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living with style, sustainability, spirit & substance

A Livable and Beautiful Living Room by Beth Foley | leave a comment
An overall of the living room by Beth Foley.

An overall of the living room by Beth Foley.

If the taste of the Normandy Manor show house in Long Island I posted last week wasn’t enough for you, then here’s a little more to tantalize the senses. This livable and lovely living room by designer Kate Singer’s friend Beth Foley, an interior designer in West Hempstead, New York, brings a smile to your face the minute you walk in with its happy colors and beautiful abstract landscapes by a local artist. To find out more about the show house, see my post from last week, which gives you details (the show house ends this week). To find out more about Beth Foley, click here.

Alternate sofa view.

Alternate sofa view.

A shelf vignette.

A shelf vignette.

A light, airy tray table.

A light, airy tray table.

A shelf detail.

A shelf detail.

A Beautiful Room by Designer Kate Singer in the Normandy Manor Show House | leave a comment

A detailI’ve been exposed to a lot of beauty over the past couple of weeks, and among the most special of the beautiful things I’ve seen is the Normandy Manor Show House in Centerport, Long Island, which is presented by Claudia Dowling Inc., in association with Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and runs until October 16th. The manor was designed in 1917 by New York City architects Warren & Wetmore, who were most noted for their design of Grand Central Terminal. It was built for the superintendent of the Vanderbilt estate to use as his own quarters (the architects also designed William K. Vanderbilt II’s 24-room Spanish Revival mansion and other buildings on the estate, which Vanderbilt called Eagle’s Nest).

My friend and colleague Kate Singer, an extraordinarily talented designer based in Huntington, Long Island, invited me as her guest to see the house last weekend—and every room was a delight to behold. My favorite was the dining room, designed by Kate herself. A jewel box of a room fitted out with a mix of new and antique furnishings and accented in shades of amethyst, plum, grays and browns, the space features curtains and upholstery made from luscious fabrics from Zoffany-Sanderson-Harlequin, light fixtures from Visual Comfort Lighting, and custom millwork by Master Craft Installations. These photographs by John Bessler will show you why I fell in love with the space.

For show house information call 631-421-5290. To find out more about Kate’s work or to contact her, click here.

An overall view of the room.

A vignette of the console.

A Deco breakfront

Detail of pretty fabrics

A detail of objects found by Kate

Designer Kate Singer

Creative Ways to Stow Books | leave a comment
An antique stepladder

An antique stepladder provides a pretty perch for a few of Megan's books.

My husband loves to read even more than I do. But I love my books a whole lot more than he does. How he lived without a Kindle and an iPad for so many years is beyond me. And how I’ve hauled around my collection of books wherever I’ve moved to is incomprehensible to him. Recently, we made a bargain—I’d part with some of my books, which were piling up on tables large and small in almost every room, if he’d allow me to convert a spare closet into bookshelves. And so, with a little pain in my heart, I deaccessioned many of my beloved books (a fair monetary return from Strand, the well-known reseller of rare and used books in Manhattan, provided a little balm and just enough cash to by an iPhone in exchange). Had I thought about the storage ideas my friend and colleague Megan Fulweiler shared with me the other day, I might have saved a few more of my dog-eared friends. Here’s how she and her husband began what she calls “a new chapter” in their life-long love affair with books:

We’ve come to the conclusion our books are a lot like our relatives. There are those we love, those we like, and a good many we, well, tolerate. Still, we could no more sever relations with the last group than we can—it’s obvious—winnow down our books. Both the relatives and good-but-not-favorite reads are family. Someday we might have better communication—more time, more understanding. It’s a loyalty issue.

The problem is storage. Having filled the shelves, we’ve begun—like New York designer David Netto does in his Greenwich Village apartment—to stack books in front of the cases so they’ll look like they’re waiting to be shelved. Books are slyly moving into corners, climbing on bureaus and even hiding under our bed, which according to the art of feng shui could be hindering our sleep.

In his Brussels apartment designer Bruno de Caumont utilizes the floor, too. But his approach—arranging leather-bound books beneath an Empire console parked on a wall painted Farrow & Ball’s Pitch Blue—is stylish (check it out in the October 2011 issue of Elle Décor). The console’s pedigreed legs serve as bookends keeping the parade upright and tidy. Our higgledy-piggledy piles slumbering under a pine table don’t deliver the same visual punch.

Nor do our home-made bookcases hold a candle to the built-ins Portsmouth, Rhode Island, designer Michele Foster of Foster Associates included in the elegant house she created for a couple of Rhode Island booklovers. These lucky owners have living room, bedroom, office, and study shelves!

Never mind, recently we’ve found relief utilizing some worthwhile solutions that don’t require carpentry. A small folding ladder—who knew?—nabbed at a local auction accommodates a whole set of  19th-century historical romances (not yet tackled) and is easy to move around. The same can be said for a recycled garden bench. We slid ours against a wall and loaded it up. Baskets—old and new—are heaven-sent and provide a tidy look no matter where we park then. An antique basket, for example, now gives home to a dozen oversize coffee-table tomes. And the books beneath our bed have been moved to a sturdy new basket. Bookends? Absolutely, our new love. Fun to collect, they give us another reason to break for tag sales.

Maintaining harmony needn’t be a struggle any longer, we now assure ourselves. We simply have to remember what authors Dominique Dupuich and Roland Beaufre wrote in Living With Books (Thames & Hudson, 2010):  “All long-term love affairs require a little organization, and relationships between people and books are no different.”—Megan Fulweiler

P.S. If you’re interested in getting help stowing other stuff in your home, see my post from September 23 to find our how to enter a sweepstakes and win an $8,000 closet makeover.

book basket

Need a way to keep favorite books at the ready near a reading chair, yet neatly stowed? Easy. Stash them in a book basket like Megan does.

These built-in bookshelves created by Rhode Island designer Michele Foster of Foster & Associates add character to the living room of a couple of Rhode Island book lovers.

These built-in bookshelves created by Rhode Island designer Michele Foster of Foster & Associates add character to the living room of a couple of Rhode Island book lovers.

bedroom bookshelves

Foster introduced beautiful built-in shelves to the couple's bedroom, too.

Walking the High Line—a Living New York Landmark | 2 Comments
Sunny coreopsis, still in full summer bloom

Sunny coreopsis, still in full summer bloom.

I went on a horticultural walking tour along the High Line yesterday. What a fun way to spend what might have been (but wasn’t) a rainy Saturday morning! The walk was hosted by the New York Chapter of the International Furnishings and Design Association to raise money for its educational foundation. The High Line is a lovely two-mile-long park perched above New York City, starting at Ganesvoort Street in the Meatpacking District and winding through Chelsea all the way to the Javitts tradeshow center along the West Side Highway. Originally built in the 1930s as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement, the High Line hoisted freight traffic 30 feet in the air to remove dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district. After ceasing to function in its original capacity in 1980, the tracks turned derelict until Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 to preserve the historic structure when it was threatened with demolition. Working in partnership with the City of New York they recreated the High Line as an elevated public park (click here to view some historic photos).

Over time, landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, along with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, developed the High Line’s public landscape with guidance from a diverse community of High Line supporters. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, opened in June, 2009. The second section, from West 20th Street to West 30th Street, opened earlier this year (a third section is scheduled to be developed in the near future). The IFDA board members and others who participated in the walking tour yesterday were treated to an explanation of many of the gorgeous and often eccentric plants along the way by the talented landscape designer Louis Raymond, who is based in Rhode Island and is otherwise know as the plant geek.

The High Line is just one of the many reasons I love New York. Here’s a sampling of the beautiful plants I saw yesterday, all showing their early autumn colors.

Japanese Clethera

Japanese Clethera, with fingerlike flowers.

Holly with bright red winterberries.

Holly with bright red winterberries.

Gibraltar pea plant

Gibraltar pea plant with complex magenta blossoms.

Periscopic Horsetail in Diane Von Furstenberg's bog.

Periscopic Horsetail in Diane Von Furstenberg's bog.

Lablab purple leaf bean

Lablab purple leaf bean.



Rosa mudicom

Rosa mudicom with yellow flowers that mature to pink.


Sassafrass, the source of root beer.

Hearty plumbago,

Hearty plumbago, a great ground cover that blooms from August to October.


Sedum—its pale pink flowers look like broccoli heads before they mature.

Win the Ultimate $8,000 Wardrobe and Closet Makeover | leave a comment
Elfa Closet

An Elfa closet system from The Container Store.

One of the most rewarding home improvements I undertook last year, when my husband and I were renovating and fixing up our home, was reorganizing and making over our closets. It literally transformed my day-to-day routine and made me a more efficient and happier person. So when I learned that Real Simple, one of my favorite magazines, was teaming up with The Container Store, one of my favorite storage sources, and offering an amazing closet makeover sweepstakes with, the ultimate online shopping destination for the latest trends and best deals, I immediately wanted to share it with all of you.

Just in time for fall, The Ultimate Wardrobe & Closet Makeover Sweepstakes will provide one lucky winner with $5,000 in fall clothing, shoes, and accessories hand-picked by the editors of StyleFind; a $3,000 Elfa closet system from The Container Store; and a consultation by a professional organizer to make sure the winner’s closet is organized and fashion forward.

The sweepstakes runs from now until October 17. To enter the chance to win The Ultimate Wardrobe & Closet Makeover Sweepstakes, visit

Meanwhile, here are 10 tips from the editors at StyleFind to help you organize your fall wardrobe:

1.    Say goodbye to any clothing you haven’t worn in over a year; make space for the pieces that really flatter you and make you feel great.

2.    Keep your clothing organized by type (i.e. pants with pants, jackets with jackets) so you can easily (and quickly) build an outfit. Go further by organizing these categories by color.

3.    Take a tip from our fashion closet: stack your handbags flat on shelves.

4.    Invest in good hangers that are clothing-type specific. Don’t forget: mismatched hangers look sloppy—keep them in the same color family.

5.    Try this DIY idea for organizing your jewelry. Use pretty hooks to hang necklaces and bracelets on the wall—they eliminate knots and add sparkle to the room.

6.    Store scented sachets with your off-season clothing, so they’re fresh when you take them out of storage.

7.    Get your sweaters off those hangers. Always fold them so that they keep their shape.

8.    If most of your clothes are short hanging, add an extra closet rod to instantly double the amount of hanging space.

9.    Use scented draw-liners and modular drawer organizers for storing lingerie. Pretty things should be kept in special places.

10. Show off your best pieces on wall-mounted shelves (after all, they are investments) and hide the not-so-pretty pieces (T-shirts and workout clothes) in drawers.


Tips on Buying a Foreclosed Home | leave a comment
Dream Home

A classic American house. Photograph Aimee Herring.

Ever thought about buying a foreclosed home? With so many on the market, it’s a great way to affordably achieve the American Dream. But foreclosed homes come with hidden costs that can add up to a bundle and give you a headache, too. If you know what to look for, though, you can spare yourself any surprises and make a wise decision. To find out what you need to know, click on this link to a piece I wrote for, which includes tips from some expert real estate brokers and house inspectors in different parts of the country.

Katz Architecture Crafts a Modern Gem in Midtown Manhattan | leave a comment
Entrance gallery

The floors in the gallery of the main entrance were sanded and stained and new flat stock moldings were added. The custom light fixture is by JGood Design. Photographs by David Anderson.

Wearing my real estate agent’s hat, I’ve been seeing a lot of Manhattan apartments lately that have fantastic river or city views on the outside, but leave much to be desired on the inside. Such was the case with this apartment before David Katz of Katz Architecture refreshed it with a mix of modern and classical influences. Katz started by modifying the entry and walls around the dining room to create a formal gallery and an open-plan kitchen that worked for the young owners, who love open spaces and light and regularly host formal gatherings but also have a busy day-to-day family life. He also brightened the living room with a new mother-of-pearl fireplace surround and finished the walls with Venetian plaster. Finally he added tons of built-in storage and bookcases, making the space as functional as it is beautiful. With a chic interior design by Laura Yaggy Harris of Lorely Design, this apartment now has it all—inside and out.

The renovated living room

The renovated living room includes Venetian plaster on the walls and a new fireplace surround by VersaTile. New millwork adds storage and conceals the radiators.

The completely renovated kitchen

The completely renovated kitchen features custom rift-cut white oak cabinets and Calacatta Gold marble counters. Custom light fixtures by JGood and tile by Ann Sacks enrich the space.

The wallpaper, molding and paneling in the dining room was replaced with modern millwork

The wallpaper, molding, and paneling in the dining room were replaced with modern millwork for a cleaner profile.

Custom doors with inlaid antique mirror

Custom doors with inlaid antique mirror enhance the closets in the bedroom. Custom wall-mounted night stands add more storage with a clean finish.

Inspiring Fabrics—and History—from Knoll, an American Institution | leave a comment
Gorgeous new fabric called Fila designed by Suzanne Tick

Gorgeous new fabric called Fila designed by Suzanne Tick for Knoll Textiles.

Even if you didn’t have a chance to see the recent exhibition of Knoll textiles at the Bard Graduate Center in New York, you can still access the information, imagery, and ideas it offered through a new book on the history of Knoll. My friend and colleague William Weathersby shared this post with me that sums up some interesting news from Knoll. It’ll give you a taste of Knoll’s rich legacy as well as what it’s up to now.

Color, pattern, technical refinement, and timeless style: that sums up the progressive history of textiles from the American manufacturer Knoll. Long renowned for its classic modernist furniture designed by icons including Bertoia, Mies, and Saarinen, the company remains a trailblazer in innovative fabrics for the home and office. But the thread of the fabric story, so to speak, and its rich history swathed in six decades of sensational swatches, has been somewhat obscured until now.

Following on the heels of a recent, groundbreaking exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center in New York, “Knoll Textiles, 1945-2010,” is a companion book just out from Bard in collaboration with Yale University Press.  A survey and compendium with enlightening essays and more than 200 examples of textiles, furniture, interiors, and ephemera, the book tells the inspiring American success story of how one woman, Florence Knoll, largely shaped notions of modern interior style that have reverberated in our culture for more than a half century.

In 1940, Hans Knoll founded his company in New York, which quickly earned a reputation for its progressive line of furniture. Florence Schust, who studied at Cranbook with Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen, joined the firm and helped establish its interior design division, the Knoll Planning Unit. In 1947, the year after their marriage, Hans and Florence Knoll added a third division, Knoll Textiles, which brought textile production in line with a modern sensibility that used color and texture as primary design elements. In the early years, the company hired leading proponents of modern design as well as young, untried designers, many of them women, to create textile patterns. As the book illustrates, Florence Knoll designed classic modernist furniture and interiors and sought collaboration from the leading designers of the day, while on the fabric side set trends such as adapting men’s suit fabrics such as flannels and tweeds as upholstery, using traditional weaving processes to fashion contemporary prints, and experimenting with fiber contents and surface finishes. After her husband’s death, Florence retired in 1965, but her legacy lives on. (She lives in retirement in Florida.)

The pioneering use of new materials and a commitment to innovative design have remained the company’s hallmarks today. Knoll Textiles creative director Dorothy Cosonas, who designs most of the company’s fabrics and introduces about six collections a year, recently has looked to the world of fashion to spark new ideas: high-end clothing designers Rodarte and Proenza Schouler have designed gossamer, shimmering, and tactile textiles perfect for draperies or upholstery for a line called Knoll Luxe. Meanwhile, designers such as Abbott Miller (a graphic designer) and Suzanne Tick (a weaving/fiber expert) have orchestrated new fabrics and wallcoverings that showcase elements from intricate patterning to textural complexity, yet always displaying Knoll’s commitment to the joy to be found in good design.

Though Knoll Textiles’ high-end price points and durability standards are often tailored for the office design market, more than 20 percent of the company’s sales are for residential use. And as the recent retrospective exhibition, tie-in book, and company archives illustrate, Knoll offers a wealth of creative ideas and inspirations for fabric treatments in your home. If you missed the Bard exhibition, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the show and a peek inside the Knoll Textiles studio.—William Weathersby

Knoll Textiles

The new Knoll Textiles book.

Click here to link to Knoll Textiles, 1945-2010 (Yale University Press, $75) Edited by Earl Martin; With essays by Paul Makovsky, Bobbye Tigerman, Angela Volker, and Susan Ward



A sampling from the Ink Collection,

A sampling from the Ink Collection, very fun new wallcoverings by Abbott Miller for Knoll.

Textile from Knoll

A textile from Knoll's archives.

Another archival textile

Another archival textile.

Stunning New Additions to Waterworks’ Kitchen Category of Products | leave a comment
Waterworks kitchen elements

New introductions to Waterworks expanding kitchen collection of fixtures, fittings and accessories.

Dedicated as it’s been for 30 years to innovation and quality, it isn’t surprising that Waterworks’ latest introductions to its expanding kitchen category are as gorgeous as they are functional. In addition to great faucets and hardware, its newest sinks, mixers, floor and wall surfaces, and accessories now extend the high-quality design, craftsmanship and service Waterworks is known for to a new level.

“The kitchen is a reflection of one’s most personal routines and rituals,” explains Barbara Sallick, Waterworks co-founder and creative senior VP of Waterworks. And the company’s new offerings include additions to the popular Julia and Henry Kitchen collections, as well as the ceramic vegetable bar sink, soapstone utility sink, the square wood bar sink ( you have to see this beauty in person), and the concrete farmhouse bar sink. Waterworks also added new introductions to its accessories collections. Standouts include apothecary selections infused with olive oil, mint, and sage to generously-sized, linen towels. If you plan to renovate your kitchen like I recently did, you owe it to yourself to visit a Waterworks showroom before you get started. To find one near you, click here.


A Bathroom in a Box Becomes a Reality | leave a comment
Berkeley bathroom Transformation

Complete transformation! What used to be a bathroom with yellow tiles on the walls and floors is now a minimalist, modern design—thanks to Bath Simple.

In the shower of this bath in Berkeley

In the tub/shower of this bath in a Berkeley, CA, home, the customer used horizontal tiles on the surround and a glass enclosure.

Looking for an easy way to renovate your bathroom affordably? Please read the following post from my colleague, friend and New York-based designer reporter William Weathersby.

If you have ever survived your own bathroom remodeling project, you’ll likely recall the many hours spent searching through the dizzying number of choices to select each necessary component—from your favorite faucet and tub to just the right light fixture and shade of grout. After you or your designer took care of orders and waited for deliveries, the clock kept ticking while electricians, plumbers and tile installers coordinated schedules, more than likely running late on the job, especially if a piece of the design puzzle went missing. Wouldn’t it be great if all of the elements required to build a better bath were available in one spot, then arrived on time, all at once? Now a complete bathroom delivered in a box is not just a fantasy. Bath Simple, an innovative new company based in Berkeley, California, makes makeovers easy by offering online product selection and design tools for the homeowner, then shipping the entire palette of materials and fixtures in one delivery.

“The conventional method of a bathroom renovation is highly fragmented,” says Bath Simple founder John Crowley. “There’s design, selection, purchase and installation, with very few of the players on the project team conversant in every aspect of the job. It’s akin to building a car by shopping at a plethora of auto parts shops, then hiring your brother-in-law to assemble the pieces in your garage on his own time.”

Crowley, the former director of the Innovative Construction Technology Program at MIT, was a veteran of several of his own home bathroom remodels, and found himself frustrated with the stop-and-start process of securing all of the elements necessary for the installation crew to complete their varied jobs. “It’s amazing how many tradespeople can stand around a bathtub and debate how long it’s going to delay things again to wait for some piece that’s missing.”

Crowley teamed with business partner Bill Hunscher to literally make bathroom design…simple. By visiting Bath Simple, homeowners work with an online program to “shop” hundreds of options in each element of the bathroom, organized by both style and price, with leading manufacturers such as Hansgrohe, American Standard and Caesarstone on board. (There are now 4,000 items in the Bath Simple search engine, and the inventory is growing.) With measurements plugged in, components can be coordinated to visualize how they would appear in your bathroom. A tiered range of packages offers fixtures and finishes at every price level. Materials range from about $3,000 for a typical powder room redo to $35,000 for a luxury master bath. Crowley says a rule of thumb is that the cost of labor should just about equal the cost of materials, so a full bath package might run $8,000 for materials and $8,000 for labor.

Complimentary technical and design advice is available by phone or email from Bath Simple’s in-house professional team. The company now also offers onsite design consultation in Berkeley, Seattle, Boston, Long Island, New York, and Portland, Oregon, with a rollout to other cities nationally underway. It’s building a network of affiliated interior designers, and can already offer advice on design pros and certified installers in your area.

A turnkey operation, Bath Simple can schedule an in-home needs assessment (aka “What I Hate About My Bathroom”), provide drawings and floor plans and present quotes for demolition. Products are ordered directly through the site and ship within 3-to-5 weeks. Once a delivery schedule is set, Bath Simple can arrange an onsite coordinator/contractor (or work with the homeowner’s own contractor), which greatly simplifies the process; no missing elements for you or subcontractors to fret about.

The “bathroom in a box” concept may at first seem like a marketing tease, but the concept also is a green strategy to cut down on packaging materials and costs of delivery (transportation footprints); all materials are indeed delivered in one super-size container. Plus the Bath Simple team will cart away the construction refuse and recycle old fixtures when possible as part of the package.

As for inspiring bathroom design trends, Bath Simple presents a helpful blog offering tips on everything from chic shower curtains to in-vogue vanities: Crowley himself notes that dark wood vanities with finishes such as espresso, walnut, zebrano and ebony are current style setters, and brushed nickel faucets are still running strong.— William Weathersby

For a good explanatory Bath Simple video click here. The company also was recently profiled on MSNBC.

Martin Bath Simple

In another great Bath Simple bath the customer replaced an outdated tub/shower combo with a full shower. They also added a new toilet from Toto and a custom double vanity to accommodate three kids.

Before the Bath SImple upgrade

Before the Bath Simple upgrade, a window and cast-iron tub had to be removed to make room for the new shower.




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