Saturday, December 31, 2011

Feast For The Festive

With New Year’s Eve upon us, many of us will be celebrating with friends over supper – whether it be elaborate or simple, no matter.  It’s the thought behind the menu that keeps it interesting, and, of course, the company. 

I’m ringing in the New Year with dear friends at a sit down dinner party that promises to be nothing short of divine.  Boef Bournignon has star billing, the hostess is trés chic and I’m certain the table will be just as glorious as the meal.

Take a look at these fabulous table settings – giving truth to the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”  --I wouldn’t mind being a guest at any one of them, would you?  The range is marvelous and each one sublime.


Barbara Ashfield

Photos from top:
1.The Beatles from
2.Black and White from
4.Queen Elizabeth from the

Friday, December 23, 2011

Celebrating Global Illumination

Nothing personifies the holidays quite like a beautiful display of light. This is something that every country in the world has in common. Let’s take a journey to see a few stunning light displays from across the globe…

Paris’ Champs-Élysées…

Tel Aviv…


Denver Colorado….

Madrid’s Plaza Mayor…

Paper lanterns in Buenos Aires…

From the Light Festival in Berlin…

Tokyo Japan…

And of course San Francisco’s Waterfront…

Here is wishing you a peaceful holiday season filled with light, and a prosperous new year ahead!

Barbara Ashfield & David J. Hansen

Photos from top:
A collage of light displays from
Champs-Élysées from
Tel Aviv from
Toronto from
Denver Colorado from
Madrid from
Galleries Lafayette in Paris from
Buenos Aires from
Berlin from Magix magazine
Tokyo from
San Francisco from

Friday, December 16, 2011

Saluting The Patriarch of Modern British Life

The Design Museum in London helps celebrate Terence Conran’s 80th birthday by launching an exhibit on his legacy and impact on modern British daily life. The exhibit is called "The Way We Live Now".

Mr. Conran is undeniably one of the sages of modern daily life in Britain since the end of World War II, and has made his mark through products, books and the architectural vernacular.

Mr. Conran is one of the founders of the Design Museum, and helped establish it initially in the basement of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The exhibit traces the various incarnations of Mr. Conran’s career from his architectural practice to mass retailer of modern furnishings and house wares, to restaurateur.

The exhibit is on display until March 4, 2012 at the Design Museum on London’s waterfront. To learn more about the exhibit go here.

David J. Hansen

Photos from top:
1)   Photo of exhibition poster in the London Metro from the Conran blog
2)   Photo of Terence Conran from
3)   Photo of Habitat store in Dublin from

Monday, December 5, 2011

Details, Details!

Our local Dining by Design is one of my favorite events of the year. As a member of the Steering Committee I am always involved in the behind-the-scenes details of the event, but usually don’t have much interaction with the actual tables. My first glimpse is usually when I encounter them at the venue.

I’m always amazed at the creativity of the designers who create the event’s signature “Over-the-top tabletop”, and how much work goes into these works of art.

Most design is a sum of it’s parts and as they say: “the devil is in the details”, but in this case it’s the divine!

Here are some of my favorite details from our most recent event which was held on November 16th and 17th:

Monogrammed napkin detail at the Gary Hutton Design table:

Corrugated cardboard light fixtures at a table designed by Alexandra Torre:

Male and Female “bums” at a table designed by Room Service:

A “charred” chair at the “Phoenix” table designed by Mondo Guera (of Project Runway fame), and students from San Francisco State University. The table was sponsored by The Merck’s Living Positive By Design campaign:

A checkerboard floor covering utilizing various garden materials at the table designed by Shades of Green Landscape:

Concentric Strings makes a statement at the Academy of Art table:

Succulents at a table designed by John Witmarsh:

Beakers and elements at the “Periodic Table”:

San Francisco’s Dining by Design benefits the Positive Health Program at SF General. They deliver on demand care to those living with HIV and AIDS.

To learn more about San Francisco’s Dining by Design go here. To see photos from the 2011 event go here.

David J. Hansen

Top photo: The purity of white at the table by Gary Hutton Design

All photos by David Hansen for Ashfield Hansen Design Inc. © 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gratitude As Attitude

Can it be as simple as that?…Gratitude as Attitude?   

Attempting to write something inspirational for my favorite holiday and thinking a little out of the box, I found that inspiration via the New York Times. Leafing through Saturday’s New York Times I came across Holly Epstein Ojalvo’s What Are You Grateful For?” and John Tierney’s piece in the same issue A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day.  Both Epstein-Ojalvo and Tierney engage the reader describing the positive effects of kindness, generosity and reflection.

They promise us that we will be kinder, more generous less aggressive, and sleep more soundly.  Sounds almost like a magic pill!   Definitely a good “short read” and I felt time well spent. 

I am promising myself to practice more gratitude, as attitude, in the days, weeks, and months to come.  

Happy Thanksgiving.

Gratefully yours,

Barbara Ashfield

Photos from top:
1)   Photo from:
2)   Photo from:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Capturing A Designer's Attention!

Bonhams, the worldwide auction house has announced a new sale category to their monthly calendar. “Period Art & Design” will hold inaugural auctions in San Francisco and Los Angeles on November 20th. These sales will include every category from furniture, decorative arts, silver, rugs, books and jewelry. In addition, the auction catalog for these sales will feature interviews with interior designers or important community figures discussing design trends and relevant topics

The sale for December will include property from the estate of Katherine Elkins Boyd who passed away in 2009. She is most famously known as the daughter of legendary interior designer Francis Elkins, who is a Bay area favorite.

This is exciting news for the San Francisco design community, as many of the lots have very reasonable estimated prices (everything is slated to be in the $500-$5000 range). I’m sure there will be competition amongst some of our peers over these great pieces.

Looking at the catalog online I found some interesting finds:

An Italian Olive Burl veneer square coffee table c.1970s.

Italian mid Century Yellow glass ewer / Mid 20th Century.

Biedermeier partially ebonized Birch wood vitrine on Stand. Second quarter 18th Century.

 “Tree Lined House in Autumn” by Mary DeNeale Morgan 1868-1948.

Danish ebonized teak and parquetry circular table c. 1960.

Bonhams / San Francisco is located at 220 San Bruno Avenue. Their phone number is 415-861-7500. You can visit their web site here.

David Hansen

All images used are from Bonhams web site and online catalog.

Top image “the Traveler” by Joseph Solman 1909-2008.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Soup, Glorious Soup

The holidays are just around the corner and I’m starting to think about menus for my family’s Thanksgiving/Christmas feasts

I always love to start the meal with a Soup. I think it’s very elegant and brings a certain formality to the start of a meal after getting everyone to the table. People tend to settle down and focus on what is placed before them and more importantly, the flavors presented. I think it has a very calming effect.

And so today, I began the wonderfully relaxing and creative process of meandering my way through my collection of recipes from holidays past and favorite cookbooks, and of course, the ubiquitous

I like to serve soup either in big and wonderfully oversized white bowls, or quite the contrary, in small white demitasse cups.

Take a look at some of the wonderful things I’m considering for this year. Which one would suit your palette?

Craig Claiborne’s Crème Crecy (Cream of Carrot Soup)

1lb. (8-10) carrots

1lb. (3-5) potatoes

2 TBS. butter

½ c. coarsely chopped onion

6c. fresh or canned chicken broth

2sprigs fresh thyme, or ½ tsp dried

1bay leaf

1 c. heavy cream

1/8 tsp Tabasco, or, to taste

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp sugar

salt & freshly ground pepper

1 c. cold whole milk

Trim off the ends of the carrots. Pare both carrots & potatoes, then carrots into rounds and cube potatoes. Set aside.

Heat the butter in a large pot and add onion. Cook briefly, stirring.

Add the carrots, potatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add thyme and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer 30-40 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are tender.

Put mixture through a food mill and chill for 3-4 hours to set the flavors. Put in the container of a food processor or electric blender and blend. This may have to be done in 2 stages.

After blending, transfer mixture to saucepan if you are going to serve hot. Bring to a boil and then add remaining ingredients. If you are going to serve it cold, transfer mixture to a bowl, add remaining ingredients and chill thoroughly. Serves 6-8

Food & Wine’s Velvety Beet Soup November 2002

3 lbs. medium red beets

2 large parsnips

2 large carrots

1 ¾ lb. celery root

4 TBS. unsalted butter

½ c. water

salt and freshly ground white pepper

7 c. chicken stock

¼ c. balsamic vinegar

Green Tabasco Sauce

Preheat oven to 375. Wrap beets in 2 sheets heavy-duty foil. Set the packages on a baking sheet and roast beets for 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Let cool in the foil.

Meanwhile, peel the parsnips, carrots and celery root; cut into ¼” dice. In a large skillet, melt the butter in the water. Add the diced vegetables and cook over moderate heat until almost tender, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper and remove from heat.

Peel and quarter the roasted beets. Working in batches, in a blender, puree the beets and stock until very smooth. Transfer to large saucepan. Stir in the vinegar, season with salt, white pepper and green Tabasco. Add parsnips, carrots and celery root and simmer over moderate heat for 5 min before serving. The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve with crème fraiche and fresh beet sprouts.

House Beautiful’s Butternut Squash Soup with Leeks

(November 1999)

6 TBS. butter

4 leeks, white part only, coarsely chopped, plus inner green leaves of 2 leeks, julienned (will be used for the garnish)

1large onion, peeled and roughly chopped

4 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

10 c. chicken stock or broth

1/3 c. rolled oats

½ tsp cayenne pepper


1 c. vegetable oil

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the white part of the leeks and onion. Sauté, stirring constantly until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the squash, chicken stock, oats and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender, then return to the pot. Add salt to taste. Keep warm over low heat.

For the garnish, heat vegetable oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add green leeks. Fry until crisp and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with fried leeks. Serves 12

Bon Appetit!

Barbara Ashfield

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Where The Spirits Live!

The beautiful decay of abandoned buildings is what inspired me this Halloween. I was drawn to these amazing images that possess strength and fragility simultaneously.

These seemed like the places that Spirits might inhabit. Each location was clearly full of life at one time, but peaceful and seemingly forgotten now.

In my research I found there is a good part of the internet devoted to abandoned buildings, which tells me there must be lots of Spirits out there.

Happy Halloween!

David Hansen

Photo Credits from top:

1) Abandoned Church Photographer unknown from

2) Black & White Photograph © Brian Cooney

3) Stairwell photograph from The Kingston Lounge

4) Michigan Central Station © Joe Braun

5) Galway image © Mike Searle via Urban Ghosts

6) Photographer unknown from Positive Education blog

7) Photograph via The Kingston Lounge