No Staircase for the Inebriated

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This hallucinatory staircase connects the basement bar to the dining area of a new restaurant in London. Hundreds of layers of wood veneer are laminated to create the curving, sinuous forms, so that the end product looks like solid wood. I’ve dealt with many new and renovated staircases on projects over the years, but I’ve never seen one as complex and ambitious as this. After a few martinis, I wonder how many guests never make it to the dining room?

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A Night to Remember

ChrisEllen

Visited good friends and former restauranteurs last weekend for an epic feast. These days our friends cater events to spend more time pursuing their other love—traveling. But before they leave on their next trip, they invited several couples over for a dinner I will never forget. As you can see from the photo, there were ten dishes set out when we came to the table, and this after an abundance of superb cocktail noshes. The emphasis was on fish, with mussels, shrimp, octopus, haddock and flounder on the menu. And several mouth watering salads. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many different taste sensations in a single meal. From strong, edgy spices to fragrant understatement, this meal had it all. Plus, of course, lovely wine, and most important, the joy of good fellowship with fascinating people. The best entertainment of all.

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In Search of the Perfect Dinner Ware

Floridafabric

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I’ve been on a mission for over a year, looking for the perfect dinner ware for my client’s home in Florida. During my trip to London I popped into Harrods, in Paris I visited the Galerie Lafayette, and my quest became a favorite web search. Finally, during a trip to Bloomingdales on another mission, I hit pay dirt: The Amazonia Collection by Villeroy & Boch. Here you can see the fabric sample I took with me, and several plates and a cup from the collection. The lively, elegantly hand painted design is lightly tropical, and full of fun. For my client it was worth waiting for; they’re delighted living with this magnificent dinner ware. And I can finally put the search to bed. It’s a small element of a large project, but it’s nice when even the small elements fit into the grand scheme.

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NY NOW

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It’s February so it must be time for the gift show, known these days as NY NOW. Off we go to the Javits Center, braving the elements and the hopeless parking. I visit the accessory companies I work with, as well as tracking down exciting new stuff. Here are a few highlights, from the top photo down:

This company makes evocative antique radios that are 1930s-40s reproductions. They come in all shapes and sizes, in polished wood with authentic dials and controls. Of course it was before my time, but I imagine the Resistance soldiers in France during WWII listening to the BBC, straining to hear their sabotage targets before marching out to do battle with the Nazis.

When is a lamp not a lamp. When it’s an object that’s decoratively lit from the inside. I like the design and think I might have the perfect location for it.

Not your mother’s building blocks. This company features wooden blocks with which your children can reveal their inner urban planner. They are cleverly packaged and ecologically produced. And they have absolutely nothing to do with electricity. Perfect for grandson Owen.

I’ve known this company for some time. Based in Provence, they produce handmade ceramic “hens” that are whimsical and appealing.

I’m always looking for bath accessories, and these are clean and well made, with a multiplicity of choices.

Every year there’s something that breaks new ground in bad taste. I nominate these faux Warhol soup tins.

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Eating Well in London

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My son’s lovely wife Nicole has a true passion for food, and our trips to visit them in London inevitably become culinary extravaganzas. She works for a group of restaurants, and it’s a case of “you mean they pay me to do this?” Well, not really, she works very hard and the restaurant business is challenging, but being around all that amazing food and the people who make it happen is a big plus for Nicole. We went to two locations of Vinoteca, her company, and they made us feel like genuine VIPS. Above you’ll find her photos of this moveable feast—apologies to Hemingway.

From the top pic down…

Went to Trompette, a fine French restaurant, for Christmas eve lunch, a traditional English event. Here are the restaurant’s signature trompette mushrooms, so called because of their horn-like shape, atop a waffle-like wafer.

Home cured bresaola with mixed salad leaves and parmesan.

Crisp suckling pig shoulder with greens and polenta.

Hole in the wall Turkish restaurant close to our kids place provided one of the best meals of our trip, including char-grilled minced lamb combined with light seasoning, wrapped in thin home made bread topped with butter, tomato sauce and yoghurt.

The best pub food bears no resemblance to the cold sausages of my youth. Nicole’s restaurant friends told her about a pub in Brighton, and they were not wrong. This is hand rolled gnocchi (called Gnudi because it’s stuffed with ricotta, not potato.)

A majestically risen soufflé is topped with apple crumble and ice cream. The heat of the soufflé melts the ice cream and the result is unlike any apple crumble I’ve ever tasted. Heavenly!

In addition to our stomachs, we fed our heads as well, seeing two plays. Belleville is an American play which was receiving its London premiere. The Ferryman is a new Irish play set in the 1970s. I thought both plays were going to be comedies, nothing particularly challenging. We were on holiday after all. Well, Belleville ended with a suicide, The Ferryman with multiple murders on stage. Good thing we ate before the plays. 

 

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“Oh, to be in England…”

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Spent a sublime Christmas in London, visiting our son and daughter in law. Nicole was, as usual, the best guide to the city, especially the gastronomic possibilities. I’ll devote a post just to the food.

Photo at top was taken on our day trip to Brighton, along the Channel coast. It may not be the Cote D’Azur, but I spent a glorious time at the English seaside learning the language (or so my parents thought) as a teen, so I have a special place in my heart for the pebbly beaches and watery sun.

Had to visit Harrods in the second pic, awed by the over the top excess, whether it’s a backgammon set for $20,000, or a crystal and gold centerpiece for $200,000. I saw my favorite glass artist, Dale Chihuly’s work. Beautiful, pristine, the colors are mind-blowing. The exhibit says he “changed the definition of glass.” I agree.

On a more cuddly note, the green Harrod’s toy truck stuffed with teddy bears put a smile on my face. Made me think of grandson Owen. Passed a shop near Chiswick that definitely had me bemused. As the elders among us know, CCCP are the initials of the former Soviet Union, our mortal enemy in the cold war. This section of London is heavily Polish—and Poland was a not so happy member of the CCCP, so the name clearly has an element of irony. I think.

Finally an ad seen in the London Underground that I have to share. “Decorating jobs with better pay” it announces, with the visual of a paint brush morphing into a wad of cash. Now, in England, decorating jobs are essentially what we would call contracting jobs, so these are not interior design jobs as we know them. I don’t care…”Decorating jobs with better pay” is a manifesto I can easily embrace!

So we’re back at work in New Jersey, all those delicious meals and fascinating sights just a memory. But what memories! And traveling memories are especially vivid, as time goes by.

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Infinity Rug

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I’ve worked on several projects that feature infinity pools, and my first thought as I surveyed the Atlantic from the terrace of my cousin’s apartment in Miami was to choose an “infinity rug”—the aqua tones of a hand-knotted asian rug against a monochrome palette would bring the vast ocean right into the room, just as an infinity pool blurs the horizon.

Atop this foundation is a low leather sectional, with cushions that move up and down for comfort, complemented by a cantilevered, travertine and wood laquered table that seems to float (that ocean, again) above the floor. Pride of place goes to a concert grand piano—the husband is a musician—and an integrated sound system brings an unlimited selection of music to every room. The walnut swirled dining table expands to seat fourteen, and the bowed seats are walnut backed. A Calder-like chandelier hovers over the table. The kitchen was redone in deep wood to echo the display cabinets in the living room, with a sleek look and minimal hardware for a distinctly un-kitchen like feel. Nevertheless, a 42” inch fridge, 36” inch cooktop and double oven and microwave makes this relatively compact space fully functional.

I spent several days last weekend placing art and accessories, and making a list of final touches for my next trip. But the apartment is near enough finished to be eminently usable, an ocean front space that is at one with the sea.

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Low Light on the Ocean

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My cousin tells me that as the sun sets in Miami they often keep the lights off in their apartment, staring out at the horizon. From their elevated vantage point the ocean and the sky create a peaceful, soothing effect, and even the interior and furnishings are experienced differently.

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Sleek and Stylish

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A closeup of the dining area in the Miami apartment gives a good view of the walnut table’s plinth raised on a platform base. Two leaves open up the table significantly for the large gatherings my cousin is known for. Like modern sculpture the pendant chandelier hangs from two cables. The buffet features a checkerboard pattern of tiger maple veneer. The backsplash and counter top in the kitchen visible on the left are done in identical light Caesarstone. Along with the clean, dark cabinets and super thin induction cooktop, the result has little to do with conventional kitchen design. The piano lends a classical note to the proceedings, it’s black lacquer fitting well with the other wood tones.

I’ll have the pleasure of sitting at the expanded table this Thanksgiving to witness the apartment’s debut as gathering place for our family. It’s been a privilege and a joy to be responsible for the design.

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The View

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The design of the Miami apartment began with the view from the 24th floor: the Intracoastal waterway, a community of luxury homes directly ahead with dramatic high-rises on either side framing the endless Atlantic. Not a bad place to start.

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