Monday, July 24, 2017

Famous Homes: The Glass House

In our Famous Homes series, we previously visited The Stahl House in Los Angeles, here.

Let's visit another modernist masterpiece, The Glass House or The Johnson House. It was built in 1949 by architect Philip Johnson for himself on a 45-acre plot in New Canaan, Connecticut that also features thirteen other architectural experiments, but it is the Glass House that remains iconic and legendary.

Inspired by Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House and the idea of German "glass architecture" from the 1920s, The Glass House is an open, 1,700 square foot structure made of industrial materials. Since the entire envelope of the house is glass, there is an intense and intimate relationship with the surrounding landscape. The view serves as a kind of "wallpaper"--Johnson once even quipped "I have very expensive wallpaper."


The house is sparsely furnished according to Modernist/Minimlaist sensibility. But with Minimalism, the few furniture pieces that are present need to be chosen with extreme care. And here we see the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair and ottoman, previously discussed here, and the Barcelona daybed, previously discussed here.


Living in a glass house can have its challenges, and while the house itself cannot really be seen from the road--and there are clearly no neighbors to overlook--the house none the less occasionally needed some kind of window covering to block the glare of oblique sun. Johnson chose to install woven flat panels by Conrad on a slim track.


The only structure inside the house is a brick cylinder that houses both a fireplace and bathroom.


The dining area is opposite the semi-hidden kitchen.


And here is the kitchen which is more of an island that can be closed up when not in use.


A brick herringbone floor features radiant heat below which helps to keep the temperature of the house at a constant comfortable level.


The brick cylinder fireplace...


...and bathroom entrance.


The curves of the cylinder, door, interior bathroom walls and circular shower provide relief from the rectilinear structure of the house itself.


The sleeping area is concealed behind a set of storage units.


Despite being a very ill-informed early supporter of Hitler, Johnson was gay and lived in The Glass House with his longtime partner of 45 years, David Whitney, an art curator, gallerist, and critic who was a close friend of Andy Warhol. Johnson came out publicly in 1993. Both men died in 2005, Johnson in his sleep while at The Glass House at the age of 89, and Whitney at the young age of 66.

Philip Johnson, left, with David Whitney at the dining area of The Glass House

The Glass House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997, now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is open to the public for guided tours. The Glass House also hosts many diverse art shows and installations, concerts, and dance performances. Check their site for more information.

Happy designing!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Five Steps To Great Dining Room Lighting

Clients often wonder about the "correct" way to choose and hang a light fixture over a dining room table. While there are no absolute rules, there are some guidelines that can help.

1. Shape It

Generally speaking, it is prudent to choose a dining table before choosing a fixture to go over it. If you choose a round dining table, a round fixture works well.


If you have a long, rectangular table or an extension table, linear pendants are the better choice.


Here is a linear pendant of metal, marble, and silk I chose for a dining room for a client who had a long, rectangular glass table.


Or if you have a fixture you like but it is too small, you can arrange multiple lights over a dining table.


2. Scale It

Another rule of thumb is that your fixture should be at least 12 inches smaller than the table in all directions. So, for example, a 48" diameter round table will look best with a light that's no more than 24" wide. For a 36" wide rectangular table, look for a light that is no more than 12" wide.

Linear pendants can be kept in scale by choosing one that is 1/3 to 2/3 the length of the table.


3. Hang It

Again, generally speaking, the dining room table functions best when the bottom of a light fixture is hung around 30"-36" from the table top. Much more than that and you'll be losing the actual light output, not to mention visual impact. Of course some homes and dining rooms have higher-than-usual ceiling heights, so in these cases, it is best to hang the fixture where it seems to look best in between the ceiling height and table top...within reason. Use your judgment and keep it in scale.


4. Dim It

One of the most important things to consider when choosing and hanging a light fixture is the light output. A dining experience should not make you feel like you are being questioned by the police, so installing a dimmer is a must. Make sure that the fixture you choose is dimmable. And depending on the voltage and type of fixture, you may have to purchase a special type of dimmer.

5. Layer It

Dining room light fixtures offer a lot: style, visual impact, and of course light. But a light fixture can only do so much. If you can, think about adding layers of light. In fact, my Design Mantra #4 to the right on this page is "Layer your lighting." Use a combination of ambient light like recessed lights along with wall sconces or table or side lamps to vary light and to introduce illumination from many sources. This goes for every room, not just dining rooms.


Of course if you hire me to design your dining room, all of these issues are taken care of!
Have a bare dining room? Give me a call!

Happy designing!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Know Your Sofas: The Serpentine Sofa

Yes, it's time once again for another installment of "Know Your Sofas" and this time we are looking at the classic yet thoroughly modern Serpentine Sofa designed by Vladimir Kagan.

Vladimir Kagan in his 100A Barrel Chair, circa 1950s

Here is an image of an original Serpentine Sofa from 1950, the year it was introduced. You can clearly see how the sofa relates to the freeform/kidney and boomerang shapes that were popular in the 1940s/1950s, and a bit into the 1960s.


Even though it was created within the Mid-Century Modern milieu, this sofa transcends the style of that era in a way that very few other Mid-Century Modern pieces do. It fell out of favor for a few decades, but, as styles swing like a pendulum, there has been a huge, renewed interest in the Kagan Serpentine Sofa, as evidenced by the stunning, beautiful, and quite modern applications used by some top interior designers. The sinuous and sensuous shape pairs well with elements as disparate as 1970s furnishings or Baroque antiques!

Serpentine Sofa in a room designed by Jean-Louis Deniot
Serpentine Sofa in a room designed by Julie Hillman
Serpentine Sofa in the Parisian apartment of designer Klavs Rosenfalck
Serpentine Sofa in a room designed by Robert Couturier
Serpentine Sofas in a room designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard for Tommy Hilfiger's Miami home
Serpentine Sofas in a room designed by Francis D'Haene
Serpentine Sofas in a room designed by Ingrao, Inc.
Serpentine Sofa in the apartment of Amanda and Clayton Benchley

If you would like a Vladimir Kagan Serpentine Sofa of your very own, it is available through showrooms open to interior designers. Give me a call!

Happy designing!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy July 4th, 2017

I wish all of my followers and regular readers here in the United States a Happy Independence Day!


I will resume regular posting after the holiday.
In the meantime, happy designing!

Monday, June 26, 2017

History of Furniture: Hans Wegner

Hans Wegner was one of a few select designers who ushered in the era of Danish Modern interiors, now generally referred to as Mid-Century Modern. Starting as a cabinet maker's apprentice, he eventually worked for Arne Jacobsen, another legend in Danish Modern design. But he started his own company and created over 500 chairs in his lifetime with 100 of them seeing actual production.

Arguably his most famous design is the "The Chair" (or The Round One as Wegner himself referred to it), summing up the idea of Danish Modern design in one elegant silhouette.


Available today from PP Møbler, The Chair comes with either an upholstered or cane seat.


The Chair was even the chosen seating for the candidates to sit in at the first-ever televised 1961 Kennedy/Nixon debate.


His Wishbone chair is a study in restraint.


The three-legged CH07 Shell chair is so light, made of bent plywood, that it even has wings...it is also sometimes called The Smiling Chair for obvious reasons. Today it is available from Design Within Reach in different wood finishes and fabrics and leathers...even hair on hide!


The Wegner Papa Bear Chair looks like a teddy bear with paws up, waiting to embrace anyone who sits in his lap. Again, Danish furniture manufacturer PP Møbler still has this in production.


Perhaps his most unique creation is another anthropomorphic object, the Ox Chair. Based upon drawings of oxen and bulls by Picasso, it sports a set of large horns!


Happy designing!