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Hack The Box: Re-Programming the Museum Experience

18 Mar


I’ve had the opportunity to do some really interesting and fun things in my capacity as an instructor at the Corcoran College of Art and Design (CCAD). Last week was no exception. Between March 13-15, Corcoran College of Art and Design and Bethesda-based Brivo Labs engaged in a cutting-edge, meticulously planned, creatively consuming, brain-numbing-in-a-good-way design charrette to re-think the way that we experience the museum, as experienced through today’s (and the future’s) vast, and growing, technological capabilities.  (Whew. Did I say that right?)

The entire group consisted of about 15 rockstar graduate students from CCAD’s interior design and exhibition design departments, about 5 faculty mentors and 3 administrators from CCAD, many employees from Brivo, a few people from Top Coder (a company that I could write another whole post on). For the final presentation we were all joined by a handful of esteemed curators, webmasters, CEO’s, and other key members from important institutions in the worlds of art, architecture, and technology.

I was a faculty mentor for Team Retail (which I’ll explain below). I think we were also called Team Shop. Or Team Store. But we referred to ourselves as Team Retail from the first day.

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In an attempt to summarize this endeavor briefly, the schedule was as follows:

On Thursday we met at Brivo headquarters in Bethesda for an introduction to what they do and a discussion of how we could best create a conceptual synergy. We got to play with some neat gadgets and learn about things like beacons, which look like this  (note: this faceted silicone thing is the housing/casing, and not the actual “brain” itself, which is buried inside):

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In short, Brivo Systems provides cloud-based security solutions and Brivo Labs does all kinds of neat stuff with technology that I am just beginning to wrap my head around, so I will keep my explanation of what they do to that. Their website can pick up where I leave off.

We were split into three teams, each one working within the confines of the Corcoran’s historic 17th Street Beaux-Arts building as a test-case:

Team Entry had the task of addressing how we discover and first approach and engage with the museum.

Team Exhibition had the task of addressing how we understand, interact with, and experience the actual art.

Team Retail had the task of addressing how we engage with, locate, and participate in the retail experience of a museum. I was a faculty mentor for this team, which was comprised of five interior design grad students, two exhibition design grad students, members of both Brivo and TopCoder, and another faculty member.

On Friday, we met at the Corcoran Gallery of Art to explore the space as a whole as well as take measurements, document, and collect data about our respective spaces.

If you wanted to, you could even sneak away to see some of the current exhibitions and happenings. I walked into “Loop,” which is a personal favorite.

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I was also mesmerized by students and volunteers working on a huge Sol LeWitt line drawing in the atrium. Where else could you see something like this happening?

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Our team chose to spend the bulk of that time discussing ways that we could incorporate technology into the retail experience, and we worked closely with our Brivo and Top Coder tech-brains to distill those ideas into a what was ultimately a solicitation for solutions on Top Coder’s website.  What basically happened, was we came up with a concept for an App that would tie the museum experience to the retail experience, driving traffic back and forth between the two both while in the museum and after leaving the space. This would create a chicken-and-egg/cyclical effect of looping the two experiences together, which would result in repeat visitors to the museum and increased sales in the shop. The App would play heavily on the concept of gamification, creating incentives for ultimate cash-in in the retail store, and would work for those who choose to have active engagement through a device like an iPhone or tablet (either their own or one provided by the museum) as well as those who choose to have passive engagement through wearing a day-pass around their neck or carrying a member ID card (which would be equipped with a unique identifier such as a RFID chip). I’m going to stop going into detail here, because 1.) I could go on forever and 2.) I don’t want to give anything away that people might be hacking away at in the coming months.

I am really geeking out here, you guys. I can’t tell you how FUN this was.

On Saturday, we all reconvened at Brivo to have the official charrette day, where we put our brains to work. Starting at 8am. For 13 hours. Without leaving the building at all on a REALLY nice day. In a room full of dry erase fumes. But we made it through to the other side, and we’re fine. Better for the experience, actually.

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Saturday was a complete fog of diagrams, whiteboards, tracing paper, Google Drive and Dropbox exchanges, coffee (OH! the coffee we consumed), jelly beans, and power cords. Somehow, in the midst of all of this, we even managed to try out some toys that Brivo had for us to play with. Among them:

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GOOGLE GLASS! I don’t even CARE that I appear to have premature wrinkles on my forehead. I don’t even care. My husband was so jealous.

The day looked a lot like this for all three teams:

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Then 6pm rolled around, we breathed for a few minutes, and we set up to present our conclusions and proof of concepts to the critics. That looked a lot like this:

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Team Retail was even able to show a peek at the wireframe model of the App we conceived of. Can you believe that?  After formulating a concept, submitting a request to the TopCoder community of hundreds of thousands of programmers and coders, and letting things happen overnight, a “winner” from halfway across the world came up with a viable working model for the actual App. This is an example of the incredible synergy that this three-way partnership was intended to create: my mind is blown.

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The end of the evening was full of high-fives, thank-yous, and mutual admiration for what ended up being an awesome and exhausting collaboration. I didn’t play sports in high school, but it felt like we won a division championship or something. (Showing my nerd card. Again.)

One of the things that I have yet to mention is that this event was planned right before the recent announcements concerning the fate of the Corcoran Gallery/College, so many of the groups had approaches that necessarily addressed questions like “What happens to the collection?” and “Will the museum be free?” Those questions in and of themselves are big things to tackle, so doing that in conjunction with the larger purpose of the charrette was an enormous feat on top of another enormous feat, and these groups handled themselves like pros. I’m proud.

This three-day exercise, in conjunction with the conceptual nature of CCAD’s curriculum and the unique resources we have as an institution, are hallmarks of the Corcoran Experience for its students. The Corcoran College of Art and Design, and the Gallery, have a culture that is unique to the art community, unique to the museum world, and unique to the Washington DC area. At this time, the logistics of what happens to the space, its people, and its inner-workings are up in the air as to the what, when, who, and how. There are six thousand ways that things could shake down in the coming months, and I’m sure three thousand of them are incredibly beneficial to everyone involved. But as an alum of the Corcoran, a current faculty member, and someone invested in seeing its vibrant and unique culture survive and THRIVE, I think it’s important that we highlight experiences like this one as an example of what we need to preserve and perpetuate in order to keep the mission and voice of the Corcoran alive and well.

In any case, WHAT A GREAT experience for everyone involved! I hope it’s just the first of many more like it! I’ll echo the many “thank yous” exchanged around the room on Saturday, and say that each person involved the charrette – Brivo, Top Coder, the Corcoran folks, and the critics – was not only a valuable resource but a complete joy to spend in intense weekend with.

You can read the full press-release of the event here.

Many of the images in this blog post were taken by me. Many came from other participants, and can be sourced here via re-posted Instagram or Twitter pics.

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.


Cranberries Galore!

9 Oct

I’ve been hearing about a neat installation/viral marketing thing that Ocean Spray, of cranberry fame, is doing today and tomorrow over at Union Station. For those of you who are not from or familiar with Washington, D.C., Union Station is our main train station, and the building is a stunning, gleaming white mixture of Classical and Beaux-Arts styles of architecture. My parents used to take me there as a kid and I still love the building. It usually looks like this (image via 

Union Station

Today, however, those fountains in front are filled with something other than water…

Union Station Cranberry Bog(image via Ocean Spray via Prince of Petworth)

2013-10-8-CranberryBog(image via Washingtonian)

Ocean Spray has made us our very own cranberry bog!

Isn’t it beautiful? I understand it contains 2,000 pounds of little red berries, and will be open only through today – so get there FAST!

For more cranberry-ness, revisit my post from a few years back about the lovely color here.

Or you can check out this lovely chair, beautiful pendants (from my favorite, Niche Modern), or pretty pillow:

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…or you can make this delicious looking cranberry martini!

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Enjoy the day!




Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

An Evening with Birchbox.

28 Jun

On Thursday night I was lucky enough to be invited to a get together for Birchbox at the fabulous Malmaison on K Street.

Dinner with Birchbox!

Birchbox is a subscription service that sends about five little beauty products to your door every month for the bargain price of $10. You can then purchase full sized products if you like the trial sized ones from their website, but there’s zero obligation to. So Birchbox is perfect for product junkies who are always on the hunt for the next best thing, and for people who just want a little happy in their mailbox every few weeks. They’ve also recently launched a “man box,” which I think is super cool.

I’ve had my eye on the company for a few years now but have never actually become a member. So imagine how fun it was for me to arrive last night and see THIS at my place setting:


Dinner with Birchbox!

Here’s what was inside my box:
Dinner with Birchbox!Dinner with Birchbox!

I can’t wait to try the hair oil and the headband. And I adore the chevron lining of the box!

I didn’t get a chance to take many photos of the space, but you can see and read a little more about Malmaison here at BYT (which is also the source of the photo below). Here’s what it looks like from the exterior: a little touch of glam right under the Whitehurst!

Dinner with Birchbox

What a neat space for a neat event! I even got to meet and chat with a bunch of fun lady bloggers, so if you’re interested in reading more about DC Style, check out Worn Magazine, Spicy Candy DC, The Seventh District, Miss Lyle Style, and The Glossarie

Have a fantastic weekend! I’ll be trying out some new products courtesy of Birchbox!


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Color Friday is: Red! RED at Arena Stage, that is…

27 Jan

Last night I was treated to a performance of Red, the acclaimed Tony Award winning play that just opened at Arena Stage. The play is about Mark Rothko, the Russian-American, abstract expressionist painter who was active in the mid 1900s. You know: the colored squares guy.

(image via Arena Stage)

I don’t refer casually to him as “the colored squares guy” to be sinister or suggest his work is silly. In fact, I’ve come to really appreciate and enjoy many of the seemingly mundane subjects of abstract expressionism over the years. In the play, Rothko’s character discusses his paintings as being highly vulnerable objects that pulsate, glow, and he even goes so far as to suggest that they have emotions. This hour and forty minute long show has only two cast members, and focuses on the relationship between Rothko and his fictional assistant, Ken, as he works on a commission for the Four Seasons restaurant in Philip Johnson and Mies Van der Rohe’s Seagram Building; three of these paintings are on view at the National Gallery of Art right now. As the title if the play may suggest, the works are largely in red tones.

I chuckled when Rothko’s character mentioned that he rued the day that his paintings would grace living rooms as decoration, or that people would pair his thoughtful, serious color blocks with chips from the Sherwin Williams fan deck. I can’t say I recommend matching art to your throw pillows, but as a designer, I advocate some semblance of purpose or cohesion. I’m guessing he wouldn’t like these much:

(image via Design Crush)

The art history student in me was thrilled to hear the names of so many artists: the characters discuss Caravaggio, de Kooning, Matisee and others throughout, and if you are at all familar with the history of art you’ll be reminded of many favorite images (and appreciate the dialogue on a much deeper level). They talk about what red means to them, what black represents, and what white connotes. There’s back and forth between the men about different shades of red that lasts a few minutes, and the color theorist in me was thoroughly entertained. There’s a gorgeous set, wonderful lighting, and real painting action happens right on stage mid-performance. If you sit in the front row don’t wear anything you like too much (you’ve been warned).

(image via Arena Stage)

The discussion of the point of abstract expressionism — more specifically, Rothko’s work; or to generalize, art on the whole — is a central theme. Rothko, as the artist, obviously has a stake in making his work mean something important. His assistant, on the other hand, suggests that “Sometimes, you just want a f*cking still life.”

Feel free to form your own opinion sometime over the course of the next five weeks: Red is running at Arena Stage, in the Kreeger Theatre, until March 11th 2012. You can purchase tickets here.


Arena Stage provided the tickets to this performance.


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Missoni For Target Takes DC By Storm!

14 Sep

Early Tuesday morning, as the first Target stores around the area opened, Missoni Madness took over in full force.

Just a few of the lovely colorful offerings from the most recent designer-collaboration. (images via Target)

The Washington City Paper describes how all of the shoes at the Falls Church Target were gone in just eight minutes, and how Columbia Heights was virtually sold out of all things zig-zag in about twenty minutes. Apparently the website even crashed. As if that weren’t enough hoopla, you can already find Missoni for Target items on eBay, marked up insanely high. I can’t say I’m surprised, and I can’t say I would have had the energy to fight the masses and brave the lines this morning (especially with a sick kid and a raging headache myself)!

Though I didn’t personally make it to the debut my mom did, and I hear she has lots of fun goodies for me: including BOOTS! Are they these? I hope so!

Missoni for Target Rainboots (image via Target)

Did you go bright and early? If so, what did you snag? If you didn’t, what are you coveting from the website?


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Missoni for Target is Coming Soon!

17 Aug

Missoni for Target Wine Box ($9.99) and Wine Labels ($2.99) (image via Target)


Finally! We get to see some images (88 to be exact) of the new Missoni for Target line, set to launch in-store on September 13th (it’s a Tuesday…I’ve got it on the calendar)!  In no particular order, here are some of my favorites for the home…all under $50!!


Clockwise from top left: Throw ($39.99); Glass Serving Bowl ($29.99); Hand Towels and Shower Curtain ($10.99 - $34.99); Rugs ($29.99). (all images via Target)


I don’t know about you, but I CAN’T WAIT!

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

West Elm Pop-Up Shop Opens in Georgetown! Hooray!!

15 Jul

West Elm’s Pop-Up Store opened Thursday in Georgetown at 3333 M Street NW.

Photography by Studio Saldana

A far cry from the hulking behemoth of organic bedding and chocolate-wood veneers that used to exist downtown, this is West Elm‘s littlest store and arguably their most charming one. As such, it carries a limited amount of furniture and focuses instead on their collection of textiles and accessories. You’ll find a lot of one-of-a-kind items here: hand-printed ethnic print pillows, vibrant throws made from recycled saris, and gleaming glass mosaic wall decor from India that’s traditionally used to panel elaborate buildings. There are also tons of soaps, candles, and little items that you’ll probably be happy you purchased on an impulse. I got a candle in my little gift bag that smells so good, even my husband approves: Paddywax’s “Library” scent.

Sure, you’ll also see a lot of these things in the catalog and online, but here you can PICK THEM YOURSELF in an environment that feels a lot more like a 14th Street boutique than a mall store. If you’re like me you’ll want to spend half an hour pouring over the dozens of unique blankets so that you can pick the perfect one: at $99, they’re priced pretty well compared to similar finds elsewhere.

Photography by Studio Saldana

Though the official opening day was Thursday, the opening celebrations are going to be Saturday, July 16th. All day Pleasant Pops will be giving out their popsicles outside of the store, and for the first two hours there will be prizes on some of the popsicle sticks: 25% off? a $1000 gift card? …in any case you get a delicious and free treat.

Photography by Studio Saldana

West Elm will be in this location until at least right after the new year.  Right now they have the Fall line in the store, and Georgetown is one of the first locations in the country to have it in stock. It’s very ethnic and indigo, with lots of hand-blocked prints and chunky textiles. In late September they’ll switch over to their Holiday line, which is apparently going to feature even more one-of-a-kind items and be heavy on the paper mache. They’re loving being in the Georgetown neighborhood and hoping to stay on a permanent basis as 2012 rolls around…just look for them to move to a bigger (but hopefully not too big) space if one comes available.

An awesome mural made of NYC artist Aakash Nihalani. Photography by Studio Saldana

Photography by Studio Saldana

A few tips for your visit:

– Did you know West Elm offers a 10% discount to college students AND faculty? Just bring your ID (this applies to those of you who are currently in college or teaching it…not those of you who still carry your ID around six years later so you can see movies on the cheap.)
– If you’re buying chairs or hefty items, there is a loading area in the garage under the building, or West Elm offers very cheap same-day delivery!
– I speak from personal experience on this: The massive hill on 35th Street is a great and less-obvious place to park in this crowded area. Just make sure your gas tank isn’t on “E.” I made out fine, but developed a few gray hairs in the process. 

This article also appears on Prince of Petworth.

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

In My Home: A Crash Course in Interior Design!

5 Jul

This July, from the 12th – 28th, I’ll be teaching a class at the Corcoran College of Art + Design called “In My Home.”  It will mark about the 20th time I’ve taught it.  A good friend of mine who is a very talented designer was scheduled to teach it this session, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a teensy bit sad about relinquishing my continuing education duties in favor of moving to more degree courses and delving into my clients’ projects a little deeper. Well, not to worry, because she’s gotten a job in a new city (bittersweet for me) and now I’m happily going to instruct another section of In My Home in a few short weeks! …just bring on more babysitting hours. 

A board from a previous class.

In the class we learn about how to draw and read floor plans, how to choose and place furnishings, and we learn about lighting, materials (counter tops, floors, carpets, textiles, etc…), paint, and different vendors.  At the end you make a board featuring your design scheme, which usually pertains to an actual space in your home…hence the name of the course. One of the biggest assets of the class, in my opinion, is that you’re part of a small group of like-minded individuals who can share tips and inspiration, all while sneaking in a few valuable one-on-one questions to a design professional.  And I won’t even charge you by the hour for the emails you’ll inevitably send me during class to ask about the rug you just found, or if your paint color looks gray or blue!

Confession: I think this young student went on to enter a design program after the class. And rightfully so -- do you see how she painted the board in a fade pattern from top to bottom with interior paint?! I was beyond impressed.

In My Home will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6pm-9:30pm from July 12th – 28th at the Corcoran’s Georgetown campus (right across the street from the big new Safeway). It’s for non-professionals only. You can find out more and register here.

Hope to see you in class!

Shopping Trip MUSTS For This Weekend!

28 Apr

There are four BIG must-check-out events happening over the next few days in DC that are on my radar. So let’s get to it…

I can't wait to visit the newest addition to MY neighborhood! (image via Trohv)

1.) Thursday’s opening of TROHV, a new haunt in the Takoma neighborhood of DC that is “an inventive, independently-owned shop featuring home goods and gifts. We aim to inspire your shopping experience with varied collections of new and vintage goods. Our mix of urban grit and southern sensibility playfully blends multiple aesthetics to create an artful sense of home and personal style.” Be sure to swing by on or after Thursday (when they open) at 232 Carol Avenue, NW!

2.) A 20% off “Royal Wedding” weekend sale at Sukio Design Co., where my friend and proprietress extraordinaire offers tons of decorative goodies. Sukio is at 1712 14th Street NW, upstairs.

3.) A weekend sidewalk sale at one of my favorites…Reincarnations Furnishings. Peruse their offerings at 1401 14th Street NW – it should be a beautiful day.

4.) The much-hyped opening of CB2 is slated for Saturday, April 30th. Honestly, I haven’t heard too much about it, so I’m hoping it’s still on track. Be sure to hop on over to 3307 M Street NW and see their lovely catalog-wares in person.

Pillows at Sukio Design Co. (image via Sukio Design Co.)

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Cupcakes, Portraits, and Paintings…oh my!

28 Mar

Umm.  Well….I had so much fun at my son’s birthday party that I forgot to be diligent about taking pictures of the actual party.  We did, however, get a lot of good pictures of the people at the party, which is really what matters.  Thankfully I managed to get a few excellent shots of the cupcake tier that I made:

The bottom (white) is a cake plate that a good friend gave us for our wedding, and the black top piece is actually a candle pillar from Crate and Barrel!  A perfectly toned down vessel for the super bright birthday treats! Sigh…I didn’t even get a chance to photograph the banner, or the way we used an old Coke crate to display other food.

But we got a good family portrait! Even if my son’s hand is in his mouth…

This is a rare happening: we hardly ever take family pictures, and when we do someone’s eyes are closed.  The painting on the left is by Abbe McGray and it’s one of my favorite things we have. Here’s a better look at it (it’s huge). I believe it’s called “It’s Me” — as in the artist as a little girl, not “me.”  But I get asked that a lot.  If this “me” had tons of money, I’d ask her to do another half-face portrait of my son…and also one of our cat.

(image via Abbe McGray)



So that was our weekend.  Family, food, trucks, and fun. Hope yours was good as well!

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.