Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Top Design - Mystery Judge Episode 1

Alexis Arquette is introduced as the mystery judge. She offered 5 objects to inspire the designers, including a mirrored ball, green butterfly, kewpie doll head, velvet painting and something else. Basically - a kitchy, colorful collection of items that were a strong indication of their owner's personality.

It was immediately clear that most the designers didn't really focus as strongly on this as they should have. It's always about the client and what they want. Lot's of people have great taste - but the trick to doing this work professionally is being able to do it for others - even if their taste isn't the same as the designers.

Click here for all Top Design posts.

Top Design - Late to the Launch!

Well, as fate would have it, I will be missing the premiere broadcast of Top Design, Episode 1. For months I've been working on a special event for the fabulous Downtown Women's Club in Boston. I will be at the Boston Symphony Orchestra hosting a big cocktails and concert event for nearly 100 savvy local business women.

I will blog on the show as soon as I get home and watch it! Let the games begin!

Banning the Bulb?

Here is an article about new California legislation that is being introduced by California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine that would ban the use of incandescent light bulbs in the home by the year 2012. These are the most common light bulbs currently used in the home today. While they are cheap to purchase, they are expensive to run and are energy wasters. The alternative to incandescent is the compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) which uses about 25 percent of the energy of conventional light bulbs. Unfortunately, they often provide about 25 percent of the aesthetic quality as well. Incandescent light bulbs run in the yellow/red color spectrum and provide a warmer "feel" visually to a space - think sunlight, fires and candlelight. CFL's run in the blue color spectrum and thus create a cooler feel to a space (think northern exposure on a winters' day). I've tried them and I must admit I'm not partial to the color they produce.

While I'm all for reduction of green house gasses - one has to wonder - if we replace all of our warmer feeling lights with their cooler alternatives - will those of us in cold climates be turning up our thermostats to compensate?

I hope someone more scientific than I am works to come up with a way to satisfactorily coat or colorize the CFL's to make them a bit more palatable.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Top Design - Jonathan Adlers' store sets the stage

The Jonathan and Tim interview was set at JA's store. Here are some of the items seen:

The Lampert Sofa - nice seating for Messrs. Adler and Gunn.

Needlepoint pillows - not your Great Aunt Lulu's needlpoint!

The Bel Air Lamp

Click here for all Top Design posts.

Nollette Studio

Nollette Studio is a Brooklyn, NY based design practice founded by Maureen Nollette in 1998. She previously designed and manufactured a line of minimal, modern contemporary furniture that received quite a bit of acclaim in the industry. Maureen has now carried her minimal aesthetic to a line of limited edition fine art prints which have a dreamy simplicity that offers the onlooker a jumping off point for their own imaginations.

Top Design: A new crush?

Up till now I've held off posting about Todd Oldham and the judges. Not sure why, just haven't had anything to say, until now. BravoTV just posted an interview, in several segments, between Tim Gunn and Jonathan Adler. In segment #2, Jonathan (I am on a first name basis with my new crush) said something that is so true about working with clients.

"Decorating is a weird business. It's like 10% design, like 20% psychology... and 70% maid. I am basically my clients' bitch".

I am loving his lack of pretension and honest assessment of the business. Designers often hear "Decorating must be such a fun job!" Well, now I can say "It's like 10% design, 20% sorting through people's issues and 70% HARD WORK!".

Just ask Jonathan.

Click here for all Top Design posts.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Top Design - Random Thought on: John

Do we think that John Gray is pulling a Jeffrey Sebelia? Is he coming off all mean and butch in order to make us think how great a designer is when he comes up with something soft? Maybe it's the producers doing it for dramatic tension.

He is definately the least "designery" looking male on the program, if one wants to give into stereotypes. Maybe he feels the need to overcompensate?

Just a random thought.

Click here for all Top Design posts.

Top Design - Pacific Design Center

I was watching the preview videos of Episode One: Mystery Judge and got to thinking about what The Pacific Design Center has to offer

as opposed to my local design resource the Boston Design Center.

It also led me to wondering how west coast clients differ from their east coast counterparts.

The PDC has about 130 showrooms, to the BDC's 78. Well, the Northeast is more conservative than LaLa land, I suppose. Although the numbers really don't matter. Most designers have a handful of "go-to" resources that they know they can count on. And in this business - reliability of resources is key. I know which showrooms I can count on and which it's a hit or miss event. Being the designer is truly the middleman among middle-men, so knowing that I can rely on a vendor makes my life so much easier.

I'm going to make a gross generalization here. I suspect that California clients are more easily swayed by trendy designs and designers than their New England counterparts. There, I said it. Rip me a new one, if you will.

New Englanders have a "I can do that myself" attitude. I have worked with a sewer who taught himself how to make window treatments because he didn't want to pay the price of custom and thought "Why can't I do that myself?". I have a client who wants original abstract art as part of our design, but who paints herself and thinks "Gee, why don't I just pull out the brushes and get creative?" She's not overly slowed by the fact that she has a demanding career and a 1 year old. I had another client who bought several window treatment books - and a sewing machine -thinking she could make her window treatments herself. And again, she has kids, a dog and a busy consulting job. This isn't about pinching pennies (although we're known for that as well). It's just how we are. We are DIYers to the bone. We did survive those first harsh winters way back when.

Sometimes, tho, people just need to sit back and respect the experts. As I said, I could be wrong, but I suspect they are more likely to do that out west. "You're the designer, I like your work, take over and send me a bill. By the way - what are Brad and Angelina doing in their house(s)?"

Rarely do designers get free reign over their designs - there is almost always a client. And unless one is doing a designer show house, or a "reality" tv show, the client should have the last word. So, it's a fun fantasy to be able to do exactly what you would like - to really stretch your skills and vision. Of course, the designers didn't really have total freedom - as I'm assuming they are using floor samples from the showrooms - so they can't specify exact materials or finishes. But, still, 130 showrooms - lots of floor samples to pick through. I wonder how they decided if more than one design team wanted the same item? I also wonder if the $50K budget is retail or wholesale (net) pricing? That would make a big difference.

I guess we'll just have to "stay tuned".

Announcing our new blog!

I have just launched a new blog Master of Your Domain - decorating tips for the straight man who may excel on the court or in court - but who goes home to, at best, a bare bones existence or even something worse... My writer friend Peg McGuire and I have been working on this concept for quite a while and plan on using the blog format to flesh out the details. We expect to include dating tips, decorating tips and how to find a great look that suits the guy. We are looking for your help as well and will be posting polls and quizzes on a regular basis, so check in often!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Erosion sink by Gore Design Company

In keeping with my current bathroom theme (ok, this is only the second post in a row, but maybe it's an emerging trend?) I am fascinated by this sink by Gore Design Company. I found it while reading Red.House. It's probably the angle of the photos, but the "bowl" - for lack of a better word - seems awfully shallow for real use. But, it's pretty cool, none-the-less.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Urinals - coming out of the closet?

There is an interesting article in the New York Times today about the emerging trend of urinals being installed in upscale residential bathroom. Click here to read the story.

Bardon Urinal by Kohler

Utronic by Duravit

Lloyd by TotoUSA

Spoon by Philip Watts Design in England


Enough with the urinals.

But, check out this MONGO toilette. This is the facade of the Duravit Design Center in Hornberg, Germany.

Designed by Phillip Starke, the toilet is an observation deck. Loving it!

Top Design: Decorator or Designer?

I was watching the BravoTV clip from Episode 1 of Top Design and one of the designers says something to the effect that they were "decorating, not designing". These clips engendered a lot of posts on my fellow TD blogger sites - Blogging Top Design and Project: Top Design. There is often confusion about the difference between what Interior Decorators do vs. Interior Designers with the general feeling is that designers are somehow better than decorators. The term "better" is very subjective, however. It really depends on the job at hand. Commercial projects such as those in the hospitality, health or business fields generally require certfied and often licensed interior designers to work alongside the architects and builders. Government oversite, public safety and large budgets make this an absolute necessity. However, for the majority of residential projects - all this may not be required.

Interior Designers are well educated - generally having both bachelors and masters degress in interior design. They are also required to fulfill a certain amount of hours in internship positions and to pass the NCIDQ examinations. They must also maintain ongoing Continuing Educational Unit credits. This is very similar to what registered architects must achieve. One difference is that throughout the country, architects must be registered and no one can claim to be an architect without this registration. On the other hand, interior designers have not acheived this nationwide status and in some states, anyone can claim to be an interior designer. The ASID and other groups are currently working to make it a nationwide requirement.

In truth, anyone can hang out their shingle and claim to be an interior decorator. Furniture stores that offer design services often refer to their sales staff as decorators/designers, when in fact they are selling only their own products and may have no formal training.

Many top design schools offer Decorative Arts certificate programs which are taught by the same architecture and design professors teaching the degreed programs. These programs offer a rigorous educational experience. I attended the Boston Architectural College and can attest to the fact that the program was more about fundementals of design, planning, drafting and history and much less about the "pretty parts". Color theory was a technical class, not about what colors look nice together. Lighting design was about lamps (known as light bulbs to regular people), lumens and kelvins, not about lamp shades with tassels.

Below is a report by the NCIDQ on what the responsibilities of Interior Designers are. I've highlighted the items in the bullet point section which are also the responsibilities of a qualified interior decorator on large residential projects.

NCIDQ Definition Of Interior Design
July 2004

Interior design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants, and are aesthetically attractive. Designs are created in response to and coordinated with the building shell, and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements, and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology, including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process, whereby the needs and resources of the client are satisfied to produce an interior space that fulfills the project goals.

Interior design includes a scope of services performed by a professional design practitioner, qualified by means of education, experience, and examination, to protect and enhance the life, health, safety and welfare of the public. These services may include any or all of the following tasks:

* Research and analysis of the client's goals and requirements; and development of documents, drawings and diagrams that outline those needs;
* Formulation of preliminary space plans and two and three dimensional design concept studies and sketches that integrate the client's program needs and are based on knowledge of the principles of interior design and theories of human behavior;
* Confirmation that preliminary space plans and design concepts are safe, functional, aesthetically appropriate, and meet all public health, safety and welfare requirements, including code, accessibility, environmental, and sustainability guidelines;
* Selection of colors, materials and finishes to appropriately convey the design concept, and to meet socio-psychological , functional, maintenance, life-cycle performance, environmental, and safety requirements;
* Selection and specification of furniture, fixtures, equipment and millwork, including layout drawings and detailed product description; and provision of contract documentation to facilitate pricing, procurement and installation of furniture;
* Provision of project management services, including preparation of project budgets and schedules;
* Preparation of construction documents, consisting of plans, elevations, details and specifications, to illustrate non-structural and/or non-seismic partition layouts; power and communications locations; reflected ceiling plans and lighting designs; materials and finishes; and furniture layouts;
* Preparation of construction documents to adhere to regional building and fire codes, municipal codes, and any other jurisdictional statutes, regulations and guidelines applicable to the interior space;
* Coordination and collaboration with other allied design professionals who may be retained to provide consulting services, including but not limited to architects; structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, and various specialty consultants;
* Confirmation that construction documents for non-structural and/or non-seismic construction are signed and sealed by the responsible interior designer, as applicable to jurisdictional requirements for filing with code enforcement officials;
* Administration of contract documents, bids and negotiations as the client's agent;
* Observation and reporting on the implementation of projects while in progress and upon completion, as a representative of and on behalf of the client; and conducting post-occupancy evaluation reports.

As you can see, there is considerable overlap. Not all residential jobs require each of these items, but they do required most of what I've highlighted. A qualified decorator has the education, experience and skills to create the design, work with the contractors and see the project through to completion. Given the amount of time and money interior designers spend in achieving their level of expertise, it's not surprising that the vast majority work in the commercial sector and not in general residential.

On a final note, as far as I can tell (and please correct me if I'm wrong) neither Todd Oldham or the rest of the Top Design judges are registered interior designers. And no one would say they are somehow lesser designers because of it. Talent will always win out.

Click here for all Top Design posts.

1st Dibs Top 12 Click List for December

Check out the top twelve most viewed items on 1st Dibs during the month of December.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Babette Holland Lighting & Accessories

Babette from Babette Holland Lighting and Accessories sent me information about her fabulous lamps, pots and mirrors. I'd seen these in a trade mag and just had to learn more!

Available from

Available from
Save $10 Right Now. Find out how at! Expires 3-31-07

Each piece begins as a simple aluminum circle. In the hands of a Master Spinner, it rocks and spins in a lathe until what remains is a beautiful form. Multiple layers of transparent, metallic-based finishes are applied so that the form, in light, shimmers like silk and jewels. Babette works in Brooklyn, NY and all lamps are handmade in the USA.

Top Design - The Clock is Ticking

Click here for video on episode 1, which I watched after I did my last post. I'm encouraged that there is a carpenter shown in the video! Hopefully this means that the producers didn't make the contestants do all their own construction work. That said, I'm not sure what truly creative person has never actually painted a room on their own before - Michael... While we can't be expected to do everything related to a room renovation, interior design work is still about rolling up one's sleeves and getting dirty. The fancy tick-tick shoes are for show!

Click here for all Top Design posts.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Top Design - Challenges Challenges

I've been giving thought to what the different challenges might be when Top Design airs starting on January 31st. It seems to me that most reality shows are their best in their first seasons and go downhill from there. Well, maybe it's just the one's I've watched. "Survivor" and "The Apprentice" come to mind. On the other hand, HGTV's "Design Star" was so lame that anything would be an improvement - although I hope they choose to walk away quietly from that one. What was up with that "Glama-listic" girl and the bare-chested winner? And who even remembers their names???? Let's hope TD is much better. I do think that this group of contestants seems to come with some pretty good skills, education and experience. How they apply those tools to their challenges remains to be seen.

So, what kind of challenges will there be? The list of sponsors give us some clues:

GMC - 2007 Acadia slated to appear throughout the 10-episode series arc. I'm not sure how this fits into a specific design challenge.

Bacardi Limon - will be a featured element in a design challenge.

Thomasville Furniture will sponsor an on-air series of vignettes

General Electric Monogram Collection, a line of modular cooking and refrigeration appliances that will be featured during a kitchen-themed competition.

The BravoTV website has the first four episodes listed by title.
101 - Mystery Judge
102 - Childs Play
103 - Life's A Beach
104 - Diamond in the Rough

So, what do we think?
-Celebrity Home/Room Makeover #101
-Children's space #102
-Outdoor/beach/sandcastle building contest #103
-Fixer Upper #104
-Kitchen (Monogram Collection)
-Night club/party space (Bicardi Limon)
-Vignettes with Thomasville - maybe each designer gets the same items to work with and must come up with something original?

Which leaves us with two episodes, one of which is the finale. I wonder where the car comes in... ideas?

I would like to see the following challenges:
• Green/sustainable design
• Universal design (where form and function work for any potential inhabitant from children to elderly to handicapped)
• Color challenge - where they select two or three random colors from a bag and have to create a look from those colors. Or have to create a look from one color only.
• Furniture design - creating a piece for modern living citing historical precedents. In design school, I had to do this and it was a very interesting exercise.
• Creation of a line of textiles, accessories, etc. from a single image or theme.

I've been thinking how this show might be the same as "Project Runway" and how it might be different. Interior designers are required to know something about a whole range of skills - from artistic such as drawing to technical such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical, etc. We need to know what fabrics work best in any given situation, how to light a space and whether the infrastructure can handle electrical load. The "pretty parts" are important, but it's a given that we know how to do that. It's the technical knowledge that can make or break you in the real world. So, as with PR, technical skills matter - but I think they have a much wider scope in interior design. Plus, if you screw up, you can actually harm someone.

All that said, however, interior designers aren't generally experts in all these disciplines and rarely do the actual work. So, I really don't want to see challenges where the contestants are required to be putting up dry wall, or mounting cabinets and installing appliances with one hand, while clutching their swatch books in the other. The better test is how they manage those professionals who actually do that work.

I am figuring there will be team challenges as well as solo projects. One of the things I like about PR is that the contestants are mostly supportive of one another. While there have been some notable exceptions (Wendy Pepper, anyone?) the designers generally don't try to tear each other down. However, when they add in team challenge projects, then the "I'm better than him and let me tell you why" comes into play. Yawn... I think even the nicest people can turn into cut-throats in these circumstances.

Anyway, comments, suggestions?

Click here for all Top Design posts.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Now that the weather is finally cold...

Something to keep us warm - for poolside, sunroom, anyroom. From Veneman Furniture.