Travel

Thursday, September 1, 2011

lovely things: vignettes from merchandise mart

Mer­chan­dise Mart in Chicago is a great place for design ideas. Show­room vignettes often fea­ture cutting-edge looks, but on this trip I found many that appeared delight­fully livable.

pink and plush from Scalamandre - at merchandise mart chicagopink and plush from Scala­man­dre — at mer­chan­dise mart chicago
warm and sophisticated from John Rosselli at merchandise mart chicagowarm and sophis­ti­cated from John Rosselli at mer­chan­dise mart chicago
shoreline chic from Lee Jofa at merchandise mart chicagoshore­line chic from Lee Jofa at mer­chan­dise mart chicago
traditional elegance from Lee Jofa at merchandise mart chicagotra­di­tional ele­gance from Lee Jofa at mer­chan­dise mart chicago
ethnic pop from Kravet at merchandise mart chicagoeth­nic pop from Kravet at mer­chan­dise mart chicago
lovely lines from Century at merchandise mart chicagolovely lines from Cen­tury at mer­chan­dise mart chicago
fresh citrus from Schumacher at merchandise mart chicagofresh cit­rus from Schu­macher at mer­chan­dise mart chicago

Notice how some­thing as sim­ple as pil­lows can ele­vate a space.

modern colors from Kravet at merchandise mart chicagomod­ern col­ors from Kravet at mer­chan­dise mart chicago
fresh and fun from Kravet at merchandise mart chicagofresh and fun from Kravet at mer­chan­dise mart chicago

Do these vignettes spark some­thing with you?

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

lovely things: antique ceramics at mfa boston

Con­fes­sion time: I adore pot­tery. There is some­thing about hand­made ceram­ics that just thrills me. Per­haps it's the idea of some­thing as ugly as raw clay becom­ing func­tional and beau­ti­ful. Sec­ond and third con­fes­sions: I adore pat­tern; and color; and antiques (oh wait, that was four.) Bring together all these ele­ments, and I'm in Utopia aka the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

I mar­veled at this selec­tion of amaz­ing Per­sian ceramic pieces, mostly dat­ing from the 12th and 13th cen­turies. All these pieces are from Kashan, now Iran. This ewer required extreme skill. First a bot­tle was encased in an open­work pat­tern of hex tiles. Then the spout and han­dle were applied before the piece was painted and glazed. How does it hold water?

13th century ewer from iran - MFA Boston

13th cen­tury ewer from Iran — MFA Boston

Kashan pot­ters invented under­glaze paint­ing. The pig­ments they used in this bowl did not run when glaze was applied. The design and col­ors here would not be out of place in a con­tem­po­rary home.

early 13th century bowl from iran (kashan) - MFA Boston

early 13th cen­tury bowl from Iran (kashan) — MFA Boston

The turquoise glaze on this piece is au courant!

late 12th century bowl from Iran - MFA Boston

late 12th cen­tury bowl from Iran — MFA Boston

These pieces reflect a com­mon motif found in Kashan enam­eled ceram­ics. The fig­ures are often grouped in themes show­ing hunt­ing or other activities.

late 12th century bowl from Iran - MFA Boston

late 12th cen­tury bowl from Iran — MFA Boston

late 12th century bowl from Iran - MFA Boston

late 12th cen­tury bowl from Iran — MFA Boston

late 12th century cup from Iran - MFA Boston

late 12th cen­tury cup from Iran — MFA Boston

Fast-forward to the 17th cen­tury — this dish from North­west Iran shows gar­den foliage. The inten­sity of the col­ors and pat­tern in striking.

17th century dish from Iran - MFA Boston

17th cen­tury dish from Iran — MFA Boston

I hope you enjoyed this lit­tle bit of ceramic his­tory. The MFA has so much more to see, please visit!

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

lovely things — jewels, gems and treasures at mfa boston

One of the cur­rent exhibits run­ning at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is "Jew­els, Gems and Trea­sures — Ancient to Mod­ern". It exam­ines the notion that what we now con­sider gems, such as dia­monds and rubies, is much too lim­ited when look­ing at a broader world view. Many other items, whether seen as hav­ing pro­tec­tive value or sim­ply as being rare, have been trea­sured across the cen­turies. Fre­quently, tra­di­tional gems were mixed in with less pre­cious items, with the result­ing fab­ri­ca­tion an object of incred­i­ble beauty. Here are some of the amaz­ing pieces I saw this week:

Apolo­gies for this blurry pic­ture, but this suite of hum­ming­bird jew­els was made of, yes, real hum­ming­birds. Vic­to­rian excess at its most sublime.

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston03

real hum­ming­birds as jewelry

Ancient pieces included rock crys­tal and enamel work along­side gems.

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston

jew­els, gems and trea­sures at MFA Boston

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston

jew­els, gems and trea­sures at MFA Boston

This beau­ti­ful 19th cen­tury Chi­nese head­dress incor­po­rated gilt metal, king­fisher feath­ers, silk, glass and bone along with a host of semi-precious stones.

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston

19th cen­tury head­dress at MFA Boston

This 17th cen­tury Ger­man rosary fea­tured amber, believed at the time to have mag­i­cal prop­er­ties. Inter­est­ing choice for a Catholic I should think.

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston

17th cen­tury rosary at MFA Boston

Beau­ti­ful jew­elry in every color of the rainbow:

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston

amethyst neck­lace at MFA Boston

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston

a selec­tion of brooches at MFA Boston

A Faberge bull­dog, made of agate and semi-precious stones, in mem­ory of a beloved pet. Wow.

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston

faberge bull­dog

Enamel in com­bi­na­tion with moon­stones and pearls, sim­ply remarkable.

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston

jew­els, gems and trea­sures at MFA Boston

A plat­inum, dia­mond and carved emer­ald brooch from 1928, owned and worn by Mar­jorie Meri­weather Post at her pre­sen­ta­tion to the Court of St. James. The cen­tral stone, carved in India, dates from the 17th cen­tury. 'Exquis­ite' barely cov­ers this piece.

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston

emer­ald brooch at MFA Boston

Finally, a brooch and cuff bracelet with less refine­ment of the stones, but cer­tainly plenty of char­ac­ter in the fin­ished pieces.

jewels, gems and treasures at MFA Boston

jew­els, gems and trea­sures at MFA Boston

There are many more won­der­ous exam­ples to see in this exhibit. I encour­age you to attend if you can; the show runs through Novem­ber 25.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

travel tuesday – hotel burnham in chicago

On my recent week­long stay in Chicago, I dis­cov­ered there is much to love at the Hotel Burn­ham. There are also a few areas in need of minor improve­ment – from my per­spec­tive as both inte­rior designer and trav­eler. I must say the loca­tion and the build­ing itself are terrific!

The hotel occu­pies a ren­o­vated office build­ing built in 1895 and many beau­ti­ful archi­tec­tural fea­tures remain. We stayed in suite 804 – below is the room’s old office door and the charm­ing 8th floor ele­va­tor lobby.

hotel burnham suite 804 door

hotel burn­ham suite 804 door

burnham hotel 8th floor elevator lobby

hotel burn­ham 8th floor ele­va­tor lobby

The com­mon areas on the first floor are equally beau­ti­ful. The small lobby hosts a wine recep­tion each evening, a Kimp­ton trade­mark. I adore the orange chairs! Note the con­trast welt and cutout back on the lobby sofa. Details make a difference!

burnham hotel lobby

hotel burn­ham lobby

burnham hotel lobby

hotel burn­ham lobby

details make a difference - burnham hotel lobby

details make a dif­fer­ence — hotel burn­ham lobby

The largest rooms/suites at the Burn­ham fea­ture a bed­room and liv­ing space, sep­a­rated by French doors. Unfor­tu­nately, the French doors only have sheer cur­tains, so any­one try­ing to sleep in the bed­room is sub­jected to light from the liv­ing area. The king bed is very com­fort­able. There is a canopy of sorts over the bed, which doesn’t appear to have any rela­tion­ship to the room, although it does cam­ou­flage the smoke detec­tor and sprin­kler head. The ceil­ings are quite high, adding vol­ume to a small floor space (the French doors scrape along the side of the bed as you try to close them). The left cor­ner quarter-round side table is styl­ishly delight­ful, but the lamps in both rooms appear under-scale.

bedroom at burnham hotel

bed­room at hotel burnham

funky little corner table at burnham hotel

funky lit­tle cor­ner table at hotel burnham

The seat­ing area fea­tures a fab­u­lous mir­ror and a tiny set­tee. Sadly, the set­tee is uncom­fort­able for one per­son, and impos­si­ble for two! The only other seat in the room is the desk chair. Also, that lit­tle set­tee does not turn into a pull-out, which seems a lost oppor­tu­nity for flex­i­bil­ity, espe­cially for a hotel as friendly to chil­dren as the Burnham.

cute but impractical settee at burnham hotel

cute but imprac­ti­cal set­tee at hotel burnham

The bath­room is very small but well appointed. Aveda toi­letries ele­vate the expe­ri­ence. Of course, the trade­mark Kimp­ton ani­mal print robes are at hand.Suite 804 had win­dows on two sides, both with excel­lent down­town views. The hotel is easy walk­ing dis­tance to many Chicago attrac­tions, includ­ing Mil­le­nium Park, the Cloud Gate (jelly­bean) and the Jay Pritzger Pavil­ion, seen in the back­ground below.

the view from one side of room 804 in hotel burnham

the view from one side of room 804 in hotel burnham

Ser­vice at the hotel is gen­er­ally quite good and always friendly. The restau­rant, Atwood Café, serves a won­der­ful break­fast. Ser­vice here was out­stand­ing in the morn­ing. In the evening, we did have din­ner here once, and ser­vice was not as good. Also, the menu is fairly eclec­tic, mak­ing it trick­ing to feed a picky young diner. There are bet­ter nearby options for din­ner if you are trav­el­ing with young chil­dren, but adults would thor­oughly enjoy the fare. Any place that serves up Red Vel­vet Cookie Dough for dessert is worth a try in my book!

One per­sonal dif­fi­culty at the Atwood: the ban­quette seat­ing at the tables clos­est to the win­dows. It's hard to see in the pic­ture below, but the ban­quettes look ter­rific with an asym­met­ri­cal back. Unfor­tu­nately, the lower side of that back pro­vides zero sup­port for din­ers and hit my back at a painfully low height.  Just a word of cau­tion for any­one above aver­age height.

atwood cafe at hotel burnham
atwood café at hotel burnham

Over­all, we enjoyed our stay at the Burn­ham. How­ever, after a week, the room issues I men­tioned were loom­ing large for our party of three. I do rec­om­mend the hotel, but would myself opt for a larger space in another hotel next time. The Burnham's rooms are ide­ally suited to a max­i­mum of two travelers.

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