Sunday, October 16, 2016

...about trend forecasting: partly, mostly, beautifully cloudy.

Maybe it was the all-too-brief trip to Fire Island to which I was treated, where the sky still manages to upstage the rest of the island’s eye candy (well, most of it) with its constant, drifting day-and-night celestial show, shown off above a clear horizon that never seems to end, a giant upturned bowl of a sky. Maybe it’s living in Manhattan, where that same sky is parceled out like the real estate: in tiny squares and meager boxes, a mostly-blue-gray Mondrian. Maybe it was a weekend away upstate, where we watched an enormous thunderhead glow with lightning like a giant, short-circuiting Noguchi lantern.
Perhaps this beach weekend, fragmented view and country light show have all  conspired to make me miss the sweeping arcs of tropic sky I grew up with in South Florida: showy, hypnotic, and ever-changing, whether the great white anvils of afternoon thunder clouds behind a row of sherbet-y Miami Beach art deco hotels, the high cirrus feathers of winter, the puffy cumulus of summer, or the flame-edged cotton candy of a Key West sunset.

Whatever it is, something’s in the air, and suddenly, I’m loving all things cloud.

And I don’t seem to be the only one. Clouds are drifting in everywhere, on magazine and catalog pages, gallery walls and across showroom floors.
Top to bottom, left to right:
Cirrus Printed Grasscloth, in Fog and Chalk, Celerie Kemble for F. Schumacher; Cloud Lamp, Robert Kuo for McGuire; Kennedy Sofa, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; “Man and a Mountain,” Uros Zagozen, Minted; Kumo in Taupe, Laura Kirar for Highland Court through Duralee; Silk Clouds in Ash, Robert Kuo for S. Harris; Aalto Chandelier, Jayson Home; Kobe Cowhide, Natural By Lifestyle, BlueFly; Jade Altar Table, Currey & Company; Onyx SideTable, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Aries Swivel Chair, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

These motifs are certainly not new, but they are feeling, to me at least, very much of the moment. It’s the newest/oldest way to bring the outdoors in, on textiles, wallcoverings, rugs, lamps, fine art and accessories.

It might have been Laura Kirar’s Kumo for Highland Court that started my own obsession: a tone-on-tone Chinese Deco-esque cloud pattern, pitched twice now in two colorways to clients who loved the ethereal, elegant textile. And Chinese and Tibetan versions have long appeared in the work of Robert Kuo, and rug-master Joseph Carini, and they’re just popping up in the fall collections at places like Williams-Sonoma Home.
Top to bottom, left to right: 
Sora Velvet in Rust/Mocha (colorway discontinued), Kelly Wearstler for Groundworks, through Lee Jofa; Worlds Away Park Cabinet, Jayson Home; Major Chair, Satin Brass, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Clair Chair, in Smoke Acrylic, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Walden Coffee Table, Wisteria; Tibetan Border Area Rug in Neutral, Williams Sonoma Home; Melange Flowered Drum Side Table, Hooker Furniture
Those Chinese-inspired versions of the cloud pattern could anchor a rich, fresh traditional tone-on-taupe living room, pairing beautifully with smoky Lucite and burnished golds, where the motifs evoke opium-clouded decadence. This Dark and Stormy variation on the theme also drifts toward the smoke spectrum, of which I’ve sung the praises for New England Home's blog in the past.
Top to bottom, left to right: 
Sora Velvet in Aqua/Blue, Kelly Wearstler for Groundworks through Lee Jofa; “Elegant Hours,” Jefferson Hayman; Verner Lamp, Arteriors Home; Cumulus Bed, Ted Boerner via Dennis Miller; “Dreams,” by Jonathan Brooks, Minted; Monica Side Table, Worlds Away; Espinoza Entertainment Cabinet, Bernhardt; Foo Dog Lamp, Wayfair; Cirrus Clouds PrintedGrasscloth in Plume, Celerie Kemble for F. Schumacher

My thinking in any room is that every introduction needs a companion, and I’ve said in the past that everyone/thing in a room needs another friend at the party. So I’d use lots of these cloud items in tandem, at least. But with some care, I think you can build a room most securely and almost entirely on a cloudy base. 

"White Top," Rich Bowman oil on canvas, 19x31" Blue Gallery

Once you put on your cloud-colored glasses, lots of things start looking like they could be right at home in Bespin (for the Star Wars fans!), specifically, other organic, outside-in materials, like striated onyx, mottled marble, live-edge woods and swirly burls (also deemed “of the moment” not long ago by Traditional Home).
Top to bottom, left to right:
“Moon with Clouds,”Jefferson Hayman; Muriel Cloud Chandelier, Oly Studio; Ivory Cowhide, Jayson Home; Sitting Quan Yin, ZGallerie (no longer available; similar available); Burl Console, West Elm; Cloud Sofa, Ted Boerner, through Dennis Miller; Mid-Century Egg Coffee Table, Wisteria; Ceramic Cumulus Stool, Wisteria.
Top: Cirrus Clouds Printed Grasscloth in Blanched, Celerie Kemble for F. Schumacher; Bottom: Tree and Cloud Rug, Joseph Carini Carpets
Top to bottom, left to right: 
Cloudburst in Linen, Robert Allen for DwellStudio through Robert Allen; Moon Sconce, Oly Studio; Kumo in Aegean, Laura Kirar for Highland Court, through Duralee; Ansel Chair in Brass and Tibetan Fur, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Zigzag Glass Table, Wisteria; Silk Clouds in Cream, Robert Kuo for S. Harris

Dreamy, cloud-inspired living rooms and bedrooms also spring to mind, where softer palettes seem perfect for relaxation and slumber.
Top to bottom, left to right: 
Nuvolette Wallpaper, Fornasetti, Cole & Sons, through Lee Jofa; Cloudburst in Persimmon, Robert Allen for DwellStudio through Robert Allen; Enzo Chair in Polished Stainless Steel, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Tibetan Cloud Embroidered Velvet Pillow, Williams Sonoma Home; Lunar Mirror, Oly Studio; Charade Cloud Vase, Jonathan Adler through YLiving; Wright Chair, Jayson Home
"Forming into Blue," Rich Bowman, oil on canvas 54" x 54," Blue Gallery

But clouds can take on a more graphic edge, in an über sleek and pop/Op art living room. Here, other modern materials like stainless steel, glass, Lucite, and acrylic play well with the celestial theme, since “shine” and “transparency” share lots of skyward similarity. I’d use the photo-real and surreal versions, with stronger color and an intentional use of black and white. And what’s more cloud-like than a fur-covered pouf?
Top to bottom, left to right: 
Astra Tibetan Wool Pull-Up Stool, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; “Clouds for Beckett,” Jefferson Hayman; Cloud Portrait, The Licensing Project, through West Elm; Batavia Large Square Channel Ottoman, Williams Sonoma Home; Travertine Coffee Table, Grey, Williams Sonoma Home
However clouds drift into your home, and however current they may seem, they’re all sure to stay timeless, and constantly inspiring. Anyone who’s ever pondered a summer sky for a full and dreamy afternoon can tell you that.

Monday, April 25, 2016

...about High Point, low points, ethics, opportunity and the ottoman empire.

“This could be our chance to do something important. 
 Don't you see?”
                                 --Tim Rice and Elton John’s Aida 

One thing I really hate: missed opportunities. When an opportunity presents itself, you take it (then figure out how to make it work later). The world of interior design works much like that: we’re all in search of a way to meet a better client, build a bigger brand, connect to a publisher or manufacturer... in short, walk through any open door that will take us somewhere more creative, someplace bigger, and above all, to something more lucrative; to seize any opportunity presented to us. Nothing to me is more disheartening than realizing you were presented with an opportunity and didn’t take it. The missed boat is worse than the worst journey.

On March 23, 2016, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, in a surprise special session lasting just about 12 hours, passed sweeping, crippling anti-LGBT legislation in response to Charlotte’s attempt to create safe space for its Transgender women and men when seeking, of all things, the simple right of rest room access. But McCrory’s House Bill 2 (HB2) didn’t stop there. It also stripped the right to sue for discrimination of ANY kind (regarding both work place and housing) from all of North Carolina’s citizens. It also prevents any city from passing their own pro-LGBT legislation, and it left the decisions about workplace LGBT issues up to local businesses... in a state where the LGBT community has never been held in the highest of regard. It is, after all, the state that gave us Jesse Helms.

North Carolina is also the state that gives us High Point Market, (in its namesake town of High Point), the twice-annual, less-than-a-week home furnishings convention where makers and manufacturers from all over the country set up temporary shop to launch product, throw cocktail parties, write orders, and make connections for future deals. That twice-yearly event, where visitors outpace local hotel capacity and the infrastructure of the town is pressed to it limits, rakes in an estimated $5.4 billion (with a B) dollars for North Carolina.

When word of HB2 broke on social media, many design colleagues connected these two dots, and immediately began using another B word: boycott. And they used it with conviction, fire and fury.

Suddenly, as an industry, we had an opportunity to make change. Real change.

In the fight against HB2, we carried actual weight, with the considerable dollars attached to High Point. Even online articles quickly had headlines reading, “A Furniture Convention Might Be What Stops North Carolina’s Ridiculous anti-LGBT Law.” 

A boycott seemed to me like a real no-brainer, and surely, everyone would be of one collective— and powerful—mindset. We’d tell North Carolina and its conservative governor that these were unacceptable conditions in which to carry out business.

Surely, in an industry where the LGBT community plays a substantial role, usually surrounded by the support of straight allies at cocktail parties, charity events raising money for AIDS and LGBT youth, and now even our own weddings, that immediate consensus would follow.

But that sort of never came.

What did come was a scattering of ideas, of plans and promises to keep HB2 a real part of the conversation in the halls and showrooms of High Point. You know, while we still did business in High Point.

But okay, it was something. In fairness, the creation of HB2 mere weeks before the spring High Point did create a tricky scenario where tickets had already been purchased, rooms rented, showrooms built, deposits left for cater-waiters and cheese platters. It is indeed not easy to turn a battleship on a dime. Yes, North Carolina would lose real money by a boycott. But so would some of our own strongest advocates and colleagues. I get it. 

Even so, I was hoping that this business which I’ve know to be more community than industry, and a giving, compassionate, world-engaged community at that, would, without doubt or hesitation, sit this one out, in the name of a greater good. But consensus didn’t come.

I was, to say the least, shocked, and at times felt incredibly betrayed by an industry into which this out Gay man pours his heart and soul. To me, this was not a matter of commerce. This was a matter of civil liberties. This was a matter of something bigger than us. How could you argue that truth? We had a platform. We had financial clout. We had an obligation. What was there even to argue?

Well, for one, money. 

Launch Pads and Platforms for Change 
I fully understand that people had things, personally and fiscally, at stake at Spring Market... that they had others to answer to, people to employ and more... especially those who launched brand new products this market (many of whom are friends).

But those launches and lectures gave people who themselves have a real stake in the LGBT battle or in the fight for women’s rights (North Carolina also has a pretty atrocious record when it comes to women’s rights, too, by the way) an incredible platform, incredible power, and once again, an incredible and (to this activist-at-heart) enviable opportunity.

When NBA mega-star Charles Barkely spoke out in favor of moving the NBA All-Star game out of Charlotte, he said, “It’s my job, with the position of power that I’m in... to stand up for the people who can’t stand up for themselves.” Why was it just his job, and not ours?

Although I had no launch to cancel, no reservations to wiggle out of, no one-night deposit to lose, I do have things at stake by being as vocal as I’ve been: my relationships with North Carolina companies like Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and Bernhardt (both of whom came out with blistering anti-HB2 language and press releases, both of whom also have been incredibly generous donors to me for the past five+ years I've participated in Design on a Dime, a charity fundraiser in support of Housing Works Thrifts Shops), just to name one. Would I love to one day be heading down to High Point to launch a lighting, fabric or rug line, be part of a blogging tour, or speak on a panel? Of course I would. Is my being vocal jeopardizing some of these things? Probably, I’d say. I’d also say I’m totally fine with that, if that’s the reason. 

But for me, personally, I wouldn’t have wanted to have a launch associated with this market. It now seems tainted. Architectural Digest editor in chief Margaret Russell and publisher and chief revenue officer Giulio Capua put it best, when pulling the plug on Architectural Digest’s cocktail party (to put that into perspective, that’s basically the equivalent of Vanity Fair shuttering their Oscar night party) they said: “A celebration no longer feels appropriate given the discriminatory law North Carolina passed.” 

Trans Rights and Transparency... and Fear and Money. 
Our industry likes to use the word “transparency” as a point of pride... we make our spreadsheets and receipts available to clients so there are no clouds of suspicion about our business practices or profits. Yet, in the first round of HB2 reaction and the discussion of a possible boycott, transparency was lacking. Posts about “I’m going to support the good people of North Carolina” also seemed to leave off the fact that people had personal investment in attending: lines launching, talks scheduled, clients to represent, or that their trips are underwritten, comped, or augmented with stipends. I really wished for a little more “I have too much invested to sit this one out.” or “I have to be really careful what I say, publicly.” At least then the cards would be on the table.

I got a refreshingly transparent response from one industry insider when we discussed why people were going to High Point anyhow, or being delicate in their condemnation. “Fear and money,” was the reply. It was one of the first honest answers I’d received. Fear and money.

As far as transparency goes, I’ve been careful to not say I was boycotting High Point, because I never had any plans to go (spring market generally falls the weekend before the set up for Design on a Dime, so I’ve never been able to budget the time or money to attend the Spring Market.)

So to say I’d be boycotting when, technically, I’m wasn’t, would be disingenuous, and misleading. Is it easier, to say I’d hypothetically boycott, that if I were in the shoes of someone launching a line or promoting a book or premiering a product, that I’d walk out on it all... hypothetically? Of course it’s easier. But I’d like to think that when the chips were down, I’d cancel the plans and unpack the bags.

Email statement from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Besides a Boycott 
There are other things to do besides boycott, as colleagues have happily proven, lending their own voice and name to apply pressure to professional organizations to come out against the Governor’s discriminatory legislation. Public letters, hashtag movements, shared posts, getting the Human Rights Campaign to join the party, literally, at High Point: all good. Very good.

Others have found ways to create change while still attending High Point Market. No surprise, Mitchell Gold was one (under two umbrellas, his own NC-based Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, and his Faith in America group) and ASID another, joining forces to help create a program aimed at not only providing lip service to equality, but also putting pen to paper in a way the governor could actually see.

And while I couldn’t say I was boycotting literally, I was and will be boycotting virtually. I won’t share, Like, reTweet or comment on anything High Point related during or after, unless it’s about HB2, and then I’ll be using all the social media hashtags (#bloggerstour #HPMKT #DesignAgainstHB2) to make sure the issue of HB2 and the rights its repealed isn’t lost among the Instagrams of cute new settees and party selfies. 

Local Climate 
I heard, at first, a lot about all the “good people of North Carolina” who this would hurt. I have LOTS of friends in the industry who call North Carolina home. Generous, progressive, intelligent people.

But with more conversation, I also heard some other things about the people of North Carolina, specifically as it pertained to our industry. I started to hear more than once how perhaps we needed to be slow and careful because of “conservative companies” and “good old boy networks.” Among other things, it made me wonder why we are doing business, giving the gift of our considerable creativity (and in many cases, our Gay fabulousness) to people who might secretly be voting against us when the curtains close on High Point but open in the voting booth. After all, someone put Governor McCrory into office.

High Point itself, in its early but tepid statement about HB2, actually thanked the state government for past business-favorable legislation, in a pubic proclamation of knowing who was buttering their bread (and it wasn't the first time they thanked legislators for favorable rulings). And in a naïve PR misstep, both High Point Market, and the Building Association there, came out with “We’re inclusive, and so are all our bathrooms.” The inclusivity of High Point never was, and still isn’t the issue. And the bill is, and was, bigger than bathrooms, no matter how the conservative right spun it. 

Last In Line 
I’ve watched design colleagues gleefully share and Like stories about other industries and celebs like Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Star boycotting North Carolina, while keeping fairly quiet about our own potential role. Them, sure, but no, not us. It makes me just a little heartsick. Hell, even the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, announced a cancellation of an annual meeting in Charlotte. Librarians. We are in line behind LIBRARIANS.

Are we comfortable letting someone else (and now it seems, everyone else) do the heavy lifting when we have the power to do it ourselves? I’m not.

It seems we have been last in line to say, with our money, with our pockets and pocketbooks, that we refuse to do business in a state where the governor, in twelve hours, can rip away the civil liberties and protections of the LGBT community, minorities and women. And to be last in line, when we had ACTUAL clout, is a humiliating place to be.

Even on our worst days, I’m pretty sure it’s easier to be an interior designer in Manhattan than to be Trans in most places in the Deep South. High Point, and all associated, would all VERY MUCH survive a year of a poorly-attended Market event. With the rates of endangerment of Trans women (especially of color) and higher rates of suicide of LGBT youth, I’m not sure the same could be said of all the citizens of North Carolina affected by HB2.

The world is bigger than our business. 

The Right Side of History 
Why am I so worked up about North Carolina, and not Indiana or Texas or Mississippi or South Carolina or Tennessee, where similar or worse legislation has passed or is on the horizon? Because in those states, the interior design and home furnishings world doesn’t hold the very real financial clout we do in North Carolina. In those states, we don’t have the opportunity.

Why am I saying this all now, when the Spring Market is behind us?

Because while timing allows a bit of a pass on this High Point Spring Market as it pertains to a boycott, there is NO REASON we should not be planning a complete and comprehensive boycott of the Fall Market if HB2 stays in place.

Because, if the legislation is NOT repealed, we have an even bigger opportunity looming this fall: another market where we have AMPLE opportunity to NOT make the reservations, to NOT plan the party, to REALLY put our money where our mouth—and our buttons and hashtags— are. By Fall Market, things need to change. And, as it was pointed out, Fall Market is just prior to the state’s election, where Governor Pat McCrory is up for re-election.

Now THAT sounds like opportunity.  Actually, it sounds more like an obligation.

Friday, January 29, 2016

...about sailing into Design on a Dime 2016: what’s in a theme?

It’s that time of year again, where I make the rounds, (large) hat in hand, looking to curate a selection of generously donated goods for Design on a Dime, the annual (and now, TWO city) charity fundraiser to benefit Housing Works.

A big part of the fun, aside from helping break, then smash and surpass the $1 million mark of funds raised, is the pure folly of designing without practical parameters beyond sale-ability: everything we solicit is meant to be sold off, at 50 to 70% off retail value (hence, the “on a dime” part).

It’s the perfect storm of showmanship, a charity for a cause I truly believe in, a real bonding experience with designers with whom I’ve become fast friends, a group of staff and volunteers that feel like family each time I return, and one of the most fun, exhilarating and bargain-riddled parties of the year here in Manhattan. Plus, and no offense to my lovely clients, it’s super fun to design without yuze guys. So, yeah, I’m in it for my sixth consecutive year.

But where will I go with the design this year? I have ample rooms-without-a-home floating around in my head (pretty sure most/all designers do), but they were all fuzzy mirages, still developing like a photo print in a chemical bath. What would it take to snap something into focus, and give me a direction and filter through which to run all my wish lists, asks, and ideas?

In years past, I started with the walls... every year except for last, I’ve been able to start with an amazing wall covering, twice from my friends at Koroseal, once from Schumacher. In 2013, in a post-Holiday House haze when the January DOAD invite arrived, I thought, “If The Shade Store says yes to their white string panels, I’ll do DOAD again.” They did, and so did I.

And each year, close on the heels of the wallcovering, there’s been art: Babette Herschberger’s simply-not-so-simple color field square the first year, a giant parakeet courtesy Australian artist Leila Jeffreys a little later, and Drew Dogget's traffic stopper last year. They all kicked off the color palettes and vibe for the three-walled room in a way I wish more people would build rooms: from a great piece of art, out.

In 2013, Dan Romer’s “Lord Ricky” image sent me down a wickedly wonderful path, part Game of Thrones, part male Maleficent ... and, against those shimmering, shifting Drag Race-y, fringe walls, "Wicked Queen" was born.

You’ve heard me (and New York Spaces) sing the praises of Dan Romer once, twice or thrice before. I’ve been tremendously motivated by his exceptional use of color in past Design on a Dime installations, where he has been uber-generous to me every year since I first tracked him down, and his work enlivened both my Modern St. Patrick’s Day and Derby Deconstructed rooms for Holiday House.

A few years back, I was lucky enough to see a room full of Romers, at the Leslie Lohman Basement Annex, where Dan co-starred in a two-man show with also-stellar colorist, anatomy-draftsman and RISD grad Chuck Nitzberg. It was the very first time I’d seen Dan’s work en masse, if you don’t count the impromptu donation/loaner selection meetings, when colorful portraits, swarthy gents with bedroom eyes, and rippling nudes spilled from his portfolio like gemstones from a jeweler’s bag.

At that show, I first met Dan’s “Rocky Seas,” the angle-eyed sailor man, and it was love at first sight. While racking my brain for some divine Design on a Dime inspiration, my mind kept wandering back to Rocky. A Facebook PM to Dan got a quick confirmation that a custom print of Rocky would be mine (fingers crossed my friends at Steven Amedee Custom Framing will once again do a Romer piece full justice...)

But where to go from there? Well, the process unfolds pretty much like it does when designing any room around one given piece, art, rug, sofa or heirloom... although we're limited to what vendors will donate, or generous friends will purchase to donate off my annual Design on a Dime Donation Registry. I’ll be sharing more of the process a little later.

In the meantime, in our hashtagged, screen-named and abbreviated world, I love giving these ethereal vignettes (buyers at the opening night gala pretty much loot the place beyond recognition) a permanent but short-handed (and hopefully, memorable!) name... the aforementioned Wicked Queen, last year’s Adventurer’s Lair cases in point. And while “Rocky Seas” is the perfect title for the inspiration piece, it seems to tempt the fates just a bit in an event that needs to run as smoothly as humanly possible, both during the months of prep and the implausibly short two-day set up.

So, good gents, lovely lasses and the happily uncategorized, I’m proud to reveal this year’s theme: “Hey, sailor!”. Following the lead of Dan’s hot seaman with the rakish sailor’s hat, the theme sets the tone for a cheeky, nautical-and-naughty but nice, beachy room, that allows me to interpret a theme ripe with possibility, while steering clear of the usual pitfalls of theme-y decorating. Plus: So. Many. Puns.

And so much inspiration: aside from Dan's always-inspirational but previously-unconsidered color palette, the oceanic theme inspires a world of its own: navy blue (doing a navy blue room has long been on my personal wish list) ship-shape brass, lots of “intentional white,” and earthy, rope-y textures. Part yacht club-clubby, part yacht-modern. Inspired by my Miami and Mangrove roots, an homage to the interiors of Allison Spear and the sexy vibe of Querelle. A little Mr. Roberts, a little Village People. And a lot sexy cruise-y. Can. Not. WAIT.

But Dan and Rocky don't get all the theme cred: my wondrous friends at Currey & Company (have you ever met the force of nature that is Bethanne Matari??) said yes to donating a shell-encrusted, sailor's Valentine of a piece that meant, this year, the heavens were aligned to bring to life a theme that's been stuck in my head like a schooner in a bottle for more than a few years now. 
The theme is also very much in synch with some other amazing new-season pieces already committed to by amazingly generous donors Bernhardt and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Plus, I’m DEEEELIGHTED to announce that my amazing friends at Jayson Home are on board with donations, after two years of doing their very own booth for DOAD. I wish Wisteria would come back on board, too, since some of their amazing range of home accessories are also perfect. Maybe next year.  

DOAD NYC 2016, anchors, away!

So, come aboard Design on a Dime 2016, and get ready to meet Hey, Sailor! We’re expecting you.

Any predictions of what will give this room a healthy dash of sea salt? I'd love to hear from you, here and on Twitter. Use the hashtag #heysailor when you do!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

...yours, mine and ours: top 10 design highlights (and one industry lowlight) of 2015.

2015: it was, once again and thankfully, to quote Frank Sinatra (well, Ervin Drake, actually, giving credit where credit is due. More on that later), a very good year: for me, for shelter magazines, for design-related charities, for special events and smart marketers, for two very talented and lucky designers, and for the interior design profession and community in all. Well, mostly good. But we’ll also get to that later.

Here’s my unofficial list of why I thought 2015 was a banner year, showing that the recovery of the interior design world is moving in all the right directions, in all kinds of exciting ways.
1) Benjamin Moore Color of the Year  
With much fanfare, color-coordinated food, and one of the most elaborately orchestrated, choreographed, handsomely cater-waitered parties of 2015 even by Manhattan standards, Benjamin Moore entered the Color of the Year space formerly dominated by color think-tank Pantone.

Pantone’s past choices always seemed to create much hue and cry with the interior design community, the ruddy, clay-colored Marsala falling the flattest in recent years, even though their selections did indeed eventually find their way into the palettes and mood boards of many a designer (as did their choice of Emerald in 2013, a color featured in my own Modern St. Patrick’s Day maiden voyage at Holiday House that very same year).
While Sherwin Williams beat Benjamin Moore to the painterly punch with an annual selection of their own by a few years, Benjamin Moore reclaimed the space from both Pantone and Sherwin Williams, and not because of the party, but through a surprisingly savvy move and bold selection. Their colorful, audacious entry into the race? The ultimate chameleon, the most neutral of all colors, an established decorator go-to, and their very best seller: Simply White

Why was Simply White so, well, simply smart? It was Benjamin Moore’s way of resetting the clocks, cleansing the palette, and saying, hey, we might be late to the game, but it’s always been our playing field, so the rest of you can take your fan decks and swatch books and just go back home. It got tongues wagging, got the “Is white even a color?” debate re-raging, and most importantly, people talking about color, with Benjamin-Moore’s name squarely attached. Even Pantone’s attempt to broaden their own COTY audience by serving up a duet of nearly-pastel colors this year (a blue and a pink) paled in comparison. 
Benjamin Moore also supported the launch and the choice with a companion palette that highlighted Simply White as the ultimate team player. I can’t wait to see how they follow it up and launch it next year, no small feat when it seemed the excitement about an annual color announcement was beginning to wane. In all, simply brilliant.

But I’m sill waiting for the quirky UK paint purveyor Farrow and Ball to jump in, since I’d love to hear that Mouse’s Back, Dead Salmon or Mole’s Breath was the tint of the moment.
2) Design on a Dime  
Another record-breaking year for the annual designer-curated discounted shopping fundraiser to benefit Housing Works Thrifts, as the tally continues to climb northward of the million dollar mark, and the event branches southward, to their first-ever Miami incarnation of the Manhattan social and shopping staple (the Miami version just weeks away, February 5-7, 2016).
I went all Small Dark and Handsome for DOAD 2015, and my usual vendors stepped up once again, with anything-but usual donations... custom and COM versions and more-than-the-year-prior quantities, plus new vendors, including photographer Drew Doggett, whose traffic-stopper image anchored and inspired the entire vignette. 
It was my favorite space to date for DOAD, and also just one of my own favorite spaces, period... and it’s inspired me to think even bigger for Design on a Dime 2016 (can you say “double wide”?)... stay tuned!
3) Editor at Large
Lights! Camera! Action! While I’ve had the great fortune of talking to the folks of Editor TV  quite a few times on camera (discussing Baker furniture, Welspun, Benjamin Moore, Bilotta, Holiday House, Avery Boardman and Zoffany), this year allowed me the great fortune of turning the tables, and, mic in hand, do the Q-ing to all the As.

I followed in the well-heeled footsteps of long-time industry expert Marisa Marcantonio, Traditional Home’s ever-radiant Tori Mellott, and one of my favorite hosts and moderators Sophie Donelson, who all have and continue to hold court for Editor TV, the video offshoot of Editor at Large, the go-to source for design event coverage and industry news.

But this wasn’t just any ETV video... this was the official coverage of the doyenne of show houses, Kips Bay, a two-parter where I had the honor and pleasure of talking with room designers Jamie Drake, Anne and Suysel, the lovely ladies of Tilton Fenwick, the stylish and Kathleen Turner-evoking Alessandra Branca, Thom Filicia and more. (See the results, here and here.)

As I suspected they would, Editor TV’s director/producer (and patient coach!) Julia Noran and videographer Kevin Malone kept me cool along the way and looking good in final edits. It was a gig I was highly honored to have, and one I hope I get to repeat in 2016.
4) Sophie Donelson at House Beautiful 
To know her is to love her. That’s the most basic of many reasons the design community (at least in New York) let out a collective woot when it was announced that Sophie Donelson was next in line to helm House Beautiful.
A twinkling but wicked sense of humor, down-to-earth demeanor, and marketing and media savvy are all hallmarks of the newest editor, taking the reins from Newell Turner, who stepped up (becoming Hearst Design Group’s overarching Editor) not down, to allow Sophie the honor of running HB, and giving two of the business’ most favored folks two of its top spots.

She’s already given the already-fresh shelter title a breath of fresher air, social smarts and cross-media coverage, including an appearance on NBC’s Today Show.

No doubt working mom Sophie will be bringing an even more approachable style to the title without losing any of the breezy American chic the publication— and Sophie— are already famous for.
5) Tabletop Market and NY Spaces  
It takes a lot to get this night owl up and out to a breakfast meeting, but three things did just that this year: a host, a location, and an event. And all three were wrapped up in one, as New York Spaces Publisher Lisa Benisvy Freiman extended a special invitation to kick off Designer Day at the venerable table top treasure trove 41 Madison and their designer breakfast, replete with a birds-eye view of a sunlit Manhattan.
It was a lovely introduction to a lovely woman and the great day of walking the showrooms. And, super DUPER bonus, it landed me and designer friend John Douglas Eason at the very top of the publisher’s page of New York Spaces. Great placement, high honor, and the start of what I hope continues to be a great relationship.
6) Bilotta Art of the Table
It’s a testament to the power of interior design and smart styling choices to reinvent a space: the Bilotta Kitchen annual Art of the Table. The task at hand? Take the established kitchen vignettes of Bilotta’s showroom in the Architect’s and Designers Building and prop and style the kitchen walls, cabinets, countertops, and tabletops to refresh and redefine the built-in choices. For the same reason I love Holiday House being in the same mansion every year, reinvented by our tricks of the trade, I love this Bilotta event, so I was overjoyed when media sponsor Traditional Home came a-calling, inviting me in for this fifth year of the event.

I had big Gucci loafers to fill, with the likes of table-top-dog Michael Tavano, stylish Darrin Varden, dining table diva Tamara Stephens, and Robert Passal, whose table at DIFFA for the New York Times at Dining by Design was an elaborate, immersive tour de force, all setting the tables, and the stage, before me. Yeah, no, no pressure.
This year, official tabletop donor Prouna (part of the Kiyasa Group) helped us get our bling on, and some of my very favorite sources (Berry Campbell Gallery, John Lyle, Thibaut, Arteriors Home, Fivestripes, Dransfield Ross, Jayson Home and more) helped me use art, vibrant color and natural texture to create a luxe and layered kitchen where art was the star, some unlikely color did the heavy lifting, and the finely feathered birds on Prouna’s Pavo SIlver pattern came to life and inspired a modern autumn room. There’s more to the story here, and it was a feather I was most happy to put in my own cap.
7) Drake Anderson 
Mother of Dragons, it was an announcement of epic proportion, as if two houses on Game of Thrones joined forces (sans the previous rivalry, bloodshed, bodice-ripping, or poison-wined wedding, one would hope and assume): the news that color maestro Jamie Drake was joining forces with wonder kid Caleb Anderson, creating Drake Anderson Design, an almost unprecedented alignment of two wildly popular, bold-faced firms already enjoying significant success, all of a potential Parish Hadley historic significance.

Caleb worked for Jamie in the past, and his classic, eclectic and sculptural stylings paired with Jamie’s more modern, art-driven vibe will most certainly create interiors worthy of the record books. 
8) Traditional Home and Holiday House  
Two for two! In a “very special cross-over event” between 2014 and 2015, my second appearance in the halls of Holiday House in 2014 yielded a second appearance on the pages of Traditional Home in 2015. I was thrilled that the Derby Deconstructed room saw the light of another day long after its dismantling, and entered the archives of Traditional Home. I could not have been more pleased with Peter Rymwid’s photo, putting the “Pother” portrait by Aaron Smith, upholstered chimney breast by The Workroom, brilliant rose-colored Bernhardt chairs and custom settee by Avery Boardman, all so elegantly cloaked in JAB Anstoetz textiles, Wisteria coffee table, luscious 100% silk carpet by Carini Lang, and Derby-hat evocative “Egret” fixture by ABYU’s Steven Wine all front and center.

It helped get me over sitting out the 2015 Holiday House, in a year that saw the welcome introduction of Marks & Frantz and White Webb, and the return of veterans James Rixner and Vicente Wolf to the Academy Mansion, where I hope to once again roam the stone halls and paneled rooms (universe, and Iris Dankner, if you’re listening...).
9) Met Home, Resurrected 
It’s where I first learned about Post Modernism, Alessi, Michael Graves, Niedermaier,  Merchant Ivory and more... Metropolitan Home, the shelter publication that taught us all that size parameters and apartment living were no barriers to high style. Met Home was one of the surprising casualties of the recession that took out its fair share of titles in the wake of a bleak 2008.

Hearst Design Group Editor-in-Chief Newell Turner made the official announcement of its return, a welcome one when just a few years ago, it seemed more print publications were shuttering than unfolding.

The announcement gave me yet another title to aspire to, with either words or images, in the coming years, and I eagerly await its spring/summer pilot issue in spring 2016. 
10) Custom, Bespoke, and Giving Back
Pret-a-porter got a little more haute couture in a year that saw a wonderful increase in the caliber of client, and a continued trend toward clients wanting one-of-a kind items that only a designer can help deliver.

In 2015, I was most pleased to be able to patronize Warp & Weft, Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman, Shivhon Custom Carpets (their custom-colored "Ryu" rug, above), DESIGNLUSH, Marks & Tavano, Mortise & Tenon, and Anthony Lawrence Belfair, to name a few, either for the first time, or just more frequently.

Even Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and Crate & Barrel got in on the bespoke action, as I took advantage of their Customer's Own Material programs and decked out their frames in designer duds from Duralee, Robert Allen, Donghia, JAB Anstoetz and even custom-colored Quadrille fabrics.

With these introductions, rooms get even more personal, special, and unique, in ways that add real value to not only the pieces, but to the process, as well.

I was also extremely pleased to place more and more orders with Bernhardt, Circa Lighting, Lamps Plus, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, JAB Anstoetz, and Room & Board, given their past generosity with me over my five years of participating with Design on a Dime and two years of Holiday House. I’ve always remained fiercely loyal to vendors who’ve said yes when I’ve come knocking, and 2015 allowed me to place a real dollar value on the grateful pay-back.

...and One Lowlight  
The one lowlight is a cautionary tale of sorts, with a backdrop of imagery gone rogue through Pinterest, Houzz, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram: a noted and visible New York City interior designer was revealed to be using the work of nine-plus other interior designers with whom he had no professional connection, to build his own portfolio. Bad enough, but he was also using these images for contest submissions, reputable national Top Twenty rosters and entrée into otherwise-vetted (and high-profile) events around town, where his name was a fixture and his presence a given. Sadly, these misappropriations also karmically undid his charitable work for DIFFA and other great causes for which he helped generate substantial buzz and cash.

I note this not for the scandalous nature of the news, but to call attention to how fast and loose the universe of imagery, credit and image rights has become, in a world where we’re all one cut-and-paste away from plagiarism, and even the well-intended Pinner can’t find his or her way back to the original source of the image, not to mention the work's actual designer. It’s easy enough to be accidentally inconsiderate, let alone what’s afforded when your intentions are less than pure.

But companies are doing it too... designer’s images show up in Houzz ads, and not even images which first appeared on its virtual pages. One designer’s quote from a meme on the wildly-followed IDC Instagram page is randomly paired with another designer’s image on an otherwise reputable site. Tile vendor Walker Zanger regularly uses uncredited designer images in their Facebook posts, where they pair product with tile imagery in a reverse-engineered mood-boardy sort of way.

While the idea of pulling in borrowed images— what we used to call “swipe art” for client pitches back in my ad agency days— is nothing new, in social media it’s either something we should now either collectively call out or just get comfortable with, since it will continue to happen more, not less. It all basically starts with “credit where credit is due,” and the golden rule of “do unto others,” or expect the same thing in return. I’m sure if a designer’s work featuring a company's tile was published in a national magazine, they’d expect credit, and it seems like exceedingly bad judgment to shoot the feet of the very community to which you’re hawking your wares.
These sketchy incidents and Milli-Vanilli moments point out that there are still huge gray areas in what we allow, and what we think we are allowing when we’re actually signing away our rights on a website or app with a quick click of 14 pages of disclaimers. Of course, gray areas should never be used as an excuse for plagiarism and blatant misrepresentation. And you have to have ethics to use them.
Perhaps we've forgotten the "media" part of "social media," and in doing so, also lost sight of the rules we previously applied about usage, credit and (god forbid) royalties. Maybe it's time for some new rules.

The lesson? Watermark your images, and/or just resign yourself to the fact that nothing, anywhere any more, is private, regardless of settings.

But let’s not end on a lowlight. I’d like to point out that all the other items on the list were made possible by vendors, craftsmen, to-the-trade design buildings like my friends at the D&D Building, PR firms, magazine editors and publishers and their creative sales departments, charitable organizations and colleagues doing wonderful things, and clients who make those wonderful things possible. So, the real highlight of 2015, as I hope it to be again in 2016, is sheer gratitude.

What was your design highlight of last year? And what are you looking forward to in 2016? I’d love to hear from you.