Parks & Recreation – Strange Closets people, homes, travel and stuff Mon, 29 Apr 2013 17:29:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 This Week: MCM Grand Thu, 03 Jun 2010 03:33:10 +0000

Grand Avenue in West Town is rapidly developing into another furniture / design destination. Salvage house Urban Remains just moved next door to Post 27, Julia Buckingham Edelmann is opening a new shop and of course, there’s MCM Grand, which would be worth a special trip even if it weren’t surrounded by so many great showrooms. The mid-century modern mecca wasn’t open when I stopped in one recent Monday, but owner Brandon McCleskey invited me in to look around, which means I had the entire space to myself! McCleskey specializes in “20th century furniture, lighting, and decorative arts encompassing a a range of styles including but not limited to, Art Deco, Hollywood Regency, and Danish Modern,” and he rents space to like-minded dealers. The result is a cohesive, curated showroom that should be on any mid-century modern enthusiast’s destination list.

MCM Grand. 2219 W. Grand Ave., Chicago. 312.666.3376.

Fiber artist Fiber artist Shirley Engelstein’s work is spectacular.

Fiber artist Shirley Engelstein created this piece with a copy of the Watergate tapes.

]]> 6
Exterior Design at Land’s End? (Special B.C. Post!) Thu, 18 Feb 2010 04:26:47 +0000

The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy says Land’s End is “San Francisco’s wildest and rockiest coast, a place strewn with shipwrecks and rife with landslides.” Not to mention decorations. During my recent Land’s End hike, I spotted a labyrinth temporarily carved into the rocky coastal area and a beautiful assemblage of stones, nuts and feathers that looks like something Wilma Flintstone might covet (god rest her long dead soul).


But I’m not at all sure what they signify, nor how they should be classified. The latter arrangement isn’t exactly landscaping, but it’s not interior design either. Does putting together an arrangement of natural materials constitute art? Sure, but to what degree? Does it have religious significance? Possibly, but that doesn’t necessarily discount its aesthetic function. (Maybe it’s prehistoric religious kitsch!) How about exterior design? Maybe exterior design begat interior design while cave drawings began art. The day a visionary Cro-magnon first brought these assemblages inside the hut must have been terribly exciting after so many visually sparse years. Like making fire, texting or any other good idea, decorating went viral eventually, and after ten or twenty thousand years, people were probably sprucing up their huts all around the world. Of course I’m speculating.

I’ll bet many Cro-magnons collected rocks, and many Cro-magnons collected feathers, but only the most Berkus of Cro-magnons could pull them together.

Cro-Magnon from Encyclopedia Britannica

]]> 2
Design Rules: Follow the Golden Gate (a contemporary classic) Fri, 05 Feb 2010 09:47:30 +0000

Describing a place as touristy conjures up images of senior citizens on tour buses and camera-toting oblivions holding up traffic. The Golden Gate Bridge is definitely touristy. I was the camera idiot, and there were loads of senior citizens and everybody else too. The word ‘throngs’ seems apt. But the landmark’s also spectacular and even more impressively, it holds up under the scrutiny of repeated viewing. After all, the suspension bridge, which was completed in 1937, is the perfect accoutrement to the hilly city on the bay. And if you think about San Francisco as a giant, very eclectic house, the Golden Gate is the piece de resistance. Putting it in design / decor terms, it’s the original Rosewood Eames lounge chair between the oversized brick fireplace and the floor to ceiling frameless windows that reveal sparkling city lights in the distance.

Like many of Eames’ classic designs, the Golden Gate offers both function and form. Its cables echo the surrounding hills, and the bold but serious shade of orange looks like ripened California sunshine. But its art deco design would be pretty damn spectacular left gray as the day it was made. It was consulting architect Irving Morrow who decided to paint it and even chose the ‘international orange’ color. And that made all the difference. But can you imagine the outcry if somebody suggested painting Hoover Damn, the Statue of Liberty or the White House something like international pink? But why not be bold if there’s even a glimmer of hope that the results will be San Francisco fab? I’d rather have a city full of gaudy than a vacation destination with nothing san-frantastic.

So when decorating your home, channel your inner Irving Morrow (or see my upcoming new blog, Channeling Your Inner Irving) and paint your most prized piece an unexpected hue. It doesn’t have to be international orange, but if you’re partial to that color and the potentially kitschy result, the Golden Gate Bridge official website has the color formula (the PMS code is 173 or the CMYK colors are: C= Cyan: 0%, M =Magenta: 69%, Y =Yellow: 100%, K = Black: 6%). Take a classic piece with great lines, for example the armoire your great grandfather handcrafted before leaving the Amish to marry your pragmatic but lively grandmother, and lacquer it royal blue, lemon yellow or kelly green. Take a chance with something precious (see disclaimer below) to create your own pot of design gold.

Disclaimer: There is a pretty good chance you’re going to screw it up. In many cases, finding the perfect shade proves frustrating so the piece remains permanently assigned to life in the basement atop an old newspaper and next to a dry brush.

This place had a remarkably good pesto pasta salad, and the people who worked there were very friendly.

Perhaps best exemplified by this portable outhouse, San Francisco’s very thorough when it comes to the paint. But this reminds me of the too sloppily painted outlet cover. I prefer to leave outlet covers white, but if they must be painted, no drips please. So . . . close but no cigar.

Almost, but no quite, huh J?

Hmm, it’s just my opinion, but I think they should stick with the orange. But it’s really hard to picture the final result based on a paint swatch, so maybe they should try it?

I realize that was jarring, and I’m sorry if you were frightened.


Strange Closets once again tries to shoehorn design into what read to me like a “what I did last summer” post. Does the “writer” actually expect us to follow these rules? I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s sunk to a new low. –

Painting grand papa’s armoire? Outrageous! – Anonymous

]]> 8
Parks & Rec: Coit Tower (San Francisco) Fri, 05 Feb 2010 08:01:11 +0000

Built atop Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower offers another example of San Francisco art deco architecture. Like the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tour is touristy, but it too held up well, offering fantastic city views, gorgeous murals commissioned under the WPA program and a very, very old elevator.

Have a nice weekend. To signal my affection, I’m mock punching the collective you in the arm.

]]> 3
Muir Woods and the Case of the Missing Signal Wed, 03 Feb 2010 07:06:45 +0000

Despite their lack of wires, mobile ‘smart’ phones like the Blackberry and the IPhone make some people, including this writer, feel too connected to something they just can’t quit. But I wasn’t even tempted to check last weekend during a day trip that took my friend and me over the Golden Gate, through Muir Woods and on to a well-preserved lighthouse in Point Reyes, a charming little town located 30 miles north of San Francisco.

Although traversing San Francisco’s hilly streets had exhausted this urban pioneer, the clean, cool air at Muir Woods energized me even more than my earlier morning Americano / Benadryl cocktail, and the soft thump of footsteps on the wood paths cleared my mind nearly as effectively as my secret meditation mantra (om). Contrary to my everyday life, e-mailing, texting and browsing ceased to be an option, not because I lost my signal (although that helped) but because the world around me looked so lush and stimulating by comparison, green, wet and soft. The trees have personalities, which are most apparent by their lilt, their context and their bumps. Amazingly, despite my signal-less locale, I felt even more connected to the important people in my life, to my own thoughts and to my physical body, which felt new and improved with added oxygenation! I didn’t even Twitter.

The experience also made me feel more connected to Mother Nature (or MoNa as the realtors call her now). It sounds pretty hokey, but I respect those big red trees. They’re survivors. Fewer than ten percent of the original forest remains after deforestation, so they’re being saved by the government as a National Monument. Unfortunately, in the process of protecting and peopling the redwoods, we wind up reducing fires, which the trees withstand and even rely on for reproduction. The redwoods haven’t experienced a big fire in 130 years, but (here’s the amazing part) they self-reproduce by forming burls, which are essentially genetic clones, which draw nutrients from the roots and survive the parent trees death. At the park, you’ll see clusters of four and five trees, a little family. But that’s not all. They basically water themselves, capturing water from the morning fog that eventually falls to the ground where the roots fight for it. They’re their own ecosystem, so a redwood never has to leave the proverbial house. Who am I to judge if it works for them?

During the drive from Muir Woods to Point Reyes, I  had an idea about how to start this post, so I tried to e-mail myself a reminder, but my efforts were fruitless because I couldn’t get a signal.  Ironically, at that very moment, the radio, a reliable companion for the entire trip, became too static-y to understand just as On the Media host Douglas Rushkoff was describing South Korea’s treatment program for Internet addiction. I tried man! Rushkoff was difficult to make out over the snowy noise but it sounds like South Korea’s program boils down to getting kids outside more. I reached over to turn off the radio and enjoy the scenery on the way to Port Reyes, but the car cleared a hill and Rushkoff’s calming voice could be heard clearly once again, this time in a segment about IPad’s impact on society. I’ve become an Apple junkie, and I would have been so pissed off if I missed Rushkoff’s take on the new device. I added the anecdote to my e-mail and hit send. Then I checked e-mail. In retrospect, the momentary lapse was all but assured; it takes more than a single dose of medicine to cure most illnesses. Don’t worry; I plan to seek further treatment next time I’m in the Bay area.  I hope by then AT&T will have beefed up their network.

Fun Fact: A fully developed redwood’s root system is only four to six feet deep, but it stretches as far as 250 feet in every direction, growing alongside, through and up against other systems. Shallow but widespread. Like Facebook.  Pay it forward.

]]> 5
Photo Essay: Labor Day in Downtown Chicago Tue, 08 Sep 2009 09:07:22 +0000 _dsc1607

As you peruse today’s photo essay, I must insist you listen to this excellent song.  Just click the YouTube player icon on your screen.  Sheesh, can you imagine how strange the preceding sentence would’ve sounded to you fifteen years ago?  Or, how much would we even understand about modern day life if we were transported here from the year 1900?  I’ll bet my first reaction would be like, “ARGH!  Why am I typing on a TV?”  But I’d be excited about electric cars.

But I digress, I spent Labor Day hanging around downtown (up to no good).  The weather was warm and slightly humid, so the slightest hint of a breeze made powerful use of the cooling properties of evaporation, which tamed my cranky inner beast (for now).  I passed Oprah’s crew, who were setting up a closed off Michigan Avenue for the big O-vent.  And I wound up in Millennium Park, which is just such. a. joy.  So enjoy the photos.

How was your weekend by the way?  What’d you all do?


Oprah's crew setting up for the big surprise. I can't even sleep I'm so darn excited.


Truth in cropping.






The past and the future face off once and for all






Fun Fact: Did you know that Millennium Park's much loved "bean" sculpture is also a swirling death vortex?


This frickin' guy pissed me off. If it were not for him, the entire view would've been clear (which never happens). I'll try again next time.


Do you think these folks are promise keepers?



Fiction in cropping. There aren't any other dudes behind the pictured dudes.



Can you believe how slovenly society has become?


















]]> 3
The High Line Cometh; the history of NYC’s newest park presented via the written word, digital photography (both still and moving) and inappropriate humor Wed, 10 Jun 2009 09:29:45 +0000 3559606693_0a73c5d264

For some time I’ve been rooting for the Friends of the High Line to succeed in their campaign to transform an old elevated train line into a real gosh-darn park (by golly).  Mother Nature started the High Line accidentally when some seeds blew out of her pocket and began to sprout on the abandoned Chelsea structure (yes, yes, that’s right – you’re deducing what happened aren’t you?).  It wasn’t that long before a genuine Garden of Eden grew unnoticed, albeit with a sexier devil (still a snake), more dazzling views and let’s face it, freed from circadian rhythm-ing our lives away, a far more dynamic nightlife.

Mother’s lush greenery attracted attention and it wasn’t long before people were climbing up for a look-see.  Many regarded the original pre-approval High Line, with its naturally formed ecosystem, as an urban treasure, something to be carefully tended and preserved.

Continued . . .


So they ripped all that out.  In fact, during my recent visit, the High people were hi-ho’ing away in order to finish the work on schedule.  I for one cannot wait to see the manicured space, which will include hotels and high-end developments with plazas opening on to the park.  It’s all going to be very tony.

If the High Line makes you as high as it makes me, you’ll want to help, so become a member.  Your support benefits not only Chelsea residents but also everywhere Manhattan’s beacon shines.  Not yet complete, the High Line has already inspired a litany of similar projects, including Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail, which somehow doesn’t have the same ring to it does it?

I know, the written word is dead; it’s all about radio right kids?  Well how about these apples?


Couresty Friends of the Highline website





]]> 3
Trendspotting at the 2009 NYC Tattoo Convention Mon, 18 May 2009 02:28:18 +0000 3537495379_663d768924

Hi folks.  I’ve selected a tune to accompany today’s Open House.  Just click play on the YouTube box located in the sidebar.

If you read last week’s Friday Roundup, you already know I’ve been contemplating getting a tattoo, so I was both surprised and tickled (p)ink  when my longtime friend (and past Open House star Matt*) invited me to the 2009 NYC Tattoo Convention.  “But why did you have to cover it?” you might be whining.  I’ll tell you why; effectively immediately, I’m making Strange Closets a design blog about people . . . with tattoos.  If I can’t in some way bring either tattoos or superheros into a post, I will not write said post.  ‘Nuff said (as Marvel Comics CEO Stan Lee used to say in his monthly Bullpen Bulletin).

Get back here; I’m kidding!! ‘

OK, OK, ’nuff B.S.*  Actually, I hadn’t intended to cover a tattoo convention, so I was surprised that the un-inked Matt had planned a day at the tatt-show with his gal Jaime (pronounced Jamie, not Hymie).   Jaime has several tatts including a  gorgeous, Nightmare Before Christmas tattoo that covers her entire left arm (I’m pretty sure they call that a sleeve tattoo, but I don’t think New York has Google yet), and she wanted to enter it into the Best Color Tattoo contest.

But what’s this have to do with design?

Continued . . .


Jaime's tattoo is beautifully done, and she was photographed for several tattoo magazines during the convention. Congrats Jaime.

Most obviously, there’s no shortage of Decoratus Absurdum at these kind of shows, but more importantly this is the kind of place designers, marketers and fashionistas go to get ideas and generate new trends.  While the Jeffrey Dahmer aprons I spotted probably won’t show up on the Crate and Barrel registry, skulls, snakes and circus-imagery, which are commonly used in tattoo art, have already cycled through interiors.  And in fashion, the Ed Hardy phenomenon offers a more literal interpretation.

My guess (and hope) is that home design will continue to follow fashion, and we’ll see tattoo-style imagery (preferably the vintage stuff, which I just adore) used in less subtle ways – on pillows, as art or perhaps even upholstery.  Tattoo art has a visceral, almost primitive energy that will work well with many styles.  Imagine the interesting tension created by a flaming heart print hanging above the bed in a slick DWR-style bedroom with clean lines and neutral colors.  But the same image would look sexy, sultry and even a little dangerous hanging in an opulent, bedroom with rich colors, damask bedding and velvet floor-to-ceiling window drapes.

Tattoos force us to actively contemplate our personal aesthetic in ways that even purchasing a sofa cannot.  After all, you can sell the sofa on Craig’s List or drop it off at the Brown Elephant, but no matter how bad that inked thorn armband looks, only the most desperate will lop off the whole limb to be rid of it (although from what I hear that might be less painful than the standard tattoo removal process).  Ultimately, choosing a symbol will sharpen your personal aesthetic and in the long run, make you a better designer or design-o-phile.

So just do it . . . but I probably won’t (I can’t even commit to wallpaper).






When I expressed just a touch of surprise that this couple was lovingly doting on their two small children, Matt said, "I feel bad for them. The mom's a devil and the dad's a devil, so the kids are probably going to be devils."













This magician was AMAZING!!!!!! He made that table float and ended the act by channeling the King



* Don’t worry past Open House stars, Matt and I have been friends since second grade, so I will not be knocking on your door, knapsack in hand, (unless I need a place to stay).

* I love Marvel Comics.  I read Stan Lee.  I actually met Stan Lee once.  And you Mr. Tate, are no Stan Lee.

]]> 8