Sikes on Stripes: One designers singular devotion to holding the line

Bold and Blue

I’ve towed the party line, I’ve drawn the line, crossed the line, lined my drawers with poppy paper that only I would see. I’ve outlined a plan, underlined the important parts, and I’ve penned a line of poetry, but of all the lines I loved, and there have been many, it’s a series of parallel lines – you guessed it – lined up neatly, one snuggled tightly next to the other, or spaced a safe distance apart, that I whole heartedly support incorporating into your interior.

My adoration for stripes preceded my awareness of Mark D. and his design brilliance. Maybe I knew him in another life. Do you have to believe in past lives in order to have lived them? A query for another time. Mr. Sikes likes stripes for the same reason I do, they go with everything. If you are afraid of pattern, as so many people are, stripes are your friend. You’ll never find a floral that doesn’t long for the company of a stripe, or an Ikat, or Houndstooth for that matter.

Spot the Stripe on this pillow?

Squiggly, or pinstripe straight they make a happy accompaniment to any style. Their versatility is inspiring. They can be preppy, pretty or prissy. Masculine, mousey or Mediterranean. They can be found in high-end homes and little old beach shacks. I wonder if that would have made Napoleon Bonaparte smile – he who was known to receive important guests into his living room, designed to resemble an Egyptian striped tent, with its walls and ceiling adorned in fabric. Stripes, they don’t discriminate. They provide definition and draw the eye to places that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Feeling anything but neutral about this look.

Don’t hesitate to go straight to the stripe when you are starting your next project. It’ll be pinnable – promise.

Boxed Lunch: tablescapes to go

Table and Teaspoon. The Monroe . $24. a setting (flowers not included).

I remember my first tea set. I wasn’t allowed to use it of course. My mother was certain I would break it. While I cannot argue with her logic, its lack of use, and eventual disappearance, seems like a greater tragedy than a chipped saucer, or shattered tea cup. It was a happy little set, with its bold bands of blue, yellow, pink and green, accented by large white flowers, her pot spouting a neck like a swan.

Hestia Harlow . Journey Through Jaffa – set of 2 $96.00

Tea sets, and tablescapes should be shown off. A canvas to be created, curated, and cooed over by family, friends, and recently found acquaintances, but the sheer cost of showing off is shocking, and once you’ve shown off with that perfect party-themed platter with a pale pink gingham napkin, a delicate blown glass wine goblet in grass green, and a fringed straw placemat, it’s going to be hard to use it all again, unless you unfollow friends like some Instagram star constantly hitting the refresh button. I for one value my friendships and would like to keep them around, so what’s a gal to do when she wants to keep the creative landscape cool, on-trend, and avoid the clutter? My one thing in and one thing out flippers philosophy can really take a tole on my bank account, not to mention the environment.

A Table to Love . Lele $25. per setting.

Thank goodness for Millennials. That’s right, you heard me. I’m bored to death of the banter that batters this pour generation for their celebrate me nature. I want to throw you a party for introducing the sharing economy to me. Who needs to go into Lekkar Home and buy four glasses, placemats, gold silverware – is that an oxymoron – handles dipped in navy, a runner made of rope, and a screen printed napkin that you wouldn’t dare wipe your dirty fingers on for fear that you won’t be invited back, who has the money for the food and flowers when you’re done with all that?

Social Studies . Hometown . $32. per setting

The smart shopper – that’s who. There are so many divinely creative people out there in this beautiful world of ours. Rent, Ship, Set, and Return is going to be my new mantra. I’ll say it when I throw a woodsy winter wonderland themed bash, and again when I set off for a Polynesian styled party that will have me searching for a vintage Lily Pulitzer halter dress with large pink Hibiscus flowers. Next I’ll go high-brow with china, and then low-brow for a BBQ bonanza, the possibilities are endless. Get ready to party.

QUIN.tessential Design: getting social in Boston

The Algonquin Club is getting a face-lift. Known as the finest, and most perfectly appointed clubhouse in American, when it was designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1886, ideals change. No offense to Charles McKim, who designed this limestone jewel on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston’s Back Bay. You were cutting edge at the time, and I still wander the BPL in wonder over the vaulted ceilings, grand marble stairs, courtyard seemingly plucked from a fine Italian estate (if you haven’t been to the Boston Public Library of late, do not let the skate punks deter you from your mission. March right up those granite steps, past the wrought iron lanterns that could slay a dragon, and take a tour – admission is free). The Algonquin had remained, in this gal’s humble opinion, decidedly stuck in another era, where social club’s were the exclusive right of upper crust male businessman, heavy velvet curtains cloaked dark brooding windows, and cigar smoke hung heavy in the air. Cough, cough, um hum, excuse me, could a waiter please bring me a sip of fresh air.

The Swan and Bar Bevy. Design: Ken Fulk

That fresh air, as it turns out, was blown in from the West Coast, SF to be specific, at the bequest of Sandy Edgerley and her husband Paul, who purchased the old gal in 2018, and began renovations in preparation for her unveiling in June of this year. I wonder if McKim and Fulk – Ken Fulk that is, would have become fast friends. They shared a love of Paris, Charles having studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, bringing that lavish and grandiose architectural style to “the club”, and Ken having absorbed, perhaps through osmosis, the very essence of Parisienne culture, custom, and design. While McKim was all balustrades and balconies, columns and cornices, symmetry and the sublime, Fulk is classically tailored and fearlessly modern, and it must be said, nothing short of a magician.

Carbone . Las Vegas : Design Ken Fulk

A modern mood was in order. The shrugging off of the Algon – coat of armor has left The Quin’s essential elegance in tact, thrown her windows open to welcome in the light, invite a sense of pretty playfulness – introducing us to what is at once delightfully surprising, and as familiar as a friend you plan to have, when only you make their acquaintance. What better place to do it than within these scrubbed marble walls. Dine in one of the seven restaurants, tap a button and champagne will appear, get well and ready after a work-out with a championship winning, Boston Celtics ring wearing, personal trainer. Follow it with a steam, a spa service, and a blow-out, when you ascend the stairs, you’ll have level after level from which to choose. Will you work, learn, congregate, sip, simply soak up the beauty of her interior? A comfortable home away from home for some, for me, more comfortable than any home I’ve called home before.

Fulk’s essential talent lies in the details. It’s the bones of the building, the color selection, the matte surfaces paired with polished, glazed, and mirrored. It’s the unexpected combinations, the acids and pastels, the cocktail napkin, the floral arrangement, the uniformed servers, the bed linen, the art work, nothing that can have an impact on your sensory experience is likely to be missed by this mystery of a man. Go ahead and keep me in suspense – you have my heart . total adoration . and I must say … reverence this Valentine’s Day.

The Hirst Bar . Design Ken Fulk

Rush . Rush Baby: Entrepreneurial carpet innovations

First of all, I adore a women owned business. Second of all, I adore it when friends come together to collaborate, and third of all, no one says third of all, but grabbing the attention of readers is difficult at best, and sometimes you have to annoy them before you please them. Bear with me here, I plan to please.

Designer: Emily Painter | Photographer: Peter Murdock

Friends and travel enthusiasts, Page Mullins and Liz Strong, both interior designers that put their talents to work as stylists and editorial producers for the likes of Coastal Living, Elle Decor, Garden & Gun, Real Simple, Veranda, and for lifestyle brands like Serena & Lily – one of my favorites, and Boll + Branch, came together during the pandemic to start their own venture – Rush House, which I sort of wish was called Rush Home, because the image of a place that you sought out, and designed, with so much care and love, that you want to rush to get there from wherever your day has taken you, is comforting and emits a sunny glow of warmth. It’s not called that though – it’s called Rush House, which is also a lovely name.

Cut the squares free of the rug to customize the size you are looking for….

Rush, rather than referring to hurrying around, which is what I mainly do, refers to the material from which their carpets are produced. Sparked by the artisanal craftsmanship of tiny villages in Mexico, the push pin on the map of their adventure centered on Oaxaca, back in 2015, resulting in the first stitch of an idea that brought together, in neat rows, their love of craftsmanship, design, and finds that they wanted to share with the world. The simplicity of the concept is brilliant.

…or stitch together individual squares to increase the size of your carpet.

One rug, three products, endless possibilities. By offering a simple, affordable 9 x 12 seagrass rug, they keep the business model tight. They have full time professional careers after all. I suspect that you are asking yourself, what is a gal, or guy, to do if they don’t need a carpet that isn’t 9′ x 12′ – get out your scissors, that’s what. Cut the stitching to free the 1′ squares from the captivity of the carpet, and voila – you’ll have the size you desire. Want the opposite? Buy extra squares, and rush thread and needle, to stitch the number of squares required to get you the custom size you desire. I watched the video – it all looks pretty easy, and kind of fun.

Affordable . customizable . DIYable. Joy: one square foot at a time.

Page and Liz, I’m not only jealous of your business model, I’m jealous of your adventures, design aesthetic, and creativity. Thank you for bringing this product to market. I plan on getting to the serious business of buying, and using these beauties in my properties, because you are right, I’d be hard pressed to find an application for which it doesn’t add texture and style. I think that might be true for you too – yes you, the one reading this, that’s who.

One King’s Lane

Closed due to Covid and 19 other reasons these windows are papered.

Another victim falls. I just want to cry and scream and throw a proper toddler-style tantrum that adequately convenes my frustration and powerlessness in the face of this pandemic. Those three year olds have it figured out – rage at the indignity and injustice, exhaust yourself in the process, take a nap, eat a snack, feel better. There is beauty and simplicity in their approach, and freedom, oh blessed freedom.

Taste Maker . Corey Damen Jenkins

Clearly I do not have that luxury. I had my three year old chance, and now that time has passed, being well beyond three years – even three decades, but still surprisingly feeling quite young and vulnerable at times. I am going to have to accept, in an irony, bookended by disastrous recessions, that One King’s Lane’s Boston retail shop couldn’t survive.

Curated collection of interesting objects is signature OKL.

I doubt that they are on a respirator, are we still in dangerously short supply of those? When they launched their on-line store in 2009, they did it in the midst of one of our worst modern day recessions. Such ingenuity and can emerge in times of great distress – I for one have my eyes peeled for a little magic right now. Their model was built on two primary premises, that they would cull overstock items from brand name designers – many of whom would formerly only sell to the trade, and offer them up to you and me (regular people without a tax id and a list of vendor references that rival the guest list of the MET Ball). The second crucial element of their business plan included the use of flash sales. This lent an element of distress to the moment, playing on our greatest fear of missing out. Those FOMO geniuses built an empire, founded on that fear, and I am fantastically jealous of the fame and fortune that followed them.

Celerie Kemble . Interior Design Celebrity and Taste Maker.

Them – clever dames, Susan Feldman a fashion industry veteran that moved from NYC to LA, and became obsessed with the home goods marketplace, for which I am grateful, and Ali Pincus who brought some much needed Silicon Valley know-how and I suspect money to the table.

No need to be blue when this ocean of happiness awaits.

They used their industry connections to maximum benefit, conducting Taste Maker Tag Sale, with items plucked from the homes of celebrities including; Steve Martin, Dianne Keaton, and Courtney Cox, and went on buying trips across continents with the likes of Bunny Williams, Nathan Turner, and Michelle Nussbaumer. In 2015 they opened their first brick and mortar location in Soho, added interior design services, and caught the attention of some serious big wigs. In 2016 they sold to Bed, Bath and Beyond for $12M. Like so many companies that lose their founders, the company floundered. Taste, passion, vision, design eye, the pulse of the marketplace is often diluted in the sea of corporate execs. A few more tears certainly won’t help this situation.

Leopard is a neutral after all.

I think I’ll spend my afternoon surfing through the vintage section, swinging by the swell slipper chairs, and humming a happy tune of gratitude for democratizing design on my behalf – and yours.

Inspiration is an Exercise

When I was young I imagined working in an architect’s office, probably spurred on by my love of the Brady Bunch. Mr. Brady always had that tube with a cool set of plans. Later, when I did start working for an architect – many in fact, and came to know of some of our world’s most famous, I had an image of the lone genius frantically sketching masterful designs on cocktail napkins, or any old scrap of paper they could pull out when this moment of divine inspiration struck.

Rivets is one of my very favorite. It comes in many colorways.

That’s not really how it works, at least not for most of us. Sure we could be inspired by an unusual color we see on the inside of a velvety petal of a flower, or the rugged texture of a No. 9 sheet of sandpaper. When you start to open your eyes to the world, particularly when you are on a quest for something, it’s amazing what the world puts in your path. It doesn’t however mean that you don’t have to do the work, and yes, it’s work. Inspiration sometimes requires a hand on your shoulder, that holds your unwilling form, firmly in the seat and suggests that you get to the business of writing, even if writing isn’t the business you feel like being in at the moment.

I have a lot of moments like that lately, but I was in fact inspired by Phillip Jeffries this weekend. Oh, I’ve been inspired by the wallcoverings in the past, but the shear volume of choices is delectable, and my eyes – not my earnings, wanted to devour them all.

PJ. Yatch Club . Deep Waters

Founded over forty years ago, this family owned business started with just ten selections of grass cloth wallcovering, over a garage in New Jersey no less. Today, they are one of the world’s leaders. I hope this piece shows you why.

PJ . Handira Cloth . Casablanca

Happy Sunday.

Woven Wicker . Evening Rose

PORTRAITS of Summer: Julien Pounchou

A French born photographer based in Barcelona Spain, Julien Pounchou’s portraits have that feel of a lazy, hazy, summer afternoon. Captured within the frame is the unrushed simplicity of another time. A time when the heavy, heat soaked air was a welcome excuse to sit in quiet contemplation, to float in the water, tethered to a bobbing boat, to sit poolside and wonder about the effort it might take to slip off the side and sink into the cool water.

His use of analog cameras and 120 & 35mm film to shoot his subjects, turn the pages of time back, like a books pages blowing gently in the wind. They are Instagrammable moments, but not for their staged perfection, but rather for the absence of it. No YouTube make-up tutorial required, come as you are.

Jenny Han said: “Everything magical happens between the months of June and August.”

Julien seems to grab those months by the bikini straps and gently pin them in place all year long.

Boxed In: the innovation between four walls

All boxed up and ready to go. Designer Windsor Smith in a launch photo circa 2010.

If this dang Corona V is going to have me holed up in the house, I am going to attempt to celebrate the box, both the one I happen to be in Boston, and those that interior designer Windsor Smith minted back in 2010 – a coincidence that her Room in a Box emerged just after the wreckage of our last recession? I think not. Her latest plan to facilitate connectivity, sanctity and community together in a home for the well healed may have to wait, but her 21st Century Fox style video production showcasing her new vision for this architectural template feels anything but boxy.

The New Homefront – The Aqualillies don’t come with the box.

If you are bougie like me, you’ll need more than one box to stand on just to get a glimpse inside one of Windsor’s mansions. No worries, you’ll be able to spy the likes of her work in the glossy pages of a magazine, or just have Amazon drop a copy of her book – Windsor Smith Homefront: Design for Modern Living, on your porch. After all, you really shouldn’t be out wondering around.

I’m all about the small. Of course, some of this is out of necessity, but honestly the sheer magnitude of these mansions has me thinking about the complexity of the machine that it takes to run a household of that size. From the staff, gardener’s, cleaners, security, stable hands – lordly I can barely keep my refrigerator stocked and it’s just 24″ wide. That’s right, it’s tiny. That’s why the idea of a designer of Ms. Smith’s caliber being accessible to someone like me, is so very exciting. While it isn’t cheap – the service runs somewhere between $4K – $14K per room. I consider almost like a master class. Her process is structured, as it must be, to illicit designs that are tailored to her client’s – without ever having spoken to them. That’s right, she never talks to you directly, it’s all conducted on-line, via questionnaire’s and a custom portal that pushing you along through the process until that little blue box arrives with its diamond of a design inside.

I can’t afford the bird, but maybe one of it’s tail feathers.

There were many design in a box services that popped up after the crash, when people had no money to hire a designer to “do their house”, the hope was they might spring for a room that was so egregious to them that they’d rather skip lunch for a few months than keep looking at it. When times got good again, many of these services dropped off. I think it’s a shame. If I have to be boxed in, I sure wouldn’t mind some of the airy inspiration of Windsor escaping as I lift the lid.

WS . Room in a Box

Stay safe and don’t touch your face.

Beauty soothes the soul

I love the word “dust bunny” it’s sounds so much cuter than it is when you are trying to capture that illusive pillowy cloud of particulate matter. Who invited it here anyway? The beauty is in the word rather than the act of removing it for me (a task I am currently putting off at the moment, but not allowed to go to sleep tonight before it is thoroughly behind me).

After a really busy week – which is no badge of honor BTW, I slept in and appreciated the beauty of that. I finished a book – silly but satisfying, and have three others going …. Annie Duke’s Thinking in Bets, Vanity Fair’s Women on Women, and Jeanine Cummins – American Dirt – stop reading whatever you’ve read about it and get to reading it. It’s amazing, and heartbreaking and hold your breath for what’s next to come…suspenseful, and it’s beautiful in between all the pain and anguish that love and loss, life and living throw your way.

Veranda Mag profiles a most outrageous and delightful magenta wet bar. Oh the high gloss money of it all.

So while I haven’t quite made it through my cleaning To Do list, I thought I would share some things that inspire me, make me smile, and applaud the artistry of others.

Suzanne Kasler’s Kips Bay Palm Beach House

Elsie De Wolfe said: I am going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.” What a good life’s goal you had, and how much happiness your brought others in your bold fulfillment of it. I admire you Elsie.

The Art of Achieving: the imperfect pilgrimage of one person’s journey

I love beauty as much as the next person. I fawn over the craftsmanship of a painstakingly thought out detail, the intersection of a structural beam that kisses the wall and disappears into the great unknown somewhere above the hard ceiling, the paint job whose lines are militant in their precision, the window whose somebody’s forethought so carefully frames out the view in the backyard of the barn with its codfish topped cupola.

Courtney Barton . Twin Throw Dohar . Ector Eggplant $195.

Instagram and social media, magazines, photo shoots, and Hollywood are all staged, and air brushed, to make you believe they were born of the imagination of such satirical thrillers as The Stepford Wives, which is to say, they are robotic in their image of near perfection. Life however isn’t perfect, unless your view is perfectly messy – then you are on the right side of reality.

Maison Balzac . Pink Carafe and Glass $74.99

I have no idea what the point of this particular rant (also known as a blog post) is about today. Maybe its a recognition that doing something well is really hard. Maybe it’s a thank you note and expression of gratitude for all the long hours, dedication, and obsessive tinkering that lead all these creators that I profile, to produce things of beauty. Maybe I am trying to cut myself some slack, at the start of this new decade, which has not been at all easy.

Look at that happy little planter of stars. Star Finished Brass Fire Place Screen. $2,395.

I’m going to work under the assumption that even if it looks effortless to me from the outside, that it likely wasn’t. Perhaps the little flaw was strategically hidden from the camera’s capturing eye, or the maker, made hundreds of that special thing that they make, before one was even close to camera ready. Putting the effort into getting good at something takes time – even if you have a propensity to do it well, and if you don’t – well then, you need to be so stubbornly determined that no collection of failures will deter you from your heart’s desire.

I love a good story. The best have a moral, a lesson, a way of turning the leaf over in your palm and viewing it through an entirely different lens. Perfection is boring you see, and whether I know the real story or not, my version is always going to be interesting. It’s always going to include a little challenge, a little strife, and an underdog that prevails.

Chairish . Lauren Jane Lounging Lady $621.

Happy Saturday.