Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cabinet of Curiosities


courtesy of Berlin-Naturkundmuseum

This term has always facinated me.  Maybe it's my passion for
that draws me to the concept.
I even have a Pinterest Board called "Collections"!

Originally borne in Renaissance Europe, cabinets of curiosities, or
cabinets of wonder, were encyclopedic collections of objects yet to be defined.
They were regarded as a microcosm or
"theater of the world"
 according to Wikipedia.

Just the description conjures up images of strange and wonderful oddities
waiting to be examined and admired.

I can't help imagining the "cabinet" being updated for our lifestyles today.
But first you have to have a collection of something to display...
Start with an object that intrigues you enough to want more,
then build on that theme
until you have a curated collection of
similar,yet unique, items to showcase.

Your collection can be anything, really.
Maybe it's not from the natural world,
as was the case with the originals,
" You can still create the same curiosity with your own version" 

Part of the fun is searching for additions to your collection,
but the best part is seeing them all together in a cabinet!

Currey and Company 

Make the cabinet as unique as your treasures.
This "Tramp Art" style cabinet is the perfect backdrop for highlighting
a collection of Majolica.


Maybe you need a case that allows you to view your collection from all sides!
Blue Ocean Traders curio cabinet
I see a model car collection reigning supreme in here.


Want something more elegant?
This regency-style cabinet is regal enough to house
your most precious collection...
Sarried Grafton Cabinet
of rare books.
Envision how beautiful these old leather bindings would look
against the cream painted interior.
Instant patina!

Bring out your own personality with a great collection
and build a
"Cabinet of Curiosities"
around it.
It's not only an interesting conversation piece,
but it serves as a unique focal point in your home.
Talk about a
(Check out my Style Booster posts for more tips)


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Magnificent Homes of America - The Biltmore House Part Two

Aerial shot - via Flickr
In Part One of my tour of the incredible Biltmore House
I wandered through the public rooms on the main floor.
These are huge spaces,
built on a grand scale with soaring ceilings, ornately carved surfaces,
and priceless furnishings - all meant to impress...
and they do!

Grand Staircase - via Biltmore Estate

But, seeing the private spaces on the upper and lower levels is even more intriguing to me.
It's gives a closer look at the facinating people who called Biltmore home,
from the Vanderbilt family and their friends, to the many servants who made life so luxurious
for the few.

What I didn't realize was how special  is was to be able to
tour these private rooms at all! The suite of four bedrooms on the second floor
were not open to the public until 2009, after being closed off  for 100 years!

Restoration was tedious and time-consuming. Each room had unique issues.
For the renovation of  the Louis XV Room below
a team of curators and conservators traveled to France to collaborate with
 Tassinari And Chatel in Lyon
 to insure the exact replication of the gold and red silk cut velvet that adorns the windows and the walls. Meanwhile,
tradespeople took on the painstaking task of cleaning, repairing and restoring what was worth saving.


As I've discovered in other "Magnificent Homes" I've visited,
it takes a lot of  skill, patience and detective work to uncover the original finishes.
At the Biltmore, they found clues under door mouldings and drapery brackets,
which lead to the fabulous paint colors and fabrics you see here.

Louis XV Room - via Biltmore Estate
This is my favorite of the four refurbished bedrooms.
It is a classic example of  the Louis XV period, with the delicate curvature in the furniture
and lavish use of gold in the fabrics and finishes.

But there is a lot more to this room than it's opulence...
It is considered the "True Heart of Biltmore", according to Romantic
It was Edith Vanderbilt's special room and where she chose to give birth to her only child,
In the tradition of her mother, Cornelia had both of her sons in the same room!

It is said that the wonderful lighting that filtered through the windows
reflected off the gold silk fabrics and created a radiant shimmer that was captivating
to both Edith and Cornelia.
It was definitely mesmerizing the day I was there!

Tyrolean Chimney Room - via Biltmore Estate

The Tyrolean Chimney Room is my second pick on the second floor.
Named for the overmantle constructed from Tyrolean tile
I like it because it has a unexpected simplicity and "charm"
not seen in other parts of the house.

What's interesting is that George Vanderbilt was drawn to this tile at all,
given the lavishly ornate style he was known for.

He found the tile stove on one of his many trips to Europe and
was determined to find a way to incorporate it into the Biltmore.
By making it into an overmantle, he repurposed his treasure in a very effective way.
It's now the focal point of the room.
I could definitely stay here for the night!

Downstairs is a story in itself!
Armed with vivid imagery and drama from Downton Abbey episodes,
it is easy for me to imagine the lives of the many caretakers
who lived and worked in the basement of the Biltmore House.

servants quarters - via Biltmore Estate
Servant bedrooms are a stark contrast to those upstairs.
Note the light on the wall above the bed - a constant reminder that
they were on-call 24/7.

Basement main kitchen - via Biltmore Estate   
Mr. Vanderbilt made sure the main kitchen was equipped with latest
inventions in food preparation. But for the staff, it was still a very labor intensive process
to create the lavish meals that were served every day upstairs.

From a design perspective, there is so much to look at here!
I love the utilitarian aspect of the kitchen that made it so functional,
but it's the craftsmanship that gets my attention!
Check out the patterned tile floor and and the turned legs on the work table.
Even the large oak door is beautiful with its six pane divided glass.
And what's not to love about the hanging light fixtures! " Industrial Chic" in its original form!

bowling alley_via Pinterest
The basement wasn't just a working environment for the staff.
It was also a place for the family and friends to play.
The bowling alley, built by Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. in 1895,
was a favorite with guests.
Great utilization of typically wasted space in a basement, don't you think?

Indoor swimming pool_via Pinterest
But the indoor swimming pool is the shining star, in my opinion.
It was considered an engineering feat in its time, with an elaborate system
devised to pump in the water and then heat it.
I love the tile work the covers the entire space.  It too required a highly sophisticated design
to create supports that could carry the weight of the tiles on the arched ceiling.
 With the pool empty, you can see the underwater lighting,
which was truly innovative considering that very few homes even had electricity at the time.
Imagine the delight of guests when they saw this engineering wonder!
You can almost hear the laughter...
In fact, there have been reports of  hearing strange sounds in the pool and even
seeing a dark figure swimming under the water.

I know I've only skimmed the surface of this magnificent home,
and as I write this, I'm reminded that I need to go back yet again...
I've already mapped out it out - a roof top tour, although considered a little scary
if you're afraid of heights, and then a Christmas Candlelight tour through the house to
see it all dressed up for the holidays.
Can you tell I'm enamored with this place?
Don't be surprised if there's a Biltmore House - Part THREE!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Learning Never Stops

I know I've been out of touch lately, and I miss connecting with my 
Blog Friends!
"But in this business there's never a dull moment" 
I've been all over the place lately, 
which means I've had little time to fill you in on what's going on
in the design world.

But I'm now back for a while and want to share a little of
what I've been up to...

"There's a whole other side to being a designer."
It revolves around our commitment to making ourselves better practitioners
through continuing education and involvement in our professional trade organization.

The American Society of Interior Designers or

represents the interests of its members in the interior design field.
I am currently serving on the board of our regional chapter as
Communication Director. As part of the training for this position,
I was asked to attend the ASID Leadership Conference in LA in June.

All I can say is WOW!!!

It was a intense three days of group presentations and break-outs,
all centered around making ASID a stronger voice for its members
and promoting best practices in interior design..

This is our regional board brainstorming during one of the sessions.
Some great ideas bubbled up that we plan to implement on a chapter level very soon!

In the meantime,
while ASID was meeting on the third floor of the convention center...

trade show
was taking place on the main floor.

Talk about being in two places at one time!!!

 I was taking full advantage
of the proximity of this trade show to our meetings upstairs.
During breaks, I was "running" through the aisles checking out all the great products
knowing I would land on something truly remarkable in the process.
I wasn't disappointed!

It was all there...

Fresh, never-seen-before products mingled with
some of the more recognizable names in the industry
to give the design community a glimpse of what's coming down the path.

I just loved this chair duo.  Some things are just better in pairs!

And then I spotted the "Something Remarkable"!
I recently posted about the NEW ANIMAL TREND
and how they are freshly interpreted this time around.
These animal trophies were the perfect example,
Created from the metal straps on wine barrels, their exaggerated forms are bent and twisted
in a way that is both powerful and graceful at the same time.
Definitely on my mental list for a future project!

After being sequestered inside for three days, I was in major need of some R and R.
After all, I was in sunny California,

and the vineyards awaited...

I have some other great things to share from this trip, so check back!


Friday, May 30, 2014

FRIDAYfinds! - Tracking the NEW Animal Trend

have always been a big player in interior design...

Lillian August for Hickory White
...especially on upholstery.

but LATELY...
animals in all forms have been  leaping to the forefront.

Esparto Grass Animal Heads
This time around they're much more playful.  I'm lovin' these grass woven animal heads.
Handcrafted and whimsical, they are much more fitting than the real thing!

Natural Curiosities

Natural Curiosities

Natural Curiosities

This new collection of art prints from Natural Curiosities
gives a fresh perspective on familiar animal themes.
Unusual angles, isolated features, and scale
all add to the novelty of these images.

"I can see the wing detail floating above a velvet tufted sofa 
in a cozy little den."

Global Views
Animals are being re-imagined in more abstract ways, too.
This little bird vase has a undeniable 60's vibe that is definitely on the "cool" side!
Cute in multiples on a kitchen table, or maybe in a home office?

Arteriors Hugo ottoman
Not your typical leather ottoman!
This hide is much more fun in a patchwork pattern.
You get a sense of the upholsterer's personal handiwork
rather than something that's mass produced.

Photo courtesy of Thibaut/Etosha embroidery fabric
Animal prints are climbing up the walls, too!
It this a chevron pattern or zebra print?
What makes it outstanding is that it's both!
The classic chevron is transformed by way of the zebra...
And it's even more attention-getting in this
saturated royal blue colorway.

Currey Cyrano
Watch out for this rhino...he's a heart throb, for sure.
All wrapped up in cotton Chindi, I love the artisinal quality about him.
This guy would be the perfect greeter in your foyer, don't you think?

This new crop of  "animals" is very different from the past.
They have 'SOUL"
And they possess a certain panache and playfulness that draws you in.
So try your hand at this trend and enjoy the hunt!


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kentucky Derby Experience - The Oaks

Photo courtesy of
"The greatest two minutes in sports"
is really the greatest two DAYS in sports!

Although Derby Day is the quintessential racing experience,
for many locals like myself,
which is the day before the Derby,
is the preferred time to visit the track.

It's the perfect way to take in the sights and sounds of Churchill Downs
without the crazy crowds that come on Derby Day.
And what fun to enjoy it all with my girlfriends!

Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs
 I really love coming on Oaks Day for
In support of Churchill Downs partnership with Bright Pink and Horses & Hope,
everyone at the track is encouraged to wear pink.
This is such a great way to bring attention to early detection of breast and ovarian cancer!
Even the horses and jockeys get in the act.
Did you notice the pink draped clubhouse?

 Photo courtesy of
Everything is "in the pink".
The official flower of the Oaks is the
Pink Stargazer Lilly,
which is woven into a blanket that is draped on the winning horse.
And the official drink for the day is the "Lilly"!
"Personal note:  I've tried it but I'm still more of a Mint Julep fan"

Photo by Joan Waddell

One special treat is getting access to the Paddock.
This is where they parade the horses for the upcoming race.
It's a chance for trainers, owners, and a few spectators
to see the horses up close and personal.
It's a spectacular sight to see these beautiful animals and their riders
all dressed up in their colorful silks!

And the celebrity sightings are just as exciting.
I caught this shot of Bob Baffert (second from the right with the yellow tie)
as he was checking out the horses.

Sometimes the colorful attire outshines the jockey silks!
I couldn't resist this one.

My outfit seemed so demure in comparison...
But I just had to get this shot in the stall of a horse named
Isn't that great!

Photo by Joan Waddell
After the horses parade around the Paddock,
they make their way through the tunnel to the track.
This is the vantage point we had from our box seats.
I love the "pink" dressed horse and rider awaiting the arrival of the thoroughbreds.

 Photo by Joan Waddell
Isn't this crazy! Even the tractor was pink!

Awesome view from our box!

Photo courtesy of
What could have been more appropriate than for
this fantastic jockey, Rosie Napravnik, to win the Oaks.
After all, this was a day to celebrate women and fillies!

And thank God for a different kind of "horse power".
This great guy pedaled all three of us back to our car in style!


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Magnificent Homes of America - Biltmore House - Part One

"My little mountain escape"
George Washington Vanderbilt

George Vanderbilt first described his summer retreat, the Biltmore Estate,
in a very unassuming way, to say the least.  His "Gilded Age" mansion is anything but!
In fact, Biltmore is THE largest privately owned home in North America.
I've visited this grand estate many times but it never ceases to amaze me.
Pulling up to the front entrance is always a thrill!  The sheer size and grandeur is breathtaking.
Through his numerous European tours,
Vanderbilt crystalized his vision for the Chateauesque-style mansion,
using several Loire Valley chateaux as reference.
Richard Morris Hunt, noted architect to the wealthy, formalized the design into reality.
And in 1889, construction finally began on the Biltmore.
Six years later, the doors opened for the first time
to Vanderbilt's new bride, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, on Christmas Eve.
Can you imagine her "gasp" moment?

Considered today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the
the Biltmore exemplifies the extreme excesses of the super rich during this period in American history.
The main house, with over 178,000 total square feet, contains 250 rooms, 43 bathroom, 85 fireplaces,
3 kitchens, an indoor swimming pool and a bowling alley!

Needless to say, with its massive scale, finding my "design take" on the interiors, was not easy!
So much material to choose from...
But as I moved from room to room, it became more clear.
"The magnificence of Biltmore from a designer's perspective, 
is the attention to details"
So follow me on the tour as I point out some of my favorite design hot spots...

The Winter Garden says it all. This is my favorite room in the house.
 Who wouldn't want to spend time in here, especially when it's cold and snowy outside.
The details are everywhere!
With the soaring 34ft glass ceiling,elegant lanterns punctuating the space,
exotic orchids and ferns, and combination of limestone, mahogany and iron,
it's a spectacular visual feast of proportion and texture!

Designed to impress and intimidate, the Great Hall certainly has the credentials.
What I love about this space is it's gigantic scale.  It's 40' x 70' with a ceiling that is 7 stories high!
But what's even more amazing is that the acoustics are so perfect
that two people sitting at opposite ends of the banquet table
do not have to raise their voices to be heard.
Notice the size of the fireplace. It spans the entire wall and is in perfect proportion to the space,
as are the windows, arched openings and those fantastic chandeliers.
Every element is in harmony, even on such a grand scale.

In the Family Dining Room, which was considered more "casual" by their standards,
my attention focused on the elaborate ceiling detail.  Incredible isn't it?
Add the Jasperware mantel and Spanish leather walls, and you see why this room is a jewel.

Design Hot Spot: gorgeous silk cut velvet damask on the chairs, which was
custom woven specifically for the Vanderbilts.

As I listened to the description of the loggia,
I got a better sense of why this site was chosen for the Biltmore House.
This view must be spectacular every season!

I caught this detail on the opposite end of the loggia.
A simple entry door became magical with the addition of elaborate ornamentation.

Once again the ceiling takes center stage -this time in the library!
"The Chariots of Aurora" ceiling painting by Giovannie Pellegrini (1675-1741)
was brought to America by Mr. Vanderbilt from the Pisani Palace in Venice.
He is actually credited with saving this important 18th century masterpiece
since most of Pellegrini's works were destroyed during World War II.

I can't leave this room without pointing out the clever passageway.
Tucked behind the fireplace on the second floor, it provided access for guests to
discreetly enter the library to select a favorite night time "read".

Design Hot Spot: the large blue and white porcelain urn in the foreground.
This is one of pair from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that now stand in the room.


The Biltmore House is a huge treasure trove for design inspiration.
The architecture, furnishings and decorative arts are all noteworthy,
which makes it that much more exciting for me.
But because of this massive amount of inventory,
it takes more time to soak it in.
So, I'm stopping here on the first floor, for today.
Check back for PART TWO
as I head upstairs and then into the lower level where
the design details are even more facinating!