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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Fabulous film interior from Sweet Bird of Youth

All pictures from Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), Warner Bros.

I was just going through my photo library and saw these screen shots that I took a while back, from the 1962 film Sweet Bird of Youth. It's classic Tennessee Williams stuff; regrets, secrets and sex, all soaked in bourbon. Much of the action takes place in this rather fabulous St. Cloud hotel suite where gigolo and wannabe actor Chance (Paul Newman) is holed up with washed-up movie star Alexandra (Geraldine Page). I was putting my house together when I saw this film and it captured a lot of what I wanted to do there, specifically using white painted furniture and objects against a backdrop of rich neutrals on the walls, as well as that slightly unspecific colonial look for the furniture. I particularly like the peacock chair - I've a bit of a thing for them - and the carving around the bed. I love the way it manages to be sumptuous and indulgent, while remaining tranquil and easy on the eye.

Friday, 17 December 2010

The good life. A New Year's resolution in magazine cover form...

US Vogue May 1946 cover by Irving Penn
Picture courtesy of Wayne Pate ( /  

I saw this image last month on the blog of New York illustrator Wayne Pate and I've not been able to get it out of my mind since. I’ve been a fan of Pate's for a while now and am fairly confident that Father Christmas has organised one of his prints for me for Christmas, assuming I can keep up this ‘good girl’ business til the 25th. Anyway, this is one of Pate’s ‘Prized Possessions’ and it’s easy to see why. It's a US Vogue cover from May 1946, by Irving Penn and, despite being well over sixty years old, it’s as timelessly beautiful and inspiring as ever. Being a yellow nut, I love the warming colour palette so much. But to me, it’s more than a slightly surreal collection of wonderful images. Viewed as a group, they perfectly balance health and indulgence, luxury and austerity. This cover speaks of finding beauty and pleasure in life's simple things - something that feels just right for the times we're living in now, when we're all having to rein it in a bit. It’s almost like a new year’s resolution in a cover. I want to get my hands on a copy and hang it on the wall. Father Christmas, please take note for 2011.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The most stylish Christmas cards of all time...?

What the best-dressed mantelpieces should be wearing this Christmas…

I love the Paperchase mother-ship on Tottenham Court Road in London. It’s absolutely massive and full of inspiration. I always go there for my Christmas cards because they have more stylish cards than any of the smaller boutiques I’ve tried. I always want to do a Mary Portas and drag my local giftshop owner into Paperchase and show her exactly where she’s going wrong with her tame little offerings… but I digress from my point and, quite possibly, from the spirit of Christmas too.

This year I found some cards that are not new, or even newly re-issued, but I was so captivated by them that I had to show and tell – even at this late stage in the Christmas countdown. They’re by textile designer Walter Erhard, who created a huge range of cards under the name of 'IMP Press' from the late 1950s through to the end of the 1960s. In 2002 Vigo (tagline: ‘design led stationery from around the world’) bought his back catalogue and have been rolling it out to great success ever since. Although it is hard to unearth much information on him, according to Vigo, Erhard won many awards and was considered to be one of the most progressive designers of the day.

I’m more or less over the whole rinky-dink, Mad Men thing but in my opinion Christmas will always be a time for Dean Martin and the clink of drinks – and these cards fit perfectly with that mood. I think that they embody everything Christmas should be about: fun, beauty, goodness, simplicity and nostalgia. Best of all, they evoke that long lost sense of wonder and over-brimming excitement of one’s earliest Christmases and you can’t really beat that.

All pictures courtesy of Vigo. 


Saturday, 11 December 2010

MY EDIT: Design Miami 2010... standout pieces and trends

It started out five years ago as a one-off satellite of Art Basel Miami Beach (perhaps now the most important art fair in the US) but Design Miami has now become a global forum for the very best in limited edition design - the kind of pieces that sit firmly in the middle of the 'Design / Art' Venn diagram. And if a winning lottery ticket were ever to land in my lap, I’d be spending quite a bit of it here... 

Barring a few comments, I think I’ll try and let the pictures speak for themselves as much as possible, except to say that I have inevitably chosen examples of many of my current obsessions: materials left in a recognisably raw state,  woven pieces, crystalline forms, yellow, neutral palettes and the modern primitive idea

Pile of Suitcases by Maarten de Ceulaer, Nilufar (
Picture courtesy of Nilufar

Handmade using different types and colours of leather, I've seen quite a few similar pieces by de Ceulaer but love the colour palette and composition of this particular one.

Once Upon a Dream by Mathieu Lehanneur for Veuve Clicquot
Picture courtesy of Veuve Clicquot

Created by Mathieu Lehanneur, Once Upon A Dream references the research of noted professor René Quinton, and findings of sleep specialist Alain Nicolas, ‘to create a space that evokes resynchronization through touch, sight, smell and sound’.

Fragile Future concrete chandelier by Lonneke Gordijn & Ralph Nauta, Carpenters Workshop Gallery ( courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery
Incorporating bronze and dandelion seeds (my flower of 2010), could anything be more exquisite? Top of my Design Miami wishlist...

Stag Stool by Rick Owens, Jousse Enterprise (
Picture courtesy of Jousse Enterprise

Two Legged Console by Max Lamb by Johnson Trading Gallery (
Picture courtesy of Johnson Trading Gallery

Solid Wood Chests By Jose Zanine Caldas at R 20th Century  (
Picture courtesy of R 20th Century
'A self-taught artist, designer and architect and life-long proponent of forest protection, Zanine (1918-2001) attempted to plant a new tree every time a tree was taken down for one of his projects. His essays about Brazil's relationship to its forests draw upon architectural history since the Roman Empire, philosophy and folktales to present his passionate views on the power of solid wood as a material.' (from R 20th Century)

Bush of Iron desk and chair by Nacho Carbonell at Galleria Rossana Orlandi (
Picture courtesy of Galleria Rossana Orlandi

Honeycomb Vase by Tomas Libertiny, Carpenters Workshop Gallery (
Picture courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery 

The Modern Primitives booth by Fendi & Aranda/Lasch ( 
Picture courtesy of Fendi 

Modern Primitives seating by Fendi & Aranda/Lasch ( 
Picture courtesy of Fendi  
Ben Aranda and Chris Lasch of the New York architecture firm Aranda\Lasch used their Fendi-sponsored booth as a testing ground for sculptural seating inspired by crystalline formations.

Loukoum lights by Christophe Côme, Cristina Grajales (
Picture courtesy of  Cristina Grajales 

Pyramid Table, Beta Tank (, winners of W Hotels Designers of the Future Award
Picture courtesy of  Beta Tank

Teak and fabric sofa and easy chair (1950) by Finn Juhl, Dansk Møbelkunst 
Picture courtesy of Brahl Fotografi 

Yellow Unit by Donald Judd, Sebastian + Barquet (
Picture courtesy of Sebastian + Barquet

Lemon chairs (1957) by  Janine Abraham / Dirk Jan Rol, Demisch Danant   ( 

Picture courtesy of Demisch Danant 

Another personal favourite that I could make houseroom for at anytime. 

Reef Bench by  Atelier Remy & Veenhuizen, Industry Gallery ( courtesy of Industry Gallery 
Although the Industry Gallery in Washington DC show some amazing work, this is perhaps the only piece in this blog that doesn't appeal to me on a personal level, but still there was something so interesting about the form and material that I had to include it. 

Holscher Chair (1952) by Poul Kjaerholm, at R 20th Century  (
Picture courtesy of R 20th Century
My rope and string obsession has been going strong for about five years now.

Ceres by Lindsay Adelman, Matter (
Picture courtesy of Lindsey Adelman Studio  

Table (1954-55) By Jean  Royère at Galerie Patrick Seguin (
Picture courtesy of Galerie Patrick Seguin
The combination of straw marquetry and brass really appeals to me.

Material mock-up for the Design Miami Tent in the Moorhead & Moorhead Studio (
Picture courtesy of Design Miami
Just a nice picture of materials, textures and forms. 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Li Edelkoort's Post Fossil Exhibition: Breaking with the past. Is this the first major design movement of the 21st century?


When top trends forecaster Li Edelkoort curates a design exhibition, you know it’s time to sit up and pay attention. She’s named the show Post Fossil after the post-fossil fuel age we must inevitably face and she describes it as ‘a break with the last century’ and ‘a new idiom of design’. 

Peter Marigold, Split Box Shelves, 2007
Chance and performance play their parts in this site-specific piece where logs are randomly split into four parts and turned into boxes whose angles always add up to 360 degrees, regardless of their irregular shapes. 
Opening at Ron Arad’s stunning new Design Museum Holon on January 27th 2011, it is not to be confused with the Switzerland-based collective, (as seen in Milan’s 2010 Salone Satellite) who are unrelated to Edelkoort’s exhibition but espouse many of the same ideas. This Post Fossil is an expanded version of the show curated by Edelkoort in Spring 2010 for Tokyo’s 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, conceived at the request of Edelkoort’s friend, fashion designer Issey Miyake, who wanted an antidote to the sleek, minimal design styles so prevalent in Japan (and the wider world) today.

The Fred and Wilma of Post Fossil BCXSY (Boaz Cohen and Sayaka Yamamoto) 

Having attended the London press conference on Thursday, my first impressions of the works on show, by over sixty designers, were of anarchy, chaos and dare I say it… a certain brutal ugliness. Hopefully quite natural reactions as this budding aesthetic is such a break with the styles of recent times, after a couple of decades spent endlessly looking backwards with the whole retro obsession and innumerable witty re-workings on objects of the past, such as Starck’s Louis Ghost chair. These pieces are harking back, in an indirect fashion, but to a time almost before history (a huge subject for me and one which I’ll no doubt be talking about many times in this blog). So here we have the primitive, handcrafted and earthbound, as opposed to glamorous, glossy and space age. Rustic materials and ancient techniques are put to entirely different and novel uses and various designers explore the links between objects made entirely by one individual and the world of mass manufacturing.

Atelier NL Lonny van Ryswyck, Drawn from Clay Tableware, 2006
van Ryswyck achieves her colour variations by using clay from different parts of the Netherlands, to explore notions of origin and identity. 
One word used a lot by Edelkoort in her talk was ‘humble’ and, for me, it was crucial. This is a brash age of colossal yet fragile egos (think of the hip hop stars worshipped by millions) and the ‘because I’m worth it’ sense of entitlement pushed by advertisers to a mushrooming global middle-class. I think we could all use a little humility – it’s an attractive and underrated quality and this show has it in spades. 

Marijn van der Poll, Do hit Chair, 1999, Photo by Droog
This chair is hammered into shape from its original cube form. The catalogue describes this an a metaphor for breaking with the past in order to break into a new period.

And while many of the pieces in this show have been around for a few years now, the ever heightening global crisis (surely no need to go over the myriad issues again here), means that the time feels right for this movement to step from obscurity towards the mainstream as we are obliged to sever our ties with the past and look towards what must necessarily be a radically different future. Interestingly, online design magazine, Dezeen compared the Tokyo show to the Arte Povera movement of 1960s Italy, which attacked the values of the established institutions of government, industry and culture. All of which, God knows, need a shake up today. These pieces may not be easy on the eye at first but they are, for the most part, engaging and compelling and feel very right for the times we live in and face ahead. I am learning to love them. 

Shir Atar, Elevation, Pile & Stump, 2009-10, Photo by Michael Fisch

And if you’re thinking, ‘yes, all very valid, but will it work in my lounge?’ and struggling to imagine the real home in which this movement could play a part, Edelkoort sees it mixing in with pieces that have an industrial feel. I myself would also throw in a lot of rough-hewn wood, coarse yarned textiles and some ultra-simple traditional African or Indian furniture. And in such a setting, I imagine these pieces could be very successful. In fact, all things considered, I think that Post Fossil could be the nugget of the world’s next big design movement, heading steadily towards its tipping point.

Pieke Bergmans, Crystal Virus, 2005-8
Bergmans is interested in the blurred dimension at which art and design meet.

From the Post Fossil catalogue:
"Time has come for extreme change.
Society is ready to break away from last century for good.
To break with creative conventions,
theoretic rules and stigmas that now are questioned,
challenged and broken.
To break with a materialistic mentality replacing
it with the crafted materialisation of modest
earth-bound and recomposed matter.
In the aftermath of the worst financial crisis
in decades, a period of glamorous and streamlined
design for design's sake comes to an end.
A new generation of designers retrace their roots,
refine their earth and research their history,
sometimes going back to the beginning of time.
In this process, they form and formulate design around
natural and sustainable materials, favoring timber,
hide, pulp, fibre, earth and fire.
Like contemporary cavemen, they reinvent shelter,
redesign tools and manmade machines, and
conceptualize archaic rituals for a more modest,
content and contained lifestyle.
Like a Fred Flintstone of the future."

Lidewij Edelkoort, Exhibition Director

LINK: Design Museum Holon
LINK: Li Edelkoort

Guus van Leeuwen, Domestic Animals Radiator, 2008, Photo by Renee van der Hulst
Designed to remind consumers of a time when people lived above their livestock to profit from their heat.