Last week I attended a really fun (and snowy) afternoon at the Boston Design Center (BDC) where LuAnn Nigara, of the “A Well Designed Business” podcast fame hosted a panel discussion on “The Next Generation of Design.” LuAnn, a charismatic, entertaining, and insightful host interviewed Kyle Hoepner (Editor-in-chief of New England Home), Tori Mellott (Style Director for the Creative Services of F Schumacher & Co) and Rachel Reider (of Rachel Reider Interiors) about how the design industry has changed in recent years and how we, as designers, can best serve the needs of younger clients today.
The BDC description of the event was:
The panel specifically discussed how millennial clients, in the 20 to 40 age range, have a radically different value proposition for interior design services and a different mindset on how to acquire furnishings for their homes. The panel was unanimous in their conclusion that the younger client today is seeking the design process to be “an experience,” an opinion that I heartily share and have showcased on my website in the “Client Journey”.
What a terrific event, thanks BDC for inviting me to attend! I was joined at this event by many of my Boston area colleagues, and after the panel discussion, I had the pleasure of having lunch with LuAnn and my friends from the Massachusetts Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA) Chapter. In the photo below, you’ll see - from left to right - Renee Rucci, Julie Wood (past president of the National WCAA Organization), me (Barbara), Julie Gould, LuAnn Nigara, and Linda Woodard. It was great fun to get all of us drapery people together for an interesting afternoon full of lively discussion. LuAnn, along with her husband Vince and business partner Billy, owns WindowWorks in Livingston, New Jersey – so she had lots of great insights specifically applicable to the window coverings business.
One of the reasons that I really loved the afternoon was that I’ve spent a lot of time listening to LuAnn’s podcasts (especially as I drive to client appointments all over the Boston area). LuAnn interviews top designers and professionals in marketing, law, and other fields that participate in the design industry. Her podcasts are really interesting since the business of design is far more than just the beautiful décor we deliver to our clients. Like any industry, the business side is just as important as the creative side, and that’s why some businesses, like my own, have been around for 18 years, and others don’t last. Thanks, LuAnn, for your dedication to the podcasts and for always finding interesting people to interview -- I learn something new from every one of your podcasts. You can listen to them here:
To cap off the afternoon event at the BDC, Waterworks hosted a reception at their new 1st floor showroom, a gorgeous kitchen and bath showroom you will certainly want to see for yourself. Below are photos of some of the new offerings from Waterworks; first-class designs that will meet the test of time…what I strive for in my designs with my valued clients.
The whole day was so great that I was very glad that the "real" snow held off until we were all out of the BDC and driving home in that wonderful Boston traffic. As always, if you want to tour the Boston Design Center for a project of yours let me know and we can make the trip together.
During my local travels to find accessories and artwork for my Boston area clients, I came across a shop in Waltham, MA, which I recommend highly as a “must visit” for my readers in New England:
May’s Gallery at 1377 Main St (Route 117) in Waltham, MA
May imports porcelain vases, jars, bowls, and sculptures directly from the current-day porcelain studios and kilns in Jingdezhen, China. The selection is spectacular, quality is tops, and each piece is a work of art. Here’s a photo of May Lynch, the owner of May’s Gallery (whose family is from Jingdezhen, China) standing in front of some of her beautiful wares.
From a decorative aspect, you will notice blue and white porcelains everywhere in interior design, especially since the color navy and the desire for “clean and crisp” interiors is so popular today. In my Feb 2018 blog post “The Color Navy - Both Trend and a Classic,” I showcased interiors with blue and white porcelains as accessories. So I guess that it’s high time that I gave you some tips on where to shop for these accessories, especially one-of-a-kind pieces of the fine quality offered by May’s Gallery.
I interviewed May and Kevin Lynch about their business and what makes Jingdezhen porcelains so unique. They explained that Jingdezhen, in the Jiangxi Province by the Yangtze River, is the place where the art of porcelain began in China, thanks to local sources of kaolin clay and petuntse (china stone). These “secret ingredients” were combined and fired at temperatures as high as 1,300 ˚C (2,375 ˚F) in local kilns, producing an incredibly strong material that could hold up in even the thinnest of vessels. The colors aren’t limited to blue and white, with celadon green, reds, grays, and other colors being produced and perfected through the centuries by the artisans in Jingdezhen.
May’s offers a large selection of porcelain in traditional Blue and White and reds, celadon, and multi-colored items. I was particularly amazed at the variety of their offerings, especially large items which would be near impossible to have shipped from on-line sources. You just have to see these authentic pieces to appreciate the artwork and fine craftsmanship - and the prices are very fair and reasonable. May’s also offers contemporary designs from the artists of Jingdezhen to complement the traditional styles that make Jingdezhen Porcelain internationally renowned.
On their website, May explains her selection of porcelains:
“Why Jingdezhen Porcelain?
“Where is Jingdezhen?
Here is a link to the website for May’s Gallery if you want to read and see more: http://maysgallery.net/index.html
While doing research for this blog, I found out some interesting things about Blue and White porcelain and the whole “China Trade” of Porcelain. I know, I’m such a history nerd - but it all makes sense to understand why Chinese porcelains became so popular in the Western World (including Europe and America) back in the 1,700’s, and why these fine ceramics have had a place in practically every decorating style across the last 300 years. In a nutshell, the West had to import from China because, until the early 1,700’s, western potters had not discovered the secret ingredients and techniques to make hard shell porcelains. If you would like to know more about this topic, please see the article “History of Chinese Porcelain In America and Europe” by Bruce Richardson:
I always say that you need to showcase any accent color in your home in at least three places in a room, and those accent colors (like red) can be done easily in ceramics. Here’s a particularly beautiful green and white vase I had my eye on for my own dining room in Sudbury which is decorated in shades of green and teal and features many treasures we have picked up from our international travels. As you know, we recently returned from an amazing trip to Japan, Korea, and China, but we were unable to bring back breakable items like ceramics. The scene on this vase is so peaceful to me, and reminiscent of our lovely and peaceful trip.
So, if you are looking for that special accessory for your home, please do yourself a favor and visit May and Kevin at May’s Gallery. I’m so glad I found May’s Gallery as a unique and top-quality local resource, and I hope you’ll visit there soon.
This year Memorial Day is Monday, 28 May, officially a day of remembrance honoring the men and women who died while serving in the US military. It used to be called “Decoration Day”, which originated in the South where graves were decorated in memorial, and then became an official US National holiday in 1971. It’s also the “official” start of summer… of when you can wear white (an arcane rule for sure), plant your annuals here in Massachusetts, and other key milestones linked to summer. Glorious summer - we are so ready!
Today, my topic is about military veterans and buying products made in America. This is not political, I promise. It’s a celebration of American spirit, work ethic, and service. When someone asks “How do you thank a veteran for their service,” I always say, “give them a job and hire them.” That’s putting American dedication and know-how to work! Good business for all of us.
If you have three minutes you should this watch this business video on a NY company, Tidal New York, who hires veterans to make flip-flops. It will probably make you smile:
I’m a veteran. Did you know that? I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Air Force with 10+ years of active duty service (to include time in the Pentagon), then 15 years in the Air Force Reserves. My Air Force experience was fabulous, and I was one of the lucky ones who had a great career and retired with all my body parts and head still intact. Sadly I can’t say that for many of my comrades, God bless them.
So what does Memorial Day have to do with my Interior Design blog? Well, I’m privileged to sell products from two companies that go the extra step to make their blinds and shade products in America: Comfortex (Albany, NY - https://www.comfortex.com/) and Lafayette (West Lafayette, Indiana - http://www.lafvb.com/).
You might think it’s a simple matter to select vendors that manufacture their products in America, but sadly lots of custom window treatment products (yes, custom, not only mass-produced, but custom) are now made in China, Mexico, and other nations with lower cost labor. Bravo to these two American companies, Comfortex and Lafayette, and their terrific American-made products. And it always makes me smile when I get the packages with the red, white, and blue labels as shown on the box below:
As I reflect on the real meaning of Memorial Day I am drawn to the images of the American cemetery in Normandy, France (which we visited in 2015 - 71 years after the Normandy invasion) and the sacrifices that the soldiers made storming the beaches and the cliffs.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend. And thanks to all veterans out there, and to the families of the fallen comrades that we honor this Memorial Day. Your sacrifice is supreme, and we salute you.
Powerful stuff - glad to be an American today and always.
When I received the January/February 2018 issue of Design New England, I was totally intrigued by the article, “Beneath Quabbin,” by Bruce Irving. This article describes how the 39-square mile Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts came to be, starting in 1927 with the monumental work of relocating every person, building, and farm animal from four entire towns due to plans to submerge those towns forever. When the land and dams were finally completed in 1939, flooding began, and seven years later, the Quabbin Reservoir was full and ready to supply the thirsty city of Boston and surrounding areas.
Here’s the link to the article that caught my interest: “Beneath Quabbin,” by Bruce Irving
And what does this have to do with interior design, you ask? Well, since my daughter is interested in Steampunk motifs for her artwork, and I love historical architecture, in early 2017 we took a trip to the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum in Chestnut Hill, MA on a rare sunny winter afternoon.
Because of this trip I was already somewhat familiar with the engineering challenge of the Quabbin Reservoir and the associated complex network of water pipes and pumping stations. What a design treasure trove, and so unique too…quite unlike any other museum I have every visited. I am quite the design nerd, you know… engineering background and all, and totally proud of it too…
From the interior design perspective, note all the cool details in a 100% metal, stone, and wood functional space. I guess you can’t get more functional than pumping water for millions of people! Note the beautiful brick arches to support the roof over the massive plant, the ceiling wood strips run in a diamond motif, the way the iron on the circular staircase is forged in a stylistic way (unfortunately this is NOT done today in industrial places), and the incredibly large metal wheels that actually pump the water…with the square cutouts that engage with other cogs in this complex system.
Can you tell I loved it all? During our visit we had terrific guide who was retired from the Boston municipal water system, so he really knew the subject matter and appreciated the engineering beauty of the machinery. Truth be told, during the visit I kept thinking about my Uncle Frank, since he was a mechanical engineer who knew how to run and fix this kind of mechanical/magically powerful water plant. He would have loved it, and would have been an awesome guide!
So, if you want to visit someplace in Boston that is out of the ordinary and very HH Richardson in style (Richardson Romanesque architecture on the exterior, just like Trinity Church in Boston), you just have to check out the Metropolitan Water Works in Chestnut Hill, MA. It’s just down the hill from Boston College, and it’s across the street from a lovely reservoir with a beautiful walking path. Here’s a link to their website: www.waterworksmuseum.org
Whatever trips you take I hope you’ve been finding some design inspiration this winter! For a casual space, consider reclaimed wood, herringbone and diamond wood patterns, metal, and other cool details to add to the charm and character of your home. Of course, in my opinion, the perfect situation is if you have a Boston loft with a brick wall as a starting point. If you do - call me ASAP.…but really, you can use industrial design inspiration in many places… even in the suburbs!
The Brimfield Antiques Fair, a Massachusetts staple of summer, is coming up this week, 11-16 July 2017.
This fair is definitely worth a visit for a day’s outing, an hour’s drive from Boston in central MA not too far off I-90, the Mass Turnpike. The fair attracts dealers from all over the east coast, bringing their goods to the outdoor market, with most booths under tents. While vintage items, antique furniture, and artisan handcrafted furniture are the main thrusts of the fair, there are lots of outdoor items (planters, furniture, garden sculptures), and what some might call “junk” but raw materials for aspiring artists and crafters.
My friend Deborah and I went to Brimfield last September, and I scored a whole box of antique clock parts for my teenage daughter who is into making Steampunk jewelry with gears, springs, and other metal mechanical parts. She was thrilled! And where else but Brimfield could you possibly ask “Do you have any old clocks that don’t have to work that I can take apart?” The dealer came up with the box of old clocks within 1 minute of our arriving at the booth, and within 5 minutes my score of $30 made the whole trip worthwhile. After loading the box in the car, it was a lovely morning of browsing and seeing the sights. Here are some of my photos from last year, where I bought an eclectic mix of clock parts and vintage bottles at the request of a client.
Gameplan: If you go, I suggest you have a definite shopping list of items you are looking for. The show is huge, and if you spend 3-4 hours there, you will likely walk 2+ miles, and see hundreds of vendors. Some find it overwhelming, but I find it good fun if I have 3 or 4 items that I am specifically looking for. Wear good walking shoes, bring water (it can get hot and as a temporary fair, the amenities are sparse), sunscreen, and a car/van to cart things home if you think you will buy some furniture. Truthfully, children under 10 are probably not going to be intrigued by anything at the show, and there are lots of breakables, so I wouldn’t bring small children. However…an empty baby carriage might not be such a bad idea to bring along in the car if you have to cart things back to the car…I suggest you bring cash for transactions, but some dealers take credit cards.
Logistics: The Brimfield fair always runs 3 times per year, in May, July, and September. There are lots of parking fields for a $5 all-day fee. Most booths are open at daybreak (yeah, that’s really early in summer in MA), and I myself like to go early in the morning. Set your GPS to 35 Palmer Rd, Brimfield MA and you can’t miss it.
Different fields are open on different days, and if you are a veteran of the fair, you may prefer to go when a certain vendor is there. But if you are a newbie, I suggest you choose a weekday if possible (naturally the Saturday at the end of the show is always packed), check the weather report, and consult their website: Brimfield Antique Flea Market
I’ll be going this week with a friend. I’m looking for a new bench for my revamped mudroom…going a bit lighter and a touch coastal in there for a fresh look…and I need a Windsor bench…wish me luck!
And if you can’t catch the July Brimfield fair, no worries, it will run again September 5 -10, 2017. Happy treasure hunting wherever you venture this summer.
Barbara Phillips, interior designer and owner of Center Stage Interior Designs, has delivered impeccable window treatments and design services to both residential and commercial clients in Massachusetts since 2001.