The Antiques Diva Does Italia!

Toma Clark Haines definitely knows la dolce vita!

We’re speaking Italian on this Travel Tuesday with some exciting news. Our ONLY choice for European lifestyle tours, The Antiques Diva, is expanding to, you guessed it, Italia; and Toma is already working her magic on the romantic language by saying, “Buongiorno Baby” to anyone wanting to come along for the Tuscan ride!

Tuscan tastemaker Susan Pennington will create and direct the tours, which will amble through the best venues in Florence, Sienna, Arezzo and Lucca (here’s a feature in Belle Inspiration). A British expat living in the heart of Tuscany, Pennington was once an antiques buyer for Harrods in London and an auction-house specialist in New York City. She’s lived in Tuscany for the past two decades, running Montestigliano, a local agriturismo business known for its sumptuous Tuscan-style luxury décor.

Word up, Diva fans; this is Toma’s sixth country, and the list of destinations for gallivanting is impressive: France, England, Belgium, Holland, Germany and, now, Italy. Where’s my passport? Did someone say the University of Bologna is calling?

P.S. We understand there is a spot of royalty in The Antiques Diva’s future. Check in at adroyt in the next week or so and we’ll fill you in!


A Mad Men Night: A Full Nelson!

If you’re in San Antonio, Texas, tonight, you’re a lucky duck because the McNay Art Museum is hosting “A Mad Men Night” with George Nelson. The architect, writer, designer and educator is going to revisit the heyday of American Modernism.

Who better to do so than someone who had a tremendous impact on it (the images floating through the kicky video are his designs, munchkins; and who will ever forget their first sighting of the Marshmallow Sofa?)! The retrospective of Nelson’s work is being brought to McNay from the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, and the exhibition will remain on view through September 11, 2011.

The lecture + libations go from 6pm to 9pm tonight. Sigh…if only that Roaming by Design private jet would crystalize, we’d be all over this one!


Oldies and Goodies: Side by Side

I happened into Olde Good Things today to see what’s in store because there always seems to be something new to see in this shop that sells antiques and “altered antiques.” If you’re a fan of patina, you’ll get a good hit of time-worn lovliness here. They have several locations in Manhattan, two in Los Angeles and a warehouse in Scranton, PA.


Great Design at Good Design

Gail Garlick with Calpurnia (or Cal to loved ones)

Gail Garlick with Calpurnia (or Cal to loved ones)

Gail Garlick crossed my radar several years ago when she opened Good Design, a beautiful space on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in which she curates quality exhibitions of furnishings she offers for sale. I was curious as to how she came to develop such a finely honed eye and she was kind enough to share her story with RBD readers. Currently on view at Good Design are furnishings by Antoine Schapira, which runs through June 11. Scroll down for a bit more information about Schapira after you’ve enjoyed Garlick’s journey to design: My foray into the world of design began in 1975 in Upstate New York’s Columbia County, which was a far cry from the Columbia County of today. When I moved there to start my family, I knew I was going to the country, but the change of pace was jarring given that I had been raised in New York City by parents who collected art and enjoyed keeping up with the cultural offerings that flourish in Manhattan—a stimulating life that I had enjoyed immensely. At that time, the county was mostly populated by local country folk, though that’s not to say I didn’t meet Ellsworth Kelly, a neighbor, in the Spencertown country store. He regaled me about my black lab, Morris, who had come by to see his dogs one day and had gotten so excited he peed on Ellsworth’s foot! I also knew that George Rickey was working in another village nearby, but by and large it was a sleepy little county in upstate New York.

Antoine Schapira at Good Design

Antoine Schapira at Good Design

After spending a year or so cooking, gardening, tending a horse, and renovating my Greek Revival home, I realized I was bored. It was then I struck up a friendship with a woman who, like myself, was a young mother. She and her husband were antiques dealers. Her name was Jane Dunn, and she and I enjoyed many play-dates with our young daughters. It was during that time that I was exposed to the world of antiques. Jane and Michael were true intellectuals; they had an ever-growing library and a passion for all things historical. It was Jane who gave me my first glimpse into connoisseurship. Columbia County in the late 70’s had a terrific group of young Americana dealers who would later become some of the finest dealers in the country. The list included Grace and Elliott Snyder, Jane and Michael Dunn, Corey Daniels, John and Jackie Sideli, Robert Wilkins and Suzanne Courcier. Lucy Vine Clerk, mother of Ed Clerk—the famous Shaker dealer—was just down the street from the Sidelis in Malden Bridge. Bob Herron, a local auctioneer, lived and held wonderful auctions packed with American antiques in Austerlitz—near Bob and Suzanne.

I made friends with these very sophisticated people first, and soon I was living the life of a dealer. In those days I sold baskets, hooked rugs, painted furniture and shaker finds from the unheated addition of my home in Spencertown.

I participated in flea markets for Russell Carrell and the Columbia County Historical Society in Kinderhook. I eventually set up at the Danbury Shows, which Jackie produced, where my booth neighbor was often Norma Keno, mother of Leigh and Leslie, who were collecting even then.

When I opened Good Design it was with an eye to bringing incredible talent together under one roof—sometimes combining the furniture of a group of talented designers whose creations support a theme and sometimes featuring the furnishings of one designer in particular whose creations shine in collective fashion. At the moment, I have the first U.S. solo show of Antoine Schapira’s works on view.

He is not your run-of the-mill studio maker but a trained ébéniste from the elite École Boulle in Paris, and his interpretation of studio furniture is both elegant and high styled.

Antoine Schapira at Good Design

Antoine Schapira at Good Design

In her review of his New York debut at last fall’s Modernism + Art 20 show at the Park Avenue Armory, Roberta Smith of The New York Times called him, “an imaginative, stupendously skilled maker of exquisitely considered and finished wood furniture.” One of the pieces shown here illustrates how he works from a clay maquette, creating original forms using vintage Brazilian rosewood veneer and gilding. He also created one of these pieces by making his own veneer from resin and twigs, then wrapping the entire piece in industrial steel cable. Good Design is located at 1305 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. To see the Schapira exhibition, visit between 11 a.m. through 6 p.m. Monday through Friday through June 11th.


When Inspiration is a Breeze-o

Like Clockwork: Eric Freitas Tells Time

Like Clockwork: Eric Freitas Tells Time

One of the reasons I began this travel design blog is that I am itching to roam the world searching for inspiring subjects to bring home. During a recent trip to New York, I sat in on a stimulating presentation by the Brizo design team. What I liked the most about the several hours I spent with them was that I felt I’d been taught a culturally rich lesson due to the highly tuned psyches of the professionals who design Brizo’s products. It seems the spirited team has antennae that capture the subtlest of influences, many of which would likely slip past other designers. I asked several members of the team to illustrate how far their radars extend, and their answers as to what it is that has them jazzed are as broad and interesting as I thought they would be.

Judd Lord, Brizo’s director of design, has been instrumental in laying out the groundwork for the Brizo portfolio, personally designing several of the initial marquee product suites in the fashion-forward brand. In 2006, he was made director of industrial design and continues to oversee creative direction for both Brizo and Delta. What’s piquing his interest these days is “Form, Function and Materiality.” “I’m intrigued how common materials are increasingly able to conceal their identities, such as ceramics imitating wood,” he remarks. “You literally have to touch these products to tell the difference.” Lord sites ceramic tile by Mirage, which I was lucky enough to see in person at Cersaie in Bologna, Italy, last October, and agree that the products are deceptively delicious.

Proving my case that no design subject is too obscure for his notice, Lord jumps right into the drink! “Although gin is usually my vice of choice, I love what vodka manufacturers are doing with their bottles and packaging,” he explains. “Their designs are innovative and fresh, and hold great inspiration for forms within our portfolio. These are works of art to be displayed long after the spirit is gone.” Anthony (Tony) Spangler is Brizo’s senior industrial designer. He has worked at the Delta Faucet Company for over 30 years in capacities ranging from drafting to graphics and artwork preparation to industrial design. Responsible for hundreds of design patents over the course of his time at the company, Spangler is currently focusing on advanced water conservation technology. For our foray into inspiration, Spangler is switching gears, so to speak.

The designer is enamored with the clockwork art of Eric Freitas, who describes his world as a realm of dark mechanical curiosities and horological contradictions. “His pieces reflect ancient human history, conjuring a time when every object was worth owning on every level,” says Spangler. There’s plenty of Steampunk inspiration in the manufacture’s newest collection owing, it seems, to Spangler’s roving eye. “Why just arrive when one can arrive in style?” He asks, pointing to the Steampunk recumbent bike. “Getting there should be half the fun!”

In a moment of witty repartee, he quips about the Steampunk laptop, “It’s surely more than the sum of all its parts!” Celine Kwok, who was born and raised in Singapore, is an industrial designer at Brizo. She has been unleashing her refined take on design in the U.S. for the past eight years. With a background in graphic design and furniture design, her obsession of the moment is found objects updated with contemporary flair. “There’s something brilliant about finding a piece to connect with and giving it a new lease on life,” she explains, noting the repurposed objects. “It is so exciting when you are able to be involved with the transformation of a thing while adding a touch of your own personality to it.

It’s the historic aspects of this updated Indian-style cookware that captured Kwok’s attention. “The cultural connotations tell the story as to why the form looks the way it does,” she remarks. “The beauty of this particular design is that the use of new materials refreshes a piece of cookware that otherwise would have been forgotten.” Citing the work of the Bouroullec Brothers, Kwok celebrates more than just history repeating: “I have always liked the idea of how one small shape, when repeated, can be interpreted in so many different ways and can make such an impact on space.” Last but by no means least, Seth Fritz is all over do-it-yourself these days.

In his current role as a lead designer for Delta Faucet Company, Fritz’s strong background in consumer-friendly design, market research, and creative problem solving has lead to numerous successful products in the current Delta and Brizo catalogues. “Now more than ever we’re creating home décor styles from mix-and-match elements: new and old, high-end paired with salvage, and industrial era with shabby chic,” he notes. “Up is down and right is left: we can break the rules of home decorating because we have empowered ourselves to do so! I love it, and I can’t get enough of it!” Honing in on the designer’s inspirations is like playing a game of hopscotch. Get ready for the jump!

Noting the items in this great DIY post on b*spoke blog, he riffs not unlike a Beat Poet: “Spray-painted garage-sale frame holds chalkboard; found objects in jars, anthropology change holder with iPod nestled in it.” Delving into the psychology behind the design, he notes, “It’s funny how seeing the iPod evokes as much emotion as the rest of the scene, but there’s no story behind it; whereas you see the chalkboard and immediately want to know more.

Fritz perused Apartment Therapy for this slight-of-hand that transformed a wood magazine holder into a mélange of vivacious color. “Though the Viva Terra holder in an espresso finish is beautiful and sleek, it’s lifeless—referred to as ‘doctor’s office like,’” he remarks. “The colorful version, also from Viva Terra, is made from scrap wood and covered in random magazine pages. It’s full of life and heart, a statement piece and piece of art.” Lastly, our jaunt through the blogosphere takes us to POINTclickHOME, where Fritz spied mirrors made from reclaimed metal bicycle wheels. “This is a design easily made at home,” he said. “Even though it has its original rustic finish, the design evokes a sense of modern flair.”

With this design team, the exploration is never completed, and its members ask, “What inspires you?” They would love to hear your answers, as they value interaction with other highly creative beings. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter. Look for a post later this week about a bevy of talented bloggers (now dubbed Blogger19) I met during my New York Fashion Week foray (which included a visit to Jason Wu’s runway show and was made possible by the generosity of Brizo). In the meantime, I’d love to know whether Roaming by Design is striking a chord with you. Sound off in the comment section of this or another post: I’m hungry for lively conversation!