Atlanta Market 2014

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Last week I was down in Atlanta starting off the New Year scouring antique markets, local shops and the Home and Gift Market at America's Mart. A dose of good ol' Southern Hospitality sure has a way of brightening the grey days that follow the holidays. Atlanta is truly a hub of design inspiration. Creativity and style abound and are embraced in a variety of applications. From product  to merchandising and graphic design there is an eye for detail at every turn. To me, consistency and quality might be the two most important factors in creating enticing and successful retail. It's a tough task to perfect the delicate balance between unique and useful with price and availability.  It was reassuring to see so many local independent retailers (both new & antique!) who really seem to have a knack for product desirability and selection.

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We kept noticing the use of antique shutters to frame  artwork & add architectural detail.

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Not to mention, when you are a house guest, as opposed to a hotel guest, you get to wake up with these irresistible faces.

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Design is one of my favorite things about traveling. Every region owns its vibe. California is inherently laid back cool. New York distinctively perpetuates us towards new trends and modern ideas. Atlanta is rooted in the traditional, but with a modern day crispness. I like to think of Atlanta as well edited. Southern style has a fundamental flair and risks are embraced when there aren't competing elements. I like this rule. It forces good design to stand on it's own and prohibits eye catching details from getting lost in chaos. Materials might be antique in patina, but fresh in installation. You might look twice at a traditional English arm sofa because you're drawn a new way to apply trim. Antique prints are given a new life when appropriately framed and displayed in the right light. Leather might suddenly seem more appealing when woven and and you might realize an octagonal dining top is way cooler than the typical round top. Lastly, when in doubt, natural linen and sisal to freshen up any room.

It's wonderful to leave a trip and feel so inspired by people's creativity and excited about design. I left the week with a notebook full of concepts, a folder full of business cards and tons of new ideas to keep the wheels turning through 2014.

 

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DSC_0537 Santa Barbara was our last leg of the journey before heading down to LA and then back to Michigan. It was wildly inspirational. These pictures pretty much speak for themselves.

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Our lovely accommodations at my Aunt Betsy's house were a wonderful example of how West Coast living can so seamlessly blend outdoor and indoor living. The courtyard, centered around the fountain, is almost treated like an exterior foyer.

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Color inspiration can be found in the most unexpected places!

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We visited Casa del Herrero (otherwise know as "House of the Blacksmith") which is an amazingly authentic example of Spanish Colonial Architecture. The details in the house remain virtually intact and the attention paid to them is outstanding. From the grounds, to the tile work, custom furniture and architectural elements, I was energized at every turn.

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When traveling it is obvious field research can be most inspirational through retail design establishments. We were not disapointed at William Laman where we found many treasures to bring home with us!

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We had lunch at the Santa Barbara Biltmore. Sometimes it feel like the epitome of vacation is the ability to have a leisurely lunch, outside with ocean views. We noshed on a seafood salad, had freshly grown mint in our iced teas and then.. as if we had ordered it up ourselves... a family of dolphins started swimming by, sometimes arching their whole bodies out of the water!

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The interior of the hotel was gorgeous. The style reminded me of the Everglades Club down in Palm Beach. The dark interior doesn't feel heavy when it's combined with plastered walls, wicker, linens, Spanish inspired tiles, palms, orchids and ambient lighting.

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Lotusland is a pretty ridiculous private garden, situation on a once private estate. For 40 years, Madame Walska cultivated exotic plants and a variety of themed gardens. Notoriously a character (they said she used to walk around with parrots on her shoulder) the gardens is horticulture at it's most whimsical, and unexpectedly dramatic.

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For our last meal before heading down to LA, we ate at San Ysidro Ranch, situation in the Montecito foothills. As I have noted in most California design, the hotel, gardens and dining facility are another example of classic, easy luxury. It is effortlessly natural, romantic and comfortable... which can be a difficult harmony to achieve. From the dining and lobby facilities that had a personal, homey touch to the cook's garden and flower gardens it was a perfect place to wind down a fabulous trip.

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Needless to say, we headed back to Michigan refreshed and inspired. Vacation success!

Highway 1

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Our morning started at Lovey's tea shoppe on Highway 1 in Pacifica. It was really the only middle ground location and it proved to be a winner. Very cozy, many delicious food options and the perfect atmosphere to catch up with old friends before my mom and I started on our adventure.

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As we drove started our journey, it was so fun to see all the pumpkin patches, artichoke farms and general local scenery. There were a few spots I would like to pop in next time, the first on the list being Sam's Chowder House, which had about 75 cars  parked outside at 11 am.

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Our journey continued on to 17 mile drive from Monterey to Carmel. Being from passionate golfing lineage, we had to stop in Pebble Beach. It was bustling with activity, just as I remembered. I played back in 2003 with my Dad and while I was having an epic round, I completely collapsed on 18 tee. Having been shielded by some of the most gorgeous terrain in America, I never suspected walking up the fairway I would be reintroduced to hundreds of golf loving spectators soaking in the scenery. They might be enjoying the view, but it is hard to think they aren't also noticing the 4 shots it is taking you to get out of an unsuspecting sand trap.

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Carmel is the best place to spend a couple hours. We walked up and down the charming streets, popping in shops and worked on our... field research. Isn't that what trips like this are all about? A little break away to be re inspired. This is re inspiration in real time, right here. By the way, I grow succulents because generally I cannot kill them. They are all over California, looking beautiful. I'm going full throttle with the succulents next year.

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The highway 1 drive through Big Sur is pretty unpopulated and undeveloped- as one would hope it to be. We were obsessed with the picturesque Carmel Highlands General Store right as our tour started... great place to pit stop and stock up on snacks for the ride! We also loved all the little vintage "motor lodges" which had both a vintage 60's vibe and current day cool- like Glen Oaks. I felt like we were back in the days when it was cool to hitch-hike, a VW bus would be THE travel vehicle of choice and family memories were made in motor homes.  All those sightseers needed were some Pendleton blankets, a warm thermos, a camp fire and Jenga. It might be 2013, but we saw plenty of VW busses. Engulfed by the nostalgia of the simplicity of an open road and shaded by a canopy of trees, we felt light years away from wifi (er, well except for trusty Google maps) and it barely even phased us that we hardly had enough cell reception to tune into our latest Pandora station. I guess it's true, inspiration can be found in simplifying.

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As the sun started setting, we pulled into the Post Ranch Inn. Nondescript from the road, we almost blew by it, until in a moment of unusual clarity and the trusty iphone informed us we were, in fact, at our destination. It was the perfect time of day. The sun was casting an orangey glow, the haze was rolling in over the ocean and it looked like we were floating above the clouds. This might be the closet thing to reality heaven.

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The beautiful evening lead to an equally amazing morning, which made me realize that it's not just the time of day, but more the ability to experience these transitions so seamlessly when you shut out the chaotic noise of everyday life.

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We were some of the first people at the Elephant Seal Beach. They are some crazy animals! They were stretched out as far as the eye could see.

DSC_0422Our day was spent touring Hearst Castle. We did all three tours- that's right- three tours. It a pretty amazing example of the over the top, exuberant wealth of the founders of American industry. Nothing was off limits. It is truly a museum. The entire interior is dark and almost reminiscent of 17th century European churches. There are a lot of gothic influences as much of the art was collected after WWI, when Europe was sending ships full of antiquities to American's to help pay their debts. What I enjoyed most was walking around the grounds. The views are stunning. The landscaping beautiful. The guest houses that surround the main house seemed livable on an almost more relatable scale, albeit still one of undeniable glitz and glamor.

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Our last stop, Santa Barbara!

The West Coast Inspiration Tour

DSC_0296 It has been about a week since I returned from a road trip down Highway 1 with my Mom. It was a trip we had talked about for a while, and one we actually did back when I was 18, but it felt really nice to spend some time, together, cruising at our own pace... a leisure that is not achievable in our daily routines. We started our weekends separately, my Mom with her friends at a beach house and me with my friends in Berkeley. Our adventure together began Sunday morning. But, first things first. While spending the weekend with my long time friends, we ventured on a road trip of our own. One to a little place called Napa Valley. As my week was filled with a multitude of rejuvenating inspiration, I think I am going to have to divide by California posts into a couple different segments. Let's start in bountiful wine country.

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Our morning started at Gregoire Restaurant in Berkeley. This was something so simple and delicious that I immediately wondered why they don't have this in Birmingham. Located in a small building, filled with big scents, we ordered our breakfast sandwiches and parked it at a nearby picnic table. I love the idea of a small little kitchen, tucked on a side street, serving up delicious grub for unsuspecting customers. This was right on.

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We kicked off Napa at Hall Winery which hosts tastings in the lovely court yard pictured above. There is something just so inherently lovely about a California setting. The gravel patio and teak furniture aren't necessarily something awe inspiring, but there is still such a sense of serenity. It also probably helped that the day was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. And we were sitting slightly shaded under a canopy of trees.

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We followed Hall with a nice, leisurely walk around St. Helena. I am bummed I didn't take too many photos, but their tourist website had this shot that captures the main street. One of my favorite things about traveling is popping in unique shops to check out displays and diversity in goods and services offered.

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Jan de Luz offers a beautiful array of custom monograms. You can monogram any item from their store.... napkins, placemats, table runners, blankets, robes... a really wonderful selection of products. The monograms all are very unique, with a slightly hand crafted, artistic flair. My mom and I popped into the same shop, later on our trip, while in Carmel and they actually were able to monogram items by the end of the day!

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We had already made lunch plans, but next time I return to St. Helena I would love to dine at French Blue. It looked like the perfect combination of California chic and tasty.

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Blue Bottle Brooklyn

For a late morning pick me up we snagged an iced coffee made with Blue Bottle Coffee. Believe me when I say- I drink a lot of coffee. My Napa travel companions and friends probably drink even more coffee that I do- and that's really saying something. Let me tell you, this might have been the best ice coffee that has ever touched my lips.

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Our afternoon lunch plans were to visit V. Sattui and have a picnic. They have an awesome market with a vast assortment of meats, cheeses, dips, salads and basically any other culinary delight you might want to savor on a grassy lawn shaded by some lovely trees. In the court yard they are cook BBQ and pizzas. The buildings were quite extensive and buzzing with activity. We didn't wine taste here, but instead picked up a few bottles to enjoy with our enormous cheese spread.

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After the picnic and lounging at V.Sattui we headed to Sequoia Grove to cap off the day. 6 o'clock in the evening is usually my favorite time of day. Especially in Napa. The sunlight was perfect. It was one of those late afternoons where you want to soak in every drop of natural beauty. That perfect time of day always seems to pass so quickly.

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As luck would have it, we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic leaving Napa. This gave us just enough time to hook up with some friends at the Bardessono in Yountville on our way out of town. As if the perfect dusk wasn't enough, the round of loaded potato chips and onion rings proved to be the perfect way to end our Napa road trip. The Bardessono is a LEED certified building that seems to seamlessly combine understated elegance with a warm, contemporary aesthetic. The building and the grounds blend into the landscape and, as I keep noting is so inherent in California design, the atmosphere is one of tasteful restraint and easy style.

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Next... Carmel & Hearst Castle!

Bern

Alright, I realize it might be time to switch up the topic from travel, but this is my last post on our trip. Bern, Switzerland was our last stop before flying out of Stuttgart and I loved it. It was small, manageable and did not feel at all touristy. I loved walking along the river, through the arcades, eating in the calm squares and meandering up to the rose garden for a late afternoon espresso. As we had just come from our "outdoorsy" part of the trip, I splurged and booked us to stay at the Bellevue Palace. We really soaked it up by taking some down time and reading in the lobby, enjoying pre dinner cocktails in the bar and an after dinner gin rummy game in the lounge where they had a live pianist singing some Frank Sinatra classics. We wandered the farmer's market for breakfast, but enjoyed coffee from the terrace of the hotel that looked over the river. Bern was the perfectly calming ending to a busy trip. We could let down, but by doing so around such beauty we did not feel as though we were missing a beat. All that, and I finally got to indulge in some seriously authentic Swiss fondue- a true cheese lovers dream.DSC_0014-001 DSC_0015-001

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Next, we will be back to our regular scheduled programming.

Lauterbrunnen, Murren & Gimmelwald

While the cities we had visited had all been smaller, seemingly manageable and very clean, our stop in the Swiss Alps reminded all of us how stunning and spectacular the world can be. While I always tend to lean towards architecturally and design inspiration, there is no doubt that a couple days taking in fresh mountain air, a more laid back life style and a couple of winding, hilly hikes, can be good for the soul. DSC_1412

Scott had previously visited these small towns, back in 2005 when he was here on a study abroad program, and while I was in the midst of planning he requested we make a stop. I chose for us to stay in Murren as it sits at 1,700 meters above sea level and is only accessible by cable car. I thought this would be remote enough to fill his apparently increasing need for the outdoors, a alter-ego we jokingly coined "Extreme Scott". That it did. Scott's extremeness in the Alps was like my extremeness on my first trip to Paris, back when I was 15. It's a type of excitement that you can't believe this exists in the world and you are just finding out about it. I mean the guy even walked backwards on one of our hikes as to not interrupt the best angle for the mountain views. When he wasn't walking backwards, he was jogging ahead. When we weren't sleeping with the windows open to truly experience that fresh mountain air (keep in mind it was a brisk 30 degrees during the night) he was pausing and soaking it all in. He climbed into waterfalls (to test the temp) and would wander off on his own, getting distracted by the powerful scale of our surroundings. It's fun to travel with someone who has so much energy about a destination that excitement is basically coming out of their pores. Now, I just need to work on channeling that excitement in museums and larger cities!DSC_1427

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After spending a couple glorious days reminding ourselves how beautiful the world can be, we hopped on a train and headed to Bern for our last stop before returning to Stuttgart for an early morning flight. Final Stop: Bern!

Lucerne

We woke up early to head from Innsbruck to Lucerne. Along the way we stopped in the ski towns of St. Anton & St. Christoph to grab a coffee and catch some views. photo-026

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When we got to Lucerne it was pretty rainy, but it didn't stop us from walking around the town and catching some of the sites. It also helped that there were numerous cafes and wine bars to pop into to shield ourselves from the elements. While the Chapel bridge, old city walls and historic buildings exude an old world European elegance, there also seems to be a current and thriving art scene. All the restaurants were busy, the new convention center was jumping and I enjoyed surveying all the information on upcoming art exhibits at one of the local coffee shops where we grabbed lunch. It was cool to see amongst a quaint, lakeside European town that there seemed to be a youthful and alternative underlying pulse.

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We enjoyed some appetizers on the river at Opus, and then headed to old town for a delicious pizza dinner. Our next stop... Murren!

Salzburg to Innsbruck

DSC_1160 We took the A-10 to Innsbruck and it was such a gorgeous drive. I have about 35 more photos that Scott took out of the window of our speeding vehicle, but I'm sure as you can imagine you can't truly capture the beauty of your surroundings when traveling at 100 mph. It was so fun to drive through many small towns as it was May 1st, or May Day. People were all gathering (lederhosen and all!!) and May poles were set up with a large evergreen tree attached to the top. Also, given the fact that we were surrounded by traditional Austrian architecture and fields brimming with dandelions, the whole thing felt like it was out of a movie.

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I had read that a "must-see" stop along the A-10 is the Werfen Ice Caves. I did not realize what a production it was to check them out.  It was all well worth it. You walk for 30 minutes up the mountain, take a cable car (cue me realizing I need to get over my fear of heights. Stat.), walk up another 30 minutes and then you are about to enter an hour tour through the cavernous dark and chilly ice caves. Cameras are not allowed, but the caves are pretty ridiculous. Each group is given a lantern and you climb stairs and boardwalks throughout the super dark and spooky caves. Very cool, Mother Nature.

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One 30 minute hike and cable car ride down and you can eat lunch at this pit stop. As it was May Day the restaurant was busy with tourists, locals, bikers, hikers and families just hanging out.

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Obviously all that hiking and walking made us hungry for this hot dog soup.

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We also stopped in Kitzbuhel for a snack. Very cool ski town, I can only imagine how bumpin' it must be during the season.

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We finally made it to Innsbruck and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the town.

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The next morning we got up early and rented bikes. We took the cable car up the mountain and followed the mountain trails to Hall in Tirol where we grabbed lunch. The whole day was perfect. It was so nice to remove ourselves from the city center and see the countryside. We felt very removed from the hustle and bustle and felt like we got to see a more authentic view of everyday life.

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Hall in Tirol

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A well deserved dinner after our long bike trip!

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We grabbed drinks at Bar 360, which is all glass and provides awesome views of Innsbruck and beyond.

Next, we're on to Lucerne.

Salzburg

DSC_1039 One of our best moves in Salzburg might have been driving directly to the Modern Art Museum for lunch. The M32 restaurant looks over the city which is split by the Salzach River and also has great views the infamous Hohensalzburg Castle. It was also a good move because we could get light salads- as opposed to the authentic cuisine of various cheese and meats we had been consuming for the last 4 days. The weather was gorgeous, we were able to sit outside and it was a perfect way to kick off our time in Salzburg.

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After we checked out Hohensalzburg Castle, one of the best parts was walking back through the paths in the recreational area of the Monchsberg mountain. It was so lush and green and there were a ton of cool homes and wild gardens along the way.

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We stayed at the Bristol Hotel and it was very convenient to walking to all the sites. It was also on the right bank, which I liked because it was less touristy and busy. The lobby was a cool and dramatic combination of crystal chandeliers, mandarin orange walls and large scale paintings.

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The view from our room

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For dinner and drinks we walked down the cobblestone street, Steingasse and stumbled upon some tucked away restaurants and bars. Fridrich was our favorite as it had an intimate cave-bomb shelter-esque feel. It could probably only seat 20 people. The lighting was cool, a great selection of wines and the fact that they were playing Motown on the record player sealed the deal.

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The next morning the beautiful church that was outside our window started enthusiastically ringing their bells at about 6:30 am, so we got up and decided to hit the road. There was something very soothing about enjoying the early morning breeze, bells and silence of the city.

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Couldn't leave without an early morning look at the Mirabell Palace- which was surprisingly still bustling with activity. Then on the road to Innsbruck...

 

Back in Action!

DSC_0718 As of today we have been back from our Euro-Extravaganza for two weeks. As I typically find when I travel, it takes the amount of time I was gone to get back in the saddle. After two weeks, I finally feel like I can sit down and spend a little time reflecting on the trip. As this was two weeks jammed packed with activities, I will take you on a visually inspiring journey. Our adventure started in Stuttgart, Germany, where our friend, Will, is currently stationed with the Navy. After a few days hanging out on his hime turf, we set off on our road trip that took us to Munich, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Lucerne, Murren, Bern and a ton of little towns in between. I have not gone on a formal road trip through Europe before... typically I have taken trains where you are on a schedule and pass through many quaint towns. I think one of the highlights about driving yourself (ahem, or having someone drive you) is that you can be on your own schedule. And all those cute towns? You can pop in and see them. While we had all our hotels booked ahead of time, we were really free to make up our schedule as we went along. While I did have a serious 7-page itinerary of "suggestions", we also had fun scoping out places and areas as we went along. With the longest leg of our journey being 4 hours it always felt like we were on-the-go, but never in an overwhelming way. And, while I did start out white-knuckled anxious in the back of a rather zippy 2-door sports car, I would say I came a long way in overcoming my tensions with heights, accelerated speeds & twisty roads. I now think I can confidently say I am a road trip convert, mountains and all. Bring it.

First Stop: Munich

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Love that pop of lapis blue.

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Our first night, we ate dinner at a traditional beer hall, Augustiner Braustuben on the main drag. With all the Black Forest carvings and shell grotto-esque center hall it was definitely an overall authentic Bavarian feel.

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We grabbed after dinner drinks at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel. The atmosphere in the bar was a cool juxtaposition of rococo style plaster work accented in a dramatic uplight and a clean contemporary blue lit bar.

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Coming back to our hotel wasn't so bad either. Our hotel, Hotel Opera, felt like we were staying as a guest in a townhouse, a little off the beaten track. It was only about a 15 minute walk to all the action, so far enough away to escape the thick of it all, but close enough that we walked everywhere. There is also a great neighborhood feel around the hotel with great restaurants, cafes and shops.

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Breakfast was also pretty delicious. And, it should be noted, salami and cheese croissant sandwiches are perfectly acceptable breakfast sandwiches.

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I kinda had a thing for all the door handles

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I have to admit, Munich totally exceeded my expectations. It was an easy city to walk and bike around and inbetween the old world European feel (much of which was rebuilt after the war) there was a very modern and creative vibe. Next stop, Salzburg...

 

Bon Voyage!

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Scott & I are taking off to Europe this afternoon and will be returning May 8th. As some put it, I will be immersing myself in some "Field Research". Upon our return there will be stories to share, abounding inspiration and a refreshed creative outlook.

Bon Voyage!

NYIGF

 

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Well, people. You know that saying that it takes as many days to get back in the game as you were gone? I think I needed like 3 overtimes. My trip to New York for the gift show was inspirational, as was being down in Florida with family (and a little work in there too!), but when I got back into the saddle last Monday, I really needed to kick it. And kick it I did. Now, on the 8th day, I feel like I can finally take a few moments to sit down and share some of the awesomeness that happened in the Big Apple.

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Let's start by saying, a trip to New York is revitalizing on many different levels. You are surrounded by fresh perspectives, trending designs and culinary exploration all nestled in with the liveliness of the city that never sleeps. As I arrived in the late afternoon I was famished. I met my friend, Brad, and headed straight to Whitmans to get their "Juicy Lucy" (not to be confused with a Loosey Goosey) and some kale chips. While you can't go wrong with a cheese stuffed burger (please keep in mind about a month ago I was considering embracing being a pseudo vegetarian- only feathers and scales- but I am still having intense moments of weakness) it was the kale chips that got me.  I gobbled them up so quickly I was wearing the crumbs as we exited the restaurant, as Brad nicely noted.

a_560x375After Whitmans, we headed over to Kingston Hall to meet my friends, Ashlie & Liz, at a cozy fireside table that was the perfect way to escape the impending snow (that obviously followed me from Michigan!). One would never guess that on the other side of a fairly bland lobby a wood paneled, Jamaican club house awaits.  It was as though we walked into a buzzing secret society of young professionals sipping on anything from coconut rum to draft beer. Where do you go after downing a Juicy Lucy, fried kale and a pint of Brooklyn Brew? To pizza, of course!  We popped over to Nicoletta, a pizzeria that is managed by a fabulous chef in her own right, Tedo, who graduated from high school with us. To say she showered us with delectable appetizers would be an understatement. It. Was. Fabulous. You are probably wondering where the design happens in all of this, but  after partaking in round II of  culinary delights we decided to head home to rest up for the marathon of design inspiration that was about to commence.

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Obviously, one cannot enter into a day filled with design heart palpitations and miles upon miles of vendors without first having some sort of sustenance. First Stop: Breakfast.

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Enter, NYIGF. Many of my pictures might seem to be taken on the run. So much to see. So little time. Next year we might have a more organized approach, but for 2013 our plan of attack consisted of snapping photos, grabbing brochures and moving on (follow up research can be done at home on the computer!).

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I loved these feathers so much it had me hoping that feathered flair a la Chief  Crazy Horse will be in style for 2013.

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Gift Show Warriors.

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It was a creatives work out. Our dogs were barking. Our bags were heavy. Our backs hurt. Whoever said being an interior designer is for the weak has never walked a day in our shoes. This is tough work, people!  So you might ask what one does after putting up the good fight? The answer is simple. Food. Our restaurant of choice was the fabulous Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel.  After gorging on melt-in-your-mouth pasta we decided to hit up some retail destinations. Pictured Above: ABC Carpet & Home. Undoubtedly, to soak in all the inspiration one must spend at least 20 minutes testing out these extra deep and extra comfy sofas.

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By the way, Brad & Ashlie, who were my fabulous hosts, might live on the cutest street in the East Village. Pure atmosphere. There is this constant yet quite noise, mixed with an almost desirable grit that makes this block seem magical. It's like a modern day Dickensian scene- minus all the squalor.

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As Saturday closed, Brad, Ashlie and I headed to Brooklyn to have dinner at our friend's, Lee & Deeva, apartment. It was taco night. And kale salad night. Annnddd... I could have had a cocktail made with the kale salad dressing and have been perfectly happy (is there a theme here?!). We gathered 'round the projector and relived Leeva's recent trip to India. 1,700 images, countless entertaining stories, good ol' friends, a well deserved glass of wine and, of course, the kale all made for a fabulous way to unwind.

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Sunday consisted of a early morning walk to Peels for breakfast and then a quick jaunt around SoHo before heading back to the gift show for round II. This was deemed the follow up, revisit, get-a-second-glace, sneak more photos, take some measurements day.

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It also turned into the day where we ran into multiple friends designing for babies, designing for weddings or just being busy working bees.

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As I parted I felt very lucky on many different levels. The "always" theme is I constantly am reminded that I'm lucky to have such awesome, welcoming and supportive friends. The over arching theme is that I love what I do. I love that I can work in a world where people are constantly surprising me, inspiring me and motivating me. Yeah, I know- me,me,me,me. But in all seriousness, it's a big world out there and people are not afraid to test the limits and take a chance. New York definitely illustrates this take charge, entrepreneurial industrialist attitude and a reintroduction to that, if even for the weekend, is enough to fly back to the midwest with a little lightness in my chest and a wide eyed view of what we can do in this world.

NY, NY

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Today I am off to the New York Gift Show. I booked this fairly last minute after I regretted not go down to Atlanta for their January show. Last year at the Atlanta Market I found all sorts of awesome new vendors, and got a much needed dose of inspiration during these winter months. Not to mention, I think it is an imperative part of our business to keep up on the cool new product- it's what give our projects a current perspective. IMG_2504

And, when you are getting pictures like this from your mother-in-law, how could one not help but feel left out of all the fun that goes on at Market? (Sorry, Nicky).

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Things always get a little tricky before leaving, even if only for a couple days. Yesterday I tried to place calls from my calculator (I mean, it is on my iPhone) and tried to lock my house with my car key fab. Needless to say, I was a little frazzled. But, as I get ready to hit the road I am excited to see all the wares and trends that are going to carry us through 2013. Stay tuned for a visual recap!

SoCal

As it appears wanting to write the follow up post to my time out in California in September has become defined by procrastination, I am instead going to present the trip as a visual diary. I think you will be able to tell the entire weekend was beautiful, laid back and the wedding was a true testimony of love and admiration. Happy Friday, Y'all!

 

California State of Mind

As it appears, summer is officially over. We have hung up the white pants, started to give up on our annuals, and the neighborhoods are pretty quite until about 4 pm. Summer 2012 was a good one. As many are, it was filled with weekends spent on the water, after work evenings spent out on the deck and times spent celebrating friends & family through various weddings and birthdays. When you get to be an adult there really isn't officially a summer vacation just as there isn't officially back to school, but I cannot help but feel revived as the days are just beginning to feel slightly cooler. Fall will forever have the air of newness and as an adult I think it translates more towards organizing, catching up and having a reinvigorated outlook on life. It's like with every deep breath of fall air the heart begins to pitter patter for the  potential and possibilities to come. For me, this excitement might also have something to do with the fact that fall allows slightly more time to follow ideas, constitute new ones and cultivate what is already in process.

 To officially end summer, we travelled to a wedding out in California the weekend after Labor Day. To fully utilize the time change, 5 hour flight and days off, I went out early to spend a couple days in San Francisco before heading down to Laguna. Sometimes, this is the best type of traveling: entrusting your time to the locals. I did zero pre trip planning. Yep, me, planner mcgee, winged it. That's the beauty of visiting people you totally trust to show you a good and inspiring time. In the typical fun of hanging out with good friends, this trip did not fall short on expectations. We ate at delicious restaurants and I got to feel engrossed in a true California experience. On our first evening we visited Reed & Greenough located in the Marina. They had me at repurposed wood facade. The distressed leather, killer light fixtures, zebra, dark mahogany, copper (!) bar, lovingly worn rugs and antiques all made me feel like I could settle in and stay a while. With this collected interior I felt as though I had stepped right into a turn of the century gentleman's mens club. And as someone who would prefer to visit an establishment based on atmosphere rather than quality of food, it was a pleasant surprise that the libations also proved delightful.

images via yelp

As the fog is particularly thick at the beginning of September, we used the days to get out of the city and go on some day trips. Our first stop in Sonoma County was the Bella Vineyards & Winecaves in Healdsburg.

There are many reasons this place was awesome. Let's start with the fact that we could take our own picnic, set it up on a perfectly weathered teak picnic table, shaded by a crisp white canvas umbrella, and look out at the vineyards rolling indefinitely before our eyes.  There were multiple families settled in for the afternoon, their kids hula-hooping or trying to climb the enormous olive trees that partially shaded the lawn.

The wine caves are carved out beneath the vines and as you walk through they have tastings available and the walls are lined with the barrels. As the feeling is unmanufactured the sentiment is intimate and personal. The attention to detail gives the sense that you are privy to a little secret concealed in the hills of Sonoma, just enough off the beaten path that you are able to feel as though you are having a totally unique experience.

This is the private dining room in the caves. I can only imagine the good times that have been shared here amongst friends and families. The idea of eating well and drinking better, in an cave, surrounded by worn antiques and perfectly detailed ambient lighting must make reality seem hundreds of miles away.  This is a place to dine, focus on your companions and soak in every moment.

  

 Our next stop was the Dry Creek General Store to stock up on some additional snacks. While they are known for their sandwiches, we did not have the pleasure of sampling them. I did love perusing the classic store set up and admiring the selections of food and wine from local vendors. There was also a wonderful array of unique gifts and cookbooks. When I was about 9 I got a doll house that was a general store. I would painstakingly stock the shelves with miniature cans of soup and fill pint-sized barrels with apples- only to sneeze and have everything tumble to the floor and back into an unorganized combination of dry goods. I envisioned myself somewhere between John Boy Walton and Laura Ingalls Wilder- maybe with a dash of desperation of the Oregon Trail and the wild, wild west. Dry Creek General was my childhood idyllic general store come to life- right down to the storage bins and the long front porch where the lucky guests got to enjoy their sandwiches.

  

Knowing me as they do, my friends planned a trip to the Alameda flea market on Sunday morning. As I planned this trip around the timing of the wedding, I believe landing on the Alameda weekend was almost serendipitous timing. I have been itching to go as I keep hearing reviews, but there are only about, ohhh, 2,500 miles separating me from this flea market mack-daddy. This flea did not disappoint. I mean I could have slept under one of the vendor booths and still have not had enough time to see all the treasures that were laid out in rows A-Z and then AA-ZZ. You've got that right... the last row was ZZ. I purchased a pretty awesome pendant light for my kitchen that's not actually antique, but has a very cool patina and will be a fresh way to replace the recessed light over my sink. The flea market is next to a big port and it is pretty cool to be walking all the aisles, looking at a very diverse range of goods, and feeling dwarfed by the large cranes and stacks of enormous cargo units. It's an interesting juxtaposition to be scouring a flea market for items that bring the art and craftsmanship of the past into the present while being in the midst of a sophisticated harbor that imports goods from all around the world. It was a bit full circle on why, when I started my own business, I decided to call it PORT mfg. & design.  It is this idea that PORT can be a haven for inspiring goods, whether they are antique finds or custom designs. It's the idea that the cornerstone of American trade was built in the pride of craftsmanship and the ability to deliver products to customers that were exclusive, unusual and peculiarly remarkable. It's those values that I want to remember as I build my business.  After some discussion with my flea market warriors, we all concluded that the modern day cargo units were all probably filled with thousands of Samsung TVs.

   

When we all left feeling inspired for the day and full on gyros, we decided to walk around downtown Berkeley and then stopped over at my friend's house for dinner. It was an absolutely perfect evening spent with friends, old and new. We all hung out on the porch, which is perched about 4 stories above the street.  The hills allow for the seamless effect of being able to feel like you can see forever.  It was one of those nights where the sunlight, gently diffused through the trees, casts a warm glow over everything in it's path.

We started off Labor Day by taking an early morning hike through the Marin Headlands to atone for all the cheese, wine and other sinfully delicious snacks we had savored in over the last days. It was awesome. First of all, I loved pulling up and seeing all the surfers congregating and donning their wet suits for the early morning dip. We hiked and hiked and eventually ended up above the thick fog. Ultimately, we found ourselves about a mile from where we started due to a little mapping complication, but it was well worth it for the views, scenery and aerobic activity.

After the hike we enjoyed the Labor Day BBQ at Cavallo Point, a turn of the century army based turned luxury resort. I was staying in the Presidio and I think it is so cool how these army bases have been adaptively reconfigured to become housing and recreation areas.  We ended our day by walking around the Marina and popping in different shops. We couldn't pass up the $1 oyster special at Cafe des Amis... delicious!  Dinner was then at a friend of a friend's house, which is another perk of traveling to visit people- you aren't always dining in restaurants but also experiencing the flavor of what it is like to actually live in the visited city.  We watched football and helped create a delicious dinner that consisted of Ina's fried chicken, greek salad and, of course, a selection of fine cheeses.

On my last day in the Bay Area we, once again, found ourselves escaping the fog and heading out of town to Mill Valley.  This might be my new favorite little spot. We grabbed a coffee at the Depot and I loved checking out all the new titles in the bookstore. Since Borders has closed in Birmingham there really isn't anywhere to go and pick up a new book after browsing various titles. Call me old school, but I always try to support the local independent bookstores whenever I come across one. I picked up some reads for the next leg of the trip. We aimlessly walked around and popped in the little shops centrally surrounding the Depot and they all had a wonderful collection of goods. I think what I liked best about Mill Valley was the unassuming essence of the town.  It had a slower pace, a neighborhood feel, tucked in hills with tall trees shading overhead and the discerning quality of goods was consistent in every store we visited.

Tyler Florence's store was a gem. I don't even really cook that much, but I thought it was so beautiful that I was completely inspired. It was like a more boutique-y and creative than any kitchen store I have visited. The displays mixed hand selected objects with antiques and gave a rather homey feel. Actually, when I got home from this trip I cleaned and reorganized my entire kitchen.  It was some seriously inspired motivation. His restaurant, El Paseo, was not open at 10 in the morning, but we walked down the twisty-turney brick alleys with vine covered walls that apparently were inspired by the California missions. It might be worth a trip back just to be able to dine in such a whimsical environment. At the end of the courtyard there is a fabulous antique shop, Moss & Moss, that had a wonderful assortment of items ranging from antiques to custom artwork. Another store worth a visit is Summer House for some cool textiles, jewelry and curated items for the home.

Then we just drove up to Sonoma checking out places along the way. The drive itself is almost therapeutic, and I don't think it just had to do with the fact that I was in the passenger seat. There were antique stores to check out and vineyards to see. We ended up having lunch at El Dorado Kitchen in downtown Sonoma and then turned around and headed back to the city.

Making it back to the city we had a late dinner at the newly opened Corner Store. Delicious! Perfect place to cozy up with some American style comfort food for an evening when a little drizzle set in and it was finally is time to bid adieu to some best friends.

Next Stop, SoCal.

ABC knows whats UP!

Alright, so I have a love hate relationship with the Bachelorette. I am a little embarrassed to admit on here that I have a weak spot for reality TV (you are probably wondering what this has to do with design), but when I saw Emily being interviewed in Bermuda and in front of a blue and white ginger jar I knew exactly where the Bachelorette and her bevy of suitors were vacationing on their first international dating extravaganza.

  

When Scott and I started talking about our honeymoon, I was envisioning myself walking the ancient streets of European cities and, Scott, well, he might have been happiest parked in a remote cabin, surrounded by woods and a golf course within walking distance.  We started to look into Bermuda after a group of my friends went there and, let's just say, had a grand ol' time.

  

In asking around, it seemed that Bermuda was the ideal post wedding experience for anyone who married between 1972-1983, fitting in with my conception- this was a parents honeymoon destination. Then we came across Tucker's Point  and while this new hotel was built on the same property where my in-laws had honeymooned, it looked very much to be in 2010.  Tucker's Point was cozy, relaxing and a true break from reality. It ended up being a perfect, mutually agreed upon, spot for Scott and I to have what was actually our first trip just the two of us.

The interior design was so beautiful. It felt as if you were staying at someone's amazing private home. The attention to detail was, to me, more residential in feel than a typical luxury hotel. There were collections and accessories that looked like they had been curated over the years. Trim detail and fabric choices that suggested comfort and taste over utilitarian practicality. Ambiance is also so much more than the actual rooms themselves- the menus were beautiful printed, the mini shampoos and conditioners in the rooms have clean and crisp graphics, the door men proudly wear their Bermuda socks, navy blazers ties and mesh safari hats. What makes Tucker's Point such an experience is that their brand is carried through on every detail.

The murals in the main dining room, depicting various ports at the turn of the 20th century, were tracked down at an auction and were originally commissioned for the Pan Am building in New York City. Paired with the natural linen, perfectly worn rugs and ambient mood lighting, the dining room created an atmosphere that welcomed intimate conversation only to be shared with the closest of comrades.

Sometimes it's the small things that communicate the greatest care when designing. Quality lamp shades, contrast trim, good framing, diverse ("collected") artwork, all contribute to an environment that is well thought out.  It is these details that almost subconsciously effect us into knowing when an environment feels generously competed.

 

 The lobbies and check in area felt more as if they belonged in a well established seasonal home rather than a cut and dry hotel. I knew Tucker's Point and I would be seeing eye to eye when I noticed they had the same butterfly prints that I have adorning my living room walls.

 Long hallways leading to cozy common areas helped elaborate upon the overall residential feel. One afternoon I didn't even mind a little rain because I could curl up on that sofa and get some good reading done (trashy tabloid and a more well respected novel).

   

In most interiors, I think everything always looks better at night. Warmed by lamp light interiors take on a whole new delightfully familiar feeling. We would sit in this room and play backgammon after dinner. While, I would like to think that they were heated matches, Scott has an interesting way of forgetting any time I win.

I think it is safe to say that Bermuda surpassed all of my expectations. The interior design was just as inspiring as the scenic views and pink sand beaches. I hope Emily and her flock of bachelors were able to leave there as rejuvenated as we did!

 

 

 

Chi-City and the New Stuff

Sometimes I don't know if there is anything much better than being a designer and seeing new product. Especially when that new product makes your heart beat so quickly that it basically leaps into your throat. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Not all new product gives you those first encounter jitters. Some collections can leave you in that awkward middle ground of feeling like you have to say it is "nice" (when, let's be honest, "nice" isn't really the nicest of compliments) and wondering if the designers took too many drags from the peace pipe before sending these ideas off into production. Anyway, if there is one thing that design has taught me, it is that you can really never say "never".  That might be one of my favorite parts about my job- the opportunities to be constantly surprised by people's innate creativity and translation of concept to creation.

There is the opportunity of being presented with a given setting and facing the challenge of creating an end result that is the perfect blend of the client's desired vision and your aesthetic.  There is the "recycling" of styles. So many items that were old are new again, but with a fresh twist. That dijon colored mohair that adorned your grandma's rocking chair would look dated if  translated literally straight from the era. But now, in 2012, are we seeing mohair and dijon (maybe not in that combination, but you see where I am going) making a comeback? The wearabiliy of mohair is so practical!  That bright yellow/dijon color is so punchy! And, not having lived through the 1970's, this can legally still be considered new to me. On the other hand, I have been looking through design magazines with my mom and I say "Ooooo flame stitch"  simultaneously to her "Ewwwww flamestich". Tomato- Tomaato. Anwyhoo, I digress. All I really wanted to tell you guys is that I have had a fun couple weeks Ooo-ing and Ahh-ing over new product. From reps presenting spring lines to a couple days spent down in Chicago at the Merchandise Mart and beyond, I have a reenergized vision for spring and, as always, am looking forward to the creativity and inspiration that is bursting from every corner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This new rug collection was pretty awesome. I'm pretty much always a sucker for blue and white. Some of these would be amazing in a beach house with white washed floors or a funky living room.I can almost hear the breeze rustling the beachgrass, feel the sun on my face and  the taste of sea salt on my lips...

Speaking of sea salt, how awesome is this soap?

And, if you cannot get by the ocean, this was a pretty nice place to swim a few laps while visiting Chicago.

These are the windows from the pool room at the InterContinential. I loved this design... color palate and all. I also thought it was pretty awesome how they lit the architectural elements. It was a nice way to emphasize the space and detail of the room which might have otherwise been over looked.

While in Chicago I also took some time to go back to my Swedish roots in Andersonville. I popped in the Swedish American museum and picked up a couple of these little little Christmas tum-tums (I know it's May, but one isn't at the Swedish American museum every day...).

   

As I was in the neighborhood, I also popped in Brimfield where they were all about making what is old new again. I think some of you might have had a heart attack to see what they were selling, as you probably sold it at your local rummage sale in 1990. Nevertheless, it was great.

Yep, those are tuna cans. I was at the Merchandise Mart on Thursday and in the lobby they had all kinds of can sculptures. I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was a little afraid if I sneezed I might set into motion the world's largest domino can exhibition, so I skedaddled on upstairs.

I used to work at the Hinson Showroom at the Merchandise Mart as a summer intern during the summers after my freshman and sophomore year of college at Michigan State. To say it felt like no time had passed is an understatement. It was as if time stood still. I remembered every twist and turn in the building, recognized faces and felt a little bit like the 2004 version of myself. I was sporting my thick tortoise rimmed glasses, so I felt a little incognito (a la Julian in Adam Sandler's "Big Daddy" movie).  One of the new showrooms that totally wowed me was Jean de Merry showroom on the 18th floor. It pretty much knocked my socks off with the pure beauty of the items. I snapped a few pictures, but they really do not do the space any sort of justice.

  

  

As always, it is a pleasure to walk around another design center and learn about new sources, see new product and meet wonderful people. After a long day trekking around the mart, I went to go and check out the model showcase homes for the Ritz-Carlton Residences on Michigan Avenue. Wow. Located in the limestone clad Farwell Building, which has always been one of my favorites along the "Magnificent Mile", the residences are in a newly created 40 story high-rise that is connected to the lovingly restored 11 story original building.

Hands down, I thought that the best unit was put together by local Chicago designer, Frank Ponterio. For taking on the smallest unit, it had the most personal and intimate feel. They almost needed to resuscitate me after I encountered the mosaic floor in the powder room. There were personal touches, surprises that made you think twice and the reinvention of classic design elements. Basically, everything that gets me really excited! This space was elegant, yet really livable and as a testament to the effort involved into creating such a personal space, we were told that the unit sold fully furnished. Below are a few quick snap shots of the space. The last three photos are from L.A based designer, Julia Wong, who created the vibe of an urban sophisticate meets laid back California glam and Javier Martin Muriel, out of Spain, who created a luxurious clean and contemporary environment. The last photo is of awesome light fixtures in the lobby.

  

   

  

If you are in downtown Chicago, go to check out the show house would be a fun way to spend an hour or so one afternoon. The other units are awesome as well, I just didn't want to be paparazzi-extraordiniare (and, um, my phone died). They also have a 20 minute video about the entire preservation project, which really hits on the passion and energy put into creating the modern day living spaces.  If those weren't enough reasons to get down there, the money from ticket sales goes to the Art Institute. In a day an age in which the arts rely so heavily on donations that might be reason enough!

One of the perks of driving to Chicago was that I was able to hit up some places that weren't exactly in walking distance. Taking a few last minute suggestions I hit up some new places on our way out of town. They were pretty... magical.

  

Alright, I am off to delight in this beautiful Saturday! I hope you all do the same... enjoy!

Charleston City Style

Like I said in my previous post, Charleston was just as much about the landscape as it was about the architecture. Even Stevens, if you ask me. (Side note: anyone remember Shia LaBeouf as quirky child star, long before the seemingly beefier and hot tempered side effects of adulthood? )

And, like I also mentioned, Charleston was the perfect combo of city and nature for me and Scott to become a sightseeing, walking machine, dynamic tourism duo. We walked for miles around the city exploring every nook and cranny.  Now, don't get me wrong, there might not be a peep from Scott walking 36 holes on a golf course, but the second there is the indirect smell of something resembling a sewer or a honk from a disgruntled driver he starts cursing up to the high heavens questioning the patience and hygiene of the human race (while, ironically, seeming to not have much patience himself). As a true testament to this wonderful city, I didn't hear one complaint.

Some things I learned while on our sightseeing extravaganza:

1. Scott likes white washed buildings. Charleston is full of them and they really are beautiful. He asks me if we have white washed brick homes up in Michigan and a few inadequate examples come to mind where the application is heavy and not seemingly effortless as it is in the south. I make a mental note to be sure to research some quality craftsmen in this field, should I ever be approached to recreate a perfectly white washed brick home.

2. In going in some wonderfully inspiring antique shops, my male comrade did not take a nap in the closest lounge chair (as precedented by previous shopping outings), but rather offered me some wholehearted insight on which antiques he liked. But, gasp!  He could not figure out why a figurine (sculpture), with it's arm chopped off (antique), could be a thousand dollars.

  

  

3. When walking 8 miles throughout a city seems effortless because you are finding inspiration at every twist and turn it is usually a good idea to indulge your partner in crime with multiple snacks throughout the day to keep the momentum going. Can you say mid day oyster specials and lunch a la the French (aka glass of vino complimentary with meal!).

  

  

4.  Side porches look to provide a very nice place to spend a summer's day. Apparently, the ceilings of the porches are blue to ward off evil spirits. That, and, they say it keeps the bugs away.  Many of the homes have porches running along the length of the home and not facing the street, as we typically see. This is because when these homes were built there  was not a lot of area to build (Charleston is a penninsula), but by building the porches perpendicular to the street the residents were able to provide themselves with better privacy, cooler breezes and a better respite from the sun. I have to say the porches looked like a puuuurdy nice place to spend an afternoon with some good company.

5.  First of all, I am obsessed with what is going on in the above photograph. The tone on tone greys with gas lanterns, pops of the bright green window boxes and planters is just a really awesome and crisp color palette. We were both drawn to the architectural style of the gardens. I think this is what makes all the greenery seam so flawlessly with the architecture- they supplement one another nicely. The architecture would not look as grand without a stately landscape foundation and the gardens not as impressive and imposing without the backdrop of some wonderfully designed buildings. That might just be the symbiotic relationship that keeps Charleston ticking.

  

6. Lastly, but not least, at the end of the day when you are ready for a breather, the best thing to do is to go to a quite place, and in this case the water front, take a deep long break and a moment to enjoy all that is around you.  

Hey Y'all... (said in that soothing, slow southern drawl...)

There is something so comforting about the South. I don't know if it's the architecture (because, as you know, ambiance is everything to me), the slower paced lifestyle, or just that dose of good ol' southern hospitality. It also could very much be the fact that every time I find myself in the southern climate I am away from my normal routine and relishing in the abounding inspiration.  Last weekend Scott and I were down in Charleston for our friends, Whitney and Andrew's wedding. It was the perfect place for a destination wedding and it was especially nice that we got a couple days to explore the city. Charleston is the perfect place for Scott and I to visit together. It has just enough city for me and just enough nature for him.  This is exactly why I thought I should break down my Charleston posts into one which depicts the lush, green, landscape environment and one that depicts the city's architecture elements.

I am going to start with the landscape environment.  The funny thing about Charleston, is that you will soon realize that the landscape and the architecture is very much intertwined.  This is a characteristic that I believe is an attribute to  some of the best cities. That,  and the tree canopy. The Tree Canopy: A city's true testament to their placement in time. Tree canopies are not something you can recreate. These things take years, sometimes hundreds of years, to get to the point of generating a dramatic shelter from the sun's beaming heat.  Years to create the perfectly groomed arch over neighborhood streets (double bonus if these are cobblestone streets).  Charleston trees are knotty and tough yet graceful and fluid in their stature.  What's not to love? You pair this tree growth to overflowing window boxes, perfectly trimmed boxwood and secret garden passageways that dot the city basically compelled me to have a green thumb. Secret gardens? Are you kidding!? What kid grows up reading the "Secret Garden" and does not dream of hidden, moss covered passage ways that lead to unexpectedly mysterious gardens? I know I sure did. This  established landscape surrounding is a crucial factor in creating the profusion of  charm and whimsy... just take a look for yourself.

Now that's some pretty good stuff. All I need to get started in my yard is a pooper scooper, some grass seed and some enlisted help from my talented gardener mother.