We as a nation are a classless society. We follow the British royal tabloids for vicarious pleasure, but embrace the ideal that all men are created equal. The Windsor chair as we know it was developed somewhere in England, possibly Windsor, around 1725. America embraced this form, as we are less about formality and more about comfort.
You can almost imagine George and Martha Washington sitting in these chairs in the afternoon with the family watching the Potomac flow by. They were our first royal family, receiving dignitaries and guests on their 8000 acre estate.
I have been to Mount Vernon twice and continue to be amazed at the colors used in the interiors. The moneyed public at the time was traveling to Herculaneum and Pompeii and reviving the colors found in the renovated ruins. They were influenced by the latest fashion, just as we pickup fashions from our travels. When I teach my continuing education course for Interior Designers on American Antiques, one of my true/false test questions states that “George Washington furnished his home with priceless antiques.” About 50% of the students find the statement true. The home was actually furnished with the latest in fashion at the time – cutting edge materials and styles. And they ordered most of it from catalogs, such as Thomas Chippendale’s “Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director”. Local cabinetmakers clustered on the coast where mahogany came in as ballast on the ships. They used Chippendale’s catalogs to inspire their clients to commission the latest “contemporary furnishings”.
Our delivery of style has changed over time, but this classic chair has retained its original form. The more things change, the more things stay the same.
I always hate to see fall and winter go. As lovely as spring is, the hot sticky summer is not far behind. And yet I remember loving summer as a kid, when school got out, and we lived in swimsuits and spent our evenings chasing fireflies.
But late winter and early spring is when the wood ducks nest on our pond. My husband David put a nesting box (just the right specifications) barely in view of the kitchen window. We clean it out every year and fill it with cedar shavings, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the outlandishly colored males trailing their gently colored ladies, hoping to be the chosen one.
Once they mate, she spends an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to get into the box; sometimes standing on the roof and trying to climb in upside down; sometimes hanging at the opening. Once she realizes the runway principle of flying from at least 40 feet out, she begins laying an egg a day for 8-10 days. Then comes the hard part, sitting on them for 30 days, only leaving for short times to feed in the swamp, then back on duty. When she flies off, she calls to her mate with a sharp lilting “who-week” to follow her. When she is in residence, the male sails around underneath the box, patiently guarding his family.
On the 31st day, we notice the female circling round the box looking upward. I call into the office and tell my staff I will be late coming in that day. The babies stand at the opening momentarily and jump to her, falling like dandelion fluff. They immediately imprint on their mother and follow her wherever she goes while the rest take the plunge. Somehow she can count, and leads them single file, in circles until everyone hatches. The mother swims to the far bank, with all in tow, climbs and crosses the dam and heads down the spillway to the safety of the swamp.
With the loss of the hardwood forests and the growth of the Georgia pine monoculture, there is little natural nesting for these creatures. Since we choose to move into their habitat, it only seems fair to help preserve theirs. What a privilege it is to live amongst them, if only for a short time.
I want my tenure as President of NCIDQ to stand for something. After long discussions with the other officers and staff, I chose to make it about leadership. As the volunteer leader of this non profit board that certifies interior designers, I want this team to work like a well oiled machine. So at our first board meeting of the year, which was face to face in Washington, DC, I gave out homework. Each board member was required to bring a song that identified who they are. The playlist was very interesting and spread across the generations from Aretha Franklin (since Interior Designers are always seeking “Respect” for our profession) to Kelly Clarkson (“Miss Independent” and “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”). We learned a lot about each other from our music choices.
I chose Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi because I am an environmentalist at heart. The music speaks to my soul. I remember overhearing a cowboy in Wyoming one time lamenting the loss of his personal wilderness: “When I first moved out here there was nothing, and now it is all gone.”
My belief in stewardship led me to buy a Toyota Prius recently. I couldn’t pass up this cream puff vehicle, a 2008 with 21,000 miles on it. My other vehicle is a Chrysler Town and Country van for hauling sofas and antiques. But I never feel myself in a van, as I am definitely not a soccer mom type. I go zipping around in my Prius getting 49 mpg and singing ” you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone”. I notice people are passing me when I am going 92! It feels like I used to feel after one drink too many in college, driving along going 12 with one eye closed, wondering why everyone is leaving me in the dirt. Or is it similar to life which seems to be going faster and faster while I struggle to stay current? Then I realize that I have accidentally hit the kilometer button instead of the trip odometer. It helps to read the manual…
I stayed at a lovely organic lavender farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico a couple weeks ago. NCIDQ held its annual council of delegates meeting at Los Pablanos. The setting was lovely and fit me like an old tennis shoe. Because it is a working farm, I had the feeling that I was back on my Aunt Louzina’s farm where we spent so much time as children. That self sustaining farm in Liberty, North Carolina also had livestock, chickens, and produce. Although I was born a city girl, I always feel more grounded on a farm or in the wild.
My husband and I grow a lot of our own food and subsist off of the deer and fish on our property. We process it ourselves. I find myself increasingly buying the local organic meat for its flavor and safety. We cook with the rosemary and herbs from our landscaping. If it weren’t for the Airedales, I would have chickens and goats.
When anyone asks me what I plan to do when I retire, I tell them that I plan to slow down to 40 hours of design work a week and add a chicken coop and bee hives. Maybe I will become a plein air painter and potter. Maybe I will sit still occasionally, but I seriously doubt it.
I just returned from several days in Tempe, Arizona observing the grading session of the NCIDQ exam. I am always amazed at what makes people leave their jobs and their weekends at home to volunteer their time to a cause.
Not-for-profit organizations operate off of their volunteers. I am approaching a year of serving as President of the Council of Interior Design Qualification. When my husband, who knows how busy my design practice is, asked me why I would want to do that, my answer was that I didn’t know how not to. A friend told me that my clients would not care what was on my resume. That caused me to do some soul searching for the answer of why I would give that amount of time. I know that it will give back to my profession that I still love as much as my first day in it. I will get to travel over the US and Canada, meeting with others leaders and volunteers, eating great food and seeing things I would never see on my own. But I think that mostly I am doing it for myself, for the personal growth. Volunteerism is a low hanging fruit that anyone can pick and profit from. And it looks great in your obit.
Farmers call the time between planting and harvest the “laying by”. This time of year, my husband is busy putting in wildlife food plots and managing the damage to our timber from last February’s ice storm. He is looking forward to laying by. The concept holds true in Interior Design as well. A designer spends most of the time on a job at the front end – interviewing, proposing, designing, space planning, specifying, writing bids or procuring product – and then laying by. When the project begins to be built or renovated, there are meetings, emergency calls, oversight and coordination, but it is nowhere near as intensive as the design stage (assuming things go smoothly, of course). But in order to stay in business, one must plant seeds and prepare for the next harvest.
Come to think of it, I might go fishing instead…
I work 50- 60 hours a week as an Interior Designer and handle estate liquidations on the side. I figure it is better than wasting time watching TV. Besides, if you are having fun, it doesn’t fell like work! Several years ago, I was liquidating a living estate for a widow whose sons had moved her close to them during her beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. The day I met her was a good day, and she was bright and present. Because she was moving certain furniture items to an apartment in North Carolina, the dining room table was full of displaced items. There was a pair of silver and ivory tongs on the table that were particularly intriguing. I called the son and asked if his mother or he remembered anything about this item, because I felt it might be significant. They did not know what I was speaking of and told me it must have been some of her late husbands’ family items. (She loved her things and thought his things were just stuff!) I asked permission to pull them from the sale and do some research when time allowed. After the sale was conducted, I looked up the mark “M. Price S. F.” I found that the item was made by Michael Price, a well known knife-maker during the gold rush in San Francisco. There was a push dagger that had brought $13,000 in 2008, but Price was known for knives, and the economy has crashed in the meantime. I spent months contacting people who knew people in the San Francisco antiques market looking for a potential buyer. After several months of trying to get a call back from Bonhams auction house in San Francisco, they answered and agreed to consign the item into their November armament auction, with an estimate of $3000 to $5000. Having felt that I had done the best for the client, I worked in a nearby town the day of the auction. When I returned to the office, I logged onto the Bonhams website to check the results. Anyone within three miles heard me hoop and holler that day when the “lime squeezer” fetched $29,000! When someone asked me how often this happened to me, I answered “once in a lifetime” and I had my turn. I hope I am wrong. I am out there looking for lightning to strike twice!
I attended the IDEC (Interior Designers Education Council) in New Orleans in March. We landed on Fat Wednesday and we’re amazed at the beads still hanging in the trees and wrought iron balconies. We did all the tourist things and spent a long afternoon at the MOMA New Orleans. What an amazing museum! The outdoor sculpture garden was enchanting. After the museum visit and a glass of wine, a past president of NCIDQ and resident of New Orleans picked us up and took us on a driving tour of the town. We spent a lot of time discussing the tragedy and recovery from Katrina. When driving through the garden district, we asked our guide if the waters rose into these magnificent homes. Our tour guide (who will remain nameless), replied that this area was spared from the flooding, but lost electricity. All the five star restaurants here lost refrigeration and consequently all their fine wines. Only a local would see it on this level. Katrina spared no one!
I never knew I wanted to go to Chicago. It is a city that will steal your heart without you ever seeing it coming. I went to NEOCON this past June for my first time and experienced the latest in commercial furniture design. All the showrooms were dressed to the nines trying to grab your attention and draw you into their space. We designers spent so many years moving everyone out of their individual offices into “systems” furniture and flex space. The pendulum is swinging (as it always does in design) to put us back into multi use, semi-private spaces that convert from workstations to spontaneous meeting rooms. Heights change from seating to standing with the flip of a switch. Lines are clean and sleek. If you look backwards down the tunnel of the past, the design pendulum goes from overdone to minimalist, vertical lines to horizontal lines, pattern to solid; can you see the trend? I believe this is not a conspiracy of the manufacturers to force us to reinvest in our surroundings, as much as our need to change and explore. It is the same desire that has dispersed humans over time and led them over the mountains to “see what they can see”.