Wednesday, January 28, 2009

San Francisco Design Center


My heart starts beating faster as I get off of Highway 101 and make three short turns to get to this beautiful brick building, the San Francisco Design Center.   The SFDC is comprised of three buildings; the Showplace, Galleria and Garden Court. Together, they house over 100 showrooms and is open to the public.

I had to run up to the city, so I thought I would stop in and visit a few of my favorite designer showrooms.


One of the first showrooms I went into was the Christopher Peacock Cabinetry Showroom.  We’ve all seen their gorgeous ads in the magazines.  It’s even more lovely in person.

Did you know that Christopher Peacock has their own paint/color line?  You can see it here.


Another view of the same kitchen.


Another kitchen in the Christopher Peacock Cabinetry Showroom.    This kitchen is a much different feel than the one above and the design aesthetic is more casual.


A bathroom in the same showroom.  I love cabinets that have open shelving for towels and baskets.   The dark wood, marble cabinets and floors give this display grandeur.  That’s my BF Claire (shopper extraordinaire and ready to go in a moment’s notice!) in the mirror.


The last kitchen of the showroom.  Lovely cabinets with simple panels.  The backsplash mixes the style up a bit, but this look isn’t quite what I prefer.  The lighting in this photo wasn’t very accurate, as you can tell from the photo below of the same kitchen.


There are my beautiful carrera marble countertops!   Even though the light fixtures are stainless, like the stove, I think I would have preferred this type of lighting above the countertop…

Butterscotch Parallels Giclee Pendant Chandelier

Butterscotch Parallels Giclee Pendant Chandelier from Lamps Plus.


This was a tile showroom that we went into and I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t remember which one.  But, I love how they recessed the wall to add the oval mirror and encased it in white tiles.   The sconces are perfect for the space.


Here’s a close-up of the same space.


Another sink display in the same nameless showroom.  The tile below the pedestal sink is a bit busy for my liking, but I’m a big fan of pedestal sinks, so I had to photograph this display.


I LOVE the tile in this display.  The geometric pattern is so striking and perfect for this dark sink base.


Another wonderful display of geometric tile with a beautiful sink.  Very simple and understated.

We had a bit of time before we had to head out of the city, so we walked around the design district and found a few lovely shops…


Epoca, filled with treasures of yesterday and today.  But, be sure to bring your credit card with a big credit limit, because the prices are not for the faint of heart.

epoca 1

From their website… “consisting of antique and 20th century furnishings, the epoca collection spans the classic, traditional, and modern. a classically inspired pair of austrian empire ebonized side chairs, a traditional English George I burl elm chest-on-chest, or a modern French Art Deco etched glass chandelier may be that special piece that catches one's eye at epoca".


We found another treasure-trove in the design district that was just amazing.  They had antiques and reproductions alike.  There was something for everyone and we went digging!


My favorite item in the shop.   An original Tang Dynasty horse statue.  I believe the price tag was around $23,000!  A little bit above my budget, but I’m on the look-out for a good reproduction.  My friend and I were a bit worried about the stability of this little guy in the event of an earthquake, given it’s value.  I hope the shop owner is insured!


Walking deeper into the shop, my eye didn’t know where to go to first.  Beautiful bowls, statues, furniture and period pieces everywhere.


As you can see from this photo, we even went into the dark recesses of his back room to see all of the shop’s goodies!  The pottery and those carved wood pieces in the back were piquing my interest.


This vase is a reproduction of the original.  The color was more of a sea green.  It was absolutely beautiful, but I could not talk my friend into purchasing it.


We stopped at one final antique store before we left the city.  Those doors against the wall were absolutely gorgeous. 


An exterior garden area full of pottery and ironwork wrapped up our visit to the city.

Not bad for a quick trip to the city, huh?

Monday, January 26, 2009

When in Denver….

I just returned from a trip to Denver and while we were there we ate at the most wonderful restaurant… Gumbos at 1530 16th Street. The food was so fabulous, that it has brought back my obsession of Creole food.


When I got home I immediately pulled out my favorite gumbo recipe. I found the original recipe in Vertamae Cooks in the Americas’ Family Kitchen and have modified it a bit.

Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

Photo is not original to this recipe.


  • 2 pounds large shrimp
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 pound ham
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound okra
  • 1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes (I use diced fire-roasted tomatoes)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Creole seasoning to taste (I use 1-2 Tbspns depending on how hot I want it).
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • White rice
  • 4 scallions


Peel the shrimp, reserving the shells. Clean and devein the shrimp. Cover and refrigerate the shrimp.

Place the shrimp shells in a saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve. Set the stock aside.

Dice the ham. Chop the onion and celery, and seed and chop the bell peppers. Mince the garlic. Cut the okra into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Open the can of tomatoes.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the ham and fry until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion, celery, bell peppers, and garlic to the skillet and saute until softened, 5-8 minutes. Stir in the okra and the tomatoes and mix well. Pour in the shrimp stock and add the Creole seasoning, thyme and bay leaf. Raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the vegetables are soft, the mixture is thickened, and the flavors are blended, about 1 hour.

About 30 minutes before the gumbo is ready, cook the rice. Chop the scallions, including the tender green tops.

Add the shrimp to the vegetables, stir well, re-cover and cook until the shrimp turn pink and curl, about 8 minutes. Return the ham to the pan and heat through. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Taste and adjust the seasonings with the Creole seasoning.

To serve, place the rice in individual shallow soup plates and spoon the gumbo over and around it. Sprinkle with the scallions.

Serves 6.

Here are a few photos of downtown Denver from last week. What a beautiful city!


Night starting to fall on Denver. Almost reminds me of Vegas in this photo. Sam’s No. 3 is a great place to have breakfast and they have fast and friendly service.


16th Street Mall. Lots of wonderful shops and restaurants. The Christmas decorations were still up, which was lovely, especially at night.


Union Station. Originally built in 1881 and later destroyed by fire in 1894. The second station was rebuilt in the Beaux-Arts style. Today the station serves several railways, including Amtrak’s California Zephyr, Denver & Rio Grande Wester Railroad’s Ski Train, between Denver and the Winter Park Ski Resort, and C-Line and E-Line light rail routes.


Beautiful architecture was everywhere. This building, which is one side of the Denver Performing Arts Center, was caddy-corner to our hotel.

Denver Performing Arts Center

Denver Performing Arts Center.


And this building was on the opposite corner. I was in architectural heaven with these old buildings.


Every city has a unique thing that they do…. One of Denver’s is the cow parade. Fiberglass cows, painted in different styles were originally placed throughout Denver (83 of them) with the eventual goal of selling them to raise money for local charities.


Denver’s capital. Designed and built with our nation’s capital in mind, Denver’s capital is very similar to it. The capitol building was built in the 1890's and in 1908 they used 24 karat gold to plate the dome.


A close-up of the capital. Quite majestic, don’t you think?

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, January 23, 2009

To Karate Chop or Not to Karate Chop?

On a recent trip to the San Francisco Design Center (I will post about this soon with pics!), I noticed that a lot of the showrooms were full of karate chopped pillows. Now, I have been reading a lot of articles from top designers who say that the karate chopped pillow is now a big faux pas! In fact, designer Michael Smith just cracked me up in a recent interview when he said something to the effect that a karate chopped pillow should be punishable by jail time! However, these top design showrooms STILL have karate chopped pillows.

What is one to think? To karate chop or not to karate chop? How did this trend start? Did a designer one day just say to himself, “I think this couch would look a little more lived in if I just put a big DENT in the top of the pillow?” Hmmm…. WHACK! “There, that looks better!”

Or was it carefully scrutinized, studied and examined by top designers in the industry who decided that a karate chopped pillow would be the latest designer “trick of the trade”?

Here in Ryan Secrest’s Master Bedroom, his pillows are all karate-chopped. Obviously the room was staged for the photo shoot, but I really like to see a little imperfection in every room, and the karate chop isn’t the imperfection I’m talking about.

Lance Armstrong has won countless Tour de France competitions, but no one has given him the latest design word on pillow karate-chopping.

I love designer Thad Hayes, but he even has the karate chop here, although these pillows have less fill in them, so it’s not as obvious. In his defense, this is a photo from a 2002 Architectural Digest issue. I wonder if he still does the chop?

This Manhattan living room was published in A.D. a year ago (Feb 2008, MAC II Design). Perhaps something less arranged would be more aesthetically appealing? They are called “throw pillows” after all.

O.K. everyone. I want to hear your opinion. To karate chop or not to karate chop? Does it matter? Are we obsessed with this newest faux pas? Should we even care? I want to hear what you have to say about it!

Monday, January 19, 2009

When a Door Closes….

I’ve been working on a large 28,000 square foot building with a local developer, helping him pick out all the finishes, cabinetry, doors, etc.  Hopefully I will have pictures to post of it’s progress for you soon.  It’s a beautiful Spanish styled building and the developer is really incorporating some beautiful choices into it.

In researching doors for the project, I’ve learned quite a bit than I knew before about fire ratings, accessibility and entryway aesthetics.  It’s been a wonderful learning experience.

I’ve come across some beautiful doors in my research (not all in the style that I was looking for) and I’d like to share some of them with you here…

Portera Door 1

Portera, an antique Spanish door company collects and restores old doors dating from the 15th to the 19th century.  How wonderful would this be as a gate into the front garden of a spanish styled home?

Portera Door 3

18th Century Double Door.   I thought this double door was unusual with it’s chain closure at the bottom and what seems to be clavos surrounding the frame.

Portera Door 5

16th Century Door (c. 1547).  Portera also does handpainted restoration.

From Old World Art, this Paris Designer door in an antique bronze finish with iron scrolls over the glacier glass is a style you see at many iron door companies. 

New Orleans style doors with black grills and palladian window atop.  With the brick facade, this makes for a very elegant entry.

Antique Double Entry Door Art-Noveau 1412J

This double wooden entry door looks like it has angel wings on it.  In the Art Noveau style, this piece came from Belgium and has gorgeous carved details.  From Amighini Architectural Inc.


Wrought Iron Double Door 2085

These iron doors, also from Amighini, look like they would be at home in New Orleans.  The scrolls in the ironwork almost look like musical symbols.

This antique oak Brussels embassy entry double door was painted blue, which features the carvings.

Provence Door from Indoors Inc.  I think this door is fantastic with it’s carvings.  The carvings cover the three panels, yet it is not overwhelming.


Art Nouveau door, also by Indoors Inc.  Not your typical ironwork, as it looks almost like ribbons and falls below the glass.

Well, tomorrow is the BIG day!   I wish Obama the BEST of luck in his new position.  Have a wonderful week everyone!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh Happy Day!

I just heard the news that Michael S. Smith, my favorite all time designer (I know, you are probably tired of hearing me say that!) has been hired by Michelle Obama to redecorate the White House!

Wow!  I mean, Wow!!!  How exciting is that?

Michael will infuse a wonderful style complete with a mix of old and new into the home of our new First Family.  His style is timeless, not trendy.


Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama’s warmth and sincerety shine through in this photo.  

The White House (back)

The White House (back).

From his website Michael S. Smith Inc.

Michael S Smith in book Elements of Style

From Michael’s Book Elements of Style.

He will have to leave his classic beach style in California though.

I wonder if he will use any (or all) of his product lines, such as his tile and plumbing line by Ann Sacks, his home fragrance line for Agraria, or his modern rug collection by Mansour Modern.

Fancy Garden 1

Fancy Garden Rug by Michael S. Smith at Mansour Modern.   Perhaps for use in the private residence?

Michael S Smith Collection

Michael’s Agragria products.  Will all the restrooms in the White House now carry these fragrances?

Dolina Chair by Jasper by Michael S Smith

I wonder if he will bring in fresh new pieces, such as this Dolina Chair from his Jasper (named for his dog) line of furniture.  Another private residence use?

© Simon Upton/Michael S. Smith: Houses/Rizzoli

Taken from his new book, Houses, Michael uses classic details, such as this beautiful iron canopy bed, mixed in with fresh linens, lighting and wall treatments.

Michael Smith; Photo by Miguel Flores-Vianna

We can’t wait to see what you do with the White House Michael!  Good luck!

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