Thursday, November 30, 2006

Individualized unique gifts up the ante

I'm planning on adding this crocodile to the list of gifts for those who have everything. The New York Times has several other suggestions this week as their "Holiday Shopper" feature joins numerous other sites in the holiday gift-guide fervor. The collection introduces several unique and eye-catching novelties that trump any World's Best Dad mug-and-tie combo several times over. As the Times explains, "NOBODY wants to give a predictable gift, but in an era when stores everywhere sell the same merchandise, it’s hard to avoid. As long as there are shoppers with imagination, though, there will be surprises in shops and on Web sites." The crocodile is available at Linda Horn antiques in two sizes: small crocs for $575 or $1250 for the larger ones. For those with more mammalian affinities, a horse-cum-lamp is available in black resin from Moooi. It's priced at $4100. Hay and oats and 100-watt bulb are extra. For those who are looking for a lower price point, consider the acupuncture model of a horse from Archie McPhee. Their offerings range from eccentric to unique to complete joke: wind-up leiderhosen, Swedish ear syringes, and latex vultures. Thanks to the internet, all your hardest-to-impress will be easy to shop for.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dallas gives good

Metroblogging Dallas (and the other Metroblogging sites) are doing a count-down this week of seven of each featured city's greatest gifts to the rest of the world. As the site explains it, "In the spirit of the abundant holiday gift giving that will be taking place over the next couple of months, all the Metroblogging cities are giving 7 gifts to the world throughout the week of NOV 26th - DEC 2."

The 7th gift from Dallas Metroblogging is Dallas, the series, followed by shopping malls at 6th (Dallas has more pre capita than any other US city) and the futuristic skyline at 5th.

A summary of the 'gifts' from each Metroblogging city is collected here. Outstanding items include John Philip Sousa, Blue Diamond almonds, Greenpeace, Chik-Fil-A, and the US Constitution. This is going to be an interesting assemblage and I'm probably going to learn a thing or two along the way (example: Karachi's W-11 bus is a kaleidoscope of sensations).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mark and Larry's Retirement Sale

Deep Ellum perennial Mark & Larry's Stuff has announced its closing. As Mark-Brian's theater and acting commitments have kicked up, the time available to run the store has dwindled down, and the store will close its last sale on December 23rd. Voted Best Gift Store in 2001 and Best Place to Buy Stuff You Don't Need in 2002 by the Dallas Observer, the store has offered a mixture of design pieces, jewelry, gifts and gags in two Deep Ellum locations for the past decade. They describe it as:
"This store specializes in 'Stuff.' We don't carry anything you need to have, but you sure do want it. Everything we buy has to make us go 'oooh' and 'wow'. We're both very picky. We try to keep our prices reasonable (80% of the store retails at $35 or less) but every now and then we find something that is so extraordinary that we must carry it....well, the 'stuff' we carry tends to be unique, most is not really mass produced, and therefore not as readily available. We carry an excess of 2,000 unique items for you to choose from, along with a vast card selection with well with over 1000 images. We highly recommend you come visit us!"
Right now, everything at the Deep Ellum landmark is at least 10% off, and a large selection of funky candles, bath products, Blenko glassware, cards and books is available.

Furniture Quality Reprised

Good Morning America has jumped on the consumer-protection bandwagon with their own expose on furniture quality, just a few months after Smart Money hammered on mid-price furniture outlets like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware (see my prior post). The GMA gumshoes examined several products: Martha Stewart's "dark cherry" K-Mart line accent table, Ashley Furniture's "horizon maple" nightstand and "brown cherry" desk, and World Market's "Taylor split cowhide" dining chair and found rampant use of laminated fiberboard, thin veneers and fake plastic 'all-leather' chairs. On the heels of the investigation, World Market posted an apology on their website and offered to replace the fake chairs with real leather versions.
Our initial findings revealed that some of the suspect Taylor chairs and ottomans supplied to Cost Plus World Market had been upholstered in a synthetic material. A majority of the dark brown Taylor dining chairs and ottomans are not affected by this issue.

Our customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to us. Therefore, we will replace any of the dark brown Taylor dining chairs and ottomans that were made of the synthetic material.
According to GMA, Ashley and K-mart were less apologetic about their marketing terminology. "Ashley said that the Glen Eagle secretary desk was simply a brown cherry color and that the phrase 'solidly constructed' did not mean solid wood, but rather referred to the stability and tight construction of the piece." This all goes to show that the buyer must beware in picking out furnishings and other items. If you're okay knowing that it's comfortable, then pay what you want for it, but don't be dazzled by the marketing lingo hyping the item's construction or materials until you've proved the content to yourself. Sites like the Consumerist track some deceptions, but heightened skepticism will be your best asset in shopping.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Shopping Suggestion WebTools

A short questionnaire--where you pick your favorite of sixteen images in several dimensions, including colors, activities, furnishings, and food--can lead to tailored suggestions for gift ideas at Imagini. Rather than tracing similar purchases or other ways of developing suggestions, this site uses the collection of pictures to summarize "how you feel and what you like across each area of your life."

My sample VisualDNA profile:

Friday, November 24, 2006

Modern Downtown Apartments

Two new apartment high-rise conversions are entering the downtown rental market featuring luxurious extras and conceirege services rather than the bare-bones urban loft aesthetic. With units from 700 square feet and monthly rents between $1250 and $9000, the buildings are laden with amenities that appeal to a discriminating crowd.

The 452-foot, 36-story Republic Bank Building at 300 North Ervay was built in 1954. The skyscraper, known for its signature spire, is the 21st tallest building in the city. It has been empty since 1995, but is nearing the completion of a $75 million renovation by the Gables corporation. The Republic Center plans to welcome its first occupants this January into 229 apartments and into newly-completed office and retail spaces. The building's features include a rooftop pool with coffee bar and sundeck, a business center and a fitness center. Individual units feature stainless appliances, granite counters, hardwood floors and custom cabinetry.

Union Tower Complex at 1509 Pacific was built in two stages: the Fidelity Union Life 21-story building in 1949 and the 33-story Fidelity Union Tower in 1959. Hamilton Properties Corporation bought the property in 20o4, and began a $100 million conversion of the property into the Mosaic, a complex of over 400 apartments and 20,000 square feet of ground floor shop and restaurant space. "These are not warehouse-style lofts," developer Ted Hamilton told the Dallas Morning News. "The interior finishes our residents are getting are more sophisticated. We've been able to prove that luxury projects work in downtown." Planned features at the Mosaic create a sense of "ultra-urban" luxury: a 120-foot zero-edge pool, and outdoor dive-in movie theater, wireless internet access, a poker/cigar room, and an 8th-floor dog park. Complimentary membership at Pulse, a "hip" fitness center, is included.

Additional details were provided this past January on the occasion of the groundbreaking and also in the Dallas News today. More projects are being tracked at

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ashes and Snow

How can you be anything but awed by images of humans interacting with wild animals. Gregory Colbert undertook a project that included capturing images of him swimming with elephants and manatees. The serene sepia tones of his photos and the film inspire wonder. There's nothing like having seen the exhibit in person (I saw it in New York last spring), but the atmosphere is captured in the images and music on the project's website. Prints, DVDs and CDs are available from the exhibition at the project's store.
Ashes and Snow was supported in part by the Flying Elephant Foundation, whose mission is "to reveal and celebrate the wonder of nature in all its forms. The Foundation awards Flying Elephants Fellowships to individuals from a broad range of disciplines in the arts and sciences who have demonstrated singular creativity, passion, integrity and leadership and whose work inspires a reverence for the natural world."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Leonard Street SkyLofts

Development in Downtown Dallas continues with the revelation of a new highrise residential addtion atop an existing 13-story parking garage. Bisno Development will create Sky Lofts at 717 Leonard Street. The project plans for approximately 202 condominiums (161,460 square feet of residential space) within less than half a mile of the Westin City Center and the Arts District construction including One Arts Plaza. The developers are investing over $43 million in the project, which is slated for completion by 2010. 10% of the residential units will be set aside as affordable or else the developers may opt to transfer the obligation at a cost of $20,000 per set-aside unit.

The architect is Steven Ehrlich, based in California.

Saladini crafted knives

These knives would never be accused of cluttering up even the most spartan modern countertops! Found in the NY Times:

"Tuscan Hills, a store in Princeton, N.J., that imports housewares from Italy, is the first retailer in the United States to carry the full line of knives from Saladini, a manufacturer in Scarperia, near Florence. Saladini’s hand-forged kitchen knives, corkscrews, flatware and cigar cutters have handles crafted from ox or buffalo horn or from Tuscan olive or boxwood. Custom pieces are available with deer horn, briarwood or bone handles. A five-piece set, above ($895), includes four knives and a carving fork, all with curved olive wood handles, stored in a block of olive wood. It would be a handsome splurge for the holiday cook."

Tuscan Hills, 342 Nassau Street, Princeton; (609) 921-9015;

Sunday, November 19, 2006

New Shopping Search Engine

I've been trying out a new site for shopping: presents your search with thumbnail pictures of the item with the prices lined up. Smart shopping seems a little easier to accomplish than using Froogle, PriceGrabber, or the other comparison sites I've used so far. I also think their "My Finds" list tracking is a good way to keep a wishlist going, and it's easy to share the picks with others in an e-mail.

Here's the site's "About Us" take:
"We developed a shopping search engine that delivers comprehensive lists of products and their corresponding images, ranked by the leading products, brands, stores and styles on the very first page of results. We call this technology our "Product Ranking Engine...Our patent-pending technology ranks the product results for your searches by the most relevant and market-leading products, brands, stores and styles for your search. These rankings can never be bought or sold. So you can feel comfortable knowing that you are covering a ton of ground in just one search."

Unbiased and fast search results? Let's go!

Central Texas Modern Side Tables

Through Crib Candy's wists, I found a few eye-catching pieces from Motif Modern Living. The furniture store, whose motto is "modern style. modest price", is south of Austin not far from the San Marcos outlet mall and offers a variety of contemporary and modern furniture. This Metro Nightstand ($219) has "an oak veneer with a charcoal roll-coat lacquer finish....The smoked glass top gives a sophisticated and elegant look. Features dual surfaces and a drawer for convenient storage, board-on-frame construction, and tapered die-cast metal handles."

Similar designs--the Low Platform Side Table ($229) and the Niche Door Side Table ($169)--are available through the internet shop at West Elm.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Local E-Bay fab finds

Ligne Roset sofa (in Dallas). 3 years old, in blue ultrasuede according to the seller's description. The current bid is $500, with reserve not yet met. 3 days more on the auction. (Also, the Ligne Roset sample sale I mentioned before is continuing all month).

Mid-century Danish Modern dining room set (in Arlington). 1960s with original upholstery. The current bid is $499.99 with no reserve specified. 2 days more on the auction.

Art Conspiracy

I'm not sure what it is about artists and crime-themed benefits. First the Art Heist (see prior entry) and now the Art Conspiracy. December 1st marks the second annual fundraiser event at the Longhorn Ballroom.

For at $10 admission price, one can enjoy the works of local artists and 6 featured bands (The Happy Bullets, Fishboy, Salim Nourallah, John Holiday, and Peter Schmidt and His Gentlemen Scholars) while benefitting La Reunion, an artists' residency program in Oak Cliff. There will be an auction of the original art pieces while the bands rock the historic Longhorn Ballroom (see details).

Where does the artwork come from? At 7 a.m. November 30th, 150 empty canvases will be placed throughout the historic Longhorn Ballroom. Dallas artists will take shifts filling as many of the canvases as possible in a 24 hour period. At 7 p.m. December 1st, 2006, doors will open to the public and pieces will be auctioned off with starting prices of $20 per canvas. The event was staged for the first time last year. 850 people attended and the auction of 100 canvases raised more than $10,000 for The Children's Health Fund. The Conspiracy has additional details of the event on their MySpace page.

Renovated Modern: Lake Cliff Tower

The twelve-story Lake Cliff Tower at the corner of Zang and Colorado has undergone a momentous renovation. The 1930s-era landmark has evolved from glamourous hotel to apartments to old folks' home to hip loft condominium. Sitting atop the Zang Boulevard hill and just down the street from the Trinity Townhomes project I blogged about earlier, the 60 units--one or two bedrooms, ranging in price from $189K to $600K-- command spectacular views of downtown and of surrounding Oak Cliff parks. The first units are starting to close after over 18 months of construction, which was strewn with challenges. "It has been a very long and arduous process to preserve the exterior and renovate the interior," developer Stephen Everbach told the Dallas Morning News. "It's taken a little longer than anticipated. The complexities of dealing with a structure that is 75 years old are endless, and so are all the surprises one uncovers when renovating a building like this." A mixed-use development is slated to be built across Zang from the building and will house a fitness center among other businesses.

A recent Cliff Dweller article shares a sneak-peek at the new project and its inhabitants. The project aimed to "marry luxury, history, and style" by embracing the classic design of the building and melding in the open, clean lines of concrete floors, stainless appliances, and exposed beam ceilings. The Dallas Morning News featured the property and highlights celebrity occupants like former Dallas Cowboy Jethro Pugh, who appreciated the unique surroundings. "I decided to buy it because of the Trinity River and the trees and everything around there."

"There's been a lot of excitement, and now that it's about to open, we expect even more interest," selling agent Keith Cox to the DMN. "Obviously, we're not for everybody. But for those people who want loft living, this is much more affordable than some of the new construction going up in Uptown or Oak Lawn. And nobody can beat our views."

Monday, November 13, 2006

More Eye-catching lighting

Elizabeth Hertzfeld's Remake light magnet ($349 for four modules) is designed to reconfigure in many ways, and one switch can power up to twelve modules. The versatility of being able to "remake, decompose, and recompose the light according to your mood" adds interactive dynamism.

The Slide light ($189) by Sam & Jude is customizable by adding personal slide images. Changing the slides adds variety. For those without slides, Generate can provide slide sets to accompany the light. The personalization of a slide set with somebody else's slides is a new sort of modern irony, no? The light is also directly available from SuckUK ($200)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

By Design in Arlington

While their website is bare bones, their online listing of furniture distributors offers some temptation. Distinguished as one of the only Texas dealers of Bo Concept furniture, By Design also carries several other lines of modern furniture, much of it inspired by the design classics. I'm going to have to check them out, since they seem to fly under the internet radar. This configuration of Bo Concept's Indvi sofa is priced at $2449, a little more attainable than the $6500 price-tag on B&B Italia's Arne sofa. Comfort testing results are pending.

2160 N. Collins
Arlington, TX 76011
Phone: 817-261-2800
Mon-Fri: 10-7; Sat: 10-6

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Furniture Finds: $200 edition

Danish Koford Larsen chair ($200)

Knoll-style cube chairs ($200)

Antique O'Keefe & Merritt gas stove ($200)

Two IKEA chair and ottoman sets ($200)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Goods to Go' Benefit Sample Sale

Borrowed from the Frontburner blog....
Holiday shopping or need a new rug for your home? The Dallas Market Center will host Goods to Go this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Market Hall. Translation: current designer goods at wholesale prices.

The sale will feature over 300 booths and offers the public merchandise including apparel, toys, gifts, home d├ęcor and jewelry -- all at wholesale savings. Admission to the sale is $8.00 and is valid for all three days. Hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Noon – 5 p.m. Sunday. Added bonus: a portion of the proceeds from Goods to Go will benefit Gift for Life and DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS). Shop for less and do some good. Sounds good to us.

The official press release is here, and the ad is here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

SCIN Fringe Light

When a new online design shop based in London opened this week (with announcements to numerous blogs to herald the launch), I had to check it out. Rockett St George has a mix of accessories and furnishings, but one of the best finds is a fabulous ceiling fixture from SCIN.

The Fringe Pendant Light (approx $250) comes with rods in single colors or with interchangable colored rods. SCIN is a design firm founded by architects who also have an online shop and a storefront in London (and coincidentally their lamp is priced much lower than Rockett's approx $500). It's also shown up on Crib Candy and a few other sites...truly an eye-catching fixture.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ligne Roset + Sample Sale = Nirvana

Thanks to a short post on Dallas Shopping Blog, I was drawn to visiting the Ligne Roset store in the Design District in search of super style at a discount. If there's one thing better than fabulous lines, it's finding them at a nice price. What can I say, I love getting something I love at a bargain! The Hi-Line drive store, which opened five years ago as one of the first design stores open to the public (the other Dallas location is on McKinney at Knox, see prior post), is spacious and full of fabulous sleek arrangements. There were several discounted pieces, including a fab gray Feng couch and matching daybed, a super chocolate-brown ultrasuede sectional, rugs and several occasional chairs. Resident kitty Vito had staked out on of the best chairs for himself, showing off just how comfortable European modern can be.

Alexa Grossman, owner of both local Ligne Roset stores, is one of the coolest furniture mavens I've met. She's knowledgable, savvy about high-end modern furniture (with numerous family members and friends in the business, she started learning the trade in her teens) and not one to hold back on her opinions. Her most important advice, getting good style that fits your personal taste is worth the wait of custom order, on sale or not. Designer furniture is an investment, she says, and prorating the purchase over several credit cycles can make the hippest furnishings available to folks without a large designer budget.

The sample sale wraps up soon, but Alex promises another one in the spring, and then probably only an annual spring sale after that.