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!
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
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!
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!
During Design San Francisco 2013 in the SF Design District, Eleanor McKay will introduce you to the evolving technology of chandelier light bulbs, mandated by 2007 federal standards for greater energy efficiency. Learn about her experiments with various bulbs, and handle samples of incandescent, halogen, CFL, and LED light bulbs. Participants will earn .1 CEU credit.
Michael Taylor Designs will host the talk on Wednesday, February 6 from 1:30 to 2:30 pm. Please RSVP by Friday, February 1.
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!
It’s new knee time for me, so please give me a couple months off from this blog to recuperate. Joe is now eight weeks out from his own knee surgery, and is well enough to have taken Amtrak to NYC. Having taken care of him this summer, I saw how completely dependent I will be for about the first month, so I’ve been hoarding reading material by my temporary bed in the living room. Some of these books will improve my professional mind, and some will provide escapism.
Newly arrived from Amazon is The Color Revolution (Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series) by Regina Lee Blaszczyk. The author traces the story of mid-19th century chemical innovations in colorfast dyes and the fashion industry’s subsequent adoption of the new technology. For example, the French Empress Eugenie and Britain’s Queen Victoria co-inspired the trend of wearing a particular shade of lilac. Naturally, all the aspirationist fashionistas needed to also wear that color, which you can see at https://www.nobility.org/2011/01/27/social-inequality-redounds-to-the-advantage-of-all/
As you can imagine, as soon as new dyes came out, immediately designers of apparel, accessories, kitchen appliances, cars, hotels, furniture, etc. embraced the use of any color but black. As an aside, I started this book last night, but my eyes could hardly squint enough to comprehend the small, unfriendly typeface. Fortunately Joe collects magnifying glasses, so I put one next to my book pile. Prediction: using the magnifier on that font will be a PITA.
Writing about fonts, it’s time to re-read Just my Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield. He writes about the people who designed different typefaces, like these examples, all shown in their 12 point typeface.
However, the fonts in Introducing Postmodernism: A Graphic Guide by Richard Appignanesi gave me no trouble at all. This book is a surprisingly delightful comic book that explains postmodernism, which I didn’t really understand. According to him, the concept dates from the mid-nineteenth century. It means that there is no abstract reality, just our impressions of it. My practical mind had no idea what that last sentence meant – until I read this book the first time. the author illustrates this new theory with an example that a urinal could be considered a Fountain, as interpreted by Marcel Duchamp in 1917.
Or a sofa could include fantastic elements like this modern white sofa for a living room, as seen at http://trendzona.com/interior-and-furniture/furniture-design/10/art-furniture.html.
My personal reality prefers furniture combining form and function like Niermann Weeks’ Gabrielle Sofa. It sits well plus looks lovely in personalized upholstery.
I could sit in it while re-reading The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal. a descendant of once prominent banking family, the Ephrussis. In the 19th and early twentieth centuries, the wealth and status of this Jewish family rivaled that of the Rothschilds, with whom they intermarried. Their lives were storybook until World War I ate their assets, and in World War II many were exterminated by the Nazis. De Waal’s history of his family is told through the passage from heir to heir of collection of 264 Japanese netsukes, small carved buttons once used by Japanese gentlemen to close their purses. The author, who gets this photo credit, named his charming, moving book for the tiny carved hare shown at the bottom left.
De Waal’s great-great-something uncle Charles Ephrussi originally amassed the collection. Charles was a serious patron of the arts and high culture in the Paris of his day. The impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir was so grateful to M. Ephrussi that his 1880 painting Luncheon of the Boating Party shows Ephrussi in the background, wearing the black frock coat and top hat.
Moving way backwards in time, I also plan to re-read Madeline Miller’s the Song of Achilles: A Novel. Homer’s Illiad has been required reading in the Western canon for centuries, and schools forced me to read it in both high school and college, yet I just couldn’t get my head around the core story. I did understand that Achilles, depicted here in an ancient Greek pot, was a major player in the Trojan War.
But the complexity of the poetry always kept my focus while the story just slipped away. Madeline Miller, however, has told the story in prose, which my head could understand, and her words have their own beauty. thank you very much, Ms. Miller, and please keep writing books.
Finally, I get to escapism pure and simple with mysteries by the Canadian author Louise Penny.
In the modern-day Province of Quebec, her Chief inspector Armand Gamache always snuffles around until he and his team root out the evil-doer. Each book in this series has won umpteen awards and has captivated me. If only all people were as noble, kind, intelligent, loving, and perfect as M. Gamache. The Beautiful Mystery is her newest title, incorporating her love of mystery with her love of music. I must re-read this book to savor the impact of music. I must re-read this book to savor the impact of music within its pages and within my own life. The music she uses is Gregorian chant, a beautiful style of singing taught to me in Catholic grade school. We sang the music in solemn masses and in the masses for dead.
And of course Donna Leon always transports me to Venice in her series on the equally charming Commissario Guido Brunetti. She is better than any guidebook to that magical city. The last time I physically visited her city was during Carnavale, when the strangest creatures walked among us. Ms. Leon entertains me with her stories and reminds me of my many happy times in her city.
You can see that my mind has lots to occupy itself during my recuperation, but please do send me recommendations of other not-to-be-missed titles.
Thanks for reading my blog, wish me well, and welcome me back in a couple months!
How to find these authors:
- Richard Appignanesi lurks in many websites but lacks one of his very own.
- www.imaginingconsumers.com maintained by Regina Lee Blaszczyk
James DeLorbe, the dynamo behind the Made in America program, is now organizing a student showhouse for the benefit of Historic Woodlawn outside Alexandria, Virginia. Originally this property was a wedding gift of 2,000 acres from George Washington to his adopted daughter, on her marriage in 1799 to his nephew. As you can imagine, Woodlawn is a spectacular historic home with surrounding grounds going down to the Potomac River. It is now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). Recently interior design students from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Maryland’s Montgomery College, and DC’s George Washington University all converged for a private tour, stage one in the planning and creation of the showhouse. Even in the property’s neglected state, it turned on my envy button, and I will really enjoy participating in this showhouse.
To give you yet more background, George and Martha Washington raised two young children, Eleanor Parke Custis and her brother George Washington Parke Custis, after their father died at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. These children, two year old Nellie and her infant brother Washie, were Martha’s actual grandchildren. As General Washington became President Washington, young Nellie and Washie stayed in the public eye. Fast forward to 1799 when Nellie married George’s nephew Lawrence Lewis, just a few months before the death of her adopted father. George Washington gave the young couple this 2,000 acre property carved out of his Mount Vernon estate. By 1805 the young couple, Nellie and Lawrence, had spared little expense in building their home at Woodlawn, a brick, Georgian style home with some of the most current Federal architectural flourishes. Fast forward again to today, when the house is being restored, only a quarter of the original furnishings remain, and portraits of more mature Lawrence and Nellie are on display.
The NTHP’s Deputy Director for Historic Woodlawn, Susan Hellman, is now working with Jim De Lorbe of Made in America to raise awareness of this national architectural treasure. This is the first time a National Trust property will be open to an interior design competition. The student showhouse will engage about 25 students in the business of creating a showhouse by installing rooms in Woodlawn with furnishings donated by companies which have won Made in America awards. All parties will win in this cooperative effort, and the house will once more be open to the public. Here’s the façade of the lesser front of their home, the side that faces the land.
Nellie and Lawrence build a standard English structure the reigns of Kings Georges I, II, and III, with five parts: a central block with enclosed hyphens attaching a smaller structure at either end. Large windows symmetrically placed let in lots of air and daylight. The oval window in the top center, however, gave a nod to American Federal fashions in architecture. Each of the blackened windows in this house today will soon be replaced with a completely restored window with 12 over 12 panes, just as in the house’s heyday. While the young family lived in the center block, Lawrence’s office took up the left, and the kitchen used the right wing.
Their formal, grander façade, however, faced the Potomac River. In the days before interstate highways, travel was easier via waterways, so guests to Woodlawn arrived at the dock and by carriage came up to the more imposing side of the mansion.
As I stood on the front porch, here’s the view all the way down to the river.
Of many original outbuildings, the smokehouse still stands, set back a ways from Lawrence’s office.
And the Flemish bond of the bricks is still as tight as ever.
The interior, however, presents a sadder story. Jim De Lorbe spoke to us all in one of the original hyphens, that had been all dolled up in the early 20th century to look like an 18th century interior.
Downstairs Nellie’s original harpsichord stool remains in her music room, the grandest room in the house with its 14½ foot high ceilings.
In her center hallway her grandfather clock grandly stands.
Going upstairs is an adventure in climbing her steep oval staircase but I bet she looked great sweeping up or down it in her wide skirts.
To give me a sense of balance on the stairs, I clutched the handrail painted in a faux wood grain to match some of the original faux wood grain still left in the music room. In Nellie’s time, faux graining might be far more luxurious than leaving the wood in its natural grain. I think, however, that this graining is a modern interpretation.
At the landing, built into the wall, is a copy of a mural painted by Nellie’s brother Washie. I have lightened my photo considerably to expose the nautical scene hidden underneath layers of grime. The original and very grimy painting stays in safe, off-site storage.
An upstairs bedroom holds an original bed, although the linen can charitably be dismissed as a nice gesture.
Looking up into the bed, I loved the oddly proportioned opening in the canopy.
In just a few more months, Susan Hellman and Jim DeLorbe can show off an interior furnished by these teams of student interior designers. The students will present the house – within their budgets and the lending policies of the Made in America awarded manufacturers – to attract a new affluent family to enjoy the magnificence of this property. Look for a blog in April of next year showing how the students did George Washington proud.
Thanks for reading my blog!
Websites to look at include:
The importance of goods made in America has become more and more important lately as we are all adjusting to the changes in the world’s economies. In light of that, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Manufacturing Institute are launching the inaugural Manufacturing Day on October 5 to promote awareness of American jobs across the field and across the country.
We have made our headquarters in Maryland since 1984, and have featured in some articles in Maryland publications. Eleanor McKay, co-founder of Niermann Weeks and wife of Joe Niermann, was recently interviewed by Nick Sohr of Maryland Biz News. She spoke about the history of Niermann Weeks, from our start in the garage behind the family home in Memphis, TN in 1978, to the projects we’re working on in our present day studios outside Annapolis, MD. The full article is on their website, and the video interview is available below.
The Capital newspaper of Annapolis, MD just ran an article on the wide variety of local manufacturers in our home Anne Arundel county and neighboring Queen Anne’s county. We are part of a wide range of hands-on makers of goods ranging from aprons by Mama’s Apron Strings to guitars by Paul Reed Smith to stainless steel toy rings by Kleynimals.
We are thrilled to see the renewed focus on American made products, and are proud to be have been part of that tradition for the last 34 years.
Railroads are the most civilized way to travel, proven once again by my recent trip to Florida via Amtrak’s Auto Train. Instead of my white knuckles gripping the steering wheel along an over-crowded I-95, the 900 miles effortlessly floated past the windows of our roomette. My friend Joan Datesman and I loaded her car onto the train in Lorton, VA, enjoyed a lovely dinner on the train, and slept the night away until our arrival in Sanford, FL, near Orlando. The Amtrak engineers and planners have created an elegant process for handling all the cars and people with tender loving care, so kudos to them.
The Lorton station reminds you constantly that you are headed towards palm trees.
We drove our car under a canopy, where an Amtrak employee put a magnetic ID number on the driver’s door of each vehicle and then video-taped the condition of the car. Drivers loaded each car onto covered rail cars,
while we enjoyed the air-conditioning inside the station until our 3 pm boarding time.
Intrepid children could have played outside on a train set, but the summer heat and humidity kept us all safely inside.
At the appointed hour, all 500 passengers boarded to find their assigned seats or roomettes, and Amtrak did some advertising while everybody loaded.
Our reserved roomette testified to clever, thoughtful ergonomic design. The entire room measured 81” wide by 113” long, and broke into two separate area – the sitting/bed room and the private dressing/toilet area.
By day we enjoyed two seats by the window, with a pull-down table top. Joan used her time to work on her website http://www.merrywalk.com for her antique French Quimper pottery sales. I, however, kept looking out the window to enjoy the passing scenery. In Virginia the train passed inland lakes, the Atlantic Ocean, the US Marine base at Quantico, small towns, and a predominantly hardwood forest.
As soon as we took our seats, our concierge Sallie plied us with free bottles of water, and gave us a printed paper menu from which to choose our dinner. Joan enjoyed the chicken dish, and I the steak entrée. Both tasted and looked great, putting us in a good mood for the evening.
Come twilight, Sallie transformed our seating area into the upper and lower berths. She flipped the tables and chairs around into this bed configuration, with each bunk sized 78” long but a mere 30” wide. As the person in the upper bunk, I can tell you that the stepladder is safe but daunting, and the safety straps made me feel much more secure. Thankfully, I don’t toss and turn in my sleep, so settled down for a refreshing night.
In the morning Joan and I took turns in our private dressing area, and in the main hallway an enclosed shower stall was available to everybody in our car.
About 7:30 am Sallie served us yet more water with a light breakfast of corn muffins, coffee, and juice. Right on schedule at 8:30 the train pulled into Sanford, FL, where the hardwood forests of the mid-Atlantic had given way to Spanish moss, palm trees, and sandy soil.
Amtrak had made our journey south into a time of peace and quiet surrounded by elegantly designed, compact solutions to the needs of its passengers, both human and automotive. Their process made our journey serene, and it is my intent that all your interactions with Niermann Weeks should be so delightful.
Thanks for reading my blog!
Executive Steering Committee of the Washington Design Center Showroom Owners (formed as of August 10, 2012)
August 17, 2012
Dear Design Colleagues in the Washington, DC Metro Community:
As many of you are aware, as of late July, the Washington Design Center has been sold to the Museum of the Bible. Within the next four years, the new owners intend to completely reposition the building in order to create a new home for their extensive collections. The building will no longer remain a design center.
We want to keep you as informed as we possibly can about the changes that are occurring at the Washington Design Center. We intend to share information with you on an on-going basis. Here is what we know to date:
- The new owner has retained Vornado Realty Trust as the property management company for the Washington Design Center. This will ensure that the building will remain open and will continue to serve the needs of our clients.
- The new owner has advised us that they will not begin construction on the Museum of the Bible before the summer of 2014. With the cooperation of the new owner, it is anticipated that our showrooms will remain open at a minimum through the summer of 2014. At that time construction will begin on The Museum of the Bible, with an estimated completion date in 2016. By that time, however, it is our intent to have completed our move to a new facility in the DC metro area.
- Many of the Washington Design Center showrooms met together on August 10, 2012 to agree upon a relocation plan for the Washington Design Center.
The group committed to the actions below:
- We agreed to act together as a group in order to relocate into a new facility in the DC metro area.
- We appointed an Executive Steering Committee of seven companies, in order to effectively guide the group. This includes the following firms: Baker, Knapp & Tubbs; Duralee; Galleria Carpets; Kravet; J. Lambeth; Niermann Weeks; and Robert Allen.
- We interviewed three real estate brokerage firms and selected Cassidy Turley to help us plan and accomplish our move into a new facility.
- We agreed to keep everyone informed as further decisions are made and as the timetable and location are established.
We understand that there may be some uncertainty in the design community due to the above changes. We hope that this letter, as well as our future communications, will help to allay your concerns. Our showrooms remain open and we invite you, our clients, to show support for our showrooms by shopping, placing orders, and continuing to visit the Washington Design Center as we transition to our new location.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact any member of the Executive Steering Committee.
We know that we will find the right home for the future Washington Design Center and will continue to provide you with the very best in home furnishings products and services.
|AmericanEye||Hines & Company|
|Arc-Com Fabrics||Holland & Sherry|
|Art Gallery||Holly Hunt|
|Baker Knapp & Tubbs *||J Asher Carpet Couture|
|Brunschwig & Fils||J Lambeth & Co *|
|Century Furniture||Kravet *|
|Charles Ray & Associates, Inc.||Michael – Cleary, LLC|
|Cowtan & Tout||Niermann Weeks *|
|Donghia||Osborne & Little|
|Duralee *||Patterson Flynn & Martin|
|Edelman Leather||Pindler Corp.|
|Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman||Poliform|
|F. Schumacher & Co||Robert Allen *|
|Farrow & Ball||Stark Carpet|
|Galleria Carpets *||The Rist Corporation|
* Member of the Executive Steering Committee
Interior designer Hillary Staats has just installed a home in northern Virginia, which includes an eye-popping dining room. Her clients, let’s call them Mr. and Mrs. Paul, had asked her for a home combining formal elements with the comforts of casual living, and Hillary certainly complied. She gave them a home as accessible to blue jeans as to a couture outfit.
The Pauls give frequent dinner parties, so Hillary created this well-bred, neutral dining room with its table extending 104 inches in length. For the table she chose a light wood, slightly different in tone and texture from the floors and the sideboard. She scaled down this pair of our Lille Chandeliers so they’d let light fall evenly over the entire dining table. Then Hillary selected our Gabrielle Chairs. As is our wont, Niermann Weeks designed these dining chairs to provide comfortable support throughout a ninety minute meal. We don’t want guests squirming here and there, but rather we want them to enjoy the Paul’s company. The orange velvet (by Osborne and Little) certainly invites people to come on in and relax. Our nailhead trim accentuates the chairs’ sensuous curves, and it also gives guests’ finges the pleasure of running their fingers over the nails.
Here is a side view showing our chandeliers and chairs in closer detail.
When she’s not designing interiors, Hillary uses her store as a stocking dealer for Niermann Weeks. Her store has a great name of Sanctuary On Church (Street) in Vienna, Virginia. This view into her display also shows how subtly she integrates color into her overall presentation. The Niermann Weeks’ products in this image include:
- Palissy Lantern
- Crevecoeur Chandelier
- Avignon Chandelier, peaking out behind the
- Capucine Chandelier
- Empire Side chairs, around our
- Mirabeau Dining Table
Thanks, Hillary, for making sure brilliant use of our designs! You can see much more about her at www.sanctuaryonchurch.com.
Thank you all for reading my blog.
The interior design industry depends on our relationships with each other and with our clients. These relationships strengthen into friendships over time and through mutually survived crises. Recently I have been with long-established friends in Memphis, where Niermann Weeks started; in Boston where Niermann Weeks is repped at M-Geough; and in my own Maryland factory with tours from two groups of budding interior design professionals.
The students form the future of our industry, so we have always been open to giving tours of our factory, offices, and showrooms. Professor Nancy Evans of The George Washington University brought a busload of her students to our factory. I had never been so honored as to have a bus deliver my guests, and it was a real boost to my ego! Nancy is standing in the shade, second to the right in this photo, surrounded by her graduate and undergraduate students.
Nancy’s student Rose Kaspersen caught me explaining how we install our antiqued mirror onto our Mirabeau Table. All the photos of the GW tour are courtesy of Rose.
Rose watched with fascination as raw products morphed from their ugly duckling, raw stage into a finished product. This Iron and Crystal Chandelier provides the most dramatic example with its different component materials – steel both forged and formed, copper, plastic-coated electrical wiring, and molded resins.
Random looking collections of stuff hold the different items that we include in another fixture.
Our artists transform this stuff with multi-layered finishes, referring to our master samples and controls.
Here Alarise and Heather attach the beads for the fixtures they’re working on.
Finally the product is ready for our client’s home or office, protected in our warehouse until shipping day. This giant Rinaldi Chandelier hangs from the ceiling until it’s crated.
GW’s Professor Nancy King regularly brings her students out to our factory, and one of them, Joley King now teaches students of her own at the nearby Catonsville Community College. Joley stands here on the left with her class in our warehouse.
Heather shows them how she attaches the bead strings on our Danieli Chandelier.
Dave demonstrates cutting antiqued mirror so that it fits exactly into its place onto finished furniture.
This completed Monaco Chandelier for DC designer Wayne Breeden probably best shows off his skill.
I am really proud of all our designs, production work and artisans, so it is always my pleasure to show them off. Doing so to budding interior designers allows me to begin Niermann Weeks’ relationship with them. Their first clients may not select our products, but future ones will, and these young people now know us and understand our work. We are all fortunate in this encounter.
Thanks for reading my blog, and be well!
Websites for more information include:
Joe and I met in Manhattan at the Four Seasons Restaurant to help Veranda celebrate its 25th anniversary. When Lisa Newsom started that magazine as a brand new venture, Niermann Weeks was one of her original advertisers, so we were thrilled to party with the Veranda team and its groupies. Here’s the ad we placed those many years ago, showing off half of our enormous Forged Steel Dining Table. Satisfyingly enough, we got lots of orders from that ad. One lovely customer even ordered three of them to install in her covered patio in a Palm Beach mansion.
In Veranda’s March-April 2012 issue, we focused on the outdoor life again with this ad showing our garden furniture. We started selling these tables, chairs, screen, and accessories as early as 1982, and fortunately each year more gardens and patios need to use them.
So, anyway, back to the actual birthday party. This was my first trip to the Four Seasons restaurant, which is a modernist masterpiece of interior design located within the Seagram Building, an architectural superstar. Because I knew the place was super-special, I quickly looked it up in www.wikipedia.com, which said that The restaurant’s interior, which was designed by the building’s architects Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, has remained almost unchanged since construction in 1959. The restaurant was designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Committee as an interior landmark in 1989.
Entering the building, Joe and I walked up a flight of steps into the Bar and the Grill areas, then down a hall past a tapestry designed by Pablo Picasso into the main dining area, which Veranda had rented for the occasion. Al I can say is WOW! To me, much of modernism seems cold and uncomfortable, never, ever adjectives I’d use for this interior. Throughout the main areas, glass windows go floor to ceiling and are covered by swags of metal beaded curtains. A hidden fan keeps the waves softly undulating up to the ceiling, and warm pink lights shine upwards . Blooming cherry trees in raised pots further enhanced this warm ambiance, making everyone at the party look as beautiful as we could look. This interior is truly a feast for the eyes.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, dressed herself as a cupcake to lead us all in singing Happy Birthday, and she gave all of us a pretty little cupcake of our very own to enjoy later.
Veranda’s second editor Dara Caponigro and second publisher Jennifer Levene Bruno mixed with us all and made sure we had a great bash. Thanks, you all!
Afterwards Joe took me to dinner in the Grill area, where the food was just as beautiful and scrumptious as you would expect. In addition, my eyes found a new object to fixate on, a wire sculpture by Richard Lippold that hangs over the Bar. The wires are all of the same material, just hung in clusters of different heights, so the look of the sculpture changed as we changed our positions in the room.
It was a privilege to enjoy this celebration in this setting, just as it has been a privilege to be a Veranda advertiser and groupie. It made me feel all grown up and important.
Thanks for reading my blog, and be well!
Near the end of the year, I get reflective about my accomplishments or lack thereof in the previous months. In looking back, my biggest thrills this year are the continued health and happiness of my husband and family as well as the continuance of our company, Niermann Weeks, through this dreadful recession. What more could one want? World peace would be nice but more practically for me I tend my own corner of the world. My musing came to a head last night as I put the last stitch into a quilt I designed and started fabricating during the Annapolis blizzards of February 2010.
Being trapped alone in the house for eleven days led me to dreams of summertime and my favorite fruit, the watermelon. Usually my quilts are made for a specific new-born baby, but this one was for just for me. My poor non-mathematical brain stretched to create this slightly irregular watermelon pattern with its three concentric circles of red, white, and green in a size, and then to scale them to a queen-sized bed. The border of square steps just seemed a good way to accentuate the more ragged patterns of the melons.
This quilt also refers to my mother Eleanor Hanratty McKay, who grew up on a farm in western Minnesota. From childhood my mother was crazy about watermelon rind pickles, which she and her mother canned for the twelve members of the family plus the varying numbers of farmhands. In my childhood, my mother no longer prepared her own pickles but still ate the store-bought ones with gusto.
My mother lives on even more completely in a hanging quilt I made from the surviving scraps of all her table linens. Long after she left the farm and married my father, they ended up after World War II in the US Foreign Service stationed in Greece, Turkey, and adjacent countries. As an official hostess, my mother accumulated linens, dishes, crystal, and utensils to serve forty people. My brother uses all her silverware, and he and my daughter Claire now use her Rosenthal dishes and cut crystal glassware. My favorite cookbooks are enshrined over my refrigerator in a wooden carton shipped from the Rosenthal factory. In the days when I still had a friendly relationship with my ironing board, I asked for her linen collection. Mother was proud of them, always keeping them starched and carefully folded as though she were still expecting a grand party for dinner.
Alas, the starch provided a banquet for silverfish. When all this cloth came to me, happy insects had riddled it with the tracks of their feasting. N.B. an antique dealer told me that the starch had been the culprit, so please be warned by my experience. As I looked at stacks of ruined fabric, Claire suggested I salvage enough to make a quilt, which seemed like a great idea. Cutting away all the bad parts left me with only a tiny amount of small bits.
While I squared them up and randomly pieced them together, individual two inch squares flooded my mind with remembrances of times past. A fragment of a card tablecloth brought back my mother ferociously playing a hand of bridge with her friends and enjoying a ladies lunch between hands. She bought this hand-embroidered cloth with its napkins during a vacation in Florence in the late 1940s. Its cheerful colors made it her favorite set to use, even though the red dye bled into the rest of the fabric, and I have ironed it many times.
Her favorite hand towels survive only in this linen fragment. She used these towels so often that much of their embroidery eroded over the years. You can see that only a few of the black dots survive from a once elaborate spray to the left and right of the center pink dot.
Putting my little square together and randomly quilting each one in a separate pattern has left me with echoes of the happiest period in my parents’ lives.
They loved serving our country in the Foreign Service, and they also loved the expansive way of life that allowed them to live. In Greece our home was a marble mansion in the lovely neighborhood of Kifisia, and in Turkey we lived in the old part of Ankara in a former German boy’s school. True, in Athens the house lacked central heating, and in Ankara the cement floors telegraphed the cold right up through our bones. Nonetheless life glowed for them with parties, famous people, and good feelings for America as our country was then propping up the war-ravaged world with aid through the Marshall Plan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Plan. Mother’s linens in this quilt reflect that happy time for our family. Just looking at these photos floods me with good memories.
So I leave you with in my reflective mood to return to my workaday world of furniture design and manufacture. We at Niermann Weeks are madly finishing and shipping orders so our patrons can enjoy new goodies in their homes for their holidays.
With this holiday image designed by my daughter Eleanor, I wish you all well during your own holidays and thank you for reading my blog!
From Eleanor and all of us at Niermann Weeks
The winter holidays have arrived, and I’m counting down to the winter solstice December 21, when the days get longer again. The leaves are long gone from my trees, however my yard has not yet received a killing frost, so the last flowers of summer endure. A few marigolds sparkle in yellow, sage plants display in red and purple, and that’s about all the color I can still enjoy. To me, the color freak, this is a dreary season, made even more so by rainy days like today. Tonight the cloud cover will totally obscure the meager light from the stars and the partial moon. Fortunately we humans have developed coping techniques with our winter holidays. For Joe and me, that means a lighted tree in the yard,
a big wreath on the front door,
and Christmas trees in the house. I was raised liking Christmas and then I married a total nut about the holiday. For our first Christmas, we had little money so we made our own ornaments. I made 12 dozen sugar cookies, cutting them really thickly. Joe the artiste then went in high gear decorating each one in my mother’s sour cream and powdered frosting. He painted the cookies in seasonal colors as their base coat, followed by lovely little designs specially designed for each little masterpiece. We tied each one up with a ribbon to hang all over our first tree. At that time in our lives we had no camera, so I cannot show off his beauties; you must just imagine his artistry from my words and your knowledge of the customization Niermann Weeks has always provided our patrons.
On New Year’s Day, we packed each cookie in tissue paper on the off chance they might survive till another Christmas. And some of them actually did! They turned into thick bars of colored soap-like material, so we hung them up again. The very last relic broke about 20 years later, but in the meantime we had accumulated a more varied hoard of ornaments. After four decades of marriage, we now need two trees for a proper display. Our nine footer sits in the living room window and is decorated 360 °. Using a timer and coming home at night in the dark, I need the satisfaction of all the sparkle.
In the foyer sits the three footer, dedicated to just shiny ornaments.
In the early days of Niermann Weeks, Joan Schenking managed our paint studio. Each year she led a weekly hobby night, in which volunteers used her designs to make special ornaments. I loved the years in which we used a delicate jeweler’s saw to cut thin sheets of steel into portraits of her dog Rusty the golden retriever, shown here in his base coat of white lacquer.
my cat Ms. Kitty in her base coat of yellow lacquer,
and other relevant creatures like a blue crab from Maryland,
The angel seques me into acts of charity, one of which Niermann Weeks has already done. We contributed the main tree, all eleven feet of it, to the Georgetown Jingle in Washington DC.
A dedicated volunteer group raises funds to support the pediatric cancer patients at the Georgetown University Hospital. A major fundraising event is a silent auction of holiday trees decorated by DC-area designers, which the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC in Georgetown (www.fourseasons.com/washington) allows us to display in their main lobby. For more information on the Jingle, look both at their website www.georgetownjingle.com and on their Facebook page. Or you could come bid at the auction on the evening of December 11 for a tree. All proceeds do go to help make life better for the children battling cancer.
Now that all my decorations are up, and the longer days are just around the corner, my soul is happy, and I hope yours is too.
Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading my blog! It’s a pleasure to share with you.
My humdrum Friday exploded into a fascinating day at the nearby Laurel Park raceway. I was invited specifically to cheer for la Diabla, a dark bay (brown) beauty whose official name is Sixth and Arch. She was born near Philadelphia, in which city that’s a downtown intersection. Her number in Race 5 was # 5, and here she got saddled and girthed. She trains at the Delacour Stable In Maryland, owned by Leigh and Arnaut Delacour, and that’s Leigh standing behind la Diabla while an official attached the horse’s white girth. Look at the thinness of the racing saddle!
Her rider Luis Garcia met the legal weight limit of 103 pounds fully clothed and holding the saddle, so now they rode out for the race. The jockey’s jersey colors identify the horse’s owner. While teal is a fine color you will see it’s hard to pick out from a distance.
If I am ever an owner at the races, my jockeys will sport a flamboyant jersey, like this symphony in orange and white polka dots.
The ten horses ran a course of 7/8 mile on the turf, reaching speeds of 40 mph, each one straining to reach the white wooden posts first. For a few minutes after the race, the racing officials deliberated about who won, so we got our hopes up, but to no avail. My camera had not given me the answer.
And finally the officials decided that our lady had come in second. The official photo finish camera shows that her rider in the dark jersey ran behind the leader. Rats, but la Diabla still won a prize of about $7,000. Not bad for less than a minute’s work.
After the race, all the horses, coated in sweat like I could hardly believe, walked back to the stables at the far end of the track. See the water tower in the left? The stables stand to its right. Before finally relaxing, the prize winners had their blood and urine tested to make sure no speed-enhancing chemicals had given them a special boost.
My adrenaline was up from just watching all the effort expended by the beautiful horses and the dedication of their people. Among them, Tina drove la Diabla to Laurel, Martha brought me to Laurel, and Martha’s daughter Leigh trained the horse.
Fans like this nice woman with the race horse earrings cheer them on.
Watching these beautiful creatures perform at their peak transformed my Friday from a day of duty to a day of great fun and new experiences to share with you all. My friend Nana Dealy caught me in the act,
so in a tit for tat, you get to see her too.
Thanks for reading my blog!
Websites for your further research:
Marie’s first marital kiss was preceded, as you can well imagine, by heaps of planning and coordination. In the last hectic hours before the reception, a crane lifted in Niermann Weeks’ custom Biarritz Pendants and the gigantic Danieli Chandelier. I like the use of greenery to hide the chain; it’s much more elegant than a cloth sock.
The overall space dwarfed our 6 ft x 6 ft Danieli Chandelier.
Just before the party started, all the overhead lights dimmed so our lighting glimmered over the black and white dance floor.
For her floral theme, Marie chose blush, just like these rose petals in an antique silver bowl.
Peonies and hydrangeas supplemented her orchids from Argentina.
The caterer finished the last detail on the wedding cake before wheeling it into the reception.
The band took its place on the raised stage, and then the party began!
Family and friends watched the newly married couple dance their first waltz.
Oh, so romantic. My mother would have approved.
All of us at Niermann Weeks offer best wishes for great happiness to Marie and her groom. May they live long and prosper!
Marie, thank you for including Niermann Weeks in your wedding festivities, and thanks also for letting us share these photos (courtesy www.scottburtonphotography.com).
Thanks to all of you for reading my blog,
Websites to check out include:
Autumn brings the climax of the earth’s growing season and makes me happy. The plants I’ve babied since March, are now at their peak. The frost hasn’t hit yet, but the outside colors are becoming intense. My summer clothes are trading closet space with the winter wardrobe. Weekends I’m in my garden gathering seeds for next year to plant next spring and also to donate to the annual Seed Exchange of the American Horticultural Society. My daughters and I have begun planning our Thanksgiving celebrations, which are so traditional that little planning is required. Wikipedia says that many cultures represent autumn as a well-fed woman, like this 1871 Currier and Ives image,
or like me.
In the late autumn my pineapple sages have grown into huge bushes with sprays of glorious red flowers. Just before the hummingbirds migrated, they gorged at these flowers. Amazingly my plants started in April as baby herbs of just a few inches in height. I never eat them, however, as the September flowers give me too much pleasure to waste any. Our salads include enough diversity from the garden.
Unusually, Annapolis experienced some snow just before Halloween, about two months earlier than we expect,
but the very next day presented as a study in autumnal beauty.
Along with my pastoral enjoyments, autumn also brings closer connections to our showrooms and stocking dealers. My daughter Eleanor Niermann visited the M’Geough showroom at the Boston Design Center where she took this photo of our lighting. Hanging all in a row, starting from the left, are our round Armillary Chandelier, shimmery Palissy Lantern, and the baroque lines of our Vivaldi Chandelier.
Niermann Weeks’ stocking dealer Mayme Baker is also featuring our Vivaldi on the top right of her holiday postcard.
Just now Mayme sent me this view of a bedroom she designed, where she included our William III mirror and the fabulous (her word) Danish Commode. Thanks, Mayme!
My daughter Eleanor, lucky woman, is in Nantucket for a designer trade show with the M’Geoughs, and she sent me a photo of our favorite restaurant for clam chowder. Unfortunately, Captain Tobey’s is already closed for the season, but my family has eaten many a happy meal there.
The trade fair at the White Elephant Hotel gave my Eleanor a happy surprise in her conference room – a custom version of our Wrought Steel CoffeeTable.
I’m now packing for my trip to Dania, FL to speak about the greening of lighting technology. On November 8, come see me in the Nessen showroom at the Design Center of the Americas and earn some CEU credit. Keeping me company on the plane ride south will be this Halloween photo of my grandsons Dylan Michael and little Evan McKay. Just looking at an image of these little boys makes me so very happy.
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Eleanor McKay Presents Greener Lighting in the Post Incandescent World at the Nessen Showroom in DCOTA
Please join Eleanor McKay, CEO of Niermann Weeks, to learn about changes in light bulb standards, especially for chandeliers and sconces. Owners of traditional residential lighting will soon have difficulty finding standard incandescent candelabra bulbs, because federal law has mandated phasing out inefficient incandescent bulbs beginning in 2012. She will show the good and the not-so-good in available alternatives: CFL’s, LED and halogen light bulbs. We in the interior design industry must lobby to include our aesthetic considerations in the newly developing technology for light bulbs.
11 am Presentation (1 CEU Complimentary Credit)
12 pm Lunch Reception to Follow
Our stocking dealer Matt Nicholas, www.mnicholascollection.com, gave us lighting orders for his sister’s wedding reception. Here’s the story of the 6′ x 6′ Danieli Chandelier. At the reception, it will be flanked by a pair of 42” diameter Biarritz Pendants, all to make the bride and groom look even more fabulous.
Rob forged steel into the raw chandelier.
Sandi put silver leaf on the entire frame to begin the finishing process.
Becky froze the tarnished finish on the silver leaf, so it will never tarnish anymore or turn black. She captured Sandi’s finish.
As an aside, in the early days of Niermann Weeks, the girls and I were the finishing team. We’d come home from work and school, to then put in a second shift. I can tell you from personal experience that NW products have acres of surface for finishing. The top, the bottom, and the sides all need to receive the same finish with no drips from one plane to the next. Not being a detail-oriented person, I grew to hate my night job and was unbelievably glad when the company could hire employees.
Sandi, however, obviously loves her work, and as a romantic person she poured her soul into this gift for the Southern bride. The completed chandelier took her about seven full days to transform from raw steel to our Venetian silver leaf finish and then to bead with it with crystals of graduated sizes.
You can see her handiwork up close in this detail of some arms and the center bottom of the fixture.
Moving this delicate beauty for packing and crating provided our next challenge. Ike and DeJuan had already measured it for its 7′ square crate.
Robert and Jazz walked it down through the factory while Ike drove the forklift.
Wayne in the baseball hat helped them carefully hang it from the center of its crate.
As our last step, DeJuan and Wayne carefully in-filled the crate with foam and other packing material so the chandelier could not shift around in its crate, then sealed the whole crate shut.
Now we’ve made it and crated it and turned it over to the freight company. Thanks to Matt Nicholas for this order and God speed to our chandelier!
Sandi, however, can’t rest on her laurels yet. She still has to finish and bead the pair of 42” Biarritz pendants fixtures.
Brad Boswell from the NW-DC showroom and his partner, interior designer Richard Ploff, will attend the wedding to take pictures, so you will soon see our lighting in the reception room. I hope the bride lets us show her off too.
Thanks for reading my blog, and be well!
It’s Indian Summer in Annapolis, time for the boat shows! Last weekend we saw the US Sailboat Show, and this weekend will be the US Powerboat Show. Vendors and buyers come from all over the world to see this extravaganza, giving the city’s economy a huge pump. For us local people, these are the last big tourist attractions of the year, meaning that the historic downtown will belong to us now until the warm weather comes in the spring.
For these two weeks, floating docks let you literally walk on the water from one fabulous boat to the next.
The really monster-sized yachts can’t even fit in our harbor, Ego Alley. They must dock in front of the Annapolis Yacht Club. You can just see the club’s roof peeking over the blue-hulled vessel.
My personal favorite view is from across the harbor, looking through the brokers’ boats for sale to the boat show. The yacht brokers with Annapolis offices line the nearby docks with their best merchandise. In the far distance, you can see the colored sails on the boats hauled into town for the show. I think it’s funny that many of the boats are trucked in, not sailed in, but God forbid that a new boat should shown any signs of use.
The local non-profits line the harbor’s streets with food vending booths.
Visitors seeking a sit-down meal can also go to the many restaurants around our harbor. Middleton’s Tavern has been here since about 1750, and was patronized by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Since our weather has become warm and dry, this day was ideal for eating on the terrace.
To actually get in to the show, you must buy a ticket at one of the booths on the left, in front of the Harbormaster’s Office.
And then the boating world is your oyster! The show sells every imaginable component for a boat and a boater and their pets and their children, including personal flotation devices for humans and pets of varying sizes, plastic dishes, boat shoes, navigation electronics, specialized hardware, foul weather gear, nautical art and furnishings, etc.
When you are sated by your visit to the boat culture, be sure to visit our fair city’s other charms. You can walk up from the harbor and look down Main Street to Ego Alley. When I visited Lyme Regis in England, I saw the exact same street plan, so our original English colonists were just copying a town layout they already knew well.
Our State House dominates the Annapolis skyline. Dating from 1772, it’s the oldest continuously used state capital building in the United States. The dome is the largest one in the country that’s made entirely of wood – with wooden pegs, not nails. Right now, the dome is undergoing renovations, hence the shrouding to obstruct the view of tacky scaffolding, but you can already see our gold-leafed acorn at the very top. Piercing the acorn, the lightning rod was made to the specifications of its inventor, Benjamin Franklin himself.
This Sunday is the final day of the two weeks of boat show, and the breakdown early next week will be just as impressive. Click below to see a timelapse video of the 2009 Sailboat Show leaving the harbor.
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WOW! That’s it in a nutshell. I haven’t been to a design function in twenty years that was so well promoted and attended. Joe and I had to push through the crowds just to enter the building, had to wait for an empty elevator, and had to push through the crowds in the halls and in our own showroom. My heart was tripping with joy.
Our sign on the ninth floor.
The view of our showroom from the hallway with our Andres in the purple cardigan helping a customer Andres has been with us since we opened our first Manhattan showroom, and his product knowledge is as immense as his courtliness.
The beautiful rugs in this room and throughout are on gracious loan by Stephanie Odegard, whose showroom is also in The News York Design Center.
Just inside the door, to the right of this photo, my daughter Eleanor created a vignette that she knew would please me. Our Gabrielle Chair and Ottoman are right there as a comfy, elegant spot from which I could greet our visitors. To the left stands a Henry Royer Side Table holding our Chinoiserie Tulipiere. Joe designed the plant holder as a Chinese pagoda in honor of Charlotte Moss, who like me loves all things Chinese and all things floral.
The plant holder includes a water well in each level, so mine at home displays seasonal flowers: asters right now, and at other times pansies, tulips, miniature irises, roses, daisies, etc.
A lovely customer at the opening bought this diptych Rolling Pathway by Douglas Freeman. I like this vignette for its composition of samples from our various vendors. Including Douglas’s work, you see Niermann Weeks’ Octagonal Mirror, Spectrums’ Edinburgh acrylic table, and Henry Royer’s Frisson Hall Table.
Our Lighting hung through the showroom, and here glows over our ever-popular Steel Four Post Bed with the Fantome Bench at its foot. The bed rests on another outstanding Odegard carpet and is flanked by a pair of our Danish Commodes. The Sienna Chair is by Gemelli Reproductions.
The New York Design Center directory scheduled my daughters Claire and Eleanor for demonstrations from 3-9 pm – oh their aching feet! Claire showed how we by hand wire and attach the beads to our chandeliers, and Eleanor applied silver-leaf on various items to show a step in our processes. As a proud mama, I greedily enjoyed hearing customers sing their praises.
Eleanor had already silver-leafed three of our Baccello Mirrors as door prizes.
Congratulations to our lucky winners!
- Dane Pressner from D’Aquino Monaco, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Heather Hickling from Jaime Drake Design Associates, email@example.com
- Suzana Monacella from McMillen, firstname.lastname@example.org
To add to our evening, Traditional Home sponsored a book signing by Matthew Patrick Smyth of his new book Living Traditions. Trad Home’s editor Ann Omvig Maine introduced Matthew before his hand started cramping from all the book-signing he did.
Joe and I stood ready to refill Matthew’s glass of sparkling water. Don’t we look absurdly happy?
Our friend John Danzer from Munder-Skiles of the fabulous garden furniture, also came up to chat with Ann and with a startled looking Joe. Joe should know that my camera is ever-ready!
Our opening was big enough news to attract interior designer/blogger Elizabeth Orgera from Shorely Chic in Darien, CT. Now that’s cool.
Tomas Georgi, the newest member of the NW team, stopped giving tearsheets for a moment so I could include him in this blog.
Joe and I finally left for a party featuring a great bluegrass band, BBQ, and cornbread. We abandoned our daughters who doggedly continued their demonstrations for all comers.
Even the Chrysler Building cheered Joe and Me on, as we trudged to our hotel.
When I left for the train home the next morning, I got to see public health at work in Penn Station. The free clinic for flu shots attracted as many people as the NY Design Center had the night before.
Thanks for reading my blog, and please do come see our digs at The New York Design Center (at Lexington Avenue between 32nd and 33rd streets). Tomas and Andres are expecting you.
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