imageMike Hines photo by Kentaro Yamada

One of the most creative people I know, Mike Hines, agreed to sit with me and answer my questionnaire.  Mike began his career in retail then transitioned to interior design and finally found his passion….florals!  Again, someone I thought I knew well, we have worked together almost since the beginning of his opening epochfloral with Mikel Laughlin, in 2001.  Mike and I seem to always be on the same wavelength…I just need to give him my vague thoughts on what I want for whatever event I am working on no matter how small or how large and low and behold it is always how I envision the finished product.  I found out so much that I didn’t know and am sharing it with you in today’s profile.

imageMike creating…photo by Adrian Natase Photography

NENA: When did you realize your talent?

MIKE: I don’t think I really knew at any one time.  My Mother, who knew I had talent before I knew it,  exposed me to creativity at a very early age, she gave me art supplies,  paint by numbers, rugs to hook and I just created and was very happy.  I painted my own rooms and decorated them as long as I can remember.I grew up with flowers all around me, they were and are part of my DNA, just didn’t realize it at the time.  I worked in retail and interior design before getting into florals.

NENA:  So you knew you wanted to do something creative as a career…

MIKE:  Not really, I went to school to study Criminal Psychology, I wanted to go into forensics.

NENA:  Oh my, our very own version of CSI, I along, with many others, are quite happy you turned your thoughts to creating beauty rather than pursuing the dark underbelly of humanity!

imageA Mike Hines creation, photo by Doug Human Photography as featured in Mike’s book. UPROOTED, which I am featuring in tomorrow’s Books Books Books post.

NENA:  How did your original passion for creativity bring you to where you are now?

MIKE: Curiosity and the alchemy of things (see photos in UPROOTED to see this philosophy in action!).



The inspiration board for the Costume Council Gala and one of the actual tables (there were four different set ups).  Photos by Nena.


The Chicago Rooms at the Chicago History Museum The Costume Council Gala for the opening of the Chicago Styled: Fashioning the Magnificent Mile exhibition, November 14, 2014

imageThe huge wall of hand cut and hand placed paper flowers as guests entered the Gala. Photo by Nena.

imageA Corporate Event Gala at the Ritz Carlton, Maui, photo credit unknown

FAVORITE BOOK:  Dr. Seuss, Peter Pan

FAVORITE MOVIE OR GENRE: “Make me cry movies” and musicals.  Some of my favorites: Finding Neverland, Billy Elliott, Out of Africa, Moulin Rouge (Baz Luhrmann version), Australia, Central Station, English Patient.

ENTERTAINMENT IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE:  Legitimate Theater, Symphony, Musicals, Ballet, Opera

FAVORITE CHICAGO RESTAURANT:  Lula’s Cafe in Logan Square.  I prefer American cuisine and fresh ingredients but not necessarily farm to table.

HOBBIES:  Yoga, skiing, tennis, cooking, and baking, entertaining, listening to musicals and traveling.

YOUR HOME:  Clean lines, modern, all white no color…I work with color and I  prefer not to live with it!

FANTASY DINNER:  Still working on the guest list but would serve a standing rib roast, twice baked potatoes and Pavlova (see recipe below!)

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT AND ON LIST:  Scottsdale, Arizona, by myself and to be visited, Morocco

WHAT PIECE OF CHICAGO STREET ART IS YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY:  The graffiti at the Fulton Street Market because of it’s creativity and vulnerability.

INTERESTING INTERVIEW:  I hate to read reviews, always fearing the worse!  I did really enjoy a video that I did with Glossed and Found (actually did a couple with Graham) a couple of years ago.  It became a very “deep” interview but I found it very cleansing and thought it turned out really well.

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED: As a compassionate human!

A quote from the introduction to UPROOTED, in Mike’s words, in my opinion, says it all….”My passion and my need to use my creative mind to design and innovate have become the fuel for my everyday life spent living with flowers.”  A life spent as a genius creator who is vulnerable, always seeking more of himself and pushing his flowers to new heights and himself to new plateaus of creativity….I can’t wait to see Mike’s next chapter!

A superb cook (he prefers to bake, particularly pies, rather than cook but does both exquisitely!) Mike is sharing one of his coveted recipes, again, I think perfect for the Holidays…perhaps New Year’s Eve dessert, your thoughts????

From the Mike Hines Recipe Box

Cranberry Curd Pavlova

Cranberry Curd

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (I use blood orange for added color)

1 orange peel

1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until cranberries pop. Place cranberry mixture in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Strain cranberry mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.
  2. Combine sugars and butter in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add egg yolks and egg, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt. Place mixture in the top of a double boiler or glass bowl over simmering water (don’t let water touch the bowls bottom). Cook over simmering water until mixture thickens (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in liqueur. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 week.


5 large egg whites (at room temperature)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

Preheat oven to 275°.

Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a 10-inch circle on parchment paper. Turn parchment paper over. Secure with masking tape; set aside.

Beat egg whites at high speed of a mixer until foamy. Add salt, beating until stiff peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (do not under beat). Sprinkle cornstarch over egg white mixture; beat at low speed until well-blended. Stir in vanilla and vinegar.

Spoon egg white mixture onto drawn circle. Using the back of spoon, shape meringue into a “nest” with 2 1/2-inch sides. Bake at 275° for 2 hours or until dry. Turn oven off; let meringue cool in closed oven at least 12 hours. Carefully remove meringue from paper; set aside.

Once the Pavlova has cooled and the curd has cooled and thickened, dollop the curd onto the top of the Pavlova.  For added luxe, make homemade whipped cream, lightly sweetened, and dollop the curd top with the whipped cream.

Mike’s comment….Luxurious and delicious.   I could eat the entire thing in one sitting (with a glass or two of port).


Time Magazine September 1947 first American designer to be on the cover

A year after I started my career at Saks Fifth Avenue, (I began in sales while I was still in high school), I went into the Fashion/Publicity/Special Events/Advertising Office.  This was in August, in September of that year, and for many years after, the first event of the Chicago Social season was a fashion show benefiting the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society.  It was chaired by the indomitable, Mrs. Francis J. Klimley, Nancy,  who was an innovator on Chicago’s social scene forever!  Not only did she and her husband support many organizations, Nancy always got the right audience to her events.  She was a chic, savvy woman who didn’t know how to take no for an answer.  I am so honored that we became friends through the years. I am now friends with her daughter, Lisa Malkin, who carries on her mother’s chic heritage and philanthropy.

This was the first formal fashion show I produced and the featured designer was Sophie of Saks Fifth Avenue.  She did not appear in person that year but did in other years, more on one of those appearances later in this posting.  Of course, she was an  iconic designer but, probably more importantly to me, she was the wife of our President, Adam Gimbel.  Mistakes were not an option!


Sophie Gimbel had always designed garments beginning with her doll’s clothes by the mid-20’s she had already made a name for herself as a stylist and designer and captured the eye of Adam Gimbel who hired her in 1929 (by the way the year Saks Fifth Avenue opened in Chicago!) as lead designer and manager of the Salon Moderne at Saks Fifth Avenue.  They were married in 1931.  The label was originally Sophie Gimbel by the 1940’s the label was changed to Sophie of Saks Fifth Avenue.  She was considered the best in the business and led the lifestyle of her clients.  She had an intuitive sense of what her clients wanted and needed to wear…she went to the same events, the same restaurants, the same clubs, therefore observing her peers taste or what she directed their taste to be.  In addition, she went to Europe to buy from the Paris Collections, which in turn were sold at Saks, and to source fabrics for her garments.  All the Sophie collections were conceived and made in New York.  There were fantastic workrooms where all the garments were made not far from the Fifth Avenue flagship Saks Fifth Avenue. I was fortunate to visit them on occasion.  Having observed other designer workrooms in New York, Chicago, and Paris, I can attest that Sophie’s could rival Paris in every sense of the word.

With a client in the Salon Moderne, Saks Fifth Avenue, New York

Sophie not only designed the Salon Moderne Collections, which were as close to couture as you can get, absolutely exquisite garments, she also did 3-4 Ready to Wear Collections a year.  All of these were extraordinary successes for the Chicago store.  These collections were presented by her amazing representative, Ciel Grossman, who became my second Mother. I would meet her at Union Station when she arrived with the Collection on the Twentieth Century Limited train from New York.   Help unpack the collection, stage the shows and informal modeling, repack and go back to the station with her for her next city visit.  It was extraordinary schooling and set me up for my entire career.  I will feature stories about my visits with Ciel in New York as well as post some of her wonderful watercolors, but this posting is all about Sophie.

Sophie with Adam Gimbel and Edward R. Murrow getting ready to tape “Person to Person” in their extraordinary home. (I couldn’t find a tape of the show…anyone have it????)

Every few years Sophie and Adam would come to Chicago to attend a black tie event at the Ambassador West Hotel in the Guildhall ballroom again benefiting Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society.  We would feature the Salon Moderne collection and Sophie would bring her models with her and we would supplement with ours, just like we did with Norman Norell.  These shows were not commentated and one in particular remains in my mind.  It was shortly after the Guildhall opened, the Publicity Director for both the Ambassador East (now The Public) and the Ambassador West (now condos) Hotels, Lucia Perrago, decided it would be great fun and a major PR event to have the Gimbels brought into the room, after everyone was seated, in Sedan Chairs.  Both Hotels were fashioned after major places in England and Lucia loved to emphasize this whenever possible to much fanfare, such as liveried footmen, and garnered much press. The actual show was on raised platforms placed throughout the room and the models went from one box to another, there was always a model on each of the platforms.  The clothes were dramatic, elegant, stunning and featured what one would consider a wardrobe taking the wearer from day to evening. It was thrilling and we took many orders on the garments.  The press received was extraordinary.

imageSophie and Adam Gimbel as they looked when attending our black tie evenings.

Sophie was known for her impeccable taste and love for beautiful jewelry, you can see examples in the above photo. Of course, Sophie was her own best model, she wore her own creations perfectly. Her taste was also evident in the collections in their homes including a museum quality collection of Boehm birds. The Gimbel archives are housed at The New School Libraries and Archives at Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Sophie’s elegance was a wonderful example to inspire me at the beginning of my time at Saks Fifth Avenue and pave the path for all the designers I worked with throughout my career. What an honor to have worked with the best of the best, of course, I did work for Saks Fifth Avenue and the company never accepted anything less! lives on with her namesake, Sophie’s Restaurant at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago.  Executive Chef Ron Aleman’s ever-changing seasonal menu, extensive wine list, and imaginative cocktails bring clients back and back again and the view can’t be found anywhere else in Chicago…it is amazing.  A perfect place to pause during yourshopping spree…a pity that can’t include the glorious garments that were created by the unique Sophie Gimbel!


My apologies for whatever is happening with my photos….I am going to put them here again, lets hope this works….so sorry!!

#1 A friends home in Indiana, simple perfection


#2 Formal mantel with china collection and English oil painting


#3 Formal unadorned mantel with wall sconces in a Private Club


#4 Chinoiserie Mantel with wall sconces and Asian porcelains in a Private Club


#5 A modern approach with a simple mantel and some of the owners treasures which change seasonally




I understand this photo of the close up of my breakfront did not appear on today’s post nor did four of my photos from yesterdays post show up.  I will repost them later.  My apologies for this mysterious omission!





Actually not a collection but a vehicle to hold some of my lily-of-the-valley pieces.  That collection deserves a very long post so I’ll save that for later. What I wanted to talk about today, in a short post, is the breakfront where I display some of this particular collection.

I have never really liked this piece, but find it a necessity to hold china, silver flatware and linens so it stays!  It has three sections to its top part all covered with glass fronted doors.  I decided to remove the center doors (2 of them) and open it up so the pieces on the shelves would be showpieces.  All of the areas are electrified which was a blessing.  I took out the glass shelves, thoroughly cleaned it and decided that I wanted to “gild” it!  I originally thought I would do gold leaf, it isn’t a huge area but soon realized that it would be very time consuming and expensive.  Off I went to one of my favorite stores, The Home Depot, to see what they had that I could use.  Of course, Ralph Lauren had anticipated my needs and had several metallic paints for me to choose from.  In addition to several shades of gold, there was silver and bronze.  I picked a gold that I thought would replicate the look of gold leafing….yes, it does exactly that but I needed to do six coats to satisfy myself!  Very easy to apply but after the fourth and fifth coats, this took a week to accomplish, I was ready to toss everything!  I didn’t, of course, and am thrilled with the results.  I decided to only do the center of the breakfront leaving the other two sections in their natural wood state…both of those are also filled with the lily-of-the-valley collection.  I have enough paint to do those if and when I decide to do so.

imagePhoto done beautifully by Christine Hawley. The breakfront is finished here, I added more books and rearranged a bit from the photo below. A guest asked why I have books there, seriously, does that person know me at all, I don’t think so!!!! You are seeing the wall, the far end of my apartment, of my sitting area, fireplace is off camera to the right of the chair. More bookshelves and art.  The paisley shaded lamp is in front of wall of windows that stretch across the entire width of my home. close up taken by me, you can see I’m not a pro like Christine…but you can get an idea of the look of the piece and can see the glow of the gold paint.  The wonderful watercolor of lily-of-the-valley, at the center of the top of the breakfront, was painted for me for a Birthday years ago by my talented friend, Mark Heister, no end to his creativity!  Lucky me!

Have you ever gold leafed or gilded anything?  What was your result?  How do you display your collections?  Do share.