Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gorgeous Digital Photo Art

Dawn on the Irrawaddy, Paul Elson

While strolling the Chicago Gold Coast Art Fair a few weeks ago, we were stopped in our tracks by the stunning photographic art of Paul Elson.  Based in NJ, Paul has developed a unique approach to digital art that mixes photography with watercolor painting.  By using several iterations of photographing, printing, manually manipulating (painting or drawing on the printouts), and scanning, he develops works that defy categorization yet strike the viewer with their subtlety and seeming authenticity. 
Before pursuing this artistic avenue, Paul was a successful commercial photographer for Fortune 500 clients, traveling around the world for projects and winning industry awards. Since his shift in focus in 1999 to Photo Impressionism, he's attracted the attention of numerous photography publications and has successfully exhibited and sold his works both in the US and internationally.  Here is his complete bio.
Go to his gallery to view more of his works.  If you get the chance to see any of them in person, don't miss it!

Eight Boats, Paul Elson

Cassis, Paul Elson


Monday, September 20, 2010

New Client "Before and After" Pics



Many clients don't need to start from scratch on a room, but rather need assistance in organizing and editing their existing furnishings.  I recently got to photograph some work I did to help a client rearrange and place a lot of her existing living room and dining room furniture.  In addition, I helped her to fill in with drapery, lighting, accessories and rugs.  I think the finished product looks great!  (Unfortunately, the enlarged photos are mysteriously grainy, but hopefully I'll get to take some better shots another time!)




Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monster Bedding Find!

Just browsing through Garnet Hill, one of my favorite catalog sites for colorful bedding, and I came across this adorable monster bedding pattern.  Had to share!
I am going to work on my sister to see if my nephew might want it for his first big boy bed.  It might have to be an early birthday present for him...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Vintage Poster Fun

In mid-March, my family visited the annual International Vintage Poster Fair at the Chicago Cultural Center.  It was a remarkable show featuring 30 dealers of the highest-quality vintage posters from all over the world, and we will definitely be going back.  The fair takes place in three cities annually - New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.  Here's a link to the fair's list of dealers with some images of the types of posters available.

Each year, the fair highlights a different sub-genre of vintage posters (but not to the exclusion of all the other categories.)  It could be travel, gastronomy...  This year's theme was military posters.  You might immediately think of recruitment posters (some vendors had the original "Uncle Sam wants you" poster) or WWII propaganda campaigns with messages like "loose lips sink ships" or things to that effect, but there was actually a whole universe of military posters with messages we hadn't thought of - a key motif in the American posters was a plea to citizens to use cooking methods that conserved oil, so steam or roast your food.   

Most of the dealers had stacks upon stacks of linen-backed posters that they would flip through for you (the posters are mostly very large and delicate, dating from the early part of the 20th century when printing and advertising became sophisticated enough for this genre to develop, so touching by customers is mostly frowned upon.)  The posters are linen-backed to prevent the paper from tearing, although it is not absolutely crucial for framing unless the poster is so large that it is printed in multiple panels and needs to be secured together prior to framing.

One Swiss dealer had binders full of reduced postcard-sized representations of his inventory, and we flipped through to see if anything caught our eye.  We fell in love with an advertisement for Knorr chicken soup and decided to buy it.  It had to be shipped from Switzerland after the dealer arrived home from the show, and then it ended up arriving in multiple panels to our surprise (we thought the tube looked too small for the size that had been promised to us, and when we opened it at the frame shop to see the poster itself, we realized that it was indeed in two pieces.) 

After having it backed and framed, we had it professionally hung in our tall atrium.  The finished piece is 49"W x 69" tall - gigantic!  It makes a great whimsical addition to what was a plain gray brick wall.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Check out Another Post on Rex Ray

Head on over to the Ritz Residences' "Simply Magnificent" Blog to check out my latest post about Rex Ray.  After seeing more of his work at the Art Chicago show last weekend, I had to share.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Speedy Post: How Cool is This Outdoor Furniture?

Just stumbled across this "Cambridge Collection" woven plaid furniture at Grandin Road and I had to share.  I can't believe how stylish it is for the price.  I'm trying to figure out if there's anywhere inside or outside my house I could use it, but I'm not sure.  I'll have to convince a client that it works for them! 
Cambridge Bench, $249

Cambridge Side Tables, $199 Each

Monday, April 26, 2010

Everyone's Talking About: Stand-up Desks

There's been a lot of buzz recently about the benefits of standing up while you work - I've noticed it in NY Times articles, on TV, and various other media outlets.  This article from the NY Times highlights some standing desk options on the  market now. 
And this third article from the NY Times about exercise in general and its effects on weight loss and appetite concludes with this paragraph:
In a completed but unpublished study conducted in his energy-metabolism lab, Braun and his colleagues had a group of volunteers spend an entire day sitting. If they needed to visit the bathroom or any other location, they spun over in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, in a second session, the same volunteers stood all day, “not doing anything in particular,” Braun says, “just standing.” The difference in energy expenditure was remarkable, representing “hundreds of calories,” Braun says, but with no increase among the upright in their blood levels of ghrelin or other appetite hormones. Standing, for both men and women, burned multiple calories but did not ignite hunger. One thing is going to become clear in the coming years, Braun says: if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair.”

The conclusion that standing - just standing, not even at a treadmill desk or something that otherwise causes you to continuously exercise - can help you burn hundreds more calories a day without increasing your appetite is the most convincing evidence I've seen yet for the benefits of standing up. 

Other people note that standing allows them to fidget in a productive way that gets the excess nervous energy out of their system, allowing them to more keenly focus their mind on the task at hand.  I remember another article I read last year about a school system who reported that students were able to focus better when given the option to stand or sit at adjustable height desks.

For several years, I've been interested in standing desks because my husband hates sitting at work all day and prefers standing.  He will often stand at the kitchen counter with his laptop perched atop some makeshift solution like a pile of books or a basket to raise it to at least 48" off the floor so he can comfortably see the screen and type without hunching. 

But the market is still catching up with the increased interest in this segment and all our searches for standing desks have led to very costly solutions (like this) that weren't perfect for the small spaces we've been trying to work with. 

For example, he wanted a solution that would integrate with his furniture at the office last year.  We were trying to source a podium that would sit on top of his existing desk or credenza, allowing him to stand when desired but also not eliminating the potential of sitting at his regular desk when meeting with others who would be seated at guest chairs in the office.  I couldn't find a standard one that would have the option of tilting or laying flat (accommodating reading material or a laptop) and be the right height for him. 

We looked into having one custom made, but the quotes we were getting sounded inordinately expensive and we gave up on it.  His sister ended up offering us a small standing card catalog that her school was getting rid of, and we placed that on the one available wall in his office.  He loves standing and working at it, but the card catalog drawers are virtually useless and it's stationary, not adjustable.  It's a workable solution, and was free, but not perfect. 

We recently needed to create a small workspace for him in our home.  Again, we were working with a compact area and needed filing space in addition to the elevated desk surface for laptop use and reading/writing.  The best solution I had come up with was to use a lateral file, standard at 42" high, and possibly add a top with an overhang to allow for him to stand closer.  However, a desktop would make it difficult to access files in the top drawer and he wouldn't ever be able to sit and work there because there would be no room for his legs. 

Surprisingly, we found a wonderful solution at a local used office furniture warehouse that we couldn't be more excited about.  While looking at the lateral files, we spied what appeared to be an adjustable height standing work table that had a heavy steel base on wheels and shallow top (perfect depth for a laptop) that slid up and down on a sturdy single-leg system, but it was in very poor condition and the top was sloping due to heavy use. 

Skeptically, we asked the owner if there was anything else like this piece that might be in better condition.  To our shock, he described the piece as a hospital bed table and said he had about a hundred more in the basement.  With his help, we located one in fine working order, got it cleaned up, and took it home for $25. 

I had never run across this type of piece before because in all my searching, it had never occurred to me to search for a hospital bed table, but that is exactly what we needed for our purposes.  The owner said that more and more people were buying them to use at their own beds with their laptops, or for standing desks.  They adjust easily with a side handle located where the top attaches to the leg to go from standard sitting to standing height.  

We were also able to fit a standard width filing cabinet next to it and a stool underneath, so now it can be used either sitting or standing and we met our filing needs as well.

I would be surprised if this type of table doesn't make it into mainstream catalogs and retailers within the next year, given the enthusiasm in the media for standing desks coupled with their general scarcity. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cool Custom Baby Bedding Site

"Robots" collection

"Way to Go" collection

Here goes - another post about nurseries, this time about bedding. 

In searching for tasteful crib bedding for a friend, I came across this very fun site that allows you to create custom crib bedding designs at a very affordable price.  The site is Javis Davis and they do custom children's bedding and doll bedding in addition to crib sets.

Their online too lets you choose fabrics from within a collection and apply them to several different styles of bedding to see what the finished product would look like.  You go to the page with all the fabric collections listed and click the link next to your favorite to pull up the design wizard using that collection.  You can email your creation to yourself or a friend when you're done.  Shown here are a couple that I made up, each of which cost around $260 for the set including bumper, sheet and skirt.

"Java Pear" collection

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fishy Plans for Nursery

I love it when inspiration strikes. 

The other day I was skimming the Garnet Hill catalog when I came across this cheerful fish pattern.  As I've been posting, I'm on the lookout for nursery inspiration of the sort that is gender-neutral, doesn't scream "baby", but is visually stimulating and appropriate for young children.  I think I may have really scored here.

Right now, plans are to use the sheets to make drapery and pillows.  My initial thought is to paint the walls in an imperfect, variegated stripe incorporating the fish colors plus white, and perhaps paint enlarged versions of the fish on one wall.  Then I just need some type of solid colored bedding and voila, kids' room accomplished! 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Quick Post: ABC Poster Cool Yet Adorable - The Holy Grail!

In my search for nursery decor, I came across this ABC Animal Poster at for $50. 

It comes in three colorways - mainly pink, mainly blue, and this gender-neutral orange and green version (may coordinate well with the hippo bedding from Target...)  I just wish it were bigger because I think it would make a great statement in our nursery.  Still, maybe it would be good for a smaller wall somewhere. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Shrimp and Corn Chowder - Cozy Meal Alert!

Sometimes I'm moved to post about a recipe when it's really good, really easy, or in this case, both.  I found this one in Real Simple this month and it sounded straightforward enough for even me to follow (explanation a few paragraphs down.)

There were very few ingredients I had to venture beyond my scheduled trip to Aldi/Trader Joe's for, but nothing particularly obscure.  Fortunately the one other supermarket I visited had good looking fennel as well as the clams and clam juice I needed.  Aldi had the shrimp (frozen) for $3.50 and I think they may have paid me to take the package of frozen corn.  (Normally I don't eat that much corn because it's not super-high on my list of nutritional veggies, but sometimes you have to make an exception.)  The leeks I got at TJ's, pre-trimmed and cleaned, which was helpful because, having never cooked with leeks before, I wasn't sure how much or how little of them I was supposed to use. 

Anyway, here is the recipe with a few minor adaptations.  Each time I try to follow a recipe, I'm reminded of why I don't bake very often.  With a recipe for cooking, if you screw up, it's usually still going to taste okay but just a little different than what might have been originally intended.  With baking, if you mess up, it's just not going to work at all.  And for some reason, I'm incapable of following a recipe precisely. 

Last night I added 4 cups of milk instead of 3, for no reason - just because I read it wrong - and also chose not to buy potatoes at any of the three grocery stores I went to because they weren't in the recipe.  I thought to myself, multiple times in each of the stores, "it's funny - it's a chowder and it looks like there are potatoes in the photo of the finished product, but there just aren't potatoes called for in the recipe, so I'm not buying them." 

Well, when I went to make the soup, I realized that there were indeed potatoes listed right there on the ingredient list and the soup was going to be lacking some serious heartiness without them.  Why hadn't I just bought a couple, just in case?  I have no idea.  I had to send my husband out for some on his way home because I was convinced the soup would just not be filling enough without them.  Happy ending, but yet another demonstration of my inability to follow directions.

In any case, this recipe is obviously pretty foolproof and I highly recommend it!

Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Fennel

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 leeks (white and light green parts), chopped
• 1 fennel bulb (and green stems**), chopped
• kosher salt and black pepper
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
• 1 small can clams in clam juice **
• 4 cups whole milk **
• 1 pound potatoes (2 medium potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 3/4 pound cooked peeled and deveined medium shrimp
• 1 16-ounce package frozen corn**
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• Juice of one lemon (at least 2 Tblsp)
• bread, for serving (optional)


1. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel, season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes; stir in the flour.

2. Add the clam juice, milk, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and corn and cook until the potatoes are tender and the shrimp and corn are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Serve with the bread, if using.

Salt to taste while cooking

** Changed from or added to original recipe

By Kate Merker, February 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gorgeous Handmade Mirrors

Awesome vendor alert: Made Goods, a trade-only vendor (sorry, I know, but you can always order through me!) has some of the most beautiful and unique mirrors I've seen in a long time.  You can peruse the collection of mirrors along with their collections of small occasional furniture and objects at  If you're interested in pricing anything out, let me know!

Also - I'm updating this post to add that MadeGoods now carries stunning lighting and accent furniture.  Their line is greatly expanded with tons of gorgeous pieces that will add character to any space.

Here are a just a very few that jumped out at me...  There are many more in the collection that are more subdued, but I especially liked these unique, textural examples of their work.

Giselle Reproduction Coral Mirror, Available in red or white, 24" Diameter

Grotta Baroque Shell Pattern Mirror, 30"W x 38"H

Killian Interlocking Capiz Mirror, 32"W x 42"H

Madena Matchstick Mirror (32" or 24" Diameter)

This is such a small selection of what's available on the website - it's definitely worth a look if for nothing besides inspiration and a glimpse at some beautiful things.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rex Ray - Am I the Last Person to Know?

Lasallia, mixed media on linen, 2007

Rationaria, mixed media on linen, 2006

Amandinia, mixed media on canvas, 2007

I'm apparently pretty late to the game on this one, but I just discovered the work of Rex Ray, a San Francisco artist who works in collage and canvas. 

He's been remarkably successful with his colorful collages and multimedia works.  His work is available in the original and as prints at Turner Carroll Gallery and Gallery 16 online as well as in reproduction through major print sites like and (although neither of those two carry my favorites available through Turner Carroll or Gallery 16.) 

Here is his bio from the Turner Carroll Gallery website:

"Rex Ray is a San Francisco based fine artist, whose collages, paintings and design work have been exhibited at galleries and museums, including the The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, University Art Museum in Berkeley, San Jose Museum of Modern Art, The Crocker Museum in Sacramento, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Michael Martin Galleries, Gallery 16, New Langton Arts, and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.

"He is also a celebrated graphic designer. He has created work for Apple, Dreamworks, Sony Music, Warner Brothers, City Lights Publishers, Matador Records, Serpent's Tail, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, Rizzoli, Powerhouse, Mute Records and Crown Books. His package designs for David Bowie, as well as for Joe Satriani, Diamanda Galás, Matmos, and Deee-Lite, have earned him an international reputation for his innovation in type and with original photographs, drawings, and collage. He has designed over 100 historic Bill Graham Presents rock and roll tour posters, including ones for The Rolling Stones, Patti Smith, REM, Bjork, U2, and Radiohead."

I actually came across his name while perusing Z Gallerie (as I shrink down into my chair) to see if they had any new furnishings worth commenting on.  I saw one of his works on their site and decided to google and see what happened.  I'm so glad I did!  It just goes to show the mass exposure a serious artist can get by licensing a limited amount of his or her work to a major retail outlet, even if the overall aesthetic of that retailer isn't what the artist might adhere to normally.

Because they're colorful yet sophisticated and are so abstract, these can work in many different rooms and would appeal equally to all ages.  I'm even thinking about something for the nursery.  His work is so full of life and color - how did I not know about him already?

Parmotrema, 36" square, print on art block, at Z Gallerie

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Adirondack Style

I've been on the hunt for some concepts for a boy's room that aren't too precious or expected.  Something that kind of randomly occurred to me was the idea of adirondack or log-style furniture, which is very masculine and durable, yet all-American and somewhat eco-friendly given that it is mostly hand-made in America and thus avoids the off-gassing chemicals used in particle-board and veneer furniture as well as the transportation costs associated with cheaper imports.

I've always loved log furniture when we've vacationed out west, but wondered if it would look too theme-y and out of place in another part of the country (e.g. the Midwest.)  I've concluded that since the most substantial piece of baby furniture I'll likely get will be a dresser (in lieu of a changing table) and it won't be a whole suite of matching pieces, the theme won't be too overwhelming.  We can get a stained wood crib to begin with, and upgrade to a log-style headboard or canopy bed later if we decide we like this aesthetic.  But rustic furniture can also blend well with other materials and metals like antique bronze or brass with all sorts of reclaimed or antiqued wood, so we don't have to feel confined to more pieces in this exact style in the future when adding to the room. 

Here are some examples of dressers I've found so far as options.

ADK Design Birch and Hickory Dresser (located midway down page)

ADK Design Twig Design Pine and Hickory Dresser (midway down page)

Old Hickory Mule Chest by Old Hickory Furniture, available through Black Forest Decor

The Log Furniture Store Adirondack Twig 6-Drawer Dresser

I can't decide whether it will be an issue to have bark-veneered furniture in a child's room - while most pieces are coated to death with polyurethane to prevent peeling, it might be preferable still to go with a smoother-finished piece.  In this case, here are a few options in that direction.

Log Furniture Store Big Woods 6-Drawer Dresser

There is so much more out there and this is just a small sampling of things I happened to like.  Looking forward to doing more research, as this is a look I don't often get the chance to use here in Chicago!