September 30, 2014

Chic Simple

Many years ago, I discovered a series of books called Chic Simple. They were beautifully designed and wonderfully photographed and they were all edited by Kim Johnson Gross and Jeff Stone. They were sort of a primer for a way to live life, and came in sizes small, medium and large. IMG_4266

When I moved to the UK, and got rid of almost everything I owned, I de-accessioned my collection of these books. I’ve started collecting them again, and made reference to something in one of the books today, and decided to pull them out and take a wander through them.

I wore a uniform to school for most all of my pre-college years, and am never 100% confident on pulling clothes together, so the Women's Wardrobe, Work Clothes, and What Should I Wear? books are staples in my bookcase.

The small books, which are about different components are about 5x4 inches. They are packed with information, great quotes and terrific images, all of the “good” stuff. Alligator luggage, Hermès scarves, Belgian loafers…IMG_4267

The next size books are deeper dissections of clothes. They come in at about 190 pages and are filled with myriad resources.
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Each book has great examples, like how to accessorize a LBD for any occasion, IMG_4273

or what to wear to work when your office is less dressy than it used to be (or for that day you’re poking around the archives with the ghost).IMG_4289

Some of the styles are a little dated, but if you’re like me, and wear classic clothes, you can accessorize with the latest statement necklace or belt, and be completely up to date. IMG_4283

What Should I Wear: Dressing for Special Occasions has options from hopping on a plane for a trip across the pond,IMG_4285

to hopping on a yacht for a spin around the harbour.IMG_4286

This is pretty much my travel outfit.IMG_4290

The book goes through the seasons and suggests appropriate clothes for any climate or locale. IMG_4292

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The largest size books are really packed with information – about 250 pages worth! The Home book explores the various types of furniture, delineating between a Windsor chair and a Thonet chair, types of vases, sofas, lamps, etc. Information like this never goes out of style or changes. An Iittala Aalto Vase is always going to be just that.  IMG_4282

I am not exactly sure how many of these books were published, there’s no definitive list. I just pick them up at the Book Thing when I see them. I have duplicates of a few of them (ask and I will send one). You can find them on Amazon, but you have to search, because if you put in Chic Simple, you’ll get every shabby chic book ever written.

September 28, 2014

Design for Life, Design for Living

Even though it was a stunning weekend here in Maryland, I spent much if it inside at a variety of lectures exploring a similar topic: how design influences the way we live and how it can change lives for the better.

On Saturday, as part of a weekend symposium by The Future Symphony Institute, the Baltimore Architecture Foundation hosted our annual Lewis Lecture on Architecture with Léon Krier, a classically trained pianist and architect specializing in New Urbanism. He has also been the consultant to HRH Prince Charles and his Poundbury project. The lecture had the rather frightening title “The Fear of Backwardness and its Consequences on Architecture and Art”. I was a bit worried.IMG_4152

But it turned out that I was in complete agreement with Mr. Krier’s thinking, especially those thoughts regarding classical v. modern architecture. Let’s just say he’s not a modernist. What made the lecture so interesting was that it was illustrated with Mr. Krier’s charming line drawings, which helped get his point across in a clear and concise manner. He argues that you can never have a workable city with either all vernacular or all classical architecture. A good city needs a mix of both. (Sorry for the crap images!)IMG_4173

Vernacular is one of those words that architects toss about, but all that it means is that the architecture is “home grown” and that it fits the land, the climate and the people where it’s located. As an example, think of the American Southwest, and contrast the houses there with those in New England. IMG_4183

Krier argued that cities need a mix of public and private buildings and a mix of heights and shapes to feel comfortable. IMG_4191

One area where Krier and I are in complete and total agreement is our dislike of modernist architecture. His point was that windows, doors, roofs and the like have evolved over thousands of years, yet they are inherently unchanged. IMG_4204IMG_4207

This is one of my main architectural criticisms – I call it point-and-click architecture, when shutters don’t have a relationship with the windows, when Palladian-style windows crop all over the place instead of relating to the building, when synthetic materials are used in place of the real thing, mainly to cut costs. Of course, my prime example of this is the Redneck Taj Mahal I wrote about several months ago.

Another complaint that we both have, is the completely shoddy construction that’s the new normal. Krier had an excellent chart showing how the buildings at Yale had been renovated. Although it’s a little hard to read, you can see that the oldest buildings held up the best, and the newest building – one from 1975, was being renovated 15 years after it was built.IMG_4208

All in all, an excellent lecture, and I was pleased that we were able to bring Krier to Baltimore to speak.

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Zipping forward from the past and classical architecture, to the future and 3-D printing and all that it can do, the second lecture I attended also had a rather daunting name. IMG_4233

One out of every thousand children is born without a hand, and J, my 7-year old nephew, is one of them. He does quite well by working around issues, and can even ride a regular bike. But when Dr. Albert Chi called my brother a few weeks ago and asked whether J would like to participate in a prototype project where they would PRINT him a hand, the family leapt at the chance. Dr. Chi’s specialty is trauma surgery with a specialty in missing limbs.IMG_4230If you don’t know, prosthetic limbs can range in price from $10,000 to more than $90,000, but a 3-D printed hand or arm costs only about $50 in materials. This project, called E-nable, is working with programmers, software engineers and scientists to create these limbs, and they are doing it through open-source software that will be available to anyone. IMG_4228

This has particular resonance to our wounded warriors, as well as the victims of war and other disasters in poverty-stricken countries across the world. It’s truly a revolutionary idea and one that will be life-changing for so many.

While J’s prototype arm is in the rudimentary stages, as both he and the technology grow, it will become more and more sophisticated and he will be able to do more and more with it. IMG_4226

One of the truly incredible things about the organization that is doing this work is how they do it: One man learned that limbs could be printed on 3-D printers, so he made a little YouTube video about it and added a Google map, asking people to click on the map if they had a 3D printer. IMG_4225More than 300 people did, and also volunteered to print out limbs for children in families across the country. Working together to tweak the software and make adjustments, dozens of completed arms were delivered to children this afternoon to the absolute joy of them and their families.IMG_4219

J got his a few weeks ago, and when my brother sent us a seven-second video of J picking up a glass and then beaming at the camera, we all cried tears of happiness for him and in thanks to the person who had made it for him. Our family is honoured and grateful to be a part of this program.

The remarkable thing about this whole program is that it is just about a year old, and all the advances that have been in that time are astonishing. Click here to see more about the E-nable program.

September 25, 2014

O, Say, Did You See…

The University of Baltimore had a poster competition in conjunction with the Star-Spangled 200 celebrations, and I’ve just had a chance to see the winners and some of the other posters which were entered. I am continually struck by how creative people are.

The theme of the competition was simple, and what we’ve been focused on all summer: The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of the U.S. National Anthem. And it had to be poster size. That was about it.

Here’s the winner.

Keith Moores Professional Grand Prize200

Katie Watkins Student Grand Prizeimage

Stephan Shattuck  Award of Excellenceimage

Ana Hayes-Perez  Award of Excellenceimage

David Sebastiao  Award of Excellenceimage

Sarah Poe  Award of Excellenceimage

Sophia Greenbaum  Award of Excellenceimage

Daphne Clem  Award of Excellenceimage

My sweet friend, Wesley Stuckey - Art Direction and Illustration  Award of Excellenceimage

Cheng Caoimage

Tommy Ryanimage

Which poster do you like the best?  Why?

For the remaining posters, please click here.

September 23, 2014

Cheese Domes

No, that’s not the name of some sports stadium in Wisconsin (but it might be!). It’s something I found at auction the other week and since I acquired it, I’ve been doing a little research on cheese domes. I am not talking about those glass and teak cheese domes that everyone who got married in the 1970’s and 1980’s received as a wedding present.

This is what I am talking about. A seriously big, porcelain dome! Very trendy during the Victorian era, and like so much during that time, frequently over-decorated!image

Many of the majolica cheese domes were made by George Jones & Sons, an English pottery, active in Stoke-on-Trent from 1861 to 1951. They specialized in majolica, and cheese domes fit within their line of wares. image

The cheese dome I got is similar to some of the majolica ones from George Jones, but much simpler. While it has the basket weaving around the base, and the branch handle on the top, it lacks the dogwood flowers. To see a whole range of George Jones cheese domes, click here.

Hmmm… looking at the one on the left makes me wonder if I don’t have the plate upside down! It has the same basket weave on it and I was curious why it would be on the bottom of the plate!

Since there are no markings on the platter, it’s hard to tell!

Here’s another one with the fencing, or basket weave.image

Cheese domes like this were used to keep cheeses at room temperature, as they are better that way instead of straight out of the fridge. Especially soft cheese like brie or Camembert. imageA tall cheese dome like the one I got might be used to store an English cheese like stilton which is often in a tall cylindrical shape. It is another cheese that benefits from being eaten at room temperature.image

There is also another style of cheese dome, and that’s in a wedge shape.

This would be for smaller cheeses, and perhaps ones that are more wedge shaped, like a nice English cheddar or a Welsh Caerphilly (which is what I wanted to name Connor). image

The cheese wedge I have has some small ridges to keep the cheese slightly elevated, and make it easier to cut.

All of the ones I’ve seen have a small hole in the lid so that the cheese can breathe. If a cheese can’t breathe, it can acquire that ammonia smell which is rather unpleasant.

If you’d like to see more cheese domes, do a search on Pinterst. There are plenty to see!