Urban Oasis

I don't recommend staying in Midtown if you visit New York City the weekend before Christmas. Wall-to-wall tourists make for slow-going (and a serious lack of personal space) on the streets, especially if you're making the trek from the Bryant Park Holiday Fair to Rockefeller Center.  That being said, I CAN recommend a wonderful mid-town hotel that will quickly make the hubbub a distant memory; there's also a story behind my admiration of the place.

My husband was booked our trip, while I busily prepared for the holiday. "We're staying at The Refinery Hotel," he announced. "It's pretty new."  When we arrived there a few weeks later, I still didn't know what we'd stumbled upon.

Front desk

Front desk


We walked through a beautiful arched entry, and up to the front desk, behind which hung an interesting wall sculpture.  The modern decor was serene and inviting. Once in our room, we found a flyer, laid out like an old newspaper page, describing the property.


The Refinery Hotel, it said, was built on the site of the old Colony Arcade Millinery Factory.  Wow, I thought.  My grandmother had worked in a millinery factory in the 1920's when she first arrived in New York from Sicily.  I noticed the writing desk in the room had a cast iron sewing machine base.





Writing desk with sewing machine base

I began to notice the subtle touches the designers had specified to pay homage to the building's history.  Along with the sewing machine bases, I realized the medallion in the center of the runner in the lobby had a beautiful custom design. 

And the staff associates were wearing these wonderful pins....





As for that wall sculpture behind the check-in area?  When I got closer, I saw that it was an artful arrangement of individual tools, which I later found were used to make flowers for the ornate hats that were once created in this place.

Mary Adorno Velleca, at her sister's wedding, circa 1921, and her old Singer

It was right about at this time that I got a little teary, thinking of my beloved Nonni and how she spent a great deal of her youth in this very building.  She died in 2004 at age 104, and I still have her old Singer in my studio. 

In fact, she's probably the reason why I love to do what I do. 


Here's hoping everyone is finding his or her own oasis, and staying warm!


Color: The Antidote for Grayscape

We suburbanites and country folks in the northeastern part of the US tend to paint the bodies of our houses neutral colors of white, gray, beige, or brown.  We do it because we're afraid that we might get sick of an unusual color, after all the time and money it took to paint, or we do it to avoid offending our neighbors, who might otherwise have to look at a brightly-colored house every time they look out their window, heaven forbid.  

During this time of year, before the holiday decorations go up, many of our houses look anemic in the barren landscape. Neutral color schemes that looked fine when the flowers were blooming and the lawn was green are now contributing to an overall brownish-gray monotone. 



Having just visited Ireland, I was reminded that not everyone shares this need to paint their houses the same color as the frost-bitten vegetation of November.  Yes, the grass stays a verdant green throughout much of the year there, but the cities and town centers don't have much of it and the weather is pretty gloomy, especially in fall and winter. So what do the friendly citizens of Galway, Dingle, and Doolin do? They get creative with paint.

photo (9).JPG

You can't help smiling when you drive into Dingle town, where O'Sullivan's Pub is painted bright blue. Or when you drive down this lane in Galway.  (There was a patch of blue sky that day, but only for a minute.)

So if you want to brighten up the landscape a bit and make your own home more welcoming when everything around you is gray (without shocking your neighbors too much), why not paint your front door(s) a different color? Different from your shutters, say, or just different. Some of the old barns around here are sporting new red metal roofs and a few adventurous folks have chosen non-traditional colors for their shutters and doors, such as turquoise and fushcia. Even if the color isn't one I would choose, I applaud their nonconformity and always enjoy the jolt of color when I pass by their homes in the middle of a cold, barren winter.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and holiday decorating!




There's always a bit of sadness that comes along when the days get shorter and August gives way to September. Still, the change that comes brings new opportunities to see the world, quite literally, in a different light.  Watch how the morning light comes in at a different angle, and how the sun illuminates the morning dew. A very industrious spider spun an intricate web in my outdoor shower the other day, and I don't think I would have noticed it if not for the sun's shift in angle. Wish I had snapped a photo.

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