Archive for February, 2009

boys and their toys – The TV of your dreams

February 27, 2009

March Madness is around the corner!  While I know little about basketball, I do know that a great deal of TV watching occurs in the month of March.  So it seems like a good time to talk about televisions.  And who better to talk about TV’s with than Neil Greenberg, owner of Audio Interiors, Inc., a premier audiovisual design and installation company since 1982.  Having worked with Neil before he understands my dilemma when working with my clients, what size television is best for the space and where should it be located.  Then there are the ins and outs of the actual TV selection.  The whole process is one of design and compromise in ways that are not often seen by our clients.

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As a designer, I always try to err on the smaller side, unless we are doing a screening room.  This instinct of mine is in direct opposition to most of my male clients, their motto is bigger is better … my motto is bigger is too heavy visually for the room and not very sexy.  There should be some relationship between the size of your room and the placement of the TV to determine its size.  Part of that decision is the gut instinct of your designer and then there is Neil’s “general rule of thumb” that he has used for the past 20 years.  “For optimal TV viewing, you do not want to be any closer than twice the width of the screen.”  This works out that if you have a TV with an actual width, not the diagonal measurement, of 48 inches you want to be seated at least 8 ft from the screen.  Neil says that this rule of thumb can be altered with the advent of the new higher resolution sets and you can sit slightly closer, though I feel a little distance is better.

When you are determining the size TV you are going to purchase, here are a few guide lines.
LCD TV’s are available in the following diagonal sizes 19/22/26/32/37/40/42/46/52/55/65/70 inch  and there is a limited production 108 inch available from Sharp.  Neil mentioned, “It is $100k and while have installed them, we don’t sell too many.”  Neil’s preference for LCD manufacturers is Samsung, Sony and Sharp, and there are the ultrathins from Hitachi.
Plasma TVs are available in 42/46/50/58/60/65 inches and Neil recommends Panasonic, Samsung and the Runco Plasma, which is a “high end” plasma TV with a DHD (High Definition Image Processor). And for those of you for whom 65 inch isn’t large enough, Panasonic also produces a “jumbo” plasma, 103 inches diagonal.

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Once you determine the size of your TV, the next question is, LCD vs Plasma?  Neil answers this question, “In my opinion, the quality of the image is still better with the plasma TV and it is what I have at home.  The difference is found in the black level, which is the contrast ratio, and the construction of the plasma screen is measurably sharper and brighter.”  There is an added cost when you choose a plasma TV, however Neil feels it is worth it.  He then added, “there is a new technology, LED Backlighting, that is worth looking into and does it’s best to mimic the black quality level of the plasma TV.”  This new technology is available from Samsung and Sony.  The Sony’s with LED Backlighting are available in their XBR8 series 46” and 55”, which are a little deeper than other LCD TV’s at almost 6” – so while the picture has improved, and you are giving up some depth.  The Sony XBRs also have good sound quality, just in case you were not planning on integrating your TV into your sound system.

Then there is the question of what is High Definition and what is the best technology available today.  A quick lesson from Neil, “High Definition TVs for a number of years have maxed out at 1080i resolution or 720p.  The newest HDTVs have 1080p resolution.  However there is one big caveat, you can only get that resolution from a blu-ray disk or a computer source.”  So what does that mean for your TV viewing?  If you want to get the most out of your fabulous new TV, you will need either watch all your movies on blu-ray or have AppleTv, Vudu or Netflix (box by Roku) streaming your movies.

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Architect Jeffrey Povero’s home, Metropolitan Home, March 2008

Photographed by Peter Murdock

The last guideline for today’s post is the installation of your TV.  Both Neil and I have noticed that clients have a tendency to install their TV’s too high for optimal, let alone comfortable viewing.  Neil’s rule of thumb, which also happens to be my rule of thumb, is the bottom of your TV screen is ideally placed at 36- 38” above the floor and should not be placed any higher than 42” off the floor.

In the future we will talk about concealing that lovely new TV in any number of beautiful and technologically advanced ways.  Until then, enjoy the game.

dale b. cohen
new york city

footnote: the top two photos are from my client’s homes here in New York City.

knives, knives, knives … part one

February 20, 2009

An interview with  Gretchen Young, Chef

This week we are going to begin to delve into knives and as Chef Gretchen says, “If you’re going to cook, you need good knives since scissors and ripping by hand are two methods that do not work in every food prep situation.”  As with any tool, it is a given that all are the not the same in terms of quality or function.  There are reasons to buy the very best and different knives do different tasks.

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In my conversation with Chef Gretchen, she stressed quality matters more than quantity.  Her feeling is that you begin your knife drawer with 3 knives and build from there.  Those 3 knives should be of the highest quality you can afford and “be based on how you cook. If your repertoire is limited to burgers, pastas and the occasional stir-fry, why have every knife known to man? Keep it simple!”

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Here are the selection of knives that Chef Gretchen recommends;
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Shun Kaji Chef’s Knife

A good quality chef’s knife will cost in the range of $75 to $300.  A chef’s knife comes in 8″ or 10″ blade length, choose depending on your size, and is for general all-purpose knife work.  This Shun Kaji Chef’s knife comes in a 6″, 8″ and 10″ blade.

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Shun Kaji Paring Knife, 4 1/2″

A good paring knife is $35 to $80.  Which you use “for the details, like coring apples, cutting limes, etc.”

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Shun Kaji Bread Knife, 9″

A good serrated bread knife is $60 to $150.  A serrated knife is used to slice through breads and other baked goods, and can also be used for tomatoes.
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Chef Gretchen had a few other salient points about knives, buying them, choosing them and why …

First, she stresses that you need to buy your own knives, as she said “Even if you move mom’s well-worn couch to your new apartment, it’s best to leave her old knives at home.”

Second,  you choose a knife because of how it works for you and how it feels.  To that end, she remarked “Similar to car shopping, before you plunk down any money, take the knife on a test drive — have the salesperson in the store take the knife out of the packaging (or use a floor model) and feel the knife in your hand. The handle should fit. It should feel balanced and not weigh your arm down.”

Thirdly, if you have a girlfriend and she cooks when she is at your home,  Chef Gretchen says “I always suggest that couples each maintain their own chef’s knife.”  This is so you can cook together and because the size and weight of the knife is related to the height of the person using it and the size of their hands.  “So if you are a tall guy with big hands, an 8″ chef’s knife will be like a toothpick in your hand, it is better to get a 10″ or longer bladed knife.  Alternatively, if your significant other is smaller than you, she’ll have a hard time maneuvering the knife (no kidding!). So in addition to giving a her a set of keys, she will also need her own knife.”

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As for which manufacturer to buy, there is the question of Japanese or Western.  Chef Gretchen has the following thoughts.  “Japanese knives, such as Shun, Global or Kyoce, are single ground; meaning, they’re sharpened only on one side, at approximately 22 degrees, and are designed for people who are right handed (they can often be special-ordered for left handed users).   The German, or Western, knives are double-beveled, sharpened at a 45 degree angle on both sides.”

If you are left handed you may prefer a Western knife, such as Lamson Sharp, Cutco, Wustof and Henckel.  “These knives are made primarily in the German tradition of knife making. As these knives are double-beveled, they are therefore ambidextrous.”

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Here is the real deal, when I spoke with my friend Chef Mitchell London, owner of Burgers & Cupcakes and Mitchell London Foods, about Japanese knives, and the Shun specifically, he spoke longingly, fondly of his now lost Shun Chef’s knife (someone else in his kitchen loved it so much that they ran off with it).  Chef Mitchell talked about the feel, the weight and the knife’s dexterity.  He said “it was a dream to work with”.  And when I was wondering around the knife department with Chef Gretchen, she too was clearly enamored of the Shun and while she liked other knives and thought they could do the job, you could see in her eyes how much she loved the Shun knives.  My next knives will be Shun, thank goodness I am right handed.

There is much more to say, as Chef Gretchen remarked to me, “I could talk about knives for days”.  To be continued …

Please be sure to share your thoughts about the blogpost and any ideas you have for future posts.

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Gretchen Young has a culinary career that stretches over 10 years, satisfying high profile individuals, restaurants, small businesses and non-profit groups through a catering business, cake design studio and as a private chef. She teaches cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and Whole Foods Bowery Culinary Education Center. During the Fragrance Foundation’s 2006 Fragrance Week, Chef Gretchen partnered with Takasago Perfumerie and Bacardi to create a multi-sensory experience of food, cocktails and scent.  She earned an MBA from the University of Michigan and trained at the Institute of Culinary Education.

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dale b. cohen

new york city

why your white dress shirt is your best friend

February 13, 2009

The lost art of dressing is our topic for this week’s post.  Even when casual dressing, your white shirt is your best friend and I might say that your white shirt is possibly a better friend to you when dressing casually.   In conversation this week with a friend of mine, Gabriel Zeller, who is a Brooks Brother’s Master Specialist, we spoke about men’s casual dressing and the art of it.  What has been misplaced in the era of dressing casually is that dressing well takes thought and that often times men without the compass of a suit go astray.  Ask any woman you have gone out with, as beautiful as you look in your suit, when you pull something together for a Saturday night date or dinner with friends, it does not show you at your best.  Of course, it is when you are dressed casually that we spend the most time with you.

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Paul Newman

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Upon looking up the definition of casual on http://www.merriam-webster.com, casual is defined as;

1: subject to, resulting from, or occurring by chance. 2 a: occurring without regularity : occasional.  3 a  (1): feeling or showing little concern : nonchalant.  (2): lacking a high degree of interest or devotion  (3): done without serious intent or commitment. b  (1): informal, natural   (2): designed for informal use.  Synonyms see accidental, random.

Gabriel remarked, “The issue being that even Webster views dressing casual as synonymous with accidental and random.  Lets avoid some accidents out there.  Casual is  an opportunity for being natural and relaxed, and being comfortable.”   So from our conversation, what we came up with is a man needs a casual uniform the way he leans on his cadre of suits as his professional uniform.
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Steve McQueen

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The key is to keep it simple and elegant.  This is where we get to why your white dress shirt is your best friend.  “Not only is it one of the most understated and elegant ways to be appropriate and taken seriously, it is as simple as it sounds.  An understated white dress shirt,  with a white undershirt, will be a perfect choice from work transitioning into dinner on Saturday night. Pair it with a cleanly pressed chino or untucked with dark jeans for the more casual outing.”  I know many men prefer khakis or chinos, my vote is for jeans with an untucked white dress shirt.

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Robert Redford

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Gabriel had a long conversation with me about the custom fit shirt.  He feels that when a man walks down the street in a shirt that is properly fitted, you know it and it defines the man.  “I’m a big supporter of the ‘your shirt should fit you’ club. Not all men have the same build and not all shirts are made the same either.  More and more clothing companies are becoming aware that fit matters.  From the multiple fit options ready made at Brooks Brothers, (traditional, luxury and slim) to the best in show, made to measure or custom made shirting.”

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Daniel Craig

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Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

And no matter what, be sweet to your sweetheart!

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Jeff Koons ‘Hanging Heart’

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dale b. cohen

new york city

valentine’s day for every woman in your life

February 5, 2009

This time every year men are scurrying around to figure out, to plot, to conjure what on earth to do for Valentine’s Day.  Of course, we all wrestle with the fact that this is a completely made-up holiday! And yet, we all know that if you, the guy,  ignore V-day, it is at our peril!

So this being the case, we have tried to take some of the heat off of you and are providing here the perfect gift for every woman in your life.  Each plant conveys something to the woman you are giving it to in just the right tone.  Of course, if she is really really “the one” well then you need to dangle a diamond of some sort from one of the branches.

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your Grandmother

A  Blue Hydrangea, with it’s broad round shape and deep color, emanates with warmth and is thought to imply a steadfastness of affection.

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your Mom

The Kaleidoscope or Raspberry Phalaenopsis Orchid.  It’s pale yellow flower with a pink stripe is soft and glows beautifully, expressing maternal love.

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your Sister

Yellow Calla Lilies, shine beautifully and brightly.

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your Girlfriend, The keeper, the one you might actually marry …

The timeless, elegant White Phalaenopsis Orchid.  Orchids have long been thought to represent delicate beauty. The White Orchid speaks to pure love.

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your Girlfriend, a more casual affair

This orchid is called the Solar Flare Orchid … you can imply it’s meaning.

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your Girlfriend / Best friend
Who just happens to be a woman.  The clean crisp White Narcissus, also called Paperwhite, is thought to represent purity and sweetness.

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Today’s post was inspired by the wonderful Foliage Garden in New York City.  All photographs were taken in their shop with the assistance of Jeff and Meredith.  I work with Foliage Garden because I love their finishing/arranging work with their plants.  They take great pride in their work and possess  a  beautiful eye, and their work always makes my clients happy.

Additionally, my friend  Judy Fertel, the national manager of Remains Lighting,  was instrumental in the photography of this blog post.

Happy V-day!

dale b. cohen