Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Creatures with Secrets: The Fantabulous Art of Onik Agaronyan

CREATURES WITH SECRETS: THE FANTABULOUS ART OF ONIK AGARONYAN -- We at Studio of Style were actually just as surprised by what we didn't see at first when we first saw the unique art "boxes" by Los Angeles-based artist Onik Agaronyan. Intrigued by this? So were we! That's because these one-of-a-kind works of art are indeed boxes -- and one would be hard-pressed to imagine that there is a fabulous purpose to these objets beyond just their exterior beauty. But, if you look closely at these photos, you'll be able to figure out that each of Agaronyan's creatures has a lid which either opens with hinges or can be removed completely -- and lo and behold, there is ample room inside each of them to stash away whatever needs stashing away.  Completely handcrafted, this new series by the artist is comprised of members from the animal and insect kingdoms: a rhinoceros; a rhinoceros beetle, crab beetle and frog beetle; a rat (love it!); a camel; a crow; and a water buffalo -- all fashioned from intensely hammered and treated copper and finished with a wonderfully decorative assortment of minerals and semi-precious stones such as malachite, sodalite, quartz crystal, pyrite, baroque pearls, black pearls and touches of gold leaf here and there to set everything off in the manner of fine jewelry. Says Agaronyan, "Those who collect lamps are afraid of the dark -- and those who collect boxes harbor many secrets." But it's no secret as to how imaginative these boxes are (oh, there must an even better word than "box" for these artistic statements!). Studio of Style caught up with the artist as he was making arrangements for his opening night party "Inside the Beast" at the Downtown showroom on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles where Angelinos will be able to view these beasts from September 27 to October 26 up close and personal.  Did you know that Agaronyan searches high and low for vintage tools to craft these pieces -- scouring flea markets, yard sales and the like?  And that he is best known for his handcrafted mirrors brimming with natural decorations such as scallop shells, abalone shells and the prickly parts of pine cones (we just love this one -- you have to see it in person!).  The weight, size and attention to detail in each and every one of these boxes is something to be savored which makes these items a top-notch art collectible -- even if you have entomophobia, you'll be won over by them! Oh, Agaronyan gave Studio of Style a hint about his next collection of objets d'art which sounds equally as wonderful.  So here's to all creatures great and small -- and bejeweled!
Portrait of artist by Greg Firlotte

Monday, September 17, 2012

Variety Studio at Holt Renfrew is the Talk of Toronto!

VARIETY STUDIO AT HOLT RENFREW IS THE TALK OF TORONTO!  At Studio of Style, we love the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, for sure (see our pics from Macy's recent Glamorama shown in a recent post below). However, there's nothing like being behind the scenes in show business and seeing everyone -- from actors to directors -- just being their wonderful and crazy selves and, more importantly, sharing among themselves the realities, the joys and the hard work of being in film and videos -- via in-depth conversations as witnessed at this year's installment of The Variety Studio of Holt Renfrew which took place September 8th through 11th at the incredible Bloor Street locale of Canada's premier department store Holt Renfrew! An amazing array of award-winning directors, actors, writers and producers were interviewed by Variety's editorial team, led by Senior Awards Editor Jon Weisman -- such as Johnny Depp (do we need to point the fabulous Mr. Depp out in the photo above??); Ewan McGregor (lower left, whom we love dearly!!!) with wonderful young actor Tom Holland (The Impossible); legendary filmmaker Ken Burns (middle right photo) swagging it up with Raymond Santana (one of the subjects of Burn's documentary The Central Park Five); a fun-loving bunch of actors (when aren't they??) hamming it up (when aren't they) for Burt's Bees: (from left) Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer); Clark Gregg (The New Adventures of Old Christine); Amy Acker (Much Ado About Nothing); director Josh Whedon (The Avengers); Nathan Fillion (Castle); and Sean Maher (Firefly). Burt's Bees asked Variety Studio guests to stand in solidarity for a world that's more natural and refreshing by taking part in the company's "Raise Your Burt's" campaign). Other sponsors included Moroccanoil who provided guests with their signature travel kit and white yoga bags (yes!); New Era headwear collections including their 59Fifty Fitted's, 9Fifty Snapbacks and the fashion-forward EK Fedoras (love it!) and Newsboy caps. And, by the way, all of this was taking place around the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) -- but being behind the scenes is just as much fun as sitting in a darkened theater, doncha think? PS -- we can't get enough of Johnny Depp! PPS -- others who attended the Toronto event included Emily Blunt; Woody Harrelson; Naomi Watts; Colin Ferrell; Tate Donovan; Colin Firth; and Viggo Mortensen. Wowza!
Images by Joe Scarnici/WireImage

Rose Cumming: The Lady, The Muse, The Legend, The Book!

ROSE CUMMING: THE LADY, THE MUSE, THE LEGEND, THE BOOK!  “One can picture the scene – an eccentric woman with lavender hair being driven in an ancient touring car surrounded by three admirers, blowing a trumpet out the window with a crystal chandelier strapped to the roof! They wound their way back to New York and all ended well.” That eccentric woman in lavender hair was none other than Rose Cumming – one of the so-called “great lady decorators” of the early twentieth century who was bizarre, eclectic and always surrounded herself with all things bold, dramatic, sumptuous and colorful.  Thankfully, the collaboration of renowned writer Jeffrey Simpson, Cumming’s great-niece Sara Cumming Cecil, the design house of Dessin Fournir and publishing house nonpareil Rizzoli has resulted in a book that finally and definitively puts together all the bits and pieces of an enigma (until now) of a person who, in the oh-so-popular world of interior design, has spent too many years in the shadows of her fellow peers.  Not only did Cumming push and break boundaries in the realm of interior design and decoration, but she also inspired and befriended such design icons Albert Hadley, Mark Hampton, Thomas Britt, Bunny Williams, Mario Buatta and many countless more. The book Rose Cumming: Design Inspiration by Jeffrey Simpson is not so much a book about facts or figures, but more of a journey to a time and era now completely lost with its ability to shock, change and bewitch one through fabrics and furnishings and lots of daring firsts.  But with the generous amount of vintage photographs, pics of Cumming's fabric swatches, transcripts of notes and private letters, quotes from those who knew her extremely well, Simpson evokes decades of Cumming’s life in a very smart package – perhaps Studio of Style’s most favorite book of the year.  Oh, and the quote above is found on page 220 of this hefty, glorious book of 224 pages that will have you returning to it again and again to simply savor in the strangely beautiful world that Cumming conjured for herself but sold by the bolt from her famed shop on the corner of 53rd Street and Madison Avenue in New York City that was cluttered beyond belief with shelves containing her famed chintz fabrics as well as chandeliers, bric-a-brac, empty candy boxes, antique furniture and lots of odd stuff in just the right places to create a sense of fabulous Old World theater.  In fact, there is so much to read about Cumming in this book, that all we can say to you (our savvy reader!) is to just get the book and let it unfold itself to you – and you’ll be hooked, intrigued and just plain astounded by this lovely lady who would go on to befriend such luminaries as Andy Warhol, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Jacqueline Onassis and Marlene Dietrich – who found Cumming’s beautifully bizarre world of such great interest. “I think she freed up all of us to take more chances,” says designer Bunny Williams in the book. In 2005, the company of Dessin Fournir acquired Cumming’s fabric and wallcovering line because, says company CEO and co-founder Charles Compeu, “she was one of the bastions of design and represented the best of New York in a time that no longer exists. If Rose were here today, what would she be doing? Luckily for us, Rose created more designs than she was able to produce and we discovered a treasure trove of documents and inspirations among her archives.” (See related story in post below.)  And indeed, this new book by Simpson is a treasure trove as well – and a long-overdue paean to someone whose eccentricity, clever eye and sense of adventure continues to live on for a new generation to explore and fall in love with!
Images and story quotes courtesy of Rizzoli

A Rose by Any Other Name: Rose Cumming at Dessin Fournir

(An update of our original April 12, 2012 post) A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME: ROSE CUMMING AT DESSIN FOURNIR -- All we can say is that she was quite a colorful gal, that Rose Cumming.  Purple hair (love it!), always with the decollete, enormous hats, her outspokenness, her disdain for electricity in her New York townhouse (!!), her friendships with Andy Warhol, Jacqueline Onassis, Rudolf Nureyev, Babe Paley and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, her love of 18th Century continental furniture -- and so much more.  Which is why we were perplexed to learn that no one had done an in-depth design biography of her before now -- but pleased as punch to learn that a wonderful gent by the name of Jeffrey Simpson has authored a book (shown in post above) on Cumming with a foreword by Cumming's great-niece Sarah Cumming Cecil (who heads Rose Cumming Design out of Portland, Maine) that will finally set the design record straight on the who, what and why of this clever designer who spent decades in New York creating her own style until her passing in 1968. Which leads us to the fabulous folks at Dessin Fournir who have introduced a new collection of six textiles based on archival designs found in the vast collection of Cumming.  The three shown here -- "Casamari" (top left), our favorite "Thistle" (background), and "Hops" (bottom right) -- are presented on linen  in soft colorways to impart a true vintage feel as well as texture (craftsmanship and a passion for preserving design traditions are hallmarks of Dessin Fournir ever since its founding several decades ago by Charles Comeau).  Did you know that Cumming is recognized for being the first designer to leave the lights on all night at her street-level shop on the corner of 49th and Park Avenue in New York so that passersby could peer in at any time of night through dawn to see all the fabulous items on display?  And that she invented metallic wallpaper? So get your fabrics now from Dessin Fournir and upholster your favorite reading chair so that you'll have it ready when you read Simpson's book.  Sound like a plan?  Good!
Textile images courtesy Dessin Fournir

Saturday, September 15, 2012

September 16, 1932 -- Peg Entwistle Jumped from the "H"...and into Hollywood History!

NOTE: When we originally published this post back in January of this year, we had no idea it would be the most-read story at Studio of Style...ever! Who knew? So, we're presenting it once again on the 80th anniversary of this most sad yet intriguing of Hollywood stories.....

SHE JUMPED FROM THE H -- AND INTO HOLLYWOOD HISTORY:  Listen up, kids -- if you think Hollywood is a strange (but fabulous!) place, wait 'til you read this one, okay? On the morning of Monday, September 17, 1932, an anonymous woman called the station of the Central Los Angeles Police Department and said "I was hiking near the Hollywoodland sign (the sign now just reads "Hollywood") today and near the bottom I found a woman's shoe and jacket. A little further on I noticed a purse. In it was a suicide note. I looked down the mountain and saw a body. I don't want any publicity in this matter (that's a first in this town!), so I wrapped up the jacket, shoes and purse in a bundle and laid them on the steps of the Hollywood Police Station." Then this mysterious caller hung up -- and thus began one of the most mysterious of suicides in Tinseltown. Blonde, blue-eyed Lillian Millicent "Peg" Entwistle, aged 24, lay dead in a ravine below Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills, 140 feet beneath the legendary sign.  As it turned out, a workman's ladder had been left behind the letter "H" -- and it was ultimately the highest that poor Peg would ever climb in Tinseltown. And everything started out so good too (hang in there -- the stranger parts are still to come!).  Only a year earlier, Peg had been already been in eight consecutive Broadway shows -- but all of them flops! Fed up with the not-so-Great White Way, she and her uncle Harold made the move to Hollywood -- living at 2428 Beachwood Drive, practically in the shadow of that iconic Hollywoodland sign (the house is still there, by the way). At first, things were looking up for Peg when she appeared in the play The Mad Hopes opposite Billie Burke and Humphrey Bogart. RKO Studio liked what they saw and offered her a contract for which she did The 13 Women -- her first film made in June of 1932 -- but she found that most of her parts lay on that famous cutting room floor, and the film received poor reviews anyway.  After that came nothing but audition after audition (sound familiar?) and waiting for that infamous phone to ring at her uncle's house (sound even more familiar?). By now, her heart was broken.  But it had been broken before -- you see, in 1927 Peg was married to Robert Keith for two years and Robert at the time already had a six-year-old son by the name of Brian Keith (yes! Uncle Bill from TV's 1960s Family Affair show!).  In 1997, Brian Keith would also commit suicide by shooting himself (!!) only two months after his own daughter Daisy committed suicide as well (!!).  Oh dear!  The note in Peg Entwistle's pocket read, "I am afraid I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain."  Wow--how incredibly sad. She had told her uncle that she was walking to the nearby drugstore and then to visit friends, but in truth she was headed for a place in the grim files of Hollywood history.  The coroner's report established that Peg died from multiple fractures of the pelvis as a result of a suicide attempt.  If only that workman hadn't left his ladder on the backside of the letter "H" -- who knows what kind of ending this Hollywood story would have had?

Monday, September 10, 2012

From Hollywood with Love...and Style: Behind the Scenes with Melinda Ritz

FROM HOLLYWOOD WITH LOVE....AND STYLE: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH MELINDA RITZ -- Talk about a true Hollywood success story! Interior designer Melinda Ritz (whose offices are actually located on a movie lot) is one of those rare people in the design industry who, by sheer will and determination, worked her way up through "the system" to find herself on top -- by doing it her way. Having won three (count 'em, three!) Emmy Awards for her set designs of the international hit television show Will & Grace which ran for eight successful seasons, Ritz has long since moved into the interior design arena full time and has brought with her many clients from the entertainment industry. Recently, her work has been featured in Architectural Digest (Ellen DeGeneres & Portia de Rossi!) and Elle Decor (Will & Grace co-creator Max Mutchnick!) and there are many more projects on the boards -- but why are we not surprised when you consider that show business runs in Ritz' blood: her father was one of the famed Ritz Brothers comedy trio from the golden era of Hollywood. When you stop to think just how influential the work of Melinda Ritz is simply based on her sets for Will & Grace alone (not to mention a whole host of other TV show sets as well), one can easily see why she is always in demand for her distinctive style and lovable nature.  And she is always on the go! Which is why we at Studio of Style were happy to have caught up with Ritz for a couple of moments to ask what makes this talented lady tick!

Studio of Style: How did your first job in the entertainment industry doing wardrobe lead you to the greater world of design?

Ritz: Actually, my first job in the industry was as a personal assistant on a super-low-budget pic called Sour Grapes with Jamie Farr from M*A*S*H – and the person who was supposed to be doing the costumes was always hiding in a corner somewhere reading a novel while everyone on the set was screaming about their wardrobes. So, I was immediately hired to take her place and almost had a nervous breakdown in doing so – I remember running to the nearest Sears store looking for white shirts for the men to wear and the clerk mentioned how stressed I looked – which means if you are stressed out, then you are the perfect person to be working in show business! Luckily the shoot lasted only six weeks and that’s when I knew I could never be a wardrobe person, but I did want to be in the entertainment industry in some capacity. So I needed to find another position that better suited my talents.

Studio of Style: Later, you found yourself designing set decorations for a science fiction film -- your first real job as a set decorator. How did you bring your touch to this film? 

Ritz: After my failure working in wardrobe, I met the renowned set decorator Anne Kuljian – but I didn’t know what a “set decorator” was at the time because I thought that sets were actually everyday locations that were shot as they were found and not produced and dressed by professionals. Kuljian and I met in 1985 on the now-cult film Cherry 2000 in Las Vegas and, for almost a year, I learned everything about pulling together sets, making something out of nothing, running about Vegas searching through decrepit neighborhoods for old, run-down trailers and thrift stores looking for junk props – and it was the most humbling job I ever had. But, while sitting alone in my car in the middle of the Nevada salt flats watching the teamsters bringing the trailers that I found, I remember seeing the movie set that I envisioned in my mind starting to take form and I eventually received major praise for it – even though I still thought at the time that set dressing was a truly questionable job and that I probably would never want to do it again!

Studio of Style: Your award-winning work on Will & Grace allowed you to explore your craft as a true set decorator, which led you to another level in your career.

Ritz: Some of the earlier films I worked on – like the one I mentioned before – were either low-budget or required period-looking sets, with the exception being Basic Instinct which was the one project where the sets I created were considered ‘high end.’ I realized that I really loved the high-end look and began teaching myself how to really design and decorate so that by the time that I began working on Will & Grace, I was ready to create elegant, high-end contemporary looks for the show that I believe viewers had never seen before on network television. I think these sets became an aspirational look for the viewer and, since the show was broadcast internationally for years, the show overall revolutionized the high-end look for other television shows. With the immense success of Will & Grace, the show’s actors and producers began buying homes and many of them turned to me to help with designing the interiors which, in turn, helped me launch my design business in 1995 with clients from both the show and the NBC network. But it was a wild time for me because I was working 14 hours a day on the set of the show and wedging in my new jobs doing interior design for homes whenever I could. In other words, I barely slept for at least 10 years!

Studio of Style: What have you learned from your set design experience?

Ritz: Working on location or in a Hollywood studio teaches you how to make decisions in a snap, under the gun and in a really short time period overall. Many of my interior design clients are amazed to see how quickly I can finish a project – but that comes from all the training I’ve had in films and television. Sometimes I’ve had to furnish homes in three days…or two weeks! The vendors that I use from the shows at the studios where I worked understand this and they’re adept at building pieces for me at a moment’s notice…and there is never a delay, as there is in the ‘real world’ because being in the studio system means that you can accomplish the unimaginable in virtually no time at all.

Studio of Style: Understandably, many of your clients live a “Hollywood” lifestyle. Is that translated into the interiors you design for them?

Ritz: A ‘Hollywood’ lifestyle has nothing to do with the style of the house – it’s really about how these people move about in their homes, how they entertain and, ultimately, how secure they feel. And it’s not about glitz – that is actually for amateurs! Many people in the entertainment industry in Hollywood are a bit more conservative about their home interiors than one would think. Therefore I choose not to follow trends or use major style themes – because another thing I learned from the movie business is to create a story for the actors, or in this case, for my clients. And that train of thought often goes against what motivates other conventional designers, which is to be motivated by trends or style themes. My motivation is the style of the house and the way my clients live within it.

Studio of Style: If someone were to look at one of your interiors in search of "Melinda Ritz," what would you want them to find?

Ritz: A timeless feel.
Photography by Erik Nelder

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Nicole Richie for Impulse hits the Runway at Macy's Passport Glamorama!

NICOLE RICHIE FOR IMPULSE HITS THE RUNWAY AT MACY'S PASSPORT GLAMORAMA! -- Though it doesn't officially hit the Macy's stores until September 12, the new fashion collection by superstar Nicole Richie for Impulse (a Macy's exclusive!) was the hit of the 30th annual edition of Glamorama this past Friday (September 7, 2012) at the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles.  This year's edition, titled Macy's Passport Presents Glamorama -- The British Invasion: The Music Then. The Fashion Now, gave thousands of attendees a first glimpse of Richie's collection that mixes up colors, prints, shapes and styles in a fun, youthful way that is thoroughly modern!  We at Studio of Style just loved it all!  Richie, shown here at the show with Macy's Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer Terry J. Lundgren (upper right photo), was the darling of the evening -- and rightfully so!  Read the two features shown below for more photos and information about this amazingly glamorous night -- which included new fashions from such power players as Calvin Klein, Bar III, Material Girl, Sean John, Tallia Orange, Rachel Rachel Roy, Diesel and Walter Baker and live entertainment from Megan & Liz, Karmin and Robin Thicke rounding out the event!  For the past 30 years, this unique event has raised more than $30 million for HIV/AIDS charities, organizations and research projects in Los Angeles and San Francisco, including AIDS Project Los Angeles and Project Angel Food. Though the event's founding chair Dame Elizabeth Taylor is sadly no longer with us, the amazing Sharon Stone spoke about the hope within the research community for an eventual cure -- a moving moment indeed.  (See more photos below)
Check it out: Glamorama
Photos by Kevin Winter and Stefanie Keenan of Wire Image/Courtesy Macy's

Macy's Passport Glamorama Marks 30 Years of Fabulous Fashion!

MACY'S PASSPORT GLAMORAMA MARKS 30 YEARS OF FABULOUS FASHION! -- Hollywood loves the red carpet! And every year, the paparazzi stake out their coveted spot on the red carpet for Glamorama at the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles.  This past Friday (September 7, 2012) the photographers and video crews were flashing and filming away during the arrivals for Macy's Passport Presents Glamorama -- The British Invasion: The Music Then. The Fashion Now -- and the fashionable crowd showed up on cue and were certainly ready for their closeups! And Studio of Style was there to capture their fabulous faces! Among the beautiful people (from upper left, clockwise): The eternally ravishing Sharon Stone who has crusaded for decades for HIV/AIDS efforts to raise monies and awareness towards a cure; model Georgia May Jagger (yes!) who is the face for Material Girl clothing line; model/actress/entrepreneur/designer Kathy Ireland --looking as gorgeous and classy as ever!; Sean Combs who is an amazing rapper, record producer, actor and clothing designer for his self-named line of men's fashion; singing heartthrob Robin Thicke who closed the evening's show with his sexy songs and his excitable stage presence; and Nicole Richie who is an equally-talented actress, singer, author and clothing designer. What a glamorous night it was, all in the name of supporting the life-changing work of AIDS Project Los Angeles and Project Angel Food.  (See more photos below)
Check it out: Glamorama 
All red carpet photos by Greg Firlotte

Macy's Passport Glamorama Marks 30 Years of Fabulous Fashion!

MACY'S PASSPORT GLAMORAMA MARKS 30 YEARS OF FABULOUS FASHION! -- There's no business like show business -- and the combination of fashion and music added up to one hot ticket this past Friday night (September 7, 2011) at the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles where thousands got to see not only a stellar fashion show with new collections from the likes of Calvin Klein, Bar III, Material Girl, Sean John, Tallia Orange, Rachel Rachel Roy, Diesel, Walter Baker and the runway debut of the exclusive limited-edition Nicole Richie for Impulse -- all of which was a feast for the eyes -- but some amazing music too! Macy's Passport Presents Glamorama -- The British Invasion: The Music Then. The Fashion Now was the title of this year's event and it has always offered a feast for the ears as well -- and this year's show didn't disappoint in any way, shape or manner! The opening musical number was performed by the pop duo Megan & Liz who are the iHeartRadio Rising Star Winners -- what fun they were and we wish them all the new-found success they can handle! Next up was another pop duo with excess energy to burn: Karmin (upper right photo) which consists of vocalist Amy Heidemann and keyboardist Nick Noonan who played their distinct style of high energy pop and rap -- and later this was followed by the appearance of that hunky heartthrob with the silky smooth voice Robin Thicke (lower left photo) who laid some breathy R&B tunes on the adoring crowd (girls were swooning and screaming-- love it!!).  It was a complete love-fest -- all in the name of raising monies and awareness for AIDS Project Los Angeles and Project Angel Food.
Check it out: Glamorama
Fashion photos by Kevin Winter and Stefanie Keenan of Wire Image/Courtesy Macy's
Karmin & Robin Thicke photos by Greg Firlotte