28 January 2008

maison21 loves a bargain (on a chic chinoiserie stool)

found this fantastic looking stool on for $116.99 + $2.95 shipping! yes, it's from china, so it's undoubtedly made by political prisoners using wood from an endangered species, but hey- it looks good!

26 January 2008

guest blogger gots game

so my daddy let me guest blog for him last week, and i guess i was really popular, because one of the comments i got was this one from all things bright and beautiful:

Mona - You've been tagged on my post yesterday - (By DY - who's also in the doghouse!)

Hope you'll come out and play :-)

You just have to tell us 7 things about you that you think we would like to know (that you haven't already told us about yourself)

Then you have to tag 7 more bloggers

now my daddy says he probably would never play such a game- he says it sounds too much like a chain letter (whatever that is), but they asked me, not him, and i think tag sounds like it involves chasing things, and i like to chase stuff, so i want to play!

so here's my 7 things:
  1. the only food in the world i don't really like is lettuce- why eat that, when the grass in the yard has more flavor? unless of course it has dressing on it, then it's salad and it's yummy!
  2. i'm basically sweet and nice and get along with everybody- except for stanley the big, dumb standard poodle from down the block. for some reason i just can't help myself when he's around and love to bully him. maybe it's because he's so dumb he doesn't even realize i'm the boss! i think maybe i'll marry him someday and boss him around forever.
  3. my first language isn't english, it's corgilese. it's a complex welsh dialect consisting of lots of "rooooorooooooooos" and "wooowooooos" and "boooofs" (spoken under the breath). lots of body language is involved too (like italian), including spinning in circles and stamping my feet. i tend to lapse into corgilese when i get excited, like right before dinner or when a toy is involved.
  4. i fart in my sleep. a lot.
  5. puppies scare me. they are unpredictable and they move too fast. same for babies and toddlers, so i keep my distance ('cept for when they are eating- they have deliciously poor hand-eye coordination, so if there is food involved, i stick to them like glue).
  6. i love a car ride. i'll get into any car, anywhere, anytime. let's go!
  7. my dad says my brother, richard the cat, is not allowed to have nice toys because of me. i say whats the fun of a toy if you can't shred it into tiny pieces in the first 30 seconds? i like to pull out the squeaker first, then spend 10 minutes pulling out all the stuffing, making a big mess in the process. when i go visit my doggy friends at their houses, my dad has to keep an eye on me to make sure i don't destroy their favorite squeaky toys, too. 'cause i will, if i get the chance!
'kay, that's my 7 things, so now i have to pick some other blogger's doggies and kitties (and my dad says sorry, and he understands if their humans decline to participate). i pick:

bonnie, my fellow corgi from more ways to waste time

costa and rica, studio annetta's felines

connor from pig*town design

newly discovered blog, design snitch and trinity

and doggie who's name i don't know at pve design

i don't think that's 7, but i'm just a dog and don't know how to count to seven anyway. besides, i don't know any other blogger doggies and kitties! but if you are out there and would like to participate, please do!


ps- i'm still waiting for treats!

24 January 2008

i ♥ lucite: maison21 explains the care and feeding of one of his favorite materials

maison21 loves lucite- loves, loves, loves! after reading a couple great posts lately regarding lucite furniture and accessories from fellow bloggers alkemie and absolutely beautiful things, maison21 thought he'd share a little lucite lore of his own with y'all.

the first post miason21 was inspired by was "sources for lucite furniture" from the san francisco-based blog alkemie- if you haven't been to her blog, go read up on the sources she's listed for the lucite and then read her gorgeous and hunger-making series of posts on french pastry maker, ladureé,. be sure to visit this week, as one of my favorite blogging friends, the delightfully colorful and upbeat, all things bright and beautiful is guest blogging from hong kong!

maison21's second inspirational post was from the well established down-under design blog, absolutely beautiful things. one of the first design blogs maison21 started reading, and one of the inspirations for starting a blog of his very own. anna from abt posted this great oversized, monogrammed lucite graphic tray from iomoi (pic is from abt). proving that great design minds think alike, maison21 was all set to order one of these trays (the smaller, cheaper version, mind you) as a christmas gift for a friend but at the last moment switched instead to this modernist lucite dog bowl feeder from everyday studios in san francisco, purchased via supermarket (i realized the tray is more my house, the feeder more the style of my friend's home).

lucite is such a beautiful and versatile material, with incredible optical properties, but a material that is surprisingly fragile when one considers it's a form of plastic. it is one of maison21's absolute favorite ways to add a little shine and glam to a room without overwhelming it with sparkle (you know like with a bedazzled zebra figurine). over the years maison21 has owned (and sold) more lucite than he can remember, and had both success and heartbreak in trying to bring neglected pieces back to life. now, it's time to pass on some of that knowledge to you, grasshopper...

as stated, lucite is plastic and the name "lucite" is actually a trade name, owned by dupont- the generic term is acrylic and the technical name is "polymethylmethacrylate". even though lucite is a trade name, as a term it's pretty much interchangeable with acrylic, and we definitely prefer to use the term "lucite"- it sounds more a little more upmarket than "acrylic", which sounds to us like a badly pilled 70's knit sweater. if you want to sound all fancy and english like madonna, you can call lucite "perspex", the trade name from across the pond.

the chemical compound lucite is compsed of, was discovered in 1928 (wikipedia) and brought to the market in the early 1930's which is why you'll see it first used in deco and moderne pieces from that era. of course lucite's use as a decor material really took off with the forward thinking designs of the 60's and 70's, and some of the many designers that used the material extensively during that period are dorothy thorpe, neal small, charles hollis jones and karl springer. (links are to 1stdibs for more examples of their work)

dorothy thorpe candlesticks sold by maison21

neal small tables at treadway-toomey aucitons

charles-hollis jones table sold by maison21

springer lamp at lobel modern on 1stdibs

as mentioned, lucite is a somewhat delicate material, and care should be exercised in use and in cleaning. household cleaners like windex shouldn't be used as they can cause surface crazing. "crazing" is a series of hairline cracks to the material. they are especially visible when struck by strong light but can't be felt on the surface, and often can develop deep inside the material. they can't be polished out, even when they appear to be near surface. besides chemical cleaners, crazing is most often caused by extremes in temperature, so try to avoid exposing your lucite to heat. extreme heat can also sometimes cause the lucite to turn cloudy, another condition for which there is no cure. note- the same optical qualities that make lucite so pretty can cause it to heat up when left in direct sunlight for prolonged periods, so keep that in mind in hot climes. below is a lucite ice bucket from maison21's personal collection with some severe crazing to bottom portion- maison21 isn't sure how damage occurred as he acquired it in that condition, but he assumes it was used for it's intended purpose, holding ice, then immediately rinsed in hot water causing the frost like crazing (actually the most extreme example i've ever seen- which makes it kind of cool!). lucite is still quite usuable and pretty when crazed or clouded, but one should be aware that is not it's original state- don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

so how do you clean lucite if you can't use cleaners or hot water? mild dish soap with cold or lukewarm water does the trick, along with a clean, soft cloth or sponge-. NEVER use a scrubby sponge as you will scratch the lucite badly. if the item is really dirty, rinse it under running water first to remove any dirt particles before wiping with cloth or sponge, because if there gritty particles on the lucite while wiping, you will scratch it.
there are also commercial sprays available to clean lucite- one of maison21 favorites is called "brillianize" and you can order it direct from their website, or some hardware stores carry it as well. maison21, being a big ol' ebay hag, likes to buy his from follow sellers there. it's really the best way to keep your lucite looking new and fabulous.

if you don't want to invest in a special product to make your lucite shiny, a cheap and easy way to shine up dull lucite is with a regular car wax, like turtlewax- just buff with a soft cloth and you'll be amazed at how good even the dullest acrylic will look. turtlewax has an advantage over brillianize in that it can remove faint scratches as well. the disadvantage as that sometimes it can leave a bit of a haze, visible in certain lights.

if lucite has sticky residue, like from a price tag, nail polish remover will remove it quickly and easily.

now if lucite is not just dirty, but is scratched as well, the solution is another commercial product called "novus 1-2-3". novus is a three step system: 3 for heavier scratches, 2 for fine scratches, and 1 for general cleaning (1 seems to be very much the same as brillianize). once again, you can order these from the company's own website, or get them off ebay. to buy them locally, you'd need to go to a specialty plastic store (maison21 goes to hasting's plastic in santa monica). the novus products produce remarkable results on even the most scratched up lucite- just follow the directions, and you'll be pleased with how new your item looks. and while it can't remove deep scratches, novus will at least polish up those scratches, reducing their visibility- the below sculptural vintage bowl was in pretty bad shape when maison21 found it, but looked rather amazing after a little novus and a lot of elbow grease! for really deep scratches, you can use use 600 grit sand paper followed by a buffing compound applied with a buffing wheel, but that's waaaaayyy too DIY for maison21- he just isn't that butch of a lesbian (no offense meant to my sapphic sisters- you girls know you are naturally good at stuff like that). maison21's advice is that if the lucite is that messed up, send it to a professional!
now maison21 is sure he isn't the only one with a lucite obsession- would anyone else care to share photos of their favorite lucite objets d'amor? (and link, if applicable)- he'll post a follow up post with pictures if enough of his threes of readers care to respond...

also, if you try any of m21's tips, email to let m21 know how much you love the results! or if you need further advice, maison21 is happy to help!

22 January 2008

maison21 is totally 80's (on the inside, where it's nostalgic, not on the outside, where it's just icky)

maison21 makes no secret about the fact he is totally 80's- i mean hello!, my blog is named after an adam ant song (see my sidebar if you have no idea what i'm referring to). don't worry- i'm not still rocking big hair and shoulder pads, i'm referring to more of an internal thing - my aesthetics and cultural references were shaped during that era and while much of it looks ridiculous these days (watch a television show from the era like dynasty or growing pains, and you'll see what i mean), but some things from the 80's are still looking remarkably good- at least to this middle aged design queen.

my first apartment was decorated in wannabe memphis, and i'd still kill for an ettore sottsass carlton room divider (image: metropolitan museum) or other my other favorite sottsass designed piece, the mobile giallo cabinet (image via architonic- who listed an estimate of $25,000-30,000 for the cabinet, and this was well before mr. sottsass' recent passing). maison21 couldn't afford a sottsass memphis piece when it was originally released, and he certainly can't afford it now that it's increased so greatly in value, but if he could, he would love to have a piece or two in his current decor (too bad i threw out my 80's memphis knock-off furniture a long time ago- i'd definitely work a few of them again now).
all kinds of other late 70's- early 80's design is looking remarkably fresh to maison21- he is loving a mix of pieces by the likes of sally sirkin lewis, willy rizzo, karl springer (particularly his tesselated stone pieces like the one below from robert masselo, miami, via 1stdibs), and a host of lesser remembered designers, placed alongside traditional antiques (particularly empire, federal and egyptian revival styles as well as maison21's beloved chinois). contemporary pieces are inportant to the mix too, so as not to get all "period" or theme-y. we wouldn't want it to look like alexis and crystal are going to walk in any second- that would be ridiculous!

even more so than with interior design, maison21 is shocked and amazed at how fashion from over 25 years ago is still influencing the styles of today (not all fashion is still being echoed in today's looks, thank god- no one wants harem pants and headbands to be come back anytime soon!).

this last summer, maison21 and two of his closest friends took a road trip to san francisco to see the vivienne westwood retrospective at the de young museum. if you haven't seen the de young since it was redesigned by herzog & de meuron and reopened in 2005, it's worth a visit- a truly stunning building with a starkly beautiful perforated copper skin (image courtesy of thomas mayer_archives). and of course, if for no other reason, san francisco is always worth a visit for the amazing roast chicken at zuni cafe. zuni is a true restaurant classic, still going strong almost 30 years after it's 1979 opening, making it- yes, you guessed it- an 80's classic! their roast chicken is such a culinary classic, maison21 has been ordering the same meal virtually every time he's been to zuni since his first visit over 20 uears ago: oysters on the half shell (with a martini, of course), followed by zuni's classic anchovy-laden caesar salad and then his most favoritist dish in the whole wide world, that amazing roast chicken- i'm tempted to book a flight north right now, just thinking about it!

anyway, back to viv: the exhibition, which originated at the victoria and albert museum in london in 2004, then traveled the world before ending up in san francisco this past summer, was absolutely wonderful. the growth of vivienne westwood as an artist and designer was clearly illustrated by the massive retrospective- from her silk screened tee's and safety pins to later couture gowns, all the while touching on the same recurring themes of subverting historical traditions, and literally revisiting the same tailoring techniques in new ways for 30 years. her designs are a truly works of art, and when collected in one space, the obvious influence she's had on fashion over the same period of time becomes overwhelming. without dame vivienne, we would have no john galliano spectacle, and no rock n roll meets fashion vibe ala versace, et al (whom she influenced in spirit more than in fashion, as versace's actual clothes probably owe more to liberace than the talented ms. westwood). and i mean, heck, who ever thought that bondage pants (a westwood invention) would become a fashion staple available at any american mall in hot topic stores, some 30 years later?

westwood is a true visionary, and a tremendous influence on maison21's own aesthetic. if you weren't able to check out this great exhibition, go visit her website or that of v&a exhihibit via the above links- you be glad you did. maison21 was so moved by the exhibition, he actually got a little choked-up viewing her early 80's collections like "pirates" and "witches", and now that he's discovered that the rug company has a vivienne westwood collection, he's determined to someday design a room around the "squiggle orange" rug, based on the legendary prints used in dame vivienne's landmark 1981 "pirates" collection. see, the 80's are still influencing design today!

this little trip down 80's memory lane was inspired by not so much by maison21's near constant blasting of the 80's hits (loving the lush sounds of work produced by trevor horn such as the lexicon of love by abc or grace jones' slave to the rhythm) but rather by a recent visit to the house of beauty and culture blog. HOBAC had a video clip of of the incredible stylist and performance artist, leigh bowery, and while maison21 had admired leigh's work via photos since the 80's, m21 had never actually seen any of mr. bowery's œuvre on video before and it was a treat. HOBAC summed leigh up thusly, and maison21 couldn't say it better hisownself: "A creative genius beyond compare that never ceased to amaze or to inspire."

so m21 did a little googling and discovered lots more leigh bowery videos on a website dedicated to his memory, (where all the photos of him used on this post are pulled from). leigh bowery was an artist whose canvas was his body, and like vivienne westwood, his influence on fashion to this day is huge. what's even more amazing, is that leigh is basically just a club kid, who through his own creativity turned his life into something more extraordinary, albeit for very brief period of time, having passed away at 33 in 1994.

i'm sure in england, leigh is still remembered, but here in america, he isn't really even forgotten- more like never known at all. (though, i suppose after the short lived run of the taboo musical on broadway, a few more people might have been exposed to his genius). maison21 strongly suggests that if you don't know who leigh bowery is, you visit his website to acquaint yourself with his body of work. the images there are sometimes amusing, sometimes disturbing but always original and you'll get first-hand visuals on how influential this little known icon was. nowadays, we don't blink an eye at an avant garde fashion designer sending models down the runway with their heads fully covered or in clothes that dramatically distort the shape of their bodies, but look at the work of leigh from 25 years ago and tell m21 where you think those designers are getting these crazy "new" ideas from? without leigh (and viv), i doubt anyone would have ever heard of alexander mcqueen, and leigh's influence is seen by moi in the works of many others over the years, like viktor & rolf or nicholas ghesquiere. color maison21 crazy, but all jennifer connolly needs (wearing ghesquire for balenciaga) is a mask and a german army helmet, and poof!- she's leigh bowery!

now, since the title of this blog is "decorative not serious", we'd like to leave you with a lighter look at style in the 80's via the hysterically dated and funny brenda dickison video "welcome to my home", parts 1 and 2. 20 minutes of pure, unadulterated camp- yes, the 80's were kinda scary sometimes too...

18 January 2008

will you still love me? (maison21 apologizes to his adoring fans- all 3 of you- and invites a guest blogger to post for him)

my daddy apologies for his lack of posts this week- he has been very busy but promises me that he's working on new material. so i thought i'd tell you about my week!

mostly it was same old, same old. slept a lot. worked my cuteness so i got lots of treats and belly rubs (never enough, though. can't these humans see how starved i am?). had some fun times chasing my little brother, richard the cat (fun, except for when HE starts it at 4 in the morning! he's SO immature sometimes). got in some good walks, and saw a squirrel up close 'til he ran up a palm tree. that was exciting, and i had to check that same spot for the next few days in case he came back!

wednesday, while my daddy had lunch with a new fun friend and got a sneak peek at some building under construction or something (he says he's not allowed to tell who's building it was but that it was FABULOUS and you will all see it soon enough in a national publication), i had a spa day at pour la pooch, where i got my hair and nails done. gia, the owner lady, is really, really sweet and gives me lots and lots of chicken treats. i almost don't mind going! almost.

aren't i pretty now, though? after i come home from pour la pooch with my new haircut, people actually ask me if i'm a puppy! don't you wish you could have a haircut that took 10 years off your age? i smell real nice when i come home, too- i think i
always smell real nice but my dad calls me "stinky" a lot. silly humans, they just don't stop to smell the roses (btw, roses, or any other plant, smell best if they were just peed on by another doggie).

ok, i have to go take a nap now, because my dad is doing more boring work stuff. he needs to get out more (i mean outside... with me!)



send treats- i'm starving here!

10 January 2008

faking it (in an artful way)

recently, the fab design blog desire to inspire had a post on the amazing work of photographer jen fong. like kim over at desire, maison21 was struck not only by the beauty of jen's images, but by the incredible art work in many of the photos, like the following three examples:

aren't those rooms gorgeous? but if you were to subtract the artwork from them, they would look a little sterile and bland. maison21 loves big, dramatic art in every room, but he realizes that not everyone can afford a morris louis or robert motherwell (he doesn't know who did the work in the first photo, but it sure is purty), so today he thought he'd talk about art in interiors- on every budget, including the most common budget of all: none.

abstract art is maison21's favorite form- it adds color and sophistication to any style of decor, even the most traditional. maison21 loves a bold modern work hung above an important antique- for some reason it makes him think of peggy guggenheim and her ancient palazzo filled with modern masterpieces- although her furniture was pretty modern too, so i guess that's not the best analogy, but the point it is, that art- any style- finishes your room, and modern art can make even a traditional room feel less like a museum recreation of a particular period, but more of it's own time.

when buying art, the most important factor in your selection is that you buy work you love. you are going to live with it after all, so even more than the furnishings you pick, it needs to speak to your soul. you don't need to understand the layers of meaning the artist is incorporating into the work (maison21 never does), just respond to the work on some level- even if you just think it's real purty.

maison21's second rule is buy big. not big as in big price tag , but big as in size- get the largest work you can afford (and will still fit in your room). now, big as in price tag is a plus, if you can afford it- if you've read my prior posts you'll know maison21 himself is saving up to buy a jeff koons' bunny if one ever comes up for auction. his goal is to have 50 million dollars in liquid assets on hand, should one become available- only $49,998,734.39 to go! but i digress- generally, a larger artwork should take priority over a smaller, pricy piece when buying your first pieces of art for the home- a tiny picasso pencil drawing is great, but it would look silly as a focal point above your living room sofa...

third rule is buy real. not necessarily real, as in "real important art", but real, as in not a print from ikea. that ikea print is fine for your dorm room when you are 18, but for a real adult, living in a real apartment or home, it's real sad. so if you have that ikea print hanging in your home, it's o.k. to work it for now, but start thinking about "real" alternatives- you won't believe the difference it will make in your decor.

there are all kinds of places to get "real" art on an ikea budget- maison21's favorites include the usual: swapmeets, consignment stores and vintage shops; there are great original pieces available on ebay or if your budget is a little bigger, a local fine art gallery. one of the most rewarding places to buy original art is at student exhibitions at your local colleges. just think, you are contributing to the development of the next generation of great artists by doing this and it makes you a real art patron- just like peggy! simply call your local college's art department and ask when their next student sale is- almost all art departments have them, usually at the end of each semester. maison21 and his friends have all scored great works at these sales, so give it a try.

maison21's last rule is more of an addendum to his third rule- if you can't afford to buy real, then fake it. yes, fake it as in "do-it-yourself", just like those hideous art projects you see on shows like "trading spaces"! now i know you say you can't make your own art- since you don't have an artistic bone in your body, your attempt will turn out worse than anything you've seen on "trading spaces", but maison21 is going to show you a couple examples of DIY art that anybody can do. even you. for real!

first example of maison21's DIY masterpieces is a jackson pollock inspired action painting. this piece of fake art is fast, and it's really, really fun too!

years ago, m21 sold a beautiful vintage painting that hung in his living room, and didn't want a blank space staring him in the face until he found something good to replace it, so m21 went to his local thrift shop and purchased a big, old framed seascape painting (from the hotel/motel school of art), and inspired by watching ed harris in "pollock" the night before, decided to create an action painting of his very own.

first, i removed the print from the frame, and after spreading a drop cloth in my yard, primed the printed canvas with leftover interior house paint primer (tinted gray, in this case). the primer is important as it provides both the background of your artwork and allows the paint to stick to the original painted surface of the canvas. then, i simply splattered on paint (again, house paints leftover from a variety of projects) onto the canvas, allowing the paint to dry somewhat between colors. if you don't have leftover house paint lying around, buy some custom mixed rejects from the paint store for cheap. i found that a palette of blacks, whites and neutrals accented by a bright color or two works best as opposed to all bright colors which can end up looking rather garish. i used a variety of implements to layer on my paint so the drips would be of varied size- a stir stick, a brush, and a plastic fork, knife and spoon. move around the canvas as you splatter too- it is action painting after all. again, watch ed for proper technique.

while waiting for the paint to dry on your masterpiece, you can work on painting the frame (the frame is vital in order to make this project look like "art"- without it, it really looks like the crap on "trading spaces". this should be another m21 art rule: frame it- even the most dubious of paintings can be made to look important in a good frame. first, i used a black primer spray paint on the frame, followed by a finish coat of satin black (again, a leftover) applied with a foam brush for a smooth, no brush strokes effect, but spray paint alone will work just fine, especially on ornate frames which will hide the drip and uneven surfaces often left by sprays. this being a quick project, i painted the linen matte border between painting and frame too, and i think it looks just fine. a linen border can sometimes give a dated look to a painting, anyway.

voila! you've made a masterpiece in an afternoon! hang your art in a prominent spot, preferably above an important piece of furniture, and now you are both peggy guggenheim and jackson pollock!

maison21's next bit of DIY art is a bit more complicated, but still essentially foolproof, even for those of you who say you can't draw a straight line. maison21 has news for you- you can draw a straight line! use a ruler!

originally, i thought of writing this post back in november, when the los angeles times had an article about an exhibition entitled "las vegas diaspora" at the las vegas museum of art, which featured the below painting as it's lead image. the brightly striped reminded me of another DIY art project maison21 had attempted a while back- inspired not by the "vegas diaspora" exhibit (it was still in the future) but rather inspired by maison21's then favorite paul smith shirt!

for his bathroom, maison21 needed a big, bright painting to draw your eyes away from the hideous original peach and banana colored tiles, yet somehow tie the whole bath together. maison21 matched the peach as close as he could on a paint color chip, then he took the deepest, most saturated hue from the same family on the chip and had it mixed up at the paint store. with a roller, he then painted a long narrow canvas entirely with that color and after it was dry, maison21 drew a series of pencil lines on with a yardstick at irregular intervals- similar to his paul smith shirt inspriation.

now here's were it gets a bit tedious (simple, but tedious)- m21 taped off some of the pencil lines with painter's tape and used a trim roller to apply stripes of brightly colored acrylic paint (for smaller stripes, a foam brush was used). any colors you like will work for this project- the more contrast-y the better, and i purchased the cheapest brand of acrylic paint available at the art store. two, sometimes three coats were applied, depending on the coverage of the color. it's important to let the paint dry between coats, as well as before you peel the tape off, so this is NOT a quick project. repeat process with several different colors, one color at a time, until you get the end effect you want (remember to leave some of your background color showing). you'll probably have to do a few touch-ups at the end to correct paint seepage under the tape, but that's all there is to this DIY "masterpiece". simple and cheap, but a little time consuming.

maison21 thought the painting turned out kind of cool in the end, and to my bestest buddies, andy and marly, to whom i each promised a version of this painting, if you're reading this, i'm still working on them, i swear!

thus concludes today's post on the importance of art in interiors- even if you have to fake it! if any of you are brave enough to attempt (or have already attempted) a masterpiece of your own, maison21 would love to see the results!

08 January 2008

perfect bench

one of maison21's favorite decorating tricks is to include a pair of benches or ottomans whenever possible- in living rooms by the fireplace, in entry halls tucked under a console or in bedrooms at the foot of the bed- they are versatile, portable seating, and work well as an alternative to a chair where space is short or a view would be blocked. chic and interesting versions can also be quite hard to find, so maison21 thought he'd share this perfect bench recently spotted at jayson home and garden website (based in chicago). love the finish and the fabric, so this little guy is ready to buy and use as is! neta bench, $895.00.

05 January 2008

come see comme ça!

maison21 is certainly glad he overcame his fear of weather and braved the elements (stormwatch!) to join my brother and his lovely wife for an early dinner yesterday evening. he's also quite glad he was unable to score reservations at pizzeria mozza- open for a year now, and still only had openings at 4:00 or 11:00 when i called 2 weeks in advance- otherwise he might not have ended up at comme ça, a french brasserie opened this last october by david myers (of sona & boule). much as we love the mozza, we we were thrilled to try something new (to us anyway).

as soon as we pulled up to the valet, maison21 knew he was going to enjoy the restaurant- a crisp black and white facade had replaced the mouldering wood exterior of the last restaurant on the site, a dreadful mediterranean/middle eastern concoction that had somehow managed to stay open for about 50 years past it's 70's heyday. maison21 went there once in his deep, dark past, on a first date that m21 knew would also be a last date, when his date proclaimed it to be "his favorite restaurant in l.a.". how anything with hanging baskets of over-grown spider plants and half-dead pothos vines dropping diseased leaves into your (not very good) hummus could be anyone's favorite, is beyond maison21's comprehension. funny- i couldn't tell even tell you what my date looked like, or what his name was, but i sure do remember that hideous 70's moldy patio inspired interior!

anyway, enough about the ghosts of restaurants past- as i said, i knew i was going to like the place the minute i saw it- like the exterior, the interior is a simple palette of black and white, and a well done combination of casual and sophisticated. the ebonized wood paneling is a sleek take on traditional brasserie style, and the tufted white leather banquettes are a luxe contrast to the glossy white plastic-y chairs- similar to the ultra bellini chairs from design within reach. we love the fact that WHITE was used for restaurant seating upholstery, something you don't often see because of the wear and soiling factor (even when it's a durable leather, as in this case). even the mis-matched collection of mirrors on the wall didn't bother maison21 as they worked with the updated traditional meets modern vibe of the place (they are a little rachel ashwell-esque, no?). the restaurant was designed by the KAA design group, a very full service firm judging by their website (architecture! landscape! web design! interiors! branding!).

our dinner was early (probably the reason m21 was able to get the reservation) and the restaurant was almost as empty as the above photo when we arrived but despite the torrential downpour happening outside, which normally should keep sane angelenos like moiself safe at home (stormwatch!), the restaurant was soon completely packed.

the thankfully adult crowd was as good the interior (and the food)- handsome, well dressed men and chic women- who somehow all seemed to know how to dress to perfectly fit the vibe of the restaurant- casual yet sophisticated, nothing glittery or flashy (which believe me can sometimes be hard to escape here in l.a.). maybe everyone looked especially good because of the deliciously dim lighting that regular readers know maison21 finds to be vitally important. anyway, the whole vibe worked. it reminded maison21 of balthazar or pastis in new york, and as l.a. didn't really have anything like them until now, comme ça is a trés welcome addition.

as for the food, maison21 is no food critic, but the menu is all brasserie classics (absolutely perfect comfort food for our rainy evening). standouts from our meal included the roasted beef marrow with oxtail jam appetizer and a crispy skate grenobloise entree that was absolutely perfect. the steak frites served to the table next to us looked pretty fab as well (though doesn't it always? anywhere?) and the fruits de mer platters looked spectacular too. maison21 really wants to visit next for lunch, to try the luncheon menu only cheeseburger that pulitzer prize winning l.a. weekly food critic, jonathan gold, raved about not so long ago.

all and all, a delightful evening- thanks for dinner, big brother- and your better half, too!

04 January 2008

stormwatch 2008!

it's a dark and stormy day here in los angeles, and maison21 wants to stay inside under the covers, cozy and warm. well, dark and stormy is a bit of an exaggeration- more like overcast with the threat of rain. los angeles is scheduled for 3 days of rain, which to us angelenos is an impending disaster, the equivalent of a blizzard in less temperate climes (the local stations will be blaring "stormwatch 2008!" promos for the evening news every commercial break- ugh). but maison21 wasn't exaggerating about his desire to stay inside, safe and dry. having been raised here in southern california, m21 is a weather-phobe, anything other than sunny and 80 degrees is an anomaly and probably best avoided. extreme weather, like rainstorms or god forbid, snow, is something one visits while on vacation, not something one lives with regularly. i don't know how you people do it in colder climates... :)

but alas, maison21 must face the day- stormwatch! or not- my brother and his delightful new bride of 2 years are driving up from san diego, and we are going to spend the afternoon at lacma viewing the currently running dali exhibit, followed by an early dinner at comme ça, a new french brasserie. as my brother's wife lives in connecticut the majority of the time, and he spends a good portion of his time on business in northern europe, i doubt i can convince them that it's positively dangerous to venture out on such a stormy day and to instead join me in enjoying some delivered food and a bottle of wine in front of the fire. oh well, maison21 will have to brave the stormwatch! i know- rough life, eh?

the photo is of the stormwatch! view out of one of my upstairs windows. the 1930's french normandy building across the street just spent the year being remodeled from a triplex into a duplex by it's owners. if you follow a line down directly from the tallest peak of the building, you'll see where the front walk splits and half of it ends at a blank wall where another front door used to be. i wonder if they are going to leave the front walk like that, or re-landscape? time will tell. maison21 is just thankful they didn't mess with the exterior of the building (much), as it really is a great example of the architecture of los angeles in the 1920's and 1930's. we don't respect our past much in los angeles, so maison21 is thrilled when buildings aren't just razed and macmansions or minimalls erected in their place.

ps- this post was put up in honor of my sixty day blog-aversary. i promised myself that i would do at least a post a day for the first 2 months to build some back content before i got lazy and slacked off. well, with this post, i hit 50 posts in the first 60 days, shy of my goal, but pretty impressive follow through for a full-time procrastinator and some-time slacker such as moiself.

02 January 2008

learning new things on the internets (about line vautrin), then maison21 goes off on a tangent (about c. jeré)

maison21 is always surprised out the amount of information that's out there on the internets- it really is so overwhelming, that's why i love all the other design blogs for filtering out just the interesting bits for me, and adding their own great observations. this week while going through all the incredibly sweet comments left on my new year's post, (really, you guys are too nice!), i read a comment by topsy turvey, a name i hadn't heard before and visited their great blog out of tampa. while there, maison21 learned something new! yay! we love the learning of the new things on the internets!

maison21 has been around the world of vintage fineries and the decorative arts for a loooonnng time, so had seen the name "line vautrine" attached to some pretty fab sunburst mirrors. in fact, he has even used it in his own ebay auction descriptions for a chic sunburst mirror or two. but he was using the name in ignorance- he always assumed that " line vautrin" was a company (i guess because of ligne roset, maybe) but topsy turvy set maison21 straight with a great post about the woman line vautrin, who was a talented french sculptor and jewelry designer (go read topsy turvy's bio of line vautrin here to learn more). maison21 then visited the website dedicated to line vautrin where he saw all kinds of great examples of her work, such as the sunburst mirror below, and the duck lamp (we didn't know she did anything other than mirrors, so thanks topsy!):

while visiting the line vautrin website, maison21 also saw how her work has been very influential in the work of others. here is an original line vautrin mirror:

now doesn't it look a lot like this c. jeré mirror that hung in maison21's own dining room several years ago?

now here is where maison21 had a moment of personal irony, and maison21 is not talking about the ironic fact that maison21 sold his mirror- probably the finest example of it's type he's ever seen- for about the same price as artisan house reissue, whereas now, just a few years later, c. jeré originals are fetching many times that price (there is a similar mirror on 1stdibs right now for $10,000).
the irony that maison21 is referring to, is that he had always thought line vautrin to be a large-ish manufacturer of decorative accessories, where in fact it was a single artist producing limited editions of her works in a small workshop, and c. jeré, who was riffing on line vautrin with the above mirror, is assumed by almost everyone to be single prolific artist working in metal, but in fact, there was never an artist named c. jeré at all- the name c. jeré is a pseudonym front for a large manufacturer of metal based decorative accessories! see the irony?

most people think c. jeré as an artist of the 60's and 70's who created sculptures, and decorative accessories for the home, like these:

but c. jeré (full fake name: curtis jeré) is a actually a play on the names of jerry fels and kurt freiler, founders of the los angeles based metal working company "artisan house". legend has it that the two combined their first names to form the name of the imaginary artist, and added the accent so the artist sounded french (read "fancy"). the company, artisan house, behind the name was actually composed of many metal workers, some of whom were indeed artists in their own right, but many of whom were merely welders and machinists. while many of the items produced by artisan house are indeed "art", the goal of artisan house was never really about fine art, but more about commerce. some of the items produced by "c. jeré" are really quite unique and stunning and do rise to the level of fine art and high design, but lots of the items produced were more in the line of "dogs playing poker" like this train station wall sculpture (image lifted from ebay):
whether stunning or kitschy, all of the items produced by c. jeré and artisan house were made by hand, and while they can't quite match the level of craftsmanship as those of a real artist, like line vautrin, they are works of art in their own right and as such, deserve to be collected and admired. if you look at the c. jeré mirror i once owned, and compare it to the reasonably priced reissue, you'll see why the originals deserve to get the big bucks, and even the less spectacular pieces still deserve to have semi-hefty price tags due to their handmade nature and limited numbers. still, it cracks maison21 up to see c. jeré items sold in some very expensive galleries as "signed by the artist", because yes, they are signed, but there was no artist!

by the way, artisan house is still in existence and churning out the metal art, but no longer owned by jerry and kurt or based in southern california. most of the current items offered are pretty dreadful in maison21's opinion but there are occasionally some pretty cool pieces in the mix too. go check it out for yourself at their website: artisan house online.

thus concludes today's episode of "learning new things on the internets"- maison21 learned something and he hopes you did too!

01 January 2008

2008 is going to kick ass. for real.

the holidays often leave maison21 more than a little worn out. so much preparation, so much anticipation, so much WORK (and so much fun, too), and of course, so much money spent! by the time new year's finally rolls around, m21 is pretty much burnt out, and this year was no exception.

m21 had planned to spend new years in palm springs with a group of his nearest and dearest. even had plans for more palm springs blog posts while there. but when it came time to load up the car and hit the road, m21 just couldn't muster up the energy. so instead of indulging in frolic and frivolity as planned on new years eve, maison21 instead spent the evening reflecting on the year that was, and planning for the year to come. those palm springs posts will have to wait...

now don't go feeling sorry for maison21- he spent the evening with his 2 most favorite people (that aren't people), mona and richard, and he ordered in the best chinese food in los angeles, from the delicious mandarette.

while m21 enjoyed the yummy food and the furry companionship in front of a roaring fire, he thought about the year that had just passed: 2007 got off to supremely rotten start (we're not going to go into it- it's both boring and a downer), yet somehow the year finished with a positive vibe. yeah, maison21 is a little worn out from the build up to the holidays (it is the busiest time of the year for us business-wise) but outside of that, 2007 ended on a high note and 2008 is looking pretty exciting as well!

this blog, though started very late in 2007, certainly turned into one of the bright spots of the year. the amount of satisfaction i've received from it, and the speed at which it's readership has grown, have been real surprises. the fact that the blogging world has so quickly embraced me and made me feel at home, has truly touched me, and the regular comments that i receive, as well as the mentions i've received on blogs i admire (habitually chic, desire to inspire, all things bright and beautiful and things that inspire), are things i couldn't have anticipated, nor could i have predicted how good they've made me feel. even when i post an embarrassing picture from my past, you guys go and compliment me on it- all this blog love is going to give maison21 a swell head!

2007 didn't set any records for maison21 (the business), but with the housing market tanking, the u.s. economy as whole being not so hot, and the ripples from the writers strike affecting almost all businesses here in los angeles (my local sales are waayyy down), things certainly could have been worse, so i'm very grateful for just an average year. and once again, the year ended on a surprising up-note, as there are some exciting professional prospects on the horizon for 2008 (one, a direct result of this blog). i don't want to invest too much in these prospects just yet, as nothing may ever come of them, but they are fun to think about, and believe me, if they come to fruition, you'll definitely be hearing of them on these pages!

on the personal side, i was thrilled to reestablish a couple of friendships during the last few months of the year. the love and support of my friends, family and pets are the most important things to me, so to have these people back in my life means a lot.

i also spent a portion of new years eve reading a book recommended by a fellow design blogger, the talented patricia gray, called "write it down, make it happen". i figure based on the picture of patricia's own recent lovely kitchen renovation alone (below), that the book must work, so maison21 is definitely going to give it a shot!

in the spirit of "write it down, make it happen" and honoring new year's tradition, maison21 is posting his 2008 resolutions for all to see- let's see if writing them out for you (and the universe) will strengthen my resolve and "make them happen"!

maison21's 2008 resolutions:
1. maison21 vows to be a little more social in 2008. just a little bit, though- don't want to go overboard with this resolution and end up in rehab or anything, but i have to admit, i did get a little reclusive in 2007, so that trend must stop.

2. i will use my passport! i dream of spending my next birthday in paris, but if the dollar keeps sliding, that may become too expensive (it really already is), but i will go somewhere that results in a stamp added!

3. maison21 will finish painting his kitchen in 2008! preparations to paint started two years ago, but after painting most of the rest of the house, m21 was way over it by the time he reached the kitchen, so he's been living with color test patches on the wall and windows with partially stripped trim. hiring out the job is not an option- maison21 can be a bit perfectionist when it comes to the work of others- every time he looks at a sloppily painted edge, or opens a stuck cupboard, m21 would resent having written that check and curse the poor painter something serious, but if he does the job himself, m21 is a very forgiving boss, i.e. "damn, i worked sooooo hard- f*ck it if that line ain't straight"! m21 already has the paint- the same perfect, happy blue-green as his adjacent dining room, pratt & lambert's "angelic blue" (above) with their blinding "designer white" for the trim and cabinets, so no excuses on this one!

4. m21 will finally put his book in order, instead of having to sort through a box o' stuff every time he wants to show something! i haven't updated my book since the first project i worked on was published way back in 2005 (above). and when i say "book", i mean "portfolio", not a glossy coffee table compendium of maison21's work, unfortunately. i can't take credit for the overall look of the beautiful room shown- my former employer, the incredibly talented and chic vance burke, was largely responsible for that- but i was directly involved in the design of the major upholstered pieces, as well as the chandelier, bolection mantle and accompanying surround for the dubuffet painting (as you can see from my sketches). btw, i am for reals hoping vance doesn't read my blog- he is far, far, too tastefully refined to be associated with maison21 and his bedazzled zebra statues...

5. i vow to finish my business plan to take maison21 (the business) to the next level. the eventual goal is a brick and mortar store showcasing my vintage finds as well as a complimentary line of maison21 originals, based on a classic 20th century design vocabulary. the store might not happen in calendar 2008, but the business plan WILL! "write it down, make it happen"!

6. and last, since all the other resolutions are "me, me, me", i figure i need to do something to benefit the planet, even if it's a small thing, so i vow to stop using plastic bags completely. i probably use 4-5 a day when i take mona out, so i'm guilty of asking for "plastic" every time i go to any store (yes, she poops a lot- it's her high fiber, low calorie dog food). i vow keep canvas bags in my car, and to actually use them, even if i have to go back outside to my car every freakin' time i'm about to hit the checkout line and realize i've forgotten them (and please, no slams for using the car for trips to the grocery store. much as i would love to take a bus or ride a bike, it's los angeles, so that's just not an option). as for the poo problem, i just ordered biodegradable bags online here, and i pray they are sturdy enough to shield my hands during the actual "pick-up". yuck.

assuming some of you made it to the end of this super-lengthy post before the start of 2009, maison21 would love to know what your new year's resolutions are for 2008?

it's going to be a kick-ass year, i swear!