Sunday, February 26, 2012


We all know I need to get a hobby. But until I do, I often read older posts I did like this holiday post I wrote back on November 21, 2009 about all things fireplace. This article really cracked me up. Ok, I'm my biggest fan but it's so MEAN it's funny. Come to think of it, I wonder where my mean sense of humor went? Probably to Los Angeles-meanness is highly prized there. Hehe. Anyhow, hope you enjoy it:

It's almost that time of year....THE HOLIDAY SEASON.....Yay! Soon we'll start dreaming of a white Christmas, making our gift lists, and snuggling up to the fire with lots of hot cocoa and plenty of valium.

So what could me more appropriate than a "hearth and home" post about antique pieces that enhance and beautify your fireplace?

You'd think this topic would be simple dimple right? After all, you just grab some andirons, throw on a coupla Cracklelogs, fire them up with your Aim 'N Flame lighter (btw, I can totally flame without aiming at all) and voilá: instant fire. Well, yes, if you're a complete moron (pronounced "MORE on"), this process is indeed that simple.

Moronic side note: When I was in my 30's and still a swingin' single, I had a condo with one of those concrete log, gas-ignition fireplaces. And when I had a hot date coming over, I'd put on my "crackling coalscassette tape (see below) to create that oh-so-important romantic mood--it was actually very effective and my dates (all three of them) were never the wiser as to my faux romantic ambience. BTW, I SWEAR this tape shown below is the real thing-really-but I do wonder why I've kept it for 30 years. I'll ask my therapist...

Anyhow, before we can get to andirons, we should talk about log grates. A log grate is the metal frame placed inside the fireplace (often between the "arms" of the andirons) to prevent the wood or coal from falling out. This is a log grate:

BE CAREFUL NOT TO CONFUSE a log grate with a log rack. The grate sits inside your fireplace; the rack sits outside the firebox and holds your wood (Ok, that's hysterically funny--and Freudian-but let's just move on). This is a log rack:

Mistaking your rack for your grate could prove costly since firing up your log rack will get you 10-20 years for arson rather than a romantic evening at home.

But "HEY BUZZ!", you ask, "WHAT IF I'M THE ONE WHO'S BUZZED when I come home from a holiday parté and accidentally fire up my log rack instead of my log grate: how will I know?" 

A provocative question but more importantly incredibly stupid. I like that. Luckily, the answer to your question is as simple as you are:

First, just say no to drugs. Second, if  "No" is not in your vocabulary but you still don't want to star in the sequel to "The Burning Bed," here's the way to tell if you've done it right: start by staggering back AWAY from the fire and try to focus on the flames as best you can.If the flames look like this, then you've properly lit the wood on the grate, congratulations, and go to bed:

But if the fire looks like the photo below, then you've whoopsied big time. If this is the case, FIRST: call your insurance agent to file your claim, and SECOND, call 911:

But to truly undertsand the intricacies and nuances of your fireplace (who thought this could be so complicated??), our adventure must start with baby steps. 

So here we go:

Baby step 1. What's a FIREDOG? Good question because many fireplaces do have one. But what exactly are they? Firedogs are DALMATIONS (duh) like this oh-so-cute (but highly flammable) example:

If I owned this firedog, I'd call him Spot (it's tres retro, don't you think?).

More relevant to our discussion of antiques, what's another firedog (other than "Spot") that could hang around the fire without spontaneously combusting? That would be an antique firedog that is just another word for andirons (pronounced "AN die urns"). 

Baby step 2: What are andirons? Andirons are metal supports for logs (real or phoney) that serve to lift the logs off the ground thereby promoting more air flow around them and making for a better fire. They also keep the logs from rolling forward. And, of course, andirons can be highly decorative too. Here's a nice pair (when I was in high school that meant something very different than andirons--but I digress):

Baby step 3: Our rich neighbors just got a new expensive set of andirons and offered us their creepy old ones that they "were going to give to Goodwill." These clowns bought Google at $105 a share because they thought the name was "so cute" and now they're worth gazillions and rub it in our faces constantly? What should we do?

Not a problem. You can be wonderfully passive/aggressive and effectively put them in their place with some fancy French fireplace terminology that they'll never understand. This will also make them feel less worthy and thereby brighten your holiday season immensely.

So what's the secret word to use? It's "andiers" (pronounced "ahn dee YAY") and means exactly the same thing as a set of firedogs/andirons. Just like pommes frites are just another name for French fries and their more Americanized cousins, the Tater-Tots:

So when you visit your neighbors to drop off that holiday fruitcake, make sure to compliment them on their shiny new store-bought "andiers", then say "au revoir" and leave smugly knowing that money alone can't buy you class (but then neither can this blog).

Baby step 4:  If by some miracle the neighbors actually know what andiers are, then just call them "chenets" (pronounced "shuh NEH") which is yet another synonym for andirons. That ought to do the trick.

Baby step 5: "Ok, Buzz, got the andiron/firedog/andiers/chenets thing, but then what's a FIREBACK? I saw some on your website."

Firebacks can mean a coupla things. First, they relate to a time when men defended a woman's "honor" by slapping each other with gloves (this still happens a lot in West Hollywood) and then challenging each other to a duel (where each fool tries to shoot the other first). The duelers would typically march ten steps away from the other, turn and fire. The one who forgot to "fireback" would be the dead one and the other loser would "win" the girl. Talk about a Pyrrhic victory. 

Ok, great. But what's an antique fireback? Antique firebacks are cast metal plates that protect the backside of the fire box against catching fire and spreading to the rest of the building.

Plus the thick iron plate serves to keep the heat radiating back into the room, thus working like a radiator and increasing the heating efficiency of the fire by as much as 50%.

Firebacks date back to the mid 15th century and were originally luxury items affordable only to royalty and the aristocracy. Thus the early firebacks show the crests and crowns of royalty and titled families. Later on, as firebacks became more affordable, they came to be embellished with more decorative designs about classical stories, nature and rural life. Today, these decorative antique firebacks are often mounted as handsome wall appliqués.

Baby step 6 (this is one long-winded baby): Ok Buzz, got the grate thing, firedog thing and all the other stuff, but then what's a fireplace FENDER?

Well. if you're a grease monkey, it's that part of the car that's usually dented and hence in need of your expert services.

If you're "in a band", which is another way of saying you're still unemployed, then a Fender is the coolest electric guitar ever. When I was in high school, my brother had a Fender Stratocaster that helped his band (called "The Periscopes"-don't ask me why) to win back-to-back Van Nuys High School "Sock Hop" Battle of the Band contests. Here's an example of a really sa-weet Stratocaster:

Sadly, in 1965, the British invasion came on the scene, my brother's music became passé, and his band was defeated by a Beatles knock-off group of freshmen called "The Shiverin' Bones" (again, don't ask how they came up with that brilliantly uplifting name).

Oops, forgot to tell you what an antique fender is. My bad. An antique fender is a low frame bordering a fireplace to contain falling coals or wood and to discourage people from coming too close to the fire. Also, fenders were used to protect the rug or floor from flying embers or sparks. Here's my favorite 18th c. brass fender:

And there you have it. And to all a good night!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


This year's Marin Showcase is the best one ever and runs through the 26th. So if you haven't gone, go! If nothing else, it's worth it just to see Suzanne Tucker's tour de force Living Room and Study. Photography courtesy of Matthew Millman.

The living room is one of those spaces where everything works. Everything is exquisite. And every piece is one you want to buy:

Suzanne employs a neutral palette that showcases her incredible 17th century ivory inlaid antique commodes, gorgeous multi-colored petrified wood and iron coffee table, brass urn lamps, accent pillows, animal print fabrics, and objets d'art. And then there are those side tables I just wanted to stuff under my shirt and steal. Do you think that makes me bad person? Or just someone who has good taste? Hmmmm.

Insider factoid: Suzanne let me in on a secret as I was gushing over the Living Room: along with all the 7-figure artwork, antiques, and other treasures, she's slipped in a couple of Restoration Hardware pieces that she wrapped in her Suzanne Tucker Home fabric to make them work in perfect harmony with their lush surroundings. Go and see if you can pick them out.

And then there's the Study. Wow.

Scarlett O'Hara should have ripped down SUZANNE'S DRAPES for her dress to go see Rhett. Very unlike those ratty old green "velvet" curtains Scarlett used in the movie. She forgot the cardinal rule: your mother's drapes are never figure-flattering:

And don't get me started about that horrific tassel trim Scarlett masssacred for her hat and sash. Scary. No wonder she didn't get a dime our of Rhett. The hat alone cost the South the war. 

Anyhow, the lush silk drapes in the Marin Study are from Suzanne Tucker Home of course. In any event, if Mammy had made Scarlett's damn dress from SUZANNE'S fabric, Rhett would have coughed up plenty so she could save Tara. It makes me sad. :(

But I digress....

As in the Living Room, the study has that Tucker & Marks' superb sense of taste and style. I mean it practically screams (actually whispers) "I just couldn't be more chic." The subtle way Suzanne combines materials, surfaces and finishes from tortoiseshell to stone to rush seats to gorgeous woods to pied peacocks are spot on--making everything work seamlessly together.

You really need to see these rooms to appreciate them. So go! I think you'll agree with me that there's nothing...absolutely nothing...that should be changed. 

Monday, February 20, 2012


What's an accolade? Not sure. Sounds like a refreshing grape drink, kind of like the one that San Francisco's own Cult Leader Jim Jones drank in Guyana.

Mmmmm. I'm really parched and that looks so refreshing....But NO!



Not only is it empty calories, but history tells us that THIS JUICE was actually liquid rat poison that Jones (who was a psycho rat) used's too weird to talk about here. Google him. Or not. Let's just say I wouldn't associate two of the top interior designers in San Francisco with rodents (although I'm a rabid Animal Rights Activist and make a loving home for too VERY happy dogs, Jacky-Boy and Jamie-Girl).

Accolade (pronounced "AK oh! laid") is a word I found in the Thesaurus when I typed in applause. I typed in applause because that's what I want to do every time I see the interiors of Cecilie Starin and David Kensington. Not that they're an item or anything because they're not. Totally separate design firms. But they would make a cute couple, right?!

Anyhow, I think I strayed off topic. I'll start again.

They say a word says a thousand things. Wait...they say a picture is worth a thousand words? Or a thousand words say a single picture. Doesn't matter. The point is I want to show you some pictures of David's and Cecilie's amazing work at the 2012 Marin Designer Showcase house (running through this weekend, so you still have time to go!).

Cecilie Starin's Guest Retreat and David Kensington's Family Room at Villa Belvedere, are uber-refined, stylish and timeless.

Let's start with David Kensington's surprisingly contemporary family room (I usually think of David's incredible work more in terms of ultra-luxe period furniture but he obviously masters the modern as well):

These photos really don't do justice to David's room. It's so inviting, comfortable and chic. The artwork is made up of tiny Pantone color chips that change dramatically in tone and hue as you walk past each piece. Fabulous. And the way David mixes Deco with mid-century modern and abstracts is genius. I really would buy the entire room if I ever get a place with more than 450 square feet

Turning to Cecilie Starin Design, Cecilie never misses the mark: She always delivers the unexpected, exotic, eclectic and captivating. In past years, I've loved the rooms she did at the San Francisco Showcases. And now her Bedroom at the Marin Showcase gets added to that list:

Cecilie's rooms are works of art. Which makes sense because she was trained as a fine artist. Her look is like a refined but fresh still life. Very comfortable. Very classic. Very refined. Hmmmm-not unlike me on a good day.

The bottom line. This gal's just got a gift and it shows. The same goes for David only he's not a gal. Duh. Anyhow, they both skillfully juxtapose classic period pieces with contemporary, primitive, exotic, industrial and somehow make them all work together. Makes me pea green with envy but they're both so lovely that I'm trying to rise above that. But I'm saving my therapy sessions for my next post. For now, congrats to both David and Cecilie on their exceptional work at Villa Belvedere!

Friday, February 3, 2012


It's almost February 14th and you know what that means: VD is right around the corner. So I'm sure you're planning a romantic Valentine's Day dinner for your "special someone." Awwww. :)

UNRELATED FACTOID: I love this holiday because it reminds me of the 5th Grade when Miriam Lipschitz (yes, pronounced "LIP shits")--hey, it was a Jewish elementary school-anyhow, when Miriam nervously asked me, "Buzzy, would you be my ValentiMe?" I said "I'd rather eat ground glass" but I still remember her fondly.

ANOTHER UNRELATED FACTOID: Ralph Lauren's real last name is actually Lipschitz too. Not kidding. But wait...OMG!.... I wonder if Miriam was related to Ralph which means I could've married her, become a filthy rich Lipschitz and pretended I belonged to the most restricted WASP country clubs just like Ralph and his POLO models do??? WAAAHHHHHH!!!!

But back to the big upcoming romantic dinner: If you're like me, you're wondering what to make for that killer dessert. The one your sweetheart will never forget.

I have the perfect answer : how about a yummy terra cotta Valentine (pronounced "TER uh COT duh"), drizzled with lots of sweet raspberry coulis (pronounced "COOL lee"). Talk about amuse-bouche!!! Pronounced "ahm mooz BOOSH." Trust me, it'll make for an unforgettable evening.

Uh, hang on a second.....lemme think here.... um, TERRA COTTA IS THE SAME AS PANNA COTTA, RIGHT?

Well, that depends. If your Valentine is stoned out of his mind-then yes, terra cotta and panna cotta are exactly the same. They both taste like chicken. Buzz's disclaimer on controlled substances: just say no to drugs and spend that money on antiques.

This is important because if your sweetheart is NOT smoking "Valentine weed" (or whatever they call it these days...somebody told me "420" (!?). But I may have just asked for the time-I can't remember I was so out of it....), anyhow if the bf/gf is sober, then the answer is NO, terra cotta is nothing like panna cotta! Here's a pair of late 19th c. terra cotta urns from C. Mariani Antiques, Restoration & Custom:

Would you eat them? Of course not! It's criminal to destroy a perfectly good antique. Duh.

Anyhow, Panna Cotta is a rich dessert that comes from a Jello mold--and it's SO easy to make! In fact, you can prepare it in advance if guests are coming to admire your collection of terra cotta.

Terra Cotta, on the other hand, is just mud that comes from the earth. Well, technically it's a reddish clay used for statues, totems and other objet d'art.

WELL KNOWN FACTOID: Terra cotta doesn't work as a dessert because it tastes gritty, clogs your colon and makes you extremely gassy. In other words, it's an acquired taste.

So now you know. Have a ROMANTIC Valentines Day.