Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crocus Carpet in Copenhagen

The King's Garden in Copenhagen

The idea of a crocus carpet under a large birch tree at my home has been in the back of my mind now for several years but it was going to the Kings Garden at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen this spring for the Design Leadership Summit that finally spurred my plan into action.  I am counting on unsuspecting Paul and my boys to pick up the bulb digging where I leave off!

Rosenborg Castle

Rosenborg Castle is one of the many great Renaissance buildings in Copenhagen built by Christian IV (1577-1648).  The landscape design for the castle began in 1606 under the direction of Hans Konig and Martin de Cuder and their plans show that there were extensive areas for fruit, vegetable and herbs laid out within the castle walls.  Under Christian IV's son Frederik III (1609 - 1670), walking avenues in the Baroque style were added.

Plans for the King's Garden

The crocus lawn at Rosenborg as we experience it today is a contemporary feature added to the
garden park in the 1950's.  The lawn was designed by the Royal Gardener, Ingwer Ingwersen and Erna Sonne Friis in a simple, repeating pattern of different shades of purple and white crocus.  Old House Gardens describes the massive 36' wide x 525" long crocus lawn, as it springs into bloom:
 " From one end, the eye sails up the sea of crocus, more then 200,000 corms
planted in rich purple weave across the moat to the castle."

A portrait of King Christian IV by Dutch painter Karel van Mander II. 
 Could I ever command as imposing a figure directing the planting of crocus corms? 

I spent a whole morning obsessively measuring and photographing the crocus lawn. When I arrived at the Summit conference that afternoon I couldn't believe my luck in being seated next to Robert Truskowski ,one of the world's top landscape architects. What ever did I think I would ask him? My house is not formal but a sprawling old colonial with a Craftsman style addition, the focus being low key and cozy with all windows looking out upon the surrounding fields and stone walls.  I realized that the best plan of action was to leave Mr. Truskowski alone and perhaps go with the original idea of an unstructured naturalized crocus carpet that would bring out the beauty of our property's only birch tree.

Along with Snowdrops, Crocus are the freshest and brightest signs of Spring.

At dinner later that week in Stockholm, I dined with yet another of the world's top landscape architects (what are the odds?), Stephen Suzman of Suzman & Cole Design.  Stephen described the importance of incorporating historical elements and things ones loves into a garden to give it some personal depth and meaning.  This is something Rhonda and I always try to implement  for our interior design clients when decorating a home -  to make the project highly personal to the homeowner and to help them achieve a vision or long held dream.

That was it.  Time to realize my own vision.  Crocus Lawn, ho!

The crocus blooming in front of the Temple at Kew Gardens
photo: Kew Gardens

The plans for my crocus bed under the birch tree are now quite a bit looser then the Rosenborg Crocus lawn.  (Paul is breathing a huge sigh of relief!)  I am inspired by these photos from England of Kew Gardens (above) and the Great Lawn at Dartington.  (below)

Dartington, England

My birch tree in Connecticut, shaded in by a stand of Hemlock that need to be removed.

Bulb pots from the Skinner catalog of the Kadison Collection of Wedgewood.

And what if I run out of steam with piles of crocus corms languishing in boxes?  Forcing bulbs couldn't be easier and is a super solution for those of us with over zealous catalog ordering tendencies.  I covet these early Wedgewood Stoneware Bulb Pots (above), especially the faux agate one on the bottom.


A detail of Colchicum from a series of botanicals by
an Eleish van Breems favorite- Crispin de Passe's Hortus Floridus
photo from the collection at   Trillium Rare Prints.

The Crocus Ring

Come, show me a crocus ring,
That dances round a bush of green,
And I will make a lovely thing
To match the magic seen.

                         - Ivor Gurney

Some hardworking and helpful suppliers of crocus bulbs are our Connecticut neighbors
at  Van Engelen, Inc.  and  White Flower Farms  as well as C.J. Ruigrok & Sons.

There is also a fantastic article at the Hills Gardens of Maine website that will tell you everything you may have ever need to know regarding bulb pests and all sorts of different phosphorous fertilizers.

I can't wait until Springtime!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Marimekko. Its personal...

If you are like us, your journey with  Marimekko has been a long one and perhaps that is why the opening of Marimekko's new Flatiron District store feels  like a New York homecoming worthy of celebration. Sure, there was the little upstairs Marimekko showroom hidden away above Madison Avenue for many years, but that always had the feeling of a Bird of Paradise being kept in a canary's cage. How could the full impact of the inspired and colorful patterns by such great textile designers as Maija Isola, Fujiwo Ishimoto, Sanna Annukka, Maija Louekari and Theresa Moorhouse be seen and appreciated in such a small space?

Rhonda and I are thrilled that Marimekko has opened its New York flagship at last bringing to New York the same experience as their stores in Europe.  With Occupy Wall Street in full swing. and an October chill in the air, the timing of the store's opening was an injection of colorful fresh air to the weary 99% and the equally jittery 1% .   Marimekko's upbeat and cheery design is truly for everybody!

We have been treading the Marimekko path for a while now, sometimes running, sometimes scuffling but always finding our way along their road.  We have loved incorporating these fabrics and products into our lives and those of our clients.  Much has been written about the company's brilliant founder Armi Ratia .  Truth be told, we would not have been exposed, while growing up, to great Scandinavian design such as Marimekko if it were not for the taste makers of another iconic company called Design Research.

Design Research began in the 1950's in Boston and opened it's legendary Harvard Sqaure store in 1969.  It was the brilliant vision of one couple for whom "thinking design" was all important.    To learn all about it you can get the Design Research Book  called "Design Research: The Store that Brought Modern Living to American Homes".

It s a terrific story.  Ben Thompson (above) and his wife Jane Thompson were, respectively, an architect and an urban designer and planner who were best known for their restorations of waterfront properties in cities here and abroad.  Marimekko was one of the scandinavian companies that they became passionate about bringing to America and they used their store Design Research to bring their curated selections to the public.

The Design Research store was at the time the chic " go to"  destinaton for anyone interested in fresh, modern living.

I have recollections of Marimekko coming to Westport, CT when I was in  kindergarten and first grade. We were lucky enough to live in a town with artistic and design oriented folks at a time when there was alot of unique personality to our downtown.  In short, the perfect demographic for a Design Research store. I remember going into DR and loving the patterns, especially the giant stretched canvases.  I also remember my Mom and her friends wearing the Marimekko dresses to the beach, to work, to cocktail parties, to the theater, to the mailbox - well, just about everywhere.

As an adult, every trip I made to Sweden I would make a pilgrimage to Marimekko Stockholm.  Rhonda would as well and inevitably we would bring back to the States suitcases full of fabric and clothing for friends and clients.   In 2006 we had the opportunity to become Marimekko dealers and kept a showroom at our Eleish van Breems store filled exclusively with the latest Marimekko collections.  What always struck us is how everyone we met at our store had a special, deeply personal relationship with Marimekko.  For some it was the backdrop of their college years, for others it was the dress they wore on their honeymoon or the fabric they used to decorate their first child's nursery. It was the pillow in the living room in the house they grew up in.  The memories they recalled were always happy and they themselves were so very happy to see Marimekko again at our store!

Like so many people, Marimekko reminds me of my childhood.  Sure it was 1969 and grownups were droning on about oil, men on the moon,Vietnam and Richard Nixon.  I didn't care about any of that!  All I knew was that the Remarkable Bookstore was at its hay day and my Marimekko clad mother would let me visit with Heathcliff  the bookstore's cat, who was always to be found sunning in the Philosophy Section - whatever that meant.  After the bookstore we'd go for a root beer float at the Ice Cream Parlor or for a perfect char-grilled burger at Chubby Lanes.

Sometimes we would meet my glamorous "Grandmommy"  for lunch at Chez Pierre
where everyone smoked at lunch.  Always! 

Once in a great while, if they could not get a babysitter, I would get to go with my parents to the White Barn Theater. And there were always children's matinees at the Westport Country Playhouse. I resolved that a life in the theater was for me.

It was a time of passions.  I had 4 hamsters, 2 mice, 2 rabbits, a cat and 2 little antique dollhouses that I decorated obsessively.  I collected china animals that I would buy at Kleins and The Carosel. I studied ballet with Joanne de Berg.  I announced to my parents at age 6 1/2  that I wished to"quit the ballet" to ride ponies bareback through the woods with my friend Vicky.  That idea, surprisingly, went nowhere fast. But that same year a boy I loved kissed my cheek on the playground on the last day of school! 

Martha was still on Wall Street...

 ....and our neighbors had just made a movie.

It was a happy time.  It was my Marimekko.

What was yours?  We'd love to know!

Photo Credits:  1. Marimekko, 2. Tuuli Fabric, Marimekko, 3. Converse Sneaker by Marimekko
4 -7.  Design Research, 8. Eleish van Breems, 9. Dan Woog's 06880, 10. Ebay, 11. New York Public Library, 12. New York Magazine, 13. My Scrapbook,  14. Satter Photography and Mom  Dress by Lanz of Salsbury.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Limestone of Öland

We love heavy, solid harvest tables that are sturdy enough to place a sculpture upon, that can hold massive arrangements of  branches or handle multiple wooden bowls laden to over flowing with the bounty of the fall orchard.  Bring it on!  The Swedish farm table can handle all of it! One of the most Herculean, dramatic and beautiful of the farm tables that we carry is a Swedish baroque table form topped traditionally with Öland limestone.

You can also find such a Swedish table at Lief in Los Angeles (above)
...Öland limestone mounted on an oak base, this table is
from 1740 and has a stone top that is an impressive 2 inches thick.

Raukar Sunset, Öland by Erik Aabjerg Friis.

Öland limestone was one of Sweden’s dominant rock exports during the 1600’s. The islands rock formations are stark and unusal and “rauk” or stone columns created by natural erosion can be found here as well as on the islands of Gotland and Fårö.

Stone Tower and Orchid by Zoefae Haas.

Carl Linnaeus himself noted in 1741 that the shallow soil and limestone topography creates a unique environment and haven for wildflowers such as Burnt Orchid (above), Henbane and Pasque Flower.

A drawing of Borgholm Castle showing it's Baroque Towers designed by Niccodemis Tessin the Elder.

Limestone from Öland was exported all over Europe for building purposes  but it's most impressive architectural form can still be seen on Öland today at the ruins of Bornholm Castle.   Bornholm was built and torn down and then rebuilt many times during its 800 years due to war and fire.  A fantastic history of the castle can be found on the Bornholm website:  Here we learn that in 1572 King Johan III's Renaissance reconstruction of the castle began:  " His plan was to create a modern Renaissance palace in the Italian manner. He wanted to break with the medieval traditions and sent for the four Pahr Brothers – German-Italian builders who had acquired their idiom from the pattern books of the Antiquity and the European Renaissance. Johan Baptista Pahr was the first architect King Johan III had appointed to Borgholm, but he stayed only for two years, 1572–1573. After that, his brother Domenicus Pahr took over.

The quarrying of building blocks from the limestone bedrock of the moor (”alvaret”) – began in 1568, the same year as Johan became king. He let a lot of the old castle be torn down, but used old foundation walls whenever they fit into the drawing, e.g. for the west wing. The lime was burnt in lime-burners nearby, presumably at Strandtorp, while timber, tar and birch-bark were transported by boat from Småland. White lime was taken from Gotland and well-trimmed limestone-blocks from northern Öland.

Red and grey limestone flooring in the ruins of Bornholm Castle.

The limestone of Öland is still being quarried today but on a much smaller scale.  Wonderfully rich, mellow red and grey limestone slabs and tiles can be found at Sjostrom Stenforadling

We celebrate this fall the simple stone and wood table and hope that
you are as inspired by the beauty of Öland as we are!

Monday, August 8, 2011

We are back....

This summer has seemed to fly right on by without blog posting...Edie and I have been busy little bees working on several projects.  Our deepest apologies for not posting...

So, what have we been up to...

We are very happy to announce that we are beginning work on our third book to be released Fall of 2013 with Gibbs Smith Publishers.  The theme and focus will be Scandinavian design with a concentration on Sweden.  Edie and I are very excited to work on this project because it will be the perfect partner to our other two books, "Swedish Interiors" and "Swedish Country Interiors".  Stay tuned for details as we produce the book.  The first house to be shot (this week actually) will be a beautiful Gustavian inspired home in Washington, CT that Edie and I helped design.  Also, we are thrilled to announce that Neil Landino, Jr. has joined us as photographer extraordinaire!!!!

Edie and I are also working on a neat project, which we will write about, once it goes live.  All I can say at this point is that it is going to be great...sorry to be  so vague...details to follow soon...promise!

Please be on the look out for the release of our agent, Keith Granet's book "The Business of Design".  It is due to be released August 17th and is a great read for anyone in the industry or who is interested in design.  "The Business of Design" is available for pre-order on Amazon.  The direct link is:

Well, that is all for now...please enjoy the rest of your summer, and see you in the fall...



Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy Midsummer!

Ivar Arosenius'  Self Portrait Midsummer, 1906

Even the most dark and brooding artists among us come out to celebrate midsummer
this weekend in June. Flowers, sun and open air combined with good friends
and seasonal culinary treats - think strawberries - make this ancient celebration
of Summer an event not to be missed.

Celebrations started last night with the raising of midsummer poles and bonfires in Stockholm
and Helsinki to Scandinavian enclaves as far flung as Oregon and Florida. During the 18th and 19th centuries in Scandinavia the Midsummer Festival was one of the few times a year that rural communities could come together and the costumes and preperations for the celebration were often elaborate. Hans Christian Anderson recorded his trip to the Midsummer Festival in Leksand...

"When I left the parsonage in the evening, the moon, in its first
quarter, was up. The May-pole was raised; the little steamer, 'Prince
Augustus,' with several small vessels in tow, came over the Siljan
lake and into the elv; a musician sprang on shore, and began to play
dances under the tall wreathed May-pole."

"And there was soon a merry circle around it--all so happy, as if
the whole of life were but a delightful summer night."

Leksand churchboats on the shore of Lake Siljan by Wilhelm Marstrand, 1853.

"Next morning was the Midsummer Festival. It was Sunday, the 24th of
June, and a beautiful sunshiny day it was. The most picturesque sight
at the festival is to see the people from the different parishes
coming in crowds, in large boats over Siljan's lake, and landing on
its shores. We drove out to the landing-place, Barkedale, and before
we got out of the town, we met whole troops coming from
there, as well as from the mountains."

Today Rhonda and I will make wildflower crowns with our families...

Indulge in fresh strawberry cakes...

Gather good friends near...

and Wish Everyone a Very Happy Midsummer!


Photos: Ivar Arosenius at the National Gallery, Blomenterkuans from,
Dog with Wreath from, Strawberry cake and recipies at

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Time for Our Tastemaker Tag Sale

The time has come the Walrus said to speak of many things....of  Swedish clocks
and table tops, of Empire urns and rustic butter churns!  No need to fall
down a rabbit hole, we have it all here now at our fantastic
Eleish van Breems Tastemaker Tag Sale on One Kings Lane!

This Swedish clock cupboard is just one of the many unique items in our Eleish van Breems Tastemaker Tag Sale at One Kings Lane. Click HERE to view the Sale which runs from January 22 -24.   This unique clock cupboard is the type of hybrid furniture piece that the Swedes are known for, at once beautiful and yet eminently practical.

Rooms in 18th and 19th century Swedish farm house were often limited to just two or three downstairs rooms or, in more reduced circumstances, just one communal room.  Given that space was so limited, two types of furniture were often combined to save on precious space.   Here is an example of a clock that has been built into a secretary to form a clock secretary hybrid.   The blue clock secretary (above)  is in the home that Shannon Newsom and her mother, designer Jane Moore, designed together and
has appeared in our book Swedish Country Interiors as well as gracing the cover of Veranda.

Sometimes very wealthy merchants, mine mangers and  farmers would have several clockworks in one case piece, a sign of prestige and industriousness.  This example, above,  from our collection is painted in the darker traditional colors of the Swedish country furniture and is painted to imitate mahogany.  The initials of the owner and the date are commemorated on the clock secretary's cupboard doors.

This photo from our Swedish Interiors book was taken in the living room
of Linda Kennedy and we think you will agree that the the clock secretary is a standout piece. 
The perfect blend of functionality and form , we love Swedish clock cupboards and secretaries
and will be looking for more special examples on our trip to Scandinavia this spring.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Design Leadership Summit 2011

Edie and I have been invited to attend this year's Design Leadership Summit in Copenhagen.  We are not only honored, but are looking forward to sharing and learning from our colleagues.  This is such a wonderful opportunity for the international design community as a whole to exchange ideas and build lasting networks.

During our attendance in late April, Edie and I will be blogging the days events as well as sharing our inspirations and ah ha moments.  We can't wait!!!!

The Design Leadership Summit is the most exclusive annual gathering of leading architecture and 
interior design firm principals in the U.S.The Design Leadership Summit was founded and is hosted by Peter Sallick of Design Investors and Keith Granet of Granet & Associates. This exclusive event is dedicated to inspiring community and improving business practices among the most accomplished design professionals.  Past programs feature varied content to stimulate learning and discussion among the attendees on topics including leadership, people management, business strategy, and media communications.

We can't wait to hear what the eco-chic Danes say about their latest
developments in design and architecture!

For additional Information on the Summit past and present: