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Original in Berlin

10 Sep

Shame on me for being so US-centric.  I love Mid2Mod and The Mod Fix.  One would think that with all the time I spend traveling, I would put more focus on mid-century design in other regions.  And given the fact that almost half the readers of this blog come from outside the US, I will commit to doing just that.  To start off this project on the best foot possible, I’d like to share a European shop that offers a wonderful variety of mid-century products to my continental friends.

From the charming Lars, who brought this store to my attention:

ORIGINAL IN BERLIN offers a wide variety of vintage mid-century furniture as well as new products from Alexander Girard, Russel Wright Pottery, George Nelson Bubble Lamps and a big collection by Austrian designer Carl Auböck. For everybody that can´t make it to our beautiful showroom located in the heart of Berlin, we also ship worldwide. Founded in summer 2010, ORIGINAL IN BERLIN is now starting to offer a larger collection of Scandinavian, French, Dutch, Italian and American design furniture out of our new 350qm Showroom. Our own upholsterers and carpenters can make every restoration or custom made requests on any piece of design furniture possible. For this, we only use KVADRAT & MISSONI Fabrics so as ELMO and SØRENSEN Leather.

AND as if that weren’t cool enough, Original in Berlin is offering 10% off all Charles Eames furniture to MCML readers.  In your order, just write  “Hello Mid Century Modern Love Eames” for your discount.  And if you do purchase something, please send me a photo!


Hotel Valley Ho

11 Apr

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Last week, Brett and I did something we haven’t done since our honeymoon:  took a vacation alone.  Yep.  Solo. (Or I guess duo, in this case.)  Sans kiddos.  Weird, right?  Just planning it made us dizzy with freedom.  The criteria were:  warm, water, very little to do.  We wanted to be sure we didn’t need a vacation from our vacation once we got home.  The goal was to come home relaxed and rejuvenated.  And let me tell you, we did.

We thought we might go to Mexico and sit on a beach for the week.  But we’d both been there too many times.  San Francisco?  Napa?  London?  I wanted to go somewhere totally new, but where?  The last time I had my hair done, my stylist (Heather Strock at Salon Ciba…she’s awesome!) knew I was into mid-century design and said I had to check out the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, AZ and once we looked at it online, we knew this was the place.  The self-proclaimed ‘Home of Hip’, this hotel has a long history of cooler than cool.

We were frankly happy there is very little to do in Scottsdale besides sit by a pool and start with Bloody Marys at 10am.  (Though, the Frank Lloyd Wright house Taliesin West is there and, of course, I had to pilgrimage there.  More on that later.)  I had pretty high hopes for this place and let me tell you, it exceeded it from the moment we walked in.

We took the ‘Magical History Tour’ of the hotel with the wonderful guide Ace Bailey, who spent 90 minutes with us giving us background on the hotel, the famous people who had stayed there and the various incarnations of remodeling it had survived (including an awful one by Ramada).

So like any good blog post, I’m going to give you the before and afters with some commentary around this fabulous renovation that was completed in 2005.

One of the first things you will notice is the addition of the ‘tower’ above the original main entry of the hotel, which is another boutique hotel experience that is actually condos which can be rented.  These are super fine and have especially super nice bathrooms.  As seen below in the red room, this is more of a swimming pool than a bath tub.  Though I can’t complain, in the photo of our room below that, the lovely bath tub was in the middle of the room.  That’s right.  And I one could drink champagne and watch TV from it.  Ummm…yeah.

Below is a photo of how the rooms used to look.  Apparently, it was considered way more chic to have a hotel room that looked more like a living room.  So one asks, where did they sleep?  Guess. The sofa is a pull out bed.  Can you imagine?  Those things aren’t comfortable now.  They must have been torturous back then.  However, perhaps enough martinis took care of that.

The hotel also had a long history of celebrity guests.  Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood had their wedding reception there.  Other famous guests included Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Janet Leigh, and on and on.

By far, my favorite part of the hotel was the pool.  We had a double chaise lounge to ourselves most days.  There is table service for food and drinks and you are never left unattended.  Perhaps we had too much attention sometimes considering our poolside bill.  Plus, what’s not to like about a pool with a martini glass design, complete with an olive for a lounge chair?  One thing to note:  The cabana rentals are CAH-RAZY expensive.  Like $100 a day.  I didn’t see the value in that at all.  Most of the other hotels I’ve been to, cabanas are gratis on a first come first served basis or are way less expensive.

And this post would not be complete without a few lines about the food.  The hotel restaurant Zuzu has gotten rave reviews.  Brett and I agree they have one of the most amazing burgers we have ever had.  Personally, I like the decor even more.  Those hanging light fixtures would be SO easy to make (see here in my Pinterest board) and I love the turquoise chairs.  Also, Hotel Valley Ho has the BEST happy hour ever.  Cocktails, wine, beer and snack for $3 each from 4-7pm.  Though I have to say there were one or two people who should have only been cut off after spending less than $10, if you know what I mean.  (And no, I was not one of them.)

So clearly, I loved the place.  And also for me, it was a wealth of ideas.  I finally figured out what I want to do with the still unfinished rockery in front of the house. I realized that I want to add more turquoise in with the predominantly green and orange color palette.  And I think I may way to replace the fireplace in the living room with a metal one like this in the lobby.  Gorgeous.  (Also, see those stone decorative blocks on the balcony?  Those line the entire hotel and are 350lbs each!  Yowza.  Could you imagine one of those falling on you?)

Some commentary from the press below.  I whole-heartedly agree with all of it and we will definitely be heading back there soon.

“The Valley Ho’s colors and midcentury modern decor hooked me from the minute we entered,” Los Angeles Times

“Now is one of the hottest spots to stay,” Chicago Sun Times

“Features bathtubs in the middle of some of its bedrooms,” The Wall Street Journal

“Like a girl doing the twist when everyone else is doing downward dog (VH Spa),” Conde Nast Traveler “Hot List”

“The retro-chic guest rooms now have sliding glass walls , terraces overlooking Camelback Mountain and oversized circular tubs,” Travel + Leisure

“Hotel Valley Ho is once again in the spotlight. Today it’s all about [ZuZu],” Bon Appetit “Restaurant Top Tables”

Tate Modern

25 Mar

It’s been a while, huh?  Miss me?  I am back in the UK, sitting in my hotel room at 1pm because I just woke up and am seemingly not adjusting well to the time difference.  All my travel lately has really screwed up my blogging pace, though trust me, I am not complaining.  (In fact, I am just now realizing it’s Sunday and this is supposed to be a Weekend Show and Tell, but whatever.)

When I land at Heathrow, it’s usually noon or early afternoon.  My routine is to try to stay awake until 9 or 10pm to get my body adjusted to the time zone as quickly as possible.  (See how well that’s working for me?)  And how do I do that?  I dump my bag in my hotel room, change clothes, hit the streets and walk.  And walk and walk and walk and walk.  Being here is always a big exhale for me.  No matter where I am staying, some part of my walk covers St. James Park, which yesterday was stupid with half-dressed Londoners in the unseasonable 70 degree weather exposing flesh that has been hidden for months.  Heaven.

Then I passed Buckingham Palace and went toward the Thames via Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.  I hit the riverside and kept going with the intent of walking down to the Tower and back.  However, I was about to pass the Millenium Bridge when I saw the Tate Modern Art Museum on the other bank of the river.  So I climbed the stairs and headed across at a pace dictated by the Noisettes on my headphones.  People, sunshine, music and the scent of caramel roasted nuts sold in little cups.  And like many of the museums here, the Tate is free.  Most of it.  You have to pay to see special exhibits, but I just wanted to kick around.  And I am so glad I did because I can really geek out over this stuff.  (For more of my art musings, see here and here.)

Click on photo for link to original.

The museum focuses on art from 1900-present day, which I love because it’s less representational and more conceptual.  (Enough words have been used in this blog to describe my ridiculously conceptual nature, so let’s just say I loved it.)  I saw a monstrous huge Lichtenstein that blew me away.  Those teeny tiny dots all in perfect rows.  I caught myself wondering if they had paint pens back then because that’s the only way I could ever do that.  I saw some Picasso cubist paintings, Modigliani portraits, those damn water lilies by Monet (that are everywhere…anyone else sick of them?), a Hockney here and there.

Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam!, 1963

Pablo Picasso, Seated Nude, 1909-10

Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of a Girl, circa 1917

Claude Monet, Water-Lilies, after 1916

But the stuff that blew me away was from artists I had never heard of.  For me, what I love about modern art is the wit.  I know that people stand in front of these things a lot of the time wondering ‘What the hell it is all about? I could do that.’  We are so used to looking at art from a decorative or narrative perspective.  (Or evaluating it based on whether or not it matches the sofa.)  For me, I love it when it presents an idea, preferably in a funny ‘gotcha’ kind of way.

For example, I saw this amazing piece by Michelangelo Pistoletto called ‘Venus of the Rags’ (1967,1974).  I love this Renaissance-esque marble female nude, her back facing you and her arms reaching into a huge pile of unfolded clothes as tall as she was.  Ha.  I know that feeling, don’t you?  And what a wonderful expression of a human experience that has so many layers.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Venus of the Rags, 1967,1974

Another favorite of mine was called ‘Shooting Picture’ by Niki de Saint Phalle done in 1961.  From the website:

The emphasis on the violent gesture in post-war abstract painting culminated in Saint Phalle’s Shooting Pictures. She filled polythene bags with paint and enclosed them within layers of plaster against a blockboard backing. Spectators were invited to shoot at these constructions, releasing the paint. This one was shot by artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. The moment of action and an emphasis on chance were as important as the finished work. Saint Phalle stopped making these works in 1963, explaining ‘I had become addicted to shooting, like one becomes addicted to a drug’.

Niki de Saint Phalle, Shooting Picture, 1961


I could do this all day, but will restrain myself to one more.  (After all, I am getting a late start on the day and the Orla Kiely store is waiting for me.)  Set in a very serious series of cubist paintings by Picasso and  was this piece by Fernand Leger, called ‘Still Life with Beer Mug’ (1921-2).  (That one’s for you, babe.  Democratic art and beer for all.)

Fernand Léger, Still Life with a Beer Mug, 1921-2

After his experiences in the First World War, Léger became convinced that art should be accessible to all. He moved away from pure abstraction towards the stylised depiction of real objects, laying great emphasis on order, clarity and harmony. In the 1920s he developed a concern with geometric composition and decoration. This painting shows a relatively naturalistic still life of a workman’s lunch on a table. The primary colours of the mug and tablecloth contrast with the dazzling black and white patterns in the background. (Tate Modern website)

Thanks for letting me share my inner nerd with you guys and this magnificent afternoon of mine.  If you want to see more, you can do a room by room tour at the Tate Modern site here.  I only got through the 5th floor but will definitely find time to go back and see the rest of the collection soon.  Enjoy!

Weekend Show and Tell

29 Jan

Another set of lovelies for you lovelies. Enjoy!

A modern twist on the bean bag (via Pursuitist), the Slumber Pouf from Casalis Carpets. With a pattern much like a knitted fisherman’s sweater, these poufs were designed by textile artist Aleksandra Gaca and come in 12 different shades. The only thing I can’t seem to find out is how much they are and where the heck to buy them! Can you?

Courtesy of Mid Century Home, this wonderful tour of a house designed by Arthur Witthoefft in 1957 that the owners have renovated back to its original state. First of all, holy fireplace, Batman! And (this will cause my husband to roll his eyes and tell me to just go ahead and finally move to Palm Springs) secondly, I love those kind of floors but I have no idea what they are. Do you? (Maybe I should call this post ‘Help Me!’?) Check out the original Architectural Pottery planter too!

Valentine’s day is slightly more than two weeks away. What are you getting your sweetie? If we had any red in our house, I know what I’d want: this Case Study fiberglass shell chair in a special Valentine edition color ‘Love U Red’ from Modernica.

A slightly smaller but just as charming Valentine’s gift that I ‘dig’ is this keychain from the riskybeads shop on Etsy.

Finally, as I leave today for London, I am thinking of travel alarm clocks. (God bless Remodelista for an entire post on stylish ones!)  I love this one, the Kikkerland Classic Travel Alarm Clock.  And for about $10, it’s practically free!


13 Aug

Wondering where we’ve been? I am usually a more prolific-poster but I took the week off with the family for a late summer vacation. For the past few Augusts, we have taken a camping trip. These started as ‘mini’ trips, a weekend away where we could get in the car and go, cook over an open fire and sleep under the stars (in a tent). Ainsley says our version of ‘camping’ isn’t really camping; it’s ‘sissy camping’. Camping for Ainsley means hiking in and really sleeping under the stars. That version of camping is not for me.  Clearly.

I prefer what has become a modern phenomenon of ‘glamping’ which means glamour camping. The New York Times first covered ‘glamping’ in 2008, when the term started to enter the collective consciousness. There is even a glamping blog, The Glamping Hub, covering all things related to this adventure.

From my perspective, there is really nothing glamorous about camping, even glamping. Roughing it for me is living without a blow-dryer and fresh towels. But I am game if nothing else and for the past few years have come to actually enjoy these outings where I don’t shower for days and come home with the kids looking like orphans. What excites me about camping is the cooking. On our first trip I told Brett that I would go on one condition: I was the cook. I would choose the menu and be in charge of all the planning and supplying. I am weird I know, but I get excited about these kind of challenges. Most of the time, I do pretty well. I have earned my role as camp cook over time.

This camping trip was inspired by a recent cover of Sunset Magazine May 2011. I liked the look of that canvas tent. I could do that. The cottage on the front is at Lakedale Resort on San Juan Island. I had never been to the San Juans (I know! I know!) and thought this would be a fun new experience. However, that lovely cottage tent started at $275/night for the Standard (not even sure what the ultra-deluxe cabin with the bathroom in the sky…cue Jefferson’s theme song…would cost) and you still had to bring all your cooking equipment and food.  They do supply linens though, which is a plus. They also had lakeside camping sites for $40/night and it really wasn’t much more effort to bring tents and linens, so that’s what we did. We loaded up the family truckster with all our gear and four kids and headed off to Wally World the San Juans.

That may have been our first mistake, but we didn’t know that as we all excitedly got on the ferry from Anacortes. I loved that ride. I love boats in general and anything near water. Brett and I started talking about how great it would be to have a boat on Mercer Island that we could sail to a summer home in the San Juans. (What can I say? We dream big.) Mind you, I hadn’t even set foot on the Island yet, but I was falling in love with the idea. (Of course, after camping at Kalaloch last year I was desperate for a home on the peninsula. How fickle is woman.)

Once we landed in Friday Harbor, we headed to the Resort. On the way there, we all did a double take at an animal on the side of the road. Really? Was that really a camel? When we decided to stop and check it out later in the trip, we met Mona the camel, a famous resident of the Island. She hangs out by the fence, next to her alpaca friend, and says ‘Hi’ in a camel sort of way to anyone who stops. We also learned that she has a taste for young girls as she got Ainsley’s arm between her teeth and had to be repeatedly hit on the nose to let her go, which she finally did with noisy protest. Fortunately she didn’t break the skin, but she left a good deal of camel slobber on Ainsley. And that was one of the highlights of the trip, which should give you a hint as to the rest.

We also visited Lime Kiln State Park twice with the high hopes of seeing some whales. No luck there, but the girls did explore the tide pools and had fun whacking each other with long pieces of seaweed. We left both times a little disappointed not to have seen any orcas, but glad to have seen the beautiful vista.

The other disappointment was the resort/campground. In comparison with our other camping experiences, this fell pretty far down on the list. For one, the campsites (we were in #3) are all very close together with no trees in between for privacy and none for shade. Our site had three scrawny apple trees, some reeds separating it from the lake and sat in full sun. Good thing we brought the canopy for the table. Another issue was that the site smelled like urine. Yep, pee. Not an appetizing smell for my cooking dreams. There was only one restroom for the site and it was a decent walk away. I can understand why people would relieve themselves behind the reeds, but man oh man, it stank. We walked around and checked out the canvas cabin sites and I am glad we didn’t dig deeply into the pockets for those either. Set super close together, they didn’t have the charm that the cover of Sunset gave them. I can’t comment on the cabins, but all in all, everything felt tight and more than a little worn. (A little like we were by the time this was over.)


And then there was my cooking disaster, for which I also blame Sunset. (Better than blaming the cook, you know.) From the ‘Chef’s Favorite Camping Food’ article, I planned on cooking the pot roast with summer vegetables, the bean and sausage stew and the cobbler (for which I substituted blueberries instead of peaches). This was my first foray into using a Dutch oven on coals and let’s just say I underestimated the heat generating power of those coals. The pot roast, which looked amazing half-way through ended up looking like charcoal by the time I served it.  I could have cried. I think I may have cried. The bean stew ended up bland and the sausages looked unappetizingly anemic. The cobbler was a hit however, but how wrong can you go with frozen berries and pancake mix and a can of Redi-Whip?

Let’s just say that on the last night, we all sat around the campfire talking about the other camp sites we enjoyed more. And later Brett and I discussing a more civilized vacation next year instead of camping. And I, for one, am glad to be back on this Island instead of still on that one.



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