New York City is a never-ending source of design marvel, and yesterday I wandered into a small showroom in the Flatiron where I had one of those “aha” moments that even this (slightly) jaded city dweller loves. Mondo Collections on 22nd street off 5th avenue has an interesting collection of furniture and lighting in an airy loft 15 floors above the pavement. Just inside the brushed steel doors, bathed in generous sunlight, I found a truly inspired piece of art masquerading as a wing chair. Continue reading
Jonathan Browning is the designer and master craftsman of the eponymous Jonathan Browning Studios in San Francisco. His work is intellectually backed with extensive knowedge about the history of design, and he shares that knowledge through visual references in each of his pieces. As a metal worker, he’s been on a decades long journey honing his technical skills. Every piece in his collection of light fixtures is sublime in the understated way only a real master of his craft can achieve. Continue reading
It’s hard to imagine a successful interior that doesn’t include a great table lamp, but then again who could have foreseen the end of the incandescent light bulb? But as the winds of change blow through lighting design, one thing remains constant… if you want to get the right lampshade you need to take the base to your shade vendor. I’ve tried many times to “eye-ball” my way though it, with consistently poor results. Continue reading
John Lyle Design, MARC CONSOLE SHAGREEN WITH BONE TRIM 29.5H X 39.5W X 20D
Back in the spring of 1979 as a freshman in Art School in rural Pennsylvania, I took a course in 3D design with a woman named Rosemarie Sloat. She was a painter at heart, but had a deep and disciplined understanding of form. Ms. Sloat taught me that all 3 dimensional objects were made of 5 basic shapes – sphere, cone, pyramid, cube and cylinder – either alone or as the intersecting elements of a larger mass. Successful 3D design she further professed concerned itself with the mastery of balance, proportion and rhythm between these forms. It was an amazing class. I learned the underpinning of my design philosophy. As an art student today, one would hope to have someone who could teach the same ideas, from a place of equal understanding, someone like John Lyle. Continue reading
Japan is a nation that has for many centuries cultivated traditions based on wood that occupy an important position in daily life. I have long been fascinated with the Japanese interpretation of western furniture. While walking in Soho recently, I came across CITE, an assemblage of modern design furnishings that includes pieces from Maruni Wood Industries. Originally established by Takeo Yamanaka in 1928, Maruni has morphed over the decades to include the work of celebrated architects and designers; Jasper Morrison, Michele De Lucchi and Naoto Fukasawa among others. CITE has an edited version of Maruni’s pieces for sale, but with some careful research I was able to find most of their collection through other showrooms. Continue reading
Boucle is first a novelty yarn, produced by spinning two threads of different tensions together. While keeping one thread taught, and allowing the second to remain loose, loops of slight variation form along the strand. Boucle as a fabric is made by weaving a common uniform warp thread with the filler weft being the boucle yarn. Solid colored boucles have monochromatic warp and weft, while multi-colored boucles incorporated several different colored weft threads. It’s almost impossible to talk about boucle with any authority and not mention Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Continue reading
Chandeliers can be traced backed to medieval times (1066-1485) where they would be found in churches, monasteries, and other gathering halls. These earliest chandeliers simply consisted of 2 hand carved wooden beams connected in the shape of a cross, perhaps in deference to Christianity. The beams would have a spike on each end upon which candles would be secured. Once lit, the whole assembly was hoisted from it’s center lashing to the desired height by a rope suspended from a hook in the ceiling. This “fixture” provided greater light than the usual candle-lit wall scones which illuminated just a small, specific area of a room. The internet abounds with examples through a long history of geographically specific chandeliers; iron armed milk painted Gustavian chandeliers from Sweden, elaborate multifaceted crystal chandeliers from France or Russia, or hand forged and polished brass chandeliers with flint glass shades from American just to name a few. Candles were the source of illumination until approximately 1840, when many chandeliers were converted to gas and the hybrid “gasolier” was born. In 1890 Nikola Tesla invented the AC generator, and modern electricity was born, paving the way for the chandeliers current incarnation around 1910.
Having dispensed with a little history, lets talk about one of my favorite chandeliers on the market today. While Holly Hunt represents several lighting designers, I vote for the “Paris Round” chandelier from the eponymous Holly Hunt Studio collection. Eight squarely extruded arms radiate from a simple central sphere and are capped by small urn shaped candelabra bulb holders set within an uber-clean wagon wheel. Quite simply, it’s a study of circles and squares in juxtaposition, and it’s masterfully done. The entire hardware armature (visible only from below) is surrounded by a rice paper shade with evenly spaced exposed metal struts for stability. Typically, I dislike an exposed bulb, so I opt out of the chandelier category; but here it’s the best of both worlds. Ambient, soft overhead lighting that highlights beautiful metal work, and bulbs hidden by a diffusing shade… perfect. It’s available in polished nickel or antique bronze, with a variety of drop lengths. Holly Hunt is a “to the trade” only resource, but the sales staff at any given showroom can connect you to a designer/architect familiar with HH’s signature style. In New York, the Design and Decoration building at 58th street and 3rd avenue has it’s own designer referral service which is also very helpful.
Holly Hunt 979 3rd Avenue New York 10021
Crewel (the earliest examples of which are 1000 years old), refers to a basic broadcloth textile embroidered either by hand or by machine with a yarn to produce a pattern in relief. Thought to originate in the Mesopotamian crescent, crewel made it’s way into fashion among the privileged in England and France by the 17th century and was brought to the United States by settlers. Today, most crewels are produced CAD looms in India or China. Wool was the earliest fiber used to make the embroidery thread; while cotton, silk and rayon are also employed in modern versions. From my point of view, some of the anglophile examples with floral motifs are a bit stuffy. That said, there are many designs with flowers, animals and incidentals that are fresh and exciting.
Exactly 10 years ago this month, P. Kaufman announced the purchase of Clarence House. Many in the interior design industry expected a routing of the brand by the considerably “lower brow” parent company. Quite to the contrary, a decade later, Clarence House remain a destination for the discerning decorator. My favorite crewel in their collection is “Polly” #34434, a vividly colored aviary of primitively rendered birds on a background trellis of branches. The design is witty, fresh, and exuberant. Use it as an accent, or draw the theme for a room from it; this fabric reminds me not to take myself too seriously… something I need to be reminded of.
To the trade