Annie of Annie’s Paramount Steak House passes away

Annie Kaylor passed away on July 24th, this past Wednesday.


You may not know her by her last name, but Annie Kaylor is the famous “Annie” from Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse near Dupont Circle in DC.  Annie started to work for her brother George there in the early 50’s. She became the figurehead and later the namesake for the gay friendly/everyone friendly restaurant, which itself became an iconic gay “mecca” known all over the United States.   The hey-days were the 70’s and 80”s,  when I went there in my 20’s, and it was known for being a safe place, wonderful food and lots of character and fun led by Annie. Annie’s was opened in 1948 by her brother, George Katinas in a location just a few doors south on 17th Street.

Annie was a very special person to so many people, like me, who were young and were in un-charted waters.  She was like a mom to some, and at least an aunt to others.  Famous for her Manhattan cocktail mix (Still the best I’ve ever had), the place was filled with her bigger than life, and loving personality.  Hospitable beyond words, tough in a way, and a warmth that was immediately noticeable.

She formed an environment that allowed everyone, gay or straight, to be just who they were.  The flamboyance and fun of those decades crystallized the unique nature of this place.  It’s not just a restaurant, but it’s a place, indeed a mecca for a lot of the gay community.  I wonder how many young gay people know of the early years beyond Stonewall, but for places like Annie’s and how transformative they became.

Don, Mano and Annie

“No one is treated better than anyone else. We are all accepted. It’s a fun environment. To say the least, the food is great and basic. It’s a fun experience in that there are no strangers where you go to Annie’s.”,  Annie said in a 2006 interview. “Our customers know we care about them. This means the world to us. The love is there. The love comes from the man who built this restaurant, by the name of George Katinas.” she said.

A famous image of Annie, is in the early to mid-1950’s where she is sitting up on the back of a convertible entering Dupont Circle.  It is classic 1950’s cheesecake, and she is beautiful in the image.  In the following years, she always rode in a carriage in the annual DC Gay Pride parade and everyone knew her, everyone cheered.  There were decades and decades of her presence at Annie’s; with the community, the Gay causes of the times, the HIV crisis, the Gay Men’s Chorus,  a reading room for all the local newspapers and newsletters, and certainly a place to see and be seen.

I had the honour to be asked to re-design the now landmark Annie’s restaurant in 2008/2009 with the current ownership – still the Katinas family. It had become a little tired, and the family wanted to give something really important back to their customers, their friends.  While still young in my interior design career, I felt so privileged to be part of bringing Annie’s forward for a new generation of customers that now includes everyone from the neighborhood. My Client guided me and opened my eyes to so many things. There was no censorship of my design work, the materials we were allowed to use were beautiful, the lighting, fabrics and everything were just what we felt should be at Annie’s.  This Client remains to this day one of the toughest and one of the best Clients I have ever had.  In the beginning, Annie looked on until it was all finished, but I think she sized me up early on. It was so important to me to keep the character of Annie’s while making some pretty big upgrades to the exterior, and interior spaces.  The uniqueness of Annie’s probably could not have been dimmed, but I sure didn’t want to be any part of a change of the feeling at Annie’s.  Now,  I am especially proud to have received Annie’s approval on the restaurant, it’s design, menus, uniforms and other ways I was involved with the new design – it’s move forward. For me, this life experience will always be a message of what can “come around” again in our lives.  As a thank you, we enlarged the cheesecake photo of her and had it beautifully framed for the rear dining room.  She was quite moved by it.

Annie under image we framed for her gift

So many people, including myself, have a strong vested interest in Annie’s.  We care deeply about all the little things there, the novelty, the tried and true, the friendships and indeed the family we all have there.  At the end of the day, it’s a family.  The 1960s family is the same as the 1974 family is the same as the 1981 family as is today’s family.  If the coleslaw changes, you will sure hear about it.  When we go to Annie’s after a long evening out dancing, the breakfasts and final hour drinks are so welcome, and when we bring our co-worker for lunch we want to be sure to impress them.  It’s our home away from home in a very real way.  It always has been, and to the point; people in Texas, San Francisco and beyond will all say; “I know Annie’s’ too!!   I’ve been there many times, we always go there!!”.


The wait staff has always been known for a very friendly, and in an important way, an overly-friendly and cheeky attitude that helps very much when you are lonely, and confused and looking for your way in life. When you are 22 and gay, it can have a big effect of self-acceptance.  Their authority, wit and knowledge carry the day when it’s raining outside.  Have a Manhattan, talk with Mano (hired in 1974), Al, James, or even the busboys, and you are in a better mood within minutes.  The mood becomes ever more buoyant once the crowd starts to pile in.  Having been a waiter, this is not an easy thing to do – run a busy station, handle all the issues, and to create a personality bigger than all of it takes a special person.

Thankfully, the food remains pretty much the same, with some upgrades lately, and some changes here and there. Good crabcakes are good crabcakes, great salads are great salads no matter the plate or packaging, and the Prime Rib is still among the best in town, it’s certainly the best value in town.  The infamous “Bull in the pan” was taken off the menu once, and was put right back on again because of customer’s the family’s outcry.  That it is run today by George’s sons, their wives, and their children too,, speaks volumes about a true business, the family business.

We must all not forget those who paved the way for where we are today – the ability to be “out”, our domestic partnership rights, the right to marry, the overall acceptance – indeed the  integration into most of America. There is further to go, but please remember for now;  there were the days when it was really hard, really scary and really dangerous to be who we were.  Yet, since 1948, there was a corner near Dupont Circle that was safe.  Annie made it OK for a while when you came to Annie’s.

I am partial. I have been part of this 60 year old institution in many ways since I was 22.  This place helped form who I am.  I knew Annie.  She helped me when I was young, and did it again when I was older.  I remain in her debt for so many things.

There will be a tribute evening for Annie at the restaurant, Tuesday, August 20th.   6-10PM.   August 20th would have been Annie’s 86th birthday.

Annie’s Paramount Steak House

1609 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009


Metro Weekly story here;

Ortenzia we placed at Annies

Rooms I love and why. No. 2 in series – Carlyle Hotel, The Gallery


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The Carlyle, where I quite seriously plan to retire, is the very definition of Old New York to me.  The 21 Club (the original one) and similar spaces in Manhattan have the strange but wonderful ability to make me feel about as protected from the world as anything could.  As a Grande Dame should be, the hotel is a beacon of civility and conviviality right in the middle of the biggest city in America. 

 Below is the stunningly simple and elegant reception space for check in and other guest service needs.

Reception at the Carlyle

Among the several beautiful spaces within the Carlyle, and I love them all,  my favourite is called the Gallery, a unique space that defies logic of what anyone could imagine for a wonderful place to dine. In what is essentially a long transition hallway that is quite wide – a place to do something bold, and create a special dining area .  As the guests at table enjoy dining and conversation, the passerby is on the catwalk – see and be seen as they alight into Bemelmans Bar. 

Left a detail image, and below Bemelmans Bar, famous for the hand drawn murals done by Ludwig Bemelmans creator of the children’s book, “Madelaine” published in 1939.  He provided the murals as an exchange for having his family live at the Carlyle for a time, and in another seemingly unworkable twist, the combination of cocktails and cartoons works to sublime execution in a hushed cocoon of a space in Manhattan.

Back within the gallery which draws you to the entrance of Bemelmans Bar, the tables are set and the diners are the audience.  The magic of the space is this; the very delicate balance of allowing those dining to feel intimate while at the same time voyeuristic.  Below you glean a sense of the Adriatic origins of the decor, and the unique spacing and traffic flow that allow this special room to work ;

The gallery room at The Carlyle hotel designed by Renzo Mongiardino. It was inspired by the sultan’s room in Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace and is proof that truly inspired design never goes out of style.
Left;  Istanbul, The Aegean Sea and antique Persia are conjured up in this one emblem at The Gallery.  In this space, the combination of color and pattern in this room is sublime.  I am awed by the hand-painted wallpaper depicting vases of flowers and baskets of fruit intricately surrounded by stunning borders. The velvet banquettes with antique kilim appliqués and the red fringed-velvet chairs make me want to sit for hours dreaming of exotic and glamorous locales.
The brass swing-arm lamps with patterned shades cast just the right amount of flattering light. It’s simply one of the most comfortable, and intimate rooms I have ever had the pleasure to experience.  Note the scattered pillows used on the banquettes, the coziness, the lighting and the very residential feeling of the space.  For those of us from Washington, D.C. we can recall the lovely, now gone, Fairfax Bar in the original Ritz Carlton, Washington, D.C. with it’s knotty pine mouldings and similar warmth.  Please let me know if there are any rooms I might include, comment on, or perhaps some of your favourite rooms!

During Hurricane Irene; “They shopped like it’s a Snowstorm”


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AS we are about to enter the DC/Baltimore area winter season, and the oh-so-likely chance that snow flurries will stop traffic, I wanted to offer this post –  postponed – perchance that we might recall the misery of shopping during such a horrible crisis;

In Boston, this is called another winter day. In DC the area comes to a halt.

(written on August 30, 2011, and for once, NO embellishments…)  At least I have an excuse.  You see, this Friday was my regular every-other-week grocery shopping day.  I really hate shopping.  I do.  By this statement, I refer to the type of shopping such as, “I need black socks”,  or “getting things we need for vacation” type of shopping.  This is not to be confused with going to Dean & DeLuca and creating a wonderful dinner party with my lovely finds.   With everyday shopping, I can be a real male hunter; seek and kill what I need.  The quicker – the less painful.   The idea of walking/wandering around perusing the aisles of the local  grocery store is just total agony for me. 

not me... not me... not me.. can't do it.. not me...

Therefore, when I shop for groceries, my list is specific, laid out in order of the store, easy to read and easy to toss afterward.  

 I go through the aisles, starting on the right working to the left, and move like a stealth shopper quickly and efficiently loading the cart moving in the order of eventual bagging at check out.  During manuvers, I quickly suss out the slower moving shoppers, performing lane changes, hairpin turns and stopping on a dime right at the DeCecco Pasta section.  Yes, I even perform ongoing reconnaissance on the available checkout lines in advance of planning my escape from the maize du Safeway. 

Therefore, I go every other week, and get one full cart of groceries we need – so as to minimize the pain, and the (God forbid) need to shop several times a week.  This brings us to the Friday before the big Hurricane Irene was to hit in full force. This was my regular shopping date.  I went at 5:15PM.   I understood that people would be shopping.  I had no idea.

Did you know that they make grocery carts that have electronic wheel locks if beyond a perimeter.  Would you guess that today’s parking area (which is full up of course) is beyond this perimeter for these carts?  It took two store employees and a half hour to unlock the cart with some wand thing.  There was no other cart to be found anywhere, except this one rogue stubborn cart.  The clouds of rain were looming.  The people inside wandered around as if it were a Sunday social event. 

 The waiting lines for checkout reached the back of the store, causing bottlenecks, crashes and similar traffic issues.  Of twelve checkout lanes, only 4 were open! 

After waiting in line – I began at the end cap for charcoal at the meat department for 23 minutes, the lady in front of me presented the final and ultimate credit card the system could handle, and all plastic processing stopped. Yes!!!! I brought the checkbook just in case!  And rain began while I began unloading my cart on the moving belt.

The Cashier was in such a good mood, it really helped.  She was really cool, and having a pretty good time, and we all just fell in line with her.  What else is there to do?  You finally cave in, and just go with it.

Why do people shop like this?  At least I have an excuse.  This was my regular shopping day.  OK, not a good one, but hey, I got one.   I have lived in this area for over 50 years. Never once have I seen the most debilitating weather (of any kind) render our daily life shut down for more than 3 days.  This would mean that our area population might need two days of supplies assuming they would have a current day’s meals/supplies on hand.  It leaves me dumbfounded that the mention of snow flurries/ storms/ and now hurricanes, that sends our area into complete shopping cart turf wars hauling on average 1.3 shopping carts of stuff for the maybe 36 hours of being homebound. At worst.  Lord have mercy.

Great for the Grocery stores and local economy I guess, but honestly I believe the toll it takes on all of us is just not worth it.  I hate when people bitch like this with no chance in hell of offering a solution, but this is, I am sorry to say, one of those times.  I am thinking of an answer, but like a friend of mine, Annie,  we lay awake nights with these silly thoughts! When I finally fall asleep, what do you think I start dreaming about??


Rooms I love – and why. No. 1 in series. The Rotunda at the Pierre Hotel


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Considered by many to be possibly the most beautiful room in New York, this room is a brilliant testament to the proper, if lavish, way to decorate a room. The trompe l’oeil murals created by American artist Edward Melcarth can only be truly appreciated while within the space proper.  In fact trompe l’oeil is (when done well) best taken in while in person.  It can seem to “move” with you as we have seen a portrait’s eyes do in the best of oils.

The room is clearly an excercise in flourish and abundance, but this is one of the styles that I adore. Largely because of the strict guidelines one needs to be successful in this exaulted medium.  These kinds of rooms have rules; Fresh flowers only, furnishings kept to a mininmum to allow the room’s architectural styling to come thru and a very delicate balance of scale and proportions and much more.  As with taking in the trompe l’oeil, the large room has the most visceral feeling of being intimate at the same time being large, that again, is only really appreciated in person.  This is why the room is so impressive to me – to layer on exquisite layer after layer like that, and still have the room feel human is not easy to do.  The less educated might see this as just a ridiculous exercise of an ostentatious showing of wealth or something, which it surely is as was done in those times.  But in fact, and much more importantly, it shows the prowess of what great design can be.  I see this same thing/different medium in a woman’s work I admire very much – Sylvia Weinstock’s wedding cakes.  Her most elaborate cakes might appear to be very over the top, until you discern the proportions, scale, balance, tension and layers to it all – Just like good design with anything.  Below; one of Sylvia’s masterpieces.

Note the balance and flow of the flowers, note the graduated size change top to bottom, this is VERY hard to do well on a cake and maintain the symmetrical balance overall!

Like the cake above, the use of the smaller things in relation to the larger things, the layers of colour, and the “negative space” allowed, in the hands of someone untrained a room (or cake!) can turn into a riot of excess, rather than the restrained and glorified beauty that, again, can only really be appreciated in person.  Here in person, you would see that the flowers on this cake are HAND Made petal by petal, and the walls of our room here are HAND painted, stroke by stroke. 

Only in person and as you get closer do you see the details of the metal chasing work in the gold plated sconce lights, the delicacy of the gold leaf used on the plaster  – and all the details continue to reveal as you become more intimate with the room.  This is the magic of good design for me – the layers. Ironically, it can be the most difficult in a modern room, when things are so minimized, we have less to use to create these layers that are so important.  But that’s another post.

My love for this kind of room is understandable, when I was perhaps 4 or maybe 5 years old, beginning with L.S.Ayres, the department store in Indianapolis where my mother would take us for lun. The “Tea Room” is where we dined.  Now gone, it is an indelible memory for me of when “I KNEW” I was going to be involved in beauty and design for the rest of my life.   As one person said;  “The store was magnificent to the very end. The beautiful main floor and display windows were preserved by the Parisian Dept. Store that took over the space when (Mr.) Ayres died. It became Carson, Pirie, Scott a couple of years ago”.

She (like me) went on to say – “I will always remember the Tea Room where my mom and I would have lunch during our downtown excursions. There was always some kind of fashion show while we dined. I would get to pick out a gift from the “Treasure Chest” at the check out counter. Pink gift for girls, Blue for boys.”

This dining room was so popular, that the “Tea Room” has been re-opened as a functioning restaurant in the Indiana State Museum, complete with original chairs, cutlery and china–with original menu items.  I think with our mother, we would have had the famous Chicken Velvet Soup, with a Crouqe Monsiour or someting equally continental for the times, as in 1960-61 this was all a big deal!  This, and the models wearing the finest dresses and suits that would parade the tea room while we all sat and dined.  I remember looking upward from a base of one of the grand columns where I was seated.  The view, the ceiling, the chandeliers and the window treatments are still kind of clear to me.  I recall the colour of the sunlight coming in the room, and at once realizing that I was quite comfortable in this place.  (How and why my mother would dare bring us hellions to lunch here,, we were horrible at home!!  But, my parents took us out all the time, and we did behave pretty well I must say)   Having been no older than 5 years old, these are less memories but indelible images – like in a dream. Later, when I was in upper grade school, I would be able to just look at a ballgown and know if it was Dior or Balanciega.  Thus my love of fabrics, upholstry and window treatments!

The store had the most delightful animated Christmas windows. And a bronze cherub would mysteriously appear on top of the old Ayers clock just before Thanksgiving to announce the beginning of the Holiday shopping season. 

And after the holidays, they would take away the Cherub till next year!

They are dim but very memorable things for me.

Back to the Pierre;

Somehow, my favourite tea, Earl Gray seems most appropriate to have in such a civilized room, under the big dome and marvel at the hushed acoustics.  More and more, the room just quietly unveils it’s fantastic design with the architecture down to the decor.  

The hotel is famous in it’s own right with a saliacous history which you seem to have a precient awareness of.  The building was designed by Schultze and Weaver who also did the Waldorf Astoria, and the Breakers in Palm Springs, after Mansart’s Royal Chapel at Versailles.

So, when my friends and clients ask me when did I start interior design? The answer is right around the age of 4 or 5!   The evolution of my knowledge from that room in 1960 to today is a long learning curve that I hope will never end!  Let me know some of your favourite rooms that you might like to share, or that you would like me to comment on – it’s always fun to share our design thoughts this way!

“As long as you don’t do Gray and Mauve…”


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I love to re-frame other’s perceptions about things, and certainly this applies to design!

When I meet new clients, I feel pretty lucky.  I believe that I can quickly read what they are looking for, where they want to be involved and where they don’t care to be involved.  Every so often, I enjoy the concept of “Carte Blanche” from a client who knows my work, and they trust me to execute a look they will love.  Now, mind you, it’s never really carte blanche, I still have to do a lot of homework and study what they would most like – but this was one of those times, it was pretty much a carte blanche situation.

Martha had a beautiful penthouse in Bethesda(at the time, still under construction), and in meeting with her to begin work, we had an easy and quick rapport.  She is a fun person who loves to laugh and we often compete in telling the funnier story to each other!  She is bigger than life, very discerning and views life as something too short to overthink, overmanage or otherwise fret over.  As I have come to know her, I greatly respect her outlook and her gracious acceptance of things she cannot change.  “Which ain’t much,, lemme tell you…..”  In short, she is a really great client of mine.

During construction, when we could, we would walk from room to room, with very high ceilings, and incredible southern views, and she would say; “In this room, I would like to use it for reading, and an occaisional place for me to nap”.  In my attempt to further understand how she would use the room, and what might be most appropriate, she simply closed the subject with “That’s all, it’s just for that, no more.  Just do what you want in here, and if you can use the rocking chair that I have, it would be nice.”  I tried to press for even a sense of colour, and she said, “Brad, I have seen your work, you will do the right colour, you can put it together, let me see what you think, but I know I will love it.  Oh, but,  please don’t use Mauve and Grey.”   I said alright  –  and we went on.

In the next room, a guest bedroom, there was spectacular light, again the tall ceilings, and a wonderful corner of glass windows.  Again, it was pretty simple; “Just for my daughter to spend the night”.  “And you, when you come to stay”.   I half wondered if she was serious and half enjoying the idea of being able to create my own guest room, but I thought of her daughter first and asked about size of bed and other things. “I would like to have a queen sized bed, and if you are ok with it, I would prefer to avoid footboards on the beds.”  And that was it.  She had no more direction for me, except; “Brad, again, please do what you think best here, I trust you”.  “Oh,  but, please do not do Mauve and Grey.  I don’t like Mauve and Grey.”

I was already clear that we were not doing Mauve and Grey.  I get this.  Even I conjure up images of those 1950’s kitchens and baths gone horribly wrong.  But, instinctively I found this strange – and somewhat challenging.  I mean – I am a good designer, I know how to pair colours well.  But, hey – the client is always right most of the time.

We went into the main living room and open dining area.  Again, she was clear that I should do what I thought best.  She clarified that something a little dramatic would work in this room,, but “Really, just do what you want here.”  “I think you get the apartment by now. You will create something wonderful, I know.”  Oh, she said – “please don’t do Grey and Mauve, I really don’t like those colours.”   At this point I felt compelled to do what I love to – and ask a client to go with me “outside of their box” and see what we find.

I said “… you know Martha,,  Grey and Mauve never did anything to you!  I mean they are colours. Colours, in of themselves don’t go in or out of fashion.  WE make them go out of fashion.  But to Grey and Mauve – they are just colours.”   She looked at me right in the eye for a minute, with one of THOSE looks.  And then,, Um,,, like I said – the client is always right. 

We just were “not going to have Grey and Mauve” she said.  “Right.” I said.  It was a short but sweet trip outside that box!

Now, by the end of the project 7 months later,  we ended up doing the most beautiful collection of smoky blues, oyster, mother of pearl, alabaster wool carpeting, black lacquer, antique silver, and magnificent modern crystal and over- the- top silks.  You can imagine a very dramatic penthouse with the evening blue sky, and the rooms to match!

But, our story does not end there.  Just after we started Martha’s penthouse in earnest (she had just gone to settlement on her new sky-high home, and two days later, all kinds of drywall was being torn down, and scaffolding going up!  oh my!) all was going well.  I received a call, that we were invited to be part of a showhouse being done on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  “Of course!” I said.   We were very fortunate to be assigned the corner room looking out on the water.  With 12 foot ceilings, peeling plaster work all around, the room with its gothic windows and stained hardwoods was  desperate for a makeover.  The mood was so pervasive it was uncanny.  This house, this place, was calm. Peaceful.  And it struck me;  I am going to do a Grey and Mauve room!  Yep, I wanted the challenge, and I wanted to show Martha what it could be.  Now –  what would it actually be?  Well to conclude, let’s leave it at this –  the first choice I made for the room was the paint colour from Benjamin Moore for the trim was called “Calm” and after that, it seemed easy, the room came together quite magically. (and THAT is another story involving a $45,000 painting in a UHaul truck and being pulled over by the police!)

Below, the finished room shows you what can be realized, when we just start fresh with no preconceived ideas.  I admit this room has no reference at all to the 1950’s, and that’s just it.  Back then, that colour scheme was part of a fad, and like all fads/trends and splashy –  “this is today’s look” – and when there is this kind of promotion, it’s when we end up with unfortunate memories.   Nope,  for me,  Classic and timeless always gets it right.  The other designer’s rooms next to ours; Fiona Weeks’s (porch), Richard Keith Langham’s (study) and Kelley Proxmire’s (dining room) – all were classic, calming, and remarkable that they will always look good.  It’s nice when the rooms of a design house just come together that way.  And for Colour?  I will say; Mauve and Grey – been there done that! 


A man calls home.  The maid answers the phone, “Hello?”.   He says; “lemme talk to my wife”.  The maid says; “Um,  Um well, I can’t – she is upstairs in bed with the mailman!”    He says; “Again?? That’s it – I’ve had it.  Go in the hallway, and get the gun from the chest and go upstairs and shoot them both dead in the back.”

The maid says; “I can’t do that!!  It’s murder!”   He says; “I am a lawyer, I’ll get you off,,  Do what I say!”   So the maid puts down the phone.  She goes to the foyer and gets the gun.  She is shaking and goes upstairs, swings open the door, and BANG! ,,  BANG!! ,  She shoots them both dead.   She is freaking out.  She goes back down stairs, and picks up the phone.  She says; “Now what?”  He says; “Take the bodies. Drag them down the stairs, and take them out back, and throw them in the pool.”

She says “…What pool?”      He says; “…. is this   555-922-5495 ?????”

How light can affect colour in a room


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In discussing how color/colour works – and the influence of light with colour, I wanted to show you (as best I can) how some of all this looks in rooms with varied colour and light.

First; a primer on the light entering a room –

One of the first things a designer will do upon assessing a room, is to determine the quality of natural light.  What direction does it come from?  Is it filtered/diffused or is it direct and somewhat harsh?  As you now know from my earlier post – colour is so controlled by light, it’s one of the things a designer will want to control.  Ambient light can be a great thing, or it can be a troublesome thing!!  Here are some basics, but remember these are only general guidelines!!

Northern Light is usually a cool colour of light, and direct sunlight in your room might not be available (Unless you are are in the southern hemisphere, and then we need to think of your northern exposure as  lot of direct light!) For those of us in the Americas, it’s good to use warm colors such as red, yellow or orange in our decor to compensate for the coolness of the light. Blues or greens will make the room appear even colder.

Southern Light is warmer and the “temperature” (or Kelvins) measures more of what we think of “sunny” light.  These rooms will ask us for ways to control this light, and overall you can use darker colors in a room with a southern exposure. Blues and greens will “read” much warmer and “happier” in this kind of light. (see the Floridian rooms below!)

Eastern Light gives a room sunny mornings, but muted middays.  The morning light is a cooler light compared to the afternoon light, and the afternoon offers no direct light. In this case, I really consider carefully the time(s) of day this room is really being used,but overall, use a mix of warms and cools to balance out the daylight.

Western Light is by definition, afternoon light.  Beyond capturing direct light in the afternoon, the light later in the day can read warmer than morning light.  Golds and cream really blossom in this light so feel free to use neutrals in this room.  If this room is really being used during the morning – I would need to consider how to augment with other lighting to bring the colour harmony to the room.  I would tend not to use warm colors that will overpower the room in the afternoon.

Kelvins are used in the measurement of the “temperature” of light, and is a marker of the quality of light that I use most often.  More on this in a later post.

below; a room with a cooler, northern light. 

Incomparable Geoffrey Bradfield's elegance

above; note the use of grays here.  This would seem to fly in the face of the advice above, but here is where the talented eye of an interior designer can make it work by “breaking the rules” so to speak.

below; a room with warm sunny westerly light.

below; this room appears to already have had it’s morning sun via an eastern orientation..

I question the supplemental light planned for this room. Can you find the multiple sources of light added to the decor?

below; a room with full southern light. 

There are so many variables in working with light, as  you now know – experience can help you know which side of the box to “push out” so to speak.  The room above has a great deal of white, punched with strong colour.  This is successful only because of the temperature (Kelvins) and the orientation of the light.  The whites can appear warmer directly as result of that light.  But – what about night-time, when this ambient light is not available?  Interior lighting comes to the rescue with the very same principles in mind!

below; the stronger/ cooler  colours of this bath would work best in what kind of light?

above;  can you imagine this room in northern Massachusetts, facing north??  I can’t! 

below;  usually, you can just take your cues from mother nature –  she does a pretty good job if you ask me!!

below;  here is a home that would be REALLY TOUGH to light properly!! (I would still LOVE to create the mysterious and vapourous interiors of this building!)

Now, let’s up the ante – and discuss how to bend the rules a little.  We have noted already that with northern light, we might want to stay away from cooler colours, and keep to the red and gold colours to counteract the colour/kelvins of the light coming in.  What if we wanted to actually USE that colour of light to our advantage? 

below; I think the room below shows how lavender/lilac can actually deepen in hue if done this way.

Again, in the evening, it would be important to choose the interior lighting carefully. Would you place a flourescent bulb in this room? (it's a choice, for sure. Not mine, but a choice!)

  below; here is another example of using the existing cool colour of light coming in and how to amplify it.

below; I feel that this room shows a good “recipe” for proper lighting of a room.  Many times, the actual lighting might be used a bit more creatively, and concealed in a more sophisticated way.  As lighting fixtures are “jewelry” to a room, one should consider the look you want to achieve.  Here below, notice the hanging light fixture that throws a lot of ambient light,  the lamps with their shades give good general illumination, the wall sconces augment the work of the lamps, and places light at face level – eliminating shadows.  Not easily seen here, are the overhead pinspots used creatively and up-lamps positioned for effect when needed.  The overall balance of light is what is called for, and this room shows that well.

Remember; the decor is superfluous in this discussion. You might not like how the room is decorated, but you should find the room is lit properly!

below; is another well-lit room.  Notice the small lights within the bed for reading, the several different styles of lighting here.  This is shown with some daylight coming in, but can you try to see how well you think this room is lit at night?  Should a bedroom have overhead recessed lights?

Now, let’s talk about some rooms that have NO outside light at all, and rely just on interior lighting alone.  Does this happen?  Yes!    Can it work?   Yes!

above; oyster white and sepia tones are shown to effect because of the amount of lighting, and the use of the reflective floor surface – amplifying the amount of light.

below; in a similar fashion, I was asked to do a room in the corner of a basement.  There were NO windows at all.  Here is how we did it;    BELOW is the BEFORE IMAGE –


Taking up the old floor, framing to the far sides, the raw space almost ready for our features to be placed.

below, the finished room.


I normally would never use this much overhead spot lighting, but we arranged the ultra small halogens in a grid like stars, onto a ceiling plane with Benjamin Moore's "Platinum Pearlescent" sprayed to automobile finish on the ceiling.


above; adding reflective surfaces such as eglomise on the media cabinet and the mirrors placed behind shutters help amplify the light in what is essentially an underground room!

below; a room with warmer greens for a more northern light –

below;  a room that is lit at night.  What do you think of this “blue sofa” room?  How will the (apparent) lighting work in the evening? What do you think of this room?

just click "add a comment" at the top of the post to make your comment on this room

below; a room with apparent southern light, but mostly interior lighting.  How do you think this “white room” feel at night?

below; a room that has abundant daytime light.  Should this be filtered with sheers, woven shades? Can you determine what will light this room in the evening?  How well do you think it will be lit?

below; how would you describe the lighting plan for this San Francisco condo?  Is it well-lit in the evening?  What is “helping” the lighting along?  Do you think this is a well-lit room?

Take a look around your home.  Do you feel you have the best colours working with the available daylight?  Do you use the room during the day or the evening? Does your interior lighting plan contain enough sources of light, and is it balanced light?  Most importantly – is it the right colour/temperature of light? 

below;  if you have the choice, what kind of daylight would you decide upon, to show this beautiful painting?

Please post your comments by clicking the “add comment” button at the top of this post!

next – we will talk about Kelvins, and why they matter to you. (it’s easier than it sounds!)

What is light? What is colour?

Not everyone knows that colour and light go hand in hand.  I mean, on one hand, this seems to be obvious and we all nod in agreement when this is mentioned.  But, when I asked several people why one needs the other, the responses sort of, well,  they went dark so to speak. 

My Definition of Colour –  Is an individual’s perception of refracted light rays from a surface.  A fabric, a wall colour, a diamond, grass and sky,, all show us colour.  The way this happens is that the full spectrum of light falls upon the surface being viewed. Then in a unique way, the rays of light OTHER than the colour being considered are absorbed, and the light rays of the colour(s) are reflected/refracted back to the eye. 

This is remarkably over-simplified, and not a course on colour theory!   Notice my choice of words, and note this is only one of thousands of definitions of colour.  Mine is tailored to help explain this concept most easily to my clients.   Note my use of the word of perception.  The variables such as the colour of the ambient light, the individual’s fluency in naming colours and certainly the actual synaptic transactions in the retina and messages to the brain can all alter what we understand as colour.  Because the observer’s perception of color happens in the brain, it can be affected by changes in body chemistry.  If you are sick, tired, consumed alcohol,or any number of other factors, you will likely perceive color differently than you normally would.

We are all familiar with the refraction of light when projected through a prism.  Here are 2 familiar images below;

Notice, that with any display of colour, the spectrum will always go from the reds to the blues.  In the images below, notice the projection of light onto the ceiling, and the image of the rainbow – again showing light refraction from the reds to the blues.  This is only the visible light from the total electromagnetic spectrum.

Below, the graphic shows the breakdown of the refraction;

Above,  When wrapped into a circle, we know the “colour wheel” to be shown in the same gradients.

Notice, above, how small the portion of visible light is on the total electromagnetic scale!

Now, consider the colours below,  are we seeing the same colour, as we each look at these?

How many of the blues, above, have some gray in them?  Are there 4 or 5 blues shown?   How many are red, and how many are yellow?  I wouldn’t attempt to even answer this!!  Yikes! Note the HotCakes colour on the bottom most, center most.  Is this a green, or a yellow?  Would you call it gold?  For me, I would call this Chartreuse.  Not to be fancy, but you can see that in working with colour needs all the funny words we use!! 

Next post – we will look at the effect of light in spaces – you will see similar colours in different lights and decide what you would call it.

9/11. The Lights.


Ten years ago during the horrible tragedy, no one was thinking what would be or could ever be built again.  Today, 10 years later we are surrounded by the TV, print and online messages of reminder and reflection.  Indeed, we should remember.  But today, I was reminded of something more – something we all need in our ability to move on.  That is forgiveness.  I uplink this post at dusk, this September 11, 2011 in observance of the lights that will turn on any minute now in New York City.

The bright searchlights that beam upward from the site is (for me at least) our message to the world – that we are still here, we will come back with a vengeance.  It is a message to our lost loves – we connect with you still.  It is also a message, that there is hope. There is a future.  There is a future ability in our hearts and souls to love and trust again.  Somewhere in this journey to find hope again, there must be forgiveness.  Indeed it must.  For, by not forgiving, we stay in that moment.  We would be stuck.  By not forgiving we will live with some amount of hate, somewhere, that will cause that part of us to decay. 

The lights, known as “The Tribute of Light” is the personification of all these thoughts.  As much as I love light, and all things light, these beams of light contain the most meaning from any light. Among the many wonderful things I have seen in my life, they remain one of the most moving.

Below; This video created by F9 Photo in 2010 shows the lights, and also shows the magical effect created by the birds.  The birds love to fly in and out of the lights.  It is hypnotic and perhaps symbolic;  Live and play in the message and truth of the lights.  Notice the reflections and the effect of the bird’s swirling flight multiplied in the windows of nearby office towers.

Above;  newly constructed World Trade Center towers at dusk, before Battery Park City. · World Trade Center · New York, New York

Above; The extreme height seems best captured by this silhouette image of an almost surreal height.    Photo by Roman Staszewski


Above, with the towers and below, the towers gone.


True to our heritage,  our nation moves on, and again, the most poignant, dramatic and moving thing I have witnessed in a very long time, were, and are the huge searchlights beaming straight up into the sky from ground zero. The “Tribute in Light” art installation of 88 searchlights, is produced each year on the anniversary.  2011 has been announced as possibly the last year of this memorial being presented. The creative design team consists of architects John Bennett and Gustavo Bonevardi of PROUN Space Studio, artists Julian LaVerdiere and Paul Myoda, architect Richard Nash Gould, and lighting designer Paul Marantz.


At our Episcopal church today, Father Anthony Parker shared one of the most compelling sermons I have ever heard.  In reading below, if you find it better for you, his message can be less of a religious message,  to those who are not as aligned with a church, a religion, God or “A God” for that matter.

It doesn’t matter.  Forgiveness is as much about an interpersonal and self surviving act than anything else.  As Father Parker stated; “For NOT to forgive, is to still be there, to still worship at THAT altar.”  Who still wants to live there?  Remember, yes.  Live at that place? No.

 from book of Matthew 18.21 -35.    

Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord how often am I to forgive my brother if he goes on wronging me? As many as seven times?”  Jesus replied, “I do not say seven times but seventy times times seven.”  The Kingdom of Heaven, therefore, should be thought of in this way: There was once a king who decided to settle accounts with the men who served him.  At the outset, there appeared before him a man who owed ten thousand talents.  Since he had no means of paying, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife, his children and everything he had, to meet the debt.  The man fell at his master’s feet. “Be patient with  me,” he implored, “and I will pay you in full” ; and the master was so moved with pity that he let the man go and cancelled the debt.  But no sooner had the man gone out than he met a fellow-servant who owed him a hundred denarii; he took hold of him, seizing him by the throat, and said,  “Pay me what you owe.”  The man fell at his fellow-servant’s feet, and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you” ; but he refused, and had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt.  The other servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and told him the whole story.  The he sent for the man and said, “You scoundrel!  I cancelled the whole of your debt when you appealed to me; ought you not to have showed mercy to your fellow-servant just as I showed mercy to you?”  And so angry was the master that he condemned the man to be tortured until he should pay the debt in full.  That is how my heavenly Father will deal with you, unless you forgive your brother from your hearts.”

“Tribute in Light” is one of the most powerful and healing works of public art ever produced.  The majestic blue beams are presented annually by MAS, shining from dusk on September 11, through dawn the next day.  Visible within a sixty-mile radius on a clear night, Tribute has become a world-renowned icon of remembrance, honouring those who were lost, as well as those who worked so hard to get our city and nation through that terrible trial.

Above; NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 07: Lighting Designer Frank Hollenkamp uses his iPad to shoot video of the Tribute in Lights ahead of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on September 7, 2011 in New York City.

The Tribute in Light is composed of 88 1-degree beams of 7000 watt xenon searchlights focused into the sky near the site of the World Trade Center in remembrance of the September 11 attacks.  The illuminated memorial reaches 4 miles into the sky and is the strongest shaft of light ever projected from earth into the night sky.  (Photo by Andreas Gebhard/Getty Images)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Below; Watch the assembly of the tribute lights.

Around the world, people assume that the Tribute in Light is a permanent annual installation. But the reality is that the future of the lights is not guaranteed beyond September 11, 2011. Please support the Municipal Art Society’s efforts to keep the lights shining by making a generous donation online;   or by calling (212) 935-3960.

Alternatively, anyone with a cell phone can text the word “TRIBUTE” to the number 20222 to make a one-time donation of $10 towards the future of Tribute in Light.

Above; Photo by Thomas Huston c/o

Perhaps forgiveness will open the door to healing.  My life experience shows this to happen.  Perhaps forgiveness can keep that part of us from going dead. Perhaps, like the book of Matthew above, our act of forgiveness, will spur another act of forgiveness. 

Forgiveness is perhaps one of the most self-less  and  self-protecting things we will ever do. It is perhaps one of the most powerful things we can do.  For ourselves as well as for the person forgiven.  Truly, whomever your divine being may be, Forgiveness might be one of the greatest acts of Love done in the name of Him or Her.

Below; The open fountains of cascading water that are located on each of the original building’s footprints.   I see the massive open cavities, as this flowing and liquid moment – as a place to throw all of the hurt, pain and sorrow into.  This is a perfect place to allow the release of those feelings, to allow the possibility of forgiveness to begin. It is my hope that we all have an early oppourtunity to be at these fountains soon.

Below;   The lyrics begin with despair, and end with such brilliant hope and determination.  The heartbreaking and uplifting song “New York” by Alicia Keys;