Monday, March 28, 2016

How To Design a Garden & Nature-Inspired Spring Tablescape with Marchesa by Lenox Collection

Spring tablescape design featuring Marchesa "Sapphire Plume" Collection for Lenox 

Happy Easter / Happy Spring. It was a happy holiday weekend filled with the promise of the season: beginnings. It was indeed also a first of a very special kind -- the first of an inspired tablescape design: the budding of a what I know will be an enduring love affair with my new, Marchesa fine bone china collection for Lenox.

I first heard the siren song of this Peacock, rather Peafowl, (more on this in a bit) Lenox, “Sapphire Plume” tabletop collection at the recently-concluded, exceptionally-inspiring Architectural Digest Design Show 2016 that brimmed with craft, bespoke, quality creations for the discriminating homeowner and his or her distinctive home. The Lenox Sapphire Plume collection is a poster child for this aestheticHappy Easter, Happy Spring. It was a bright, happy weekend, filled with “spring fever” and with the prom, marrying the acclaimed fashion designer georginachapmanmarchesa - that’s Georgina Chapman (three cheers for me; I have two of her dress designs, as well) - whose refined glamour pairs with the exceptional quality of America’s only maker of bone china: Lenox.

How did this star-crossed pair - meaning me and the peafowl -- come to “mate?” Destiny is the short answer. The tad longer version makes the story… By way of background -- after falling hard for this beauty, I did a bit more research on the peacock to learn more about why I am so passionate about it. I discovered that “peacock” is the male and “peahen” is the female, together they are peafowl. Have to get it right and respect these symbols of love, refinement, resurrection, and renewal. So it was kind of perfect that their association with resurrection landed on my table for Easter, given this holy day’s promise of redemption and resurrection. Coincidence? I’m too spiritual and superstitious not to consider the karma of this plumed peafowl landing in my home.

I have long been enchanted by this noble bird; their glamorous and iridescent blue hues, their history, and inspiration to artists throughout the ages. It’s said if one is feeling “blah,” the colors alone can put us in a mood to embrace our own nobility - encouraging us to show off our inner proud-as-a-peafowl! (AKA “proud as a peacock.”)

And just when I think the connections of color, season, symbols and renewal couldn’t get more cosmic, I found the collective for the peafowl is: a “party!”  A group of heretofore "peacocks" is a party.     How perfect is that for a table-top collection tailor-made made for dining celebrations?! Just this side of nirvana when you consider what that sage Robin Williams said: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, "Let’s party!"

So, The Party Was On
After the press tour of the nearly 50 “stunning table vignettes by top designers” for the show’s annual Dining by Design, I rather uncharacteristically stopped to peruse the items on display for DIFFA’s silent auction. But I thought to myself, ‘Let me see what’s here and I can report on it. After all it’s a fundraiser with all monies supporting the organization’s efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.’ That’s when the soft blue and white Lenox - and the pattern of gentle, elegant peafowl and exotic feathers seduced me. I know I shouldn’t have but later that night I thought, why not bid? I cringed. Not only do I love our Royal Doulton wedding china and its classic design; I had just recently added to our everyday collection with the vibrant, colorful, wild animal Palace Thai Dinnerware Collection from Williams-Sonoma. In the end, I was powerless to the pull of the peafowl. I bid more than I should have -- but it was meant to be.

Things came together quickly in a good way not long after it was confirmed I had the winning bid for the Sapphire Plume china. I was keen to use the new collection for Easter, and there was only a few days to go before the holiday weekend. Nevertheless, DIFFA and ultimately, the Lenox team, rose to the occasion in splendid fashion and managed the process with elan. Thank you, Steven, Joanne, Sherri, and Karen, Nancy, Yolanda, Daryl, Effie, Stephanie- (It takes a village!). While I was hoping for a Friday delivery - (pushing it to Saturday if need be as a nail-biter hard stop), the Lenox team had the entire 8-piece tableware collection delivered on Thursday: one or two days after setting the process in motion. How impressive!

In no time, my husband Bill and I had the individually boxed 8-piece servings out of their travel nests -
and into their bath (dishwasher) and that night I began musing the tablescape composition.

I couldn’t wait to use the new peafowl Sapphire Plume  - so before launching full steam into the presentation concepts the next morning, I enjoyed a mid-morning coffee break with some fresh-from-the-bakery, Good Friday Hot Cross Buns. A truly sweet confection, combination…

Entertaining Design Elements: First Steps 

Entertaining design is very much top of mind for me, especially now - both when I'm awake and working what seems like 24/7 and in my dreams - as I’m in the throes of writing a cocktail and garnish book with tips on presentations, in addition to working on an artful entertaining book, “The Eyes Eat First.” As you know, I am also a garden designer - therefore it stands to reason that nature -- and her keen eye for color, texture, form, shape, and composition - informs how I approach the beauty and imagery of creating a seasonal and themed tablescape. Details matter. So does perspective. Whimsy and elegance are critical to layering a tableau that is captivating. The special world you create within a tablescape should draw your guests in - and delight them with an aura of discovery. Tablescapes, like menus and gardens, should be composed and designed with the seasons…

You’re conjuring a mood and a memory with lighting: natural and added - such as candles, votives, sparklers and more - along with other sensual items including, objects (fine art and found nature art such as stones or pebbles or driftwood), music, flowers and plants, as well as fragrance. Table art is compelling, original, and personal. The possibilities are endless. 

Think about the tablescape not just as a static thing; rather as theater, unfolding in a series of acts or chapters. The table shouldn’t be “set” just for a special event, either. We should accessorize the table for everyday use. It’s important to cherish the tablescape -- after all, it’s where friends and family come together - to share not just food and drink but each other. Good tablescape design fosters convivial conversation and no small amount of joy.

Just as we add various courses throughout the entire meal; so too, check out your menu and think how the elements of the table will change or unfold throughout the entire meal or dining experience. Consider the intermissions for drink and serving presentations; as well as gift-giving, not to mention the  changing time of day and lighting…

At the same time, the design elements shouldn’t get in the way. I’ve long been an advocate for the low vases and packed floral design look. At our home, we are lucky to possess a dramatic view of the New York skyline - so besides keeping the airspace above the table free of towering urns or floral displays in order to see table mates, I want to keep those views of the glorious blue of the bay and the twinkling lights at night open and accessible. In addition, flowers are de rigueur; however the blooms and candles should not possess such a heady fragrance that interferes with the meal and its ingredients’ natural aromas.  Most often I have lilies - Casablanca, as there are here, or Star Gazer, in the floor-standing vase away from the table -- just so its rich fragrance can waft and discreetly perfume the air.

Premiere Peafowl Table Art
I put one leaf into the dining table, then set out a service for eight. I decided to use tulips as the flower of choice because it’s spring and they’re a classic rite of the season. I wanted it to be all about soft colors - not the jelly-bean bright blooms - rather sigh-worthy white tulips and bouquets of white with a stripe of a “Broken Tulip,” featuring a lavender color to complement the china.

Plus I was thinking we’d be serving a kind of French 75 champagne cocktail with a lavender, violet liqueur. So there was a nice pairing there, too.

I looked through my inventory of home decor accessories that I store in an antique “pie safe” or cupboard, located in our Laundry Room. There's beauty everywhere if you know where to look… There I saw what would work. I figured two glass bowl vases with some blue glass stones in the bottom to anchor the white tulips, and three aqua blue-ish forcing vessels I could use for the Broken Tulips.
How much do we love these tulips?  Tabletop jewelry! 

The blue and white ginger jars from our bedroom could anchor the floral centerpieces at three points; a classic element that tipped its hat to the collection's visual narrative. I set small glass bunnies and one mini bunny snow globe around the center vase and the bigger glass bunnies at table ends. All the glass was reflecting the natural light - creating gleaming, light prisms. So far so good!

I used two, mini, green-heart topiaries from my writing desk / secretary that added a kind of “earring charm” - meaning just enough subtle bedazzle.

The place holders for the name tags are garden ornaments and topiaries with a greenish patina. I also used the handmade, blown-out and dyed eggs with their etched on names as the seating place holders - perched in pretty egg cups.  (Egg cups come in a variety of creations that can be used in many tabletop designs - and not just for eggs.)  
Lastly, I had a few dozen robin egg blue decorative “eggs” that I scattered, er, placed, throughout the tablescape. The blue linen napkins with painted light-blue butterfly napkin holders and beaded, azalea pink/purple dragonfly for the host and hostess settings retained the glamorous, nature mood. And the cocktail napkins repeat the blue and white ginger jar motif; with birds - as seen in the photo with Chandon Carol Lim designed champagne bottle.
 (more on this in related post; for now please note it's so very pretty and festive, yes?!)  

Overall, the blue hues and green shades with a whisper of lavender are redolent of a peafowl’s glorious tail feathers. Nice… At each course, the Lenox Sapphire Plume revealed itself: a layered nuanced tablescape fashion show.
All agreed the collection's sculptured coffee cup is the sophisticated way to drink the end of meal coffee (or tea) rather than the HUGE mugs that all too often accompany a service setting. Too often, I feel like I slipped down a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass with those too-big to manage vessels. Thank goodness our Easter, signature coconut cake (from the local James Beard Award winner, The Flaky Tart didn’t come with any “Eat Me” instruction. Ha.  But we did enjoy our version of “wonderland” - with a truly wonderful meal, family and friends, and a sophisticated, elegant tabletop design featuring our new Sapphire Plume collection.

Our guests delightfully oohed and ahhed about the tablescape, with one vowing to own a Marchesa by Lenox design for herself. Let’s see which one it will be.

I hope you agree that Table Art design is a wonderful way to express your entertaining style.

Be sure to experiment and have fun. Remember, the authentic ingredient that makes it all special and artful - whether it’s the tabletop design or creating the menu -- is love.

So glamorous…

Happy Spring 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

New York Botanical Garden Winter Series final lecture 3/24 with Luciano Giubbilei

The 16th Annual Winter Lecture Series: Chelsea Gold presented by the New York Botanical Garden is coming to its springtime final lecture. Tomorrow, Thursday, March 24, will feature a highly anticipated talk by Luciano Giubbilei.

It might well be a sell out so be sure to get to the Garden early, if you didn’t purchase the series tickets.

The Chelsea Gold featured in the series highlights the fact that all three speakers are winners - winning multiple times, in fact - at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show - that Olympics/Super Bowl/WorldCup annual garden design event -- but bigger. I for one vote they trade in the moniker, though. It should be the RHS Chelsea Garden Show. Yes, there are acres of flowers but all those petals, blooms, and leafy greens need to be shown in context -- in a design. And that’s where these garden compositions and the landscape architects and designers work their magic. For those lucky folks who have made the Chelsea pilgrimage, the NYBG series is a terrific peek behind the scenes of this flower blockbuster show. For the more plebian among us, the talks are a revelation into the process of designing a garden period. And designing for the Chelsea Flower Show. The speakers reveal their inspiration, their plant palette selections and the construction. We learn so much.

The first two speakers in the Chelsea Gold lecture series were Ulf Nordfjell, the Swedish landscape architect who interpreted his Swedish design aesthetic and his passion for ecology and the environment to his projects. He won his first Gold Medal in 2007 for his tribute to another famous Swedish plantsman: Linnaeus. He said the aim of the Linnaeus exhibit was to encourage the younger generation to pursue careers and interest in the sciences and to foster a curiosity about nature and research. “Linnaeus was the world’s first ecologist. In his pre internet world Linnaeus used a flower to distinguish all his photos…” Nordfjell won Gold again in 2009 for his Daily Telegraph and 2013 for his Laurent-Perrier gardens. He noted how he approaches his garden design as storytelling. Me too!
He said in Sweden, “We are about connecting people to nature.” This resonates with all who encounter his gardens.

He couldn’t ignore the issue of Climate Change, noting that while Sweden possesses a variety of micro-climates, it is indeed getting warmer there. “We have warmer summers and flooding.”

At Chelsea he chooses to produce modern garden with timber, steel and granite. There was a red wall -- brownish red - common to timber resin. He planted in layers: Maples, lilies, and so on. He used four thousand plants! He used pruned trees and shrubs noting it was quite common for 18th century rich people in Linnaeus’ time to have gardeners to maintain the necessary pruning.

For the 2009 Gold Medal & Best in Show with The Daily Telegraph Garden his initially reaction when they asked him, a Swede, to do the garden that they were “thinking suicide!” However, he researched the 19th century Hidcote Garden - transforming a very British garden tradition. Except that here, “Everything is fake,” he joked With 19 days to do the garden - in the rain and cold - he just wanted to survive. A trick he consider for judging days sunday night & monday morning was to use the compost to make the plants warm. “The plants are then happy and open up their blooms and blossoms - in time for the judges. The real devils of the show,” he added. He uses lots of bulbs with ornamental grasses, too - -helps cover the decaying, seasonal leaves...

He - and his team of more than 150 did the Perrier Jouet garden in a week! It was a haute couture garden inspired by two women: a French who started modern gardens in Sweden in the 50’s and 60’s used simple plants and soft, pale colors; the other is a LA designer who used breakout designs. Modern, minimalist with romantic touches.

Nordjfell also showed some of his private client gardens and public parks. He pointed out we need to safeguard the parks. “Margaret Thatcher took away all the greenhouses,” and many countries cut back funding to maintain the green spaces. He also noted that Food is most important in Europe plant trend. That and romance and more personal styling. “The young are looking back to history; they’re more aware of materials we’re using.” He added that the water issue - it is increasingly a very scarce resource is also a very major concern in Europe - and globally. “

The second speaker in the series was Sarah Price, a British garden designer, a co-designer of London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and a 2012 Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal Winner for her Daily Telegraph Garden (those newspaper folks at the Daily Telegraph sure know how to pick a winner!)

Sarah’s talk was “Gardening in the Round.” She was/is a fine artist and a painter. She showed airy, ethereal images of nature that are near her home in Wales that inspire her. Oh, those heather hillsides. She also gets a lot of her inspiration from the ornamental, native grasses of the US that she first saw in Piet Oudolf’s gardens. She sees the beauty and mystery in the environment and translates that narrative to her gardens. And she’s funny.

Sarah showed insights into her background that are the critical, basic elements of her compositions.

She uses color gradations and likes gardens without defined borders. She sketches plant forms and gets height balance out the plant shapes. She said that Chelsea launched her career.

She uses lots of nine centimeters plants so little to no deadheading. The dense planting and compatible, “no soil” reduces the need for watering.

Don’t miss “The Art of Making Gardens” Luciano Giubbilei talk at the Garden tomorrow. I learned yesterday that my garden and fellow landscape design group friend, Linda Tejpaul, of Magnolia Design, LLC, that her son had Luciano do their gardens! How lucky they have their own Chelsea Gold!    

Oh, be mindful - there is construction work at the Mosholu Gate at NYBG - and if you're arriving by train - you will have to walk the .5 mile to the next gate.  And security is not courteous about this inconvenience.  (Couldn't have made a side pathway for visitors who arrive on foot?)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Architectural Digest Design Show 2016 Preview

If anyone doubts how artful design infuses aesthetic, lifestyle -- and the economy - look no further than the Architectural Digest Design Show. Thursday was "frothy/buzzy" press preview (and trade day); we were given an impressive overview of trends and technologies that are influencing home decor, cooking, lighting and refrigeration, and more. There are incredibly exciting products and processes that bring professional techniques and practices to the home -- and to add precision and pleasure to food prep, dining, barbecuing, and of course, sleeping, sitting, wall art, storage, bathroom vanities, garden containers, tables, and food and wine “preservation systems.” Whew!

The DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS Dining In Design showcased more than 40 tablescapes produced to integrate the DIFFA hope theme with entertaining glamour and style. These dining tableaus are a visual sensation inspired by flowers, plants, and organic elements including wood, metal, marble, water, and light. The designers create magic by blending the organics with texture, color, and -- love. You need to not only see the tablescapes but be sure to bid on the products - -all the monies go to fighting HIV/AIDS - to buy.

The show is now open to the public, running through Sunday.  Design enthusiasts, home cooks, and artisans will be inspired by the talent and brands at the Architectural Show, located at Piers 92 and 94 in New York City. Where else can you experience a range of more than 400 brands and dealers encompassing food, drink, gardens, home design, and tablescapes for just $40. Consumer Tickets are available.

I’ll do a few reports/posts on the show but for now, here are more than a few images to highlight the show-stoppers and trends.

The main areas to visit are:

MADE: handcrafted, one-of-a-kind furnishings, art, and accessories

reFresh: Luxury brands, including Sub-Zero and Wolf, and Jenn-Air and Gaggenenau (they've been in business since 1683!), and Baldwin, that share their space with up and coming kitchen, bath, and hardware brands.

Furnish: international furniture brands, including DwellStudio, Boca do Lobo, and The Future Perfect

Shops: Curated retail section of decor, gifts, tabletop accessories - don’t miss Golden Door - loved their marmalade and cookies, and Rifle Paper Co. - had to buy their iPhone cover -- I’m sooo into peacocks at the moment. I find these birds mysterious and elegant -- and perfect decor accessory.

The DIFFA Dining In Design:

Captivating tableau! Plant ceiling, Scully & Scully accessories, 1930 Murano chandelier 

A "wall" of vapor (water) by The Rockwell Group water theme is stunning

Designer Darrin Vardin created this thoughtful tablescape for the NY Times & Lladro starting with, "What's black & white and read/"red" all over?" adage; brilliant & creative. Love the Lladro black equine pieces

Kate Spade's design for Kravet was fitted dress chairs, preppy colors & a fun series of garden party table settings & umbrellas

Benjamin & Moore's tablescape celebrated their more than 200 shades of  white.  Cool elegance. Crate & Barrel did white too.

Spellbinding Atlantis-theme tables cape with seashells, black table, shimmery wall coverings,  & squid-looking lights

Trends and New Products:

Thermador under-counter refrigerators, dishwasher with timed - 23 entertainment washes - steam cooking - the fastest growing cooking category

Koket Love Happens, designer, Janet Morais shows her acid-stain leather chairs, new line of bedding, wall treatments (don’t miss the feathers), textiles - the hides and the incredibly soft, luxe velvets.

And chairs and seating Koket provided for the set of the fabulous and favorite, hit TV show: Empire. Love this!

Sexy Koket chairs used on the Empire TV show set. The color screams glamour - and the legs whisper "Jimmy Choo!"

Zephyr - kitchen ventilation hoods wowed with sleek angles, LED lights and quiet …

Ronbow - bathroom vanities - featuring double-sided mirrors, floating corners, LED lights, drawers with USB ports

Dacor - luxury kitchen appliances from a family-owned company, with lots of innovation technology: first 30” wall oven, first in wine preservation, and others. Dacor featured an IQ Range Dacor Discovery with a built-in tablet that can be operated from a smart phone -- think about pre-heating before you get home.

Pennoyer Newman - lightweight, architectural, custom, garden containers cast from estate originals. I’ve added these wonderful, durable, beautiful pots to my Duchess Designs clients’ gardens. Love the look and pedigree. Today I met Dinny Pennoyer, daughter of the founder. Dinny shared the delightful story about how the planters came about: the story started with her grandmother who was JP Morgan’s daughter, and her husband’s friend: Clay Frick. With such friends and family pedigree, it’s not a surprise she had great interest in many of the garden structures: containers, and fountains and other objects of art. She then developed the “through and through” crushed marble and stone and color that made the pots so unique.

At the show, Pennoyer &Newman are introducing four new Grecian-inspired urns with wide openings, and a fabulous, clean-looking container that was inspired by a 20th century industrial concrete mixer! So creative.

Dinny Pennoyer (L) & Virginia Newman at their garden-fresh booth, dripping with spring flowers & serene fountain

RangeCraft - custom range hoods, and a first - some with sparkling, dazzling Swarovski crystals! This is my kind of kitchen design.

Rangecraft's dazzling Swarovski crystal hood - adds glamour to the kitchen! 
Ovando - an incredible floral design, environmental decor, and with Elan Vital, a wallpaper murals inspired by flowers.

Flat Vernacular - the most curious, compelling wallpaper designs from artist Payton Turner.
Wallpaper designer: Payton Turner
The fiver-year old company creates custom wall coverings. There is one entire wall at the show booth with coloring book wallpaper. Scaffolds supported painters in pink Converse - coloring in the details. Fun - and arresting. There’s a companion coloring book, too.
You won't get in trouble coloring on this wall! Coloring-bookWallpaper from Flat Vernacular

dagmara weinberg - creates the most intriguing collection of nature photographs designed in a kind of kaleidoscope way - using cherry blossoms, branches and seashells. I am completely smitten by the sexy, suggestive cherry blossoms. Loved the interpretations for her textiles and side tables, too.
Dagmara Weinberg shows her art - on photographs & on metal. Beautiful & suggestive images… 

Ben Langford - Designs canvas photography flowers wall “sculptures.” The flowers are big - maybe two-feet across. They are colorful and vibrant - and some have what designer Ben describes as “decay.” Using velcro to adhere to a space, I can see these making walls and ceilings very happy.

More floral-inspired designs from Emilio Robba where color exploded with orchids, tropical leaves in vases, on pillows. Dripping with garden glamour.

Brown Jordan showed new six-foot rolling barbeque carts with new Dripped color panels and an outdoor TV cart.
Nice addition to outdoor entertainment lifestyle -- just add your own TV to  piece. Television drops down inside

Echo's Tablescape for DIFFA Dining in Design is a change your spots safari kind of theme.

Lynn Roberts, daughter of Echo's founding couple: Edgar & Dorothy.  You can say that Love gave rise to the company. Lynn shared how her parents went from getting their marriage license to a business license - it was their wedding day! Sweet. And I've always loved their scarves. ..

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Register for 4th Annual Green Industry Intern "Hortie Hoopla" at The New York Botanical Garden


The annual Green Industry event designed exclusively for interns has proven to be an overwhelming success. Largely the brainchild of Charles Yurgalevitch, Director, School of Professional Horticulture (SoPH), this year marks the fourth time The New York Botanical Garden’s SoPH will host a day brimming with talks, networking, and fun -- to celebrate and educate the interns about the myriad career options available within the noble field of horticulture.

WHO: For Tri-State area horticulture interns working in the Green industries. The annual “Hortie Hoopla” event provides attendees the opportunity to network and increase awareness of the many professional career opportunities in the diverse field of horticulture.

WHAT: A FREE, fun-filled, inspiring day hosted by New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) School of Professional Horticulture

WHEN: Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Registration: 11 am; Talks: 12:30 pm; Activities till dusk.

WHERE: New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY


Keynote Speaker Kelly D. Norris, Director of Horticulture, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden,, nurseryman and award-winning author

Karen Washington,, community activist called “urban farming’s de facto godmother” by The New York Times

Quill Teal-Sullivan, Garden Manager at Meadowburn Farm, a 130-year-old designed landscape in Vernon, NJ - the Garden State.

Self-Guided Exploration

Garden Tours

Plant ID Contest

Evening BBQ with games and prizes

Tour of NYBG Library 
To register: Contact Eric Lieberman at NYBG:

Food and drink generously provided by:

Bartlett Tree Experts

Mario Bulfamante & Sons

Floral Landscape Services

Landcraft Environments, Ltd.

NY State Arborists Association

Riverside Park Conservancy

Trees New York

The Bronx Brewery