Friday, July 27, 2012

My Six Essentials: 1. Blue and White Porcelain.

Designer: Carolyne Roehm
Over the years numerous people have asked what my favourite design essentials are and I have found that my answer has been pretty much the same every time. When someone asked me that same question earlier this week I decided to write a series of posts to answer...I did however answer the person who asked straight away.

Aside from the elements that any designed space needs to have, i.e. furniture, textiles, antiques, lighting, art, etc. every designer has a list of essentials that they try to incorporate into any space they are working on. It should come as no real surprise that my list is made of time tested elements. Being a native New Englander and having grown up in a very old world style my design sensibilities tend to be those of the WASP / preppy / traditionalist mindset, with a fair measure of English Country House Style thrown in. As such let us begin with the first of my "Six Essentials", blue and white porcelain.

The technique of cobalt blue decorations seems to have come from the Middle-East in the 9th century through decorative experimentation on white ware. Cobalt blue pigments were excavated from local mines in central Iran from the 9th century, and then were exported as a raw material to China. In the early 14th century mass-production was fully developed of fine, translucent, blue and white porcelain started at Jingdezhen, sometimes called the porcelain capital of China. This development was due to the combination of Chinese techniques and Islamic trade. The new ware was made possible by the export of cobalt from Persia called Islamic Blue, combined with the translucent white quality of Chinese porcelain. Cobalt blue was considered as a precious commodity, with a value about twice that of gold.

Oriental blue and white porcelain was highly prized in Europe and America and sometimes enhanced by fine silver and gold mounts, it was collected by kings and princes. In time the traditional blue and white Chinoiserie style (I'm working on a post about this wonderful style, be sure to keep an eye out of it) was highly coveted and collected by commoners after transferware patterns were introduced in the 17th century. Deeply rooted in our collective conscious as a symbol of elegance, the timeless color and stylized patterns of these pieces have continued to influence and inspire the design world to this day. Right then, enough with the history lesson, on to that wonderful blue and white porcelain.

Designer: Ashley Whittaker
Just look at what a stunning statement these jars make in this entryway, a triangle of blue and white that balances this space perfectly. And isn't that floor amazing too?

Designer: Barclay Butera
This space leaves me nearly speechless (though anyone who knows me can attest that that is as close to speechless as I am capable of being). This space shows that these pieces can be easily incorporated even on a somewhat grander scale. Mr. Butera's wallpaper selection does a great job of helping the porcelain jars meld almost seamlessly into the room.

Designer: Brion R. Judge
One of my favourite aspects of blue and white porcelain is that even a couple of smaller pieces can be a focal point. Against a pure white wall these pieces stand out so nicely don't you think?

Designer: John Yunis
The pieces here add very good light spots to a room that has a touch of darkness to it. I just love the planter on the right side. Again we see that triangle shape, a true designer staple for adding balance in a room.

Designer: Mary McDonald
While there are actually many pieces in this hallway Mary's spaces them out beautifully. The eye easily flows from one piece to the next taking in all the lovely things in between.

Designer: Scot Meacham Wood
I love that Scot placed these two bigger pieces on a smaller table, such an amazing visual...not that the entire room isn't of course. Have you noticed the trend that many designers have for using a matching pair of these pieces? We can't explain why but it just always looks good.

Designer: Anna Spiro
Here is a great way to display a collection of blue and white porcelain. What really sets this look is the pair of jars on top of the cabinet...the matching pair.

Designer: John Rosselli
Another wonderful way to display a collection. This fabulous setting is in one of the homes Mr. Rosselli shares with his wife, the amazing Bunny Williams.

Designer: Anthony Baratta
I absolutely adore this space, Anthony has created an amazing nautical setting, my New England spidey sense is just tingling. The porcelain pieces complement this room so well one might think they had been made especially for it.

The red room at the Chinese Pavilion of the Drottningholm Palace
This just shows how much of an impact one simple blue and white jar can have on a space. Even with all the other amazing pieces and colours here the eye seems to always find that little bit of it!

So there you have it, the first of my "Six Essentials." Please check back next week for number two, and the week after for three and so on and so on. Always remember that blue and white can look amazing in almost any design style. If you are unsure about it fitting in your space give a try you just might be surprised how much you like it. And if you still can't decide send me a picture I'd be more than happy to offer a suggestion or two.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2012 Parade of Boats.

This past Saturday marked the start of the 104th Race to Mackinac yacht race. Before the start of the race each year spectators have the pleasure of being able to view all the boats at the Parade of Boats, which is held just off the East end of Navy Pier.

As they have done for awhile now, Michigan Avenue Magazine hosted the official viewing party called Ashore Thing, which was co-hosted by BMO Harris Bank. One of the great things for the event was the lunch's that could be ordered. The best was a picnic basket for two that included a half bottle of Veuve Clicquot...which I am completely unable to ever turn down.

At any rate, Kristina and I made our way there early Saturday morning to enjoy the event. As promised in my previous post (104th Race to Mackinac) the camera was in transit in my trusty tote bag and I was able to find a couple of good spots to take pictures.

FYI, the last few images are a bit blurry on the left side because I seem to be an idiot and mistook the camera lens being smudged for my sunglasses being a bit fogged up (it was hot out).

The Chicago Lighthouse, one end of the starting line for the race.
Boats jockeying for position for the first start of the day.
Just a few of the 300+ boats heading up to Navy Pier to show off a bit before a grueling few days of racing.
Something about this shot I just love.
Kristina and I were happy to see a boat named after our cat Loki...I'm pretty sure that's where they got the name from.
Kristina stepping in front of my shot. Even taken as a mistake this is a pretty good shot, right?
Still plenty of boats heading over...but time to grab our lunch.
I saw this as we were eating and couldn't resist getting a quick pic. This is also where the blurriness begins, sorry.
This was one of the favourites to win.
Easily the most unusual boat of the day.
Yet another group looking for position for a start (there were three starts in total)
Love the flag.
Notice the Jack Skellington flag at back left.
Would have been a really good shot without the blur...damn my oil covered fingers.
Before we left we found someone to get snap a quick pic of us. Turned out pretty good, don't you think?

In closing I would like to congratulate the crew of the Realt Na Mara, the winner of the 104th Race to Mackinac. The Realt Na Mara is out of Springfield, IL. and is skippered by Joe Londrigan. The crew included Dr. Carl Arenzten, Michael Evans and Tom Londrigan Jr., as well as Greg Alm of Chicago and John Shope of Michigan City, Ind. Gentleman, enjoy your victory and your trophy.

The Mackinac Cup. Often referred to as "The Canoe."

Happy Sailing,

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Mr. Hemingway.

Ernest Miller Hemingway
21 July, 1899  -  2 July, 1961

The books of Hemingway was both a requirement and an absolute pleasure of my childhood, now an adult there isn't anyone making me read them but they are still one of my great pleasures. I tend to reread at least one of his books a year and expect to continue in this fashion the rest of my days.

A true literary giant, the impact Hemingway has had on millions of people through his words is a true testament to his unique talent. If you have never read his works (and shame on you for it) you really should rush out and get one of his books immediately...and do not download one..because he will know and he will come and beat you up.

See, I told you.

For those of you that know much about the man knows that he was a pretty rough and tumble man's man. He was a fighter, a big game hunter, a marlin fisherman, a heavy drinker, etc., etc. Basically more of a man than you and I will probably ever know.

I chose this for the hunting image because I just couldn't bare to show one with an animal he killed.

Now that is a big fish.
But he did have a soft side and he loved cats, he had a few everywhere he lived. As a matter of fact he had dozens of them on his property when he lived in Cuba. Hemingway had a cat in his home in Key West, FL. that was a polydactyl (six-toes) called Snowball that was given to him by a ship captain. You can still see the descendants of Snowball at Hemingway's House and Museum in well, Key West. Now one of the terms for a polydactyl cat is a Hemingway Cat. Pretty cool right?

Hemingway's writing studio, with his Royal typewriter and Cuban chair at his Key West home.

And for those who remember I got this picture of Hemingway's birthplace last year when my wife and I went out to Oak Park, IL. to tour Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio.

Just in case you didn't believe me.
Now if I were to recommend just one Hemingway book to read it would easily be The Old Man and the Sea. There is just something so compelling and alluring about it, one easily becomes completely entranced right out of the to speak. Now that I'm thinking about it, I think I'll find my old copy and start reading it again tonight. Care to join me?

The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Hemingway in 1954.

A great way to celebrate the mans birth and the man himself would be to go out and have yourself a Hemingway Daiquiri, its what I plan on doing. This was the drink that he always had (not called a Hemingway Daiquiri at the time of course) at his favourite bar in Cuba, El Floridita.

The Hemingway Daiquiri:
  • ½ oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1 tsp. Maraschino liqueur
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 oz. white rum
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice
Directions: Pour all ingredients into a mixing cup over shaved ice, shake the hell out of it like your trying to kill it and pour into a chilled glass. Now grab that glass and drink it like a man you wuss!

Cheers Papa,

Friday, July 20, 2012

104th Race to Mackinac.

This Saturday, 21st July, will mark the 104th Race To Mackinac here in Chicago. This is easily one of my favourite events in the city each year. There is just something about sailboat racing that is so compelling, everything about it. On top of all the other reasons I love the sport I have always taken a great deal of inspiration from anything sailboat related so seeing dozens of wonderful boats with colourful sails and gleaming hulls out on the water is an amazing way to spend a day for me.

The race is sponsored by the Chciago Yacht Club.
And my go to champagne..drink...liquid refreshment...etc., etc.

The race will begin on Saturday just after 11am at the Chicago lighthouse...

...will make the 333 statute miles (289.4 nautical miles) along this route...

...and ends at the lighthouse on Round Island, just off Mackinac Island, MI.

My wife and I will be out on Navy Pier tomorrow morning for the Parade of Boats, the "ceremony" that brings all the boats to the starting line from the yacht club. So, if you'll be there too track me down and say hello. I'll be taking pictures of all the boats and will put them in a blog post next week.

See..I'm fully ready for the race, I've got my official hat and my sailboat bow tie all ready to go.

Happy Sailing,
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