Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Newsflash: Non-Cheesy Mural Artist!

I met with the coolest mural artist yesterday to review her portfolio for future use in my projects. Her name is Augustina Droze and she's been working since she was 15 on paid commissions for murals. Clearly she was born to do this.

I am normally not the hugest fan of murals - let's face it, we've all seen murals that just look tacky and don't give off that upscale vibe, rather looking amateurish and too folksy.

But Augustina really gets it - her work is sophisticated and extremely well-rendered. She is not only a gifted artist in her own right, but is capable of replicating the styles of various artists upon request. I've chosen to post some of her residential work, but if you visit her gallery, you'll also see some of her work in restaurants, malls, and civic projects.

Here is one of my favorite pieces she's done - it's in a home in Aspen and depicts the local landscape.
Here is one of a kitchen ceiling - what a great treatment to add interest up above!
A mural is a classic way to enliven a child's room. I love these!
Here, a transporting landscape with some adorable, realistic criters sprinkled throughout.
And in this room, vignettes in the style of Norman Rockwell add old-time appeal.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Having had a little success with our new garden this summer, I have developed a deeper interest in plants recently. And on one of my frequent running routes, I enter Lincoln Park right by the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

A mysterious, hulking behemoth of a greenhouse, this building has intrigued me for the past several months since I first noticed it during a run. It also has a prominently posted marquee stating that it is open every day of the year for free to the public from 9-5. The problem is that it lies about a third of the way through my run, so it never seems just the right moment to peek in and take a stroll through some exotic plant exhibits.

Today, with my sister in town, we were walking through the park to visit the green market and it struck me that this was the perfect opportunity to check out the Conservatory. It was worth the wait and far exceeded my expectations. The building is divided into several rooms with a logical path running through. First there was the palm room, then the fern room, then the orchid room, and then a seasonal exhibit room, leading back in a loop to the palm room and then out again. Almost every plant is labeled and there are some giant ones that make you feel like you're in Jurassic Park or some prehistoric rainforest.

Here is some history about the building from the Chicago Park District's official website:

The Lincoln Park Commission constructed the Lincoln Park Conservatory in phases between 1890 and 1895, replacing a small greenhouse that dated from the 1870s. Nationally renowned architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee designed the Conservatory in collaboration with architect M.E. Bell. The park includes a second example of the work of each architect. Silsbee designed the Carlson Cottage, a ladies comfort station southeast of Café Brauer, and Bell designed the Rustic Shelter, located west of the North Pond, near Stockton Drive.

During the early nineteenth century developments in iron and glass building technology led to the construction of conservatories in cities throughout Europe and the United States. Later in the century, as people were increasingly concerned about the ill effects of industrialization, they became fascinated with nature and interested in collecting and classifying plants. Large conservatories with display and exhibit rooms gained popularity, and Lincoln Park's small greenhouse no longer seemed sufficient. Architects Silsbee and Bell were commissioned to design a much more substantial building. Rendered in an exotic style, the new structure included palm, fernery, orchid, and show houses. A "paradise under glass," the Conservatory supported "a luxuriant tropical growth, blending the whole into a natural grouping of Nature’s loveliest forms." Historically, aquatic plants propagated in tanks in the Conservatory were planted outside, in artificially-heated lily ponds. The exotic plants were so popular that in 1897 the Egyptian government requested seeds from Lincoln Park's water lilies. The rocky-edged ponds once meandered along what is now the fence line of the Lincoln Park Zoo

It is such a wonderfully pleasant environment to explore the beauty of plants and to learn about various species. I wouldn't say there was an overwhelming amount of information - in fact, there were very few explanatory placards - but just enough to provide some background without overly slowing down your progress through the exhibits. If you are in the area, I highly recommend checking this out - it's a breathtaking facility, it's free, and you just may get some inspiration for your home garden.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Some Updated Portfolio Pics

After adding new chairs, pillows, and drapery in the living room, I have taken some new pics.
The sofa pillows I've posted about before - I used a Ralph Lauren houndstooth check, alpaca herringbone woven, and red moss fringe to create deliciously lush down throw pillows for two sofas.

The drapery is of an ivory linen with a tan pinstripe, lined and interlined, to draw for complete privacy. The panels have a French pleated header and are mounted on an antique brass rod with small, traditional finials.

The dining chairs were a '70s find from a Pennsylvania antiques dealer. I had them recovered in a pop-y, yet muted, stripe that is actually an outdoor fabric, which should make it particularly stain-resistant and durable. The back cushions are buttoned through the caned backs of the chairs and have a contrasting flange in the seam rather than the more traditionally used cord welt (which was used on the seats.) I love how they turned out!
If you need advice or help with recovering any of your furniture or you want to transform your sofas with some new throw pillows, drop me a line!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Groovy Missoni Prints

Had some fun checking things out at the Merchandise Mart today - I was researching outdoor furniture, but had to peek in at Stark to see what was new. I loved these wild Missoni prints that I don't remember seeing before. They've carried Missoni for a long time, but I think this collection is new.
With the large scale of these fabrics, they lend themselves to use as drapery, on large floor cushions, or even on large upholstered pieces. The large repeat would make a sofa or chair look very modern. And with the crazy colors, they wouldn't show stains.
Another great application would be to paperback them and use them as wallpaper. Wouldn't these make a teenage girl's room or a family room look fab?

Garden Party Success

A selection of the delectable edibles on offer - homemade dark- and white-chocolate covered cheesecake bites, Farm brownies (Elaine's recipe), cheese bites with peach and raspberry jam, and mock chopped liver

Thanks to all who came through our garden this weekend during the Sheffield Garden Walk. We had prepared an assortment of hors d'oeuvres and drinks and loved having all the visitors to the neighborhood come through on the tour.

A big attraction was our working fountain, which I was thrilled to have gotten up and running earlier in the week. It makes for such a peaceful setting to sit and read a book or enjoy dinner with friends.

We hope to see all of you again next year!