If you wanted to get out of the house Wednesday evening and find something different to do in the neighborhood, you could have learned which fruit trees are the best to grow in Missouri at Bowood Farms on Olive Street, and how to combine antiques with modern furniture at Design Within Reach on Maryland Plaza.
About sixty people came to hear Mr. Branhagan's suggestions for the best fruit trees and shrubs for our climate, and companion plantings to keep pests from munching on the riches. Two of the trees he mentioned, "Carolina Bell," a peach tree with fruit that tastes like a peach should, and "Arkansas Black," a great apple tree for our hot summers, are among the many available at Bowood. When he talked about using mint (which every gardener knows is highly invasive) as a groundcover instead of for instance, pachysandra, there was some uneasy shifting in the seats by the audience..."at least it tastes better," Branhagan countered.
From there over to Design Within Reach to meet interior designers Retta Leritz DiFate & Zachary Cramberg, who are part of the store's "Elements of Design" series. The duo, who form Schoen Wahl designlab, (the name is a combination of their mothers' maiden names) have been featured in Saint Louis At Home magazine.
Retta (above left) and Zachary were friends in high school. When Retta lived in New York, she worked for clothing designer Betsy Johnson and worked on the home collections of both Tommy Hilfiger and Nicole Miller. This talented woman also produces a line of stationery, Retta le Ritz. Zachary's varied background in interior design includes a stint as a proprietor of our local Design Within Reach. The duo's focus Wednesday evening was to mix the modern pieces in the DWR collection with antiques, to illustrate "a realistic approach to living with modern furniture," according to Retta.
That's Zachary above (lower left) adjusting a piece in the vignette featuring a mannequin draped in a vintage coat for the decorating scheme based on fashion.
Another vignette showed "how to use an accent color in a room," and above, a mix of materials to show "how to make the playful elegant." The artwork in the vignettes is by Eric DiFate, Ritta's husband, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. All of the airy flower arrangements, equally playful, were executed by the designers. And yes, that is an old popcorn machine in the background; a well-used skateboard also made the cut and was placed under the refreshment table as a prop, which is where I hope it stayed...the guests were really enjoying the scene, which is always the case at DWR.