28 February 2010

Event Inspiration: Van Gogh & The Empress of Japan

I adore designing weddings, dinners, parties, fundraisers, celebrations of all kinds. They are exciting; they are ephemeral, they are meant to evoke a strong emotional response. They start quickly and end quickly, and usually without a plumber or electrician anywhere in sight! Done, next!

at a regal 18" tall, this Empress doll is made from fine Japanese papers
with gold trim and carved lacquered wood head and hands;
her headdress is shaped metal wire hung with glass beads; ca. 1885

For an event yesterday working with the fabulous Lisa Tomasi of Pear & Pepper Fine Catering and Events at a hip, cavernous photography studio out on Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, I decided to feature one of my favorite vintage finds: the Empress of Japan, Meiji Era (about 1885). She is lovely, made in the countryside in Japan (when Emperor and Empress dolls were all the rage at the end of the Shogun era), of humbler materials than the exquisite dolls made in the cities from fine silks and ivory. (If she had been a city Empress I was told by an appraiser, she would be worth $15,000! she's not)

I tried to evoke a sense of warmth and glamour
in this corner of the photographer's studio to
draw people together

we chose a showstopper large succulent in pretty aqua planter
for texture and "greenth" factor

hot soup shooters and chicken salad endive were
perfect for the chilly day..note the vintage
Blenko bowls we used

the Empress drew quite a crowd to the table and lots
of admiring questions; Japanese papers were used
along with lanterns, succulents and fresh flowers; Asian
prints were fixed to the stainless steel wall

we used gorgeous Japanese paper to wrap around these
boxes and used ranunculus, tulips & greenery

She found herself, not standing out, nor next to her equally impressive husband the Emperor (he stayed behind in my attic), but blending into the scene, comfortably presiding over a table where hot soup shooters were being served to guests as an unusual and delicious appetizer. She looks quite content, doesn't she?

Almond Blossoms, Vincent Van Gogh 1990
painted when he was at the asylum outside Arles, France

Which started me thinking about Vincent Van Gogh's Japoniasme. As a painter in France in the 1880's (overlapping the Meiji Era in Japan), he loved the Japanese woodcuts with their odd perspectives, flatness and simple lines. His paintings of that time reflect his love of Japanese simplicity and purity of design and intention.

"I envy the Japanese artists for the incredible neat clarity which all their works have. It is never boring and you never get the impression that they work in a hurry. It is as simple as breathing; they draw a figure with a couple of strokes with such an unfailing easiness as if it were as easy as buttoning one's waist-coat." Van Gogh

Bridge in the Rain, Vincent Van Gogh, 1887
Van Gogh copied Japanese woodblock prints
(ukiyo-e which means"pictures of a floating world")
which he found in the gallery next door to where he
lived in Paris

Portrait of Pere Tanguy, 1888, by Vincent Van Gogh in Paris
depicts the seller of his art supplies in front
of Van Gogh's collection of Japanese prints

Which started me thinking about what I would do if I owned a Van Gogh painting: where would I put it? what furnishings would enhance it best. I decided a smaller version of this reclaimed wood sideboard from Restoration Hardware would be in perfect juxtapositon to the delicate and colorful Van Gogh. It's simple and straightforward lines remind me of the very modest life he lived in France, surrounded by rough and handhewn pieces just like this one.

rough-hewn, solid planks sideboard from reclaimed wood

although, I do like this one too, an antique Mongolian
cabinet, 1890, with delicate painting would also
be a lovely complement to a Van Gogh painting
from Horchow

Which started me thinking about Van Gogh himself. If he had lived long enough to see how fantastically popular and valuable his paintings were to become, he might have used one of these vintage 1900 French aluminum suitcases to take his brother and benefactor Theo to St. Petersburg, Russia to see the beautiful city and its art. Can't you just see the two of them, happily boarding the train for the long trip, jauntily dressed with aluminum suitcases in hand?

fabulous French designed and made aluminum suitcases from
1900 with fantasic details, quality and undeniable cache
you can see them here

Gare du Nord, Paris, ca. 1900


in 2010, it's:

Kit Golson Design

for elegant, sustainable and pragmatic

Chic Provence Interior Design

25 February 2010

Mille Mercis for the Blog Awards!

Two fabulous awards have come my way and I couldn't be more delighted!! Thank you Pam of Red Ticking and Jeanne-Aelia of Through the French Eye of Design for the honor, I am deeply grateful for the kind recognition from two of my very favorite bloggers!

from the delightful Pam, I now bestow on:

from the elegant & chic Jeanne-Aelia, I now bestow on:


in 2010, it's:

Kit Golson Design

for elegant, sustainable and pragmatic

Chic Provence Interior Design

23 February 2010

Wedding Fever in February

Not only are three nieces/nephews getting married in the next few months (we're thrilled!), I am also researching designs for a wedding in June (and for a designer, that's a nanosecond away!) Weddings today are fun! No need to be all white any more; gorgeous palettes of brilliant colors are chosen by brides today, making the joyful celebrations all the more festive!

I thought you'd like to take a peek at some of the beautiful tables and flowers I've found. They'll make your heart sing!

an old farm table set up under a tent
brought by the bride's sister from India

elegant and appealing Sweet Endings table with
mostly white theme...so beautifulQ

white laminate container and shiny metal
vases contribute to the modern feel here

tulips immersed in cylandrical vases are
a fascinating centerpiece

I love the simplicity & purity of sliced limes and hydrangeas!

more sliced citrus with fuschia gerbera daisies..striking!

the freshness of lemons with the pitch-perfect
green vases is quite effective with white linens

crystal beading on the stunning rose toparies, the chic gray linens
with sheer lace overlay makes an incredible wedding setting

textures and trailing tendrils are perfect in
arrangements that are set high above the tables

two favorite colors for weddings today: persimmon
and pear green together here

Napa Valley outdoor wedding with undeniable chic!

love the light and airy feeling of clear tables without linens,
the shiny white dance floor, and the greenery at the ceiling

effective and simple use of paper lanterns to
create a festive and casual wedding celebration

the subtle blues and creams are perfect in this
architecturally interesting room

escort cards are wrapped around lottery tickets!

I found all these beautiful, romantic, gorgeous weddings on the knot...the go-to resource for brides all over the country.


in 2010, it's:

Kit Golson Design

for elegant, sustainable and pragmatic

Chic Provence Interior Design

20 February 2010

The Magical Land of Flora Grubb

a seating area with bright orange metal chairs next to
signature Flora Grubb pots and palms

On the prowl with one of my hippest young clients for cool, repurposed & floral items to anchor a wedding design, in the early morning mists and fogs south of San Francisco today, we found ourselves lost for hours in the magical land of Flora Grubb.

It's quite possible that I am hopelessly un-hip, or at least the very last person on the planet to discover Flora Grubb. But that's OK. It's still an experience of wonderment and awe, and worth blogging about!

You know you are somewhere very cool when you spot an old bicycle planted (somehow!) with air plants & succulents and suspended over an old reclaimed zinc-top table, looking for all the world like the Wicked Witch of the West had just hopped off of it and left it in mid-air when she stepped inside for her organic latte with The Mad Hatter. It's that kind of place.

succulents and old suguaro plants
accented with red ceramics create a
stunning entryway

cool planting table in front
of inviting green shutters

I love this blue orb set among the succulents!

a cool tile that could work for a cheese plate in
a rustic-chic setting

these plates have the look of
botanical etchings, wonderful!

inviting and colorful bistro set
on one of the garden pathways

another view down the garden path

a very cool blue chair with modern
lines invites a little respite in the garden

if you like the metal furniture, choose your favorite
from the wall and take it home today

blue chairs face the wonderful
coffee bar inside

sinuous concrete chaises for your

concrete and redwood table is lovely
contrast to the lacy air plants

this rusty old Chevy Impala has an
ongoing life as a whimsical (not for everyone!)
planter in the quixotic garden

Lady Flora herself...a delightful
and charming creator of gardens!

When you get past the astonishing huge installations (that's really the only word for her artistic plant, artifact and salvage vignettes) and vertical green wall gardens (all the rage these days...and much easier to achieve than the green roof) scattered over the large, botanical-gardens-like outdoors, your eye will also find exquisite details and furniture. This is not your old Smith & Hawkins!

Wandering the pathways in her gardens you will see a vintage 60's Chevy Impala gently rusting away as one of (surely) the world's most unique planters. You can meander up to the coffee bar and request the barista make you one of the best espresso drinks around, then take in the scene sitting at the whimsical Caribbean pastel bistro chairs and tables while you admire every little detail. There's a lot to take in.

While we decided not every bride would choose this much drama and originality for her wedding, some elements would work beautifully for that rustic-chic wedding up in Sonoma or a wild Pacific coast setting.

This is the domain of the landscape artist and not to be missed by anyone with an eye for design and beautiful, exotic vignettes. Although the living green walls have a certain portability about them, most of these amazing plantings are well-suited for the long haul, enhancing a space on a permanent basis.

Flora Grubb Gardens
1634 Jerrold Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94124


in 2010, it's:

Kit Golson Design

for elegant, sustainable and pragmatic

Chic Provence Interior Design


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