Choice Chairs

In London over the holidays, I paid a quick visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum to check out their furniture collection. I say it was a quick visit because no amount of time is long enough to fully appreciate the wonders of the V&A. On the top floor in the far corner of the museum, with the rain and wind literally howling above us, I got to be in one room with more original iconic chairs than I’ve ever seen in one place. It was a little piece of Chair Junkie Heaven (despite the weather). The V&A furniture collection is curated in the most amazing way – where an IKEA chair sits next to an Eames that sits next to a Chippendale. A $1 folded cardboard chair is given equal billing with priceless antiques. They were ALL wonderful – which ones inspire you?






















This last one was actually in the gift shop, not the exhibit!





Field Trip: Design by Harry Potter

Before I visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour, I never thought it would be an outing that would turn into a blog post. But, oh wow, is it an amazing place. And I’m not really a Harry Potter person. I read the first three books to my daughter at her request (she then read the rest on her own) and I saw the first two movies way back when they came out in the theater with my sister in law, who was a big fan. So although I’d been exposed to H.P. and enjoyed it, I wasn’t into it the way lots of folks are. I’d also never visited a movie set before. The Studio Tour is located in Watford, just north of London, and is on the actual property where all 8 movies were filmed. I was there because I thought my daughter would like it. I had no idea how much fun it was going to be. I was able to see the actual sets, props and costumes – among other things – used in the film. They are amazing. I was totally blown away by the astonishing level of detail of every item and every set. It was a design junkie’s dream (except that none of it was for sale!). And once again, I was the crazy lady photographing the floors and the silverware…


Dining table in the Great Hall, which was decorated for Christmas at the time. I loved the fiddlehead details on the flatware, the boar’s head pitchers and the lovely worn tables and benches.


Beautiful floors in the Great Hall:



Although the Great Hall was breathtaking when you walked into it, Dumbledore’s office was my favorite space:


His cabinets were filled with captivating things:



They even had the blueprints for his chair and the architectural model of the office on display:



There were a zillion other things to see – here are a few of my favorites:


The Hogwarts clock. Enormous and stunning in person! I felt tiny standing next to it.


The Weasleys have a Thonet chair too! (See mine here.)


I adored the wonky stained glass windows in the Weasley’s kitchen. (And the self-washing dishes!)


Gorgeous deep green tiled walls in the Ministry of Magic.


Umbridge’s Ministry of Magic office.


Gringotts vault door.


The tattered elegance of the Gryffindor common room.


The Potions Classroom had so many things to look at. The immense round table and ancient looking marble floors were both wonderful.

The Bridge had fantastic detail:


Miscellaneous props and decor…





Most of the faces in the paintings displayed at Hogwarts are of the people who worked behind the scenes on the movie!


The scale model of Hogwarts takes up an entire room (a really big room!) and was covered in snow for the winter. Amazing is an understatement! See the clock?


I took so many pictures of so many wonderful things but to share them all would make this post ridiculously long – this is really just a small fraction of what I saw. So let me put it like this – if you’re in London, go check it out. The amount of creativity that went into bringing this story to life is beyond belief. I connected to it all from a designer’s perspective, but every person can find something that amazes them. (I didn’t even mention parts of the tour like the walking down Diagon Alley or peeking into Hagrid’s hut or the Creature Shop or Quiddich Special Effects or drinking Butterbeer!) You may not be a Harry Potter fan when you walk in, but you will be one by the time you leave! I certainly am.

For More Information:




The Way My Mind Works

The first time I saw the TV show Scandal, I could barely focus on the plot because I was so in love with the conference table in Olivia Pope’s office. I ignored the dialogue and looked past the characters so I could get a better look at the table. When I mention the table to other people who are fans of the show, they stare at me blankly. What table?

In London over the holidays, I took a million pictures and I had to laugh when I realized that other people were taking pictures of the items on display at the museums, and I was taking pictures of the floors and doorknobs. I even walked into a travel agency to take pictures of their waiting room chairs that I had noticed through the window. Thankfully no one seemed to care – maybe it happens all the time? I guess interiors and architecture are everything to me – I notice the interesting detailsĀ  before I notice the people.

So here’s a quick look at my trip as seen through the Alexandra filter:


The chairs in the travel agency – I loved their oversized, Windsor chair inspired look.


This is the amazingly beautiful mosaic floor at the Museum of Childhood. After I took the photo, I learned this enormous floor was installed by female prisoners in the 1870’s (before the building was a Children’s Museum)! I think there was at least 4,000 square feet of it.


Worn wood plank floors upstairs at the same museum:


These are the awesome striped stairs at my stepmother’s house – they made walking up to our bedroom on the third floor a lot of fun.


Doorknob at the British Museum:


At a Paddington Station restaurant – loved the orange color and visual lightness of these chairs:



Vintage Hovis bread tins holding utensils at a fish and chip stand:


House number:


Shiny blue door with bright brass hardware – and a mail slot – love those!


Mosaics on the tube – Tottenham Court Road Station:



Here are the floors at a very fun place – check back next week and I’ll tell you all about it!




Field Trip: Skandium – Brompton Road, London

In London, I went to the most fabulous store. If you ever need to buy me a gift, go there and buy anything. Honestly – just close your eyes and grab something and I guarantee I will love it and probably write a blog post about how wonderful you are. There was inspiration in every nook and cranny at Skandium, mecca of modern design. I also learned that midcentury favorites are not the same around the world (see below). There’s no way I can show you everything, but here are some that caught my attention:

Trays – I am a huge fan of trays. On an upholstered ottoman, they make a great place for remote controls and coffee cups. On shelves or side tables, trinkets and framed pictures and candles seem more thoughtfully arranged if they’re on a tray. A tray is perfect to hold napkins and salt and pepper on your kitchen table. They are great for holding mail or just on their own. Of course you can also use them for serving too.



These colorful modular trays can be arranged in any number of ways:


There were also great stools and side tables:


The top of the tray table at the front of the above photo can be flipped over to turn it into a stool. How cool is that?


Amazing lighting:


The Ribbon Pendants by Tom Raffield above are true show stoppers!



And other fun and beautiful decor:







And fabric and table linens too! Mostly by Marimekko – I love, love , love their fun colors and prints.



And of course there were chairs. You know how I love chairs! Which is your favorite? The grey sheepskin one is on my wish list. My husband loved this colorway of the Eames rocking chair:



Here’s a close up of the cozy graphite sheepskin on this Swedish Lamino Easy Chair:


The curves of this GJ chair are impossibly wonderful:


Here’s the newest design by Tadao Ando – the Dream Chair:


I almost missed it because it was in the corner of the window display and I didn’t see it until we had already left the store!




The thing that surprised me the most was this:


(Sorry it’s not the best photo – there was a lot of stuff around the chair!) I saw this chair and immediately it looked different to me than my Eames Lounge Chair. (See mine here.) My daughter sat it in and declared that it was smaller than ours. I learned that this chair and several other Herman Miller items are manufactured by the Swiss company Vitra for the European market, not made in the US and imported to Europe as I had assumed. According to my research, there are indeed differences between the Herman Miller and Vitra versions in finish, materials and manufacturing methods (and also price). This Eames Hang-It-All is another example. This cool green colorway is not available in the US:


And neither is this red/wood one:


All the more reason to go back to London!


Spotted: Coffee Shop Cool

Hello! I still have several “big” posts to write about design adventures in London, but I wanted to share some little things that caught my attention as I was out and about. Inspiration can be found everywhere if you keep your eyes open! Here’s the first in a series:


This was a coffee shop that I happened to be walking by near St. Paul’s Cathedral – I loved the grouping of mismatched vintage lanterns and also the reclaimed wood patchwork wall. I saw them out of the corner of my eye and had to stop and take a picture! Either of these ideas could easily be a great design element in a home. The patchwork wall idea could be a done as a whole wall like this one but it could also be scaled down to be more like artwork. This picture is also a great reminder of how much fun chalkboards are! This one with the aged wood frame is wonderful.

Back from London!

Welcome back! Happy 2014! I’ve just returned from 2 weeks in London and I have SO MANY Design Finds to share. I took zillions of pictures and realized upon my return that I should have taken even more. My trip was mostly about visiting family and showing my kids the sights of London, but I did manage to sneak in a few design-related stops. While I gather my thoughts, I thought I’d share this amazing pile of sticks doing double duty as a dresser. It blew me away.

Spotted at the Victoria and Albert Museum:





The amazing thing about this – other than the fact that when the drawers are closed it looks like a pile of sticks and not a chest of drawers – is that you could actually make this. (If you were just a bit handy/crafty.) It’s made from manufactured drawers, with the wood sticks applied on top. I’m thinking anyone with a saw, strong glue and some patience could do it. The sticks here are made of walnut. Let me know if you decide to try!