Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Design Leadership Summit

BEFORE WE START—please, everybody, I really do want to know if you think we should change the name of our blog, from “Decorating with Sheets” to what…….

ALSO BEFORE WE START—the absolutely most exciting thing which happed to me on the Monday of the first week in November was that my daughters and I met with Brian Coleman, the author of Farrow and Ball: The Art of Colour, and Fortuny, who will be the author of—Ta Da! A book on myself, my daughters, Sallie Giordano and India Foster, and our firm, and also my daughter, Elizabeth, who has her own eponymous firm in Los Angeles—a book on a decorating family.  It is being published by Gibbs Smith, and we are so honoured and excited to be asked.  More about this (to me) exciting news later…..


Our firm, Leta Austin Foster & Associates, Palm Beach and New York, and my daughter, Elizabeth’s firm, Elizabeth Dinkel Design Associates, in Los Angeles, were honoured to be invited to join the annual conference of the Design Leadership Network. 

Kate Kelly, Senior Vice President of
Hearts Corporation
Peter Sallick, Waterworks CEO
and DNL founder
John Edelman, CEO of Design Within Reach

This is quite an honour,  and it was a thrilling experience.  It was held this year in New York, the first evening opening with a dinner at The New York Public Library…

Sir Norman Foster and Paul Goldberger

with, Paul Goldberger, the architectural critic, acting as a moderator for a talk with Sir Norman Foster, the amazing architect from London who has built so many buildings all over the world, like the Hearst Tower in New York City...

The Hearst Tower built by Sir Norman Foster, over the original
building by Joseph Urban.

Which was built over and conserving the original Joseph Urban building, always interesting to me since Joseph Urban was responsible for some of Palm Beach’s most famous landmarks such as Mar-A-Lago...

This is the interior of the original drawing room at Mar-A-Lago,
showing the fantasy vision of Joseph Urban.
My husband Ridgely Foster, used to go to square dances
here given by Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post-
hard to believe!

And The Bath and Tennis Club...

A contemporaneous picture of the
Bath and Tennis,shortly after it was built.

We also heard about the Beijing airport which Foster built, and I learned the amazing fact that because of it’s upward thrust and the very good transit system, it’s amazing Central Park, New York City is one of our greenest cities.  Who Knew?  But I am glad—I just wish South Florida could be a bit more on the bandwagon there!

The next day we all met at the IAC building (Inter Active Corporation) way over on 18th Street and 12th Avenue—I’m not good on taking the subways alone—I’m not scared of the people—just of getting lost down there and never being heard from again—so that, in rush hour, was a $45 (with tip) taxi ride—Yow!  Everything was always supposed to start right on time—soft of an impossibility with all of us—so we gobbled breakfast while we listened to a full morning of using technical video knowledge in decorating.  So far, this concept—all of these ideas—were more useful for a more middle range decoration than the one we tend to do. My clients would kill me if I used the same pieces of furniture for each of them which is what many of the softwares so far perfected do—great if your clients love curtain panels from Restoration Hardware and chairs from IKEA, but not so great when you are projecting beautiful handmade sofas and chairs. My clients like to go sit in the chairs, lie on the beds, and run their hand on a piece of wood—not to mention that they sometimes design with us the furniture they want, like this custom dressing table.

Initial sketches for a dressing table designed by me and Patrick Darczuk
And here here are the final drawings for the custom dressing
table (to be skirted),
with proposed triptych mirror for client's Master Bedroom

This design would be shown to the client with the painting samples, the fabric sample made up with a lining skirt and a special hem, the wallpaper for lining all the drawers, and hardware selection. Here is the sample we showed her of the skirt for the dressing table. 

I think technology will someday be useful for projects like this, but it is not now.  I did enjoy the technical talks though, as many were quite amusing.  There was a lot of pat-myself-on-the-back, but that, I think was to be expected.  We broke for a stand-up lunch—very good in that we had just heard from the last speaker of the morning that we were evolved to stand, not sit, and we had been sitting for more than three hours!—with new friends...

Then back to the “grind,” and back to sitting...

New best friends
More scholars

The afternoon’s highlights were Michael Boodro of Elle D├ęcor, followed by a “conversation” of Bunny Williams talking with Oscar de la Renta.

Oscar de la Renta and Bunny Williams

And Andy Spade being quite humorous as he talked about the founding of Kate Spade—his pictures were great too, and it was really fun to sort of “be in at his beginning” which was like nothing at all which I might have imagined.

Andy Spade

The dinner that night was at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center in The Grand Promenade upstairs—such a beautiful space, and the meal was wonderful, with great speakers, including Abby Rosen, but what they said I can’t tell you, because I could not hear a word.  Sadly.  Anyway, it was wonderful to stare around at a space which I usually walk through in a hurry.

The next day we all met at The Hearst Building (see above) and I thought it was the best day of all.  I missed a bit, because I had to go out of the meeting and sign the House Beautiful Tree of American Decorators, but I got to hear Newell Turner, whom I adore, and best of all the summit, Ariana Huffington, who was just amazing.

Arianna Huffington

I will try and get a copy of her talk for all of you readers, because it was so filled with wit and history and most of all, information.  Not really about decoration or architecture, but about life, which is what I think we all need to ponder.

Lots of antique shopping, seeing a new ceramist at Gerald Bland, new sources found by Lizzie and India…..just a great, great trip.  I wish everyone of you had been there with me.



  1. I am thrilled about your book!!
    I hope you can get a copy of Arianna Huffington's talk!!

    Wonderful post!!

    1. Thank you Penelope! So are we. If I get a copy of Arianna's talk I will surely post it on the blog. Thanks for keeping up with us. XOXO LETA

  2. Dear Mrs. Foster, If I didn't know your work from seeing it published I would expect very different information from a blog named Decorating with Sheets. The name may belie the generous posts you present and the great body of professional work you have created.You could use your name, as many do, or perhaps Brian Coleman could help you tie it to the title of the new book. Something witty seems fitting, your writing is a pleasure to read. Congratulations on the new book, I look forward to enjoying it as much as your Farrow and Ball contribution.

    1. Beth, I really appreciate your comment and of course you following the blog. I think you are right, some kind of tie-in with the book would be great. Thank you for reading and following us. XOXO LETA