Monday, May 8, 2017


Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've heard about conspiracy theorists who believe that UFOs landed in "Area 51," an air force base about 150 miles from Las Vegas. And I admit that the existence of Vegas at all is enough to convince me that aliens have been here and they are probably ruled by either Cher or Celine Dion. 

And I don't buy all that baloney about aliens being fake news or alternative facts. In fact, I'm quite sure that our earth has been colonized by extraterrestrials. But I believe that it happened way before the 1950s and I'm not stupid enough to think they settled in Las Vegasit's common knowledge they hate the heat, the tourists, excess neon and Mylar, and the constant parties hosted by the omnipresent alien-like Kardashians. My theory is that yes, they're here on Earth, but they settled far from the Vegas strip and arrived more than 900 years ago. Where'd they pick to land? Not so strangely, on a safe little group of islands, the largest one reminding them so much of Venus that they named it Venice (in addition to Murano, which translates as Moronsville in Venutian). Need more proof? Just take a look at Venetian mirrors. They are nothing short of out of this world!

Venetian (also pronounced "Veh-NEW-shun," by those who share my belief in Italian aliens from Venus) mirrors come in a shocking variety of shapes (oval, rectangular, octagonal, and shapes that don't have names yet, they're so otherworldly) and colors. Take this incomparable one of a pair we've sold:

Sold: An Important Late 17th-Early 18th C. Venetian
Polychrome-Japanned, Mother-of-Pearl Inlaid and Giltwood Mirror

In their most common form, antique Venetian mirrors are all mercury glass, typically etched with delicate rosettes, bouquets, figures, and even landscape scenes. More ornate Venetian mirrors are accented with chinoiserie lacquers and adorned with brilliantly colored mirrored accents (e.g., sparkling cobalt blue, plum purple, cathedral super-saturated reds, etc. WOW!) . Other Venetian mirrors mix etched glass with ornately carved and gilded wood. And some exceedingly rare ones are inset with mother-of-pearl and semi-precious stones.

But even without the inset stones, mother-of-pearl, and assorted embellishments (that make the mirrors look like the hors d'oeuvres at the Goldstein bar mitzvah in Encino last Saturday), the etched ones can be otherworldly. Witness this palazzo-scaled and incredibly rare pair: 

Now available as a single: An Extraordinary and Glittering Pair of 18th C. Venetian Cut Crystal Palazzo Mirrors

Each of these mirrors was created by a team of skilled craftsmen, including a carpenter who carved the mirror's wood sub-structure, artists who poured and polished the mercury to create the mirror surface, a glass cutter who created the etched glass plates and adhered them to the mirror surface, an engraver, and a variety of other artists who prepared additional decorative embellishments (e.g., blown glass appliqués or cut stones). Each member of the team utilized techniques that were carefully guarded secrets and honed over centuries by artists in Venice and Murano, Italy. But aliens can be barbaric. Get this: any glass maker who tried to leave Murano island (see below) would get a very special going away gift: they'd have their hands cut off (and I'm not making this upso it's important to remember this BuzzRule: DON'T MESS WITH ALIENS).

In Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection (2003), Mark Pendergrast explains that Venetian artisans first learned to craft glass objects in the 11th century, from the German and Islamic merchants who visited their bustling trade hub peddling all sorts of luxury items from all corners of the world.

By the end of the 13th century, the Venetian glass industry had become so prolific and respected that to protect their city from the fires of their innumerable glass blowing furnaces, and to protect themselves from vicious industrial espionage, all of the glassblowers were forced to move their studios to guess where? Murano! Oh joy! All I can think of is that the industry of cutting off hands must have boomed even more than the glass business.

each with a pair of scarlet Murano glass candleholders at the base

No. 3802 A Pair of 18th C. Giltwood and Etched Looking Glass Venetian Mirrors

No. 1867 A 19th Century Oval Venetian Mirror

While the Venetian glass artists were paid top-notch salaries and mingled with nobility, they were also heavily penalized for trying to branch out and leave their isolated island community. Essentially imprisoned, they became ever more specialized. Having very little else to do and no real choice in the matter, their children and children’s children learned to blow glass. Generations of Barbinis, Briatis, Bertolinis, La Mottas, etc. dedicated themselves to the art of glass making and continuously improved upon their forefathers' techniques.

Sold: A Pair of 18th Century Venetian Mirrors

In the mid-15th century, the Berovieros discovered a technique for creating cristallo, or colorless, transparent glass using ash from sea plants, rich in potassium oxide and magnesium, perfect for protecting the mirror surface. In 1507, the del Gallos patented a technique for adhering the glass sheets to the mirror surface using weights and varnish, ensuring that the mirror plates would be consistently bubble-free. In 1540, Redor perfected a technique for leveling and shining the glass sheets, so they'd be perfectly flat and clean-cut. Others developed techniques for altering the tone of the glass plate itself, inserting gold leaf into the glass before it solidified, or using lead to color it a translucent milky-white, to incredible effect. And so on and so forth!

No. 2760 A Pair of Early 19th C. Venetian Parcel Gilt Mirrors

These ever-more-impressive Venetian mirrors became sought after by both Italian and French nobility (read: taste-makers), especially King Francois I and his son King Henri II, who was married to Catherine de Medici. In the late 16th century, Queen Marie de Medici ordered 119 custom Venetian mirrors directly from Murano to line the walls of her office. As a token of their appreciation, the Murano artisans gifted her with a lavish mirror encrusted with precious stones, the perfect gift for a woman who truly had everything.

Sold: No. 4566 A Glittering 18th C. Venetian Colbalt Blue Glass and Parcel Gilt Mirror

No. 3481 An Important Pair of Early 18th C. Giltwood and Polychrome Venetian Mirrors

Sold: A Sublime 18th C. Rectangular Venetian Etched Mirror,
richly decorated with detailed paste-colored flowers

According to Pendergrast, “at the beginning of the sixteenth century, a Venetian mirror in an elaborate silver frame was valued at 8,000 pounds, nearly three times the contemporary price of a painting by Raphael.” Given that some works by Raphael are currently valued at upwards of fifty million dollars, the mirrors we have at C. Mariani are downright bargains.

Sold: A Magnificent Glittering 19th C. Venetian
Cut Crystal Palazzo Mirror

Just take a look at this magnificent Venetian 18th c. mirror that we just got in at C. Mariani. Call me for details:


Thursday, May 4, 2017


FIRST A WARNING: I usually write these posts in a cheery mood and with a "The Sun'll come out Tomorrow!" kind of optimism. But not today: I missed dinner last night and breakfast this morning so I have serious low blood sugar and am acutely cranky. But no need to panic: I sent one of our staff to get me a Snickers for medicinal purposes. (But that was 10 minutes ago and I'm getting more irritable by the second. Ugh).

The fact is your question is a good one that comes up a lot. So I'll answer it although I'm feeling more like ripping down curtains that blogging about them. I MEAN,  IS IT ASKING TOO MUCH TO GET A SNICKERS AROUND HERE?? AND WHERE IS MY DAMN PERSONAL ASSISTANT WHEN I NEED HER? Oh forgot, I don't have one. :(

OK, here goes: Drapes and curtains are not the same thing. Although they both can be termed "window treatments," the truth is that although both drapes and curtains cover windows, curtains are lighter, more sheer, and thinner than drapes. Drapes are typically heavier and usually lined and interlined to both protect the fabric and block out sun glare. So these are drapes:

And these are white linen curtains (look at how sheer they are and how they are unlined-that 's a good tip-off that there're not drapes--see below):

And these ARE drapes

But what are these called?

These are called JPU ("just plain ugly"). And yes, that's a technical term we frequently use in the trade. :) But you could also call them "drapes that are really expensive, gauche, overdone and completely out of step with good taste." The gilded valances (also called cornice boards) only enhance the tastelessness of these window treatments. Although I think I may have sold those valances at Mariani about ten years ago. Ugh.

But here's the truth: "Who Gives a Rat's Ass about Drapes vs Curtains?" (Pardon my French but I still haven't gotten that Snickers). The fact is that many people, even some designers, use the words drapes and curtains interchangeably. So I guess you can just ignore everything I wrote here so far. :)

The only reason I brought the subject up was because I wanted to remind you of a major rule with regard to attire. Don't ever wear a dress made out of drapes or curtains. Case in point: Scarlett O'Hara.

Here's a happy Scarlett when she was still practically a virgin, rich, and didn't have to prostrate (girls don't have prostates just so you know) herself to Rhett and beg him for a couple bucks when she went broke:

And here's a bitter and angry Scarlett after she was so desperate for that money that she had to wear her dead mother's curtains to make Rhett Butler think she was a classy Lady (advice to Scarlett: next time wash your hands too--it was a dead giveaway in the movie and it always is amongst the rich). And get a mani-pedi for God's sake!

But I can understand why Scarlett soured on life after her Mammy used those filthy old pea green "velvet" curtains that belonged to her dead Mommy (the whole Mammy/Mommy thing is so confusing in the film) to make her a lady-like (emphasis on the "like") DRESS so she could visit rich Rhett to try and vamp her way into his deep pockets. 

You can see from her expression below that even she was concerned that this get-up wasn't going to work. And it sure didn't, the poor thing.

The way I look at it, Mammy should have just chosen a better window fabric from Tara. Why didn't she just choose these newer ones that hung in her powder room at the plantation? Only Margarett Mitchell knows but she ain't talkin.

Plus how could Mammy and Scarlett not know that thick musty old velvet sucks up dust like a sponge and is never figure-flattering. I mean, just look at her booty below! It's so gynormous it dwarfs even her huge Tara mansion. I suspect that Mammy was secretly hiding under there so as to properly escort Scarlett to visit a single gentlemen. Ah, Southern Chivalry is so romantical.

And don't get me started on that frightening conehead wig-hat that Mammy Couture created from those same tired drapes and trim. Let's be honest--this is not Red Carpet caliber. More like "Back Alley" caliber. Not to be graphic (but I'm still waiting on my damn SNICKERS!!!!). it looks like one huge bird-dropping just plopped down on her head. No wonder she didn't get a dime out of Rhett. Heck, the hat alone would have justified the burning of Atlanta. In fact, together with that Rumpus Room dust mop dress, the entire ensemble fully justifies the South losing the war.

In summary, just look at her: she looks filthy and common with all that dust flying from those ratty curtains (they'd been hanging in the Tara living room for DECADES--geez, didn't she ever hear of a "dry cleaner?!"). All that dust and dirt made her look more like Pigpen than the scheming yet beautiful femme fatale she was trying to be. Hence, she left penniless and sweating like a prize hog at the County Fair. Plus she had zero drapes in the living room.

And that's the moral to our story. Please don't ask me to explain that because jibberish cannot be explained. The End.

Monday, May 1, 2017


This years 2017 San Francisco Decorator Showcase dazzles and really is a "must-see!" The Opening Party was a blast and a half especially because I went with my OH SO TALENTED Gallery Manager Riana Lum:

Riana and I both marveled at the new ideas, creativity and new young talent that was on display at this year's house. It's at a spectacular home at 2698 Pacific Avenue and marks 40 years since the first showcase in 1977. The Showcase runs through May 29th. So get over there before you miss out!

Kari Mcintosh Design showed how the best rooms are unexpected, mix modern with traditional and make you want to steal every idea and most of the furniture and accessories:

Office by Kari McIntosh, Photo by David Duncan Livingston

Look how she juxtaposed a vintage glass and bamboo desk, with an ancient Roman bust of a child, antique books, malachite obelisks, 1970's vintage leather chairs and the wildest polka dot wall paper that wrapped the entire room in fun and whimsy. She also took some risks with a chandelier that was, uh, flocked and brass. So unexpected --and yet worked perfectly in the room!

Office by Kari McIntosh, Photo by David Duncan Livingston

She also incorporated a simple etagere bookcase that was directly under an antique inspired starburst giltwood mirror (very 18th century glam) which I know is in the best taste because I have one just like it at home! Who knew Kari and I both had such great a great eye? And the 18th century style upholstered fauteuils (pronounced "FO-toy" because the correct way to say it is really hard. Think of Elmer Fudd, Fee Fi Fo, Chop Suey, Oy Vey, Ah Men and Latoya Jackson, then scramble them together and blurt out "Fuh--ahh-oy!-toya!" Or Fu-oh-tuey but say the tuey more like toya and you're practically Parisian!) The fauteuil is the armchair showing below that Kari used from her own collection:

Office by Kari McIntosh, Photo by David Duncan Livingston

And here's a photo of Kari with Ryan Gosling...oh wait...I don't recognize the old fart next to her but I'm sure he's one of the most important and delightful antique dealers on earth. :)

Kari and me

Then I have to talk about the designer who steals the show every time she's in one. This is not a joke and it certainly is not because she used ZERO of our pieces this year (I felt like a shunned Amish character from Return to Amish on TLC). That person is Cecilie "Steal the Show" Starin.

Master Bathroom by Cecilie Starin, Photo by Margot Hartford, Houzz

The fact is that when we walked into her Master Bath space, I turned to Riana and gasped at the sparkling multi-colored bubble chandelier in what appeared to be a stark cement space punctuated only with a bright white porcelain, automatic toilet (it opens itself, sprays you clean, brushes your teeth and polishes your shoes for an upcharge) and screamed "Go Sit on the That Toilet!" Sadly my photos couldn't fit the chandelier which does an injustice both to poor Riana (you can tell she was posing by the glass of wine in her hand) and the chandelier:

But luckily Riana caught the chandelier in a photo she took; it was hanging directly above her and really pulled the space together. That made no sense but go see the room and you'll love it!

Chandelier in Master Bathroom by Cecilie Starin

I also marveled at Cecilie's choice of very hip furnishings and artwork:

Accents in the Master Bathroom by Cecilie Starin

Riana in the Master Bathroom by Cecilie Starin

There were a lot of great rooms to see including David Bjorngaard's (of the new Bjorn Design), Beth Martin's and the perennially chic bar done by Catherine Kwong.

Catherine did the Penthouse Living Room and Bar and holy cow they are gorgeous. The bar was so sophisticated, understated and luxe (the marble sink had no visible drain, the water escaping unseen beneath a small seam in the marble--you have to see it to appreciate it but then I have to warn you, you'll want at least one your home!).

Penthouse Bar by Catherine Kwong

And then there was the Living Room. It really was a triumph! The muted palette of a celadonish blue silver mohair platform sofa and the pastels and neutrals of the walls and rug were just irresistible. I've watched Catherine's work for quite a few years now and I'm not surprised she's becoming one of this town's hottest designers.

Penthouse Living Room by Catherine Kwong, Photo by Margot Hartford, Houzz

Lastly, the crowd at the Showcase included the glitterati of San Francisco's Design community including Diane Doranne Saeks, a huge contingency of my pals from the Wiseman Group (James, Shannon, Brenda and more!), Vernon Applegate looking very smart in greys and whites (ask him to explain that),  Cecilia Sagrera and George Brazil, and a ton of others who I'd list here but my diet pill is wearing off and I'm getting cranky.

Here's me and the lovely Holly Kopman, who's been a regular client and friend for-ugh-15 years although she looks exactly the same I swear!

Holly Kopman and me (I'm on the left)
All in all it was an uber fun evening ending in an Uber car home because I gotta lay off the Chardonnay.  I'd switch over to martinis but I have this fear of admiring the view (see below) from the roof and well, losing my balance and winding up pushing up daisies somewhere in Colma. And worse than that, SF Gate would call me an "older inebriated gentleman who thankfully won't be bothering us with any more silly blogposts like this one." :)

Roof top view