Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"American Style" as Defined by Italians

Thank goodness for the ability to tape my favorite design shows!  I've got 10 episodes in queue of the HGTV-hosted "House Hunters International."  I'm hooked on this show, which not only introduces me to worldwide cities and towns but also gives a peek into some great finished residences as well as redo opportunities. One recent stop in Rome grabbed my attention when the realtor showing the prospective buyer -- a young Italian male shopping the area housing market -- dubbed the open living-dining room concept
American Style.   Yes, indeed, as the twosome surveyed the main space, she actually said: "This is what we call 'American style.'" I loved the reference. But it also made me think about what American style means to me -- and others everywhere, and not just in the U.S.  We quickly conjure mental images of what others are talking about when they say a decor is Italian, French, English, Mexican . . . . (I watched a separate do-over show, which I also tape to view when the mood strikes.  In that one, the homeowner told the designer how he likes Japanese style. The host nodded knowingly.)  But how do we here in the U.S. define American style?  If I told a designer I wanted American style decor, what would I get? Would it be interpreted in architectural terms or through a specific look?  How do other countries describe American style?  Tell me; I'm interested (pass along).  When I searched Google for American style decor, native American, and country and western motifs dominated the results.  Country Living magazine also apparently asked and answered the question.  Editors there wrote:  "What defines American style? A relaxed approach to living. The spirit of invention. Freedom to mix old and new, high and low. An appreciation of heritage, encompassing such classics as denim, stripes, and quilts." The magazine didn't mention the open architectural concept of combining the living, dining and even kitchen areas -- despite its popularity.  I've reached into my files and pulled out some versions of open concepts; all of which convey different decorative styles.  And they're all in America.  So, what do you think?  Do Americans own a distinctive, dominate style?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tour a Houston Showhouse!

Custom Home Builder Brian Thompson recently invited me to come tour his latest show house.  The reclaimed brick used for interior archways, an enfilade design ushering in natural light along one side of the home, and a beautiful circular cut oak floor are all subtle references to the type of detailing and design favored by Southern architectural geniuses Ken Tate and the late Hays Town.  For even richer effect, Brian aged the rafters, installed different sized slate tiles on the roof, and randomly popped out a brick here and there -- some of which still wear old paint from a different time -- on the exterior. Maria Tracy of Tracy Carpenter Designs did the interiors. 

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Shell Musings

I love seashells.
Whenever  I stroll the beach -- any beach -- I'm scouring the ground looking for a special treat. Walking the surf line is my time. I think. I daydream. I'm inspired. I especially love the solitude the winter months offer in Galveston.  Even though summer isn't really my preferred time there, I wanted to share my shell "collection" on this first day of August. I've got them everywhere. Can't help it. Can't resist their muted colors, and unique twists and turns. I think they're the best free home accessory. Pictured here are some of my favorites; I've included other shell mementos, too. My absolute favorite is my Shell Man, pictured first in this lineup. He was created by Elaine Bangle, a Galveston artist, who donated him to a fund raiser. When I saw him in an ad touting the event's silent auction, I had to attend -- and to bid, and to win! I actually thought, though, he was human size.  But he's not, as you can see. Elaine and her husband have the Bangle Gallery on Galveston's West End. The best shells wash ashore in the winter months -- at least I think so. On one very windy, bitterly cold February morning, I couldn't believe my eyes. Sand dollars were literally dancing ahead of me, swirling in the wind just above the sandy shore. I collected about six. They're tucked into the yellow depression-era bowl I have in our half bath.  My college roommate spent one holiday break many years ago diving in waters off Mexico. She brought back the a large conch shell (last image) for me. (I now know that's not so cool to do ...  I doubt you could leave the country with it today. As a whole, I'd like to think we're more sensitive to leaving these in the ocean.)  When beach combing, I don't pick up shells that have residents.  I scoop up the ones that will likely be crushed by a large shoe or clean-up tractor. 

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