprise dormitory suites with individual bedrooms, a group lounge, and a community bathroom/shower facility. All of it was still blessedly clean, unmarked by generations of gradoo, schmutz, grime, overlapping layers of paint, spilled food, etc. This place will be heaven for the first few years and maybe longer, as all surfaces are designed for ease of cleaning. My own student housing forced me to develop a high tolerance for generations of filth and misuse; may these students never know how lucky they are. Each floor has its own lobby by the elevator, and Brad designed them all to a generous scale, to allow the largest art projects easy transportation. The ceilings are ten feet tall, even taller than many in design centers.
Entering each bedroom suite, you come into the community lounge with space for cooking, eating, and chatting. The earthtone décor will camouflage lots of accumulated scuff marks. In this photo, my red hair provides a jot of color. But wait til the students move in to personalize their space.
This young MICA student happily poses in front of the room she’ll occupy this semester.
Each non-handicapped bedroom contains a sturdy, raised bedframe with generous storage space underneath and in a private closet. My daughters moved into a similarly blank room, transforming them immediately to suit their own taste. Soon this room will also exhibit a personal character.
Outside each bedroom, and in fact outside every window, is a lovely urban view, whether it’s a garden, a view of Baltimore’s many houses of worship, or of the nicely landscaped interstate that flows through the heart of Baltimore. From this stairwell you see this view of lots of trees, and two church spires flanking a domed synagogue. I can imagine students sitting here sketching for a class project.
As you walk back down to the main floor, look up to see a photo of the Doctor Leake for whom this building is named. Only a designer like Brad Weesner would add such an interesting human touch.
The water fountains on all floors grabbed my attention with all their options for filling vessels.
For the first time in my life, a man asked me to go with him to admire the urinals, so naturally I followed Brad into the men’s room on the ground floor. Brad is proud of the privacy partitions between stands but also of the precision with which the room was framed and tiled. All the walls stand at true right angles, so all the rectangular tiling fits perfectly and forms spatial units. He used really good workmen to provide such perfect angles, and I did also admire the lovely new urinals.
Saying my goodbyes, I got this snapshot of MICA’s VP Operations, Michael Molla, Baltimore artist Jaynelle Thomas, and of course the incomparable Brad Weesner himself.
Walking from Leake Hall, my camera caught this vista from Leake’s dining area down the enclosed quadrangle to MICA’s front entrance. With this new addition the school has formed a compact and lovely cocoon from which students can pupate into all kinds of artists. They are so fortunate, and we at Niermann Weeks are fortunate to employ some MICA graduates.
As the Baltimore Sun reported, we can all…
Take a lesson from MICA
The new Leake building — part dorm, part learning areas — blends pretty and practical in its interior designs so students can create art there and display it, too. Here are some tips for any home:
•Hide dirt by creating a palette of rich browns, beiges and copper colors.
•Create warmth with textured walls and floors.
•Choose furnishings that can be recovered rather than replaced when they wear out.
•Don’t be afraid of high-quality vinyl for furniture and floors that see a lot of use.
Read more of this laudatory review at http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/home-garden/bs-hm-leake-hall-mica-20130816,0,4407039.story?page=2#ixzz2dN2WNliG.
Thank you, Brad Weesner, for inviting me to see the fruits of your design labors, and thank you, readers, for coming with me on my tour.
- For more information about Brad’s work, please see his website at www.bradweesnerdesign.com.
- For more about the Maryland Institute College of Art, go to www.mica.edu.
Since 1879 we have all used and loved the incandescent light bulbs developed by Thomas Alva Edison, shown here in his lab with different sizes of light bulbs.
Sadly, his technology has become obsolete as it wastes colossal amounts of energy. When we turn on an old fashioned light bulb, 90% of the electrical energy dissipates as heat, leaving a mere 10% to provide light. In a cold climate, no one minds adding heat to their space, but in a hot climate that can become intolerable. Ergo, we as a nation have decided to:
In 2007 the United States officially joined the energy conservation bandwagon when Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed our ENERGY INDEPENDENCE AND SECURITY ACT OF 2007. You can read it in its mighty entirety at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-110publ140/html/PLAW-110publ140.htm, or just let me highlight it for you. Its preamble is plain enough:
An Act - To move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government, and for other purposes.
We are already familiar with the Act’s Section 325, which created the Energy Star program for home appliances.
Less familiar to many of us is Section 321, EFFICIENT LIGHT BULBS, where the combination of writing by lawyers and techno geeks scrambles my head every time. Basically it says that by 2020 all general-use light bulbs sold in the US must burn about 200 times as efficiently as their 2007 equivalents. You may have noticed that you can’t buy bulbs of 75 or 100 watts anymore. This handy graphic from http://www.bulbrite.com/eisa.php encapsulates the changes well.
The law, however, excludes many specialty bulbs like 3-ways, plant lights, appliance bulbs, and candelabra bulbs of less than 60 watts with the very small, screw-in bases.
Ergo, we must all bid a fond farewell to our beloved incandescent, and start using more energy-efficient bulbs – specifically halogens, CFLs, and LEDs. Our lawmakers based their wisdom on the cost of using a type of bulb + its length of life. Replacing a 40 watt incandescent by an equivalent CFL will save you $1.08 per year for About 10,000 hours; using an LED will save you $0.96 per year. Further, your 40 watt bulb will only last for about 1,000, as opposed to the expected life span of 10 years for a CFL and 25,000 hours for the LED. You can make comparisons of the improved values by using this chart from http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/nhorowitz/new_energy-saving_bulbs_are_co.html
When the USA completes its transition by 2020, we will have saved billions of dollars and mountains of energy resources. This will be a good thing for our Mother Earth, but naturally every change brings challenges, so let me warn you of some. Incandescents have many built-in features that we haven’t even thought about. In my comments, please remember that my comparison will always be to 60 watt chandelier-style light bulbs. Since Niermann Weeks designs and manufactures lighting fixtures, the chandelier bulb of 60 watts forms my standard.
Incandescents work nicely with dimmers from most any company. That’s not true of many alternatives. Some don’t dim – period, because of the physics of their construction. Some will only work with certain dimmers.
My advice is to buy one dimmer from a reputable company before buying one bulb. For example, if you look on the Lutron website at http://www.lutron.com/en-US/Education-Training/Pages/LCE/DimmingCFLsandLEDs.aspx, you can pull up a list of specific dimmers that work with specific light bulbs. Buy one light bulb and try it. If it works, then invest in a roomful of that type of dimmer and that type of bulbs. Repeat for each room.
Incandescents are cheap, costing well under a $1.00 per bulb. They look normal to our eyes. www.amazon.com today sells for $13.99 a pair of Sylvania 25986 9-Watt Compact Fluorescents that looks like this, with the squiggly CFL component semi-hidden in a frosted glass case. Personally I don’t like the squiggle or the ballast concealed within the white band at the base of this bulb. Incandescents don’t need to include a ballast to convert the electric power within the bulb.
Further, on Amazon today you can get one (1) LED for your chandelier by Bulbrite at $19.45 each. We are used to an incandescent casting its light 360 degrees, but notice how this LED is composed. Individual LEDs are clustered in lines up and around the works of this bulb, as each LED doesn’t cast much light and only casts it straight out. This cluster is contained within a weak, not waterproof or shatterproof plastic cover.
Incandescent chandelier bulbs also cast a better light than most of the alternatives. When you buy an alternative halogen, CFL, or LED, you must specify a warm white light, or you may be deeply unhappy. I know of a kitchen installed in California for a celebrity chef whose new lights turned on into a cold, bluish white, which made all the food look un-appetizing. His designer spent a lot of money replacing all the LED bulbs.
My advice is to buy only one sample of an alternative bulb, and then try it in your location. Save the receipt, so you can return it if it doesn’t look right. When you find the right bulb, then buy more than you need. CFLs were touted as lasting 10 years, but I have discarded some almost immediately. And the discard is a PITA (pain in the a–) because of the mercury within the bulb. Wrap the dead bulb in a plastic bag to dispose of at a Home Depot or other authorized places. Dead LEDs are okay to just trash.
Incandescents measure their energy output in watts, but many of the alternatives measure in volts. I have no idea how much energy a volt equals; do you? In the future, we must all become smarter shoppers with some grasp of the physics of light. I’m going to hate that.
Incandescents screw into their sockets, of which it’s been estimated 4 billion are in use in the USA.
LEDs, however, are electronics and really don’t need a socket. For and LED to get power, a plug-in will do nicely. The technically-minded think we should eliminate sockets as old-fashioned, but if so, so how can we retrofit all our sockets in all our homes and offices? The esthetically-minded may not approve of the early solutions, and we may need to be really aggressive in pushing for beautiful solutions.
This picture shows some of the ways that an LED can plug into power.
Overall, my nuggets of advice condense like this:
- Hoard all the types of incandescent light bulbs you really like to use.
- Acquire light bulbs and lighting system only from reputable brands and sources, which means you’ll be paying handsomely. No running off to a big box store.
- Any product which claims to be greener ought to work as well as the original; provide the same qualities; and cost about as much.
- Ideal light bulbs, regardless of type, should reach a color temperature of 2700 Kelvin as well as a CRI (Color Rendering Index) in the high 70s or above. Wikipedia can explain what that means in agonizing detail.
- Only buy products with the Energy Star Label.
Whatever your experiences, insights, and reactions to my comments, please share them with me. We’re all in the same learning curve, and good luck to us all!
Thanks for reading my blog,
You may think of the iconic architecture of Philadelphia as all dating before 1800 like Independence Hall. Most Americans know that’s where our nation adopted our Declaration of Independence from England and our Constitution declaring the USA as a free and sovereign nation. However, interesting design from all eras pops up throughout the city and draws tourists to enjoy diverse neighborhoods.
Last weekend I explored the fascinating South Street neighborhood with my daughter Eleanor and her college roommate Mia. Our tourist day started normally with coffee and breakfast at the the Café Parc on Rittenhouse Square, but soon we entered into South Street’s funky mix of restaurants, bars, locally owned shops, etc. – a great melange of attractions .
Our favorite place of wonderment came from the Magic Gardens, a mosaic environment that Isaiah Zagar has continuously been creating from discarded and found objects for almost twenty years. Mr. Zagar looks like a friendly man, as seen here in this photo from his entry in Wikipedia.
He and his wife Julia have lived in Philadelphia since 1968, and for much of that time he’s been designing and creating his indoor-outdoor environment for his neighbors, his city, and us all. Going in at 1020 South Street, we entered into three city blocks reverberating with his creativity. Respecting the Italianate “eyebrows” of this building and its window air conditioning units, he located a Mayan-looking faces of greeting. He calls this part of his overall work Art is the Center of the Real World.
Another flat wall lifted our eyes to its jaunty chimney decoration composed of bicycle parts.
Mr. Zagar has faced entire streets with his swirling fantastic decorations, reminding me of Gaudi’s Barcelona in their exuberance.
But lest you think his designs are flat, let me show you this grotto.
The arch of brick and mortar led us in a main courtyard on which he began work in 1997. Mr. Zagar builds so well that his designs endure the seasons undamaged by changes in temperature and moisture. I wish all public buildings were as well constructed.
Look at this cool wall of wheels.
No bottle went to waste along the steps in the grotto.
I could show you more photos, but you really need to walk yourself through this fantastic place. Go to the website www.phillymagicgardens.org for information about Mr. Zagar and other folk art in the City of Brotherly Love, and please share with me photos from your visit there. You can also go to www.inadreammovie.com to view award-winning movie by his son Jeremiah Zagar. Or visit the website of the store owned by wife Julia Zagar, www.eyesgallery.com. Obviously the entire family got the art gene.
Thanks for reading my blog!
As has become my habit, I celebrate the Fourth of July with Dan, Margaret, Allison, Paul and Alec in western New York State. We start our national holiday at the Lordville, NY parade in mid-day. This tiny beautiful town, a national historic district (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravina_(Lordville,_New_York) steps us back into our 19th century past with a genuinely patriotic parade. Nowadays, people often seem ironic or embarrassed to show their genuine emotions, but not so at this parade where the community turns out to wave the flag and show their red, white and blue colors.
Orange Day Lilies grow wild all over the countryside. This one grew next to the stream running through Lordville.
Moving right along, we caught the annual parade through Narrowsburg, NY, another tiny town that time has forgotten. This parade features fire trucks from nearby communities, all happily blaring their sirens.
The US Park Service added this float, in which George Washington sweltered in his wool uniform to remind us all about boating safety.
Everybody then took a cooling break somewhere, Dan, Margaret, and I in our rented house just off Main Street and across the street from Allison’s rented house. You can see our house at the right in this historic photo. Until refrigeration became common in the twentieth century, people used the building in winter as an ice house. Winters are cold (and dreadful), but hardy people cut blocks of ice from this frozen pond, sending them by train to Manhattan.
Summers today, however, reflect global warming in their heat and humidity, and the little house is now somewhat larger and painted red. Trees, a window AC unit, and floor fans keep it comfy for those of us used to soft living.
We ended the evening with delicious food at The Heron restaurant on Narrowsburg Main Street, where I met the amazing nature photographer Mr. Kelly Dean. He took this shot of the fireworks over Main Street, and you can see more of his images at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kelly-Dean-Photography/345880490230.
After the holiday, Margaret, Dan, and I focused on their daughter Allison and her family. Allison’s alter ego, you should know is Madame Fortuna, the creator of fascinating jewelry and accessories. Her website www.madamefortuna.com is designed to be enchanting, and you would enjoy visiting it. In Allison’s free time, she and her husband Paul are building themselves a home on 20 acres of mountainside in nearby Calicoon Center – a great name for a town. Their home will overlook this vista of the Delaware River valley.
On their property, the family planted this redbud tree in memory of Allison’s brother Sam, who died last year in a bizarre accident.
Meanwhile in their rented home, Allison nurtures a spectacular gardenia plant. Momma Margaret started it from a slip from her mother’s garden in Mississippi. Allison grew that slip into a beautiful bush that winters inside and summers on her front porch to perfume the whole street with its blooms.
Leaving Norman Rockwell-land, I returned home a day early to avoid the crushing traffic on I-95 and to revel in the comforts of my own neighborhood. My own yard provides my best de-compression zone. Over the years we have planted trees, bushes, and flowers to nurture the local wildlife, and we even got certification from the National Wildlife Federation (http://www.nwf.org) as a certified wildlife habitat. We provide food, water, shelter, and nesting resources for all kinds of wildlife – red and grey foxes, raccoons, opossums, white tailed deer, osprey, bald eagles, vultures, moles, many kinds of flying insects, and lots of song birds. These creatures provide me with an endless parade of activity. Right now one of my red foxes has a bad case of mange, so I’m researching how it makes its life better. If you have any remedies, please share them with me.
Taking advantage of this chemical-free environment, our dentist friend Dr. Ted Berkinshaw (www.berkinshaworthodontics.com ) installed three hives of bees. This area of our pine forest was devastated last year by the freak derecho storm that ripped from Chicago to Manhattan last July. The clearing sits between a flowering meadow Joe created and flower beds I installed and tend with my own hands.
The bees and hummingbirds love the mini Red Morning Glories that twine around our porches, although my normal hummingbird population is way down this year. I blame our cold, rainy spring that lasted through June.
The purple flowers on the Chaste Trees are alive with bees and other flying insects.
The Black-Eyed Susans have come into full bloom. As a native plant and the state flower of Maryland, it’s a BFF for every pollinating insect.
My most yummy plant, however, is the native Phlox, seen here in a rare moment without any bug accompaniment.
It attracts the very cool Hummingbird Moth, which looks like a flying shrimp with wings, and is too fast for my camera, hence this photo borrowed from http://www.thegreenetomato.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/hornworms
Every year I plant Milkweed and Fennel to feed the caterpillars of the Monarch Butterfly. Its caterpillar form may creep you out in this form, but the adult form is worth waiting for.
Very soon its adult form will emerge to feed in my Milkweed patch, as you can see courtesy of this photo from http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/monarch-butterfly/
Here’s an adult Spicebush Swallowtail enjoying itself.
The Butterfly Bushes in the meadow are a major hit with this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.
And also with this Black Swallowtail.
Leaving my own place, I wandered over to visit with neighbors Steve and Sabrina at their farm. They buy and hatch fertilized chicken eggs, that develop into exotic creatures like this Polish breed. She’s a pet that loves to be cuddled, and she lays very tasty eggs. Nothing better than an omelet from eggs laid that same day!
Their daughter Claire is now weaning this pair of Dwarf Nigerian Goats, cute, friendly creatures who eat up all the leaves that fall in the yard.
To cool off, I swam with Susan’s dogs, Riley in the lead with Regan resting her head on his hips.
Finally, we topped off the day with dinner at Martha’s house where her centerpiece featured a lily extravaganza from her own garden. And that’s how I spent my summer vacation.
Thanks for reading my blog and helping me re-live a wonderful week. May your vacation be as much fun!
My home also functions as a museum with changing exhibitions, whose schedule depends on ads being shot for Niermann Weeks. Over the years, it’s come a long way from a rudimentary farmhouse, thank goodness.
The original front entry hall was just a big empty room, no closets, not hooks, no cupboards, no place to put anything upon entering the home. Joe cleverly designed closets hidden behind a series of doors that folded open and shut. He had recently purchased a French theatrical prop from the New York design maestro John Rosselli (www.johnrosselliantiques.com), which inspired him in the decoration of these doors. Now you see the doors- unpainted – closed and open;
Now you see them open, painted, and giving you a view through the kitchen and all the way to the back windows on the veranda. Suddenly my little house seems visually enormous, a good design trick.
The kitchen in 1994 was then so cramped and ugly that the teardown happened before my camera arrived, but it’s gotten better since its knotty pine days. To make it look bigger, we used upright raw fir slats placed vertically on all the walls and cabinets. The counters are limestone, whose color and texture we liked, but which has proven too soft. It has now cracked in several places, which I ignore, as I still like its soft look. That little spice cabinet in the far corner has descended in Joe’s family through the maternal line; he’s the first man to inherit it, and we’ll probably toss a coin to determine which of our daughters will get it next.
Our living room measures 40 x 20 feet with a fireplace smack in the middle of the 40’ outer wall, a space we often find clumsy. When we first moved in, the house was almost unfurnished, although stained carpets of unknown longevity covered perfectly good hardwood floors. As Mrs. Helgar commented when we first toured the living room, “Don’t mind the stains on the carpet. They’re from when my husband was dying.” We didn’t mind those stains very much, since all the carpeting quickly found a new home in a dumpster. Once the house became a blank slate, then our fun began.
The living room’s single front and side windows didn’t let in much natural light, so they went poof quickly. In my family we like generous fenestration and no curtains, to let in as much natural light as possible. The windows start at the floor molding and go almost up to the ceiling, with the side effect that the room looks much taller than its ten feet. John Saladino (www.saladinostyle.com) suggested a pinky white paint for the entire house, again a trick to visually expand its size. Sisal carpeting was popular then, so naturally we followed that trend. This ad photo displays a front corner of the room in all its blandness.
Joe replaced the knotty pine “dining room” on the back of the house, whose then shoddy construction and lack of insulation is visible in my snapshot. When his mother visited for Thanksgiving, we aimed a portable heater on her feet to keep the cold at bay.
The new enclosed veranda covers the entire back of the house, adding an extra 20 feet in depth. Custom Marvin (www.marvin.com) windows go almost floor to ceiling, and easily open to let in fresh air. The DC photographer Ken Wyner (www.kenwyner.com) caught the room’s coolness in this ad shot.
Over the years, however, we discovered that we must be pigs, since we could not keep dirt and smudges off our walls and carpets. We re-painted and changed out the sisal, but to no avail. Living in the country with animals, the neutral palette just had a very short life span. Finally we tired of the eternal touch-up and moved into a newly fashionable, brightly colored palette. Martha Stewart’s Living Egg Yolk paint provided the vibrancy we hoped for, and Joe found an unusually long Ushak carpet on eBay that just fit the space perfectly. The ceiling is now a pale, neutralized blue in semi-gloss. I took this snapshot to send to my cousin Stephanie Salis-Bauer, who likes to keep track of how our home morphs.
We’ve lived with this palette now for several years and find it more forgiving of our actual life style. The walls don’t show every dirty fingerprint and nick, and the rugs clean up perfectly. We re-arranged one day for Susan Stiles Dowell, visiting magazine scout, showing off our new Toulon Settee. Please go see more about Susan’s design writings on Facebook and Linkedin.
Borrowing a trick from DC’s Debbie Anderson Winsor, I asked my daughter Claire to bring me back birch logs from Massachusetts. They make a nicer view in the fireplace than its dark, sooty interior.
The new and improved dining room also makes us more content. Daughter Eleanor changed out all the furnishings except my Frascati Console to accentuate our depth of color. Now when spilled food or dirty footprints happen, we can quickly sweep the carpet and sponge off the table top. Life has become so much easier for me.
That’s how my home has adapted to changing fashions, Niermann Weeks’ advertising needs, and our lifestyle. Why don’t you send me pictures of how your home has changed, and then I can show them in another blog? It would be fun.
Thanks for reading along with me!
In 1994 we were young, dumb, and took on too much responsibility, moving into a new home with a much larger property, while consolidating the Niermann Weeks factory from 13 little buildings into the shell of a partially constructed strip shopping center. While the factory greatly expanded our floor space and capability, we chose to live in a small house. Having once been captives of a 10,000 square foot home, we chose never again to be burdened with so many possessions. To give you some idea, here’s the living room of our house in Memphis, in whose decoration we got help from our designer friends Rodgers Menzies, Roland Gerhardt, and the late Jimmy Graham.
Our new home in Annapolis was constructed in 1903 as a farmhouse with two stories and a 40 x 40 footprint. Sometime in the 1940s, the house was moved from the far north end of the property to the center of the lot, incidentally abutting a wetland. It’s not an ideal site for a house, maybe it’s even a stupid site. Over the decades trees have grown really well on that side of the house, and the basement will always require constant dehumidification. In 1944 the Helgars bought the property to manage as a truck farm growing fruits and vegetables for the public markets in Baltimore. They also dredged for oysters off our dock, again to sell in Baltimore. They apparently found the house adequate for the needs of their family of four, bur fifty years later my family of four demanded some immediate upgrades. Here’s the front façade as we first saw it. Notice how healthy the trees look on the far (wet) side.
And several months later, the back façade.
Our immediate priority was a new bathroom, as the one and only original facility had been jammed into a room 7 x 11 feet. We didn’t need a professional designer to tell us that the tub was too short for any of us to sit in, and there was no shower. Also, the scale of every item in the original bathroom was way too small for our livability. (As an aside, when I visit homes, I can tell when the owners did their own decorating; the scale and proportion are usually all wrong.) Getting back to my new home, however, the mismatched, faux marbleized linoleum flooring drove us crazy, reminding each of us of awful dormitories during our school days.
We knocked down a connecting wall into the former nursery to give ourselves a more generous space for the master bath. Crowbars ripped out the tile flooring, the ditzy blue wallpaper, the dinky hand basin, the ¾-sized tub, the leaking toilet, and the clumsy blue medicine cabinet. For that first two days, the local fast food places saw us rushing in to use their facilities, but by the third day we once more enjoyed a working toilet. The new drywall took an off-white coat of paint. And for the flooring we learned from a past mistake. In our Memphis home, Jimmy Graham had us install slick marble tiles, which we found too cold and too slick to walk on. Never again, so I picked out an amorphously patterned tile for the floor. Joe has always hated it, and so soon it will vanish, but I’ll never use a slick, cold flooring material again. In essence, that defines the difference between Joe and me in interior design. He will always opt for form, while I stick up for function. This time we’ll meet somewhere in the middle.
Our new litte house had lots of other, less pressing, priorities, like a complete floor in the smallest bedroom. That room measured only 7 x 7 feet, and through its holey floor we could see people at the front door. Our friend the fabric designer Peter Fasano (www.peterfasano.com) slept an anxious night there.The next morning, he earnestly recommended patching that floor right away, which we did. However, re-flooring the entire house awaited yet more teardown.
A antiquated chimney stack ran straight up through the middle of the house, starting in the basement with an enormous old heating system called an octopus because of its many pipes. We ripped out that brick stack all way through the attic ceiling, giving us an additional 3 x 5’ of empty space on every floor. Our new HVAC system is a lovely three-zone unit, whose mechanicals tidily fit outside. Suddenly the basement became a full 40 x 40 space, and the second floor gained a decently sized central hallway. The attic transformed from a junk space with open rafters and no insulation into a bedroom aerie, hovering over a view of the woods and the water. On the main floor we used the new space for a tiny washroom. Using a suggestion from Newell Turner, who is now Editor-in-Chief at Hearst magazines (www.hearst.com/magazines), we opted for a golden yellow as a foil for my collection of Turkish lamps and plates.
Our next priority was dictated by a workman falling through the roof over the front porch. Sombody had constructed the porch with his own untrained hands, using plywood in 4 x8 sheets as the flooring, which determined its overall dimensions. 4×4 lumber formed the columns, now rickety with age and poor installation.
Knowing that I love to garden and to live on a porch over my garden, Joe designed a great covered veranda that wrapped across the front and halfway around the corner, and I do live on it. Sometimes in cold weather you can find me out there, wrapped in my cashmere throw from Holland and Sherry (www.hollandandsherry.com). You’ve seen my improved porch in our ad for outdoor furniture and again in a story in Garden Design (www.gardensign.com). Joe cooperated with the late DC designer Antony Childs to design this collection of teak and steel furniture, which debuted I think in 1989 at the Alexandria, VA showhouse.
Joe also created a second outdoor area for me, in front of the original tool shed attached to the living room. Dust and mud had led up to a faux-garage, whose interior was oppressively dark. Since we make our living through the work of design, this icky room required transformation.
Cleaned up and painted with the shade of white recommended by John Saladino (www.saladinostyle.com), the space transformed from a fungus into a swan, where Joe, Eleanor, and Claire have happily worked ever since on Niermann Weeks’ designs.
Sometimes, the design studio cleans up even better. Look how my daughter Eleanor transformed it into a bedroom for an ad. She has the gift to combine scale, proportion, beauty, and livability, all in one package.
But to return to my porch fetish, new design turned the dusty driveway into a brick plaza, surrounded by trees to frame it as an outdoor room. I sit there to listen to the birds and to hide from all connection to modern technology: no iPhone, fax, or computer disturbs my peace there.
Young Eleanor re-created that space one December for another NW outdoor ad. I still have the original French planter that inspired our Trevi Table (on the right), but all the rest went back to the warehouse and the showrooms. Thank goodness for evergreen foliage and plastic hydrangeas, which fooled the camera into seeing a warmer climate.
Our final outdoor space emerged from the wreckage of our nasty back yard, which had been just an irregular hillside descending to the waterfront. The owners before us had used this yard as a staging area for irrigation equipment for their truck farm. We have made it pleasing in form and function with the installation of a two-lane lap pool. This photo previews an upcoming NW ad showing our new Melbourne Daybeds and our Toulon Settee.
I am a fortunate woman to live surrounded by design professionals in my family and friends. God didn’t give me their gifts, but I sure do benefit in my beautiful, livable home.
Thank you for reading along with me, and in the next blog you can watch my home’s interior metamorphose as our design needs have dictated.
In past blogs I’ve mentioned my friend Joan Datesman, with whom I share an appreciation for the unique details seen in hand-made goods. In my blogs you normally learn more about Niermann Weeks or travel with me to an event. In this blog, I’d like to introduce you to Joan’s collection of French Quimper, a soft paste pottery named after its town of origin: Quimper (pronounced Cem-pair) in Brittany in northeastern France. After my introduction, please go on to her website www.merrywalk.com to see the wide variety of these goods that she offers for sale to collectors.
The story all starts in Quimper, a charming tourist town with a distinguished history as a center of commerce and of pottery making. The town dates to Roman times and is located near the confluence of two river, that conveniently provide pottery-grade clay in their river banks. In 1708 Pierre Bousquet chose this town to open his factory making the stoneware we call Quimper. It’s a hand-painted pottery for home use and for decorative purposes, featuring traditional Breton themes. Over time, other factories sprang up to grab a share of this booming business, and then the history gets confusing to a non-specialist like me.
As I understand it, the Petit Breton image on this 1925 plate is still very popular in the tourist trade. Here a peasant from Brittany wears wooden shoes and traditional clothes as he blows a bagpipe. Since each Quimper item is hand-painted, collectors can identify the hand of various outstanding artists. At the NW factory, I too can distinguish one of our artist’s work from another.
Now this is where Joan Datesman and her ilk come to the fore. These specialist dealers can guide collectors through 300 years of the labyrinth of different factories, artists, and periods of production. I can only speak personally about Joan, since I’ve been to her shop, seen her booth at antique shows, and read her book, Collecting Quimper. She has educated me considerably about the history and worldwide collecting value of this faience.
From her website www.merrywalk.com/book.html
Joan showed me tiny posy holders like this polka-dotted fish, just five inches long. Polka dots have always grabbed my attention. My favorite dress in third grade sported polka dots. However, when I wanted to get married in a black and white dotted dress, my mother threw a fit. She won, and I married in a green Chanel suit.
This and the next six images originate on Joan’s website www.merrywalk.com.
Blue is a soothing color for me, so I can imagine a photo of my grandchildren in this 5” high frame.
Her website shows a wide range of eating dishes, like this salad bowl showing a Bretonne woman in her traditional lace cap, apron, and wooden shoes. As a color freak, I really enjoy the vibrancy of Quimper pottery.
The grids on this pitcher are technically called a ‘tennis ball pattern” but they remind me of a quilting pattern.
This bowl intrigues me with its earthy background color and weirdo creatures. I can see a pile of cut cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and green peppers beautifully framed within its 15” diameter.
Yellow tulips would spring fabulously from this 11” tall vase. The vase is from Quimper’s modern, or twentieth century period, which some might sneer at. Its relative newness doesn’t bother me at all, as I enjoy its strong versatility.
For a party I’d like to assemble a great mass of multi-colored grapes in this swan. Its 15” length could hold an extravagant display, or I could leave empty as a striking centerpiece.
Inside my swan are two more Breton peasants in baggy costumes and playing their bagpipes.
So Joan and her Quimper collection have introduced me to a new region of my favorite country, la belle France, and I’m ready now to see it for myself. Maybe I’ll invite myself as her companion and baggage handler on her next buying trip. We will land in Paris and take the high-speed train, the TGV, to Quimper.
In my off-time with Joan, I want to visit the museums and factories of pottery, enjoy yummy food, drink some of the best cider in France, purchase some regional craft goods, make time for Quimper’s excellent museum of French art, and walk around the town’s fascinating medieval architecture. Whetting all my appetites for this historic town is a photo by OlyaA (Busy) on www:pinterest.com/pin/272045633713328806.
While in town, I’ll enjoy the beauty of the hand-decorated traditional costumes, here a Breton woman’s vest and scarf, in an image from Finistère Tourisme on Pinterest. I cannot imagine how many hours went into creating all this embroidered surface, but it sure is a marvel.
And enjoy a visit to the Henriot factory.
My friend Joan Datesman and I both specialize in a hand-made product, she in the enchanting pottery of Quimper and me in even more enchanting home furnishings from Niermann Weeks. No wonder we’re friends!
Thanks for enjoying my blog, and let’s go on a Quimper adventure.
Websites for Your Learning Pleasure :
- www.antiquesjournal.com/pages04/monthly_pages/sept08/quimper.html for the article Quimper Pottery: A Brief History by Adela Meadows, compiled and edited by Judy Penz Sheluk
- www.merrywalk.com – Joan Datesman’s website
Laura Lee Clark has welcomed my company into her new showroom in Dallas with a humdinger of an opening party. She and NW’s president Justin Binnix greeted the superbly dressed crowds, and Justin happily demonstrated the quality we build into all our original designs.
For her showroom Laura Lee selected some classic silhouettes from our product mix, using this collage from my NY apartment in her invitation to the opening party.
Visitors are greeted in her airy space by such vignettes as this collage of our Frascati Console, Acanthus Sconces, and Swedish Crystal Chandelier, which is partially obscuring the Julian Mirror.
All this light and air and spaciousness release my soul from irrelevant stresses.
Another product collage hints at Laura Lee’s deft way with color and texture. Here she incorporates four of our designs with four multi-patterned paintings. Our contribution to this mix includes the Monaco Chandelier, on whose frame we affix a mosaic of our antiqued mirrors. All this shiny surface allows the chandelier to reflect the beauty of its setting, while itself becoming merely a quiet presence. Anchoring the paintings is our Baltic Console with its wonderful ovals interlocking their gold leafed arms. The Neapolitan Sconces flank the paintings, and an Elgin Chair allows an inviting seat from which to enjoy life.
Another light-filled space presents the silhouette of our Montaigne Floor Lamp in the foreground. Our Crevecoeur Chandelier faintly blurs in front of the hyper-graphic screen on the far wall.
This detail shot will give you a better idea of the Crevecoeur’s curvaceousness and silvery finish. We hand-wrap the candle covers in beeswax to impart additional texture plus a lovely hint of freshness.
Stepping further in Laura Lee’s showroom, you see a peacock vignette. This stunning bird struts his stuff on our Mirabeau Table. Its custom top measures 72” round. The table’s entire surface is covered in sheets and a mosaic of our antiqued mirror, again to reflect all the other beautiful elements around it. Overhead hangs our Carved Acanthus Chandelier, combining a carved wooden core with hand-wrought and hand-hammered steel arms, all sumptuously accented in gold leaf. That chandelier reminds me of happy family trips to the South of France, ancestral home of this chandelier. I can almost smell the fields of lavender outside the chateau.
Still in the shadows of France, our Rive Gauche Chandelier hovers over this amazingly elongated chair.
Rounding out the NW presence is the Torino Chandelier with a dappled texture under the gold leaf finish.
When I can get to Dallas, I am eager to see how she’s using two of our newest (and coolest) designs, the Serpentine Bed
and the Trocadero Firescreen.
In the meantime, you can come visit us in Dallas, at 1515 Slocum in the Dallas Design District, where Laura Lee and her staff will greet you.
A showroom tour will show you her deft way with color, pattern, silhouette, space use, and so on; as will your further trip to her pages on www.pinterest.com.
Thanks for reading my blog!
New York Spaces gave us a spectacular four pages in their Special Edition for Spring 2013, which made my heart proud. That’s nice, but what it really showed is NW’s response to a changing demand for finishes. After more than 20 years, gold-leaf is in, and silver finishes no longer dominate our market.
For NW the dominance of silver-leaf began about 1990. In that year Joe and I got an apartment in Manhattan so we could more easily manage our New York showroom. Unknowingly, we also became part of a fashion trend. Joe selected an apartment that was really poorly lit, and I seriously balked at it. I’m used to living in the country in a house suffused with natural light, so this place seemed like shoving ourselves into the stem of a portabella mushroom. In short, I found it ghastly. To lure me, Joe hurriedly designed a mess of new items for this space: the mirrored Sevigne Screen, the mirrored Mirabeau Table, the silver-leafed Danieli Chandelier as well as the mottled gold-leaf finish on the Etruscan Coffee Table. All these finishes did pick up and augment what little light that managed to enter the gloom, and presto, our apartment seemed truly acceptable to me. Soon, the magazines became filled with shiny silver and white metal finishes, ours included.
In 2013, however, two decades have passed, and customers are discovering the warmth of gold leaf finishes. Using Joe’s compost heap of antique gold leaf finishes, my daughters Eleanor and Claire have risen to meet the new challenges.
Their curvaceous Serpentine Bed invites sleepers with its wonderful new finish, Venetian Gold.
This finish fascinates me with its omissions and halos. Just wait til you see it in your own home!
The Madeleine Ceiling Fixture nicely combines a French gold-leaf with sparkly crystals. We’ve already made lots of them for residential and contract use, but I have no installation photo yet.
One of my all-time favorites in lighting has become the Capucine Floor Lamp, which is 72” tall. With its glass shelf, I can picture it in a relaxed area between two comfy chairs. Two people are chatting, either drinks in hand or setting on the shelf. A starchitect has already placed a big order; oh, thank you!
The Capucine also comes as a table lamp.
Our Trocadero Screen panel is 18” wide by 91” high, so you can make it as wide as you want. It’s outer frame and crossed buckles are finished in our Parisian Steel, with the backing in our antiqued golden mirror. This screen just glows and make me happy.
Here’s a detail for your enjoyment. I’ve hyper-illuminated this photo to accentuate all the detail.
We also present the Trocadero in a fireplace screen. In this format, the frame and buckles are finished in distressed gold leaf, letting them pop from the steel of the mesh screen.
The Sofie Occasional Table takes its name from our late cat Sophie. She liked to help me in the garden and was one of the best cats of the universe.
Sophie took her name from Sophia Smith College, the alma mater of Claire Niermann. Sturdy legs with a bold circular stretcher are enhanced by an inset slab of black glass – oh, so very mid-century.
Sophie comes in an awesome coffee table too.
The brand new Tissage Dining Table unfortunately came out too late for the New York Spaces story. All 36” in height, this table glimmers its welcome in a distressed gold-leaf finish, and I can hardly wait to see it used in customers’ homes. The glass top measures 54” in diameter.
This table developed from our wildly popular Tissage Chandelier, shown here at the Made in America Showhouse held at the Historic Woodland Plantation in Alexandria, VA. Yet another NW note in the room stands in front of the fireplace, our Verlaine Screen.
So come join the crowd and add gold-leaf to your home or office or hotel. We’ll be happy to make something for you, and thanks for reading my blog!
Horse trainer Leigh Delacour of the Delacour Stable and her mother Martha invited me to the races at Pimlico in Baltimore. We went up to see one of her thoroughbred run its very first race, coincidentally on the same day of the Kentucky Derby. Pimlico’s handsome logo features prominently within the racetrack.
The actual track is laid out in the traditional oval shape.
Photo courtesy of www.racehorseowner.com/art/rho-pimlico.html
Since Martha and I were guests of a trainer, we entered by the Horseman’s Entrance in the back of the track, where chivalry is alive and well. This nice man waited so he could hold the door open for us.
We then climbed up, up, up to the table Leigh had reserved for us in the grandstand. To handle the Derby Day crowd, Pimlico had set up a fancy all-day buffet so we could keep watching races on TV without ever leaving this area. We arrived early in the day; my straw hat rests on our table.
Martha, Leigh , and I were excited about the outcome of her race, and all the Derby hoopla, just iced our cake! The question hung over us – how will Leigh’s gelding Dr. Drew do? Owner Michael P. Cataneo joined us and posed here with Leigh and his friend, the original Dr. Drew Schoeffield, a microbiology professor from Loyola University. Posing done, Michael and Leigh returned to the serious business of considering the success of the equine Dr. Drew.
Martha whiled away the time by caring for her wonderful grandson who has grown up around horses. He swiveled his head this way and that at all the commotion but never fussed. Our waiter Dawn Perry was also wonderful, never once batting an eye as baby fingers played with spoons and napkins. She also kept us adults well hydrated with a never-ending supply of iced tea, so well described in the film Steel Magnolias as “the house wine of the South”. Dawn took a minute to pose with Wonder Baby, Leigh, and Martha.
About 2 pm, Leigh left us to help prepare her horse for the race and kindly let me join her in the special paddock reserved just for the horses about to run. I have never been around these huge animals before but imitated Leigh’s calm demeanor. She showed me how to feed a carrot to this behemoth animal, soon to be ridden by a racing official. One places a baby carrot flat in one’s palm, making sure the thumb lies as flat as possible next to the rest of the hand. God forbid giant horsy teeth should chomp on the wrong object. (The hand-crocheted white bonnet on its head keeps flies out of its ears and away from its eyes.)
Just as the racing horses began to enter. Non-essential people like me left the paddock , so we wouldn’t spook them. I took refuge behind a glass barrier, whose reflection you see over this last minute huddle of stable hand, horse, jockey, trainer, namesake, and owner.
The racers then walked around outside to calm their own jitters. I marveled at how the jockeys sit with their legs folded up into a fetal position.
In the meantime, people scurried to place bets at these machines or with human tellers.
I quickly raced myself back up to the buffet area for the best viewing – on TV and with Martha’s commentary. My camera caught the horses just as they left the gate. Thereafter, my lens just couldn’t keep up with thousand pound horses racing at almost 40 mph.
A mile later, the horse Blitzball won but my party was happy that Dr. Drew came in sixth. He won enough money to cover his expenses of the day, and he now had actual racing experience. Predictions are for a distinguished career.
Once the race was over, I was surprised by how rapidly the horses went home. Within thirty minutes, Dr. Drew and his racing cohort had returned to the back of beyond, to stables for cleaning up and then to climb up the steps behind the graduated screens. Vans then sped them to their home stables.
I took a last view of the track before Martha drove us to her home, so we could watch the Kentucky Derby on her TV.
Running in the driving rain in Louisville, this horse named Orb slogged the fastest through the mud to win the Kentucky Derby. I have texturized my photo to highlight the deep mud he ran in. Orb’s big task now is to prepare for the big Preakness race at Pimlico on May 18. We’re crossing our fingers as one of Orb’s owners is a Baltimore man.
If the Fates are kind, Orb will win the Preakness and then also the Belmont Stakes in Belmont, NY. It’s been 35 years since a horse won all three races, so hopes are high for a Triple Crown this year. Back finally in my own kitchen, I washed my souvenir glasses for this year’s Kentucky Derby and for the Preakness.
Thanks for reading my blog!
This showhouse began as a student design competition at the Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria, VA, co-sponsored by the Made in America program and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Students received the challenge to adapt an historic home built for George Washington’s nephew and step-granddaughter, to make it liveable for a family in 2013. Further, the students also selected American-made goods and were as green as possible. Rising superbly to this enormous mandate were students of interior design from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the George Washington University, and the Corcoran Museum of Art. Please join me in admiring their abilities by visiting their showhouse, which stays open until June 16, 2013.
Woodlawn consists of a main building flanked by hyphens. Within the main building, a grand U-shaped staircase connects the two floors with four rooms each. This photo shows the façade as seen from the land; visitors originally would have arrived by boat, from the Potomac River side.
Using the main doorway from the land side, I entered the central hallway decorated by students from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (hereafter UNCG) and was thrilled to see a pair of my Elgin Chairs. Their neo-classical design is actually appropriate to the 1805 original furnishing of this home, but Niermann Weeks makes them modern by making them ergonomically comfortable. We also make them of farmed wood, which is a renewable resource.
Moving to the right, front room, my eyes were lulled by walls in a very pale shade of blue, which brings the sky into the home and calms the mind. Then my mood shifted into happiness to see how students from the George Washington University had included two Niermann Weeks designs into their dining room. Our Tissage Chandelier holds pride of place over the dining table, and our brand new Verlaine Fire Screen made its debut in this room. We make both these products of metal, another renewable resource. Once metal products reach the end of their useful lives, they can be melted down and re-used in a new way. Further, metal products harbor fewer dust particles within a home, so they are safer for people with various allergies.
In the next room, on the right side of the house but on the water side, students from UNCG created a peaceful living room. Our Octagonal Mirror over the original fireplace would help lessen the impact of actually using the fireplace. As you know, a fireplace at work is all about creating ashy dust, but that dust won’t adhere very well to the surface of the glass. Glass, like metal, can be re-cycled endlessly into new products. On the walls in here, the National Trust used another calming shade, this time in neutralized green.
Interestingly, the owner of neighboring Mount Vernon, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, have adopted some raucous colors for their walls. They commissioned chemical analyses of fragments of original paints found in hiddenspots, which showed a surprisingly bright palette in 1799. Consequently, many interior walls have been re-interpreted in really loud colors like in this small dining room. Allow me to quote here from the American studies journal Transatlantica:
Like his contemporaries, George Washington greatly concerned himself with color, both its fastness and its fashionableness, and made socially and politically motivated color choices. When he ordered a new coach in 1768 he wrote to his London factor the following preferences and caveats:
« …green being a colour little apt, as I apprehend to fade, and grateful to the Eye, I woud give it the preference, unless any other colour more in vogue and equally lasting is entitled to precedency, in that case I woud be governed by fashion ».
Vive la difference!
(Photo courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, via www:transatlantica.revues.org/5612.)
Anyway, let’s return to the sitting room on Woodlawn’s left side, with the windows overlooking the water view. We’re back now to calming colors in which UNCG students very cleverly attached stencil paper as a border around the room. They could not alter the walls in any way, but this stencil applied with a removable adhesive did make the space more period-appropriate. They also had the good taste to include my Lucien Side Table, seen to the bottom left of this image.
Then a yummy luncheon rudely interrupted my tour of the house. UNCG hosted this meal with a lovely salad garnished by fried chicken, followed by a rhubarb crème brulee, a meal that would have done Martha Washington’s kitchen proud. After we felt very full, I asked the leadership of this showhouse to take a bow for my camera. On the left, DC’s noted interior designer Barbara Hawthorn headed the National Advisory Committee. James De Lorbe runs the Made in America program. UNCG’s Chancellor Linda P. Brady made gracious remarks and was obviously bursting with pride at her students’ accomplishments; 16 of them took part in this event. Finally, Alexa Hampton served as the honorary Chair of the showhouse. Unfortunately my camera failed to catch Professor Jo Leimenstoll, who teaches UNGC’s extraordinary class on interior architecture.
Feeling full and happy after lunch, I climbed the staircase to admire all UNCG’s treatment of the upstairs rooms. The most appealing to me, obviously, was the small sitting area in the upper foyer, with my Italian Chandelier lighting the space. The way our faux candle sleeves rise up out of their bobeches really does look like candles – without any of the bother of nasty drips of candle wax.
Saying my goodbyes to the group, I took a brief detour to a different part of the Woodlawn Plantation to see the outside of the Pope-Leighey House. This house was built to a simple Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian design in 1941 for $7,000. When the owner died, she left her home to the National Trust, which has twice moved it away to safer ground. The suburban informality of this house contrasts sharply with the formality of the main Plantation house, but both reflect American values at different periods in our history.
Please go to www.nbm.org/about-us/publications/blueprints/the-pope-leighey-house.html for an interview with Mr. Loren Pope concerning his interaction with Frank Lloyd Wright on the design and construction of his modest home. In the Library of Congress, the Historic American Building Survey includes this simple L-shaped floor plan.
Time, however, has been unkind to the home and its contents, so Pope-Leighey’s interior received full attention from the interior design students of the Corcoran School of Art and Design. A downstairs room in Woodlawn exhibited five boards proposing very different interior design treatments for the home today. Shown here is the board of graduate student Monica N. Mesa.
Thank for enjoying the Woodlawn’s Made in America Showhouse with me, and now please go see it for yourself! It will give you lots of inspiration. I have great expectations for all the young interior designers who participated here; we’ll be following their careers as they all rise in prominence.
So Many Websites For Your Learning Pleasure:
- www.memory.loc.gov and type in “Pope Leighey” to bring up digitized drawing and photos from the Historic American Buildings Survey
- http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/70000792.pdf, the National Trust’s Registration form for Woodlawn, 1998
- www.preservationnation.org/travel-and-sites/sites/woodlawn.html on the National Trust for Historic Preservation and on their property at Woodlawn Plantation
- www.uncg.edu/iar/ on their Interior Architecture program
The Washington Design House opened April 14 on one of DC’s earliest and finest spring days. The balmy air caressed humans and flowering creatures, making us all feel happy, a feeling augmented by the lovely rooms in all four floors of the showhouse.
As usual, all proceeds from the showhouse will continue to support the Children’s National Medical Center. This facility has grown from very humble beginnings in 1981 in a rented rowhouse into a national center for best practices in children’s health. Last year’s showhouse generated almost a quarter million dollars, so let’s hope we can beat that amount this year. See more on the hospital at www.childrensnational.org.
For 2013 the interior designers mostly presented spaces of serenity, although there were several zingers. However, let’s start with the serenity in Camille Saum’s Living Room, as calming as her outfit was not. The ever flamboyant Camille posed underneath Niermann Weeks’ new Trieste Chandelier, with my daughter Eleanor Niermann standing in the background. Camille swathed herself in fuchsia silk outfit, from the top of her signature hat down to her well-shod toes. Pulling my eyes back to the room itself, the wide and gracious open spaces in our chandelier let my eye take in the entire space with its tranquil palette. For more about Camille herself, please go to www.camillesaum.com.
In the Family Room, Victoria Neale returned our eyes to peacefulness, and she dressed accordingly. Too bad you can’t see the magnificent black pearls in her necklace and earrings. Vickie let our Ashanti Mirror dominate the fireplace, while a pair of painted panels by Douglas Freeman augmented the tan and celery tones of her design. This room would be a wonderful retreat after a tough day, and Vickie can work the same magic with your home. Visit and imagine at www.victorianealeinteriors.com.
In the Morning Room, Iantha Carley created a sunny ambiance in the morning room using a palette of yellow, taupe, and white. The orange pet bed gives just a little eye-pop. Niermann Weeks also thanks her for using an acrylic coffee table from the Spectrum Collection, whom we represent in our Washington, DC and New York City showrooms. Iantha here embraces her husband, and they are both dressed to enhance this space. You can enjoy her portfolio at www.ianthainteriors.com, and see more of the Spectrum designs at www.spectrumcollection.com.
The last calming space I’ll share with you is the Dining Room on the lower level, designed by Scott Cooke. Playing off the rounded molding in the tray ceiling, he repeated the circular motif in his center table, chairs, and even the painted sisal rug. The round form of our Iron and Crystal Chandelier contributes to his theme. Scott and Mary Douglas Drysdale posed here with me. I really need to remember to tuck my shirt in, but you must remember to see more about Scott at www.scottcookedesign.com.
Let’s now transition to less tranquil spaces. Charles Almonte, who is both an AIA architect and an ASID interior designer, says he can enhance a client’s space according to their lifestyle and taste. The client for his powder room loves bold graphics, with fabulous wallpaper from Farrow and Ball. Charles is standing in front of a tall spray of punk blossoms, the only color in a black and white room. I love the exuberant graphic on the wall but do wonder how a tipsy person would respond. Anyway, you owe it to yourself to visit www.charlesalmonte.com.
Terri Hartwell Easter and her partner Ashleigh Bradshaw handled a similar space very differently. In the hallway leading into another bathroom, they lined the walls with a collection of mixed-media, sculptured heads entitled Thinking About Men by the artist Theresa Knight McFadden. In the relations between the sexes, I am sure we’ve all made faces like on these statues. Terri’s chartreuse jacket just added to the zippiness of this space. She and Ashleigh work together as The Maris Elaine Gallery, www.mariselainegallery.com.
A newcomer to the DC area, Ms. Regan Billingsley gave vibrant stripes to the teenaged boy’s bedroom. Regan is moving here from NYC, and her Facebook page shows lots of images of her creativity. As she conceived this bedroom, no kid could long enjoy an attack of sullenness in this very alive environment. To learn more about Regan, visit www.rbhomedesign.com.
Finally dragging ourselves away from all this stimulation, Eleanor and I walked back to our car. En route, I enjoyed a mass planting of Virginia Bluebells, a delicate plant that goes entirely dormant at the first hint of hot weather. In my yard, my clump of Virginia bluebells is tiny, but maybe over the years it will expand like this one. I sure hope so.
Going home, we passed the US Capitol and enjoyed seeing citizens engaging in their right to peaceful protest, even though we never got close enough to see what the yellow shirts were protesting. Too bad the creepy bombers at the Boston Marathon didn’t engage in peaceful protest for whatever their cause is.
And finally we drove home at twilight on Highway 50, which the State of Maryland keeps beautifully planted throughout the year. In the spring, flowering pear trees outline both sides of the highway.
Thanks for reading my blog!
PS: It’s eating at my craw that one of the show house rooms featured a knock-off of our Loire Bed, fabricated by a person who should know better. Just so you recognize the original, here’s how it looked in our natural steel finish in Home & Design (Winter 2011).
In 2008 we finished our Loire Bed in a silver leaf finish for a customer.
OK, enough of me being snarky, and thanks for your patience!
Mercifully this winter is almost over, so my head dances with floral images. My witch hazel tree is almost done with its blooming season, which started in December. Since Christmas breezes over these tiny flowers have wafted their scent of cloves onto my porch.
My first early bloomers of spring are nodding in today’s light snow, but daffodils and this crocus are strong creatures and will survive.
Being obsessed now with floral forms, I decided to look through Niermannn Weeks’ design library to review my faves. Before Joe and I married, he couldn’t tell a flower from a hamburger, but subtly I have embedded all kinds of knowledge into his head. For instance, I have always seen an Art Deco floral brooch in our Biarritz Ceiling Fixture. If I were a jeweler, I’d miniaturize this design into a brooch, which would glow on the lapel of my best business attire. This is my Polaroid of the prototype we sent for approval to our patron Rodges Menzies in Memphis. Fortunately, he loved it.
Our Thistle Ceiling Fixture took its leafy silhouettes from the thistles that grow wild in our yard. When we first moved into our place, the neglected garden had been overrun with invasive “weeds” that survived drought and deer. The seeds from the tall thistles still continue to thrive in a contained area up by the street, forming a nasty, prickly hedge in the summer that discourages the deer.
Our thistle homage, however, benignly casts warm light and interesting shadows.
One of my all-time NW favorite photos shows off our expertise with customizing, in this case with our Foliate Lantern. The bitty one in the center stands about 13” tall, while the giant on the right came in at 72” tall.
The leaf form on that lantern was inspired by our first family trip to Italy, where we saw real acanthus plants blooming en masse in the fields. We had to come back home to re-draw our standard images of that leaf form, which before drew its inspiration only from classical engravings. The real thing is so much prettier.
A bed of acanthus leaves supports the bouquet of roses and start flowers on our Mille-Fleurs Headboard. Our artists use finely pointed brushes to painstakingly paint this golden arrangement on a flat metal panel. The delicate motif fools the eye so our sturdy headboard looks gossamer in a bedroom.
The more I think about the joys of the growing season, the more I can hardly wait for the peonies and this year’s annuals to surround our pool. Starting in May we’ll invite friends and family over for picnics and to just hang out with beauty.
As you can tell, I am so glad that winter’s almost gone for this year. The hellebores are blooming, and all the spring flora will soon bloom.
And before I know it, a jumble of texture, color, and shape will delight me once more.
Thanks for reading my blog, and I hope your springtime will be as glorious as mine!
As many of you know, Joe Niermann deals with a family history of heart disease. He has now been diagnosed with Stage 4 Congestive Heart Disease. Consequently, at age 67, his priorities now are rest, relaxation and just enjoying his family.
Joe is a dynamic, strong person who has instilled his passion for design in his daughters and the entire Niermann Weeks Company. We ask for your support, love and prayers at this time.
Eleanor McKay, CEO and Joe’s wife of 44 years
Amongst the interior design vignettes nestled this soothing space by Elizabeth CB March of the Baltimore interior design firm, Jenkins Baer (www.jenkinsbaer.com/marsh.html). She beautifully used wrought iron candlesticks of varying heights to break up the formality of her space. The candlesticks came from Luke Proctor, whose booth presented a greater variety of his hand-forged creations in iron mixed with wood. See more of his work at www.lproctorironworks.com. The harmonious nature of this room makes me feel like I’m inside a painting by the impressionist painter JMS Whistler.
Troy Brooks calls himself a Maker of Fine Furniture, but I think he’s really a wood whisperer, bringing out the greatest beauty and strength in wood. He allows the grain in this desk to shimmer, and he made a functional piece of furniture with wonderful proportions. I really like furniture that works. So if you already have enough Niermann Weeks in your home, it’s fine with me to add a piece from him. You can see a selection at www.troybrookvisions.com/furniture.
Niermann Weeks made its first ergonomically comfortable chair in 1989, and we learned the hard way that a comfortable chair is probably the hardest piece of furniture to design. The human body comes in so many variations of height, weight, and breadth that no one chair can fit all people. Alan Daigre of www.alandaigre.com solves part of this problem by creating mobility within his chairs. He selects hardwoods with great strength and grain patterns, then cuts and pieces bits together by hand. Within the frame of this rocker, each piece of his mosaic flexes with the body sitting in it. His chairs are really comfortable, and my tired legs did not want to leave them.
Another symphony in wood is this hat rack by Don and Jenifer Green (www.greentreehome.com). At 66” tall, its controlled swoops and curves form a sturdy piece for the entry way. I might just keep it as a sculpture and never acknowledge its intended function. It reminds me of architecture by Gaudi, of the interiors of Gothic cathedrals, etc.
Alison Sigethy is new to this show but I bet she returns again and again with her Sea Core Bubble Tubes. Within each tube, bubbles float up and around, which I think would be very restful to watch after a long day, like a thinking person’s lava lamp. For those of us lucky enough to live in the DC area, we’re even luckier that Alison’s studio is in the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA. To enjoy the sights and sounds of a sea core, go to www.alisonsigethy.com/#!sea-cores/cb3i and click on the bottom right.
Still in the realm of home décor are Jennifer McCurdy’s ceramics, which she throws as thinly as possible on her wheel, then carves into pierced work. The way light flows through and around these delicate wonders is just numinous. Her natural forms would be right at home in the ocean’s surf or on a sideboard. See more on her website www.jennifermccurdy.com.
Going to a stranger place, look at these female torsos in blown glass by Alexis Silk (www.alexissilk.com). Ms. Silk has truly captured shape and skin tones of the feminine body. Personally, I am disquieted by hanging the sculpture on metal hooks.
The artistry is easier for me to appreciate when the torso is divorced from its metal presentation.
And now, here are some of my favorite jewelers, including the new-to-this-show Ashley Buchanan. She sculpts her bracelets, earrings, and necklaces from flat steel, powdered-coated (just like furniture) to withstand abuse from use and weather. I would never have thought to reduce this process to create ornamentation for the body. Ashley is just too cool; please meet her work at www.ashleybuchananjewelry.com.
Niermann Weeks uses the same techniques to produce our outdoor furniture, so I immediately understood her work and appreciated her creativity in producing miniature body art. Our Italian Arm Chair and Ottoman are welded of rolled steel and flat sheet metal, then powder-coated for outdoor use.
More coolness comes from Debbie Tuch’s adaptive re-use of slices of dried fruit as jewelry. Several years ago, my daughter Eleanor surprised me with a broach made from a pear slice. It’s sealed in a clear, glittery resin that preserves the natural contour of the fruit. Since then I have purchased new brooches, one of a blood orange and one of a lime, each of which starts a conversation at a party. Debbie makes all kinds of jewelry in these fruits but also of hard candies, so please look at her line on www.glitterlimes.com.
And finally, Danielle Gori-Montanelli transforms humble wool felt into jewelry that makes me happy, just as her smile does. Over the years my collection has grown to include many of her pieces, of which my fave is a large licorice pin. You owe it to yourself to visit her at www.studiodgm.com.
I thank you for enjoying the craft show with me, and offer my apologies to all the talented people whose work not featured here. You are all awesome!
Every February my craft-loving self attends the huge American Craft Council Show at the Baltimore Convention Center. This year, in addition to over 600 craftspeople, there was also a series of interior design vignettes. My friends Martha and Noelle and I explored for six hours, emerging visually thrilled and laden with new purchases. Fair warning: I saw so many wonderful craftspeople at this show, that it will take me yet another blog post to share them with you.
The vignette by DC interior designer Mary Douglas Drysdale drew me like a magnet. Mary always delights my eye in unexpected ways, this time by not using her trademarked intense palette. Her room unexpectedly presented calming blacks and whites, which she jazzed with lines going vertically, horizontally, and helter-skelter. At www.marydouglasdrysdale.com you can see her portfolio illustrating her magic way with color and light.
Moving on into the craft area itself, we enjoyed new talent from students of the Virginia Commonwealth University (www.vcu.edu) in Richmond. Just the posture of these two young women prepared me for a breath of fresh air.
The Peruvian artist Ms. Nebiur Arellano is a more established presence with her fantastically worked silken panels. She embellishes transparent silk with acrylic paints and metallic threads so they just shimmer. You owe it to yourself to look at her website www.nebiurart.com, but here’s an entire framed composition.
This detail shot is almost life-sized. The amount of her handwork is just staggering as is its visual impact.
Jim Rosenau from Berkeley, CA creates whimsical compositions from vintage books. As he explains on his website, www.thisintothat.com, he was raised to revere books. I got the same indoctrination: don’t ever write in one, or tip its pages, or spill water on it – even if it’s a used textbook. Somehow, he rose above that early childhood training to use books themselves a works of art. I love Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? and wish my photo were glare-free.
My friend Martha purchased a hummingbird feeder from the glass artist Jack Pine, of whom more can be seen at www.jackpinestudio.com.
Jack studied the art of blowing glass under the maestro Dale Chihuly and is now a maestro in his own right. If my home were larger, it would now show off one of his gorgeous sets of pumpkins. Choosing which one to show you was difficult, but this is it. I can’t imagine the skill required to blow all this color and texture into one object, let alone into four variations on the theme. Seeing work of this impact makes me wonder about the difference between art and craft. Craftspeople are often dismissed as merely skilled technicians producing useful objects. Snottily, the criticism of crafters is that even a machine can be programmed to replicate their specific skill. However, Jack Pine’s glass objects spoke to me so emotionally that I want to call them art. I think he’s caught the essence of pumpkin-ness.
It’s been years since the National Gallery of Art (www.nga.gov) introduced me to Alexander Calder’s mobiles and stabiles, but that experience left me a sucker for these forms. My friend and Pilates instructor Noelle Richmond (www.bodylibra.com) shares our mutual enthusiasm with Bud Schieffel in his booth. His website www.earthsaverwindsculpture.com shows even more of his kinetic, mult-textured, multi-media artworks.
More traditional mobiles took the airspace in Jay Jones’ booth. Jay works primarily in copper. You can get his purer shapes in a protected copper version which will never tarnish, or in raw copper which will patinate to blue green. Personally I prefer the used, patinated look. You can enjoy more of his work at www.etsy.com/people/jfjones
Switching now to the clothing designers, Andrea Geer knit this fabulous collar, which drew me across a crowded room like a puppet on a string. She explains her hand-looming process of making one-of-kind showstoppers like this collar on her website www.andreageer.com. Her clothing can transform any woman into a movie star.
The nimble hands of sisters Lynn and Meta Reintsema have made me several black suits, one in linen and one in wool, so this year I went for the pale blue silk jacket you see in the right background. If you and I should meet at a design event this spring, you’ll see me flaunting it.
Any day now Joyce Stewart of www.jesclothing.com will send me my vest of crushed silk. She’ll use the same fabric you see in the copper-colored jacket on the top left of this picture. With my red hair, the vest will make me feel special.
So that’s it for now, and thanks for reading my blog! Come back next week to experience the rest of my fun at the craft show.
But wait, there’s more….If you want to visit an American Craft Council Show for yourself, just click on this link: www.craftcouncil.org/event-calendar
Since humans started using artificial light, we have found pretty ways to enhance the light source. Bronze Age people simply folded a terra cotta disc, fired it, filed it with oil, added a wick, and let there be light. I borrowed this image from www.worldwideflood.com/ark/technology/oil_lamps.htm.
Using candles, people eventually worked out more elaborate light fixtures, witness the Great Chandelier that originally lit part of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. I would guess that its multitude of candles probably gave off the equivalent of 15 watts of a modern light bulb.
In modern times, the candles in this chandelier in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul have been replaced by electric CFL bulbs.
At the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore this weekend I saw a wonderful contemporary take on electric lighting by GDG Studios, hand-crafted of porcelain in their New Jersey atelier. For more funkiness, look at their website, www.gdgstudios.com.
We at Niermann Weeks, however, work in more traditional forms, yielding many beautiful and functional light fixtures, of which my current favorite is a new one collaboratively designed by members of my family. Joe cut this original maquette from manila file folders. Joe and I have always been fascinated by the hugeness of aerial balloons and their ability to fly freely through the air, so this 8” skeleton reflects years of observation.
My daughters Eleanor and Claire ran with his concept to create our newest chandelier, the Roziere. Here you can see the drawing for the iron worker, showing him the exact scale and type of iron stock to use.
Hey presto – the Roziere in all its glory, with beads in place and the French gold leaf finish. The six lights wonderfully reflect light through the hand-strung crystals.
I love it and hope you do too.
Thanks for reading my blog!
Niermann Weeks is represented in fabulous San Francisco in the equally fabulous showroom of Michael Taylor Designs. Handsome Michael Taylor operated his own design firm from 1956 until his death in 1986, yet his designs for furnishings and interiors have earned him a place in the Top 100 Designers of Architectural Digest.
To refresh your memory of the Michael Taylor style, here’s a quote from the company’s website. Consistently denouncing the cluttered and pretentious, he had a simple ethos: when you take something out, you must increase the size of what’s left. The inventor of what has come to be known as the California Look, he became famous for white-walled, light-filled rooms with boldly over scaled furniture and decorative accessories. I think it’s wonderful that his company now represents the company Joe Niermann and I created. Our great thanks to Lee Pierce, current owner of Michael Taylor Designs, for including us in his showroom!
The San Francisco showroom reflects the California Look with wide open spaces, lots of white, and even a lofty second floor. That’s my Iron and Crystal Chandelier hanging over the dining table.
As visitors walk in the front door, my Avignon Chandelier hangs over a classic display of Michael’s outdoor furniture. Look on the bottom left at the praying figurine, a Chinese statue from Michael’s own personal collection.
More of Niermann Weeks lighting hangs hither and yon throughout. My Vivaldi, Grimaldi, and Rivoli chandeliers hang in front of my Iron and Crystal Sconces on the back wall.
My Gothic Lantern takes the right foreground while the Sévigné Screen anchors the chartreuse wall.
In addition, Niermann Weeks does have some furniture in this showroom. Here the Julian Mirror stands on the Renishaw Commode, flanked on the walls by the Avignon Sconces with, on the left, a LaFalaise Chair.
The showroom, however, invited me to do more than ogle their beautiful displays. 38 people earned an entire .1 CEU by attending my presentation, Greener Lighting: Today’s Choice in Light Bulbs.
These are some the new light bulbs whose efficiency and esthetics we discussed.
To cap off my great time in San Francisco, I even got to admire the fabulous statue, Cupid’s Span, on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Yes, you guessed it – the sculptors were Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.
Lest you think all my exuberance has been ridiculous, look at the view from my plane when I left home. Now you can understand that I left the dreary ickiness of winter in Maryland, to go have a good time in a better climate with people just wearing light sweaters.
Thanks for reading my blog, and go enjoy San Francisco for yourself!
Niermann Weeks is finishing some unusually lovely furniture right now, like this Wrought Steel Coffee Table. Even though it is a standard product, I will still rhapsodize about it. Each steel leg is hand-forged from a single piece of iron to achieve the splayed foot that rises to a disc mid-way up the leg, and then ends in a square column.
Rob must heat the raw steel and beat it into the shapes he wants to create within each leg. Then he does it three more times, making each leg into a perfect component of the table base.
Our painters then paint the raw steel with as many as 11 different layers to create the natural look that we call Natural Steel.
For me, the real fun is in watching David or Hallie or Tom take a raw board and over paint it with many, many layers to create the look of marble.
We also make this beautiful finish on our Wrought Steel Desk. My fingers have a love affair with its hand-hammered drawer pulls.
Another wonderful little piece is this Column Chandelier, reduced in size by about a third, to 24” diameter b 24” high, and painted in a custom regency green with gold leaf accents. I think this would look stunning in a foyer or a small bathroom.
And my final feature for today is this golden Saint Cloud Dining Table. You see it 54” in diameter by 30” high, but its leaf extends it 82” in length. The lucky owner can seat anywhere from four to eight people comfortable for a holiday feast. Think how pretty a Valentine’s Day display would look juxtaposed against this pale finish.
Thanks for reading my blog!
My friend Patricia Sullivan of the Museum of Maritime Pets (www.museumofmaritimepets.org) invited me to visit the Sackler Gallery with her on a foggy Friday. Crossing the Mall, we looked up to the U.S. Capitol, hardly able to see its top or at its base the prep for President Obama’s second inaugural.
Looking down the Mall, the Washington Monument loomed high in front of a tent. I have no idea why the tent was there at 12th Street, which seems a far distance from the Capital, but maybe this too is inaugural prep. The grass lawn looks awful, just in time for hundreds of feet to pound it some more.
Pat and I walked over to the Sackler Gallery, whose entrance from the Mall is inside this wonderful onion dome.
The Sackler and the adjacent Freer compose the Asian arts center of the Smithsonian, and each building is named for its original donor. Interestingly, 96% of the Sackler was built underground, beneath the Enid Haupt Garden. So, visitors enter either this cute building or another, more traditional entrance on the Independence Avenue side. Once inside, you can ride down, down, down on a breathtaking escalator. On my descent, my hands white-knuckled the rails. At the bottom, I recovered myself and took this picture showing the slope of the descent. Very scary, like the elevators at the Dupont Metro.
For such an expensive building to construct, the Sackler has very little exhibit space. The center of the building is open from the top floor to the basement, letting in natural light. The artificial lighting artfully keeps you from feeling like you are way underground, as you can see from this photo I snapped on the lowest exhibition floor.
My friend Pat and I visited the exhibition, Roads of Arabia: Archeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia. A vast mural welcomed us into the show.
In the midst of the sand and rock, an oasis allowed the growth of a forest of date palms. To realize the scope of this forest, look at that solid band beneath the rock up-croppings. It’s a miracle that anything could grow in such an inhospitable environment, yet this exhibition shows how man and nature have managed. Entering the show, you see huge, man-made stone slabs dating from 6.000 years ago. Since no photos are allowed within the exhibit, look at these slabs known as stelae reproduced on banners outside the Sackler’s more traditional entrance.
My favorite artifact on display was this bronze head from the 1st century AD. The head looks about 15” tall. To my eye, the damaged left side gave the sculpture a Picasso-like effect, and I wanted to run my hands through the fabulous sausage curls.
The intense eyes on this 1st century man felt somewhat creepy, although in a million years I could never produce such a compelling image.
Dating a mere 500 hundred years ago is this tile art, a fragment from a shrine. Since it hung in the hallway outside the gift shop, a guard said I could take this photo.
Rising upwards to the lobby for leaving the Sackler, Pat and I gasped over the beauty of this bouquet of fruit blossoms;
thrilled to see snowdrop bulbs in full bloom in mid-January;
we wandered happily through Enid Haupt’s garden behind the Smithsonian Castle.
Mercifully, the traffic in the Friday afternoon rush hour wasn’t too bad, so we returned home in an hour, undamaged in car-body or in human spirit.
Thanks for reading my blog, and go refresh yourself by visiting a museum!
I see home fashion trends in orders processing through our studios, where our artisans are now working on chandeliers and sconces of teeny, tiny proportions and custom detailing. Only 18” high, this custom Italian ceiling fixture combines bi-level metal arms, six lights, and double crystal swags. Its finish combines Elgin pearl, faux painted zinc, and silver leaf.
This customer also ordered a pair of special Italian sconces for outdoor use, repeating the finish and the double bead swag of the chandelier. These personalized orders are great fun to create.
But wait, we have even more custom Italian chandeliers ready to ship out, like this one that’s 18” high, finished in a lighter variation on our Venetian silver leaf.
And this one, also 18”high, in our standard chalk rust.
This Biarritz Ceiling Fixtures stands 10’ high but reaches to 19” in diameter, finished in Mecca Silver leaf.
This Zinc Wall Lantern comes in at 15” high, and is part of an order for 8 lanterns of varying sizes up to 25” high.
Fearing you might get bored by looking at more teenies, I’ll conclude with a favorite images of Niermann Weeks’ lighting. If you ever wonder how much we can customize a fixture, this photo is worth a thousand words. FYI – The 13” teeny stands in the center.
Happy 2013 and thanks for reading my blog!