22 June 2009

Money for Something

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The very large and vocal response to my critique of a house in a design magazine took me by surprise.  To me, it was just a little Saturday afternoon rant – to you, it struck a chord.  I didn’t name the magazine or the designer on purpose, because it wasn’t my intent to “out” anyone or to put them down either – just to have some snarky fun.   But rather, it was supposed to be a lesson in design 101 – something all of us can use reminders of.   Still, concentrating on the negative feeds more negativity.  So, instead of all that – let’s look at what I DO like coming from this design magazine in the last few months.   One of my personal favorites was the story of the NYC pied a terre of Alessandra Branca.  But of course I would love her apartment – I had named Branca to my Top Ten Designers list here.  I adore everything she touches.   Branca’s design style is the antithesis of edgy.  She uses classic fabrics – preferring stripes and linens and damasks and toiles.  She favors a symmetrical placement of furniture and lamps and paintings.  She likes to use black and red as accents – and it does seem that almost every room she designs has both colors in it.  The most “out there” thing I’ve ever seen her do is use an oversized lighting fixture!  Branca has a look – a room designed by her is instantly recognizable.   But, that’s what I like about her – her signature style.  I love stripes and damasks and symmetry.    I love black and red accents and I adore antique chinoiserie – so I would love her work.  Branca is not trendy – she doesn’t use ikats or suzanis because they are in – in fact I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her use either.  Rather, she sticks to what she loves and she has been consistent throughout the years – her designs don’t date because classic doesn’t date.  Branca’s work is certainly worth the price of a magazine – it’s money for something.  This story appeared in the May 2009 Elle  Decor.  

 

 

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Branca was born in Rome and still maintains a house there, but she lives in Chicago where she runs her design business and a decor shop.  This apartment is her get away place for work and shopping trips in NYC.  The apartment is just over 1,000 ft. and is located on the second floor of a townhouse.  With just two rooms, Branca chose to turn the bedroom into a library/dining area/office to greet clients and, in turn, a small dressing room became the bedroom.  The main room is rather large and features all the design elements that Branca loves:  black & red, lanterns, damask, stripes, paisley, chinoiserie, and antiques.  She divided the room into three different sitting areas.  The main sitting area features a sleeper sofa – for visiting children – and is covered in a beige linen-velvet.    Two adjacent painted Italian armchairs wear red and white Fortuny and red and white stripes.  The sofa is placed directly across from the fireplace - which is in the middle of the room.  An antique settee flanks one side of the fireplace.   On the other side is an upholstered banquette, used for dining.   Between the high windows – perfectly balanced is a large chinoiserie armoire in reds and blacks.   A little short, Branca lengthens the visual line by topping the armoire with gorgeous apothecary bottles, set off against a red tribal African hat.    Notice the lantern – she put whimsical red shades trimmed in black onto the candles.   Wall to wall seagrass covers the entire apartment, creating a sedate backdrop to all the color pops of reds and blacks.

 

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The middle section of the large room is anchored by a black and gold chinoiserie screen and the custom made sleeper sofa in linen velvet.  Red and white pillows play off the red and white Fortuny covering the painted Italian arm chairs.  A red Oriental coffee table finishes the vignette.  Notice the lamp shades here – covered in antique pieces of paisley – another favorite fabric of Branca’s.

 

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To the left of the fireplace is the custom made banquette upholstered in beige and white damask – perfectly matching the wall color.  The pillows repeat the red and white Fortuny covered chairs next to the sleeper sofa.  More black chinoiserie is found in this coffee table.  And even more black shows up in the antique English spoon back chair.  Above the banquette are a series of botanicals painted by Branca’s mother, a well know Italian artist.  Notice how perfectly the size of the botanicals are for the space.   The oversized black pedestal  holding the Oriental jar is a trademark of Branca’s as are the red silk lampshades.     I love this corner of the room – a more perfect visual arrangement would be hard to imagine!

 

 

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This picture shows Branca perched on the antique settee found on the right side of the fireplace.  Upholstered in a typical Branca stripe, the settee sits under a large collection of red seals, framed in black.

 

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The fireplace – with the banquette on the left and the settee on the right is the focal point of the living room.   Large oxblood vases balance out an ornate mantel clock, while two benches provide extra setting.  

 

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The bedroom became a library/office/dining room – more functional for Branca and her husband.  The shelves are lined in red and are filled with red and black accessories.  The desk – an 18th century antique doubles as a dining table when needed.   I love how Branca utilized the space the way she needed it, not how it was expected to be used.  

 

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The long, narrow dressing room became the bedroom.  Branca designed all the bedding and curtains, using linen in creams and red and white stripes.  The striped fabric walls give the space a tent like effect reminiscent of another era.    A canopy helps make the room appear wider and turns the custom designed daybed into a focal point.   I love the clock!!!   Behind the bed, is a comfortable chair piped in red – of course! and a desk. 

 

 

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The outdoor space was fixed up by Branca to enlarge her living area.  The space was enclosed with black trellis and red wood furniture was added along with bright blue Madelyn Weinrib rugs.   The table is covered in a Bennison linen. 

 

To see more of Branca’s beautiful designs, be sure to visit her web site here.   I sincerely hope this expertly designed apartment has helped to restore your faith in magazines’ ability to sometimes get it right!!!!    The truth is, we bloggers depend on magazines to provide us with the beautiful photographs we show you day after day.  Yes, we do also show original work here by designers in Houston and others who send in their work to share – but the vast majority of images come from the expensive photoshoots that magazines have to pay for.    One comment sent in by a local scout asks that we be more sympathetic to magazines’ plight.  The bad economy has hit their industry hard and advertising revenues are drying up.  The scout said we should think about subscribing to a year’s worth to help fill their coffers in order to help the situation.   Not a bad idea I think.   So while magazines have to gain our trust and our loyalty, we also owe them a thanks for many years of pleasure!   If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be lamenting all the losses of this past year.  

55 comments:

  1. Another wonderful posting! I was JUST reading that article -- what a co-incidence! This is brillant, livable and elegant design. And her signature dash of red just brings the whole place to life! What a great spot for a party! Thanks for sharing!

    Jan at the-way-too-hot Rosemary Cottage

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  2. Joni-What can I say except that I have died and gone to heaven?

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  3. Bravo, Joni.....You have given us two posts filled with sass and class. That's why I love you!!! ;)

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  4. Thanks Joni,
    I adored this apartment in the issue...I also found that old issue of the rockers home, I will be studying it tonight....homework!
    I will be aspiring for a high grade, thanks for the info!
    Leslie

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  5. Simply gorgeous! I loved every photo/room.

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  6. I've always loved her work.
    Plus,she's got a great name, doesn't she?

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  7. I've always loved her work.
    Plus,she's got a great name, doesn't she?

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  8. A superb apartment. She does an exceptional job with such bold colors. They don't seem to punch you in the face as I thought they might when you mentioned that she utilized black and red in many of her designs. Now this challenged me. This demonstrates that bold colors can be utilized with style and class and it doesn't have to overpower the room or people. It certainly leaves a nice footprint in the room.

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  9. Joni, I don't know what you're talking about -- I didn't see anything wrong with what you said in your previous post! In fact, I thought it was quite "on the mark," in my opinion.

    Stick to your guns, girly!! You say what we all wish we had the GUTS to say! I really love to see you post what NOT to do!! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!

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  10. I LOVE THAT BEDROOM! It's so brilliant and concentrated and I am drooling over the colors and the whole perfection of it!

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  11. I love when you say Branca is not trendy, because she has timeless style. I also always thought her Roman blood shows in her design. If she was born in Milan she would probably have a different approach.

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  12. love the mix of creams and reds. i got tired of reds for a while but they seem to have taken enough time off for me to miss them again! WHich is a good thing considering the yards of fabric with cream/reds i have to for my kitchen to make curtains for!

    love the mix of old/new, shabby/chic, asian/european stylings.

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  13. Beautiful and classic -- yet so, so interesting. I love the dramatic color.

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  14. There are some great ideas and indeed designing lessons in this post, Joni. What a very talented woman and her apartment is sensational. xv

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  15. so Italian !! so elegant , perfect living ! not show of . I wish I could work that way ,,,, i would have to change country tho.... :-)

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  16. Great post ! For me it looks so italian, so chic ! Love her style. It has been quite a while since I've stopped by your delicious blog and it is always such a pleasure. Hope you are doing well.
    Mélanie

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  17. I agree. Her taste and design is absolutely spot on, (for me). Perhaps this is especially so because of the adherence to symmetry, which I find irresistible

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  18. I think Branca is definitely up there with Mark Hampton and any of the "biggies" you care to name. This apartment is drop dead fabulous and droolworthy!

    Thanks for this posting.

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  19. Having never even heard of a Blog until a few months ago, I am new to this whole scene. I am now a faithful follower of yours and everyday look forward to your posts even if I don't have a whole lot of time to spend reading the long list of Blogs that I have accumulated. I loved yesterday's and totally agreed with you. I love today's having been a fan of Alessandra Branca's for a long time. Her apartment is truly beautiful, and her flower arrangements are in the style that we really love-very simple and natural! Thank you for giving us these marvelous posts to look forward to! I am still working on my photography!

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  20. What catches my eye is the greenery, without which I think the living room would be a bit hot to the touch. The palm and the huge things in the red urns on the mantle are about the same height and get green up towards he ceiling. The Oriental jar on the wall and the 9 piece painting add a bit more.

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  21. Ms. Branca is one of my favorites as well, she does beautiful work, always elegant yet vibrant! If you have not yet visited her boutique in Chicago, which just had it's one year anniversary, I highly recommend it, absolutely stunning...needless to say. She has a great eye and a lot of sass, which us Southerners are quite fond of;)

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  22. Lol, Joni, it looks as though you may have broken out that darn scanner;)

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  23. Are you kidding? LOVED the rant! You can't always be Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm... and hey, your opinion is your opinion... that's what everyone love about your blog. Keep ranting my friend... you make this fun for everyone!

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  24. I think CC said it best...you have both sass and class.....we love you!
    This apt. was already in my tear sheets...one of the prettiest from Elle Decor in a long time.

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  25. Love Ms Branca, she's in my top ten fav's for sure!

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  26. Joni, great post on Branca's deign style. I love her use of red accents , recently I have added reds to my interiors, and I love the pop and warmth it adds.The outdoor living space is perfect!Sometimes too many oriental pieces can look dated, hers look fresh and updated with her combination of other elements.

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  27. Joni, your blog is definitely like a magazine in itself. Loved this post, and especially the outdoor room. Fabulous, and beautifully styled as well.

    I so wanted to post something (I guess you could call it negative) about an experience I had with a client last week but I'm too worried that they'll see it. Maybe I'll post it a few months from now.

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  28. Interesting to see, among all the up-to-the-minute
    touches, those curtains at the window of her living room, clearly derived from Roger Banks-Pye's work for Colefax and Fowler in the late 80s and early 90s.
    There was a tiny octagonal room at Brook Street, in which the curtains hung from a curved lathe, had goblet headings and were swagged back rather high.
    Never expected to encounter this in one of AB's rooms.

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  29. Both posts, brilliant as usual Joni!

    I love this!!

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  30. Joni - though I think Saturday's rant was well founded - I love this post ...this one makes me smile and nod and bookmark her website. Bravo for promoting the positive

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  31. I don't think there is anything wrong with criticizing an article -they put it out there for both praise and criticism!! You backed it up -it was well written.
    And onto what you do like, how could anyone NOT like this?! Such a charming apartment (and lady!) and I'm sure I'm not the only one who cut this out for my cutsheets!

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  32. Joni, I love this, and I think it has great style. I love those large vases on the mantle. Sometimes I think a mistake people make is putting ditzy things in places where bigger makes more of a statement. Scale is so imnportant in design, and this place proves that point.

    XO,

    Sheila :-)

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  33. Joni, Your "Good Money for Nothing" post was excellent and I think can do nothing but help the few remaining Magazines that are out there, if they take notice of what their readers really want to see, and that would be worthy design.
    I will keep subscribing to the ones I can't live with out because most of the time, the enjoyment they bring is priceless, as was shown here in your latest post.
    Joy

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  34. You're "negative" comments were so right one, and are better described as truthful observations! I know there's a style out there for everyone, but Branca's home is perfectly magazine worthy and classic!
    I love her fireplace vignette- the proportions, materials, just beautiful!

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  35. Nice Comeback! You trouble maker.....

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  36. There's a lot in yesterday's pictures that I like better than today's. Guess I don't know squat.

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  37. I love her work. It's amazing how easy it is to spot her work without it looking tiresomely repititive. Rooms like this remind of Genevieve Antoine Dariaux's (author of the 1964 style book Elegance) advice about selecting a classic hairstyle: You don't have the fun of enjoying the look of the moment, but your old photos won't look dated. These rooms will look stylish for years.

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  38. I love Alessandra B.--everything is classic/modern/positive. Thanks for highlighting her.

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  39. Oh so beautiful... Her style is so sophisticated & pretty & detailed... Mmmm mm to that seagreass joni!!

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  40. One of my favorite parts is the red bookshelves. I love how some of the shelves are set further back into the spaces. And that striped bedroom is so great! Thanks again!
    And don't feel bad about your "negative" comments-- those magazine pictures are meant to be judged. It's all a matter of opinion. And a good part of what attracted me to your blog in the first place is the fact that you always 'keep it real' and say what you think!! (And then dissect your reasoning with educated and well-informed explanations.)
    Love it!

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  41. That lantern with the red shades is fabulous!!!
    I loved this article too, and I do really like her apartment. It may not be exactly what I would choose, but it definitely doesn't make me scratch my head in wonderment either!!
    I do have some sympathy for the mags out there, but if we don't tell them what we don't like, they're going to keep printing it. I think somebody said it best - editors are not designers. But, if we respond to the stories we do like more positively, maybe they'll print more of them!

    BTW - have you seen the new Southern Accents yet??? It's fab.

    Wonderful post as usual! Take care and keep cool!!

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  42. I liked your honest assessment of the rocker's house...you did a good job of explaining what was "off" and why. It inspired me to look up more about the house and I found some photos from 2004 where the interior was simpler and much nicer. It allowed the design of the home, which had much to recommend it, to come through. Also, the fireplace in the living room didn't have the clashing marble surround yet.
    Today's post is really lovely. Even though I find it more formal than I would want to live with (California gal am I), I appreciate the thought and beauty of the set up. The classics can always teach us something!
    As for today's post, it is lovely. E

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  43. Loved this the first time read it and what a treat for it to come my way again. I admire her confidence to follow her vision, and what a vision it is.

    I also appreciate your follow-up comments regarding the magazine industry. I think you have opened an important conversation for all.

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  44. Love the lamp on the desk! How unusual.

    This apartment isn't my cup of tea, but I can appreciate the beauty of it. Lovely.

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  45. I am looking forward to going to Chicago in July to illustrate a wedding and I will be visiting this shop. She looks incredibly happy and so geniune.
    Love her strong sense of color!

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  46. Joni,

    what an amazing space to highlight. It just proves that classic design is timeless. and, damn, I love that lantern fixture in the living room. way fabulous.

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  47. I also adored this article. To my novice eye, red dining rooms were so ten years ago, but the way she utilizes red as an infusion of color in a creamy world- it makes me sigh.,,,and want some cherry vanilla ice cream.

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  48. Well, my goodness. I thought that my colors were SOOOOO out. I have been wanting to replace everything with white. But, here they are and so well done. Thank you. I have a reprieve for a bit on whitewashing my home. I just need to study her pics and accessories. Once again, thank you!

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  49. Hi, I really enjoyed your article 'Good Money for Nothing'. I too had just read a local magazine and was filled with unusal disappointment. Reading your article helped me understand why some rooms leave me cold and others fill me with inspiration and joy even if I don't want to live in them! For example your blog on Alessandra Branca was a great read - totally not my style or may I even say 'not a style I love' - but even so looking at the room/s inspires me and sooths me even though it's not how I would do a room and reading your comments helped me understand why rooms work even if not your choice of fabric or colour or something you would put in your look book or wish file. Thanks... I'll keep reading your blog it's fun. kind regards... Karen

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  50. Beautiful home Joni. Did you notice the sconce in the bedroom, it looks as if it was hugging the canopy. I love that detail. I's so cozy.

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  51. I think the pubs are fed up with bloggers like you who just steal all the photgraphy. Seriously, when was the last time you published an original idea? The only one in your little clique that I've seen do that is Rhoda with all her little yard sale junk. At least it's hers. How long would it take your blog to be updated if you could only publish your original work? Do you have any original work?

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  52. Joni, beautiful post. If "Anonymous" above is the same "Anonymous" who previously left a derrogatory remark, he/she is contradicting him/herself. I believe last time the commenter remarked that if you put your work on your blog, then you are opening yourself to criticism. If a magazine publishes someone's design, are they not also opening themselves to criticism? Also, I believe it was "YOUR" work that he/she was criticizing previously. Now they want to know if you have any original work. What I want to know is why do they visit a blog and/or blogger that they obviously do not enjoy reading! laurie

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  53. Great rooms! I like red accents, too. Red sparks creativity, so I've got it all over my design office, paired with pale green walls and black furniture.

    In fact, I like red so much, I wrote a Red-time Story of my own.

    http://jgkitchens.blogspot.com/2009/07/color-notes-red-time-story.html

    Hope you don't mind my sharing it.

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