Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ah yes. Curb Appeal.

So much is said, so much is written about curb appeal. It’s an important enough detail that we find surveys and articles continuously presenting a litany of viewpoints.

One thing is certain. The importance of first impressions never wanes.
According to the summer 2012 issue of Professional Builder, curb appeal still leads the way being most valued by the perspective buyer stating, “Buyers most value ‘Great Design’ and energy performance when evaluating exterior options.”
In general, Great Design/Curb Appeal lead the way with every 3 out of 4 surveyed saying this is their top consideration when evaluating exterior design schemes. Slightly more than half of those surveyed, mentioned energy performance as a key consideration for the purchase.  

A majority of builders surveyed said their level of investment in exterior design and materials has increased more today than in the past two years. Builders mention, most people spend more for upgrades in siding, elevation enhancements and high performance windows. 

One of my latest projects is to modernize and update the main lobby for a class A office tower in  downtown Hartford.  The building, whose anchor tenant is a large financial group, along with a variety of brokerage firms and other financial institutions,  will eventually be put on the market for sale. What is the first thing a perspective buyer will see while contemplating spending millions of dollars for a piece of commercial real estate?

Yes, EXACTLY right. The exterior entry leading directly into the main lobby through the glass and steel revolving door.   
Curb appeal. Exterior or Interior, it is the first impression that counts. 
From architects, to landscape architects, to interior designers, all 3 play a big part in specifying the perfect design schemes for the exterior of a home or business.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Love Affair with Gene and Marilyn.

Each of us is brought to our current circumstance by an anomalous string of affairs. A circuitous progression of events brought me to my passion for Interior Design; that being my love affair with Gene London and Marilyn Monroe. Two very extraordinary and fascinating personas who I believe influenced my path into a world of design.   

My early, wonderful years began in NYC working in fashion design for the multi-faceted collector and costumier Gene London.  He became one of my very, very dearest friends and the godfather of my daughter Charlotte. Gene London, the actor, artist, designer, my mentor and my muse, has one of the largest collections of costumes and gowns worn by movie stars during the infamous ‘golden years of Hollywood’.  Imagine such fun working surrounded by Hollywood history. 
Gene London with a reproduction of  Marilyn Monroe's Happy Birthday Dress

Gene London has collected costumes worn by movie celebrities (some 60,000 gowns, dresses and fashion accessories) for several decades and is often called upon for media commentary based on his knowledge and passion.  
The least of which is his passion for gowns and memorabilia worn and used by Marilyn Monroe.  This is where my fascination with the infamous actress began.

From hair color to nail polish and everything in between, more products have been named after Marilyn Monroe than any other actor in the 20th century.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of her death on August 5, 1962. On June 20 2012, Gene London joined Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in curating a homage to Marilyn Monroe - featuring 30 pairs of shoes and over 50 outfits from the actress’ wardrobe, worn on the sets of her most important movies, in her personal life and in public appearances; that have become cult objects sought after by collectors around the world. The exhibition will be on display in Florence, Italy through January 28, 2013.
Monroe’s Ferragamo shoes were sourced from international antique markets and auctions.
A reproduction of the famous billowing halter-neck ivory dress was displayed at the exhibition, along with other costumes she wore in her famous roles that the curators had painstakingly scoured the world for. There was that pink silk evening dress that Monroe wore singing Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, as well as the tasseled black dress she wore in Some Like It Hot.

My personal favorite is the copy of a rhinestone-crusted nude evening gown, which was exhibited with a video showing Monroe wearing that gown singing Happy Birthday Mr. President to John F. Kennedy in 1962. The dress is a full length evening sheath of flesh-colored soufflĂ© gauze encrusted with graduated rhinestones embroidered in a rosette motif. The original gown was design by Jean Louis. 
Lot#55 at Christie's Auction: The "Happy Birthday Mr. President" Dress
This ‘Happy Birthday Mr.President’ suit is probably one of the most significant dresses in history mainly for two reasons. This dress was worn on a birthday celebration of President John F. Kennedy by the heart throb sensation Marilyn Monroe with its tight curves and a backless back! This most expensive piece of clothing was auctioned off by Christie’s in the year 1999 and fetched an astounding $1.26 million. The dress was featured in the Happy Birthday tribute event organized in 1962 in the honor of President Kennedy.

All the costumes featured at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum exhibition are brought to life in the backdrop of a big screen playing the clips of Monroe inhabiting the dresses with all her sensuality.
Fame in History:  Clips from Marilyn Monroe’s films, featuring the costumes that were exhibited were shown at the exhibition.

She mastered a profound sense of irony and self-mockery, particularly with respect to the female image created by men and for men in classic Hollywood films, often reduced to a body, an object. In this way, she laid the groundwork for the birth of the modern woman, who is aware of a man’s desires and knows how to use them best to her advantage,” according to the exhibition notes… 

Most may be surprised to know, Monroe fought hard to be recognized as a serious actress. She studied acting at the Actors Studio in New York which turned out the finest actors in the United States and fought constantly with studio bosses to be allowed to choose her own roles. She read widely, grew interested in poetry and art, and sought out the company of intellectuals of that time such as author Truman Copote and playwright Arthur Miller (whom she married).
Monroe at President John F. Kennedy's Birthday Event
Monroe was a beautiful yet complex woman, but was also a strong, ambitious and smart. She was determined to succeed and overcame great odds to reach the top of her profession. Who would not, woman or man, admire and be inspired by such qualities.
Our experiences in our early twenties seem to mold and shape the path we follow as we grow and mature into our future lives. Part of mine, I am thankful for and attribute to my love affair with Gene and Marilyn. Two people from different worlds both creative and business minded icons.  By chance, or not, I am lucky to have known one personally, captivated by the other, and inspired by both.