Monday, July 29, 2013

Thank You for Four Wonderful Years!


This month, THE STYLE SALONISTE is celebrating four vivid and fast-moving years. 

Thank you to my fantastic readers. I send you a million thanks for your loyalty, wit, enthusiasm and encouragement. I appreciate every one of you.

We are read in more than 129 countries around the world (my analytics say 146…). I’ve been fortunate to travel to many of them.

I am so honored to have the best and most talented members and subscribers and followers. THE STYLE SALONISTE has an international retinue of pals—as well as thousands of Facebook friends and Pinterest pinners and Instagram senders, along with Tweeters and emailers, and message-writers and readers all over the world.  
I’m sending love and thanks and warmest wishes to my fabulous readers. 

Hundreds of thousands of unique visitors each month! Most exciting. This is a niche blog, very specialized and focused, and my goal is to delight, inspire, inform, entertain, and tickle my readers each week.

After four years, THE STYLE SALONISTE has a worldwide audience of curious, passionate, stylish, talented, philanthropic, creative and excited readers. Cheers and cheers. I send my gratitude.

This week I've selected highlights of some of my favorite images from this last year's travels.

Included among the pictures are wonderfully vivid school children in a remote corner of Cambodia (above) and young nuns waiting for their bus in Mandalay, Burma (below).

You'll see village ladies in Rajasthan, and sisters at the holy pagoda in Yangon.

I've chosen images you've commented on and liked...temples of Angkor and remote temples in Cambodia.

And in India, a visit to a village school, and girls carrying goats, on their way to a temple in Rajasthan.

I hope you enjoy these brief glimpses of encounters and experiences. There will be many more in the coming years.

I loved Burma and its many days of discovery. People I met were happy, content, spiritually engaged, and remarkably friendly and open to chatting.
One favorite shot, taken last August, was the group of young novice nuns (above) wearing their distinctive pink robes, waiting for their bus after a day of collecting alms in Mandalay.
Temples in Bagan, village markets, the pretty young woman with kale leaves on her head, and the sisters selling their vegetables--were all charming and unexpected meetings.

On a trip along the Irrawaddy River on 'The Road to Mandalay', we stopped several times early in the morning to see village markets. The handful of passengers and I and our guides were the only non-Burmese people. Pure discovery.

Design and interiors, architecture and designers and artists and creators—are my major focus on THE STYLE SALONISTE. And I continue to travel to conduct research, and cross oceans to write books, and venture into the unknown to learn and experience and meet brilliant people, and to excite my brain and senses.

It’s lovely that my travel posts—India, Paris, lounging at La Mamounia in Morocco, the Kasbah in Tangier, chasing Picasso in Provence, finding old temples in Cambodia, heading far up the river in Burma—have been among my most popular stories over these four years. 

Oh, George Orwell. I am now an expert. Did you know that in 1927 he was an Imperial Police Officer in Katha, Northern Burma! I was traveling into remote northern Burma on 'The Road to Mandalay', the fantastic Orient Express river cruiser. I did a lot of research on George Orwell in Burma--and discovered the his trail is rather faint at this point and Burmese are not creating shrines. Almost a century has passed, and it was very difficult to get solid information, but I knew we would visit Katha, and I would quickly find an authority on Orwell. In a jungly corner outside the town, I found Orwell's house, now lived in by a local government manager and his family. I snapped some shots, and got permission to enter. I quickly styled it a bit (the hat, the bouquet on the floor) and moved an old bicycle. It's all there, the house Orwell wrote about. I reported about this find, and wrote about it on THE STYLE SALONISTE last fall. I reported on my research and the books I'd read.
Imagine my surprise when, March 23, the New York Times published the Jane Perlez feature on Orwell's house in Katha--with images very similar to mine (only I have the interiors...). She noted that there is a strong movement now in Katha to renovate Orwell's house. If you go to SEARCH on the NYT site, and add Myanmar house of George Orwell it will come up. Fascinating. I love getting the news before The New York Times. (Often happens.)

I love reader comments and feedback.

I’m always particularly touched by readers who tell me, “I did not even have India on my list, and now it’s on the top of my list’ and “You have inspired me to travel alone,” and “My husband does not care to travel. I long to travel. You’ve shown me how to do it.” When you tell me ‘I’m packing my bags now to go to Yangon thanks to you’ and ‘We’re heading to Bangkok and The Siam hotel, and thank you for recommending it’ and ‘I love the Chez Vous apartment you recommended in Paris’. Wonderful.

And I send you off to buy books (Mr. Jain's bookshop at the Rambagh Palace hotel), and jewels (Marie-Helene de Taillac in Paris and the Kasliwals in Jaipur) and cashmere scarves at Kashmir Loom in Delhi.

Buddhism is the predominant religious, practiced daily and intensely by over 98 per cent of Burmese people (thus the current religious conflicts, very sad). I visited as many pagodas, temples, shrines and monasteries as I could. On one sunny afternoon, I encountered these two pretty sisters, dressed to visit their family's shrine.

I launched my blog four years ago—and it has been such a great and lively, and scintillating experience. 

I’ve reported on leading California designers, a top French interior designer, a social scenester/blog darling, and a house in Malibu. 

I write the texts. I select the images. I fact-check and edit my texts. It is a great pleasure. Brian Dittmar, the art director, takes the texts and images and shapes and designs and plans them into cohesive and clear and elegant blog posts. I love the polish and clarity of his design. 

I take my readers along as I explore a remote Indian village, and you are in my pocket as I venture into the Medina in Tangier. 

You are there with me as I meet the Maharani, and when you read my post and see the images—you are there as I clamber over a collapsed 15th-century temple in a remote Cambodian jungle. You meet my guide, Mme. Mai, a landmine survivor and wonderful spirit.

Thank you, also, to all of the photographers and artists who have given me permission to present their original work on THE STYLE SALONISTE. I am grateful. Thank you to the designers and architects whose work I’ve presented, and to the jewelers, the great creators, the daring and articulate people I admire.

My recent images from India were among your and my favorites.
It's notable that Indian village women in their glorious costumes are particularly photogenic. They gave me permission to take their photos.
I loved every moment.

Next on THE STYLE SALONISTE:  I’ll be taking you on more adventures—and as well I’ll introduce you to new designers, and you’ll get news of the cultural life of San Francisco. Surprises and discoveries, too. 

Brian Dittmar in San Francisco, the blog art director extraordinaire, is an interior designer by day, and the fantastic art director of THE STYLE SALONISTE early mornings. 

Brian Dittmar in his room at the 2010 San Francisco Decorator Showcase. Photo by Moanalani Jeffrey.

Brian, each week, makes the text and images look elegant, polished, cohesive and brilliant.

It has been such a great pleasure to work with Brian—who also designed the header, which I love.

At the same time, it has been a great thrill to see Brian’s interior design career take off, and to watch him make his mark in three highly successful fund-raising decorator showcase years for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase.

Bravo, Brian, and a million thanks for beautifully polished design—both for THE STYLE SALONISTE and your exciting client roster. See Brian’s contacts/website below. 

Brian with his pug, Moe, who will be turning 14 in two months.

Brian Dittmar Design, Inc.



“One afternoon in the early 70s, in Paris, I went to see the architect and designer Eileen Gray, who at the age of ninety-three thought nothing of a fourteen-hour working day. She lived on the rue Bonaparte, and in her salon hung a map of Patagonia, which she had painted in gouache. 

“I’ve always wanted to go there,” I said. 

“So have I,” she added. “Go there for me.” I went. 

Now I am thinking of settling down. Eileen Gray’s map is hanging in my London apartment. But the future is tentative.” 

—From ‘Anatomy of Restlessness’, by Bruce Chatwin (Viking 1996). 

CREDITS: Travel images on today’s post copyright Diane Dorrans Saeks.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Height of Invention: Dave Allen and His Brilliant Artefact Design & Salvage

A California Design Report — Exclusive to The Style Saloniste

I’ve known and admired Sonoma designer Dave Allen since he first burst on the design scene with inventive and raw architectural details, salvaged, for decor.

Dave was among the first in California to see the design possibilities of the wrecking ball—the detritus of old buildings, the rusted and broken and dusty and weather-beaten and falling apart pieces that give new interiors and contemporary rooms a necessary jolt of texture, age, and patina and the shock of the reinvention.

Come with me and meet free-spirited Dave Allen, who travels the world to find rare and re-invented and revised and singular salvage pieces. He eyes weather-worn statuary, industrial cast-offs, broken-down elaborations from classic buildings, architectural ornament, as well as large-scale columns and old doors his clients love.

It’s improvisation, imagination, and daring at its best. 

This week I have edited an exclusive first look at Dave’s new furniture and accessories collection,and new products, including prototypes. We visit his Artefact Design & Salvage gallery in Sonoma, and learn what inspires Dave, his triumphs, and his travels.

Adrian Gregorutti shot the interiors/product photographs at Wendy Owen’s wonderful house in Sonoma. Come with me for a first look. 

DIANE: What's the secret of your success? Curiosity? Drive? Competitiveness? Bold ideas? Freedom? You have all--in excess.
I stay focused on my rule of thumb, which is always to create something beautiful. Anything else is a distraction. My guiding rule is to make it beautiful—whether it is a showroom environment that makes visitors stop in their tracks, or an elegant little corner detail on a table, or an efficient display stand that emphasizes the beauty of nature.

DIANE: Dave, it’s your company. You’re a free creative spirit.
Enabling everyone to really see beauty counts, too. Luckily I can design whatever I like, filtered through my experience. I take in everything but my process is very inwardly focused. Inspiration comes from unlikely places, but it is usually the culmination of everything I have been learning.

Last winter I opened my front door and on the ground was a fallen oak branch covered with several kinds of lichen. I picked it up and studied it. All these vivid colors, it was breathtaking! And it had been there all along, just over my head. I wanted to share it and present it so others could see what I was seeing. That was the inspiration for my new floral clamp, which in turn inspired my new wall system

DIANE: You're having fun. Perhaps that's your secret? Bliss! Enlightenment!
I am having fun. It has taken a long time for me to figure it out, but I'm doing what I was meant to do. I find my work, both the designing and finding, endlessly challenging. When it succeeds, I can bring pleasure to my friends and clients and make the world a better place. It doesn't get any better than that.

I have little eureka moments where I flash on innovative solutions to a design problem, usually during my morning shower, that fire me up for the day. It's all good. 

Some of the Newest Artefact Design & Salvage Products:

All About Dave

Dave Allen keesps a diary and notes. Follow along with his cross-country adventures, bold moves, crazy ideas and mileage runs.

February, 1997: Shoulders squared, Dave Allen walks out of a perfectly good Silicon Valley managerial career exchanging his pathetically cheerful neckties for Patagonia stand-up shorts.

Cashing out his laughable 401K, he wings it to Charleston, SC, renting a 24-foot Penske box truck, and proceeds to fill it with architectural antiques. Returning to his Menlo Park home 3,200 miles later, he wrangles enough buyers to hold his first private yard sale. More than thirty cross-country truck drives will follow.

Summer. On the road again, spent and overspent, Dave fashions first Yard Sale Postcard at a Kinko’s in Buffalo, NY. Hand addressing them from his dingy motel room, Dave races home, just slightly ahead of the sale date and a flurry of floating checks.

1998: Sleuthing from coast to coast, Dave cultivates an extensive network of sources. Buoyed by increasing sales, Dave lets loose a series of increasingly bizarre postcards and the quest for a showroom begins.

2000: Dave lays claim to a cavernous grain warehouse in San Jose and starts “moving a few things around”.

2001: The paint is barely dry when the showroom is named Best Independent Retail Store Design in the US by Visual Merchandising and Store Design magazine. Dave haggles in Europe and Turkey and returns with something he didn’t bargain for, a rapidly evolving aesthetic.

2003: Restlessness, coupled with an intriguing invitation, culminate in the move to a new showroom at Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma. Undeterred by a tanking dollar, Dave opens his wallet in Italy, Belgium and Holland.

2004: In the showroom, modern design and highly ornamented salvaged architectural details commingle.

2005: Dave dives into European design and then tracks decorative objects to their source of manufacture in Asia.

2006: Dave ventures into India and China. Back home, he spends the year reading about the environmental degradation of the planet. He despises packaging, and for a time refuses to provide showroom customers with bags or wrappings of any sort. This strategy proves unpopular, and is soon abandoned.

2007: Attending Maison & Objet in Paris, Dave discovers organic tropical vine-forms presented as art. In a fit of counter-intuitive environmentalism, he battles the urge to drop everything and head to the jungle with an ax.

2008: Traipses across Borneo, Java, Bali and parts of Malaysia and the Philippines filling his coffers with wondrous new objects. He is intrigued by the economy of village-level production.

2009: Dave develops relationships and products with remote Indonesian villages, each of which specializes in a particular material. Containers smelling of the jungle begin to arrive in Sonoma and the fledgling wholesale business begins to build. launches.

2010: Asia continues to hold Dave’s attention. Innovative Las Vegas restaurant project with Roger Thomas sends him deep into the jungle. In secret, network of likeminded resellers expands.

2011: Too many buddhas in the showroom convince Dave to revisit his Rust Belt roots. He renews old contacts and salvages the East Coast. Dave’s second public art installation “Flotsam” debuts at Fort Mason, San Francisco, to decidedly mixed reviews.

Now: traveling, working, collaborating with traditional craftsmen in Asia, experimenting with new materials, creating the new furniture collection.

Branching out. Always moving forward. 

An Original Mind

Dave is constantly traveling to find material for his improvisations.

He’s adding newly created one-of-a-kind object to his wares—and experimenting in new materials, fresh concepts. 

Glass Blobs cast for me from recycled plate glass. Each is uniquely formed, and size is limited by the strength of the glass worker. Artefact, $29 to $49.
3.5" glass cubes cast into a metal mold.  Artefact, $29.

“My simple designs that are driven by materials and/or their artisan production processes. The genesis of these ideas came from watching the manipulation of the material—glass, metal, stone-- with no preconceived agenda. I create these things as a way of getting to know the material and the producer--typically a small studio or individual artisan.” –Dave Allen

After my visit to a factory in the Philippines, I re-cast steel gears in pure white bone china. Prototyping at the moment. 

An experiment in metals. The utilitarian form of a citrus crate, produced from aluminum, and patinaed steel and brass screws. No welds used in construction. Made to order, 18 x 12 x 9, $795.

From a stone-working village on the island of Java. River rocks carved to hold standard nursery pots. Each is unique, $29 to $49. Available at Artefact, The Gardener in Berkeley, and Flora Grubb Gardens, San Francisco. 

Dave, the Inventor

DIANE: What are you working on now?
DAVE: It’s all about new product designs. My secret mission has always been to help people experience the beauty I see in things, and I’m onto a direct new approach to do just this. First in the series was my floral clamp. I’ve developed a wall display system consisting of a steel panel with a regular grid of threaded holes. With numerous available components (moveable lights, clamps, shelves, holders) it allows the user to create elegant three-dimensional wall sculptures, or present collections in a new way. Very simple, this idea has many possibilities. 

New wall display system with moveable parts (concept yet unnamed and currently in prototype). Brass screws for added graphic element. Flexible neck LED lights mount with magnets.

And I’m still traveling to find things — off to Indonesia in a couple of weeks, and then I’m determined to do an old school East Coast wander, driving the big truck myself. My best contacts have always been made this way and I miss the zen of a good road trip. 

Diane: Dave, I've always admired your spirit, your originality, your out-of-thin-air ideas, and always your pleasure in the rough and raw and rustic. Thank you so much. I wish you great good fortune, continuing for many years.

Where to find 
Dave Allen, Finder of Objects:

Artefact Design & Salvage
23562 Hwy 121
Sonoma, California
Adrian Gregorutti, Napa Valley, California

Wendy Owen Design