Design Crush: Lawson Fenning

I have been designing some custom furniture for clients over the last two years and have found a new love for the process. It’s scary and wonderful at the same time to make something of your own design.  I have such respect for those that do it well, such as the guys at Lawson Fenning.  Their line of furniture is simple, classic yet clearly influenced in subtle ways my the mid-century style but also many others as well.  I am mad for s many of their pieces- just take a look:

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This sofa has tufting (like crack to me) but also the sweetest, slightly Asian influenced woodwork at the foot:

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We saw this amazing chaise in Jordana Brewster’s home in pink. Still LOVE it to death. (Again, with the tufting. I may have to find a 12 step program.)

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This tufted wingback is such a fave of mine, as is the nursery rocker version they designed for Nurseryworks!

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Check out their wares on 1st Dibs– a mix of their own designs and great vintage finds.

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My Review of Kips Bay

Part of my last few days in New York for Blogfest included a trip to see the famous Kips Bay Decorator’s Show House.  I’ve heard about this show house for many, many years and was excited to finally get to GO to one featuring some of my favorite designers like Mary McDonald and Celerie Kemble.  Joined by my fabulous pals and fellow interior junkies Shannon Wollack and Kyle Knight , in we went.  I had not seen any images of the show house so I had no idea what to expect. Kyle and Shannon however had seen some and seemed a little apprehensive.

And they were right to be.

What I came away asking was, what happened to things just being PRETTY?  Why does everything have to be a statement or offbeat or thought provoking? Is there something wrong with décor for beauty’s sake? Now, everyone has their own definition of beauty, for sure, I may find something hideous that another finds soul stirringly gorgeous and vice versa.  But in a gorgeous old New York townhouse displaying the best of the best of American design I began to wonder if design is getting just a little bit CRAZY?


The entrance by Mary McDonald was glamorous and quintessentially her with red shagreen walls and high gloss red paint and a great little console vignette that seemed appropriate  yet modern within the walls of the historic space. Mary always seems to kill it.

This dressing room was rather sweet- despite this really strange large tv screen that was hooked up to a camera showing you in the space (is this instead of a mirror? I would hate that.)

The staircase had walls upholstered in yellow, black and white ikat fabric. While dizzying, it was pretty rad.

Celerie’s room in it’s entirety falls into a different category, but the to die for Lucite coffee table was something all three of us would have sold our ovaries for.

Details like INSANE antique floors and some gorgeous and unique hardware.

The outdoor spaces were INSANE and the best part of the show house! Look at this crazy deep daybed (starring Kyle and Shannon) on the highest of the decks! AMAZING! That light! The stripes! I die! Can you imagine sipping some wine with friends here???

Looking down on the garden level patio.

And all the neighbors have sweet patios and decks too. All I could hear playing in my head was “MoneyMoneyMoneyMoooooooney….MONEY!”


Brad Ford’s lounge had some good looking items and a great overall feel but it was too hipster for me (kind of like the Ace Hotel, where I stayed). A record player built into a coffee table? Huh? Can you believe I also had a set of turntables IN MY HOTEL ROOM (as well as a built in pencil sharpener)? Maybe I’m just not hip enough to “get” this…

Oh Celerie. I love you, I do, but something about this room did not work so well for me. The ceiling was cool, as was the double settee, the chandelier and we know I liked the coffee table- but it felt so heavy and so crazy BUSY, and I dare say, overdecorated! The amazing original woodwork almost got lost amongst all the pattern and color.

Such pretty color and detail though

Glossy turquoise trim? YES. Studded ottoman? YES Vintage Louis style chair? YES. Yet something felt off. I can’t put my finger on it.

This dining room could fall into the “good” category but I personally was super distracted by the drapes around the fireplace. Seems like one hell of a fire hazard, no? Also not big on skirted dining tables or that chandelier ( a crystal Empire style chandy would be my pick).  But that original scenic wallpaper was beyond beautiful!

Another room that had me torn- the pink patterned wallpaper by Amanda Nisbet was a really interesting choice with the wood trim. I loved the mirror above the fireplace and the little tufted chair but see below as to what ruined it for me….


GAH! That photo! Way too freaky and porn-esque for me.  I love the dichotomy of modern art in traditional settings, but this photo made us all a little queasy and felt WAY outta whack.

Don’t even get me started on this entry. The geometric wall appliques look like they belong in a daycare center and not a bajillion dollar home. And the pink table just adds insult to injury. Look at that beautiful old staircase! It must be so sad.

Crazy train, destination MARS. All aboard.

Do I need to get into this? Maybe I should tell you those floors were padded (huh?) I would see spots for a week after doing a load of whites in here.

Welcome to the creepiest little girl’s room ever. I dig unexpected colors in rooms, but the dark brown almost black high gloss textured walls were way to mature for this space- but what really got us was the cobra lamp and scariest ET doll ever on the chair (maybe it was just Kyle and I who were terrified of ET?)  I mean, it kind of looks like a nightmare/bad acid trip? I cannot imagine a child wanting a glowing red life size snake as a roommate. The giraffe, totally.

The style of the Richard Mishaan room was just not my style at all-  80’s influenced color scheme mixed with ornate old school details and some wacky art above the fireplace that freaked me out (most of the art in the house did). I walked out of here pretty quickly.

No. Just, no.

And then going 180 degrees the other way was this froufy bedroom with a ceiling mural featuring ivy vines that reminded me of bad country stenciling. This look was just too old and powdery for me.

All and all I left bummed out and really questioning the direction high end decorating is going.  I’ve never been a person who likes shock value just for the sake of shock value, you know? What do you think?

Pictures via me, Martha Stewart

Raw and Rad

I have long been obsessed with the very pricey work of Hudson Furniture.  The raw edge slab dining table is on my “hope to have it by the time I die” list.  After quoting it out for a client, it may remain on there long after I’m six feet under. However, I came across the work of Marsia Holzer Studio and it’s quite similar and more affordable. The mix of the beauty of natural wood and sleek metals is one I simply adore.  I’m REALLY loving the brass/gold legs on the first slab table too!

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Some lovely natural but modern coffee tables too…

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How about this bar top??? I’d happily sip some vino saddled up to this baby. Who am I kidding, I’d happily sip some vino saddled up to just about anything.

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These bar stools would look amazing at a stainless steel island or soapstone counter top!

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Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover…

If you drove by this house in Bedford, NY renovated by Alisberg Parker Architects you’d probably expect the interior to be chock full of traditional classics, right?

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I really do enjoy a home that has a traditional architectural exterior (and interior- notice all thought molding and trim painted over glossy white) paired with really modern furniture.  It’s so unexpected.  And that pool house? I die.

But I alos love that this design team is capable of doing funky traditional decor as well.  I’m loving this modern rustic look they crafted (the mismatched chairs and that wicker bar? Hello.)

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Meeting Jonathan Adler.


I look like I might combust from happiness.

A few weeks ago I had been invited to a show house opening party on what turned out to be a rainy, bleak night. Unable to find parking and in an  uber-cranky mood, I nearly told Andrew to forget about it and take me home to go  drown my bad mood in a nice Pinot Noir. Good thing I didn’t.  At that party I met the wonderfully fabulous Donna, Director of Retail Stores for Jonathan Adler (we just got our very own in Boston). We got to chatting about design, blogging, the industry, etc. and she said “You should come and meet Jonathan!” Well, um, yes please. Jonathan is one of my design IDOLS, not only for his happy, bold, swinging 60’s aesthetic, but also for his sense of humor about the whole thing (read his manifesto if you haven’t). After all, this is decorating, not figuring out how to plug an oil leak a mile under the sea. I have long adored my “gin, puppies, sunshine…” needlepoint pillow, I have been using oodles of his furniture and accessories in my projects and you all KNOW how I feel about the Adler designed Parker Hotel (Disneyland for grown-ups) Anyways, I figured that the chances of such a meeting actually coming to fruition were probably slim. You know how parties are– wine is flowing, the mood is like fabulousness vaporized and circulated through the air vents and lots of plans are made. Well, Donna wasn’t kidding around, and ladies (and you few gents), yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting down to chat with Jonathan Adler himself in his New York office, one on one.

Pardon me while I go into full on Rachel Zoe mode now….

I die. I die. BANANAS. I die.

Ahem, I’m back. I didn’t even want to breathe a word of it before it happened for fear I would jinx it (I believe in that stuff). Until I was actually sitting down with him I still didn’t believe it.  So yesterday I packed up my laptop, camera and all my junk into a somewhat cute purse and off I went to Manhattan. Oh wait a hot minute, let’s cut to me on the train yesterday morning opening my purse and realizing my camera is STILL ON THE DAMN DINING TABLE!!!! Fan-freaking-tastic. And my train was late. And I don’t own an iPhone to take a picture with nor time to find a place to buy a camera during my cab ride to the offices. So in I go to my meeting with the superfab Jonathan armed with a $9 yellow cardboard one time use Kodak camera. I kind of wanted to die. Pardon me, first I wanted to buy an iPhone, and THEN die. But I made it, in one sweaty, anxiety-riddled piece, to the JA headquarters looking like a tourist from 1995. But in moments like this, there are no room for regrets, only grateful excitement to be able to meet someone you’ve respected, followed and hope to emulate in your own career (take a moment and read his hilarious career timetable) .

For such a huge business, the offices are delightfully modest but as full of smiling, stylish faces and fun as you’d expect. I toured the showroom (complete with items yet to be released for sale) such as leather and metal x benches with chain embroidered upholstered seats (drool)  and various ceramics and textiles. Jonathan himself is as friendly, cool, laid back and hands on with his company as I’d hoped he’d be! Such a warm, funny, charismatic person with absolutely ZERO design diva attitude, he showed me around the office where ideas are developed, crafted (i.e. people hands deep in clay) and sold and then sat down with me to chat about this and that. I was nervous and very aware of how busy he is, so I did not barrage him with the 102 questions I had written on the train ride down, but I managed to snag a few notable quips to share with you all (not word for word, mind you- I was busy listening, not scribbling frantically) So here are a few quick  tidbits (some stolen from the Proust questionnaire a la Vanity Fair):

Current state of mind: Always hungry and restless.

Greatest extravagance: I shouldn’t admit this since I’m a potter, but it’s flying first class.

Greatest achievement: Never having a “real job” i.e. a boss to report to and creating hundreds of jobs for other people!

Talent you’d most like to have other than your obvious god given ones: Mad basketball skills or tv ready hip-hop dance moves. (*my commentary: best off the cuff answer ever)

If you could live anywhere where would it be: I could lie and say somewhere like Paris, but it’s actually NYC. It’s the best place on earth.

If you had to pick another designer to design your own home who would it be: It’s a three way tie between Miles Redd, Delphine Krakoff and Diamond Baratta.

Favorite Fashion label: Paul Smith is my idol. He’s endlessly creative and a seriously nice bloke.

Favorite item you’ve produced: The Dora Maar vase or banana sculpture.  The banana sculpture is pretty fierce. (Being a potter at heart, he loves those works the most, even with all his newer furniture and accessory items) It actually changes every day, I feel very lucky to be as prolific as I am.

Would you ever do TV again? Yes. (Top Design) was really fun because all the judges were good friends of mine. It was a pain being relocated to LA for six weeks, but it was a good time.

Do you read design blogs? Yes, I read yours (I refrained from clapping my hands and squealing like an monkey on ecstasy). It’s actually a bit of a disaster- I feel like I should shut off the internet in my offices because my staff and I are always reading blogs!

Amongst other things discussed was the under-construction new home he and husband Simon (as in THE Barney’s Creative Director Simon Doonan) on Shelter Island and his desire to make it fun and not “heavy” like a lot of designer homes can be. Other than his own home, he’s not doing many interiors these days, as his true passion lies in product design. We also chatted about the ups and downs of interior design,   commentary from haters on the internet and  my desire to permanently reside at The Parker and eat Norma’s blueberry pancakes until I die. I loved having him show me a few not yet released products, such as a series of sea captain inspired mugs and vases one of which is based on a cartoon ad about littering from the 70’s he remembers vividly. I think it is so cool that someone can take little charming details from everyday life or memories of moments past and turn it into a product that’s charming and beautiful.

What I enjoyed the most about meeting him (besides his killer sense of humor) is that he truly “walks his talk”. And I’ve come to find out that is rare in this business of ours, especially at the level he is at. Jonathan clearly still finds such joy in what he does and creates products that have the sole purpose of being fun, charming, beautiful and above all, HAPPY. In a time when there is so much seriousness and stress, stepping into Jonathan’s world is a refreshing escape- whether being as blessed as I am to have met him in the flesh or by having a cute set of bird shaped salt and pepper shakers on your table to remind you everyday to smile. I want you all to know that behind that small product is a man who really loves and believes in what he does and delights in being able to share that with you.

Since I know there is a good chance he is reading this, thank you Jonathan for taking time out of your busy day to sit down with me and make this newbie designer’s YEAR!

Once I develop my ridiculous throw away camera I’ll post snaps of the showroom. In the meantime, here are just a FEW of my personal JA favorites (click pics for links)

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