December 31, 2011

Annus Recentissimus - 2012

"May your days be painted in gold.
May your life be filled with diamonds.
May the stars shine bright on your world.
May you have a fun-filled year.
Happy New Year."

-Written and given to me by a friend.

A brand new year...may 2012 be one to remember!

December 25, 2011

Images of the Season

A place setting I created for FEAST magazine.
[photo by Michael Jacobs]

With the holiday season upon us I wanted to thank all of you for reading my blog. Below are some images taken from events surrounding my holiday season I wanted to share. May all of you find peace, joy and love in the new year.

The tree at the Old Courthouse, downtown St. Louis.

I was featured this month in Feast Magazine.
The take-out containers are made from Japanese wrapping paper.
[photo by Michael Jacobs]

Waterford and Limoges.
[photo by Michael Jacobs]

I love candles on a table at Christmas.
[photo by Michael Jacobs]

An arrangement I made for a client.

It's not just Christmas we should honor...
This lovely Menorah elegantly celebrates Chanukah.

This boxwood wreath I assembled for my own door this year.

A very personal mantle for a client.

A lot of new things to learn, teach and show in 2012 and Design Guy University... I can hardly wait!! Stay tuned!

November 27, 2011

My Favorite Things

Since 1965 the song My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music has dominated the holiday music line up along with countless lists compiled by editors, hollywood stars and the likes of Oprah. So following suit with what might be a cliché during the holidays, I'm sharing my favorite things. (no, the audience will not receive the gifts at the end of the blog).

Cliché or not... here are my favorite things this year:

1. Cyclopedia. A Complete History of the Bicycle with a forward written by fashion designer Paul Smith: You will love this book filled with interesting factoids about the bicycle. Its expertly designed and curiously, the the play on names is appropriate. 'Cyclopaedia' was the name of what was the precursor to the Encyclopedia. [please buy from your local bookstore].

2. Eduardo Garza's lucite boxes. I just love his accessories. This one is a black lucite box with Amethyst and gold accent. His new collection incorporates real skeletons dipped in gold.

3. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Founded by Alice Walton, it opened this year on 11-11-11. A series of 8 buildings connected together via bridges over the creek beds original to the site. Among it's holdings of American Treasures: J.Howard Miller's painting: We can do it (commonly referred to as Rosie the Riveter) and Charles Wilson's Peale's portrait of George Washington, c 1780-82.

4. Missoni fabric. NOT THE ONES FROM TARGET, this is from Missoni Home in Italy. Perfect look for all year round.
5. Preserved boxwood rings. Used for everything from table settings to adoring mirrors and doors, these rings are perfect for every occasion. Because they're preserved you can keep them year round. Available in all sorts of sizes, you can tie them to a large kraft bag for that perfect holiday gift.
6. Small Kota votive by my friend Kim Siebert. New for the season, these votives are so festive and fun. The line also includes a larger candle holder, wine coaster, picture frames, and a set of bowls.

7. Mercedes CL600 in Pladium Silver metallic, black interior. I collected Matchbox cars while growing up and would dream of the new ones Santa would bring on Christmas day. Now that I'm all grown up, I need to get a much larger stocking in hopes that this one would appear this year.
8. Polar Bear Big Eraser. How could you not 'bear' to give this gift for the holidays.

9. Converse Tennis Shoes. Classic. Any guy would love these... this year they're available in Christmas plaid.

10. Brookstone oversized towel warmer. It easily accommodates oversized towels or a robe or blanket. You just plug it into a normal outlet.

November 11, 2011

Initial Impressions

Monograms. When I was growing up my grandparents had monogrammed everything. Napkins, silverware... even the glasses had the engraved KFA (my mother's parents Kenneth and Freda Adams)... and when you went to the cabinet for a drink (back then it was milk) I wanted one of those glasses and one of those linen napkins that matched, just like the adults. My other grandparents opted for the single letter T on antique linen from 100 years ago and the single letter on the silverware. Although you see the single initials popular today on napkins or on doormats (easy automation of non-custom details) you don't see elaborate, custom monograms very often... or if you do, they're pretty standard and not very wonderful.

I was tooling around online a few years ago and I located and met Caroline Brackenridge of Monogram Inc.... she does amazing work. I reconnected with her recently and we talked about her creativity, her business and about Phoebe...her dog.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Long Island, Vermont and Bermuda. I moved into NYC and worked various jobs: Town & Country Magazine, Grey Advertising, as a studio manager/assistant to a fashion photographer, and eventually for the largest commercial film production company in NY as a production manager for many years. I currently live in NYC with my Bernese Mountain dog, Phoebe.


How did decide to start your monogram business?
I was on vacation in the Caribbean. We were staying in a house where they had the most beautiful hand embroidered antique linens. It occurred to me that no one was doing this anymore and it might be time to take advantage of bringing this beautiful craft back to life again in a more modern way. When I returned home I did some research to find that there actually wasn't anyone out there that did this anymore. So I collaborated with some embroidery companies, found linen suppliers and taught myself how to draw in this very strange and precise kind of way. I quit the film business eventually and devoted myself to creating beautiful monograms that were representative of the heirlooms that I have always admired. Hand embroidery, or hand-guided embroidery were the only methods back in the day, but modern technology has given us the opportunity to digitize the monogram for the embroidery machine. This enables us to re-size according to the project and it comes out the same every time. We can change colors for different environments, etc.

Click on photo above to enlarge.

You just don't do monograms, you also do heraldic crests and create other art… what are some of your favorite examples.
I like to take a client's crest and combine it with their initials underneath. There is a great deal of elegance in this and the combination creates a nice balance. Sometimes a client will have an obsession with their dog or something else in their life that is important. I love the challenge of developing the something that represents their love of life.

Click on photo above to enlarge.

Say that I would want a personal monogram, what would be some questions you'd ask me as part of the interview to draw up the design?
I ask my clients to go onto my website. If there is anything there that appeals to them, this will give me a place to start. If a client wants to incorporate another element whether it be their favorite flower or something else then I try to accomodate that request. I draw up some preliminary drawings. We discuss these and I make the necessary revisions. The customer then decides to move on to embroidery on linens or camera ready artwork for stationery. All jobs are a new challenge and love creating a design that is very personal to the customer.

Click on photo above to enlarge.

What haven't you done that you'd love to do?
To spend hours and hours in bookstores in Europe looking for inspiration. Everything inspires me, but I am always hungry for more and usually have a camera with me.

Knowing that you have your monograms applied expertly to everything from linen to crystal ( I heard your engraver is retired from Tiffany&Co.), what would you say is the most unusual application of your monograms to date?
Most of my clients are traditional. They prefer beautiful linens, stationery and sometimes engraving on silver or etching on glass. I continue to work with the best artisans in the business and we are all proud of our work. If I don't do the actual work for them, then I really don't know how the client intends on using it. Hopefully the monogram will not be over-used and always in good taste.

Click on photos to enlarge.

What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?
I am thankful everyday. When my feet hit the ground every morning I consider it a great day! I'm also thankful for my friends & family and especially my 94-year-old mother who is in good health.

November 8, 2011

Duke of Duquette: Hutton Wilkinson

Hutton Wilkinson, the "Duke" of Duquette

This past week I spent some time with my friend Hutton Wilkinson. Name sound familiar? Well if you watch HSN he has a lot of jewelry and home decor items but what you don't know is that he's owner of the brand Tony Duquette, an interior design firm, brand of high-end fabric and furniture and also fine jewelry.

Tony Duquette was an interior design icon of the 20th century. Hutton joined Tony when he was 17 years old as an intern. After years of working together, then apart, they became business partners and when Tony passed in the 90s, Hutton became owner of the brand expanding into textiles and other items.

Hutton and I had dinner at Franco, drinks out and I visited him at SAKS Fifth Avenue earlier on in the week where he was showing his new line of fine jewelry and signing his new book. (see below).

Below are some images from the Tony Duquette brand and I hope you enjoy... !

Tony Duquette

Bullock's Department Store, ca 1935

What people don't realize is that Tony Duquette decorated the Chase Park Plaza.
All that remains are the conference rooms and the lobby of the older building,
The Chase Residences.
One of the gorgeous pieces Hutton designed for the fine jewelry line
available through SAKS Fifth Avenue.

Christmas is coming.. so buy not one but 10 of these books to give to your friends.
Available at your local bookseller or at

Interior of Tony Duquette's personal residence still in tact and part of the estate in L.A.

Gorgeous malachite rug designed by Hutton for Tony Duquette

August 12, 2011


Priscilla Woolworth, a candid moment.

As a designer I'm constantly coming across websites to help not only design a person's environment, but also maintain and make that environment more nurturing. In my own life I'm taking steps to take care of myself in terms of food, nutrition and taking an active step in my small footprint to make sure I'm acting in a responsible way.

I spoke with Priscilla Woolworth a few weeks ago. Her website has so many great things you can use for your home to create a balanced and conscience lifestyle... I particularly love her blog where she shares her thoughts on seed collecting [something I did myself with my grandparents growing up on the farm]. Here's some things we discussed... and after reading, you'll fall in love with her just like I did.

Knowing that you spent the summers in Maine with your Grandmother… what were some traditional things you’d do each year that you’d look forward to?

I'd look forward to the Sunday lunch feast at her house. It was amazing! When I was younger: digging with a pitchfork in her rhubarb patch for worms and going fishing off one of her docks, and sitting in the middle of her vegetable garden eating her peas and strawberries. Playing Capture the Flag at night was de rigeure and everyone had to play; it was so much fun. Drives to the Maine coast for fresh steamed lobster at an authentic lobster shack, visiting Jamie Wyeth on his island, Union Antiques fair in August, and twice a week runs to the local farmer's market.

If you and I were to go to a farmer’s market near your house and I gave you a bag to do my shopping what would you fill it with for the week … and what would you avoid?

I would fill it with fresh farm eggs, organically grown fruit and vegetables in season and a bag of fresh mushrooms. I would avoid buying conventionally grown produce as much as I could and any produce not grown locally.

What inspired in life to influence the development of your website that has both an almanac and an online store?

Recently released photo from NASA of Earth.

Being a concerned citizen of the world, I wanted to do something to be part of the movement of change. A store on the Internet is an effective way of reaching many people beyond your own city and the almanac is the platform I use to share information on how to make changes to our lifestyle. The store provides the products that help make those changes possible and the almanac provides curated information about what is going on out in the world that is positive and inspiring.

What are some of your favorite memories of growing up in France?

St.Paul de Vence.

I had a magical childhood in the south of France. I was very lucky because I lived in this wonderful old Villa in Cannes, with many rooms to play hide and seek. I also spent a lot of time at my granparents's house which was at the foot of St.Paul de Vence. They had a huge fig tree I used to sit in and read the latest Tintin or Asterix and when I needed a break, I would walk up to the village and slide all the way down the hillside to a ravine at the bottom. I remember finding the sweetest peaches on a tree and bringing them back for my grandmother. She is still talking about those peaches! Eating Pan Bagnats on a picnic on an outing in the hills outside Cannes, picking cherries from trees by the sides of the roads, spying on Picasso in his garden in Mougins while I was on a playdate, and going to the farmer's market with my grandfather.

Knowing that you’re all about GREEN, what is one misconception that people have about going green and how do you dispel that thought?

It's much easier to make changes in your lifestyle than I thought it was going to be. Over the past 10 years, I have made changes gradually which have become the norm for me, rather than doing everything at once.

You have what I would call a creative lab at your house where you create and test things out for sale on your website. What are you testing or working on right now?

Since we are all polluting our houses with all manner of detritus we bring in, I am testing out a sticky doormat that pulls all the dirt off from the bottom of your shoes before you walk in the house. I also have some non-toxic shampoo and non-toxic lipstick that I am trying out. I test everything out before I carry it in my store or recommend it. I want to make sure it's worth your while and besides, I am my own best customer! I wouldn't sell anything I wouldn't use myself.

If you could give your girls one piece of advice to give to their children, what would it be?

Only buy what you really need. Make that choice wisely because everything we buy impacts the world.

Good advice, don't you think? Next time: some ideas for the upcoming Showhouse in St. Louis I thought you might enjoy.

July 15, 2011

Perfectly Pruned Plot... Part 2, the Gardens of Parkwood Estate

This base to an old garden armillary (the armillary part missing) was dated 10 years before Parkwood gardens. Adorned with Mr. McLaughlin's monogram, one could only assume the family brought this with them from their previous house. I noticed it while strolling the grounds.

In the last post, I showed the interior spaces of Parkwood Estate and now ... Part 2.. the gardens one of the few remaining grand garden designs in tact by Harries & Hall, Dunington-Grubb and John Lyle.

I've seen the gardens of royal palaces, the lovely estates of Winterthur, Vanderbilt (Ashville) and ones at Cheekwood. All have a story, all have a personality. I have never seen a garden like the one at Parkwood... there's an art deco surprise at the end... so look through all the photos.

I'll post these photos with a bit of commentary... but photos speak a thousand words... don't you think?

To the right of the entry of the house was this arbor with a 1930s statue at the end.

Some of the more interesting trees along the walk...

This window led from the dining room out to the gardens. Most rooms on the lower level led to the outdoors.

This ancient plant was pruned to allow visitors up the stairs and onto the terrace.

A spectacular shot of one of the statues in the Venetian Garden, Sam McLaughlin's private garden which could only be accessed or seen from his personal office. Rarely would visitors or even his family be allowed in this sanctuary.

Another view of the Venetian Garden.

Strolling, I shot this view of the back of the house.

One of many rose gardens, this one was near what was the vegetable and herb garden and also the white garden.

Are these not amazing?

At the end of the official tour, I climbed up onto a support and took this photo looking into the Venetian garden through the guarded and enclosed lattice work, sticking the camera precariously almost dropping it. It was worth it.

Like hallways in a house, a garden has to have a vista or a destination. Placing this pavilion at the end of a path makes the pedestrian want to go forward. A painting or sculpture at the end of a long hallway has the same effect.

The Sunken Garden now used for parties and weddings.

This was the children's tea house. The children would go and, with the help of a servant, learn the proper way of drinking tea and outdoor entertaining. Behind and attached is a gardner's storage shed.

A drink and a book (or my iPad) please.

Amazing no matter where you are on the property.

We walked and then came upon a surprise. Designed and built by John Lyle (the same one who added at the same time, the Art Deco bedroom for Sam McLaughlin in the previous post)

A pair of these urns flanked the pool house where we had lunch. What a way to enjoy a nosh looking over the reflecting pond. So relaxing.

Although deco in design, Sam McLauglin wanted to celebrate Canada so art deco inspired Canadian Geese were integrated into the wall fountain at the far side of the reflecting pool where Poseidon himself is making sure the garden is nourished with water.