Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Favorite Posts of 2008

2008 was a good year for design blogs. The number of design blogs exploded, the quality of the blogs out there got even better, and design bloggers received much recognition in the national magazines and newspapers.

A few of my favorite design blogs disappeared without explanation (Design Smack and All Things Bright and Beautiful, you are missed!). Many new talents burst onto the scene too. The sheer number of design blogs out there makes it difficult to keep up at times, but luckily blogger has added new features that makes it even easier to track the latest and greatest in the blogosphere.

Here is a small list of some of my favorite posts over the past year (an annual tradition - here is the list from 2007). There are so many blogs that I have read and enjoyed, and it was not possible to mention every one here.  I am sure there are many I do not even know about, but it would truly be a full time job to keep up with every single worthy design blog out there (I don't know how Terri Sapienza from the Washington Post does it!).

Here is my list, in no particular order:

I am a bit of a rule follower, so the post from My Notting Hill linking to an article on Frank Faulkner's 14 rules for interior design was intriguing to me. The link to the original article referenced in My Notting Hill's original post has expired, so here it is. I like this quote: "Even if you’ve spent a lot of money for something, if it doesn’t work, throw it out. Otherwise, it holds the entire room hostage." I wish I could convince my husband of this! He would like this quote: “Spend as little as possible on kitchens and bathrooms. Fancy kitchens depress me. I think kitchens and baths should be simple and utilitarian."

My admiration for Joni of Cote de Texas is well documented, and I have enjoyed each and every one of her posts this year. One of my all time favorite of 2008, though, has to be 'Stalking the Wheats'. Joni had long admired a beautiful house in West U, and was able to finagle an invitation into the home. It does not disappoint!

Julie Neill, of the Bayou Contessa blog, did a post on her friend Liz's beautiful New Orleans home, which features lighting designed by Julie's company and linens from Leontine. The bedroom in this post is definitely in my favorites file!

I love art as much as I love design, and I especially love it when the two come together. All the Best's post on deconstructing wall art (from Apartment Therapy NY's Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan) was so informative and eye opening to me. I never would have seen Maxwell's post if it weren't for All the Best.

Another art post, combined with my love for England, was also one of my favorites of the year. Cote de Texas did a post on Annie Leibovitz and Queen Elizabeth II, and some of the other official and unofficial portraits of the Queen through the years. (Image by Leibovitz)

Another time when several of my favorite things came together: a great blog (Peak of Chic), a great designer (Suzanne Kasler), and one of my favorite stores (Max & Company). Jennifer from Peak of Chic attended the launch party for Suzanne Kasler's new line of furniture for Hickory Chair, and created a wonderful post about it. It was my first glimpse at the collection, and a big treat to read about.

Pigtown Design wrote a very creative post that combined illustrations from a book written in the 1960s called Mrs. Kennedy Goes Abroad, about Jackie Kennedy. She was able to cross reference the charming illustrations in the book with actual pictures of the outfits that Jackie owned.

Regular readers of my blog know that I have a strong interest (some might say, obsession) with chandeliers. This post on chandeliers (by Cote de Texas) is pure eye candy to me, and I still refer to it every now and then.

The picture that launched a thousand blogs? Perhaps, but it was Oliveaux that did the first and most notable job covering one of my favorite magazine spreads of the year, from Traditional Home. The post fits in very well with Oliveaux' gentle and beautiful blog.

I am thoroughly enjoying the 'Top Ten Designers' posts from Joni of Cote de Texas, and designer #4 has got to be my favorite so far. It is Gerrie Bremerman of New Orleans. I had heard of her, but was not really aware of what her work looked like specifically. When I saw Joni's magnificent post, I was amazed...most of the images of Bremermann's work are in my 'favorites' file, but I did not know the designer. I know these posts take a tremendous amount of time and effort, and they are greatly appreciated, Joni!

I loved the post on weathered wood by the new blog Pure Style Home. I had some chairs stripped and refinished earlier this year, and it would have been helpful to have these pictures when talking to the specialty painter! (Luckily, the result is this weathered wood look that I admire so much, with a light limed wash).

Willow Decor wrote a post on elements of a Christopher Peacock kitchen that taught me so much about these kitchens that I have admired in magazines.

Any post about London is interesting to me (it is my favorite city in the world), but this one by French Essence had some particularly interesting tidbits!

Another post on London caught my eye, because the topic of the post - Spencer House - has been on my list of places to visit every time I have been to London over the past 15 years. Yet, I have never made it work! It is only open on Sundays from 10:30 am - 5:45 pm, and is closed in August (several of my trips have been in August). It was nice to get a glimpse into the magnificent rooms via Peak of Chic's post.

Velvet and Linen is a blog that began in 2008, and it is already one of my favorites. Brooke's post on designer Jose Solis Betancourt was an introduction to the designer for me, and the images in her post are so inspirational!

Turning our attention to France, I found a new blog recently called Paris Atelier and loved the post on the French Crown and Imperial Jewels. As much as I admire the Crown Jewels of England, these Crown Jewels of France are even more beautiful (to me). This was such an informative and interesting post.

Architect Design's post on a walk through Embassy Row in DC really resonated with me. I lived in an old embassy in DC as a child, and enjoyed seeing all of these beautiful buildings in AD's post.

Yes, another post by Joni of Cote de Texas. What can I say? I love her blog. This post was on Swedish style and a Swedish designer, Lars Bolander.

My Notting Hill did a great post called Busted! Very clever title, and wonderful post on the sculpted busts that are becoming ubiquitous in design magazines and home decor stores.

I loved the post called 'When something's Off' from Pure Style Home. Lauren comments that having something a little off or imperfect in a room makes it seem more real, and brings a room to life.

Although this was a small post on a big blog, it is one of my favorites because I now think of it every time I see candles in someone's home. Thank you, Mrs. Blandings! (Image courtesy Grace Ormand Wedding Style, via Mrs. Blandings).

Habitually Chic's post about David Hicks' book Living With Design was very inspirational to me. She took key concepts and quotes from the book, and illustrated them with picture after amazing picture.

Top Design contestant Eddie Ross, and former style editor for Martha Stewart Living, was new to the design blog world this year. In the blog that he and his partner Jaithan Kochar create, there are dozens of posts on the most creative ways to make life a little more beautiful. Two of my favorite posts of the year were seasonal - one on creating a great pumpkin centerpiece, and one on creating a miniature Christmas tree display.

I loved Willow Decor's post on holiday decorating in white. Not only did it have my all time favorite picture of a wreath on a front door, but it had a dozen additional images of decorating for the holidays using white.

I always notice floors and carpets, so when I read a great perspective on both from the talented team at the Material Girls blog, I read every word.

A last minute entry, but one that I thought was too interesting to miss! Harmony and Home did a post on a topic that is endlessly interesting to me: the Golden Mean. There are so many ways in which architects, artists, and designers have used the Golden Mean in their work, and Harmony and Home discusses a few of them in her post.

I know how much time and effort goes into crafting these posts, and I would like to thank each and every blog mentioned here, as well as all of the wonderful blogs on my blog list, for the inspiration and education that you give me on a daily basis. If you are reading this and have a new design blog, please make a comment or send me an email. There are so many great new blogs out there that I do not know about!

I am looking forward to reading your posts in 2009.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

An Evening at the White House

I lived in Washington, DC as a child, and still have friends and family there. I was honored when one of my DC friends invited me as her guest to the White House Christmas party. It was an evening I will never forget! While my friend chatted with her colleagues, I wandered around the White House, gazing at the Christmas decorations and the priceless paintings and furniture that adorn the public rooms.

Each year the White House is decorated according to a theme. This year's theme is "A Red, White, and Blue Christmas", which celebrates the patriotic spirit of America that unites all Americans. I was wondering how the red, white, and blue theme would translate to Christmas decor; the result was truly spectacular, unique, and so appropriate to the White House. Christmas trees were laden with ornaments and ribbons of red, white and blue; mantels were decked with garland that contained silver eagles and miniature revolutionary war soldiers; sconces were decorated with evergreen branches tied with red, white, and blue ribbon.

After we cleared security, we walked through the entrance to the East wing, which was flanked with Uncle Sam nutcrackers. The patriotic nutcrackers certainly were welcoming and set the scene for what was to come.

Next came across Santa in his sleigh, but with a patriotic twist.

We then walked down a hall that was like a museum of Christmas in the White House. There were pictures from the Christmas season of every administration, and my favorite, framed displays of all the official White House Christmas cards sent by the President and First Lady through the years, grouped by administration.

Along the way of the Ground Floor Corridor were beautiful and unique Christmas decorations, such as this enormous poinsettia display in a container that looked like a drum. To appreciate the scale, the entire arrangement is almost as tall as the door to its left.

The hall turned, and we entered the main building of the White House (we had entered through the lower level, open to the back grounds of the White House). Along this hall was a lovely library, which had a beautiful chandelier (pictured above).

Also along this hall was the Vermeil room, a tranquil and elegant sitting room that contains portraits of many of the First Ladies. My favorite was the portrait of Jackie Kennedy.

There was also a china cabinet in this hall, with the official china from all of the past administrations.

Finally, we ascended the stairs to the main part of the White House. The Grand Foyer and Cross Hall were magnificent, with high ceilings and marble floors. A full military orchestra with conductor was here, playing songs of the season, along with many enormous Christmas trees.

Also off the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall is a magnificent doorway with the Presidential seal above; seen through the door is a glimpse of The Blue Room and the official White House Christmas tree.

The entrance to the private quarters is off the Grand Foyer, and is decorated with lighted garland.

My favorite chandelier in the White House was the one in the Grand Foyer. The shape and form remind me of the Genovese chandelier that I posted about last month. There were several more of this style in the Cross Hall between the State Dining room and the East Room.

In the Cross Hall, just before the entry to the State Dining Room, is the official portrait of Ronald Reagan. The official Presidential portraits all hang in the White House, and I saw quite a few of them that night. A lush arrangements of red tulips made a pretty display.

The White House State Dining Room had a long table that was laden with food. Also in the dining room was the White House gingerbread house. This year's gingerbread house features the South view of the White House, with Santa and his reindeer on the roof, and cookie replicas of members of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps march in front, a patriotic colonial tradition that was perfect with the patriotic theme of the decor. I took a picture that also captured the beautiful mirror in the dining room, with a reflection of the brass chandelier.

A portrait of Abraham Lincoln presides over the State Dining Room, and note the patriotic theme in the garland the decks the wall.

Along the back of the house are the Red room, the Green room, and the Blue Room. The Red Room, pictured above, features a portrait of Dolley Madison above the mantle. The mantle was decorated with garland adorned with red, white, and blue bells.

The curtains in the Red Room were quite elaborate.

The Blue Room featured the official White House Christmas tree. This year the tree is a fraser fir from North Carolina, and the tree is decorated with ornaments from every state in the country, selected by members of Congress.

It took me a while, but I finally found the ornament from Georgia, painted in a "Gone with the Wind" theme.

The floors of the Blue Room were in a herringbone pattern.

The Green Room was my favorite, perhaps because of my love for the color green. Silver eagles and stars adorned the garland in this room, and a portrait of Benjamin Franklin was above the mantel.

I liked this decoration in the green room. Notice the beautiful trim work.

The East Room is on the opposite end of the Cross Hall from the State Dining Room. This room is used frequently for press conferences and for celebrations. Of course, I noticed the chandeliers. I felt a bit foolish taking a picture of the chandelier, but I thought it was magnificent.

A treasured 18th century nativity set is displayed in the East Room every year at Christmastime.

The East Room featured four fireplaces, with identical mirrors featuring America's national bird, the bald eagle. Decorative eagles can be found all over the White House, from the furniture to the architectural features of the building.

President and Mrs. Bush were in attendance, however they were in the map room taking pictures with guests all night.

It was certainly a night I will never forget, and a once in a lifetime experience. I hope you enjoyed a small view into the White House, Christmas 2008!