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Ninja Turtle Sibling?

22 Jan

Remember this dresser restored by the lovely Brittany as memorialized in this post?  She worried she had turned it into a Ninja turtle dresser!

Well, she’s gone and done it again, this time with nightstands.  She had some leftover veneer and paint and renovated these lovely little beauties too!  I think they look awesome.  What about you?  I especially like the Orla Kiely wallpaper pattern in the back.  Despite all my ranting, I am obviously in a co-dependent relationship with Orla.  Will I never be free?

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And voila!

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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!

Decor Swap Party

15 Nov

From Apartment Therapy, one of my favorite blogs, comes this amazing idea of a Decor Swap Party. I LOVE this. Anyone game? The best thing about it is that at least you know everything will fit!

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If you have ever been to a clothing swap party, you know how great it is to see your once favorite pieces begin their new life with a friend and also get to come home with the feeling that you just went shopping and got a really good bargain. Well, why let clothes have all the fun? Let’s get homes in on the action too!

A decor swap party is a great push to finally get to the things you have been needing to clear out from your space. I know I am always headed to Goodwill or the like to donate the things that I ‘just had to have’ way back when, or the stuff I bought thinking ‘this would make a great (fill in the blank) one day’ and just never got to it. Remember, just because you have outgrown something doesn’t mean someone else will view it in the same way.

You could make it general and bring whatever you want, or have a specific theme like ‘things that make you go hmmm’, ‘shabby chic’, ‘organize this’, ‘things that light up’, ‘everything chartreuse’, ‘have a seat’, ‘vessels’ or even ‘funky furniture’. If you want to swap larger furniture items, just bring pictures of all side of the piece along with the dimensions.

So now all you have to do is shuffle through your stuff, toss out an invite, throw together some wine and appetizers and start shopping. Whatever doesn’t get chosen can be brought to the thrift store the next day. Have fun!

(Image: from Pop of Sunshine: 10 Yellow Accessories For Under $50)

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.

Reader Re-Do: Dresser Makeover or “Did I just morph my dresser into a ninja turtle?”

12 Nov

I have mentioned Brittany in the blog before, as she is one of the readers who sends me interesting mail from time to time.  I even did an inspiration board for her a while back.  Brittany said she was also inspired by Maeve’s dresser re-do and gave it a go herself.  The lovely Brittany below.  (And she’s married and a mother of Bayley, so don’t get any ideas.)

Which brings me to a slightly panicky email I received from her sharing the results and asking my opinion, which I of course love giving wholeheartedly.

I need your opinion on something. I’ve been pulling my hair out after I found an awesome MCM dresser on Craigslist and decided to refinish it. So, I refinished it and then realized it was way too orange. It’s hard to tell in the pics but it looked like a carrot. So, after much debate, I decided to get a good rest and then start all over. Well, I screwed up and sanded too far into the veneer. So, my only option was to go buy new walnut veneer or just paint the whole thing, which I did not want to do. I googled for a while and found some pretty cool before and after’s, so I thought I’d meet in the middle and paint half and veneer the other half. I picked the green from the Orla Kiely pear canister and stained the new veneer a dark walnut. I feel like I’ve ruined a good thing, now that I’m finally finished. I am one to NOT paint over perfectly good wood, but in this case, there was no way I was re-veneering the whole beast of a dresser. And plus, veneering is HARD and stinky.  I would love a second opinion. I know you did something similar recently with your daughter’s low boy dresser and I LOVE the results. But I am not sure what I think about mine. Maybe I have been staring at it too long?

Suffice it to say, I can see the carrot and understand the dilemma.  I asked her to share more about her experience with veneer, as this is something I have never been brave enough to attempt.

 It’s not too spendy, I went to Windsor Plywood and bought a 2×8 sheet of black walnut veneer that came to around $36. Cheap, considering I ruined the original veneer, which I can’t believe I did. But I was not going to just paint the whole dresser. It would’ve been a crime. So, I thought up re-veneering.

I traced out the dresser drawers on the back side of the veneer and then cut out the shapes with a really sharp pair of scissors. I cut it a tiny bit bigger than the size of the drawers so I could have some wiggle room when veneering. I painted a thin coat of contact cement onto the drawer fronts and then another thin, even coat onto the back of the veneer. It’s MESSY because the contact cement is drippy. So don’t do it in your bedroom like I did. Also make sure the room is well ventilated, or you’re going to faint from the fumes. Let the contact cement dry for about 15 minutes, until it looks like a satin finish and is tacky to the touch. I would suggest two people doing the laying of the veneer on the drawer fronts, because it must lay down properly, or it’s ruined. Once the veneer touches the drawer fronts, the contact cement automatically glues to itself, and the bond is strong, so make sure you have it exactly how you want it to lay. Have a rolling pin on hand and roll the veneer with force, to make sure there are no bubbles under the veneer. You can cut out any rough edges with one of those really sharp hobby knives that look like a surgical tool. And then sand on the edges to make sure they are even.

Then sand the veneer lightly with 220 grit sandpaper to prepare it for the stain you will use. It’s really not as hard as it sounds and is a cost effective way to keep wood grain in your piece instead of painting the whole thing. The green color I used is called “Olive tree” from Benjamin Moore. It is the closest match to the Orla Pears as I could find. The paint I used was water based, but I decided to use Minwax oil based wipe on poly in Satin, to get a really nice, hard and smooth finish. It gave the green color an even more mustardy look, which makes it look even more vintage. It definitely toned it down, which I like.

When I told Brittany I really liked it and thought it looked lovely in her Orla inspired bedroom, her response was…

Yay! So glad to hear you like it! I was staring at it going, “Did I just morph my dresser into a ninja turtle???”

I love the walnut and olive together.  I think it turned out to be a gorgeous piece.  What do you think?  Have you had any experience with ‘re-veneering’ something?

Midcentury Spanish Design…in the UK

26 Sep

Who knew there was a sub-category of mid-century design that was Spanish?  I will have to check this out next time I visit the UK.  Have any of you heard of FASE or have any pieces?  If so, please share!  (Via Remodelista)

While working in Southern Spain, interior designer Christine Shepard fell in love. Was it the lifestyle? The sunny climate? A handsome Iberian, perhaps?

Actually, none of the above. A woman after our own hearts, Shepard discovered a passion for 1950s chairs and lighting, especially those from the Spanish manufacturer FASE in Madrid, and decided to run with it. Upon her return to the UK, she opened The Kula & Co. in St. Leonards on Sea offering 1950’s chairs and FASE lamps (of course) among an ever-changing mix of carefully selected vintage furnishings including tables, paintings, glass, and prints.

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Above: Shepard’s trademark pairing of a midcentury chair with a FASE lamp; both displaying distinctive lines.

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Above: The Kula & Co. also offer interior design services. See Kula & Co. for further information.

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Above: This scene could be from Mad Men; a pair of 1950s cocktail chairs with their original upholstery and a FASE Presidente S’ lamp.

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Above: The Kula and Co. has a continually changing display of vintage furnishings.

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Above: A pair of Parker Knoll armchairs, completely restored and upholstered.

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Above: A view from the street shows Shepard’s array of vintage finds.

Original in Berlin

10 Sep

Shame on me for being so US-centric.  I love Mid2Mod and The Mod Fix.  One would think that with all the time I spend traveling, I would put more focus on mid-century design in other regions.  And given the fact that almost half the readers of this blog come from outside the US, I will commit to doing just that.  To start off this project on the best foot possible, I’d like to share a European shop that offers a wonderful variety of mid-century products to my continental friends.

From the charming Lars, who brought this store to my attention:

ORIGINAL IN BERLIN offers a wide variety of vintage mid-century furniture as well as new products from Alexander Girard, Russel Wright Pottery, George Nelson Bubble Lamps and a big collection by Austrian designer Carl Auböck. For everybody that can´t make it to our beautiful showroom located in the heart of Berlin, we also ship worldwide. Founded in summer 2010, ORIGINAL IN BERLIN is now starting to offer a larger collection of Scandinavian, French, Dutch, Italian and American design furniture out of our new 350qm Showroom. Our own upholsterers and carpenters can make every restoration or custom made requests on any piece of design furniture possible. For this, we only use KVADRAT & MISSONI Fabrics so as ELMO and SØRENSEN Leather.

AND as if that weren’t cool enough, Original in Berlin is offering 10% off all Charles Eames furniture to MCML readers.  In your order, just write  “Hello Mid Century Modern Love Eames” for your discount.  And if you do purchase something, please send me a photo!

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