ON the unknown
I’ve been thinking, one of the greatest joys of travel is happening upon the unknown. Preparation for a trip is only valuable to a certain degree, and the rest occurs naturally outside of one’s comfort zone. I believe that the perspective gained is so important for a designer’s mind; the novelty of unchartered territory paves the way for new avenues of creativity.
Uitwaaien [Dutch] This beautiful word describes the act of going for a walk, often by the coast, to clear one’s head “in the wind.”
The Netherlands is a country of unique towns each with its own personality, landscape and respective trade. It’s one of my favorite places to travel to for this reason. I have my own meaningful places that I return to for the warm Dutch spirit and reliable sourcing, but also enjoy exploring the many surrounding regions for a new understanding of this petite, multi-cultural country.
My personal favorite destination is Maastricht, which to me is quite different to the rest of the Netherlands. The soul of this town feels very Dutch and inviting but in many ways it stands alone. Different that the cosmopolitan Amsterdam, collegiate Hague, or coastal Volendam, Maastricht is in the south where it begins to get hilly and more traditional. It is in the center of town where you will find the liveliness of this city. With a vibrant cultural scene, many street vendors line up to showcase their local produce, making for the perfect excuse to try (and buy) some cheese! Here you will notice a lot of locals and visitors enjoying a meal al fresco. I soon noticed that the Dutch love any excuse to get outdoors, after all sunshine is a rarity much of the year in this part of the world, and you’ll find some great cafes around here and friendly shopkeepers.
My first visit to Maastricht was during the winter as it was just beginning to snow. The narrow cobblestone streets were buzzing with people and windows filled with the excitement of St. Nicolas, who is far more present than our Santa Claus at this time of year. I remember walking through the town, enjoying the crisp air as I happened upon a family home with its ground level windows wide open. Pausing, I started to hear a faint sound. As I waited for the sound to reach me, I noticed a little girl in the front room playing the piano beautifully for the whole street to hear. This memory is forever linked to my association with the town and embodies the open and dynamic spirit of the Dutch.
While in the Netherlands, I suggest trying some local fare and specialties. American food is available, but the Dutch have perfected the art of food for the seasons. I look forward to the regionally-specific and dangerously delicious Pannekoeken. It’s essentially a pancake that is slightly larger and thinner than American style but not as thin as a crepe. Their toppings or fillings can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like. Each city has its own Pannekoeken cafe, so I would ask a local. I find apple is great for a subtle sweet flavor, or a more savory choice is mushrooms and tomato. For an elevated experience, I like Chateau Neercanne restaurant in Maastricht. As a Michelin star establishment, it gives you a sense for the level of expertise at play, but the old world elegant atmosphere and service are all equally blue ribbon.
For shopping I make my way to Odehof, my favorite store. Family-owned and specializing in Swedish antiques, it’s on the Belgian border and worth the detour. Pictured below is the secretary desk I purchased during one of my many fruitful visits to the shop. Sourcing opportunities are boundless all over the country, and the quality is notable. Other noteworthy items I can count on sourcing in the Netherlands are antique lighting, pottery, art, and well-preserved books, as shown in the title image above.
From a design perspective, I found endless inspiration at the Willet-Holthuysen museum and garden. Proving that a small space can be very impactful with the right design, the 17th-century canal-side house is filled with furnished period rooms and works of art that were donated by the owner Louisa Willet-Holthuysen to the city in 1895. It’s a timewarp in the best way, giving insight to the colony that gave design inspiration to New York’s Grand Central Station and many other historical design landmarks. I never tire of visiting the Netherlands, and after countless trips still feel the desire to return. I would highly recommend going with the intention of exploring the many layers of this country. Expect to be welcomed by the warm-hearted locals and enriched by the depth of culture right out in the open air.
This time of year interior light changes by the hour. Floor lamps are turned on at earlier times for evening reading, and grand chandeliers are brought to life for holiday gatherings. We’ve spent a great deal of time contemplating light, both natural and man-made, and our all-time favorite fixtures are often made by some of the most discerning hands, whether they be vintage or new world. We use spotlights as a thoughtful way to call attention with understated illumination. One of our favorite ways to add drama is to spot using decorative lighting, as it feels softer than directional architectural lighting. Created and adored in the mid-century with a recent resurgence several years ago, Serge Mouille continues to be a timeless choice for me in championing the subtle art of spotlighting with shape and movement.
MASTERS AT WORK
As with most rare things, the name William McLure has multiple meanings in the design world. Part “Esteemed Confrere,” part “Master at Work” William is an interior designer based in Birmingham, Alabama, and also an accomplished painter. I am thrilled to have recently acquired several pieces of his work as will now proudly represent him at our studio.
His interiors resonate with me as they are familiar in terms of composition; he seems to take a similar approach to the way we design. These art-focused interiors are orchestrated using clean-lined upholstered pieces, two-dimensional paintings and drawings, and three dimensional object d’art, which are harmoniously combined to make a statement. Graphic works paired with neutrals makes for what I would call casual and sophisticated, which is my preferred style!
As for his artistic style, I am drawn to the strong and graphic large scale paintings; they make a room! The palette of the piece we currently have in the Chicago shop happens to be in my favorite color combination for interior work: muted versions of black, cream, and muddy taupe. Stop by the studio to view Williams’ work in person, you’ll see what I mean!
As an artist and creator I try to not limit myself to particular color format or style; I think being an artist is all about self growth and trying new things. – William McLure
I believe that good design always meets needs; it just works as it flows. Often a space has multiple purposes and therefore boundaries, both subtle and defined, are a way to add depth and functionality to a space. In a world of “open-concept” living, I’m of the opinion that sight lines with variation create more interest.
A simple example of a structural boundaries are corners and doorways; the architecture itself forces the viewer to peek around the corner, inviting transition from one space to the next. Also, using wall alternatives, as we did above, creates separation with transparency, which softens the boundary while adding layered interest.
A subtle non-structural barrier, such as a vignette, when used in larger open spaces creates a moment in time viewed on its own. Conventions to achieve subtle boundaries include variations in flooring, and I prefer rugs over a continuous surface rather than utilizing multiple flooring materials. Investing in sculpture is another great non-structural opportunity to create a moment, a mood and therefore a subtle boundary.
Used together in harmony, these moments speak to the multi-faceted lives we live.
intersection of music + design
At our studio we love music of all genres and time periods, and often use music to set the tone of a space, brighten a long day of travel, and in our personal moments it forms the soundtrack to our lives. We can’t stop listening to this playlist, as it has become our favorite mood music for our studio, showrooms, and even social events, like the team dinner mentioned below.
IN good company
As the season changes and weather precludes the outdoors, the company you keep and the space you inhabit become more and more paramount. At my Hamptons home a few weeks ago, the team and I enjoyed a unforgettable meal together from the recipes from Athena Calderone’s new cookbook Cook Beautiful. We figure grilling season doesn’t end with the summer heat, as fall supplies great root vegetables and many proteins that lend themselves to a smokey grilled finish. I found Athena’s recipes to honor this thought, as each dish focuses on seasonal ingredients and emphasizes the balance of visual elements with sumptuous flavors. Below I have included the recipes we taste tested, cooked by the multi-talented Lukas Machnik of our Hamptons studio.
1 pound seedless mixed blueberries, stems discarded
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
2 rosemary sprigs, plus chopped fresh rosemary for garnish
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
3 tablespoons pine nuts
Twelve 1/2-inch-thick baguette slices
3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
Finely grated lemon zest, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, toss the grapes with the vinegar, rosemary sprigs and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grapes are softened and the skins start to pop.
Meanwhile, spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and roast in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until golden. Brush the baguette slices with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until golden and crisp.
To assemble the crostini, dollop 1 tablespoon of the ricotta onto each toast. Spoon the warm grapes on top and sprinkle with the pine nuts. Arrange on a platter and top with a drizzle of honey and some lemon zest. Sprinkle the crostini with salt and garnish with chopped rosemary.
WHOLE ROASTED FISH WITH LEMON AND HERBS
One 2 1/2 pound whole fish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs [such as thyme, oregano, parsley and rosemary]
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
THE SALSA VERDE:
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced basil
1/4 cup minced mint
1 tablespoon minced capers
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 jalapeño (optional)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
MAKE THE FISH Preheat the oven to 450°. Put the fish on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Make 3 crosswise slashes down to the bone on each side of the fish. Rub with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stuff each slash with 1 lemon slice and some herbs. Stuff the cavity with the shallot, fennel, garlic and remaining lemon slices and herbs. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the flesh is opaque.
MAKE THE SALSA VERDE In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients. Serve the fish with the salsa verde.
You should never put too much on a plate. Especially when serving family style, a lot of times people just pile on so much on the plate. And while that’s probably more practical, if you’re trying to wow your guests in visual presentation, you should always think about the composition of things. It’s just being aware of composition and negative space, and adding texture and color as a finishing touch makes a big difference. – Athena Calderone
SOURCES: Title image MDP original by Janet Mesic Mackie | Maastricht, Thorne, Utrecht | Secretary Desk MDP original | Serge Mouille Mantis Pendant + Floor Lamp | Serge Mouille Wall Sconce MDP original by Janet Mesic Mackie | William McClure image | Boundaries image MDP original by Janet Mesic Mackie | Shell image MDP original by Janet Mesic Mackie | Dinner images by Lukas Machnik | Recipes by Athena Caleronde from Cook Beautiful |