Sunday, January 31, 2010

Martha to bring "Living" to i-Pad?

Martha mentioned it on Twitter in December - an urge to create a digital version of Martha Stewart Living magazine for download on the upcoming and highly-anticipated i-Pad. She mentioned it again last week on the Ask Martha radio show and elaborated on her desire to digitize the magazine. Steve Jobs, of Apple, has already sent Martha her i-Pad and I'm sure she's anxious to try it out!

Martha did not say that she intends to nix the published version of the magazine but she would very much like to make past issues of the magazine available for download. This would mean getting the first issue for a fraction of the $100 collector's price one now pays for the out-of-print debut issue of "Living" on eBay. It would also save time; no more hunting down that long-lost April issue from 1995. Just click 'download' and it's yours. Oh, and then there's the storage you'd save! I'm personally running out of space as I accummulate issue after issue. For Martha it would mean being able to capitalize on previously-released and out-of-print content by charging a small fee for each download. It might be nice to peruse past issues on a portable tablet. What do you think?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Taschen's Tremendous Tomes

No one does books quite like Taschen. I think most book lovers can agree that a Tashcen book is a cherished book. Specializing in the archiving, history and beautiful presentation of the great bastions of popular culture, Taschen creates gorgeous tomes on art and artists, design and designers, fashion, photography, travel and architecture. Taschen is the design afficionado's ultimate book publisher. The books - their design, layout, presentation and construction - are works of art themselves.

Naturally, I subscribe to the Taschen newsletter and on my recent trip to NYC I paid a visit to the Taschen store in Soho, which is beautiful and engaging with a gallery downstairs. In the recent newsletter, several volumes were highlighted and I had to share them with readers here, since I think any fan of the art direction and layout in Martha's books and magazines will appreciate the beauty of these books, as well as their fascinating contents. (The first two are on my wish-list. The last one I have in my personal collection. All of the books can be ordered online at

A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles:

This book offers a connoisseur's overview of typeface design, exploring the most elegant fonts from the history of publishing. Taken from a distinguished Dutch collection, this exuberant two-volume edition traces the evolution of the printed letter via exquisitely designed catalogs, showing type specimens in roman, italic, bold, semi-bold, narrow, and broad fonts. Borders, ornaments, initial letters and decorations are also included, along with lithographic examples, letters by signwriters, inscription carvers, and calligraphers.

Featuring works by type designers including: William Caslon, Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke, Peter Behrens, Rudolf Koch, Eric Gill, Jan van Krimpen, Paul Renner, Jan Tschichold, A. M. Cassandre, Aldo Novarese, and Adrian Frutiger. In order to accommodate a vast amount of material, we have divided this text into two volumes. This, the second volume, covers the period from 1900 to the mid-20th century, and contains a historical outline by Alston W. Purvis. The book also includes a special card that enables you to access Taschen's online library of over 1400 high-resolution scans of type specimens, downloadable for unrestricted use.

The covers for Volume 1 (left) and Volume 2. The first explores typefaces and imprints from 1628 to 1900. The second, picks up where the first leaves off and continues until 1938. A third volume is in the works.

Architecture Now! Museums:

Star architects from Zaha Hadid to Herzog & de Meuron have shaken up the formerly staid world of museum architecture, bringing bravura to new buildings and extensions. But the trend for new museums to opt for bold contemporary architecture goes well beyond the stunning work of Renzo Piano or Tadao Ando.

Many less well-known architects have also designed remarkable places to exhibit art and artifacts. Some have provoked controversy, like Mexican architect Teodoro González de León's University Museum of Contemporary Art on the sprawling UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) campus. Others have been warmly welcomed, like the sweeping, light-filled Art Gallery of Ontario Extension by Toronto-born Frank O. Gehry, his first commission in his native city.

Others point out new horizons for reclaiming brownfield sites and reviving derelict industrial structures: Nicholas Grimshaw's conversion of a disused 1960s blast furnace into Horno 3, a welcoming extra gallery space for the Mexican city of Monterrey's Museum of Steel is a case in point. In Cartagena, Spain, Rafael Moneo's decade-long work on the Museum of the Roman Theater culminated in a structure that engages visitors in an archaeological manner, taking them on a tour of history as well as the site itself.

Here then, in the continuing Architecture Now! series, Taschen presents more than 50 projects by the major talents pushing the limits of contemporary museum design, from established masters to the latest generation of brilliant architects.

Featured architects and practices include: Hitoshi Abe, Acebo X Alonso Arquitectos, Aires Mateus, Jun Aoki, ARM, Shigeru Ban, Behnisch Architekten, David Chipperfield, Preston Scott Cohen, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, Ellis Williams, Frank O. Gehry, Teodoro González de León, Graft, Nicholas Grimshaw, Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron, HOK, Arata Isozaki, KSV Krüger Schuberth Vandreike, Bruno Mader, Fumihiko Maki, Francisco Mangado, Richard Meier, Paolo Mendes da Rocha, Rafael Moneo, Toshiko Mori, MVRDV, Nieto Sobejano, Ryue Nishizawa, Valerio Olgiati, I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano, Querkraft, SANAA/Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa, Sauerbruch Hutton, Hartwig N. Schneider, Álvaro Siza Vieira and Rudolf Finsterwalder, Snøhetta, Eduardo Souto de Moura, SSM Architekten, Randall Stout, Bernard Tschumi, UNStudio, Urbanus Architecture & Design, Wang Shu, Atelier Zhang Lei

The Temple of Flora (Robert John Thornton):

The year 1799 witnessed the first installment of a work that has gone down in history as one of the most remarkable books of botanical plates ever published. Two centuries have passed since the publication of Robert John Thornton's The Temple of Flora, but its charm remains unsullied. Although trained as a medical doctor, Thornton (c. 1768–1837) passionately devoted himself to botany.

Only a few decades earlier, Carl Linnaeus had established his revolutionary new system of classification, which today continues to form the backbone of such natural sciences as botany and zoology. Thornton greatly honored the ingenious Swedish scientist and wished his own prodigious undertaking to serve as an ultimate monument to the great botanist. Today, Thornton's large-format plates with their stunning floral portraits number among supreme achievements of botanical illustration.

Thornton engaged the most renowned flower painters of his age and spared no cost in the creation of this unique work. His reckless enthusiasm, however, reduced his originally considerable fortune so drastically that, sanctioned by Parliament, Thornton had to organize a botanical lottery in order to bring his spectacular project to a provisional end.

Surviving complete editions of the Temple number today among the great treasures of only a few libraries; meanwhile, the individual plates have become sought-after and extremely expensive collectors' items, whose particular allure lies in their unusual combination of monumental, at times exotic plants with highly romantic background landscapes.

More than any other floral painting, the bewitchingly illuminated blossoms of the Night-Blooming Cereus, posed before darkening ruins, expresses the late 18th-century sentiment that in the following decades found its characteristic expression in European Romantic literature and painting.

Including all the plates of the Temple of Flora as loose-leaf color prints, this large-format edition represents a consummate reprint of the work. In addition to the botanical and cultural historical explanations of the individual plate illustrations, the volume narrates the history of the origin of the work and the life of its author. This resplendent reprint has been made from one of the finest complete original copies, belonging to the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. Temple of Flora consists of the following, packaged in a decorative presentation case:

  • 44-page booklet including author Werner Dressendörfer’s introduction as well as the texts of the botanical plates

  • 33 loose-leaf Elephant folio-sized color prints for browsing or framing

This is a book that I own and treasure. I first discovered it in the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine and knew immediately that I had to have it. I'm in the process of having three of the enormous prints framed for my living room.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Martha's Show Moving to Cable

Martha Stewart is moving her syndicated TV talkshow from network to cable television, taking "The Martha Stewart Show" to the Hallmark Channel in September 2010. Stewart's five year-old daytime show, mixing celebrity chat with cooking, crafts and interior design tips, has struggled to gain a footing in syndication by NBC Universal, drawing a regular audience of under one million viewers.

Stewart's move to cable TV follows that of talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who is ending her popular ABC TV chat show in September 2011 to focus on her Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) joint venture with Discovery Channel.

Bill Abbott, President and CEO of Hallmark Channels, Martha and Charles Koppelman, Chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

Under the deal with Hallmark and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, "The Martha Stewart Show" will appear across the United States in the same morning time slot and will be followed by 90 minutes of other original Martha Stewart programing, currently in development. Stewart's company will also develop original holiday and interview specials for prime time on Hallmark. The format of "The Martha Stewart Show" will not change under the terms of the new deal; it will still be filmed in front of a live audience at the Chelsea Studio in Manhattan.

Stewart, who has been a popular service show TV host since 1993, said she was delighted with the move. "Our core values and content areas -- entertaining, weddings, crafting, cooking, gardening, holidays, pets and humor -- are a perfect fit with Hallmark Channel," she said in a statement.

The Hallmark Channel is available in the UK, Australia, Italy, Russia, parts of Asia, South Africa and parts of Scandinavia. It is not currently available in Canada.

In related news, it was recently announced that Emeril Lagasse will be hosting a new television cooking show on ION. The show will be produced by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which purchased the rights to the Emeril brand last year.

FAQ: Donating Martha's Magazines?

One of the questions I'm frequently asked is where to donate Martha Stewart Living magazines. Not surprisingly, most people who buy, or subscribe to, Martha Stewart Living treasure the beauty of the publication. The realities of space and the desire to declutter often mean, however, that the magazine collection and its owner must part ways. What I most often hear in this case is this: "I just can't bring myself to throw them away or recycle them. They're too beautiful. What should I do with them?"

There are some obvious (and not-so-obvious) places where you can donate your collection of Martha Stewart Living.

  • The first place to start is your rolodex. Is there anyone in your family or your posse of friends who might like to have your collection, or at least a portion of it? Next, consider your doctor's office, dentist's office or anywhere you frequently go that has a waiting room. (Ask the doctor or the receptionist first before simply dumping off your pile of publications. )

  • Hospitals frequently accept magazine donations for their waiting rooms and for some of the patients. Ask to speak to a hospital administrator to find out where to take your collection.

  • Similarly, consider taking your magazines to a retirement home, rehabilitation clinic or shelter.

  • Churches will often take magazines to use in their recreation rooms, as will community centers.

  • Libraries will generally only take magazines that are in good condition. And the more complete your collection, the likelier they are to accept it.

  • Camps may take yor magazine donation for use in some of their art projects, such as collage.

  • Consider schools or specialty colleges: a culinary school might love a pile of Everyday Food while a gardening or decorating school might benefit from specially-themed issues of Martha Stewart Living.

  • Used book stores will often take magazine donations and may decide to resell your copies.

  • Martha Stewart Living is one of those magazines that has value past its sell date. Think about selling your copies at a garage sale or even online at eBay, Etsy or Craigslist.

  • Lastly, there are organizations that accept magazine collections for the troops overseas. How wonderful would it be for a soldier to read about the comforts of home? Get in touch with the USO.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Martha Loves Her Anthropologie

On my recent appearance on The Martha Stewart Show I was really pleased to hear that Anthropologie is one of Martha Stewart's favourite stores - or at least a favourite among her company's staff. Her exact words were, "We love Anthropologie. It's one of our favourite stores." (Not sure if that's the Royal We, or an actual "we.") I'm also glad the feeling is mutual; At our store we recently used the Martha Stewart glitter set to enhance our holiday tie-ons! Our display coordinator called it the 'best glitter ever!'

Anyway, as the senior housewares specialist at our store in Toronto, I'm surrounded by wonderfully unique items that just can't be found anywhere else. Describing the style of the housewares to others is always a bit difficult because they are somewhat undefinable. It is all very eclectic and has a definite vintage or retro feel to it; think of Granny's little coloured juice glasses with the handpainted periwinkles that you loved as a child, or her adorable little yellow butter dish or that whimsical shower curtain with the embroidered daffodils that looked brilliant in the morning sunshine streaming through the window. I have several examples of Anthro housewares in my own home, since I'm not one to resist temptation when it strikes. You can see some of them below.
I mean, is this not one of the most beautiful tea sets you've seen in your entire life? The flower relief pattern is unglazed, beautifully contrasting the smoothness of the porcelain.
You can never have too many teacups. These initial "Missus" mugs are made of porcelain and are emblazoned with the initial of your choice. The cup and saucer in the foreground is also porcelain with gold-plated detail.
Whimsical liqueur glasses made of black glass come in rabbit, elk and moose varieties.These dessert plates, called the "Sky Map Collection" are astrologically sound - not to mention gorgeously detailed with astral designs. They would be amazing on a festive dessert buffet.I've got quite a collection of Anthropologie's scented candles. I not only love the scents (such as firewood, balsam fir, mulled wine and chestnut) but also the attractive tins.These ones from the Boulangerie collection are among my favourites. They come in the most delicious scents, such as Spiced Vanilla Pecan, Angel Food Cake, Pumpkin Ginger Pound Cake and Sweet Vanilla & Cinnamon. If you want to fill your home with the scents of baking without ever switching on the oven, these are for you!
This line is available elsewhere, but the tins shown above are specially designed for Anthropologie.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dishwashing 101

I do not have (and have never had) a dishwasher. Even as a child, my parents usually did the dishes by hand, prefering to use the dishwasher on holidays or after big dinner parties, rarely on everyday occasions. Both parents did the dishes and both parents swear by the benefits of washing by hand. I suppose old habits die hard.

I had to chuckle the other day when Martha said on her program that she looks forward to washing the dishes after a party, calling it "fun" and "satisfying" to clean up the dinnerware, silverware and glassware. I'm not sure I'd personally go so far as to call it "fun" but it is satisfying. And Martha, of course, has it down to a science, as she does with all homekeeping duties. There is a correct way to do dishes. There is a correct way to load the dishwasher and there are definitely some important tips to always keep in mind. Below is a synopsis of the dos and don'ts of washing dishes, courtesy of's latest newsletter. Notepads ready?
  • When using the dishwasher, put heavy-duty wash jobs on the lower rack, delicate dishes and glassware on the upper rack. Use the prongs to hold glasses and dishes in place.

  • Contrary to what many people think, you can put silverware in the dishwasher. Do not, however, mix silverware with stainless steel culterly as this will cause a chemical reaction that will irreparably damage both sets.

  • Don't jam too much cutlery into the utensil holders. This will not only prevent them from becoming as clean as they can be, but it may also cause their surfaces to scratch.

  • Don't spill dry dishwashing detergent on flatware; it can cause dark spots on the surface.

  • Don't put the following items in the dishwasher: acrylic, adhesive-joined pieces, alluminum, antiques, blown glass, bronze, cast iron, china with metallic decoration, crystal, plastics not labeled as 'dishwasher safe,' flatware with bone or wood inlays or handles, gold-plated flatware, iron utensils, non-stick pots and pans, milk glass, tin, rubber tools, pewter and wooden spoons.
    Contrary to popular belief, you can wash sterling-silver and silverplate utensils in the dishwasher. The key is never to mix these with stainless steel cutlery. A chemical reaction occurs in the high temperatures that will irreparably damage both sets. It's also best to use less detergent when there is silverware in the load. (Personally, I would simply advise washing these by hand. Why risk even the chance of damage to valuable silverware?)
  • Dry dishes on the lowest temperature setting. Hotter temperatures can leave spots on glassware.

  • Use a rinse aid. They lower the surface tension of the rinse water so that droplets don't form, particularly helpful if you have hard water. They also help dishes dry faster, which can be helpful when using the Energy-Saving dry cycle or by letting the dishes air dry.

  • Try to run full loads. If the dishwasher is partially full, use the Rinse-Hold cycle to remove odour-causing foods. This is more economical than rinsing dishes by hand before loading the dishwasher, which can waste up to 20 gallons of water per load, or 6,500 gallons of water per household per year.

  • Always use the recommended amount of detergent; too much can leave the dishes streaky, too little can result in unclean dishes.
To facilitate her love of entertaining, Martha had four dishwashers at Turkey Hill to help with clean-up, including this one shown above in the main house. Here, it is filled with Wedgwood drabware, wine goblets and silverware.


  • Use a plastic tub to do the dishes in the sink. This prevents breakage and also limits the amount of water one uses.

  • Two or three squirts of dishwashing liquid is plenty for a family-size load of dishes. This is more economical than squirting the dishwashing liquid directly onto the dishes or onto a cleaning sponge. Choose a dishwashing liquid that is mild but effective on grease.

  • Use hot water. The hotter the water, the less scrubbing and washing you'll have to do and the faster the dishes will dry, since hot water evaporates faster. (To protect skin from the damage hot water can cause, use rubber gloves.)

  • Wash dishes by hand in this order: crystal, glassware, clear glass plates and platters, other plates, flatware, serveware, the greasiest serving dishes and then pots and pans. Drain the tub and refill with clean water as needed. Rinse four or five pieces at a time, using hot running water from the tap.

  • The sooner you rinse pots and pans after using them, the easier it will be. Salt can be an effective grease-fighting agent. Rub salt into stubborn grease residue and rub it gently with a sponge until the grease is gone.

  • If you've left pots and pans and the food and residue has hardened onto the surface, fill them with hot water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Bring the water to a boil and let it soak for about an hour and then clean it as you normally would.
  • Badly burned pots and pans without a nonstick coating can be cleaned with cold water and two or three tablespoons of salt. Let the solution soak overnight. The next morning, slowly bring the mixture to a boil. The burn markings should disappear. You may need to repeat a few times, then wash as you normally would.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

January Genesis

There hasn't always been a January issue of Martha Stewart Living, as many of you know. Prior to 2001, this coldest of cold months was sandwiched, unceremoniously, with the December issue, incorporating various winter themes into one, big, shiny holiday issue. I am very thankful, these days, to have a January issue, separate from the holiday issue since it allows for the exploration and celebration of winter activities, themes and projects that are not connected to holiday fare.

For those of us who collect every issue of the magazine, various January themes have become evident over the years: breads, beds and closets among them. The January issue of Martha Stewart Living began in 2001 with an anniversary issue, celebrating 10 years of Martha Stewart Living content. The following year, the January content became more evident and focused. The first few years of its appearance on newsstands, the issue paid homage to celebrations with articles on anniversary traditions, birthday cakes and card-making.

There have been ten January issues of Martha Stewart Living, two of them anniversary issues. Next year's issue will be the 20th anniversary issue!

I also began noticing a trend towards the subtropical with articles on entertaining or gardening in California or Florida, visits to pineapple farms, desserts made of tropical fruits or articles on caring for tropical plants. This was likely an editorial decision to not only incorporate a sense of American regionalism but also to provide a sense of escape for the bulk of Martha Stewart's readers, who are mostly based in the frigid northeast and midwest. (The cooking articles also played up the availability of seasonal produce, much of it from the southern states, something I've always deeply admired about the magazine's food editorials.)

Gradually, the January issue became more about 'the comforts of home' with a focus on clutter-clearing and cleansing, healthy eating and organizing: a clean-slate approach to living. Closet or storage organization is a staple feature of the January issue now (pantries, etc.) as are articles on bedrooms, whether it's making or collecting quilts or redecorating and updating your nest for a cozier night's sleep.

I've always loved the January issue of Martha Stewart Living. It's slim and clean and so refreshing after the baroque December issue with its rich recipes and glamorous crafts.

There are two January issues that are 'must-haves' for collectors: the 10th anniversary issue (2001) and the 15th anniversary issue (2006.) Anniversary issues of any magazine tend to be more collectible. The 10th anniversary issue has a wonderful retrospective of the previous ten years of the publication with Martha Stewart Living trivia and history. The 15th anniversary is less of a retrospective, but does have a compilation of 15 years of Good Things, the best seasonal cakes and a great article on scrapbooking. Both are available as back issues through Martha Stewart Living or on eBay.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shopping and Dining in NYC

Before I left for New York I already had it in mind that this particular trip would be about shopping. Not necessarily spending, but shopping. I wanted a retail experience this time. I had been to New York City on four previous occasions, so I had already seen the galleries and the museums, the Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, the landmark buildings and monuments, Central Park and its subsidiary greenspaces.

Naturally, one of the first stops on my list was the flagship Macy's store on 34th Street to see the Martha Stewart Collection and all its finery. I had seen the collection up close on a trip earlier this year to Detroit, but to see it in New York City was special. The bedding, bath and kitchen sections were all separated and I had to travel across the store to visit them all, but it was well worth it, especially since one gets to ride the old wooden escalators! (Oh, I'm a simple fellow.) The collection is so well presented and I was glad to see the brand so evenly dispersed throughout the store. That Martha Stewart logo is everywhere! It was great to see. I didn't buy anything this visit, although I was so tempted by a very small and refined cake stand in glimmering white porcelaine with an elaborate fringe detail around the platter portion of the stand. It was gorgeous! But I had nowhere to pack it to bring it home with me on the plane. Since carry-on restrictions were still in place, I could not bring it with me on board and I didn't want to risk breaking it. Next time I'll drive.

In terms of dining, we played it fairly low-key, although one could spend a fortune on the amazing restaurants in this city. Even the restaurants that are not expensive offer truly delicious food: some of the best food in the world can be had for a bargain in Manhattan!

Here is a partial list of the restaurants we tried: Jaya Malaysian at 90 Baxter Street, just off Canal Street near Lafayette, where our hotel was located in the Soho district of Manhattan; Thaison Restaurant, directly across the street from Jaya, which had delicious and plentiful Thai cuisine but a somewhat discourteous staff; Café Café for brunch at 470 Broome Street, which had amazing omelets, homemade muffins and breads, pancakes and waffles; Famous Famiglia Pizzeria for lunch at 1630 Broadway - so delicious; Connolly's Pub on West 45th Street between 6th and 7th, which had a scrumptious menu for lunch in a warm and cozy atmosphere; Oscar Bar and Bistro for late-night cheesecake and wine at 50 MacDougal Street in the Village; Café Espagnol for delicious Spanish food at 172 Bleeker Street; the Mercer Kitchen at 99 Prince Street in Soho for a more expensive but memorable meal. We also couldn't resist some of the street vendors and their mouthwatering offerings!

Below is a gallery of some of the shops we went to explore:

Being the good employee that I am, I made it a point to visit the Anthropologie stores in New York, for research purposes and self-training...and fun! The store at 40 Rockefeller is the largest store in the company and is one of the most striking examples. Above is the glamorous entrance!
The store is two levels with a grand marble staircase at its center.
The merchandising at Anthropologie stores is legendary. If you've never been to an Anthropologie store before, I urge you to seek one out and dazzle your senses. Anyone interested in the creative arrangement of furniture, the mixing of patterns (done correctly) and the addition of whimsical touches to an interior space will be so inspired.
One of the display elements at the store was this perched peacock made of papier maché. Its tail is comprised of plastic spoons and chopsticks in their orange paper wrappings. Brilliant.

At the store in Soho, the aviary theme continues with these two large papier-maché ostriches overseeing a table laden with an array of dishware and decorative accessories.
Colour play at its finest at the Soho store. I've always loved this Astrid chair. Also shown are vintage telephones (which work!) and many examples of our store's famous Capri Blue scented-candle program: Volcano is the best scent.
Anthropologie offers a mix of reproduction and found (often antique) furniture that the buyers at home office select from all over the world. I fell in love with this antique cabinet, which was selling for a mere $28,000.

More creative display elements at the Soho store: a bed mounted on a platform of chopped wood under a canopy of 'snow and ice' gorgeously rendered from various materials for an artistic and magical feeling.
The details are so important at Anthropologie, from how the towels are folded to the use of potted plants and green trim to accentuate the feeling of a particular concept.
Anyone who knows me knows my interest in Ralph Lauren. Like Martha Stewart, he is an ambassador of American lifestyle, albeit a more glamorous one than the one Martha advocates. (Did you know that they are neighbours in Bedford?) I had always wanted to see the flagship Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue and this visit I got my wish. The store is located in the Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo Mansion, which is a massive French Rennaisance revival built in 1898. It is the perfect setting for Ralph Lauren's ultimate vision. Lauren acquired the building in the early '80s and began its restoration in 1983.
Inside the store, there is the warm, lustrous glow of mahogany and a grand central staircase surrounded by original artwork. The architectural details are stunning.Ralph Lauren adores Hollywood glamour and this vignette in the housewares department of the store speaks to this obsession. A framed photo of Marlene Deitrich sets the tone for the black-and-white palette, which shimmers with silver, crystal and leather accents.
Ralph Lauren also adores what can only be described as "rusticated elegance" - a kind of English Country gentrification of the home. Gorgeous examples of his bedding, above, looked tremendous in this wood-panelled room.
At the other end of the room a living room vignette continues the theme.
From a merchandiser's perspective, few do it better than the designers at Ralph Lauren. The presentation is straightforward but guided by an aspirational aim. The Ralph Lauren dishware and serveware looked stunning under the lights on this multi-tiered table with its polished surfaces.
I had first heard about Takashimaya on the Martha Stewart Show when a florist from the Japanese retailer created some of his gorgeous arrangements with Martha on the air. The department store was founded in 1829 in Kyoto, Japan, by Iida Shinkichi. The store at 693 Fifth Avenue is one of only two in North America. It is an impressive six floors with a massive entrance hallway, shown above.
As always it is the housewares department that lures me in first, although the store does boast men's wear, women's wear, handbags and accessories, a garden shop, a tea shop and restaurant. All of the furniture, dishware and accessories are from Japan and made of the highest quality.
This table was $25,000 and the cabinet behind it was $38,000. Ouch. (But beautiful!)
I fell in love with glass tea set with its puckered, mirrored stand.
A visit to New York is not complete without a visit to the Strand Book Store. It is three floors of new, used and rare books. It is packed with books! And I mean jam-packed with books! Notice how the windows above the entrance are completely obscured by books. There are thousands and thousands...
....and thousands and thousands...
...and thousands and thousands of books!
It's always busy at The Strand, I was told.
Right around the corner from our hotel in Soho was a wonderful store called the Pearl River Mart, which specializes in Chinese imports. There were fantastic treasures in here. It was a Chinese feast for the eyes!
Year of the Tiger meant seeing lots of tributes to felines. These vessels are not even remotely priceless, but they are attractive, especially when viewed en-masse like this.
We were a bit surprised to see so many posters devoted to General Mao Zedong, who was not the friendliest of men. These were for sale. There were all kinds of paper lanterns.

In the middle of the store is a big staircase backed by a waterfall that trickles down a cement wall from the top floor.Traditional and non-traditional masks were in huge abundance at Pearl River Mart, as were Chinese dragons. I also loved the handmade papers and stationery. While we were there we also visited the Taschen bookstore and another great store from Japan called Muji, which had wonderful bins for storage and all kinds of sleek, crisp housewares. (There's that word again!)