Monday, April 22, 2013

Chic-Cycle for Earth Day

With another revolution of the seasons, Earth Day is once again upon us. This year, we take a look at what it means to be green in the land of high-end furnishings. Instead of working up the usual ‘Top Ten Green Products’ or ‘Tips to Preserve the Planet’, we asked friends to share their best or most surprising chic-cycle moments (and we share a few of our own.)

Inspiration Strikes in the Strangest Places

In the holy trinity of Reduce Reuse Recyle, reuse offers creative opportunities unlike anything else in the design process.

Happenstance encounters with unusual objects, or full on hunting expeditions for the perfectly weird, or the weirdly perfect thing to complete a room are the moments we live for. Whether it's happenstance encounters with unusual objects or hunting expeditions for the perfectly strange, we live for the moments when we find that weirdly wonderful object that completes a room. We have even been known to scrounge through dumpsters and spend hours trolling the Internet looking for that oddity that puts the lid on a look.
Worm-eaten Barn Wood Transformed
On a show house installation in the Hamptons we found worm-eaten timbers from an old barn built in the 1700s and collaborated with Brooklyn artist Kristy Knight to create an heirloom worthy of the ages.

This Egg Came Second

Jeweler, James de Givenchy of Taffin, has experimented with making jewelry and objects from old guns. In the beginning, he experimented designing with guns from World War II and found it extremely rewarding. “It was personal for me because my family was involved in the French Resistance.  The underlying meaning gave the object(s) a specific identity… a substance transcendent of their intrinsic value.” For Fonderie 47, he designed a collection using steel from AK 47's. “I wanted to reinvent the way people view the AK 47... The egg embodies rebirth and thus is revolutionary in the proper sense of the word.”

Gear Gets Dressed Up for Re-use

Christian Nikum of Rocky Mountain Hardware reuses and recycles metal too. “This giant cog/gear is a part that would typically be purchased by a metal smelter as a recyclable piece. In turn, they would melt it down to re-purpose the various elements into alloys.”  Nikum believes this specific gear was used in an old oil refinery/processing plant.  “We loved the cool recycled style of this as it is, so we bought it from our ingot supplier and plan to turn it into a large table in our new showroom. 

“In addition to using recycled bronze to cast all of our products, Rocky Mountain Hardware is committed to an environmentally sound green philosophy, both corporately and culturally.  Our headquarters are LEED gold certified.”

Celebrate Earth Day 2013 by sharing your gems of up-cycling in our comments below or on Facebook, simply "tag" Ellen Hanson Designs!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Decorating and the Art of Drawing

JP Teugels Salle A Manger, a favorite flea market find

I was so happy to see Michael Graves column on the lost art of drawing in architecture.  I have long thought producing simple hand sketches in our end of the business is a pleasurable pursuit and an effective tool for getting ideas across. I had not thought of it in an organized way, but Mr Graves assertion that "Architecture cannot divorce itself from drawing, no matter how impressive the technology gets. Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design. Drawings express the interaction of our minds, eyes and hands." struck a chord with me.  
Michael Graves Temples of Juno and Neptune, Paestum, 1961

Though I am not an architect and do not present many hand drawn images to our clients, we render our floor plans in richly layered colors we know the client loves. The sensuous experience of doing that adds to the enjoyment in thinking about what might please the client.
Ellen Hanson Illustration of Table with Leaves, 2009

And sometimes we send a small sketch to a workroom showing a design detail to the fabricator.  Graves says "In a handmade drawing, whether on an electronic tablet or on paper, there are intonations, traces of intentions and speculation. This is not unlike the way a musician might intone a note or how a riff in jazz would be understood subliminally and put a smile on your face."

Ellen Hanson, Leg Detail for a Workroom, 2012

After months of rushing around to prepare purchase orders and meet deadlines, it is time to sharpen the colored pencils, unzip the pouch of markers and open a roll of yellow flimsy.

Michael Graves, Denver Library South Facade Sketch 1991

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wanting Opulently (even in the afterlife)

Photograph of Exterior of the Sun God's Eternal Home; photo by Ellen Hanson

It's as if every demon from hell with aspirations

toward interior design flew overhead and indiscriminately

spouted gouts of molten gold, that cooled down

into swan-shape spigots, doorknobs, pen-and-inkwell sets.

A chandelier the size of a planetarium dome

is gold, and the commodes. The handrails

heading to the wine cellar and the shelving for the DVDs

and the base for the five stuffed tigers posed in a fighting phalanx:

gold, as is the samovar and the overripe harp

and the framework for the crocodile-hide ottoman and settee.

The full-size cinema theater accommodating an audience

of hundreds for the screening of home (or possibly

high-end fuck flick) videos: starred in gold

from vaulted ceiling to clawfoot legs on the seating.

Of course the scepter is gold, but the horns

on the mounted stag heads: do they need to be gilded?

Yes. And the olive fork and the French maid's row of dainty buttons

and the smokestack on the miniature train

that delivers golden trays of dessert from the kitchen

to a dining hall about the size of a zip code,

and the snooker table's sheathing, and the hat rack,

and those hooziewhatsit things in which you slip your feet

on the water skis, and the secret lever

that opens the door to the secret emergency bunker.

Smug and snarky as we are, in our sophisticated

and subtler, non-tyrannical tastes, it's still

unsettling to realize these photographs are also full

of the childrens' pictures set on a desk,

the wife's diploma proudly on a wall, the common

plastic container of aspirin, and the bassinette

with the scroll of linen shade at the ready

in case the sun is too powerful: reminders of how

a graduated continuum connects these ├╝beroperatically

fat interior lives to our own. We all desire

"more" and "better," Melville adds that final "e"

to the family name, and Faulkner adds the "u," in quest

of a signified gentility. My friend Damien

(fake name) won A Certain Literary Award, and

at the stellar after-ceremony party, in the swank hotel's

swank atrium, he found a leggy literary groupie

noshing caviar under a swankily lush mimosa,

and in under an hour his own swank room could boast

the golden statuette, the evening's loveliest woman, and

the silver serving platter of five-star caviar,

and if you think this story's moral lesson is

that satiation is ever attained, you don't understand

the protoknowledge we're born with, coded into our cells:

soon soon soon enough we die. Even before we've seen

the breast, we're crying to the world that we want;

and the world doles out its milkiness in doses. We

want, we want, we want, and if we don't then

that's what we want; abstemiousness is only

hunger translated into another language. Yes

there's pain and heartsore rue and suffering, but

there's no such thing as "anti-pleasure": it's pleasure

that the anchorite takes in his bleak cave

and Thoreau in his bean rows and cabin. For Thoreau,

the Zen is: wanting less is wanting more.

Of less. At 3 a.m. Marlene (fake name) and Damien

drunkenly sauntered into and out of the atrium,

then back to his room: he wanted the mimosa too,

and there it stood until checkout at noon, a treenapped testimony

to the notion that we will if we can, as evidenced in even

my normally modest, self-effacing friend. If we can,

the archeological record tells us, we'll continue wanting

opulently even in the afterlife: the grave goods

of pharaohs are just as gold as the headrests

and quivers and necklace pendants they used every day

on this side of the divide, the food containers

of Chinese emperors are ready for heavenly meals

that the carved obsidian dragons on the great jade lids

will faithfully guard forever. My own

innate definition of "gratification" is right there

in its modifier "immediate," and once or twice

I've hurt somebody in filling my maw. I've walked

—the normally modest, self-effacing me—below a sky

of stars I lusted after as surely as any despot

contemplating his treasury. The slice of American cheese

on the drive-thru-window burger is also gold,

bathetically gold,

and I go where my hunger dictates.


Thanks to the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day
for an eloquent illustration of the opposite of what we hope for...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

House Rules for Making Every Day Earth Day

Our top tips for sustainability in the home from the smartest new products to the simplest common sense steps

1.      Take a deep breath. We have fallen in love with several low to no VOC paints of late and find the lack of smell and high quality of the product (making for fewer applications and better wear) offsets the slightly higher cost of the paint. Stark’s partnership with the UK’s Paper and Paint Library has resulted in a beautiful palette which we return to time and again. Benjamin Moore’s Natura and Aura paints can be mixed in any color from their fans or matched to a sample. Fine Paints of Europe has some great color collections and high performance no VOC lacquer-like paints
2.      Pay more, buy less. Purchasing heirloom-quality antique and vintage furnishings not only brings style, life and history to a home, but it is also a smart way to support sustainable luxury. Older items are made by hand or by using traditional techniques that would cost far more to replicate today (if you could even find skilled artisans to do the work!) and you won’t have to replace these items any time soon
3.      Re-purpose! A first step in many of our decorating jobs is to first assess what items should be re-used in the new design scheme. Repairing and recovering well-made upholstery or lacquering a case piece in an unexpected hue can recontextualize the piece– making it fresh and exciting in the new space and saving virgin resources from being expended in the process
5.      Ditch the Windex! Ellen has long espoused the benefits of good clean living-and cleaning! With the ever-widening variety of ecologically sensitive and chemical free cleaners there is no reason to pollute the air in your home or workplace with noxious gases in the interest of a clean and beautiful space
6.       How many Federal regulators does it take to screw in a light bulb?  The new-age, old dilemma is how to save energy without casting a sickly green glow. We are ever on the lookout for alternatives to the ill-designed corkscrew CFL. PLUMEN looks to be a viable contender - the sculptural design is a great sub for the stylish retro Edison bulbs many fixtures are designed to showcase. It also sports the fun, high-low, old-meets-new dynamic that can instantly update a space
7.  Beware materials your grandparents would not recognize As much as possible, stick to real goods like wool, linen, fsc certified wood, etcetera. There are some high-tech products that are great like FLOR and Caesarstone but their green story is front and center so you know what you are getting. Not so with some polyester or pvc products which can actually expose us to endocrine disruptors and other toxins.
8.     Let there be light. Use layered window treatments to control solar gain and heat loss. Thermal comfort =lower energy bills. Plus it’s a great way to bring beautiful textiles in to your home design
9.      Hit the road. Up and coming designers are embracing new technologies for conservation of energy and raw materials. From the Milan Furniture Fair to the Architectural Digest Show to the ICFF we love seeking out the hottest new pick from a rising star. How satisfying it is to know your new find conserves valuable resources, or has a zero carbon footprint?
10.     Waste not, want not Instead of using anything disposable, invest in vintage tabletop wares by the likes of Georg Jensen or Waylande Gregory. It’s exciting to not only have impressive supplies for hosting, but to also have an investment whose value will grow with time
11. Go with the Flow You never miss your water until your well runs dry. The world will be faced with severe water shortages in the coming decades.   Install low flow plumbing fixtures and toilets as replacement opportunities arise around the house. A stylish favorite here at EHD is the Purist Collection from Kohler. Toto also has some smart options

12. Shop Local Sourcing furniture and accessories close to home not only means instant gratification in many cases but also greatly reduced shipping distance; this not only cuts down on your costs but also limits the carbon output and use of fuel to bring your goodies to their new home. Low carbon footprint and instant gratification; that’s a winning combination!

13. Support independent local business In addition to the aforementioned boost of minimizing the schelp, buying from small business owners in your own neighborhood not only keeps bustling storefronts open on your main street but also gives you convenient access to cool stuff (and who doesn’t love cool stuff?)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Black Eyed Peas just got more delicious!

Silver Orbs Rinne Allen

December brings joys both new and old. In looking forward to the coming year, there is an inherent nostalgia as we pause to review seasons past.

Not so long ago, team EHD decamped for a southern idyl (rather a week or so of intense large scale installation madness) in Athens, Georgia.

Hotel Indigo Athens model room, art by Rinne Allen

In the midst of installing 5 floors of furniture, art and accessories in the LEED Gold Hotel Indigo Athens , we girls DID have to eat! We found culinary treasures- five and ten, the national, the grit and the Four Coursemen to name some faves. Local artists, gallerists and crafts people lent their talents to our project, and shared Athens' gustatorial gems.

The office end-of-year gift! Go to page 103 to ensure luck in the new year

And now what a joy to stumble upon this beautifully designed new cookbook by Hugh Acheson, the chef of one of our most visited restaurants. With photography by Rinne Allen who contributed beautiful work to the hotel decor, we put this into the shopping cart immediately.

Hand illustrated table of contents, love!

Needless to say, end-of-year gift giving just got simpler! Not a moment too soon because we are always looking for new black-eyed pea recipes to share on January first to ensure a prosperous new year. Throw in some cabbage (page 218) if you are hoping for more "green" next year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Erica Wilson, we'll miss you!

photo © todd selby 2010, all rights reserved
The 'Julia Child of Needle Work' according to the New York Times

One of Ms. Wilson's popular needle work books
Former Erica Wilson students, Ellen and Beth Hanson, winding wool

from needleplay - highlights from the televison series "erica" by erica wilson , 1975

Sad news today as we learned of the passing of a great and influential crafts woman and artist. Impressing young girls on Nantucket teaching them revered needle arts...
Reaching into our living rooms and residing on our bookshelves...
Bringing us craft, color and joy...

You will be missed!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New York Times, Market Ready!

Photo by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times. Nice to see some recognition for STARK PAINT, our favorite palette these days!

 Well, it has been a long time, but we definitely have something to share today!
A few weeks back Ellen had a chat with Tim McKeough of the New York Times about the prudence of investing in sustainability to increase resale value.

What a great surprise when our inbox had notes from friends commenting on this week's Market Ready article. Check out the great tips from Ellen and real estate agent Jeffrey Schleider!

'Eco-lacquer' in a LEED Gold boutique hotel designed by Ellen Hanson Designs

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

LEEDers of The Pack

Copyright Hester + Hardaway Photographers, Fayetteville, Texas

We are very proud to share with you our latest article published in the on-line magazine, Introspective, at 1st Dibs.
The search for our favorite LEED buildings was enlightening and fun. We present ten dazzling projects here.
Which is your favorite?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day

Who wants to get out of bed on a day like this?
All I want to do is wrap myself in a soft, warm and specially colored blanket.
The color needs to match my mood and today's choice would be this hot red number from D Bryant Archie.

D Bryant Archie Throw photographed by Kristy Knight
Some people have to carry their blankets with them everywhere they go like these Maasai warriors who inspired D's Shuka Blanket.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons sharing, Brutere for Wikipedia
Most people I know leave their blankets on their bed or sometimes drape one over a cozy chair where they like to sit.

Ellen Hanson's Sag Harbor home
Photo by Anastassios Mentis

But Marie Watt, a native merican artist in the Northwest, has been working on a project that explores the history of wool blankets and the stories and rituals in these everyday objects. And she says "On a wall, a blanket functions as a tapestry, but on a body it functions as a robe and a living art object"

Marie Watt Marker: Axis Mundi 2010
image from PDX Contemporary Art
Marie Watt Conversation (Eastern Door) 2006
image from PDX Contemporary Art

If you want to leave your bedding in the bedroom but are sick of the way it all looks, check out this article in the Off Duty section of the Wall Street Journal where Sara Ruffin Costello explores alternatives to the fluffy down comforters of the last decade.

Paul Costello for the Wall Street Journal

 Sara, I agree, it is time for a make-over in the inner sanctum!
Sourcing antique textiles, fresh bedlinen and alpaca throws are on the top of my 2011 resolutions list. Warning Dear Reader: you may be a beneficiary of this effort.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Twist My Arm

While we here at Ellen Hanson Designs sing the praises of Reduce  Reuse  Recycle there comes a time when nothing will do but a brand new gift picked just for that special someone.
On a weekly basis we screen hundreds of blogs, product releases, magazines and shopping sites. And that is not to mention the weekly newsletters we subscribe to which pop up in our in-box enticing us to check back in  with sites like 1stdibs and etsy.

Looking through so many products one can't help but get some big ideas about that perfect gift. After posting a few wonderful  ideas on our Facebook page, we finally decided to make it official.

So, here for your joy and perusal, we present our fantasy secret Santa shop.
TV advertisers sarcastically ask "has anyone ever wished for a smaller holiday gift?" however putting this wish list together reminded us that although a folding bike would be awesome sometimes the best gifts are those tiny stocking stuffers that come in handy just when you need them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nature Morte

The change of season from late summer to fall along with autumnal bounty from the farm also brings a touch of sadness.  Once vibrant flowers and trees prepare for the tilt of earth away from the sun.  Usually I enjoy this shift, but this year we were relaxing at home in Sag Harbor when a small thud brought us to the kitchen door where we found this little bird had dropped from the sky. 

Dead bird of unknown species, help us identify it!
October 2010 Sag Harbor, NY. Photo by Ellen Hanson

I wondered if this was an ominous sign and spent some time trolling the internet looking for meaning. At first I found nothing but silly sites with psychic readings for $10 but then I started turning up images of dead birds going way back.  Seems they've been a topic of fascination with artists for quite some time.

Albert Pinkham Ryder  Dead Bird  c. 1890

The catalog of The Phillips Collection, The Eye of Duncan Phillips: a Collection in the Making  calls Dead Bird  a "powerful image," noting that it "explores a recurrent illusory theme: the coexistence of the corporeal and the ethereal."

John Singer Sargent Studies of a Dead Bird 1878
Turns out you can buy this John Singer Sargent painting on the world wide web for only $189 (oh and I have a bridge to sell you.)

This appreciation has persisted into modern work as well.
  Candace Bohannon on her Dead Bird "Though I go out walking in the woodlands often, it is rare for me to come across a recent carcass like this.  The forest teems with creatures that dine on such fare, and I just happened to be the quickest scavenger that day."

Candace Bohannon Dead Bird (one day study)
2010 Oil on Board  

Petah Coyne Canto VIII, 2008
 This taxidermic bird sports a feathered peplum, pearl-headed hatpins and cable bolts

Because of their connection to the sky, birds have often been thought of as a supernatural link between the Heavens and the Earth.

I don't know whether we had an undelivered message from the spirit world or a prosaic reminder of the impermanence of life, but as a next step in my meditation on this topic I plan to purchase some guidance