Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy New Year! Welcome 2016!

Happy New Year to all my followers and regular readers. May 2016 be a peaceful and prosperous year for the planet.

See you next week for the first post of 2016. Until then, Happy Designing!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy Holidays and Happy Winter Solstice 2015!

I am wishing everyone a Happy Winter Solstice which is tomorrow, and a beautiful and joyous Holiday Season!

Holiday interior designed by Bronson van Wyck

I'll be back to regular posts after the holidays. See you all in 2016, and until then, Happy Designing!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Know Your Chairs: Queen Anne

For this installment of Know Your Chairs, I will reference a post I did last year at this time about the Queen Anne-style settee, seen here. In that post, I mentioned that the concept of a sofa as we know it today had not really yet been invented in the early 1800s. Instead, a settee was simply the idea of a few Queen Anne chairs smashed together to make a wider seat that could hold two or more people at once.

And now we get to see the seeds of the Queen Anne settee: the humble single person chair.

Although certain details and elements were developed during her actual reign (1702-1714), the name "Queen Anne" to designate a furniture style was not used until nearly a hundred years later. The Queen Anne style can be seen as a refinement of the silhouettes and ideas from the earlier William and Mary period. The rather rectilinear William and Mary pieces used curves only in applied decorative elements like inlay or marquetry. But Queen Anne pieces eschewed embellishments and instead incorporated curves, S-scrolls, and C-scrolls into the shape of the furniture itself creating graceful, much more delicate lines than had ever been seen before. And even though the embellishments of prior styles like Rococo and William and Mary were muted on Queen Anne pieces, one can still see an occasional shell or acanthus leaf on a leg or back...

Seat backs--or "splats" as they are called--feature vase shapes. They are also sometimes referred to as "balloon backs" since some of the more simplified splats did indeed resemble a balloon.

An important feature of Queen Anne pieces is the cabriole leg terminating in a pad (or club) foot, or in later incarnations, in a claw and ball foot (see photos below). This shape of leg has been in use since the early Greeks and Romans, but it was perfected in European furniture during this time. It was the Queen Anne style that saw the elevation of the cabriole leg into a sweet, sweeping, gentle curve. It is called a cabriole leg because of its resemblance to the slender hind leg of a deer or goat: in French, the word cabrioler means to spring or leap like a goat. The shape is always convex at the top and concave at the bottom. Because of this, the anthropomorphic sense makes it seem as if these pieces of furniture skitter about, chasing each other on the hardwood floor when no one is home!

Pad or club feet, seen above, are cabriole legs which end in what looks like a golf club.

And claw and ball feet are literally just that: a claw with its talons gripping a sphere.

These days you are likely to see a Queen Anne element like a cabriole leg (the most common) or a claw and ball foot on a more current piece of furniture as well,  but now you know where the cabriole leg originated!

Happy designing!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Non-Traditional Holiday Tree

Don't want to bring a dead (or living) tree into your house? Hate plastic fake trees? Try one of these superbly outside-of-the-box holiday trees! Like this minimalist tree below--so minimal that the tree part isn't even there, just a mechanism for hanging glass ornaments!

A cascade of Asian lanterns in green makes a stunning display!

A coiled felt helix and an Arne Jacobsen egg chair say "modern cool."

If you are spending the holidays at a cabin, this antler tree would be spectacular. But please note that the candle bulbs are wired through the antlers which means they are likely made of life-like resin, not actual antlers. For the record, I approve of naturally-shed antlers only.

Off-cuts of tree branches can be upcycled into a tree which can be used year after year!

A fluorescent tree by avant-garde British fashion designer Gareth Pugh.

An unexpectedly beautiful bonsai holiday tree...delicate and spellbinding. Of course the things that truly make this tree so successful are the tiny Japanese lantern ornaments, the finches lining each branch, and, brilliantly, the flocking.

A plethora of Brooks Brothers neck ties make a geometric pattern in silk!

And another minimalist tree: wall-mounted branches and white lights still capture the holiday spirit.

With a little bit of imagination, nearly anything can be coaxed into the service of a holiday tree.
Happy designing and Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 30, 2015

When It's NOT A Four Poster Bed

You don't need to have four posters to have a beautiful fabric treatment over your bed. You can get a canopy look without having the posts to hold it up simply by installing rods and draping fabric. This awning-style canopy is easy to achieve by using metal drapery rods, wooden dowels, or even tree branches!

And then there is a style of bed cover based upon the idea of a four poster bed, particularly the large flat panel known as a "tester" (TEE-stir) suspended from the four posts. A half-tester bed is one that only has a short panel above the head of the bed from which falls fabric panels, as seen below. While the look originated centuries ago in Europe, the style today looks elegant and luxurious. The tester can have a valance of some kind, in a shape, even upholstered in fabric.

But when the tester is small or non-existent, and fabric falls from a central point, this is known as a crown. The examples below are rectangular but crowns come in demilune shapes as well for a more regal look!

And here is a literal crown bed...the crown is an actual crown!

Happy designing!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving 2015!

I wish all my readers and followers in the United States a very Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Happy designing!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Know Your Sofas: The Victorian Sofa

When surveying antique furniture, one of the broadest--and most abundant--periods is the Victorian Era. Strictly speaking, the term "Victorian" really only applies to a style in architecture, art, clothing, and interiors in Great Britain since Victoria's reign, from 1837 to 1901, only covered that realm. People use the term for a certain style of architecture here in the United States for homes that are actually more aptly termed "Italianate" but that is for another post.

During Victoria's reign which was quite long (a record broken by the current Queen Elizabeth II), several styles came into vogue. Interestingly, nearly all were revivals of some sort. The decades of her rule saw a Rococo Revival, a Gothic Revival, an Egyptian Revival, a Renaissance Revival, a Jacobean Revival, and digressions into styles known as Orientalism and American Eastlake (based on the work of English architect and furniture designer Charles Locke Eastlake). But I think more than any other style, we equate the Rococo Revival with what we stereotypically think of as Victorian furniture. Massive pieces, elaborate curves, dark woods, and phenomenally complex and ornate high-relief carvings are hallmarks of the Rococo Revival (Victorian) style which lasted longer than any other style in the era.

Sofas were upholstered in luxurious fabrics like velvet, damask, brocatelle, satin and silk and feature oval, round medallion, or cartouche backs.

As you see, Rococo Revival is a very specific style that is not easily integrated into other periods or designs. I feel it works best in a strict period room of the time. But it's helpful to know about this period of furniture since subsequent styles such as Art Nouveau, the Secessionist Movement, and Arts and Crafts were rebellions against the massive, heavy design and over-the-top sense of embellishment of Rococo Revival. If there's one thing one can count on in matters of style in any art form, it is that the pendulum will eventually swing the other direction!

Happy designing!

Monday, November 9, 2015

History of Furniture: The Eameses

What would Mid-Century style and design be without the enormous contributions of architect/designer duo and husband and wife team Charles and Ray Eames?

Starting in 1941, Charles and his wife Ray pioneered the early technique of using molded plywood for the construction of furniture. When World War II began, they were tapped to use their molded plywood technique to create splints, stretchers, and glider shells, but thankfully, after the war, they continued their fruitful and imaginative furniture design.

The LCW Chair (Lounge Chair Wood)

The first piece of furniture produced at the close of WWII was the LCW chair which utilized all they learned about molded plywood during the war.

The DCW Chair (Dining Chair Wood)

The LCW Chair was followed by the DCW Chair which, as a dining chair, was created in a slightly different scale...more erect and upright for dining at a table.

Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman

Wanting to create a chair that has the “warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt,” the Eameses introduced their Lounge Chair and Ottoman in 1956. This chair is sometimes referred to as the 670/671 Chair since that was the name of the Herman Miller part numbers used to make the seating!

While traditionally produced in black--and sometimes white--leather, the Eames Lounge chair looks great upholstered in unexpected fabrics, like this ethnic ikat shown below! Herman Miller currently sells the chair in many different leather and wood choices.

Eames Molded Plastic Chair

When Charles and Ray were creating their molded plywood chair, they initially wanted it to be composed of a single shell but the chair had issues at the curve where the seat met the back. With advances in plastics and fiberglass, they were finally able to fulfill their vision of a single shell (integrated deck and back) seat in their Molded Plastic and Fiberglass Chairs.

Eames Molded Fiberglass Chair

Designed in 1950, the fiberglass shell chair was the first mass-produced plastic chair in the world. The wire seat base is sometimes referred to as an "Eiffel Tower base" because of its resemblance to the famous Parisian landmark. The chair is also available with a wooden dowel base and a rocking base. And if you're worried about the environmental impact of fiberglass, fear not: Herman Miller now produces the chair by means of a less volatile, monomer-free "dry bind" process that is environmentally friendly and recyclable through the Herman Miller Take Back Program.

La Chaise

Charles and Ray designed the La Chaise lounge chair for The Museum of Modern Art’s 1948 “International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design.” Its name references both its function as well as Franco-American sculptor Gaston Lachaise’s Floating Figure (second image below), whose shape the Eameses thought would fit the chair perfectly. Although the chair was not produced for sale while Charles and Ray were alive, in 1996, long-time Eames partner Vitra International began manufacturing and distributing the La Chaise in response to public interest and demand. It has since become an icon of modern design.

Charles and Ray lived in a very special home in Pacific Palisades in Southern California. As part of the famous Case Study House program for John Entenza's Arts & Architecture magazine, the Eameses designed and built the now-legendary Case Study House No. 8, also known simply as The Eames House. Built in 1949, the modernist structure--with nods to Bauhaus and Mondrian--was not a cold, sterile shrine to minimalism but was instead lovingly filled with thousand of books, Isamu Noguchi floor lamps, Japanese kokeshi dolls, Chinese lacquered pillows, and Native American baskets. On September 20, 2006, the Eames House was designated a National Historic Landmark.

To learn more about Charles and Ray Eames and their other amazing creations and designs including film and textiles, visit the official Eames website. Their on-line shop is a treasure of original Eames designs.

The authentic and licensed Eames pieces in this post are also available through Herman Miller and Vitra International.

Happy designing!