Soho Spotlight

Analisse Taft of ALT for Living

Screen-shot-2011-05-18-at-8.51.55-AMThe Soho of my youth has changed from bohemian artist colony to cobblestone’d Rodeo Drive, and seeing as I personally can’t afford to shop at Chanel, I don’t often find myself there.  That said, last week an acquaintance told me about ALT for Living – a showroom on Greene Street that had somehow escaped my radar.  Yesterday I ventured south to meet Analisse Taft, ALT for Living‘s owner/curator, and to see her collection.  It turned out to be a very exciting and worthwhile trip.

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Out of Africa

Richard Wrightman ~ Modern Campaign Furniture

 

“Chatwin” dining chair  Walnut and Leather

“Campaign” furniture has been around since the days of Julius Cesar.  It was originally designed and manufactured for military officers, who once in the field, needed a suitable place to sit, eat, and store their belongings.  Historically, the British are credited with elevating the genre to an art form during the period know as the “Raj” (1600-1857) in India, when England set up trade outposts there.  The basic premise: campaign furniture is manufactured with the ability to be broken down into component parts and stored in wooden boxed specifically manufactured to hold those parts for transport.  In practice, stored campaign furniture was carried by servants or enlisted men to a military field camp where it was assembled for use.   With the advent of the airplane and motorcar, battlefield war changed dramatically in the early 20th century.  Campaign furniture became superfluous and time-consuming – seemingly doomed for extinction – until it was adopted by the English gentry for use while vacationing in exotic locals.  Eventually the category made its way into residential environments.  The added level of sophistication and precision required to produce furniture that is at once sturdy and collapsible requires adept skills in manufacturing… skills Richard Wrightman clearly possesses.

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Luxury Re-Purposed

Bruce Tilley ~ Decor NYC

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Bruce Tilley, owner and curator of Decor NYC, has a storied history when it comes to furniture.  Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, he began collecting art deco pieces in high school.  His early love of home furnishings ultimately lead him to a position as President of Licensing for the home division at Alexander Julian, a job he held for 2 decades.  Fast forward to last December when he fulfilled a life-long dream by opening a consignment shop which focuses its attention on high-end “gently used” furniture, lighting, accessories and art.   It’s been a wildly successful half-year.  I’d like to share why.

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Master Class: Jamie Drake

Full-on Courageous Color

 

I met Jamie Drake while visiting a friend in the Hampton’s nearly 25 years ago, and luckily we’ve remained friends ever since.  Over the course of that quarter century, I’ve watched his unique sense of style and fearless use of color chronicled in the pages of every important glossy – garnering him a spot at the top of the list of established interior designers.    A few weeks ago I asked Jamie if we might have a chat about his career.  I’d like to share the insights I gained into what makes him such an incredibly talented man.

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The Healing Power of Creative Expression

The Alpha Workshops

Faux Marble Floor at Gracie Mansion

Ken Wampler was working as a busy decorative painter in 1995, for some major interior design firms – Parish Hadley among them.  He found himself (like many of us at the time) overwhelmed with the losses of talent to the AIDS crisis, and wanted to do something about it.  Armed with paint brushes, a wealth of knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit, he created The Alpha Workshops.  Part school/training facility, part laboratory, and part manufacturing facility, The Alpha Workshops seeks to assist HIV+ individuals in gaining new skills as decorative craftsman, and showcases their work for sale to the interior design community.  In its 17 year history, the  organization has impacted the lives of more than 300 HIV+ men, women and their families by teaching the techniques of a myriad of creative arts disciplines, and stands ready to meet the needs of other chronically ill communities.  I visited with Ken this week, and wanted to share why I think AW is a great (underutilized!) resource for bespoke interior design products and painted finishes.

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20 Years and Counting

Happy Anniversary Thomas O'Brien ~ Aero Studio

The Brimfield Antique show and Flea Market is open for its mid-summer sale this week, which made me think of Thomas O’Brien – master of the flea market find.  Coincidentally O’Brien’s  Aero Studio is having its 20th anniversary this year,  so I decided to head to Soho to see what the store is offering 2  decades after he opened it.

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Flatiron Fabrics

Kate Reynolds & Stacy Waggoner of Studio Four

It’s been 3 years since Stacy Waggoner and Kate Reynolds opened Studio Four in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. I recently heard they’d expanded into a larger space flooded with gorgeous light, so I went in to see them.  Their beautiful new showroom is a spacious and airy “white envelope” – quintessential downtown chic – showcasing the fabrics, wallpapers and rugs they’ve curated.  I had the opportunity to meet them both upon my arrival, and within seconds felt right at home.   As they walked me through the 27 lines they represent, it became incredibly clear that they share a point of view, a sense of style, and a generous dose of southern charm (hailing from Texas and South Carolina respectively).  On the whole, Studio Four’s collection is casually sophisticated, understated (in the most glorious way), and fresh.  These ladies both worked for A&M collection, among other stalwart showrooms, and I could easily see how their history has influenced them – but they’ve moved their aesthetic forward in a more youthful, colorful (the key word) and exuberant way.

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