Monday, August 13, 2018

Tillys: Bespoke Drapery Hardware

This line of sleek, modern drapery hardware is made by Tillys of England and includes some pieces that are more like sculpture! Started in 1800 by Mr. G. Tilly, the company was originally a Naval Outfitters in Portsmouth Harbour.  Mr. Tilly's tailoring skills led him to branch out into civilian clothing including hats and gloves. It wasn't until the 1970s that Tillys branched out into the interior design industry, creating soft goods and window treatments.

Today, they continue their bespoke interior design business by making a gorgeous line of both traditional and modern drapery hardware. I was particularly impressed with their Modern Wood line with its dovetail detailing as well as the Barre Couture line. Both would make a wonderful addition to any contemporary space.

Happy designing!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Know Your Chairs: The Zig Zag Chair

Just when you thought we might be running out of chairs for this continuing series of posts "Know Your Chairs," we come to the delightfully simplistic Zig Zag Chair by Gerrit Reitveld (previously here).

Reitveld, who was associated with the De Stijl and Bauhaus movements of the early 20th century, designed the Zig Zag chair as a commission by Dutch department store Metz & Co. (founded in 1740 which closed in 2013) who wanted to sell a well-crafted chair but on a mass produced scale. He dreamt up this amazing sculptural creation of four flat wooden tiles merged in a Z-shape using Dovetail joints.

Rietveld at Utrecht’s Centraal Museum in 1958. 2018 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York Pictoright/Amsterdam

The stark lines and slim profile make it perfect for modern or contemporary, starkly minimalist homes, but it also offers a fantastic contrast in transitional settings or paired with traditional furnishings.

While original and vintage chairs can fetch a very steep price, you can have one of these iconic chairs for yourself. Only the Italian furniture manufacturer Cassina is authorized and licensed to make the Zig Zag Chair.

Happy designing!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Timberwall: Peel and Stick Rustic Walls In Minutes!

I love when I discover new products and Timberwall, a company based in Canada, has developed a way to get that coveted modern-rustic look quickly and easily with peel and stick wood products.

Some products come in peel and stick planks like the Barnwood item shown below in Driftwood Grey and Heritage Brown.

Their Landscape product seen below in Arctic and Urban comes in varying thicknesses so the resulting application is raised in some spots creating a more organic feel and adding even more visual interest with depth and shadows.

I'm crazy about their Mosaic series which comes in a Basketweave pattern, shown in Oak Brown and Oak Grey...

...and the Chessboard pattern in Ash Brown and Oak White. The mosaic series is sold in sheets which makes application even easier.

I'll be specing this for my next client who wants an organic-urban touch...
Happy designing!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Know Your Sofas: The Fainting Couch

When I was in design school many, many years ago and had to take a multi-semester course called "The History of Furniture," I rolled my eyes and thought, "This is going to to be a torture interesting can the history of furniture possibly be?" But that was shortsighted of me and once the class started, I saw that it was much like my Art History classes I took many, many years before that: nothing exists in a vacuum, whether it's art, furniture, clothing, novels, architecture, or design. Everything springs from a certain time period which is connected to a certain cultural and societal perspective, which naturally must be interwoven with politics and how people see themselves or wish to present themselves. By studying what people surrounded themselves with, one gains insight and understanding into what was happening in a single country, a continent, or the world at that time. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that studying furniture--or art or literature--is a way of studying and tracking human evolution; it is actually quite fascinating.

So with this in mind, let's look at a variation of the sofa from the Victorian era called a "fainting couch." This version of a chaise longue (previously here) is asymmetrical, featuring a raised backrest at one end. And of course, this being the Victorian era, the wooden section of these backrests were ornately carved. Upholstery was in the rich jewel-toned heavy velvets of the time, and the fainting couch could be finished off with tufting.

But why was it called a fainting couch? Well, there are a few concepts going on here at once...
Women of the Victorian era were considered fragile and delicate, so they often retired during the mid-day, to escape the heat of the sun when it was at its highest, or its merdian. Because of this reason, these sofas were also called Meridiennes.

But it wasn't just sexism or perception that women were delicate... the fashion of the day dictated that women wear corsets, not allowing them to breathe properly or take full breaths, which could literally cut off up to 29% of oxygen to the body. No wonder women would become light-headed and need to lie down!

But there was another, deeper, and indeed psychological reason for fainting couches. The piece of furniture would often be placed in "fainting rooms," a salon or parlour that could be closed off, so that the woman could rest...but the real reason for a fainting room is connected to an exclusively female "ailment" of the time, something called "female hysteria." Symptoms of this vague ailment included shortness of breath, irritability, vaginal leakage, sexual fantasies and "a tendency to simply cause trouble." Of course the underlying cause of such symptoms are now seen as sexual frustration but in the repressed Victorian era, such things could not be recognized or spoken of. So doctors or midwives would come to a patient's home for "treatment" which included fully clothed pelvic "massages" until a "hysterical paroxysm" (or orgasm) was reached...all in the privacy of the fainting room. Later, massages were replaced with mechanical means which could be used by a doctor or a patient alone. This odd moment in history was captured in a marvelous stage play by award-winning playwright Sara Ruhl called "The Vibrator Play."

Happy designing!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Couture For Your Chairs

I am currently at work on a whole-house project for a client who lives a literal stone's throw from the gorgeous coastline here in the Monterey Bay Area and the brief was to infuse the sense of the coastline, the ocean, and the beach into the home without resorting to "beach" or "surf" clichés.

And one of the ways we are doing that is with a limited color palette of blue, white, and gold. Of course blue and white could be considered cliché when thinking of a beach house, but my client's taste leans toward modern minimalism. When done with interesting geometric fabrics and a muted color palette, the beach factor is dialed down and the design resides in a decidedly more sophisticated area.

For her dining room, we are having a pair of custom host chairs made that will be covered in two wonderful fabrics. This is one of the advantages of working with an interior designer: we can customize and design unique pieces of furniture that you simply can't get anywhere else. I have had clients tell me that the frustrating part about ordering furniture from the big, standard vendors like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barell is that the chair or sofa they may have chosen only comes in four or six colors and perhaps four patterns. But with me, you can get chairs, ottomans, sofas, sectionals in whatever fabric we find that captivates us.

With an elegant, scoop-armed chair chosen... client and I were captivated by a lovely geometric pattern that, while it doesn't explicitly reference the ocean, recalls waves or even tangles of kelp or seaweed. To further customize this chair and make is something truly unique and beautiful, we are putting this fabric only on the outside back...

...while the inside back and the seat will be upholstered in this rich aquatic colored velvet which has been specially treated to resist stains.

The fabric is on its way to the manufacturer in North Carolina and we should have our custom chairs in another several weeks!

I love creating customized furniture for clients. We can customize case goods like buffets by choosing our color or wood stain and whether there are fabric, leather, raffia, or mirrored panels. And of course we can dress furniture in nearly any fabric we wish, often with welting and nailhead options as well. There is nothing "off-the-rack" about it. It really is like having couture clothing designed for your chairs!

If you'd like to furnish your house with unique pieces of furniture created to your own taste and style, give me a call.

Happy designing!

Monday, July 9, 2018

A New Sink On The Block: Composite Granite

Much like how solid surface quartz materials took over the counter top market a while back, we now have another engineered material for sinks! Composite granite is a solid surface material made from granite stone dust and acrylic resins molded into a sink form. And I am seeing more and more composite granite sinks popping up...

While the material is made from granite, it has a uniform color and appearance, unlike actual stone. But the true advantage of this material is its extreme durability. Where porcelain can chip and stain, and stainless steel can dent and scratch, composite granite is highly scratch resistant, and in fact might break glassware should you drop any in the sink. Its non-porous nature also makes it stain resistant.

Many companies now manufacture composite granite sinks such as Kohler and Franke.

Blanco has a line of newly reformulated composite granite sinks made from what they are calling SILGRANIT®.

Features of a granite sink in SILGRANIT® :
- Rock hard granite durability
- Heat resistant up to 536° F
- Unsurpassed cleanability backed by industry leading 7 patents
- Resistant to scratches, stains and all household acids and alkali solutions

As you can see, the sinks from all manufacturers are available in many different styles and sizes, including single or double bowls, farmhouse or apron sinks, and drop-in or undermount applications.

Happy designing!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Time To Head To The Beach Cottage!

Let's take a little summer vacation and ogle some cute and relaxing beach-styled interiors!

Happy designing and Happy Summer!

Monday, June 25, 2018

History of Furniture: Directoire

I am not presenting my recurring History of Furniture postings in any chronological order, so we are free to explore styles and silhouettes without any time frame. So let's put the needle down (a reference to vinyl records that some younger readers might not appreciate) right after the three Louis of France--especially Louis XVI (previously here)--and the subsequent French Revolution. After Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed, France was governed by what was called the Directoire Executif (this executive directory was a five-member committee which governed the country from 1795 until it was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte on 9 November 1799). Therefore, this period--the last four years of the French Revolution--was known as Directoire. It was a time of great social and economic upheaval and uncertainty.

So what could this mean in terms of furniture and furnishings? Well, as is the case with most styles, "movements," and periods of history, there is rarely a clean break with what came before and what comes after. The past always has an influence and the Neoclassical structures, motifs, and lines from Louis XVI were still present in Directoire furniture but without the pomp and regality (after all, the French Revolution was all about ridding the country of monarchs and aristocrats). Pieces featured sparse carving and ornamentation, and were no longer made of exotic imported woods like rosewood and mahogany but local European woods like walnut, elm, or beech.

One of the "inventions" of the time was the bouillotte (BOO-yacht) lamp, a special fixture having two or three or even four candle arms and covered with a shade. Mostly made of tôle (painted metal) with a reflective interior, the shades could be lowered down on a shaft as the candles burned down, thus shielding a person from direct glare from the flame. The reflective interior served to amplify the light but also cast it downward onto a surface such a writing desk or a card table. In fact, the word bouillotte comes from the name of a French gambling card game that was an ancestor to modern poker!

But certainly the most iconic piece of furniture from the Directoire period is a day bed featuring ends of equal heights and a Neoclassical silhouette very much influenced by the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum several decades earlier. Once the painter Jacques-Louis David created his image Portrait of Madame Récamier, a painting showing socialite Juliette Récamier (do read about her fascinating life here) reclining barefoot and dressed in a Greco-Roman style gown on one such day bed, the furniture piece from then on was known as a récamier (reh-calm-ee-AY). It still goes by that name today. (Take a look at a past posting here where I covered fashion designer Rick Owens and his furniture pieces--he created a récamier in a modern vernacular.)

Happy designing!