A Decade Of Gorgeous Design Leadership In Hartford

by Categorized: Accessories, Beds And Bedrooms, Decorating, Design, Fabric, Flooring, Furniture, Home Design, Home Products, Remodeling And Renovation, Rugs And Carpets, Upholstery, Wallpaper Date:

DesignSource4Driving along I-84 through Hartford you can’t help but notice the big white wedding cake of a building near the highway in Parkville, at the corner of Park Street and Bartholomew. What you might not know is that for the past decade this former industrial site has housed an interior design paradise that has truly elevated the quality of interior design in Connecticut.

DesignSourceExteriorThis week, DesignSourceCT celebrated its tenth anniversary — 10 years of making exceptional home design products available to interior designers and homeowners in our region.

Founded by Nancy Zwiener and interior designer Richard Ott, DesignSourceCT has upped the knowledge base of area designers and their clients. It has hosted numerous special events and presentations over the years — everything from fabric shows to new collections from luminaries such as Philip Gorrivan and Alexander Julian, workshops on flower arranging by White House floral designer Ruth Loiseau, a seminar by Steve Nobel on how to effectively market and grow one’s interior design business, and educational programs on flooring, rug construction, choosing upholstery, how to work with a designer and more. DesignSourceCT also has sponsored programs for young, aspiring designers, and some of the classes offer designers Continuing Education Units.  designsource-Scott-Kravet-Mcandrews-

DesignSource-Porcelains-WoikeThe core business — housed in 20,000 square feet of elegant, space with high ceilings, massive pillars and floating fabric panels — is a one-stop, to-the-trade destination. It brims with numerous rows of fabric and wallpaper samples, furniture, lamps, drapery hardware, accessories, and many room vignettes to help inspire ideas.

The quality level is top-notch — fabrics and trims by the likes of Scalamandre, Brunschwig & Fils, Thibaut, Schumacher, Old World Weavers, Lee Jofa and Kravet, the kind of high-end products that once were available only to Connecticut residents and their designers willing to make the trek to New York or Boston. DesignSourceCT became a hub of design in the region, with other design-related businesses — lighting, rugs, custom workrooms — clustering in the same building.

DesignSourceCT-HandoutThe past 10 years haven’t been a cakewalk, though. DesignSourceCT expanded with some ancillary businesses within the building at 1429 Park St., including a designer consignment shop called Design Finds and a lamp shop. During the challenging economic days of 2009, the business had to retrench and consolidated back to its core.

DesignSource-Tassel-Poisson

 

These days, DesignSourceCT is increasingly open to retail clients who might not have ever worked with a designer before.

“We haven’t thrown the doors open,”Nancy Zwiener told me this week. People still don’t just wander in and shop around on their own.

Rather, DesignSource has added emphasis on its “designer on call” program, headed up by interior designer Nancy Perkins.

She focuses on smaller projects, sometimes simply helping with a floor plan, guiding a customer through the thousands of options available, perhaps designing just one room.

That of course, often leads to another … and another, once clients gain an understanding of how it all works, and that working with a pro often will save them money in the long run and avoid costly mistakes or problems.

DesignSourceFabrics-Woike“It’s a learning curve,” Nancy Zwiener said. Many people have to overcome a “fear barrier” about working with a professional designer — a trepidation that their own ideas and budget will get lost in the process.

The folks at DesignSourceCT — including the original team of six — celebrated their 10th anniversary this week with ice cream and cookies in that wonderful white layer cake of a building. I’d like to add candles on that cake in their honor! Here’s to many more decades of beautiful, elegant, well-designed success at DesignSourceCT.

DesignSourceCT is at 1429 Park St. in Hartford, 860-951-3145, designsourcect.com

Photos, from top:

The original team at DesignSourceCT, still together after 10 years, celebrate this week: From left, Alice Brash; Kathy Leduc-Silver; co-owners Nancy Zwiener and Richard Ott; Nancy Perkins and Linda Graydon (Photo by NANCY SCHOEFFLER)

Scott Kravet presents a fabric show at DesignSourceCT (Photo by MICHAEL McANDREWS).

Chinese porcelains are among the many accessories on display (Photo by JOHN WOIKE).

Room vignettes (Handout).

Fabric and trim designed by Alexander Julian, shown during his presentation at DesignSourceCT for interior designers (Photo by CLOE POISSON).

A few of the numerous racks of fabric samples at DesignSourceCT (Photo by JOHN WOIKE).

Below, Richard Ott and Nancy Zwiener ham it up in 2005, shortly after they opened DesignSourceCT (Photo by SHANA SURECK).

Ott and Zwiener-2005-Sureck

 

 

 

 

Set The Stage To Sell Your Home Quickly

by Categorized: Decorating, Home Buying, Organization, Real Estate Date:

Cheshire 2 tkitchenB&A1

Wallpaper — turns out that it’s almost always a negative if you’re trying to sell your home.

Ditto too much personality. And, of course, clutter.

Patti Stern of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating in Cheshire has some very helpful insights about home staging — which often will help you sell your house faster and without having to lower your asking price. Click here for my recent story, with more before and after photos.

(Photos courtesy of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating)

WethersfieldB&A - DRWethersfieldB&A - LR

 

From Marlboro Man To Methuselah

by Categorized: Antiques, Art, Collecting, Just Because, Psychology Of Home Date:

In case you missed this…one of the most enjoyable home stories I’ve written.

900x506

Peter Walker’s exuberant artistic spirit is evident the instant one steps into the Chester home the veteran actor shares with his partner, Jess Maghan. The walls are chockablock with his own photographs, with posters and playbills from films and plays in which he acted, with animal heads and relics and curiosities. Every surface brims with fascinating objects — antiques, sculptures, boxes, baskets, books, tapestries, farm implements.

If this is chaos, it is highly organized chaos — but it’s not chaos. This is an intensely layered, intensely personal iconography, rich with stories, memories, musings, ideas — not surprising for a man who is an actor, a lyricist, a photographer, a writer, a gardener, a sculptor and, for two years in the late 1950s, the Marlboro Man. The objects in just about any single square foot of space in this house could captivate a visitor for hours. READ MORE AND MORE PHOTOS

Photos by Caryn B. Davis

184_PETERWALKER

Vegetal Venom, Poisonous Plants

by Categorized: Books, Botany, Gardens, Just Because, Plants Date:

Ali MarshallAgatha ChristieGardens often are replete with mystery, but murder? Well, yes.

In a very entertaining story, The Financial Times reports on a garden at Torre Abbey in Torquay, England, where the various plant species that Agatha Christie used in her murder mysteries to dispatch hapless victims have been assembled. Torquay is a seaside town on the south coast of England where Christie was born and had a vacation home later in life.

From ricin hidden in fig paste sandwiches to digotoxin, derived from the foxglove plant (which Agatha used to bump off Mrs. Boynton in “Appointment With Death”), the Potent Plants Garden, managed by head gardener Ali Marshall, seems like quite a deadly delight.

FoxgloveClick here for the full story.

Photos via the Financial Times, from top: Ali Marshall, Agatha Christie, foxglove.

‘Contemporary Handwoven Treasures’

by Categorized: Art, Color, Crafts, Design, Fabric, Rugs And Carpets Date:

StormThe Handweavers’ Guild of Connecticut opens its juried show today, April 4, at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, running through April 26.

Some of the pieces are incredibly innovative, such as Kate Barber’s “Storm,” pictured above, woven in a pleated technique known as “shibori.”

The 68 pieces on display in the biennial show could get creative ideas shuttling back and forth in your own imagination. Sunday, April 18, is a demonstration day, with free admission, and you can try your hand on some of the looms and spinning wheel there.

Here’s my story: Click here.

Photo by Kate Wick / Kate Wick Weavings

A Garden To Honor Garden Writer Lee May

by Categorized: Garden Design, Gardening, Gardens Date:

Harry Link, a master gardener who lives in East Haddam, had the great pleasure of being Lee May‘s friend. They were next-door neighbors for 12 years until Lee, a well-known garden writer, moved back to Atlanta from Connecticut in 2013.

Having just been in touch by email with Lee in November, I was stunned and terribly sad when Harry told me that Lee died in December after a short and difficult fight with cancer.

Now Harry is planning to install a memorial garden at the East Haddam Senior Center in Heritage Park to honor Lee. The garden will be dedicated on May 30 — and it will be a surprise for Lee’s wife, Lyn, who will be visiting for a memorial service.

Here’s Harry’s sketch:

2015-03-19 08.44.35

 

Harry told me that Nancy Ballek Mackinnon, a partner at Ballek’s Garden Center in East Haddam, is contributing “tons of perennials,” and other garden centers also are donating plant material. One section of the garden will be planted to attract lots of pollinators.

And, as an homage to the distinctive style of Lee’s own garden — with its rock assemblages and dry bed stream of stone — Harry plans to incorporate those sorts of elements as well in the memorial garden, on town property just off Great Hillwood Road and Route 149. The gently curved garden — about 90 by 45 feet — also will incorporate a rain garden and several pathways, and Harry says he’d like to buy an arbor for an entry.

He also says a granite bench will be carved with words of Lee’s: “Gardening … well, gardening is life.”

Harry has set up an account with the town for cash contributions (which are needed). They are tax-deductible, and can be made to the Lee May Memorial Garden Fund, East Haddam Finance Department, 7 Main St., East Haddam, CT 06423.

“Lee meant so much to me, so I just want to honor him the best I can,” Harry said.

I can’t think of a more fitting tribute.

I met Lee and Lyn when I visited to write about and photograph the garden back in 2010. Lee had shifted gears in the early 1990s from being an award-winning hard news and investigative writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Atlanta-Constitution to focus on garden writing.

Lee’s distinctive garden in East Haddam was one of Asian grace and playful touches. His quiet humor rippled through the landscape. For example, he tucked rubber snakes here and there in an effort to scare off squirrels. “They were amused,” he dryly observed.

Lee’s passion for pruning trees in search of their essence was fascinating, too.

Most of all, I was touched by Lee’s gentle demeanor, his sheer pleasure in both story-telling and in creating enticing and enjoyable spaces in nature. He worked with nature and shaped it, but he clearly revered it, too. Take a ramble through his wonderful blog: Lee May’s Gardening Life.

And here’s my story: Click here.

Lee May-1

Lee May-shrine

Lee May at his garden in East Haddam.

Lee May-stones

Photos by NANCY SCHOEFFLER

 

 

A Japanese lantern harmonizes with the stone and rock in the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of a number of handmade cairns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee May-bridge

Japanese blood grass, one of many varieties of grasses in the garden, adds a brilliant jolt of color alongside a bridge over a dry bed stream of stone.

Lee May-bonsai

Bonsai played an important role in Lee May’s East Haddam garden.

Secret Gardens

by Categorized: Books, Children, Elizabeth Park, Garden Design, Gardens, Heritage, Landscape Architecture, Magazines Date:

HRG--4-.JPG_HCMagazine1_03-29-2015_FullRun_HTM_847PM2T1.jpgThis month’s issue of Hartford magazine is all about secrets — and included are two secret gardens that I’ve loved visiting.

Houghton_AC85_B9345_911s_-_Secret_Garden,_1911_-_coverSecret gardens have captivated me since girlhood — even before I first read Frances Burnett Hodgson’s classic novel, “The Secret Garden,” rooted in the wisdom of a garden as a healing, health-restoring tonic.

In particular, I was entranced by the sheltering bowers of rhododendrons at my grandparents’ home, where I often played hide-and-seek with my siblings and cousins (all of them younger than I). Those hiding places offered quite a refreshing respite; I could get away from the fracas and daydream, yet still be part of the action.

 

Cardinal Richelieu rose, bred prior to 1847Back in 2010, work had just begun on what is now the glorious Heritage Rose Garden, in an intimate and often-overlooked corner of Elizabeth Park. Restoring the garden and replanting Elizabeth Park’s collection of old roses — and I mean old, all of them developed prior to 1867 — was the Rose-Apothecary Rosecentennial project of the Connecticut Valley Garden Club (though the actual centennial isn’t until 2017).

One of the ancient roses included is the Apothecary Rose, at right, developed before 1240 and thought to have been brought to France by a returning Crusader.

Alice Prescott Whyte, an aficionado of antique roses and author of “The Roses of Elizabeth Park,” designed the 10 raised beds in a lovely rosette pattern. Her photographs of roses are featured here. Back in 2010, when volunteers were replanting the roses and the garden still looked pretty bare, Alice told me that the popularity of contemporary Knockout roses has knocked a lot of older roses out of favor.

Rose-Camieux“We’re saving history, one rose at a time,” she said.

The Heritage Rose Garden is tucked a little bit out of sight so be sure to make a point of discovering it later this spring, when the park’s famed Rose Garden arches and beds are in full flowering glory.

For now, feast your eyes on Krystian von Speidel’s appreciation: click here.

Another Hidden Gem

hc-farmingtongarden002-jpg-20150325Meanwhile, Iris Van Rynbach writes about another hidden garden — this one in Farmington, created by landscape architect Fletcher Steele in 1954.

hc-farmingtongarden009-jpg-20150325A pioneer in landscape design, Harvard-educated Steele designed nearly 700 gardens in his career. Many were at grand estates, like the renowned gardens he designed in the 1920s at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Mass., now a museum, with its renowned Blue Steps flanked by white birches.

hc-farmingtongarden004-jpg-20150325It was quite a coup for Stuart and Mary Smith to have the highly exacting designer transform their 1-acre yard on Main Street — which he initially derided as looking like Tobacco Road — into such a serene showplace.

Here’s a link to Iris’ story: click here.

I love the tale of how the garden was created in the 1950s by the renowned Steele, who had a fondness for martinis and a rather authoritarian streak.

And here are a lot more photos of the garden, by Mark Mirko and yours truly: click here.

Photos, from top: Heritage Rose Garden at Elizabeth Park (courtesy of Elizabeth Park).

Cardinal Richelieu, Apothecary and Camieux roses (by Alice Prescott Whyte).

Farmington garden, including view of ram’s head fountain drenched with water (all three by Mark Mirko).

 

April Is The Impatient Month

by Categorized: Garden Design, Gardening, Nature, Seasons, Vegetable Gardening Date:

stone bowlBefore you rush willy-nilly into the garden this month… the experts I talked with for my latest gardening story in the April issues of Hartford magazine and New Haven Living offer this advice: Wait.

You don’t want to compress the soil and the crowns of plants you can’t yet see by walking around on too early in the garden, or jump the gun by removing leaf debris and wind up exposing tender shoots to a late frost.

But there is a lot you can do this month to ensure a gorgeous garden ahead. Click here for the story.

Photo by Irene Jeruss / courtesy of White Flower Farm

Horticulture Scholarship: Apply By March 9

by Categorized: Horticulture Date:

hydrangeaAnyone in Connecticut know of a horticulture student who needs money for college?

That’s the question from Nancy DuBrule-Clemente of Natureworks, who is on the board of the Connecticut Nurserymen’s Foundation, an industry-sponsored endowment that provides funds for scholarship and research.

She says the group has “a fabulous scholarship and NO applicants.” The scholarship is $5,000 per year for four years. The application deadline is March 9.

For more information on how to apply, go to http://ctnursery.org/#apply or click here.

summer_hillkousa_dogwoodPhotos via Connecticut Nurserymen’s Foundation