Welcome to Urban By Design Online! This blog is a notebook of my travels as a city planner, historic preservationist and nonprofit advocate. It's a virtual collection of the many things that I adore, featuring cities, the arts, architecture, gardens, interior design, and retail. Enjoy! - Deena
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A day trip to...Montclair, New Jersey


I had a chance to visit the hip, diverse, and beautiful Montclair, New Jersey for the first time on Saturday. The Essex County township, is known for its incredible historic architecture, significant arts scene, and an abundance of restaurants, a mere 12 miles from Manhattan . There were a few stops on the whirlwind tour before I visited my family in nearby Maplewood.

51ciCbHbN2L._SL500_AA240_.jpgThe first destination was the charming Watchung Booksellers to meet author Lori Tharps. Ms. Tharps is the author of Kinky Gazpacho, a memoir about her experiences in Spain, that the Washington Post raved is "an unforgettable and deeply affecting book." Earlier this month, Ms. Tharps made an appearance here in Mount Vernon, but I missed her due to a previous commitment. The event was at Harmony Designs Furniture & Interiors, the delightful home furnishings emporium at 115 South Fourth Avenue. Ms. Tharps praised both the gracious hospitality of Harmony's owner, Robin Harmon-Myers, and the gorgeous store. She described the "really great audience" who attended, and called it one of her best events! Ms. Tharps was really super nice, and it was a pleasure to meet her!


Next on the tour was a walk around Downtown Montclair, known as Montclair Center. It was a hub of activity, as people gathered to settle into outdoor tables that lined the several cafes along Church Street. The day was bright, and I had the perfect brunch at Raymond's Restaurant. It's a neighborhood institution known for its translucent pastel colored soda bottles. The chicken curry salad was as terrific as the service. Next to the wall menus touting their New York Egg Creams, was a large board that listed all of the arts events in Montclair- ranging from live theater, dance and a musical. Truly innovative.


Before departing, there was a brief detour over to Gimme Jimmy's Cookie Bar which has amazingly delicious chocolate chip cookies, and an abundance of other desserts, including red velvet cake.

A few doors away was Dolls in the Attic [47 Church Street, 973.746.3966]. I've collected dolls for many years, and their selection was pretty phenomenal. A wonderful saleswoman mentioned that they often stock Black dolls from France and Germany too, which are always top sellers.

Montclair was a spectacular place to spend a late spring afternoon. I look forward to returning one day.