Mariko Swisher is a native of Sendai, Japan. She is a licensed calligrapher who emigrated to the United States 20 years ago. She began her study of ceramics in Japan. She is widely exhibited and since moving to New York City, she has studied with such greats as Akio Takamori and Peter Volkous just to name a few. David Revere McFadden, chief curator at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, thinks Mariko’s work is inspired by ethnic and folk pottery and feels her work functions on both practical and cultural levels.
At first glance, you wonder if Mariko’s work was unearthed from the Tang Dynasty! Upon closer inspection, you see how her artistic vision marries the past and the present.
Her calligraphy skills and interest in ceramic design evoke a rare an beautiful combination. I feel that she bridges the gap between decorative and fine art. I also feel her pieces have a timeless quality to them and one can discover something new each time they are viewed. Her color palette is probably one of the most sophisticated I have ever seen and she uses it beautifully in conjunction with her amazing compositions. below is a close up of her painting the surface of her work. She is a true Tour de Force.

Now, let’s take a close look!

I really like her use of animal shapes which enhance the function of the vessel.

Above, the animals in the vessel provide a repetitive textural edge to the surface.

Look at the marvelous beetles that surround the bird, this is a wonderful composition.

This is a teapot. Mariko is also a tea enthusiast. I really love the way the shape of the dog like creature arches his back and accentuates the curve of the pot. The scroll like work at the base adds such visual interest!

Mariko also makes vases in circular form, the one below is very unusual and I just love the horse!

The vessel below is also circular, but in a different way. This would look wonderful on a low table.

Below is a square vessel, perhaps a fox on the hunt? After these next two vessels, stick around for my interview…..


“My style is based on tradition and broad cross currents of culture and history. While I make specific forms that interest me, it is the complexity of the glazing, the contrasts of the geometric and organic (quality) of my imagery that i feel is my “style”. I look at both art and design and nature’s design constantly. I look, sketch, remember and play with ideas to work with on the 3-d forms I make.”


“My home and my space. “


” Hope…… also, white rice and soy sauce.”


“I like John Marin’s painting, Isamu Noguchi’s wood and stone sculpture works, his lighting. Among ceramic artists, Rudy Autio, (one of the artists she studied under). I also like the work of Maria Martinez (pueblo potter 1881-1980)”


” I would be interested to work with a sculptor like Akiko Sugiyama, a paper sculptor and friend of mine. I collaborate with my husband Charles (a painter). While our work is unrelated, we both pursue quality of form and design built on the art of the past.
A work
cannot arise out of thin air. It is sensory experience of the life of an artist, the knowledge, memory that inspiration is built upon.”

To conclude, I met Mariko and Charles many years ago when I became a patron. I am happy to say that they now live in my hometown of Lancaster, Pa. Mariko continues to exhibit her work nationally.
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This month I am featuring the amazing works by furniture artists, Kim and Steve Cherry. They create both contemporary and traditional furnishings with a twist, color is their forte. We have worked together on many projects over the past 15 years. I am always impressed by the fresh and innovative way the Cherry’s design space for mill work. Whether we work on a dining room table, a chair or a bookcase I know it will always look like a work of art. Their pieces are timeless and have been featured on HG TV and Conde Nast magazine to mention a few. They have created interior spaces as far away as Ireland. At the end of the blog, please take a look at my portfolio where you can see more of their work in different settings. Enjoy!
Here we see a fabulous armoire created for a warehouse residential space with no closets. What a great solution!

Below is an armoire we made for a client’s bathroom to hold towels, soaps, etc.

Here is an example of how mill work can be incorporated into the tile work and the sink design.
Below is a bar which incorporates tile, wood, copper, and mirror. I just love the shape of the bar!

When you take a close look at the images below, you will see that they are really very traditional in line. What makes them new and fresh is the color application.

The milled doors above are basically classical features. The application of the black and white are very exciting.
What I like about the next photo is the movement propelled by not only the shape but the color. Next time you need a bulletin board, think of something fun to inspire you!

Color blocking is big these days in wall color and furniture. Look at this coffee table and just imagine how much fun you could have matching your sofa fabrics to the colors of your choice for a table. It would create an original focal point.

Kim and Steve not only create one of a kind furnishings, but also hand paint canvas floor coverings. I just love the combination below.

Just when you think they could not have any more fun, check out this bench……………..

Here is a unique pairing of a traditional spindle chair and a pedestal base table.

Lastly, if you prefer something a bit more subdued and elegant, I will leave you with this! Pleas go to to see more…..Thanks, Kim and Steve and I’ll visit you all again next month.


Accessorizing any room is like adding jewelry to an outfit. When you think of it that way, it becomes easier to think about. Well placed accessories punctuate a room just the way a great necklace can punctuate a dress. If you wear a great necklace, you know not to over do it with earrings, bracelets, pins and handbags.
Here the designer illustrates symmetry. Mirrors add a reflective quality for a texture, bring light into the room and have a function. The table provides a strong horizontal line and the stacked pictures create a vertical line. Each of these elements serve to anchor and divide space creatively behind the sofa. The symmetry of the mirrors works well with the symmetry of the pillows.

It is important to connect all elements in a room. Below are whimsical antlers on the wall. What makes these two vignettes work is that anything hung or placed on a table top is in close proximity to its neighbor… the table, chest, vases, lamp, art all work to connect the dots.

One of the most challenging aspects of accessorizing is convincing people to to lower their paintings. Some one out there decided all paintings should be hung at eye level , no matter what. The rule of thumb is this…. a painting should hang no more than 4-5 inches from the furniture.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes you can rest pictures on a table as long as you vary the height, take a look at this console table.

Books are a great way to add height, color and interest to a surface. You can pick them up at flea markets. Always be sure to remove book covers. Sometimes there is a surprise of a wonderful cloth bound binding with a colored font. Notice here the mixture of wood, metal and glass. Do not be afraid to layer, place short items in front and taller items in the rear.

When you have a tall chest, what do you do with the top? Anything that is up there is lost and looks tiny because it’s up so high! Consider using an over sized vase as shown here.

This adds drama and really connects the ceiling to the rest of the room.

When considering table top accessories for a dining room or kitchen, there are fun ways to add color and interest. Instead of flowers, why not fill jars with seasonal fruits or vegetables?
Here is a lovely idea for fall. The gourdes match the place mats. Repeating a design down the length of a table adds a lot of drama. If you have 2 hanging lights above your table, use 3 jars. If you have 3 hanging lights over your table, use 2. If you have one large fixture, use several jars.

Think of all the different things you can add as the seasons change. You can layer things like cherry tomatoes along with broccoli florets and actually fill the jars with water! Everyone loves that.

If you have a round table, accessorizing is a bit different. It is a wise idea to build up in the center. Most large dining tables have unused space in the center, arms can’t reach. It’s a perfect opportunity to create a stage of shapes and colors. Below, this table mixes oranges and pinks.

Mirrors, candles, vintage glassware dried cock’s combs in fuchsia , all are welcome changes to a floral centerpiece, don’t you think? Varying the heights keeps the eye moving.
When decorating around food, it is a good idea to stick to food colors. There are generally no blue restaurant interiors and no blue food and blueberries don’t count!

So far we’ve looked at some ideas for walls, dining tables both round and rectangular, how about the coffee table? It’s a coffee table before 5 pm and a cocktail table after 5pm!
Think of your coffee table as a picture plane and divide it much the way you would divide an accent wall with horizontal and vertical lines.

Here we have an acrylic table. They are great. While they function, they don’t add volume and are light and airy for this setting. This would be great with a picture rug below it. The table top items here have height and a variety of shape and texture. Trays act like small picture frame and help to zero in on smaller items. Without the tray, the small candle would be lost. You can get some great trays at Pier One.
These are just some ideas to get you inspired. It is also a good idea to rotate accessories. Don’t feel the need to always have the same thing.
I’ll bet you anything there is a remote in the box!

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As always, would love to hear your comments or any questions!


A picture is worth a thousand words. Just look how this spiral staircase is enhanced by the repetetive design of the wrought iron. Below,the balustrades also have an interesting effect.

Different parts of the staircase give designers the opportunity to infuse different materials for interest: metal, wood, and paint color. Below we see how the introduction of fabric beside a window can enhance the architectural features of the panes.

Side panel draperies are a wonderful vehicle for color blocking. Not only do the panels enhance the height of the room, draw your eye upward, but give the chance to add bits of color for accent. A large scale pattern with the architecture would have worked equally as well. The secret find of a large pattern fabric is the way the print becomes altered when shirred.

Sometimes, its important to know when not to add anything…. “less is more”, take a look…

The next two photos show how just simple paint can define shape and space. All this oval tray ceiling needed was a color.

The same is true for the mud room next to this kitchen. The use of a high contrast color next to the moulding and a strong fabric pattern on both window and seat cushion invites you in its direction, stands up to the kitchen area and gives a visual anchor to the space.Who says a mud room can’t look fabulous!

Don’t forget about ceilings! They are a very important architectural feature and the most underused surface. We’ve seen color blocking above in the kitchen, but what are some of the other ways to treat a ceiling? Below is a combination of wallpaper and wood separated by moulding.

If you don’t want to tackle a whole room, start out with a powder room and use your imagination! Before we move outdoors, sometimes certain accessories can provide architectural elements. In this photo a mirrored screen is used to divide a space, how unusual!

The last few photos show how landscaping can enhance a property. The use of greens, water, stone, and wood create a majestic and magical atmosphere. The one rule of thumb about landscaping is this…… never think of landscaping as parseley around a turkey.

Some advice if you are considering using wrought iron around a pool, for decoration or simply for safety…. NEVER use white. It does not harmonize with nature and just sticks out like a sore thumb. Below you will see wood arbor squares which work nicely with the slate tiles. Notice the clever way the boxwood plantings are framed around the pool.

The last photo below is just a great example of all the elements working together………

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Happy new year to everyone! This month we’re going to take a look at some of the trends in drapery, bedding, and pillows Here, you see a lovely mix of color, texture, shapes and pattern. The neutral sofa acts as a wonderful backdrop to to the drama created by the textiles. What is nice about this is, that if you tire of the look, it is easily replaced with other colors at a small expense.

The photos below show how you can elect to trim your pillows with your own designs, with the use of decorative tape. Here is a Greek key design. you can also elect to applique part of another fabric on to the face of a pillow. The applique need not be the whole print! You may edit a design and select only portions of the fabric to highlight.

Pictured here top and bottom are some of the new color combinations, soft taupe/gray with the muted pale yellows.

Don’t be afraid to mix patterns, the chevron upholstery and the applique work nicely together here.

Below you are looking at a roman shade with beaded trim. a detail like this adds a nice touch.

Next, consider using fabrics with lots of volume for a dramatic effect. Certain silks are full of volume but are light and airy at the same time. This shirred side panel reminds me of a wedding gown. How about this for a woman’s study or bathroom?

The next set of photos takes a close look at bedding. These are soft and serene traditional and contemporary.

Notice the canopy, you can create this look easily and coordinate it with the pillows. The largest pillows are called euro shams and using them first is a great way to begin building your bed ensemble. Notice the inverted pleat duster, tailored yet soft. Fyi… your sleeping pillows can hide behind the euros!

This bedding incorporates wonderful shades of dusty blue, very restful. Benches at the end of a bed not only look great, but it’s a great place to store pillows and extra blankets at night. Notice the upholstered headboard, another great way to incorporate color with your bedding.

The last bed here is more contemporary, very sharp with the use of the bolster pillows.

Look how just a small amount of banding at the end of a pillow can pull a whole look together.

If you are interested in going back and reading any of my other blogs, feel free to go to You can go to the blog archives on the right side of the page. In the meantime, feel free to tell me what you think, I love reading all the comments.

HOW TO DECORATE WITH PHOTOGRAPHS (click title for more info)

Decorating with photographs can be a lot of fun as well as a good design tool. Photos can be used in a decorative way or in a fine art way. Consider taking family photos cropping and blowing up to emphasize certain features. With Photo shop and Picasa on our computers, it’s easy to do. Make your pictures fun. They don’t have to be perfectly posed. Show action and it does not matter if some of the picture is not perfectly in focus! That was only George Eastman’s idea.
This little guy is a riot! Consider doing a gallery wall in a boring hallway, like the one on the way to the laundry room, or up the stairs!
Below is another good idea…. Flank your child’s artwork with pictures of him or her. The blow-up of this little girl’s expressions shown in multiple ways is pure genius!

Photos can be used in a contemporary way and this is a great example.

Another way to use photos is more decorative. Consider having a cloth bulletin board made to match the decor. Be consistent and consider using only black and white photos of the same size, look at the effect below….decorative upholstery tacks were used to keep ribbons in place. Artwork or some type of story can be used in the center if you wish.

Another decorative way to use photos is shown here as a tray, below.

Now we get to the fine art part. Where do you find photographic fine art and where do you put it? I am an novice photographer and art collector and feel that fine art photography can hang anywhere you would consider putting a painting. I make no distinction. If you contact your local galleries they will usually carry a portfolio of works from the photographers just like any other artist. My personal style as a photographer is one of collage and human images. I enjoy color but I also like to work in sepia tones. Digital art is something new and has exciting possibilities. Have a look below and see what you think!

This is a digital photo collage. It is composed of layers of “see through images”.

The last photo below is more “traditional” in the approach but I used sepia tones.


Now you see the different ways in which photos may be thought of and where you might think to place them in your home.
If you have a grouping and are unsure where to make that first hole, here’s a trick. Trace each framed photo on parcel post paper, cut out and tack to the wall. Move around until you get them where you want them! Lastly, what types of frames should be used? The simple answer is, make sure they are not too decorative, keep them plain. Ikea has some great frames. You might do a whole wall in white frames or all black frames, its a great look and a great way to personalize a space.


Last month I had the pleasure of going to a lovely show house in Westchester county, New York. This was a 17,000 square foot spec home in Purchase . The ample floor plan served as an impressive showcase for many New York designers. Each room was tastefully decorated and well appointed. What jumped out at me in every room were the unusual and varied shapes of end tables and benches. Often, these small items are hidden in the context of a room and trumped by upholstery and accessories…. not this time! Each room was punctuated by shiny, furry, funny, sexy, and textural shapes. Hope you enjoy looking at these as much as i did, here goes!

This pierced ceramic table works well with the curves of the chair as well as the textured upholstery. below is a close up, just love all the dots.

Notice how this designer uses two tables beside the bed. The organic carved wood pieces, reminiscent of a Brancusi sculpture, are extremely functional and work well with the minimalist lines of the bedding.

How about fur? soft and sensual, this adds a sumptuous quality to this woman’s study.

Paired with a high back upholstered chair, this floccati bench adds whimsy to this living room. the long fibers accentuate not only the lines of the piece but work as a nice contrast to the geometry of the rug.

Suede was also a favorite for not only benches, but console tables as well. The addition of nail head trim at the base of the table is a great touch. In addition, notice the mitered top on the benches. The application of fabric as well as contrast trims on a piece of upholstery make interesting details.

Glass always reflects sunlight and is an important “texture” in any room. It will add function and at the same time will not add volume. What is also worth pointing out here is how the circular composition of the table echoes the circular arm of the chair.

What is interesting to note about this next table is the way it is paired with a floor lamp. This is a similar to the bedding with the use of two tables, and why not? The scale of the chair allowed the designer to mix shapes without overpowering the upholstery, I promise not to cut off feet next time! I just love the playfulness of this vignette.

This last table is one of my favorites. What is interesting to note is that the side of the sofa acts as a backdrop . The two tiers are wonderfully designed. The opportunity exists to use the top tier for a lamp or vase and the bottom tier for accessories. This is a good table to use near an entrance where you might see the side of the sofa first, you’ve got lots to look at!

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at these and that it gives you some good ideas. Some of the best tables can be found at flea markets. You may also find a great bench at a flea market and opt to cover it with fur. Some cool websites to check out are, and HAVE A HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


Furniture designer Douglas Homer has found an innovative way to revitalize Harry Bertoia’s classic diamond chair. He sands and re-welds destroyed frames, treats them with new powder coat, and handknots individual strands of closed-cell extruded sponge cord to the frame. It’s a cross between the iconic silhouette and a sheepdog. The Bertoia chair, both whimsical and comfortable , is available in different sizes and colors. To see how i used a smaller version of the chair paired with a Lucite desk, check out my Portflio. A complete view of Homer’s work can be found at his website