Monday, August 29, 2016

4 Types of Natural Fiber Rugs

As I've said many times here on the Fiorito Interior Design blog, each aspect of interior design brings with it an unexpected amount of information, options, nomenclature, and choices...more than a lay person could have imagined. So let's dive into a little subset of flooring information: rugs and carpets can come in many different materials, and sometimes the most overlooked category is that of natural fiber rugs. We've all seen them, but do we really understand what they are made of?

1) I think the most common term we've all probably heard is "sisal." But what is a sisal rug? Woven from the stiff fibers of the Agave sisalana, a type of agave plant that looks a little like a palm, a sisal rug is one of the toughest materials out there, suitable for higher traffic areas.

Sisal comes in a variety of organic, neutral colors and naturally resists allergens. Look how the sisal rugs installed in a home by Michael Abraham Architects below lend a textural element to the room without becoming a pattern. When used as area rugs, the edges can be bound with tape in any color to coordinate with an existing color palette. Sisal is however fairly rough to the touch, so be careful when installing in areas where one will tend to be barefoot...and because it is a completely natural fiber, it will absorb water so be very careful of spills!

2) Jute is a material we have all used at one time or another in the form of twine, rope, Hessian cloth, and some sacks which hold, for example, rice or coffee beans. It is made from the bark of the white jute plant (Corchorus capsularis) and tossa jute (C. olitorius).

As a woven rug material, it is softer than sisal with a feel closer to cotton and for that reason is better in lower traffic areas of the home. It tends to be thicker than sisal, so the profile of the rug can be substantial. And like sisal, it is a natural material that will quickly and eagerly absorb liquids.

3) Seagrass, as its name implies, grows under the sea. Rugs are made from a variety of grasses and not from one specific type.

There's a very thick seagrass that can be woven into a rattan-like material and made into tables, chairs, and ottomans but rugs are made from a type more suitable for the function. These fibers are extremely tough and cannot be dyed so seagrass rugs often have a greenish cast to them.

4) Coir (pronounced COY-er) is an astonishing material. It is a yarn made from fibers of the discarded husks of coconuts! Brown coir is made from mature coconuts while the white variety is made from green husks of unripe coconuts.

Coir can be woven into a pile for bristly door mats but can also be made into yarn for rugs similar to sisal, jute, and seagrass, with a texture like that of a Berber carpet.

The advantage of these materials is that, when grown judiciously, they are all sustainable, coming from plants that renew quite quickly, or in the case or coir, coming from the cast off of a plant, leaving the living tree untouched.

Happy designing!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Luxury Wood Panels by Tabarka Studio

Arizona-based tile company Tabarka Studio has just released a new collection of engineered French oak parquet panels called Orly, which is based on the design of vintage luggage (ahem...Vuitton?). Each large scale panel (26" x 26") has some kind of brass detail so that when the tiles are placed together, they create a marvelous edge reminiscent of the strapping on steamer trunks. They are listed as flooring material but really, there's no reason why they couldn't be used on a, say, a powder room for a unique, high-impact look!

This feature in September's Elle Decor shows what an installation of panels side by side will look like:

Happy designing!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Salty Wings For Your Walls

I really prefer to use original art in my designs. Ready made or factory art can be so uninspired. But Michael Goetze and Jampal Williamson, the amazing photographers behind the fine art company Salty Wings have hit upon a beautiful product. They photograph the coastline and beaches high above Western Australia via drone cameras and sell their gorgeous results on their website. The images seem like lovely, contemplative abstract paintings--the color palette of the blues and tans is just lovely--and can come framed or unframed and in a variety of sizes. I am itching to put a large-format version of one of these beauties in a clients' house. And I think I have a current client who would love them (hey CH, I'll be showing these to you very soon)!

Happy designing!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Know Your Chairs: The Elda

For this installation of Know Your Chairs, I want to share with you a marvelous chair I have loved for decades.

Created in 1963 by Italian artist and product/furniture designer Joe Colombo, the Elda chair is a classic known only to a few. Not as popular as other pieces of furniture from the Mid Century, such as the Barcelona chair or the Tulip chair, the Elda is both puzzling and inviting. A hard shell of fiberglass (one of the first such pieces of furniture to incorporate the material) on the outside protects a soft leathered inside, shaped and contoured into puffy rectangular tubes. While Colombo took his cue for the exterior from the hull of boats, there is something almost organic about the interior upholstery configuration, like intestines.

Designer Joe Colombo with sketches for his Elda chair

Even now, the chair's object-oriented quality makes it a fascinating addition to an interior plan. It looks retro, it looks modern, it looks soft and cushy, it looks shiny and sleek. Originals are highly sought after and can cost up to $10,000. Considering that the Elda is on display at both the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan and at the Louvre in Paris, it is small wonder the chair can be so pricey.

Here is the Elda chair in a luxuriously minimalist living room by Portuguese interior designer Cristina Jorge de Carvalho.

This next image is from the home of vintage furniture collector Catherine Bujold...and it segues nicely into my next point:

The Elda chair was featured heavily on an English science fiction television show from the 70s called "Space: 1999" starring Martin Landau. It took place in the future when mankind had established a colony on the moon, Moonbase Alpha. The set designer utilized lots of great 60s and 70s Italian furniture and lighting since it all appeared so futuristic at the time... and it still does. Below are some screen shots of the chair in various episodes.

And more recently, the Elda was featured in "The Hunger Games," again, for the reason that the chair looks like it has yet to be invented!

Thankfully the Elda is still in production through Italian furniture manufacturer Longhi. I'd love to have one in my own home. If you'd love one too, give me a call!

Happy designing!

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Mid-Century Starburst

Back in March of this year, I published a month-long series of posts about Mid-Century Modern design. I started the month with a post about George Nelson Associates clock designs in which I mentioned the iconic starburst pattern. The post-war years saw a lot of change. The end of World War II was brought about in part by atomic bombs, and the atom and science were now a part of everyday life. "Better Living Through Science," the motto promised. A sudden boom in the middle class meant the explosion of suburbs brimming with open-plan ranch homes to be filled with furniture and products. And many of these products naturally sported the atomic starburst pattern! Dinnerware, glassware, and lamps as well as drapery and upholstery fabrics were peppered with stylized starbursts or stylized atomic models.

And consider also that, at the time, there was a suspenseful race to space: the United States and the USSR were in competition to see who could make it to the stars, and the Soviets won the first round by launching Sputnik 1 to orbit our planet and then later put Yuri Gagrain in orbit, the fist man in space. We were living in the Atomic Age and the Space Age at the same time!

Vintage objects like these, or even reproductions offer a fun, retro moment for interiors! A bar set with the starburst pattern is actually quite current, as is a ceramic lamp with the classic fiberglass shade, seen in the last two images below. Such collectible items can be judiciously mixed in with contemporary interiors...remember Design Mantra #1: "Contrast brings interest!"

Happy designing!