Saturday, January 3, 2009

Higlighted Posts of 2008

The top 10 posts of the year according to me and a few friends. Its the the natural way to end the year and get ready for 2009. I hope those of you new to Homer's passions enjoy something you may have missed. A Very Happy 2009 to all and I wish us great good luck in what may be some hard times to endure. Just remember what is important and that everything will be fine.

So let us begin with a look back.

I recently stumbled upon the University of Glasgow's Special Collections website and proceeded to spend a few hours gazing at the most beautiful old prints. Here you will find a selection of groundbreaking and wonderfully illustrated natural history books, from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries. All I could think of was covering my walls with some of these fantastic illustrations. I've selected just few to give you an idea of what a great resource this collection is for ideas and an appreciation of truly great art.Though I must say that I've always loved Turtles.

There are many secrets in Washington DC. Usually they are the kind made of the knowing handshake or perhaps the scandal kept hidden til days before the election and oh is the atmosphere ripe these days. We here in the nation's capital are but days away from a change in power and unlike our former supernova, the Big Apple, to the north, here power is all.

A new Administration brings new people and new ideas and new needs to Washington. Come January, many new folk will come to town. They'll need advice on who to greet, where to go, how to make an impression on the natives and how to show that they are arriving with new ideas and a new style. That is what makes it such an exciting time and perhaps an historic one.

So you've arrived, and you need some expert advice on putting your new home together. Some in the new Cabinet and many another newly minted Assistant Secretary might think they need to turn to New York for such advice, but for those of us in the know, that's just provincial thinking. There is plenty of design talent right here in DC and today Homer's Odd is going to start showing you what and who is available.

Let's start with a who. For freshness, style, professionalism and a can do spirit you can't go wrong with Sally Steponkus.

Sally is the kind of gal, and I use that term in the highest respect, cause I love gals, who approaches life and projects with a grin, grit, and determination. She reminds me of that scene from The Mary Tyler Moore show when Lou Grant said to Mary in their first meeting, " You've got spunk," to her reply, " well, yea," and he said, " I hate spunk." But who prevailed???

I sat down recently with Sally to discuss her background, thoughts on design and her recent projects. While the discussion took place over coffee I couldn't help but feel a Marguerita would have been better. It's that spunk thing.

Let's start at the beginning: Sally is a native Washingtonian growing up in downtown Foggy Bottom and then in McLean, Virginia where she graduated from the Potomac School and then from Trinity College in Hartford, CT. Her first exposure to design came from her parents hiring her mother's college roommate's husband, Roger Roman to help decorate the house the in Virginia. " I remember Roger and my Mother taking me to the Design Center downtown to help pick out wallpaper and carpet for my room, I'd never had so much fun and I thought I was pretty good at it."

Sally got her start working for the Robert Allen showroom at the Washington Design Center during her college vacations and for 8 months after graduation. She explained, "I was then hired by Ann Kenkel of Kendridge Designs, where I worked for 2 years. When I left I opened my own business while also working for Lavinia Lemon. Before going out completely on my own I worked with Kelley Proxmire, working 2 days a week for almost 2 years, while still running my own biz the rest of the time."

What is your favorite room either from an emotional standpoint or design. You can choose from anywhere?

"I had a really hard time with this question! If we are talking about decorating-wise, then I’d have to say that I love going to lunch at the restaurant that Kelly Wearstler designed at Bergdorf’s in NYC. I adore her light, clear light blue palette and her use of funky, vintage-looking chairs and preppy but chic window treatments. If we are talking about my favorite room for sentimental, non decorating-wise reasons, then I’d choose my late grand-father’s screened in porch in Rochester, NY. He had a beautiful backyard and garden that he tended faithfully, which provided a lovely view from the porch, and he had this rattan furniture that I wish I could have inherited – it went to my aunt’s summer place in Maine, so at least I still get to enjoy it when I’m up there – but I suppose it’s the feeling of being there with him that I remember most. My grandfather was as fastidious a homemaker as any woman. He raised my mom and aunt on his own after my grandmother died (my mom was 5 at the time) and he was a wonderfully kind and gentle person with superb homemaking skills and a crazy sweet tooth: he gardened, he cooked, he baked and he was lovely to everyone and his house was very peaceful and simple. I remember what the grass smelled like after he cut it (the windows were always open in the summertime) and I can still feel the sheer fabric of the window treatments. It seems to me, his house ran in a quiet, organized, metered way – it was perfect.

What project are you most proud of completing?

I am equally proud of all of my projects, as well as the several showhouses I’ve participated in. But I’m most proud of MYSELF for starting my business at age 24. Fortunately my first client was a huge one so starting out wasn’t so bad and I had lots of support from my parents, who always knew I could run my own company. My father is self-employed as a public relations consultant so growing up and knowing that he was in charge, he did all the work, he set his own schedule, etc. wasn’t intimidating, it was just how it was and there was never any question in my mind that I’d work for myself just like him. It seems more normal to me than working for a big company.

Who is your favorite or most respected Decorator?

I adore Kelly Wearstler and really respect her taste and achievement for single-handedly bringing back Hollywood Regency and promoting refinishing old pieces of furniture and reusing them in updated, fun fabrics. She has inspired me to shop even more at flea markets and on Craigslist to find old, cool, cheap stuff to redo and resell!

What is your first question is when meeting a potential client about decorating their home?
I like to know how clients want to use their spaces and what feeling they want to exude from them. If someone wants something casual but funky that is helpful to know, but if someone wants more formal but still family-friendly, it is important that I know that to create the right mood.

What do you find is a client's biggest mistake? Many a client’s biggest mistake is not defining how much money they want to spend and setting a budget. A lot of clients also get bogged down by the money stuff – once they see it in print on a proposal, it gets very real and they often hesitate or stall because they haven’t defined their budget for themselves or to me ahead of time. If a client doesn’t start out with an amount they want to spend, whatever I show them naturally ends up being “more than they want to spend.” "And hey! like they say, you get what you pay for."

What do you find are the most common problems on a project and most common mistakes in dealing with a client?
The most common problem on a project is communication with clients. I try to be very open and not intimidating so they feel like they can approach me and ask questions, or ask for other choices. Often people don’t ask questions or don’t follow up on decisions, which slows down the process.

What is your best fabric source?

The Washington Design Center, specifically Cowtan & Tout for Jane Churchill & Manuel Canovas, J. Lambeth for China Seas, Hinson for great grasscloth wallcoverings.

What object or piece of furniture should every living room have?
An ottoman. You should always be able to be comfortable and to put your feet up.I have to be lying on a sofa or in a chair with an ottoman to get truly comfy & relaxed.

What object or piece of furniture every bedroom should have?

Lovely lamps. Lighting is important in a bedroom,and having some special lamps that are crisp, clean, serene and quiet and not ordinary make a great impact on the room. They are obviously practical but also can often be sculptural and make the room the cherry on top of the sundae.

What is your favorite Lamp or lighting source?
I have been crazy about Christopher Spitzmiller forever and his lamps are certainly the best of the best. When clients don’t have as big a budget, I get lots of lamps from the Kellogg Collection which always has a great collection.I also adore Jamie Young, Currey & Co. and Circa Lighting for basics.

What are your favorite paint colors.

Blue Ground from Farrow & Ball

Manchester Tan from Ben Moore

Hancock Green from Ben Moore

What are your favorite sources for new information and your favorite websites?

Recently I’ve been reading the following blogs: Peak of Chic, StyleCourt, An Aesthete’s Lament and of course you Homer. I am constantly shopping on Crate and Barrel’s website as well as West Elm and Pottery Barn. I always click on the link to the blogs that Terri Sapienza lists in the Home Section every Thursday on

Also, I look at almost every day to see what new has been posted. Recently I purchased chairs for myself and recovered them in a wonderful Sea Cloth chocolate zebra print on the front with China Seas ivory linen and chocolate polka dots on the back. They’re very fun & unexpected!

Thanks to Angie Seckinger for the photographs, except for the picture of Bergdorf's which comes from Girl in the Pearl Blog.

That is Sally, fun and unexpected.Here's to you Sally.

A fascinating short lecture from TED by Siegfried Woldhek on The true face of the great Leonardo Da Vinci. TED is linked on the sidebar here. Be careful, you may get hooked, and perhaps smarter.

I Love Paris in the Springtime, enjoy this video. Its cute,romantic, young and in love!!

Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup

Talent will out. I've recently been exposed to the great artist Walton Ford by Habitually Chic. I'm just surprised that I was unaware of his work, as it of a subject and genre that I have always loved. He will be exhibiting his work at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York from May 8 to July 3, 2008. I highly recommend seeing this work if you have the chance. While I might question the political undertones of these pieces, I cannot get over the sheer talent before my eyes and that always wins out.

From Artist 21, " Walton Ford was born in 1960 in Larchmont, New York. Ford graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with the intention of becoming a filmmaker, but later adapted his talents as a storyteller to his unique style of large-scale watercolor. Blending depictions of natural history with political commentary, Ford’s meticulous paintings satirize the history of colonialism and the continuing impact of slavery and other forms of political oppression on today’s social and environmental landscape. Each painting is as much a tutorial in flora and fauna as it is as a scathing indictment of the wrongs committed by nineteenth-century industrialists or, locating the work in the present, contemporary American consumer society. An enthusiast of the watercolors of John James Audubon, Ford celebrates the myth surrounding the renowned naturalist-painter while simultaneously repositioning him as an infamous anti-hero who, in reality, killed more animals than he ever painted. Each of Ford’s animal portraits doubles as a complex, symbolic system, which the artist layers with clues, jokes, and erudite lessons in colonial literature and folktales. Walton Ford is the recipient of several national awards and honors including a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Ford’s work has been featured at Bowdoin College Museum of Art, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, and the Forum for Contemporary Art in St. Louis. After living in New York City for more than a decade, Walton Ford relocated his studio to Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Ford and his family reside in upstate New York."

From an earlier post, compare his work. It's an obvious evolution of a style I much admire.

Though I haven't lived most of my life in New York City, I love being able to claim that I was born there and consider myself a true native, as this where my family is really of . To this day, I still have a bed in the city that I love, when I'm lucky enough to visit. While I know the city and the public transportation system like the back of my hand my heart still quickens every time I enter Grand Central Station. I've found a great new site called Monumental Adventure which has videos about the great and small aspects of the city and has videos about London as well. I highly recommend this website. Here is a short video with the actor Griffin Dunne on a youthful, whispering, romantic experience in Grand Central Station.

Some years ago I was sitting on a rather lonely but pretty beach on the island of Langkawai in the Andamen Sea. It was a hot afternoon when I made acquaintance with a British lady and we got to chatting. We were both staying in this German owned ten room hotel out there in the middle of nowhere. She was very attractive and a great conversationalist and obviously very smart. One thing led to another and I invited her to join me for dinner in the meager thatched covered dining room, lit by Chinese lanterns and a bit of electricity on this equatorial island just south of Burma. Without digging deep I came to understand they she either currently or in the recent past had been a member of a religious community in England. She was fascinating. Somehow the conversation turned to Darwin and his theory of evolution and I mentioned how it seemed probable that we human beings had evolved from the apes. She smiled knowingly and crinkled her eyes, made a small laugh and touched my hand. " Oh my dear," she said, " we've been here for so much longer."

She went on to explain that we are all souls who are very very old. She didn't use the term reincarnation and she didn't go into details. But she was emphatic that apes and human beings are completely different. This was not an attack on the theory of evolution but a sincere belief and an understanding of things that certainly go over my head and I have never forgotten that conversation over a good glass of wine under the stars on a unfamiliar Sea. We parted with a sweet kiss knowing that we'd never meet again..on this lonely island.

It's a true story and the reason I link to this BBC report, which is a bit mind boggling to comprehend. But then isn't all of it. Time Before the Big Bang.

Another form of Haute Couture in honor of YSL. A previous post from the start of Homer's Odd Isn't He. Incredible images. These are pictures from The Surma and Mursi tribes of East Africa's Omo Valley as photographed by Hans Silvester in his book Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa.

1 East 70th Street, to any aficionado of the New York layout is simply a splendid address. As many a reader here will know it was a home, now a Museum, and a reminder of what Fifth Avenue used to look like. It is The Frick. A timeless gift of Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), the Pittsburgh coke and steel industrialist.

It is a uniquely American attribute; a curse to some, life to others, that Fifth Avenue in New York looks almost completely different today from 100 years ago. Financial concerns, a growing population and the introduction of the Internal Revenue Service brought down a long avenue of great houses. But the Frick Collection remains and it is has been and will always be my favorite museum in New York City.

I admire that the many masterpieces and rooms are shown as they were when this was a private home. For such an important place, I love it all the more because so many of my visits have been almost always solitary, something I've never understood. The Frick is for some reason, or on purpose, been under the radar of must sees in New York. The collection, aside from the building itself is worth many return visits. It must be that the entrance to Central Park is two blocks north and the Metropolitan just a few blocks further,that tourists just overlook this treasure.

Construction of the building began in 1913 at the then competitive price of of five million dollars. Remember, the Astor's and Rockefeller's were neighbors, and was executed by the famous firm of Carrère and Hastings. Mr. Frick died in 1919. In his will, he left the house and all of the works of art in it together with the furnishings (“subject to occupancy by Mrs. Frick during her lifetime”) to become a gallery called The Frick Collection. He provided an endowment of $15,000,000 to be used for the maintenance of the Collection and for improvements and additions

The mindbogglingly collection of masterpieces range from Rembrandt and Hans Holbein the Younger to Monet. Other than paintings, the museum has sculptures, drawings, pieces of furniture, and porcelain. This was a home.

The Frick and its governing board hold a few fund raising events throughout the year that show that while there might not be the original 400 left around town to show up, a new generation has risen to the occasion to keep this jewel in pristine shape. Here are few pictures that conjure up the dowager Mrs. Astor's crowd at a recent event. These pictures come from last year's Young Member's Ball, courtesy of New York Social Diary.

To our gratitude, The Frick sits quietly and elegantly right on Fifth and I think many people just don't realize what they are looking upon. One of its true treasures is a particular room and one of my favorite places, "The Fragonard Room," commissioned by Madame de Barry. It is very French; a love of which I gained from my very Irish grandmother. Here is a video from Monumental Adventure of the Museum that tells the whole story just right. Next time your in New York City don't miss this jewel of La Grande Pomme . Here is the video, please enjoy it. The Frick.

Last week in New York City the spigots were turned on and began an art exhibition, whose concept I love. Olafur Eliasson's "Waterfalls." Here is the main site for the exhibition. New York Waterfalls

As a native New Yorker, though now a resident of DC, I'm always envious that our big brother to the north can put on civic art works that DC seems to be incapable of doing. I must say that from my own perspective this puts Christo's "The Gates" to shame. NYC is a water town and this work of art says it all. I will admit that the sound of water falling has always put me in my zen zone.But the particular falls beneath the Brooklyn Bridge is sublime and I don't know why. For more information on the artist's work here, is his recent exhibition at MOMA.

History, Technology, Design and the Ancients combined!! With the Olympics only days away here is an astonishing story and video that I hope you'll take a few moments to watch. If you go back in my posts or remember my story about the old man at Ephesus you'll see why I took his words so seriously. In a quick reminder, the old man said, "The ancients had powers that we don't know about"

This is the story about an ancient Greek clock that displays astronomical and Olympic times. The story was posted today on Boing Boing and the video comes from the Nature Journal of Science. This is fascinating in so many ways and well worth your time. To think I depend on my cell phone now for the time of day!

I have always had a love of staircases and thought that this would make a great subject for a posting here at Homer's Odd. My first memory of a staircase was of course sitting at the the top of the front hall stairs while the folks were having a party down below and wanting to be a part of all the fun until being told upon being caught, to get back to bed.

Staircases are grand and sweeping or they can be narrow and steep. Each design has it's own purpose and reason. The classic television series "Upstairs Downstairs," showed the importance of the staircase in Edwardian London.

Staircases are escapes or the route to love.

In my travels around the world, I have seen and climbed some great staircases. Starting from the Acropolis to St. Peter's, to Borobodur and Buckingham Palace.

These steps have always captured a greater moment in my memory than the place itself. It made me think. Why are stairs so important? A few thoughts come to mind. When climbing a new staircase you are rising, you are entering. It is unknown, it is a new experience. Your heart beats a bit faster, your eyes widen, the stairs are the cause.

Staircases are simply a functional architectural necessity to get you from one level to the next. They do however transcend their purpose in so many ways. They can denote class stratifications, they are pulpits, lecterns, they are structures used for grand ceremonial occasions.They are places of historic importance, they are the place where time changes. They are the spot where once your little girl bounced down in her pj's to where she threw her bouquet on her wedding day.

Staircases are where inaugurations are held or great civil rights speeches are given. I believe we choose staircases to hold these important functions because they symbolize transcendence. They allow the speaker and the audience to believe that we can achieve what is spoken. That is what makes stairs important. Be they wooden or marble I love to climb them. Here are a few pictures of great staircases.

Angor Wat

A Crazy Staircase

Grand Central Station New York City

Tulip Staircase Queens House Greenwich

Buckingham Palace Grand Staircase

Bovolostaircase Venice

Chambord by Da Vinci

The Exorcist Staircase, Georgetown

The Titanic Staircase

Survivors Staircase World Trade Center

Here is a quick story on what I did on my summer vacation. Last Saturday found me up in the Catskill Mountains of New York in the small winter ski town of Windham, which I have been going to since I was a small lad.

Windham Mountain has an interesting history. Too many years ago, we're referring to the sixties, Windham Mountain was opened as a private ski resort by the Sheridan family. They were and are part of that old Irish Lace crowd that dominated the New York metropolitan area with lots of kids, relatives and neighbors. In its heyday the Windham Club was a virtual sea of freckled faces with blonde,redhead and blue eyed families. The mountain was full of old names like McDonnell, Murray, Skakel, Sullivan, Carey and too many to mention. It was a great time but it was only a short time. Today Windham is a great newly owned facility that is only a couple of hours from Manhattan and is experiencing a rebirth, thanks to some good cold winters and plenty of folks looking for a weekend place not so far away from the city. But I digress.

Not far away and across the mighty Hudson lies the very pretty town of Kinderhook. In Dutch, for which it's name comes from means, "Children's Corner." The goal of an hour's drive to Kinderhook was to meet and see Michael Devine, whose blog is linked to this site. Michael has opened a jewel of a home design store in Kinderhook and I for one sing its praises.

Saturday was a perfect afternoon for a day trip and after winding across the Hudson River Valley we arrived, children, parents, godfather and dog in Kinderhook. The town has some fantastic old homes to view and a quaint small village center where "Michael Devine Home," resides. Through the archway between store and office a young man stood who I assumed was the proprietor. I asked if he was Michael Devine and was affirmed with a hearty hello.

I introduced myself by my proper name and then mentioned that I might be better known as Homer. Michael immediately recognized what I was referring too and gave us all a hearty welcome and a tour of the store. I was also lucky enough to be given a tour of the beautiful garden behind the store/home and of the back shed turned summertime dining room covered in one of his newest fabrics. The place looked great! Aside from the store Michael has become well known for his hand-printed fabrics. His is the first boutique American company to be asked to show at the prestigious Maison & Object Editueres in Paris.

Let me say, I really liked the line of fabrics on display but loved some finished drapes hanging in the back yard over some wicker furniture. Imagine a cotton/linen white fabric with hand blocked chinoiserie pagodas done in a preppy blue. I can only assume they'll be hanging next summer in the finer summer homes around the country. Michael told me he's also got a contract to sell in Australia, hey Anna Spiro, famed for " Absolutely Beautiful Things," keep your eyes out,you'll love this, along with London and Paris of course.

We chatted about the blogosphere and the sites and friends we have come to know and where all this work might take us. I warned him, as he is relatively new to blogging, about what a beast it can become, with knowing nods from his partner Thomas Burak.
With a recommendation for lunch at "Pi" just down the street, which was wonderful, we left vowing to stay in touch. It was a great road trip to visit a very talented man.You can learn more at Michael's blog, "The Devine Life," here.

Thank you to "All The Best," for this photo.

I knew I'd missed my crowd. I love this and would have been a true member. Also known as "The Golden Asses." A new Getty exhibition opening on August 7th.
From the Getty.
LOS ANGELES.- In 1734, a group of young British gentlemen, all alumni of the Grand Tour in Italy, formed a dining club in London. Calling themselves the Society of Dilettanti (from the Italian dilettare, to take delight), this close-knit association transformed classical antiquity from a private pleasure to a public benefit by sponsoring archaeological expeditions, forming collections, and publishing influential books on ancient architecture and sculpture.

I have followed Peter Beard's career from afar for many years always with admiration. Though I didn't know his personal history intimately I was always aware of his work. I guess being a New Yorker in the 70's and 80's he was simply a part of that golden age of personages we kept an eye on.

This post throws up past to the 70's and a fascinating interview by R. Couri Hay at one of Peter's shows, "The End of the Game," where Mary Hemingway was an attendee. Peter is he kinda guy we all aspire too yet perhaps don't have the obviously good genes to win out. Here is a man whose talent and lust for exotic travel combined with a great photographic eye made me an envious fan. I'll never forget when the news broke of how he was trampled by an elephant and nearly died and of his great strides to recover and return from that horrific accident. Thanks to the Sporting Life linked here at Homer's for finding this long lost interview. Its says so much about that time. Listening to Mary Hemingway is charming and illustrative of an age gone by. Its also interesting to see R. Couri Hay way back then and who is still a fixture in New York often noted at New York Social Diary.

Peter Beard and Mary Hemingway

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