January 12, 2010 | By | Comments (0)

Design Value of the Week

As predicted, I’ve already received several auction catalogues this week.  Here is an item from  Bonham’s London “Period Design sale that happened earlier this week.    


Lot No: 336  A 19th century Anglo-Indian teak, bone inlaid and brass travelling writing / dressing box, the hinged lid enclosing a fitted interior including a mirror and hidden secret drawers, distressed(18.5″ wide, 9.5″ deep, 6.5″ high). 

This is listed at $750-1200, with fees.  Remember what we talked about in the last post? “The hammer price is not the price you pay”.   There are always those pesky fees added. And don’t forget customs and shipping.   Guessing that the New Year auction prices will be as soft generally soft as last years,   my estimate for it would have been at the low end of the scale.   Anglo-Indian items are still very hot, but it just sold for $550,including fees.   Still, in a lovely retail environment, the cost would be around $3500.  See what I mean about great values?

Domestically, Bonhams has an item in the New York “American Furniture” sale coming up in late January that I am dreaming about using  to create an  amazing guestroom.                                                                                                                                                                                                          



Lot #  1213:      An American Aesthetic inlaid and ebonized cherrywood bedroom suite
Herter Brothers, New York  circa 1880

OMG!  This is exceptional.  Herter Brothers pieces rarely come on the market.  Their work is in major collections in Europe and the US, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Imagine it in a bright white bedroom, painted white floors, with bedding and curtains of the finest, pure white, 100%  Italian linen.  A pure white, Barcelona leather chair and ottoman would be by the fireplace and white lacquered nightstands would complete the set.  The final touch would be overscaled heavily carved giltwood 18th c.  mirror over the fireplace, and, while we are dreaming,  a set of Franz Kline  paintings. A serene and stunning heaven would be the outcome. 

Given the estimated hammer price of $20-30,000,  this suite would be at least $95,000 in a gallery setting.  If this goes at the low end and you complete the design, you’d have a very chic, million dollar look for a small fraction of that.  At least you could make a down payment on the Franz Kline with the money you saved at auction!

If you need a single room done, I’d suggest you keep an open mind and start watching the auctions.  You’ll come up with something you never would have dreamed of and feel very proud of yourself for your smart thriftiness and your contribution to sustainable design!

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January 7, 2010 | By | Comments (0)

Designers Secret Source for Great Values:

As a professional designer who is hired to design and  furnish an entire estate, top to bottom, draperies to dishes, I have to have a very wide variety of sources to be able to come up with that perfect item to fit that perfect location in that perfect home.  So I am always on the lookout for new and sustainable sources to add to my mental menu of great resources. After so many years in the industry, my mental menu is a very busy place.

There is a place that is very often filled with fabulous pieces at amazing prices, available immediately.  This place took me years and years to master, as it was initially intimidating.  I needed to know exactly what I wanted, be able to recognize the good deal, make sure my client would be happy with it (often sight unseen!), recognize if it was real or fake,  calculate what the price should be,  estimate what repairs might be required and make a very quick decision.  What obscure resource is this??


Auctions are frequented primarily by dealers, designers and private collectors. All those great things in your favorite antique store?  Probably came primarily from auctions.   Local, national and international auctions are available to everyone today.  But unless you are an expert, do not buy that item in the Milan auction sight unseen!

As your blogger, slavishly dedicated to providing expertise in every area of interior design, I will periodically be bringing you information on special pieces that will be available and keep you informed of the upcoming auctions.  Over the course of small posts, you can learn to take advantage of this sustainable resource, too.

But first, a few rules to remember:

1.  Know the source.   The auctions I follow are with auction houses that have, over the years, been consistently reliable with their descriptions, authentications, and valuations.  There are many different houses out there.  Do not be fooled.  Check in to the process they use to determine value and do lots of research before you raise that paddle!

2. Don’t be fooled.  Ask your private, trusted,  expert advisor to evaluate a piece for authentication, repairs required, etc so you know what you are buying. This could be your interior designer, antiques dealer, rug dealer for antique carpets, furniture repair expert, etc.

3.  Understand the terminology.  Attend auctions when you are not planning to bid to get a feel for how they work.

4.  Understand all the fees that will be levied on the piece.   Especially the “Hammer price”.  That is the last price that is bid before the auctioneer says “sold”.  That is NOT the price you will be paying.  Fees will be added for the “house”, the expertise provided, taxes if applicable, storage if required, etc.  Know the terms and conditions.  If your bid is accepted, you are bound to those terms.

5.  Do your Homework.   Discover everything you can about the period, the artist, the production house, etc.  so that you really know what you are buying.

6.  Set your maximum Hammer Price and stick to it.  Sometimes the excitement of the auction gets to a buyer and they keep bidding, especially if they are trying to beat that annoying bidder up in front who already bought everything!

With all of that out of the way, I will bring you items from the auctions I follow so that you can follow them too.

The first sale of the year here in the United States for Bonhams & Butterfields (www.bonhams.com), our top local auction house, is the Sunset Estate Auction in Los Angeles.  This particular auction is for their least expensive items.  A couple of items worth considering are:

A sterling covered box in the form of an apple Tiffany & Co., London, 1991  



















The expected Hammer price is listed at $600-800.  So if it sells for that, what would your price be?   Between $732-1176, plus tax, depending on the hammer price, taxes in the state purchased, expert’s fee, etc.  My guess on what this will go for?  Around $550, all inclusive.  My guess is based on my accumulated knowledge from years of auction shopping, plus a sense of today’s market.

But I could be wrong!  Most auctions are now international, with bidders online, on the phone, etc.  You never know who you are bidding against, because they are often not in the room.  Part of the fun of the auction is that you never know what it is going to go for.  When the bid is accepted, I often feel like I WON something for my client!  It is thrilling, because I KNOW I got a good deal and my client will think I am brilliant.

Check out these chairs:














 A set of six Art Deco mahogany and suede upholstered dining chairs

These look very stylish and the finish looks like it was good at one time.  If these were available new and perfect, the set would run about $9000 and up. But with a hammer price of $500-700 for all six, they probably are pretty beat up.  If they are really “Art Deco” they may be diminutive in scale.   If they are Art Deco-Style  from the recent past, they will be more of a size we are use to.  If you are planning to use these regularly, you definitely want to have your advisor sit in them and examine them.  They probably need a lot of repair.  On the other hand, they cost next t0 nothing here, so go ahead and buy them for your daughter’s first apartment and have your carpenter slap some glue on them.  She will be thrilled and her friends will think she is very sophisticated. And you got a steal!

My favorite property in this auction is this pair of lamps:

















A pair of Art Deco Palisandre lamps: $1,500 – 2,000. 

Now these look interesting and like they are in good condition.  Palisandre wood was usually from Brazil rainforests, so isn’t a good idea to specify today.  But finding it in a vintage piece, at a great price for a pair of 50” high lamps with shades  really is a good deal.  These would look great either as floor/reading lamps at the end of a sofa, of in a grand entry  table with high ceilings.  If we could find these new, they would run about $8500 for the pair. My guess on what these would cost you from your advisor?  About $1700.   Are you convinced about the value?

Since I read the catalogues regularly and they seem to arrive in the mail every week, I will be bringing you highlights of the auctions.  If you are able to make quick decisions and have an advisor that you can trust, you can get a tremendous value at auction.  Stayed tuned……

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December 17, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

Gingerbread houses by designers and artists (but not bakers!)

For a holiday party this year, my dear friend decided to have a gingerbread house making party.  She provided the gingerbread and we each provided our own decorative elements, as long as they were edible. This sounded like a lot of fun could be had, so we accepted.  Little did we know what awaited us.

The group was five or six couples of varying professions, talent and training.  Several had done this before at parties.  I however, had never made a gingerbread house before, which I haven’t quite forgiven my mother for yet.  Maybe I should just go ahead and forgive her for this breadcrumb sin as my New Years Resolution. 

Couple #1:  was a graphic designer and a painter.  Wait a minute.   Already they are ahead of the the group.  They played together with only a minimum of conflict, a fair amount of tension, and a precise plan and design direction:  Black and white, with pez tiles on the side and red accents.  This is what they came up with:
Copy of Hawaii and Austin 037 copy

Pretty cute,isn’t it?  And see how tidy they were in their execution!  Good job, kids! 

 Couple #2.  Now, this next one was totally unfair!  He was not only a highly accomplished architect who held a high position in the national AIA, but she had taking, yes, Gingerbread House Making Classes at the country club!  Talk about a head start.  They also had a plan sketched out, had bought all the correct materials, a tool box, and hard hats!  Wait a minute!   I had in mind a spontaneous free for all that was destined for silliness.  But no, not with this group.  They were competitive to the end!  Anyway, couple #2 made this delightful home:

Copy of Hawaii and Austin 039 

Notice the red licorice pergola to the left?  How about the tootsie roll log ascending staircase?   The architect got an “A” for structure!

Our team’s efforts were not turning out ANYTHING like some of the things I have since seen on the Internet.  Look at this one from the blog “Houseboat Eats”: 


Ok, he wasn’t making this at a party, in front of others, with a 2-3 hour window.  What do you think?  Days/weeks/months of working on it? Come on!

And check out the details on this from the same post:


Rock Candy?  Or just rocks?  Does this look like it meets the “edible” criteria?

And then there was this one:


I mean, really!  I do love the pretzel ironwork on the mansard roof, but who knew there were professional gingerbread house makers out there?

Back at the party,  Couple #3 also had come equipped with a full design of a California Mission Style Gingerbread House, with LOTS of rust jelly bean roof tiles, and tinted plaster-like frosting, but they wouldn’t let me take a picture.  Perhaps it was because he was an accountant and she was an attorney, and they were concerned about the accuracy and legality of their listing-slightly-to-the-left house being published. 

By now my team member/husband and I are getting very insecure.  We had so much fun buying silly edible shapes at the party shop and other nearly edible things at the candy shop, that the party was already a success for us.  But talk about intimidation.  If I was a proper competitor and had googled “pictures of gingerbread houses” before we went, I would have known better what to expect.

Ok, I have been putting off showing you the one we, couple #4 , did but now it is time.  Please be kind and remember my mother never taught me this. 

Copy of Hawaii and Austin 046 copy

Can you say “Exuberant!” ???

Notice the blue M & M pool with the red fish and the boulder design around the pool.  Also, landscaping!  I get credit for foundation shrubs and ice cream cone trees, don’t I?  

Fortunately, I found this house later or I never would have even gone to this party.  I would have taken sick and needed to rest!  Some people do seen to have a lot of talent/time/patience/for this kind of thing and have obviously been planning and studying all year for the big reveal:



So, if you haven’t made your gingerbread house yet, there is still time. 

Throw caution to the wind, grab your courage and have a wonderful, light-filled and joyous Holiday Season!

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December 11, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

The Top Ten Interior Design Books of 2009

It has been a remarkable year for interior design books. It was hard to pick just ten books, as every month produces beautiful tomes that require hours of lingering. I based my results on the books that inspired and influenced me to grow as a designer, and to dream the dreams of love, beauty and art!

A few of the books are from the archives of designers who are no longer living. Still, their work resonates across the years and seems possibly more relevant than when it was first done. Or perhaps it is just me being too young to catch on!

So here they are, in alphabetical order:

1. An Affair with a House; by Bunny Williams- A Charming story of her 30 year affair with a farmhouse, a barn and 12 acres in a New England village.

2. David Hicks-A life of Design; by Ashley Hicks. This is a book written by Hicks son, Ashley. It is chock full of dishy stories about Hicks glamourous, celebrity filled life, but also contains hundreds of illustrations showing the most chic applications of the 70’s asthetic.

3. Defining Luxury; by Jeffrey Bilhuber. Jeffrey’s style is one of courageous color and highly customized furnishings mixed with flea market finds. He defines luxury as finding joy in the ever present abundance of life. Beautiful, fun and very livable rooms.

 4.  Glamour: Making it Modern; by Michael Lassell.  This is a collection from the archives of Metropolitan Home magazine.  Since the magazine has closed and December 2009 will be their last issue, this book showcases a collection of some of their most sophisticated designs and shows how glamour has nothing to do with the size of a home and everything to do with the style in which it was created.

5. Glamorous Rooms; by Jan Showers and Michael Kors. Showers is a designer from Dallas with a showroom and a product line. Check out her great lamps at janshowers.com. She also goes elegant classical interiors with a fresh look for today.

6. Michael Taylor Interior Design; by Stephen M. Salny. This wonderful book showcases the work of San Francisco designer Michael Taylor. His work began in the 1950’s and continued through his death in 1986. Looking at the photos throughout his career, it is a reminder how classic interiors never look dated because they are not trendy. These could be shown in magazines today and receive rave reviews! His work is always inspiring.

7. More is More—Tony Duquette; by Hutton Wilkinson. This is the second book about Duquette, the California interior designer, that was written by Wilkinson. The first book was filled with wonderful photographs of Duquette work and this one is also. He was a designer of jewelry, fashion, stage sets, interiors, lighting, fabrics, and the list goes on and on. As an extraordinary artist with a unique vision, inspiration comes with every page. He is the man who would use egg cartons and plastic nursery pots and make them look fabulous, architectural and DIVINE!

8. The Private world of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge; by Robert Murphy. The photos in this book are enough to make you slip into a dream for a week! These gentlemen shared 8 different homes and filled each of them with the finest of art and antiques. Every piece in the collection is amazing for its rarity and for the quality of the execution of the artist. Although the rooms are overfilled with objects and drama, each piece in each room is exquisite and worth examining. Too bad most of it was sold at auction this year and not kept together in a museum that we all could visit.

9. Style and Substance: the Best of Elle Decor; by Margaret Russell, editor. Gleaned from the archives of the sophisticated magazine, this is a beautiful book that spans the 20 years the magazine has been in business. Since it is probably my favorite magazine, I adore every page.

10. Villa; by John Saladino. Alphabetically last, but not the least of my favorites, this is the story of Saladino’s love affair with a classic Santa Barbara house. He found and purchased the home in 2001 and painstakingly restored and renovated it. A gorgeous home of classic style, Saladino, who is both an acclaimed architect and an interior designer, has created a home of impossible beauty and has filled it with a profound collection of antiques, artifacts and his own line of custom furnishings. He is definitely on the short list of architects who I will consider to build my dream home in my next life!

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November 10, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

Love and Succulents

To me, a home isn’t complete unless it has some greenery. Interesting containers filled with even more interesting plants and/or floral arrangements softens a look and brings an organic element into any room. Few plants are as varied and well-suited  for multiple environments as succulents are. They are also exceptionally hardy, which is wonderful if you don’t consider yourself of the green thumbed variety.

In every gorgeous, glossy magazine I am seeing images or articles about succulents. It’s for good reason! They are so versatile and can inhabit just about anything they are planted in, allowing you to stretch your imagination and get creative. Most people think of them only as outdoor plants but look at how beautiful  and modern they are nestled amongst crystals in this giant clam shell!


Here is another view:


Embellishing your plants with a few well-chosen stones, shells or gems gives them an elegant edge. I can always find  gorgeous and unique crystals, containers and accessories for my plants at the Living Green Showroom in San Francisco.

 What I love most about succulents is their many shades of green and amazing textures. When combined together, the sweep of texture and colors adds a remarkable sense of the lusciousness of nature that you can use indoors.


They also make  thoughtful gifts. With so much going on in everyone’s lives, many people are returning to the art of giving gifts from the heart instead of from the mall. Potted succulent gardens are such a great way to let someone know you are thinking of them. They add a hint of drama that will grow and change for many years.


Their frequent use in high end and contemporary homes shows that they hold their own in luxury minimalist enviroments as easily as they do in eccentric, colorful interiors. As they require such minimal care, they are also perfect for eco-friendly homeowners!



And last but not least, here is the wonderful use of succulents as wall art! 


Above, Flora Grubb of Flora Grubb Gardens, has created a vertical garden of a variety of succulents that can, when properly conceived, resemble a remarkable painting.  Way to grow, Flora!

I’m hoping that you may be inspired to create your own little indoor succulents gardens.

Warm Regards,


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October 19, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

Contemporary Venetian Style

I was looking through the August, 2009 issue of Interiors magazine and came across the photo spread of Stefano and Riccarda Contini’s 15th Century Venetian palace.

As if having gorgeous home on the Canale Grande wasn’t enough of a dream come true, the home is filled with stunning modern art and contemporary furnishings that Stefano, a gallerist, has collected with his wife over the years.

While everything featured in the photos was extraordinary, I fell in love with this brass “Sliced Violin” table  by Arman, made to look like pieces of a deconstructed violin. The accompanying chairs are both industrial and elegant and are set off perfectly by the deep blue painting of a man on a bench.


The genius of this arrangement is that it’s really such a simple setting, with all the art surrounded by open space.   And here specifically, the furniture IS the art.  And notice the classic Venetian terrazzo  floor the sculpture rests on.  The art pieces are unique and form a superb collection that reflects the spirit of the family. It demonstrates how a historical home can be imbued with modern flair to create a living environment that is itself a work of art. How lucky that this family gets the pleasure of  living there!

Warm Regards,



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September 29, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

We Now Offer Soule Stoneware!

Here is something completely new for us –  I am  pleased to announce that JAID was chosen as a certified dealer of Soule Studio pottery.  It is an honor to be able to represent this line as only the finest retail establishments – and a very select few designers – are certified to offer these elegant yet organic pieces. Continue reading 'We Now Offer Soule Stoneware!'»

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September 21, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

Sausalito Art Festival

This past Labor Day I went to Sausalito for the annual Sausalito Art Festival. This festival takes place every year over labor day and is one of the more sophisticated art festivals in the country. Sausalito is a lovely little village enclave with bungalows whose roofs sit – quite literally – in the clouds! With gorgeous blue skies, warm breezes and booth after booth of art, what better way to spend the day? Continue reading 'Sausalito Art Festival'»

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September 8, 2009 | By | Comments (2)

Art Underfoot

I am interested in products that are created using new technologies but that still have strong ties to the traditional origins of the craft. I love it when the product has a contemporary edge, yet still retains the warmth and refined sensibility of the classics. Looking at the latest Italian Architectural Digest, I noticed an unusual hardwood floor inlaid with marble.  Continue reading 'Art Underfoot'»

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August 18, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

The Beauty and Wonder of Rainforest Baskets

I first read about Wounaan handmade Hösig Di™ basketry from Panama, in ARTNews. I was immediately taken with the beauty and geometry of their graphic patterns. I had been looking for something unique for a project I was finishing and I felt that the baskets could be perfect. Overall, the home was very traditional but the media room was to be a more contemporary space. I had the opportunity to bring in something more rustic and handmade. We had already done the entire estate with refined decorative arts and had used almost every type of beautiful accessory imaginable.  I was searching for something truly unique that worked well with the color scheme of red, olive and pale gold. Continue reading 'The Beauty and Wonder of Rainforest Baskets'»

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