Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas Colorways: Blue

Blue Christmas by Surroundings

See all Christmas Colorways posts here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A pie for giving thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving! Despite the troubles in the world today, we all can find something to be thankful for. I am thankful for my friends and family, work colleagues and blogging buddies - we've formed a wonderful and supportive network and I value all of your blog posts and comments more than I can say!

My big contribution to my families' Thanksgiving table is my Apple/Cranberry pie. I thought I'd share my favorite recipe with you - in case you are still looking for a last minute and very easy desert!


Opt For Outside Living

Contributed byLori Dolnick.

Check out where you can design your own eat-in porch, right online. The online porch builder is a brand new feature of their website that also lets you build shutters and gazebos online. These are fine wood products that are crafted in Pennsylvania. The design is modular so you can build it yourself – complete with architectural features, screens and glass inserts. I’ve had the pleasure of touring their factory and the cedar smell is intoxicating. It makes you want to sit back in an Adirondack chair, read a book and forget the world. Better yet, put up an antique table with a country cloth and make a three-season dining space that will have your friends and family bringing you bottles of wine just to enjoy it.

Porch Systems offer added space for entertaining by

Don’t have a porch or deck you can screen in? Vixen Hill’s pergolas are made from quality Western Red Cedar - perfect for climbing plants and a durable focal point that will age gracefully without staining or painting. Create a little Mediterranean get-away that shades you from the sun and sets the stage for memorable dinners and get-togethers. Vixen Hill offers classic teak furniture or you can visit Brown Jordon for some amazing outdoor furnishings that look like they belong indoors. According to the National Association of Realtors, deck (porch) improvements are renovations that pay back about 80% of their value when you sell - an affordable DIY home improvement that adds living space and pays back over time.

Pergolas make great outdoor dining areas by

Contributed by Lori Dolnick.

Click here to read all of Lori's posts.

Alan, The Gallant

Okay - first off - how cool is the name Alan, The Gallant? It conjures up chivalrous images of raincoats laid over puddles, doors held and gentlemen standing to great a lady. Sigh... ok, am back from my daydream.

But, seriously - how pretty are these graphics designed by, yes - Alan, The Gallant - a Barcelona based design firm which creates these beautiful graphics.

Topo Azul, handmade designde patterns - is an organic approach to the art of painted wallpaper. A style that plays with lo-fi but in the end is revealed as a high quality product with a fresh and contemporary sensibility. This handmade pattern was created from the concept of freedom of lines. Heterogeneous forms are unified by using the same color. it reminds of the beauty that exists in the chaos and the randomness.

Artist Ana Montiel has designed TOPO AZUL as well as our other wallpaper collections. Since her early beginnings, she was fascinated while drawing different shapes (vs. patterns) and forms, not knowing that her fixation at the time would evolve into beautiful patterns for Pattern Tales®.

I love the soft, gentle quality of these designs. A little vintage-y in feel, without being stuffy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A New York Minute (or, 24 hours in the Big Apple)

Well, I had a lovely weekend in NYC this past weekend! I don't get there as often as I'd like and this weekend I was treated to a spectacular performance of Madama Butterfly at the Met. Let me just say, I was a sobbing mess at the end. I posted about the opera here and I have previously posted about the recent restoration of the spectacular Metropolitan Opera House Swarovski crystal chandeliers here.

The photo up top is the ceiling of the concert hall at the Met. Our seats were near mid-orchestra, so all I had to do was point the camera up and snap away. Actually, they don't allow photos inside (why, I don't know!), so I was doing this surreptitiously before the performance began. The main auditorium consists of a broad parquet with rows of orchestra seats punctuated by two sides and one central aisle and surrounded by five levels of horseshoe-shaped tiers. The walls are covered in West African Kewazinga wood and gold-leaf accentuates a ceiling of curvilinear scalloped panels from which hang 24 starburst-form chandeliers. These were a gift from the Vienna State Opera as repayment for American help in its reconstruction after World War II. The proscenium arch is framed by a textured, gilded plaster surround and topped by an untitled sculpture by Mary Callery selected by Wallace Harrison for the auditorium. Other decorative features include the bright red mohair plush upholstery and light satin swags draped across the balcony fronts.

Here is the facade of the Opera House. You can see on the far left and right the Marc Chagall's that flank the lobby. For some reason, everywhere I travel, there is always construction, scaffolding and barricades. Whether it's Lourdes, Notre Dame in Paris or St. Paul's in London, or it's Lincoln Center and Washington Sq. Park in Manhattan, it seems to be my lot to always run into construction in my travels! Oh well. At least I've gotten to travel! And so, you will note on the right, there is a barricade. Most of Lincoln Center was barricaded, including the fountain.

And, here I am, with my opera hangover, enjoying a lovely brunch with live jazz and flowing mimosa's with my friend Rob at The Garage restaurant in Greenwich Village. Blogging buddy David is the events manager and I heard about it through his blog David Dust - great place David!

Our next stop was the Hell's Kitchen flea market made famous recently by Eddie Ross, whom I've gotten to know through my coverage of Top Design via Blogging Top Design. This is my friend Rob - who I owe a big THANKS for taking me to the opera and for doing all the driving from Massachusetts to NY.

The flea market actually doesn't look like much, but there were a lot of interesting items from jewelry to silver to rugs, not to mention all sorts of more junky stuff.

I picked up a lovely silver teapot for $10 (photos and blog post to come) and another set of items which I can't mention as they are gifts for friends who read this blog!

I didn't buy it, but I loved this folk art rocking horse. It would look so sweet under a Christmas tree filled with wrapped gifts or pointsettia plants.

Me, all bundled up - it was freakin' cold there this weekend!


Friday, November 21, 2008

Madame Butterfly at the Met!

Patricia Racette and Roberto Aronica, October 2008 production
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

I'm so excited as tomorrow I'm heading off to NYC with my friend Rob to hear Madama Butterfly at the Met! Several years ago I played in the orchestra for a local production. But... The Met! I wrote about the newly refurbished Swarovski chandeliers a couple of months ago and I now I get to see them in all their dazzling brilliance in person!

I'm also very excited to see the work of world renowned set designer Michael Levine. Michael has designed sets and costumes for major opera companies in North America and Europe including Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna State Opera, and Paris Opera. Levine received his early training at the Ontario College of Art in his native Toronto and London’s Central School of Art and Design. His many awards include a Gemini award for Best Production Design for the movie September Songs, Paris Critics’ Prize for Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Aix en Provence, and Edinburgh Festival Music and Arts award for the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung.

Here are some images from the 2006 Met production, courtesy of Seen and Heard International.

The role of Butterfly's 3 yr. old son was played by a puppet, handled in the Japanese Banraku puppetry tradition of direct manipulation of head and body parts by puppeteers.

The late Anthony Minghella with "Madame Butterfly"

And here is a fun little montage I pulled together in anticipation of my adventure! I love the Fornasetti Opera dishes!

Madame Butterfly by Surroundings

Thursday, November 20, 2008

1,000 Thank You's! It's my 1,000th Post!

This is my 1,000th blog post. That's a whole lotta words and photos! My first post is dated January 27th, 2005 and was a rehash of a series of decorating tips I'd written. When I decided to start the blog, I really had no idea what I was doing. I decided it made a good electronic "filing cabinet" of ideas and products I wanted to keep track of. I also thought it was a good way to keep alive several articles I'd written for my quarterly company newsletter.

One of my favorite posts from Year 1 (I only wrote 34 posts that whole first year!) was called Consumer Culture Wars. There are no photos, just thoughts. It's pretty good, if I say so myself! Makes me think that I need to do more of that kind of "idea" post in the future. (Note to Domino Magazine - sorry for the dis!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This is my 999th post...

Hmm... what to do for the big one?

Seriously... ideas, anyone?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sound Investments in Tricky Times

Contributed by George Evans

What market still retains value? The fine art and antiques market still represents a good investment while the value goes beyond monetary enhancing one’s life with beauty and function. The investment value is as strong as ever for the best pieces. It’s also a good to time to go “green”. Buy mid level pieces, a lot of people feel there is more product (people are selling more things) and some of the prices have not changed much over the years. Now is the time to invest in that special piece that will anchor a room setting, so that one can enjoy the investment and the use.

Artist, Maker, Period, Form and Function are some of the most important criteria to consider when looking at an investment piece.

  • Artist: a signed piece is generally worth more than unsigned painting or piece of furniture.
  • Maker: can be attributed when it’s a known form and the construction and materials are in sync.
  • Period Piece: generally (a piece made in the period i.e. Queen Anne) is worth considerably more than a piece in the Queen Anne style, or a reproduction.
  • Form: small occasional pieces are more desirable than oversized/out of proportion pieces.
  • Pieces of Regal style are more desirable than “grandmotherly” pieces. One does not want a room to be predictable. It has to be fun and you should be able to visualize yourself living in it.
  • Function: for instance make sure an antique chair is sturdy and can be used or it should be restricted to a piece of “Decorative Art or Sculpture”

If you can only buy one thing, it’s best to buy a piece that is universally recognizable in a room be it a Neoclassic Secretary or a Mies Van Der Rohe “Barcelona” Daybed.

Designer Peter Marino , Photography by Michael Moran
Courtesy Architectural Digest

Photo credit: Scott Frances. Courtesy of Architectural Digest.

One can buy the investment quality piece and then accessorize around it, such as comfortable modern upholstery. In this case, form and function rules, mixing 20th century chairs which are sturdy as opposed to antique chairs which can be fragile and need extensive restoration.
Photo credit: Architectural Digest

Contributed by George Evans, Co-Founder of Bond & Bowery.
Read all of George's posts here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A little something different - the flute comes out!

As some of you know, I am a flute player and hold a degree in music performance. I don't perform anywhere near as often as I should, but every once in a while, I get the opportunity. Each week, I teach private music lessons at a local public school as part of a Prodigy Music program. I love teaching and it keeps me playing on a regular basis. The faculty of this program got together last week (well, after weeks of rehearsals) for a faculty recital. I performed in a woodwind quintet and one of the pieces we played was the Carl Nielsen Woodwind Quintet. Challenging! Here is a recording of the 2nd and 3rd movement of the piece. Enjoy!

Top Design Chandi Challenge - And the Winner Is...

A big congratulations to Sheila O'Meara - you are the winner of the Blogging Top Design Swarovski Crystal Palace Chandelier Design Challenge!

Our esteemed judge, Margaret Russell, editor-in-chief of Elle Decor magazine and Top Design judge, says of your design:

"I’ve chosen Sheila O’Meara’s formal dining room with the Light Sock chandelier as the winner of the Swarovski Chandelier challenge.

It was terrific to see all of the entries—and I appreciated elements in each of them—but Sheila created the most professional and thoughtful presentation. She chose to not include a proper rendering of the room, but her mood board and detailed written description provided a remarkably realistic portrayal of her space; it was very easy to imagine being inside her dining room.

Though the Light Sock was my least favorite of the light fixtures, Sheila conjured a dreamy space that suited the texture and scale of the piece. Her color palette is a tad somber, but she deftly described the layout of the room (including a fireplace; who doesn’t love a fireplace in a dining room?), her mix of textures, and even how she would set the table."

Click here to view Sheila's winning design.

Sheila has won a signed copy of Margaret's fantastic book So Chic and a bag of sparkly goodness from Swarovski.

A big thank you to Margaret for being our judge and for offering her book as a prize and to Swarovski for offering a crystal surprise as well. And a huge thank you to all fourteen of you who took the time to create beautiful design boards for our consideration. We so appreciate your time, talent and efforts! You made this a very fun contest for all of us!

And stay tuned, we'll be hosting a Readers Choice challenge later on this week. Click over to Blogging Top Design for all the details.

Spoonflower - Custom printed fabric

Have you heard of Spoonflower? It's this great service where you can design your own fabric and they will print short runs at an incredibly low price! They are currently printing on 100% cotton fabric by Moda which is great for quilters and crafters. I am hoping that at some point, they will release a home decor/upholstery weight fabric, but the quilting weight is certainly great for many uses!

They have also started a "fabric of the week" contest. Vote for your favorite and you will be able to purchase for a limited time. Click here for contest information.

I hope soon to take advantage of Spoonflower's services. I just have to come up with the design...

Here are a few of the fabrics they have printed for customers:




Sponsor Love: Welcome, Tracy Glover Studio

I am so thrilled to welcome Tracy Glover Studio as a new sponsor of ::Surroundings::!
As a young girl Tracy Glover saw a photo of a woman blowing glass and found the image so intriguing she was inspired to try it herself. She fell in love with the challenge of working with the material and realized the pleasure of making decorative, functional objects. Using Venetian techniques, Tracy Glover artfully crafts table lamps, floor lamps, wall and ceiling lamps, in addition to a gorgeous collection of vases, drawer and cabinet pulls.

Her sumptuously colored glass catches and reflects the light, creating a dazzling focal point in a room. The delicate strength of each individually made piece of Tracy Glover's work is born in an industrial, Rhode Island studio. Molten glass brews 24 hours a day in a crucible waiting to be melded together by her skilled hands. Glover is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, universally known as one of the finest art schools in the country. Her passion for the ancient craft of shaping glass has taken her from noble Venice to a crystal factory in a convent in Belgium as well as to Pilchuck Glass School, a mecca for glass-making in Seattle.

Visit Tracy Glover Studio here.

::Surroundings:: Sponsors allow us to maintain the technological and other associated expenses of this blog. So, please, visit our sponsors websites and shop! If you would like to reach out to thousands of monthly readers, please contact Linda for sponsorship rates.