04 April 2008

Smiles Everyone... Spring Has Arrived!

Smile pretty. Scream and shout. Jump for joy and don't look back. Spring is here and I am thrilled! Currently, the Washington, DC Tidal Basin is surrounded by an army of Cherry Blossoms trees. They are in peak bloom this week, so now is the time to catch a glimpse, before they are gone and the complaints about the Washington, DC Summer humidity begins. (Quick aside... for those of you who don't know, Washington, DC was built on a swamp - no wonder why the summertime is so humid!)

Cherry Blossom branches in full bloom around the Jefferson memorial, Washington, DC. A precise sign that Spring is here.

"Jump for Joy" It's Spring!

Below is a cover story that I contributed to for the Washington Blade in March 2007. I think the subject matter is quite timely, so I present it here in it's entirety.

The Washington Blade

"In With the Old"
Local design enthusiasts offer tips for getting your home ready for spring

by Zach Rosen
Friday, March 09, 2007

atrick Baglino’s office does not have cubicles. It’s conspicuously devoid of halogen lighting, and a visitor would be hard pressed to find the water cooler. The interior decorator works out of his own home, an impeccably adorned apartment in the former embassy of New Guinea. His assistant has a desk enviably placed in full view of the space’s dominating feature — a dome ceiling rotunda with a panoramic view of Dupont and pale lilac walls that seem to shift color with differing qualities of light.

“Design has always been in my blood,” says Baglino, who was trained at both New York University and Parsons the New School for Design. “I really believe that with design a person has an innate ability to create, to put things together. I think that’s something you get or you don’t.”

Erin Mara, co-owner of Capitol Hill design store Homebody, is among the lucky few that get it. So is Chris Alvear, proprietor of Alvear Studios. For the majority of us, who can scarcely tell our chaise from our credenza, help is available. Whatever your personal tastes, the aforementioned designers have plenty of advice to keep you in touch with the hottest home trends of the new season.

This year, regardless of your preferred hue, it’s all about being green. Environmentally friendly products, paints and flooring are becoming more popular as eco-awareness gains increasing currency. Out is the use of rare, slow-growing woods like cherry, and instead, fast-growing, sustainable woods are popping up in unexpected places.

“Anything that has bamboo,” says Alvear. “Bamboo with fabrics, flooring, paneling. Anything that’s organic.”

That trend can also be seen in decorating with objects found in flea markets, antique shows and even your grandmother’s attic. Why buy new when older products have a sense of history and character? Alvear, perhaps best known for designing Club Modern in Georgetown, describes his look as “modern Mexican,” and he frequently gives older finds a new life in his design schemes.

“I love timeless pieces combined with something rustic and handmade,” he says. “Something you can hand down, but not that perfect piece of furniture that can’t have a scratch on it.”

Baglino agrees, saying he, too, sees a trend in found objects. An antique brass lamp, quirky sculpture or unsigned painting can go a long way toward expressing your individual tastes, guaranteeing that you will never find your exact living room reproduced in someone else’s house.

“It’s very unique, very personalized,” Baglino says. “You put all those things together in your home, it says a lot about who you are, what you’re attracted to and what your aesthetic is.”

OTHER OLDER TRADITIONS are also rearing their glamorous heads. Baroque is back, highlighting ornate patterns, flowing designs, and all things curvy, as is the golden age of Hollywood.

“The kind of furniture that Frank Sinatra would have had in Palm Springs,” explains Mara, who opened Homebody more than a year ago with her life and now-business partner Henriette Fourcade. “Wood frames, neutral fabrics, gilding, glass-top tables with brass legs. Furniture that you would picture for a glamorous woman in her dressing room — like a low-slung armless chair that you would lounge in while contemplating your evening.”

While it’s important to keep your house up-to-date with current trends, there’s always the concern that you’ll wake up in 10 years to find your home horribly passé.

The best way to avoid this, say the designers, is to keep a clear differentiation between the major pieces in a room and the accessories that surround it. While flourishes like lamps, pillows and side tables can be simply and inexpensively redone or replaced, such anchors as couches and tables are best bought with longevity in mind. These items tend to be the most expensive as well, so erring on the side of classic increases the odds that an item will go with anything and not look dated a mere several years after its purchase.

“Really well-designed pieces are never going to be out,” says Mara, citing the Kennedy sofa designed by Jean-Marie Massaud as a perfect example. “Go with simplified forms.”

Individual taste and functionality are also important to keep in mind while designing a home. Like your grandmother’s plastic-covered living room, a house can come straight out of the cover of Better Homes and Gardens and still not be the perfect place for you.

“What’s most important to me is who the client is,” Baglino says. “I have to find out how they function in their home, their space, what they’re aesthetically drawn to. I ultimately do not live in the home — they do. I can create a terrific design, but if it’s not conducive to who they are it won’t be successful.”