Rooms with a View


For 21 years, the Southport Congregational Church in Southport, Connecticut has hosted a wildly popular design show, Rooms with a View (RWAV). RWAV is unique in that it is not a full show house, but rather, a sound bite version of a designer show house. Each year, 12 designers are invited to create 6′ by 8′ vignettes, staged with 8-foot ceilings and three walls, and located in the library and great hall of the historic stone church. And this year, I’m one of the lucky designers!


The theme this year is “Home for the Holidays,” so you’ll find my Nantucket-style take on the concept in the library.  I don’t want to give anything away–I want you to come see it for yourself!–but I will tell you that its designed to be a peaceful island retreat, overlooking Nantucket Harbor, and in an elegant room that’s ready for a loving reunion with family and friends.

Nantucket by Sondy Rexford

photo credit: Sondy Rexford

The show opens on Friday, November 13 at 10:00 a.m. There’s a Gala Party Friday evening, featuring cocktails and hot d’oeuvres from some of the best restaurants around. Saturday opens with a Fashion Show and a Royal English Tea, and the evening features a Champagne Tour of the Vignettes and Gourmet Dinner. And it’s not over yet! On Sunday, there’s a Gingerbread House Workshop in the main tent at 2 p.m.

This spectacular event was created by the late, renowned designer Albert Hadley, and continues under the leadership of Parker Rogers. Thom Filicia is the celebrity Honorary Chairperson.

Rooms with a View is open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 13th to 15th, and in addition to the vignettes, you’ll want to visit The Shops at Rooms with a View, with more than 30 vendors selling crafts, antiques and decorative accessories. If you need a nosh, you can stop at the Marketplace Cafe.

Sound like fun? The weekend promises to be one of the most festive events of the season. In addition, over the past 21 years, RWAV has raised more than $1.4 million. Proceeds support the work of the church and its many local and international missions, including Alpha Community Services, Bridgeport Council of Churches, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Burroughs Community Center, Center for Women and Families, Eagle Hill School Scholarship Fund, Emerge, Inc., Family Re-Entry, FSW, Grasmere by the Sea, Homes for the Brave, Horizons, Janus House, The Kennedy Center, Operation Hope, The Pilot House, Project Learn, Prospect House, Simply Smiles, St. George’s Soup Kitchen, and Visiting Nurses of Connecticut.

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Don’t miss it!

Learn more here.


Design in Dallas

Dallas City skyline at sunset, Texas, USA

Dallas City skyline at sunset, Texas, USA

photo from istock

One of the greatest joys while traveling is experiencing the unique culture and architecture in a city. My recent trip to Dallas, Texas for the Design Futures Council’s Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design filled me with admiration for the mostly modernist and postmodernist skyline. Although the city has long been associated with cotton, cattle and oil, that was in its heyday of long ago. Today, you’ll find stylish professionals from all over the world, and the requisite shopping, hotels and restaurants a first class city is known for.

dallas glass

photo from istock

Dallas has had a reputation for being made up of shiny glass boxes, as it succumbed to the craze for reflective glass in the 1970s. Drivers sometimes complain about the glittering reflection of the sun in their eyes during late day commutes, but the sparkling skyline has long been a source of pride for residents. I loved the views from my hotel windows, and the nighttime glow when the sun went down and the city lit up.

Today, some of the best examples of architecture are the Reunion Tower with its landmark observation deck and light shows–

reunion tower

photo from istock

the JFK Memorial in the West End Historic District, by the noted architect Phillip Johnson–

JFK Memorial

photo from istock 

and I.M. Pei’s Dallas City Hall.

dallas city hall

photo from istock 

The biggest new structure in Dallas is the bridge over the Trinity River, part of the Trinity River Project.

bridge dallas

photo credit: Aaron Morrow

A striking display in the Great Hall in The State Hall is a gold medallion, twelve feet in diameter. The star in the middle is the symbol of Texas.

great hall in hall of state fair

photo credit: Aaron Morrow

One of my favorite spots on this trip was the Nasher Sculpture Center, where a roofless building is home to one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary sculpture in the world.


Dallas is still home to beautiful countryside, too, if you drive outside the city.  I can’t wait to go back.

dallas country

Marshall, Texas. Photo credit: Aaron Morrow

Tell the Good Stories

nan projphoto from istock

There’s a wonderful quote by Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”


I felt doubly blessed after reading those words, because I’m convinced that what makes me come alive is also just what the world needs. I recently had the privilege of attending two multi-day conferences–The Nantucket Project, on Nantucket Island in September, and The Design Futures Council’s  (DFC) Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design in Dallas, Texas in October.

The speakers were among the most renowned politicians, business leaders, philanthropists and artists in the world. The topics they spoke on were self-selected, and reflected their deepest beliefs and best work.  It’s easy to become discouraged when we focus on the world’s problems, but it’s also possible to focus on solutions. Pete Seeger once said: “The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”

everyone has a story phrase handwritten on chalkboard with heart symbol instead of O

photo from istock 

At both conferences, I was completely captivated by the number of intelligent, thoughtful, creative and dynamic thought-leaders and life-changers on this planet, and the optimistic stories they told. I was uplifted, inspired, and re-invigorated in my desire to keep spreading the word about sustainable design. I want to do everything I can to help make the earth a cleaner, healthier place to raise our children and grandchildren, and take good care of our elders, too!

having fun in the waves

photo from istock

The Nantucket Project bills itself as a convener of thinkers and ideas, a think tank and an academy of learners. If you believe in being a lifelong learner, as I do, then I hope you’ll attend one of their annual island gatherings. Steve Wozniak was there, from Apple Computer, Inc., and Ben Carson, a Republican presidential candidate. Regardless of your political leanings, it’s always good to be exposed to the thoughts and ideas of people on the public stage.

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for ten years, spoke on the Africa Governance Initiative, designed to challenge the African continent with needed reform and reduce poverty. Neil Young introduced the concept of PonoMusic, bringing high resolution music to music lovers around the world.

After that experience, I couldn’t imagine anything that could compare to what I had just seen and heard, or that any other event could match that one for integrity. But then I headed southwest, to Dallas, and to the Design Futures Council’s Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design.


photo from istock

The first Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design was held on Nantucket, 14 years ago. I had long had the desire to to have an “awareness-raising” conference for architects, landscapers, designers and contractors, to provide a platform for knowledge and understanding for an environmentally-conscious built environment. My friend and colleague Jim Cramer was the first to make that conference a reality by supporting it with his following in the Design Futures Council.

nantucket 2

photo from istock 

I am deeply gratified to have been a part of this movement from the very beginning. At our first gathering we established The Nantucket Principles, offering a path for a strategic approach to sustainable design. Every year for the past fourteen, design leaders from around the world have convened to share their thoughts and ideas, to challenge outdated beliefs, and to make a positive contribution to the world.

DFC Sr Fellow right way up

At the Sustainable Design Summit, I was honored as a new Senior Fellow for the DFC, an unsought recognition that I treasure as a firm believer in the DFC’s mission.

DFC Sr Fellow 2

Here I am being honored as a Senior Fellow, with Scott Simpson, Managing Director, Greenway Group, and James P. Cramer, Chairman and Principal, Greenway Group, and President, Design Futures Council!

I was enthralled by the speakers there: Jason McClennan spoke on Living Buildings for a Living Future (watch his TED Talk here); Dame Ellen McArthur educated us on “The Surprising Thing I Learned Sailing Solo Around the World” (watch her TED Talk here), and we talked about the Building Blocks of a  Circular Economy.

Those two conferences changed my life, not by altering any of my values, beliefs or passions, but rather, by reaffirming what I already knew: that there is a world filled with possibility, that the right time to give up hope is never, and that together, we can create something beautiful. Both conferences told me a story that I could believe in: that we can change the world.

As Tom Scott, co-founder of The Nantucket Project says, “If you want to be good at making outcomes, you’d better get really good at telling a story. And you better make sure that story has integrity.”

We can all do this in our own lives. Let’s find the good stories, stories with integrity, and tell them to each other, every day.

This is Impossible Concept with Graffiti on Gray Cement Street Wall.

photo from istock

The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving. –Oliver Wendell Holmes