Welcome to Urban By Design Online! This blog is a notebook of my travels as a city planner, historic preservationist and nonprofit advocate. It's a virtual collection of the many things that I adore, featuring cities, the arts, architecture, gardens, interior design, and retail. Enjoy! - Deena
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New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show: On Broadway

As memories of winter slowly begin to fade, now is the perfect time to visit the New York Botanical Garden’s ninth annual Orchid Show.  This year’s theme is “On Broadway” which pays homage to New York’s most celebrated historic theaters.  Tony Award-winning designer Scott Pask, and image-maker Drew Hodges utilized thousands of orchids from the NYBG, and around the world to create an array of spectacular theater-inspired set pieces.

An Orchid Promenade, Credit: Scott Pask and Drew Hodges

The show's entrance was at the Reflecting Pool of the Conservatory’s Palms of the World Gallery.  Here  a 16-foot height proscenium arch and curtain was modeled after the Walter Kerr Theatre frame an orchid-bedecked stage heralding the starring role of these coveted plants in this show.  It should be noted that actual garden hoses were used to create the stage curtain.

This orchid, XAscocenda-Carolyn Ellis was truly a stand-out.

Although I’ve attended the show over the past several years, I am always impressed that the NYBG manages to find new and inspired ways to celebrate the beauty of flowers.  Orchids, known as the divas of the plant world, were the fitting stars of the show.  There were more than 300 types of species and hybrid orchids, including Dendrobium (cane orchids), Paphiopedilum (slipper orchids), Oncidium (dancing lady orchids), Cymbidium (Asian corsage orchids), and Phalaenopsis (moth orchids).


An Orchid Proscenium Arch and Curtain -Credit: Scott Pask and Drew Hodges

Admittedly, I spent a majority of the time gazing up at the ceiling, staring at the flowering arches that were suspended in mid-air.  They were created to resemble the New Amsterdam Theatre promenade.  It was fun to see how the designers played with color, texture, and occasionally interspersed the orchids of various fragrances throughout the display areas.


What made the exhibition unique was that it never employed gimmicky features like Broadway show posters or life-sized chorus girls made out of orchids to reiterate the theme. While there was background music, much of the exhibition was about utilizing one’s imagination. In many ways the exhibition evoked a few memories of my past theatergoing experiences. Walking throughout the show, it was not difficult to recall the anticipation of waiting for the orchestra to perform, and being dazzled by a theater’s auditorium. One clever feature was a section reserved for an “audience” of orchids, which oddly enough resembled people watching a show.



My favorite display was in the Seasonal Exhibition Gallery where there was an orchid chandelier (rumor has it that it contains 10,000 blooms!) that was suspended above the reflecting pool.  It was apparently similar to one that had existed at the Eltinge Theater on 42nd Street.

 The New York Botanical Garden’s Orchid Show is the nation’s largest and only curated orchid exhibition will be on view until April 25.   In addition to the show there is a complementary exhibition, Hirschfeld’s Broadway Scrapbook, in NYBG’s Mertz Library which displays more than 30 drawings, as well as posters, programs, and sketchbooks from the Al Hirschfeld Foundation that tell the history of the Great White Way as seen by its foremost chronicler.  For more information visit the NYBG’s website.



New York Botanical Garden Greenmarket

For the past several seasons, I’ve wanted to visit the New York Botanical Garden Greenmarket.   I’m happy to report that I finally went! Every Wednesday throughout the summer and fall, the country comes to the city, offering New Yorkers access to phenomenally fresh food, at a great price.  

The market features vendors from New York’s Hudson Valley region, and offers an array of seasonal produce, and home-made baked goods too.  It was such an easy and convenient way to shop local, with the added bonus of being surrounded by beautiful fall foliage.

Located at the base of the Tulip Tree Allee by the Mosholu Gate, there was a huge variety of colorful produce on display, as well as fresh herbs.  The abundance of radishes, mixed greens, squashes, ripe tomatoes, and just-harvested apples was overwhelming.  There were also pears, cranberry beans, eggplants, cauliflower, corn, cabbage, kale, and even bok choy.  The list was quite endless.

In addition to buying vegetables, there was a not-so-slight detour over to the Bread Alone booth.  Bread Alone sells organic baked goods, and I had a wonderfully rich chocolate chip scone. Equally scrumptious was the baked apple pie which had the perfect balance of tart and sweet.

The complete list of vendors included:

  • Bread Alone Bakery, Boiceville, NY – Bread Alone Bakery currently bakes both organic whole grain breads and all natural, hand made pastries in its main bakery.
  • Gajeski Produce: They offered vegetables from their 125-acre produce farm on the North Fork of Long Island, Riverhead, NY.
  • The Little Bake Shop, Valley Cottage, NY – offered fresh baked goods, including a variety of gluten-free products.
  • Migliorelli Farm, Tivoli, NY – a family-run fruit and vegetable farm located in Northern Dutchess County in the Hudson Valley Region of New York. 
  • Perez Farm, Goshen, NY – fresh produce and herbs
  • Red Jacket Orchard, Geneva, NY – Located in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of New York State along the rolling hills of Seneca Lake, Red Jacket was originally planted in 1917.  Today, the orchard and juice company is managed by the second and third generation of the Nicholson family. apples, pears, and cider


Greenmarket is one of the largest and most successful open-air farmers market in the country, and since 1976 has been working to promote regional agriculture, preserve farmland, and ensure a continuing supply of fresh, local produce for all New Yorkers. To learn more about GrowNYC’s Greenmarket, gardening, recycling, and education programs, visit Grow NYC.  The New York Botanical Garden Greenmarket will be open every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. until November 29.


Wave Hill's architecture and design


 It’s officially fall, which means that I always sigh, because it is one step closer to my least favorite season, winter. On the bright side, the leaves will soon be colorful, and the apple harvest this year is rather abundant. 

Last week marked another milestone of sorts when I made a short trip to Wave Hill in the Bronx for their annual plant sale. Yes, my thoughts moved quickly to consider the beauty of next spring’s perennial blooms, even though autumn was barely a week old.  There were so many plants to choose from.

Wave Hill is an incredibly serene, and picturesque 28-acre public garden and art center in the historic Riverdale section.   It is a glorious urban oasis, filled with bountiful gardens, well-landscaped grounds, and spectacular views of both the Hudson River, and the Palisades. Since 1960, Wave Hill has been a cultural property owned by the City of New York.  “Wave Hill's mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.”

Wave Hill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  There are two original houses located on the property that remain in use for public activities.  The first is Wave Hill House, a Greek Revival home built in 1843-44 by William Lewis Morris, a New York City attorney. The area at the time was a place where many had summer residences.  Throughout the years it was leased to prominent New Yorkers, including Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. and his son (and the future U.S. president) Teddy.  Other famous tenants included the writer Mark Twain, and later Arturo Toscanini. Today the space houses art, a café, and rooms used for meetings.
 The terrace in the rear of the Wave Hill House is a quiet sanctuary that provides a lovely setting for outdoor dining at the Wave Hill Cafe.



Glyndor House, a Georgian Revival style house built in 1926. It was designed by New York architects Butler and Corse. Currently this space is in use for art exhibitions and is known as the Glyndor Gallery.


In 2004, Wave Hill added the Perkins Visitor Center.  The center was designed by Robert A.M. Stern architects. A signature aspect of the design is the board-and-batten exterior of the building’s northern portion. Traditionally used in Hudson River Valley cottages from the 1840’s, the choice of board-and-batten was inspired by Wave Hill’s setting overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. Fieldstone piers and foundation, as well as a copper roof, complement this construction and relate to the fieldstone façade of Wave Hill House, located within view of the Visitor Center. It is also home of the Shop at Wave Hill which recently saw a significant spike in sales of its Wave Hill Chair.  

The Wave Hill Chair
Wave Hill also has a place within the design world for their Wave Hill Chairs, which are scattered about the grounds. It’s not unusual to spot visitors sitting in them to read a book, while painting landscape portraits on easels, or napping.  The chair was recently featured in The Los Angeles Times which said, “the slat back and seat construction are reminiscent of Adirondack chairs and have an eye-catching architectural presence.” 
From Wave Hill: 
The chair is based on a 1918 design by the acclaimed Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld. The Rietveld Chair -- part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art -- was modified in the early 1960s and has been used exclusively at Wave Hill for many years. Comfortable, sturdy, and compatible with virtually any architectural form, the Wave Hill Chair enhances any formal garden or natural landscape.

Lemonade: Detroit

Lemonade: Detroit is a film about the disarming resilience of those who are moving Detroit beyond automobiles into an era of entrepreneurism. For more information about sponsorship opportunities, visit their website. CREDITS Director, Producer: Erik Proulx Producer: Chris Perry Producer: Laura Hochthanner Director of Photography: Peter Nelson Editor: Pete Warren Editorial: Finish Editorial Production Company: Ringside Creative Music: Fancy Lad Music


Visiting The Nate Berkus Show


I went into this day without much expectation, and ended it with a smile. Nate Berkus couldn't have been nicer, and I had a good time doing something different. PS- loved my gift from Send the Trend.

Last Tuesday, I was in the audience full of design writers and bloggers, from all over the world (yes!), for the taping of The Nate Berkus Show.  I was excited to go, because over the years, I’ve appreciated his interior design work, especially as seen on Oprah.  I also met new people (like Anishka Clarke of Ishka Designs and Susan Schneider of Shandell's), and saw some familiar faces as well, including Brooklyn-based designer Karen Young of Hammocks and High Tea, and many others who I follow on Twitter, so that was wonderful!

When Nate came out to greet the audience, I didn’t feel particularly star struck, because he had such a genuine niceness, and everydayness that I felt like I already knew him!  He was a true professional, and a very gracious host.

Karen Young of the phenominal Hammocks and High Tea asked Nate a question.

The show had seven segments, which whirled by rather quickly. I was less focused on the actual content, and more caught up in the cheerleading…without the pompoms of course.  Dena Blizzard, a comic known as “One Funny Mother” kept the audience revved up as she gave us pointers on how to provide the background soundtrack.  There were also candy and t-shirt giveaways, and even a hokey dance to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”  No, I didn’t know the words, but it was comical!



The cheerleading for Nate didn’t just start on that day though.  Many bloggers in the audience had written passionate posts about him, which where posted on their websites, and announced via Twitter on #NateDay, which was launched by Julieanne Covino (Create Girl).  The idea for an audience filed with bloggers came from Joy and Janet, also known as the Moggit Girls who managed to bring the collective energy together to capture the attention of Nate Berkus, and his producers to make the day happen.  What these women did was nothing short of powerful, and quite wonderful.

During the taping breaks, Nate acknowledged, and thanked all of us for attending the show, and noted the efforts of Moggit Girls and Create Girl.  Nate spoke to us after the show with a Q & A that lasted for about 15 minutes. For the record, the highly-SCRIPTED, TV talk show host Nate Berkus was not as interesting as the extemporaneous Nate Berkus who shined like a total rock star. After the show in his chat with the audience, he totally came alive as he spoke enthusiastically about interior design, and how he only featured products on his show of things that reflected what he loved.

I really wished that the cameras had filmed the post-show conversation, because Nate discussed how he admired the blogging community, and how the show had utilized social media since his show’s inception.  He was so genuine, real, and appreciative of our participation.

I never knew what to expect, but to be surrounded by so many positive people, there was good energy, and it was a lot of fun. Many thanks to all who made the day a reality!


Journey to Kykuit

One of my favorite places to visit in the historic Hudson Valley is Kykuit, the 40-room classic-revival mansion overlooking the Hudson River, in Pocantico Hills, NY. The architectural firm of Delano and Aldrich designed the six-story stone house, that was completed in 1913 for Standard Oil Founder, and philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller.  The house's name "Kykuit" means "overlook" in Dutch, which is appropriate because the 2,000 acre estate has a sweeping view of the Hudson Valley, including the Hudson River and nearby Palisades.

From May to November, some portions of the house and grounds are open to the public. Interior highlights include Chinese and European ceramics, and modern art masterpieces by Henry Moore, Andy Warhol, and Pablo Picasso. Rockefeller originally commissioned the Olmstead brothers to create the landscape design for Kykuit. He was unhappy with their plan, and eventually layed out the initial plantings and walkways himself. He later hired William Welles Bosworth, who designed the beautiful gardens, terraces, and pavilions, which contain more than 70 sculptures.

Kykuit is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and operated by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. For more information about Kykuit, visit the Historic Hudson Valley’s website. Below are a few photographs from my past excursions.


Lillian and Amy Goldman Stone Mill 

The entrance to the Stone Mill. The building's schist fieldstone facade was recently cleaned, and the asphalt roof was replaced with cedar shingles.

Over the weekend I visited the newly dedicated Lillian and Amy Goldman Stone Mill at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx, New York.  I remember the site distinctly, from my childhood, when it was known as the Old Snuff Mill.  Whenever I had a school fieldtrip, the class always had lunch there on the stone terrace, when it was in use as NYBG’s café.

 Saturday's Stone Mill open house attracted many people to the stone terrace by the Bronx River.

The Stone Mill was a tobacco factory, built in 1840 by the Lorillard family on their massive estate, which today is part of the NYBG.   Interestingly, one of the family members, Pierre Lorillard IV with William Waldorf Astor, also developed Tuxedo Park, New York. It was built as an exclusive Blue Blood society resort community in Orange County with Gilded Age mansions designed by well-known architects including Bruce Price, Carrere and Hastings, McKim, Mead and White, and Warren and Wetmore.

According to Andrew Dolkart in the book, Guide to New York City Landmarks, this is “one of the rare surviving examples of early industrial architecture in the city, this fieldstone and brick mill, used the water power of the Bronx River to grind tobacco into snuff.”  It was used until 1870, when the company moved to Jersey City, New Jersey.  New York City bought the 661 acres estate in 1884, and the NYBG was granted 140 acres in 1915.  The building was designated a New York City Landmark in 1966, and a National Landmark in 1976.

The 170-year-old building recently underwent an $11 million restoration, and was open to the public on Saturday and Sunday. The New York Landmarks Conservancy gave tours of the newly refurbished building.  There was live music, refreshments, and specialized tram and walking tours to highlight some other Lorillard properties that remain in use, including two other 19th century buildings within a 100-acre district, along the Bronx River. 

 New hillside plantings adjacent to the stone bridge over the Bronx River.

The Stone Mill's restoration maintains the mid-19th-century industrial character on the exterior while, in the three-floor interior, equips it with modern building systems creating a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified structure that meets the Silver standard. Integral to the project, an intricate landscape design and restoration plan for the adjacent hillside involves treating storm water runoff into the Bronx River and utilizes native species in the extensive plantings.


One of the rooms that will be used for special events.   Extensive research and some trial-and-error produced a 12-over-12 double-hung window—interior trim of poplar, sashes of Western pine, and exterior trim of Spanish cedar—handcrafted using custom-made knives and following a template made for each window opening. The paint color for the trim was chosen to match a color typical of the mid-19th-century industrial buildings. [NYBG]

Since 2007, the site has primarily been used for weddings and other social gatherings.  It also has office space for the horticulture curatorial staff.  The Stone Mill will have another open house and tours on September 18 and 19.  The building is not normally open to the visiting public. For more information visit: New York Botanical Garden.