Category Archives: Designers

Hold It Right There!

Have you ever been in a museum and seen a beautiful, delicate piece of sculpture, or a statue, that you could walk right up to and examine closely? I always think museum curators and guards must hold their breath when people get rather close to priceless art, like this…

Image courtesy of the New York Times

Have you ever had a delicate item of art or a family heirloom in your home that you want to display, but that you worry may get knocked over, broken and/or destroyed? You want to enjoy the piece (otherwise, what is the point of keeping it around?), but you worry that the “enjoying” might put the piece in danger. Maybe you have pets, kids, slightly less responsible roommates, or you live in an earthquake zone?

Image courtesy of

You and the museum curators have the same kind of problem. How do you secure your item of loveliness enough to leave it out to be enjoyed, without bolting it down to the point where it can’t be enjoyed?

Museum managers have a secret weapon. My clients use it, too. Now I’m going to share the secret with you. It looks like this:

Linked image courtesy of

This is called “Museum Putty”. It is a neutral, cream-colored putty that comes in a simple envelope. It only costs $5. You can use it, re-use it, stick it to anything and it will hold that thing DOWN.

Here’s what it looks like coming out of the package:

It’s like the texture of Silly Putty, except, shinier. It also won’t pick up the texture of whatever item you stick it to the way Silly Putty does.

I’m going to apply the putty to a little ceramic box I keep out on a table at home. I’ll just tack a little Museum Putty to the underside of the box…

…then press the putty side down gently where I want the box to live.

If I ever need to move the frame, to dust or re-arrange things, the putty leaves no marks or residue on the hard surface or the art object. Here’s the clean surface:

You can even take the putty off of one item, re-form it, then use it on a completely different item and get the same strength. If you aren’t so sure about the putty color, there is another version of this putty in a clear gel form. This version is ideal for sticking down glass or crystal items without being noticeable. It looks like this…

Linked image courtesy of

…and is only $10. $10 is a great bargain when you think about how irreplaceable sentimental items can be. Is this something you could use in your home?

As always, I am not paid or perked for mentioning a great item on this blog. I only recommend what I like, because I like the freedom to be honest about any product I choose to mention. I use this stuff in my home and several of my clients swear by it, too.  Who doesn’t like a real-life tip for avoiding household accidents? None of us want to have this kind of nightmare…

Image courtesy of

Coming Tomorrow: Decor Items Fit For A Queen!

Real Living

Have you ever been in a room that is “too decorated”? You know the kind of room I mean. You find yourself slightly afraid to touch anything. Everything is perfectly placed. There are no toys, newspapers or remote controls. The coffee table artfully displays books, plants, photos and an odd trinket box, but there is no room to set a drink down (and forget about coasters). A magazine could feature this room on any given day and their stylist would have no work to do.

Real living comes with...junk mail and bills.

When I speak to groups about interior design, I often get asked for some tips about finding the perfect style for a home. My answer: “Avoid the perfect.” There are lots of varied techniques to calculating the right measurements for this and that. There are lots of opinions about certain styles and how to use them.

However, the very best tips are much more basic and simple to use. They’re tips that embrace really living in your home. But don’t just take my word for it. Read on to find some tips for real living by famous interior designers from over the past two centuries…

Decorating is not about making stage sets, it’s not about making pretty pictures for the magazines; it’s really about creating a quality of life, a beauty that nourishes the soul.  ~Albert Hadley

Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful. ~William Morris

Nothing is in good taste unless it suits the way you live. What’s practical is beautiful…and suitability always overrules fashion.  ~Billy Baldwin

Real living includes...bookshelves that need to be dusted.

Furnish your room for conversation and the chairs will take care of themselves. ~Sibyl Colefax

People’s lives are expressed in little details….The soap in the bathroom, the flowers in the garden, the books on the bedside table are all strong symbols of a life in progress.  ~Charlotte Moss

Real living comes with...lots of laundry.

A good room…should give one…the exciting feeling that the owner is a part of it and that it is for him a personal triumph, whether or not it follows a recognizable trend. ~Michael Taylor

If every piece is perfect the room becomes a museum and lifeless. ~Nancy Lancaster

Neither good taste nor wealth… can transform a house into a home, for a home does not consist in the quality of its architecture or decor, but in the quality of the lives that it expresses. ~Philippa Tristam

Real living comes with...throw pillows thrown on the floor.

Do any of these quotes speak to you? What are your favorite rooms in your home and why? What makes a room feel “lived in” to you?

Museum Hopping: The Thorne Rooms at the AIC

Today, I’m starting “Museum Hopping”, a new series of posts that will appear from time to time. My goal for this little series is to highlight great places to see beautiful home design and/or home living. You might have never heard of some of these places or exhibits. Then again, you might find yourself closer to one than you realized and can add it to your list of things to see.

Most importantly, “Museum Hopping” guarantees the following:  No waiting in line, no security search, no coat check needed, no impatient yet loud crowds, no overpriced cafe food and no marble-floor-tired feet by the end of this post.

Our visit today takes us to the beautiful Art Institute of Chicago. It is important to mention that all of the images you will see in today’s post are courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, to whom I am most grateful.

The Art Institute of Chicago was founded in 1879 and today attracts millions of visitors to their world-class collections and exhibits every year. I urge you to visit the museum whenever you are in Chicago. There is nothing quite like standing inches away from famous masterpieces. Speaking of which, let’s go inside!

Mrs. James Ward Thorne, 1915

The Thorne Rooms were created by Mrs. James Ward Thorne (1882-1966). Her husband was an heir to the Montgomery Ward department store fortune, which allowed the couple to travel extensively. At the time of their travels, there was a great popularity of museum “period rooms”. Period rooms were created to show realistic living spaces of a specific place in a past era.

Mrs. Thorne, who had always been interested in furniture and home design, saw a great opportunity to turn her passion into a great American art exhibit. With her connections and her own money, Mrs. Thorne, hired the best artisans available to help her create her vision.  Here is an example of their work:

"South Carolina Ballroom, 1775-1835"

You can see the amount of planning that went into a room like this one. Rugs were generally custom created for this project. A plaster specialist was brought in for the wedding cake detailing around the ceiling cove. Fabrics were ordered for the specially reproduced furniture. There is no way one person could create this entire room alone.

Fortunately, Mrs. Thorne was an excellent project manager and could afford the very best of materials for her craftsman. That’s not to say that she wasn’t working on these rooms. She rolled up her sleeves in the studio and painted, upholstered and cleaned windows along with everyone else. What vision to see this project though, right?

Now, there was one more interesting thing I was going to tell you about these rooms. What was it? Let me think. Hmmmmm. Oh! That’s right!

"South Carolina Ballroom, 1775-1835"

All of The Thorne Rooms are in miniature. And there are 68 of them.

"English Roman Catholic Church in the Gothic Style, Late 13th Century"

The church picture above is one of my favorites. When measured, the room comes in at only 48 x 32.5 x 41.5 inches. Most of the other rooms are just slightly larger. The scale used was 1 inch = 1 foot. We may be revisiting more of these rooms on future posts when we discuss furniture or design vocabulary. Mrs. Thorne was hoping to allow museum goers to have an appreciation of the beauty of past eras, so I think she would approve.

Now I’m going to just sit back and let you enjoy browsing a selection of the rooms. I’ve made the images extra large, so you can see the amazing detail, just like you would at the museum.

"California Living Room, circa 1935-40"

"German Sitting Room of the 'Biedermeier' Period, 1815-1850"

"Tennessee Entrance Hall, 1835"

"Chinese Interior, Traditional"

"French Salon of the Louis XIV Period, 1660-1700"

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s field trip!  Weren’t those rooms amazing? Do you like the idea of the “Museum Hopping” series? Do you have any suggestions of places we should visit?

Now, what is the very last thing you always do when visiting a museum?  Visit the gift shop!  Right here. Let me know if you find any great deals!

Eames icons

Have you seen this chair?

Image courtesy of Herman Miller

I’m guessing you have.  Original models of it live in major US museums. It’s in a lot of movies.  And tv shows. And commercials.  It’s a superstar.  Owning this chair is like owning the most gorgeous sports car you can imagine.  Except you can “drive” this sports car in your pajamas while eating cereal.  It welcomes pajamas.  It will welcome you into its seat regardless of what you are wearing.  It reclines.  It is, in many people’s opinions (including mine), quite possibly the most comfortable chair you could ever sit in, which is why it also comes with a sports car price tag.  What would it take to get you into this chair today?  Approximately $5,000.  Shipping not included.

Ok.  Wait, wait!  I hear you!  $5,000 is a lot of money for one chair.  Even if it is THE most comfortable chair in the world (which I maintain it is.)  Does it help to know that most owners of this particular chair pass them down in their families as treasure heirlooms?  The chair does age really well.  No?  Well then, let’s talk about why this chair such a superstar.  Such an icon of modern design.

Image courtesy of Design Within Reach

The Eames Lounge Chair (let’s call it by its proper name) debuted in 1956.  It was designed by Charles and Ray Eames (that’s them on the left) who went on to make great strides in modern furniture design and technology.

Charles and Ray Eames became such stand outs in the world of furniture design because they used different materials to make different profiles.  Charles had worked in the steel industry and had architecture training that allowed him to see the structural needs of the furniture pieces beyond the traditional shape that was expected.  This was modern design that made many people uncomfortable in the 1950’s.  For others, it was very exciting.

Here’s an example.  If you went to high school before 1960, your school desk probably was something along the lines of desk below.

Image courtesy of

Okay, this desk has metal bars connecting the seat and the desk (a little “Bauhaus”-ish for you AP level design fans), but really, separate them onto wood legs and you have a desk that could make a cameo in any Dickens period drama on PBS.  Did you notice?  That little circle above the lift-up writing surface.  It’s for an inkwell!  Old school, indeed.

Now. let’s say you went to high school after 1960, ballpark age range here.  At some point in your high school or college life you probably sat at some version of this Eames desk below.

Image courtesy of

I’m right, aren’t I?  I bet if you really thought about it, you can still remember how this type of chair sounds as it is stacked.  That metal and plastic scraping sound.  I bet if you really, really thought about it, some of you could remember the gross-out factor of  when you discovered that someone else had stuck gum on the underside of the seat.  But seriously, this desk changed the way chairs and desks were considered for public spaces.  Many, many companies tried to copy this design.  Think about how many of us are familiar with this chair.  It is an icon.  And we can see the steel and architecture background Charles brings to the project.  The legs are just weighted enough to support many different sized people, comfortably, but everyone can lift and stack that chair.  See how the plastic back (plastic! that’s new, too!) is molded to fit the human back in a relaxed state?  You are not supposed to practice your good posture in this chair.

Image courtesy of Herman Miller

Here’s the back of the Eames Lounge Chair again. Slouching for everyone, because it’s what we all prefer to do.  While we’re here, check out how beautifully that wood is shown off.  The original models were made of rosewood, a beautiful wood, but not very planet friendly.  The company that produces these chairs, Herman Miller, now finishes the wood sections from sustainable forests.

Here is another  reason why Eames design is so iconic:  It is fun.  Really fun.  At a time when a huge, youthful generation of mid-century Americans were discovering backyard grills and how to use a patio to entertain, Ray and Charles Eames embraced the colorful party of it all.  The coat rack below is called the “Hang It All”.

Image courtesy of Herman Miller

That is a fun little play of words for a furniture store to market to people who want to have enough guests over to really need this coat rack.  What a cute anecdote a hostess can share with her friends.  Canape, anyone?

There has been a huge market for mid-century modern design in the past decade. People just can’t get enough of it.  You can argue it is new to a new generation of consumer. You can argue that the clean lines and bright colors are clearly defined for a modern world where life’s choices rarely are anymore. I think the reality is much more simple.  Eames design is perennial because it is made of classic materials, streamlined into realistic, ergonomic forms.  It can really satisfy the soul to find an item designed to perform for the way you want to live.

How about you?  Anyone out there own an Eames designed product?  Do you like mid-century design?  Any Mad Men fans out there?  Let me know what you think!

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