Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Winter Solstice and Happy Holidays 2014!

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. Wishing everyone all the joys of the season.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cabin Style in the Adirondacks

Style author Amanda Brooks' winter family home in the Adirondacks was designed by her mother, Elizabeth Stewart. Come this time of year, it is decorated as a rustic winter paradise! This is great example of a type of site specific design that works well in a particular setting, and all the elements here are absolutely perfect to ride out a snow storm in glorious style: rustic stone and wood, a smattering of Native American textiles, a few traditional antique pieces mixed in, and pine boughs...all elements that you can bring into your own home for a touch of classic holiday style.

It all reminds me of a lovely Christmas I once spent at the iconic Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite National Park. It's gorgeous...

Happy designing and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Three Traditional Holiday Decorations: Schwibbogen, Christmas Pyramid, Angel Chimes

A Schwibbogen is a decorative candle-holder from Germany. Associated exclusively with winter and the holiday season, the first Schwibbogen appeared in the 1700s. They were made from black iron ore since they originated in Erzgebirge, or the Ore Mountains in Saxony. They are now often carved in wood and show scenes from pastoral Europe, musicians, angels, or Father Christmas. Modern Schwibbogen come with small electric bulbs eliminating the need for actual candles, and eliminating a fire hazard!

Related to the Schwibbogen and hailing from the same region of Germany is the tradition of the Christmas Pyramid whose origins date back to the Middle Ages. Usually carved or assembled from wood, the Christmas Pyramid is a carousel with several levels and a central driveshaft with a fan at the top. Candles anchored around the periphery of the lower levels provide a heated draft to turn the levels like a carousel.

Above: A carved wooden Christmas Pyramid and Schwibbogen from Germany.

Many cities in Germany now display impressive life-size Christmas Pyramids at Christmas Markets or in town squares. In the photos below, a Christmas Pyramid in Augsburg in the Christmas Market looks festive while a very tall Christmas Pyramid rises above the lighted tree in the Market in Erfurt.

Dating from the late 19th century, Angle Chimes too are associated exclusively with winter and the holiday season. Much like the Christmas Pyramid, the rising heated air from the candles at the base of the structure spin the blades at the top. As the carousel turns, tiny clappers strike the chimes creating a tinkling sound. The first recorded appearance of an Angel Chime was in 1905 when Walter Stock of the German toy firm Adrian &  Stock filed for a patent. The pre-World War II German-made chimes were usually made of tin and featured lithography. After the war, simpler, Swedish-made chimes in brass became popular in both Europe and North America.

Above: Walter Stock's patent drawing from 1905

However you choose to accessorize your season, I wish you Happy Holidays and happy designing!

Know Your Sofas: The Queen Anne Settee

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 in applied decorative elements like inlay or marquetry. But Queen Anne pieces 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.

While technically not a sofa as we know it today, the Queen Anne settee was, at that point in furniture history, the closest thing yet to a sofa. Unbeknownst to them, furniture makers of the day were working toward the concept of a sofa, and this was a step in its evolution. The execution, while structurally proficient, is actually a little comical: it looks like two chairs grafted together to make a larger sitting area. Which makes sense. If you wanted a chair that sat more than one person, well, why not put several chairs together and have them share a seat deck?

Even though the embellishments of prior styles like Rococo and William and Mary were muted, one can still see an occasional shell or acanthus leaf on a leg or back...

The Queen Anne settee was also made in three and four chair backs as well!

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. Keep you eyes peeled and happy designing!