Friday, April 30, 2010

The Skirted Roundtable, Susanna Salk and kids rooms

 This week at The Skirted Roundtable we chatted with author and Today Show correspondent Susanna Salk about her new kids book "Room for Children", published by Rizzoli. 

This book is filled luscious images of children's rooms that aren't typical in any way. It's a visual treat for the eyes.

 This pink twins bedroom is one of my favorite. So very Gigi, non?

And this unexpectedly black room is quite the showstopper. Now, not everyone will paint their kids room black, but the yellow striped ceiling and while floor balances things out. Plus, I love the lambies peaking out of the fireplace.

This book couldn't come at a better time for me because I'm just about to embark on a design for a little girl's room for some long time client's of mine. And, amazingly, her room is just like the black room above. Although, I doubt we'll be doing black! I think a sophisticated pink and yellow with a ballerina theme is on the horizon.

So, please head over and take a listen to our conversation with Susanna. AND, we're doing a giveaway of a copy of "Room for Children", so post your comment about an experience with a kids room for a chance to win. (Thanks to Rizzoli for providing the book!)

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Music Hall Monday: Boston Opera House rises from the ashes

Inside the lobby looking out towards the street.

Last week, I took a tour of the Boston Opera House with several members of my IFDA chapter. What a gorgeous place and the history is even more remarkable. I'd been in the building for some performances in the late 80's and it was in a sad, dilapidated state then and was finally refurbished over a two year span between 2002-2004. I wanted to share some of the photos I took last week, plus a brief history of this gem of downtown Boston.

The Opera House was built in 1928 by Edward Albee (great-grandfather of the playwright) to memorialize his best friend Benjamin Franklin Keith. They had been business partners and theater owners since the late 19th century. The theater, named the BF Keith Memorial Theater, was designed by architect Thomas Lamb and cost approximately $5Million to build. This was a true vaudeville palace with shows taking place all day long. Mr. Albee had exceptionally high standards and wanted his theater to be a family place, open to all, especially the middle classes.

Workers and performers were fired on the spot if they used vulgar language or exhibited vulgar behavior. Apparently "son of a gun", "slob" and "hully gee" were big no-no's. Boston had a thriving Burlesque industry and the BF Keith Memorial Theater was not going to be mistaken for the burley-q!   After Vaudeville was replaced by the "talkies", the theater was converted to a movie palace known as the RKO Keith Theater.

In 1965, Sack Theaters purchased the building and renamed it The Savoy. The proscenium arch was bricked up and the hall was split into an upper and lower theaters.  In 1978, Sarah Caldwell, of the Opera Company of Boston, purchased the building and renamed it The Opera House. She struggled mightily throughout the 1980's to stage opera in Boston, but never had the funds to properly care for the rapidly decaying building and closed up shop in 1991, when the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the building as #11 on its Most Endangered list. The ceiling was falling down and there was over a foot of stagnant water in the basement level. In 2002, the city of Boston issued permits to Clear Channel Entertainment to refurbish the building. $52Million dollars and 2 years later, the new and gleaming Boston Opera House re-opened for business. The Boston Ballet regularly performs in the space and it also hosts major theatrical runs, currently "Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein", and other performers.  In 2009, music impresario Don Law and local philanthropist/businessman David Mugar, along with others, purchased The Boston Opera house.  Quite a full circle - from music promoters to conglomerates to artist owed and back to music promoters.

And now my photo tour:

This is the ceiling over the lobby. There are nearly 20 (I think we were told) chandeliers that are original to the building. And they are spectacular!

Looking towards the stairs leading to the mezzanine level. The bust in the center background is that of BF Keith, which was lost and then found in time for the re-opening.

The carpeting throughout the theater is a copy of the original carpeting laid down in 1928. The red panels are silk brocade.

Looking up towards the mezzanine level hall outside the theater.

Across the lobby are a series of false windows and balconies which provide symmetry overlooking the lobby.

The view of the lobby from the mezzanine staircase.

The dome overlooking the mezzanine stair landing.

This is the ladies lounge. Originally, this space had a series of dressing tables where the ladies could sit and chat, reapply makeup and generally gossip with girlfriends. The sconces were set quite low to provide the best light when seated at the mirrors. And yes, if you have a good eye, you will see the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream cart reflected in the mirror!

The medallion ceiling in the ladies lounge. All the plaster work was done on site during the restoration.

This is the sterling silver chandelier hanging in the men's smoking room. It was impossible for me to truly capture the glory of this piece with my little camera and bad lighting, but wowsa.

This is one of several non-working fireplaces original to the building.

We were not allowed to take photographs inside the hall itself as the Young Frankenstein set was on stage (copyright issues), so I am sharing these images from other sites. The hall seats over 2,600; 1,300 upstairs and 1,300 downstairs. Mr. Albee's belief that theater should be available to all meant that there are no bad seats in the house, no obstructed views and very few seats are underneath the mezzanine, which can obscure sound.

As said above, when the building was a movie theater, they created two theaters-one up and one down.The view of this image is from the second level, several owns behind the mezzanine level seats. Imagine a false floor extending off the mezz seats right to the stage, cutting it in two. The horror.

image courtesy of (John Tlumacki/Globe staff)

Thanks to the Boston Opera House for hosting our group and providing such an informative tour! Although the theater no long does original productions, it's so wonderful to see the care that the new management is taking of this architectural and historical gem. After we left the theater,  a few of my friends and I headed over to the new Ritz Carlton for dinner in the lounge.

Hully gee - that was a nice day!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Skirted Roundtable welcomes Lee Stanton, plus some great sales

This wee at The Skirted Roundtable, we chatted with noted LA antiquarian Lee Stanton. Lee is one of those people who are so truly passionate about their work and you can't help but be inspired.

Sometimes, the terms young and hip don't really feel like they jibe with "Antiquarian", but Lee manages to bring both. So tune in. We discussed buying antiques, pricing, what to look for and the importance of simply loving a piece. And if you're in LA or anywhere near there, run do not walk to the La Cienega Design Walk that will take place on May 6-8. All the stylish people will be there - including Lee and his wonderful showroom. Except me, who lives too far away and "cahn't get theya from he-a" (sorry, old inside New England joke).

In other news, there are some great clearance sales going on.

Wüd Furniture in Brooklyn has extended its showroom clearance sale.
Mitchel Gold + Bob Williams have a great  sale going on through May 9th.

Bograd Kids has a bedding sale going on.

Woodard and Greenstein has a huge inventory cleanout sale going on from April 26-May 5.   Sale location: 37-24 24th St. Suite 307, Long Island City, NY.

Happy Shopping!

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Skirted Roundtable makes it to one year! (and they said it wouldn't last!)

Somewhat over a year ago, I started thinking that what was missing from the design blog world was the real voices behind all the blogs and beauty we focus so much of our attention on. I'd had experience doing interviews via podcast on for Blogging Top Design and on my own blog and knew there was nothing like hearing peoples thoughts live and the exchange of true conversation.  There is no way to have a real conversation in print and interviews never really achieve the same level openness as does a live give and take.  And so, the germ of this idea kept growing inside me. I knew that I didn't have the blog power to carry this off by myself and that other voices were needed to bring this concept to life. I also had no idea that this concept would ever attract any notable listeners or guests.  In my mind, I was likening this to The View - with two or three regulars and a rotation of guest hosts and interviewees. I started thinking of who would make for interesting partners. One thing I've learned in my management background is to hire your weakness - meaning find people who do well what you may not. Since I generally don't consider myself a spitfire and am sometimes hampered by my New England reserve, I knew I needed a partner who is much more outgoing and, um, brash maybe? than I am. I'd been email buddies with Joni Webb of Cote de Texas for a while. Of course, her blog is one of the best out there, well researched and passionate. And, Joni didn't hesitate to speak her mind and maybe ruffle a feather or two. Perfect! Now, I'd never spoken with Joni on the phone and had no idea how we'd really get along, but I figured it was worth a shot. Luckily, she responded quickly and was in! We needed a third (odd numbers are always better than evens, as we know in decorating!) and I was at a loss as to the person who would be the right complement to Joni and me. She suggested Megan Arquette of Beach Bungalow 8. Megan and I knew of each other, but were not really readers of each others blogs and we'd never communicated in any way, although we had both been interviewed for a Washington Post story on e-decorating. So, our paths had crossed and I told Joni to go ahead and ask. Kismet.

I could not have found two better partners in this venture.  In the last year, we have posted 60 podcasts, 21 of which have included guests. I think The Skirted Roundtable really exemplifies the power of partnership - especially in creative endeavors. Blogging can often be a solitary business. We spend ours on a post and if we're lucky, we get a few responses, a few exchanged emails - which is wonderful. As individual bloggers, Megan, Joni and I each had a handful of great industry contacts. By combining our resources, we were able to reach out to a wide range of industry professionals. From our first chat with Patricia Shackleford of Mrs. Blandings to this week's talk with leading antiquarian Lee Stanton, we've enjoyed the company and insights of some amazing industry professionals and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we've all learned so much.

I just wanted to extend a huge thanks to my partners, and now friends, Joni and Megan, for joining me on this great adventure. Thank you for the late night chats, the commitment to this near weekly project and for your insights and opinions. I literally could not have done it without you!  I also want to thank our listeners and commenters whose opinions we truly value - even when they are critical!

And here's to our second year of The Skirted Roundtable!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Patriot's Day and New England Style

The first shots of the American Revolution were fired on April 19th, 1775 at the battles of Lexington and Concord. From that day to this, Lexington and Concord are quintessential American towns.

Engraving of the Battle of Lexington by Amos Doolittle (engraver) and Ralph Earl (artist), 1775

Detail engraving of the "British Army in Concord" by Amos Doolittle (engraver) and Ralph Earl (artist), 1775

Detail engraving of the "North Bridge Fight"  by Amos Doolittle (engraver) and Ralph Earl (artist), 1775

The Jason Russell house in nearby Arlington, MA still has the bullet holes from that day. This home is the classic New England colonial style home with center entrance and 6 over 9 windows.

Buckman Tavern (originally Muzzey Tavern) in Lexington, built in 1710, was where Paul Revere watched the growing rebellion from the second story. The house sits across the street from the Lexington Green.

The Monroe Tavern (circa 1695) in Lexington was used by the wounded British as a headquarters and hospital. 

The Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington was built in 1737. John Hancock and Samuel Adams were staying in the house prior to the battles of Lexington and Concord. The house was built by the Rev. John Hancock, grandfather of the signer of the Declaration of Independence. This is the only known still standing residence of John Hancock. The house is now a museum that contains some of the Hancock and Clarke family furnishings and has recently been renovated. (image courtesy of The architectural style is early Georgian, known for it's symmetry and fine lined detail.

The Wright Tavern in Concord (built 1747) was the rallying point for the men of Concord on the morning on April 19th, 1775.

  The Olde Manse in Concord was built in 1770 for Patriot Minister William Emerson, grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The house was within eyesight of the North Bridge where the Battle of Concord was fought.

The Lexington town green today.

The Old North Bridge, Concord, today via Wikipedia

Margaret (Kemble or Kimball) Gage (portrait by George Singleton Copley, circa 1771) was the American born wife of General Thomas Gage, military Governor of Massachusetts and commander-in-chief of 3000 British soldiers was thought to have tipped off the Revolutionaries about the British plans. The beautiful dress and exuberant Chippendale style (if not actual Chippendale) camel back sofa indicate her status and wealth of the day.  Mrs. Gage and her husband were congregants of the Old North Church in the North End of Boston.

Paul Revere  (portrait by John Singleton Copley, 1768) was the messenger notifying the locals of the movements of the British before the battles of Lexington and Concord. Paul Revere was born in Boston's North End (today the Italian neighborhood). As a boy, Paul Revere was part of the Bell Ringers Guild and rang the bells in the Old North Church (built in 1723). 

The Old North Church was Anglican and the "King's Own" church in Colonial Boston. Most of the congregants were loyal to the British Crown. Paul Revere was a member of the Puritan/Congregationalist faith. It is believed that he likely noticed the great view from the steeple when working as a bell ringer.

The chandeliers were brought in from England for the first Christmas services. The Puritan/Congregationalists would have looked down on these for their overt decoration and because the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas at that time.

Paul Revere asked the church sexton Robert Newman to use lanterns to signal the patriots in Charlestown across the river of the British troop movements. Newman agreed and at 10:00PM on the night of April 18th, he climbed the 14 story belltower in complete darkness and then lit the two lamps that signaled that the troops were moving by sea. The British plan was to cross the Charles River to march north to Lexington to surprise the patriots by morning.  The two lamps were lit for less than a minute, enough time for the patriots to get the message, but also enough time to draw the attention of the British Troops, who tried to break into the church to see what was up.  Robert Newman escaped via the window to the right of the alter, which is now known as the Newman window.

Paul Revere, silversmith:
Silver service by Paul Revere, as exhibited in the Museum of Fine Arts, 1906

This graceful tea set was made by Revere in 1799 for presentation to Edmund Hartt and is now owned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Sons of Liberty punchbowl, made by Revere in 1768.

The inscription reads:

To the Memory of the glorious NINETY-TWO: Members / of the Honbl House of Representatives of the Massachusetts-Bay, / who, undaunted by the insolent Menaces of Villains in Power, / from a Strict Regard to Conscience, and the LIBERTIES / of their Constituents, on the 30th of June 1768, / Voted NOT TO RESCIND.

 The punch bowl was commissioned by the fifteen members of the Sons of Liberty to commemorate the 92-17 vote by the Massachusetts Assembly not to rescind their declaration that the "Stamp Acts" were un-constitutional because, as James Otis famously declared, there will be "No taxation without representation". 

To this day, the style of the Revere Punch Bowl serves as a traditional presentation bowl to commemorate accomplishments and special events.  I have two -  the "Unsung Hero" silver bowl presented to me for my work for my IFDA New England chapter, and a Tiffany's crystal bowl when I hit my tenth year working at WGBH Boston.

Happy Patriot's Day everyone!

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