Thursday, December 30, 2010

Designer and Dogs Do Diet

Taylor scale tell-all

This is this
And that is that
And altogether
We are fat!

In "fat pants" - the holidays have taken their toll - I waddled in to Millis Animal Hospital to take Chewbacca in for a booster shot.  Alice came along for the ride.  As Alice's halter seemed a bit tight, I commented to Dr. Loehnig that perhaps if was too small for her, or did he think she was overweight?  He didn't even hesitate, he emphatically replied, "Yes!" and picked her up like a pot-bellied pig to be weighed.  The report:  10 pounds over what she weighed when she was adopted in May.  Chewy was next on the chopping block - only 3 pounds increase since our last visit a few months ago.  Fortunately I wasn't the next one to have to get on that big scale. 

Remains of the Day (Emily's Dec. 24th birthday)
Ah, if it were only so easy to get someone to control my personal intake portions of food and libation! Alice isn't going to like this new regime one bit. She may attempt to make up for it with dining out adventures: a full 5 course meal can be had on our streets and boulevards, in the bushes and down the alleys. People regularly drive buy pitching chicken bones and pizza rinds from their car windows. Last week an entire Dunkin' Donuts was enjoyed by Alice on her morning walk, still in the box! She did not share it with Chewy.  Half a burger was fare for the evening walk, followed by a nice cold draught of  melted snow. This morning Chewy tore open a bag and enjoyed an entire Egg McMuffin, untouched! Was he in heaven or what!

Doggie Dining Out - A la Carte BBQ
One of my mottos is "Never Pass Up Free Food" and I am a card-carrying member of the Clean Plate Club.  My current weight problem started in New Orleans this past Halloween, when I spent 10 days gorging indiscriminately on their delicious cuisine.  My daughter, Emily, can eat like a lumberjack and it has no effect on her metabolism, but then, she's 22 years old!  Honestly, I think I eat like it might be my last meal due to growing up with six siblings to compete for "the good stuff".  To this day, I will eat just about anything and everything, because of the insecurities I suffered as a child.  I can more easily reject food and drink that is mediocre, but if it is really good, I have no self restraint whatsoever! Hence these 5 plus pounds that have crept onto my frame must melt away or my clothes will be entirely too tight in 2011.  So here we go, Alice and Chewy, to a thinner 2011! 
Alice enjoying an afternoon nap with full belly - perfect!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Of Pencils and Pianos

So I sat down on Christmas Day to accompany myself while singing Come Unto Him from Handel's  Messiah.   Somewhere along the way, the D above Middle C developed a ticking sound, then it spread to the E, then the F, then the G, then the A, and finally it stopped on the B, black keys included.  This was highly disturbing since the piano had just been tuned, and albeit to say, this annoyance stopped me in my tracks. I decided not to bother Al Moles, my tuner, until the day after Christmas.  He came right over Monday morning, and after determining that indeed, the broken notes were the length of a pencil, he extracted a Brunschwig et Fils (fabric and wallcovering manufacturer) pencil. It's amazing to me that never in my life, have I lost a pencil in a piano! He said it happens all the time. Maybe I got a little carried away in the passion of the moment and with absent-minded abandon tossed a pencil into the abyss?

The culprits: pencil, tab, and broken paper clip
While the front was opened for surgery, we also exhumed a blue paper tab (that I use to mark both music pages and interior design magazines) and what appeared to be a broken black paper clip (the kind that I use in my interior design studio). Always eager to blame something for my poor playing, I seized upon these excuses and clear sabotage by some unknown person. With the evidence of three interior design studio accutrements, here we have the mingling of music and design...hmmm!
Pencil tethered to leg of piano
Al told me that one of his client's solutions to the problem was to tie the pencil to the piano leg with a piece of string.  Ha!  I thought that was a very funny thing to do, so I did it myself...I don't expect it to stay there forever, but you never know...I can laugh at the same joke again and again!  And in either case, now I know how to take the front off so that I can perform my own piano surgery, if necessary.  Now, back to that song... 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

Marcia's Christmas Tree

Marcia Smith, designer extraordinaire, found this wonderful holiday tree offered by Ikea for $30.  It is suspended from the ceiling, so it barely touches the piano.  What a great space saver!  Marcia always puts a fresh and fun spin on design...see her website at:

Happy Holidays all and see you in 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas on Ice

One of my favorite new introductions at NeoCon this year was the reincarnated 111 Navy Chair by Emeco joining forces with Coco-Cola.  It is composed of 111 recycled plastic bottles.  The red color seems so right for the Holiday Season.  I saw this ad recently and immediately thought what a wonderful Christmas gift it would make someone!

111 Navy Chair
 Coca-Cola wanted to encourage recycling, and this fits the bill for a beautiful product that will outlast us all!  It was designed by the Navy to be fireproof, lightweight and strong.  In fact, a stipulation was written by the Navy in the original contract with Emeco (which incidentally stands for Electric Machine and Equipment Company):  it had to be able to withstand torpedo blasts to warships, destroyers, and submarines.  When first introduced,  it survived with nary a scratch when thrown out of a Chicago 6th floor showroom as a promotion gimmick.

Available in a total of six colors now: Red, Snow, Flint Gray, Grass Green, Persimmon, and Charcoal with a new scratch-resistant finish.  Fabricated of aluminum, they are three times stronger than steel and amazingly lightweight.  Guaranteed for life or 150 years, whichever comes first; tho' I reckon they will be around a whole lot longer. What with 1000 being produced a month, this design has proved itself to be a design classic.  Thank you, U.S. Navy!

Norwich University Dining Room, Northfield, Vermont

Now here is a large order of Emeco chairs...would be a heavy haul for Santa, I fear.  Emeco chair designs have been used in installations all over the world, both commercial or residential.   Where else would you have so many chairs originally meant for warships?  Duh...a military school! 

Here is the iconic classic, designed in 1944.  I am happy to own four of the side chairs.  Be wary of the knock-offs...the quality is terrible, and they are so obviously fakes that there is no point in my mind of buying one.  Producing a real Emeco chair is a 2 week process that has 77 steps.  The polishing alone takes 8 man hours!

After 66 years, a new and imaginative innovation on this ubiquitous chair. Is there anything to add to a great idea?  One of my favorite designers, Philippe Starck,  imagines the obvious: add a rocking chair to the variables!  Time to pull it up to the fireplace and enjoy an egg nog...Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Little Debbies

The Veiled Prophet organization, started in 1878,  is a venerable St. Louis institution.  Every December, a debutante cotillion is held with great pageantry, inspired by Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
The Bengal Lancers
The Bengal Lancers always put on an excellent show: marching precision mixed with fluff, frippery and frivolity! The costumes, music, clarions, and announcer all contribute to a bizarre and impressive spectacle only to be found in St. Louis!

With great pomp and circumstance, a Queen of Love and Beauty is chosen by the Prophet.
It's always fun to see generations of families in attendance; gentlemen in white tie and ladies in white gloves and long gowns.  It never changes - it is always the same format!  The new batch of debutantes - usually sophomores in college, are introduced to the assembly in a walk down a raised aisle to meet the Veiled Prophet. The most exciting part of this year's ball, and no, I don't think I imagined it, was an eagle flying down the runway and back again to its handler just prior to "the walk". It happened so quickly that my dumb digital camera couldn't document it. You'll just have to believe me, I don't think that I was hallucinating!

Teens Texting
Prior to the Ball's start, there is always a lot of activity going on in the side aisles.  This year the attendants were giving out yellow cards (like demerit slips) for inappropriate and undesirable behavior such as hooting and hollering at the debs.

Emily, Moi, and Nora
A best friend of Emily's since childhood, Nora Chambers, was our guest for the evening.  It was a working night for her, as she was completing an integral part of her senior thesis project at Tufts University. As a Women Studies major, her tentative title is "The Development of Femininity and Womanhood in the Veiled Prophet Ball".  Of course, drinking a glass or two of champagne was required to experience the Ball in its entirety and closed out a fun and entertaining evening!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Starting Off On The Right Note

Ah....nothing like polishing the piano, blowing out the dust and scheduling its bi-annual tuning on the first day of Winter!

Tools of the trade
Also on the agenda was to change the filters on the humidifier and have it humming when my tuner, Al Moles, arrived, so that he wouldn't yell at me.  Just last week, when playing a client's piano and remarking that it sounded pretty good, she admitted that it hadn't been tuned in 2 years!  I must have responded somewhat violently, because she said, "Don't yell at me!"  I didn't mean to yell at her!  I just feel so strongly about preserving the life and value of her investment.  Twice a year is Renee's Rule.

The belly
The tuning itself is a wake-up call:  tune up your life and get in gear!  The harmonic intervals resound through the house.  I find it as soothing as a massage, each note being coaxed to its purpose in life. I may be treating the piano a bit anthropomorphically, but if they are ignored and through neglect allowed to lose their tune and cause real damages, it seems so sad!   It  devalues the instrument and what sense is there in that?

Here I am in front of my piano, a painting I did entitled "Arabesque", and an antique middle eastern vase. All is harmonious in my life when I am surrounded and immersed in music, art, and interior design!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gifts Of Glasses And Gloves

The personal casualties have been steep this year:  first it was leaving my T2 glasses from Erkers (that I had designed myself!)  in a restaurant in the Ozarks. When I had discovered my error, many miles away, I called the restaurant and was assured they would be mailed to me.  They never arrived because, I found out from an un-named source,  they were never sent.  This simple mistake turned into a real  hillbilly thriller with everyone knowing and related to everyone else, from the sherrif's office to the post office, and no one talking for fear of retribution.

Then, while in a mall shopping for Christmas, I stopped to rest and check my list. I blithely layed down my favorite gloves (black leather with bows and metal studs from Saks) on the black bench I was sitting on and walked off.  Gone, gone, gone.  To assuage my obsession and attachment to these symbols of personal vanity, I donated the cost of the gloves to 100 Neediest Cases.  BUT, if I see them on anyone's hands, I will ask them where they got them and be prepared to rip them off their hands at the faintest implication of guilt! 

I felt I was going crazy to be so careless with my possessions, and just after I had threatened my daughter with murder if she lost my gloves when she had asked to borrow them the night before! Perhaps it's too much stimulation, especially at this time of the year, that results in these mishaps.  I'm thinking that maybe someone needed those glasses and gloves more than I did.  The time that I had with them I enjoyed, so may they continue to bring smiles to other faces this holiday season!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Utility Men Gone Wild

These precise patterns appeared overnight at numerous neighborhood crossings - even on the unpredictable snow.  Multiple spray can colors were used to paint little arrows, polka dots, lines and hatch marks every which way...wild and crazy utility men with a spray can...what does it all mean?  Then everything was torn up and it was clear that there was a method to their madness:

Nice new handi-capped access sidewalks; good for strollers and bicyclists, too.

Note the special slip-resistant surface at the bottom of the ramp.  Everything was done to perfection.  Again, I love the attention to detail and pride in their work!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Heathrow Again

Funny, on the heels of describing the excellent Heathrow rest room facilities, and musing on my daughter returning to University College London for graduate school, I came across this youtube that put a smile on my face and brought tears to my eyes.  Yes, I can be very sentimental about the power of music in an environment where it is least expected and all the more needed! One more reason why I need to return to voice lessons so that I can sing that aria when the time is right. 

London is filled with these sorts of musical experiences, which is one of the reasons that I love that city so much!  Well...that and the richness in visual art; the beautiful architecture; the dry sense of humor of so many Londoners; the food (which is good now, thank God); the history; the culture; the fashion; the spontaneity; the "happenings" such as this one on could go on and on and on; I never tire of London!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Over the Moon

I was asked by a client to do an out-of-the-ordinary project recently that sounded like a lot of fun.  The assignment was to make a reception room at an area boutique hotel seem "homey" for the family and friends who would gather on Thanksgiving weekend for a party honoring my clients' son and his fiancee.

Courtesy of the Moonrise Hotel
It was an honor for me to be asked, as this was the fourth project I had worked on with the client - a suburban home, a surgical center, a Chicago condo, and now this! 

The room was a blank slate.  Most people would have been content to settle for the usual run-of-the-mill stock and trade of the catering world, i.e. skirted tables and banquet chairs. But my client's vision was far beyond that of settling for the ordinary or the expected. Her priorities were comfort and character!

To keep costs down, we borrowed as much as we could from other parts of the hotel that they could graciously part with.  My client has always liked the 60's retro look, which is exactly what the look of the hotel was all about.  We ended up renting only a few pieces and plants to bring it all together.

I called my favorite floral designer Todd Johnson to put together some nice arrangements to decorate the tables. 

Three intimate seating areas were created.  I attended the event, and was pleased to see guests using all the areas of the room, able to engage in conversation in a comfortable and attractive setting, and able to set down glasses and plates for convenience.

At the end of the party, here I am with my muse and visionary client surrounded by our creative collaboration.  It's a happy memory in my mind, as I know it will be for her family and friends. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Super Bowl Day

Well, when I learned that today is National Toilet Day, I thought it was a joke. What else is there that I didn't know about - National Dishwasher Day, etc.?  But come to find out thanks to Google, National Toilet Day is a very serious day with the intention to bring attention to the importance of sanitation.  The scoop on poop is that nearly half the world's population do not have access to toilets and make do with a plastic bag or a field of bushes, etc.  This is dangerous to your health and does nothing for your dignity!

Today there will be world-wide events, exhibits, panel discussions, and seminars.  One very simple demonstration being performed worldwide is called The Big Squat.  All you need to do is get a group of people together in a public place and squat for 1 minute.  That should get some attention to this campaign!

The Big Squat

Heathrow Airport Toilet with auto-flush

Ever since I started to travel out of the United States, I was always happy to return to the high standard of plumbing that we enjoy here.  How lucky we are and how much we take for granted!  Primitive bathroom situations in foreign countries always made for riotous adventures and bizarre stories.  Thank goodness that it wasn't a situation I had to tolerate for long. The other extreme always got my attention, too...such as the Heathrow bathrooms here featuring Duravit. 

Heathrow Airport sinks with auto-water sinks and air-dry that works fast and quickly

The high standard of design and quality of materials made for a memorable experience.  I was impressed that the Brits regarded the airport facilities as top priority in terms of comfort, function, and beauty.  It was on the same level of luxury and technology that I experienced at truck stops in Italy 10 years ago.

Heathrow Airport

 Quite a far cry from the castle toilets of Merry Old England.  Ha, ha!

I guess you could say that this castle toilet it has a certain primitive charm...

And yes, you guessed it...into the moat.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mighty Fine Artist

One of my favorite things to do as an interior designer is to apply my art skills to the project at hand.  In this case, my client had fallen in love with a wood box adorned with metal decorations.  Unfortunately, the turquoise just didn't quite fit into my color scheme for the room. But note how the design motifs are part of the carpet design.

This is when an MFA in painting comes in handy...or as my graduate school colleagues called the degree standing for Mighty Fine Artist.

I like to live dangerously:  no smock, no drop cloths - just a few newspapers.  I used oil paints that clean up with water, given to me as a gift from another client.  They worked just like what I was used to.

I wanted to "correct" the colors in the room, so that I could refer accurately to color matches; in this case the whites, golds, reds, and blues.

Here's the finished result:  I got a little carried away and put my touch on just about everything except for the green leaves.  It was a wonderfully therapeutic way to spend an hour out of my work day.  There's never a dull moment in this business!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Red and Green

These Burning Bushes caught my eye in their resplendent red fall wardrobe...sort of a precursor to Christmas with the red and green juxtaposed.  Funny how the landscape clipper created spheres in front of cubes.

A little further down the street, were these conical conifers and Burning Bushes put together like a puzzle.

But then, a little further, and oh, my!  THIS is a Burning Bush in all its natural free-to-grow-however state.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Panning For Gold

Well, you never know what treasures that you'll find while dog-walking or dumpster-diving!  Today is a perfect example, tho' I have to credit a tip-off that made it that much easier.  I was heading home with Alice and Chewy, and observed 2 students looking at something next to a dumpster.  They then headed on down to the Metro-Link, and I went over to see what was there.  Lo and behold, there was an awesome pot, in perfect condition.  Sorry students!  I had to assume they had to pass on it for one reason or another.

The pot has a fantastic glaze. It's about 14" high x 12" diameter, unsigned. If you just keep your eyes open, you'll find art all around you, waiting to find a home!  Thank you to whoever put it out for adoption!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

With an enjoyable period of Indian Summer temperatures last October, I felt in a frenzy to complete outdoor home and yard tasks.  I imagined they were utterly necessary to complete before the onslaught of winter.  Need I note that a lot of these chores had lain neglected for years.  Perhaps this was the year that I made time to tackle them. 

 My first "to do" involved tearing ivy off of the garage.  In the process of this, I kicked a hornet's nest, and immediately felt a sharp pain on my arm.  This sting unleashed enough venom to wipe me out physically for two full days.  It then took at least 3 weeks for the angry red splotch and local pain to disappear. I remember when I was in my early twenties, I kicked a nest another time and got stung on a finger which swelled up like a golf ball.  It also put me in the horizontal position and wiped me out for at least a day.

Easy to see how how well camouflaged their nest is and how easy it is to disturb the entrance! Now with the St. Louis Film Festival underway, I noticed a film entitled 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest'...Sounds interesting, given my personal experience.  I am sorry to say that the hornet's nest is no more, but at least I don't have to worry about getting stung again and the ivy is off the garage!