Saturday, November 29, 2008

Missoni Possible

So you thought there was a misspelling in the title? No, no, no...I am talking about the possibility of now being able to put in a house some of the latest creations of Rosita Missoni.
We all know the ability of Ottavio and Rosita in blending colors, creating those famous zig-zags, original knitwear and colorful patterns.
What many don't know is that they married in 1953 and founded their Company blending together her family's business of embroidered fabrics in Varese, near Milan and his knitwear's business in Trieste.
The exuberance and work ethic of Rosita
Rosita Missoni
the fantastic creativity of Ottavio (Tai)
and of course the sense of Style they always shared have created a great success.
In 1960 the first dress published on an Italian fashion magazine, in 1976 the first boutique opening in Milan (I was a fan of Missoni from the beginning, I remember the first dress I bought from their collection was designed by Emmanuelle Khan, before they took the whole production in their hands).
Now that their children are also a big part of the Company, Tai has moved to other interesting projects while Rosita has started a line of furniture with her sunny personality, still experimenting with trails of colors, patterns, geometrical shapes and lines.
They will also open "Hotel Missoni" in Kuwait in 2009, a Lifestyle hotel chain and the first Designer Hotel in the Middle-East, with the help of Milanese Interior Designer Matteo Thun, next will be Edinburgh and then Dubai.
A happy family, living, creating, working and constantly entertaining in a splendid house in the country just 1 hour from Milan.
Having three children and unknown (to me) number of grandchildren their house is always festive and of course...full of color!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fashion & Furniture

Or should I say Furniture & Fashion?
Many big Fashion Designers, after creating for years several new perfumes and accessories, have turned to furniture.
Armani, known for his timeless, elegant, refined clothes has created a few years ago Armani Casa, Versace (la Donatella) who declares being not a minimalist (who knew?) has also a major interest in Interior design; same for Kenzo, the Fendi sisters, Missoni, Ralph Lauren, Byblos and many others.
Donatella Versace's house in Milan and Villa Fontanelle in Moltrasio, on Como Lake, are the epitome of luxury and extravagance, to the point of no return!
(Apparently Villa Fontanelle is close to being bought by a Russian Real Estate mogul for only 33 million Euro...)
Of course for her production, as below, she needs to be much more restrained, but she still cannot resist to put her logo on many objects.

"Turandot" by Armani
"Murillo" Sofa by Mendini, Art Director at Byblos
As you can see they all continue to apply the same aesthetics of fashion to their furniture.
A true fashionista should then wear Rene' Caovilla stilettos, a Versace leopard skirt, a flowered Kenzo blouse and should sit on the "Murillo" sofa while of course sipping a signature drink?
Since David Rockwell, a master of luxury, recently said that a weak dollar will make good taste reappear, even in Dubai, then an Armani sofa would be more appropriate, of course matched by flats and a fabulous suit by the same Maison. In that case a simple glass of Spumante will do.
Incidentally, Rockwell is working on the Andaz Hotel, 75 Wall Street, Manhattan, due to open in April 2009 at 8,000 dollars a night. His philosophy? no extremely expensive materials, no precious stones, no excesses.
Yes, Luxury now adopts a somber tone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


After I have seen the latest Italian way of creating a wood floor I am dreaming about it.
Laminate or plain Wood floor ...or Multimaterial Parquet?
This would be my first choice from New Mosaics collection by Parquet In:
Perhaps in a Hallway?
This would not be my choice, but beautiful for a contemporary, minimalist apartment:
If I would have a reclaimed "cotto" (terracotta) floor again, like I had in my kitchen a few years ago, through Country Floors, I would stay with my previous choice, just hexagonal cotto tiles, not much in love with the following:
My cotto tiles came from a 18th Century French Monastery and it took me a full year before they became cured and perfect; talking about "Slow Life"...
I am also wondering how a cotto tile and a wood border can be treated at the same time, it does not look easy to clean, wash and wax.I hope someone in Vancouver soon could reproduce what Italian Parquet In is doing, combining marble and wood, semi-precious stones and wood, even gold and wood! like a rich carpet, and if someone is already doing it here I would love to know about it.
In the meantime I'll keep dreaming.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mary Ellen Mark

I recently saw articles on Mary Ellen Mark in a few magazines and another beautiful picture by her was published in a November issue of "The New Yorker".
Every time I see her name I am thrilled since she deeply inspired me and created a new way in my own photography after having taken a few workshops with her in Oaxaca, Mexico and in Vancouver.
She is an extraordinary photographer and an extraordinary person, who made me grow as a photographer and inspired me as a person.
The very first time she saw my portfolio, before assigning me a project, her comment was: "You are not a street photographer but you are able to create atmosphere and you have a good sense of light".
Well, that comment coming from a Master photographer, I was very flattered and, knowing already my shyness in shooting strangers and being in Mexico, a catholic country, I...decided to go to churches where the atmosphere is obviously easy to create and the light of the candles make it even more magic and dramatic.
But another time, in Vancouver, she forced me to go out and take pictures of people on the street "You can do it, just challenge yourself".
So I went, felt very uncomfortable, but I needed to report back to her with my contact sheets the next, after spending time on a sidewalk, watching people watch me... I finally decided to take pictures holding the camera at my waist! I set the camera at a reasonable aperture and I start shooting, just hoping that without even looking in the viewfinder something good would come up, in that simple way I was able to take good spontaneous pictures and the Master was thrilled, my ego boosted!
I have used that technique many times after, at times just a blur, or beheaded people, at times a precious moment captured.
This picture was taken in New York, after a visit to Mary Ellen's Studio and after having bought with her help a 35 mm. lens for my Leica.
Mary Ellen is worth at least a few minutes of your time to just simply go through her biography and the endless list of projects she undertook, all of them daring, provocative, challenging.
Her pictures speak to the heart and I feel privileged to have met her and known her for years.
Her latest book, due in Book stores this November is "Seen Behind the Scenes" (Phaidon Press)and I encourage you all to become familiar with her photography.

Mary Ellen, Thank you for inspiring me

Monday, November 17, 2008

Piero Fornasetti - Milano


I don't remember when for the first time I passed by Piero Fornasetti store in Brera area in Milan (an area I would define luxury bohemian) and stopped to admire the display in the windows but certainly it was many decades ago and many lives ago and I was instantly fascinated by the creativity of this eclectic artist.
There is still not one trip to Milan that does not include a visit to that show-room and now luckily in Vancouver Fornasetti is starting to be known, thanks to Bernstein & Gold in Yaletown.

They carry also the plates with the iconic image of Lina Cavalieri, an Italian opera singer, considered around 1900 "the most beautiful woman on earth".
Above is her portrait by the famous Italian painter Giovanni Boldini, from Ferrara.
I still remember the movie "La donna piu' bella del mondo" with Gina Lollobrigida (la Lollo) impersonating her in the 50's. At that time we had only two big Divas in Italy: la Lollo and Sophia Loren (pronounced more like Lauren). Believe it or not in Italy we also have a lettuce called "Lollo" after the actress. Ah! Italians and food!
Enough digressing...going back to Fornasetti and Vancouver you can also find the full line of objects and furniture, through Bernstein&Gold.  
Aren't we Lucky!?

Monday, November 10, 2008


Tips on How and How Not to Sell in an UnReal Estate Market
EVEN IN VANCOUVER, the market for real estate has cooled off. So what can people do to successfully sell their property?
In a seller’s market you stage your house or condo by presenting it at its best to attract multiple offers. But in a buyer’s market, the competition is more fierce. Potential buyers have time to think and compare. Your house must show more appeal than others at the same price and in the same area, especially if you need to sell fast.
Staging can make all the difference. But “seller beware”: a lot of what passes for home staging is UnReal. I like to introduce you to
UnStaging for an UnReal Estate Market.
Let me tell you some stories from my own experience.
A few years ago, I was looking for a place to buy for over two years. I saw countless cloned houses and condos that had been professionally staged. (By the way, I’m not attacking the home staging or real estate community, a lot of fine people work in this field; I’m just speaking up for higher standards.)
Over and over again I saw the same sort of blah art, the same thoughtless furniture, the same impersonal touches. It’s as if each place, especially in new developments, had been churned out by a cookie-cutter computer program. Here’s a sampling of the UnLogic I saw:
Take one black or brown leather sofa and matching chairs. Add a glass or dark brown wood dining table with four chairs (obviously you’re allowed only two guests if you’re a couple). Throw a few hints of one colour here and there (don’t dare mix two colours). And don’t forget to match the art on the wall with the colour of the throw pillows (art should always match the furnishings, right?)
Bedrooms should be as boring as possible, beige and more beige, maybe a little brown. After all, a bedroom is only for sleeping and snoring (right?)Don’t forget to say you’ve updated the kitchen with a granite countertop and stainless steel appliances. Oh, yes, rent a few bottles of San Pellegrino and place them on the counter. (Believe me, those can be rented, too! And fake children’s art to place on a table How sad is that?)
Voila’, even a characterless, hotel-like leaky condo suite becomes fashionable.
Ironically, though I’m a home staging and designer, I ended up buying a badly staged house myself.  There was the rented tray on the bed with a teapot and two cups as if to signify cozy.  (How many people these days have the time for breakfast in bed?) And, yes, there were the required bottles of San Pellegrino sitting out so lonely on the kitchen counter.
Fortunately I could see through all the fakery and envision how I could turn 926 square feet into a personal, comfortable space, and even accommodate some of the large antique furniture I saved in my downsizing. In an hour’s visit I could mentally place every piece of art and furniture I wanted to bring with me. And so I immediately put in an offer, subject to inspecting and reviewing the strata minutes and by-laws.

Of course, not everyone has the vision of a professional home stager or decorator.

Home staging helps people cut down the stress of selling by taking care of decorating tasks they’re not familiar with or don’t have the time to handle.
Brillante Home Decor approach is to enable my client’s potential buyers to visualize the use of the space by placing ordinary things in unusual ways, with some personality, and always with simplicity in mind.
Every house should also be treated as unique. So I don’t keep an inventory of furniture, accessories and bedding which I convince my clients to rent. Instead, as far as possible, I try to use what’s already in the house by editing, rearranging and minor re-decorating. It saves clients money and it’s more creative and personal.
Home sellers should be treated with respect for their individuality. I say “Do unto others as you would have done to yourself.” And when I buy a house, I want sound construction, an efficiently managed building and an intelligent layout I can make my own, not some fantasy of an Unreal lifestyle.

 Practicality and genuine personality: that’s real.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Taking Pictures or Making Pictures

Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to have been invited for a special event at the Vancouver Art Gallery by my friend Suzanne McMurray. A delicious breakfast was followed by a private guided tour of the Jeff Wall's exhibition.
Even if photography is one of my passions and I have seen Wall's work around the world several times it was interesting to hear more about his art.
The point made by the guide that mostly appealed to me was that in photography we can "take pictures" or "make pictures".
That alone made me think about my own photography.
Obviously my favorite master, Henry Cartier-Bresson, and his theory of the decisive moment (happening when, he said, in a matter of a second the brain, the eye, the heart meet and you then press the shutter) was always followed religiously by me, of course with varying results but been there at the right moment, with the perfect light, allowed me to take a few pictures I consider fairly good.
This one in particular was taken at 1:00 AM in Paris last December. Outside the restaurant were three Camargue horses waiting patiently for the owners while they were having dinner inside. Since my friend Linda Bakk and I were staying in the Marais area, our apartment only three minutes away, we ran home, got our cameras and spent one more hour taking pictures of people walking by and suddenly being aware of the horses.
This was definitely a picture taken.
A picture of that night can be seen on my website Brillante Home Decor under Photography. Those two lovers definitely were not aware of the horses...
The "Vancouver School" of photo-conceptual artists, and mostly Jeff Wall, instead, (and I apologize if my name is in the same context of these Masters, but I needed to explain the point) make pictures, sometimes spending months in constructing the scene, staging any details, creating pictorial art. Wall never intended to be a photojournalist or to document the world, but certainly, as our guide pointed to us he frequently uses "local" to imply "global". His pictures are frequently "made" in BC but they represent the world.
A wonderful exhibition, not large in scale but huge in itself.
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