Last week for a quick layover before heading to the Stockholm for Design Week, I stopped in Paris for a few days, you know just to pick up a few things and of course enjoy everything French, especially design. I write this post on Valentine’s Day which is quite appropriate, Paris deserves nothing less then love and I’ll focus that love on Rue de Seine and some of the best design galleries for French Mid-Century Modern of course.
Here at The Empty Apartment authenticity and proper documentation is what we strive for the most. No easy task when we are working with design pieces that were created more than 50 years ago and created for the purpose of everyday use. Here are some tips for finding documentation to preserve the historicity of your collectible piece.
A review on the book goodbye, things. Inspiration and reason to let go.
Coffee Tables, dining tables, side tables and nightstands are all great opportunities to display the personal items that we collect. I personally love coffee tables and large ones, for displays since typically they are in an area of entertainment and gathering, and a focal point for the room.
Budgets here can be as large or a small as you like, the key is to find pieces that speak to you, your travels, your hobbies, items that have a personal meaning.
When working on decorating projects I like to start by restaging table displays with personal items found around the house, many times it's simply a matter of reorganizing and placing items in a new way. I'll ask clients about their favorite decorative pieces. Favorite books are such a great item to decorate with and usually, these are tucked away on a library shelf.
Bowls and trays are great to have on a table, they catch keys, pocket change, matchboxes from your favorite bar, restaurant or hotel. I love looking for bowls and trays at flea markets, in small curated home stores, or purchased directly from local artists. A mix of colors and materials make for a nice display.
Small plants like miniature orchids or succulents also work well on tabletops. Plants add life to any room and it is proven plants improve our wellbeing. Check out The Sill for recommendations on small plants for all types of lighting. The Sill delivers plants already potted for you.
Candles and candle holders make for great sculptural items. Find scents that are relaxing and set a mood, it'll add to who you are and the personal space you are creating.
Have fun with mixing and matching your items, change up your display often and discover new items that bring you joy.
Here are some online sites we really like for tabletop items:
I personally have been obsessed with Japanese aesthetics since I can remember. When I was in college I remember learning about the Asian influence in European visual arts and how popular the "exotic" themes became at the turn of the century. I loved the outfitting of French ladies in Japanese clothing with stylized artifacts to recreate a setting. My Impressionist Art professor Willy Montero would say the significant influence of the Uu-key-yo-e is essential to understanding the whole period. The Ukiyo-e also known as the Japanese wood block, pretty much circulated as a post card of Japanese imagery. Artists such as James McNeill Whistler to Vincent Van Gogh to Edward Manet had all seen and studied Japanese aesthetic through such memorabilia.
In studying design it's interesting to see here too the strength of Japanese influence. French designer and architect Charlotte Perriand was very inspired by Japanese proportions and the use of the tatami mat as a standard measure, Charles and Ray Eames were influenced with their low living lifestyle series of chairs and tables. Anyways, I digress to reach the point that in many cultures around the world, Japanese aesthetics, have been extremely influential. This influence has resonated particularly in my other aesthetic favorite: Scandinavian design.
I always thought I simply enjoyed both Japanese and Scandinavian design just the same due to their clean line, use of natural materials, mute color tones and inspiration in nature. It's so much more than that and dates even further back than mid twentieth century design. The exhibition Japanomania finally sheds lots of light on a whole era of Japanese influence in the Nordic countries. The survey of art and artifacts carefully depicts inspirations in the fields of painting, textile, ceramics and furniture dating from 1875 to 1918. An era that developed right after the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1867 from which Japonisme began to spread. It is said that there has been no other influence in European visual arts that is as encompassing nor as long lasting as Japonisme.
The exhibition was co-curated by the Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki and the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo. It will also travel to Copenhagen in 2017. It's quite shocking to know that never before had these influences been researched beyond the individual artist cases. The exhibition is an impressive overall picture of the times. It's such a privilege for this traveling exhibition to be available for the Nords. For those who can't see the show personally, the exhibition catalog in English contains images on all the contents of the show and more so. It is available through Yale University Press and I highly recommend for any design obsessed.
Fuglen is not only a super cool coffee shop/cocktail bar with yummy drinks and the perfect chai latte but also a great venue to learn about Norwegian design. Their venue is furnished with great mid century pieces and decorated with ceramics and time period collectibles on shelves. Next door they have a showroom with vintage homeware pieces to purchase, all by Norwegian and Scandinavian designers.
Dedicated to the research and promotion of design, in 2013 Fuglen joined forces with Norwegian auction house Blomqvist to exhibit the most significant designers in Norwegian history. The Nordic Icons exhibition went on tour to Tokyo and New York City. If you missed it, a beautiful catalog was put together to document the collection. The catalog is still available online through Fuglen or the auction house and is a great addition to any design lover's library.
All of the pieces in the Nordic Icon exhibition were available for sale. Many of them can still be found through Fuglen or at auction at Blomqvist. There has been a growing interest in collecting Norwegian design as it stands apart from its Swedish and Danish neighbors. The more intricate designs especially are reaching a nice price on the market. A younger generation of designers are also looking back on their Norwegian roots to create contemporary design.
With an outpost in the trendy neighborhood of Shibuya in Tokyo since 2012, Fuglen has well established a growing international appreciation not only for Nordic and Scandinavian design but also quality beverages.
Many thanks to Monica for the recommendation and William for the drinks!
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!