Monday, May 29, 2017

Know Your Chairs: The Thonet No. 14

In this installment of "Know Your Chairs," we are looking at a chair some of us may have overlooked since it is a staple of public seating: the classic Thonet No. 14 chair, also known as a "bistro chair" since it occupies a prominent place in many a Parisian café.

Its creator Michael Thonet (pronounced "toe-net" and not the French pronunciation "tho-NAY") was a German-Austrian carpenter and cabinet maker who, in the 1840s and 1850s, invented and pioneered the process of making bentwood furniture.

In 1859, he gave the world an exquisitely designed, simple, lightweight chair, the No. 14. Made of six pieces of steam-bent wood, ten screws, and two nuts, the chair was a miracle of engineering. The wooden parts were made by heating beechwood slats to 100 °C, pressing them into curved cast-iron molds, and then drying them at around 70 °C for 20 hours. The chair could be sold ans shipped in an early version of what we now know as a "flat pack." Later, the six-piece chair turned into eight as two extra braces were included for the join of the seat and the back.

The chair may have been created in the 19th century, but it looks fresh and clean even today. These next two photos pair the No. 14 with Saarinen tables and the look is perfect.

The chair takes on a slightly stately, classic, retro look when presented in a café or restaurant setting.

Here is the No. 14 with its side braces...they only serve to add a bit more curve-y elegance to the already elegant design.

The Thonet arm chair No. 09 has a more inviting sensibility with a curved side and a place to rest one's arm (seen here with a Saarinen table, again). This was a favorite of Le Corbusier (previously here) and he used it extensively in his modernist interiors throughout the 1920s.

Of course a Thonet rocking chair, known as Thonet No. 10, was invented as well.

Even Picasso had one in his studio!

Naturally there have been many variations on the chair with lovely iterations featuring different Arabesque shapes on the back. I love this display of original Thonet chairs in the Wien Musueum Karlsplatz, in Vienna.

The Thonet No. 14 is still available from the original Thonet company in Germany. There is another Austrian Thonet company that has nothing to do with the original as well as a splinter company here in the United States that seems to sell only modern modular pieces. But luckily, Design Within Reach is one of the official license holders and the No. 14 chair is available through them.

Happy designing!

Monday, May 22, 2017

San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2017, Part 2

Let's continue from last week our tour of this year's 40th anniversary San Francisco Decorator Showcase house at 2698 Pacific Avenue in an historic 1904 Newsom & Newsom-designed home!

Inspired by the classical revival period of the house itself as well as John Milton's idea of paradise from his epic poem "Paradise Lost," Beth Martins created a floating, ethereal sanctuary of a master bedroom. Light creams and tans offset by cornflower blue let this room whisper.

The fireplace surround is softly antiqued mirror.

But the element I most fell in love with in this glorious bedroom was the foggy ceiling painted by the incomparable Willem Racké. I just marveled at how the clouds of color shift without any clear boundaries. This is the work of a true master decorative painter.

"The Balancing Point" is what designer Kari McIntosh calls this home office/getaway for a busy, working mom who needs time and space to balance her family and her job, as well as herself. Located off the master bedroom as an antechamber to the master bathroom, the room is clad in St. Frank's Indigo Dots wallpaper (up close it feels charmingly like tie-dyed denim). A wonderful abstract art work gives this small room a big focal point.

I was particularly drawn to the chandelier...turns out this intriguing fixture is wrapped in silk cuttings from Bolt Textiles! It gives the chandelier an undefinable even looks as if it is covered in candle drippings! I love it!

Cecilie Starin (who designed a show-stopping graffiti-inspired dining room for the 2015 Showcase house, seen here) titled her breathtaking master bathroom "Restore and Refresh." Every single element in here is pitch perfect. I adore the floating vanity with waterfall sides, the gorgeous bracelet chandelier, the marble-lined walls, the alternating herringbone floor, the high gloss cove ceiling installed by Starin's team, and the chic but organic gold/cream/tan color story.

Now I know some of you might be looking at the photos and thinking, "But she hung mirrors in the window!" Well, I know firsthand how interior designers often have to work within the limitations of existing architecture and plumbing. But Starin made sure the mirrors did not intrude too much and each one is hung on a pole featuring a mechanism that allows it to be pushed aside to let more light in...and of course to enjoy the million dollar view. Eighteen million dollars to be exact--the house is currently on the market.

Your blog master in Starin's room:

The water closet is a work of art too, with a textured wall treatment, a glass bubble light fixture, and contemporary California art.

And the spacious shower is a room unto itself...

Just as pitch perfect is Mead Quin's guest bathroom. It is fresh, white, and clean without being sterile or severe thanks to Quin's use of light wood and marble, organic materials which serve to ground a space and add natural warmth.

A great design feature I want to use in future bathroom designs is this notched handle glass door for the shower. Quin told me she does not like to use hardware on glass shower doors as it interrupts the material. And take a look at the waterfall tile that continues into the shower pan: Fireclay once again.

A green living wall was the focal point in a bedroom that was otherwise a little disjointed. Designer Jaimie Belew also transformed the closet of this room into a bright red laptop nook...with a desk and the Fiorita Chair by Giuseppe Rivadossi made from maple and a back made from actual stripped and sanded privet trees.

The third floor powder room by Stephen Stout and David Bjørngaard took its inspiration from ancient Roman baths. The rounded corners and limestone plaster walls look like they are hewn out of stone. The mirror tilts, recessed into the wall, and fades to white at the top, evoking steam from a spa. The sink below it is a stunning study in restraint. This is a remarkable space--despite the minimalism, the room conveys a rich story with subtle materials that need to be experienced in person.

Since the harried woman of the house got an office retreat, so too does the man. Another seductive and inviting dark space, designer Chris Eskra used both dark wood paneling and a striated paint effect on the walls of what he calls the "Executive Refuge." The live-edge desk is a one-of-a-kind piece of art (the burl at one end acts as a built-in shelf!). And the 1950s scroll side wingback chair with cabriole legs is by Arturo Pani, freshly recovered in a luscious grey mohair.

"The Thousand Watt Bathroom" is what Adele Salierno decided to call her space. She clad the shower in a rough hewn Cambria but the real star of the room was the vanity wall made of hundreds of...wait for it...drinking glasses embedded in a resin wall and backlit with LED light.

Here is a shot of the style of glass Salierno used...

...embedded so their bottoms face out and magnify the light within.

The teen girl's room by Kristen Peña is chic and sophisticated...just what every thirteen year old girl aspires to be as she builds her own personality and identity. Wallpaper by Juju, a Peg Woodoworking headboard, and hanging macramé rope lights by artist Wendy Chien bring layers of texture and a certain type of appealing no-frills femininity to this room.

Dina Bandman took de Gournay's hand-painted "Thousand Li" wallpaper as her starting point for a sumptuous laundry room/dog washing station (her portfolio shot shows a real dog in the basin but the day I was there, she naturally and adorably had a stuffed animal dog to convey the idea). You might notice that this is the second time de Gournay wallpaper is used at the Showcase and that is because this famed luxury brand just opened up a showroom in San Francisco! Bandman showed at last year's Showcase and did a powder room using de Gournay's fabulous Deco Monkey wallpaper, here.

The third floor's largest area is an airy lounge with balcony access. Catherine Kwong (who did a great Cy Twombly-inspired living room floor for the 2013 San Francisco Decorator Showcase seen here) was thinking of the California coast and places like Big Sur when she designed this elemental space with an adjacent bar. Unadorned windows let light flood in. Bleached wood walls, a live-edge cocktail table, a woven hemp rug, and the colors of the sky, pine trees, and the ocean, all seen through fog imbue this simple lounge with a tranquility that one could feel while sitting on a cliff at Esalen looking out over the Pacific Ocean. I love the subtle nod to surf culture with the picture of surfers over the bar...and of course she included a turntable to play old 70s "Hotel California" by The Eagles perhaps...

And here is the $18 million view from Kwong's California lounge...overlooking Alcatraz and Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, looking north toward Marin, and topped by our glorious California sky. Just lovely.

If you are or will be in or near San Francisco, please try to visit this spectacular showcase of talent and materials. It is open to the public for one more week, closing on May 29th, 2017. Hurry!

Happy designing!