Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bliss, it's out there

A circa 1970 shot of the impeccable Pauline Trigère, whose seven decades-long career in fashion kept her busy until the age of 93, when she passed away in 2002. The photograph, it should be added, was taken by Arthur Leipzig (b. 1918), whose been working since the 1940s.

"Find a job you like and you add five days to every week."
-H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Behind the Glass Walls

Philip Johnson, Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut, 2000
Annie Leibovitz, from A Photographer's Life (Random House, 2006)

On April 30, 2007, the National Trust for Historic Preservation's newest historic site, the Philip Johnson Glass House, will open to the public for preview tours. The house, its surrounding buildings, and 47-acre grounds embody architect Johnson’s modernist experimentation with forms and materials.

Paul Warchol, 2006

Limited-capacity tours will continue until mid-June, when the house will begin full operations following a grand opening ribbon-cutting on June 21, 2007. A gala picnic—featuring the Merce Cunningham Dance Company restaging their 1967 performance—will take place two days later, on June 23, 2007. The event will celebrate the house’s storied past as it inaugurates its new phase as a premier destination to be immersed in modernism.

Paul Warchol, 2006

In the 'Antique Manner'

Fredrik Mattson, The Black Chair, 2007
Manufactured by Blå Station in Åhus, Sweden

From the tomb of Tutankaman, to the most fashionable early-19th century homes, to the 1950s designs of T.H. Robsjohn Gibbings... no chair has been more widely reproduced than the klismos. Mattson's designs, available in a variety of colors, reaffirm Sweden's long association with Neoclassicism but give the klismos form a decidedly modern profile.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A New Flight of Spanish Steps

The west façade of the Prado museum in Madrid.

As if Spain's embracing of heavier runway models wasn't reason enough to celebrate the country, they can now also be cheered for making a significant step toward helping the global environment, thanks largely to greener-construction requirements established by the Ministry of Culture in 2005.

This month the Rainforest Alliance announced that the extension of the Prado, Spain's largest art museum, will be the first major Spanish building project to purchase the bulk of its lumber from sustainable sources. The Alliance confirmed that more than half of the wood used throughout the project was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests.

Planks of sustainable cedar await their role in the new building.

The Prado's extension, which incorporates exhibition spaces, conservation studios, an assembly hall, conference room and administrative offices, was built by UTE El Prado, a temporary union of Dragados S.A. and Constructora San Jose S.A., two local building firms now recognized for leading the green-woods movement in Spain. FSC-approved timber used in the project includes oak flooring, birch plywood and yellow pine wall paneling and ceilings, and beech door frames.

David Hadley, SmartWood Regional Coordinator for the Rainforest Alliance, said, "This sends a strong signal to all major building projects in Spain, and Europe, that sourcing certified sustainable timber is not just possible, but should be a basic requirement. We urge all Spanish public administrations, from national to municipal level, to introduce sustainable timber procurement policies to ensure all future public building projects require certified, sustainable timber and build on the great achievements of UTE El Prado."

For more information, please visit:
Rainforest Alliance:
Forest Stewardship Council:
Prado museum:

Monday, April 23, 2007

Go Canada!

Last month, the Canadian federal government approved $5 million in seed money (to be given over the next two years) to officially establish a National Trust. Rather alarming that they didn't already have one, but we'll focus on the positive.

The newly formed trust will be based on Britain's model, and protect heritage lands, buildings and national treasures. It is the most significant arts initiative to take place in decades, and the trust is expected to work closely with the Heritage Canada Foundation, the country's main preservation charity, established in 1973. In the words of its founder, the Honourable Jean Chrétien, "Maturity may be recognized in a nation when its people take thought for their past: take thought... in the dynamic sense of knowing the past as a key to understanding the present and future."

The Canadian National Trust will need to rely heavily upon donations and contributions, but its establishment alone is already a major victory. With its national holiday, Canada Day, fast approaching on July 1st, Canadians should rightly feel a surge of national pride. And open their chequebooks, accordingly.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Clean and Bright

This Spring, the New York-based accessories firm Decorative Things added a new pattern to its range of laminated fabric items: an Andy Warhol 'faces' print. Available in black and white or multi-colored, the design injects a hefty dose of Pop to the most average of household necessities. For a company whose slogan is "We turn ordinary things into decorative things" there really couldn't be a more appropriate match than Warhol, celebrator of the mundane.

The 'faces' straight-edge trash can, $62

The 'faces' dustpan, $22

A Good Aye

Gallery owner Andrew Duncanson, in his Östermalm, Stockholm shop.

Modernity, one of Stockholm's leading shops for 20th century design, is the culmination of nearly 10 year's hard word by Scotsman Andrew Duncanson. The shop has grown dramatically since its inception in 1998 and several years ago moved from its initial location in the Old Town, to a larger space in the heart of the city's design district, Östermalm. Duncanson, who moved to Stockholm without speaking a word of the language but determined to woo a Swedish girl he'd fallen for, has become a primary source for collectors and curators worldwide.

Charlottenborg lamp, designed by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen, Denmark. 1958.
D: 65 cm/ 25 ½''
Price: 8 500 SEK (about $1200)

Vase, designed by Estrid Ericsson for Svenskt Tenn, Sweden. 1930.
Pewter with brass inlay.
H: 22 cm/ 9''
Price: 9 500 SEK (about $1400)

Earrings, designed by Nanna Ditzel for Georg Jensen, Denmark. 1950's.
18 carat gold.
Price: 5 000 SEK (about $725)

Modernity specializes in Scandinavian furniture, ceramics, glass, lighting and jewellery, primarily of the post-war era, and often features the work of such legendary artist-designers as Arne Jacobsen, Alvar Aalto, Berndt Friberg and Hans Wegner. It's a fantastic (read, trustworthy) source for iconic designs. However, though Duncanson works closely with professionals in the field and retails museum-quality pieces, he also makes an effort to encourage new collectors and offers a large selection of interesting and beautiful pieces by lesser known, and sometimes anonymous, artists. The lower-price tier is as carefully curated as the high-end collection.

Set of four "Strip" chairs, designed by Giijs Baaker for Casteljin, Holland. 1970's.
Ash plywood.
Price: 14 500 SEK (about $2100)

Vase, designed by Gertrud Lönegren for Rörstrand, Sweden. 1940's.
H: 26 cm/ 10''
Price: 7 500 SEK (about $1,000)

Modernity has long been a member of the Swedish Art & Antiques Association and CINOA, making it a safe and ideal source for online shopping. Prices are fair, and shipping's made simple. The award-winning website is updated frequently with Duncanson's ever-evolving and carefully-chosen collection.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

April Showers

Already a leader in world of passementerie, London-based accessories firm, Spina, recently introduced a line of lighting fixtures. The Raindrops and Roses chandelier, or 'lighting sculpture' as it is called, takes the concept of decorative trim to new heights, literally. Handcrafted, as are all Spina designs, the chandelier features Wedgwood porcelain roses suspended on acrylic filaments embellished with clusters of crystal beads. The frivolous, tassel-like drops may not chase away the gray skies, but they're guaranteed to brighten the mood.

Colour: Pink, White, Black
Size: Standard 28cm diameter by 55 cm drop
Delivery: 6-10 weeks subject to the availability of our materials
Price: £3250.00 GBP

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Sparks and Bubbles

Finnish designer Katriina Lankinen's Timalasi, or hourglass, champagne flute is the recent recipient of the Finnish Glass Museum's 'best flute' contest.

Lankinen graduated from the University of Art and Design Helsinki in 2004, with a focus on furniture and interior design, but a segue into glass should come as no surprise. "I am a designer, no matter what the material," she says, and in fact the flute design started out as a lamp.

Well into the prototype lighting fixture's design in plastic, Lankinen began wondering how the design would work in glass. Slowly the drawings of the pinched form morphed into an elongated-hourglass shape and the glass flute was born. The vessel sat well in the hand and its subtle reference to the passage of time imbued the design with a romantic sentimentality.

The Tiimalasi-shamppanjalasi, as it is known in Finnish, features a clear conical bowl with a solid foot encasing a flash of colored glass, and is available through the Design Forum Shop (where Lankinen was the March Designer of the Month), for 67.00€.

Design Forum Shop
Erottajankatu 7, 00130 Helsinki

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Rare Bit of Welsh Design

This April, Sotheby's London will hold its annual Oak and Country sale, a collection of early furnishings, primarily of oak, from rural areas across Britain and the Continent. One particularly lovely (and rather uncommon) item is lot 182, a mid-18th century cwpwrdd tridarn from Wales, estimated at £2,000-3,000:

The cwpwrdd tridarn, Welsh for three-tiered cupboard, is a traditional form from the principality, though not as common as its more narrow cousin, the Welsh dresser. A typical example of which, from Cil-y-cwm and circa 1780, is shown below.

Cwpwrdd tridarn are primarily from Northern Wales and first appeared during the late-17th century. They were country pieces, made of local woods by local craftsmen, and would have been the centerpiece of a home's main room, storing the family dishes and other special pieces. An early photograph of a sea captain's home on the island of Anglesey, off the northwest coast of Wales, clearly shows that the cabinets were used as much for proud display as they were for storage.

The typical cwpwrdd tridarn consists of three sections: an open top tier, usually with turned supports at the front, terminating with ball-form finials, a small central section with paneled doors, and a lower cabinet with several drawers and paneled doors concealing shelves, all resting on bracket feet. Hardware is usually brass and of simple form. Most cupboards, like this example at Sotheby's, are quite plain and allow the squared paneling and turnings to stand as the primary decoration. But several examples have also been found with lavish, period ornamentation, such as the one below from the museum at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Its elaborate, Renaissance-style tour de force carvings and large mouldings are clearly the work of a highly-skilled carpenter and a wealthy - and well travelled - patron.

Another elaborately-decorated example, seen below, is in the collection at the Museum of Welsh Life in Cardiff. The cupboard, originally from Fach Wen, Caernarfonshire, is inlaid with holly and bog oak and inscribed with the intials 'RG' and 'M' and the date 1695. The Celtic interlacing on the flanking doors further intimates that the piece was probably created for, or given on, the occasion of a marriage.

Because the design of the cwpwrdd tridarn draws heavily on earlier Elizabethan court cupboards, like the one below, some of the plainer ones have been "embellished" over the years with additional carvings and too-early dates, but this is probably less to do with forgery, than it is to do with the innocent inaccuracies of family lore.

A circa 1685, oak court cupboard sold by Day Antiques of Tetbury, Gloucestershire, illustrates the detailed carvings that typify early English examples.

Still, when it comes to buying a cwpwrdd tirdarn, simplest is probably surest and the Sotheby's example is a fine one, blissfully plain and deeply evocative of Welsh country life during the 18th century.

The Oak and Country Sale
Wednesday, 25 Apr 07, 10:30 AM
Olympia, London