The Art of Food Plating

I am a so so cook but there is nothing more appealing to me than a well composed plate of food. This post is dedicated to the many ways well known cooks present a dish. I’d leave the cooking technique to other’s posts. First, we get to feast with our eyes and then surrender ourselves to our visual senses. These are dishes that have me at hello. With my tendency to make list and sort things to categories, I will try to do the same with this art.

The Zen composition.



d0f54c549c839ffe674ce18d43e21c3cBrushstrokes of sauce, spare use of colors in food.

The tower – piling ingredients, one on top of another.







fc4dc604d652a567e99ccebd105cd72bAlways top the tower off with something eye catching!

Some food just want to be the lone island.





The spring garden- gather a concoction of greens and bright colors.










Food Trinity. The foodman always rings thrice.






f4a0bc9e6d60f746f7564f59719db3deTrios are never de trop. The first bite surprises, the second confirms and the third is savored.

Slices– They stack, they layer, they fan out.










965ba004b2744d4003b9ca825504a324Sliced them thin, mix them  up, roll them up, pile them on…

Triffle style presentation. Use  nicely shaped glassware and voila.


Hangar-7; Smart Food; Smart Drink





Pure geometric shapes serve well as focal points. Cubes, egg shapes, cylinders, spheres…












Parallel lines – A nice graphic trick.





Swirls, twigs, tuiles, curls, foam and spun sugar. This is how to pop a top.









Artful dishware will always do the trick.18f8b7a2d5a88316ab095c54c38620a6





Are we hungry yet? Don’t bother trying these at home…






4cbfa1a6a39c299f33a57e60e99586edSometimes, a limited palette of colors can do more for the eyes.

And finally, my version of heaven…

2a63b77da8da8bdfb8699d830b2bc3a3Foie gras Cotton Candy.  Sigh sigh sigh…

Click on photos for source


Ranging over Greige Kitchens

Greys, greige and grays seem to be everywhere nowadays.  Grey kitchens seem to be the rage as well.  How to do a great grey kitchen that would look enticing and not dull?  Cool grey or warm grey? Would that work in any style of kitchen?  The answers to these questions are this post’s tackle.

Rustic Kitchens lend themselves so beautifully to grey tones. These can be achieved in the wood of the cabinet, the concrete of the countertops, or the plaster of the walls enhanced by all the nuances and shades of greys. The key is to provide some contrast or accent amongst the sea of grey cabinets. It’s a feat to pull it off with just greys.

5288c6332b534637e86d9e2b25c38091Warm greyed wood made even warmer by the use of stained wood.

english-thumbLight cool grey and white accented by a dark grey countertop.

b5920c636a4ade88b6747218feb4463bChalky grey all throughout.

ca670ff77055d26403c3901fc07c94c0Warm grey with a little blue accent at the range’s backsplash.

3448fec678d6ae6e36baa6b7862f41a0Dark grey wood cabinet accented with white marble countertops.

92a80ffd135f876c559e4a07ed091492Dark greyed wood with copper accents.

Modern Rustic Kitchens– This trend is responsible for the latest grey craze.  An entire post should be dedicated to modern rustic kitchens- so wabi sabi- the contrast between simple lines and roughened wood textured results in such an alluring play of materials for a kitchen. What I would do to get one of these projects. I am particularly drawn to the simplicity offered by flush cabinet doors with only textures for demarcation-  to design kitchens by just textures and moods.  What fun!





Modern Kitchens- Flush cabinets, open shelves, slick appliances, cool light fixtures. What’s not to like?







Traditional  Kitchens– White kitchens are still the more popular choice but a touch of grey here and there has begun to infiltrate the all white cabinetry.





Industrial Kitchens– Here is another trend where grey is right at home. Grey in the stainless steel finish, dark grey metal finish, weathered grey wood and grey floors.





Material Use – Grey in  wood cabinets is the most obvious solution to achieve a grey kitchen. Some of these woods receive a lime wash. Some others get tannic acid and ferrous sulfate wash.  Some got a dose of bleach or lye water.




Grey painted cabinet will do when showing wood grain is not important.


Grey in concrete work and countertops.


rough lux kitchen2

Grey in backsplash and or walls





Grey in flooring.




Kitchen designs that come together well don’t follow any specific set of rules. They dwell in the clever use of materials, colors and details. Spatial qualities also come into play.




b989a51f4e3bfcf26a719701fc318327An understated design eliciting more oohs and ahs than an elaborate kitchen.

And then there is the kitchen I designed for a very dear client.  Any takers for the next grey kitchen in the Bay Area?

Donato kitchen 183

SOFA Chicago 2013 Notes

I had an eye opening experience at the SOFA (Sculpture Objects Functional Arts & Design) exposition in Chicago the first weekend of November.  My first time at this world’s foremost fair for art objects was beyond any expectations I had.  My focus for this post is mainly on the somewhat functional objects such as vases, vessels, cubes and spheres  etc…

In my humble opinion, the most lyrical group of work  had to be works in ceramics while the most delicate intricacies were found in wood turning art and the most intriguing works lay in art glass objects.  I had a blast zigzagging through the exhibits and found myself tremendously energized as the first day at art school being surrounded by the wonders of  much gifted artists and their arts. There I was, a novice in this world of art objects, enthralled by their art forms, curious of their techniques and most of all at awe by the purity and singularity of thoughts that went through in their making.

Ceramic Works –

Ceramic and porcelain works excel in their inherent wabi sabi nature- the perfection is found in the elegance of the shapes and the beauteous imperfection graces in the lines, textures, and glazes.

Dutch Ceramicist Henk Wolvers produced paper thin porcelain bowls and cups. The fragility of the pieces was even more pronounced when they were perforated. I wondered if the pieces would dissolve if I touched them.

henk4Swiss artist Arnold Annen had his own touch of thin porcelain by giving it a translucency with moon like allure.


I have always been a fan of Jun Kaneko and was thrilled to see more colors in his recent works.


Carved clay vessels by Halima Cassell exuded an earthiness quality that’s unsettling at the same time.


Elizabeth Fritsch’s vessels defining elegance in elongated necklines.
Elizabeth Fritschturquoise450Texture and luxury in one scoop. Takeshi Yasuda juxtaposed subtle celadon with vibrant gold.

celadon and gold bowl 3

Patricia Shone gave us earthy textures with her raku fired pieces.


Wood Turned Art-

Wood turned art has reached a zenith with artful combinations of techniques and visions – a long way from the Egyptian wood lathe.  In these art objects, I detected  more the level of control and precision when much of the art involved subtraction rather than building. The play is in understanding the wood species, the grains and textures and the wonder is in the geometric exercises conjured by the most creative minds.

J Paul Fennell managed to make organic shapes mysterious.


Christian Burchard defined ethereal with his white baskets made of bleached madrone burl wood.


Philip Moulthrop engaged us with mosaic turned wood bowls.


Ron Layton created thin vessels of lace like repetitive motifs.


The artist with the most appropriate last name – Neil Turner used carving and wood turning techniques to achieve an eerie skeletal mesh sculpture.


Artist Binh Pho gave us the most intense intricacies with his turned and sculpted vessels. The forever consummate artist chronicled his life journeys,  mythical dream places and tales through precision in the cut work and transience in the fragilities of his art pieces.


Glass Works –

In this field, one saw an explosion of colors and layering. The wonder never ceased with the creativity among the artists being so relentless in their pursuit of poetry in art forms.

Keith Clayton’s pate de verre pieces were a hit.


Glass artist Wilfried Grootens amazed us with optical glass that were painted, laminated and out of this world.


Niyoko Ikuta wowed us with spiraling sheets of glass of such ethereal beauty, the pieces seemed ready to take flight.


Argentinian artist Edgardo De Bortoli’s cube were meshed like glass with a side “peeled” out.


Masaaki Yonemoto’s architectural pieces were of cut and polished sheet glass that mirrored themselves.


If laboratories have specimen jars like Steffen Dam’s work, the world would have more scientists than any other professions.


Streetscape dioramas by Mikyoung Jung brought smiles to all audiences and voyeurism to a delight.


The Italian maestro of glass Lino Tagliapietra hypnotized us with swirls of colors in the most sensual shapes.


Midori Tsukada combined glass casting, blowing and cutting techniques and came up with grace in texture and layering.


Kiln casted glass “blocks” by Hyewook Huh took advantage of the glass translucency to show off depths.


Good old hand blown glass never looked better in the hands of Australian glass artist Noel Hart. I have lived too long in urban areas and couldn’t fathom that the inspiration of his works comes from birds’ plummage. Maybe a trip to the Marquesas Islands is on order.


The Ensemble –

There were many other mediums such as metals, jewelry art, painting, sculptures that I didn’t cover in this post. It was one thing to gaze at an object of beauty. It was quite another experience when one got the thrill of being in a hall full of these objects or seeing the work of one artist en masse. The analogy of being a kid in a candy store didn’t even come close. It was like having all of our senses being confronted, challenged and questioned in a most wondrous way. I got lost in that hall of Wonderland and was pleasantly assaulted by a buzzing energy that could only have come from the all that’s good and beautiful in the human mind.

5632 Arnold Annen

5632 bowlsIMG_5638IMG_5640IMG_5643IMG_5650IMG_5651IMG_5655IMG_5660IMG_5663IMG_5665IMG_5668IMG_5670

I anxiously await to see how the artists’ work will evolve in a year’s time. See you next year!


Grounds for Coffee Tables

Against competing features such as  the fireplace, the large heirloom painting, and a view beyond, the coffee table serves to refocus our attention to the center of the living room. By size, it’s also among the more diminutive must have items in the room. It is also surrounded by taller furniture such as the sofa and the armchairs or even the side tables and yet, such a piece occupies the center of the seating group, the center of conversations and could very well display the center floral arrangement or the conversation piece coffee table books.   It’s ironic that such a tremendous position is given to a “lowly” object.

The term “coffee table” might have made its first debut around 1868 in “Victorian Furniture” by R. W. Symonds and B. B. Whineray and in “The Country Life Book of English Furniture” by Edward T. Joy.  These forefathers of the modern day coffee table were probably taller to really serve tea and coffee at a height more suitable for straight back, prim and proper ladies.  Lower coffee tables probably came forth with the influence of Japanese low tables.


Most famous architects had at one time in their career designed coffee tables to adorn their projects.

The 50’s gave us quite an array of classic coffee tables.

Noguchi table




Modern day designers and architects came up with their fair share of coffee tables.





A cursory browse at popular web sites and magazines gave me clues of today’s trends in coffee tables.  The rage is all on the raw wood look championed by Restoration Hardware.




Then there is the live edge slab tables.  Nothing like letting nature do all the talking.  I myself would breathe out various sighing curse words in various forms of inappropriateness every time I see one of these tables.




There is nothing wrong with wanting a wood table.  Wood coffee tables can be quite sculptural and beautiful.



The glass coffee tables never went away.  There is the seamless modern glass table that is so versatile and there are others that takes on the  more classic motifs and shapes.




One doesn’t mention glass coffee tables without mentioning their distant cousins, the lucite tables. They can be quite attractive, definitely higher than the rank of a poor relation.



Glass and lucite… What come next are mirrored tables. I prefer the antiqued silver finish for mirrored tables.





Lacquer finishes on coffee table often exude elegance. Let’s hope the finish is durable enough to avoid scratches.



Stone tops are sturdy and add a cool touch to the room.  Most of the stones used behave well as neutral colors such as White Carrera, Calacata Oro or Asher Grey  with the occasional greyish lines.  Greige is so in right now. For warmer climes, travertine and Crema Marfil are the thing to go to.





For a more casual look, rattan or woven natural materials are used.




The industrial look is not far behind among the hotties. The coffee tables come with greige woods, metal legs, casters and mechanical fasteners.  I love this look especially when the tables are equipped with wheels. I get under the illusion that I can move them somewhere else when I decide to clear the living room for such things as dancing…



Chinoiserie is quite timeless when used sparingly.



One should also list the proverbial tray table. How appropriate it is to serve tea or coffee on a tray table! These tray tables come in all the styles and types mentioned in this post.







The ottoman coffee table. What a concept. The ottoman gives us the option of putting our feet up and getting even more comfortable. If coffee or tea is served, we just have to add a tray on top of it.







Coffee tables double serving as storage are great for the efficient minds. This is where trunk coffee tables work best.  We see wood chests, storage trunks, and travelling trunks. The travelling trunks fuel our imagination with exotic souvenirs being kept inside the trunks.




I see the coffee table as a calm island amidst a sea of tumultuous beauties – a couch begging us to lounge and stretch our legs, the side tables with the pretty lamps, the rug that spreads warmth throughout the room and the armchair that offers cozying up.  The coffee table is where I would anchor the room.  For that reason, I like it to be of a simple – no fuss swooping gesture.  I like my coffee tables bold, to the point and unique in its statement.  Below are some of my favorites.

The half logs.


Oval coffee tables are the epitome of grace.


A modern metal tray table.


A marble top table with walnut base.


The most beautiful are usually the purest in form.50a0b781cde1e4997e4d2a4e6c6146aa

The lacquer table in the simplest form.


Last but not least.  Splurge and don’t feel guilty: pure silver on reclaimed timber.  Have some tea on this piece de resistance and wonder about the dichotomy between luxury and recycling…


Click on photos for sources.


Name that Greige

Greige and grey and their derivative taupe are so fashionable these days.  I had posted “Greige is the New Beige” post some time ago and thought to complement it with a look at the application of colors for the effect of Greige rooms.  We can browse the paint fan decks and can see quite a few options from which to choose our paint colors.  The new questions seem to be which greige?  Is there an answer to that simple question?  How does one go to choose a greige to answer all greige questions?

As the color specifier to all my projects, I do have a few favorites.  Do I start naming them and be done with? Or do I attempt an entire post dedicated to the selection process?

To be careful, I should also have a disclaimer: the beauty of colors is in the eye of the occupants and in the light of the room it graces.

I sometimes wish I have outfits of the same color I love for a room. It is a rare occurrence since fashion moves with seasons and I, for one, cannot keep up with fashion’s capricious muse. I looked up Design Options, an LA based color forecasting company, and found that the company packages color palette cheat sheets and sells them.  Wow.  I wonder who buys these.  How effective are the cards made for home design trends? I must admit I like some of the color cards that they put together.


I found a site that explains the mix of colors that can be found in greige colors.  I must say my ideas of greige might not meet the correct mix of colors but then some eyes see more colors than others’…

greige mix

I went to Benjamin Moore’s color trends. They seem more relevant as a more precise color guide.  They also give us the actual names of the paint colors which takes all the guesses away from our constant search for the perfect color.  For 2013 color trends, I especially like the “Urbanite” trend’s “Sparrow” color and from the most searched Benjamin Moore colors, I am drawn to “Ranchwood”.



I found these Benjamin Moore greys as the more popular greys from their best sellers colors:

f092f33273c5c0b1d127b003360f96a0Muslin Gray

Since Benjamin Moore came out with Color Stories, I have never chosen colors without first consulting that CSP fan deck.

My favorite greige colors are Cathedral Gray, Gothic Arch and Urban Sophisticate.

csp 205 Cathedral Gray

Gothic Arch  CSP 80

Urban Sophisticate CSP 160

Let’s not forget the most ingeniously named paint color: Farrow and Ball’s Elephant’s Breath!

Elephant's Breath

The Color Association gave us “Urban Grit” for 2011-2012 interior color trend. I particularly like this group of colors as it pertains to our search for Greige albeit the colors are on the cooler side of greys.


The Color Marketing Group names ReBlue as the It color for 2014. So  much for greige…

Of course, one must not forget Pantone which announced Emerald as the color for 2013. I went back to the years before and couldn’t find any greige as color of the year according to the world of Pantone.



My search continues… and finally, Sherwin Williams pinpoints “gray as the new black” for 2014 color trend. It is a relief to see confirmation that gray is not yet a thing of past seasons.




So much for greige color search among the paint companies. Their color trends involve many colors such as paint companies should promote. I went back to an outfit that can’t afford change their look every year: Restoration Hardware.  It is a comfort to find their Spring 2013 inspiration looks still filled with grey and greyer images.

c3fa3a305a55c0b05214b286a7443223I decided to double check with Crate and Barrel and was happy to report the same coloring graced their inspiration section.


Then there are those must go to interior designers.  Candace Olson has her pick in Gray Mirage. Darryl Carter likes Asford Grey.

Asford Grey. Benjamin Moore DC 20

Mary McDonald’s favorite is Benjamin Moore HC166 Kendall Charcoal when dramatic effects are called for.

Kendall Charcoal

Barbara Barry loves BM 976 Coastal Fog.

Coastal Fog

Several blogs and websites have their take on favorite greiges.




Will we ever be tired of Greige? Global Color Research has predicted a way to wean out of Greige:  Dusky Berries for 2015… It seems that we might be leaning toward a greige berry trend.  I will have to revisit this romantic color trend in 2 years…

Dusky Berries

Click on photos for source


Monte Sereno Craftsman

A woodland site is so precious – it seems a tragedy to fell oak trees so to have a house there.  So thought the owners of a Monte Sereno  lot with a wreckage of a house that had been ravaged by a fire.  After a tough planning process, a craftsman style house now graces the lot still surrounded by oak trees, preserving pretty much the existing contours and, as I like to put it, happiness ensued. I revisited the project as the owners are preparing to celebrate Christmas.  Some of the deciduous tree leaves have started to turn bright orange and yellows. I was induced to a state of merriment even before I stepped foot in the door.

Front entry

Rear view

The entrance porch took a visitor to a two story foyer which showed a hint of the library beyond the second floor balcony. The foyer sported a paneled look that breaks up the tall wall. The right doorway led to the family room while the left doorway opened up to the sitting and dining rooms.

The living room was reduced to a sitting room size as nowadays, most entertainment is really done in the family room with a less formal setting.  A delicate fireplace anchored the room with a settee and two gracious chairs.  The color scheme was coordinated from the paint color and choice of rug to the upholstery fabric and sheer drapes.

The dining room embraced a stronger presence with a strikingly bold wallpaper pattern.  The Murano glass chandelier pulled our eyes toward the cathedral ceiling.

The powder room took  on a theme similar to the dining room with the vibrant red colors on the wall. The oriental floral motif in the small room surged unexpectedly as guests enter.  The ceiling was gold painted for added depth.

The kitchen was generously designed with a long island and a curved row of windows facing the rear yard. The microwave, freezer and refrigerator were awarded their own alcove. The island was darks stained walnut with a warm red granite countertop. The cooktop splash got an Artistic Tile panel that was slightly reminiscent of an Art Nouveau swirl pattern. The pattern was repeated in bands throughout the other backsplashes.

The library ceiling soared in a dome shaped recess. The furniture pieces were chosen for comfort with colors to complement the red dome.  The balcony guardrail looks down onto the entry foyer.

The master bath received quite an elaborate Pratt and Larson relief tiles to compose the shower mural.  A very cute chandelier hovered over the tub and the shower floor tiles are large Calacata Oro hex tiles.

The house tour culminated in the master bedroom with an oval ceiling recess. The color scheme aimed to soothe. The furniture fabric and rug complemented the softness of the fireplace design and promised serenity at the end of a long day.

This project represented one of the most satisfying experiences I have ever had. The  owners were quite gracious and gave me the utmost confidence to carry through their vision and taste.  Besides the architectural shell, every interior detail of the project, from the custom cabinets, finish hardware, lighting, and paint colors to the furniture, draperies and rug, was thought over so a seamless feeling could be achieved thoughout the spaces.

Aaaah… What I would do for another project such as this one!


Group Snoop

People are natural collectors.  We collect things that remind us of other things or other people.  We sometimes come up with a collecting theme and make it our hobby. Collecting things can be quite an addictive habit.  But once we have things collected, what do we do with our collection?

This is where I figure we have to start grouping them because the collective presence of our objects speaks volume about our passion.  The art of grouping – without making our house look like a shop – can be overwhelming.  It’s not about gathering and keeping all objects together.  It’s about how the items are in relation to each other.

One of the most common collections found in homes is the photo collection. Sometimes a single photo brings only memories of just that instance in which the photo was taken.  A group of photos will link and weave all our emotions and glimpses of our lives together into a sum of lingering, sweet nostalgia.

Another easy collection is our every day dishes, cups and mugs. We could definitely have an open shelf to display them and at the same time, make them more accessible.

One can decide that our dishes would look great stacked in mass,  displayed sparingly against a dark minimalist background or neatly composed on a modern shelving system.

If we have a craft area or work table, the fun colors of the tools can be made into a rainbow of wares on the wall.  Sometimes, mundane work utensils can be quite convincing looking on a rack.

For those people like me who have a shoe fetish, there is a decadent feeling of excessiveness when we can see all our shoes at one glance. A simple answer could be a shoe armoire with glass doors. If that’s not enough, go for the entire closet…

Some people have gone as far as having their own personal shoe shrine.

Clothes and bath accessories lend themselves quite naturally to groupings. One just have to find clever armoires for them.

Another clever idea for a bath wall is to bombard it with objects of reflections.

What about files of our paper work? Couldn’t we hide them among other knick knacks that are more fun to look at? Filing in disguise…

Books always become a challenge when we are done with them.  Do we ever come back to our favorite books to reread a paragraph?  I once thought there was a paragraph with the phrase “dream weaver” quite elegantly written into West with the Night and ended up rereading the entire book- and that didn’t happen just once.

If I am lucky enough to possess a beautiful leather bound collection of classics, I would search the earth (more commonly known as antique shops) for a display case worthy of the books.

At the end of the day, I always come back to this attic adorned by black and white photos against a soft robin blue.  I wish I had such an attic to retreat into to let the memories conjured up by the photos take me back to different times, places and maybe the more idealistic person that once was.

Then I thought of other parts of the world, where perhaps collecting does not have quite the same meaning and purpose…

Photos via: Bolig Magazine, Jessica Svendsen Blog, Philippe Harden, Elle Interior, Youaremyfave, thehappyheathen, Bedroom Ideas, Traditional Home, Apartment Therapy, Paper Treasure, Country Living,  Architonic, Desiretoinspire, Mary McDonald,  Moberfung.wordpress.