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Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner? Give a Little Back This Year


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
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I assume many of you are wrapping up your work as quickly as you can, facing traffic jams and long airport security lines today. No matter what a pain it is to get home, we all seem to deem the Thanksgiving holiday totally worth it. We’re thankful for our family and friends, for what we do have even during these tough economic times, no matter the outcome, we’re happy the election is over, we’re thankful for the big meals we’re going to overindulge in.

image from bricabrac blog

While you look around and think of all you’re thankful for, please remember those in need. In my family, we all bring books to donate to the Bristol Connecticut Boys and Girls Club, an organization that was very close to my late grandparents’ hearts. Why not make helping others a traditional part of your joyous gathering? If you are hosting a group, shoot out a quick text or email letting everyone know you’ll have a big box or two out and ready on Thanksgiving. Have your guests bring things that are most needed this time of year. If you’ll be too exhausted to do a drop off, enlist someone else, or simply pick a charity and collect cash donations.Here are some easy ideas:

Gather non-perishable goods to a local food bank. Simply search “food bank” and your city’s name to find out what they need.

Extra warm coats and/or blankets are needed so much this time of year. Make sure these are in good shape and clean before donating.

For those old towels and blankets  that aren’t in such good shape, donate them to an animal shelter.

If you are visiting a loved one in the hospital, give blood while you are there.

Supplies for teachers at a local school. Many school budgets are so stretched that teachers need to bring their own supplies.

Many victims of Hurricane Sandy still need help. If you live close by, Gothamist has a good list of ways you can help with Thanksgiving donations. If you don’t live close by, support The Red Cross. If you know a victim personally, they may not say it, but what they probably need most is cash. Think about taking up a collection for them at Thanksgiving dinner.

Please add any of your own charitable suggestions and giving traditions in the comments section.


Monday, November 5th, 2012

Happy Fall Back!


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
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Today is one of my favorite days of the year. Well, it starts off that way anyway, when I bound out of bed “early” and feel proud that I’m so bright eyed and bushytailed at what would otherwise be considered an ungodly hour. Anyway, even though I just ate lunch and it will probably be dark soon, I feel like I have an extra hour in my morning, and it tends to last all week. How will you use your extra hour? Here are a few suggestions, lots of which are selfish (you’ve earned it, and this is your Me Time) and I hope you will add yours in the Comments section:

1) Sleep an extra hour.

2) Finally order up that On Demand yoga program and start your morning off with some Namaste.

3) Treat yourself to an hour of reading. Whether you havent’ had time to get to that Entertainment Weekly or just want to get past the seemingly endless description of Moby Dick’s tail once and for all, use  a little time to loll around and read.

4) If TV is more your bag, clear out a little DVR space by catching up on one of this season’s new shows, like Nashville or Revolution. By the way, have you been watching Revolution? Interesting premise. I loved this post-lights-out cul-de-sac. Would it really go to crap this fast after 15 years? Would the Prius (bottom right corner) really rust that quickly? Who cares, it’s a fun premise:

5) If giving up the internet is your worst nightmare, take an hour to have some fun on it – no work emails allowed. Play Bejeweled Blitz for an hour. Email your Mom back. Add to your Wish Lists on your favorite retail sites. Catch up on your favorite blogs.

6) Call up a friend and meet for breakfast, or splurge on a New York Times to enjoy your favorite breakfast joint solo.

7) Take a walk. Or better yet, a bubble bath … with the reading materials. Or both – after all, you have a whole hour.

8) If you wish to be more productive, do an hour clean out – you can whip a junk drawer, your dresser, part of your closet, a few kitchen cabinets, the linen closet or the coat closet into shape. Carry around a donation box and drop that sucker off on the way to work in the morning.

9) Get started on your holiday cards. Use this time to get the envelopes stamped and addressed first so you can whip out a handful a day and send them off.

10) Make your grocery store run now, so you don’t have to do it after work in the dark.

Are you doing anything with your extra fall back morning hour this week? If so, please share it with us!


Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Designer Interview: Rapson-Inc.


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky

Architect and furniture designer Ralph Rapson trained at Cranbook under Eliel Saarinen, designed furniture for Knoll, sketched the most charming illustrations of his designs, opened the first modern home decor store  in the Boston area with his wife in the 1940s and practiced as an architect.

Ralph Rapson

Today his son, architect Toby Rapson, and President of Rapson-Inc. Chris Reedy are carrying on the elder Rapson’s legacy, working with designers to re-release high quality Ralph Rapson designs, sometimes with a few tweaks they believe he would have approved of.

Chris, who lived in a Ralph Rapson house (above), met Ralph Rapson when Rapson knocked upon his door to check out how his design was holding up.  So, Toby, did you and your father make a habit of doing this at all the houses you designed?

Toby: I occasionally stop in at homes that my father or I designed. I’m sure that I get this penchant for dropping in unannounced from my Dad.

Chris: My son was only 1 at the time and had just strewn a crunchy layer of Cheerios all over, and the doorbell rings and it’s the great man himself come to look at what we’re doing with his house … Ralph pretended not to notice the chaos and kindly went about charming us all.

How long did it take after that until you two were launching this business together?

Toby: Well, the story is a bit long – my parents originally established Rapson Inc. in Boston during the 1940s selling modern living equipment as well as pieces designed by Ralph.  My father continued to design custom pieces for architectural clients and it wasn’t until 50 years later while working with my dad at Rapson Architects that we started dabbling in reproducing the Rapid Rocker.

This led to collaborating with Blu Dot, producing his Dwell Lounge, and working with other interesting teams of designers on additional prototypes.  After my dad’s death I felt strongly about continuing his design legacy and perhaps producing more pieces from his extensive design library.  My wife and I put together a show of Ralph’s furniture drawings in late 2010 to gauge public interest; it was quite successful.  But, my primary business is Rapson Architects so I knew I needed help to make a stand-alone business.

Chris: As it happened, I came to this impressive show, saw some prototypes, and wondered if Toby was looking for a business partner. The timing was right, I made my pitch, we started the company a little over a year ago, and it’s been a really, really fun time.

How did you choose which designs to release first?

Toby: So far, the choices have been pretty easy. First, we wanted to continue making the bentwood Rapson Rapid Rocker that my father re-introduced late in life.  Second, we decided to produce some of my father’s best-known designs for H.G. Knoll from the 1940s, we call these the Greenbelt Line.  We are also currently working on his iconic ‘Chair of Tomorrow’ and a few others.  The hard part as we move forward will be sifting through the vast options that my dad has given us.

Chris: Those Knoll designs are very important to telling Ralph Rapson’s story in design, obviously, but they also use natural materials that are very appealing today.  It turns out ‘natural modernism’ or ‘rustic modernism’ or whatever you want to call it today has quite long roots.  And the Greenbelt Line has those sculpted, cantilevered arms that are still so daring.

Toby: Yes, those arms are a signature piece of my father’s work.  Just as we were getting started with the Greenbelt Line, I ran into Greg Benson, the CEO at Loll Designs, and we started talking about doing outdoor versions in Loll’s signature material, recycled plastic.

Chris: This was a bit of a discussion; there are definitely Modern purists who might wonder about this.

Toby: But I know my father always wanted to push the envelope and I feel he would have loved knowing the pieces he drew long ago could be for outdoor use; particularly in such a responsible, innovative and incredibly durable material. The team at Loll has been great to work with and we’ve licensed these designs to them. I’m just sorry my father isn’t around to be a part of the fun.

What was the biggest challenge in re-releasing your father’s furniture designs?

Toby: Quality is always a significant challenge. My father’s signature is on each piece we make. Even though we’re a scrappy small company, he would not have wanted any less than perfect chairs to be delivered.

Chris: We take great pride in continuing Ralph’s legacy.

Toby: Luckily, we have found good partners who are excited to make Rapson chairs and understand we’re a small company entrusted with great designs.

What kept you going when the challenges mounted?

Toby: My father’s furniture designs are second to none.  His designs are embraced as modern icons by many, Chris and I just need to do our part.

Are you ever going to re-release the slatted coffee table? Because I want one.

Chris: Stay tuned.

Toby: I thought you were supposed to be the business guy.  Get her credit card number.

photo credit: Larry Weinberg

While we’re on that topic, which designs are you hoping to release in the future?

Chris: The next chair we do will be the first piece based solely off drawings Ralph left behind.

Toby: I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said “your father drew like an angel.” But beyond that, his furniture drawings often included people sitting, lounging with a martini, reading a book, sunbathing, etc; his drawings had personality and his designs were scaled for people.  It’s astounding how faithful we can be to his imagination – that is, his renderings – and still have a chair that’s very, very comfortable.

Toby: Actually, the public had a say toward this new chair.  We had an opening with Danish Teak Classics; a local gallery that showcased our Greenbelt chairs and we asked the public to vote between three designs.  They made a wise choice.

Chris: In fact, we’re behind schedule because I took the first prototype home, put it in front of the TV, and didn’t want to give it back because it’s so comfortable. The chair actually seems like it’s trying to put you to sleep.

Toby: Becky, I know, you’re thinking “Give me a break! There are a lot of comfortable chairs!”  But my father developed his approach while working with Eliel, Eero, Hans and Florence, Harry, Charlie and others, and brought his innovation to early modern furniture design and the design of this chair that adds both character and comfort in a way that’s surprising and still unique and timely 60 or more years after he drew it.  We can’t wait to get it into production.

No break necessary; I can’t wait to check it out. I also like that you’re on a first-name basis with the greats (Readers, that’s Saarinen, Saarinen, Wegner, Knoll, Bertoia and Eames, I think)! Where can we see more of Ralph Rapson’s amazing drawings?

Toby: We have literally hundreds of drawings, but a nice selection is included in his biography, Ralph Rapson: 60 Years of Modern Design.

Is there anything else you’d like people to remember about Rapson-Inc.?

Toby: Most importantly, I want people to learn more about Ralph Rapson and his role in the development of modern design.  One goal of the company is to ensure the legacy of my father’s designs; I hope people will view what we’re doing at Rapson-Inc as a thoughtful extension of his design process and philosophy.  Moving ahead, we are embracing collaborators and innovative materials with the spirit of my father as we expand the catalog of Rapson designs in production.

Thanks so much to Toby and Chris for taking the time to speak with us today. Readers, All Rapson-Inc. products are 15% off through October 31, so get shopping!


Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Celebrity Real Estate


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky

I’ve been stalking celebrity real estate again – it’s my guilty pleasure, so I thought I’d share. Let’s kick it off with Matthew Broderick and SJP’s $25 million dollar Greenwich Village townhouse. This is the library:

spotted on Zillow, who found it via Sotheby’s.

Speaking of Carrie Bradshaw, the real Carrie Bradshaw, author of Sex and the City Candace Bushnell, is also selling her Greenwich Village home. Hers is a 2-bedroom apartment and it’s listed for $2.8 million. I remember this one from Elle Decor, in fact, isn’t it on the cover of the last Elle Decor book, So Chic? Yes, I believe it is. Photographs are so crucial to real estate listings. While most people can’t even remember to make their bed or put down the toilet seat, then celebs have spreads photographed by the likes of William Waldron.

photo by William Waldron, scoop via New York Daily News

I guess the cover of Elle Decor is a great way to market a house you’re about to dump. Reese Witherspoon is unloading her Ojai retreat. Elle Decor wasn’t the only place printing photos of the property; Witherspoon recently let RPat hide out from the paps and mend his broken heart here. The cozy revival ranch is on the market for a cool $10 million.

I really enjoyed this celeb house tour; it seemed like such a relaxing, family-friendly place that was actually attainable (the decor, not the house). It also respected the style and history of the home, preserving and honoring the best details.

photos by William Waldron; scoop via

It’s not currently for sale, but Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ wedding had me looking up Boone Plantation. Scenes from The Notebook were filmed there, and the place has a driveway that’s as Lowcountry as can be – lined in beautiful live oaks dripping in Spanish Moss:


Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Homeowners’ Association: Yea or Nay?


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky

So, I think this is a love it or hate it kind of thing. I’m talkin’ ’bout homeowner’s associations. Seems like it could be a blues song. Or perhaps a blessing? Depends on your opinion, and lord knows, when it comes to H.O.A.s, it’s all a matter of something for everyone. One thing I’ll say, just like at every communal apartment pool, there’s always a Nazi within diving distance, micro-managing how many friends people have brought and who may have slipped some vodka into their lemonade.

I got thinking about this subject thanks to one of my very favorite websites in the whole wide world, Passive-Aggressive Notes:

This made me laugh so hard that I’d think about painting my fence like this even if there was no Bob! I also love that you can see the photog in the rearview mirror!

I started poking around and found that Gawker has assembled an awesomely horrific collection of Homeowners’ Association nightmare stories. They include fines imposed for hanging a very “divisive” Christmas wreath in the shape of a peace sign, servicemen having their homes taken away while they are off fighting wars, being told they are not allowed to be greener and hang their clothes on a clothesline or (shudder) install solar panels, insisting that everyone buy and install the same mailbox, and banning subversive activities like playing outside or putting up a frog statue.

Do you live with an HOA? How do you feel about it? Have you ever had any run-ins with a president with a bad case of OCD who is drunk on power? Or do you prefer the uniform aesthetics the organization promotes? Tell us about it in the comments section!