How can I say that I am too busy to write this week? As Saturday approaches,  I realize that I have not stopped long enough to focus on any one thing, of the many that are bombarding me from all angles, about which I might formulate a theme for my story. I have to apologize, for once again, missing my Saturday deadline and hope that this was worth the wait!

Oh, to be so entertained by an onslaught of inspirational design elements as I have seen in the past few days only. And yet not only design – there was more. So I would like to start with an insert about Saturday as I (instead of writing my blog) took one last kayak cruise of the year.

A few people had gathered at the edge of the sand, pointing and remarking that they thought they had seen a whale. I looked in that direction and noticed that a few boats had gathered – often a sign that whales are spotted. I quickly pushed off in my single kayak through the gentle surf out onto the beautiful Banderas Bay and experienced for the first time whales from that most intimate vantage point. Up close and personal, it was thrilling to say the least. The beach was crowded with onlookers oohing and ahhing as they blew mists of water into the air and rose up from and back down, under the bay’s glistening surface. I paddled out and maintained a safe distance, but close enough to hear and feel the graceful power. Hump-backed and for which they are aptly named, the dark, sleek black bodies of the mother and calf were magnificent as they broke the surface and greeted the encircling boats full of eager spectators wanting to catch the show. And a show it was as the mama rolled onto her side and raised her unbelievably long, towering fin to slap the water sending spray high into the air. She slapped again and everyone thought that once was a rush and two was a treat and three and then four and I lost count at 30 times she slapped the water as though to say – “You want a show? I’ll give you a show!” She must have known that it was too dangerous to breach at that point, for a grand finale, as the close proximity of boats could have had deadly results. And I was right on the water with them. Unforgettable. The pity is that I was without camera and have only the memory of this life affirming event . An event that was awesome and outrageous and yet brought a surreal, serene sense of calm, peace and palpable, tingling joy. Friends on the beach greeted me upon my return in awe of what they had witnessed and welcoming me warmly, with enthusiasm, over my good fortune to have been out there for such an amazing display.


This photo taken a week earlier – a bit choppier seas, with Tricia in the single and I with Victoria in the double, sets the scene of the Bay surrounded by the Sierra Madre range.

Now, having shared that incredible experience, I have decided to focus on one of the many design inspirations that I have encountered this week, but I hope you will visit our PATRICIAN DESIGN facebook page to see the collage of colorful art and texture that I have compiled to represent the many images that I have seen and offer to further stimulate your imagination.

My focus at this seaside gallery of  delights today, as we  bring to a close a magical month,  is a collection of precious little figures made from synthetic foam, wood and steel. These humble little animations represent three shared events, a group hug, the “wave” at a stadium event and a gathering for solemn prayer lead by a figure of distinction – the one in the red scarf.


The spirit of collective participation is conveyed. The spirit of humble expression is conveyed. They present a sense of simplicity of some of life’s joyful moments. These simple figures are happy and content. They are intriguing and relaxing to study from many angles.



Form and movement, color and  texture the Spirits of Joy by Federico Leon de la Vega are a wonderful representation of life’s simplest and most basic moments of sharing joy. To see art in such a distillation, such a unpretentious media, execution of mechanics and form is true pleasure. It is not overwhelming or startling, it is not outrageous or provoking – it is moving and modest.

I hope that they bring a sense of joy to the start of your week and create an indelible memory to which you can return in your quiet thoughts to bring you peace and joy.


To experience this glorious morning, on the open patio of a tiny commercial kitchen, in an otherwise residential neighborhood paralleling the river Cuale, in the very foodie coastal city of  Puerto Vallarta, is a treat beyond measure—but I will try to share. I will attempt to take you to this special place full of unselfconscious art and function.

The cobblestone streets are dusty and send fine particulates of powder into the atmosphere causing a fairy-dust-like twinkle in the bright morning light. We bump along in a taxi turning and curving along the circuitous route that surely would lead most to believe what they say—that “this place is so hard to find, it has to be good!!!”

The front is shut and  obviously closed for  business. The taxi driver brings this to our attention, “is closed” he says simply— assuming that he will be continuing along the bumpy calle along the rio back to the bustling scene of the awakening city and return us to our point of earlier departure. PA15821103517

“No,” we tell him “we’re taking a cooking class” “leciones en la cocina” we attempt to convey and with that he beams a broad smile and says “really?” and stops the cab along the wrong side against the opposing traffic on the little street in front of the café.

We notice Lola peeking through the door at us as she unlatches the locks motioning us through and welcoming us as we enter the quiet little checkerboard floored dining room. 20140125_204143At night this place buzzes with animated conversations and is alive with color and funky memorabilia, art and posters, collages of collectibles all on brilliantly painted walls creating an eclectic artistic interior of fun and festivity. But on this morning, the room is dormant save the three other guests waiting to participate in the morning’s class.

After brief introductions we are escorted through a doorway to a narrow concrete staircase. PVR 2011 after girls 1 050 Red Cabbage stairsDaylight streams from above and we ascend past more brilliantly painted walls to a second floor open to the sky onto a patio rimmed with potted herbs and flowering plants. P1120475 To the right we realize that the rest of the space is undercover, yet always exposed to the elements from that one open east-facing orientation.

Inasmuch as I love cooking and eating and all things related to culinary pleasures, this is not the focus of this story, but rather, it is to describe this artfully inspired space and all the raw style and primitive grace we encounter in this wonderfully entertaining class of good and indigenous fresh foods and their fabulous flavors.

The space is charming and intimate and spotless. The colors are screaming from every direction including  a whimsical pink door surround seen over the wall of the patio. P1120522 The surrounding area is quite run-down and depressed, yet this jewel of a creative kitchen space shines boldly amidst the  impoverished surrounds. P1120524

The sky is perfect blue and sharply contrasts against the wavy pink paints dividing between pale and happy bubble gum of the stucco wall. A functioning drain-pipe of clean white PVC bisects the wall beneath which is a profusely blooming rose-colored azalea in a clay pot. P1120523

Panning into the covered portion of the space, the radiant coral color wall wraps to the back and transitions with gracefully wavy detail to a paint remarkably resembling the sky blue—of the actual sky—that we encountered out front which slams into a dazzling yellow-gold wall half painted and half tiled with the same luminous yellow color. And I have only described the backdrop!


Against these boldly painted and tiled walls are layers of other things that add even more dimension and interest to the kitchen. Blue and white tableware, glazed clay vessels, and a mysteriously faded poster of Frida Kahlo. More of the sky-like blue is hanging in the form of various sized and shaped enamel cooking pots on the coral wall.


The crisp white aprons of the two chefs pop against the background of multi-colors branded with the embroidered red and black logo of Frida with a red cabbage balanced atop her head. P1120487

It seems from the murmurs coming from the eager students that this enchanting environment represents the promise of a flavorful feast of color and texture. The food matches the interior. The stuffing for the dark rich green roasted poblano peppers is a colorful collection of shredded carrots, red cabbage, zucchini, tomatoes, raisins and pine nuts creating a seemingly woven fabric of colors and texture. P1120491


The finished product, Chiles en Nogada, represents the Mexican flag of red green and white. Plated here on red glass for an artful presentation. P1120518

Myriad handmade condiment dishes and traditional serving pieces contribute to the collection of color we are experiencing in this spectacular sensory bombardment. And I mean that in a really good way. The intensity of the colors and layering, the structure and accessories right down to the food and its presentation results in an artistic expression that goes way beyond the sterile experience often connected with the laboratory of a commercial cooking experience.


So we say—why be status quo when you can be individually fabulous, cooking and creating in an unconventional environment that reflects the animation and joy of the flavors that comprise the artful meals?! Thank you Lola for imagining and realizing the Red Cabbage and bringing so many artful, entertaining years and delicious meals to the community of fortunate residents and happy visitors—happy that they were able to find the place!P1120530



January 16, 2016


It could have been a sculptural piece of drift wood or a gnarly tree branch from the woods or a twisted piece of metal from a salvage yard…but the idea is to see things in a different way and once again—as I have done this before— to make something from nothing. And in this case, with no effort or manipulation—just the natural beauty of the found object.

The tide was out making the beach so wide it was like a great runway of wet sand. Scattered on the surface were the leavings of the waves – pieces of shell and polished stones. There amidst the beautiful debris was what looked like the suggestion of an abandoned boat hull—a dried, darkened palm sheath. I instantly knew, this would be another beginning of the tropical table-scape that I am so fond of creating when we are at the beach. P1110860

“Creating something from nothing,” my father would often say. He was a great believer in that idea that one man’s trash was another man’s treasure. We loved to beach comb together whenever we found ourselves at the tide’s edge. Sometimes it was tropical and the coral was bleached white and pocked with texture. Fine mesh pieces of purple sea fan and perfect little green “hat” shells would be nestled among the dense collections of heavier piles of white coral.

Then other scenes would find us on northern beaches of the Maryland coast where there was no coral but the ocean would wash multi-colored surf-polished stones onto the shore blanketing the sand particularly at the very edge where the water would curl between the beach and the ocean’s depths. Tiny purple and pink clam shells would peek, being abruptly exposed and quickly bury themselves back into the wet sand moistened with  each incoming wave.

On this day, the warm breeze is tropical and the beach is expansive offering rare treasures scattered broadly but sparingly on the pristine surface of sand. It is here that I encountered my centerpiece.

Don of course is saying—”what are you going to do with that? It’s too big. Leave it here.” And I assure him that it is in fact a treasure and that it will be magnificent in the center of our dinner table where we are entertaining 11 for festivities this coming weekend. He, as always, acquiesces knowing that it is futile to stand in the way of my wildly enthusiastic creativity. P1110861 P1110871

Over the next couple of days, he and I both collect white stones and shells on our daily beach walks. At my instruction, we only collect white unless it is a particularly interesting shell. The idea is to have the stark contrast with the dark hull of the palm sheath.P1120142

Our dining table is a handsome slab of travertine marble. Laminated to a double thickness and finely finished with a smooth full bull-nose edge, it is the perfect organic surface to build this also very organic centerpiece.

It needs something…the neutral tones are lovely. Yet, the dark espresso brown of the palm sheath with the white of the stones, against the creamy surface of the travertine invites something more. I realize that it can only be enhanced with another layer of organic material – here in the form of the fresh verdant green palm fronds – the perfect punctuation! P1120102

Oh would that I had collected more flat oyster shell halves…they work so well for votive candle bases…but alas, parrot green cocktail napkins will have to do for this last minute detail.

Our woven palm place mats, in their natural dried flaxen color, compliment the rest of the organics on our table. And as night falls, the sun drops beneath the sea’s horizon and twinkle of scattered candles finish our scene. Salud!








I awakened in the painter’s house with slivers of sunlight glistening through the bamboo shades, exotic chirping happily piercing the silence and cinnamon scenting the air from the open grill preparing the best French toast on the planet. P1110818

This place exudes thoughtful reflection and invites savoring the simple things of beauty and  meaning. P1110821

From intense and intimate conversations centering around the passions of life to convivial arguments and relaxed exchanges, those gathered at the estudio-café tables examine the events of the world from their own individual vantage points. P1110829Today the primary focus was a topic with which everyone seemed to view from the same perspective. All were in avid agreement as they discussed the recent exhibit in Mexico City from where the artist, Leon de la Vega, has recentlyjust returned. This significant event was an important auction where part of the proceeds were to benefit the Mexican Institute of Neonatology toward research on children’s learning and therapy and no less to benefit the artist expressing his concerns for the current state of affairs with the lost art of writing by hand. Federico's invitation P1110815

With the advancement of smart technology comes the dumbing of the people tethered to it.  Everyone…all of us…are victims and if we are to save the core of our humanity we must preserve our handmade, organic, communications. We have computer aided drafting and graphic programs, texting and video all of which negate the tactile, made-by-hand written or drawn creations of the human touch. To have a computer consistently come between the hand of man and his end results is a gap that will never be regained once lost.  Recovering this lost art, in so many forms, is critical to mankind. This all sounds pretty heady. But once you enter these spirited conversations you realize that the demise of past civilizations is not unlike this self-destructive path to which  we now bear witness. The beautifully insightful, well-crafted video in Spanish introduces Leon de la Vega’s collection and explains these observations which are universally recognized by those who are interested in taking pause to realize what is happening around us. You won’t need a translator.

In response to these observations, as the video explains, Leon de la Vega has embarked on an exploration of  communications by hand, incorporating them into sculpture, stylized images and abstracted interpretations. writing series P1110818

He is inserting into and embellishing on his artistic expressions in the form of calligraphy—which in its finest examples— has proven to be both art and literal communication through the ages. P1110838

But if one examines the very personal and expressive beauty of fine penmanship,  we realize that our schools are not even teaching basic cursive  to our children. Our schools are forced to chose between computer classes, music, art and even the basic direction to form the written word.  The  collection was very well received in Mexico City last month and a second exciting and thought-provoking exhibition/auction of work will take place in early February, also in Mexico City.


With a New Year comes the best intentions for making resolutions that promise to make positive changes to improve the quality of the upcoming chapters of one’s life. We all have them. Some are repeat performers – have been tried in the past, but perhaps not so successfully accomplished.

Take Oprah – that gal with the Midas touch – she looks at something and smiles and it is an instant hit – she endorses it and WOW – gotta have it- good as  gold! Right now Oprah is blitzing the TV with her ads for Weight Watchers. She has a major investment with that brand that has only increased in value with her endorsement and fractional ownership. Yet the angle is that she plainly and unabashedly  states along with photos and videos that she too has known failure and difficulty accomplishing certain goals. She is right there in front of the camera speaking frankly to the viewers about the trials of her  ongoing, struggling, journey to master her own weight control and the invitation for viewers to join her and start now. What an honest and effective approach to starting a new resolution or an old one failed and revisited.

Another popular resolution, and one the pertains directly to interior design, is cleaning house – figuratively as well as literally. In fact much of these resolutions seem to be about eliminating excesses. Excess weight, excess obligations, excessive habits…but let’s just address the literal act of culling clutter and eliminating excesses of things as pertains to your interior spaces.

Surrounding yourself with items  that bring happiness, memories and stimulate in a positive manner is the root of pleasing interior design for your personal spaces. Decorating with favorite color combinations and decorative accessories is a  very personal statement for each individual. Sharing your space brings compromise and creativity to this process melding different life experiences and the items that represent them.  But as life stages come and go so might the true attachment to these  things acquired and collected over time. But the root of it all is to surround yourself with things that make you happy – that please you.

That’s when the resolution to de-clutter becomes desirable, if not necessary. Which brings this blog to the focus of paring away until you are only living with things that bring you joy.  As stated in the best-selling book the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo as she continually reminds her reader that they should “be surrounded by things that spark joy ” and that the result will make them “happy.” It’s a Japanese art as is so true of so many simple, spare, precious things Japanese. It is restraint that we all should perhaps strive to emulate. The result being freeing, refreshing and simple.20160101_181135_resized

Who doesn’t want to achieve happiness? If  tidying up can have so many benefits, then doing so would be the magic that Kondo promises  will result. If we  follow her cleansing steps – changing our lives for the better, we  will find happiness.

I love this intriguing little book. It touches on so many realities and oh so truisms. I love the promise and the helpful manner in which it outlines the order to proceed. It seems so simple and yet it appears to be a better process for those with small spaces, few things and a fairly manageable inventory to attack.  It became obvious to me that inasmuch as I wanted to dive into this new program right away and reap the results – it was going to be a bigger, longer process than promised. This is a primer to begin to think about commencing to get started with this daunting albeit needed task.

Yet, I do love the book and will embrace many of its instructions and principles in a month or so after a long anticipated vacay to the southern climes of warmth and inspiration and another opportunity to collect and bring home a little more cool stuff!!!

Thank you Tricia!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Merry Happy Holiday extravaganzas!! Now—on to the next step in the design progression of the year. I have written before about my take on the cycles of design—the seasonal influences by temperature and responses to other recent colors schemes. It’s all about reactions. Reacting to temperature, tradition, and changing from previous periods of color. It’s the yin and yang of  color swings. This is true of more broad-sweeping color trends too. They are invariably a reaction to having had a scheme in place for too long—people need a change. Opposites represent a radical change.

It is also key to capitalism and keeping the economy on the move with consumers needing to own that new thing—that new color scheme. Participating in the practice of changing trends is motivational—its big money.  But I digress…

As we set forth  to change our displays at the shop, Christmas shop window 2105 it is always a representation of what makes us feel good. So ask yourself—what do you need? Not things, but environmentally…what would feel good and what represents a change for the new season and the New Year?

Ok—so its freezing outside and you want a tropical escape—that’s not what I mean. I mean despite the temperature outside—but perhaps to compliment it too, what would feel good after the colors of fall? 20151126_093945 Inspired by the changing leaves, produce of the season—the results are a last burst of strength of warm oranges, golds, rusty reds, and of course the resignation of the fading vestiges of summer leaves…tired comfortable olives. Followed by Christmas, often before Thanksgiving has graced the turkey laden tables—the seasonal colors and decorative clutter insert themselves into our lives whether we like it or not.

We transition into Christmas with reds and greens—poinsettias, evergreen boughs and branches, all represented in fabrics, and ribbons, lights and decorative accessories. Red_Christmas_Ribbon_with_Pine_Branches_PNG_Clipart_Image Punctuated with gold and silver…perhaps to symbolize opulence and riches…for adoration and celebration.

So again—I ask you to review those recent schemes and ask yourself—What do you need to restore, renew, refresh, rejuvenate—RE—?

As we de-cluttered the shop and dismantled the Christmas displays, we began assembling things that felt restorative and cleansing. We collectively were drawn to the refreshing cool tones of icy aquas and the fresh clean bling of silver. 20151222_145149_resized_1 We are not going to deny the frigid temperatures (although this is not true for everyone) of winter, but it is also true of purging the heavy colors of fall and the holidays to refresh with something that is opposite of all the warm tones.

I must say, at this juncture in my theory, that Hanukkah jumps the gun with refreshing cool color following the heavy warm tones of fall and amidst the traditional colors of Christmas. Hanukkah presents a refreshing color scheme smack dab in the middle of the full force of the red and green. 91587677_4 The blue and white might be the choice of the celebrations because of the Israeli flag, but as Amanda Green writes in Mental Floss: “Blue and white come with universal associations, too. White suggests purity, peace, and light. Blue is associated with the sky, faith, wisdom, and truth. (The expression isn’t “true blue” for nothing.)” We also see silver punctuating the festivities in Hanukkah decorations. Ms Green writes…”some people think the holidays call for a little more sparkle, not to mention the popularity of silver menorahs. Blue and white clearly aren’t just the colors of Hanukkah. They’re symbolic all year long.” True too is the fact that blue and white are a classic  color combination in interior design for many cultures over many centuries.

So if it feels good…guess it means that changes are supposed to be for the good. Positive, restorative change…renewing, refreshing, rejuvenating—RE!

About the prefix from  the Online Etymology dictionary:

“word-forming element meaning “back to the original place; again, anew, once more,” also with a sense of “undoing,” c. 1200, from Old French and directly from Latin re- “again, back, anew, against,” “Latin combining form conceivably from Indo-European *wret-, metathetical variant of *wert- “to turn” [Watkins]. Often merely intensive, and in many of the older borrowings from French and Latin the precise sense of re- is lost in secondary senses or weakened beyond recognition. OED writes that it is “impossible to attempt a complete record of all the forms resulting from its use,” and adds that “The number of these is practically infinite ….” The Latin prefix became red- before vowels and h-, as in redactredeemredolentredundant.”

Cleansing aqua, white, silver…preparing for a refreshing Happy New Year!!!



Old movies provide an extraordinary view into periods of history, social norms, and the interior design of the times. Watching old movies exposes lifestyles and context like a text book. Whether capturing modest environments or posh extravagances, they depict with accuracy – if not exaggeration – exciting opportunities to transport the viewer into another world.

From my perspective, I drink in all of this creativity as I scan the sets, peek around the actors and study the minutia of the many varied interiors. I marvel at the sensitivity and attention to detail and decorative arts required to create effective set designs.

When movies are in color they illustrate such interesting decisions for artistic contrast and combinations; but in black and white, the imagination must fill in the blanks. The emphasis on the chiaroscuro adds a very  different focus. Scenes in color are often exaggerated realism stretching the art. While black and white scenes are rich with tonal values, shading and bathed with the art and drama of lighting.

Perfect for this season the 1942 classic film Holiday Inn, with Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds shown here by the fireside, allows the viewer to feel the cozy setting,  the warmth and take in the details of the room all without benefit of color. It’s fun to wonder what is the color of the walls, fabrics, accessories and other accents could be. The possibilities are endless – but probably not really  – if one is to design with accuracy for the time period.  movie Holiday Inn Bing Crosby Marjorie Reynolds   Try it with this still shot from the movie…imagine the colors…it’s fun!

Tis the season to light fireplaces and enjoy the flickering light, golden white colors sparked with jewel-toned color bursts, the visual and physical warmth that come in many forms. Step into the scene and feel the temperature, textures…see the colors and combinations.

I recently said – as sexist as it might sound – that I would never have a gas-log fireplace as long as there was a physically capable, self-respecting man around to fetch the wood and haul it home and stack it up, go outside in the frigid air to lug in the logs and of course clean it out from all the wonderful timber turned ashes.  Spoiled? Yes. I love a REAL fire in a fireplace – you bet…the crackle and smoky aroma of distinctly different species, real fire dancing and real wood “combusting” – natural elements that create a concert of sensory experiences and evoke so many memories. Is it working? Can you imagine it?

Fantasy mirroring reality, with the creativity of set design replicating accurate portrayals of life, provides another tool for historical markers and study outside of a museum setting. Perhaps you will find yourself scanning the sets and peering around the actors to see what you can discover surrounding and beyond the action.

And as this movie has so emblazoned in our holiday  traditions…I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Thank you Bing.


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