Friday, December 31, 2010

Crochet Covered Smart Car

What do you get in Rome, when you cross a smart car with a crochet hook? Fabulous.

Happy New Year from 973 Third!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Vintage Christmas cards are great fun to share online. Click here for more vintage imagery. Click here for our favorite creative Christmas trees.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Creative and Green Gift Wrapping

Gift wrapping can be beautiful in its simplicity. Here are some ideas for inspiration from the goddess of good things, Martha Stewart. Above, brown craft paper tied with string works nicely with a fresh sprig of greens tucked in and a red bordered sticker label for a tag.

Recycling the drawings or doodles of your resident artist makes a cheerful and personal wrapping tied up with a bow.

A solid color paper or tissue looks elegant with a pretty bow and a little greenery attached.

Japanese style wrapping, furoshiki, with a piece of fabric or scarf self-tied as a carry-all is a thoughtful practice of the 3 Rs.

Natural materials as leaves and pods wrapped in rafia or grasses add an organic touch for your gifts.

Newspapers, maps, and strips of paper can be layered for an entirely recycled and creative wrapping.

Twist a sparkling or contrasting pipe cleaner into an initial or monogram to personalize your packaging.

Stamps and stickers, with a touch of red or green, make ideal tags for marking your gifts.

All images from here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Luminarias - Lighting for Christmas Eve

Make your own luminarias (lights) or farolitas* (small paper lanterns):

Gather a handful of brown lunch bags, a bucket of play sand, a trowel, white votive candles, and a candle lighter. Open bags, fold over the top edge to shorten the height, flatten the bottom, scoop in some sand to weight the bottom and double as a fire retardant and nestle a candle in the center. Lay out your filled bags to flank the outside entrance, or line a path to the door. When darkness falls (or at the appointed hour and before guests are expected) carefully light each votive with a long handled lighter.

Beautiful, festive and very easy!

Image for inspiration: Holiday Open House at Spruce Tree House, an ancient Anasazi cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park near Durango, Colorado

*Farolita is the diminutive form of farola, the Spanish word for streetlamp.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Easy Peasy Holiday Decorations

These are frantic days at 973, as Christmas is less than 4 days away, and I am scrambling to finish putting on the holiday touches.

Still to be done: (admittedly last-minute) green, minimalist decorations

I consider this the antithesis of the NYT article in last week's Home" section, "Even the Tree Has a Stylist." If you missed the article and you are the type who can manage your own holiday decorations, don't fret. Consider yourself fortunate enough to have the creativity, vision and leadership to do what some others seeking to find beauty and comfort at home at Christmas must pay dearly for.

Images for inspiration: plain glass ornaments filled with simple compositions, from Country Living, burlap (or other recycled household textile) makes a charmingly provincial stocking, from Better Homes & Gardens.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Catching Up in Time for Christmas

After a series of real world distractions, it's nice to be back at 973. There is much to do this week and I need all the holiday short-cuts I can get!

Here's the minimalist to do list:
Trim the tree - check, Hang wreath on door - check, Send holiday cards - check, Holiday music on ipod - check, Party foods on hand for surprise guests - check, Party drinks - check, Gifts for family & friends - not finished yet! Easy decorations - to be done!

Easy decoration idea/inspiration #1: Take a white bowl and fill it with pretty red ornaments. Ta Da! This would be pretty with any monochromatic assortment of ornaments. Having something with a little white on it helps visually connect the bowl with its contents.

More to come, very soon!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Simple and Rustic Autumn Party

With the refreshingly crisp weather and beautiful colors of autumn, perhaps it's not too late to host an impromptu harvest lunch party this weekend?

For more ideas on keeping it simple and rustic, click here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Revisting Old Packaging

Revisiting: Scotch Tape

Originally known as cellulose tape, the product was made from strips of cellophane coated with an adhesive. The clear tape launched on this day in 1930 by the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co., hence the 3M moniker, in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

For more on the history of this indispensable product, click here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rethinking the Pavilion

This summer, the 2010 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London's Kensington Gardens has been designed by French archititect Jean Nouvel. The period from invitation to completion was only six months for this fabulous creation. The temporary structure opened on July 13 and will be open to visit and enjoy until October 17. Admission is free.

Click here for more info and photographs.

Photograph: John Offenbach

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sweet Green Dreams

Inspiration: Four beds all lined up with matching coverlets look fun with contrasting shams amidst the three shared night tables with matching lamps. The striped wallpaper pulls all the colors together and creates a visual lift from the dramatic horizontality of the beds in handsome alignment.

Image from Merimekko.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Who Bought the Sewing Machine?

Five generations ago, my family purchased a new and modern Singer sewing machine. The machine still sits on its handsome table, fitted with skinny drawers. Some drawers contain parts, but no manual survived. In 2010, we weren't sure exactly how old it was or which great-great-great aunt had hemmed the most stitches from pumping its treadle powered base. So the search began.

Between 1887 and 1891, Singer improved and further refined their newest invention, calling it the No. 2 Vibrating Shuttle Sewing Machine. The vibrating bobbin was also known as a boat or bullet shuttle.

The style was altered slightly about 1891 to change out the fiddle base to a rectangular base. These models later came to be known as 27 and 28 after 1891 and in the 20th century they were put into production again as models 127 and 128.

The serial number gave us some clue, but several online resources for tracking serial numbers provided contradictory information. Back to the books again and comparison shopping of documented late 19th century machines.

The exciting results: our Singer was made in late 1891 and is in its original condition.
The best news: it still works.

Singer timeline
Dating sewing machines
Vibrating shuttle

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Love That Tartan

When the Macdonald boys were captured on oil in their various tartans, it was around the year 1749.

A century later, Isaac Singer started making sewing machines in 1851 in America. I. M. Singer & Co. opened its first overseas factory in Glasgow in 1867.

In a recent research adventure trying to date a beautiful antique Singer Sewing machine in the family, I came across this delightful antique tartan covered needle case from Singer's.

I just had to share it with you.

Thanks for your patience, it's good to be back at 973.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fun and Easy Outdoor Lighting

Here's a great idea from Martha's magazine years ago. Start with a wide drinking glass, at least 2 colors of colored sand, a votive candle and its holder. Add some sand first in the larger glass to set the votive holder with the candle centered inside the outer glass. Then continue with a funnel adding sand in layers of color to fill the space between the containers. The outer glass also serves as a hurricane shade.

This works well with a concealed vase for flowers, too. Easy and fun!

Click on the photos for Martha's directions.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Environmentally Sustainable Behavior

National Geographic has just completed its second annual study on personal choices toward making the world more sustainable. Working with GlobeScan, an international polling company, the results are presented as their Consumer Greendex.

A total of 17,000 consumers in 17 countries answered questions on their energy use, conservation, transportation choices, food sources, use of green vs. traditional products, attitudes toward sustainability and the environment and knowledge of related issues. The study will continue annually to track the changes and progress.

You can test your personal Greendex, too. Click here to measure your own sustainable behavior.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Greening the Champs-Elysees

Over the past weekend in Paris, the Champs-Elysées was covered in grass, plants, trees, cattle and sheep along the 3/4 mile stretch from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. The event was organized by the Young Farmers Union to encourage French consumers to reflect on "what they have on their plates and how it got there."

The transplanted countryside offered a showcase of Gallic agriculture and biodiversity. Visitors also enjoyed tastings of regional specialties and selections of plants and produce for sale. The organizers hoped to attract about two million people.

For more images, click here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why Design Now?

Discovering beauty and wisdom in simple forms that use minimal resources. Enabling people around the globe to generate and share wealth. Powering the world with clean energy. As designers tackle these concepts with new products or prototypes they help us address globally relevant social and environmental issues.

Why Design Now? is the title of the fourth installation in the National Design Triennial series, started at the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum in 2000. Amongst the sampling of contemporary innovation, the exhibit itself is an environmentally responsible design. Very inspiring.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Click here for information on the exhibition.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Colorful Interiors Win

Not surprisingly, the boldest and brightest hues were winners last week in Benjamin Moore's contest for best use of color in architecture and interiors. A lifetime achievement award was presented to the NY design team of William Diamond and Anthony Baratta. Above, an entryway in Captiva, Florida, by Diamond Baratta Design.

Are you suddenly thinking of a tropical getaway? Or maybe a blue box from Tiffany's?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Is This Spring?

Earlier this week, my dear and talented photographer friend Susan sent me this photo. I marveled at the colors, her composition and the oddly sweet juxtaposition of tulips capped with snow.

When I spoke with her later that day, I casually asked how long ago she had taken the photo with the flowers and the snow. I knew they had experienced a big white winter this season. Had their April showers brought more snow last month?

She quickly clarified that the flowers dusted with snow were the scene she'd captured that Sunday, on the first weekend of May near her home in southwestern Colorado.

I didn't want to mention that we had been enjoying unseasonably warm and sunny weather all week. Fruit frees are flowering and shrubs are blooming. Even people seem to be happier.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Visiting Pompeii Before Dinner

Need a little archaeology fix today? Take a stroll on Google's Street View of Pompeii and don't worry about the crowds of tourists, your passport or the exchange rate. The 360 degree panoramic street-level service of Pompeii is so fascinating to visit, you'll probably want to make several excursions.

Life in the ancient Roman city was wiped out by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The volcano deposited 20 feet of ash, killing everyone in Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum. The disaster preserved the remains of the city until it was rediscovered in the 18th century. Archaeologists of the last 250 years have been studying the ruins to better understand Roman life in the first century.

These are the actual buildings and ruins that survive today. No need to rely on sterile looking reconstructions or sharp, linear computer generated images to imagine for yourself the texture and scale of the houses, storefronts and civic structures. One perk of virtually visiting Pompeii, is seeing the real thing.

Bon voyage and don't miss the wall paintings!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

There has been a lot of talk about the last 40 years of Earth Day and the progress we have made. What started as a grass roots project to bring attention and clean-up efforts to the horrible pollution of our air, water and land has made the Earth a better and cleaner place.

Sure, there are new concerns and challenges, but we are better equipped to deal with them, not only as a concerned nation, but a global community.

Here are two interesting short videos on the history of Earth Day and our progress:

Click here for an animated tribute, Earth Day turns 40, from the Mother Nature Network

Click here for a Washington Post video, Unfinished Business: Earth Day at 40

We believe in celebrating Earth Day every day at 973 Third.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Strawberry Hill - A Gothic Confection

Strawberry Hill, the 18th century summer house of Horace Walpole was undoubtedly an exuberant experiment in Gothic revival. In 1748 Walpole purchased the house built in 1698, and set out to make "a little Gothic castle" with the help of 2 talented friends, referring to themselves as a Committee of Taste. In several phases of improvements over 30 years the house grew and changed. There did not seem to be a fixed plan and additions were made based on loose interpretations of earlier baronial architecture he admired, as the chapel at Westminster Abbey and engravings of chimney pieces from early churches.

The house, just outside London, was widely visited although not entirely appreciated. Some thought it a folly and a disgrace. In addition to his mixing styles and periods, he used details from the exteriors of churches on the interiors of his house. It was, at the time, greatly discussed. And now, not surprisingly, it's recognized as one of the most influential houses of Georgian Gothic style.

Gothic became a popular architectural theme in the nineteenth century, perhaps in part because of Walpole's Strawberry Hill. What was unheard of in his choice of blending and recreating ancient styles and details of various periods has now become common for draftsmen and builders of new suburban construction and developments of mini mansions marketing grand traditional homes.

Fortunately, Walpole's writing, many of his collections (over 4,000 were displayed in his home for tours during his lifetime), architectural drawings, engravings and the house itself survive to visit and enjoy.

The house is under restoration and shall reopen to the public in the fall of 2010. The V & A is presently hosting an exhibit on Walpole, the collector through July 4.

Images of Strawberry Hill courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library collection at Yale University, top to bottom: The Tribune, 1789; View of the Great North Bed Chamber, n.d.; The Great Cloister; Sketch of the Gallery, 1759; The Round Drawing Room, n.d.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Carpet of Flowers

Begonias aren't getting the attention they deserve. Every once in awhile I'm struck by a beautiful flower and am pleasantly surprised to find it's a begonia variety. In Brussels, every other year, for one weekend in August, the cobblestone paved Grand Palace market square is transformed into a flower carpet spectacular. What do they use? Why begonias, of course.

Click here for more details on the 2010 event.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Baskets to Inspire Spring

With Easter almost upon us, here are a few baskets to enjoy. Cheery daffodils and moss are joined by little chicks for a sunny tabletop landscape above, while the monochromatic greens of the basket below offer a more sophisticated take. At the bottom, the paper basket crafted from a lunch bag offers the simple elegance of nature and resourcefulness.

All images are from Martha. See more beautiful ideas here or click on the images.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Egg-Citing for Easter

Here are 3 easy ideas to add to your repertoire of spring holiday decorations and centerpieces. They are all from Martha, of course.

I am definitely going to do this one. I'm quite certain all the materials needed are on hand.

The delicately dyed lavender egg shells with tiny blossoms are so sweet. They would look lovely in a cluster or at each place setting.

For more info, click on the images.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dreaming of an Escape

Here's a little inspiration for your dream garden (and climate) -

Clever homeowners made up for a small master bath in their house with a garden bathing pavilion created from a funky old garden shed in their backyard. They cleaned it up, added a new tile floor, installed awning windows and trained ivy around the exterior for their very own spa.

Click here for more photos.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Still Life Distilled

In her recent work, photographer Sharon Core has beautifully rendered still life paintings in the style of Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825), one of America's early masters in this genre.

His still life paintings featured perfectly articulated everyday objects: ceramic tableware, glassware, fruit and flowers.

Core has recreated Peale's tableaus with collected antique serving pieces, vegetables and ripened fruits. Her brilliant attention to composition, scale, color and lighting produce a visual feast for modern and traditional tastes alike.

More images from Sharon Core's "Early American" series may be found here and here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Whistling Kettle

There are few possessions I treasure as much as my whistling kettle. I bought it when we were living in Italy and splurged to have an Alessi kettle to call my own. We had a very efficient and modern European kitchen with a tiny 4 burner hob. The kettle was the perfect size.

Back stateside, the kettle remains a fixture in my daily life, and a cheerful reminder of life abroad. I adore its fabulous design and the two note harmonious whistle reminding me the tea water is ready. The only problem, and it is a small, but telling detail, is the seemingly perfectly sized kettle in Italy is precariously small on my American cooking range. If it is not placed exactly on the iron ring, the handle starts to melt. One is alerted to this off-centeredness by the pungent smell of burning plastic.

But this is the price (and pride) one must pay for a piece of classic Italian design in an American kitchen. I recently learned this is a problem other Alessi 9091 fans may have also encountered. They do sell replacement handles, along with pipes and springs for Richard Sapper's 1982 design, now called, the first designer kettle.

Richard Sapper is a name that may be less familiar to design addicts that do not have a 9091 kettle for their tea. However, the German born industrial designer was also the elegant engineering genius that brought us the Tizio lamp in 1972 by Artemide and the IBM ThinkPad. His career has taken him from Mercedes Benz to cutting edge Italian consumer products through his independent studio based in Milan.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Subway Car Transformed

Imagine stepping onto a New York city subway car and entering the visual delights of a Dutch collector's salon. Take the S shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square before March 4 and you can experience the fabulousness for yourself. Mahogany wainscoting, damask wall covering, paintings by Dutch masters, even ceiling medallions and tufted seats have all been thoughtfully faux furnished to invite you away.

The wrapped subway shuttle has reawoken in color and style thanks with the The Netherlands Board of Tourism marketing campaign, "Just Be. In Holland." The three different themed cars (decorated inside and out) represent the city's cultural, classic and contemporary attractions and include translations of fun Dutch phrases and words. Catch it, if you can!

Image courtesy of PointClickHome

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Liberty at Last

Venerable favorite for floral fabrics, Liberty of London isn't too stuffy to dress up in their Betsy print for a little fun. This popular fabric was designed for the firm in 1933 amongst their ever classic designs, rich colors and pleasing patterns.

Now, Liberty is launching floral patterns stateside at Target on March 14, a week ahead of spring. It's blooming good news.