Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The recent passing of actress Dixie Carter reminded me how much I loved her TV show (if you have to ask which show, you aren’t reading this blog). Those Sugarbaker sisters and their loopy cohorts may not have been great modernist designers, but they sure were fun. And there wasn’t too much in the way of “design television” in the days before HGTV.

SO… here is salute to Designing Women—not the show, but ten actual women who make the world beautiful for a living. Besides their talent, they have two things in common. They all had their work published in METROPOLITAN HOME while I worked there, and they all have web sites, so you can just click on their names to see oh, so much more. I mean, really: embarrassment of riches. I couldn’t choose. I did choose, but it wasn’t easy.

So before we get to the ladies of today, here’s a designing woman from the past: It’s Dorothy Draper. If you don’t know who she is, go directly to Google. Do not pass GO, etc. Your design education is hanging in the balance.

So, we begin…

NISI BERRYMAN is the proprietor of the forward-looking NIBA Home, one of the great design shops in Miami. Her own home is small in size but, like Nisi, huge in personality thanks to her passion for pink and the all the fruity colors of the tropical market rainbow. I love the living room (it’s one of my favorite colors) and the contrast with the dining room in the back—is it a chocolaty plum, would you say, or espresso aubergine? That feathery “chandelier” is from ABYU a.k.a. And Bob’s Your Uncle.

What a difference a client makes! BETSY BURNHAM’s project for MET HOME was a fairly masculine, Asian-infused home for a single man living in one of the upmarket neighborhoods of Los Angeles. It was polished, subtle, quiet and altogether inviting. So look what else Betsy can get herself up to: Color on color on color, multiple patterns, a chromatic whirlwind. It takes enormous talent to throw this many high-octane fabrics and finishes at one room and not have it look like the pasha’s attic. I’m pretty conservative about color, but I love this home office. Not for me, but for someone I like... a lot.

TORI GOLUB was a fashion stylist before she turned her considerable talents to interior design. Her Manhattan-based residential firm has attracted a long list of devotees thanks to her “comfort modern” aesthetic. The bedroom here, in the Hamptons, has sweet dreams written all over it—and not too many pillows (the homeowner is a single man). If you think the bedroom is great, what about the bathroom that goes with it? Bottom line: I want it!!! That sculptural circle thing is an antique child’s hoop and stick.

LORI GRAHAM’s work appeared in MET HOME more than once, thanks to the Washington, D.C. designer’s broad range and considerable mastery of her medium. The pearly bathroom is from a home in the capital’s Kalorama neighborhood. Every single piece is perfect, and the juxtapositions are inspiring. The bedroom is from a different place, a condo in TriBeCa, New York CIty, which is just a mile or two south of my own apartment, so moving it up here wouldn’t be too difficult, now would it, Lori? Maybe you should ship the bathroom up from D.C., too.

Sometimes you just get lucky with clients. JUDY MALE, who is half of the Male-Cahlin partnership, found art collectors with an enormous penthouse duplex overlooking the water and, let's face it, a bank account to make their Miami dreams come true. Male made all the right moves to show off the Midwestern couple's museum-quality art and to pair it with furniture of comparable provenance. Still, the place functions well for entertaining and as a family home. While all the rooms have drama, they also embrace man’s… and woman’s… need for comfort.

I first heard of KARA MANN, interior designer and showroom owner, when MET HOME ran pictures of her own extraordinary apartment in Chicago (which also appeared in GLAMOUR: MAKING IT MODERN). I loved her high contrast, dramatic world of whites and dark, dark browns with its Goth details. I liked the next place of hers I saw, too, a renovated and expanded Victorian with this monochromatic dark-grey living room alive with subtle metallic accents and Asian resonances. It's unexpected and altogether winning. Plus there's one of those Chinese warriors in the corner. I love that! It makes me want to go back to China.

VALERIE PASQUIOU made her MET HOME debut with the L.A. canyon home she designed for singer k.d. lang (it used to be a “retreat” for movie star Rock Hudson). The place was comfortable, natural, and highly meditative, a fresh twist on Zen, with lots of Japanese details and floaty fabrics. So imagine my surprise when the next Pasquiou project I saw was this incredibly sophisticated wide-open loft in New York City. Valerie, who is French and has offices in Paris as well as New York, obviously has a lot of Gallic versatility up her sleeve. UPDATE: Valerie's latest project, a loft in the East Village of Manhattan was published in the New York Times Home section on April 29, 2010!

“RAJI” RADHAKRISHNAN of Washington, D.C. (principal of Raji RM & Associates) is a quirky, eccentric, eclectic designer with a great eye for the unexpected. She gracefully manages to balance the grand gesture and absolute refinement, which is no mean feat. One of the things she does that speaks to my photo-heart is to turn scale on its ear with enormous photo enlargements of details from works of art, as in this living room just outside the capital district.

JILL VanTOSH is the municipal equivalent of a “national treasure” in the city of Atlanta. This dining room, which ran not only in MET HOME, but also on the cover of GLAMOUR: MAKING IT MODERN, is one of my favorite rooms ever. It’s not exactly “my style,” but it’s amazing enough for me to consider changing styles. For those of you who like white on white (and variations of the themes), Jill is a master of the ultra-pale. She has a broad range, and her rooms are deeply layered and meticulously detailed. Is it wrong to fall in love with a shade of blue? It's not. Right?

One of my favorite locations in MET HOME was a radically pure white home that TOBY ZACK of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, designed for clients in Palm Beach. Every single living room textile was the exact same shade of white, and they all matched the walls, ceiling, and floor. The only color came from the art—vibrantly primary and modern. The room was visually compelling and not the least bit cold. So I was delighted in doodling around the web to find this gleaming kitchen, which is not just hot, it’s smokin’—and super cool, too. If you like Italianate sleek, this will put you over the moon!

Good stuff. It makes me happy. But before I close, here is one last picture.

That, of course, is Mame Dennis, as portrayed by Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame, the designing woman of my childhood. Got a problem? Feeling down? Then just... redecorate!!!! Everything I ever learned about interior design begins with her!—ML


  1. This is really lovely, Michael. Thanks for putting it together. Holly

  2. Michael, this is a fabulous review of beautiful women and their beautiful design perspective. Thank you!