Friday, April 29, 2011

The Bronx Blooms

Thursday night my partner John, a professional horticulturist, and I were invited by his employers, Adam Rose and Peter McQuillan, to attend the annual plant-sale fundraiser at the New York Botanical Garden.

It is a great party in a beautiful setting. If one is open to beauty there is no better place to find it than in the garden. Unlike the design world, which for the most part is static and unchanging, much of the magic in a garden comes from transition, and early spring at NYBG is a time of great anticipation, spring buds are popping and the whole summer lays ahead.

A few celebrities were in attendance including Martha Stewart and Sigorney Weaver, which is always fun, but the stars of the garden were the plants. The plant sale is a feeding frenzy, with NYBG patrons snapping up all of the fine specimen plants to benefit the Garden. Almost everything was gone before I arrived, but we somehow managed to invest in six new blueberry bushes.

We also took a walk through the new Azalea Garden.

We ran into our friend Tony Bielaczyc, the Deputy Garden Editor at Martha Stewart Magazine and host of Homegrown on Sirius radio (on left), with Kristin Schleiter, the Curator of Outdoor Gardens, and Tony's partner Kevin.

Gregory Long, the NYBG President, and John.

In addition to the plant sale, the Antiques Garden Furniture Show which is on this weekend is open for a preview at the party. My favorite piece was this rusty fountain head from R.T. Facts in Kent CT.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I spent most of the day yesterday in Philadelphia. I have been watching John Adams, so I have a renewed appreciation for the birthplace of our democracy, but yesterday was all about design and family.

Hillary Jay, Mistress of all things Design and Philadelphia teaches a class called Innovation and Entrepreneurship at University of the Arts and she invited Elizabeth Lawson, the Commercial Marketing Manager at Dupont Building Innovations and myself to speak in tandem about the creation of the Corian Design Studio in Philadelphia. We held the talk in the Design Studio.

I am most often asked to present my work alone, but presenting with clients can provide a great perspective on the collaborative process. A couple of years ago Material Connexion asked me to present with Chris Hacker from J&J and we spoke to an over-capacity crowd. The end result, the design, is of course the focus for most people, but the process by which it comes about is often very engaging. The client-designer, call-and-response narrative makes for a compelling presentation. I keep thinking there is a TV show in there somewhere!

Yesterday the students learned that in addition to being a great problem solver, and a personal creative expression, design can be used strategically to narrate a brand story. Corian is a client that understands the power of design, and the Corian Design Studio in Philadelphia demonstrates this by example - great design meets a great material and great things happen. Everyone should visit. It is also a great example of how Harry Allen Design partners with corporations to give form to a brand narrative.

Here I am with Hilary Jay and Elizabeth Lawson (seated).

And then I was off for dinner with my brother Hale and his family. We met at the Palomar Hotel because someone had spotted a variety of my REALITY products used as decoration. Sure enough, Roller Stop was featured prominently in the lobby - basically as sculpture.

After dinner my niece, Alba, posed with Uncle Harry's gold Banana Bowl.

Friday, April 22, 2011

NYSD Time capsule

A few summers ago, I was interviewed by New York Social Diary in my East Village apartment and studio. I didn't blog yet so I did not share this. It still lives on their web site and is a nice time capsule. The apartment is newly renovated so much has changed.

Read the full interview here

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pratt/Umbra Competition

On Monday I judged the Pratt/Umbra design competition out in Brooklyn. Pratt is my Alma Mater so the smell of plasticine and sleepless nights that permeates the halls makes me nostalgic.

This is the 7th year of the competition, and I have judged it three or four times over the years. It is always interesting and rewarding, and some of the winning designs have gone into the Umbra product line earning money for the winning students and Pratt alike.

My fellow judges included (from L to R) Maxwell from Apartment Therapy, Debera Johnson who was my rendering teacher back in the day and now heads up the Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation, Dan Rubinstein the Editor of Surface Magazine, and Matt Carr, the design director from Umbra.

We picked five finalists from this group of eager students. The winners will be announced around ICFF Time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 5 Salone

Sorry, missed a beat. Getting out of Milano was exhausting. My first stop on my last day was Artek, showing at the Gio Marconi Gallery. I had an I-wish-I-had-thought-of-that moment with this simple roof-shaped fixture by Ville Kokkonen.

Then I hooked up with my partner in crime Tanja Solci to tour around the Tortona Area. Tanja bought one of these cute little tables, with a Lego block design on the top.

The Nendo black-line furniture looked great at Capellini.

I spotted our Metropolitan vases used as accessories in Cassina.

Tried to buy these etch votive holders at the Tom Dixon store, but they were sold out.

We then headed over to Rossana Orlandi Gallery for a second look. The place had a festive vibe on Saturday afternoon. Rossana serves food in the courtyard and it is a gathering place for designers. Tanja and Rossana had a lot to talk about. I just stood and nodded in agreement.

To close the deal, a group of friends and I attended Barnaba Fornasetti's party in his family home and studio. It is a legendary party that takes place in and around the courtyard. And for those of you who do not know about Fornasetti, take a look at the web site

Here Barnaba makes and appearance (in hat), before he went upstairs to DJ.

Theo Williams, the design director at Habitat and an old friend, his lovely partner Ingrid, and Nigel Coates in the yellow hallway.

The house is incredible. Every surface is decorated in classic Fornasetti prints and patterns. And it is a real testament to the power of design to enrich one's life. My pictures do not do it justice. Here is the studio...

... a hand-painted door ...

... a vignette tiles and glassware in the bathroom ...

... and the wall of mirrors in the living room ...

In addition to being a magical and inspiring house, it is well-lived in. There is no better way to enjoy a home than to invite others into it. And Barnaba is a great host, he started DJing and the guests moved upstairs into the library and really got their groove on.

On the dance floor I kept getting messages from Continental about my plane delay the next day. With every text, 10:20, 10:54, 11:34, 12:52, to 2:44, I had another drink and danced some more.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 4 Salone

Things are calming down in Milano. I cannot wait to go home on Sunday. Here are some of my favorite things from today.

MGX lighting, made by 3D printing, which allows for some otherwise un-manufacturable forms.

The full on commitment companies make to their booths.

Emeco's timeless Navy chair now made recycled plastic - even though I might rather see a new design represent the new technology.

These beauties at Casamania - made from old clothes.

Our own "Birds on Wire" coat rack.

This furry Campana Brothers chair - it made me realize how much I like their work, and how much I miss Ben, my Basset Hound.

Konstantine Grcic's smart new chair for Vitra.

Zaha Hadid's shelving system for Magis.

The artist as art - Bethan Laura Wood with her glass lamps.

Martino Gamper's shelving unit.

The puntarella that made our salad at dinner.

The Porcini that went into our pasta.

Day 3 Salone

I stayed in town, had a few meetings in the morning, and then headed out in the afternoon with my friends Fabio and Luigi from Dovetusai to see the Interni Magazine coordinated show at the University. It is a classic Milano setting in the courtyards of a very old building. Interni pairs designers with manufacturers to produce large scale installations. This year it centers around the theme of Mutant Architecture and Design.

Lighting designer, Ingo Maurer, presented Ablaze, a house on fire. It was a mind-blower. Outside it was tarred black, and inside it featured a mirrored pendulum swinging in a brightly lit, colored environment. The effect was surreal. From time to time it spewed smoke and I am not sure what it all meant, but it was amazing.

In the next courtyard was this construction by Gwenael Nicolas. It surrounded an old ruin and the large plastic whips swayed in the breeze. It was very striking this afternoon, but I think all of the installations would have been nicer lit up at night, so I might try to go back.

Then I joined my friend Gaye Cevikel, owner of Gaia & Gino, for a couple of events in the center of town. The Wallpaper installation, Handmade, was remarkable but not so photogenic. Then Gaye and I went to another Wallpaper reception at the Alexander McQueen store for a presentation of his rugs - apparently the last project he worked on. The textiles on display were beautiful, and we ran into famous Memphis (the design movement, not the town) architect and designer, Mateo Thun.

After a cocktail at the Four Seasons I left Gaye to meet up with my friend Melissa Feldman to Rossana Orlandi Gallery where we saw this amazing installation of ceramic Scarabs by RaR for Thomas Eyck.

At Salone you bump into the rest of the design world. While at the gallery I met Nasir Kassamali, one of the great retailers of design in the USA, Teruro Kurosaki, one of the legends of Japanese design and culture, and Tanja Solci, the Italian PR empress. Tanja's the one with the pink nails.

This amazing pipe bench by Piet Hein Eck makes it onto my top ten list.

These are not new, but I love them. Cast doll part bowls by the Campana brothers for French ceramic manufacturer, Bernardaud.

The last show of the day was the second half of Li Edelkoorts Talking Textiles. The whole thing was great, by far the best curated show of the Salone. I particularly loved this tablecloth (sorry didn't get the designer's name) ...

... this Campana brother's rug featuring little dolls sunbathing on the grass ...

... and these strapped together chairs ...

After dinner with the women from the Cooper Hewitt Museum. It is a design marathon. I closed the night at Bar Basso, the late night destination of all designers.

Below Brazilian designer, Brunno Jahara, who will be showing with me during the ICFF, chats with David Weeks, NYC designer extraordinaire. I don't often go out drinking anymore, but this is like old home week, and the jetlag helps. I ran into designers Marre Morel, Ian Stallard and Patrik Fredrikson, and Joe Doucet. The journalists Sam Grawe and Hanna Nova Beatrice were also in attendance, and the list of boldface design names goes on and on. You cant swing a bat at this place without hitting someone incredibly talented, proving once again that the design community really knows how to party. I didn't stay long.