Saturday, March 31, 2012

Architectural Digest Home Design Show Recap

While the phalanx of decorators, designers, artisans, chefs, color experts, garden decorators and gurus have flitted off to the next stop on the Spring schedule, there is much to “digest” from the this year’s 2012 Architectural Digest Home Show with its range of art, fabrics, outdoor products and home furnishings.

Held at the Pier 94 Event Space perched on the Hudson River  - it is an ideal space for the show: in town, yet basking in scenic water views on one side and fronted with the majestic Gotham skyline as seen from an artist’s distance and perspective. 
The fact that Mother Nature graced the four-day event with picture-postcard sunshine only added to the serendipity of the annual gathering.

This idyll George Gershwin image of New York was only pierced by my over-subscribed schedule and my race uptown in a cab to catch the “Evolving Kitchen” talk, sponsored by La Cornue.

The AD Home Show was open on Thursday to the trade and I was so looking forward to the early-bird preview into what’s trending, what new vendors and classic vendors had to say for themselves after a rather tumultuous year.
See, I had my usual Thursday post-dawn class at the health club and figured upon return I’d do a quick blog story post and be coolly and appropriately well appointed and stylish for a day at a style show.

Life has other ideas.  And it can be particularly humbling. 

Plan B:
Scoot up for the talk and then back home for the shower and kitchen conference

It was so good, followed by a lunch at the La Cornue pavilion courtesy of acclaimed trendsetting chef, Jonathan Waxman.

Plan C:

This show was far too compelling to leave! 
It was nearly 4 pm – and after the keynote address by Architectural Digest Editor in Chief, Margaret Russell before I realized it was pointless to head back downtown before meeting my husband at the show.

Thursday was the Trade Seminars and I was understandably keen to learn from each presentation.

First up was “The Evolving Kitchen” sponsored by La Cornue.
The panel was comprised of legendary chef Jonathan Waxman—a pioneer of using fresh, local ingredients and successful restaurant owner, Barbuto, Jams, and Top Chef Master, along with panelists Anne Purcilli, La Cornue, and kitchen designer Karen Williams. 
The talk was lively and inspired.
Thoughts and prognostications included: 
·      No doors on kitchen cabinets – “Let’s just see what’s available and ready to use in the kitchen for cooking
·       Heaven’s no!  Must have doors on the cabinets – “Not everyone is so tidy!”
·      Future is electronic cookbooks – “Cookbooks are too hard to use in the kitchen. Will have virtual cookbooks (yeah for me -- as I took video for my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook
·      Rotisserie is must-have kitchen tool
·      Summary:  homeowners have to do their individual or unique kitchen – one size or trend does not fit all

Lunch at the La Cornue pavilion was a delicious mix of foods and wine, with everything presented in the handsomely appointed home kitchen display. 
The backsplash was spectacularly intriguing: it was a beveled mirror-like texturing that I’ve only seen done in stone.

Kudos.  Chef. Jonathan was as gracious and fun as if it was indeed he was hosting his own kitchen soiree. And I guess he was.

He posed for pictures, interviews, and was chatting it up with me.  Thank you.

Fueled by the delicious food and the trade-only access I scooted to check out the show highlights.
I Tweeted news from my @gardenglamour Twitter. I do have the @chefsgardens Twitter too)

My highlights listed here first, followed by AD’s recommendations, of which I didn’t see until after the show, so the two lists make for a curious balance.

My Favorites and Recommendations and in no particular order except for Italian Terrace pottery. 
Louise Drayton, the English beauty & talent behind the Italian Terrace Pots
As a garden designer, I was beguiled and impressed by Louise Drayton, the British based designer and her 15-year old, 12-time Chelsea Flower Show award-winning company, who was showing for the first time – formally-- at the AD Show.   

Garden and Outdoor Discoveries
Italian Terrace pots -- This is a real find and what one hopes to discover at a design show.   The pots and planters are a glamorous, rich and creamy, dreamy-looking terracotta designed and made by – drum roll please – a gardener!  
Not unlike my design for the Garden Pendant Collection where the water reservoir was critical to the overall design because it was so critical to the health of the plant.
Louise Drayton the founder, artist and plantswoman who hails from Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk England (more on the Bury in Bloom contest in a later post – but suffice to say, I just realized what a small world it really is.)
Elizabeth made it a key design principle to produce pots that can endure a colder climate and allow for drainage and optimum soil and planting.  It didn’t hurt either that Elizabeth’s husband is a farmer – and a musician.

Why is this important and so different from other pretty pots? 
Other pot makers are not gardeners. They may have come to the business after admiring Italian or Aegean relics and saw a business opportunity.
For me and my clients, we’ve enjoyed various stages of success using high-end terracotta, as well as high-end resin pots.  Both elements can be beautiful.
However, the terracotta is made for a warm – i.e. Italian or Mediterranean climate.  Frost, and cold winters (usually the norm, this year notwithstanding) will contribute to cracking.  This is difficult with big pots that need to be moved. 
Especially so if the recent economic crash left you two servants short of a gardening clutch.
If you have a surfeit of servants to move the pots to the Orangerie for the winter, no worries. For the rest of us, we are pot out of luck.

And further, both materials require drilling into the pot that can lead to weakening of the structural integrity of the pot as time goes on.

The Italian Terrace pots come with instructions. Not because they are difficult to use. No, but rather because the makers are thoughtful. And nice to the stewards of their designs – and the plants that will call the pots home.  A quick reference guide aka Advice and so labeled, is brimming with tips and terms from how to choose pot feet, why oil jars don’t work for planting unless you employ the pot-in-a-pot method, cleaning, weathering, a suggested list of decorating toppings and root and box pruning.  It is recommended to clip the box on Derby Day! The Derby Stakes take place early June for all you non-Brits  :) 
There are four easy steps to happy plants.  I love lining the pots with fabric liner. So smart.
And they even recommend planting snail favorites like hosta with eggshells or garlic or cloves – which the critters hate.

The beauty of these pots cannot be overstated.  I found them light and creamy and very elegant.  
I learned the dreamy look is due to the fine Italian clay the makers use, a secret recipe, along with the hand finish rather than the “harsh bitter-red” of the machine produced pots.  “The Italians have forgotten how to make terracotta pots,” claims Elizabeth.

Getting the booth set up. The beauty of the Pots!
I can see the Italian Terrace pots gracing garden rooms from traditional to mid-century looks.  There is a complete product collection including oil jars, vases, statuary, plaques, Etc., and Bespoke.  

I was imbued with the spirit of this garden and plant-focused designer and her team.
Her garden art is unique because of its handcrafted beauty; the pots are carefully designed and made for the plants. This is utility with beauty.  and email is:  There is a US-based contact in Connecticut: Liz, who was a customer five years ago before encouraging Louise to set up a company.

The Padma Outdoor Collection showed very handsome and creative designs. Their Inside/Out collection works for me for mid priced good-looking quality furniture.  “Uncommon luxury and design."  

The double chaise lounge with sun cabana looked romantic and seemed to crook its come hither wink at me.  I complied and sidled up to get a better view.
Skyline Design represents a few manufacturers – rather a hub of good outdoor furniture collections.  Just got a follow up email from them.

The copper outdoor Japanese soaking tub from Diamond Spas literally took my breath away as I come upon it after turning a corner at the end of the aisle.

It is rich looking. Natural looking, embracing the elements.  All the Diamond Spas products are hand made in Colorado including stainless steel, copper and bronze spas, swim spas, swimming pools, cold plunge pools and water features.  My outdoor room garden designs will surely be enhanced with these unique products.  Available in a variety of sizes; with jets or without, built into the side of a terrace, a garden space or outdoor room, this is magic.  800-951-SPAS 

SeaOtter WoodWorks, Inc.  – A new design concept, the Japanese soaking tubs use Hinoki wood.  Hinoki is a cypress conifer, if you don’t know – you might have it in your yard.  It smells lovely – and in fact, the woman at the booth waved a handful under our noses and a pack of Hinoki shavings are in the press kit, along with light and dark wood swatch samples.  These tubs are hand-crafted in Alaska and are very intriguing looking.  While the company is new, the designs look solid and when asked if the wood develops a patina or changes color over time, they allowed they weren’t 100% sure but believed it would age slightly and nicely but not change.  The soaking tubs are available in a few styles and sizes and are, in fact, the real deal.  The tubs fired my imagination to design romantic outdoor garden rooms that are both aesthetic and transporting. and


Royal Botania – showed Kokoon, a free-standing, Moroccan-looking hammock for two (or more!) with privacy sheer drapes that looked perfect for canoodling in.  When I suggested they call it the Canoodle Kokoon – they eagerly asked if they could use that line.  Sure thing.

Kokoon - perfect for Canoodling

The Belgian-based Royal Botania offers Kokoon’s garden furniture plus high design, luxury patio, outdoor furniture, and lighting with that European aesthetic   

Oh, and part of their show promotion was to have you sit in their Surf hammock and have your picture taken by their photographer who posts all on their Facebook page.  Reluctant at first to have my photo taken due to the no-shower/lack of beauty preparedness – but then thought – what the heck, the photographer looked lonely on this trade only day – so I carefully scooted in –this is one big hammock -- to a laid back position before doing the semi Lotus yoga pose.  I have to go to Facebook and ID me and Like it or me – as part of the Modenus Photo Find contest.    

Kalamazoo – the outdoor kitchen company continues to set the pace and raise the bar. This year, they featured a hybrid grill that allows the home BBQ to have it all: gas, charcoal and wood.  You can cook with one or all – at the same time.
They “personalized” the cooking, according to company president, Pete Georgiadis, who showed me how you can cook fish, meat and vegetables simultaneously even though each requires a different kind of cooking surface.  Now you have it. There is a new hibachi-like surface so no more slipping between the grill like too many burnt marshmallows.  

Characterizing the benefits of the Tuscan pizza oven, Georgiadis said, “You don’t need a vacation…” I thought he meant because the Kalamazoo set up in your backyard wipes out the need to go anywhere.  I was wrong. He meant that while most pizza ovens take three to five hours to heat to a true, commercial grade temperature, the Kalamazoo requires only 20 minutes to get that pepperoni and perfect crust good-to-go!
He also claims they are the only outdoor kitchen manufacturer to offer a freezer and more beer taps.

This is a resort…   

Tucker Robbins – a designer whose works of art seem to whisper forests and far-flung mysterious pockets of rain forests and waterfalls merely by looking at them.
Designer Tucker Robbins

In fact, not one to bite the hand that feeds him, Robbins told me he was the founding member of the sustainable furnishing council.  Sweet and whimsical are his chairs best described as ring-around-the-rosy or maybe as a group hug. 

Platinum Porcelain Bangle and Ebonized Bangle table are eye-catching graphics as are the Pierced Cubs and The Modernist Dining Table.  and


NanaWall – I love this open to the garden “inside/outside” design.  The folding glass walls make you feel like a powerful stagehand, or the hand of god opening the way to nature.  Not inexpensive – about 1K per foot, but also very efficient and effective and sustainable with its “thermal performance.”  There is no substitute and this look can yield years of unending joy. 800-873-5673  

Boca Do Lobo – Scandalously, sexy mirror.  The Venice is noted as a work of art reflecting “light and the world around us.”  Had to Tweet this arresting statement from the show floor. The SoHo collection of sideboards feature different finishes from glass to wood veneer and lacquer color to mirror.
They also offer a twist on a chest of drawers.

David Stine Wood art

David Stine Woodworking – David presented a variety of one of a kind furniture all hand-made by him.  This man loves wood. Nails? Not so much! 

Strawser & Smith Inc – They claim their ethos is simple:  older is better. Here the Brooklyn-based craftsmen repurpose “remnants” and “combine contemporary and roughhewn shapes” to make some very cool picture using antique or vintage relic designs.

Bevolo Lighting – exquisite handmade lanterns from one of my most favorite cities, New Orleans.  The hand forged wrought iron “mimic historic styling” are evocative, beautiful and special as the Big Easy. Bevolo makes gas lamps too.  Don’t miss these amazing lighting art designs  

Shiplights – Residential and commercial interior and exterior lighting designed by a young woman, Alicia Dermoday from Marblehead, Massachusetts, who picked up where her parents’ antique lighting left off. I enjoyed a lovely conversation with her proud mother!   I like that someone can still start a business and compete with the big guys in a design industry. Often inspired by a ship or boat’s lighting, the lighting designs are at the same time contemporary, industrial and romantic, given their provenance.  There is no crafty boat theme here, just good design.,

Compass Ironworks – “elegance & integrity in wrought iron” is on their card. But it’s true.  Made by Amish craftsmen, these balconies, railings and specialty items resonate with dignity and enduring design.  I did attempt to take Amos’ photo for the blog, and he kept moving further out of the picture. Afterwards I asked him about this and he said the Amish think of a photo as a sign of narcissism – they think an image of themselves focuses too much attention on them.  Take that Kardashians!  But the ironworks themselves are very photo-worthy and a Pinterest all their own.  717-442-4544 (Gap, PA)  Just got a follow up email from them.  

Haiku – Billed as “performance art,” the indoor and outdoor ceiling fans are designed by engineers resulting in a sleek, streamlined look using their patent pending Thin Sheet airfoils – they don’t refer to them as blades.  The natural-looking Energy Star ceiling fan is a thin lightweight aerodynamic profile made of sustainable Moso bamboo, cut and hand-sanded in three finishes: Coco Bamboo, Black and White Matrix Composite.

The remote uses infrared signals to activate the control settings.
Unique company claims it is the quietest fan in the world.  Shhhh.  

Nasiri:  A collection of expressive designs and colors using an ancient technique of flat weaves, that are hand carded using naturally dyed wool.

Qmotion by DFB has a new line of battery operated solar shades. No electrician work required. Pricey but a good idea.

BDDW Handmade American furniture

Caba Company – hand-pounded (ouch!) Barskin is organic, wool, fibrous texture and interest to walls, furniture and lampshades, giving it the look of stone, parchment or leather. They company says it’s easy to apply. The Crazy Lace Collection is crazy good.

Koket – with a tag line of  “Love Happens” it’s easy to see why I could fall hard for this look… Heck, I was smitten with their postcard. There is lots of sexy, romantic references with this company and their line of jewelry er, furniture for the home.  The Prive Day Bed was described as “not exactly flirtatious, certainly not sweet… guarantees sensuous drama”  Wow. Be still my heart. And pass the cigarette! The design is a jewel – with flora inspired adornments, “a delicate branch-like base, stunning bronze & crystal jeweled bolsters.” or  Careful – they offer a Guilty Pleasures Collection.

Farrow & Ball – I love everything about this company. Their flawless attention to color and craft and details and ingredients puts them at the head of their genre.  As we are going through a home renovation, I can only wonder why every painter we interviewed did not include as part of their color palette offerings automatically.  There is nuance and brilliance in their collections. Their tag line reads “Craftsmen in paint and paper.” They inspire.   

Barbara Kaslow Designs – the designer introduced a line of hand-decorated lampshades with prints inspired from influences such as Persian motifs, Audubon prints and British mods.”  Pretty florals look like botanical prints. or

Beck to Nature – an eco-friendly, family owned company that makes designed furniture with sustainable materials.

Siebert & Rice garden collection is classic

Pennoyer & Newman resign planters are gorgeous & the best customer service for  custom orders

AndreaAmoretti - two brothers from Mexico make stunning, handmade pieces of copper art: lacy and like a mantilla too.  Beautiful, artisanal and classical.  And they have a NYC showroom.  Serendipity...  or

The Made in America panel discussion looked promising.  It was a let down.
While it was hosted by my favorite radio personality, WNYC’s Leonard Lopate, a locavore food lover too, and a vote shy of the McArthur Genius Award in my humble opinion, he couldn’t seem to extract a compelling dialogue among the panelists.
Perhaps the choice of an arts dealer, and a trio of designers: jewelry, furniture and auto was either too disparate or eclectic but the talk never really got any traction to resonate with the audience.
And it did seem slightly ironic that the one panelist with the most to say about Made in America was the Chinese national – a former harpist – who is now head of worldwide design for Lincoln Ford autos. 

To be fair, there was talk about hand-crafting versus mass production but that’s not new.  The biggest take away seemed to be that Americans are now embracing hand-crafted designs much like foodies have embraced the locavore movement or hand-made clothes and rediscovering talents.
Cited were the increase success of web site  and a pride in local designs versus the crafty, Christmas bazaar looking items of the 70’s.  “Craft is Cool” was said and the next thought was posited about the bad, post WWII designs were mentioned. Didn’t we move past that long ago, though??
And isn’t mid-century the hottest design look out there in no small part to the success of TV’s hot show, “Mad Men?”  If we haven’t seen a new look since the middle of the last century then design is in need of more inspiration…

And don’t true design aficionados seek out artisanal and bespoke items that resonate with them? 
A worthy thought circulated was how about designed and made here – in America…
In general though it all seemed a bit too banal…

The Lincoln Auto Pavilion was a gas – pun intended.   

The MKZ concept car was shown here even before the Auto Show.
It is indeed a designed thoroughbred that is in keeping with Detroit’s heyday.
The color is described as Bourbon and, sure enough, on nearby pedestals was a glass of champagne, a snifter of bourbon and a computer display with an aerodynamic manta ray: all elements that went into inspiring the Lincoln’s look. 

Excitement at the show for Lincoln & the designer

And in case you hadn’t gotten the message about the car’s homage to design – the pavilion was tricked out with pretty cool were the architect’s tables set up with clay and sculpting tools.  Show goers were encouraged to sculpt a “perfect” car in the design space. I asked one woman if it was her perfect car and she said it’s my dream car… Nice.

Later in the day, Lincoln offered some truly great swag:  set of six champagne glasses!

Highlights as recommended by AD:
·      What’s Cooking in the Kitchen – highlighted La Cornue and Liebherr. Check and Check.
·      Making a Splash in the Bath – highlighted Diamond Spas and See Otter Woodworks. Check and Check.
·      Made in the USA
·      Around the World – highlighted Nasiri Carpets. Check
·      Sustainable Standouts – highlighted NanaWall Systems and Beck to Nature. Check, Check.

DIFFA Dining by Design Press Tour

Ably led by award-winning interior designer, Dwayne Clark, ( who was asked to provide the docent-like tour of the press only tables scapes just 20 minutes earlier.
He was terrific – and bore more than a passing, uncanny resemblance to Carrie’s boy friend from Sex in the City!  

The 45 tablescapes were tableaus of art.  Each design told a story. The designers used materials from flowers to gems to fabric and odd pieces, combined in a way that was part Disney, part dream, part fantasy, part dining room.
The room was in fact, used, for the awards.
The entire space was dimly lit, showing off the otherworldly quality.

The press tour made its way around starting with the student entries “Where we all start – in design school,” noted Clark with fabulous creations from NYU, FIT, and Pratt,

through to some wowsy spotlights that included were the Ralph Lauren – who was honored at the show. He used lots of wood in the dining look nook.

Swarovski cherry blossom crystal chandeliers  ( – yes there were two heartbreakingly beautiful gems
in the Aqua Creations dining room where moving, video art – this was “bioluminescence” undersea water scenes by Marie Aiello Design Studio, was displayed on the dining walls for the first time. 

Marimekko was bright as Crayola crayons and groovy in a modern way.

Ethan Allen
La Crema
Ethan Allen had a nice, studied design.  La Crema had a sleek kitchen table. 

Clark described the effort and the finished works here in terms of their “sense of risk.”
The results were all rather magical and creatively inspiring. There wasn’t one table scape that you couldn’t learn something from. 
At the Liebherr appliance sponsored, vineyard inspired tablescape we were lucky to have the designer on site who enthusiastically described her ideas for the inspired, yet practical outdoor dining room.  “I wanted to create a place you actually wanted to have dinner in,” said the gorgeous in her red-hot dress, effervescent designer, Libby Langdon.

The wine bottle chandelier was whimsical and the look was luxurious without being pretentious. and

We could readily see why Clark won for his dreamy tablescape.  He explained it all started with the woman’s bust that he found in Alabama, Lucite chairs and mirrored table under an extraordinary cloud-like chandelier.  Clark shared with us that earlier in the day a woman had seen the display and promptly fell in love, and ordered that chandelier – with its $50K selling price!  

Keynote by Margaret Russell, Architectural Digest’s Editor in Chief
It was SRO for this talk – mainly about photography. Billed as “In Focus: Trends in Interiors Photography”

It was all about how to prepare projects for photo shoots and to promote designers work in print and online.  I found it a most curious topic for a keynote. I would have preferred Russell to use her preferred perch and perform a bit of prognostication – especially as this is her first show in the editor in chief position. This talk was more of a how-to/hands-on lesson – something I’d expect from a staff editor.
I was hoping for some big picture point of view and trends analysis and overview for a designed world.
But instead, there was lots of how to promote designer's work, copy right, lighting and dire warnings about Pinterest.  Seriously?    
You can put the genie back in the bottle on this one – and I love Pinterest and so do millions of others. I believe it’s fastest growing social network and of course appeals to the visually-inspired design enthusiasts.
I expected better from AD. Don’t stick your head in the sand…

One last note from the show.
Because I had planned to go up for the one lecture and then home again to get ready properly – but then didn’t -- due to the overwhelming interest of the show – I didn’t have my iPhone adapter with me.
And all the Tweeting from my @gardenglamour plus picture taking etc., left me with almost no power.
And no real help in the press room!  What was I to do? 
There is a goddess – and she appeared in the press room as Jan Parr, Editor of Chicago Home + Garden. She allowed me to use her adapter while she wrote her blog post and took in a bit of the extraordinary unseasonably warm weather. 
Don’t miss her smart coverage:
Thank you so much, Jan!

Designers and writers are artists – and the people this year couldn’t have been nicer.
Smooooch xoxoxx!

And speaking of designers, I was thrilled to run into John Danzer, Exterior Decorator.
I interviewed John for the Garden Glamour blog the previous night – before we headed over to the NY School of Interior Design (NYSID) for the Wave Hill landscape design lecture, where as it happened, not surprisingly, many of the brilliant landscape designs from Thomas Wolf featured Danzer’s work. 
Danzer will be featured in an upcoming blog feature here.  Stay tuned.

Isn’t it a glamorous, artful, designed world?