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