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More George…

25 Nov

Because clearly this weekend, I can’t get enough George.

You know how sometimes you want something so badly and for so long that when you finally get it, it can’t possibly measure up to your imagination and expectations?  Well, that’s not what happened.

I have pined and dreamt of a George Nelson bubble lamp for as long as I can remember.  (Okay, total hyperbole, but roll with me here, people.)  So when my birthday came last month and I got birthday money from family (I heart birthday money!), I decided to take the plunge and buy myself a bubble lamp. 

At first, I didn’t want to pay full price for a new one.  Plus, I had heard other bloggers wax on about how lovely the warm light was from the vintage ones.  However, as I looked at Ebay and other sites, I just didn’t have the confidence in the state of the lamps that I wanted to.  And honestly, the prices weren’t that much better.  (What has happened to Ebay?  It is IMPOSSIBLE to get a good deal there anymore.) And because I seem to have a ‘why pay less’ disorder, I went to Modernica and bought a new one…a 25″ saucer for $329. The good news?  No tax and no shipping, so that made me feel a little better.

What also made me feel better was getting rid of this:

Now to be perfectly honest, I didn’t find this fixture as offensive as some other members of the family. In fact, I kind of liked its very atomic MCM vibe. However, once that big white box appeared on my doorstep, I knew me and the Jetsons light fixture were going our separate ways. (Any thoughts on what I should do with it? Is it worth putting on Craigslist? Think anyone would want it?)

I love Thanksgiving and I love cooking for a crowd, so more than anything I wanted that lamp up for my Thanksgiving dinner.  And you know what I am thankful for?  A husband who not only know how to do things like that, but who also does it willingly on Thanksgiving day so my vision would be complete.  Now the dining room is almost finished.  Just need a rug and to recover the chairs of our wonderful Drexel dining room chairs.

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You have to read George

24 Nov

I have a thing for George Nelson.  If you asked me who my favorite MCM designer is, I would be hard-pressed to decide between him and Eames, but I think he would win.  He has always struck me as a little more philosophically grounded than the fantastic Mr. Eames.  And I get practically school-girlish about his bubble lamps. 

So imagine my elation at finding out his writings trump his designs, according to the piece below from the Design Within Reach blog, Design Notes.   As a woman of words, any man with a higher than 10th grade vocabulary makes me swoon.  And the bravado of the intro to his book which basically says, “You don’t like me?  Put this book down then.” is my design-nerd idea of the charming rebel.

You have to read George.

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George Nelson posing for Herman Miller advertisement “Traveling Men,” ca. 1954. Courtesy of Vitra Design Museum Archive.

At last week’s Yale symposium about George Nelson, one message was clear: You have to read George. In other words, George the writer trumps George the architect, George the designer and George the teacher, combined.

For two days, scholars, design nerds, editors and Murray Moss (there is no label to define him) talked about the legacy of this American icon. Known mainly for his furniture and design work for Herman Miller, Nelson also wrote and edited for Architectural Forum, Fortune, Pencil Points, Life and McCall’s, and co-authored the bestselling Tomorrow’s House with Henry Wright.

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Cover of November 1959 issue of Architectural Forum, where George Nelson was associate editor (1935-1943) and consulting editor (1944-1949).

Nelson’s unapologetic, unflinching style is immediately clear in Tomorrow’s House, which begins: “This book has a point of view which may seem strange to you. What it is will be made pretty clear in the first few pages of this introduction. If, after reading that far, the viewpoint seems not only strange, but unpalatable as well, put this book aside and forget it, for what we have to say will not be for you.”

He continues, “Today’s house is a peculiarly lifeless affair. The picture one sees in residential neighborhoods the country over is one of drab uniformity: pathetic little white boxes with dressed-up street fronts, each striving for individuality through meaningless changes in detail or color. The reason today’s house is so uninteresting is simply that it fails to echo life as we live it. Expressed in another way, it is hideously inefficient. Less honest thought goes into the design of the average middle-class house than into the fender of a cheap automobile.”

According to professor John Harwood of Oberlin College, Nelson’s fascination with design extended to other areas, and he even hosted an ABC television program called “How to Kill People.” I did a quick search for archival materials and quickly discovered that “how to kill people” is not something you should google – especially at work – so you’ll just have to take Harwood’s word for it. Worth noting, even in this program, Nelson’s concepts were said to have been expressed with brilliance, wit and verve.

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As for the exhibition, George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher is worth the trip to Yale. It’s also a treat to explore the Yale School of Architecture building designed by Paul Rudolph.

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Paul Rudolph Hall was completed in 1963. The Yale campus also includes buildings by Louis Kahn and Marcel Breuer, and a hockey rink by Eero Saarinen.

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The interior and exterior walls of this Brutalist building are made of hammered concrete aggregate, creating an interesting, and oddly soothing, textural pattern. The layout of the rooms, however is a bit choppy and, perhaps due to later renovations, there is a lack of intuitive flow from one space to the next.

George Nelson believed that a space is successful when it’s done with love. I don’t know if Rudolph’s heart was aflutter when designing this building for Yale, but the passion expressed inside its walls makes up for the possible indifference.

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The curious appearance of a martini glass on the ledge. Perhaps Nelson, who was a Yale graduate and a fan of martinis, still haunts these halls…

I wish I could say we were seated in Womb Chairs, shown here in the student lounge, but our interest in George Nelson was tested by the brutal seating in Paul Rudolph’s Brutalist building. Described beautifully by author Ralph Caplan, who said, “One of the pleasures of speaking at this symposium is that you get a chance to get out of these seats.” (You also have to read Ralph, but I’ll save that post for another day.)

A gift for you: I found an online version of Nelson’s Tomorrow’s House through Open Library. Enjoy!

Brad Pitt: Furniture Designer?

14 Nov

Let’s be clear here:  I have never really been a Brad Pitt fan.  Not a fan of his acting and seemingly immune to his looks.  He’s a little too pretty for my taste.  My husband on the other hand has a horrible man crush on him.  He can watch the Oceans 11, 12, 13, infinity movies over and over again.

I may be developing a slight crush on him now too.  Or at least his furniture line.  Below is an article from the New York Times on the new line.  Let me know what you think and if you’d want one of these to grace your home!

Product design can be a thankless job. Many designers don’t get to claim authorship of their work, and much of what they make, from sleds to spatulas, is assumed to be conceived on the factory floor without a jot of human intervention.

So it may encourage designers to know that Brad Pitt not only respects what they do but takes pains to be one of them.

Four Academy Award nominations? Bah! Twice named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive? Phooey! Mr. Pitt has spent a good deal of his off-screen time establishing his credibility in architecture and the applied arts. He designed the wedding bands for his marriage to Jennifer Aniston (and sued the jeweler for copying and distributing them). He was spotted at the 2008 Design Miami show buying artfully lumpy bronze chairs by the British designer Max Lamb. He apprenticed with the architect Frank Gehry. And, most impressively, his Make It Right foundation brought serious money and talent to the project of rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

If all the world’s a stage, Mr. Pitt appears to have a special feeling for its sets and props. Now he has escalated his involvement by designing furniture.

Collaborating with the luxury furniture maker Frank Pollaro in Union, N.J., Mr. Pitt has sketched and overseen the production of about a dozen limited-edition pieces. The group, Mr. Pollaro said, includes a bed, club chairs, dining tables, side tables, a bar stool and bathtub, and will be presented along with items created exclusively by Pollaro Custom Furniture at a gallery show in New York next week.

Mr. Pollaro met Mr. Pitt in 2008, when he was asked to build an Art Deco-style desk based on an Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann design as a birthday gift for Angelina Jolie. While installing the desk at the Pitt-Jolie residence in France, he saw a sketchbook filled with drawings the actor had made of furniture over a decade. Mr. Pollaro offered to produce some of the items.

“This is not a licensing situation,” Mr. Pollaro said about the partnership. “This is not Pollaro pays Pitt for his name. This is Brad Pitt controlling every single line. I gave him assistance with engineering and materials selection, but the reality is, the man is a great designer.” (Mr. Pitt was not available for comment.)

How great was a question we submitted to four experts: Murray Moss, founder of the design consultancy and gallery Moss Bureau and a former actor; Sheila Bridges, the New York-based interior designer who kitted out Bill Clinton’s Harlem office; Kurt Andersen, the novelist, public radio host and former architecture and design critic of Time magazine; and Giulio Cappellini, artistic director of the Italian furniture company Cappellini, and a noted booster of emerging design talent.

The group reviewed the designs and returned their comments by e-mail. On the whole, they avoided the lure of snark and made thoughtful and surprisingly supportive observations. This was all the more impressive considering that Mr. Pollaro released only a few computerized renderings of the collection, all of which left something to the imagination: It was not clear, for instance, that the bathtub was produced in a high-quality white Italian marble, or what the price would be. “At this point, we haven’t even set the prices,” Mr. Pollaro said.

FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND?

Murray Moss: “Stifled.” Designing, like acting, requires that one take an action. One enters on stage with a clear purpose. Brad Pitt is a great actor; he knows that he needs to speak through his work in his own voice, and he can do that fiercely better than anyone. These pieces are too nice; I do not hear Mr. Pitt’s voice unleashed with full authority.

Sheila Bridges: “Modern.” The furniture looks as though it is very well made and seems consistent with the exceptional quality and workmanship Frank Pollaro has built his reputation on.

Kurt Andersen: “Swanky.” Which is the word I’ve used for many years to describe expensive, curvy, shiny modern things meant to look stylish.

Giulio Cappellini: “Timeless.” It’s hard to give a timing for these products that may have been designed several decades ago or today. The articles, however, are elegant.

DO YOU FIND ANY ASPECT OF THIS COLLECTION SURPRISING?

Ms. Bridges: I’m always a bit wary when supermodels and bona fide Hollywood celebrities become furniture designers. I’m not sure what I expected, but I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. Because of Frank Pollaro’s expertise with rare woods, I guess I expected to see a collection that felt heavier. It is refreshing to see him veer from the materials he’s most accustomed to working with.

Mr. Andersen: The shiny metal surprised me specifically; the mod Trumpian swankiness, in general. Heretofore, Mr. Pitt’s design sensibility — as embodied by Frank Gehry and other designers of the Make It Right houses in New Orleans — has seemed very different than that. Also, I was surprised to discover that the bathtub was a bathtub; I thought it was an ashtray.

Mr. Cappellini: The work looks very strongly influenced by the Bauhaus and Art Deco, which may seem contradictory. In one case, the style is sinuous and rounded; in the other, the forms are rigid and square. This, however, is part of freedom of the designer, which does not surprise me in a negative way.

Mr. Moss: These pieces address “line”: they are formal studies of movement and growth; they are projectiles generated by nature and/or mathematics. They surprise me, coming from a person whose work I know to be so famously “reactive” and seemingly less conscious about formal aesthetics.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND ANY OF THIS WORK TO A CLIENT?

Ms. Bridges: My favorite piece, by far, is the dining table. This piece in particular seems a bit reminiscent of the Eameses’ iconic laminate tables with wire-rod bases. Pitt’s bases are less rectilinear, more fluid and luxurious, so there seems to be a nod to both Art Nouveau and Art Deco in his collection. It would be great if the dining table base came in a variety of finishes to choose from (which I assume it does). I don’t specify a lot of glass and metal tables (most of my clients prefer wood), but I would specify this dining table (depending on the price) and pair it with antique wood side chairs or ones that are more classic, like a set of upholstered Brno chairs by Mies van der Rohe.

WOULD YOU WANT ANY OF THESE PIECES IN YOUR HOME?

Mr. Andersen: Possibly the oval table — in the guest room of a second home, if I owned a second home.

IF BRAD PITT ASKED YOU TO CONSULT ON HIS NEXT COLLECTION, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER?

Mr. Moss: I would say, “Mr. Pitt, you are a great actor. Stay that person, with all of his confidence and drive and risk-taking, when designing. These first pieces are audition monologues; you already have the part. If you’re going to draw a line in space, do it as Brad Pitt.”

SHOULD THE DESIGN INDUSTRIES BE ENCOURAGED BY MR. PITT’S INTEREST? MORE TO THE POINT, SHOULD HE BE ENCOURAGED?

Mr. Cappellini: Surely, it is very positive that Mr. Pitt supports and promotes design. I recently saw one of his houses published in a magazine and I found it very nice, with the presence of some iconic products that have made the history of design. I think his passion for design should absolutely be encouraged, not so much because of his famous name but because of his attitude.

Mr. Andersen: I think his design enthusiasms are wonderful, and I’m a big believer in the amateur spirit. Enthusiasm, however, is necessary but not sufficient for making great design. I think he should be emphatically encouraged to continue his activities as a design activist, collector, impresario and client.

Mr. Moss: Konstantin Stanislavsky, the great innovator in the teaching of acting, understood and conceded that “every person who is really an artist desires to create inside of himself another, deeper, more interesting life than the one that actually surrounds him.” How can we not encourage this?

Ms. Bridges: I’m not convinced after seeing three table designs (and a bathtub that reminds me of an ashtray) that Brad Pitt should quit his day job to be in the furniture or product design game. Unless that means I can be an actor for a day and get paid $7 million to star in a Chanel No. 5 perfume ad.

Responding to the comments, Mr. Pollaro reiterated his admiration for Mr. Pitt. “Having worked side by side with Brad for hundreds of hours on the Pitt-Pollaro collection,” he wrote in an e-mail, “I am impressed by his commitment to express his own artistic vision.” He also clarified that “the metal pieces will be available in gold, silver, nickel, titanium and patinated bronze, all in both polished and satin finishes.” The one-off pieces can be seen Nov. 13 to 15 at a show in Chelsea. Information: (908) 206-1888 or pollaro.com.

Other People’s Homes: Vidal Sassoon’s Neutra House

9 Nov

From the site Wowhaus, a look at the Richard Neutra house that belonged to Vidal Sassoon.  I really do have a jones to live in California if only for these magnificent homes with magnificent pools.  Sigh.  Is it really unrealistic to have a pool in the Pacific Northwest???

Credit to Rachael Gibson for spotting a stunner, this 1950s Richard Neutra-designed Singleton House in Los Angeles, California, USA, which was the last home of hairdressing guru Vidal Sassoon.

It’s a stunning example of midcentury modern, with Neutra designing this iconic house in 1959. It’s described as ‘one of the most significant Modern homes in America’ by the agent and we certainly aren’t going to disagree. It also gets you a prestigious Mulholland Drive postal address too, which adds to the appeal, no doubt.

The house has been restored with ‘integrity, taste, and sophistication’ by Sassoon according to that same agent, although you can perhaps make your own mind up on that. We certainly don’t have any complaints about its minimalist interior, while the exterior is right out of a movie set. Vidal Sassoon loved architecture and this house is testament to it.

In terms of the space here, that’s down as being four bedrooms and five bathrooms (the master bedroom being described as ‘incredible’), along with kitchen, dining room, ‘bonus’ room, guest and maid’s quarters, living room, media and music room and laundry as far as we can make out, but that’s obviously only a fraction of the tale of this single-storey house. The images tell it better.

Outside, there’s a private pool, open courtyards, garage, carport and long drive behind the gate. It also sits in an impressive 5+ acre plot with tasteful gardens. It’s a house for entertaining – and if you owned it, you’d be a fool not to show this place off.

Of course, owning this Bel Air home is just a dream for most of us. The price has gone down since it was last marketed, but is still at $17,995,000. There’s a huge Euromillions draw tonight – you might need a ticket if you have aspirations for this place.

Find out more at the Redfin website

Bertoia Tonal Sculpture Limited Edition Reproduction

28 Sep

Now I most definitely don’t have $2500 sitting around just waiting to be spent (because believe me any money around here is most likely spent before it ever arrives!)  But if I did I would consider investing in this this Harry Bertoia sculpture.  It’s just lovely and the sound is wonderful.  As background, Harry Bertoia was an Italian-born artist, sound art sculptor, and modern furniture designer.  He designed the wire pieces that became known as the Bertoia Collection for Knoll. Among them the famous ‘Diamond chair‘ a fluid, sculptural form made from a molded lattice work of welded steel.

In Bertoia’s own words, “If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes right through them.”

From the Bertoia Estate…

2015 marks the Centennial of Mid-Century Modern Artist Harry Bertoia. The Bertoia Estate, in cooperation with Bertoia Studio, is excited to introduce for the first time a limited edition reproduction tonal sculpture.

This exact replica of a Sonambient Barn piece was produced to help commemorate and celebrate the centennial of Harry Bertoia, 1915-1978. The approaching year 2015, the centennial of his birth, will bring more surprises related to Bertoia, but for right now, as a preview, Val, Lesta, and Celia (his surviving children) are pleased to bring the sounds of Bertoia to a wider audience. Features:

144 bronze rods on a brass base, 11 ¾” tall

A metallic chime that has been compared to church bells or music of the spheres

Authorized by the Bertoia Estate

An exact replica of a Sonambient Barn sounding sculpture

While the original would easily sell in the 5 figure range, the reproduction is available for $2500 plus shipping. It is constructed in exactly the same technique that Bertoia himself used, with the same tonal quality that he experimented for years to attain.

To see a video, hear the sound, peruse all the details, and order, or just to play around in the world of Bertoia, please visit: http://harrybertoia.org/table-tonal.php

Bohemian Apartment

14 Sep

Okay, I have to say, I love this.  But you should read the comments on the Contemporist regarding this post.  Yikes.  People either loved it or hated it.  It does bring my split-color-personality to the forefront.  Do I want a color frenzy like this or the cool neutrals of contemporary design?  As much as I gravitate to the neutrals in my preferences, I can’t seem to go there in our home.  Obviously.  Green.  Orange.  Teal.  I’m a colorful girl, what can I say?  (And no, I don’t just mean my language, Mom.)  Do you think I may still not be over Orla?

Incorporated Architecture & Design have designed the “Bohemian Apartment” in New York.

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Interiors: Incorporated Architecture & Design

Photography: Annie Schlechter

Modern Classics: The George Nelson Bubble Lamp

9 Sep

I covet a George Nelson bubble lamp.  Actually, I covet a variety of them.  So it’s no surprise that I loved this post below by Apartment Therapy.  I also love these George Nelson Bubble Lamp inspired necklaces by Alexandra Keller that I found on Etsy.  Super cute.  Super reasonable ($30).  You know, in case anyone wants to buy me a present.

Nelson cigar 2 necklace - mid century modern - recycled and vintage jewelry

Modern Classics: Nelson Bubble Lamps

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 If there was a top ten list of the most recognizable modern design pieces ever, there’s no doubt George Nelson’s Bubble Lamps would be on it. Though they come in quite the variety of sizes and shapes, their core design — a space-ship like, self-webbing plastic lamp — is the look that many folks gravitate to when looking for an element to add a touch of modern design to a space.

First created in 1947, Nelson Bubble Lamps were designed to be made up of materials that were developed for military use, which was typical in the postwar era. You can learn more about their history and read about them in George Nelson’s own words in this history of the bubble lamp.

Its rich history aside, the soul of the Nelson Bubble Lamp is its ability to blend perfectly with many different styles and also stick out just enough to add a punch of personality. Some might call a Nelson Bubble Lamp a safe choice (they’re not a crazy color or particularly “loud”), but we don’t think so. Any time you use one of these lights in a space, there’s a strong energy that permeates the whole room. It’s a bold choice, and a classic one. We grabbed some shots from around the web that show how great George Nelson Bubble Lamps look in a variety of spaces, from traditional to very modern.

Check out other Nelson lamp perfection at the blogs below.

1. Simple and bright at The Brick House
2. Corner classic in Marsi & Robert’s Bright and Tidy Southern Ranch
3. Looks perfect with wood. John Lum Architecture, Inc. via Houzz
4. Living room lovely from SF Girl by Bay
5. With the wood ceiling, from another angle by John Lum Architecture, Inc.

6. Hollywood regency via Desire to Inspire
7. Vintage and dramatic in the Brooklyn home of Jordan Provost and Jason Wong via Design*Sponge
8. A lucky break in Dwell Magazine
9. Simple and sleek in Vancouver via
10. Global-inspired in a dining room by Aaron Hom

What do you think? Feel like you need one for your space now? Find resources for where to get one or more in this post.

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