31 May 2011

It's live! My Destinations Magazine debut

The new issue of Destinations Magazine came out yesterday and my article and photography are featured in it. Ever wonder about Zaragoza, Spain? Read my article and learn all about it.

You can read the whole piece by following this link. Thanks Destinations!

25 May 2011

It's official

As of today I am now closer to 50 than 40. That's such a disconnect I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

How did this kid in 1969

turn into this guy in 2011 and where the hell did the last 46 years go?

I keep reminding myself that I enjoy getting older but it's a hard sell today.

At least 50's an event.

But this late 40s stuff is a strange holding pattern. I'm glad to be here, it's just odd.

24 May 2011

What's my favorite color: a Blog Off post

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "What's your favorite color?"


I may have put away my designer shingle these days, but some things never really go away. One of those things in my case is how deeply affected by color I am. The topic today asks me to pick a favorite color and I can't just pick one. I can't imagine ever having to pick just one favorite color.

When I look over my long list of favorite colors, every one of them is based on an experience I've had or a place I've been. As I go through my day to day life I'm struck by the memories certain colors trigger. I cannot imagine myself ever saying something like, "my favorite color is blue." Rather, I'm a lot more apt to say something along the lines of "That color blue reminds me of the color of the water on the northern end of Cat Island on an August afternoon." It's sounds kind of strange, but that's just how I operate. I have a hard time taking colors out of context.

Said beach on Cat Island

So here's a collection of some of my favorite colors and the places where I saw them.

Some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire US is in the hills of Northern California. Every September, those hills turn the most amazing color of gold I've ever seen.

I love combinations of purple, red and green. This is a bromeliad on my patio with a visitor on Christmas Eve two years ago.

Despite the bad mouthing they get, I love the color yellow dandelions are, especially in the spring when the rest of the earth is still half-asleep. They don't grow in Florida, so I took this photo in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago.

The ochre colors of the Spanish countryside look like something from another planet. I'm not at all accustomed to seeing cliffs and hillsides that appear to be painted, but even if I were, Spain would still stand out.

I love the emerald-turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I am not a native to these parts, but the Gulf of Mexico exerts a pull on me I have a hard time articulating. When seen from above I fall in love with it all over again.

These are the winter blossoms of a tree called a Tabebuia, and they're scattered like lilac confetti on a street in my neighborhood. I'm not usually a purple person but spent Tabebuia flowers on a brick street in January are almost enough to convert me.

When the sun sets every evening, the Sorrentine peninsula looks like it's on fire. If only those colors could be put in a can.

I love the colors of patina-d metals. My great-great-great-grandfather's monument is made from cast zinc and it's the most striking gray-blue I can think of.

As I mentioned before, I am not a native to the part of the world where I live now. Though I may hang my hat in a tropical climate, in my heart of hearts I remain a Yankee's Yankee. The only time I really miss the Northeast is toward the end of October when the maple trees start to turn. This was my back to school back drop every year as a kid and no matter how far away I go, I'm always drawn back when I know the leaves up there are turning.

So what are my favorite colors? Well, this morning they are Bahamas Afternoon Blue, September Rolling Hills Gold, Christmas Eve Bromeliad, Brooklyn Dandelion, Spanish Hillside Ochre, Gulf of Mexico March Turquoise, Tabebuia on a Brick Street Lilac, Cliffs on Fire Orange-Red, Ancestral Grave Marker Blue-Gray and Pennsylvania Autumn Riot.


As the day goes on, the rest of the participants in today's Blog Off will appear miraculously at the end of this post. Keep checking back and check out everybody's postss. You can follow along in Twitter as well, just look for the hashtag #LetsBlogOff. If you'd like more information about about the Blog Off or if you'd like to see the results of previous Blog Offs, you can find the main website here.

18 May 2011

Congratulations to Delta/ Brizo!

The first kitchen and bath manufacturer I ever interacted with was the Brizo faucet brand and its parent, the Delta Faucet Company. It's no secret that the Brizo brand has a special place in my heart.

A couple of years ago, Brizo was the new luxury brand from Delta Faucet. On the watch of Delta Faucet Company's brilliant CEO Keith Allman, Brizo was allowed to develop and flourish and shortly after that they started working with MSL. To call MSL a PR Agency sells them short, but I suppose that's what they are. Maybe if I called them the world's PR Agency of record it would come close...

Anyhow, MSL's Director of Social Media Outreach is a guy named Charlie Kondek, and two years ago Charlie reached out to me, an unknown kitchen and bath designer in St. Petersburg. Charlie was working very closely with Brizo's Senior Channel Manager, Jai Massela.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that Jai, Charlie and lived out a real-life social media case study over the last couple of years. In the course of living out the case study; a guy in Ann Arbor, a woman in Indianapolis and a guy in St. Pete developed a friendship I treasure. In the course of watching Brizo grow into the recognizable brand it is today, it's been a real thrill to call the people behind the brand my friends and I love recalling how I knew them when.

Here's a shot of me and Jai from a couple of years ago but oddly, I don't have one of me, Charlie and Jai. Charilie? Jai? We need to arrange a photo op!

On May 5th, Brizo and Delta cut the ribbon on their new showroom at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. It's over 3000 square feet with 96 working examples of their products. The Showroom is called DREAM2O. Among those displays are 40 working lavatory faucets, 40 working kitchen fixtures, 11 full showers and five H2Okinetics (shower and body spray combinations).

They're on the fist floor of the Mart and if you're in Chicago, please stop in and say hello. If you do, tell them I sent you. What follow are some photos of the grand opening from May 5th.

Endless congratulations gang, you deserve every accolade you get for this new showroom.


16 May 2011

Beautiful lighting from Flos

One of the reasons I like going to New York so much is that all of the objects I normally see only in catalogs are there, in person, in a showroom somewhere. I spend a lot of time poking through lighting showrooms in Manhattan and a couple of weeks ago I walked into Italian Manufacturer Flos' showroom on Greene Street in Soho.

There I met Marcel Wanders' Skygarden.

At first glance it looks like any number of half-dome suspended lights on the market. Upon closer inspection however, Skygarden's underside is a riot of nearly baroque activity.

Stunning work. What do you think?

15 May 2011

Back to design; I love small spaces


I have a thing for small homes. It's due in large part to the fact that I live in a shoe box but I have nothing over Barcelona resident Christian Schallert. Schallert worked with architect Barbara Appolloni to turn a 24 square meter afterthought into an apartment of stunning grace and function. Check it out.

It's summer again, teach your kids to swim

Yesterday, a 17-year-old boy died in the surf here. He drowned when the waves kicked up as a squall line rolled in. He floundered for a half an hour before he succumbed. What a waste and how horrible a way to go out. Had the people who brought him into the world taken their jobs seriously, he wouldn't be dead.

The papers and the police are blaming the weather but that's not what's responsible for this young man's death. According to his friends at the scene, he couldn't swim. That he couldn't swim was his parent's fault. Had that young man been able to keep himself buoyant or been able to just tread water in a rip tide he's be alive right now.

Teaching a child to swim is on par with teaching a kid to read or to do basic math. It's part of being a conscientious parent. Really.

I learned how to swim off the end of a dock and I get it that that's an opportunity a lot of people don't have. However, there are YMCAs everywhere with means-adjusted swimming programs.

At some point, you will be confronted with a body of water and not knowing how to deal with it is a death sentence.

I look to the Gulf of Mexico as a place of renewal and relaxation. I get it that it's capable of great harm but the squall line yesterday was no big deal in the great scheme of things. Please. Teach your kids to swim.

11 May 2011

New developments that started when a dolphin flapped into my life

I have been spending a lot of time lately at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. As I've mentioned here before, I've been making a pretty radical career transition over the last few months and as a result my design blog has been suffering mightily. It'll be back with a vengeance shortly I promise. In the meantime however, I'm doing social media consulting full-time at an ad agency.

Anyhow, my work at the agency has brought me into really close contact with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, or CMA. The CMA is a wildlife rescue organization, but that just scratches the surface of what they do. As people, they're a rag tag band of true believers who rescue, rehabilitate and release injured and distressed dolphins, sea turtles and river otters. The only animals that end up in permanent residence are animals that are too damaged to return to the wild.

The CMA operates in a converted sewage plant on the shores of Clearwater Harbor. They do the work they do on a shoe string budget and one of the ways they raise money is they open their facility to the public for tours. Do not expect Sea World at the CMA. It's a working animal hospital and the animals don't perform. A "dolphin show" at CMA consists of watching a veterinary exam but that's what makes it such an incredible place.

The CMA has four resident dolphins, Nicholas, Panama, Hope and Winter. All of these animals are incapable of life on their own in the wild and each has a fascinating story. Of all of them, Winter's story is probably the most compelling. If you don't know her story now give it a few months because by July, it will be unavoidable. Warner Brother's is distributing a film that opens in September called Dolphin Tale that's all about her. The media barrage starts Memorial Day. Here's the trailer.

When she was around a month old, the dolphin now called Winter was orphaned and in her confusion, got entangled in the anchor line of a crab trap. As she fought the rope, she entangled herself more and ended up being beached on the east coast of Florida. She was found by a wildlife organization over there and brought to the CMA and no one could believe she was still alive.

The vets at CMA amputated what was left of her tail and despite her disability, she showed a remarkable will to live. After a few months, the staff of the CMA heard from a prosthetic manufacturer who wanted to help. For the first time ever, a marine mammal was successfully fitted with a prosthetic tail.

In the course of developing a new tail for Winter, Hanger Prosthetics developed a host of new technologies that they applied to human prosthetics. In helping this injured dolphin Hanger has enhanced the lives of countless human beings.

It doesn't stop with prosthetic development. the CMA runs programs for autistic kids and in the course of extended interactions with Winter, Panama, Nicholas and Hope, these kids break through the haze and reconnect with their families. They have a program for amputees and another one for veterans. In the course of these interactions, these people get their lives back.

Stories such as this one:
Three-year-old Sophie who lives in McKinney,Texas has a lot in common with Winter … both girls are the same age and they both have prosthetics. Winter has a prosthetic tail and Sophie has a prosthetic leg. Sophie’s leg was amputated when she was an infant because of a cancerous growth in it. Mom, Tracy, shares, “We wanted Sophie to get to see that she’s not alone and there are others like her. Winter has a magic fin, just like Sophie has a magic leg.”
warm my heart in ways I didn't know were possible.

I met Winter for the first time a month ago at a marketing meeting with the CMA's CEO as we sought out ways to co-market my current client with the CMA. I find myself making excuses to have more meetings with the CMA so I can hang out with this creature.

I took this photo of her on Monday afternoon when she was making eyes at me. I have witnesses so I know I'm not imagining the fact that she recognizes me now and knows who I am.

When she sees me now she stops what she's doing, stares and whistles through her blow hole.

The CMA is about to break ground on a new facility in anticipation of the publicity crush that's going to surround the release of this movie in September.

Their new building is spectacular and the money they'll raise in the next year is going to allow them to help injured animals (and injured people) in ways they can't now and it's great to see an organization such as this one succeed as spectacularly as their about to.

To that end and as of another meeting with them yesterday, I've agreed to manage their social media efforts from this point forward. This is going to be a great ride and as a bonus, I get to keep hanging out with Winter, Panama, Hope and Nicholas, not to mention the turtles and otters. But more than even that, I'll be documenting the lives that get changed as a result of this amazing organization.

I say all the time that I'm the most fortunate man alive and opportunities like this back up that claim. Never in a million years would I have guessed three-and-a-half years when I started a kitchen design blog that it would lead to the life I lead today.

If you'd like to learn more about the work of the CMA, visit their website. And I'll be back to writing about design again shortly, I promise.

10 May 2011

What is a fact? What is true? It's a Blog Off

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "What's the difference between a fact and a truth?"


When we figured out the topic of this Blog Off last week I was pretty psyched up to have a deep discussion. I love delving into the deeper meanings of rhetoric and nobody can debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin better than me.

But as I thought about it and as I figured out what I wanted to say I kept coming up short.

When I was a younger man I believed with every fiber of my being that the world was governed by a series of universal truths that could be counted on as a way to determine how the world works. These universal truths came from the natural world.

Truths such as the theory of evolution, the theory of gravity, atomic theory and the laws of thermodynamics undergirded everything and could be relied upon as a compass to use to get through anything. I lived for years in this Aristotelian idyll.

But as I grew older and experienced more I started to stumble over truths and events that didn't jibe with my A is A worldview. Why did my friend Woody die so horribly? Why do my fellow Floridians vote into office politicians who will sell out our future? Why do so many of my friends continue to act against their best interests? And most recently, why did my ex-boss do a swan dive off the tallest bridge he could find and why did he blame me? The Universal Truths I hold onto don't apply in these cases.

Now that I'm a middle-aged man I'm coming to see that there is a difference between facts and truths, something I couldn't have seen when I was 25. It's true that Woody died 12 years ago but it doesn't  mean anything other than the fact that every life has an expiration date. It's a fact that people will elect politicians who appeal to their baser instincts. It's true that Carl is dead but despite his feeble attempts to drag me down with him, it doesn't mean I did anything wrong.

There's a difference between facts and truths and the more I think about it the deeper the divide between the two grows. It's easier to believe in universals but the older I get the less I believe in them.

As the day goes on, the rest of the participants in today's Blog Off will appear miraculously at the end of this post. Keep checking back and check out everybody's postss. You can follow along in Twitter as well, just look for the hashtag #LetsBlogOff. If you'd like more information about about the Blog Off or if you'd like to see the results of previous Blog Offs, you can find the main website here.

07 May 2011

It's Mother's Day

This is my mother.

I am the man I am today because I'm her son. Further, I am the man I am today because I'm one of her seven kids.

I'm sure she didn't know the scale of the adventure that was coming when she married this guy.

But she embraced it with everything she had.

I come back to the thought all the time that I am the man I am because I'm this woman's son. It's my mother who taught me to love reading. It's my mother who taught me to love art. It's my mother who taught me to remember my ancestors. It's my mother who taught me to keep plugging away no matter what.

My mother taught me to respect the natural world, she taught me that the unusual and foreign aren't bad automatically. Her inquisitiveness infected me from an early age and has left me with an enthusiasm for learning that's sustained me for 46 years.

There was a needlepoint sampler hanging in the living room of the house where I grew up. It read something along the lines of "The best gift parents can give their children are roots and wings."

I got that in spades. Thanks to my mother, I know where I come from and I know there's nothing I can't do.

I'm not alone in that. There are six other people in the world who are armed with those same roots and wings.

It doesn't stop with us though. My mother's embrace of adventure and novelty extends through her kids and into her grandkids and great-grandkids. We're testaments to the little girl who stood for a photographer against a fence in the 1930s. Every time any of us embarks on an adventure we're channeling you, the girl from Christy Park who believed the handsome guy who promised her the world.

You are deeply loved Mom. You brought me into the world sure enough, and what you did more than anything is gave me life and I can never thank you enough.

04 May 2011

In unity there is strength

My title today is the translation from the Old Dutch Een Draght Mackt MaghtEen Draght Mackt Maght is the motto of the Borough of Brooklyn, the second-most populous of New York's five boroughs. Brooklyn was an independent city from its founding in 1646 until 1898 when the five boroughs consolidated to form modern New York. Even though it's part of New York City, it's still its own county, Kings.

One of the main thoroughfares through Brooklyn is Flatbush Avenue. Flatbush is an anglicization of the Dutch phrase vlacke bos and it means "wooded flatlands." I took a walk along modern day vlack bos, Flatbush Avenue, and one of its many neighborhoods, Prospect Lefferts Gardens yesterday morning.

The area where I took my morning constitutional was founded by a Dutch family in 1660. By 1893 it was a single estate that was owned by James Lefferts. Lefferts divided his holdings into 600 lots and sold them to developers.

The neighborhood where these photos were taken were built between the late 19th Century and the 1950s. It's the center of Caribbean culture in Brooklyn and it has a charm and wonder I can't quite describe.

Ahhhh, would that I were a good photographer. Hah! Even so, I saw a side to New York last weekend I'd never seen before and I learned the lesson so many before me have learned, that there's life beyond the Isle O' Manhattan.