Isabelle von Boch’s Tips for Setting the Perfect Spring Table

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For Isabelle von Boch, Villeroy & Boch is a family company: As an eighth-generation member, her role is as brand ambassador for several markets worldwide (mainly Americas and Australia).

A big part of her job is to inspire good design, showing folks how to master the mix of styles and ranges that Villeroy & Boch has to offer, with the goal simply being to live happily with it every day.

Here, we asked her for some tips on setting a beautiful table, with an eye toward spring (this is largely because winter has us down and we’re yearning to get into a balmy mood). Here’s what she told us.

 

Choose a theme: Choosing a theme is your first and foremost goal This will set the entire mood. Think in terms of color, season, a memory — the options are truly endless. Once you choose your theme, you will know what design cues to add to your table.

Take cues from nature: Nature is a wonderful color guide. Look at a spring floral arrangement completely and find all the different colors in this one piece of nature. Nature creates a lovely color palette for you.

Use your items unexpectedly: Use your lovely crystal stemware and barware and porcelain dishes to accessorize your table in ways you wouldn’t ordinarily imagine. Put berries in a wine goblet or floral arrangements in small glasses, place candles in stemware — these unexpected cues will bring a uniquely artistic vibe to your tablescape.

Don’t forget the candlelight: Adding candlelight to your tablescape creates the ambience. I often place a votive at each place setting and 2-3 nice candle vignettes on the table.

Give your place settings distinct personalities: Do not overlook the importance of each place setting; this is where the most beautiful details come into play. The napkin ring is a signature statement — be sure it goes with your theme. Adding a place card accompanied by a small gift (such as candy or a fruit) at each setting is a magnificent custom that will make your guests feel special.

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Unconventionally Fit: Hit the Water (or the Road) with Oru Kayak & Papillionaire Bicycles

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Water lovers, here’s your chance to make a splash: You’ll love Oru Kayak’s inspired designs. The brand’s story started when designer/founder Anton Willis moved into a small San Francisco apartment and had to put his fiberglass kayak into storage. Inspired by an article on recent advances in origami, he started sketching ideas for a folding kayak. He turned the sketches into prototypes, and thanks to Kickstarter funding, his dreams materialized … and we’re selling the stylish end products. More into solid ground? We’ve got something for you, too: Papillionaire Bikes. This young Australian company specializes in vintage-inspired two-wheelers that make a serious style (and quality) statement.

Shop both brands on Gilt starting Fri., Jan. 30 at noon.

 

 

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Art Trends, Decoded: Oliver Gal Founder, Ana Gal, on Her Art Basel Inspirations

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We’re always excited to feature Oliver Gal Art on Gilt, and one of the biggest reasons is quite simple: They’re always on the pulse of the art world. “Art Basel is always a great source of inspiration for us, and this year it didn’t disappoint,” says co-founder Ana Gal. “We found new, fresh art in bold and striking colors as well as a slightly more commercial trend in the subjects and themes.” Some trends that really resonated with Gal are below; the folks at Oliver Gal have expressed them in a number of their newest pieces, available on Gilt now:

Bold, Bright Abstracts: “We saw a lot of pieces in bright and bold colors mixed with minimal fluorescent neons at times, in very wide, unorganized strokes. Although abstract art is timeless, most of the pieces had a modern, trendy vibe to them. We love them because they can change a room completely and add unconventional brightness to any space, with minimal effort.”

Books as Art: “Pop Art has been on the rise again in recent years, and this year was no different. Some artists highlighted use of everyday objects in art pieces, and we saw a repeating trend of incorporating books in paintings and sculptures. We have several pieces that highlight books as a main subject, mostly related to the fashion world, which was also very well represented at Art Basel.”

Fashion as Art: “A growing trend in the art world, and one of our most popular concepts. These pieces are elegant, with a touch of whimsy that turn everyday fashion items into masterpieces you won’t be able to take your eyes off. Great conversation pieces that elevate any room into a high-end space. Basel Miami had fashion represented in almost every space, from installations of vintage Chanel ads using physical, medical pills as the medium to compose the art piece, to sculptures of iconic handbags in pure, unadulterated marble.”

Minimalism: “While some pieces are very elaborate and detailed, there’s something so elemental and beautiful about the use of simple shapes to communicate the message. We saw this idea repeating in many of the shows.”

Modern Typography Mixed with Classic/Vintage Images: “It was very interesting to see the mix between old images and modern typography, which repeated across several pieces from different artists.”

Patriotic Art: “From flags dipped in gold, to collages, and social commentary, the American flag is always a great subject piece to make each space feel classic and contemporary at the same time.”

X-Ray Art: “One very noticeable theme was X-rays of different everyday objects. X-ray art  has such a distinct specific look, that immediately communicates a contemporary feel. While this is not new to us, we created a couple more new pieces of iconic items; the handbag with the gun takes this concept further by communicating a story, giving the art an extra dimension which couldn’t have been achieved without the use of X-ray.”

 

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The Lowdown on Down: An Expert’s Tips on Picking the Perfect Bedding

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The allure of down bedding is powerful year-round, but as cold winter nights get even colder, we’re in hot pursuit of a particularly cozy place to rest our heads.  If you’re looking to upgrade your slumber situation, we’ve taken the guesswork out of buying new bedding with help from Chanielle McMillan, resident pro at one of our favorite names in down, Ogallala. Check out her thorough guide to selecting the right styles for your home, then shop down essentials from Ogallala and more top brands:

Break down the different types of down (goose, duck, etc.) What are some highlights of each one?

Down is a three dimensional, intricate sphere with lots of filaments extending from the center. It is under a goose’s feathers to provide warmth. We sell our down based on cluster content — the higher the down quality, the larger the clusters in the Hypodown®  and the longer it lasts.  White goose down has been the long-coveted and best-in-quality down for ages.  Geese are larger than ducks, so they will produce larger clusters of down.  Gray goose down or gray duck down are not going to be ideal for a comforter or a pillow.  Generally, the quality will be a lot lower (anything “white” is sterilized differently and is regarded as a better product, and more luxurious).  Also, the more mature the goose, the larger and better-in-quality the down will be (think 800-fill).  Duck down will have a bit of an odor, whether it’s gray or white (another reason goose down is preferred), but the white duck down will always be the better of the two (less odor since the white is sterilized better).

What do fill numbers refer to? And what’s an ideal one?

The fill numbers refer to the quality of the down.  Down quality is rated by fill power, or the amount of space one ounce of down occupies. The larger the down clusters, the better the down quality. Larger clusters produce warmer, fluffier products that are higher in density and longevity. Think of marshmallows: mini marshmallows would be like Hypodown® 600, regular marshmallows would be like Hypodown® 700, and jumbo marshmallows the Hypodown® 800.

How about stitch technique – why does that matter? And what are the best options in that department?

Ticking:  The shell or outer covering of your pillows and comforters should be a lightweight, down-proof cotton fabric. Ogallala’s ticking is all 100% cotton and is down-proof (the fabric must be “down-proof” or the small down clusters will leak out of the fabric). The thread count of the ticking is the number of threads in a square inch of fabric.  We have various types of ticking; however, most of our comforters boast a beautiful 353 long-staple Egyptian cotton thread count.

Baffles:  A “baffled” box comforter is the best option when it comes to the style of comforter.  A baffle is a piece of material that runs vertically between the top and bottom fabric. Baffles allow Hypodown® to loft to its fullest potential, without unnecessarily compressing the down.  It also prevents the down from shifting.

What about down blends? What are the benefits to those vs. 100% down?

Our Hypodown® fills are made up of 70% of the finest white goose down, and 30% syriaca (milkweed) clusters.  Syriaca is not a synthetic, nor is it used as a down filler.  It is the natural fiber from the milkweed plant and it is non-treated.  Milkweed traps and suppresses allergens found in down that cause allergic reactions, making the product naturally hypo-allergenic.  Syriaca makes the down more breathable, more durable, and helps the body regulate temperature by whisking moisture away from the body 70% faster than down by itself (or synthetic down).  The combination of milkweed in our down is the reason that you can sleep comfortably all season long, and it keeps you cool even in the hot summer months!

How do you clean and care for down bedding without spending half your paycheck at the dry cleaner? (Any DIY tips?)

Since our products are unique, they cannot be cared for like other down products.  Spot cleaning is the best practice for cleaning any Hypodown® products. In the event you need to do a major cleaning, we highly recommend a professional launderer familiar with down. Do not dry clean! The chemicals used actually break down the composition of down fiber. When professional laundering is needed to keep your product luxurious, we recommend Blanc Plume French Laundry (1-800-307-0229) for guaranteed cleaning results.

Many of our customers ask, “may I launder my comforter or pillows myself?” Yes; however, the “do-it-yourself” approach is at your own risk. We would opt to leave it to the professionals! If you are feeling brave, here’s how:

* Use a large capacity front-loading washing machine. Do not use a top-loading washing machine.

* Detergent must be an approved down wash, such as Down Wash (by Le Blanc), or Dreft. Do not use Woolite.

* Washing machine settings should be on cold water, and cycle should be “delicate” or “hand wash”.

* After the first cycle is complete, run the cycle again without detergent to ensure all of the soap is removed.

* Dry in a large capacity dryer at medium heat for a minimum of 6-8 hours, checking every 30 minutes to pull apart down clumps.

* When you think your comforter or pillows are dry, put them back into the dryer for one more cycle. Do not attempt to air dry since they will not dry quickly enough and will cause mildew.

Finally, what should you run from when selecting down bedding?

Avoid selecting a product that has a greater ratio of “other blend,” “feather,” or a “filler.”  These will generally be lower in quality, and will be very warm.  Most blends, feather, and fillers do not breathe.  A lot of products are blended with synthetic fibers, which are what enables the product to be at such a low price point, but this means that product will be very poor quality.  Always pay attention to the “other blend” in your down product.  If the ratio of the “other blend” or “filler” is greater than the down content, then this won’t be the greatest choice for a high-quality down product.

 

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