Archive for August, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Quebec City — a tale of three hotels

Decid­ing at the last minute to travel north to beau­ti­ful Que­bec City, in the height of the sum­mer tourist sea­son, you might think avail­able hotels would be hard to find. And you would be right! One week, three dif­fer­ent hotels (and one more in Ver­mont). It's a good thing we travel light! But what fun to check out so many inter­est­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties. Apolo­gies in advance for the iPhone photos. 

Our first stay was for only one night, at Hotel Sepia, located not quite within the city cen­ter. I chose it almost entirely because it was the high­est rated TripAdvisor-recommended hotel that was avail­able that night! No restau­rant on site, fairly unhelp­ful front desk staff, noisy cor­ri­dors and a motel feel - not my typ­i­cal choice, but fine for one night. How­ever, the room was fairly mod­ern and the loca­tion was con­ve­nient to the high­way and the aquar­ium (albeit with an aban­doned build­ing in between). Here are some views of the room: 





From Hotel Sepia we moved to one of Quebec's true gems — Auberge Saint Antoine. The Saint Antoine is a mem­ber of the Relais & Chateaux group, and it shows. Incred­i­bly high stan­dards are upheld throughout, with impec­ca­ble ser­vice at each and every inter­ac­tion with staff. A delight from the first view of the lobby lounge: 



Walk­ing into Suite 203, I felt cer­tain I would love every aspect. But "screeeeech" to a halt! Such a downer — the fur­ni­ture (except the bed) is 1980's B&B. The uphol­stered chairs are worn and stained, the rest of the fur­ni­ture appears to be a garage sale mix from a pink­ish chair to a past-its-prime table. The bath­room is circa 1985 with a giant jet­ted cor­ner tub and a tiny shower. The goose­neck faucets splash all over the sad white tile coun­ter­tops.  This cor­ner suite should have been a super­star, but it was the least appeal­ing aspect of the entire Saint Antoine experience! 

On the plus side — a very com­fort­able bed, Nepresso machine, a nice view, great staff and pub­lic spaces. 



The restau­rant Panache does a lovely break­fast, albeit inex­plic­a­bly slow on the deliv­ery. The inte­rior fea­tures chic fab­rics and comfy fur­nish­ings, wrapped in warm old brick and tim­bers — just delightful! 

Panache — first floor

Panache — 2nd floor

Saint Antoine — we love you, but #203 is seri­ously over­due for an over­haul. Give a shout if you need some help!

From Saint Antoine, we moved up the street about 150 meters to Le 71 Hotel, room 629. This junior suite with sep­a­rate bed­room is well appointed, although only a queen size bed and that with futon-like hard­ness. The exposed brick wall and cement col­umn com­ple­ment the high ceil­ings and exposed pipes. Ten foot long red vel­vet drap­ery is used to great effect in place of closet doors.

The bath­room is well designed with plenty of stor­age and a walk-in shower. 

The track-arm fur­ni­ture suits the space. 

The view from the room is amazing. 


A few neg­a­tives — the funky exposed pipes bring with them the sound of run­ning water all night long; no mag­ni­fy­ing mir­ror in the bath­room (pet peeve, but still); no win­dow cov­er­ings in the liv­ing room and no black­out lin­ing in the bed­room. Over­all, a lovely room.

The pub­lic spaces of the hotel are nice but rather unin­spir­ing, lack­ing the lit­tle touches that would make them pop. 

A nicer room, but ser­vice not quite up to the stan­dards at Saint Antoine.  Overall, a four star expe­ri­ence com­pared to five stars at Saint Antoine.

And there it is, a lengthy review of three recent travel experiences!

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

designer spaces & market places — construction day 1

Set­ting up for a Show House is a bit like pro­duc­ing a movie. Pre-production takes quite a while, pro­duc­tion itself is a flurry of activ­ity and post-production pulls it all together. Throw in the inevitable unfore­seen obsta­cles and a healthy does of pure chaos — you get the pic­ture.  For Designer Spaces & Mar­ket Places, the pre-production phase took place ear­lier in the sum­mer. Due to long lead-time items and some struc­tural changes, the plan was tweaked and revised a num­ber of times.

Pro­duc­tion finally started last week! Just one day in, and so much accom­plished. Square stock was installed in lieu of more typ­i­cal mold­ings to enhance the raw, loft feel. As you can see, the spaces reside within a very raw shell. Here is Steve from Steve's Fine Wood­work­ing hard at work! Steve is very much a per­fec­tion­ist, and these spaces were entirely built by vol­un­teers. I thought he might have an aneurysm when that back left cor­ner wall actu­ally started mov­ing back and forth!

A lit­tle minor surgery was needed on the wood filler!

Cheers to the good peo­ple at Far­row & Ball for donat­ing their amaz­ing paint to this project! If you have never used Far­row & Ball paints, I encour­age you to try them. Seri­ously, they are so lush you almost want to eat them! I'm using Wim­borne White and Pitch Black in Mod­ern Emul­sion — a low sheen fin­ish with incred­i­ble depth of color.  You can order a com­plete color card online, as well as order­ing sam­ple pots and full gallons.

Despite the won­der­fully high ceil­ings, we are not allowed to hang any­thing from the top. Yet, I could not really do a din­ing space with­out a chan­de­lier (or two), hence the box beam span­ning the entire space. We ran wiring through the cen­ter to power the lights. Now all we need is electricity!

Hmmm, maybe it doesn't look like too much yet, but believe me, a lot of the heavy lift­ing is done.  Stay tuned for more updates.

And remem­ber, Spaces & Places ben­e­fits two won­der­ful com­mu­nity char­i­ties in Hart­ford CT — Rebuild­ing Together Hart­ford and the Hart­ford Preser­va­tion Alliance. Please join us Sep­tem­ber 23rd for the open­ing night cock­tail party 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The main event will be open on Fri­day, Sep­tem­ber 24 through Sat­ur­day, Sep­tem­ber 25, from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Sun­day, Sep­tem­ber 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Tick­ets are $50 for the open­ing night event and $25 for gen­eral admis­sion, and can be pur­chased by con­tact­ing or call­ing Rebuild­ing Together Hart­ford at 860.757.9425 or Hart­ford Preser­va­tion Alliance at 860.570.0331.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

john derian for target

Launch­ing Sep­tem­ber 5th, the newest col­lab­o­ra­tion between artist and designer John Der­ian and retail pow­er­house Tar­get.  Known for his vin­tage /modern dec­o­ra­tive table top items, Der­ian single-handedly brought "chic" and "découpage" together. Pieces from his shop, like these below, range well into the hun­dreds of dol­lars (images from

The Tar­get col­lec­tion, by con­trast, will be priced under $25. Amaz­ing, right?  The nearly 100 items will include dec­o­ra­tive trays and coast­ers, as well as stationery, storage bins, and table­top. A few of the upcom­ing releases (images cour­tesy of Target):

If you are a John Der­ian fan, be pre­pared for a frenzy on Sep­tem­ber 5th. But if you are a really BIG fan, here's a spe­cial treat from Tar­get and Gilt Groupe: a pre­view sale for 36 hours only, start­ing August 20th, before the col­lec­tion arrives in stores. Sign up here for access, and Gilt Groupe will throw in $10 to get you started!

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

designer spaces & market places — drywall, and a new wall!

The Designer Spaces & Mar­ket Places event in Hart­ford begins Sep­tem­ber 23, and my Funky Din­ing Space is in devel­op­ment. The won­der­ful vol­un­teers for Rebuild­ing Together Hart­ford and Hart­ford Preser­va­tion Alliance have been busy tap­ing and sand­ing dry­wall. We've all received our space assign­ments, and I'm delighted with mine, #4. I under­stand that #4 means noth­ing to any of you — but trust me, it's a lovely lit­tle space on the win­dow side of the loft area. Nice straight walls of 13, 12 and 8 feet, should be a breeze, but wait a minute…

What is that new wall on an angle in the back left cor­ner?  Zoom in a second…

Holy poly­gon, Bat­man - the Funky Din­ing Room just got a lit­tle funkier!  I had a sym­met­ri­cal arrange­ment planned for that back wall, but design mim­ics life — things change.  It's almost like a real ren­o­va­tion, a new sur­prise around every cor­ner. Or maybe a new cor­ner wrapped around a sur­prise. Ah well, all will be well.

Later this month, I will unveil the theme for my space, and how all my read­ers and friends can (and hope­fully will) become a part of the Spaces and Places expe­ri­ence. Stay tuned!

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