Monthly Archives: April 2012

Amazing finds (and ridiculously creative materials!) at the NYC Affordable Art Fair

I went to the Affordable Art Fair in NYC this weekend, and WHOA! — talk about amazing! It frankly blew me away. There were exhibitors from all over the world, and tons of up and coming artists were there to talk to you in person. All of the works were under $10,000, and the majority of the ones I saw were under $5,000, and some even under $1,000! Unbelievable. I took like SOOO many photos, but I attempted to group and categorize the ones I loved here.


HOLY COW. Looks like a remake of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, right? But you will NEVER guess what this piece is made of. IT BLEW MY MIND.

Look closer and see… it is actually thousands of little baubles, bits, and beads, and other found pieces, including…

…dinosaurs, LEGOs, fish, a baby, a sword (possibly from He-Man)… and no, your eyes are not fooling you. That is Spongebob squarepants, right there on your Vermeer. MAN, talk about creative! Why didn’t I go to art school!!! This was by Jane Perkins at London’s Will’s Art Warehouse.

And for other amazing materials….

Even from a distance I was entranced by the feeling of motion from this subtle wheel of color

when I got closer, I realized this effect is created from the clever placement of hundreds of pieces of colored glass acting like prisms, so it would actually look different under different lighting, at night versus strong daylight, etc. This piece from artist Chris Wood at Byard Art (based in Cambridge, UK).

Similarly, this wheel of primary colors is actually made of an arrangement of colored acrylic tubing…

so the transparent parts make the colored rings overlap when viewed from different angles. I stupidly did not note the artist of this work, so sorry!

Speaking of crazy materials… you will NEVER guess what this is made of. (Yes, I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s really true.)

Don’t cheat, really take a guess. I thought it might be foam or something… wrong! Give up? It’s actually salt. No kidding. From artists Mastrangelo and Lawson at NYC’s Emmanual Fremin Gallery.


I saw this technique again and again, and I just LOVED it. Kind of Andy Warhol, but I think the painting allows an extra level of creativity and artistic expression. Check these out:

This is Fabio Coruzzi’s I was in a Tram, it was about to Rain in Milan, from London’s Bicha Gallery. They told me he actually has three degrees: one in photography, one in printmaking, and one in painting, and all these talents are showcased in this and similar works that were on display.

Mike Chavez’s screenprint/paintings made me laugh out loud. When I met him at the event, he commented that art doesn’t always have to be so serious. Hear, hear.

The blood red scribbling on the print of the famous Marie Antoinette portrait feels young and a little irreverent. At the Evan Lurie Gallery (Carmel, IN).


Collages were possibly some of my favorite moments of the entire fair. Here was an artist I just loved:

It’s modern, it’s ethnic, it’s got texture and text elements, it’s literally 3D, it’s got a geometric pattern I love, bright colors, etc, etc. Could look at this one again and again and never get bored. This is Art Institute of Chicago-trained Jill Ricci, showing at the Tria Gallery in NYC. I guess you can tell I’m a fan! You wouldn’t believe the price if I told it to you.

Somehow scraps of newspaper and a layer of epoxy look almost impressionist. From artist Molly Hills Perez.


Lastly, I saw several pieces that just plain put a smile on my lips.

A bright pink, cable knit deer head. Who doesn’t want this? Pottery Barn could make a fortune if they mass-produced this. As it is, you have to get it from artist Rachel Denny at Portland Fine Art.

Cheeky and existential, what would Mark Zuckerberg say? From at NYC’s Galerie Swanstrom.

Dulce Pinzon‘s series Superheroes features normal people in normal situations dressed up in superhero costumes. This photo, showing an immigrant nanny, is comedic yet poignant.

Sunbursts of disco-ball-esque fireworks painted pointillism-style are juxtaposed against the strong silhouettes of cowboys. Like Clint Eastwood on acid, this is Casey Vogt’s Pill Poppers.

Hope you enjoy this! I loved the Affordable Art Fair, and it turns out they have them all over the place… I’m definitely going again!



On my recent trip to Costa Rica, I stopped at the Tabacon Hot Springs.  The grounds were breathtaking.  After walking around I stumbled upon the Shangri Li Gardens area where I lounged around on the outdoor furniture, and I was … Continue reading

Great Tall Narrow Storage Pieces

My city peeps are always looking to cram extra inches of storage into every corner of their apartments… so I thought I’d give some options for tall narrow storage to take advantage of scarce square footage.

The slim wall-mounted Plaza cabinet from Lacava is 10″w and has a combination of drawers and shelves, so you can hide half your mess.

Beautiful distressed wood cabinet is half storage, half display. $1312 from Candelabra Home.

This modern metal bookshelf is 10″ wide and provides a pop of bright blue. $199 from cb2.

Chic and cheap, open shelves with closed storage below, $570 at Wayfair.

The superskinny Totem bookcase is a mere 8″ wide. $449 from YLiving.

Turn 17″ into a bar. This tower holds 9 wine glasses, 20 bottles, and a drawerful of corkscrews. On sale for $459 from Crate & Barrel.

tall-narrow-storageI like the IKEA PS locker cabinet for hip, offbeat office storage, $99.

tall-narrow-bookshelfRestoration Hardware has a slim version of its Parisian Cornice bookshelf, where traditional molding meets industrial metal, on sale for $675.


Awesome iPhone docks and chargers

I saw David Stark’s awesome Wood Shop
candlestick iPhone charger in this month’s edition of Interior Design magazine….

(completed by the iPhone candle app) and fell in love ($175 from Haus Interiors). I wondered, what other fun high-design iPhone docks are out there? Here’s the best I found:

I love this gramophone-inspired dock/amplifier, cleverly named the Phonofone, $195 from Science & Sons.

Disguise your charger as literature. Each one-of-a-kind, $50 from the iCreateWorx Etsy shop.

I’m kind of in love with the Spiderpodium, $13 from Amazon.

Turn your phone into a throwback alarm clock (and never again lose it on the bedside table) with this wooden piece from Areaware ($40).

How ’bout a dock as furniture? West Elm cleverly does away with an extra piece with the Parsons Audio End Table, currently on sale for $199.

OK, so not high-design, but definitely on the list of things I should already own… this little piece transforms a regular outlet into a USB charger. $15 from Lowe’s.

Have a great Saturday all!


Hide your flat-screen TV… or even turn it into artwork! From high-end to low-end

SOOO, turns out not everyone can afford a separate home theatre away from their living area, and that many design-conscious people
are not willing to incorporate a large black box on the wall into their designs. Maybe it just doesn’t go with your particular style (let’s face it, a TV just doesn’t work in a Moroccan retreat/Tuscan villa/Paris flea market-inspired look). Maybe you want to fool your guests into thinking you’ve never heard of low-brow television (pray tell me, what is this Parking Wars? je ne sais pas Jersey Shore?) but only sit around reading Sartre and the occasional short fiction piece.

Whatever the reason, lucky for you, our design capabilities are expanding at the same rate as television technology. Ok, that was a lie. However, there are a lot of creative solutions available… from the extremely pricey to DIY. This post was actually inspired by this awesome room divider I saw at the Architectural Digest Home Show…

…where the TV panel actually swivels to allow TV-watching in two different areas, or so you can turn it around and hide the TV (the other side is those innocuous shelves) when you have guests over or want to have a zen moment. (That’s enough, now turn it around and give me my Make It or Break It). This very fun-to-turn but pricey piece starts at $4000 from Contempo Wall.

Here’s what else I found:

Manhattan Cabinetry has 20 different custom cabinets that have TV lifts, where the TV comes up from inside (I’ve shown a more traditional and more modern example here). You can also get non-custom TV lifts like these…

About $2500 each from

For those of you who don’t want any additional cabinetry, this is one of my favorite solutions. It is a frame around the TV that houses a retractable screen, almost like an internal roller shade. The roller shade moves up with the touch of a button, and there’s your TV. Check out this video:

This is the ArtScreen from VuTec. You can get a variety of frames and choices of artwork, or you can upload your own artwork to make it whatever you want! Totally want one. Here’s another company that does it:

Also offers tons of options for frame and 1200 standard paintings, as well as allowing you to upload custom art. From Frame my TV.

Here’s another solution, if you don’t like that. You can have your TV double as a mirror, so that it looks like an intentional part of the interior design when not in use:

Again, you can get any frame under the sun… from The Art of TV.

Finally I found a DIY option for those of you who are more budget-conscious and more handy…

Step-by-step directions from Gus & Lula.


In Costa Rica with Marcial Blanco

I am traveling around Costa Rica and am quickly falling in love with the open style architecture, beautiful wood furniture and decor in general. This culture really knows how to live with and embrace nature. While in Arenal a few days ago I drove by a small house with an attached workshop and knew instantly I needed to check it out. I discovered local artist Marcial Blanco. Although the language barrier was a small set back he still took the time to show me the 10 main types of wood grown and used in Costa Rica (which I will get to in a later post). He explained to me how he carves each piece by hand and is working on his drawing skills as well. Everything in his studio was beautiful and I had to share some photos with you before I head home at the end of the week. I cannot wait to hang up my new purchases when I get back to NY…. Enjoy!









Modern vs. “midcentury modern” vs. Modernist vs. neomodern vs. contemporary: a primer on designspeak (Part I)

So, I’ve decided to do a multi-part entry on design styles and terminology, which is superconfusing (even lots of those in my field don’t get it right!). I’m going to start with 1929 and work my way up to today, and by the end you’ll be an expert in designspeak and pretty much 20th century architecture in general. READY?

So. We begin with the father of “modern” design, a Mr. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (commonly shortened to Mies, phew!). Now, the reason I’m putting “modern” in quotes here is because it is not referring to “modern” in the adjective sense, meaning contemporary time (that is, in 2012). The problem with the word “modern” is that every period has a time when it is, in fact, modern! But no time is modern forever, hence the confusion.

Here, the term “modern” is used to describe a particular style (that was modern at the time of its inception in Germany in the 1920s). We still call it “modern” because that has now become the name of the style. So that’s really the source of the confusion: the fact that you have to think of “modern” as a name of a style (it should almost be a capital “M” in Modern) rather than an adjective to describe the current day. For this reason, it would clarify things if everyone would call it “Modernist” architecture, and refer to the style as “Modernism.” If I were Queen of the World, I would make it so. Alas, I am just one blogger, and most people just call it modern and expect you to be able to understand the difference.

This is important because the furniture and architecture that is being created today (in 2012), is not, in fact, Modernist. In other words, the stuff that’s being done right now, in 2012, by leading contemporary designers is not in the Modern style. (What it is will be the source of later blog posts…. but hold your horses, we’re not there yet!)

So what was the dawn of Modernism? Well, the key moment was an International Exhibition held in Barcelona in 1929. Mies designed the German Pavilion of the exhibition, and after that nothing was ever the same.

Just to contrast, the reigning style at that time in the U.S. was Art Deco, defined by stylized ornament and streamlined curves, like the Chrysler building (also built in 1929), with its elaborate (but now dated-looking) top:


Curves galore, elaborate triangular windows, gargoyles, zig zags, fancy metalwork, et cetera, et cetera… and check out how detailed the interior was:

Metal ornamentation on the walls, angular panes in the doors…

…super elaborate elevators…

and loads of decoration, included painted ceilings with more details at the border.

SO, now onto Mies. You can see what a difference his pavilion, showing the same year at the Barcelona Exhibition was:

Everything was flat, flat, flat. Flat floor, flat roof, flat water in the pool. Simple rectilinear construction with narrow steel framing. Zero ornament, zero painting, zero fancy metalwork or inlaid wood. The only ornament is from the materials themselves (the floors and walls are made of tumbled marble).

Yes, that was 1929, and yes, that’s a curtain wall. A flat one, of course. Here’s one thing the Modernists love(d): erasing the barrier between indoor and outdoors. So the interior floor keeps continuing beyond the curtain wall. Also in this picture you can see Mies’ iconic x-base chairs, now known as Barcelona chairs.

A view showing the marble room divider. Again, the only ornament was from the materials themselves, so color of the space was determined by material selection.

Look contemporary? Could this have been built in 2012? Of course. You only have to open Dwell Magazine to see that the ripple effects of this are still being felt. Tons of people want their house to look like this right now (whereas Art Deco looks like a blast from the past). That’s why even though there was a Postmodern movement in the 80s (a reaction against Modernism that attempted to return to ornamentation), we still have designers designing in the Modernist style (although if they are doing it now, it is technically called Neomodern to show that it’s a throwback).

Mies went on to design a bunch of Modernist buildings, like the notable Seagram Building built in 1958 in NYC…

…a simple rectangle built from right angles with zero ornament (and in my opinion, zero fun). This building spawned (and is still spawning) 60+ years of building glass boxes.

Here, the Modernist interior became even more pared down, more geometric, more colorless…

as seen in the above elevator lobby.

OK that’s about it for one day. More installments to come!


A reader’s awesome rainbow bookshelf!

A while ago I blogged about how much I love rainbow bookshelves (if you missed it you can check it out here), and lo and behold! A reader, Rachel S., organized her bookshelf this way. She said it took less than an hour, and check out the fabulous result:

Everything seems so purposeful… almost like a work of art. Kudos!

If anyone else tried this, please send photos!