Shades of Red

Shades of Red

Roses are red . . . We’ve all heard that little ditty numerous times. But have you ever wondered what makes red such a powerful color? Why does red make a bold fashion statement? Why does it look great as a feature wall in your home? Why does red pop on a book cover?

Amy Butler Greenfield’s fascinating book, A Perfect Red, traces the history and cultural impact of the color red. And guess what? It all began with a little red bug called cochineal. Vast fortunes were created and international intrigue bloomed as countries battled to figure out how to beat Spain’s hold on the trade of a red dye. So valuable – it was traded on commodity exchanges in the 17th century.

And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I love red as an artist and painter. I often weave red into my paintings, like the one shown here.


And if you’re curious – here are some other fun facts about red:

Threads of Wisdom 36×36 Oil Ingis Claus

Clever red fingernail polish names: Red Abandon, Little Red Wagon, Don’t know . . . Beets me, Wanted . . . Red or Alive. Life is a Cabernet, An Affair in Red Square, and Breakfast in Red.

Remember Dorothy’s beautiful, magical silver slippers from The Wizard of Oz? Not silver, you say? Well they started out as silver in the novel but when the new Technicolor process was used in the film version, the moviemakers wanted a color that popped—so, of course, they chose red. Ruby red.

Charles and Ray (Bernice Alexandra) Eames: Together the husband and wife duo created some of the 20th century’s most enduring designs. Charles and Ray Eames are known for their classic modern furniture and for their pioneering work with materials such as molded plywood, which they created by pressing sheets of wood veneer against a heated mold. Through this work, in the 1940s the couple developed their iconic LCW (Lounge Chair, Wood), which has been called the best design of the 20th century. The Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair Wood Base, currently sold by Herman Miller, is striking in red. Today, the chair sells for north of a thousand dollars and is made in the United States.

While writing my 2019 published Unforgettable Miss Baldwin, I saw red everywhere. My heroine has red hair, she blushes a pretty shade of red, her lips are full and red . . . Red has seeped into our language: seeing red, caught red-handed, down to my last red cent, red herring, a red-letter day, like red to a bull, red tape, go beet red, in the red,  red-blooded, red-carpet treatment, red-light district . . . well—you know. And of course, my sweet Tom and I love to paint the town red.

I’m currently writing an essay based on my memoirs and how red integrated my life.

What’s your favorite red—either in your home/office or in your personal life?

Used with permission, © 2014, Icon Magazine American Society of Interior Designers.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.



Done Deal, this competition. I did it! The dancing competition at Foxwoods this past weekend was fantastic. Up at 5:30 a.m. for makeup, then hair up, then dress up. I glanced in the mirror, who is that?

Queen of the Ball (but really, that's me)

Queen of the Ball (but really, that’s me)

But you see, this is my exercise workshop. I never could stick to a gym. Tennis was always my sport, but now that I’m bionic, dancing works better. It can be strenuous, but it’s not dangerous. Dancing is great for the heart. You can raise your heartbeat in five minutes of dancing, as if you were running. After fifteen months, I’m in better shape than ever. Like Mom never said, “Stand up straight.” Didn’t your Mom say that? Now my dance teacher tells me the same thing.

Gail & Henry, the teacher

Gail & Henry, the teacher

Henry doesn’t have a stick, but he has Monika who comes along and pulls my head off my neck, then pulls my arms out of my sockets, pushes in my tummy and then says—with emphasis—Stand. Up. Straight. Like I never heard that before. It’s then that Henry takes my head and places it into this odd position so I can’t see his face anymore, and says, “There, that’s good.” Then I say, “Where are you, Henry? I can’t see you anymore.” Monika then puts on the music and Henry whirls me around the room and tell me to look up, but don’t let the white of my eyes show. OK, enough. But honestly, maintaining good posture, stretching your body, standing all-pulled-up is good for your health. You see, you are not just moving your body; you are controlling your muscle movement. Guess what? You eventually get endowed with muscle memory. Yup, it’s true, you remember to stand up straight . . .

After the ball, the banquet. You get to wear a new get-up.

After the ball, the banquet. You get to wear a new get-up.

I have come to realize that this sport permits me to enjoy a range of mobility, balance and flexibility that had begun to diminish. The patterns and methods challenge your mind, sort of like rubbing your head and patting your stomach simultaneously. I intend to continue dancing, if for nothing else, the challenge. I don’t need a competition to be inspired to achieve excellence. No matter how long it takes, excellence is my goal. I love to dance, so dance I will. One dance pattern after another, perfectly matched to music as I seek perfection. .

Hubby Tom, my date & me

Hubby Tom, my date & me

If you know anything about dancing, you know that the cha-cha, the hustle and swing (lindy) can be strenuous, but did you know that a properly-done waltz or a properly-done fox trot can also be physically exhausting. There’s more control involved. Just practice this, stretch your body straight up, keep your shoulders down, hold in that tummy and . . . well, just that for a few minutes. Imagine moving around the room at the same time. Dancing attracts folks who want more than exercise. Who has ever considered dancing as exercise? Have you? Dance enriches and inspires all of us by immersing us into the beauty of movement and music. Tell me, do you want to dance?

A Dreamland of Fun, Food and Frolic

A Dreamland of Fun, Food and Frolic

Coney-Island-Pumping-Station_1-1024x768Did you ever sign a petition to save a building? It sometimes seems futile, especially here in the states. We are a country that forgets about architectural history. Someday, we too can be like our European neighbors, who treasure antiquity, if we save these works of historical art.

Landmark this: The Coney Island Pumping Station is a 1930s Art Landmark this: The Coney Island Pumping Station is a 1930s Art Deco structure that could receive landmark status after an Oct. 8 hearing.

Landmark this: The Coney Island Pumping Station is a 1930s Art Deco structure that could receive landmark status after an Oct. 8 hearing.

This time, I have been asked to sign for the Coney Island Pumping Station. This gorgeous landmark was designed and built in 1938. It fits the Art Deco style perfectly, and is one of the few places left in Coney Island after storm Sandy. Would you please consider saving this building?

Here is a sample letter for your perusal. To send the letter, please see the address at the end of this post. Do it now, the deadline is coming up when the commission will vote on October 8th. Copy this letter, paste in Word, sign and send to the address below.

Dear Commissioner Srinivasan,

Please accept this letter in support of the designation of the Coney Island Pumping Station as a New York City Landmark.

The architect for the 1938 Coney Island Pumping Station was New York City architect, Irwin S. Chanin. Chanin graduated from Cooper Union in 1915 with degrees in both architecture and engineering. In 1926 he attended the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts. He returned to the U.S. with a new architectural and ornamental style that was known as Art Deco. By 1930, Chanin had established himself as a major designer-developed in New York City, having built theaters, hotels and office buildings. His most compelling works include the Century and Majestic apartment houses of Central Park West and the Art Deco Chanin Building located on 42nd Street, where he maintained his own office. The Coney Island Pumping Station exists as Chanin’s only public building and marked the change in his style from large Art Deco skyscrapers to low rise Art Moderne functional buildings. The pumping station remains a testament to the work of a Chanin, documents a turniing point in his career as an architect as well as the changing attitude toward public architecture, to design for the common good of all and to celebrate progress and innovation.

The beauty of the architecture as art and its purpose make the Coney Island Pumping Station significant and irreplaceable as one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in Brooklyn, NY and one of Irwin Chanin’s most evolved and streamline Art Deco designs. I commend the Commission for holding a public hearing to include this building and urge  you to designate the Coney Island Pumping Station as a New York City Landmark.


Your name here

Send to:

Commissioner Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
Municipal Building
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor, North
New York, NY 10007

Save this one . . . another piece of American History facing the bulldozer. It will take money to restore this, but this is Coney Island after all, a dreamland of fun, food and frolic and most important, American history. Let’s collect those letters and send them to Commissioner Meenakshi Srinivasan.

This has already been designated a landmark, preserve it! Thank you for taking this into consideration. Let’s preserve Coney Island. They lost so much in storm sandy and are rebuilding. Would you consider saving this beautiful part of American history? Then copy, sign and seal this letter and mail to the above address. Do it quickly, it’s a battle keeping those bulldozers

Coney Island Pumping Station Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Coney Island Pumping Station Neptune Avenue and W.23rd Street, Brooklyn, NY

Coney-Island-Pumping-Station_1-1024x768 away.

Not sure where the pumping station is in this photo, it must be behind that cyclone fence somewhere. If you can catch a sunset in Coney Island, they are breathtaking.

10/2/15 Just got this additional information:

“We encourage all stakeholders to submit written testimony in advance of the hearing by email to
All statements and materials received in advance of the hearing on October 8th will be distributed to the Commissioners and entered into the record. The record will remain open until October 22.”

Are You A Steampunker?

Are You A Steampunker?

Mighty news is in the works – Victoriana is back. I never thought I would see the day. From all I remember as a youngster, to my concentrated academia and career in the arts and disciplines teaching about beauty, I believed Victoriana had produced some of the ugliest products ever made in history. Like living in “Dark Shadows.” My years of work and study in art, design, and architecture have produced in me a clear idea of how space, color, and unity can be utilized to produce a well-designed and functional environment. Environments like schools, sports stadiums, spas, places of worship, galleries, museums, our homes and more. The list is long.

According to Wikipedia: Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power was widely used—usually the Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of Steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne.

Image below on the left is a handsome 21st Century clock by Roger Wood made in the aesthetics of Steampunk style. Metal and layers. See more on his website.

Steampunk garnered its name from the idea of steam power and the inventions of the industrial revolution. It is based on history. Robert Fulton and his steam engine were instrumental in changing manufacturing. Eli Whitney and his cotton gin made extracting cotton from the plant easier. The spinning jenny run by steam made weaving easier. The Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in human history.

Image on right is the only surviving example of a Spinning mule built by the inventor Samuel Crompton.

Almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. Machine-based manufacturing became protocol. Victoriana produced thinkers of future possibilities and science fiction, hence Steampunk; layering, metal, designing with objects of technology.

Image on right, Victoriana style, is a Herter sofa made for the Lockwood’s, circa 1867. Two of the sofas can be seen in Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk CT. The mansion is still looking for the other pair. Lockwood is open to the public. 

Remember a couple of years ago in fashion when layering became popular? Now it’s more popular than ever. We discovered layering works, both indoors and outdoors, and it is fashionable. For fashion, so many designs are being shown in layered form.

Free People fashions for Bloomingdale's

2011 Free People on the left in particular.


Image above on right: 1905 Duster keeps the road dust from the new automobiles off her layers of underclothing.

Mrs. Lockwood layered in corset, petticoats, slips, blouse and can you see more?

Image on left: Let’s look at Mrs. Lockwood in the 19th Century in the Rotunda of her home,  Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum. Layers once again.  Can you figure out how many layers she is wearing?

Come back next week for another look at Steampunk and Victoriana. How are those layers being translated? Are we heading for another Victoriana or will we stop before it goes overboard? It may be too late!

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