Sunday, February 26, 2012


Matthew and I love collecting original artwork.  Yes, it is convenient that I am an artist and that we have a lot of family members who are artists, but you don't have to be a trained artist or break the bank in order to decorate your walls.  Here, we'd like to give you fun ideas for affordable artwork.


1. Frame Children's Artwork
A few years ago my nephew, Jack, made this piece of art for me.  It's a 3" x 3" inch square made out of three different colors of duct tape.  I love it because of the bright colors and the fact that it looks like a modern abstract painting.  I'm lucky to have a nephew with such a good eye for design, but I think that all children's art has a wonderful experimental quality to it.  I've saved this piece in a special place for a while, and decided it was time to put it on display this weekend. 


I bought a frame at Michael's for $14.99.  I went for a white one, because it has a contemporary feel to it.  The frame comes with a mat inside, which adds a professional polish to the artwork.

2. Collage Paint Chips

Recently there has been an explosion of paint chip DIY art projects on the internet.  Matthew and I love the piece above made by one of his friends by cutting paint chips the same size, arranging them and gluing them onto a canvas. It hangs in our living room today. The small, acrylic paintings to the right of the paint chip piece are by artist Leah Rosenberg.

We love this version of the paint chip DIY art project by Sherry and John at one of our favorite blogs, Young House Love.  The palette is very soothing and perfect for a bedroom. 

Rachelle Tolwin is an artist who makes art with paint chips.  These are witty plays on words.  Paint colors in the above piece are homespun, sheen river, chelsea and soft earth.  Check out more on her artwork at her website here.

3. Frame Hand Made Cards

In addition to her paint chip artwork, Rachelle Tolwin makes gouache paintings and hand made cards, which we carry in our store, next summer for $6 each.  These hand made cards are the perfect gift because in addition to getting a colorful, fun card, you also get an original piece of art by a professional artist at an affordable price.  Just as with the duct tape piece, look for a frame with a mat or cut your own mat and put it in a larger frame to give presence to a small piece of art.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Timelessness of Good Design

Lindsay and I recently took a trip to New York City and visited two of our favorite spots – The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters. While exploring these sites we soon realized that much of the design we love has a timeless quality. That’s what makes it so appealing. Good design is not trendy or “hot”, it is simply constant. This became even more apparent on this trip.  We found some of our favorite pieces from the store had cameo roles in many of the art pieces we found in these great institutions.

The fantastic graphics found on this deck of cards in The Cloisters (the oldest most complete deck of cards in existence) are similar to the dramatic and fun graphics found on these wallets from Sloane Ranger

This 19th Century European painting shows that the comfort and style of a cowhide rug enjoyed amongst family and friends is a constant.

This 1930 Jean Arp painting showed us the simple power of a red spoon. We were reminded of that when we looked at the Zak! Happy Spoon at next summer.

Finally, we loved the high contrast of the bright orange fish on the bright blue background in this surrealist piece from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.   It reminds us of our favorite glass that we carry at next summer.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Style with Meaning

Above: A collection of sea glass from our honeymoon inside a maple
 leaf shaped dish that once belonged to my grandmother.

With the work we do, we visit showrooms quite often.  I am always struck by the lush colors, luxurious fabrics and objets d'art that adorn these perfectly sectioned-off spaces.  I often leave feeling envious, wishing my home looked like that too.  However, in reality, I know I would never be happy.  Where would I store the dog toys that are usually spread out across our floor?  Would my vast collection of art and cooking books fit in that stylish yet tiny bookcase?

The problem with showrooms is that they are not spaces that real people live in.  One of things I love about our home is that it looks like people live there.  It's the way I feel about my parents' home and my in-law's home; almost everything tells a story, and that's comforting.  The artfully arranged collection of Mexican masks displayed on the bathroom wall reminds me of sunny days spent on the beach; the painting of the boat hanging over the fireplace reminds me of a day trip to Provincetown.

Recently I was working on "styling" our coffee table.  Yes, I thought about mixing textures and using colors that would work together.  However, what was even more important to me was that the objects meant something.  Above, you will see the flowers in the mint julep cup my sister and brother-in-law (a Kentuckian) gave Matthew and me for our wedding.  It reminds me of the time my entire family went to Keeneland Horse Track in Kentucky.  The tray was a very special gift from a friend who owns Haymarket Designs, and the rug in the background is from our store, next summer.  

We fell in love with this rug, but it did not come in a size big enough for our living room.  We ended up buying two small rugs and sewing them together.  Sure, you would never find a rug sewn together like this in a showroom, but I would miss the memory of laughing with my husband as we made multiple attempts to duct tape the rugs before we decided to sew them.

One of the hidden benefits of owning next summer is that when I'm buying products, I get to choose things that seem particularly meaningful, either for what they represent, or for a significance beyond the object itself.  Here are two items that struck a response with me.

Sara Pfau makes beautiful sterling silver and gold pendants in the shape of Lake George and various islands on Lake George. The neat thing with her pieces is that each one has a different meaning for the person who purchases it. Lake George is a special kind of place and affects people in many ways. So the meaning comes from the buyer as much as, or often more than, the artist. 

Handmade glassware from Rose Ann Hall Designs. This company is owned by an incredible man who suffers from some profound physical disabilities, but rather than let that stop or even slow him down, he's decided to use the success he's created to help others. Today he only employees disabled people in his factories.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2012: Trends from the NY Gift Fair

We just returned from the 2012 New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF). It was a great and successful trip. Two years ago, in the height of the recession, we visited the NYIGF and found nearly all the vendors, terrified to take any chances in the bad economy, showing more of the same items from years past. There was very little new product on display. This year, however, the vendors came to play! They had pulled out all the stops and we saw a ton of new companies and new products that excited us - like the Turkish Towels (or scarves) above. We're hoping this is also an indication of the manufacturers' confidence in the economy. We feel like it's turning around and we're not alone!

This bright coaster set is from a new company out of Melbourne - Sunny Life. With a name like that they clearly have a positive outlook on the future and who wouldn't when surrounded by bold, happy stripes of color like this!

We loved this lamp (we tried to bring it to the store last year, but the supplier made so few that we weren't able to get ahold of any). This year, they promised us they'd be easier to get. It's rare to find something made of cold metal having such a warm and luxurious feel. We love the combination of modern graphics and warm light. 

After a look at something so luxurious, it's appropriate to have something more nostalgic. These bed linens are a modern take on batik. I love the use of color and modern graphics, done with a traditional method. Who wouldn't want to curl up in this each night? You know you'd wake up ready to face the world. 

Here's another example of traditional methods done with a modern graphic. It's hard to see in this photograph, but no one who stood near these bowls could resist touching them. After rolling out of bed in the morning, these would be the first thing you grabbed in your kitchen. 

Primary colors always have a big impact, especially on a clean white background. Here Zak! has created a set of individual dishes in vivid colors that can be arranged in all sorts of fun and useful ways. The set comes nicely packaged so you'll always have the right colors (easy and perfect gift option too!)

Finally, we loved this monochromatic bike. More bold colors following the trend. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Design with Value

The best, most cleverly designed, objects are both amusing and practical at the same time.  They have a “Why didn’t I think of that?” quality that makes life fun and worth staying awake for.

Good design can be appreciated at any stage of life, but unfortunately those who are just starting out are likely to be those least able to afford what they like.  Of course, those who have a good eye can create their own good design out of very raw stock.  Even two perfect acorns branching off a single stem, or fragments of a paper wasp’s nest, displayed on a coffee table, will artistically express the designer’s sense of what’s worth holding onto.

Our daughter used a wall of bright, very unexpected, color in the foyer of her boarding house for dogs, the Pooch Palace, located in the Adirondacks on Lake George, New York, and on those walls she placed her own unusually-staged and posed photographs of the dogs she loves.  It’s an example of art and design revealing more than an advertising brochure.

My wife, Kathy, and I decorated a hallway in our first apartment with photos and edgy ads clipped from Dwelling and Fashion magazines.  In retrospect, I think it was also a sort of to-do list besides being a design statement – not one we ever lived up to, but it made us feel optimistic.

One nice thing about having plowed creatively through the early years of your life is that eventually you’ll find yourself able to indulge yourself once in a while with an item that catches your eye, pleases you in an unusual way, or says something elusive about life – something you’ve been trying to put your finger on for years.

All of us at next summer, Kathy, Lindsay, Matthew, Olivia, Sarah, and I, enjoy searching out very good design, particularly if we can bring it to you for good value, in hopes you might begin to enjoy your own good life earlier than expected.

Posted by Michael