A vacation home in the D.R. with some mid-century modern treasures
A few of the treasures we found at the Brimfield Antique Market and the unique history we were able to discover later.
A couple highlights from my visit to this year’s 3 Days of Design in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Our Bilingual posts by Ceci Henrique can be read in Spanish and below in English.
Desde que empezamos a trabajar juntas siempre me impresionó lo rápido que Lina hizo el click en su cerebro sobre el trabajo en equipo. Luego de ser durante mucho tiempo la mujer orquesta en The Empty Apartment, Lina con su perfil más artístico y yo con mi pragmatismo hemos desembocado en un balance inesperado.
Así es que cuando emprendimos el viaje a Nueva York yo estaba muy emocionada por ver las nuevas tendencias de la Feria Internacional de Muebles Contemporáneos (IFCC) y luego iríamos a Sight Unseen (Sitio Sin Haberlo Visto), una exposición de diseño.
Sight Unseen fue un vendaval. ¨¿Cómo? ¿Se puede vivir en el arte? Yo había oído muchas veces eso de que la obra está completa con el espectador. Pero esto, en que uno es parte de la obra, era algo de lo que Lina me venía hablando hace mucho tiempo, yo he ido a páneles donde ella expone sobre el tema, pero experimentarlo le dio una nueva perspectiva para mi.
El diseño artístico o arte funcional era algo que justamente por mi necesidad de encontrarle el uso práctico a las cosas me resultaba intrigante. La mayoría de los mortales consideramos que el arte o lo artístico es algo subjetivo y visceral y en el otro opuesto se encuentra el diseño aplicado a la funcionalidad.
Pues que revelación tan maravillosa descubrir que uno está equivocado. Todos necesitamos arte en nuestra vida. Es algo absolutamente intrínseco al ser humano. Seas consciente o no. ¿Acaso no escuchas música? ¿No tomas fotos? ¿No tienes aunque sea un cuadro en tu casa? Ya luego podemos discutir si es bueno o malo, feo, lindo, caro, barato, pero es indiscutible que son expresiones de las emociones humanas.
Me vi enfrente a una silla, que no parecía silla, era un arco de lino y de madera laqueada, con una especie de cojín flotante de gamuza y una columna de roble descentrada en la parte posterior, parecía una escultura y pues era una escultura, pero si, también era una silla.
Que balance más extraordinario, yo siempre supe que el arte tiene un propósito, pero siempre lo relacioné con algo abstracto, social, político, de protesta, de manifiesto. Poder acceder a arte en el cual uno pueda vivir y no simplemente ser un mero espectador me hizo sentir especial.
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Since we started working together, I've been impressed in how quickly Lina made the switch to teamwork. After being a one-woman shop for quite some time, Lina with her artistic profile, together with my pragmatism has created an unlikely balance. When we took off to New York, I was very excited to see new tendencies at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), later we would visit Sight Unseen, a design exposition.
Sight Unseen was a whirlwind. What? You can live in art? I had heard many times that the artwork is completed by the spectator. But to be part of the work was something that I had heard Lina talk about a long time ago. I've gone to panel convos where she's spoken about this but to experience it was a new perspective for me.
The artistic design or functional art piece was exactly what I found intriguing due to my nature to find the pragmatic use of objects. The majority of us mortals consider art or the artistic to be something subjective and visceral, and on the other hand, there is applied design which is functional.
Well, the wonderful revelation to discover that you are wrong. We all need art in our lives. It is something absolutely intrinsic to human nature. Whether you are conscious or not. Don't you listen to music? Take photographs? Haven't you at least 1 artwork in your home? We can discuss later if it is good, bad, pretty, ugly, expensive, cheap, what is unarguable is that these are expressions of human emotion.
I found myself in front of a chair, that didn't look like a chair but an arch of linen and lacquer wood, with a floating suede cushion and an uncentered oak column. It looked like a sculpture and well it was, a sculpture, but also a chair.
What an extraordinary balance. I always knew that art served a purpose but I always associated it with an abstract idea, social, political, a manifestation. To be able to access art in which you can live in and not solely as a spectator made me feel special.
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Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel’s Basket Chair from 1951 has been re-edited by furniture company KETTAL in a different material, read about this new version and let us know what you think of this reproduction.
As ICFF wraps up we'd like to share with you Ceci's favorite exhibited pieces for kids only!
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.
Opening Day at Brimfield starts early! Part 2 of my trip tells you what I found and how I managed the challenge, till next time!
Brimfield Flea Markets in Massachusets is America's oldest outdoor antique flea market. Like many of my design trips, Brimfield has been on my travel list for quite some time. The flea market only happens 3 times a year, so I had to mark my calendar to make sure I could plan in advance. May, July, or September were my options.
How do you begin to plan a visit to over twenty acres of antique stands? I had to start with logistics, where is Brimfield exactly, how do I get there and where would I stay? Just the thought of over 5,000 vendors makes me giddy and gives me major anxiety at the same time. Luckily there are some amazing online resources and veteran visitors willing to provide their knowledge to this newbie.
So far here are the resources I've been using.
and this app Brimfield Flea Finder
I try not to overwhelm myself with viewing the vendor lists and have decided to leave my finds up to chance, that's really the best way to conquer a flea market. You can't plan what you are going to find Rule #1.
Rule #2 make sure you know where to park. So far I've been told that by 8 am, parking lots are full so when they say it opens at sunrise, it's no joke. At 6 am doors will be opening to some of the fields. Over 30,000 visitors arrive in Brimfield and I'm hoping to be one of the first. My weather should be partly cloudy and sunny with 0% chance of rain. Apparently, Brimfield has a history of no rain, but you ever know. Always best to check and prepare for what you can, which leads to Rule #3 plan your packing.
When I visited the flea market in Paris for the first time it was impossible for me to know I'd end up falling in love with a vintage fur coat that took up most of the single suitcase I had with me. I considered wearing it on the flight but arriving in Miami, FL I'm pretty sure I would've raised some red flags walking through customs. To play it safe, by the end of my Paris trip, I had a new carry-on and an additional suitcase to check in - amateur move (palm to face emoji).
On this trip I am bringing an empty duffle bag with wheels that I'm packing inside my half-empty suitcase, a carry-on - empty, a shopping tote and my Mother! Yes, my Mother, the woman who taught me about Louis Comfort Tiffany lamps at Pizza Hut and dragged me to every estate sale growing up, is joining me on my journey to Brimfield. Her luggage is pretty empty too!
I'm excited to find out what we'll discover. There are so many online resources these days for searching for art and design, ebay, Etsy, Chairish and 1st dibs are just a few but none can compete with the experience of speaking directly to a vendor at the flea market. I'm hoping to learn a thing or two and engage in some great conversations, which is Rule #4 and the most important rule in flea market shopping, ask questions!! Most Vintage Dealers are extremely passionate about their inventory and love to share their knowledge.
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.
A few highlights from this year's visit to the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair.
Timeless clean lines, textiles in neutral tones such as pine green and wall colors in Red Ochre and Prussian blue were seen throughout. Japanese influences are strong in Loic Bard's wooden pieces. Sigurd Ressell's Falcon chair gets a make over for today's production. Luca Nichetto's new chair for Fogia has an incredible craftsmanship and quality upholstery. Details in leather and cane are all time favorites. Norven's children's furniture grows with children giving sustainability a new meaning. Källemo chairs by Mats Theselius are my all time favorite in cognac leather. Other favorite booths were by Established & Sons, & tradition, Menu and Frama.
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
If you’re looking to add a piece of timeless, mid-century Danish design to your collection, France & Søn is one of those names that should be on your radar.
The company, France & Søn was the vision of Charles W. France, a British businessman and Eric Daverkosen, a Danish cabinet maker. The two men were the original founders and started what would be one of the most popular mass manufacturing furniture companies whose quality stands the test of time today.
First started in 1948, the business name was changed to France & Søn when Daverkson left the business and France’s son, Julian France, joined the company in 1957. The company got its start manufacturing mattresses, but that quickly changed as France & Søn worked with popular designers and created quality furniture with an aesthetic that so defined the time.
Teakwood was the most popular material used by France & Søn with details in leather, cane and fabric. According to MCM-Interiors, who specialize in buying and selling mid-century furniture, the Danish company was the largest importer of teak lumber from Thailand for many years when production was at its peak. France & Søn became synonymous with not only mass production but also with the best quality.
The manufacturing company France & Søn soared in popularity working with a number of notable Danish designers including Arne Vodder, Grete Jalk, Finn Juhl, and Ole Wanscher among others. Their designs were sleek, minimalist and became a staple to many homes in Scandinavia and abroad, representing the Golden Era of Danish design in the mid 20th century. Collecting a piece produced by France & Søn is owning a piece of Danish design history.
France & Søn furniture is still highly sought after today by collectors and vintage design enthusiasts. If you are looking to add a touch of vintage Danish design to your home, the search is not impossible. Many pieces bearing the France & Søn label are still widely available today. The France & Søn makers tag is easily identified with two F’s mirroring each other, one on top of the other. Earlier pieces under the original name France & Daverkosen bear the signature F and D in a small circle as the identifying tag. Some pieces carry both tags representing the transition phase of the companies.
Here at The Empty Apartment we carefully inspect and research pieces looking for those classic historic works by France & Søn. Visit our Finds page for pieces by France & Søn or for a custom vintage search send us a message.
Christmas, it's seriously right around the corner. The smell of cider and apple pie, the scent of advent candles and wreaths. Quality time with family. Comfort & warmth, everything silver & gold. Whichever way you celebrate Christmas, this holiday is marked by many with a slowed-down, switched-off lifestyle. Hopefully, your work emails go unread, your social feeds take a break, you lay off the Instagram-a-thon and FB posts. It’s time to disconnect, slow down and hopefully recharge.
The Danish have a word ‘hygge’ that's pretty awesome to reflect on in this state of being. Pronounced hue-guh, this slight verbal entity carries a lot of weight. Hygge captures this feeling of coziness, contentment and a comfortable vibe of well-being that comes with the simple things in life, like love, laughter and a glass of wine. The Dutch also have a word - gezellig - that captures similar sentiments in the Netherlands. It translates to quality and comfort.
Denmark Christmas Traditions
I've never spent Christmas in Denmark and I was recently told that it was a must-see, so I looked into how the Danes do it. Here are some items and traditions that I found. I think I can get into the Danish spirit from afar with a little Christmas hygge of my own.
The Advent Wreath - the advent wreath symbolizes the holidays in Denmark. Four candles sit atop the wreath, marking four Sundays until December 24th. Made with sprigs, berries, cones, and ribbons, the wreath is a wonderful holiday tradition.
The Advent Candle - here’s another Danish tradition to mark down the days until Christmas. The candle has 24 markings on it, signifying the length of the candle to burn one day at a time. Every night at supper, families light the candle for the one day marked. Children often blow out the candle before it reaches the next date.
Christmas decorations - The Danish national colors of red and white highlight the home decorations in festive ways. The Danish Christmas tree stands above all, majestic in its history and with items like tinsel, garland, paper hearts and twinkling lights adorning it.
Strong drinks - For the unprepared, the mulled Christmas wine or the strong Danish beers might be the right addition to a Danish Christmas. Warm liquor on a cold winter night in Denmark will certainly be needed!
Hygge as Lifestyle
An article in The New Yorker notes that hygge is synonymous with winter in Denmark, and with it is the necessities of candles, wooly slippers, soft blankets, a hot fire, and contented feelings. I think Hygge can also be in the Summertime, basking under the sun with your feet in the river off a dock with a glass of wine. Hygge has transcended mere feelings of Christmas comfort to become a lifestyle term and the Danes know how to do it well!
I won't be back in Scandinavia until 2018 but I have my holiday wreath of eucalyptus, pine, and pampas grass from House of Lilac up on my door and am planning some cozy candlelit dinner parties with friends before the year is over. Gearing up for 2018!
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.
The Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York is not your typical artist exhibition. The show focuses on the identity of the artist through personal items collected and made. One example is her clothing. O'Keeffe learned how to sew at a young age and she was able to create an identity through the dresses she made and her fashion choices which were strongly correlated with her location. Clothes for New York City were mostly black and more layers. Materials for the clothes she used in the desert in Santa Fe were looser. Later in her career when she bought clothes they reflect a particular style that integrates her persona with nature. Dresses by Marimekko and traditional Japanese kimonos can be found among her collection.
Lots of portraits were taken of Georgia O'Keeffe not only by Alfred Stieglitz but by many others who visited her in her home. She wasn't shy in front of the camera and she became part of the landscape, she was part of her home and she became a focal point in the art form of photography. As documentation, it's also interesting to see how these photographs have captured her lifestyle as a Modern woman in tune with the furniture design at the moment. We can appreciate design pieces purchased from Knoll. Designs by Eero Saarinen and Harry Bertoia can be found throughout her home, these pieces were quite modern for her rustic abode in the desert.
A true artist is a person who is constantly creating, searching for inspiration, living their life becomes art. Georgia O'Keeffe drew inspiration from nature and collected objects that inspired her work and her decor. She lived a simple material life but a complex one in ideologies. The exhibition is a portrait of her essence and life as a creative. I highly recommend if you have a chance to visit. For more information on the exhibition at the Brooklyn Art Museum click here or purchase the catalog here.
Also, check out the Pinterest Board called Artist's Homes for more images on Georgia O'Keeffe's home and other homes of artists that represent their creative identities. These spaces are most inspirational in creating a personalized home.
I just received in the mail a ceramic pitcher that I purchased online about a week ago. I'm really excited about it because the story behind it happens ALL the time.
It all started with an online search for Danish design on the design shopping website of Chairish. I like to see what pieces are being sold by other vendors, compare prices and conditions of vintage pieces, particularly those of Scandinavian design. My search was for everything from furniture to decorative items.
One of the listings was a beautiful oxidized turquoise-toned glazed ceramic pitcher. The label for it was Mid-Century Danish Water Pitcher and the description: Mid-century Danish pottery pitcher signed on bottom RP.
A couple years ago I was in Paris soaking in the flea market, meeting dealers and learning more about French design. I came across the stall of a dealer that sold only ceramics, most of them from the 50s, most of them from the South of France. I was drawn immediately to one particular ceramic pitcher by a ceramist of the name of Allix. The pitcher was bright in its glazes of fuschia and turquoise. Its geometric shapes were captivating and the piece itself reminded me of Miami, I needed to have it.
I asked the Antiques Dealer as many questions as I could in my broken French and he was gracious enough to respond in his broken English. He showed me a book which had an image and some information on the ceramist who had made the ceramic pitcher I was purchasing. I took a picture of the cover of this book, hoping I'd be able to purchase once I was back home. It's important to understand the value of the pieces you purchase, especially the ones you fall instantly in love with, as I had with this ceramic piece.
Fast forward to last week, this water pitcher I was looking at seemed anything but Danish. Not that I am by any means an expert in Danish ceramics but the glaze immediately reminded me of something else, something more of a warmer climate, more Mediterranean, more casual and R.P. was the maker. What kind of a description is that?
I pulled out my book which has a little reference section in the back for signatures, seals, and marks. Sure enough, I found R.P. was a mark made by the ceramist Robert Picault. Robert Picault was a popular ceramist who lived and worked in Vallauris, France. He rethought ceramic kitchenware so that it could be used from the kitchen to the table. He was popular for his green geometric motifs based on a copper oxide. Provençal folklore was influential in his ceramic shapes, Pablo Picasso was a neighbor and influential in his painting motifs on ceramic. Picault was part of many international exhibitions and awarded a gold medal at the 1953 Milan Triennial. A prominent figure in the context of French pottery in the 50s.
How did such a mislabelling happen in the first place? Well, my theory is and I believe this happens more often than not. The vendor who was selling this pitcher online probably purchases lots of items wholesale from Denmark, sending containers back to the US. Within these pieces was probably the pitcher and without taking the time to do a little research on the signature, they missed out on holding a more valuable piece. Even if they didn't have my handy book, a quick internet research with the key works: turquoise ceramic pitcher R.P. would have brought up a similar style ceramic piece, that's how prominent Picaults's designs are.
So the "Danish Water Pitcher" that was selling for $54 online turned out to be a highly collectible French ceramic piece with a value of $300-$400 dollars. A beautiful piece of mid-century history with so much more of a story behind it!
It is impossible to know the design history of everything. I learn something new every day. We can only try to do as much research as possible when receiving a vintage piece. We listen to stories and in good faith might forward the information but we must take the time to confirm, even not bothering to look up a signature could be a missed opportunity to share the history and intentions behind a design piece.
So here are some tips if you are collecting ceramics or any vintage pieces in general:
1. If you see a vintage piece you like, scan it for labels, marks or signatures.
2. Ask the vendor as many questions as possible, who made it, what year, where they obtained it from?
3. Don't always trust the vendor 100%. Also, the internet on your phone is an incredible design source and it's right there in your pocket.
4. Find literature that supports the information gained, these books add resell value to your piece and help you understand the creative context of your piece.
5. Trust your eye. I clearly have a thing for ceramics from France from the 50s as I was able to spot the glaze and relate it to the pitcher already in my collection at home. If you find a piece you like, learn more about the history behind it. You might discover there was an artistic school or community behind the style and be able to recognize it in the future. This information helps you build a collected home over time.
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 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.