Thursday, 31 July 2014

outdoor living

Outdoor living is a temporary series on the blog that contains stylish outdoor living areas and sometimes al fresco table settings. It's about celebrating the season of summer!
If it wasn't warm enough in Beverly Hills the owners of this house went for a warm colour palette - yellow house and tiles, and red chairs - to add even more warmth. With the help of designer Nancy Goslee Power they have created a beautiful Mediterranean-esque setting. Instead of decorative objects on the terrace, they have plenty of potted plants, such as rosemary and lavender, fruit trees and gardenia. I wouldn't mind sitting there enjoying a glass of wine.

I like that the table and chairs don't match. This is exactly what I have in mind for our outdoor living area (which will hopefully be ready next summer). In addition to the dining table, I would like to have a small patio table with a mosaic top and two wooden or wrought iron chairs. I love the idea of taking my morning coffee outdoors on a warm day and using a special table for those moments.
A trompe l'oeil mural by the late Robert Jackson, inspired by those at Pompeii; covering what was once an unsightly retaining wall.
photo credit:
Lisa Hubbard for House & Garden, February 2005 via Architectural Digest

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

a talk with designer Urte Tylaite of Still House, NYC

If you live or find yourself in New York City, you may want to take a stroll in the East Village and visit the design boutique, Still House, owned by jewellery designer Urte Tylaite, who is a Pratt graduate. She was born in Lithuania and moved to New York at the age of 18. In her beautiful shop she offers handmade design from various artists - ceramics, glassware, jewellery, stationery, to name a few - and her own jewellery collection. I was delighted when she agreed to a short interview for my natural materials series. Did I ask her how she takes her coffee? Of course I did!
How come a Lithuanian-born girl ended up as a designer in New York City?
My family moved to the United States when I was in my last year of high school. Though I hardly spoke any English, I was determined to go straight to college the following year. My original plan, back in Lithuania, was to become a lawyer, or maybe even a politician; no English, that seemed like a waste of time. So I chose art school instead. I had been taking art classes for years, and though I never considered it as a possible career, I had a portfolio. So that's how I ended up at Pratt studying painting. My parents were very disappointed with this decision.

After my studies, I tried to get a job in the art world, but that wasn’t the right fit for me. To make ends meet I started working for a few different jewellers in Brooklyn and fell in love with the craft. I worked as much as I could to learn the ins and outs of retail and wholesale business and in the evenings took jewellery classes. Eventually I reached a point where I was not learning new things at my job. I was ready for new challenges. I saw two paths, either getting a job for a much larger company or starting my own business. The latter felt more natural.
What were your thoughts and dreams upon graduating from Pratt?
It feels funny to admit, but I didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted. My ideas were a lot more general. I knew I was willing to work hard. I also wanted to feel passionate about my job and truly love it, and work with people I love and admire. I was just searching for excitement and happy moments, because I would always derive new ideas from that energy. One idea led to another and here I am – a shop owner and a jewellery designer.

Which 3 keywords would you use to describe your own design?
Subtle, minimal, timeless.
Why open a shop, Still House, in the East Village?
I always loved the East Village. I ended up in this neighbourhood on one of the first days I moved to New York and immediately felt drawn to it. It’s a great neighbourhood for going out at night, but I always loved to come back during the day and wander around. And I always had a reason to come back. I waitressed at a restaurant nearby through college, I dated a boy who lived here, a few of my good friends lived here. When I started looking for store fronts, I automatically started inquiring about locations in East Village because that was the neighbourhood I knew the best.

What's with you and rocks?
It’s a passion that I developed only as an adult, strangely. I worked for a jewellery line called Swallow in Brooklyn. They have a beautiful collection of gemstone necklaces. I started learning all the names, just to I know what I was selling. When I started making jewellery myself, I attended gem and bead shows and found some vendors that also had natural stone formations and immediately fell in love. For me, it’s a reminder of how fascinating, beautiful, and mysterious this world is. I love all the surprising colours and shapes. Rocks and minerals make great accent pieces and my customers love decorating their homes with them.

Could you name the designers that have influenced your work and why?
I have to say that it’s primarily people themselves that inspire me, not necessarily their body of work. It’s also why I love New York so much. We are constantly surrounded by really passionate strong people that love life.
Where do you go for inspiration?
I take a day off and relax for inspiration! My new pieces in the Still House jewellery collection were conceived while I lay on the beach in Long Island just a few weekends ago. Most of the ideas for my main collection came from hikes upstate. My work is definitely not nature inspired, but I am. When I am in nature, new and fresh images come to my mind. I always spend a few studio days to work through my ideas right after taking a time off.

Urte, do you drink coffee, and if so, how do you take it?
Oh yes! Every morning I start my day with a very good strong cup of drip coffee with a little bit of whole milk in it. And I always get a second round once I am closer to the shop. Luckily, East Village has a lot of great coffee shops to offer. Abraco, by far, is the best. Highly recommend giving them a try next time you are in the area.
Still House is located on 117 East 7th street. If you cannot make it to NYC to view the beautiful design there is no need to despair, there is an online shop as well.
photo credit:
courtesy of designer Urte Tylaite, Still House

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

space: a gallery wall in O'Brien's 57th Street loft

There isn't a single corner in designer Thomas O'Brien's NYC loft on 57th Street that I don't like. Every photo I have seen shows an impeccably styled home, which can be expected from a man of his caliber. Before my blog break I told you that I got his book American Modern on my birthday and I have been enjoying its pages. House & Garden visited O'Brien in his home back in 2007 and the gallery wall in his bedroom caught my attention, especially the star chart, in the top-left corner, which he has featured on his blog, or the from-the-desk section on his Aero Studios website. It is featured in the book as well, where it's differently styled (see photo):
This 1940s star chart is a touchstone for me. I found it while antiquing on a quick trip upstate, stealing a few hours in a town just north of New York City. I instantly knew I would frame it and put it in my bedroom. I thought nothing would be more perfect for a bedroom than a dark blue night sky. I love the large celestial scale of it, a world in itself. (American Modern, p. 68)
I don't know about you, but I think I may keep my eyes open for star charts the next time I go to a flea market or enter a vintage shop. Speaking of shops, later this week, perhaps tomorrow, I'm taking you back to NYC and showing you a stylish design boutique in the East Village that offers handmade items.

photo credit:
Martyn Thompson for House & Garden, November 2007 via Architectural Digest

Monday, 28 July 2014

a road trip to Luxembourg City

Hello again, how have you been? During my blog break we took a spontaneous road trip to Luxembourg with a short stop in London. As soon as we drove into London, I realised how much I had missed it. By the Marble Arch my heart was beating faster and at Hyde Park Corner I felt a sense of thrill (the area is part of my London comfort zone). The London stop was way too short for my taste but in the evening, as I was standing on a deck of a ferry, breathing in the refreshing sea air and admiring the White Cliffs of Dover, I was feeling more than content.
Why the London-intro to a post on Luxembourg? Compared to my London excitement, arriving in Luxembourg after eight months away took me by surprise. As probably most of my blog readers know, Luxembourg was our home for more than a year and the move to the UK last November was done in a bit of haste. I didn't really have the time to say goodbye to the city. Without dwelling much on such thoughts I sometimes wondered if perhaps I wasn't quite done with Luxembourg, but as I walked its streets again - I could have done so blindfolded and still found my way - I realised that I was indeed done. I loved seeing the city again but there was nothing I was holding on to; if my destiny with Luxembourg was once entwined it had been disentangled.
I hope my tone of voice doesn't come off as negative. My old city, Luxembourg, is a place worth visiting and I would especially recommend it to those who enjoy city life but aren't fond of big and noisy cities. Luxembourg is small and quiet (probably boring for those seeking wild nightlife) and in the city centre you not only have narrow cobblestone streets, but also a beautiful landscape. You can walk down into the Pétrusse Valley and at certain points you almost have to remind yourself that you are in a city.
My son and I went for a walk in the valley and ended our walk in the old quarter, Grund, where I took these photos before sitting down at a café. (See more photos of Luxembourg.) To me this part always looks more like a setting of a fairy tale than an actual place where people live. From what I have heard it is very expensive and mostly inhabited by foreigners, which I find rather sad. The fact is that Luxembourg has one of the most expensive housing markets in Europe. Even some of the foreigners working there, and some citizens, choose to live on the German, French, or Belgian side of the borders where housing is cheaper. We actually thought about doing that when A was working in Luxembourg. We thought about moving from Antwerp to a place in the south of Belgium, but I'm glad we didn't and instead got to experience living in Luxembourg.
photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt
Grund, Luxembourg City, July 2014

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