Insider Secrets- Memorial Day Furniture Sales (from a Recovering Furniture Sale Addict)

Insider Secrets- Memorial Day Furniture Sales (from a Recovering Furniture Sale Addict)

My 48th year on planet Earth hit me mildly hard this week. Not with a “quick- call the plastic surgeon” sense of urgency, but as a gentle voice tugging at my sleeve, “take better care of yourself.”  So it’s now a glass of green juice at 5 AM and off to the gym I go!

On the elliptical, I always turn on something brainless, like the local news. And on every commercial break this week, there’s someone shouting about their Memorial Day Furniture Sale. It’s a familiar refrain in America, the excitement of a sale. I’m not immune!

As an interior designer, I do a lot of ton of specifying and shopping for furniture in the normal course of projects. And truth be told, many years ago I got my design start as a “designer” in a furniture store picking out people’s furniture. So with my experience comes my advice on making sense out of  the frenzies that are holiday sales.

Here’s a little key to decoding all those too-good-to be true sales, from lowest discount to most substantial.

Special Order Furniture:

You see something, you like it and want it. Hold on, they need to special order it- it’s not stocked. All furniture stores (and designers)  order this class of furniture the same way: one piece at a time. It’s a bit more specific to what you want, so the store has to arrange for the manufacturer at least to simply send it to a warehouse, and if it’s a customized piece, they’ll have to specify how to make it. It’s the least discounted type of furniture, because it takes the longest amount of time to order. If you need a financing deal though, buying special order furniture makes sense because there’s often an accompanying offer. If you don’t need that, there’s usually no rush. Most all furniture is discounted from retail every day of the week, so don’t succumb to the screams of “this week only!”

In Stock Furniture and “Special Buys”:

What you see is what you get here, no modifying. Usually it’s a generic piece or pieces (bedroom or dining set), and in all likelihood, the pieces are built overseas. These pieces are usually non-polarizing and appeal to the broadest section of people possible. Back in the early 2000’s it was this classic beige microfiber puffy couch

Puffy microfiber sofa The overseas factories can churn out these puppies out by the thousands, and usually the manufacturing cost doesn’t dictate the retail price as much, oddly, as the shipping cost. The proverbial “slow boat from China. (for an interesting look at how inexpensive stuff can look really luxurious, read my friend Laurel’s awesome post “The Shocking Truth About Restoration Hardware”)  If a store can buy a whole ship container of anything, (and as is the trend nowadays, a grey linen-looking Chesterfield like this):

grey chesterfield on sale

this thing’s like $399 this week.

, they get a huge price break and can pass the savings on. That’s usually the type of merchandise that they shout about on the commercial breaks in the morning. If you’re just starting out, or you have a whole empty house and just need stuff fast, some people go this way (hey no judgments here). The landfills will curse you, but really, no judgement…

 Floor Samples:

furniture store clearance sales

The best deals you can get at a furniture store are hands down on floor samples; the holy grail of deals. And the longer it sits there, the cheaper it gets. They’re one of a kind finds, and I have a bunch in my own house.

Luxury designer chair bargain, chartreuse fabric

Awesome deal here because this chartreuse fabric is not everyone’s cup of tea.

You can’t change anything, it comes as is, and it might be there because:

  1. the store wants to rotate its floor pieces
  2. someone at the store ordered it incorrectly for someone else in the first place, or,
  3. no one wanted it in the first place

Hunting floor samples takes cunning and patience. You can save tremendous amounts here and there, but it’s virtually impossible to get a beautiful coordinated room from entirely floor samples. I’ve tried. There’s just too many variables. Trust me on this or you’ll end up with a half-finished space for years. But here and there, yeah, they’re great, and you can be that slightly annoying person at parties who brags to everyone how much money you’ve saved. I’ve been that guy but am now in remission.

A word of warning about floor samples: We have a storage area filled with them in hopes that someday, one of our clients will be a perfect match for something we got a great deal on.  But I have to reign in my “hunter-gatherer” instinct and realize the thrill of the hunt is more thrilling then the actual prize.

Which is why I have:

a “Tibetan Swamp Log” for 7 years

An orange carved mirror

designer mirror with sconces

An electrified mirror with sconces

and dozens of other pieces admittedly, I didn’t need, but I got whipped up in the sale frenzy. At this point, they might be part of my permanent collection!

The best advice I can give you on these sales is to have a firm plan in mind before you walk in. Don’t buy just to buy. That’s very 1996. Realize the long term goal is a beautiful home, not the bargain here and there. And it’s Memorial Day weekend- go to a barbecue instead!

Dean Malambri signature



Dean Malambri, President of Dean Alan Design





Dean Malambri is President and Principal Interior Designer for Dean Alan Design Inc, a residential interior design firm primarily serving Chicago and the Chicago suburbs.






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Holiday Survival Skills: The Christmas Costco Conundrum

Holiday Survival Skills: The Christmas Costco Conundrum

If you’re like us, Costco plays a supporting role in almost all of our holiday festivities. In fairly serious strategy sessions around the kitchen island, we try to figure out what things make sense to get there and how to get out FAST. Lists are made. Tactics are formulated (“you get the wine with the cart and I’ll meet you over at the beef tenderloin.”)  But on our trip yesterday, I had a new found understanding of why I both dread our annual holiday pilgrimage to Costco, and actually kind of like it too: it’s a bizarre modern American version of the old bazaar.

Giant TV’s dazzle as you walk in. You try to not make eye contact with the guy hawking the latest and greatest in juicing technology. And it seems you’re always bumping into people at the aisle intersections.

We don’t buy many Christmas presents there anymore. In fact, we hardly buy any gifts like we did in the 90’s. Back then, the cheap imports were starting to flow into our country like water. It was weird and wonderful: the cost of clothing and unnecessary appliances seems to plummet 50% overnight. Our gift opening ritual sometimes went on for 4 or 5 or 6 hours. But life in 2016 is different. In both Alan’s and my families, we have secured every cheaply rendered creature comfort by now. Probably way too many. So buying big plastic things at warehouse stores does not hold the allure it once did at Christmas. Instead, we buy mainly food, booze and an occasional item of whimsy that seems to promise us a feeling of coziness there, like fuzzy slippers or comfy earmuffs. And then there’s the added bonus of all those Costco sampling carts!

There’s a silent tactical battle that goes on into securing a good food sample at Costco, for something like a whisper of turtle cheesecake, or a bite of panko-breaded mozzarella (I know you know what I’m talking about!). Here’s the scene: there’s no samples on the tray, and the demonstrator is dutifully preparing the next batch of say, chipotle meatballs.

you know you want that meatball

You know you want a meatball, but can you wait until they hit the tray? So you pretend to look at some items in the general perimeter of the forthcoming meatball, but your eye is really just focused on the prize. Your peripheral vision has never been this honed as you browse the assortment of tortellini. You know it’s a ruse, and so do the other 10 people waiting for that meatball.

But when those meatballs are finally released for public consumption, a tidal wave of people casually but nonetheless urgently rushes over to the cart. Parents, looking to feed their offspring, gently prod their young in the direction of the meatball-  “get in there,” they urge. It’s like watching a pack of lions devour an antelope, just with slightly more polished manners. That old Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom show comes to mind.

I always feel bad for the people cooking up these mini treats because hardly anyone takes the time to say thank you or strike up a conversation. It’s a frenzy of grab-and-go, and then onto the next conquest, like the shrimp or something. So yesterday, Alan dropped the best shrimp sample joke: “$24.99? Hey, not bad for a little tail!” The hair-netted shrimp-sample-server roared with laughter. I groaned. “You can have as many shrimp as you want; you made me laugh,” the nice lady told us.

So we got the ingredients on our list, some artisan meats to go into my traditional antipasto salad, and got out. But we always get gas too (it’s so cheap), and so the familiar face who works as the gas station attendant came over to say hello. The neat thing about our Costco is that workers stay for years. They pay their employees extremely well, they have sane holiday shopping hours so that their workers can enjoy time with their families, and they offer very good benefits. So it seems no one leaves! At this point, I’ve developed a relationship with the gas station guy. We talk casually talk politics (he liked my Bernie Sanders bumper sticker), shoot the breeze, and for that reason, I come back again and again. I like seeing people I know when I shop.

Alan and I see holiday shopping differently now. With no one wanting or needing gifts, we instead decided to use our Christmas funds to donate to needy kids.

Presents on their way to the United Way!

But we still go to Costco, we just don’t buy the cheap stuff destined quickly for the landfill. We abhor their durable goods, like furniture, because we know that after that rush of the bargain, you’ll throw it away super fast and have to buy another one. These things are actually not durable at all , nor are they meant to be (look for upcoming posts about this). But we love their selection of foods and now Christmas has morphed into more of a Bacchanalian festival of food and drink more so than a gluttonous exercise in opening gifts.

And with the upcoming push from Amazon to sell groceries, I think we’ll still go to Costco for our holiday ingredients. It’s nice to get out to fight the crowds, get some great food and spread the cheer!

Wishing you the most joyous holiday season!








(and Gatsby!))


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Giving & Receiving Musings & Home Decorating Gift Guide

Giving & Receiving Musings & Home Decorating Gift Guide

The rhythms of this holiday gifting season are different for me this year. As a kid growing up in the 80’s, I remember the almost embarrassing orgy of gift giving and receiving in my family. But fast forward 30 years, and everyone has most everything they need so we opted for no gifts this year. But I love giving gifts so I got thinking…

We heard about this Carson’s Outlet in Aurora that handled all the overstocked merchandise from the regular stores. The day before Thanksgiving, they priced all sweaters and kids clothing at $3!  So we bought lots of sweaters and kids clothing…


and found an organization that distributed them to disadvantaged children on behalf of the United Way.

We’re dropping it all off today!

I bring it up not to garner praise or feed my ego, but because this gift giving feels unfamiliar and strange, yet wonderful. Quite simply, I’m not used to it! As a kid, I used to come up with all sorts of internal “value calculations” about gifting that seem preposterous now. Now it’s about saying thanks to the Universe and honoring the law of giving and receiving.

To throw another wrench in the paradigm of gifting, Alan and I bought ourselves a gift- a subscription to Medici TV. Those of you who know us personally know that classical music is our other passion alongside design. Medici TV is this ingenious way to play concerts, operas, ballets, and music documentaries from Europe through your TV set (I have it on in the background right now!). It’s not quite the same as going to Symphony Center, but I can listen in my underwear, so there’s that…

If you’re still in search of a really special home-oriented gift for someone special or even yourself, Alan and I have dipped our toes into the world of online retailing at our new Facebook store that we call “Gatsby’s Little Designer Holiday Store.” We’ve searched high and low for unique items with character, style, and value that would appeal to our clients and friends. Here’s a taste…(click on images to go to the store)

"Im So Hammered" large bowl- $139
"Show Us Your Pearly Blues" Glass Candle Holders-3 Sizes
"Wooley Friend" Throw- $102 (assorted colors)

if you’re a bargain shopper and around Chicagoland, we have a collection of designer floor samples available at huge savings. These we can’t ship, but we can drop them off. Or come by and pick them up!

"Flynn" Bookshelf Sconce- $175 (was $456 new)
Large Silver Mirror with Sconces- $399 (was $768)
White Glossy Rococo Mirror- $69 (was $309)

We seem to be always hunting for mirrors (or everyone’s really narcissistic these days), so we have a collection of mirrors that we love (this section will grow a lot)

 Bubble Mirror- $340
"Good Morning Sunshine" Starburst Mirror- $269.00
"Mirror Mirror On The Wall" wall mirror- $99.95
"Daisy" Mirror - $145.00

We found some of the cutest handmade holiday pillows too! All locally made in Chicago!

"Presents on the Sleigh" Holiday Pillow- $98
"Dancer is a Dandy Holiday Pillow"- $80

Can’t decide? How about our ‘Gift of Color” gift certificate?

Dean Alan Design Paint and Color Consultation Gift Certificate- $199

Christmas inspires all sorts of warm feelings. I’ll leave with a quote by one of my favorite authors, Robert Fulghum:

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Home Design: Where Interior Designers Shop (with their pants on)

Home Design: Where Interior Designers Shop (with their pants on)

Interior Designers shop a lot. It seems like a dream job right? Picking out a lamp here, finding a rug there. Is that all we do for home design? Furniture and decor shopping is, admittedly a fun component to my job. But like you, Chicago traffic annoys me. So while on TV it seems like interior designers know of some shack filled with French armoires, the reality is that majority of our time is spent figuring out how different “ingredients”  work together to create a beautiful home design.  And where we shop for these ingredients are places that sound kind of snobby, members-only and keep out places: what are known as “trade-only” design centers. They’re not scary places that require a secret handshake at all, but they’re also not traditional furniture stores.They’re kind of like old fashioned general stores for designers, but instead of butter, flour, and sugar, we’re there to find fabrics, furniture, decor, flooring, etc. ,  e.g. the “ingredients” that go into creating a beautiful home design. Please excuse the upcoming analogies, but they’re the best way by which I can explain why home design centers have the ominous sounding warning label, “trade-only.”

A Beautiful Home Design is Like a Cake

Say you want a cake. You can go to the grocery store, buy all the ingredients, research Croquembouche recipes online and make it yourself. Other times you may want a cake from a great local bakery because A) you don’t want to devote a whole day to baking and B) the local bakery cakes are always jaw-droppingly delicious. Of course they are, they make cakes for a living and bake them every day. So just it wouldn’t make sense to go the bakery for their cake ingredients, it’s also the reason it doesn’t make sense for you to go to a trade home design center for you to buy forty yards of fabric, some lining, 32 rings, 2 poles, 4 finials, 6 brackets and two wands in a platinum silver finish when you just want some nice drapery. OK, time for an analogy break.

Outside, trade home design centers often look like nondescript offices, not stores.

Arlington Design Center

Where’s the fountains?

Inside, there’s a bewildering amount of choices that tend to overwhelm people. Remember this is a place for working and browsing.

 home design center fabric wall
Home design center lighting display
Interior Designers shop for a lot of trims

Sometimes, looking at these “working walls” freaks people out,  so we ask you not to stare too long. Scary!

Don’t worry, there’s prettier displays too!

home design center furniture display at Design D'Vision

A room setting at Design D’Vision

Kravet fabrics and furniture home design showroom for interior designers

Kravet fabrics and furniture

CAI Design trade home design showroom for interior designers

A view at the CAI Designs Showroom

Sue and Mark Hermann proprietors Design D'Vision interior designers showroom

Sue and Mark Hermann, owners of Design D’Vision. They’re also our neighbors!

Who’s Minding This New General Store?

Trade home design showrooms employ people to help order samples, check furniture stock and contact factories with product questions. There’s often also people making things, and people constantly moving things. There’s no one trying to urgently sell you things because it’s a holiday or something. Everyone here respects that both big and small projects take time. That’s refreshing.

Arlington Interior Designer Home Design Center Claudia Mitroi

Claudia and her assistant making draperies

What Happened to Home Design Again in 2008?

The economic crash in 2008 played havoc to small independent furniture stores as well as larger well-known stores like Plunkett’s, and many closed their doors. Macy’s eliminated their entire design departments and opted instead to emphasize cheaper imported furniture, or what I call “fast furniture”. A new type of furniture store started to appear that emphasized low cost above everything else. No home design was offered, it was just cheap. And the established quality brands that weren’t being shown as prominently any more at traditional stores started appearing now instead in trade showrooms. So that gorgeous $8000 handmade sofa sitting pretty at the trade home design showroom had to move over and share the floor now with an also very nice $2000 sofa.

The New Compact in Home Design

Clients wanted assurances that if they were going to spend their hard earned money on better things, they wanted them to look very good in their homes (cue the designers). Interior designers were reluctant to open retail stores after the bloodbath of 2008 and the advent of internet shopping. And fewer people were lining up to buy uber luxurious furniture found at trade home design centers like the Merchandise Mart. So it’s like everyone decided to play a game of musical chairs. Some home design stores weren’t left with a chair, and that’s where we’re at today. The traditional ways people bought furniture pre 2008 were disrupted and the landscape has changed. It’s like Mayberry after a makeover!

Trade Showrooms After Their Makeovers

Today, trade home design centers serve as collective showrooms, lending libraries and meeting spaces for independent designers and their clients. Registered Interior designers can go to one location, draw from thousands of components and use a space to show you a unique and personal design solution.

interior designers Dean Alan Design, Elgin home design picture

The sectional is from is from Precedent, the swivel chairs from Lee Industries, the club chair from Kravet , the cocktail table from Vanguard, the petrified wood drink table by Palacek, the driftwood sculpture by Interlude Home, the pillows custom made by Claudia Mitroi and Jaipur, the lamp from CAI Lighting, and all brought together from the Arlington Design Center

You get to see large items in person instead of on a computer screen, not get hassled by salespeople, and a designer will listen to your feedback and adjust accordingly. Warranties, service, and deliveries are coordinated between the showroom and the design firm and all involved parties have incentive to make sure everything goes smoothly and without surprises.

You now can have your cake and eat it too!

Dean Malambri

Dean Malambri

President and Principal Designer, Dean Alan Design

Dean Malambri is President and Principal Interior Designer for Dean Alan Design Inc, a residential interior design firm primarily serving Chicago and the Chicago suburbs.

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“They All Look the Same”- What to Know About Sofas

“They All Look the Same”- What to Know About Sofas

We’ve all got plans for our money and everyone places value on different things. I think spending a few hundred on a once-in-a-lifetime meal is totally worth the expense, but many of my friends think it’s crazy to ever spend more than $20 at Applebee’s.

Sofa shopping is also like this prioritization. Confusing the issue even further is the fact that photography and photoshoppers are both amazing these days. So how can you tell the difference? Let’s try to think of upholstery in three broad categories: short-term, medium-term, and long-term. Because what you’re mainly paying for is quality of construction, longevity, and ability for customization. Here’s what to expect at each level…

Short Term Sofas

Maybe you’d rather go on a luxurious vacation than invest in something that, by definition, encourages you sit in one place. Or you’ve heard standing is much better for your health than sitting-  that’s cool too. We’re not here to judge (and we sell these sofas too). Here’s what you get if you plunk down roughly $500-$1400 for a sofa:

Mid-century budget sofa, short-term, beige tufting

Hola, Mid-Century hipsters, think your taste will change in a few years? Than this Modway sofa might just fit the bill. $599.

In this price range, the marketing department crunches a lot of numbers. The whole equation here for the sellers is numbers: how cheaply they can get it made, and what selling price will excite you enough to quickly add one your shopping cart.

What You Get:

  • Frame: some sort of particle board, wood substrate, use your imagination. You’re getting a killer price, who cares?
  • Seating Support: Probably elastic webbing, which is a nice term for plastic straps, perhaps some sinuous wire suspension; whatever’s on sale to the maker.

    That's web suspension, or straps. .

    That’s web suspension, or straps.


  • Cushioning: Straight foam, no wrapping. The quality of foam varies widely in price. Basically the cheaper the foam, the faster it breaks down (and turns to dust, eww), and the sofa starts feeling sitting like a board. If you’re a foam aficionado, here’s a comprehensive look at the stuff and how it wears. Kind of interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing,
  • Fabrics: What you see is what you get. Seriously, if you can live with it for awhile, it’s probably something very durable, since man-made things like polyester microfibers are very sturdy.

Since this whole venture depends on economy of scale, these sofas are usually made overseas, thousands at a time. Remember the I Love Lucy episode with Lucy working at the candy factory?

The whole process is about speed and how expensive it is to pack it on a big ship in a container. You might have to assemble some parts of it.

if you go up a notch from here and spend about double, you get something made in the USA, and you’ll get to choose from a handful more fabrics

USA made semi-custom loose back bench cushion sofa

American made, and nice looking, this Klaussner sofa sells for about $1400. You get more fabric choices, but that’s it. Economy of scale, baby.

Medium-Term Sofas

Compared to the short-term sofas, everything here is more substantial and durable. If you push on the arms or the back, they shouldn’t flex or bow. And you can often upgrade a lot of the little things that will make it last longer (when you special order).

What You Get

  • Frame: some type of kiln dried wood, which removes excess moisture from the wood
  • Seating Support: Some people call it a sinuous suspension frame. It’s easier to show you a picture of this type of construction, which can be made by a machine.

    That's the underside of the sofa, which you won't see because they put fabric on top of it.

    That’s the underside of the sofa, which you won’t see because they put fabric on top of it.


  • Cushioning: Higher density foam wrapped in some sort of ticking wrap to keep its shape and resiliency longer. If you can request adding springs inside the cushioning, it’s the best money you’ll ever spend as part of a sofa. We’ve learned this through the years,
  • Fabrics: A whole lot more choices than the short-term category, but if you choose something patterned, you’ll be paying for the waste incurred as well. Sofas at this level may or may not match patterns, it’s considered on an individual basis that we check ahead of placing your order.

Custom designer sofa Mid-term Bernhardt Josh sofa, cream cover, contrasting charcoal pillows

The Josh sofa by Bernhardt, about $2500, as you see it. Pick your fabric, pick your contrasting pillows and it’s very nice. We always insist on springs inside the cushions (an upcharge), because of course you know by now, all foam breaks down. Stylish and just a tad trendy.

Medium term sofa, Bassett angled sofa

The Marseille Sofa from Bassett. Deeper because of the curve. About $2300 as you see it.

smaller custom designer condo sofa with firm seats and short seat depth, made in USA

Have some older relatives that struggle with getting up from sitting? This 72″ made in the USA sofa from Fairfield lets you put extra firm cushioning in the seat, and the seating depth is only 19″. Perfect for downsized dwellings (starting at $1649 from us)


Long-Term Sofas

These sofas are built to a standard instead of a price point. You’ll see manufacturers proudly using their names on these sofas (don’t worry, they’re not visible like a logo or anything) because they’re the pinnacle of sofa construction

What You Get

  1. Frame: A hardwood frame that is double doweled, glued and screwed at stress points is common at this level, and why sofas here can be recovered years down the road.
  2. Seating Support: The best sofas use a technique known as 8-way hand tying, a laborious effort that yields a seat where you can’t feel what your sofa neighbor is doing next to you. The individual spring coils are hand-tied and bound together in eight separate directions using polyester cording. The cording is then securely anchored to the frame. Fine sofas have always used this construction, so it’s tried and true.

    See all those knots? There's a person who does that whole process by hand, and it takes a lot of training.

    See all those knots? There’s a person who does that whole process by hand, and it takes a lot of training.


  3. Cushioning:  At the long-term sofa level, you can choose exactly the type of firmness you’d like: spring and down, spring and fiber, down and fiber, etc. Here’s where we take you to trade showrooms in person and ask you to sit, politely.
  4. Fabrics: You can do just about anything you want, but if you pick a fabric independently from the sofa, that’s called COM, or Customer’s Own Material. They’ll put anything you want anywhere with this option, but it does get expensive. If you want the quality of long-term sofas without breaking the bank, try to stay with something the sofa factory has on-hand.

Chicago custom designer sofa by Ambella through Dean Alan Design

The Cee Zee sofa from Ambella Home is 8-way hand tied, and joints are double doweled, glued and screwed together. See that fabric on the back? That’s all cut, matched, and pieced by hand.  As shown, $4050.

Chicago custom designer sofa: Kravet Colby long-term sofa by Dean Alan Design

The Kravet Colby sofa is rated “Heavy Duty”in Accordance with GSA Purchase Description FNAE80-214A. Shown in a nuclear war-proof Crypton fabric, it has springs and a down wrap inside the cushions. Or you can choose 100% down filling, but be warned: you’ll be a full-time fluffer. We sell it for $4905 as shown. Easily recovered years down the road, too.



Chicago custom sofa, classic modern design Thayer Coggin sofa

Thayer Coggin has been making classically modern sofas since the 1950’s. You’ll see many used sofas from that time still being reupholstered today, as their frames are built like tanks! About $5500 from us.

So looking at sofas online doesn’t really tell the complete picture of what’s inside. You’re looking at the body only, and there’s lots of variables “under the hood.” We have our favorite brands that we’ve worked with for years, and have seen how they wear over time. If you need more detailed advice, drop us a message!

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Recipes from October 2nd- Annual Global Treasure Hunt

Recipes from October 2nd- Annual Global Treasure Hunt

Despite rather soggy weather, we still managed to have a lot of fun at our 6th Annual Global Treasure Hunt on October 2! As has become the custom, Alan and I plan a buffet upon a global theme and make everything from scratch. So much more special than calling a caterer, but also a laborious effort! We thought we’d share our recipes this year with everyone in case you’re inclined to try one of these yourself. Mangia!


Dean Alan Design Accessories Wooden Obelisks sitting on a hand carved live edge dining table

Colorful wooden obelisks atop a carved dining table at Ginger’s

Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers and Avocado in a Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette

Servings: 6-8

Total Time: 30 Minutes


  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 ears fresh cooked corn, kernels cut off the cob, or frozen, drained and thawed
  • 2 mixed color bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper ( or to taste- we like it hotter )
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, best quality (we used Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin from Costco)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest (be sure to zest limes before juicing them)
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice (make sure limes are at room temperature before juicing)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 2 Hass avocados, chopped (put these in at the absolute end so they don’t get brown)


  1. Combine all ingredients except for avocados in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight. Right before serving, add avocados and mix gently, being careful not to mash avocados. Garnish with a more chopped cilantro if desired. Serve at room temperature.

    Alan Sills with friends at Global Treasure Hunt

    Alan with friends

Cook’s Illustrated Restaurant-Style Hummus

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 15 mins
  • Servings: 8-10


“This is a smooth and silky hummus from those people on PBS who know how to test and create great recipes. They recommend Joyva or Krinos tahini and Pastene chickpeas (I used what I had on hand). Hummus can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 5 days. If you do not plan on serving it immediately, refrigerate the hummus and garnishes separately. When ready to serve, stir in approximately 1 tablespoon of warm water if the texture is too thick. Serving size is estimated.”


  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice ( 1 to 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 14 ounces chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 garlic clove ( minced or pressed through garlic press 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or 1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, minced


  1. Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl or measuring cup.
  2. Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons oil in second small bowl or measuring cup.
  3. Set aside 2 tablespoons chickpeas for garnish.
  4. Process remaining chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds.
  5. With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in steady stream through feed tube.
  6. Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute.
  7. With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in steady stream through feed tube and continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy (about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed).
  8. Transfer hummus to serving bowl and sprinkle with reserved chickpeas and cilantro over surface.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes.
  10. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

    Ginger Blossom Metal Lawn Accessory Shark

    Land-Shark! Hand hammered metal shark sculpture from Mexico

Chef John’s Pulled Pork BBQ

this one takes a while, but the meltingly luscious pork is well worth the the time. Alan roasted this overnight

Use your favorite dry rub and barbecue sauce to make this succulent pork. A little trick I like is to put 2 ramekins with liquid smoke flavoring in with the meat and roast it slowly.


  • 3 tablespoons dry barbecue rub, or more as needed (we love the BBQ rubs at the Spice House)
  • 1 (3 1/2) pound bone-in pork shoulder blade roast
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring, divided
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 12 mini french rolls (Costco)
  • 3/4 cup barbecue sauce, divided  (we were crunched for time so we used Sweet Baby Rays, normally we make from scratch!)


  1. Preheat oven to 210 degrees F (100 degrees C).
  2. Sprinkle dry rub generously on all sides of pork roast and place meat into a heavy pan or Dutch oven.
  3. Pour 1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke flavoring into each of two 6-ounce ramekins; fill ramekins with 1/2 cup water each. Place ramekins into the Dutch oven on either side of the roast. Place lid onto Dutch oven.
  4. Roast pork in the preheated oven until very tender, 12 hours. Remove roast from Dutch oven, place onto a work surface (such as a cutting board), and separate the meat from the bone using your fingers. Discard any large pieces of fat.
  5. Roughly chop pork with a large knife or cleaver; drizzle with 3/4 cup barbeque sauce. Season with salt and black pepper.
  6. Spread about 1 tablespoon barbeque sauce onto each bun and pile pork on buns to serve.


Dean Alan Design Boho Chic Living Room

Our room styling using components from Ginger Blossom, Elka chair from Bernhardt, sofa from Vanguard (photography Maureen Miller Photography)

Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps

  • Prep Time-30 MIN
  • Servings- 12


1 ¼ lb ground turkey

¼ cup chopped green onions (4 medium)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 teaspoons garlic and red chile paste

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup shredded carrots

1/3 cup chopped salted peanuts

12 medium Bibb lettuce leaves, rinsed, patted dry with paper towel


  1. In 10-inch nonstick skillet, cook turkey over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until thoroughly cooked; drain and return to skillet. Stir in green onions, cilantro, mint, lime juice, fish sauce, peanut butter, chile paste, sugar and red pepper flakes. Cook 3 to 4 minutes longer or until hot.
  2. To serve, spoon 2 heaping tablespoons turkey mixture, 2 tablespoons carrots and 1 teaspoon peanuts onto each lettuce leaf; wrap around filling. Serve warm.
  3. Thai hand carved shoes from Ginger Blossom

      These hand carved wooden shoes would look great mounted on a wall!

Once again, we have to thank you all for our continued success, and we hope to bring you many exciting changes in the future!


Dean Alan Design Industrial Reclaimed Living Room

We mixed items from Ginger’s together with a gorgeous sectional from Weiman, tables and etagere from Resource Decor and York Graffiti wallpaper. (Thanks to Design D’Vision trade showroom and Maureen Miller Photography)

Dean Alan Design Signature
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