Tips on Selecting and Installing Christmas Trees

Selecting a Christmas tree is always a fun and family oriented event.  For several years I’ve decorated homes & tree for the holidays and learned a few tips for selecting a good tree.  There is no such thing as an ugly tree, so If the kids choose a Charlie Brown tree, don’t fret, lights and ornaments will have it looking splendid in no time.  Just follow these simple yet important steps.

The fir family is the way to go, Frasier Fir, Balsam Fir, or Douglas Fir all last a couple of weeks longer than a Sand or Spruce pine trees.  Firs also have strong branches for holding lights and ornaments.  When shopping for a tree, check to see if the needles are resilient pick up the tree a several inches off the ground and drop it base end down.  What you’re looking for is very few needles to fall off the tree.  The fewer needles the fresher the tree.

Fri trees

Frasier Furs, the “Cadillac” of Christmas Trees.

Many better tree vendors  will deliver and install trees which is a great service if you live in the city or own a Mini Cooper.  They will also cut the a couple of inches of the butt end of the tree allowing the tree to drink water.  Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does NOT improve water uptake.

Cut a few inches off the bottom of the tree.

Cut a few inches off the base of the tree.

Place the tree away from any vent, heat source, or direct sunlight.  Doing so will cause the tree to dry prematurely.   Set a large plastic bag on the floor/carpet or use a plastic tree bag.  this will not only protect your floors from any drips when watering but will make clean ups easy too.  The bag will be hidden by the tree skirt. Remember to position the tree so is best side is visible.

tree bag

Tree bags help protect your floors and make clean up a snap.

I like to display my tree in a large basket.  To achieve this simply set the tree a small bucket with a couple of  bags of gravel.  You (or your installer) will have to remove several of the lower tree limbs.

tree stands

Tree stands can vary as much as your imagination.

A very important step is to secure the tree.  Kitty Poo Poo may be long in the teeth or Fido may the best trained dog on earth, but trees fall!   I have gone to many homes to “fix” a fallen tree, because it was not secured.  To do this simply run a medium gauge wire around the trunk (approximately midway up) of the tree and twist the wire together.  Loop the other end trough an eye hook, anchored into a window frame or crown molding (or any place that will hold a hook) and twist that end together.  This easy step may save you from hours of misery.

And finally: water the tree!  Fresh cut trees can drink almost a gallon of water the first day.  I use hot water (yes hot) to open the tree pores.   I also pour Spirt (about a cup) in the water.  I’ve heard it helps the tree stay fresh.  I don’t know if it works but it’s become a bit of a tradition.  If your tree dries out, remove it from the house!


Techo Tuesday: Burned by Desire

With winter only a couple of weeks away, I can’t help but  think of pleasure a nice warm  and inviting fireplace brings.

 In my apartment in North Carolina I use to curl up on the rug, with my dog, and sleep in front of the fire.  My new apartment in Georgia has no such luxuries, but never fear, with each design problem is a solution.

 Today well look at eight new breakthroughs in the home design have revolutionized the fireplace; some with little or no installation, or dried wood for that matter.

globe fireplace

Globe fireplace from Vauni

globe fireplace

Globe fireplace from Vauni

Cupola fireplace

Cupola fireplace from Vauni

 Vauni makes it easy to curl up next to the fire with a book or cocktail with these unique and unforgettable fireplaces.  Best of all; they are mobile and require no ventilation, so they can be installed anywhere.  The flame is fueled by bio-ethanol Alcohol.  One can adjust the heating effect and flame size. They are designed from lightweight aluminum and available in two finishes cast iron and polished black granite.

Brasa Fireplace

Hudson fireplace from Brasa Fireplace


Mercer fireplace from Brasa

Avanti by Brasa

Avanti fireplace by Brasa

The Hudson, Mercer and Avanti portable fireplaces, all by Brasa are fueled by denatured alcohol fuel (Bio-ethanol Alcohol).  Since there is no wood, they are environmentally friendly and fuelled by renewable green energy. They can be use both indoor and outdoor and no vents or installation are required. The flame is regulated and can be controlled or extinguished at any time.

Sloaris Gas fireplace from Heat & Go

Sloaris Gas fireplace from Heat & Go

Levitating flame Solaris Gas fireplace from Heat & Glo

Solaris gas fireplace

Solaris gas fireplace from Heat & Glo

Inspired by the sunset, Solaris is a contemporary fireplaces from Heat & Glo, What’s so clever about the Solaris is the “levitating infinity flame”. It is a direct vent gas fireplace and does require professional installation.  The fireplace is available in two models. Solaris36-ST, a thin see-through fireplace and Solaris 36-MR, a two-sided fireplace featuring the infinity flame, which provides a 6-foot deep illusion of flame and lighting effects.

Antraz Fireplace

Bubble fireplace from Antraz


Bubble fireplace from Antraz

Brilliant product designer Andrea Cosetta has Designed a fireplace that also hangs on the wall for Antrax.  With over 100 colors available there one to suit every decor! The new fireplace is also eco-friendly since it needs no dry wood and match to lit the fire. Instead, it uses  a bioethanol as its fuel.

Areis stainless steel fireplace by Cocoon

Areis stainless steel fireplace from Cocoon Fires

Aeris stainless steel fireplace from Cocoon

Aeris stainless steel fireplace from Cocoon Fires

Aeris from Cocoon

Aeris stainless steel fireplace from Cocoon Fires

 Aeris  is a definite head-turner.  Designer, Federico Otero, for Cocoon Fires,  blended beauty and functionality to create a contemporary fireplaces made of stainless steel.  The Aeris  can be installed in any room of the house and also works with biofuel.   It’s completely smoke free making it clean and environmentally friendly. The product stores up to 1.5 liters of fuel and produces fire for up to six hours. Best of all is that the fireplace can be used all year round, as an ice bucket, to store bottles, glasses and even food!  Now that is clever design.

Let me know what you think.  Would you consider…


“…And God Saw The Light And Said It Was Good”

Yesterday I had the pleasure of showing you the Winston-Salem Light Project in North Carolina.  Today we take a trip around the globe to see other illuminating lighting events.

First Stop New York City…

On Election Day we watched as CNN projected winner in each state; the iconic spire of the Empire State Building  displayed the race to 270 electoral votes with the building’s spiffy new LED lights—blue for the Democrat, and red for the Republican.

Tower of Empire State Building Election Night 2012

Two days ago the buildings new energy-efficient LED lights were on full display again, swaying in sync to the music of Alecia Keys tunes “Girl on Fire” and “Empire State of Mind.”   This is the first ever light show for the building, word is, it won’t be the last!

Synchronized Light Show Empire State Building 2012

Each November the Glow Festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands buts on a fantastic show.  let’s have a look at the 2011 show, designed by  Luminarie De Cagna

30,000 LED lights come together to create a “Dome of Lights”,  Photo by Truus, Bob & Jan of Holland Eindhoven, Netherlands

Dome of Lights by  Luminarie De Cagna erected over statue of Aton Philips co-founder of the Philips Company (Royal Philips Electronics), Photo by Truus, Bob & Jan of Holland

Dome of Lights by Luminarie De Cagna Glow Festival  Eindhoven, Netherlands, Photo by Truus, Bobo & Jan of Holland

The Swiss Company Projektil projected 3D images onto and inside of De Catharinakerk (the Catharina Church), bring the chapel to life with both static and scrolling images.  The dazzling display both illuminating and engaging.

Catharinakerk te Endhoven, design by Projektil Glow Light Festival,  Eindhoven, Netherlands

Catharinakerk te Endhoven, design by Projektil Glow Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

Catharinakerk te Endhoven, design by Projektil Glow Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

If one weren’t a believer yet, try the heavenly Renaissance & Romanesque LED “Cathedral of Lights”  At the 2012 Light Festival (held in January) in Ghent Belgium, also a creation of  Luminarie De Cagna.

2012 Light Festival, by Luminarie De Cagna, Ghent, Belgium.

2012 Light Festival, by Luminarie De Cagna, Ghent, Beliugm

2012 Light Festival,  by Luminarie De Cagna in Ghent, Belgium

Each year in October, Berlin is turned in to a large light festival for 2 weeks.  Artists from around the world light up over 70 famous landmarks throughout the city.

Brandenburg Gate Festival of Lights Berlin

Berlin Cathedral in the Museum Island district Festival of Lights Berlin

Festival of Light Berlin

In the park, Festival of Lights Berlin

And finally each November Loy Krathong festival takes place on the evening of the full moon in the traditional Thai lunar calendar.  In an incredibly beautiful and simplistic display, a host of thousands of ‘khom loy’ (floating lanterns) are launched into the night sky.  Along with these lanterns bad spirits and misfortune are expelled.

Floating lanterns  launched at Loy Kratong Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

A unique view of a “khom loy” with back-drop of fireworks at Loy Kratong Festival, Photo Bob Asawa (above) & Mark Fischer (beneath)

Floating lanterns at Loy Kratong Festival, Photo By Bob Asawa & Mark Fischer

Fireworks and lanterns at Loy Kratong Festival, Photo by Bob Asawa & Mark Fischer

lanterns float away at Loy Kratong Festival Chiang Mai, Thailand

I guess this puts Christmas decorating in a whole new “light”.  Tell me what you think.


At Sunset in November…

Each November after the sun sets, the faculty and students at University Of North Carolina School of the Arts transform the city-scape of Downtown Winston-Salem, with a delightful and amazing state of the art show of illumination.  The project launches the annual Six Days in November Festival; an event full of music, plays and performances.  But for me, the highlight of the week is the light show.

This year UNCSA, illuminated Winston Square Park with large inflatables animated with projection lighting.  Here are a few images of the 2012 show and previous shows…

Winston Square Park Winston-Salem Light Project 2012

Winston Square Park Winston-Salem Light Project 2012

Winston Square Park Winston-Salem Light Project 2012

The Stevens Center Winston-Salem Light Project 2011

The Stevens Center Winston-Salem Light Project 2011

The Stevens Center Winston-Salem Light Project 2011

Stevens Center Winston-Salem Light Project 2011

Stevens Center  Winston-Salem Light Project 2011

Window Winston-Salem Light Project 2010

The Winston-Salem Journal Building Winston-Salem Light Project 2010

Downtown 4th Street Winston-Salem Light Project 2010

The Pepper Building Winston-Salem Light Project 2009

The Pepper Building Winston-Salem Light Project 2009

The Pepper Building Winston-Salem Light Project 2009

The Pepper Building Winston-Salem Light Project 2009

 The 2008 Project was the first and, in my opinion, most spectacular of them all!

The Millennium Center Winston-Salem Light Project 2008

The Millennium Center Winston-Salem Light Project 2008

The Millennium Center Winston-Salem Light Project 2008

The Millennium Center Winston-Salem Light Project 2008

The Millennium Center Winston-Salem Light Project 2008

Tomorrow we’ll look at other November light festivals around the globe.


425 Million Dollars and Dorothy’s Dream House!

Well it’s happened again.  The Powerball Lottery is over 200 million dollars and I went to the convenance store, with fanciful ideas of winning dancing around in my head, and bought a ticket.  Each time this happens I dream about using my massive winnings to build my dream home.  If you’re familiar with Dorothy Rodgers it will come as no surprise that  my thoughts drift to her saga of the pleasures and pain of building her dream house.  The book, The House in My Head, written in 1967, tells her story.  But the home even today proves to be well ahead of its time, and has become required reading for anyone who is considering building or even remodeling their own home.

Rodgers thoughtfully designed, the glorious Fairfield, Connecticut home for her and husband, famous American Composer Richard Rodgers, has new owners and a new designer, Susan Zises Green, in tow.  Lets have a look at the house then and now…

Dorothy And Dick Rodgers Home Fairfield Connecticut.

It seems a bit ironic that I begin the tour with exterior of the home since Rodgers and her Architect did just the opposite; they designed the house from the inside out.  In fact it was well after the rooms were configured and finished chosen that thy even gave a thought to how the outside would appear.

View of entry hall, Dorothy and Dick Rodgers house. From The House in My Head

The hall connecting the bedrooms with the entertaining area and the service areas of the house.  If it had been my design I would have had a much larger & longer hallway.  One of the best parties I attended took place, for the most part, in the hallway.  But Dorothy wanted this house to function like a machine with as little maintenance and housekeeping as possible.

A view of the Living and dining area from the built in buffet, Rodgers solution to Servers at dinner parties.  From The House in My Head.

One of the “unique” designs for the time was the buffet that connected the pantry to the living & dining area. Dorothy wanted this house to function with as little household help as possible. By having a buffet installed, it enabled dinner guest to help themselves, eliminating the need for Servers at dinner parties.  Rodgers also did away with a formal dining room; now doesn’t that sound like a 21st century concept.

A view from the swimming pool of the central living area flanked by an outdoor sitting porch on the left and dining porch on the right.  From The House in My Head.

The swimming pool was central to the design of the home, and large windows from the Great room offer an indoor/outdoor feeling.  The pool was where the Rodgers entertained during the summer months, it also offered  sweeping views of the valley below. The Private quarters are to the left and the service room on on the right side of the house.

Side hallway connecting the bedrooms.  From The House in My Head

Dorothy was particularly fond of the strategically placed skylights throughout the house.  “There’s a fascinating, almost continual change of intensity that moves, in a row of skylights, from the first to the next, then the next as the earth turns away from the sun”, said Rodgers.

A view of Dorothy’s Bedroom.  From The House in My Head.

Dorothy’s Bedroom.  Not only did she and her husband have separate bedrooms, but separate baths and dressing rooms also.  A very outdated arrangement, but for every passé idea, but I’m sure many wives today would opt out of sharing a bathroom with their husband.

Dorothy thoughtfully designed and decorated here home herself: the new owners recruited New York Interior Designer, Susan Zises Green to give the home a 21st century appeal.  Here’s what she came up with…

A View of the new living room decor. Photo used by permission Photo by John Kernick.

The result; a much more cozy room.  It’s easy to spot the minor architectural changes, a couple of bookcases removed, the enclosure of the sitting porch, and the addition of a chandelier, but I must say we’ve come a long way in the area of comfort in our interiors.  It seems as if there’s not an uncomfortable seat in the room.

New entry hall, photo used by permission, Photo by John Kernick.

Dorothy wrestled with the idea of wallpaper, thinking white to be “more effective”.  Today the subtle green & white wallpaper seem to obtain the same effect.  The ferns, flowers and rack full of straw hats give the house a country home feeling.

seating area in living room, photo used by permission. Photo by John Kernick.

A seating area is in what use to be the dining area. The tile floors have been replaced with hardwoods.  One disappointment is that ingenious buffet I raved about earlier has been removed, but was no longer useful when the dining area had been moved to create a more formal dining room.

sitting room, photo used by permission. Photo by John Kernick.

Today the cozy sitting room has been enclosed in what was the sitting porch.  The 19th century prints of hunting dogs and floral fabrics give the room a country air.

A view of dining room in what was the dining porch. Photo used by permission. Photo by John Kernick.

Here is the earlier mention dining room in what was the dining porch.

Mater Bedroom. Photo used by permission. Photo by John Kernick.

 In House Beautiful magazine, Green says, “When you’re the parents of six children, you absolutely need a retreat”.  And what a lovely retreat this turned out to be. I’m certain The parents share bedrooms.

There you have it then and now.  I can only imagine how thrilled Dorothy and Dick must be to look down from above and see this beautiful reinterpretation of what was their beloved country home.

FYI some additional changes to the home; the centrally located pool has been moved, the greenhouse has been removed, and the Spanish Doors at the entry, Mrs. Rodgers took with her when she sold the home, after Dicks death in 1979.

If you’d like a copy of the House in My Head Click on the book cover below to order.

As always, I’m dying to know what you think if you won 425 million dollars, who would you have design your dream home?  Comments are ALWAYS welcome.


10 Great Holiday Gift Ideas For Under $100

This holiday season why not give gifts that won’t have your friends and family standing in the returns line and the department stores.  Here a little help in the gift giving ideas department that is sure to be a winner, and each for under $100.00.

Olive Branch Dish Michael Aram

O L I V E   B R A N C  D I S H  


The Olive Branch Dish is a guaranteed hit.  Not only is it visually stunning but it’s also functional.  It’s made of oxidized bronze, nature bronze and stainless steel.  You could do some extra-credit work by including a little note about olive branches, a symbol of peace and victory,  presented to the Olympic victors and worn by brides on their wedding day.

MichaeL Aram

Picnic Basket Backpack Red Envelope

Picnic Basket Backpack, Red Envelope

P I C N I C   B A S K E T   B A C K P A C K


Picnics aren’t just for spring time.  This handy backpack picnic basket will serve up some wine, cheese and other nibbles as a fitting reward after a long winter hike.

Red Envelope

Silver Banded Double Old Fashioned Glasses, Williams -Sonoma

S I L V E R   B A N D E D   D O U B L E  O L D  F A S H I O N   G L A S S E S  


Have a martini fan on your gift list?  These silver banded cocktail glasses unquestionably give a nice James Bond aura to a cocktail party.  The are sold as a set of 4.


Nottie Toffee, Nottie Shop

N O T T I E   T O F F E E 


Your Nottie neighbors will relish over Nottie Toffee.  Not only are they hand-made in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains, but they will have a handy tin to reuse once the toffee is all gone!

Notti Shop

Big Book of Chic

T H E  B I G  B O O K  O F  C H I C

$75.00 $48.00

The Big Book of Chic by Miles Redd Is not only a reflection of your stellar taste but also that of the lucky recipient.  This is a bang-on gift because each time your friend or family member leafs through pages whimsical decor of this book, they will also be thinking of you.

Argos Personalized Liquor Decanter

A R G O S   P E R S O N A L I Z E D   L I Q U O R   D E C A N T E R


This personalized decanter is a thoughtful way of dressing up happy hour or holiday festivities.  You can either have the pewter crest embossed with the recipients initial, or you can choose “W” for whiskey or “V” for vodka and so on.

Tortoise Glass Nut Bowl, C Wonder

T O R T O I S E   G L A S S   B O W E L

$24.00 &18.00

Bespeckled in telltale tortoise fashion, these hand-blown bowls work both as chic serving pieces and distinctive decor items. A sophisticated way to serve snacks, store ripening fruit or spruce up a shelf!

C Wonder

Snow Flake Trivet, Crate & Barrel

S N O W   F L A K E   T R I V E T 


Just in time for those warm winter dishes, the snow flake trivet will blend in with any kitchen or dining room decor and be a welcome assistant for many winter dinners to come.

Crate & Barrel

Tyvek Tote Bag, Poketo

T Y V E K    T O T E 


Meet the ultimate utility tote bag of your dreams.  The bag compartment is assembled from one piece of tear resistant Tyvek paper, exceptionally strong paper that’s tear-resistant and waterproof.  Perfect for errands around town, for the beach, and farmers markets. The Tyvek Totes are intentionally crumpled for a well-worn look and the durable nylon straps give it a fresh pop of color.

Prem Soaps

P R E M   S O A P S


This year why not smell your way to the christmas stockings with all natural soaps hand-made from a Brooklyn kitchen.  Prem Soaps are 8 oz of indulgence, and they range in fragrances from Palmarosa with Rose Petals to French Green Clay.  There’s a scent available for any member of the family.

There you have it, 10 great gift ideas for the holidays.  If you have “a go to” gift or great idea, let me know, comments are ALWAYS welcome!


Hadid Takes the Prizes!

Zaha Hadid Won!  The Japan Sports council announced yesterday Hadid as the winner of the competition to replace the existing national stadium built for the 1964 Summer Olympics.  Japan’s New National stadium is scheduled to open in 2018  and it’s first gig will be the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 80,000-seater stadium will also play a key role in  Tokyo’s bid to  host the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Zaha Hadid Photo by Simone-Cecchetti

Hadid is no stranger to such large notable design projects, she designed the Eli and Edy Broad Art Museum at MSU, the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts in Cincinnati, the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London and the Nordekettenbahn, in Austria, to name a few. She is one of the most sought after architects in the world, and thought to be one of the most powerful women in the world.

Born in Baghdad on October 31, 1950, Zaha Hadid graduated in mathematics at the American University of Beirut. After that she moved to London and began her course at the Architectural Association School of Architecture.

rendering of stadium

“I have worked in Japan for 30 years. Our three decades of research into Japanese architecture and urbanism is evident in our winning design and we greatly look forward to building the new National Stadium,” said Ms. Hadid in a statement released Thursday. “The design is both light and cohesive, seamlessly connecting the stadium’s different elements to create a silhouette that integrates with the city.”

rendering of stadium interior

rendering of stadium interior

rendering of stadium interior

It’s always exciting when another huge exciting architectural project takes form anywhere around the globe, and the Olympics seem to be the catalysis for such projects.  What do you think?  How does it stack up against your favorite modern structure?


Miles and Miles of Redd

Someone has been very busy at 77 Bleeker Street in Manhattan.  In between taking on country by storm with his cheeky yet classic interior decorations, Miles Redd has found time to compile a comprehensive monograph of his work.

I say this with a smirk on my face, because in the spring of last 2011 I attended a symposium of Miles at the Charlotte Country Club.  Miles, suited in a pink woven (most likely linen) blazer, was delightful and amusing while showing slides of his work.  He added personal stories about the his career, the homes he’s decorated and his life growing up in the south.  One story that particularly stood out was of how his mother loved dressing Miles in pastels.  During the Q & A session an audience member asked if Miles was planning publishing a book.  I can not remember his exact response but it was along the lines of, “maybe later in my career.”  Well I guess 16 month is late enough.

Miles Redd’s townhouse NYC via NY Social Diary

 What he came up with is a whimsical and inspirational book filled with photos of his work, that you’ll want to see over and over again.   there’s little background info on Miles in the book but a quick Google search will lead you to “miles and miles” of press clippings. Although you may I be well aware of Miles’ span of work, I decided not to publish various  project photos from The Big Book of Chic.  I think it  would be much more fun to introduce or re-acquaint yourself with his designs when you get your own copy of the book.  Instead I though it would be a treat to focus just one project, Miles’ New York townhouse.

The front door of Miles Redd’s townhouse NYC via NY Social Diary

I always say, “Good design starts with the front door”.  Miles chose a pale green gloss painted for his door coupled with polished silver hardware and flanked by to simple yet classic columns.

Atlanta native, Miles in his Manhattan living room. via NY Socia Diary

views of Miles’ living room via NY Social Diary

Miles’ living room via NY Social Diary

Miles’ living room via NY Social Diary

Miles’ living room via NY Social Diary

details Miles’ living room via NY Social Diary

 There’s so much to see here!  Aside from the upholstered zebra skin doors again with silver nail heads and hardware, pink, blue and red color palette,  along with clever patterned pillows mix the elegant with the uncanny.  A hearty collection of books,  accessories, and Art work round out the room. Note the painted pattern on the wood floors, and the custom red lamps shades that unify the living room.

Miles’ kitchen via NY Social Diary

detail Miles’ kitchen via NY Social Diary

Miles’ kitchen via NY Social Diary

The kitchen merely serves as an extension of the rest of the house.  Inspired by the kitchen of Gosford Park, black gloss wall, cabinets, and ceiling, off set by lots and lots of reflective surfaces.  The countertop is glass , the backsplash is mirrored , and  wood floors are glossy.

Flying high,  It took several jumps off that chair for Photographer,  Paul Costello to capture this now iconic photo of Miles in his mirrored bathroom.  Photo by Paul Costello

vintage sink via NY Social Diary

Miles bathroom via NY Social Diary

vanity via NY Social Diary

Miles found this entire mirrored bathroom ten years ago in a Chicago salvage warehouse, and had it installed in his townhouse.  It was originally designed by David Adler for banker Lester Armour.  He calls the bathroom his “crowning glory”

vestibule via NY Social Diary

details via NY Social Diary

Miles’ Mirrored canopy bed via NY Social Diary

views of mirrored canopy bed with silk tripe taffeta fabric via NY Social Diary

Miles’ bedroom via NY Social Diary

Miles bedroom via NY Social Diary

Miles bedroom, decor books and Rene Gruau illustration  via NY Social Diary

The bedroom is dominated by the mirrored canopy bed upholstered with Brunshwig & Fils’ striped silk taffeta fabric.  The fabric is duplicated on the box spring. Miles believed, “an exposed box spring is like a fly in the soup…unsightly.”  The comfy room is filled with more delights!  Notice the shell sconce above the mirror and the upholstered upholstered grey door leading to Chateau De Versailles.  Oops I mean the bathroom.

Click here to order your copy!

What do you think?  Are there any fine details you noticed or would like to duplicate?  As always your comments & thoughts are always welcome.

What’s in A Staircase?

My favorite scene from the 1950 movie Sunset Boulevard is when the delusional Norma Desmond descends the grand winding staircase of here home, thinking she was filming a scene for her comeback movie.  Actually she was about to be arrested for murder.

Gloria Swanson as the deranged Norma Desmond Sunset Boulevard Paramount Studio

The film got me thinking.  Wasn’t there another famous film scene on a staircase?  Yes,  1976, Carol Burnette as Scarlet O’Hara in the Gone with Wind spoof!  Scarlet (Carol) descended the staircase or a tattered Tara,  wearing a velvet drapery and curtain rod as a makeshift dress.  When “Rat Butler” (Harvery Korman) complimented Scarlet on her ravishing gown she delivers the line, “I saw it in the window and I just couldn’t resist it”.

Carol Burnette, Went With the Wind The Carol Burnette Show 1976

Actors couldn’t resist a juicy scene of with them cascading their way down a magnificent staircase.  There’s just something about the process of arriving when a staircase is involved.

Today designers recognize the power of the stairs and no longer view staircases as a mere utilitarian function but as a unique opportunity to make a memorable statement in interiors.

Today I pay tribute to some extraordinary yet ever so functional staircases.

Staircase Saint James Hotel, Paris, Photo courtesy of Jimmy Cohssen

This flight of fancy at The  Saint James Hotel in Paris is the creation of designer Bambi Sloan.  The design of the staircase, as well as the hotel combines a bit of cheekiness with stodgy Napoleon III class.

Staircase Saint James Hotel, Paris

The custom  wallpaper, designed by Maitenna Barret, is a whimsical homage to the hotel site’s origins as an airfield where hot air balloons rose from.  In 1892 the wife of the French President, Adolphe Thiers had a foundation built in honor of his memory.  Now it’s The Saint James.

staircase home of private client France, Photo courtesy of Philip Watts Design

The dripping metal organic looking spine of this commissioned staircase for a private residence in France is both chilling and breath-taking.  This is the progeny of creative UK Interior and Product Designers Philip Watt Design.

detail staircase home of private client France, Photo courtesy of Philip Watts Design

The curvature of the staircase along with the molten metal leaving spatters of itself on the floor give an effect of a living organism.  Bespoke design at its most original.

Coco Chanel Staircase, Photo from

Coco Chanel designed her mirrored staircase connecting her shop, apartment and workroom.  The staircase functioned as a spying mechanism for Chanel.  She could stand on one floor and was able to see what was happening on every level, and especially to view the reactions of editor’s at her fashion shows as models descended the staircase.

Coco Chanel Staircase Photo from

Chanel never actually lived in the apartment above her shop at 31 Rue Cambon, but only used it to entertain clients and guest.

Poplar Library, Beijing, China, Photo Sako Architects

The winding colorful ribbon that defines this staircase is the creation of Sako Architects for the Kid’s Republic Poplar Library in Beijing, China, a bookstore for kids.

Poplar Library, Beijing, China, Photo Sako Architects

The ribbon used on the floors and wall, wind throughout the space.  The design was used to cultivate children’s curiosity and as a way-finding device.  As the ribbon winds throughout the bookstore it transforms into an bookshelf’s, a portals and a handrail.

Do any of these staircases inspire you to perhaps do something extraordinary with your own staircase?  I want to hear about it.  Send me a comment, perhaps you can even share a photograph.


Finalists Announced for National Stadium Japan

National Stadium Beijing, Herzog & de Meuron, photo by combinatorial

Remember the  spectacular “Bird’s Nest” from the 2008 Summer Olympics in China.   Well hold to your seats because Japan has announced the 11semifinalist for the new National Stadium in Japan, which will replace the existing stadium designed for the 1964 Summer Olympics.  Here are the entries in no particular order.

Cox Architecture pty Ltd, Alastair Ray Richardson, photo Japan Sports Council

Populous, Rod Sheard, photo Japan Sports Council

UNStuio/Yamashita Sekkei, photo Japan Sports Council

Zaha Hadid Architects, Zaha Hadid, photo Japan Sports Council

Tabanlioglu Architects Consultancy Limited Company, Ihsan Murat Tabanlioglu photo Japan Sports Council

Ihsan Murat Tabanlioglu, Tane / Architects & A+Architecture, photo Japan Sports Council

Azusa Sekkei Co. Ltd, photo Japan Sports Council

Toyo Ito & Associates Architects, photo Japan Sports Council

Sanaa + Nikken Sekkei Ltd, photo Japan Sports Council

gmp International Gmbh, Hubert Nienhoff, photo Japan Sports Council

Mitsuru Man Senda and Environment Design Institute, photo Japan Sports Council

  One entry will be selected for first, second, and third prizes.  The award ceremony will be held later this month.  I will keep you posted. I’ve already chosen my favorite.  Which one is your favorite?