Valentine Expressions

February 11, 2017

You know…we designers design for our clients and ourselves around themes, we design around events, we design around seasons and of course we design around the trends…it all keeps the commerce of products and materials in motion.  And at this time of year, we see focus on wine clubs, pajama grams, stuffed teddy bears in enormous sizes, hearts, hearts, hearts…and roses natural red or gilded, it’s Valentine’s Day!!!

But it’s fair to note that all seasons have valid design consideration. Setting the scene, enhancing the moment – either for you, your family or a romantic encounter, the holidays and especially this one, evoke a desire to create a scene that conveys love and romance.

To that end , my blog is brief. Enjoy that which brings you joy. Revel in the happiness that presents itself. Create beauty where you can. And as we are wont to say….art and good design can almost always bring a better scene to anyone’s place on this precious planet.

So be it a candy heart with a common message of joy, a product acquired to create a scene, a piece of jewelry to promise, a token to send love, a greeting of friendship, a message to offer support, it is all about connecting.

I decided to paint a bowl for my sweetheart. Yes, I had passed this guy’s booth, encouraged others to partake, had appreciated his talent, but never ventured forth. This year, I enjoyed sitting alongside Victor in the shade, with the waves lapping the beach, and soft music wafting through the  air…allowing a moment of focus on an artistic expression, a blank canvas (my bowl) to say Happy Valentine’s Day to MY Valentine.

Here is the finished result.

Connecting. We at PATRICIAN DESIGN support local artists and hope that the next time that you need a gift, want to send a message, or desire a creative addition to your personal space, that you will consider local talent to fulfill that need. OR do it yourself DIY!!!

Wear ART – Shop Local – Support LOCAL artists –  Need we say more?

Ok…we provide the greatest FREE gift wrap to get you on your way!!!

XXX000 Happy Valentine’s Day – (it’s Tuesday – better get prepared!!!)



So when you least expect it…nature speaks. On a silent coastline on a great lake in the wilds of Wisconsin the stones on the beach offered a hidden alphabet of opportunity. Upon making this discovery, I searched for and collected just the right pieces and sent a love note to my sweetheart. Wishing he were there to share in the wonderful adventure that was hiking through the enchanted woods to this lakeside hideaway, I did the next best thing and found an expression of LOVE , took a photo and messaged off to him…technology and instant gratification – well, across the miles…


The lovely white stones were amazing…I don’t know the geology…could probably Google it, but suffice it to say they were white and soft, angular but smooth, bleached and clean – massed in a thick bed for miles along the shoreline. I wish I could have taken buckets of them to do something…fill a large snifter, layer in the sink for the water to spill over and remind me of this scene, touch and fondle – they were so special, so uniform in size – such a natural phenomenon of raw beauty.

Paired with the rough, elegant, weathered, driftwood that was scattered along the rubble and upon which I carefully placed the stones, the composition was truly a work of art – inspired by  nature and assembled by my eager fascination with the media.


Take away…love is all around – OH! has that been said before? Well…love IS all around us and to find an actual, natural formation of alphabet letters that allowed the simplest expression of literal words, to be transported across the miles,  was magic.

Art…design…nature…find it!!! Happy almost Valentine’s Day!!!!

Ta Da! Pantone announces its color of the year for the coming 2017…drum roll please…and the color is Greenery!! Yay!!! Last year there were two  – yes, imagine that – they couldn’t decide so they slurried Rose Quartz and Serenity resulting in a pale, cool, wimpy blend of soft rose and lavenderesque shades into a blended wispy pastel dream. Non-committal, in my opinion…lacking confidence.  Last year the rationale was stated by Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman as…


But this year they have it with this fresh organic hue in a yellow-ish shade primed for this year’s rationale from Ms. Eiseman which is:


I have always loved green. I grew up in a Virginia jungle of a suburban neighborhood inside the Beltway surrounding my hometown of Washington DC. where the first signs of spring were the tiny tips of dogwood leaves poking forth from the delicate branches of those beautiful under-growth trees. The dogwoods were the graceful, human-scale layer beneath the towering canopy of the immense, rigid, vertical tulip poplar and white oak trees that commanded the woods.

Soft mosses, lacey ferns and perky lily of the valley carpeted the hidden pockets of our backyard. New growth is that prediction of amazing renewal and promise of the start of summer. So it is a prime observation that as Eiseman states in her 2017 rationale “greenery…bursts forth…with a reassurance we yearn for…” although I do not feel this is peculiar to this year as winter always makes me yearn for greenery and the reassurance  that spring and summer will return.

My mother also loved green and that probably influenced my childhood perception of comfort and context of it in interior design. She had and still has an eye for color. In 1959 she selected an amazing sculpted wool pile carpet in a warm, dark, neutral, taupe tone and built upon it a color scheme of pinks and greens that was subtle and relaxing, organic and contrasting, blending beautifully in our wooded setting of verdant lushness in which we were cozily situated.

That was upstairs where we felt like we lived in a flowering tree house amidst the dense collection of green leafy between the trees and surrounded by all shades of pink and white azaleas. Downstairs, where we retreated in the winter months, her greens were mixed with gold tones creating a warm interpretation of the greenery around us.

When so many in that era, between the 60s and 70s, were styling interiors with heavy oranges, browns and golds,


my mother gravitated toward Lily Pulitzer’s fresh, tropical palette of lime green and hot pinks, clean crisp turquoise and citrusy lemon yellow – both in her wardrobe and her interior accent colors.


Our beach house was turquoise and teal, navy and tan – the sea and the sand.

Following color trends is a slippery slope. I have blogged about it in the past. Adopting that which is often a combination of colors instantly records a place in time when everything from bath towels and shower curtains, bed dressings to draperies appears in the marketplace and inserts its predetermined obsolescent combinations into the lives of so many who would rather catch the wave – often behind the crest – to own and participate in what is conveyed by the market to be the “in” thing to do and to have.

It is best not to embrace and adopt the combinations that the market presents. It is better to select color and combinations that transcend the trends – skirt them so as not to fall into the trap of dated color schemes and tired combinations. Some avoid the trap by staying neutral. The safe, timeless colors of whites and grays mushrooms and taupes- but where is the risk and fun in that?

“Too bad for them” I often remark. It is such a missed opportunity…a limitation to select colors that you think you are supposed to like rather than those that truly bring you joy. I say “go for joy every time.” Color is such personality. It is a stage-setting element. It is a backdrop or foreground. It is a theme. It is an atmosphere.

With all that having been said, I for one am thrilled with this fresh selection for the new year. A bright beginning full of hope and new growth, fresh starts and positive forward movement – organic and life-affirming. So seek the colors that brings you joy and go forth with color in this new 2017 soon to arrive. My personal schemes will always have greenery!!!

When it’s time sensitive and just can’t wait – what do you get? A BONUS BLOG!!!  Yes! A mid-week blog for the holidays! It began beneath a brilliant blue sky yesterday as the air, with a teeny bit of a  chill, was contrasted by the then warm sunshine glistening through a deciduous denuded Honey Locust making it’s lonely leftover pods look like birds silhouetted against the sky.

Scattered all over the ground were the same fallen wonderfully twisted mahogany-colored pods writhing amidst the dried leaves.

The color was so rich and warm it was irresistible. As I bent over to inspect one, I was captured by the unique quality of each pod and the amazing contours of their graceful, elongated shapes.

Almost as though they were varnished, they had a semi-gloss that was naturally beautiful. This is art in nature. This is inspiration. I can see this as a magnificent drapery fabric – a grand wall of these intertwined ribbons of organic seed pods.


However, on a more current and immediate note – I saw a centerpiece or multiple centerpieces as it turned out. I gathered the pods in my fist as though a wonderfully wild bouquet. I then needed a bag (thank you Becky) as I kept dropping them, in an effort to force the ever growing collection.

Here is the quickie result of the awesome autumnal centerpiece. I had a faux wreath of berries and leaves, tossed in a few recently harvested local apples, (thank you Vigils), some leaves gathered from the driveway as the Bradford Pear – which, a little late this year due to our unseasonably warm Indian Summer this fall, has only started to drop its gloriously radiant leaves. And Voila!

I stood back and looked over my shoulder and saw the collapsed plastic bag still spilling pods out over the counter-top.


I was about to call all my friends and ask “Do you want a piece of this fabulous, festive, fall, focus of attention? And I quickly realized I could expand the joy for those of you with grand tables  needing a longer statement down the center.

So flanking glass vases provided the extension I needed. Now this was quick – adding gravel, sand or moss in the vases would add interest and depth, maybe pheasant feathers, other dried flower pods and grasses – this was just a start based upon an irresistible inspiration scattered before me.


So keep your eyes peeled for opportunities when you least expect them and make something out of nothing. Save unnecessary expense when you find your design accessories for free!!! Happy Thanksgiving!!!


WONDER at the Renwick

June 19, 2016

At 4 years old my teeny cousin, Katherine whom I nicknamed Katie-belle, took my hand as we ventured forth with great discovery stepping down into the carport of our beach house. With commiserating whispers, like the two adventurers that we were that night, we exchanged queries about where we were headed and what we might find and she said ” I Wonder…”

“So what?” you might say. What’s such a big deal about that? Well the concept of wondering, being able to ponder with amazement at what might result, was astonishing to me coming from the mouth of such a young child.

When we returned upstairs to join the group, I was eager to share my amazement about her simple phrase, “I wonder.” I exclaimed  “She wonders!” Repeating it incredulously about 5 times!

Today she is a dedicated grown-up pursuing exciting adventures in education as she navigates the University system and teaches students with a creative approach that captivates and engages beyond their expectations.

What is wonder? What is wonderful? Yesterday I visited the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. . The current exhibit is called WONDER. P1150084It truly is a wonderment for all ages. This architecturally magnificent building designed in 1859 by James Renwick, in the then chic Parisian Second Empire Style, is the elegant backdrop for a most progressive and creative collection of present day modern artists’ works. Diverse examples, of spectacular displays using simple materials,  brought to life in forms unexpected – of grand proportion and thrilling magnitude. Although my learned and previewer cousin had introduced me to the exhibit in advance, it captivated and engaged beyond my expectations.

This grand yet intimate edifice welcomes and encourages close observation of both itself and its contents. The spectacular main staircase, centered upon entry, presents a brilliant coral red carpet installed with a curvy,  serpentine migration up to the second level. Ooh – if copying is cool and emulating is the greatest form of compliment – I will be looking for an opportunity to specify a similarly whimsical installation. P1150052

Glittering overhead, spanning the entire length of the staircase, is a rectangular chandelier of mirror-like stainless steel punctuated with little LED lights blinking in random patterns. P1150066 The glitz and bling make such a striking, formal, contemporary statement in this expansive volume that it startles with joyful contrast. The artist, Leo Villareal of whom I had heard in advance, was originally from Albuquerque – where we now call home. A remote desert origination transplanted into the fast pace of the urban centers of the east coast resulting in this shiny experimentation with light, form and wonderfully reflective surfaces. Villareal melds basic high-tech coding to use his own algorithm of the binary system 1s and 0s communicating to the lights when to turn off and turn on – yet sequences that are never exactly repeated .P1150064 It’s not just your linear code of characters that is read on a screen –  here it is an artistic experience shared by all who look up in this gallery’s exciting exhibit.

Straight ahead, through the massive opening to the next exhibit hall, was the wispy fishnet-like rainbow of woven warm-colored fiber representing both  wonder and danger. Artist Janet Echelman’s inspiration is from a map of the energy released across the Pacific Ocean during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.  A natural disaster so devastating that it shifted the earth on its axis and cost us a fraction of a second in time. Surreal? Sci-fi? No, it really happened.  Beauty and grace depicting a horrific event. P1150063 Large scaffolding at the end of the room suggests the manual installation that was required to suspend this wondrous drape catching light and glowing with golden aura. P1150068

The lower level still had wonders to explore starting with the magical woven willow saplings – creations of artist Patrick Dougherty. He has wound these great lengths of supple branches to form Hobbit – like holes of imaginary forest habitats. P1150056 We were at once drawn into these cozy nurturing cubbies of what appeared to be nature – not forms created by man. Nature. Organic and raw, elegant and graceful winding toward the far reaches of the very high ceilings. Like a sculptor who says that the stone dictates what it wants to be and how he carves it – Dougherty knows that the long willow branches have a true will and bend their own way challenging him to work with them toward that goal of partnership with nature. The beauty is in the end result.  People of all ages wandered in and out, peeking through window-like openings pretending to be exploring an enchanted forest of wonder.

Next – stacked index cards- really? P1150061 Have you ever experienced Tent Rocks?  8-24-12 Placitas lunch, Tent Rocks Heather, Tricia, Zeke 044Have you ever looked upward and around and through the magnificent forms created by nature eroding the earth’s strata revealing layers of color and creating spires of rocky towers? It is a magic land just south of Cochiti in a very unexpected pocket of nature’s magnificence in our Land of Enchantment. And the spires that artist Tara Donovan created with stacks of index cards – an overwhelming accumulation of millions of index cards suggest grey spires replicating nature’s wonders in the canyons among the spires of the Tent Rocks. P1150062 It’s as though a photographer captured this natural formation in black and white.  Donovan’s interpretations are tones of grey as a result of the stacked white index cards with slivers of shadow sucking away light in between each of them. Clustered and staggering in height, the “Untitled” towers are inviting to walk amidst and pass between, winding around them like a  tourist or explorer or perhaps inhabitant in ages past and present as they have stood for ages.

Snap out of it and see what is glowing like a fine fiber sail in the sunset in the next room. Stretching upward and crossing midway are thousands of incredibly fine threads woven from small hooks on the base. P1150059How could a human working only by hand – without computer generated machines digitally fabricating such perfection create this finished piece that we are studying with such wonder? How can this fine tedious seemingly impossible count of thousands of threads be executed with such grandeur and grace by one mere mortal? gabriel-dawe-plexusa1-wonder-renwick-gallery-washington-designboom-03 The artist Gabriel Dawe transcends our ability to comprehend the exactness of his beautiful accomplishment with extraordinary patience, precision and creative foresight to imagine the end result and bring it to fruition.  It is a wondrous, luminous sculpture of rainbow colored threads inspired by the skies of his native Mexico and current home in East Texas. The fine weavings also inspired by his Mexican heritage are interpreted, stretched and exaggerated here reflecting the light and spectrum of color from its base to ceiling. P1150060

We missed a couple of early installations of WONDER but were thrilled by today’s adventure. We had many opportunities to wonder…wonder how the artists conceive of their fantastic ideas and actually build their dreams to share with the world. We wondered what it takes to spark that creativity and passion that requires commitment and demands such unfailing determination. We wondered about those who collect these talents and curate these exhibits for the joy of so many. We wondered about the practical side of marketing these concepts to support the artists and this amazing  accommodation started so many years ago by a true visionary William W. Corcoran.

My next blog will trace the history of this wonderful architectural treasure, the Renwick, and share more of the day’s discoveries that you might visit and experience as you tour my birthplace – our Nation’s Capital.




TRENDS…we HAVE to have them…it makes us think, makes us shift…not to mention keeping viscosity in the economy. The shift is the element that moves the economy forward. Without that shift, we would be stagnantly content. And who wants to be stagnantly content – except the “Settlers” from the Direct TV ads?  DIRECTV_Commercial_2015_The_Settlers-520x245

Yet if you Google design trends they are all over the place. The intrigue is when they land on an actual theme that becomes THE TREND.

So as we advance into the new year and winter fades to spring – what lies ahead? I’m finding lots of nostalgia – features on milk glass and floral patterns and fancy geometric patterns, a recall to wallcoverings in floral prints and botanicals…Rose-wallpaper-Bari-J-WallAppeal-pattern-pink-yellow-zoom

The trick is how to invest in these elements and not have them become passé by next year. It’s all about balance – unless you have the desire and pocketbook to change out your interior annually! The desire to add something new to your personal spaces, or as my mother has always said “punch it up” is an art unto itself. How does one decide?

Information is so accessible. Access to ideas is endless. But HOW does one decide? How to make the decisions, the right combinations, what to keep and what to change…? The internet and TV…Anthropologie to Pottery Barn, Pinterest and beyond…You pin a gazillion things – but how do YOU decide?

But it gets kind of funny  – because for as many sites as you visit – there are oh so many professed “trends.” Therefore,  sifting through is the challenge and distilling what seems to take the lead. Pastels, patterns and florals is my finding…but is this just spring? Will this fade with the next season? Or is this a “look” that will last for a while? And do I embrace it all or pick and chose? How does one decide? Elle Decor 2016 design trends table

Pantone the color experts are even all over the place. Their designers were “inspired by the contrast of urban design and lush vegetation.” Whoa, really? That sure is a wide swath of possibilities!  And to say that these colors  are unisex is as though attempting to blurr the lines. A guy might wear a pastel pink, Rose Quartz, shirt – but would he upholster his sofa with it? Fashion and Home Decor often parallel their trends – and then they must veer off that same course for practical if not socially directed reasons.  Redford-3-Seater-Sofa-Peony-Pink

But the rationale is so amusing…for example,  Pantone writes: “Colors this season transport us to a happier, sunnier place where we feel free to express a wittier version of our real selves.” Yes, we all long to escape the doldrums of the short, dark, cold days of winter – hence the positive effect of transporting us to a happier, sunnier place is obvious – every year for that matter. That’s why tropical destinations are the prime vacations for winter getaways. Even most avid snow skiers manage to sneak in a run to the white sand beaches for some sun and fun alongside their plans to hit the slopes, get frost-bitten and nestle by the big fires.

I guess I’m looking for a more cerebral explanation for the color movements. And yet, maybe there aren’t any – so let’s not pretend then. What does it mean a “place where we feel free to express a wittier version of our real selves.” Wittier like a guy upholstering or painting his man cave with Rose Quartz or Peach Echo? That’s witty all right!!!!! That’s not the cerebral that I meant. But it is an interesting rationale. Color is giving us permission to express our REAL selves. I guess that’s one way.

Yet, here are 5 different color series for the upcoming year…and as you can see – it’s all there – it’s all covered.  Pantone color-trends-2016


So as you climb out of the dark, cold recesses of winter and squint your eyes at the bright, colorful luminosity of spring in bloom, where will trends take you on your journey to “punch-up” your interiors?


A little bug selectively bred on a cactus in Mexico way back in the 1500s, for its use as a magnificently unique red dye, soon became recognized, by European traders who discovered it while bartering  in the Aztecan markets, as the most dazzling rich red on the planet. The result was the realization that this red bug juice was a rare trading commodity that rivaled even gold!  Yes, a squished bug that oozed a red color that was so extraordinary that it was nearly valued above all. This indigenous American discovery spread worldwide and altered the course of history for art (obviously), cultural  influences, certainly its trading value and even science.

Before I continue with this brief summary of this extraordinary discovery and my personal  comments on the subject, try this little experiment.  Think of all the things that you associate with red. Think of all the things that are special and standout because they are red. Do this yourself – make a list or maybe make it a game of it at a party – have everyone make their own list and then share the lists – see how many make the same observations and how many identify different items.  More on this later…

This story behind  today’s blog is derived from a book by Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire which influenced a collective of international experts, in a variety of fields of expertise, to produce an incomparable exhibit  at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe that astonished the world.  The book that compiles photographs of worldly treasures and narrative describing the making of and content of this extraordinary exhibit is A Red Like No Other – How Cochineal Colored the World. It was my Valentine’s gift and it truly is a treasure – a gift of love. A red likeno other - book

Cocheneal, this little bug and its unexpected authority and influence, is the center of this universal love affair. A love affair with a color so seductive and so powerful that it evokes passion and emotion with everything that bears its true hue. The forward of this book by co-editor Carmella Padilla states that “everyone has a visceral knowledge of red. Therein lies its power. ” Red is imperative. And if you didn’t realize the depth of this statement, you will be amused, challenged,  amazed and intrigued beyond belief to read about the history and processes behind this exhibit .

Carmine  – this regal bug juice, so purely red, the prized pigment – is something all artists revere. They know the importance of this hue as they strive to create their projects. The quest for the perfect colors and the balance of colors in painting and in other art forms is an ongoing progressive journey. I feel remiss to not have known about this earlier. How can you take art history for semesters on end and not be introduced to this? It’s been an exciting discovery for me to learn of this viscose bug extract, carmine, and this recent journey I have taken to read of its history has been truly thrilling.

As I write this, by stark contrast to the wonderfully cerebral documentation and observations in this book, I find myself watching the endearingly inane movie Nacho Libre out of the corner of my eye.  And  what surprises me all of a sudden is that the color red is so effectively inserted into the scenes. nacholibre

The director, Jared Hess,  knowingly or not recognized the value of the color pop and punctuated many artful scenes that would have lacked depth and interest had he not had the eye to do so. My heightened awareness amuses me – especially in the context of this crazy, silly movie. The creatively artful incorporation and placement of red is so apparent in this nutty, fun film.  Ana de la Reguera lips Nacho  LibreHer lips, his costume, the children’s masks, a sunspot on a bus, the fighting ring ropes, structural elements in the arena are all so subliminal yet so vivid. Consistent and repeated use of the contrast with the bold red color in combination with turquoise is also a key element in this film.Nacho Libre masks

So back to the party where everyone is listing things they associate with red. If you can get a copy of this book and whip it out after everyone has read the lists, I promise everyone will find it captivating on so many levels and subjects – great lively conversation, fun, fascination and amazement will ensue!!