ambiente fair blues (the good ones)

Hi Friends! As most of you know I was recently lucky enough to travel to Frankfurt, Germany on the #BlogTourAmbiente trip. Some of you are wondering What the heck is Blog Tour? and What the heck is Ambiente? I have all the answers right here. But first, take a look at that skyline above. Old and new bathed in the blue of dusk. Not bad for an iPhone on a moving bus. You pretty Frankfurt.

photo: Chasen West

Blog Tour is the invention of the lovely and talented Veronika Miller (in the green scarf), principal of the web site Modenus. The site features design pros and suppliers and connects them via Blog Tours to key design trade destinations. Tour attendees are mostly design pros working big budget projects who are also bloggers and active on social media. Love of wine seems to be a qualifier too, but that’s another story (look closely at the pic above and you'll see most of us are clutching glasses of a spectacular German sparkling wine, and yes, that's the magnif Rhein river beyond). What’s my connection? Well, I love wine, but I guess my social media profile and blogging are factors. Oh yes, and thanks to my day job I’m usually reppin’ Old School print too :::insert gang signs::: (But this time I was not on official mag biz -- this was vacay for me!)

So one way or another I received an invitation to join this group. The invitation landed in my inbox right around when my world had turned upside down. My Dad had a heart attack followed by quadruple bypass surgery on Dec. 24. The next day (oh yes, that was Christmas) I was stricken with an intense bout of food poisoning that lasted a week. Once I recovered I went to stay with my Dad after he was sent home following surgery. It was crazy stressful times. Once things started to normalize it wasn’t too hard for me to say, “Yes please Veronika, take me away and please make sure there is wine…and beer!”. (Didn’t hurt that the trip was scheduled for my BDay - Happy BDay to me!)

The sole sponsor for this Blog Tour was the Ambiente Fair itself. Ambiente is a truly ginormous trade show for tabletop, home decor and giftware. Here are my two fave stats about the show: it features more than 4,800 exhibitors (more than double the size of the NYNOW Gift Show) and the city of Frankfurt has been hosting such trade events for, get this, 775 YEARS. That’s SEVEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE!

OK, enough with the long preamble. On to some eye candy. I took more than 1,000 photos at the show, so needless to say I will be cooking up a few more posts. Since tabletop is one of the main aspects of the show, I thought I’d start with one of the clearest trend messages I spotted: blue-and-white dinnerware. Now, in the business of trendspotting I would say blue-and-white dishes are not the newsiest of news. They’ve been coming on strong for a number of seasons, but I offer this as evidence we may be at peak blue-and-white. 

When you think blue-and-white ceramics do you think of Portugal? Sure you do! And do you think of century-old hand-painted tile? Maybe. These dishes are made by Costa Nova of Portugal. The pattern, called Lisboa, recalls the look of ages old hand-painted tile. I’ve seen some of this company’s products for sale at Anthropologie and Hudson’s Bay stores, so keep your eyes peeled.

Dutch manufacturer Wegter makes these sweet striped mugs under its Dutch Rose brand. They have a preppy vibe and make me think of lingering over late-morning coffee at the cottage.

Richard Ginori is an Italian luxury brand that was recently bought out by Gucci. The Oro Di Docchia Turchese porcelain pattern hints at tradition but is expressed with a lightness of hand that feels modern.

And if blue-and-white isn’t the official national colour scheme of Greece it should be. This pretty pattern from Ionia is inspired by mosaic tile, natch!

But the company had a whole wall of blue-and-white patterns on offer.

And in the category of Best winter/Holiday pattern that isn’t one bit cheesy, the winner is clearly the German company Kahla. I just love the modern shape and subtle silhouetted tree pattern. It's actually called "Blue Hour" and I think of it as the forest equivalent of my photo of the Frankfurt skyline - same hour, same palette. These are so brand new they are schedded for release for Advent season 2015.


Marbelization is another trend that is still going strong. These platters and bowls from LCHome are prime examples in the palette of the moment.



Paola Navone’s Taste Blue collection for Reichenbach is well known already (left), but I loved this new dipped collection with an interesting shape and overall more rustic casual mood. 


And our old friends at Royal Doulton are shrugging off a rep for  painted lady figurines thanks to several new collections and design collabs. This mix and match batch, called Pacific,  includes a few designs in another of Ambiente’s main trend motifs: splatter and brushstroke.

And speaking of brushstrokes, check out this awesomeness from Spal of Portugal. It’s called Random and it’s so cool. I’ve got half a mind to go buy some porcelain paint and get DIYing up some of these asap. Would never be the same though, of course.

Tognana is another Italian company that brings some modern pretty in the form of these simple stripped down florals. Sweet.

You’ve likely seen Tokyo Design Studio dishes and bowls at Anthro. These allover patterns borrow from traditional Japanese design but have a million uses beyond the dinner table. Ok, maybe not a million, but you get the point.

And finally, I was charmed by this booth Wonkiware from South Africa. The concept here is to mix up several different designs to create a set. The picnic check plate is definitely a fave.

So that’s it for instalment No. 1 from Ambiente. Come back for more!

#AustinSuite decorating

Here's our jumping off point. Even though our condominium suite is far from decorated, the artwork is really coming together. One friday night a few months ago we just went for it. No measuring. No level. Just hanging hardware, a hammer, wine and some high volume tunes. We used a hanging method we call "eyeballing it." This piece was one of the first we put up. Since it's a longtime favourite, we gave it pride of place. All the others fell into place around it. Now I think this piece is about to become the inspiration for our new design scheme. Specifically that ugly mossy green colour. I'm so in love with that colour.

Also in my inspo files are a whole mess of pics of this restaurant in Paris. Monsieur Bleu was designed by Joseph Dirand -- current hotshot on the scene. (As an aside, I walked by the Toronto restaurant Lee the other day and they have replicated this design exactly. That's so offside as far as I'm concerned. Inspiration is one thing, but you've got to give it your own spin. Not cool Susur et. al. Not cool.) For me it's all about those greens. I'm stealing that idea of using several shades, some even a tad clashy. I'm also inspired by the antiqued mirror, lighting and green and black marbles. 

I'm also crushing on Zak Profera's place now. Love that fabric of his on the chair cushions. Hoping the folks at  Y&Co. can hook me up with some of that. I think some middle ground between the sexy resto in Paris and this NYC place might be the stylistic sweet spot for #AustinSuite. Are you following Zak on Insta or Pinterest? I highly recommend. Love his eye and of course his adorable Shiba Inu, Shinji. Check out the Zak + Fox web site.

Our current dining chairs are courtesy of Mr. A's eagle eye and shopping genius. Love these. I think they'd be great with diff shades of green velvet or mohair seats. Mr. A likes the black leather as is. We'll see who wins that one...

Not loving our current dining table situation. It's fine. Just fine. But we do have a vintage white tulip table that might be ripe for reinvention so it looks more like the one above. I'd just spray paint the base myself. Love this green marble top. Need to price that out and see if it's in the realm of reality. If the tabletop were green I'd prob leave the chair seats black.

Need to paint the interior of our entry door black ASAP. Like this. 

Speaking of doors, we currently have a coat closet that has hideous sliding mirror doors. They're taller than the nearby bathroom door and also lacking hardware. They are heavy and awkward to move back and forth. I loathe those doors. Would love to figure out a disappearing jib door situation for that...

Existing lever handles are the work of the normcore devil -- they are of the swirly brushed white metal variety :::shudders::: They'll go too. Maybe something like these above. Or antique brass? Hmmm.

Brass desk lamp is another Mr. A find. Wicked cool. The one on the right is our bathroom sconce by Flos. Love it too. I got that one at Gabriel Ross.

I have a bit of hankering for one of the lights in this new IC collection from Flos. Love that you can choose from floor, table, pendant or sconces all with this suspended light ball design. It's fun and makes me think of a balloon. Maybe a pair of bedside lamps? Or one floor lamp for the living room?

Storage is a major bugaboo right now. I thought I could tackle one area at a time, but I now realize I have to plan new clothes closet systems at the same time as I redesign the entry coat closet and some version of wall-mounted cupboards for the bedroom. I'm waiting with bated breath for the new IKEA kitchen system to hit stores. That's what I'll use (shown above) for the bedroom. 

If you can believe it we have room for only one comfy armchair. We have a petite club chair now, but I've got the chief furniture buyer on the lookout for something with more style -- like these Edward Wormley gems that cost a bajillion dollars. The sofa is a conundrum. Prob not in the budget to switch it, but not sure how to make a white slipcovered William Birch sofa work in this scheme. Like I said, a conundrum.

We've both always wanted a mobile. Mr. A actually found us a series of discs not unlike these -- ours are in bronze and gold -- we just have to figure out how to make them into a mobile. I skipped that day in physics class. Don't think I can DIY that.

So here it is all written down. Will be interesting to see if I can manage to stay focussed on this look or if I change my mind along the way.

photo credits:

1. Margot Ausitn. 2. Monsieur Bleu. 3. Brittany Ambridge. 4. Margot Austin. 5. Haus London.  6. Elisabeth Heier. 7. Andrew Skurman Architects. 8. Low Price Door Knobs. 9. Margot Austing/Flos. 10. Flos. 11. Elisabeth Heier. 12. Mid2Mod. 13. Corinne Van Havre.


This is it. Our new home. This weekend we got the keys and efforts to put our stamp on it before moving in kicked into high gear. But first things first, the hashtag above. I'm calling it the #AustinSuite because there's just something about the word condo that I just don't love. It's just so meh. I actually prefer the word apartment and think it perfectly approriate so I may go ahead and use that. I tell you one word I won't be using in conversation or in print: unit. Yuck! Hate that. So inhospitable. 

Two things I do find hospitable about our new suite, which you see in the photo above, are the view of mature treetops and the real wood parquet floors. These are two of the benefits of buying into an older building. Ours is circa 1987. The trees are so wonderful. Many are evergreens, which is great since we will enjoy the privacy they provide all year round. And I can imagine how gorgeous they will look after a fresh snowfall in the winter. There are just enough deciduous trees to let us watch the seasons change from the window. I'm certainly happy to live with one less yard and garden to tend, but I'm so pleased to still be able to call a heavily treed nieghbourhood home -- not an easy find for every condominium purchaser.

And praise be for those parquet floors. Honestly world, I shouldn't really say anything against laminate floors except, well, they just aren't for me. And ALMOST EVERY CONDOMINIUM HAS THEM. When Mr. A and I were first hatching this plan I was euphemistically referring to our new home as a "white box in the sky". How prescient of me. Today we completed coat one of Benjamin Moore Oxford White on the walls and the lovely parquet will be next on the whiteification list.

As soon as I found this photo of an apartment for sale near Gramercy Park in New York and pinned it to my secret #AustinSuite Pinterest board I knew that a complete envelope of white was exactly the plan. I'm lucky to have a husband who gets that. Plenty of people I have told about it have recoiled in horror at the idea. It's a bit hard to tell from the size of this pic but this floor is indeed old school parquet that is painted white. And what a difference to the sense of space and light and airiness. The Scandinavians totally get this -- the English too. Our parquet has that solid feeling underfoot that hollow-bouncy noisey laminate never will. When it's painted we will still get a faint sense of the pattern of the parquet underneath. And I so hope the paint wears away in traffic areas to give it an aged look. I'm also hoping that painting everything white will solve another prob you'll see in the first photo: skimpy baseboards. Those things are pathetic. But I have so much on my plate right now I'm picking my design battles. Maybe later for a baseboard upgrade. For now, make them disappear with paint.

This is the bedroom. The whole place was this baby boy blue. Mr. A kept calling it purple. Sometimes he's design savvy but sometimes his Y chromosome shows when it comes to recognizing colours. Blue, purple, whatever you call it - it had to go. See how much more visible the little racing stripe of a baseboard is when the floor, trim and walls are all diff colours. Also, the perimiter of the room is defined so you see its proportions.

Here's the same space after one coat. I even kinda like the honey tone of the floor when the walls are white. But white on all surfaces will fool the eye into not knowing where floor stops and wall starts. Perfect. My master plan unfolds...

How did I choose Oxford White? Well, funny you should ask because believe it or not I got the idea when working on this issue of House & Home called Ask A Designer, which is on newsstands now. That place on the cover is the former home of my H&H colleague Joel Bray. The walls were Oxford White. Most of the walls in the house we sold are Cloud White (also Benjamin Moore). It's much warmer and creamier than Oxford White. Around the time I was working on this issue I got thinking about making the switch at home to a crisper, more modern white (yes, white to whiter). Then we chose this cover. Not long after that Mr. A and I decided to make the move. I knew then what colour I wanted the walls to be in our new place -- even before we started looking! So ya, white paint is a thing I think about and consider and discuss at length.

All of this said, I think I'm going to choose a slightly different white for the foors...

Lord, I think this could be the most boring blog post of all time. Forgive me for being out of practice. If you've made it this far, thanks! And do come back because there is so much more to tell.

For instance, here is the kitchen. Maybe looks harmless enough, but it's such a bag full of design crimes. I have a complete overhaul planned. So follow me on Instagram and Twitter and come on back here for the full scoop. 


gone dotty

My new digital addiction is Dots. Here's a screen cap above. Isn't it pretty? I'm not much of a gamer, but this thing I love. It's on the iPad and my phone, and whenever I have a few minutes I dive into a few games. Mr. A and I of course have a healthy competition going. The aim is simple -- connect as many like-coloured dots as you can in 60 seconds. That's it. People wiat in lines overnight for the latest version of Halo or the newest console. Me, I'll take Dots anyday. No guns, no blood, no rape, no killing. Just connect the pretty dots. I particularly like that it's like an interactive Damien Hirst painting.

Here's a real-deal Hirst from the ELLE Decor site but by the watermark, once published in Metropolitan Home (RIP). Killer artwork. Designers of this space are Regan Bice and Andrew Fischer. I love those Danish chairs, and the styling of the dining table (a trick I use often too). The rest? Meh, looks a little cold and uninviting to me.

One can create one's own Dots masterpiece thanks to these Blik Sweet 16 wall decals. These have been around for a while and I dig them a lot. 

Here's the man himself and his dotty Vipp trash can. This limited edition was created for the opening of Oslo's Astrup Fearnly Museet in Sept. 2012. They sold for the equivalent to $590 Canadian. Sheesh, that's some trash bin. But I will say this -- have never seen a trash bin that made me smile so much. Maybe that's worth close to $600.

But this Damien Hirst Spotted Mini is the pièce de résistance. This little number was on display at the opening of the exhibit "Piston Head: Artists Engage the Automobile" at Art Basel Miami. I. Would. Die. to own this. Or even just take it for a spin. Although, if I owned a car like this I think I would feel quite a bit of pressure to come up with an outfit that would work with it every day. Not match it, just go with it. Have I mentioned before my belief in the fact that the world is rightly ordered when one's clothing suits one's vehicle? No? Well, I'm freaky that way. Let's just say that since I started driving my black Jetta I've been wearing my long black trench coat a lot more ;-) I feel very secret agenty and I may or may not have experimented with a Franka Potente accent exclaiming "Scheiße!" to people who cut me off. Come to think of it, Franka may be German like my Jetta but she drove a Mini in The Bourne there you go. And also, please note that this isn't a Mini's a vintage Austin Mini...boom!