Monday, March 29, 2010


Start with a bedroom. Not just any bedroom, but this highly chic sanctuary designed by Raji Radhakrishnan. 
Raji was inspired by the paintings in the king's bedroom at Versailles (and why not? say I) to have a detail converted into a sepia-toned photo mural. (You can check out Raji on her blog,, or web site,

Add to this idea my own pointless fantasizing about an ideal dining room, pointless because I don't have a dining room. To which we add my current obsession with a Cy Twombley painting called Quattro Stagioni (A Painting in Four Parts)... well, actually it's "Estate," one of the four parts. It's over ten feet tall and is owned by the Tate Gallery in London, an institution not known for giving away its holdings just because someone asks. 

I am not going to own this painting. Not now. Not ever. So it is my fantasy that I could somehow transfer "Estate" from Quattro Stagioni onto my imaginary dining room wall—not as a simple photo mural (oh, no, that would be way too easy), but as a Venetian plaster installation so that the grafitti-like scrawling and dripping splotches of yellow were actually in the layers of plaster, embedded behind its smooth-as-glass finish. I have no idea how this could be accomplished (I'd probably need Cy Twombley himself and a planeload of Venetian craftsmen), but when it was done, here is the sideboard I'd put in front of it.

It's from Jimmie Martin, my favorite beyond-the-pale furniture designers ( They're Scandinavian, but they work in London, Everything they make is one-of-a-kind and costs about as much as a peerage.

The rest of the room would have to be simple, of course, so I'd paint the opposite wall in some kind of sympathetic yellow, leaving the rest of the "envelope" white. For a table, I'd go with the classic Saarinen table from his 1956 "Tulip" series for Knoll (2010 is Saarinen's centennial, after all, and this table is so ubiquitous it's almost invisible, which means it won't be pulling a lot of focus)... 

... and some simple polypropylene Slick Slick chairs by Phiilippe Starck ( is selling four of them for $468 at the moment). 

Then I'd hang a small, but classic yellow crystal chandelier... or maybe it should be black. OR it could be this so-called Paper chandelier, a witty take on the classic in far humbler materials, designed by Studio Job for Moooi (

And do you think it would be too much to add this contemporary work of art by a British chap who goes by the name of Famous When Dead? Personally, I think it would be fine.

And that's what I call a dining room. Not everyone will want to eat here, but I will, and it's my house. At least in my own mind.—ML

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Sometimes when you noodle around on the computer, you find something that just stops you dead in your tracks. That happened to me when I came across these unbelievably beautiful hand-blown glass pieces by Los Angeles-based JOE CARIATI.

And here he is, tattoos and all. The personal aspect is rock ‘n roll rough, but the glassware is pure refinement.

Cariati was born in Seattle in 1971 and is classically trained in Italian glassblowing techniques. He’s a painter, too. Here’s one of his paintings.
The paintings seem much more in tune with the personal gestalt, but it’s the glass I can’t get enough of (although these photos are probably as close as I’m ever going to get to one since they cost many hundreds of dollars each).

Joe sells his pieces at places like Barney’s, at Fred Segal in Los Angeles, and at the Museum of Art and Design in Manhattan. Also, happily, online at his own web site. Check it out for even more mesmerizingly gorgeous glass:

These things certainly are photogenic! —ML

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Well, cheer up New York City architecture lovers. Manhattan is about to get another Frank Gehry project. Granted it’s a small one, and you won’t actually be able to see much of it from the street, but at least it will be there (from what I can tell from photographs of the very handsome models, I already like it better than the iceberg Mr. G. built for Brrrrrry Diller on the West Side Highway).

The Signature Theatre Company has announced that, thanks to a $25 million grant from the city, its plans for a $60 million, 74,000-square-foot complex of three small theaters, two rehearsal spaces and a central lobby/bookstore/café—designed by the Titan of Titanium himself—will open in a building currently under construction at 42nd Street and 10th Avenue, former site of one of the Big Apple’s last authentic coffee shops (well, you can’t have everything). The developer had hoped to include a permanent home for Cirque du Soleil on the site, but the city decided that the Cirque was too commercial to qualify for municipal assistance and nixed the idea.)

What was not so hot for the existential Canadian circus was a cool opportunity for the folks at Signature, including founding artistic director James Houghton). The Signature, a standout in the world of not-for-profit companies, was at one point scheduled to have a new home in the phantom building allegedly going up at Ground Zero sometime or other (as things are moving, not before the turn of the next millennium). The 2010–11 season is the Signature’s 20th, and it will be marked by a year-long look at the work of resident playwright, Tony Kushner; the festival will include the first New York revival of his three-part Pulitzer-winning Angels in America (

As for his work in the affair, Gehry calls the project “elegant yet modest,” which is accurate enough. After all, they’re theaters; they function best in the dark. Still, there are some typical Gehry flourishes, and the center probably won’t be boring at least. The scheduled opening is 2012, but don't order your tickets just yet. The project has already been seriously delayed once by matters related to the economy.


And then there’s the impending tower itself, which may be the bad news that more than outweighs the Gehry good. Just what the up-and-coming skyscraper will look like is apparently a Big Secret. The developer, Related Properties, hired Florida-based Arquitectonica to design the building (they are the hands behind the Westin at 42nd and 8th Avenue and other, better-looking buildings, particularly in Miami). When pictures of the structure leaked to the web recently (from a posting on the site of the company subcontracted to produce the glazing), architecture buffs let out a collective howl of dismay at the soulless, anonymous glass box that will tower 59 unaffordable stories above one of the most congested intersections in Gotham (it’s virtually the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel).

The pix were yanked within hours, but way too late. Related claims that they are out-of-date and do not represent the current building plan. But the building is already under construction. Don’t the developers know what it’s going to look like? Is this the equivalent of a movie studio trying to release a stinker of a film without letting critics review it before it opens? How bad can it be? Pretty bad if it’s anything like the picture: anonymous, cold, uninspired—not a feather in Arquitectonica's cap.

Bad design is probably not the best way to get people to move in or visit (it’s approved as a combined hotel and apartment building). At the moment the intersection is two very long blocks to the nearest subway, especially in bad weather. There’s a bus, but chances are that Mayor Bloomberg and his lunatic transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, will shut it down and put up a few picnic tables in the crosswalk instead, as they have elsewhere in the city, making it next to impossible to move efficiently above ground. But that’s another gripe for another post. I wouldn’t want to be alarmist about the thing.—ML

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dachshunds R Us

In the tradition of Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and, yes, David Hockney, I am the proud papa of a totally self-entitled dachshund, even though I can't paint. The attentive canine in the picture is Warhol's Maurice. Mine is named Schuyler despite the best efforts of my family to get me to name her Schaatze—which sounded to me like something Eva Braun would name a dog. Schuyler is the cutest and sweetest dog in the history of the world. Really.

When you own a dachshund, it turns out, people like to give you things shaped like hot dogs. Hot dogs with tails. Hot dogs with devil horns and tails. Hot dogs with angel wings and tails. After the third Halloween doggie costume—a hot dog bun, get it?—I decided that friends of wiener-dog owners clearly needed a shopping guide. So I looked around the world and the web and found some nice modern, non-corny objets de doxie. I published that selection on, and it was a surprisingly popular post. You can still find it there. But time marches on, and doxies do need the occasional gift, so, I offer this updated, amended, and/or improved list of things to get your favorite dachshund owner.

Exhibit A: I give you the Milki. This illuminated dachshund is the work of a new design group in Korea called Wants and Needs (they seem to be working under the assumption that these are not the same thing). The most fun thing about these lamps is that you turn them on and off but tickling the dachshund under the chin, where a sensor activates the electrical circuit. At the moment these are only available directly from Korea for $150 plus $40 in shipping (air mail); just send an email  to 
My friend Supon Phornirunlit is a Thai-born designer who lives in our nation's fair capital, where he runs several businesses. One of them, Naked Decor, has for some time offered a lovely Happy Hot Dog throw pillow with the noble nose half of said dog on the front and the tail-end on the back. You need a pair of them to display the whole dog, but at $45 each, that's not out of the question. Now he's offering the same split image as a two-part silkscreen designed to hang on the wall; the two 12" x 12" panels, in a limited edition of 250, are $150;

That half-a-hot-dog look is getting popular. Super potter Jonathan Adler has had a dachshund in his menagerie for quite some time, but he's added bookends. What better way to organize your dachshund-related literature? The set is 14" long, made of high-fired stoneware on a solid hardwood base, $150; My birthday is in July, but no need to wait for a special occasion!

Haseform, the German company, has a small ark-load of hanging coat hooks. The line is called Tiergarderoben (a play on the German words for zoo and wardrobe), and it includes elephants, octopuses, and reindeer, among others—and this dachshund, of course. If you've ever met a nursing doxie, you may think this item is funnier than if you haven't. They're available in white, black, or red for only $28;

Carry your doxie pride with you even in places were hounds are verboten with these travel mugs emlazoned with a variety of abstract little doggies. They're 7" tall and hold 15 ounces of hot or cold beverage; $22 from

Artist Kevin McCormick offers these droll, propaganda-inspired posters through his web site, Obey the Purebreed. Other dog breeds are available, as are posters touting the delights of c-a-t-s. The silkscreened posters measure 23" by 35" and cost $28;

The d-toro mini-dachshund really is mini. It measures 7" long. You assemble it yourself, of course, from natural cardboard pieces. It's made in Japan, and yours for only $24.50;

You have to see this site to believe it, but there is an artist named Nathan Sawaya, a sculptor, who works exclusively in the medium of LEGO blocks. His doxie is 8" long. Sawaya will even accept commissions to create your precious pet in LEGO; visit this set even if you aren't in the market for a dachshund (this guy is off the hook);

And in case you want to send me a note, I would suggest these handsome cards, hand screened by Orange Twist of Seattle. They're $3.95 each or  $16 for a set of 6, two each of 3 colors, as seen plus sky blue;

That's about it for now. I'll post more fabulous doxie doo-dads when I find them. And, in closing, I leave you with a photo of the most wonderful dachshund who ever lived. Yes, it's my lovely rescued-from-certain-death-in-South-Carolina Schuyler (it's pronounced SKY-ler but spelled in the Dutch fashion, as well it should be for a resident of the town once known as New Amsterdam, more recently as New York). And she's all mine. Or I am hers. The jury's out.—ML

Saturday, March 13, 2010

All-American in HOME Miami


Bill Diamond and Tony Baratta have been turning out top-tier interiors for almost 30 years. Their Manhattan-based firm is now 25 years old, a cause for celebration. Enter All-American: The Exuberant Style of William Diamond and Anthony Baratta. It's a vibrant blast of energy between hard covers from Pointed Leaf Press, the boutique bookery founded by decor guru Suzy Slesin.

For the whole article (written by me) and a great portfolio of images, click on the link below. To order the book, click on the cover in the BOOKSHELF box, below right.

Friday, March 12, 2010


A is for Aalto, whose first name is Alvar, so he’s an A coming or going. He’s also a crossword puzzle favorite, as you can well imagine. (Secret History: His actual first name was Hugo; Alvar was his second given name.)

The Finnish architect and designer was born in 1898—when Victoria still sat on the English throne, to put it in context—and lived until 1976. In his long building career, he created such structures as the Finnish pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City…

… and Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, which was finished in the early 1970s.

It is as a furniture designer that Aalto is most known today, at least in the U.S., where he is considered one of the fathers of Scandinavian modernism. Many of his pieces have become icons of the mid 20th century.

Chances are you’ve seen this little stacking stool. If you were at my place, you’d see one sitting next to my bed.

Two of his most famous chairs are this two-towned bentwood Paimio chair of 1932 …

… and the upholstered Armchair 400 of 1937, shown here in a festive zebra-print fabric. This image comes from Artek, the company Alvar and his architect wife, Aino, founded in 1935 (this family loved their A’s). Artek still makes Aalto furniture, as well as signature pieces by others in the Aalto tradition (see

Even if you’ve never heard of the man, you no doubt have seen this vase in one of its many manifestations. Originally designed in 1937 and called the Savoy vase, its descendants are produced in Finland to this day by the Iittala company (you can get them at the MoMa store,

Clearly it’s not an accident that aalto is the Finnish word for “wave"—as in "wave of the future." For more on Aalto, go to

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Oh, look, it's Maxine Snider, graphic artist, painter, interior and furniture designer. I first met Maxine many moons ago when I assigned myself the job of writing about her home—a duplex in one of those classic Chicago apartment houses on the Gold Coast (so close to Lake Michigan you can practically hear the waves lapping the shore). The pictures we had taken for Met Home interested me, although I confess I might have given the writing assignment to someone else if it had not been for the incredible collection of black and white photography Maxine and her husband, Larry, had hanging in the stairwell. It was a stunning assembly of prints, most of them vintage.

So off I flew to Chicago. I loved their house. I loved the Sniders. They are smart, talented, outgoing, modest, and gracious—a combination more common, I have found, in Chicago than other places I have lived. Among the pieces in their home were a few that Maxine had designed herself. Ms. Snider started her design studio in 1989. In 1998 she introduced her first collection of ten pieces inspired by her research in Paris. Dark and fairly formal, they reference antiques. But they're about as much like the original as Matthew Bourne's all-male Swan Lake is like the traditional Marius Petipa staging of 1895. The dance analogy is especially apt because Maxine, a bit of a minimalist, likes her legs long and lean, and those first pieces taper to nearly nothing, giving them the appearance of being poised pertly en pointe. Maxine is also pert and poised.

Here's one of her first-wave of pieces, the Grand Salon table. The photographs hanging above it are by Karl Blossfeldt.
My new most favorite Maxine Snider piece was inspired by more recent design history. It's called the Bauhaus console; it's made of quartered white ash (with nickel details), and it looks like this:

There is something deeply satisfying about discipline, simplicity, perfect proportions, meticulous craftsmanship, and refined finishing! The mid-century-appropriate Bauhaus console is worthy of Florence Knoll in her prime. Unlike the Knoll line, however, Snider's furniture is not for mere mortals. The tables, chairs, beds, and sofas cost what you would expect to pay for a piece of finely made casework. You do not find the Maxine Snider line at Target. You find it at design centers.

Maxine's company is small, compared to some brands, but she has managed to assemble a client list that includes celebrities (Mark Wahlberg, Oscar de la Hoya), major interior designers, like Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, and such prestigious architectural firms as Tigerman McCurry and Booth Hansen, as well as hospitality giants like the Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton, and even the Gaansevoort Hotel in the Meat Packing District of New York City (which is about two blocks from my apartment).

It's definitely worth noting that the photograph above the Bauhaus console is by Maxine's husband, Lawrence K. Snider (aka Larry), a lawyer by trade but a world-class photographer whose work is being collected by American museums even as we speak. Larry travels (sometimes with Maxine) to shoot "vanishing cultures" in Asia and South America. He used to work pretty much exclusively in black and white, but he's added color. Following is a photograph by Larry that I actually own (well, I own a print of it). It's the only piece of art that I have ever bought at an art gallery opening (in Los Angeles), and I've been happy about that ever since.—ML

For more on Maxine, go to

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


If you ask me what my favorite color is, you may not get the same answer today as yesterday. Some days it’s a kind of mousy putty color with a lot of heathery lilac in it. Others it’s a bright shade of something like chartreuse that you might get if you could combine the petal color of a daffodil with the green from the first shoots through the spring snow. When I was a kid, the answer was much simpler and always the same: red. Oh, I liked dark blue and dark green well enough, but that red crayon was the first one worn to a nub. Crayola should have put two red crayons in every box. Children like red. It’s in your face. No hiding.

The very first print of a work of art I ever bought, at the tender age of 8, was Charles Demuth’s “The Figure 5 in Gold” (1928) from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection at the the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The painting is based on a poem by William Carlos Williams, and I didn’t need lessons in the interpretation of modern imagery to know that it was about a fire truck (of course, my father was the captain of the Manhasset Lakeville volunteer fire department, company No. 5, which might have given me a clue). Here follows a photo of the young me with my nextdoor neighbor, Bobby Cosgrove, visiting the fire house.

In design terms, I wouldn’t say I’ve never seen a red room I didn’t like, but I can certainly say I’ve never seen a red room that didn’t command my attention. This red dining room by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz is one of my favorite photos (by Jeff McNamara) from my days at Metropolian Home. 

Benjamin likes monochromatic spaces, and this one Is not fooling around. Red paint, by the way, is a bear to work with. You probably need six coats to get the saturation you want and to cover whatever was there before. Which may be why lots of people don’t rush into red rooms. I had a red room when I was a graduate student, but I used enamel paint, so it only took one coat on top of the primer (the landlord was not thrilled about it—kiss that security deposit good-bye).

Designer Marjorie Skouras likes red, too. She uses it for clients and chose it for her own living room in Los Angeles, punching up the wall color with a lot of sass and a boldness (possibly inspired by red) to mix things up in a witty “new modern” way.

Red is many things—hot, sexy, passionate, intense—but it isn’t shy. Try to ignore this famous John Singer Sargent painting in a gallery room if you can:
Another artist who loved his red was Mark Rothko. Since I’m not likely ever to be able to afford an actual Rothko, I fantasize about turning his work into rugs. Just imagine this fabulous painting in deep pile underfoot. How much furniture would you need?

Some people find red rooms to be too intense, but I think that depends on your notion of calm. Matisse obviously thought a red room was perfectly relaxing.
Nowadays, perhaps, we might say it’s a bit over-designed, what with the tablecloth matching the wallpaper and all, but, hey, if you saw this in real life it might be actually be absolutely stunning.

Here’s a little house in Sweden that takes its red seriously:

Okay, I tell the truth: It’s actually an art installation—but if you saw it in Maine, would you think it was ironic—or a major outbreak of folk art?

And this room is much too traditional for my taste, but the man reading the book seems to think it’s peaceful enough.
Maybe every other room in his house is painted white.—ML

You can see more work by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz at
Marjorie Skouras is at: