Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Brunch at Hotel Bel-Air

Who wouldn't want to eat at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant?  He has rule the LA dining scene since 1980s!  I have always enjoyed eating at his restaurants.  From the old days at Spago on Sunset strip to  Pizzaria & Cucina at Crystal Mall in Las Vegas, he seldom miss the mark with his menu.  Wolfgang's restaurant at the recently renovated Hotel Bel-Air continues with much flair.

First, you have a choice of eating in the dining room, private dining room, or terrace.  With sunny southern California weather, terrace is always the prefer choice for me.  The floor is laid with Spanish terracotta which adds to the casualness of the space.  There is also a lovely fountain in the vincinity which makes the ambiance just right not to mention the terrace is right next to a  Swan lake with Swans in them.  But I digress.

The brunch menu is actually not super brunchy.  What I mean by that is the choices given is more lunch to me than brunch.  I had tagliatelle pasta to start.  They are filled with wild field mushrooms, parmigiano reggiano, and parsley.   Perfectly cooked; al dente...just the way I like my pasta.    My second course was an Alaskan halibut with sugar snap peas, torpedo onions, asparagus, Ligurian Olive Oil (Liguria is a region in Italy close to Monte Carlo.  They produce the best olive oil in Italy), with spring garlic emulsion.  Cook to perfection.  Fish was not dry at all.  It was cooked perfectly.  Everything played off with each other beautifully.

It really was one of the top five brunch I ever had.  One negative thing though is that the terrace area gets flies.  Lots of them.  However, the restaurant remedy it by putting two small lemon scented candles on your table.  And for some reason the smell chases the flies away so I wasn't swatting flies as I was would have been a disastrous experience had I had to do that.  All in all it was lovely and I would definitely return.  The food was light and on point. The space was elegant yet casual.  Service was friendly but professional.  Another successful restaurant opened by Wolfgang.          

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nate Berkus for Target

It's not a secret that Nate Berkus for Target collection came out on October 21, 2012.  There are some stuff I liked and there's also some stuff I was rather disappointed with. 

For example, the gold colored metal bowl, I thought it would have a nice weight.  It was so thin and light that it felt more like paper than metal.  The odd decorative lacquered chains just don't work.  I predict they will be in the sale bin sooner than later.   

The more successful designs includes the lamp collection.  I thought the bold graphic lamp is very interesting; works well with modern contemporary homes.  The knit dark gray pillow with silver colored thread is also very nice and soft.  However,  my favorite item from the collection is the white lacquered tortoise wall sculpture.  When you line them up on a dark colored wall, they make a great impact.  Top designers such as Mary McDonald, Kelly Wearstler, and Jonathan Adler have been using these kinds of things for awhile now.  In fact, Jonathan Adler sells a Tortoise lamp on his website....  better made for sure and the price reflects that.

Interestingly Nate Berkus also has a line for HSN.  They are definitely pricier than his Target collection.  However, Nate's collection at HSN is mostly furniture focused (hence more expensive).  Some of the headboards at HSN compliments his bed sheets at Target quite nicely.    

Monday, October 29, 2012

Phenomena Room Divider

This has got to be one of the coolest looking room divider out there.  It's always very difficult to find something that looks amazing while dividing up a space.  Most of the time, the screen just looks like..... a screen... Seldom do they elevate to something you actually want to put one in a room because they contribute to a space aesthetically.

Designed by Sang Hoon Kim, this is what he has to said about it:

Characterized by an organic and pleasing appearance, this room divider is about the phenomenon of light. Light is always moving, and due to reflection, refraction and shadow, leaves behind a fantastic impression.
To make one feel the movement of light, I divided the wavy sides into many layers so that they reveive light from different angles and reflect it at different angles. As a result, the fixed mass feels like it is changing and moving according to the position from which the viewer sees it.
 Screen can be purchased here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Buddha Bar Hotel Prague

If you like an over the top designed hotel, then you have to go stay at the Buddha Bar Hotel in Prague!  It really is one of the best theme designed hotel I have ever seen and the origin of the hotel is actually quite interesting. 

Does the term Buddha Bar sound familiar to you?  Well, because it is a suite of CDs (you know the thing that existed before ipod and cloud storage) that was played in lounges all over.  Basically this guy name Claude Challe, a DJ and club owner, from Tunisia travelled to India, Nepal, and Indonesia.  He got inspired by the exotic sound of these places and incorporated them into the clubs he owned.  One of them is Buddha Bar in Paris.  Eventually in 1999, he produced the first of the Buddha Bar compilations and currently the compilation is up to number 14!!!

So Buddha Bar Hotel is actually an offshoot of a CD compilation (as weird as that sound)!  Currently there are two Buddha Bar hotels in existence; one in Prague and the other one in Budapest.  So what's so special about the Buddha Bar Hotel in Prague?  You want rain shower in your bathroom?  Checked.  You want a separate gadget toilet (the one that squirt water to clean you and dry you with warm heat) room with a sink from your bathroom.  Done.  Too lazy to manually open curtains in your room?  No problem.  They have a remote control for that.  You want the coolest looking sound system in your room so you can listen to Buddha Bar music!  Would Bang & Olufsen surround sound system be acceptable?  The list of amenities goes on and on.  And the best thing is the price!  With all these stuff, you expect to pay $500-$1000 a night!  Actually you can get a room for less than 200 euro per night.  That's like $260 per night.  You certainly will not find anything comparable to this in NYC or SF for this kind of price!!!   

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Loop Shower

This has got to be one of the coolest shower around.  It can be used as an outdoor shower or an indoor shower.  Personally I think it may be the best way to wash your doggie outdoor!  In addition being one of the coolest looking shower around, it comes with a chroma therapy that can changes the mood of the surrounding while you take your shower.  With six horizontal body jets and an overhead rain shower, this Italian made shower is as luxurious as it can get.  You can find more info at Idiha Design.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mario Testino

Who does Anna Wintour ask when she needs a passport photo?  Mario Testino of course!  Who else?  The prolific photographer had done photo shoots from supermodel Gisele to Diana, princess of Wales.  A retrospective of his works opened on October 21, 2012 at Museum of Fine Arts Boston

I know you are dying to own a piece of him!   LOL.   My dear readers, let me give you a little "in" on how to get a discounted Mario Testino limited edition signed photograph.  Go to Counter Editions, choose a Mario Testino photo that you like and use price code TESTINO12 at the checkout to get a discount of 250 pounds!  These limited edition prints are sold out at MFA so the only way to get them is order them from Counter Editions.  The most collectible print from this bunch is Kate Moss in my opinion.  After that I would say Sienna Miller.  Of course only time will tell which one of the four is the most valuable ones!  

For those of you who are not familiar with Mr. Testino, Mario was born in Lima in a middle class family with five other siblings.  He studied economics at Universidad del Pacifico.  In 1976, he moved to London to study photography.  Mario started to emerge as one of the most important fashion photographer by 1990s.  He was known for Vogue cover shots.  It certainly helped that Anna Wintour, who became the editor of Vogue in 1988, has been a good friend of his for the past 25 years.  By 1995, he was doing a Versace campaign of Madonna.  Recently, he took the official engagement portraits of William and Kate Middleton.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Margiela for H&M

I actually don't have many Margiela pieces myself.  To be precise, I only have a pair of shoes from Margiela.  There are other brands out there that are more of my style but I have always respected Martin's visions; it's art for art's sakes.  I think his clothes is kinda like architects building their signature style buildings.... it's a selfish act... whether or not the clothes/building is suitable for the masses isn't really fashion designer's/ architect's problem.  Sometimes the vision is successful (Frank Gehry's Bilbao), and sometimes it's a failure (how do you view paintings properly at FLW's Guggenheim museum in NYC?).  But either way, I always appreciate an artist who can take me out of my comfort zone.

Here's my take on Margiela's H&M... his exercise of mixing unstructured clothing with structured ones.  Sometimes the pieces look unstructured and unruly, but looking at it carefully and it's well structured.  It's this constant dichotomy that his fan keeps coming back.

Here's my take on what I think looks hot/wearable

ok. The darted sweater ($129) perhaps not that wearable but I love the construction (or in this case deconstruction) of it.  It feels like a piece that belongs in a museum.  The hobo/ kimono looking skirt should be an easy piece to incorporate into a lady's wardrobe and price is relatively low within this collection.  The black jacket looks really sharp.  Great for going to an interview or having a power lunch/ dinner.  At $99, it's a bargain.  The long organza looking dress, again, is a very easy dress to mix and match.  The sheen on the fabric makes it feel a lot more expensive than $99 price point.

Well, I'm not sure if both jackets have the exact same cut, the camel color one looks a bit boxier.  I have tried on Margiela sports coats before.  They are sharp looking.  At $129 and $149, I may have to pick up both....  The shearling coat ($399) looks like the ones you see from Burberry Prorsum winter collection from the past few seasons.  I'm sure it's not shearling but cotton....I'm curious as to what it looks like in person.  Most likely I won't get this unless it's made of real shearling.

I love the candy wrapper clutch!  It looks like a lot of fun and at $59.95, you can't go wrong!  You ladies should definitely get it!  The disco scarf for men feels it should be in the lady's category.  Not too many men can pull that off besides Michael Jackson.  The glove clutch is also a lot of fun.  I love the humor.

Ladies wedges are just so fantastic.  I think the burgundy colored boots are just out of this world.  My understanding is that they are pricey.  Definitely pick a pair up if they go on sale.  I just LOVE men's hightops in this collection.  Both burgundy and white color are standouts for me and at $129 per pair, that's not too bad.  Can't wait to get my hands on them!



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Atelier Crenn

Where can you find the first female chef in US to receive a two Michelin star restaurant?  Well, where else but San Francisco, a foodie town that is only rivaled by NYC in US (in my humble opinion).  I'm so happy for Dominique Crenn.  I remember tasting her food at Luce restaurant at Intercontinental hotel in SF.  The restaurant was not packed at all.  I was a bit surprised since I thought the food was quite good.  It had received one Michelin star for god's sakes!  Then last year, I went to Atelier Crenn.  I just remember the food to be delectable.

The experience of eating there was very unique to say the least.  It felt like I was taken into a story book and going through a journey.... almost like Alice in Wonderland.  Sounds really odd but if you have eaten at this restaurant, I'm sure you would agree with me.  This restaurant doesn't really have a menu per get a poem instead.  And each line of the poem corresponds to a dish.  It's just kinda odd and quirky.  The waiters come and sometimes they squirt scent onto your food in front of you and sometimes they bring you a log (literally a real wooden log with bark attached) with food on top..... and if you get lucky, you may even get a bonsai with your food.  Like I said, it's all very Alice in Wonderland-ish.  Is it over the top? Some may say yes.  But in my eyes, it's just another way for Dominique to express her art.

Atelier Crenn received its second Michelin star yesterday.  I would call and make a reservation ASAP as no doubt their opentable slots are filling up as I type.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lanvin Tiepins/ Stickpins

Did you watch X Factor last week or the week before?  Then you would have seen Nick Jonas.  He was one of the guest judges.  On his jacket, he wore a Lanvin tiepin.

Tiepins pretty much went away as we dress down more and more today.  They were originally worn by wealthy English gentlemen in the early 19th century to keep their tie down.  By late 19th century, ladies start to wear them too with their sporting outfits.  Until 5,6 years ago, you would be hard pressed to see any 20-35 year old men wearing stickpins.  Alas, perhaps it was Chuck Bass of Gossip Girl that brought smoking jackets and stickpins back?  We see them a lot more on fashionable guys these days.

I just love stickpins because putting one on a jacket give the whole ensemble an extra sophistication.  It's kinda like when you have a great looking sofa, you put your favorite pillows on top to dress it up.  Of course you don't need one from Lanvin to give you that extra something something (although I do have a soft spot for them).  Pick one up from a yard sale or just go on Ebay.  They have tons of listings for couple dollars each.  It's a fantastic way to stand out from the crowd.        

Monday, October 22, 2012

Din Tai Feng Restaurant

Where is the best Shanghai dumpling in the US?  Well, I can't imagine any restaurant's dumplings top Din Tai Feng's in Arcadia (near Los Angeles), CA.  Simply put, Din Tai Feng's dumplings should receive at least one Michelin star in terms of their taste.  Actually, the HK branches of Din Tai Feng did received one Michelin star.

The founder, 楊秉彝, is originally from China.  During the Chinese civil war, he immigrated to Taiwan at the young age of 21.  After working for a cooking oil retailer for a decade, he opened one with his wife after his boss' business folded due to bad investment.  At first, his cooking oil retailer was doing well.  But slowly, due to changing habit of the way people purchase cooking oil (bottled), his store's business started to suffer.  To survive, he sold Shanghai dumplings on the side.  His Shanghai dumplings business soon took off.  Smartly, he closed his cooking oil retailer and concentrate on his Shanghai dumplings business.  The store he opened in 1958 in Taipei still exist today.          

I just love love love their dumplings.  The difference between their dumpling versus say Shanghai dumpling at Yang Sing restaurant in SF (which is good) is like comparing Coach bags versus Prada bags.  They are just in different league.  Din Tai Feng's Shanghai dumplings' skin are al dente.  They have a certain fitness to them which most places' don't have.  These Shanghai dumplings also come in crab meat flavor.  A bit unusual to say the least as traditionally, Shanghai dumplings don't contain crab meat.  It would be a toss up for me when compare these two flavors as to which one is my favorite!  Unfortunately, US branches do not carry the black truffle edition of these Shanghai dumplings.  It's a travesty if you ask me!

Din Tai Feng is literally all over the world.  Besides two US branches in Arcadia, there is also one in Seattle.  In addition, you can find these delectable Shanghai dumplings in HK, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea!!      

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Four Seasons Hotel New York

Where does one stays when one travels to Manhattan?  I would highly recommend Four Seasons hotel.  Yes, I know the building and interior of the rooms are somewhat dated.  BUT you can never beat Four Season's level of service.  You can equal it, but not beat it.

I.M. Pei and Frank Williams did the design of the hotel together in 1989.  The hotel was completed in 1993.  As anyone in architecture can tell you, there is fashion in the way a building look too.  And however many ways Four Seasons tries to dress the interior of the building up, the exterior of the building looks 1990s.  It just looks dated.  There is no way around that.  The sleeping quarter inside of the hotel isn't any less dated than the building itself.  Blond wood.  Need I say more?  It's very 1990s.  Another thing about the room is that it only has ONE sink.  I guess they only like businessmen staying there....  The counter is definitely large enough to hold TWO sinks btw.

So after all the complaints, I would still recommend people to stay there???  In a word, yes!  One, you can't beat the location.  It's only a block away from 57th Street and 5th Avenue... or more precisely a block away from Bergdorf Goodman.  Need I say more?  If you are a shopaholic, Four Seasons is the hotel to stay at!  Two, what differentiate a good hotel and a great hotel is service.  You want a pot of hot coffee in your room?  Right away!  But would that coffee pot keep the coffee hot after a few cups?  You bet.  Do they take a picture of your bathroom stuff that you leave out on the counter?  Yes!  How else would they clean your bathroom counter and be able to put everything back EXACTLY the way you arranged them?  It's the attention to this kind of detail that sets the good hotels and great hotels apart.  Third, the rooms are large compare to other hotels in the area.  When square footage is at a premium, especially in NYC, one can certainly appreciate a spacious hotel room that lets you layout and lounge leisurely without feeling claustrophobic.  Lastly, if you like celebrity sightings, you have come to the right place.  While Four Seasons hotel would never divulge who stayed at the hotel, let's just say sightings have included Jay-Z, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Lebron James, to name a few.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Balmain Biker Jeans

Because I know you are dying to find out where Justin Bieber got his jeans in Beauty and A Beat video!  LOL.  Well, you can buy it at Barney's New York!  I love Balmain jeans because they are very rock and roll-ish;  Balmain uses all kind of hand treatments on its jeans which are not found with other brands;  there is definitely a certain look to them but nothing too loud or garish.  

House of Balmain has been around for quite a long time and seen its up and downs through the years.  It was started by Pierre Balmain in 1945.  He actually studied architecture in school although his mother and sister did have a fashion boutique.  He was nominated for a Tony award for Best  Costume Design for musical New Happy Year.  His clothes were worn by celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Vivien Leigh, Josephine Baker, etc..

After he died in 1982, the house was led by his "right hand" Erik Mortensen.  Oscar de la Renta led the house between 1993-2002.  Christophe Decarnin took the reign between 2005-2011.  Instead of using Pierre Balmain, his clothes were simply labeled Balmain.  With French Vogue's fashion editors, assistant editors wearing his clothes about town, Balmain exploded in 2008.  His clothes becomes essentially the best party clothes about town.  That is if you can afford them.  Dresses are basically long t-shirt lengths.  It took a few years for American buyers to catch up because Balmain was just exceedingly expensive.  Today, Balmain is popular with male celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Kayne West,  Zac Efron, Reggie Bush, etc..  Needless to say, tons of female celebrities wear Balmain as well: Kristen Stewart, Beyonce, Jennifer Aniston, Rihanna to name a few.

In 2011, Olivier Rousteing took over as the creative design director because Christophe Decarnin was rumored to suffer a nervous breakdown. 

Friday, October 19, 2012


Finally. Finally Mr Neil M. Denari has his first free standing building built at last!  Gone are the days of additions and interior renovations.  You would think someone of his resume, he was director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture, would have many buildings built by now.

This condo building, next to High Line, is one of the more difficult site for any architect to design building around with.  Not only was the footprint small, almost 2/3 of it was tucked under the now famous High Line, Mr Denari also had to deal with Manhattan zoning issues.  But, alas, he was able to come up with something brilliant.  Essentially the building footprint contract and expand  according to the constraints of the site and zoning code.  There's no doubt in my mind that we will see more of Mr. Denari's building popping up everywhere... perhaps close to his office in Los Angeles!?     

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jeff Koons' Puppy

I remember the first time I saw Jeff Koons' Puppy sculpture.  I heard of that name before but I was not at all familiar with his art.  I just thought the sculpture was oddly kitschy and somehow I really wanted it.  It was priced at $1600 if I remember correctly.  That was a lot of money for me then (and still no pocket change now) so I ended up not buying.  However, every time I went into that shop on Melrose Avenue, I would struggle with the decision: to buy, or not to buy?  I then moved away and the shop has since defunct.  I always wonder where that piece of sculpture went?

Jeff Koons was born in 1955 in York, Pennsylvania.  He studied at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Maryland Institute College of Art.  In 1977, he moved to NYC.  By 1980, he got a license to sell mutual funds and stocks and became a commodities broker at Smith Barney!  He did not abandon his love of art though.  He was making them on the side and by mid 1980s, he rose to prominence.

In 1992, he was commissioned by three art dealers to create a sculpture for Arolsen Castle, Germany.  The result was a 43' tall topiary of a puppy.  In 1995, Puppy was moved to Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney Harbor.  In 1997, the sculpture was purchased by Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and placed next to the famed Frank Gehry designed museum.  Another puppy sculpture was created in 1993 for Peter Brant and Stephanie Seymour's Connecticut estate.

In 1998, Jeff Koons released 3000 editions of miniature version of the sculpture puppy which was the edition I wanted but did not buy.  In 2008, Gagosian Gallery re-released another 3000 edition of the puppy sculpture... this time at a princely sum of $7500.  Can I kick myself now???  One can purchase the original edition at Phillips de Pury auction house.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Target + NM

Here are my thoughts on one of the most anticipated collaboration of the holiday season between NM and Target.

Alice + Olivia Bike... pass...  With $500 price tag, you can be sure it's heading to the sale bin at Target.  If that bike had Gucci or Fendi logo, people will likely snap it up.  But everyday flower patterns?   Not so much.

Alice + Olivia luggage... pass... look cheap in the picture and uninspiring.

Altuzarra drink collection.  Ding ding ding.  The tray actually looks expensive.

Band of Outsiders cookie cutters.  Kinda cute.  Will pick up if I see them at sale end cap at Target.

Band of Outsiders hats.  Again, ok kinda cute.  Will pick up if I see them in sale end cap.

Brian Atwood glove.  I can see this as a more special item for ladies.

Brian Atwood sunglasses remind me of the ones Penny Marshall wears.

Carolina Herrera Stationery Set, I can see this set do well at Target.  Good price point and fun pattern.

Carolina Herrera Travel Bag, again, I can see this set do well at Target.

Derek Lam Skate Board.  It's one of those what was he thinking???  But I want it because it'll look great on a wall in a loft or a teenage boy's room!

Derek Lam Slippers.  Not a stand out but may be a cute gift.

DVF Jewelry Box.  Not a great deal I would say but may be a useful thing to have.  Hope to pick one up from the sale end cap.

DVF Yoga Mat.  I can see lots of ladies going for this.  With a typical yoga mat selling for $20-$30, a DVF one at $50 isn't a huge stretch.

Eddie Borgo stuff.  Who is this guy again?  Most people don't know him.  Look for his stuff at the sale end cap at Target.

Jason Wu girl dresses.  They do look cute and has Jason's sensibility.  I can see it sell well at NM.  Maybe not at Target because price point isn't low enough.

Jason Wu Ornaments.  Again, this is a high price point for Target.  They are actually quite pretty and cheap when compare to typical NM ornaments.  I suspect lots of broken ones at Target sale end cap.

Judith Leiber Compact Mirror.  Again, price point isn't very Target consumer friendly.  I suspect it'll be a great gift stuffer for typical NM shopper but not very touchable at Target.  They will do well in the sale end cap though.

Both Lela Rose's clothes are lovely.  However, I'm worry that the doily top may ended up looking cheap and fall apart easily.  Again, I predict you'll find her stuff at the sale end cap.  Not big enough name to be purchased at full price.

Both items from Marc Jacobs will do well.  They are nothing to write home about.  However, because it's MJ and stamp prominently on the items so they will sell.

I'm very impressed with Marchesa's girl dresses.  Especially the fuchsia one.  I predict they will fly out the door especially at NM.

Oscar de la Renta's pet stuff are not that inspiring but people will buy them because people LOVE their dogs and price is reasonable. 

Oscar de la Renta's tote bag is at a sweet spot for Target consumer.  It will fly out of the store for sure.  Say $129 on Ebay?

Who is Philip Crangi?  Majority of Americans don't know him.  Prices are high for both items.  Target's sale end cap they go!

Prabal Gurung's both items are priced well and have a girly girl look to them.  I think they will sell reasonably well at Target.

Both Proenza Schouler's stuff will do well.  I actually think the print works quite nicely on the ipad sleeve.  Very artistic.  Low price point will mean they will sell quite well at Target.

I think Rag and Bone's cardigan will do well.  Price point is not too high.  Flask and shot glasses are good gift giving price point.  They are one of those things you wouldn't necessarily buy but if someone give that to you as a gift, you are happy to receive them.

Robert Rodriguez.  Both items for ladies will do well.  It's very put together and has a good look to it.  They will sell out.

Unfortunately Rodarte also made an ornament for Target like Jason Wu.  All I have to say is Jason has Rodarte beat.

Rodarte wrapping paper is at a great price point.  It's one of those thing you pick up without thinking how much it cost since it's under $10. 

Skaist-Taylor kid's hat is just plain weird.  Great for Halloween costume but other than that, who would wear that?  Sale end cap.

Skaist-Taylor vest.  I'm not a big fan of fake fur because it looks and feels... fake.  However, at $80 price point, I can see people picking this up at full price.

I've been wanting to pick up this Thom Browne type of jacket for the longest time so I'll definitely buy one.  As for the price point, sold out at NM, not so much at Target.  May be gone from the get go but you will see returns at Target especially after Christmas.  Same with women's version.

Both items from Tory Burch graphically pop compare to other offerings.  With low price point, they will be gone in a NY minute.

I really do like Tracy Reese's plates.  They are good holiday fun.  I'll definitely pick them up.  I think at that price point, it makes a good holiday gift to someone special. 

Tracy Reese's blouse looked good on the model on GMA.  Who knows how well it will translates on a normal body?  May look grandma-ish if not pair with the correct pants and shoes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

de Gournay's Fishes

I rarely ever use wallpaper in my projects but when I do, de Gournay is the choice.  I specifically love the fishes wallpaper.  I love the silver gilded paper that shimmers in light.  It's stunning in person.

The company, base in Kent, England, was founded by Claud Gurney.  One would think he has some kind of arts degree but he actually has a master's degree in Economics from University of Chicago.  He was doing a Chinese room in his London home.  The design bug bit him and out came de Gournay wallpaper.

Every single sheet of wallpaper is hand painted and adjusted to clients need (ie. If you don't like that butterfly there?   Gone.  If you want more bamboo trees over here?  Done).  It takes about eight to ten weeks for the delivery of custom production.  Because everything is custom and hand painted, one can imagine the price tag is not for the faint of heart.  The good thing is one can remove the wallpaper by steaming it and reuse them somewhere else.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Oiseau de Feu Surtout

This fire bird lamp is made by Rene Lalique.  The glass plaque sits on a bronze base with butterflies.  It is one of my favorite Rene Lalique crystal.  This lamp was probably made between 1920s-30s.  It's really more like a sculpture than say lamp since the amount of light radiates from this lamp is too weak to use as anything but decorative.  Colored glass is placed on the bottom of the plaque so the lighting effect can be changed depending on the owner.  Corning museum of glass has one of these lamps.  They can also be purchased at various auction houses such as Sotheby's or Christie's.       

Rene Lalique was born in 1860 and died in 1945.  He actually started off making art nouveau jewelry during his first career.  He was very well known for them at the turn of 1900s.  Unlike his predecessors, he used semi precious stones and glass to make his jewelry which was very avant garde in its day since pretty much the only jewelry that was considered high end then were the ones dripping with diamond and pearls.  Around 1910 he was commissioned to develop commercial perfume bottles which lead him to produce crystal vases that Lalique is known for today.  There are two different types of collectors that collects Lalique crystal.  The more "serious ones" collect pre 1945 Lalique crystals.  Those ones generally has R. Lalique stamped, scripted, or molded on the bottom of the vase.  Post 1945 Lalique crystals are less collectible although there are still plenty of people collect those.  They are just stamped or scripted Lalique on the bottom.  Pre 1945 Lalique pieces also has less lead in the crystal hence the weight and look of the pieces are different than the ones made post 1945.  Many pieces that Rene Lalique designed are still in production today.  Some unscrupulous seller may decide to add a R in front of Lalique and try to pass it off as a pre 1945 piece.  Collector of pre 1945 Lalique crystals should always be very careful because large amount of money could be at stake.  Best thing to do is to purchase them through reputable dealers such as David Weinstein and Paul Stamati.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Floor Mobile Chandelier 5

Need a perfect floor lamp?  Look no further.  Floor Mobile Chandelier 5 by Michael Anastassiades is just that.  Made of black patinated brass and mouth blown glass, this floor light reminds me of a comet; streaking across vast sky.

Native Cypriot, Michael believes in "An object stripped down to the bare essentials is the ultimate expression of beauty."  As if his design needs a stamp of approval, he has also exhibited at Museum of Modern Art and Victoria & Albert Museum.  You can't get any more prestigious than that!  He recently opened a retail store in Waterloo of London.  He also has few things on his online store.   

This floor lamp is perfect for a minimalist interior.  I can see this light next to a Minotti sofa situated in a 19th century Parisian pied-a-terre condo with white lacquered boiserie wall. Perfection.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Crossroads: Van Ness, Santa Monica, Vine, Melrose

When was the last time you see all those streets cross each other?  Obviously these main artery streets of SF and LA never cross.  But what if they did?  What will you find at those corners?

This is a print by Ed Ruscha, one of the foremost American artists alive today.  Born in 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska, Ed moved to Los Angeles in 1956 and lived there ever since.  His subject includes gas stations, logos, signs, freeways, etc..  He is probably most well known for his paintings of Standard gas station.

I like this particular print because I am quite familiar with San Francisco and Los Angeles having lived in one and currently residing in the other.  There has always been somewhat of an unspoken rivalry.  People in Los Angeles think San Franciscans are just pot smoking left wing hippies while people in San Francisco thinks Los Angelenos are a bunch of superficial glamour chasing starving actors and actresses.  But what happens if you jumble both cities together?  What would be at the corner of Van Ness and Melrose?  That's for the viewers to imagine and decide.  This print is available at the venerable Crown Point Press.    

Friday, October 12, 2012

Atelier - Bisque Doll

This house + atelier, located in Osaka, just blew me away when I first saw it in a magazine.  It was finished at the end of 2009 by UID architects in Hiroshima, Japan.  The owner requested for an home + artist studio for doll making / display gallery.  The gallery also need to accommodate sizable number of friend gatherings.  The architects went to work and decided to have the public space facing the main street while locating the private space in the back.  They decided to use glass to blur the boundary between garden and interior of the house.  Instead of  enclosing the exterior with a typical wall from ground up, UID architects decided to let the neighbors gardens "join"owner's own garden visually by cantilevering and minimizing exterior wall.  The effect was brilliant.  Inside of the house blends with outside garden which blends with neighbor's garden.

Visually speaking, the house just looks light, airy, clean, and simple.  I love the humorous "half front door".  Given the Japanese culture, you are not likely to see people doing conga line into the garden.  Although I would have to say if I'm in Osaka, there is no guarantee that I won't be ducking that wall into this brilliantly designed house!  LOL.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cyrus Restaurant

Douglas Keane, the chef and owner, won numerous awards for this restaurants: the James Beard Award for Pacific region in 2009, top chef by Food and Wine magazine in 2006, etc...  Cyrus also has coveted two Michelin Stars.  However, I'm sad to say that despite all the raving reviews, Cyrus Restaurant is closing at the end of this month.  It'll be the end of luxury dinning in Healdsburg, CA.  The reason for closure is that the restaurant is actually renting its space from Les Mars, a Relais & Chateaux hotel.  Les Mars need Cyrus to provide breakfast and lunch for hotel guests but Cyrus is only open for dinner.  So one is staying at a luxury boutique hotel with stale croissant in the morning....  As you can imagine, there are so many competitions for hotel dollars especially in wine country, Les Mars cannot afford to operate without a kitchen and charge $500-$1000/ night price tag.  So something had to give.  In the end, Les Mars prevailed.  As of today, Douglas Keane has not announced his future plan after closure of Cyrus.

But enough of the gossip, let's talk about food.  Given the number of courses that Cyrus serves for its tasting menu, the price is actually very reasonable especially compare to French Laundry, a three star Michelin restaurant.  One of my favorite dish is the deconstructed BLT, Cyrus style.  What chef Keane did was he braised romaine lettuce leaves and immersed them in a dashi bacon broth with confit of tomato.  It was complex and yummy; the broth was earthy and tomato was bright.... a perfect balance.  I really enjoy the creativity that goes into these kind of dishes.  The only disparaging thing I have to say about the restaurant is the decor.  It felt like a space that desperately wants to look like it was expensively done but fell very short in the end... I would almost use the word tacky.  I hope chef Keane hires the designer who did Redd restaurant next time; the space is simple, elegant and classy.  Food at Redd is another story though.....

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sloane Glitter Smoking Slipper

Not too many retail stores have marked their existence in the US for 111 years.  I have to give credit to Bergdorf Goodman for standing tall amount luxury retail giants through all these years; it is still THE grand dame of them all.  Popular culture has been referencing Bergdorf forever.  For example, in the 1953 movie, How to Marry a Millionaire, Schatze Page said to Loco Dempsey, "Next thing you got to remember is the gentlemen you meet at the cold cuts counter may not be as attractive as the one you meet in the mink department at Bergdorf's."  Another more recent reference can be found in Sex in the City 2 movie where the girls met at the entrance of the store. 

To memorialize this momentous occasion, various top designers have designed specialty items to celebrate the longevity of Bergdorf Goodman.  Of course Jimmy Choo was one of the brand that was selected to create something for the anniversary collection.  Tamara Mellon, owner and creative director for Jimmy Choo, came up with Sloane Glitter Smoking Slippers.  These slippers actually come in black and silver.  But to purchase purple ones, signature Bergdorf Goodman color, you can only get them at BG.  The style of the slipper is actually very Brad Goreski-ish to me.  I seem to remember him having the black version from last season?  Anyway obviously these glittering purple shoes aren't for everyone.  It definitely takes some gut for a guy to wear them if you are not a celebrity.  But hey, if you are looking for attention, these puppies definitely will get it for you.  The shoe shape is very classic with leather sole.  I actually tried a pair on and they are quite comfortable.  Be aware that production for them is very limited.  I believe only two per size were ever put onto BG website.   So if you are one of those guys who collect rare shoes, these slippers may be good ones to buy.  With holiday season coming up, they are perfect for a man about town.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Badminton Bed

Well, not everything I post will be ultra modern.  Sometimes I think a well made 18th century furniture can be strategically tied in with a modern interior to create an interesting dialogue.  The Badminton Bed, while not for sale, is one such object. 

This bed has been exhibited at Victoria & Albert Museum in London since 1921.  It was commissioned by the 4th Duke of Beaufort’s wife in 1754.  At that time, Chinoiserie was all the rage in Europe.  It didn't matter if the style was Japanese or Chinese.  It was all lumped together and called Chinoiserie.  The Duchess had the great cabinet maker John Linnell designed and made the bed for her as well as mirrors and chairs.  The bed looks like it was made of lacquered but in reality, the technique used is called Japanned (which is basically pigmented varnished that was build up). 

I like the bed for its whimsical element.  The dragons at the tip of the canopy are just so much fun.  I'm sure John Linnell must had a blast designing this's almost like people in the 1950s designing futuristic furniture; you just let your imagination go wild.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ciclotte Bike

Picture this: You have a sleek condo in a big city and you love to bike.  But sometimes work get in the way and you can't make it to a gym.  So you thought about getting a exercise bike.  But man, all the stationary bikes out there just look butt ugly.  You would love it if you can find something that look modern, sculptural, and cool enough that you can put it in your living room and it doesn't look like an eye sore.  Well, here it is... Ciclotte stationary bike is just THAT bike.

This amazing bike is designed by Luca Schieppati who has a degree in industrial design from Polytechnic of Milan.  Currently he is a professor at the European Design Institute (IED Moda Lab).  Cicolette come in three different standard colors: black, silver, and fascia.  There is even a marine version where the bike can withstand humidity and sea salt...perfect for your yacht or seaside vacation home!  Ciclotte is made in Italy.  With something this cool looking, it also comes with a hefty price tag.  You can find more info here.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Maxxi Museum

I have been a fan of Zaha Hadid for the longest time.  So when I went to Rome couple years ago, I made sure I went to the Maxxi!  I got there on a Monday and the museum had only been operational for a few days....I was rather worried that it would be mobbed with architectural students and Zahad fanboys/girls.  While it wasn't cricket sound, there were a lot less people than I anticipated. 

The building is located in the Flaminio neighborhood of Rome; far away from the touristy stuff which is good or bad depending on one's perspective.  The museum hosts a modern art collection; kinda like MOMA in NYC except the art holding isn't really on par with MOMA.  But then again, which museum is?  It also has an area that is specifically for architecture (kinda like MOMA too!  LOL). 

The museum itself is quite interesting in terms of layout and space allocation.  Atrium part of the museum had tons of black stair circulation space; very reminiscent of Zaha's earlier drawings (when she was a paper architect).  In fact, not only the circulation space feels like her drawings, but from ceiling to gallery space allocation is also a translation of her oblong tubes intersecting with each other.  Not the easiest thing to pull off.  Much congrats to her amazing effort.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Keeper's Light

This gorgeous desk lamp is by artisan Alison Berger.  She was trained as an architect and received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and continued her studies at Columbia University's School of Architecture.  She turned into a glass designer full time in 1995.  She was the first contemporary glass designer to use of a clear, filament bulb within a clear crystal silhouette which is extremely popular these days especially in restaurant design. 

I love this desk light because it has a very calming and elegant look to it.  It's one of the lamp that can work with a Louis XVI desk or a Nelson Swag Leg Desk effortlessly.  It's timeless and has a beautiful hand-made quality that you don't see much of these days. 

All her pieces are done by hand without usage of molds or form constraints and she personally inspects and signs every piece.  Therefore each fixture and object she makes are unique due to the organic nature of glass.  Of course this kind of attention to detail and slow making process comes at a price.  Her pieces are available at Plug Lighting and Holly Hunt showrooms.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cris Clock

This is one of the coolest wall clock out there.  I just love the clean line and minimal suggestion of a wall clock.  It has a masonic look to it; almost like a right triangle straight edge and an arrow.  This clock will work fabulously with a modern loft space or a cool start up office.  Retails for $558 but currently on sale at TouchofModern for $390.  Even at full retail price, it's quite reasonable given the impact it can make to a room.  And of course at $390, it's practically a good deal.


This clock is on sale again at TouchofModern for $390.  Get it while supply lasts.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Heaven on earth = Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.  It's just that simple.  This resort is simply marvelous.  Accommodations are top notch.  Service is fantastic.  Location cannot be beat.  Food is delectable.  Hands down this resort is the best on the Big Island.  And according to TripAdvisor, it is voted not only the  number one hotel on the Big Island, but is also included in the top 25 best hotels in US. 

If you can, stay at the rooms around King's Pond.  It's on the edge of the resort so a bit more isolated and quieter than, say, rooms near kids' pool.  King's Pond is basically Four Season's own snorkeling pool.  They provide gear for you and you get to swim with various fishes including a sting ray looking thing.  There is an option of staying on the second floor or ground floor.  Obviously when staying on the second floor you don't have someone above you which is usually a plus.  But in this case, not necessarily true because when you stay on the ground floor, you get an outdoor lava shower.... and being a Four Seasons hotel, you can be sure insulation is thick enough that you will not hear your upstairs neighbors.

If you are an avid gym goer, Four Seasons Hualalai has you covered.  Tons of free weights and machines.  The best part of the gym is the surrounding foliage.... definitely a departure from your everyday gym.

Overall this really is one of the best resorts one can stay at.  No wonder celebrities like Santana, Leonardo DiCaprio, Courtney Cox, Nancy Pelosi, Cameron Diaz, etc. etc.  flock here.  These people have all the money in the world and they decide to vacation at Four Seasons Hualalai... enough said.      

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mr Wink Cosmo Ball

This sculpture is, by famed Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, called Mr Wink/ Cosmo Ball.  There are 3,000 of them out there.  They were given away as Christmas gifts in 2000 by the Peter Norton Family.

Since 1988, Norton Family have been sending out limited edition art projects to family and friends.  These limited edition art pieces range from doll houses (complete with miniature furniture) to chipped distorted tea cups.  My favorite one is.. drum roll please...  Murakami's Cosmo Ball!  It really is the most whimsical of the bunch.  It even comes with a CD by the band Zak Yumiko inside the ball.  You get to look, touch, and hear.  How cool is that?  On top of everything else, as Murakami's fame grows, so does the value of the sculpture.  One was sold at Phillips de Pury Auction house for $24,000!!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Moncler R Scar Gilet

Moncler hired an up and coming British fashion designer Christopher Raeburn for its Moncler R line.  According to Moncler's own website: Moncler R is a total look collection that draws its colours from the archetypal outdoor military palette: olive green, khaki, white and black are lightened with contrasting hints of sky-blue. Unusual combinations of materials such as technical wools and closed-knit cotton fabrics bring an unexpected but functional cohesion to the collection.

For me, I just love the versatility of the gilet/vest.  The hood can be taken off for a less luxurious look but heck, why would anyone want to take it off in the first place!  The khaki/ light bronze color fabric has a beautiful sheen to it which makes the gilet look dressier than say a typical Moncler vest.  The diamond pattern looks really cool and the zipper in the front is unique to Moncler R line.  These zippers are made by riri (the best zippers in the world are made by riri according to a fashion designer friend).  The vest also comes in black.  There is an added bonus of Moncler goose puppet that also comes with all Moncler R clothes.  The puppet/doll comes in either military green or sky blue.  Apparently they produced very limited number of Moncler R stuff so get them while you can.  Available at Atrium in NYC as well as End in UK.