Category Archives: Design

A Lamp, Dressed To The Nines

by Categorized: Accessories, Antiques, Decorating, Design, Lighting Date:

lamp with red baseSome lamps have all the fun. What might otherwise be a Plain Jane of a light source instead can become the equivalent of eye candy in a couture ensemble, with a beautiful hand-made shade and a distinctive finial.

Designer Susan Schneider of Shandell’s is planning a trunk show called “Paper & Light” next  weekend at Artisan Framing & Gallery in Niantic. And she is inviting people to bring their lamps to the show to have her design a custom-designed shade for it.

I first learned of Susan’s artistry when I wrote a story about the kitchen of novelist Frank Delaney and his wife, writer and marketing maven Diane Meier.

blue and white marble shadesFrank and Diane showed me some wonderful custom lamps that Susan Schneider had made for them — converting such diverse objects as vintage dairy cans into lamps.

I later visited Susan at her studio, when it was in Ivoryton, and saw her creativity in abundance, including lamps made from such eclectic items as car jacks, wallpaper rollers, heating grates and hat racks. Now based in Deep River, she has a profusion of hand-painted and hand-marbled papers, gorgeous remnants of 19th century saris and other fabrics and elaborate trims — all of which she transforms into beautiful shades and other home items, topping finished lamps with one of her dizzying collection of finials — everything from chunks of red jade and malachite to Foo dogs and Feng Shui energy balls.

night lightsEveryone needs a fashion boost from time to time. Treat your lamps to an update.

There’s a reception Friday, Sept. 18, from 5 to 8 p.m., and the show continues Saturday, Sept. 19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 20, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Artisan Framing & Gallery is at 293 Main St., Niantic.

For more information, go to


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.



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,

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





‘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

‘The Sculptural Book’

by Categorized: Art, Books, Crafts, Design, Just Because Date:

Earlier this month, Nick Paumgarten described the staff of The New Yorker’s move from the office at Times Square to the new 1 World Trade Center megatower. His account reminded me in some ways of The Courant newsroom’s move a few months ago — the streamlining it involved and my own ensuing sense of an incredible lightness of being.

Pile of BooksStill, I have to admit, this passage from Paumgarten pained me:

The things we keep around! But mostly it was paper, whole forests’ worth. Thousands upon thousands of orphaned books, some hoarded for novelty appeal, or a nascent interest, or a bygone assignment, or out of allegiance to (or guilt about) writer friends — an “accretion of intention,” as one acquaintance put it — were trucked off to Housing Works and the like. Many more perfectly good books were sent to their doom, like so many unclaimed stray dogs.

He went on to describe how the process “felt a little like going through the belongings of a dead loved one, except that the dead loved one was you. What was worth saving? Not as much as you’d anticipated, once you got into the spirit of paperlessness.”

I was comforted by this observation from him — that “The thing that’s worth keeping is the thing you do next.”

But I found myself cringing about all those books.

Trouble is, at our house the books are taking over. We’ve run out of bookshelf space, and the reasonably tidy piles here and there — not yet completely out of control, but getting there — have started to seem like permanent installations. Many are books that I doubt I’ll ever find time to read or re-read, even if I were to devote myself to reading full-time for the rest of my life. (What a heavenly notion!)

I can jettison an old turtleneck without blinking an eye, but a book is a different matter. I find it difficult to say adieu.

I thought of all this when I heard that Hartford artist Anne Cubberly and LB Munoz are presenting a five-session workshop on “The Sculptural Book” at the downtown Hartford Public Library’s Hartford History Center. Participants will transform old or discarded books into new artworks — sculpting the pages, adding pop-ups, sewing and altering words to create new meanings.

Sessions are on Saturdays at 10 a.m.Sculptural_book, beginning Feb. 28, through March 28.

Register in person, or call 860-695-6300.


Meanwhile, California-based artist and writer Lisa Occhipinti has a new book out, called “Novel Living: Collecting, Decorating, and Crafting with Books” (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $24.95,

Laura Pearson with the Chicago Tribune has more on Occhipinti’s book about books here:

Novel Living

Brilliant Ideas At Shandell’s

by Categorized: Accessories, Antiques, Art, Crafts, Decorating, Design, Lighting Date:

Here’s a early look at a story I wrote for Hartford Magazine and New Haven Living about Shandell’s, which specializes in custom lamps and lampshades. I really got a kick out of artist Susan Schneider and her incredible spirit and creativity — her ideas do indeed make you smile. Shandell’s new location in Ivoryton is well worth a visit — you’ll be inspired…

IMG_3000 There isn’t much that Susan Schneider hasn’t turned into a lamp or a lamp shade.

“I am a junker!” she proclaims. But it all ends up looking so chic and appealing.

IMG_2980She has made lamp bases from such eclectic items as an old Yellow Cab car jack; vintage, hand-carved wallpaper rollers; a pair of antique cream separators; a 19th-century hay trolley with wheels for a pulley that once carried large bales of hay up into a hayloft; plow parts, which she has nickel-plated, to give them an edgy, industrial look; bases of 19th-century hall racks that held hats, coats and umbrellas and look almost like inverted tortoise shells (above); old decorative heating grates painted brilliant blue; plumbing pipes for an artesian well.

All have been transformed into lamps.

Schneider — who moved her shop called Shandell’s from Millerton, N.Y., and then Pine Plains, N.Y., to the Ivoryton section of Essex and opened there just after Thanksgiving — describes her range as “traditional to funky to very architectural and streamlined. And the rustier the better for me.”

IMG_3004To top it off, Schneider also custom-makes lamp shades, and again her creative impulses reach far and wide.

She has a collection of IMG_2985more than 10,000 scanned images of everything from maps and architectural prints to equestrian prints, racks holding hand-painted IMG_3002papers, and numerous drawers filled with beautiful marbled papers and paste papers, and rolls of period wallpapers.


She also makes decorative paper-covered wastebaskets, tissue boxes and matchboxes.IMG_2987

She has created lamp shades from handmade bark paper, papers embedded with leaves, and a variety of fabrics including remnants of 19th-century saris and paisleys. One petite shade for a sconce is edged with guinea hen feathers, creating a whimsical look of fluffy polka dots.

IMG_2998Schneider, who named her business after the Hebrew name meaning “beautiful” that her Polish grandparents called her, got her start as an antiques dealer IMG_2999in Newburyport, Mass., in 1991.

As the economy sagged and she gradually lost dealers but gained space, she found herself focusing heavily on antique textiles and decorative lighting.

She says she begged a friend and customer who made lamp shades to teach her how, and one day the friend suddenly offered to sell her the whole business for a nominal amount of money.

“I emptied out her barns,” Schneider recalls. “And then I just sat and read all her little notes. I never really had instruction on it. But I was lucky: I had two different decorators who embraced me for very difficult jobs, and that forced me to learn.”

Dictionary Pages

Schneider’s new workshop brims with projects and ideas. It’s papered in pages from old dictionaries she finds at dumps and crammed with rows of rolls of colorful trims, and lamp wires in a rainbow of colors.

IMG_2991She says moving all the fixtures and worktables and cabinets was like moving a hardware store.

Stacks of vases are “waiting for the right moment,” she says. A back storage area looks like a lamp graveyard, but it’s really a lamp hospital or perhaps more accurately should be called a lamp spa:

This isn’t where old lamps go to die, but to live again and be transformed.

If the base of a lamp is chipped, Schneider might copper-leaf it. “I live for copper leaf! I have a fascination with copper leaf and silver leaf and gold leaf,” she says. Sometimes she leafs the inside of pendant lamps or chandelier shades, giving the light an added measure of luminosity.

She might pull the dolphin feet off a lamp base that she doesn’t like and use them on a base that she does.

IMG_2983“Beautiful lighting makes a difference in a room, even if it’s a very basic lamp with a beautiful shade,” Schneider says, pointing to a ginger jar lamp topped with a shade that appears to be plain solid white but which, on closer inspection, turns out to be a subtly textured white-on-white. “I want to change interior design one lamp at a time.”

Lately, she says, she’s been making more colorful and floral shades.

“For a while the design industry really wasn’t calling for anything in color or floral. I did a lot of plain, with a little bit of texture, a little bit of stuff. Now I’m finding that people are desperate for a pop of color. I think it’s just happiness. People smile when they see these things. I do make a ton of plain lampshades — I still do, and I always will. But greige can only go for so long, I believe.”

‘Lamp Candy’

Schneider also stocks a dazzling array of finials — the small ornaments that top a lamp shade — including ammonite fossils sliced in half, miniature Foo dogs, crystallized minerals called pyrite suns that look like sunbursts, chunks of red jade, chunks of natural copper and gleaming cubes of octahedron fluorite. The 19th-century Tibetan finials, which she calls Feng Shui balls or energy balls that were given as gifts for good luck, include red balls topped with a rooster wrought in brass.

“I call them lamp candy,” Schneider says.

IMG_3013The selection of finials, priced at $5 to $195 a pair, also includes a variety of gleaming geodes, agates and malachites.

“Agates, malachites — they’re very hot right now in design,” Schneider says. So, if people can’t afford a malachite table, “they can spend $150 for highly polished malachite lamp finials.”

Schneider lives in a 1940s house in Moodus with her boyfriend and her two dogs — a Jack Russell terrier and a Newfoundland — and spends her time working on a number of projects at once.

“It’s mood-driven,” she explains. But for custom work, she knows she sometimes has to work fast.

“I don’t believe in lamp shade emergencies,” she says. “But people do have them. … If people say, ‘How long will it take?’ I say, ‘When’s the party?’ “

As she has settled into Shandell’s Ivoryton location, Schneider also has started to offer workshops to give people ideas on how to update their lamps, how to “take what you have — take your grandmother’s piece that is so ugly but you love it because it was your grandmother’s — how to update it and make it beautiful.”

The workshops are playfully called “Larry” workshops, a name suggested by her boyfriend (who is not named Larry). Huh? It stands for “Light all rare relics youthfully.”

That playful spirit infuses so much of what Schneider does. Her email address says it all: It’s

Shandell’s at 107 Main St. in Ivoryton is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Call 860-510-3167. For more visit

Photographs by Nancy Schoeffler

Learn More: ‘It’s All About Connecticut Furniture’

by Categorized: Antiques, Crafts, Design, Furniture, Heritage, Historic Houses Date:

HIGH CHESTIf my article today about Eliphalet Chapin and Connecticut’s golden age of furniture whets your appetite for more, there’s an all-day program  Saturday called “It’s All About Connecticut Furniture,” presented by the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.

The workshop, aimed not only at serious woodworking hobbyists but at anyone interested in historic furniture, will focus on 18th-century Connecticut’s distinct furniture styles, each with its own influences, and how social history, trade patterns and the economy played a role in forming this vibrant, multifacted tradition.

The speakers include Alyce England, associate curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum, and Christina Vida, curator of the Windsor Historical Society.

Also Will Neptune, who has closely studied the construction techniques, proportioning and workmanship of Eliphalet Chapin; and Steve Brown, an instructor at the North Bennet Street School, the  Boston institution that offers intensive hands-on training in traditional trades and craftsmanship, who also will discuss construction techniques and do some joinery demonstrations.

Bob Van Dyke, the founder and director of the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, said Will Neptune’s presentation will focus on Chapin’s geometric methods in design and pattern layout.

“Nothing was just by chance; it’s all based on geometry,” Van Dyke said. “It’s just amazing.”

Strong Howard HouseThe Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking has been working with the Windsor Historical Society to furnish the ongoing renovation of the historic Strong Howard House (pictured at left) for an innovative hands-on approach to historical interpretation.

Christina Vida has been researching probate inventories and other documents to determine the furnishings and objects that would have been in the house. Reproductions are being made, so that visitors will be able to have a fuller experience. They’ll sit in chairs and at desks, handle textiles and household objects.

woodwork1The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking is a primary partner in the project, Christina said, and students are now working on a reproduction of a high chest (pictured at top) attributed to Eliphalet Chapin, which is now in the Wadsworth Atheneum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABob says some students at the woodworking school are in the middle of a year-long class on Chapin high chests, and have been making measured, exact copies of Chapin pieces. Students who are interested can submit their finished work to a jury for possible inclusion in the exhibit at the Strong Howard House.

Saturday’s program, at the school at 249 Spencer St. in Manchester (take the first left past the Woodcraft building; the school is in the back of that building), runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The $45 fee includes lunch. You can register and pay at the door, or online at

And for more information, call Bob Van Dyke at 860-729-3186860-729-3186.

Photos via the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking and the Windsor Historical Society.




An Upcycling, Repurposing Wonderland

by Categorized: Accessories, Antiques, Art, Books, Collecting, Crafts, Decorating, Design, Fabric, Furniture, Garden Ornaments, Heritage, Holidays, Home Products, Just Because, Mid-Century Modern, Recycling, Seasons, Shopping Date:

Blaze and Bloom 012Blaze & Bloom is a riot. So many imaginative, funky, zany, witty ideas packed into one airy, historic space in Hartford.

Four West Hartford friends — Katie Wickham, Jennifer O’Connell, Julie Jones and Tracey George — who are neighbors and all have kids, started the business in 2011. Back then, they held two backyard sales a year — in the fall (Blaze) and spring (Bloom). They specialize in giving new life to discards and otherwise reusing, repurposing and sometimes completely reconceiving old stuff — old maps, blueprints, books, fabrics and furniture.

Blaze and Bloom 016Take, for example the Zenith bar. Yes, it’s a mid-century TV console that swivels. They pulled out all the wires and tubes and other weird stuff (apparently quite a job), painted the interior red and added lights, transforming it into a one-of-a-kind cocktail bar for a family room or man cave. Cheers!

Jennifer spotted a 9-foot porch trellis, rusting and old, by the side of the road. (“I love rusty and old!” she says). She upended it, wove in a wide strip of burlap to look like a Christmas tree and added lights.

Katie has a big collection of old road maps (Esso vintage) and blueprints — and decoupages them onto tables, desks and chests.

Blaze and Bloom 002A vintage road map of Manhattan is framed with an old window: throwaways refashioned into a very cool artwork for $75.

“We believe in recycling, reusing, refurbishing, upcycling,” Katie says. “We don’t like to throw anything away. There’s so much inherent value.”

The Blaze & Bloom philosophy is, essentially, “We can do something with this. It still has a life. We can keep it out of the trash.”

Strips of vintage fabrics are turned into holiday garlands. Christmas balls now dangle from an old round needlepoint stretcher.

Blaze and Bloom 019The pages of an old book are intricately folded for displaying photos. An old piano stool is now covered with an old potato sack, “to give it a more hip life,” as Katie says. And the “item of the week” is a nifty metal catchall — made from segments of an old factory conveyor belt. If you need to get organized, there were two when I stopped by this week,  priced at $55 and $65.

Jennifer says they love the hunt, and buy a lot at estate sales and garage sales. “We just all see things and when we fall in love with them, we say, this will be a great piece to sell. There’s no formula.”

Sometimes the new life of an old item isn’t immediately clear. Jennifer stenciled the word TABLE on a table.

“People loved it, everyone laughed, but nobody bought it,” she recalls. Then Katie decoupaged a map on it, and, Jennifer says, “Voila — it was transformed. It sold in an hour.”

Blaze and Bloom 013 Blaze and Bloom 023 Blaze & Bloom also has an enticing array of vintage neckties, glassware, jewelry and more.

While the four friends started out just for fun, in July they got serious (though they’re clearly still having fun). They moved into a terrific space at 50 Bartholomew Ave. in Hartford — just down the street from the Design Center on the corner of Park Street — that used to be the RLF showroom and long before that was a metal file factory in the 1800s.

The building also houses landscape designer Cynthia Dodd’s Dirt Salon, the new Birch Papery, puppeteer/kinetic artist Anne Cubberly’s workshop and a variety of other artists’ studios. The whole place has a really wonderful, creative, collaborative vibe.

Blaze & Bloom has been open just a few days a month since the summer, but starting on Jan. 4, it will be open from 10-5 every Saturday, and by appointment. And it’s open today, if you’re on the hunt for a one-of-a-kind gift.

For more, go to, email or call 860-888-2087, 860-816-0880 or 860-305-0172.

Blaze and Bloom 005Blaze and Bloom 015Blaze and Bloom 004Blaze and Bloom 011Blaze and Bloom 009Photographs by Nancy Schoeffler













Radiant Orchid: A Hue For You?

by Categorized: Color, Decorating, Design, Furniture, Home Design, Home Products Date:

Ellen Kennon, a friend in Louisiana who is one of the top interior design color experts in the country, has been musing about the colors that various paint companies and color pros recently have tapped as their color of the year for 2014 — including Benjamin Moore’s “Breath of Fresh Air,” Colour Futures’ muted teal, PPG’s Turning Oakleaf (a buttery cream), Sensational Color’s gray.

But Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, is the color world’s mostly closely watched color expert — and today Pantone made it official: The color of the year for 2014 is Radiant Orchid.

Radiant OrchidI don’t know about you, but in my own home this eye-popping color is a color that pops up only in flower pots. Overused around the house, it could almost give you a toothache.

Maybe my eye will get used to this “enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones” that “inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health.”


Actually, I’m sure it will, because the color of the year doesn’t just show up in home decor; it permeates the more fleeting spectrum of the world of fashion, too. We’ll be flooded with fuchsia pants and purses and prom dresses before you know it.

Even so, when I think about how the folks at Pantone have sent us zigzagging from Chili Pepper (2007) to Blue Iris (2008) to bright yellow Mimosa ((2009) to Turquoise (2010) to Honeysuckle pink (2011) to Tangerine (2012) to Emerald Green (2013), I realize that Radiant Orchid is just the latest in zingy accent colors. Not necessarily meant for your living room wall, but for a pop, a punch, a bit of purple pizzazz.

Undoubtedly there are some people still ruing the hue of their emerald green couch who will confidently spin the color wheel to Radiant Orchid.

But you might want to start out using it sparingly.