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!

Monday, November 2, 2015

In Celebration Of Red

Now that autumn is underway, let's look at a color we associate with this time of the year: red. Apples are ripe for the winter, cranberries will grace our holiday tables, and holly berries peek out from under a first snow.

Inside, red can be dramatic. It can be modern or historical. It can be bright and saturated or smokey and deep. Red can be polarizing too: I have read quotes by some celebrity designers who either love red or loathe it. Either way, you have to admit that red stands out. Especially when walls and ceiling are a cherry red lacquer, like in the dining room below...

If that is too bright for your taste, how about this deep claret sitting room by Jan Showers? People often think that painting their walls a dark color will make the room seem to be closing in on them, but in fact the opposite is true. Light colors advance, dark colors recede. Just like in a theater where black velvet is draped around the stage to mask the dimensions of the off stage area, a darker room does not allow for the eye to perceive the edges.

There is nothing more traditional for a library than a liberal coating of red!

The graphic black and white art work in the photo below looks superb against intense crimson.

Robert Couturier gave the walls in the following dining room of a Parisian townhouse a coat of glossy red lacquer, and paired it with tapestry material and an historical painting to reference the plush interiors of the Renaissance.

Designer Martha Angus painted her son's bathroom in her own Napa home in a red geranium--actually, she confesses she let her son pick the color but she went with it, and coated the base boards and trim work in the same hue to a spectacular effect.

Red is a constant presence in this eclectic bedroom in the Madrid home of antique dealer and interior designer Lorenzo Castillo. The headboard is upholstered in a sumptuous Bordeaux colored velvet by Valentino.

Compare the red lacquer dining room walls in our first image to the red lacquer walls in this dining room below and you will see how context can change everything! Brian McCarthy uses red here to invoke a Federalist style residence such as Monticello.

And what better use of red velvet than for a private screening room in a home in Beverly Hills designed by Kerry Joyce. Red velvet was used extensively in the "movie palaces" of the 1930s to the 50s. Look at the red curtains by the usherette in Edward Hopper's iconic "New York Movie."

Whether you love or loathe red, I wish you happy designing!