Hotel Gritti Palace Renovation (Swoon!)

I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Chuck Chewning speak at the Boston Design Center about the complex renovation he supervised for the Gritti Palace.

Santa_Maria_del_Giglio_Square_EntranceThe Gritti Palace Entrance. Photo courtesy the hotel’s website.

Photo Courtesy Gritti Palace Website.Hotel Gritti Palace Entrance looking towards the canal. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.

Chewning is a highly talented interior designer from Georgia who majored in Historic Preservation of Architecture and Interior Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He is the current creative director of Donghia and director of design at Studio Rubelli. Chewning offered an intelligent, beautifully articulated presentation (and I loved how accessible and down to earth he was) on an enormously complicated renovation of one of the most famous buildings of Venice. US based Save Venice Inc. helped fund the project and the renovation was launched shortly after the palace closed its doors in 2011, after having been flooded no less than 24 times in 2010!

Chuck Chewning. Photo courtesy Donghia.

Chuck Chewning. Photo courtesy Donghia.

The glamorous 16th Century Palace was in dire need of help. Chewning and his team dug 8 feet under the foundation to create concrete basins to capture the water excess and counterweight the foundation. Local artisans were brought in to create historically accurate terrazzo flooring. Marble waiscotting was used on the lower levels to conceal the concrete foundation. The original 91 rooms were reconfigured into 82 grander rooms offering proper bathrooms with modern amenities.

Once the building was structully habitable, the designer sifted through all the original furniture and realized only 50% of the original pieces were salvageable! Chewning and his team drew sketches in order to create replicas. Months were spent collecting art and accessories around Europe.

My favorite part about the building is that Chewning named the bedrooms in honor of past famous lodgers and worked tirelessly to re-create a bedroom they would have loved. My two favorites are the Peggy Guggenheim Bedroom Suite and the Somerset Maugham Suite.

Photo courtesy The Gritti Palace.The Peggy Guggenheim Bedroom Suite, named after the famous art collector and her epynomous museum across the Grand Canal. Beautiful 1930’s inspired furniture adorn the space, and the eclectic and highly original details (the cornices!) make for a stunning space. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.

Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.The Peggy Guggenheim Bedroom Suite. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.

Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.Bathroom in The Peggy Guggenheim Suite. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.

Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.English novelist and playwright Somerset Maugham’s Suite. The 81-square-meter suite is adorned in luxurious 18th century inspired fabrics and antique furnishings, interesting curiosity objects and offers a scattering of the author’s novels. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.

Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.The Punta della Dogana Patron Suite. Stucco and Murano glass fans, you are authorized to drool!

Another wonderful part of the renovation was the Redentore Terrace Suite with its private 250 square-meter terrace:

TheRedentoreSuiteTerrace2Gritti Palace Epicurian School. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.The Gritti has its own Epicurian School where up to 12 students can learn the art of fine cuisine and then sit down to enjoy their hard work!

The Palace opened its doors in 2013 to great acclaim and Chewning is happy to share there have been no floods since the renovations!

A masterpiece!

 All photos of the hotel courtesy www.thegrittipalace.com

Arizona : Experiencing Frank Lloyd Wright’s Genius and Cactus Glory

One of the only existing luxury hotels in the world with a Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced design, The Arizona Biltmore has been an Arizona landmark since its opening in 1929 when it was crowned “The Jewel of the Desert.” The resort was designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a Harvard graduate, who had studied under Frank Lloyd Wright from 1907 – 1909 in Chicago.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to stay in the resort for a seminar on Interior Design Business Practices. I was wowed by the distinguished hotel, which is stamped by the unique design touches of Wright and the geometrical fascination he applied to patterns and architecture. Nature is always a central element in his creations, and the building’s openness to the exterior is immediately evident.
The resort carries in its walls the quiet and invisible weight of famous past visitors and guests, extending a definite glamorous feel to one’s stay: Marilyn Monroe, Irving Berlin, JFK, Clark Gable, Liza Minnelli, Ronald Reagan are a few of the prestigious visitors who stayed at the Arizona Biltmore.
Below, outdoor and indoor views of the resort. Photo credits: Barbara Elza Hirsch.
Arizona Biltmore- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza
Arizona Biltmore Hotel- Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza
Beautiful gardens and terraces surround the block like concrete pavilions of the Arizona Biltmore.
Arizona Biltmore Hotel-Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaArizona Biltmore Hotel Terrace-Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAeizona Biltmore Hotel Lobby-Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaArizona Biltmore Door Detail- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaUnusual juxtapositions of glass and concrete, velvet and carpeting enhance the unusual spaces of the Wright-inspired Arizona Biltmore Hotel.
Gleaming ceilings-Arizona Biltmore Hotel- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaArizona Biltmore Hotel Sitting area- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaWright Glass Art Mural at the Arizona Biltmore- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaNote the repetitive palm leaf motif carved and repeated throughout the resort. This motif surrounds a stunning glass mural work by Frank Lloyd Wright entitled “Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers”
Arizona Biltmore Hotel Sitting area- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaStunning ceiling fixture in one of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel's restaurants. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaGorgeous chandelier and ceiling detail bring the eye up in this Arizona Biltmore Hotel dining area.
I was in Phoenix mostly for work but was able to escape to the Desert Botanical Garden with my designer friend and colleague, Richard Rabel.
Cactus glory comes to mind and I was truly awed by the landscapes and local plants and fauna. I had never been out West so this was really a treat! The Chihuly exhibit was being installed while we were there so I was able to catch a few interesting exhibits in the making, with stunning glass sculptures arranged next to grandiose plants.
Chihuly-Blue thistle like glass sculpture at the Desert Botanical Garden- Photo credit Barbara  Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch
Chihuly-Yellow sculpture at the Desert Botanical Garden- Photo credit Barbara  Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch
Me in the garden- Chez ElzaRampant Cactus at the Desert Botanical Garden- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez elzaDesert Botanical Garden- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch
Hope you enjoyed this slice of design and sun from Arizona!

Brizo In Memphis and a Powerful Partnership for Children

This summer I had the opportunity to gather with an extraordinary group of people, all “alumnis” of the Brizo Blogger19. As you may remember from my January and February blog posts, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend a workshop organized by Brizo-creators of stylish plumbing fixtures- in New York during Fashion Week, where we also discovered Jason Wu’s glorious designs. Since 2010, Brizo has been inviting an elite group of designers, architects and influencers, which has since grown to include nearly 130 leaders in their fields, and from all over the globe. While diverse in their aesthetic, the Blogger 19 are all united by a shared experience at New York Fashion Week, hosted by the premium faucet brand Brizo.

A primary sponsor of fashion designer Jason Wu, Brizo believes high-style applies not just to the clothes we wear but is a lifestyle that extends to our aesthetic at home. Hence their innovative creations in stylish plumbing!!!

It was quite moving to be reunited all together at once, and we met many peers we had only spoken to long distance, via social media. I cannot stress enough the importance of a community in the Design Industry. We help each other grow, learn, think, exchange, and everyone benefits.

Memphis, as seen from Peabody hotel | Chez Elza                

View of Memphis from my Peabody Hotel bedroom. Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

This trip was particularly meaningful to me.

We learned about Brizo’s ongoing partnership with Memphis’ St Jude’s Children Research Hospital : Since 2010, Brizo has been a national sponsor for the St Jude Dream Home Giveaway, donating more than 1 million dollars to date in furnishings and fundraising efforts.

We were invited by the Brizo management to visit the hospital on site.

A few notes about the hospital:
-St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® opened in 1962 and was
founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas.
Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza
A small exhibit on Danny Thomas is hosted inside the Arabic inspired cupola. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch
Photo Credit Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza
Thomas was of Lebanese origin and Lebanon was extremely supportive of his project. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch
PhotPhoto credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza
Beautiful detail of the cupola where we listened to speakers and had breakfast before the tour. Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch 
-St Jude’s mission is to find cures for children with cancer and other deadly diseases through pioneering research and exceptional care.
-No family ever pays St. Jude for anything.
-In 1962, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer, was 4 percent. Today, the survival rate for this once deadly disease is94 percent, thanks to research and treatment.
-The daily operating cost for St. Jude is $1.7 million, which is primarily covered by public contributions
-St. Jude has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world
-St. Jude is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted to children.
-St. Jude researchers are published and cited more often in high impact publications than any other private pediatric oncology institution in America.

We spent a day visiting the hospital with Brizo managers and employees, touring the facilities, even meeting with patients and families.

It was hard. It was moving.

http://www.stjude.org/stjude/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=4f7df38c84209310VgnVCM100000290115acRCRD

The hospital’s multidenominational chapel.

All of us have been touched by cancer directly or indirectly: to witness the spirit of St Jude’s daily battle and incredible tenacity and optimism is truly a gift. Nobody wants to hear about illness or dying, but the reality is, it’s part of life.

As a designer reporting about the hospital, I tried to also approach this visit from a design perspective. Color and architecture, space planning and art were central elements all around the hospital.

Some say design is superfluous. It’s not. It is a central element in our surroundings. Appealing and inviting spaces make us feel loved and comfortable.

I commend St. Jude hospital for designing facilities that make being sick a little less grey and scary:

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

A colorful playgroundPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch

rbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Art tables await much anticipated artistic expressions.

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza2013-07-17 11.29.53

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza                  

Above : Hallway exhibits, murals and messages abound at St Jude’s Children Research Hospital. Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch.

Below, common rooms and family apartments at Target House, where some of the families are lodged:

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

Above: The Brad Paisley common room. The artist donated the room and its decor. Like many artists, celebrities and sponsors, everyone becomes part of St Jude’s  community. For example, artists will come regularly and spend time with the children, or play music outdoors for the families.

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

An outdoor common area at St Jude’s. Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch.

Photo credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

The Shawn White Family Room. Photo credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

Messages of hope abound at the Target  House. Photo credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Later, we were allowed to interact with some of the children patients and their families to work on an art project. Understandably, photos were not allowed to respect the families’ privacy.

This was truly a very awe inspiring visit and experience and I felt privileged to  have toured such a unique research hospital.

Thank you, Brizo, and thank you, St Jude.

 

 

 

 

 

3-New Orleans: A Strong Community Rebuilding Itself Needs Your Help

Our BlogtourNOLA trip to New Orleans was not just about interior design. Our organizer, Veronika Miller, wanted us to have the opportunity to understand New Orleans as a community that has and continues to suffer. We were invited to visit with neighborhoods deeply affected by Katrina and witness their rebuilding efforts firsthand.

Photo Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Our first tour is organized by the Storehouse of World Vision, a network of six storehouses which supply donated goods such as building materials, school supplies, personal care items and clothing from corporate partners to more than 2.2 million people annually in low-income communities. As part of the upcoming National Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) which took place in New Orleans April 19-21, World Vision partnered with  New Orleans St Paul’s Homecoming Center and the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) to help three deserving families rebuild their homes.

We are invited to tour these homes in Gentilly, a neighborhood located near the levees that has seen only 60% of its homes rebuilt. Efrain Perez, Jr., Corporate Relations Director of World Vision explains how his organization partners with companies to donate products to help those in needs. New Orleans continues to need all the support it can get: corporate donations are essential in this reconstruction.  Connie Uddo, director of St Paul’s Homecoming Center, explains how her local community was affected: “100 000 trees were destroyed by salt water and 80% of homes flooded”. Connie tells how contractor fraud had affected the already demoralized inhabitants. When the government money came in, people started hiring contractors. Unfortunately, some of these contractors profited from the situation and took the money and ran.

It is hard to transcribe here the level of raw emotion, determination and courage the locals shared with us as we visit with them.

Connie guided St Paul’s Episcopal Church effort to offer the post-Katrina community a place where they could find volunteer help, housing, tools, computer access, mental health and much, much more. She speaks in an energetic, focused and dedicated manner about her community: “We just held each other up, pulled ourselves by the bootstraps and we continue to today”. Gentilly’s middle class neighborhood was under water 8 years ago. It has been a very slow process to rebuild. Connie works tirelessly with volunteers like Joe Robert, a contractor whose home was entirely destroyed during Katrina.

Joe Robert and Connie Uddo of St Paul's Homecoming Center -Photo Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaJoe Robert and Connie Uddo tell us their story in front of one of the homes being rebuilt in Gentilly. Photo : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Joe was in the process of rebuilding when all his tools and floors were stolen out of his house. He owns one of the homes currently being helped by donations from World Vision, and which he helps rebuild, along with other homes, after his workday.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaA team of volunteers from The Home Depot help construct the Davis’ family home, as their daughter explains that her father so wanted to meet with us but is currently in the hospital. This family did not have flood insurance. The little money they got for their contents was stolen by a fraudulent contractor who ran off with $32,000. Photo : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaA special ceremony is underway. White doves will be released in the sky to symbolize the rebirth of these homes and give strength and courage to all. Photo : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Everyone holds their breath as the doves are about to be released. The owner of the birds explains what will happen.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAnd there they go! Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Our last stop is Joe’s home. His property abuts the levee and he tells a heart wrenching story. Since his home’s destruction 8 years ago, he and his wife have had to live with a family member. Their home rebuilding project is finally on the right track. He is torn between moving back here, to a neighborhood he and his ancestors grew up in, and his wife’s fear that the brand new levee will not protect them in case of a another disastrous storm.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaNote how the homes’ levels are elevated and have doors at every floor: this is the new approach to re-building homes in the area.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza hirsch | Chez ElzaIn Joe’s driveway, we ask for permission to walk to the newly constructed levee and are struck by how eerily close to the homes these are.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza hirsch | Chez ElzaI climb on a ledge to take this shot and assess the water level. Joe’s house is 50 feet to the right of this view.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza Joe lifts his arm as he tells the story of how high the water went. Later he will show us a street sign, about as high as our tour bus. The water reached that sign’s  level. We can still see the water stains. Photos : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Inside the home, boxes of donated items are ready to be opened. A kitchen that for most of us is a simple commodity is a luxury long awaited for here.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza Corporations who donated to this project should feel proud:

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza hirsch | Chez Elza

It is time to say goodbye. Tears are shed. We leave our new Gentilly friends behind with a heavy heart. The mood in the bus is morose as we grapple with all we’ve seen and heard.

Next stop is another neighborhood, the Lower 9th Ward, a historic working class community which was also hit hard during the hurricane. 1,200 people perished here and only 20% of the original population has returned.  When Brad Pitt visited New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward two years after Hurricane Katrina, he was shocked by the lack of rebuilding progress in this community. Pitt decided to help rebuild in the hardest hit area of the city and created Make It Right, which is committed to building high-quality, sustainable homes designed by architects for communities in need. All Make It Right projects are LEED Platinum certified and Cradle to Cradle inspired – meeting the highest standards of green building. The homes are sold at a very low price and buyers need to be previous neighborhood residents. 90 homes have already been rebuilt. 350 people have been brought back home thanks to Make It Right.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

The homes here are designed with the architect according to the homeowner’s taste and preferences. Each is unique. The U.S. Green Building Council named Make It Right‘s work in the Lower 9th Ward “the largest, greenest neighborhood of single family homes in the world.”

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credits:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaMany renowned architects have designed homes for this project, such as Frank Gehry’s pink house above. Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAn empty park awaits the return of its children. Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaWell ventilated homes, built to optimize light and shade, as well as bright colors are a signature of the Make it Right  homes. Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Help from corporations and individuals is key to the success of the Make It Right project and companies such as Benjamin Moore, Cosentino (owner of Silestone) and Shaw Floors are active partners in this reconstruction.

We visit one home where one older woman has reintegrated her neighborhood. She is happy and loves the new space. Two members of Make it Right can’t seem to agree on whether her home was designed by a Japanese architect or a Chinese architect. Is it really important at this point ? I don’t really care. I’d much rather meet and hear the locals.

This afternoon visit to the Lower 9th Ward feels very different than Gentilly’s tour. Having someone like Brad Pitt bring attention to this area is like a double edge sword. It is a wonderful initiative, yet many of us can’t help feeling there is something surreal about the whole thing. Is it because we are shown around in a very rapid and business like manner, making this feel less about the local people than about the design concept behind these green designed homes? Something is missing. Suddenly the amount of publicity brought to this area feels very unfair compared to what we saw in the morning. Would we have felt differently had our day started in the Lower 9th Ward?

The truth is, I am not from New Orleans. I only visited two neighborhoods. I am sure the reconstruction initiatives and the politics behind these are more complex than what they seem.

One thing is for sure: New Orleans is still not out of the woods. People are still suffering.  I am hoping to plan a trip to Gentilly with my family and help hammer and paint.

How can you help?

  “Everyone can help us rebuild, even families with children who want to come visit and help out”, says Connie. St Paul’s Homecoming Center is a “boots on the ground” program.

As explained on St Paul’s website, each volunteer group is matched with a project suited to their unique qualifications. When skilled construction workers are here, they may do carpentry, drywall, roofing etc. If a group of unskilled people are here to work, they might be asked to do landscaping, painting, or community-related improvements. Because of the variety of needs in the New Orleans area, St Paul’s is able to provide a project for any group, regardless of age or skill level – they even have families that come to New Orleans and work for a few days during their vacations.

Cash Donations are welcome and I have affixed a direct link here to St Paul’s Homecoming Center here as well as on the right of my blog, where it will be part of CHEZ ELZA’s ongoing effort to help rebuild New Orleans.

If your corporation wishes to donate to The Storehouse of World Vision, please click here.

To donate to Make It Right and help bring more sustainable homes around the world, consider donating here.

Make It Right is committed to hiring and training local workers in green building practices. Because of this commitment, they don’t use volunteers for daily construction work. They do sometimes ask for help with landscaping, gardening and light maintenance around their construction sites.

I urge you to consult the Make It Right Library here. It offers free resources about green building.

Everyone should have a home they can call their own. New Orleans decided to expand on its swampy areas to grow the city centuries ago. We cannot, as some suggested 8 years ago, just eliminate entire neighborhoods that have been home to families for generations. We need to make sure levees are rebuilt appropriately and drainage is set in place all over the area. New Orleans is part of this country’s unique history and I believe Americans should come together and help rebuild and preserve its beautiful heritage.

1-New Orleans: Architecture, its Crown Jewel

I am back after a formidable blogtourNOLA journey with the lovely Veronika Miller and an amazing group of designers/bloggers I had the pleasure of meeting.

I debated on what to share with you in this 1st chapter of my New Orleans adventure. I decided to begin with setting the scene. And what comes to mind is BEAUTY. Beautiful architecture abounds in this gorgeous city.

How can I even start to explain the beauty of New Orleans? There are no words, really.

We begin on a warm, muggy day in April 2013. Destination: The Garden District.

The Garden District was designated a national historical landmark in 1974. It is renowned for its beautiful 19th century mansions, some late Victorian homes and elaborate gardens. Greek revival, Spanish, French, British and Italian influences have come together to create an incredible architecture.

New Orleans Street Car on Charles Street- Photo: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaNew Orleans Street Car on Charles Street- Photo: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Click on link below for a little film I took of the ride from the streetcar:

Link to Film of BlogTourNola-StreetCar

It will give a sense of the laid back, green and lush vibe of this city.

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza


At this point, I imagine and hope your are rendered speechless. Good! This is truly a trip I recommend!  Be sure to follow my blog posts on new Orleans over the next few weeks. A bientôt, les amis!

 

 

 

Fireside Beauties in Time for January!

 

I don’t know about you, but January feels like the l.o.n.g.e.s.t  month of the year in my view. Yes, I know, it’s not.

Can you believe mathematically March, May, July, August, October and December are just as long? January just seems to drag on and on here in New England. it’s cold. The trees are bare and stand like spooky shadows in the night. The sidewalks are treacherous, covered in grey slippery patches.

The good things, that make January bearable (because I have to find something positive in all things) are:

-fresh snow

-cross country skiing

-Being in my bed

-A warm meal and intense winter cooking (Boeuf Bourgignon, anyone?)

-Sitting next to a roaring fire

And that brings me to today’s post topic: FIREPLACES!!

I love them and truly could not live without them. Wood fires add joy and color with pops of yellow and crackling sounds. Gas fireplace designs are becoming more and more attractive and look great in more modern interiors.

They bring people together, encouraging intimate conversations with glasses of wine or hot cocoa cups, legs up on ottomans and bundled under fuzzy throws.

Here is a selection of a few fireside beauties for you to enjoy:

Concrete fireplace detail - simple color scheme.

I find this clean, rustic and sophisticated fireplace from Architectural Digest (unfortunately, I cannot locate the designer) arresting. The concrete mantel and what appears to be aged iron surround is unusual and gorgeously designed.

This Greenwich 19th century townhouse decorated by Christine Markatos and published in Architectural Digest is a stunner. Cozy, soothing and so inviting! The classic wood painted mantel has been preserved.

The gas fireplace nestled in a luminous family room style space via California Home Design is begging for company! The horizontal wood panels on the fireplace column create a wonderful focal point.

This is probably on of my favorite rooms of all times. Actress Meg Ryan’s home photographed for ELLE DECOR and decorated by Marsha Russell of Satinwood. The wrought iron grid fireplace cover juxtaposed with a slab of grey stone acting as a visual mantel shelf is simply brilliant and so clean! Note how the seating conveys warmth and invites one to sit by the fireplace.

What could have become a dark, overly rustic room is lightened up by white and organic textures, setting all eyes on this stone fireplace. Design by Michael Angus. After skiing this morning, I recommend meeting for a cup of hot chocolate right here!

This metal surround has shifting tones which almost look like brushstrokes: I love the visual interest they add to the fireplace. Note how the dark charcoal color is echoed with the seating. Via House Beautiful, designed by Erin Martin and Kim Dempster.

Colette van den Thillart's London home is a reflection of her signature style: edgy, witty and utterly fearless.

Colette van den Thillart’s London home is a reflection of her signature style: edgy, witty and utterly fearless. The classic fireplace is contrasted with fabulous pops of green and teal, via pattern and solids. Tea, anyone? via House and Home.

Enjoy, my friends! And do let me know your thoughts! Which of these fireplaces strikes your fancy?

A bientôt!!!

 

 

 


Death, Life Goes On, and Musée D’Orsay

You may be wondering where this blogger was…

Earlier this month I left Boston for an unexpected trip to France. Or, rather, I should say this was an expected trip with no pre-determined date…My father in-law, ailing with cancer, passed away. I adored him. The circumstances of his death were such (a year after his wife)  that the whole family left for Paris on Passover/Easter weekend. The boys, my husband and I simply had to say goodbye. Goodbye to an era,  to a wonderful and joyous man-the family rock-, goodbye to a beloved home, a source of happy memories for our boys and family. How many BD or “bandes dessinées” (Graphic Novels are an institution in France) were read in the attic, nibbling on crunchy “cornets à la pistache” (pistachio ice cream cones), sprawled out on the floor? How many times did we sit out on the bench in the yard to enjoy the magnolias, the collection of roses, the lilacs, the lovingly cared for garden of this retired couple?

The house was like an empty seashell. No one to greet us, no more smells of delicious meals being prepared in the French kitchen, no laughter, no naps with les “mots croisés” (crossword puzzles) seated next to grandpa and grandma. We went through the motions, buried our beloved, met with family, and tried to drink in the home one last time. My teenage son took detailed photographs of every possible angle of the house, from the views from the windows, to the cherished furniture to moss growing on the stone steps.

Outside the family home. Photo Julien Herpers.
View from inside the family home, upstairs window. Paris Suburbs. Photo Julien Herpers.

We had one uplifting goal: After the funeral, we would all go to Paris spend the day.      We had a fabulous day! Nothing like Paris to uplift the spirits. Such beauty!

Entrance hall of the Musée d’Orsay. Check out the light fixture! Photo Julien Herpers.
Another view of Entrance hall of the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Julien Herpers.
Stunning view inside the Musée d’Orsay. 2012. Photo Julien Herpers.

As I take you along this tour of the museum, note the gorgeous and gigantic “horloges” (clocks). Of course trains needed to be on time, and horloges such as these gigantic ones helped travelers but also Parisians check the time.

On the Musée d’Orsay website, one can find this bit of history: In the centre of Paris on the banks of the Seine, opposite the Tuileries Gardens, the museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. So the building itself could be seen as the first “work of art” in the Musee d’Orsay, which displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914.

© Musée D’Orsay Gare D’Orsay as it was in the early 20th century.

 

Stunning architectural details inside the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Julien Herpers.

We were not allowed to take photographs of the art, but it is well worth a detour next time you visit Paris.

Upstairs, there is a gallery with a gigantic clock offering breathtaking views of Paris:

Inside and through l’horloge géante at the Musée d’Orsay. The musée has views of the Seine River. Photo Julien Herpers.
Another view from the clock of Musée D’Orsay. Photo Julien Herpers. Note the tourists at bottom of photo, allows you to see the proportions of this “clock-window”.
View from a large glass pane at left of “clock-window”, from the 5th floor of the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Julien Herpers.

And now, for the grand finale! We were able to go eat at the Café Campana, a superb contemporary space created by the Campana Brothers, a Brazilian Designing duo, to replace the Café de l’Horloge, which was originally in the space.

Imagine an esoteric, whimsical design, with gigantic bell shaped golden light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, strange, curly red metal partitions, another massive “clock-window”, upright sea blue metallic sheets acting as walls here and there, unusually shaped chairs and simply delicious patisseries:

Café Campana designed by the Campana brothers, 5th level, Musée d’Orsay. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.
Café Campana at the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.
Café Campana at the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.

I could not stop raving about the designs! Such whimsy brought smiles to our faces and were the perfect antidote to our mournful spirits.

The author enjoying an amazing Café Liégeois at Café Campana at the Musée d’Orsay.
Is this even possible????Giant Pistachio éclairs on curly gold trays in the Café Campana. Muséed’Orsay. Photo Julien Herpers. (a bit blurry but hard to focus as the line of tourists behind us was pressing for their turn to sit and indulge in these fantasy-turned- reality éclairs!)
Chair design at Café Campana at the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.
Another view of bell shaped pendants. Musée d’Orsay. photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.

 

Detail of light pendant at the Café Campana, Musée d’Orsay. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.

Au Revoir, Paris!

 

Station de métro Solférino. Paris. Photo Julien Herpers.