Wednesday, February 29, 2012

...the way animals are treated

The greatness of a nation can be judged by
the way its animals are treated. 
Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington, with my friend, Denise.

Everyone is passionate about something!
Recently I sent an email to my friend, Denise Matson, who now lives in Seattle.  We became buddies in Memphis.  And, I was curious:  Why would an anesthesiologist by trade now be spending her days at the Animal Shelter?   This is how she explained it…
 “Well, I've always had pets during my life, been around all sorts of animals growing up living in a rural area.  My grandfather was a dog breeder and had many champions in the AKC dog shows.
I always knew I wanted to make a difference, and with vet school being nearly impossible to get into. I went to medical school instead. My heart wasn't happy though, and I spent my spare time working with various rescue groups, one at a time fostering or finding homes for lost or abandoned pets.

When I moved to Seattle – the friendliest pet city I've ever been to— I found my true calling when I got a job at the animal shelter. I have been so proud of the work they do and the tirelessness and selflessness (if those are words!) of so many at the organization. Everyday there is an uplifting moment, when a life-saving surgery was done and that pet is doing great....when you are tending to a cat's basic needs and they give you that content look.

The work isn't glamourous but everyone who works there is a star in a dog's eye when they are warm, fed, cared for and loved.   A wagging tail on a dog who was downtrodden upon arrival… a purr from an older cat who was abandoned for just giving a pat on the head… a paw place over your hand as you are picking out just the right toy for this kitty.

Even finding my own dog there to adopt, has added such joy to my life, and while I have a small role, the little things each day make a big difference to those who have had nothing."

Well said, Denise.  Thank you!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Smart philanthropy

Charitable Donations

Was talking with my friend, Josie, at brunch this morning after attending a charity fundraiser last night when I realized that my understanding of philanthropy is pitiful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” philanthropy…  Rather, this discussion is about charitable donations for the rest of us.
After a couple of hours of research, here are some of the salient points.
According to the National Center for Charitable statistics, over 1 million charities exist in the United States.  Total revenues and assets are in excess of $1 and $2 trillion, respectively, per year.  Cha ching!!!!  (Hmmmm… With about half of that amount, I could live happily ever after.  Ha ha.)
Since there are sooooooo many charities in existence, how do you choose?
1.  Decide what you can donate.  Do you have time, goods and services, or cash.  Fortunately, most charitable donations are tax deductible; they can be a fun way to give Uncle Sam the proverbial middle finger around April 15th.
2.  Pick a charity based on your likes and dislikes.  For instance, if you are an animal lover, check out the local humane society.  If you are a graphic designer, look for organizations that may need assistance with creation of a new logo, promotional materials, or pamphlets.  If you work in a restaurant, check out the food bank and see if they need non-perishable food items.  Find charities based on your hobbies, professional activities, personal causes, and so forth.  They can be local, national, or international organizations.
3.  Do your research.  Is the charity reputable and in good standing?  This is where the process gets a tad dicey.  Search the charity on the internet and get a snapshot of the organization.  What are their overhead and administrative costs?  How much of your donation actually goes to the intended recipient?  For instance, charities that have endowments to cover overhead will use less of the donation for ancillary expenses.  Does it have a good rating on web sites like: 

4.  Now… you can make an educated decision about your donation.   

Who knew that lending a helping hand could be so complicated?    

Friday, February 24, 2012

Go get yourself some candles

Compact fluorescent lamp

CFLs, compact fluorescent lamps, are as aesthetically pleasing as a concrete block!  If given the choice... I would probably pick an illuminated concrete block.  Ok, sorry; enough of the soapbox chat.
On to a more pleasing lighting subject -- candles.  Let's face it, candles are fairly simple technology.  And, there is something magical about their light.  I firmly believe that the world looks better on a dimmer switch and by candlelight. 
To prove my point, here are some examples...

Luminaries have been used for centuries.  Tradition has it that luminaries lit the way for Mary and Joseph in their search for lodging in Bethlehem.  (Who knew?)  Today, we use them more for their aesthetic beauty rather than for absolute illumination.   These white luminary bags, pictured on my patio, were purchased in bulk from eBay.  If using real candles, make certain to use flame resistant bags... otherwise, you might burn down the neighborhood.  And, don't forget to add some sand to the bottom of the bag to weigh them down.     
Like luminaries, lanterns are a great outdoor statement.  They look amazing at the front door or along a sidewalk for path lighting.  And, lanterns are beautiful around patios or lounge furniture.  The ones pictured are from Restoration Hardware. 

Hurricane Lamps
Hurricane lamps, or indoor candle lanterns, probably originated around the time of Alfred the Great (849-899AD).  They are as functional as they are beautiful, and hurricanes are available in a wide range of sizes and price points.

Candlesticks... the slightly histrionic variety

Double candlesticks.  This binary candleholder, by Mikaela Dörfel, draws from her upbringing in Finland and life now in Germany. The solid steel bodies and curved, lissome arms suggest a couple united, harmoniously, in a dancing embrace. Display one, display several.
Sterling Silver Bubble Candlesticks, Daan Brouwer, 2008.  The designer describes them as a set of polished sterling silver candlesticks shaped like a tower of stacked bubbles. 

Distortion candlesticks.  Designer Paul Loebach gives his creation its unique twist by using state-of-the-art technology: from computer design to special 3D printers to the final result, these whimsical candelabras are the embodiment of delight, pure and simple. Made overseas of crushed marble mixed with resin.

Since it is Friday, go get yourself some candles, turn off those pesky CFLs and enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jonathan Adler

Jonathan Adler
Barillo pillow from Jonathan Adler

Jonathan Adler has become a fixture in the design world -- TV, internet, trade shows, book signings, and magazine profiles.  His style is quirky, charismatic, and sometimes over the top.  Probably best known for pottery, his company now designs pillows, furniture, rugs, lamps, and a plethora of tchotchkes.   Regardless of your personal style, his designs make you smile.  Silly, irreverent, and happy...

His musings are documented on his website and the Ten Commandments always make me laugh.   Number 7 is my favorite...

Jonathan Adler giraffe on my kitchen table.... because it makes me smile!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Business of ART

The business of art
The Scream by Edvard Munch

Famous art rarely comes up for auction.  So, a tremendous amount of attention has been paid to the recent press release:  Sotheby's to Offer One of the Most Famous Masterpieces in the World…Edvard Munch’s masterpiece The Scream.”
The business of selling and acquiring high-end art is rather fascinating, and this is how the process works. 
1.       An owner or dealer contacts the auction house… Sotheby’s or Christie’s, for instance.
2.       The art is taken to a secure location and examined by the auction house.
3.       Historians and appraisers from around the world are flown in to authenticate the work and give a price estimate.  The length and expense of this authentication process varies.  For instance, when Willlem de Kooning’s Woman III came up for auction in 2006, it had taken 3 years and well over $2 million dollars to trace it back to its original owners at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.
4.       The reserve or minimum price is determined.
5.       A seller’s commission is discussed.  This usually ranges from 15-20% (with 17.5% being the average).
6.       The seller and auction house sign an auction agreement which is a legal contract allowing the auction house to sell the work of art.
7.        The press release is generated.
8.        And, finally the art goes up for auction. 

Estimates for The Scream, to be auctioned in May, are in excess of $80 million.  Here are a few other pricey pieces of art....
Irises by Vincent van Gogh
Sold for $53.9 million in 1987; inflation adjusted value, $105.4 million

Garçon à la Pipe by Pablo Picasso
Sold in 2004 for $104 million; adjusted value, $124.3 million

The Card Players by Paul Cézanne
Currently holds the title of the most expensive art purchased at auction. 
Sold in 2011 for $250 million.

Dora Maar au Chat by Pablo Picasso
Sold for $95 million in 2006; adjusted value $106.1

No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock
Sold in 2006 for $140 million; adjusted value, $156.8 million

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
Housed behind bullet proof glass in a climate controlled case on permanent display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, this 16th century masterpiece has an insurance value of $750 million. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras and New Orleans

Laissez les bons temps rouler
Mardi Gras cupcakes, a little twist on the traditional "king cake"

With that famous catch phrase, "let the good times roll," and because of its penchant for throwing one helluva good party, nothing is more synonymous with Fat Tuesday than The Big Easy.  New Orleans, Louisana, our favorite cajun city - nearly destroyed by that pesky hurricane, Katrina - is making a comeback. 

Hard to believe that New Orleans was established in 1718.  And, it seems like they have been rolling out the red carpet for visitors, ever since.  So, on this, the final day of the Carnival season, here are some of my New Orleans favs.

"New Orleans" by North Carolina native, Jeff Pittman

A street named after my favorite beverage... cheers!

New Orleans Toile, from Bryan Batt's uptown store, Hazelnut... recently featured in House Beautiful and via 1stdibs Style Compass.

Hurricane, made famous by Pat O'Brien's bar on Saint Peter Street

What's NOT to love? Mardi gras, the French Quarter, jazz, water views, and... don't forget the beignets at Cafe du Monde. 

And, in a city of secret gardens, the courtyard of the W Hotel in the French Quarter is still one of my favorites. 

Happy Mardi Gras!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Americana and President's Day


"Three Flags," Jasper Johns, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Happy President's Day!  And, happy birthday, George Washington (of the cherry tree cutting fame).   I couldn't resist. 

In light of the holiday, here are a few examples of slightly unexpected Americana.... not the usual baseball, football, apple pies, and... well, you get the idea. 

Vintage locomotive weathervane

Red barn with its iconic flag...

Rustic done right!  Ok, that Hermes blanket is not American, but that room looks amazing.  International Americana or Melding Pot American Design?

Nothing says America like a 77,000 sq ft log cabin in Colorado with an asking price of 
$68 million.  Bigger is better... the American way??  Guess that this would classify as a log cabin "McMansion."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Subway Art

Subway Chic
Living room in Miami, Florida, by Charlotte Dunagan for Atmosphere Creations Design Group. 

....Love this room.  Would move into it immediately - though the family might be a little upset.  {No invitation, yet.  Must have been lost in the mail.  Ha!} While the water view in the distance is beautiful, that subway art ottoman is my absolute favorite thing.  I want one.

Probably because of its little nod to the past, subway inspired art is a fitting choice in even the most up-to-date interiors.   When executed well... it can be clever and creative. 

Since the first rapid transit system, London Underground, opened in 1863, we have needed signage!  Fortunately, some ingenious folks have started using subway inspired art in interior spaces with spectacular results.
High gloss finish... looks fantastic against the matte off-white walls.  Well done!

Garvey chair from ANTHROPOLOGIE uses vintage inspired upholstery fabric. 

"Paris Places Print" from Ballard Designs is a great example of the availability of subway inspired art

And, subway art can be personalized.  "Favorite Roads" was a custom design done for my master bedroom via Etsy.
Search:  'Subway art custom' on the Etsy website to find your favorites. 

Juju hats

Cameroon Chickens and Bamileke Bonnets

White juju hat from eBay, candlesticks l'Objet, Whole Foods pussy willow sticks, and Plantation Design wire mesh balls on the mantle in my living room.

Juju hats!   My first encounter with a juju hat was in Alessandra Branca's store ( in downtown Chicago.  And, the love affair started immediately.  Who knew that something as delightfully simple as chicken feathers could create such a dramatic focal point?

Today, bamileke hats, cameroon feathered headdresses, or juju hats have become that interesting "sought after" item in the design world.  Finding them isn't the easiest or the cheapest task.  Google tends to be the fastest resource, though I've purchased them from eBay ( and from Snob ( in Canada.

Traditionally, they are worn for celebrations in the forrested mountains of Cameroon.  Dancers, dignitaries, and chiefs wear these brightly colord hats known as Tyn or Juju hats.   Fortunately, we can put them on our walls!  And... the results are simply fantastic. 

In the past couple of years, the design world loved the peacock.  Lord knows, peacocks were displayed on mantles, beside chairs, and hanging from staircases... and photographed for every design magazine known to the modern world. Those silly birds were even made into scads of decorative items (notably by Jonathan Adler,   

Today, the African feathered headress has become that hot decorating commodity.  Recently, they've even been featured by Candice Olson and Genevieve Gorder on HGTV.  So, if you've grown weary of the peacock fascination, here are some juju hat ideas...

Simply spectacular punch of color with that yellow juju hat!

Pretty in pink.

...and a matching pair of juju hats.  Kudos!  Wonderful repeating design element in the room.

Juju hat and zebra rug... Safari anyone?

Obviously this photo is staged, but... what a lovely idea for a guest room. 

Pink juju hat photographed at Marché aux Puces, Paris, France