Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"What's New, What's Next" Apex and Epilogue from NY Design Center's InHouse Finishing Touches Cocktail Party

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We are Co-Presenters at What’s New, What’s Next! InHouse showroom at NY Design Center: Interior Designer Toni Sabatino (L) & me, Finishing Touches author, Leeann Lavin 

Thank you for attending this year’s ninth annual What’s New, What’s Next!

And for spending your cocktail time with me, Toni, the InHouse Kitchen, Bath, Home team: Dave Burcher, Mary Erker, and Leah Gold; and Wood-Mode’s Jim - and John.

Our InHouse Finishing Touches presentation celebrated the pre-release of my book which presents classic and new cocktails with heart-stopping garnishes, especially “garden-to-glass” and other creative finishing touches, including candy, jewelry, and fire -- along with the drinks’ delicious food pairings that complement the provenance and natural ingredients of the craft cocktails and the tablescape or cocktail composition presentations -- a kind of genius loci or "spirit of the place."
It’s all about honoring quality ingredients and the presentation to add that special, finishing touch.

While my Finishing Touches book (FT) is chock full of history - kneeling at the bar of classic drinks and their garnishes, it also presents a new lifestyle approach that aims to bring cocktails to the next level.  It was a perfect coupling -- that Dave has an eye for strategic and creative alliances.
The book's theme played footsie or “romanced” the InHouse and sponsor Wood-Mode’s brand attributes of quality ingredients, bespoke craftsmanship, and stunning, glamorous beauty.

Leading up to the WNWN event and the InHouse cocktail party the InHouse team along with Toni and me, highlighted those shared value attributes in the talking points and presentation.
And so too with the food pairings made with artisanal ingredients.

Our rehearsal on the Tuesday prior to Thursday’s WNWN event was missing Toni because she was detained with family in Florida by that wench, Irma. While we did a bit of Facetime, covering key points together with the help of Dave, Mary, and Leah, who was managing changes to our Powerpoint presentation, it was nevertheless a test of our resilience.

We triumphed!

I think our brief, animated Finishing Touches talk (here for full presentation) captured the essence of the tie in and crossover elements including the art of composition, handcrafted ingredients, and creating a display that evokes personality and elegance.

Here, me, Toni, and Dave are running through our paces one last time before our guests arrive and Dave kicked off the event with a finishing touch welcome and a timely joke…

With the help of Mary:

The images in my part of the talk highlighted how I created the cocktails and and came up with the food pairings and entertaining compositions to draw your eye - and your guests -- to a very happy hour!
I also included some tasty anecdotes and tall tales about classic garnishes and drinks.

To mark our Finishing Touches cocktail party, I chose two drinks from the book for their appropriateness to the event and to the season - and the ease of use to make.
Heart of Gold is a very glamorous cocktail with its gold-flaked, cinnamon-flavored liqueur (I was channelling autumn), artisanal ginger beer, cherry bitters

and a garnish of candied ginger affixed to the glass with a jewelry pin!

Sweater Weather is a Jessica Wohlers drink creation --- perfect for the season and so fitting for the sponsor and their cabinets! For the event, I created a custom garnish of knitting needles and colorful stitch holders!

The food pairings were plated on recyclable gold plates; cocktail napkins were monographed in gold lettering.
Food companions for Heart of Gold was inspired by my travels to Germany while attending school in Switzerland and informed by the cocktail’s Alpine liquor.

So pretzels and comfort-food Pigs-in-a-Blanket very much work. For the event, InHouse went top shelf, of course, and secured Martins Pretzels. These handmade pretzels fit perfectly into the quality ingredients we were showcasing at the Finishing Touches event. Plus the pretzels are my husband’s favorite for the same reasons…

The pigs in a blanket were Brooklyn’s Piggies --

artisanal pork or chicken ingredients wrapped in a flaky puff pastry!   Here, Jason is mixing up Heart of Gold for our guests.

The food pairing from the FT book for Sweater Weather is Figs garnished with goat cheese, walnuts, sea salt, basil, and balsamic vinegar, and honey.

All this attention to ingredients and details allowed Toni to expertly segue to Wood-Mode and Brookhaven:

“As you sip your Heart of Gold cocktail think of the kitchen as the heart of your home and illumination as the heart of your Wood-Mode cabinetry. Both the Wood-Mode and Brookhaven lines are now available with factory preparation for LED light strips in cabinet interiors. Think of the possibilities for lighting display cabinets, wardrobes and baths as well as your kitchen. We all want to create spaces with personality and the lighting options shown here are examples of how you can highlight some of those favored pieces, whether silver, china and glassware, art objects or cigars! Wood-Mode has also elevated under cabinet lighting to a new level with independent bottom panels to create a seamless look spanning multiple cabinets. This adjustable kelvin LED lighting option can create bright targeted illumination or simply give your cabinetry a golden glow. The option for factory lighting preparation adds a new layer of luxury to the wood mode line. As designers, we know that that the right lighting is everything! Even the pots, pans and coffee pods look fantastic with the right lighting.
Sweater Weather lent its charm to Wood-Mode and Toni’s talk this way:

“Sweater Weather” seems like a great time to talk about Wood-Mode's wardrobe cabinetry. As designers, we all that know that custom home design requires special attention to the closet. Deep drawers with full extension undermount slides can hold sweaters galore and custom jewelry compartments or tie racks are sure to keep all those accessories that make the outfit organized. Shown on this slide is Wood-Mode's new illuminated pole offering to illuminate those favorite sweaters. I invite you to look around the corner at In House’s custom closet display featuring side mounted LED light strips, some luscious fabrics and great organizational features sure to please in any weather. An inventory of your wardrobe and your personal garnishes, scarves, jewelry, accessories, along with a meeting with your InHouse design consultant is all you need to create that dream closet.
Finishing Touches celebrates the art of garnishing the cocktail and the art of hosting a cocktail party -- for one or 50 -- by seducing all the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste… And as I reminded the guests -- nearly 200 of them -- “There’s no doggie-bag for a cocktail!” You have to be in the moment -- enjoying the look and ingredients -- and fun -- of the party!

Toni added:

Like the garnish makes the cocktail, Wood-Mode adds “Finishing Touches” to every main ingredient of their manufacturing recipe. Over 1000 touches, actually, from the hand selection of the boards to artisanal glazing to readying the product for delivery to your site. These hands on finishing touches happen in the factory in Kreamer, Pennsylvania, where folks like Mike and Roger handcraft each piece. Each dovetail is actually hand sanded! The rich layered glazes are also hand produced with limited variation to give you a “Finishing Touch” sure to please even the pickiest of clients. Hand buffed High Gloss is an exceptional look for those looking for the next generation of modern shapes and clean lines and then there is the rustic beauty of natural wood that works so well to create an elevated industrial look. Wood-Mode has a vast capability. Any paint color, custom finish, size or shape can be built for you, giving you the ability to be creative and the assurance of exceptional quality control.

I learned from the New York Design Center (NYDC) recent email that this year’s event was a “Record-breaking event -- with more than 7,500 guests who attended the best in design” celebration. The NYDC noted there “more than 52 designer celebrations, presentations, and panels - including ours -- 22 Meet and Greets, with the industry’s top names, editors, manufacturers (who) helped to make the 2017 WNWN the most exciting ever.”

Indeed, the day was truly exciting. And our event was a classy, swanky, fun, and delicious Finishing Touches cocktail party.

I was so happy my husband Bill was able to be there… And I was also overjoyed to see friends - some came all the way from the Garden State. Tom Sebazco - a contributing mixologist and artist took the time to attend - and walk all 15 flights up to the InHouse showroom because the elevators were all jam-packed!

Me and botanical artist, Jean Galle

                  Me and interior designer, Felicia Grant.

And new friends:

Briauna Gardner, Junior Designer at Lux Pad Interiors.

Thank you, Jason - extraordinary mixologist and photographer.

Then, there was the incomparable artist, Bek Millhouse - who creates graphic art -- she did the icons for the book in production now, Eat with Your Eyes First, Artful Entertaining with Verrine Recipes, (You can Like us on Faceback-  and help provide feedback, please).  Bek also paints - she does watercolors - (I own a Bek watercolor of an Ecuadorian scene ) -- she does pencil art - check out her pet portraits -  and she is a photographer - to name a few of her talents. Besides being so much fun to be with.

Bek took the photos of me and Toni at The New York Botanical Garden for the WNWN poster -- and came to the Finishing Touches cocktail party and took these wonderful photos. Enjoy the photo album she shared with us. Abrazos, Bek.

This could be my favorite photo - I love how Bek set up this shot in the InHouse kitchen with Finishing Touches and food pairings.

Bek photographing Toni the kitchen designer in her element. Me and my gal, Bek, the artist.

Me and Jennifer Calais Smith, one of the photographers from my first book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook. And I can see Bill and Toni in the InHouse kitchen beyond us!

Hello, Jennifer! (Plus I love my finishing touches hair piece from Avigail Adam )

Me and Jessica

Leah and me.

Jessica expertly working her Sweater Weather look - and cocktail!

                        Toni and me

Me and Toni       -- Love this woman and her talent!

We have so much fun working, designing, and traveling and eating and drinking together!

And some of my action shots taken at the post party. No one wanted to leave!
James Franco doppelganger, Lucas and girlfriend/fiance, Mary. What a dynamic couple! (I remarked that they are so perfect - they look like the couple images that come with a store-bought frame!)


Toni, Dave and guest

Thank you, InHouse and Wood-Mode. Cheers to more Finishing Touches!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Finishing Touches Cocktails & Design at “What’s New, What’s Next” Annual New York Design Center 9/14!


Please join me at In House Kitchen, Bath and Home for a very special presentation.

Acclaimed interior designer, Toni Sabatino and I will present a Wood-Mode sponsored glamorous cocktail party!
While sipping two special cocktails from my book, Finishing Touches and the Art of Garnishing the Cocktail, and nibbling on lots of special food pairings from the book - learn how design, ingredients, tablescapes, and creativiy come together for a Finishing Touches lifestyle.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

See You at NYDC "What's New, What's Next" Finishing Touches Design Presentation at In House

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Garden To Glass Couture Cocktail from Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail - Homage to Hacienda Cusin Hummingbirds 

Next week, the glitterati from the worlds of design will gather for the annual “What’s New, What’s Next” event to kick off the fall design season at the New York Design Center (NYDC.)

I’ve attended this decor limned gathering to learn and report on the many showroom brand introductions, talks, and the inspired, creative juggernaut of materials and products, as well as design concepts and trends.

So you can imagine how thrilled I am this year to be co-hosting an event at the In House Kitchen, Bath, Home showroom!

I’m over the moon to work with the creative forces that make up the In House team of Dave, Leah, and Mary and to share top billing with the extraordinary interior design talent of Toni Sabatino - who recently launched her own Retro Collection line of vanities to great success with the Italian design brand, Baden Haus.

In House’s Dave Burcher told me he’d been waiting for my book, Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail to work together again. (We collaborated on the Food of the Future NKBA talk, where I was honored to be a featured speaker).

I am honored to work with this extraordinary team again -- everything they do is top-drawer (had to go for the pun -- In House showcases closets, drawers and cabinets!), quality, and well, just so artful and glamorous.

With those qualities in mind, I choose two cocktails and their food pairings that I think are especially suited to the design motif:
  • Heart of Gold

  • And Sweater Weather cocktail, created by mixologist Jessica Wohlers.

We’re having lots of synergistic fun tying in the twin themes of ingredients, design, and finishing touches embellishments!

I look forward to seeing you September 14, at In House. Thank you In House and Wood-Mode.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Summer Garden Projects - How to Create & Manage an Exterior Design Project


Now that we’ve witnessed the majesty of the total solar eclipse - we turn our eyes back to the glory of our terroir - our land - our gardens.

No special glasses needed.

Every summer I tackle a home-based garden room project or hardscape design that time and budget allow.

This year, there must’ve been something in the air - and I mean more than those ions swirling - pre-eclipse. Because most of my clients also had some major projects in the queue.

For the month of July especially, we were happily overscheduled; Designing, presenting, installing.

For sheer beauty, for best horticultural practices, and to solve a problem or correct a space flaw. Good garden design offers the single best makeover for a better lifestyle. I just love when my clients text and email me how much they are enjoying their new garden(s) -- how they feel they are in a splendid vacation locale! Nothing beats garden love.

Here then are a few snapshots of garden makeovers -- from concept to completion. I love those HGTV Shows that take the viewer from Yikes to Yesssss! So without too much text -- Pictures are worth a thousand words -- let’s get going with the magic of technology.

Project 1 
Challenge: New patio. Hardscape needs, plus garden beds to soften the look. Careful to not limit egress with garden beds. And produce a new garden under the windows looking out to view and pool.

Before-ish image of patio. Already, the top deck has been removed here. A blank slate.

Here is the interim -- arches are in, stucco going on.

I pick up from here with garden design - here are the before and afters.

This is the artist Jean Galle's rendering that was part of the client presentation. My garden design drawings spring to life with Jean's talent -- allowing the client to readily see the change and design.

Here, the design was to create a series of Pillar Potting Beds

* Five, 3 different sized beds - allowing for egress, conform to pillar and arch metrics and location

* Drainage to channel drain

* Center bed 30 x 24 x 8

* 2 side beds - 30 x 16 x 8 - flush w pillars

* 2 corner beds - angled

Here and below - you see how we laid out the Pillar Planters for size & scale

This is the actual first planting in the new Pillar Planter Beds!

So exciting -- getting there!

Next up was the mason -- our wonderful Irish national mason, Aiden. I had them put in a sleeve for the irrigation hook up later, along with drains in the side window border garden. I asked previous mason, a great Mexican American, who also worked at our home, to put in drainage from the Pillar Planters out to the french drain in the lawn, some distance away. Grading and drainage is key here. The gardens front the bay and the view of the Manhattan skyline beyond. 
Sandy beat up this area rather badly…  Recovery continues in stages...

Window Garden

I wanted to design a 4-season garden that can be enjoyed as a winter garden and not block the view during the summer or warm-weather season. There should also be a plant show element - using perennials for not only low maintainance (even though the Duchess team does the horticultural fine gardening work we need to create a garden bed that doesn’t require fussy care.)  That show part is garden entertainment -- something always in bloom -- lots of color and texture. Good bones.

This is the before. The pavers were removed to allow a garden bed. And like the High Line, not a deep garden bed.

This is the artist's rendering of mixed border to-be:

With the client’s approval - we got to work.

I went with Aiden the mason, to choose the border pavers. I wanted a textured top; nothing too expensive as the plants will swoon over the tops. The gray color will match the pool pavers that will be installed next year -- so thinking ahead.

Needed to take out the weeds and the “dirty” soil that was er, dumped in, following all the construction work. Duchess team put in topsoil blended with horse manure for a rich, bedding environment to welcome the new plants.

Exciting first shot of the new, English Garden bed!

As part of the Garden Design Presentation, offered a number of choices: edible, single plant or mixed border.

Boxwood provides good bones and evergreen look. Together, we decided a mixed border would offer the most bang and joy.

I also wanted plants that provided a pretty look from inside the kitchen windows -- almost a flat top looking down perspective.

Here’s the varied plant list that punched up the color and look and feel of the transitioning outdoor design.

Plant List:

  • Lavender ‘Hidcote Blue’ 12” x 12” summer
  • Salvia ‘Marcus’ 8” purple
  • Aster ‘Happy End’ 3” Pink autumn
  • Achillea ‘Love Parade’ June - Sept. 18-23”
  • Toad Lily Tricyrtis - 30” h x 12” w
  • Gaura- ‘Stratosphere Pink Picotee’ 18-24” May - September
  • Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’ 12-18”
  • Eupatorium ‘Baby Joe’ 2-3’ purple - Autumn - I had to get this -- not only do I love it -- I have the big Joe in my border garden -- but the client’s name is Joe!
  • Hydrangea serrata ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’ 18-24” x 18” blue to pink - Love this size and color - even in the winter.
  • Delphinium grandiflorum ‘Summer Blues’ 10-12” spring to summer
  • Baptisia ‘Screaming Yellow’ - 2-3’ x 2’ spring/ early summer -- We planted these in the blueberry garden bed for texture and color contrast (love blue and yellow - so French).
  • Liatris ‘Kobold’ 2’ x 12-15”

Everyone was thrilled with the results. 
I just love when the client clasps their chest and repeats, “Oh my gosh. Oh my god!” Over and over. And then takes the time to text how beautiful it all looks and how the family is enjoying. 
Such garden glamour...

Good garden design is hardscape, grading and drainage planning, careful selection of plants -- all with a recognition of lifestyle and personalities.

This is the start of a change in the use and look of the outdoor space. More summer projects to report on.
What projects have you taken on this season?

If you want to make a change in your garden design -- after all, lifestyle changes occur so outdoor needs can grow from a child’s play area with lots of turf to one that boasts more of an outdoor living area with kitchen, sitting areas, and healthy edible gardens.

Tips for creating a garden room

Planting gardens and hardscape construction both require a professional. Whether you ultimately end up with a DIY project, it’s best to get a seasoned pro to offer ideas and design concepts and a suggested budget estimate. Yes, that will cost money - just like you pay an architect or an attorney or other professional for their talent; but at the same time you will benefit in terms of time and budget by bringing in outside counsel.

From there, you can retain the garden designer as a garden coach - helping lead you through the process but with you doing most of the work and labor involved in researching hardscapes and plant choices, shopping the nurseries and quarries, securing soil, mulch, pavers and more for the bones of the landscape space.

Did I mention irrigation and lighting?

And finally there is the installation of the plant material - by season, height, color, texture -- to garner maximum benefit. Knowing plant companions and interactions is knowledge accrued from experience and learning. I myself attend as many lectures and garden tours with horticulturists as my schedule allows. I bring that knowledge to my clients’ projects.

If you choose to have your garden designer carry through the project to completion, you can rely on their design and build expertise -- and follow up for the fine gardening maintenance that will need to be provided. Gardens are dynamic. They require care - even if low maintenance plants are selected. After all, they are living things! And there’s no denying it -- Gardens are an investment. Gardens and good landscape design (vs. “mow, blow, & go” lawn care) add to the value of a home with estimates ranging from a ten to 25% boost to a home’s cost.

And the intrinsic value is well -- priceless...

What luxury and enduring garden glamour….