Monday, July 27, 2015

What Is Jacquard?

Let's look this week at jacquard fabric. You may have heard this term used for a kind of fabric but wondered exactly what it is.

Before we dive in to a description of this kind of material, let's go over a few basics of fabric. Nearly every type of fabric is woven from individual fibers on a loom. The fibers or threads that are attached to the loom which run vertically (away from the weaver) are called warp threads, and the ones that run horizontally (left to right of the weaver) are called weft fibers. Differing fabrics and effects can be achieved by varying the color, material, and number of warp and weft threads.

Jacquard is a type of fabric manufactured by using the Jacquard attachment on the loom which permits individual control of each of the warp yarns. This attachment which used punch cards was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801. Thus, fabrics of almost any type or complexity can be made, and jacquard fabrics can be very complex indeed. The punch card was later modified into an early form of a calculator, the forerunner of our modern computers.

Brocade and damask are types of jacquard woven fabrics. And there are other fabrics that can be woven on a loom with a jacquard attachment such as jerseys.

Below you can see a Jacquard attachment on a loom.

Here is a close-up of the punch cards, made of thin planks of wood. If there was a hole, a hook would raise. If not, the hook wold go down. In this way, a pattern would emerge in the fabric.

Joseph Marie Jacquard (July 7, 1752 – August 7, 1834), the inventor of the punch card attachment, was the son of Jean Charles Jacquard, a master weaver in Lyon, France.

Now, machines are computerized but still use a version of a Jacquard head attachment.
Below is a Jacquard loom at Sunbury Textile Mills in Pennsylvania.

And here we see a Jacquard loom at use in the Horred, Sweden factory of Ekelund, master weavers since 1692.

Take a look at some of the stunning jacquards that can be created using the Jacquard attachment. Up until the Jacquard attachment, such intricate patterns had to be hand-stitched of printed onto fabric, both time- and labor-intensive undertakings.

In a future post, we will talk about two other types of jacquard fabric: damask and brocade fabrics! Stay tuned...

Happy designing!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Furniture of John Dickinson

John Dickinson's San Francisco-based interior design career spanned decades, through the 60s and 70s, but he will be best remembered for a collection of whimsical, stylish, furniture and furnishings created in matte chalk white. Since his death in 1982, his console tables, side tables, lamps, and mirrors have become highly coveted items by interior designers and collectors. His original designs feature wry details like animal feet and the illusion of draped fabric but made in metal or plaster.

Dickinson's African table is an homage to the kind of rough-hewn anthropomorphic objects from that continent.

The following images of his Etruscan chair and table are a combination of historical elements from Greek and Roman furnishings (and even as far back as the Egyptians who put animal feet on stools and small tables) with the neo-classical sensibility of eighteenth century Europe.

His footed and hoofed demi-console, lamp, table, and stool are now iconic.

Another trompe-l'œil effect from Dickinson is his organic stacked stone console table. The unexpected style comes from the fact that it is executed in his hallmark matte white.

His tin console (part of the permanent collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and table look as if they have luxurious linens draped over them, cascading down into box pleats at the corners.This idea was so copied that we now see the idea in acrylic from various manufacturers and designers.

And finally, Dickinson ventured into "faux-bois" territory ("faux-bois" is a style of furniture that rose to favor during the Victorians and featured pieces in cast concrete that resembled rustic log furniture) with his twig lamp and mirror.

His pieces look wonderful as accents in rooms of any style. See if you can spot his pieces in each room below.

And here is a pine wood version of his African table in Dickinson's own San Francisco home, a renovated fire station!

Dickinson's original pieces were made in plaster but Sutherland Furniture has retooled the formula and has reissued some of these pieces in a mix of concrete and fiberglass. You can see and purchase them here. Take a look at the tableau from Sutherland below which features Dickinson's twig lamp and mirror over the tin console.

Happy designing!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Know Your Sofas Beds: The Lit à la Polonaise

For this installation of Know Your Sofas, I am cheating a little bit. It is actually more like Know Your Beds.

During the reign of Louis XVI, King of France, a style of bed known as a Lit à la Polonaise, or a "Bed in the Polish Style" became quite popular. Why Polish? A similar bed, more like a day bed but with draped fabric hanging from a coronet was seen at the Royal Castle in Warsaw and the shape made its way back to sounded exotic, and the style caught on. The French version was a kind of four poster, curtained bed, except that the columns curved inward--hidden by sumptuous drapery--terminating in a baldaquin or decorative ring or other shape in the center of the bed. The baldaquin was often cloth but could also be a dome of wood or metal. In the exquisite example below, made in Paris sometime between 1775 and 1780, we see a grand feature at the corner of the mounts before they curve inward: a pomme of ostrich feathers. The bed can be seen at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

As you can see, historically, the bed was placed on its side, oriented more like a daybed and indeed, if one sees a Lit à la Polonaise now, it is generally used as a day bed. The first bed below is currently on display at the Musée Cognacq-Jay in Paris.

Happy designing!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Mantel Inspiration

When it's not fireplace weather, and when your fireplace is not a source of heat and comfort, it is still the focal point (more often than not) of the room. And your fireplace mantel is a wonderful opportunity to infuse more interest via art, color, texture, and objects into your home. There are about as many ways to style a fireplace as there are fireplaces, so let these examples inspire you to curate your own collection of blossoms, art, and fun and meaningful objects.

A mantel can be an art gallery...

...or a place to express a favorite narrative. Here we see what must be some sort of homage to vaudeville and comedians! It is quirky, off-kilter, and fascinating! Create your own narrative: mountains?...Italy? Your jumping off point could be anything.

A collection of Russian nesting dolls brings color to a black and white fireplace and mantel. The smoothness of the dolls contrasts well against the spiky antlers behind! Remember Design mantra #1..."Contrast brings interest!"

A ram's head and some ethnic objects--a hammered silver plate from India, a porcelain statue of Quan-Yin--lend a sense of world travel and exotica.

Fireplace breasts are traditional spots for mirrors. But why not go BIG with an enormous convex mirror? It bounces light around and serves to visually expand the room. Groupings of blossoms and branches below bring outside in.

I can't help but think that the following tableau is composed of articles and objects that are personal treasures of whomever created it. To replicate the look, scour antique stores, flea markets, and thrift stores for interesting objects like the metal watch faces, mercury candle stick holders, and old frames we see here. Keeping things in a single or limited color family helps unify your tableau. But be sure to include different textures, and include short, medium, and tall objects for variety and visual interest.

Brass accents on this mantel look wonderful against the black and white painting and photo (of one of David's hands from the Accademia in Florence!). Go ahead and layer your art...lean pieces up against other pieces.

If you have a Mid-Century Modern ranch house, embrace the time period with a mod piece of art, some blown glass bottles in an appropriate color, and a George Nelson wall clock!

This modern art work provides a textural backdrop for an antique framed piece (again, leaning against the larger painting), and lovely turquoise and celedon vases. The look is fresh for either spring or summer.

The ornate fireplace surround here calls for something more simple and sleek. Modern prints and etchings look fantastic next to the Georgian carving of the surround.

For maximum impact, group like objects together. This collection of artisanal vases looks great in a row. A white feathered Juju hat presides over it all. Notice how the height of the vases is arranged in an inverted pyramid. The dip in the center allows the Juju hat some space.

This tableau groups together black and white objects in a pleasing way. Plaster, glass, marble, paper, metal...

This arrangement in the home of interior designer Tommy Smythe uses the pyramid principle: larger anchor objects at either end, a tall piece of art work in the middle to form the peak, and intriguing curio objects fill the spaces in between.

Don't be afraid to try large pieces on your mantel. It might feel at first as if the objects are overwhelming your fireplace, but it's probably that you're simply not used to it. Be bold.

Notice how, in nearly every example above, the arrangement takes advantage of asymmetry. Many of the sculptures, vases, or art works are positioned on one side of the mantel. Play with this idea and see what you can come up with. And remember Design Mantra #5: "Odd numbers work best!" When in doubt, use three or five objects in groupings. It will instantly lend design cred to your tableau!

Happy designing!