Last Thursday as co-founder of Florida Modernism + Design I sat down with architect Max Strang to talk about Modernist influences in his career, his ideas resonated on a larger scale.
A couple of years ago I learned that the George Nakashima complex, which includes his studio and home in New Hope, Pennsylvania was actually not that far from New York City. I travel to New York City all the time but the idea of renting a car and making the drive seemed to require a bit of planning. This required planning kept the item on my bucket list.
Let me share with you, just a few of the items on my design travel bucket list:
- Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright in Pittsburg
- Ville Savoye by Le Corbusier in France
- Villa E-1027 Cap Moderne in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
- The Glass House by Mies Van Der Rohe in New Canaan, Connecticut
- Miller House and Garden by Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard and Dan Kiley in Columbus, Indiana
- Georgia O'Keefe's home and studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico
I can't believe I had not made this trip sooner. The drive is beautiful, crossing bridges and arriving in the quaint town of New Hope was literally a breath of fresh air, far from the busy city we left behind. Immediately there's a sense of connection with nature and peacefulness upon arrival to the Nakashima studio. George Nakashima was a Japanese American Modernist furniture maker and his approach to design was heavily tied to nature.
The modernist Scandinavian design of the mid-century was very tied to nature in its use of woods and soft organic curves. However, Nakashima's work, as opposed to that of Finn Juhl or Alvar Aalto was much more in tune with the natural shape of the tree. The spirit of the tree, Nakashima believed, is to be enhanced by the woodworker. His mission was to tell the tree's story and give it a second life through furniture. Each piece of wood was carefully selected by Nakashima and its organic shape left predominantly untouched.
The Nakashima complex did not disappoint in this experience with nature and the conversation it withholds with the furniture on display. To my surprise, the studio space felt smaller than it appears in photographs. The light that enters is pristine. I noticed wooden dowels in the floorboards and the ceiling which immediately appears to be an asbestos popcorn ceiling, I learned later was replaced by a nontoxic material several decades ago. Both Kevin and Mira, George's children, were found on site during my visit. It was lovely to hear Kevin talk about Shikoku, the island in Japan where the Nakashima furniture is built, an island where both George Nakashima and Isamu Noguchi lived for some time during their lives (another location to add to the bucket list).
Many of George Nakashima's pieces are still in production, a few of his rug designs are available as well. Mira also designs furniture and produces custom pieces. Authentication and restoration are services provided at the Nakashima complex. Over the years many pieces in the style of George Nakashima have come up on the market, claiming to be originals. At the Nakashima studio, they call these pieces Nakashimoffs lol.
Photography was not permitted inside the studio but I've included some images here from the world wide web. A photograph will never provide the complete experiential knowledge of what the studio space or location feels like, a visit is highly recommended for any architecture and design lover. These intimate quarters are inspirational, they transport you to Japan.
Besides the studio, another structure on the complex is the residential quarters. The residential quarter is a small apartment with a kitchen tucked away behind sliding doors, a meditation room carpeted with tatami mats and a custom tiled bathroom which included the names of George Nakashima's children and grandchildren within the design. The apartment is completely furnished with Nakashima furniture.
To learn more about visiting the George Nakashima Studio visit the website here or read more about Nakashima and his work by clicking on these links used for this article:
A side project I work on Florida Modernism + Design, how it began and the latest post on the blog on the Lido Beach Casino in Sarasota.
I arrived by the end of Stockholm Design Week to catch the last day of "A Quiet Reflection" a curated exhibition hosted by My Residence bookazine which also coincided with the launch of My Residence bookazine Issue 2.
The exhibition, located in the former Mexican Embassy in Östermalm featured an interior design by Annaleena Leino, a Swedish interior stylist and designer, in collaboration with Japanese furniture manufacturer Ariake. Other carefully selected design items on display included furniture by Norm Architects, Westberg Lighting, Staffan Holm Studio furniture, accessories by Frama/ Dry Studios and design objects by Jenny Nordberg.
I caught the exhibition at night which made the space cozy and seductive with its dim lighting. A quiet reflection it was as I walked through the unfinished architectural space. The walls were untreated and floorboards unfinished. The design pieces worked well in the rustic space, the majority were made of natural materials dark or lightly stained woods, ceramics in neutral colors, cement pedestals and black steel.
See more images (daytime images) for the event on the Residence Magazine website here
A feature from Dezeen.com can be found here
There are lots of real estate investors buying up properties in Miami, renovating them and flipping them for a pretty penny. For a buyer, having to remodel a home might be cumbersome but there are a few issues with the renovation jobs you typically come across in Miami.
A. Renovations are typically done in the cheapest possible way, cheap tiles, cheap cabinets, mostly Ikea that won't last more than a few years, or that fake wooden flooring that echoes under your shoes, which is just horrible and not long lasting.
B. These real estate investors don't usually have the historic appreciation nor the aesthetic sensibility to know what to preserve nor know how to enhance the architectural details that actually make the house charming and unique in the first place.
Last weekend I did a house tour with my friend and realtor Estefania Grigio from The Good Egg to the historic home above, located in the neighborhood of Coconut Grove in Miami. It was a rare find. From her list of homes built in the 40s and 50s this one actually had most of its original features such as bathrooms, flooring, and archways. I pointed out a few minor decorating tips that even though cosmetic, would really enhance the original features of the home. As a homeowner and my mission with The Empty Apartment is to share ways in which a home can be personalized through collected items and story telling. Architecture plays a large role in the way we perceive and live in space so it would only make sense that we personalize the architecture or better yet choose a space that we can really make our own. A kitchen or bathrooms that are already remodeled like so many others, out of cheap materials doesn't seem appealing to me. A much less expensive home waiting to receive a personal touch could be a rewarding project for a place to truly call home.
We begin moving out of our parent's home, perhaps. A search for a new abode, a place to call home. Sometimes with roommates, in a different city, with a budget in mind. What we are to find, we have no idea. Best to keep expectations at a low, the energy of adventure is high. The experience of moving might be stressful for some, exciting for others. We all want to feel that sense of security and comfort in a home. The possibilities of how this happens might be endless. Finding a new home whether purchasing or renting becomes a new chapter in our life.
The Empty Apartment is always going back to this initial experience of walking through an empty space and listening to the architecture that is already speaking a monologue. The monologue is the history of the location, the purpose of the building, the architectural details that perhaps have been hidden, removed or destroyed over time. How do we turn these monologues into conversations when we move into the space and make it our home?
The conversation gets rich when we bring in our Grandmother's lounge chair, that dining table gifted from our neighbor who was moving out that fits everyone who comes over, and that wallpaper we fell in love with on a whim but had to go back to the store to buy more as we clearly didn't know how to calculate wallpaper in the first place. The experience of building a home begins with Architecture. Space will dictate the movement and flow of habitual interaction. It is our process to collect the items that will speak about our journey and how we interact with space. The home is only made once we have left our imprint on it.
"Architecture is exposed to life. If its body is sensitive enough, it can assume a quality that bears witness to past life" - architect Peter Zumthor.
If I was a magazine I'd have to be a double issue right now. The months of May & June were just one giant international design fest on my calendar. From NYCxDesign which caught me visiting the city a few times to catch some of the spread out events of TEFAF, ICFF & Sight Unseen Offsite to 3 Days of Design in Copenhagen and I tied in that trip with picking up some inventory in Helsinki.
Working and traveling is my specialty so let's also tie in the couple amazing interior decorating/ editing projects I'm currently working on. The search for the perfect collection of items is really what I live for so it makes sense to always be on the lookout for ideal pieces for my clients.
So where do I start? I could possibly write a whole volume if I focused on every amazing new designer, furniture launch or exhibition I saw. If you really want to see all the vintage finds and new discoveries I make follow along on Instagram @the_empty_apartment or on Facebook to get more design news and information on young designers and projects happening. Here, I'll mention a few design launches that personally moved me for reasons being that the end goal of design should be to improve or inspire us to be happier, live better and cherish more our personal space. So here we go:
I'm going to mention again the collection by Studio Snng only because I found the design quite impactful and the designer, Shengning Zhang, was so eloquent in explaining the inspirations behind his creation. Getting designers to talk about the thought process behind creating a piece and the inspirations seem hard to come by these days. Most designers are creating with cost effectiveness and manufacturing processes in mind before actual functionality or purpose. The Boro wall display is a modular system that can easily grow by adding on additional pieces. The same unit piece can be a hanging rack or flipped over to be a shelf. The Wedge Shelf is also modular and can be added on horizontally or vertically. It does not require screws or additional hardware, the piece is held together by wooden pieces that lock into place like a puzzle. The Miro table has a center compartment hidden under a simple wooden slab that serves for storage. Check out www.studiosnng.com for more collection pieces and projects.
TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) is a game changer for the landscape of design fairs in NYC. The quality of the exhibitors and condition of vintage pieces is unparallel. The fair which establishes itself as a bi-annual show in the city of New York is originally from Maastricht, Netherlands and has been running since 1988. The Spring edition of the fair in NYC focuses on artifacts from the 1920s to the present and featured many galleries that would have otherwise participated at Collective Design, another collectible design fair exhibiting later the same month. TEFAF also turned out to be somewhat of a competition for Frieze Art Fair. Even though contemporary art and design are complementary markets it seems the terrible rains in NYC in May made for fewer people to visit Frieze on Randall Island and the Park Armory became attractive entertainment for a rainy day, not to mention Frieze closing a whole day due to the rains- but that's event gossip. Even if you are not on the acquisitions committee for a museum, TEFAF is worth the visit for sheer admiration. These dealers are leaders in their field and visiting them is an opportunity to gain some historical design knowledge. Learn more about TEFAF here
The 1.41 Flax Chair comes as a collaboration between designer Christien Meindertsma & Enkev for Label/Breed. Meindertsma graduated from Design Academy in Eindhoven in 2003, she has been studying the production life of flax as a material from which linseed oil, linen, and rope have their origins. Enkev is the leading processor of natural fibers since 1982 in The Netherlands. Together they have created a heat-pressed chair that combines the natural fibers of wool and flax with strong bio-plastic fibers. The material is quite unique, aesthetically it's simple, and beautiful in its honesty. This chair won the Dutch Design Award in 2016 and has been purchased by the Vitra Design Museum. It is not yet available on the market but we can only hope these will be the next mass produced chair for its little environmental impact. Per-ordering is available here
Lindsey Adelman's studio space was exciting to see on the list of exhibitions to visit during NYCxDesign. The exhibition was not only light fixtures by Adelman but also fixtures by Adelman's studio design director Karl Zhan and Australian designer Mary Wallis. On the floor a landscape of cushions by the textile company Print All Over Me. Lindsey Adelman was one of the many female designers whose work were featured during NYCxDesign. Group exhibitions of all women designers were rightfully recognized by the press. I'm highlighting Lindsey Adelman here because I believe she has come the farthest in terms of market recognition and yet her work is still not mass produced or enjoyed in a larger public scale. Perhaps this is not what Adelman wants for her work, I am unaware of her intentions but I think it would be interesting to see more design that was designed by women in public and commercial spaces as part of our every day in the U.S.. The example that comes to mind is when you arrive at the Copenhagen train station and the chairs used at McDonald's are the Trinidad chair by Nanna Ditzel designed in 1993. I believe this is when you know equality runs deep. Of course, it needs to make sense design wise, but one can only hope this is where we are headed. On that note...
I recently read the book Now I Sit Me Down, from Klismos to Plastic Chair: A Natural History by Witold Rybczynski. The book was a very entertaining history of the chair and highlighted the chair as the design piece that truly reflects not only aesthetic taste in a society but also socioeconomic status, and cultural beliefs. A number of anthropological studies can be made through a single chair. The exhibition The Danish Chair, an International Affair reminded me very much of this book in format. The exhibition focuses not solely on what Danish design is but how Danish designers applied their perspectives on designs of historical chairs such as the Windsor chairs, the folding chair and stool, the Shaker chair, and many others. The collection in the exhibition of interpretations by classic Danish designers is a beautiful account of the focus on materiality and quality in production. It's not about reinventing the wheel but making it better and even striving for perfection.
Of all the design talks I went to during 3 Days of Design in Copenhagen I found the Frama Studio Apartment talk with founder Niels Strøyer Christophersen to be the most organic and sincere. Not speaking about industrial production restraints or manufacturer/designer relationships like other Danish brands, Niels Strøyer Christophersen focused on the experience of finding a space and experimenting with materials and the history of the building during the remodeling process of the apartment. He retrofitted the building to his needs and created products that were not available on the market that satisfied with purpose and aesthetic. While he admits he is not a designer his aesthetic vision and focus has launched a brand that revolves around a concept and lifestyle. There is a deep respect for historic architecture and Danish design history in the Frama brand and I find this very refreshing. So many of the products on the market are void of ideas or essence and too manufactured lacking craftmanship. It's important for a younger generation to be looking back in history in order to find and exalt ideas in new products. For more on Frama click here
Another inspiring living space was the home of architect and designer Alvar Aalto in Helsinki, Finland. You can buy a single ticket to visit both his home and studio which are walking distance from each other. I highly recommend this if you travel to Helsinki. Homes to me are the most personal of all spaces so I'm just going to mention Aalto's home for now. The outside is very nondescript from the main street and upon entry, you are immediately forced to select an entry way into the living room, the kitchen hall, the staircase leading upstairs or the now reception area of the museum which previously was the entryway to the office spaces. Aalto initiated his design firm in his home and also entertained many guests, so these areas in his home are well segmented. Throughout Aalto's home and in his designs you can feel that he is vigorously looking forward to creating a Modern life. His designs from the 1930s and 40s are deeply rooted in a spirit of innovation. Aalto was interested and inspired by nature/ natural light, Modern Art and reinventing an already existing technology such as bentwood to produce more efficient and long lasting designs. The personally collected items also reflect much of his interests and inspirations. A passion for Japanese culture showcased in the Japanese paper weaving ottoman and tatami mats used as wall coverings. Collected art gifted by friends and books on Italy and the Mediterranean contribute to creating the portrait of this influential designer.
Finding the right vintage pieces can certainly be a process depending on how much of a collectible you'd like to find. The condition, rarity, and history are all contributing factors. Even if a particular piece is still in production, there can be slight production variations throughout the years that can make the same item unique and more valuable among others of the same kind. At whatever level you'd like to purchase vintage furniture what's important is starting with an appreciation for a piece that has a history and purchase designs that you find interesting and inspiring. While building your collection whether it be contemporary or vintage design pieces, your home should tell the story of who you are, your ideas and influences. Create the space you need and as unique as you are.
My first in-person encounter with Josef Frank's work was only last year, during a trip to Stockholm. I had previously seen a small number of his textile designs in print, enough to be able to recognize the iconic patterns and use of color but wasn't too familiar with the story behind the Austrian/Swedish designer's work.
A Norwegian interior designer friend of mine had told me not to miss a visit to Svenskt Tenn upon my visit to Stockholm. I had no idea what she was talking about and googled the home decor store to immediately recognize the lively fabrics. Upon further research, I also learned about the Millesgarden in Stockholm and their permanent display of Josef Frank's work in the so called Anne's House, on the lower terrace. Another site of interest to visit.
The so-called Anti-Design Designer's story is an interesting one. His work touches on classical influences from the Greek and Romans, Egyptian wall coverings and Southern Italian folk art. Josef Frank is most popular as a Swedish textile designer who was originally Austrian, later nationalized Swedish. He immigrated to Sweden before WWII, as an adult with his wife. His career began as an architect, however once he began working for Svenskt Tenn he dedicated his creative forces to furniture and textiles, abandoning architecture. A Modernist who's work isn't easy to classify, it stands out when grouped with his contemporaries.
His philosophy is one of comfortable, practical and uplifting design. A home should not be a work of art to be remained intact, but a flexible place where one lives. The style of his furniture is traditional with a focus on accents such as upholstery, decorative cushions, and throws. Although his popular textiles date between the 1930s to the 1940s his work feels contemporary still, due to his pluralist and not exclusive approach to design. Timeless is the design that can blend into any interior setting.
This Exotic Butterfly print fabric is a special reproduction from an original drawing by Josef Frank produced by Schumacher 1889. The pattern is signature Frank style whimsical and welcoming. This lounge chair is a vintage refurbish by The Empty Apartment and one of a kind. Available now to collect here.
I am very excited to be finally collecting my thoughts in this journal on my recent trip to Scandinavia. I will start in Oslo, where my trip began September 1st and will go through some of the amazing venues, the art and design that I saw and the lovely creative people who I met. If you follow along the future many posts I'll share what the month of traveling around Norway, Sweden and Denmark had in store for me. I began my trip with an unexpected invitation to visit the Henie Onstad Kunstcenter just outside Oslo and well worth the trip.
I am always curious to learn about how people begin collecting art, what their first piece was and what they continued looking for. This was not the case with the Henie Onstad Kunstcenter. What lured me first to the art center was its architecture, then of course its art but really the architecture. The venue is a beautiful testament to Norwegian architecture of the 1960s and I'd like to say almost an omen of what was to become a legacy of modern architecture in Norway. In my humble opinion Norwegian architecture firms are leading the path for modern architecture around the world. The National Tourist Route is a perfect example of this but I'll talk about that later.
Sonja Henie and Niels Onstad were very forward thinking when it came to collecting art and their vision for the art center. The center was designed by (at the time) young architects Jon Eikvar and Svein Erik Engebretsen who were chosen from an architecture competition hosted in 1962. The art center began construction in 1966 and opened its doors in 1968 as a location for interdisciplinary activities and permanent home for the art collection.
The Popcorn chair produced in 1968 was a design exclusively for the Henie Onstad Art Center. A Norwegian design by artisan, industrial and furniture designer Sven Ivar Dysthe. Only 300 of these chairs were manufactured. Made out of a molded shell of fiberglass and chrome steel legs, the stackable chair has become a collectors item with only few remaining on the market. A reproduction can be found today at the art center. This new version is made out of plastic but it's not as charming as the textured fiberglass if you ask me.
A highlight at the Henie Onstad Art Center is the permanent installation of the Kurt Schwitters collection. Collages, paintings and a replica of his log cabin from the island of Hjertoya are on display. Schwitters was known to call his art Merz, to separate his work from the Dada movement. Merz was more of an idea than the object itself and it entailed the use of everyday objects and adding an artistic value to them. The Merzbau or Merz/construction were called the altered interiors of the spaces he lived in which he turned into art installations. There are Merzbau known in Hannover, Lysaker and at Ambleside in England.
Many thanks to Milena and Gunhild from HOK for the tour!
While the Olympics are front and center right now, The Empty Apartment is taking a close look at some of the great art and design that has come out of this lush, Amazonian country.
Side note: If you haven’t already started following The Empty Apartment on Facebook it’s where you will get daily information on collecting, styles and what to look for so check it out.
During the Olympics I have featured (via Facebook) furniture pieces to collect, architecture to drool over, art and design inspired by social issues such as waste and poverty and how avant garde Brazilian’s notion of Modernity was in the mid-century.
It’s a beautiful culture that has integrated European influences and environmental surroundings to create timeless aesthetics. The use of organic materials such as leather, dark woods and bringing the outside vegetation into our interior spaces is a great juxtaposition to the bright colors used in textiles and pigments. The conceptual reuse of materials seems to be quite significant for the Brazilian creative as well.
So where can we find Brazilian Art & Design to collect? Here are some places to look. Start collecting!
Hello again Palm Springs! After having such an amazing experience last year, I made sure not to miss Modernism Week this year and booked my flight and hotel as soon as the newsletters started to trickle into my inbox with event and schedule updates.
The beauty upon arriving to Palm Springs is the orange mountains you first see when you walk out into the airport terminal, it’s the blue skies and California desert light you see while walking the terminal corridors, it’s the terminal, the seating and vintage carpet! The best part about returning to a place you have been to before is getting to know it all over again, making new discoveries.
This year I was able to recruit my friend Ani to come out and meet me in Palm Springs. Since it was President’s Day weekend, the city and the Ace Hotel were both pretty busy. Our weekend started Friday afternoon with a visit to the Uptown Design District where you can find the Shops at Thirteen Forty Five, vintage furniture at Christopher Anthony Ltd, a la Mod and the beautiful Trina Turk flagship boutique designed by Kelly Wearstler. On Saturday we took a day trip out to Salvation Mountain which if you find yourself in the area it is definitely worth the drive. Salvation Mountain was created out of local adobe clay and donated paint by artist Leonard Knight. The main purpose was to spread the message that God is Love and it’s celebrated with flowers, waterfalls and a yellow path. People leave small tokens of appreciation and the experience is quite unique. In the middle of the desert, Salvation Mountain, was busy with people taking pictures, climbing and exploring. There was even a guy making music by tuning radio frequencies in a way that created melody.
The Ace Hotel kicked off Modernism Week by hosting a screening Saturday night of Visual Acoustics, a documentary on the work of architectural photographer Julius Shulman. It was through Shulman’s work that I personally began down this rabbit hole, learning about architects and designers who worked in California in the early and mid twentieth century and I was excited to revisit the film once again. The screening ended with a small panel conversation with Director Eric Bricker, Michelle Oliver producer and grand daughter of Julius Shulman and Beth Harris architecture historian, owner and restorer of the Kaufmann House (built by Richard Neutra). Since the initial release of the film in 2009 there has been a steady growth in interest not only for Shulman’s work but also in restoring and preserving modernist homes. Each panelist spoke about their memories of working with or knowing personally Julius Shulman. The takeaway was definitely recognizing how significant Shulman’s work is, not only as an art form but also as documentation on interiors and exteriors for preservation purposes.
Eileen Gray was an important personality in design and was celebrated this Modernism Week in 2 separate events. With a film screening of Gray Matters a documentary on the life of the designer, which had its world premier at the Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York City in 2014. This film has yet to reach theaters. Followed by a lecture on the restorative process of Cap Moderne, a project that involves the work of Eileen Gray, Le Corbusier and Jean Badovici. The Villa E-1027 is the name of the important building designed by Gray and Badovici as a collaboration but mostly designed by Gray. Le Corbusier has murals that have been preserved in the structure as well as a small cabin that he built for himself in the vicinity. Ultimately this is where Le Corbusier dies of a heart attack swimming in the bay. Cap Moderne is located on the French Riviera overlooking the Bay of Monaco. The travel wheels in my head are spinning of course as I’m sure the experience to visit would be incredible. www.E1027.org explains the restoration dates and how to make an appointment for a guided visit. There are many reasons why this architectural site is so important. For me the importance lies in the detailed work of a female architect and designer who had a complex relationship with 2 complex men. Both Badovici and Le Crobusier admired her work very much yet never acknowledged her contribution publicly. Today we are much more informed and concerned with bringing into the light acknowledgement, not only of the work by Gray but also that of other women who made important contributions to design history.
Monday, February 15th was dedicated to Herman Miller. The furniture company is probably one of the most prolific in the mid-century modern style in American design history. A lecture on the life of George Nelson, who was design director at Herman Miller gave insight into his thought process and achievements and the many many hats that his creative mind wore. There is a great series of illustrated films created by Herman Miller called the Hilda stories. Hilda Longinotti was George Nelson’s secretary and she worked for Herman Miller for almost half a decade, she narrates these little vignettes on what it was like to work at the design studio. Amy Auscherman discussed the archival process at Herman Miller and the importance of prototypes and preserving pieces of fabric, photography and all the creative pieces that go into a final design. Charles and Ray Eames who worked for Herman Miller were particularly exceptional at holding on to the ephemeral and documenting with their cameras images of the everyday as creative pieces used for inspiration.
A highlight this Modernism Week was the lecture titled Daughters of Design with Susan Saarinen daughter of Eero Saarinen, Carla Hartman granddaughter of Charles and Ray Eames and Celia Bertoia daughter of Harry Bertoia. Individually they spoke about their relative’s career and work adding a few personal anecdotes. Then as a panel they answered questions related design legacy and preservation. The stories about how they all knew each other, worked and admired each others work were particularly special. This was a group of designers who are still being celebrated and awarded for their accomplishments. Susan Saarinen spoke about her father’s interest in designing for the time and never repeating the same solutions, he always tried to use new techniques and materials, which I think is particularly courageous. He also believed art was part of a building and considered architecture as fine art. Carla Hartman spoke about the experience with her grandparents where the guest-host relationship was reflected in everything that Charles and Ray Eames did because what they created: objects, toys and furniture was for others, taking into consideration the needs and lifestyle preferences of their client or guest. Work was play and play was work with the Eames’. Harry Bertoia was also one not to repeat himself in his work and even though he is popularly known for his furniture designs he was most prolific as a sculptor. He created many beautiful sound sculptures and invited the viewer to make their own interpretation of his art.
Just prior to my departure to Palm Springs I received a beautiful and one of the first catalogs to be printed on the lesser known architect Walter S. White by Professor Volker M. Welter and University of California Santa Barbara. I learned about White’s work last year and was intrigued by the efficiency of his little homes and the integration of ideas from Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler and his own personal passion for aviation and energy-efficient structures. I made sure not to miss the opportunity to learn more about his work through Professor Barbara Lamprecht. This was her second time lecturing at Modernism Week. Barbara Lamprecht is a scholar on Neutra and her lectures dive into the beautiful and fascinating theory behind everything built. Her lecture titled Neutra, White and Krisel: The Circle, the Line and the Setting was just a small yet rich taste of the topic at hand. She began with historical references of the circle from the renaissance and tied it in with mid-century modern and its use in canopies, spacial layouts and furniture. The relationship between the circle with the square or line and its reduction to simplicity when used in architecture- I am doing some extreme summarizing here but if you are interested in the theory behind architecture I highly recommend her books. Lamprecht is one of the most knowledgeable architectural historians I’ve had the opportunity to attend in lecture and she gives interesting perspective to architecture as art form and science. The most interesting points in her lecture this year were those made by creating connections between art and architecture or art and landscaping. After introducing the landscape architect Garrett Eckbo, Lamprecht continued by demonstrating slides comparing images of artworks by Wassily Kandinsky and Garrett Eckbo’s landscapes. She also made comparisons between the work of Mies van der Rohe and artworks by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Lamprecht spoke highly of Eckbo’s work and the importance of landscape architecture as part of the modernist movement. Landscape for Living is a book that was written by Eckbo in 1950 and was intended as a theory on modern landscape architecture adjusting to the economical and social changes of the previous 100 years. I just ordered a copy so look out for more journal entries on this topic.
The re-emergence of Hollywood Regency has been in full force through the work of interior designers such as Jonathan Adler and later Kelly Wearstler, creating products that embrace the style. It wouldn’t be Modernism Week in Palm Springs without the proper attention to the man who was part of it all, architect and interior designer John Elgin Woolf. Of course Hollywood Regency has come a long way from its initial days. The style originally set itself apart by synthesizing 19th century French architecture, Greek revival and Modernism in architecture and interior design. Today it can be replicated in interiors with luxe materials and bright colors.
The hit television series Mad Men played an important role this Modernism Week with lectures on costume, set design and the making of a show that took special dedication to replicate the lifestyle of the time. The fashion designer Trina Turk made an appearance as panelist discussing the fashion of the different years, the different types of women of the time and how their style evolved. Trina Turk is a local in Palm Springs and has her flagship store on N. Palm Canyon Dr.
A drive out to Yucca Valley was on my to-do list this time in Palm Springs. There are some treasures to be found at the vintage and antique shops in Old Town. If you are looking for one-of- a-kind finds and pieces with a soul, you definitely want to check out The End. You’ll really just want to hangout its got such great vibes. Kime, the owner also hosts on Airbnb, a 1 bedroom apartment right behind the shop, how much do you love vintage? How much do you want to get away to the desert?
Dear Palm Springs,
You are magical, timeless and fierce.
Thank you again for sharing with me all that you are.
I look forward to seeing you again soon.
In case you missed my first visit to Palm Springs for Modernism Week you can read all about it here.
Halloween has past and we all know Thanksgiving is just around the corner piled in by Art Basel Miami Beach or Miami Art Week as it’s called these days, leaving no time left for Christmas shopping. Experiences, they say make the best gifts these days. So, I am getting a head start here with a few ideas for weekend trips that can keep on giving great memories and accruing Instagram likes. An IOU for one of these getaways in 2016 is perfect for any art and design loving mind.
Recommendations have been put together with various reliable sources, many thanks!
Few times have I been nostalgic leaving a city. I’m usually excited to get home and let my experiences sink in, while getting back into my routine. When I think of my week in Palm Springs my heart sighs as cheesy as that sounds. It was so tempting to stay out in California for at least another week but I figure there will be future opportunities to return and I had responsibilities to get back to. I said “see you soon” to the city that hosted me, a city that gave me a brief introduction to its history, the people that lived it and the architecture that makes Palm Springs one of the most design-interesting cities I’ve visited so far.
My entire experience of Palm Springs felt very voyeuristic. From the moment I began driving around the city in my rental car I was enchanted by the magnificent mountains, the desert colors and the city’s residential neighborhoods. My entire visit was about design, architecture and exploring different livable spaces. These spaces were constructed with inspiration from nature, with ideologies and sometimes financial restraints. I walked through private homes and historically preserved buildings. I carefully stepped on carpets and cautiously turned corners, I took mental pictures of kitchen layouts and of custom made furniture pieces when photography wasn’t allowed.
Last year I learned about Modernism Week as it was occurring in its 9th year. Not fully understanding the importance of architecture’s role in the city, nor the importance of the desert to it’s architecture. I put it on my radar in hopes that the opportunity would came up for a trip out to California. Julius Shulman’s architectural photography shows you architecture as an art form. Like a giant sculpture projecting shadows, creating spaces, protecting and living, architecture becomes an art form you live in. The architects that worked in the city of Palm Springs and Palm Desert had a dialogue everyday with their surroundings and their artwork reflects this conversation.
In it’s 10th year, Palm Springs Modernism Week, is today the most important event in Palm Springs and growing into the Palm Desert area. Modernism is celebrated in all its forms: educational tours, open houses, lectures, book signings, film screenings, design exhibitions and of course, parties. The popularity that Modernism has today is only thanks to those who have realized the importance in preserving an architectural era that is slowly disappearing due to economical and political reasons. Perhaps also thanks to the hit television series Mad Men but that's just a side note.
So how do you navigate 10 days of over 100 events? Well, I can hardly say I dominated it but I think I did pretty well for a newbie. I wasn’t able to attend all 10 days so I picked the last weekend of events and was in town Wednesday- Tuesday. Events can be searched on modernismweek.com by date, type and by venue. For a few events I purchased tickets online before making the trip, I played the rest by ear. Several events such as the Palm Springs architectural bus tour and the Frey House II tours were already sold out by the time I was planning my trip. However, once I arrived to Palm Springs, I spoke to event coordinators about these events and they encouraged me to show up in case there were any last minute cancellations. Sure enough, the opportunity came up for both events. Good things do happen to those who wait. The Frey House II was one of the highlights of my trip.
My scheduling didn’t work out as I intended when my architectural bus tour of Palm Desert ran an hour over scheduled time and I ended up making it to the final 15 minutes of a lecture with Jack Lenor Larson & Jim Bassler on weaving. A few years back, research on Pierre Paulin lead me to learning about Lenor Larson’s psychedelic textiles from the 70s so I was really looking forward to hearing him talk. The few minutes I was able to catch on his final thoughts on weaving were motivating: “Do what you love, no matter what”.
A lecture with the architecture historian Barbara Lamprecht on Richard Neutra’s work in the desert merely scratched the surface of the body of work compiled in her book: Neutra, Complete Works. Lamprecht is a scholar on Neutra and she centered her lecture on the Kauffmann House as a focal point, the theory and history behind Neutra’s work in the desert. She pointed out not only the historic facts on the house but also the challenges in it’s restoration. The Kauffmann House was altered by several previous owners but thanks to the photographic archives of Julius Shulman and research work by Barbara Lamprecht the house was able to be restored to its original state.
Many of the architects featured during the tours are mentioned again and again as the architects that built Palm Springs. If I wasn’t familiar with them through the photographic work of Julius Shulman, I heard about them so often that by the end of the week I couldn’t forget the name. It was interesting to learn that in part, it is because of the photography of Julius Shulman that many of these architects are well known and their buildings still stand. Others did not have the privilege of having their work documented in this manner. Still little is known of Walter S. White, an architect who worked in Palm Desert and created beautiful low income housing and experimented with different roof shapes. Volker M. Welter, Professor at the Department of History of Art & Architecture, UCSB gave a lecture on White’s work making note on how little attention White has been given in the Modernist era of Palm Springs. His lecture felt like an initial dialogue to be continued as more research on White’s archives is necessary and a book on White’s work is forthcoming. I look forward to reading that.
Although this post was long over due, it feels as if I am still hung up on these designers and architects and I haven’t quite moved forward from the experience of traveling to Palm Springs. It is the problem with history isn’t it. More often then not you realize you are just scratching the surface. I think what intrigues me the most is how an era was defined by design, yet how contemporary some of these designs feel. The importance of preservation was key throughout the trip. I’m sure I’ll continue to mention the value of this trip to Palm Springs throughout other posts, it was a lot to process. For more images check out the Gallery and follow my Instagram account @lini_bellini and email me with any questions. Thanks for the read!
I have been having a hard time writing this first post of the year. It seems like so much has already happened and at the same time the story continues to unfold. Before I continue to wait some more for the ideas to cohere, I’m just going to put them out there and hope that the chapter and verse make sense later down the road... So how does 2015 begin?
Last December during Art Basel Miami Beach I worked on another LVMH design project. This time LVMH sponsored the production of a modular furniture system designed by Pierre Paulin. The furniture system, originally designed in 1972 for Herman Miller, was never produced until now as one of a kind pieces, prototypes. Having worked as a docent on a previous design project with LVMH, I was looking forward to the many conversations I would have, particularly with designers, architects and interior designers. Comparing the general public’s reaction in 2014 to that of 2013 when LVMH sponsored the production of Charlotte Perriand’s la maison au bord de l’eau, I thought it was interesting to see a much more personal exchange in 2013 between the visitor and the designer. Once inside the architectural structure designed by Charlotte Perriand, the visitor could not contain a curiosity to explore carefully each room, identify its purpose and make a comparison to their own interior living space. Although Charlotte Perriand’s maison was designed in 1934, her ideas resonate still today. Decorative ideas such as displaying personal photographs taken from nature and collected items from places traveled or integrating a vintage tile found at a flea market with a new piece of furniture are all contemporary ideas on how to personalize a space.
Sometimes you need a professional. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional assistance if you are looking to decorate a home or buy artwork. The important thing is, for whomever is going to help you, to understand your taste and what you are trying to accomplish. They should be able to create the best version of you reflected in your home. A home is a work in progress and as we evolve our tastes, so will our home. I believe in the power of cleaning out and making room for new ideas. The idea of beginning a collection with an empty apartment is pretty utopian but it’s important to reflect on the objects we decide to travel with through life and ask ourselves if these are truly the ones we want to hold on to? There is no need to carry forward insignificant weight. Yes lots of “stuff” become insignificant. With 2015 approaching I needed a deep clean and called the professional help I personally needed: Brandon Fogel. Brandon is not an interior designer (although I’m sure his apartment is immaculate) nor is he an art adviser (although I’ve considered hanging some couture pieces on my wall). Brandon is a wardrobe stylist, an image consultant, personal shopper and God sent to help me clean out my closet. Each piece in my closet was carefully examined: kept, consigned or donated. The closet was left a dream, organized by color and with easy access. I had never realized what bad lighting there is in my closet until Brandon pointed it out and it got me thinking about exhibition lighting for any collection. Quality over quantity, classic shapes are must haves, color coordinate and put prints together, a place for everything and good lighting helps make a closet look much better. If I go missing I might just be hanging out in my closet. Thank you Brandon.
I’m big on New Year’s resolutions, Chinese New Year forecasts, daily horoscopes and the occasional psychic reading. I also love fortune cookies, Magic 8-Balls, Feng Shui and keeping good karma. I spent New Year’s eve in the city of Cusco, Peru and the first few days of 2015 exploring the cities of Ollataytambo, Machu Picchu, Moray, Puno and the floating isles of Lake Titicaca. The worse the internet connection was, the more interesting the textiles and traditional costumes were. Every region was more colorful than the last, the further away from Lima you traveled. I studied Pre-Colombian Art in college and there is nothing simple about understanding the cultural history of a country like Peru, which is literally an onion of civilizations that overlap and seep into each other over time. Without trying to become a scholar in the political and social structures of their ancient civilizations, my attention during the trip was engaged with the remnants and developments of Peruvian textile manufacturing. The natural fibers of alpaca and llama have been used for thousands of years. A simple spun fiber is made, dyed in color with organic materials and different looms are used, including the 4- post and back strap loom. The traditional back strap loom dates pre Inca times and is still in use today. The weaving is based on a grid- pattern of the thread and the complex designs can reflect the users town of origin, social status, and gender. The brighter the colors, the better. Later did I learn Peru has one of the longest continuous textile records in history.
I started the year obsessing about color, textiles, with a small collection of traditional Peruvian hats and a beautifully organized closet.
As of lately I’m convinced that selecting wallpaper might be as committing as getting a tattoo.