San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2016

Every time I attend the San Francisco Decorator Showcase I come away inspired by big design concepts and small design details.  My travels have delayed my attendance so far this year, but these photographs by San Francisco photographer David Duncan Livingston make me eager to catch this stunning showcase before it closes on May 30.

I want to take in the spare white elegance of Antonio Martin’s living room design and the curvy details in Martin Kobus’s dining room.

I suspect the muted persimmon and slate blue of the traditional rug laid the foundation for this striking office design by Stephen Jones.

As did the dramatic kelly green and cobalt blue zigzags in Kyle Bunting’s rug for this glam retreat by Nancy Evars and Dimitra Anderson.

But when it comes to color inspiration, who could resist the delicious rainbow sherbet palette of this girls room by Ann Lowengart.  Isn’t that Sol LeWitt-inspired ceiling scrumptious?

On the second floor hallway Livingston is showcasing some of his own fine art photography–including this effervescent image of the Eiffel Tower. “It’s like a birthday sparkler celebrating France and summer,” says Livingston who uses motion blur to give the fine art print a painterly feeling. Because Livingston’s wife is French they often travel with their young son to Paris. “Before I got married I’d visited the City of Light many times as a solo tourist but now when I visit with my family we’ll have lunch with Grandma, see old friends and just hangout between other travels in France. Paris is THE hub for all things French.”

To see more of Livingston’s exceptional work be sure to follow him on instagram @daviddlivingston.  And for details about the SF Decorator Showcase—running through May 30—go to  Hope to see you there!

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Missing Mom

Life took me to the mall yesterday.  Lunch with an old friend and editor.  Birthdays and baby showers to shop for.  Trips on the horizon so a bit of travel shopping for myself.  When I was done with my errands I slipped into a movie theater and caught a late matinee of the Gary Marshall film “Mother’s Day.”  Though the film was irritatingly peripatetic, it did remind me that Julia Roberts is a wonderful actress and it made me wish I was spending this Mother’s Day with my mom.  Mission accomplished Mr. Marshall.

But Mom’s in Idaho with one of my sisters greeting a new great-grand-baby–and walking in a charity race!–so I’ll just have to wait until we begin celebrating her 80th year this summer.   I’m grateful she’s around to miss.   Other friends have lost wives, sisters and mothers this year.  Their moms have gone missing for good.

I don’t know what it’s like to lose your mother yet.  I imagine it’s one of the hardest things we do in this life—even if we don’t get along with our mothers all the time. But my father’s gone now and one thing I’ve learned since his passing is that time has smoothed out the rough edges of our relationship.  The things about him that once irritated me have faded and the best of him has come into focus.  For those of you missing a mother this weekend I’m wishing you the same. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Keeyla Meadows Garden Tour

One of my favorite Bay Area landscape designers is Keeyla Meadows.  I first met Keeyla when I was scouting gardens for a major garden tour that served as a fundraiser for our children’s grade school.  That was twenty-some years ago and over that time I’ve watched her garden evolve from a colorful but simple field of poppies to a complex art installation filled with original artwork and inspirational plantings.  It’s always a treat to visit Keeyla’s garden but especially in the spring.  Fortunately, her garden will be on tour as part of the Garden Conservancy tours twice this year—the first time during the East Bay Open Day on Saturday, April 23 from 10 until 4. Admission for each garden is $7.00. Keeyla’s garden is located at 1137 Stannage in Albany, CA.  I’ll be there enjoying the garden and greeting guests that morning.  Hope to see some of you there!


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Friday Things: The Met Home Edition

Long before I started writing for shelter magazines I read them.  And the one I read the most was Metropolitan Home.  When it folded in 2009 it really left a void in my design inspiration library.

Though I loved Dominique Browning’s editor’s note in House & Garden (another print publication casualty of the time),  the designs in Met Home had a more youthful vibe about them.  And they were usually more accessible.  For example, each issue included a “Hi-Lo” feature that showed how the style of a particular $10,000 sofa might be interpreted for $3000.  (The Lo examples were never THAT cheap, but they were at least available to the public.)

I was therefore delighted to read about Met Home’s impending resurrection. I hope I’m one of the “select Hearst subscribers” who receives a copy next week.  If not, I’ll be certain to track it down on the newsstand.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to page through Elle Decor, House Beautiful (formerly edited by Newell Turner who is at the helm of the new Metropolitan Home) and—my current favorite—World of Interiors.  How about you?  Do print publications still show up in your mailbox?  Or have you moved entirely to browsing digital images for design inspiration?

Here are some other things that caught my attention this week:

The Pope advocating for more mercy, less judgment.

Twitching through Meditation.

Some reasons for taking a weekly tech sabbath (podcast).

A light-filled studio for a fiber artist.

The “Now” Not-A-Watch.

A pretty cauliflower soup.

“Buttony” – a brilliant little short story featuring a childhood game I used to play.

Melissa McCarthy performing Colors of the Wind. (Fast forward to minute 6:00)

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On Wearing Religious Jewelry

For years now I’ve thought about buying a cross necklace.  But though I’m a Christian, wearing crosses is not part of my faith tradition.  In fact, growing up—back when Mormons were feuding with Catholics—I was told that Mormons did not wear crosses.  That we emphasized Christ’s resurrection not his crucifixion and that wearing one would be something pretty close to a sin.

What my people did wear were CTR rings.  CTR stands for Choose The Right and just before you were baptized at age eight you were given a little ring with an adjustable one-size-fits all band topped with a miniature shield emblazoned with the letters CTR.  The band was a little pinchy and the metal eventually turned your finger the same green as the enameled shield.  I’m not sure what happened to mine.  But I do know that by the time my kids were old enough to wear CTR rings you could buy nicer versions that were made of silver with a solid band in specific sizes.  One daughter wore hers up through high school.

My impression is that many Catholics wear a cross necklace throughout their lives—that it’s the one piece of jewelry they wear consistently.  I wasn’t looking for that.  I can’t even commit to an Apple Watch (and my son now designs for Apple!) because I like to change things up regularly.  But I wouldn’t mind wearing a cross now and then.  And wearing one at Easter seems particularly appealing.

So today—Good Friday—I decided to buy my first cross necklace.  I went to Sagrada—a lovely little “sacred arts” bookstore in the hip Temescal neighborhood of Oakland—and considered a number of options.  There were ornate medieval crosses (too fussy), bedazzled crosses (too glitzy),  and crosses made out of Fimo clay beads (too funky).  I lingered at the First Communion crosses since they were the simplest but they also seemed too small and delicate for grown-up me.

Ultimately I ended up with this mosaic cross.  After seeing a photo of it my San Antonio sister said I’d fit right in in Texas.  I actually thought it looked less Tex-Mex and more Viennese Secessionist a la Klimt.  (Though his art was often collected by Jewish patrons, Klimt was Catholic so I guess that’s not that far-fetched.)

So why do I want to wear a cross? At least sometimes? Style-wise, I like the classic shape of the cross.  Symbolically, I feel more comfortable than I ever have about being an openly spiritual person who would like to applaud and emulate Christ–someone who always did Choose The Right.

Do you wear any jewelry that has spiritual significance to you? If so, I’d love to hear what you wear and why you wear it.

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Filling in the Blanks of Women’s History

Last week we traveled to Utah for a women’s history symposium where I saw this image of “Brigham Young and an Unknown Woman.”  The unknown woman’s beaded bracelets and marks of torture on her hands have led historians to speculate that she was Native American. If so, is her ethnicity the reason her face has been blurred or was this just an accident? Either way, this is a startling illustration of how women’s stories have disappeared throughout history.

Over the course of two days, scholars and history buffs presented nearly fifty papers that filled in the blanks of women’s history in the Mormon church. I learned that though women weren’t allowed to speak in church meetings until the twentieth century (the church was founded in 1830)  historians like Jennifer Reeder are documenting what they were thinking and feeling during those early years through minutes of their women’s auxiliary meetings,  diaries and the objects they produced.  For example, in talking about the clothing women made to bury their dead, historian Kris Wright said that  “sewing and other crafting were a form of knowledge making for those pioneer women” and that “embroidery is the text of textile.”

I sought out a presentation on why women were drawn to glossolalia—the speaking of tongues—a practice that feels so foreign to my own religious experience but was a source of comfort and enlightenment for 19th century seekers.   Christopher James Blythe posited that women were particularly drawn to this practice in the early Mormon church and shared first-hand reports that early practitioners “glowed” as though there was “electricity in the room.” Modern examples of this practice in Pentecostal churches as captured on You Tube mostly give me the heebeejeebees, but I’m willing to believe that my pioneer foremothers welcomed this “gift of the spirit.”

I chuckled with the rest of the crowd when art historian Josh Probert shared “domestic literature” from the turn of the last century that advised struggling homesteading women to inspire “Christian morality” by aspiring to the Victorian opulence of Salt Lake City’s famed McCune Mansion. Though officially titled ”Mormon Women’s Domestic Advice Literature 1880-1920,” Probert said he really should have called his remarks “Be Careful Which Couch You Buy Because You Will Become Like It.”  (Hey, haven’t I shared similar advice throughout my design writing career?)

The most shocking and widely reported session was titled “Women in Danger” and featured papers on sexual violence towards women in the early Mormon church.   BYU-Idaho professor Andrea Radke-Moss spoke about the mob violence in 1830s Missouri that prefigured the death of the church’s founder Joseph Smith.  She focused on the brutal gang-rapes by these same mobs that happened to several women in the period (numbers are sketchy given the Victorian reticence to report such atrocities) and that have been suppressed in the telling of Mormon history.  There was a collective gasp in the room when she revealed that one of the victims was likely Eliza R. Snow–one of the most prominent women of the early church. Snow was a renowned poet–the Emily Dickinson of Mormonism–and a trusted advisor to both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. You can read more about Radke-Moss’s findings here and her responses to questions about her source material here.

The day after the conference was over we sought out Snow’s grave just a few blocks away from Salt Lake City’s Temple Square. She’s buried near Brigham Young along with two of his other plural wives. (Snow was a plural wife to both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.) Many referred to her as a “prophetess.”  Some said she was the most intelligent woman they’d ever known. That she is also a survivor of sexual violence is remarkable.

Someone had come before us and left flowers and chocolate on her grave.  As we walked away an older gentleman and his grown daughter came to take our place.  I assume there will be more visitors now that another chapter of Snow’s life has been revealed. Will her expanded story force us to look at other women of the period differently?  Since attending the symposium I have a clearer picture of those mysterious tongue-speaking, polygamous ancestors of mine.  I also have more questions. What undocumented trials did they face?  What horrors did they overcome? (On a lighter note, who was the first of my grandmothers who could even afford a couch?) I may never fill in all the blanks, but knowing that they pressed onward to find sanctuary—as a popular pioneer hymn calls it, “the place which God for us prepared”— gives me confidence that I can too.

Are there women’s stories from your family, religious or cultural history that have been fleshed out in modern times?  If so, how have they informed or inspired your life?


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Of Oscars and Owls

What a wonderful spring we’re having here in Northern California. I’ve been working on my garden removing the things that didn’t survive the deer or early frosts and then shopping for and planting more of what seems to thrive. The temperature is just warm enough to feel rejuvenating as I work outside and the light is so cinematic it deserves some kind of award.  Best Seasonal Glow–or something to that effect.

Last week, my landscape designer and friend Keeyla Meadows lended some expert help. Together we shopped at the wholesale nursery for more grevilleas and hellebores and added a white rhododendron and some daphne–fingers crossed that it survives since daphne can be so temperamental.  Then we spent a day placing and planting before the rains started up again.  At the end of that very full day of digging, watering, fertilizing and cleanup we sat down for a cup of tea in the twilight.  A large bird flew by and landed in a nearby eucalyptus tree directly across from where we were sitting. It immediately started to “whoo hooo” so we thought we knew what we were looking at but to confirm I fished out an old pair of binoculars.  Sure enough there was a great horned owl (“uncommon but widespread” says my Sibley Field Guide to Western Birds) challenging us to blink first.

According to “Birds–A Spiritual Field Guide “ (yes, I have ALL the bird books) the owl can be seen as either an omen of something terrible to come–think spooky Halloween creature–or a symbol of wisdom. Either way it seemed quite mystical to have it appear and communicate with us at that moment. We chose to think of “our” owl as a wise messenger blessing our clever efforts to outsmart the deer and anticipate the rain.

Usually this time of year is when I produce a post about my favorite set designs from the previous year’s movies.  Alas, I’ve been immersed in novel revisions or garden plans the past few weeks and didn’t take the time to put one together but if the Academy Awards show peaked your interest in seeing some of the nominated films here’s my 2 Cents on 2015 movie design.  Of the films nominated for Best Art Direction I was rooting for The Martian. I wasn’t up for seeing either The Revenant or Mad Max: Fury Road on the big screen but the rest of my family did and raved about Max’s visuals so I’m not surprised it won. Of the films I saw I absolutely loved the sinister modern house in Ex Machina (read about the mostly Norwegian locations here and here)

And the beautiful color palette of Brooklyn.

How fitting that the female leads of these two films also wore some of my favorite Oscar gowns.

To quote my backyard visitor–Whoo hooo!  What were your favorite movie sets from last year?  How about Oscar fashions?  I’d love to hear.

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Friday Things: The San Francisco Super Bowl Edition

True confession?  I didn’t know the Super Bowl was happening here in the Bay Area until last Saturday when my gay Mormon activist friend Mitch mentioned how early festivities had impacted the traffic coming from the city to a conference in Berkeley that we were both attending.  Now how in the world did I miss that?  I’m not that sporty but I do tend to tune in for big sporting events like the World Series or the Olympics.  And this year the Super Bowl is here in my back yard! I don’t have any loyalties to either team in the game but I’ll be watching for the commercials and the Coldplay concert. I’ll also be cooking up some Big Game food from this month’s featured cookbook “The Gourmet Today Cookbook”. Last month I had fun working through some recipes from David Leibovitz’s “My Paris Kitchen”–more about that later–but Sunday I’m planning to make some citrus-sauced ribs and an old family Super Bowl favorite—Whoopee Pies.  Score!

Here are a few other things that touched down with me this week.

Super Bowl “Ad-mojis.”

Some tips for buying Valentine flowers.

Trying to separate Bill Cosby from Cliff Huxtable.

Swimming as an adult. 

Bay Area artist Lisa Congdon’s coloring books!

James Cordon and Rosie O’Donnell rapping Hamilton lyrics.

My friend Dana’s son making the Top 24 on American Idol.  Go James VIII!

Happy Super Bowl Weekend All!


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Friday Things: The Daffodils Edition


Last week I noticed a sign in the nursery near a market I frequent advertising bulbs half off.  I intended to pick up a few to force in the house and ended up with dozens of daffodils and a few tulips to plant around the garden.

During a pause between rainstorms I tucked the tulips in some of the back yard pots away where they’ll be protected from deer and gophers.  Most of the daffodils ended up in the back as well but I decided to risk planting a dozen or so out front as an experiment.  We’ll see if they’re as “critter-resistant” as advertised.  I’d love to have them naturalize and return year after year.  (That doesn’t happen with tulips here in Northern California—the climate’s too mild for repeat blooms.)

It’s been a good month all around for planting things.  I’ve been working with the 10% Happier app to be more consistent with my meditation practice and I’ve also made time to attend more yoga classes as part of my intention to “stretch” more.  I’ve read several good books including “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “H is for Hawk” (funny, I just realized they both have birds in their titles.) And I’ve made good progress with my novel revision while fine-tuning the course on Mormon Women I developed with M.J. last year so we could teach it again.

Nice to scatter–and look forward to–a little sunshine-to-come.

Here are a few other things that have been planted over the past few weeks.

Zoolander Home Tour.

The resurgence of “Housewife Novels.”

Jill LePore’s insightful piece on the sad history of child abuse.

The impact of the new Barbies.

David Bowie’s notebooks.

A bevy of winter salads.

Marcella Hazan and her namesake bean.

Quantum Chess with Paul Rudd and Steven Hawking.

Happy Weekend All!

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Friday Things: The Stretch Edition

 For the last few years I’ve focused less on setting specific goals and more on choosing a word that speaks to my intention for the year.  Last year’s word was “Ease.”  This year I’ve settled on “Stretch” as my word for the year.  I’m hoping that by setting “Stretch” as my watchword I’ll be more expansive and flexible. That I’ll extend a helping hand more frequently and consistently. That I’ll eventually do “child’s pose” without falling on my face.

There are a few other specific ways I’d like to Stretch in 2016.  These aren’t big changes. It’s not that you can’t teach this old dog new tricks, but I’ve already learned a lot of tricks in my life that work well already.  They’re also not intended for the entire year. My son-in-law mentioned over the holidays that he is always setting goals but does it on a quarterly not yearly basis.  That makes sense to me.  Who knows what I’ll be trying to tweak in December? Maybe some of the same things, maybe not.  But for the next three months I’d like to Stretch in these ways:

1. At Home: I’d like to have more room to stretch out in my kitchen so I’m editing down some of my cookware and either getting rid of occasional use pieces or moving them to secondary storage.Also,  my cookbooks are beginning to overflow their allotted shelves. When we moved a year and a half ago I pared the volumes down to ones I cooked from regularly but a few new books have joined their ranks.   In order to determine whether a book stays or goes, I’ve decided to “feature” one of these newcomers each month and try at least one recipe a week from the featured cookbook that uses vegetables from my CSA box.  That will help determine if it’s earned a place on the shelf.

2. Intellectually: I’d also like to extend my attention span by reading more of the New Yorkers that pile up by my nightstand.  My niece Hannah is a voracious reader and for the past few years has read every New Yorker cover to cover.  (You can see her list of favorite top ten articles in the 2015 New Yorkers here.)  I’m not willing to make reading every New Yorker my New Year’s goal, but for the first quarter of the year I’m at least going to read each week’s short story and likely pick up a few more articles along the way.

3. Physically: I’m lucky enough to live across the street from a beautiful swim club where I take water aerobics and yoga classes regularly so that allows me to stretch out 3-4 days a week.  On the other days I tend to stretch my legs by walking in the nearby hills with M.J. Or friends. On those days I’m going to do a little home stretch session as well—probably through the Sworkit app on my phone.

4. Towards Others: And finally, I’d like to be better at extending a helping hand to people at both ends of the age spectrum. Phone calls or visits to older women, babysitting for younger moms, and my ongoing volunteer work teaching foster kids writing and life skills.  I figure those of us in the middle with experience, resources and energy need to help where we can. Taking a moment every Sunday to reflect how best to do this in the coming week seems like a good system for now.

Hmm, this sounds like I’m setting goals now doesn’t it?  Can we call them intentions instead? Because intentions feel more realistic as I stretch out in the New Year.

I’d love to hear how you approach New Year’s goals and resolutions?  It’s so different for everyone, don’t you think?

In the meantime, here are some other January things.

A year later, are you a Konvert? (My sock drawer is.)

Delia on setting concepts, not lists.

Some useful organizing tips from a young mom.

Thoughtful, low-key New Year’s resolutions.

Are you the Person of the Year for 2015 as well?

And finally, shouldn’t we all be practicing power poses? (this Ted Talk is old and popular, but it’s the first I’ve seen it—maybe you too?) Tomorrow I’m going to work on these out-Stretch-ed poses with my foster kids.

Happy Weekend All!

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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.

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