Corporate Gift Guide

It’s one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the holiday season: that awkward moment when you hand your coworker another gift card, set of bath salts, “You’re #1” mug, or some other generic gift. While it’s fun and exciting to exchange small gifts around the office – it’s part of the holiday spirit to give to those you spend your time with, after all – sometimes it’s impossible to think of thoughtful gifts that aren’t too personal. Luckily, Georgetown stores are chock full of perfect gifts that will make you the Secret Santa everyone wanted to get. [gallery ids="100399,113185,113167,113193,113157,113201,113147,113209,113137,113177" nav="thumbs"]

Reiter Comes Home With Muléh

Following four years in Southeast Asia after quitting his job as a fund manager in San Francisco, owner Christopher Reiter created Muléh ("to come home" in Japanese) in 1999 in D.C. to reflect the harmonious subtleties of Asian modern interiors. Muleh caters to the home, selling furniture, men's and women's clothing and artwork at locations in Bethesda and on 14th Street, N.W. He focuses on aesthetic, looking to clean lines with rich texture and rapidly renewable organic materials. In 2004, women's fashion was introduced to complement Muléh's lifestyle concept, which weaves style and design throughout the home and into the wardrobe. "D.C. had a very international demographic, but a conservative image. I wanted to do something different in a city that wasn't used to it," Reiter said in a Washington Life interview. In addition to carrying well known labels like 3.1 Philip Lim and Mulberry, Muléh’s design selections of out-of-the-mainstream brands attempt to expand the availability to obtain such critically acclaimed but hard-to-find designers, such as Vivienne Westwood’s Anglomania and Red Label, Jean Paul Gautier, Smythe, MM6, Ter et Bantine, Sea, Hache, By Malene Birger, Faliero Sarti, LD Tuttle, Chie Mihara, Lizzie Fortunato, Paula Mendoza, Coclico and foundation-building knit lines Majestic and Autumn Cashmere. His collection at Muleh also has something a little unexpected: Lights! Many of the light fixtures feature innovative designs and the bedding options are no different. The feature sharp lines that are definitely Asia-inspired. He says his shopping is primarily done in Denmark, London, Italy and Turkey, where he looks to what the product looks like first, and the label second. He says his favorite piece of furniture is his bed, which is one of the first pieces of furniture he bought in Indonesia (a hand-carved canopy bed of recycled teak). In addition to his professional life running his boutique, he recently welcomed his first child in August with Juleanna Glover, a former Dick Cheney spokeswoman and a high-profile GOP lobbyist. Want to visit? 1831 14th St., N.W. Washington Hours: Monday through Saturday (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.); Sunday (noon – 5 p.m.) 202 667 3440 Muleh.com

Picture Perfect

A picture is worth a thousand words, but you can change the tone with a frame. A poster in a gold leaf frame will give an image refinement that you wouldn’t necessarily achieve with sticky tape and wall tacks. The streets of Georgetown present you with a variety of framing possibilities -- from sleek black contours, to ornate, neon frames. If you want custom framing done by professionals, stores such as Galerie Lareuse, Georgetown Frame Shoppe and L’Eclat De Verre Versailles offer all types of frames, from gold leaf -- priced from $2,500 to $3,500 -- to simple, contemporary styles. Although many people tend toward more decorative framing options, Kreg Kelley, curator at Galerie Larause, says, “Simple, contemporary and minimalist frames” are a favorite to many of his customers at the moment. Georgetown holds great opportunities for custom framing, but it is also the home to retail stores like CB2 and West Elm. Here you can both find simple and elegant traditional frames, or playful and colorful frames. Here is a sampling of framing options to get you thinking about where and how to frame your heart out: [gallery ids="100308,107962,107970,107967" nav="thumbs"]

Le Decor

A rug can make or break a room – even the fanciest furniture looks shabby when it’s sitting on a ratty rug. But the right rug can transform a room from cold to cozy, from stark to luxurious, or from drab to colorful. Whether you keep it neutral or make a statement with your floor coverings, a rug can tie your space together and give it a new look in one simple step. Check out some of these chic choices! [gallery ids="100356,110063,110059,110052,110056" nav="thumbs"]

Gift Guide: Off the Beaten Path

“One of the most glorious messes in the world,” Andy Rooney once said, “is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” Andy Rooney, or course, said it better than I can. The pillowy, warm spirit of the holidays stays in our hearts, like that sweet nip of a mimosa, sipped fireside, which tastes like the sun dawning on Christmas morning. We are in the season of crinkly wrapping paper and sugared gingerbread cookies, floating in the transition between fall and winter, where a hush descends upon the skies and our workloads bow with the weight of a thousand last-minute details to tie up before the holidays arrive. But, above all, we are in the season of giving. And there is no equal to the feeling you get when your loved one lights up at the sight of that perfect something you found just for them. But finding that perfect something is no small task. With an increasing array of options in our ever-eclectic city, shopping has become a downright treasure hunt that would test even the prowess of Captain Jack Sparrow. But we’ve been decoding the holiday shopping treasure map here at The Downtowner, weeding out the decoys and misleading detours and pinpointing exactly where the “X-mas” marks the spot. Here are some of the hottest hidden gems in the retail world, from gadgets and unique cooking accoutrements, to a disguise for your MacBook Pro and - believe it - a fire you’ll actually want in your house: HAUSFIRE Is it a portal? An R2D2-style android? Does it predict the future? None of the above. But it can simultaneously warm your home and make any space chic at warp speed. This indoor-outdoor Hausfire fireplace by Modfire combines the warmth and coziness of a hearth with the sleek, sophisticated design of modern sculpture. The eco-smart burner is safe for use inside and runs on clean-burning ethanol. Each Hausfire is unique and comes in a variety of colors, but all can efficiently heat and light a room. Price: $2,250 Modfire.com APOSTROPHE ORANGE PEELER Oranges are a great food to eat during the winter – their high Vitamin C content keeps you healthy and their sunny citrus flavor keeps you happy and in a summery state of mind. What’s not so happy is those sticky little orange pieces that are impossible to get out from under your nails. The Apostrophe Orange Peeler from Alessi is a sleek, palm-sized device that can easily fit in your lunch box. Price: $27 Alessi-Shop.com BOOKBOOK BY TWELVE SOUTH The BookBook, which transforms your MacBook Pro into an antique novel, is the perfect gift for literature fanatics who also happen to be technology junkies. The ridged leather case and stiff spine of the BookBook provide shock absorption and the distressing on the cover ensures that no two are exactly the same. Twelve South also makes BookBooks for iPhones, iPads and MacBook Airs. Price: $79.99 – $99.99 TwelveSouth.com TEA INFUSER SPOON There’s no question about it: tea is in vogue. And since tea is in vogue, so is the ancient ritual of brewing, steeping and pouring this delightfully warming and healthy beverage. Bring your tea into the 21st century with this Tea Infuser Spoon, which eliminates those annoying little bags, turning brewing a cup of tea into an elegant, simple process. Price: $3 Pier 1 in D.C., MICROVISION - SHOWWX PICO WVGA LASER PROJECTOR Is that a projector in your pocket? Why, yes, it is! This Pico Projector (so called because they are the smallest projectors to date, roughly the size of an iPhone) can hook up to any Apple device, including iPhones and iPods, to project an image up to 200 inches wide on any surface. And because it’s a laser projector, that means no wasted time fiddling with the focus. Weighing just 4.3 ounces, it can easily fit in a pocket or purse and is a dream machine for movie buffs and techies on the go. Price: Currently on sale for $124.99 (from $299.99) BestBuy.com [gallery ids="100422,113597,113620,113613,113606" nav="thumbs"]

Reviving Dead Space

The owners had lived in Europe and loved old buildings, their secrets and surprises. They decided that Georgetown was the perfect place to find the right convergence of a period architecture, space with good “bones” and character that would be a suitable canvas for their creation. Together with their architect, Christian Zapatka, a champion of and expert in period Georgetown buildings, they pursued their quarry. Their hunt took them through myriad clapboard row houses and brick Georgians until they happened upon their “crumbly cottage,” the dark, dowdy little 1810 Federal that they knew would unfurl into a spacious, light-filled beauty. The potential lay, in great part, in its semi-detached orientation, with three exposures. Zapatka, an expert in keeping the period aspects of a house intact while giving it a fresh 21st-century makeover, gutted the entire house and then carefully put it back together, weaving together traditional crown molding and woodwork and reclaimed hardwood flooring, with updated lighting and modern space planning. His greatest challenge was to create another entire level of livable space. Typically attics yield a treasure trove of reclaimable space, but in this case, it needed to be squeezed out from a four-foot earthen, windowless crawl space. His team dug deep, moving another five feet of earth, much of it by hand. Changing an earthen dungeon into a inviting living area is a challenge, and not every basement is a good candidate for finishing. Key considerations for conversion include controlling moisture, adding ventilation and light, and finding a way around hanging drain lines, ductwork and wiring. Added challenges stem from digging around what was once the original kitchen, judging from the huge masonry fireplace, of a 200-year-old building. Although many finished basements in old houses are musty, dinghy affairs, proper planning, new products and architectural expertise yielded an additional 600 square feet of living space that includes a gourmet kitchen/family room, an office/guest room, a new full bath and a landscaped yard. Walls of creamy curly maple cabinets hide a flat screen television and stereo equipment and provide plenty of storage. An open floor plan, a sparkling stainless steel mosaic backsplash, skylights, limestone floors and countertops and abundant high-efficiency windows make one forget that this was once a subterranean space. Michelle Galler is a realtor with TTR/Sotheby’s International Realty, an interior designer and antiques dealer who resides in Georgetown’s West Village. If you have resolved a George¬town design challenge that would be of inter¬est to our readers, contact Ms. Galler in care of The Georgetowner. Photographs by Amy Snyder Photography

Designing House

What happens when you gather the greatest minds in the Washington design world and sic them on a newly built home? You end up with the Washington Design Center’s 2010 Design House, a glittering amalgam of styles new and old tied together by some of the freshest design thinking around. John Blee sits down with a few of the Design House’s featured decorators to get their perspective. How did you accessorize your section of the house? NESTOR SANTA-CRUZ [STUDY]: I used mostly my own personal accessories, paintings, vases, etc. I wanted it to be a very personal look, something that matches my work and meets the style of Elle Decor. I wanted a sense of abstraction, but also a realism in the actual pieces I selected. Mostly from the 1930s and 1940s. I use objects, textiles, carpets and furniture as pieces of an interior architectural vocabulary. Objects must talk to each other. The design language is the same even when mixing styles/periods. It’s a Latin and an American mixed way of looking at European precedents. MELINDA NETTELBECK, ADAMSTEIN & DEMETRIOU ARCHITECTS [MASTER BEDROOM]: To accentuate the cosmopolitan feel of the space, we collected photography and ceramics from local galleries in black, white, and neutral shades. The sensual lines of the pieces add a feminine touch to an otherwise masculine space. The rich colors in the photography above the bed and unique lighting bring a playful element to the room. FRANK RANDOLPH [PORTICO]: I put classic furniture that can stay there in all seasons. The entrance and exit of a home should look as good as the interior. I was thinking of classical Tuscany. Porticos go back to the Greeks and Romans. Are there any aspects of your way of decorating a room that have changed in the last few years? RANDOLPH: Yes, I am using more color, including shades of lavender and mauve and periwinkle blue. They make me happy. I bought a periwinkle shirt at Brooks Brothers the other day and it made me feel the same. SANTA-CRUZ: That’s really a good question. I really think my work evolves, but if I had to say something, my work is more edited, more sophisticated, because I know the reference to the history of design, yet I want to provide a point of view, a personal quality, and both visual and physical comfort. It’s more edited than ever. Did you have an imaginary client in mind when you designed the room? KELLEY PROXMIRE: I imagined that a young female New York socialite living on Park Avenue lived in this space. RITA AT. CLAIR [FAMILY ROOM]: I had an imaginary client: a family that enjoyed being together. An active family that enjoys sports, travel and art. That uses this room for family planning of their activities. A family that enjoys television, as well as the use of a fireplace. This family is also aware of design, perhaps not the trendy styles but good design in both antiques, art and contemporary styling. SANTA-CRUZ: Yes, in a way. I really looked for inspiration to French decorator Madeleine Castaing. I wanted to use blue, her favorite color, and combine it the way she did: with yellows, reds, greens and dark furniture. But, I also wanted to fit the Elle Décor style: personal, designed and yet very today, very eclectic. I also do not like rooms to be only masculine or feminine. I like it to be able to be both. Do you coordinate with other designers when you do a show house? SANTA CRUZ: No, I never do that. That’s of no interest to me. I think a show house needs to be like haute couture: present a point of view, a moment, yet send a message that design is important in our lives, regardless of cost. I have items in my room that cost very little when I bought them. The point is that I explore ideas that I have been “floating” in my mind for a while, and a show house can test those. With all the respect to my Hall of Fame colleagues, and I truly respect them, I am doing this to inspire: other designers, students and amateurs of design, manufacturers and editors, the public in general. I hope when visiting this room, one takes an idea or two, good or bad, like it or not. I want people to question why I did what I did, even if they wouldn’t do it with my vision. If a show house is not used by the designers as way to teach or inspire, or confront other ways, then we are not doing our jobs as designers. I can tell you that I don’t want it to look like a high-end hotel room or a show room. ST. CLAIR: Yes, I coordinate with two or three people on my projects; however, the showhouses we do are few. This particular showhouse has my personal name on it. Therefore, it is my design concept, selections and oversight. However, like in all my personally designed spaces, two designers on my staff, Brian Thim and Polly Bartlett, have not only coordinated my ideas but they have made the room happen. What are you happiest with about your effort? PROXMIRE: Scale. The space is very large for a foyer (approximately 18.5 by 27 feet) with very low ceilings. I wanted to make the space be welcoming and not too cavernous. I accomplished this by using dining room table bases for console tables, large round skirted table in the middle and adding a window to break up one long sidewall. NETTELBECK: Because the architecture was about sculpting the walls, the faux finish was instrumental in creating a dark and seductive foundation. We used a simple crosshatch finish that provided the elegance of wall covering without the seams. In contrast, the light polished marble and luminous wall covering helped to define focal points, creating zones of activity within the large room. ST. CLAIR: I am most happy with the room because it is as I wanted it. A family room is a very special place in a home. It must first be expressive of the taste and character of its occupants. A designer's role is to organize the room with the necessary furnishings, personal objects and the usual family chaos that the family comes with, and form a functional and an aesthetically pleasing space. If that is accomplished, we have a successful design project. [gallery ids="99137,102719,102740,102736,102732,102729" nav="thumbs"]

Italian Innovator Alessi Opens

Alessio Alessi flew into D.C. to help Deborah Kalkstein open her Alessi store in Cady’s Alley, Oct. 21. Many Alessi classic designs are familiar, such as the juicers, kettles and baskets, and follow the company’s commitment to function and emotion in its designs. “These are items to make you smile,” said Alessi during his pre-opening lecture on the history of the company, founded in Omegna, Italy, in 1921 by Giovanni Alessi. With its family company and freelance designers, Alessi offers thousands of kitchen and home items, valued and copied by many. Original Alessi designs, some from the 1930s, make up the “Memories from the Future” line. It was such a big deal that the Washington Post’s Jura Koncius and Robin Givhan, along with other local media types, showed up. The firm considers Georgetown residents and visitors “the ideal audience for Alessi’s products.” Kalkstein, the Georgetown store’s owner, also owns Contemporaria in Cady’s Alley. [gallery ids="99409,99410,99411,99412,99413" nav="thumbs"]

Steeping with Charm

In hopes of discovering why tea has grown so popular recently, The Georgetowner interviewed the owners of two local tea shops, Hollie of Ching Ching Cha in Georgetown and Guy of Zen Tara Fine Teas in Bethesda, MD. Tell us about your background and how you decided to open a tea shop. Hollie: 15 years ago I ran into a Taiwanese Teahouse in Paris during my year of traveling in France and decided to have my own. I am chinese from Hong Kong. Guy: I teamed up with co-owner Methee Thavornvongkajorn to open the shop. My background is in architecture and design, Methees' is in the spa industry. We wanted to create a more contemporary version of a tea shop. We actually started looking onto it back in 2007 and worked on become knowledgeable about tea while having a part-time tea counter at the Farm Women's Cooperative Market in Bethesda. We were attending the World Tea Expo every year and took almost 2 years to find the right location which turned about to be less than 2 blocks away from the Farmer's Market on Wisconsin Avenue. We're happy with the way things turned out, the shop is 1600 sq.ft., the largest tea shop we know of in the Metro DC region, we have a separate glass walled tea tasting room where we hold monthly events and true to our Zen name, it is a very relaxing, serene environment focused on tea. Why do you love selling tea? Hollie: I love selling tea because I love tea! Guy: It is a great tasting beverage that is good for you. It is great to be able to go to the shop every day and work with a product that has such positive qualities. It is also a product with a tremendous history that literally has changed the fortunes of more than one country from Asia to Europe to the United States - tea has a great story. Here in the U.S. it is a particularly exciting time to be a part of the tea industry as our country is (finally?) living up to its' potential of being great tea consumers. Right now, we're probably getting the widest variety and some of the best teas we've ever been able to import into the U.S. We have 114 teas at the shop and weekly get customer requests recommendations for just one more tea they would like us to find. What about tea do you think is making it so popular all of a sudden? Hollie: It's a beverage taste delicious and good for health which is a rare combination.Nowadays, most of us are searching for food and drinks that will benefits our health. It's also affordable, and easy to prepare. Guy: Better tasting loose teas are available now - grocery store tea bags aren't the only options (similar to when the coffee industry broke open from a limited number of coffees in a can or "freeze-dried" jars in grocery stores). Consumers are more aware of health benefits. There is also a generational shift in more than one direction perhaps. The baby boomer generation is more sensitive to coffee's effects and seems to be stepping away from caffeine spikes and crashes to the more gentle sustained lift of teas. At the same time for younger tea drinkers, now that there are more contemporary teahouse options that aren't just about lace tablecloths and finger sandwiches, tea has become something hip they are embracing, like what happened with coffeehouses 20 years ago. What is the question you get most when customers visit your tea shop? Hollie: A lot of people come in asking what kind of tea will benefit health or help them lose weight. Guy: It would be a tie between a question and a misunderstanding. The question is about caffeine levels of different teas or between coffees and teas (in general, tea has half the caffeine per cup depending how it is prepared). The other is that loose tea is too complicated or takes too long to prepare. With most mugs and pots coming with their own infusing basket or the disposable loose tea infusing bags like we use at the shop, we can quickly show customers it isn't such an ordeal. What makes one tea better than another? Hollie: A tea is made better by the quality of the leaves, the taste, the aroma, the texture and the after taste. Guy: Tea, like wine, tastes different depending on where it is grown depending on the soil, climate and how the tea is cultivated. Certain regions have produced the best types of tea going back sometimes thousands of years. Limited growing seasons or production will make these teas more expensive. In general, loose teas have a better flavor and are of a higher quality than lower grade teas used in teabags. That said, we always tell customers whatever tea they enjoy is the best tea for them. Some customers prefer pure teas without any floral or fruit blends, others like the wide range of flavored teas that creatively used added ingredients blended with tea leaves. However; like with wine, there does seem to be a path that tea drinkers at the shop progess through from drinking black and green teas to more complex oolong and puerh teas. What is your favorite type of tea and why? Hollie: My favourite kind of tea depends on the season. I like Dragon Well in spring, Dongding Oolong in the summer, Pheonix Oolong in the autumn and Pu Erh in cold winter days. Guy : Very hard to answer. Methee and I have a luxury in buying tea for the shop in that we get to taste and explore literally hundreds of teas a year as we constantly try and select the best teas for the shop. From month to month the favorite changes but a couple of teas that are always on the list are our organic Golden Yunnan black tea, organic Dragon Well green tea and our Cherry Blossom White Tea. Tell us about the teacups and kettles you sell in your tea house. Hollie: Our teawares are mainly from china, taiwan and japan. we use different size and different material of pot and cups for different types of teasdepending on the water temperatures that are needed to brew the teas. For example for green teas, we use a ceramic cha chong(a tea bowl with a lid and a sauce) because the material and the shape of the bowl allows the teas cool rapidly so it won't bring out the bitterness of the teas. When the visual effect is important we will use a glass so you can see the shape and the color of the teas. Oolong will is served with a "kung fung" style tea set containing a Yixing clay teapot, an aroma cup, a drinking cup, an ocean of tea, a tea pool and a dreg spoon. It is quite elaborate and lots of fun to prepare. It's best to always have the hot water accessible or ready on the table because running back and forth to the kitchen is not relaxing.

Auction of the Estate of Lena Horne

Doyle New York will auction the estate of the legendary actress, singer and civil rights activist Lena Horne on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 2pm, at Doyle New York, 175 East 87th Street, New York, NY. Born in Brooklyn, Lena Horne (1917-2010) began her professional life at 16 in the chorus line at Harlem’s Cotton Club, before moving to Hollywood and appearing in a series of acclaimed film roles. Beginning in the 1950s, she focused increasingly on live performance, becoming one of the world’s premiere nightclub entertainers. Through her many recordings and television appearances, millions more became her fans. The Lena Horne collection comprises approximately 200 lots of elegant costume jewelry, accessories, gowns, memorabilia, decorations, silver, furniture, books and fine art from her home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. For more information visit DoyleNewYork.com, or contact Doyle New York client services at 212 427 4141, ext 207. Or email ClientServices@DoyleNewYork.com. [gallery ids="99603,105045,105039,105041" nav="thumbs"]