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A Selection of Posts from
New England Home’s Design Blog

April 14, 2011

Getting Style Nailed Down

We all know that design fashions ebb and flow over the years. Generally the incoming tides get a lot of attention—just think of the number of stories you’ve seen recently about ikats and animal prints, for instance. I wonder, though, if we aren’t quietly living through a little golden age of nailhead trim without quite realizing it. Looking around online and in other magazines I’m seeing nailheads everywhere, and a recent stroll through the Boston Design Center (BDC) turned up many more examples.


Easiest to find are simple, traditional uses of nailheads as a way of emphasizing the architectural contours of a piece of furniture, as in this dining chair from Century Furniture.


Tribeca dining chair. Photo courtesy of Century Furniture.

Another chair I saw recently at Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams adds a slight twist by mixing nailheads in two different scales.


Byron upholstered chair. Photo courtesy of Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams.

This reminds me of one of my own favorites, the emphatic effect of large antique nailheads, well spaced, as in a chair like this one (which, incidentally, I already mentioned once in a recent post about the French design show Maison & Objet).


Andrew Martin’s Marlborough chair. Photo courtesy of Andrew Martin International.

I saw a similar combination of flatweave carpet and nailheads not long ago in a totally different context. During a visit to Finished in Fabric in Connecticut, owner Susan Bijleveld showed me this over-the-top stair they had worked on with interior designer Samuel Botero. The treads are wrapped in mismatched pieces of kilim secured with nails at each edge. (Unfortunately you can’t really see the nails in this image, but the overall effect is still worth a glance.)


From Architectural Digest, February 2008. Photo by David O. Marlow.

More elaborate applications of nailheads aren’t hard to find either. Here’s a house in Connecticut that appeared recently in Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles.

From Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, March 2011. Photo by Mali Azima. Click to see the complete story.

For still greater graphic impact, check out the Sydney sofa from Shine by S.H.O. Cheryl and Jeffrey Katz found this beauty for New England Home’s Design Discoveries section a few issues back.


The Sydney sofa. Photo courtesy of Shine by S.H.O.

Question: Could you take it further than this amazing Prakash chest I came across at Furn & Co. at the BDC?


One-of-a-kind find at Furn & Co. Photo by Kyle Hoepner.

Answer: Yes, in a way. Here are nailhead medallions on the doors to the Oxfordshire dining room of designer Ashley Hicks (son of the legendary David Hicks).


From World of Interiors, January 2011. Detail of photo by Simon Upton.

Once on the subject, I started noticing similar treatments all over the place, as in this pillow at Icon Group . . .


Photo courtesy of Icon Group.

. . . or the new “Rivets” collection of wall coverings from Phillip Jeffries carried at Webster & Company.


Photo courtesy of Phillip Jeffries.

I’ll leave you with a room by designer Jeffrey Bilhuber. Walls “paneled” with nailhead outlines, high-gloss orange ceiling. Is this just killer, or what?


Photo from Bilhuber & Associates website.

Pretty much any way you look at it, styles like these hit the nail on the head.

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April 24, 2014

What Are You Walking On?

There is architecture. There is nature. And then there’s that in-between zone, where the two come together. Perhaps because I’ve always preferred nature in not-entirely-wild form, I have a fondness for those not-wholly-one-thing-or-the-other places that are the special province of landscape architecture.


And one aspect of landscape architecture I’m particularly enjoying these days—probably because it’s finally not covered with snow anymore—is paving. Underfoot, but hardly beneath notice.

The Monk’s Garden at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Photo courtesy of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.


Boston’s Chinatown Park: a path for feet and a path for water, both lined with stone. Photo courtesy of Carol R. Johnson Associates.


A quiet pool surround in Connecticut. Photo courtesy of Devore Associates Landscape Architects.


This hilltop space in Vermont is “paved” with clumps of moss. Photo courtesy of Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture.


At another site in Vermont, the same firm inset stones into a gravel path—hardly a new trick, but the rectilinear geometry and care taken with the textural mix, for me, elevate the result above the ordinary. Photo by Jim Westphalen

In front of this Mount Desert Island house by architect Peter Forbes, Michael Boucher’s landscape seems to grow out of the underlying ledge rock on which the home rests. (Click here to see more of the house and its surroundings.) Photo by Trent Bell.

Is it a lawn fronting this house along Massachusetts’s Westport River? Or is it a terrace? The designers at Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture have left the choice, in a way, up to you. Photo courtesy of Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture.

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March 14, 2013

Porcelain Potential

Not long ago I attended the opening reception for a new show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, New Blue and White. If the title has you envisioning endless vitrines loaded with chaste knockoffs of Chinese export ware, I’m happy to say that’s far from what you’ll find when you visit.


Harumi Nakashima: Work 0808 (2008). Collection of Samuel and Gabrielle Lurie, New York. Photo by Geoff Spear, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Pair of women’s shoes (2011), designed by Rodarte and produced by Nicholas Kirkwood. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Boym Partners: Still Life Table (2006), a found painting pasted onto a wooden table frame. Photo from

There is one work in evidence putting a new spin (literally) on your mother’s (and grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s) ubiquitous Blue Willow, but the experience overall is a much more fun and searching exploration of cultural and historical resonances than jaded design mavens might have thought likely. Emily Zilber, the museum’s curator of contemporary decorative arts, has concocted a spirited assembly of some seventy objects by more than forty artists that wears its learning, and its politics, lightly.


Robert Dawson: Spin (2010). © Robert Dawson Aesthetic Sabotage. Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Blow Away (2009), designed for Moooi by Stockholm’s Front Design. Photo from


Gésine Hackenberg: Delft Blue ‘Plooischotel’ Necklace (2012). © Gésine Hackenberg. Courtesy of Sienna Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Serious butts against silly, boundaries of style and medium dissolve in thought-provoking ways, and occasional handy cards provide references to apposite historical examples located in other galleries at the museum for comparison.


Felicity Aylieff: Five Storeys—Chinese Ladders II (2009). Courtesy of Adrian Sassoon, London, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Caroline Cheng: Prosperity (2010). Thousands of handmade porcelain butterflies sewn onto burlap. Collection of the artist; courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Pouran Jinchi: Prayer Stones 2 (2012). Courtesy of the artist and Art Projects International, New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Perhaps one of the most affecting pieces is And Then It Was Still II, by Philadelphia-based artist Giselle Hicks—gorgeous, wonderfully tactile, and somehow (to me, at least) extremely melancholy in the manner of a Victorian memento mori.


Giselle Hicks: And Then It Was Still II (2012). Photo from

If such sights inspire avarice, the commercial design world has in recent years produced other playful—and easily available—riffs on the same venerable traditions. I noted two in a post on this very blog back in the spring of 2011: Richard Ginori 1735’s “Blue Sponge” ware and the “Perfect Imperfect” collection from Pia Pasalk of Cologne-based Content & Container (to which she has since added “Blue Flow” and “Dots”).


“Blue Sponge” plates from Richard Ginori 1735. Photo from


Content & Container’s “Perfect Imperfect” collection. Photo courtesy of Content & Container.


Content & Container’s “Blue Flow” and “Dots.” Photo courtesy of Content & Container.

Shopping locally (at Lekker in Boston’s South End) you’ll find “Blue Fluted Mega” porcelain dinnerware, Karen Kjældgård-Larsen’s circa-2000 reinterpretation of Royal Copenhagen’s original 1775 “Blue Fluted” pattern.


“Blue Fluted Mega,” from Royal Copenhagen. Photo courtesy of Royal Copenhagen.

But for sheer brio and imagination, a trip to the MFA is the way to go. New Blue and White is on view in the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery from February 20 through July 14, 2013.

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