So, in direct contrast to discovering art in unexpected places such as a simple series of brush strokes painted on a course concrete curb, (last week’s pattisays blog) this week, as fall leaves fill the air and pumpkins pop up on every surface, my observations are about discovering art occur in an actual art gallery, specifically the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.. Imagine that! The city has been abuzz for months in anticipation of the recent unveiling of the updated East Building.

It was in 1978, the year I left my home town of Washington that I.M. Pei’s exciting new modern edifice was presented to an anxious art-loving public. So very different from the West Building and all others in the historic vicinity, some people were astonished but most were thrilled. This sleek angular sculpture of a building was a statement in and around which to display the growing modern and contemporary collection. An art-piece of its own accord. Yes, the building was at once regarded as its own work of art.  We eagerly raced to touch the famous wedge of geometry that came to such an acute angle that it begged to be touched.


Nearly 40 years later that same fine edge is silently showing its age missing little chunks of compound and lovingly discolored with all the hands from around the world that have touched and smiled at the towering stone form in contrast to the rotund, ornamented and domed Capital in the background. Both majestically iconic, but stylistically so very different.



But wait – this elegant aging beauty has had a three year rejuvenation treatment! New stairways and elevators connect galleries making the flow of exhibits more enjoyable. The tunnel connecting East to West sparkles with light and all the subtle changes result in a seamless passage through and enhanced experience for visitors.

The glassy, crisp, stark, expansive lobby where the enormous Calder mobile is suspended defying its enormity and weight as it gracefully, almost motionlessly, moves silently with the subtle, indiscernible stirring of air is the fulcrum of the building. Exhibit halls tucked away but newly connected are exciting to frequent visitors who know the building so well.


I naturally had to have a little fun and in keeping with the season made a couple of entertaining discoveries. Here Four Square and oil on Canvas by Franz Kline in 1956 is noted by The Art Story/Modern Art Insight “a fine example of  his gestural approach to painting. The viewer is led to ponder the canvas, seeing as either a close-up of a linguistic symbol, or perhaps, a set of open windows.”


Really? Linguistic symbol or a set of windows? Well, maybe it’s the season…but I instantly saw a cat – a crazy black cat, an abstraction of James Dean’s “Pete” perhaps, which made me want a mask and to be that crazy cat and prance about for Halloween!


In another piece, Portage, by William Kentridge of South Africa born in my birth year of 1955, a folded accordion-like book with torn  black figures of paper affixed to encyclopedia pages resulted in my seeing another black cat! I do think it was of human figures bearing weight, carrying, moving through various poses. Call me Halloweeny – but this one was decidedly a black cat. Don’t YOU think?


It was fabulous, exciting, fun and emotional to see the colorful Matisse cut-outs once again in such close proximity with Matisse’s placement marks and rough cut pieces – crude yet refined – rough yet lovely. Seeing these incredible compositions up close again is breath-taking.

Oh, and might this be another seasonal mask?


From awestruck to silly…to a quiet reverence at coming to the black and white photo of this enormous piece in Hotel Regina in Nice in 1953!!  Seeing it in the setting of its day and captured in a photo all those many years ago was one of many moments of reverence.


Once again, pay attention to the little things, be surprised, let yourself be amused and enjoy discovering art wherever you might find it – unexpected and very much expected places!


ART on the Curb

October 15, 2016

Silly little doodles in unlikely places. In some cases they might be considered undesirable graffiti, but I stepped over this beautiful little statement the other day and was compelled to take a photo as it made me smile.20160924_112705

Brush strokes now weathered and faded, chipped and primitive in their simplicity the colors were so pleasing and the floral motif quite nice.

It’s as though a child with a beginner’s eye took a single brush with bold steaks capturing the essence of a daisy. But then it looked like wind-swept clouds dancing in the suggestion of daisies floating across the sky above the sea.

Upon closer inspection, the aggregate stained blue is grounded by a collage of straw and leaf particles suggesting the beach’s detritus. This little composition has so much detail, so much suggestion, so much to offer if you take the time to look down…look closely…



We often see things in clouds…they move slowly morphing from the identifiable image into others or nothing. This miniature fantasy freezes the floating image on the texture of the concrete to create the composition of this most amazing piece.

Inspiration comes from many avenues. It is sparked by a suggestion, ignited in a flash by something in passing – a word, a phrase, an image, a cloud…

I now will start a folder of art in unlikely places…little details…a future tapestry of observations. Take a moment to see these little studies as you step through the world.

For a while in the world of design trends, dark colors intimidated. Bold designers dared to apply dark eggplants,  chocolates, charcoals and black to surfaces of their projects, but only a rare few clients would take the leap. Now it seems that we are seeing people accept the dare and more dark surfaces and intense envelopes of color are appearing on the scene.  I have often been asked – “Won’t it make it small?” or “Will it be too dark?” and the reason I am making the suggestion is because I already know that it won’t!!!

I’ve blogged about small rooms with dark walls in the past, but two recent projects featured my recommendation for dark cabinets. Not dark walnut or the market-saturated “espresso” which is the trendy generic for “whatever the wood – or pretend wood, we’ll make it dark brown” – very dark.

In this first case, my client – friend after many years of consultations – brought me into their home that they had occupied for a couple+ decades. It began with the  “pickled” wood cabinets that were in vogue at the time – stained red oak with a white-wash that resulted in a peachy finish. When we first did a “punch-up” we added steel cut-outs of Mimbres designs affixed to the soffit. We also added a black table and chairs with a splashy fabric as a valance in bold colors intertwined with black. The drama lifted the anemic peach theme to new heights.

Fast-forward another 15 years and my dear client was ready for a change. She called and brought me into that familiar kitchen scene and announced that she thought she wanted to re-purpose/paint her cabinets white. l looked around the adjacent family room and beyond and pondered this request.

What you might like in a magazine spread or a Pinterest post is not necessarily applicable to your context. I visualized the dramatic change. Looked at her floor (oh, we had upgraded to a large format stone-textured porcelain from the original 8×8 glazed ceramics in the last 15 years – perhaps a decade ago), looked at her family room furniture and finishes and said “I’m not so sure that’s where you want to go.”

I knew she was fairly thorough in her investigations and would not have called me prior to doing quite a bit of research and trend monitoring so I tread a bit softly when I said “I think you should go black.”  And her response was EXACTLY what I expected as she repeated the color in complete quizzical surprise.

“Yes” I said and continued to explain why. She loved her fabric that had been hanging over her breakfast nook window for years. The table was virtually unused and the steel cut-out art was one of their favorite design elements. Black was a natural. “Don’t be afraid of the dark.” I laughingly said.

Black on oak gives a wonderful moiré effect to the grain texture as it reads though the painted surface. It’s a bit exotic, rich in texture and interesting to boot. So with a bit of hand-holding and massaging the description of the intended finished effect, she took the leap – husband in cautious adgreement – they braved this bold departure from the norm.

We first selected a granite to coordinate with the floor tiles and the soon-to-be black cabinets. A swirly geology of glorious goop featuring the rose-clay tones of the mottled stone floor with black tracing through and clear quartz for pizzazz. We then set forth creating the back-splash which began with her love of glass – but to depart from the off-the-shelf 1×1 offering we cut away sections and punctuated it with 2x2s and some 1×1 domed bullets that added further interest to the multi-toned field. 20160906_173401

With those complimentary materials selected, we began the process of painting the cabinets. Boxes in place and door and drawer fronts finished off-site. All flawlessly sprayed, with many coats of conversion varnish tinted black, the transformation was dramatic.


The second example, of this fear of the dark when it comes to finishes, was another kitchen which was a small galley-styled golden walnut stained oak 70s model. To which, we added a rough iridescent slate floor to complement the existing stone fireplace – of the same material – only in boulder form. Seemed at this point, for this sophisticated bachelor, the perfect complement to the handsome slate would be striking black cabinets. In this case –  new, without the character of the oak in the previous project, as the cabinets were completely replaced and the new selection was made from a factory fabricated series. Similarly dramatic, the sleek black was perfect against the slate’s rugged grey/golden iridescence.


The galley footprint was greatly expanded, by carving out of the garage work-bench  area. And again, the transformation was daunting. Here we selected a mosaic of horizontal stones and glass for the backsplash – one of the stones was exactly the same iridescent grey-golden slate as the original fireplace and stunning new floors throughout.


Be bold, be brave and consider your context. You might just find that black is your best bet to transform your cabinets into stunning statements.


These observations have proven valuable and will be the subject of upcoming posts for the weekly blog…almost weekly blog. A compilation of themes prompted by real clients and personal answers & ideas for YOU from Doorstep Design Delivery by PATRICIAN DESIGN!!

  1. Use dimmer switches whenever possible.
  2. Do not be afraid of color.
  3. Treasure family heirlooms.
  4. Know why you are installing window treatments.
  5. Mirrors can be your friends.
  6. All leather is not alike.
  7. Layering adds dimension.
  8. Trends can be your downfall.
  9. Eclecticism is personality
  10. Odd numbers of elements make better groupings.
  11. Rugs are wonderful.
  12. Discover new ways to use existing pieces.
  13. Fresh flowers are joyful.
  14. Focal points speak volumes.
  15. Minor changes can make major differences.
  16. Ceilings are opportunities.
  17. Find alternate uses for common things.
  18. Collections can be cool.
  19. Treat yourself to statement pieces.
  20. Enjoy connecting interiors with the outdoors.
  21. Prioritize to plan effectively.
  22. Deconstructing parts can result in creative assemblies.
  23. Balance is key – opposites attract.
  24. Pillows are easy seasonal punctuations.
  25. Plants bring life.
  26. Mobiles and kinetic sculptures add animation.
  27. Even small water features can be soothing.
  28. Incorporate old with new schemes…conversely new with vintage interiors.
  29. Do not fear dark walls in small spaces.
  30. Everyone benefits from a bit of bling.
  31. Test samples do not always satisfy actual finished effect.
  32. Avoid stopping finishes mid-surface or on outside corners.
  33. Textures tantalize.
  34. Scale is critical.
  35. Faux fur has come a long way.
  36. Matching might be monotonous.
  37. Find treasures at second hand shops.
  38. Collect ideas – inspiration abounds.
  39. Zones matter regardless of size.
  40. Punch it up often.
  41. Music and sound are design elements.
  42. Masking unwanted sounds is an art.
  43. Form should follow function but sometimes they are simultaneous.
  44. Context is critical.
  45. When white is an intentional wall color.
  46. Appearance retention is key.
  47. Beware of light sources solely from above.
  48. Fish tanks relax – as art, architecture or furniture.
  49. Daylight vital – circadian rhythm count
  50. Wabi Sabi has value.


Good design enhances life. Consultations no longer are dependent upon personal interviews. Technology has facilitated communication between designers and clients.Custom solutions in the form of samples and sketches can be delivered to your doorstep! Doorstep Design Delivery from PATRICIAN DESIGN

Please contact us regarding cost-effective, quick fixes for your design dilemmas. or 505-242-7646

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This month’s Architectural Digest August 2016 sports Anderson Cooper lounging on the  cover in a backdrop of lush tropical vegetation and a glistening pool. But it was what I discovered inside about which I blog today. Paris-based designer Mattia Bonetti and his love of color and wacky style caught my eye. How could it help but do so? His creativity gone wild with little restraint is like Dr. Seuss parties with Willy Wonk and Dali!! Fanciful forms and incredible colors are the signatures of his psychedelic scenes.

Whether you like his designs or are a bit overwhelmed by them, he made a profound quote that I think bears some discussion. Evidently the author of the article, Mitchell Owens thought so too as he isolated it as a leading statement. Bonetti predicts “If people who can afford incredible decors keep commissioning bland minimalist interiors, it’s the end of decoration.” 20160804_091417

I loved that statement. Yet inasmuch as I appreciate the bland minimalists for their value in their own context, I just liked the premise that decoration is what puts things out there. It’s what sets things apart. It is what stirs new creativity, commentary and explosions of art and design decadence.

Decoration – boldly going where no designer has gone before, Bonetti creates many of his pieces from tables to lamps,  rugs to headboards and all with a fanciful animation that nearly comes alive. Like it or not, you can’t help but react. It catches the eye and forces response.

Fine scribbles on the wall in a graphite grey contrasting with loud geometrics all with splashes if not washes of color – maybe better said drowning in color in some instances – Bonetti is not afraid. Embracing the extraordinary he mixes and crashes his forms and  colors in screaming crescendos that excite and disturb. His tables look as though they could walk – or slither – or in some way motate themselves across the room. 0816-bonetti-hong-kong-house-5

As a designer we should (my opinion) be designing for the client. To find a client who would want such creative experimentation is rare. Either in cases of wild abandon, second or third homes, freaky fanaticism over art and decoration – they are not the rule, but could be fun if given the license to proceed.


Hula hoops…Iridescent life-savers…fun with circles and stripes of color!!!

I play with color. As evidenced in my portfolio but never with such unfettered, unleashed audacity. Yet I believe that color is the best way to punctuate a design.

An overall view of Bonetti’s work will unveil these fanciful forms for sure but not always accompanied by the intense colors displayed in this featured article of the Hong Kong apartment. But Dr. Seuss’s design influence is nearly always present in his creations which are inspired and freeing. So let’s unleash decoration today!!!

Studying the design of workplaces comes from focusing on the methods of the business, nature of the business, various practices and work of the  business…and then there’s the actual look at the individual’s who make up the work team and how best they perform their work in any given business environment.

It is NOT a cookie cutter process. I have been watching the morph of open-office design. Mid-century modern approaches adopted these grand, open landscape layouts Open-concept-office and then the pendulum swung and private offices were the thing to attract employees. We’ve seen Mad Men replicate this era and it prompted a sexy nostalgia for social scene depicted as the workplace norm. 462be137dd7783b16320dfcbdf3d9290

The era and advantages provided by the privacy in those private offices…..

Attracting employees is an art unto itself. Extracting their productivity, once you have them is next. But what is certain as the pendulum swings again is that what has been in recent years the seeming popularity of the open, group work areas, the lack of privacy intended to generate collaborative productivity. And inasmuch as there are bonafide circumstances and business environments which nurture and benefit from this design approach, the pendulum left so many business practices and employees out of the equation for success.

At the start of 2012 Susan Cane wrote a book titled QUIET. It discusses her observations and interpretations of introverts versus extroverts. It address many  aspects of what this distinction is all about and the environments that encourage and those that intimidate or hamper productivity. These observations addressed personal issues such as self esteem as part of the recipe for success. But this  blog is concerned with the reasons for certain physical design approaches in the workplace.

The emphasis has seemed to be upon pitting the opposing personalities against each other and directly or indirectly favoring the  bold and unreserved extrovert over the meek and quiet introvert but it is not about that, the real design picture and life picture should be greater than that as there are many personality types that make-up an effective workforce.

Steelcase has identified a Privacy Crisis. They have performed studies to better understand the design of the workplace in its many iterations. I recently  took a continuing education class addressing this very point and it was so interesting to apply recent observations in my own collection of design projects presenting some of these very issues. A credit to Steelcase for bringing this to the fore but funny how the pendulum has swung once again. True that as one of the leaders in office and specifically systems furniture, they have had ulterior motives in studying what the next “trend” will be.


Semi-privacy….work…study??? Cost.

It’s good business to create things that will attract buyers and users but I found that some of the cool little pods that are new to their collection are more fun than practical and the rationalizing by the sales staff is often humorous in their attempt to make it relevant, desirable, and necessary.

I do like the idea when design has a good functional function – and yet I am frivolous enough to LOVE design for design’s sake…but when it is SUPPOSSED to function – it makes me crazy when it is primarily if not entirely frivolous!!!! Get that? Now the BEST is frivolous that REALLY FUNCTIONS…ponder those examples…I will after I finish this!!!

I regress…my point here is to recognize the need to establish the balance between the  collaborative design of an open team-thinking workplace with the need for privacy to focus, regroup and refresh. And in the case of certain very productive individuals, just get their work done.

I have two examples that in my own practice brought these issues to the design table. One was an accounting firm where conversations with clients about their financial dealings warranted privacy. Having a client later walk through the office and realize that some of their own conversations might have occurred in open areas where privacy was not respected would be a poor business decision and poor business practice. The second example was similarly based around client’s financial planning and preferences at a non-profit organization. An open area where discussions of an intimate and personal nature might take place would not be appropriate. Although at first glance the attraction of a common area where employees could enjoy each other’s camaraderie and interaction, it did not benefit their productivity nor did it benefit the end result which was the confidentiality of the client’s financial planning.

So,  sometimes it is the nature of the work to be done. Sometimes it is the enhancement and facility of the team effort. Sometimes it is the style of the employee doing the work and their best environment for productivity. In the last instance for individual’s personal style of private productivity there are many considerations of interfering distractions… whether it be noise – some enhances the working environment and other distracts terribly – or movement and peripheral activity, distractions come in many forms.

Good design will always be sensitive…sensitive to the object of the design (client and sub-clients as in employees), context of neighboring elements, applicability and efficacy of the design for its intended purpose.

One thing  Susan Cain said stands out, “The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting.”

An artist in the house is a rare treat. Yes, you who are artists and those of you who have an artist in the family are spoiled by  this continuum of creativity bursting about you. As a designer I am of an artistic nature. I think in artistic expressions, react to artistic stimuli, and make decisions based upon aesthetic sensitivities that I inherently have.

But these weeks being visited once again by our dear friend and respected artist Federico Leon de la Vega and having him painting on the patio and in what we fondly refer to as the estudio-garage, we are surrounded by the unique scent of solvents and products peculiar to his trade of oil painting and the genius of his ability to express his observations on canvas.

Canvases scattered about with partially  completed masterpieces, ideas started and left to dry or waiting for further inspiration while others begin and take shape in varying degrees of completion. A mountain standing on end about 4′ long by 3′ tall, a lemon rind un-peeling in an abstract interpretation of the bright yellow fruit. A still life of citrus lemons and blue pottery creating a classic combination of color.

But in addition to this wondrous collection of colorful and dramatic paintings surrounding us is Federico’s ongoing project of  Mind Your Calligraphy which continues to grow and expand on this very compelling subject. As any of you who have watched the YouTube video by the same name know by now, this fascinating, universally important subject about cursive touches so many imperatives in our lives. ejercicio-preparatorio-2-federico-leon-de-la-vega

Based upon his passionate observations on the subject and translating those observations into paintings illustrating the concepts and precepts that frame this topic, Leon de la Vega is compiling an exciting body of work and references to bring this more to the fore. His recent invitation to speak at the TED-X Talks in Albuquerque this fall are a further step in bringing this essential topic to the attention of those who can make a difference.

Here are two new paintings depicting inspiration from handwritten music scores. Federico met with a client who has a great love of music by his magnificent glossy black grand  piano commanding attention in the corner of his sunroom.  The two began discussing how handwritten music scores, like cursive, allow the individual the quick personal freedom of jotting ideas on paper that can later be transferred to printed, digital means. And in fact those simple personal writings of notes on paper become quite valuable as they are uniquely and spontaneously penned by the hand of the artist. What could be more personal? The two men focused on Gershwin as they further discussed their mutual enjoyment of music, the unique appreciation and connection of expression through handwritten musical creations. Resulting from this conversation, the composer became the focus of these two abstractions of Rhapsody in Blue.  Gershwin diptych