Friday, April 4, 2014

For Sale: The Irreverent Iris Apfel

Iris for mac

Style icon Iris Apfel has lived a rich tapestry of a life brimming with beautiful things. Perpetually draped in decadent mounds of eclectic, ethnic jewelry, Iris herself is a piece of art for whom moderation equals mundane, and her wardrobe is a celebration of color and texture. More is more in Iris’s world, and the “geriatric starlet,” as she calls herself, has coined an eccentric style that is unmistakable and truly inimitable.

She will turn 93 on Sunday. Tomorrow night, on the eve of her birthday, she is selling on pieces from her exquisite personal collection of carefully-curated objects, ranging from furniture to apparel, and accessories for both the wardrobe and the home. Each piece has been evaluated with her discerning eye, and hand-picked during a lifetime of shopping around the world.

Iris turquoise

“I used to make two trips to Europe every year,” Iris said, “with at least 40-foot containers each time. I never missed an auction, every estate sale I could dig up, every time I heard of someone who wanted to sell something but they didn’t want to go public…and I really got wonderful things that way.” She continued, “But you can’t keep these things forever. And even if they’re yours, somebody once said to me, ‘You really never own anything on this planet. You just rent.’ I put so much love and attention into everything I’ve bought,” she said, and, speaking of her pieces as though they are living creatures, she added, “I hope that when someone buys something it goes to a good home where it’s loved and respected. That would make me very happy.”

Iris red

The storage facilities that Iris rents in Queens, New York, are positively bursting at the seams with a bounty of objects of desire, and after years of negotiation with the savvy buyers at One Kings Lane, Iris is prepared to let go of a select few pieces–800, to be exact. This is an extraordinary opportunity to own a piece of Iris Apfel, a formidable force in art, fashion and decor.

Iris at home 2

Iris’s education and career are as fascinating as her travels and the goodies that she acquires during the trips. She studied art history at New York University and attended art school at the University of Wisconsin. Iris worked for Women’s Wear Daily and for interior designer Elinor Johnson.

In 1950, she, with husband Carl, launched a textile firm, Old World Weavers. In addition, during that time, she was interior decorator to nine presidents in the White House–including Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City premiered an exhibition about Apfel in 2005 titled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. The exhibit’s success prompted its own traveling version.

Iris grey

In addition, the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History in Boynton Beach, Florida, is in the conceptual phase of designing a building which will house a dedicated gallery of Apfel’s clothes, accessories and furnishings. Epic.

You go, girl!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Falling in Love with Interiors, The Romance of Design


As I stare at the images in interior designer Suzanne Tucker’s new book, Interiors, The Romance of Design, I am reminded of a quote by the great acting coach Konstantin Stanislavsky. He said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” Likewise, in the world of art and design, “There are no small rooms, only small designers.”


Suzanne Tucker illustrates this expertly when she transforms intimate spaces into memorable masterpieces. No detail is left unturned, as seen in the tiny terracotta powder room, above. It’s nothing short of inspiring. I love the way Suzanne echoes the carved marble shell of the sink basin with the scalloped arch of the ceiling, and how the reclaimed floor tiles resound of the stenciling on the vanity.

This is the kind of attention to detail that separates good design from great design, and substantiates the fact that Suzanne, herself a visual poet, is one of the country’s leading interior designers. Her projects have been published in magazines worldwide, and Architectural Digest has named her repeatedly on their AD100 list of top designers.


Of course Suzanne’s lavish opulence is not limited to only intimate interiors, evidenced in photo after glorious photo of her design triumphs…each page a masterpiece on nearly 300 glossy oversized pages.

Posing above a swirling oval entry hall, above, is an arresting sculpture by Manuel Neri.


My favorite part of the book is the chapter titled “A Sentimental Journey,” in which Suzanne generously allows readers a peek into her spacious home–“a decorating laboratory,” as she calls it, “where pieces are studied and come and go,” she said.

Above in her own sanctuary, just a touch of leopard in a hall, bright with light, flanks a French eighteenth-century console.


“As we evolve,” she said, “our homes should, too. When a house is overlaid with one’s personal collections–art, furnishings, accessories–it can become an expression of individuality and a vessel for memories, tangible and intangible,” she added.

Such is the case in her dining room, for example, where the antique carved rock crystal chandelier is part of the legacy of her mentor, the late Michael Taylor.


“The eclectic mix of the living room,” above and below, “includes an eighteenth-century French mantel and Régence chairs found in Paris,” she stated, “and a late Qing period low table.”


Suzanne’s interior world is a cornucopia of sumptuous fabrics and rich colors drenched in the gorgeous natural light of Marin County, with spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay Area. The photographs are so ultimately tactile that one can almost feel them.


“Our tiger, part of my husband’s family lore, was rescued from the circus in the sixties,” she explained, “and lived out his life as the Michigan Air National Guard mascot.” A bold and socially-responsible tribute to nature, its exotic pelt leads the eye to the fabulous fireplace, which is punctuated by the orange abstract painting by Tom Holland, a piece which also belonged to Michael Taylor.

Suzanne stated, “A house can be a lifelong romance, and we should find ourselves falling in love with our homes over and over again.”

Interiors, The Romance of Design, follows Suzanne’s first book, Rooms to Remember, currently in its third printing. Her textiles and tabletop line for Suzanne Tucker Home are in luxury showrooms and stores nationwide.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beautiful Yet Functional Art for the Table: Annieglass


Genius in Glass

I will never forget the moment I discovered Annieglass. It was love at first sight when I stumbled across these unique dishes, coveted and collected by too many celebrities to name, and used in some of the finest restaurants in the world.

Designed and created by glass artist Annie Morhauser, they’re utterly breathtaking and very difficult to photograph. Even the pictures in this article do not do justice to their incomparable beauty.


I was beyond thrilled to tour the Watsonville factory with Annie. It’s positively stacked with her gorgeous tableware, which is painstakingly crafted with exacting standards. Below, an employee assembles a cake plate in Annie’s warehouse.


I don’t remember where I first found my Annieglass–maybe it was Neiman Marcus, maybe Gump’s San Francisco, or possibly the Annieglass store in downtown Santa Cruz, all vendors of the product–but what I do remember is the sensation. It was utter awe. Magic. I really have never seen or felt anything like Annieglass before or since. Over the years several styles have been imitated, but never duplicated.


The pattern that won my heart was the B.C. Dinnerware, above, with the bubbly warped glass and pebbled texture that is a trademark of many of Annie’s dishes.

B.C. Dinnerware stands for Before Christ Dinnerware–“because it looks like it predates Christ,” Annie tells me. The dinner plates are like relics from another place and time, all with a cunning asymmetry that is distinctly Annie’s own. They’re at once antiqued, yet infinitely modern. Glossy aquamarine wonders of rippling glass that look organically beautiful, they also feel beautiful. The underbelly has the texture of velvet.


Above, Annie stands beside the two-ton sheets of durable architectural glass from which her pieces are fashioned. Commonly used in skyscrapers, the glass has the aqua tint from the iron in the glass, and the velvety feel is due to the uncommon process of sandblasting the bottoms of each piece. This contributes to the milky paleness that is undefinable, simultaneously translucent but also opaque.

But first the glass is “slumped” over plaster molds, below, revealing each one’s unique beauty through its imperfections–imperfections that make every piece an original, a treasure.


I mix my B.C. Dinnerware with other pieces, especially the Shell Series, below, which has a prehistoric elegance–vessels shaped with the gentle silhouettes of fossilized seashells. They’re where art and artifact collide. Highly respected in the art world, two of the designs from the Shell Series reside in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.


Tipped with your choice of 24 karat gold or platinum, or simply non-trimmed, every piece bears the studio signature, and Annie herself signs limited editions. Her name is etched on the bottoms of the pieces.


There are many patterns of Annieglass, such as the classic Roman Antique Gold and Platinum, above and below, which I also collect. This is the first collection that Annie launched, 30 years ago. I love the look of an Annieglass table, where mixing and matching collections is not only common, but de rigeur.


With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas on its heels, I encourage you to discover your own inner awe as you look at these iconic creations, like the elegant Handkerchief Votives below.


A significant advantage to these ethereal pieces is, oddly, their practicality. For something that looks so delicate and fragile, Annieglass can stand up to the most challenging circumstances; they’re dishwasher safe; and they look equally at home with any mixture of their Annieglass siblings, as well as fine China, limoges, or pottery.

You can add just one stunning piece for a real wow factor, or mix and match til your heart’s content. Either way, no two Annieglass tables will ever look the same. Your choice of linens, placemats, and of course flatware and accessories will define the table’s vignette. I love an Annieglass table set with twigs, bamboo placemats, stones, and other natural elements.


Annieglass is perfectly appropriate for any circumstance–be it a Thanksgiving feast, a baby shower buffet, a New Year’s dinner, or Valentine’s day. Here, Annie holds a lovely heart-shaped dish that’s ideal for hors d’oeuvres or dessert.


The pieces are multifunctional. Use one of Annie’s pedestal Slabs, above, to present fruit…or cheese…or a whole poached salmon.

Annieglass looks equally appropriate in the bathroom, due to its aquatic esthetics, holding decorative soaps or guest towels…cosmetics, sea sponges, and the list goes on and on.


“Every piece of Annieglass can be, and should be, used for a variety of objects,” Annie says. “Ruffle cake stands make just as exquisite a resting place for dark chocolate velvet cakes as they do brie cheeses…and a salad plate makes a charming display for a bottle of wine or a candle,” she adds.


Surprise a coworker with a sectional dish for olives or foil-wrapped chocolates, perhaps, like the one below from the Ruffle Series.


A fabulous wedding gift is Annie’s stunning deviled egg platter. The perfect housewarming gift, a piece of Annieglass is a gift one would consider a ‘lifetime gift’ because Annieglass pieces are heirloom-quality creations that will stand the test of time via both form and function.

You need not save this art glass for special occasion only; Annieglass elevates even take-out to an art form. As I mentioned, the glass is incredibly strong, chip-resistant and dishwasher-safe. Annie tells me an interesting story. After Hurricane Katrina, she got reports from customers that their Annieglass survived the disaster. More than one person had their china cabinet washed away in the floodwaters and it was found down the street or a block away with all the Annieglass still intact, unbroken. “They just needed to be hosed off,” Annie said.


Pieces from the Dew Drops Collection, above and below, are seductively punctuated with Swarovski crystals. Mere photos can’t even capture the detail…


…and I love the hand-chipped pedestal on the new cone-shaped Edgey bowl, below, which merges seamlessly with Annieglass classics.


You can see how Annieglass is created and discover the craftsmanship that goes into every piece at their lively and informative walking tours of the Watsonville factory. Call for reservations 831.761.2041 ext. 21.

In addition, wine tastings are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., pouring Santa Cruz and Monterey County wines.


Above, the sunny Watsonville gift shop that’s adjacent to the warehouse is brimming with countless exquisite creations–the autobiography of a genius in glass, Annie Morhauser.

Click here to find an Annieglass retailer near you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ray Villafane’s Pumpkin Carvings for Halloween 2013


Our Halloween favorite, Ray Villafane is back, and he and his gourd-geous jack-o’-lanterns will appear at the New York Botanical Gardens October 19 and 20.


We learned about Ray from a savvy friend back in 2010, and since that time his pumpkin-carving business has, literally, exploded!


Using traditional clay ribbon loops to painstakingly shave features into these ordinary gourds yields extraordinary results in the hands of Ray Villafane. Other tools, such as paring knives and x-acto knives are used for deep gouges and detail work, respectively.


Ray first began carving pumpkins as a lark for his art students in a small rural school district in Michigan. What started as a whim turned into a career as Ray’s videos went viral, unleashing his inner passion for pumpkins! Read what Beauty Shall Save the World has to say about Ray in these articles from our archives!

Halloween Pumpkin Carvings as Art

Ray’s website illustrates, step by step on a real pumpkin, how he concocts the eerie faces.

Halloween Weekend Project 101: Carving Your Pumpkin

Magnificently menacing, ghoulishly grand, or absolutely absurd, Ray’s creations are infinitely imaginative and make a great weekend project!


Have a hauntingly hilarious Halloween this year with the help of Ray and his team of elite carvers!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dream House: San Francisco’s 2013 Decorator Showhouse


The Herbst Manor is an interior design triumph as part of the annual San Francisco Decorator Showhouse. An 8,000-square-foot, three-story Georgian mansion in the Pacific Heights neighborhood got a major makeover with the combined talents of 27 of the West Coast’s best artists and interior design firms.


With room after beguiling room of creative, brave, welcoming designs, all I could imagine was what it might be like to wake up in the mansion in the mornings to have my breakfast in the front courtyard, surrounded by the beauty of Living Green’s vertical garden, above.


Titled ‘Birds of Prey,’ it’s a space painted with more than 1,500 plants. The reflections of Jane Richardson Mack’s églomisé panels hanging on the left–each a rendering of a predatory bird–glisten like Versailles, bathed in the morning light.


The penthouse retreat and its terrace were created by Villanueva Design. A serene spa aesthetic is punctuated with an intricate, hanging Turkish lamp. The perfect space for in-house masseuse and morning yoga. Pictured below is an elegant sitting area and wet bar in the penthouse entryway.


The European-style kitchen below, designed by Alison Davin of Jute, features herringbone flooring in neutral tones that are reiterated in the terra cotta tiles behind the stove. It’s an ideal spot for family meals or homework.


A whimsical room for all ages, “The Danger Zone,” below, features orange teepees with lucite rods and a modern, eye-popping rug. The space, both bright and friendly, was designed by Martha Angus and Eche Martinez of Martha Angus, Inc.


A neon sign and funky blue bubble chairs for seating contribute a playful vibe to the atmosphere.


Darren Waterston’s bold lava sculpture sits majestically at the base of the home’s staircase, a fearless tribute to nature that contrasts the home’s architectural characteristics.


Heather Hilliard Design‘s classic yet modern dining room features contemporary furniture and restrained pops of black for graphic interest.


The first room you see when you enter the home is Catherine Kwong Designs‘ brilliantly imagined and executed tribute to Mick and Bianca Jagger, the early years. The highly-glossed floor design, inspired by the iconic paintings of Cy Twombly, adds a sense of unapologetic rock and roll chic to this classic space. Floor to ceiling drapes in glamourous silver emphasize the height of the stately room.


Catherine maintained and emphasized the detail of the intricate gilded ceiling with a pair of vintage Italian light fixtures and an ornate gold mirror above the fireplace.


Designed by Kevin Hackett and Jessica Wiegley of Siol Studios, a living wall of plants behind the bathtub in the upstairs bathroom needs no further embellishment. It’s ripe and alive in verdant brilliant greens.


The master bedroom, designed by Phillip Silver of Bigelow + Silver, challenges traditional sensibilities of furniture placement and engages the senses with pale neutrals and opulent textures.

Brick Wall Background

These are just a few of the more than 20 rooms that were so expertly conceived and executed by San Francisco Bay Area’s finest artists and interior designers.

The San Francisco 2013 Decorator Showhouse is open to the public through May 27.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Jay Strongwater Christmas

I love the intricate frames created by Jay Strongwater, where, as you can see below, the backside is actually as beautiful as the front.


When I met Jay back in April, he told me that he has a fascination with decorative textiles. Now the talented artist turns his eye away from the jewel-encrusted enamel collectors items that made him famous, just long enough to create more things that I crave.


The oversized, highly-embellished Christmas stockings above, $595 at Neiman Marcus, combine his love for jewels with his love for opulent fabrics. Just look at the detail below on this plum-colored stocking. Fabulous, isn’t it?


I think they are quite outstanding, but what I’m really lusting after is this Christmas tree skirt, $1,650, below.


Made in India of cranberry crushed velvet, this would look quite impressive as a tree skirt, but I’m holding out for it to go on sale so I can wear it as a cape!


Paired with gold lamé leather leggings or an all-black ensemble, it’s perfect for holiday parties. Trés chic. True style is the ability to think outside the box.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Tabletop Decoration At Its Finest

A Visual Feast, Hosted by DIFFA

Thanksgiving is this Thursday and in perfect timing I was invited to the twelfth annual DIFFA’s Dining By Design Table Hop and Taste Preview Party last Wednesday. The food was fabulous, and I saw so many unique and gorgeous tabletops, I hardly know where to start.

So first, a little about DIFFA. DIFFA stands for Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. As one of the country’s largest supporters of care and education for people living with HIV/AIDS and for those at risk, DIFFA support springs from the fields of fine design and the visual arts, such as architecture, fashion design, interior design, photography and consumer product design.

With Jonathan Adler, Ethan Allen and Living Green as just a few of the stylish contributors for this charitable event, there was a multitude of beautiful creative displays that were breathtaking, clever and inspiring. Check out some of my favorites.


Aldea Home and Lab Experiment built a giant mast that was attached to the table, for an oceanic theme.


Simple yet elegant clay pottery was embellished with sea-inspired treasures, such as starfish and sterling.


Ethan Allen went for whimsy with a tropical theme in hot pink and other juicy brights with flamingoes and flowers.


Hartmann Studios created visual interest with bundles of bright sunflowers and eye-popping black and white linens. I love the glowing orb lights!


A table bathed in ruby red ambience with red lighting, napkins and flowers was the welcome addition by John Kelliher.


Living Green was seeing orange in this outstanding display of tangerine tones, with Bird of Paradise erupting from a brilliant giant orange bauble and surrounded by citrine geodes and bright crystals.


Giant philodendron leaves make the perfect placemat for this lush dining experience.


Robollo Home shared a creepy yet playful vision derived from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 movie The Birds, which was, incidentally, filmed in San Francisco. Each plate is adorned with a nest and hatched egg. The grisly centerpiece compounds the drama.


Speaking of drama, a live Tippi Hedren celebrity impersonator at the table added to the fun.


A red and white Moroccan theme with gold accents by Faiella Design and Andre Rothblatt Architecture is stylish enough for any feast, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

It was an enchanted evening and for a great cause. That’s something we can all be thankful for.