Sunday, November 28, 2010

House Beautiful, part 2

Newell Turner, the editor of House Beautiful, commented on my post from the other day. I wanted to comment back (naturally!), but what I wrote was too long to fit as a "comment".  So, it now becomes a post. If you haven't yet read the editor's letter, please do. I couldn't find a copy of it on the internet to re-post here. And please, don't get me wrong. As a longtime subscriber, I really do enjoy the magazine!


Thanks for writing. First, I'd be more than happy to post your editor's letter, if you'd be so kind as to send me a copy. I would welcome readers to compare my comments about your letter to your letter itself.

Second, after careful rereading, I take exception to contorting and misinterpreting your comments. All I did was merely interpret. We are always interpreting! I think we are also always looking for clarity and context, and perhaps some would be helpful.

I randomly looked through several back issues of HB from this year and noticed several of the fads you wrote about. In the October issue alone, the magazine highlighted a zebra rug in the 'Animalia' Rugs section ["We went wild for these captivating new designs from the animal kingdom."], several features with slip-covered sofas, and a Chinese garden stool in the "Bathroom of the Month". Not to mention that your magazine has had an "Everywhere We Look" section, which I looked forward to seeing, but now, I'm not so sure...

Also in the October issue there was a book excerpt from Rebecca Moses' A Life of Style that had the tag: It's about confidence: listen to yourself and follow your instincts. In this feature, there are some "Style Constants" among which are: ‘Exotica... symbols of a well-traveled life’ (could this include zebra rugs and Chinese garden stools?), ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall...Think gilded, grand, and gorgeous!’ (might not some think their gold sunburst mirror fits this category, not to mention its association with Louis  XIV which is another style constant ‘King Louis Anything’?) All this is a long-winded way of saying: Might these be classic elements and not fads? I am reminded of the Yves St. Laurent quote, "Fashions fade, style is eternal," and these elements have been with us for centuries.

(I also know that he said, "It pains me physically to see a woman victimized, rendered pathetic, by fashion,” and this maybe the point you were trying to make (to a degree) , if you substitute "room" for "woman". But then I have to wonder about the upcoming trends for 2011... Do trends live longer?)

If these are "overused", then it should make sense to stop featuring them. If they are being used "in the wrong way", then instruct how to use them in the correct way. But don't chide us for adopting what we see in your magazine.

Lastly, I don't think that I handed out any wild accusations (heavy use of sarcasm: guilty!). I did say that it appears that HB, as a magazine, isn't a request for feedback, or seeking a relationship with its readers nor does it encourage community, all things that I still believe based on the fact there is no forum in the magazine for readers’ comments. I also said that there was subtle mocking and a bit of ridicule in your letter, again, which I believe, there is. We, as readers and consumers of your magazine, were inspired by your editorials and bought products featured in them only to find out in your letter that these elements are now "tired". Feeling a bit set-up, while unintended, seems only natural.

I feel like I'm rehashing, and for that I apologize. So here's an invitation: Even though you said it's not easy or likely to engage a conversation, let's do it anyway. Who knows, we might learn something about each other’s perspectives. And I promise I will leave out the sarcasm!

Best regards,
Bob Beukema

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving...

It's almost here, my favorite holiday! People are sometimes surprised that this is the day I look forward to most of all. Not my birthday, or the 4th of July, or even Christmas (though Christmas Eve Day is a close second!) I love that there are no expectations other than to enjoy seriously good food and relax with good company. I also love all the trappings of tradition that come with Thanksgiving. It's funny, for as unconventional as I may be on the surface, just under the exterior I am a very traditional guy...

My family comes from good, old-fashioned mid-western stock, and our family Thanksgivings were never too adventuresome. We had the usual suspects: turkey stuffed with bread stuffing and roasted, mashed potatoes, gravy, squash, cranberry sauce, green beans (though I remember peas pinch-hitting every once and awhile) creamed onions (my personal favorite- hot, cold any way I can get them, they're amazing!) rolls, and pumpkin pie. But it was all done perfectly, first by my grandmother, and then by my mother.

Both women were great cooks, but nodding to the times, they did pick up some shortcuts along the way (there were plenty of Thanksgivings and Christmases with canned cranberries- the sauce, not the jelly!), but things were brought full circle, and "scratch" came back to being the norm fairly early on in my childhood. One thing I do remember that, at our house, came out at Christmas time was the Johnson Brothers "Wild Turkey" platter (we virtually had the same meal on Christmas, but at our house, not my grandparents) that my grandmother gave my mom in 1951, the first year my parents were married. Eventually, my mom started to take over the cooking of both meals after it became too much for my grandmother. When this happened, the platter lived on the end of our dining table for the month between these two holidays as my mom's autumnal decoration!

Fast forward to me as an adult settling my first home with my partner and beginning our own traditions. I discovered that this pattern was also tableware AND available on ebay! I was hooked. I quickly amassed a collection of 12 dinner plates which make their dinner party debut every year in the fall and stay out until the start of Advent. Sometimes I think that I'm the only one I know with Thanksgiving dishes... ("Oh, you have Christmas plates?!") To that point, my mom had a severe addiction to Spode's Christmas Tree dishes that was finally satisfied when my brother and sister-in-law gave her a full set (almost every piece imaginable!) as gifts over several years.

But it really is about the food, and the preparation of it. I was the bread plucker, and a week ahead, I had to do my duty for the stuffing! On the morning of the roasting of the turkey, my mom was up early to stuff and truss the bird, and set in motion the rest of the cooking that lasted all that day. One key memory was, after she sauted the onions, celery and seasoning for the stuffing, she scrambled eggs for breakfast in the same pan! Those were some amazing eggs! The love that went into that meal was fully realized by all of us. My mother truly loved everything about the Thanksgiving meal, and in her honor, we served it at her memorial. It was a natural and delicious tribute to her!

Further fast forward to our first Thanksgiving hosting my dad, his new wife, my sister and her children for the first time in our new home. As a house warming gift, my sister brought "the turkey platter" and now my dishes have been united with their inspiration. My next addition to the set are dessert plates in a coordinating pattern, "Harvest", also by Johnson Brothers. It has the same brown transfer pattern and scallop around the edge, but with brilliantly colorful fruit in the center, rather than a flying turkey (there's something strange about eating dessert on a plate with a turkey on it...). I picked up a dinner plate in this pattern in an auction lot of the "Wild Turkey" plates. Unfortunately, these plates in this size are few and far between on the auction circuit...

Oh, well. Here's to happy hunting and a Happy Thanksgiving!

House Beautiful

Here is the letter I wrote to House Beautiful magazine. I emailed this with the subject line: 'Ouch! Did anybody else feel that?' When I was looking where to send the letter, I realized that HB doesn't have a Letters to the Editor section in their magazine! They seem not to be a request for feedback, or seek a relationship with their readers or encourage community... So, I sent my letter off to "Reader Services". Let me know your thoughts!

Dear Reader Services:

So, I am finally sitting down to enjoy my December/January HB... When, low and behold, I get to Editor Newell Turner's page! Now, I have never meet the man, but I did follow the renovation of his country home (heck, I even blogged about it:, and he seems like a nice enough guy... But now, I don't know! Yeah, I chuckled about the fashion foibles he mentioned (we all have VERY scary pictures of ourselves!), and I agree: one has to learn and laugh. But then there came the subtle mocking of some very popular design elements: Chinese garden stools, zebra rugs, sunburst mirrors, and slipcovers (really?!?). Hm... where did we see these things, let me think... I know! It was in issue after issue of HB magazine! Why, there was even a section called "Everywhere We Look"! Had the readers only known they were being set up, I don't think they would have embraced these "trends" turned "fads" or the magazine so fully.

The big difference between an unfortunate pair of bell bottoms or a velour pullover is that they probably didn't set the buyer back too much. But home furnishings are expensive propositions, and ones not undertaken lightly. I can only speak for myself, but I think of my furnishings as investments. I look for inspiration (yes, from fickle design magazines!), I make sure I really like what I want to purchase, and then buy the best I can afford of what I want. With mild tweaking, the stuff has got to last!

I know I am fairly secure in my taste, and in what I like, even my zebra stenciled cowhide rugs (I couldn't do the real McCoy's, it is something about the heads! But mine ARE lined and framed in felt... Did you just exhale in an exhausted sort of way?!) - two of them mind you, overlapping and layered on sisal ("... everywhere we look, sisal..." - and said not with excitement, but with exhaustion). Now, I don't have a sunburst mirror, but I DO have a large Syroco sunburst clock that belonged to my parents that hangs over their Baker sideboard that I also now have. In fact, I have the whole dining set that I grew up with: the Baker Finn Juhl table and the Michael Taylor knock-off chairs! It's actually really cool living with so many elements from my own childhood.

I also know that these "fads" have roots that go deep into the history of design. We're not talking painted wall graphics or carpeting on walls here. Some might even call these "fads" timeless. So to say that these things are elements to mock, or roll eyes at, or talk about  "... not with excitement, but with exhaustion", smarts a little. On the last page of the magazine, Alexa Hampton is looking forward to animal print velvets (tiger-stripe silk velvet: check!), but this is a trend alert for 2011?!  And Suzanne Rheinstein is excited about paint in off-beat colors? Sybil Connolly notwithstanding, I think we're getting ready here for another set up!! And lastly, in Windsor Smith's editorial, there are white slipped-covered sofas and an ottoman (... everywhere we look, ottomans as coffee tables...) with a slipcover!  Now, there was a bit of back peddling on Newell's part. He said that, in and of themselves, these elements were "not big mistakes" and do "have a valid, happy places in design" and I thought, "Okay, he's going to redeem himself in the final sentences!" Then came the comeuppance: "... it's just that they got overused or used in the wrong way"  and if we follow the advice on the following pages, we won't be "gullible victims... but a part of the fascinating evolution of design"!

I'm guessing Windsor used the slipcover in the right way? I wonder what the wrong way of slipcovering looks like... Children? Pets? Yes, that seems a little wrong... Overused? Really?! Maybe the reason why is because we saw editorial after editorial of these things in your magazine. We subscribe, we read, we're inspired, we save, we shop and finally purchase... and now, apparently, we get a little bit of ridicule- from the editor of the magazine! I wonder if Oly is aware of what was written on the facing page of their ad? They aren't rugs, but they are zebra pillows!! Did they feel it, too? Hm... Gullible victims? I am stunned! So now the readers of HB are gullible victims?!

A design magazine should help readers revamp and reuse their investments. Not everyone is in a position to start from scratch, not to mention that starting from scratch isn't a very "green" way to decorate. I would try a little more inspiration rather than ridicule in the coming issues...

Just some random ramblings from a longtime reader,
Robert Beukema

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A great class!

What a fun time on Saturday! We worked with a great rose (Geraldine) and learned the step-by-step of conditioning and arranging 25 roses. This arrangement is perfect for a cocktail table, side table, OR the dining table (mais bien sur!) and has many different applications. Truly a versatile technique! Thanks to the ladies who participated, you were wonderful to teach! Here are the highlights:

       As Julie Andrews sang, "Let's start at the very beginning..." 
       Rose 101: It's the best place to start!

                                           Stripped and ready for action!

                             Exhale... (And yet ANOTHER use for the AJ's bag!)


                     Cardinal directions: always helpful for finding your way home!

                                           Bull's eye!

                                           The home stretch...


                                          Wrapping things up, literally!

                                                     Et voila!

If you (or someone you know who may be interested!) are in the Phoenix area on December 4, there is another class being offered, just in time for holiday entertaining or gifting.

During this two-hour class, as shown above, you will learn how to clean, trim, and condition 25 premium-grade roses to maximize their vase life. Then I will teach you how to arrange these roses in a foolproof method that works every time! You'll take away with you a graphic rose arrangement - that YOU created - in a versatile glass cylinder, boxed and wrapped for easy travel or gift giving. You will also receive a florist knife, and the knowledge to re-create this arrangement whenever you wish - complete with "how-to" instructions! Arrangements of this quality sell for over $120 at local florists.

And the investment you'll make to attend my class? $125.

Working with your hands to create something beautiful is perfect for:

  • A mental health day
  • A mother-daughter day
  • A day out with the gals - or guys!
I'm also happy to hold custom classes on other days for specific occasions, such as:
  • A birthday party 
  • A bachelorette party
  • A corporate team building event
I love what I do and I'd love to share it with you. To register or for questions:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All that, and a vase to boot!

I must admit that I have a slight fixation with bottles. I love antique ones and modern ones, bottles made into glassware (if myself in 1980 could hear myself in 2010 say that, I'd slap me!), and of course bottles used for vases. My only defense is that I grew up in Los Angeles in an era when it was considered both chic and quaint for a cafe to have an small Perrier bottle with a bloom in it on the table. Of course now, you can get bottles from retailers like Crate and Barrel that have a great shape and hold a single bloom, but I still love the re-purposed bottle! Which brings me to the point of this blog: Hendrick's Gin.

I first had a Hendrick's cocktail at a great restaurant near me, St. Francis, that serves seasonal tipples using Hendrick's Gin (Boots mixes a mean drink!). If you are still in the dark, Hendrick's is distilled in ridiculously small batches in Scotland using cucumber and rose petals, and was declared "The Best Gin in the World" by the Wall Street Journal in 2003. It also comes in a great bottle! The shape is perfect: tall, with a small neck, and the black glass is subtle, yet dramatic- perfect for a few colorful blooms...

An added bit of polish is to use some greenery, especially around the neck, in a simple arrangement like this. I really love galax leaves, which you can usually get from a florist (P.S. they last almost forever in a plastic bag in your fridge, as well!). The height of this arrangement would make for an awkward centerpiece (it would look great, though, on a side table or entry table...), but this could easily be adapted by shortening the stems.

Now, all you have to do is mix some cocktails and presto! You have a vase! Sometimes inspiration can come down the liquor isle of your grocery store...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In a nautilus shell...

Sometimes an unexpected container can be the perfect thing for flowers! I thought I'd give a peek at one of the shell arrangements from the shoot. I've had these nautilus shells for awhile. They look great empty in a grouping, and now I can say I love them with flowers, too. Now I need to find a welder to create a great base for these... the acrylic ones work, but I think I can do better. After an exhaustive Google search, I came up with nadda, so it looks like I need to find someone local who can create a twisted bronze tripod to support these guys.

You can see the whole in the middle awaiting my creative hydrangea solution... Also peaking out in the photo are these small malachite boxes that I use for salt cellars, which remind me of the late Tony Duquette, especially teamed with with the orchids in the shells. Mr. Duquette was a legendary creative tour de force, especially in and around Hollywood. It was always great to run into people in town that remembered his parties... and boy, did he know how to throw a party!  Jim Thompson  is working with Duquette's design partner Hutton Wilkinson and has issued the Tony Duquette Collection of fabrics, including this malachite fabric below, called Gemstone. Amazing... to quote Mr. Duquette, "More is more!"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hydrangea happens...

I love hydrangeas. There is nothing better than these big moppy blooms in a bowl or vase. They are seductively simple by themselves, or dramatic teamed with other garden flowers or orchids. They are also a little finicky. I heard someone compare them to children in a family: "Some turn out, some don't!" meaning that while you prep a bunch exactly the same way for an arrangement, some will make it, and others may wilt before your eyes! I've learned that you need more stems than you think, just in case you end up with a 'black sheep', or two in the family bunch! The photograph shows a sample table centerpiece I did where I teamed these beautiful white hydrangea with yellow oncidium orchids and 2 satellite arrangements of yellow and white roses- talk about WOW!

This weekend past, I was preparing for a photo shoot for my website that's being built, and I thought, "Aha! I'll use hydrangeas as the centerpiece!" I called and reserved 10 stems of an "antique green" variety to use in my grandmother's blue Canton bowl. This variety is a very pale green and has a slight blush to it with a bit of mottling on the petals that I really like. In the blue and white Chinese bowl, they'd be perfect! In addition, I picked up  2 stems of green cymbidium orchids for a pair of nautilus shells I've been meaning to try out as vases. These would look great teamed with the delicate green hydrangeas!

The hydrangeas were huge and fresh, but in the end, too huge! When I filled the bowl and placed it on the table, there was literally no room for the rest of the table setting. "Hmm... the photographer is coming in two hours and my grand plan is not working out!" I'd by then cut the stems short, so my options had become very limited. I had already filled the shells with the orchids, and they looked great, but I had this hole in the middle of the table to fill. I grabbed a vase of roses I had on the coffee table ("Very pretty, but not quite right with everything else planned!"). Then I went hunting!

I have a great collection of antique Canton ginger jars, but there was no way if I used these that the short stems would make it in water... Then I remembered "water picks!" and these became my lifeline! Water picks are the little test tubes that have a space in the bottom for attaching a longer stem so they can be as long as you need them to be! I filled the tubes with water, re-cut the stems and placed them into the tubes! I then dug in the trash for the rose stems I had trimmed off the coffee table arrangement and fit these into the bottoms and voila! I replaced the short stems with long!

The ginger jar held only five of the blooms. Luckily I have several of them, so the stems I couldn't use wouldn't go to waste. Suddenly, it all came together and not a moment too soon. As I just finished cleaning up the mess, the doorbell rang. Terry, the photographer had arrived! It just goes to show you that "hydrangea happens!"

The P.S. in this tale is that this variety dries beautifully without loosing their color or drooping. I now have 3 arrangements in my beautiful ginger jars, 1 on my dining table, 1 on the desk in the living room and the last in the kitchen. These will last in this 'limbo time' before the Christmas holiday extravaganzas begin! So remember, when life gives you "hydrangea" make dried arrangements!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Holiday Help!

If you are or will be in Phoenix on either November 20, or December 4, I am holding more floral design classes! This busy time of year when you want to entertain in your home is upon us, and this class will teach you to create - and then recreate - a beautiful rose arrangement at a fraction of what a florist would charge.

The rose arrangement in the photograph is the subject of these classes, and is perfect for a centerpiece on your dining table or on your coffee or side table. It can also be a great hostess/host gift or Christmas gift. The arrangement is modern yet traditional, and the technique is very versatile - change the color of the roses, maybe mix two shades of roses (a deep crimson rose combined with a bright scarlet variety creates a breathtaking Christmas look), or change the container - the sky's the limit!

During this two-hour class, you will learn how to clean, trim, and condition 25 premium-grade roses to maximize their vase life. Then I will teach you how to arrange these roses in a foolproof method that works every time! You'll take away with you a graphic rose arrangement - that YOU created - in a versatile glass cylinder, boxed and wrapped for easy travel or gift giving. You will also receive a florist knife, and the knowledge to re-create this arrangement whenever you wish - complete with "how-to" instructions. Arrangements of this quality commonly sell for over $120 at local florists.

And the investment you'll make to attend my class is only $125.

Working with your hands to create something beautiful is perfect for:
  • A mental health day
  • A mother-daughter day
  • A day out with the gals - or guys!
I'm also happy to hold custom classes on other days for specific occasions, such as:
  • A birthday party 
  • A bachelorette party
  • A corporate team building event
The bottom line is that I love what I do and I'd love to share it with you.
To register or for questions: