Saturday, August 15, 2009

Roman Shades - a Window to Ancient History

relaxed Roman shade in kitchen flat-roman with valance  silk/linen blend While it's unlikely that Adam and Eve wandered Eden naming the animals based on their physical attributes, some things really are named for their function.  Take the charmingly simple Roman shade. In the heyday of the Roman Colosseum, the crowds would sit through a day-long program of events in the open air.  As any Chicago bleacher bum can tell you, the sun gets hot up in the stands.  So long awnings were constructed that opened into the arena and offered some sun protection.  The awnings were held out on poles that extended into the stands.  When they were not in use the shades pleated back on themselves, much like our modern Romans.  The difference was that the original Roman shades hung horizontally out from the wall.  Today's Roman shades hang vertically in front of the window. Roman shades, regardless of their place in history, still offer excellent sun protection, privacy and unlimited design options.  Romans can provide the finishing touch in rooms from casual to traditional to cutting edge contemporary.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vacation Reading List

It's August.  And whether you are on vacation or staycation, you can still get your design fix with these fun reads.  The titles suggested are, with one exception, mysteries.  If you've wandered through the mystery section of your local bookseller lately, you've noticed that mysteries come in as many flavors as we have interests.   There are food related mysteries (no, not "What is that green stuff with the gray fuzz in the back of the fridge?"-type food mystery), knitting- and crochet-themed mysteries, tea- and coffee-themed mysteries,  fashion- and shopping-themed mysteries, even mysteries about mystery writers.  And like sportswriters, mystery writers seem to have a heightened sense of punning and wordplay which is readily apparent in the titles.
We begin with author Sara Atwell, a glass artist and writer.  Her Glassblowing Mysteries include Pane of Death andThrough a Glass Deadly.  A Snake in the Glass, her latest title, will be published September 1.  This series revolves around Emmiline (Em) Dowell, a Tuscon-based glass blower.  We learn a bit about fused, slumped and blown glass as Em tries to figure out the crime and keep out of the way of the FBI.  Fun, light reads.
Jennie Bentley's Do-It-Yourself Mystery series offers home renovation and design tips within the pages of her books. Fatal Fixer-Upper, the first title in the series, introduces us to Avery Baker who was once a textile designer and is now renovating a house left to her by her aunt.  Some of the characters are a bit broad and the mystery is a bit Victorian in its convolutions, but it holds together nicely and the main characters are well drawn.  Bentley's latest entry in this series, Spackled and Spooked,  is due out this week.
Peg Marberg's stories are about a decorator named Jean Hastings and her daughter, Jean jr. Their design business is called Designer Jeans (groan).  But the stories are well plotted and offer enough clues that the reader can work with Jean to solve the mystery.  Marberg's titles include Fatal FlipDecorated to Death, and Faux Finished.  My one complaint is that Jean (stories are told in the first person) spends a great deal of exposition explaining her analogies and clever remarks.   ex. [When I entered my kitchen] I was greeted by the perpetually grinning Mickey Mouse telephone, a pooch with the right moniker [Pesky], and a grumpy husband.
"Well, well, if it isn't the Marx Brothers - Harpo, Chico, and Groucho," I said in a droll voice.  Let me put my purse away and then you can tell me all about your day at the races."  My witty reference to the comedic trio and one of their best films was wasted on the Disney icon telephone, the purebred Keeshond, and most of all on my Prince Charming - the out of sorts Charlie.    Sheesh!  Your readers did not just land on this planet!  If you think your readers are too young for the references, use more current references!
My favorite series is the Domestic Bliss series by Leslie Caine.  Caine has created two rival interior designers,   Erin Gilbert and Steve Sullivan, who work well together when they aren't being snarky.  Erin's landlady is a Martha Stewart type with her own weekly design program.  Audrey, the landlady, offers up fun design tips when she isn't redesigning her own home for some special segment on her tv program.   Author Caine is a certified interior designer and does a fine job of describing the settings and locales.  Titles in the Domestic Bliss series include Death by Inferior Design, Manor of Death, Fatal Feng Shui, and Poisoned by Gilt.
Oh yes, that non-mystery I mentioned.  Richard Murphy is a screenwriter and former contractor who has written an insightful novel about the uber-wealthy in Hollywood and how, when it comes to matters of the heart, the rich are no different from you and me.  Murphy's book, Confessions of a Contractor, offers  building and renovation tips to his clients, and to us, in a  most organic fashion.   The contractor of the title may be in over his head when it comes to relationships, but he certainly knows carpentry.
 Murphy has created a character who is the blue-collar man that professional women have fantasized about since the 80's.  The character (Henry Sullivan) muses about a purse his girlfriend has designed. " Like Sally and the city we lived in, the purse was full of secret compartments.  Some with zippers, some with pockets, some with pockets within pockets that had zippers.  Layers and layers of leather that made me feel as if I would never get to the bottom of the woman who designed it, even if I studied it for the rest of my life.  If James Bond ever got married, this would  be the purse his wife would use to get them both out of trouble.  If James Bond ever divorced her, this would be the purse that got him killed."  Whew!  Move over, Raymond Chandler!
So here's a collection of books to help you while away a lazy afternoon.  Enjoy the stories and collect some fun design tips at the same time.