Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fear of Pink

Easy to do, considering pink's traditional provenance: Pepto-Bismal, bubblegum, young girls' bedrooms, princess ball gowns, toilet paper, Angelyne, Paris Hilton, Miami Vice, supermarket bouquets, and splayed road kill. To use pink without conjuring any of the above requires certain skill.

In the right hands, though, pink can be a new frontier.

Pink is best when it comes to us as a surprise.

As it veers toward the hotter end of the scale, pink is a color with both hot and cool properties.

Below, something we don't usually associate with pink: Subtlety.
It floats lightly over a green jacket and yellowed hair like a cloud at sunset.

Just a lampshade's worth in a white room. Imagine the scene with the colors reversed: A color with the power to go from graceful to Graceland in a stroke.

Below, a pink dream world reflected back in the mirror's image. A physicist might explain this as the optics of mismatched vibrational frequencies, reflected energies, color transmissions or the like. Then again, maybe it's just a radiating hot pink pillowcase. Whatever, the effect is stunning.

The reflected light of the above is recreated to similar effect below through a painting and chair cushions. Bluish shadows on the walls and floor subdue the animal from going alpha.

Below, pink adds drama to a dark palette. Suddenly, there's more Feng Shui and
less Pepto-Bismal.

Photo from the David Hicks Archive

Upon returning from a trip to India Gloria Vanderbilt may or may not have said "Pink is the new black."

This, on the other hand, is from Vogue editor Diana Vreeland's 1984 memoir, D.V., weighing in on pink this way:

Actually, pale-pink salmon is the only color I cannot abide.
Although, naturally, I adore PINK. I love the pale Persian pinks of the little carnations of Provence, and Schiaparelli's pink, the pink of the Incas.
And, though it's so vieux jeu I can hardly bear to repeat it, pink is the navy blue of India.

It appears the culture of India has braved pink for centuries.

Above, in the work of great designer David Hicks (ca. 1970s) pink and bright green joust for the eye.

Above, pink and gray continue their longstanding relationship. Though, here, the pink may be a little hotter and the gray a little warmer.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Triumph of Trash Pt. 1

Face it. We inhabitants of this little experiment known as Earth face a dilemma: While demand for our finite resources is ever increasing, the supply is diminishing rapidly. What to do?

In a word, garbage: The one resource at our disposal that may be just about inexhaustible. But if garbage is ever to manifest into a kind of design revolution — if not for our survival, then at least for our continued lifestyle — that responsibility may rest squarely on the shoulders of designers. Before any revolution can take place, though, paradigms will first need some major shifting. Designers will need to hack into the market's hidebound conceptions on materials. A new language will need to be born from re-usability, a language that will speak native to consumers.

Seth Godin, renowned marketing guru, suggests that any artist looking to make an impact needs to do this: "See the rules. Keep most of them. Break one or two. But break them, don't bend them." In other words: Acknowledge tradition, don't worship it.

Tord Boontje (pronounced Boonj), an industrial product designer perhaps best known for his HP Minis, is attempting to do exactly that. His Rough and Ready Collection not only breaks rules of conventional style and construction for designer furniture, but in the process he both democratizes interior and furniture design while radicalizing the language of usable materials.

The manufacturer for this Rough and Ready collection is the user. The materials are common and accessible and the cost is negligible (recycled wood, found material, tape, etc). And the design comes with a considerable pedigree, owing more than a nod to the work of Enzo Mari. The furniture may be only slightly more expendable, and probably no more difficult to assemble, than much of what's sold at Ikea.

Below, a day bed made from the remnants of a white picket fence.

Construction plans for the chair below are offered free on the Rough and Ready web page.

Tord Boontje's Transglass series: Glassware made from refashioned wine bottles.

The Taekwondo chair, below, by Dutch designer Jonas Lutz, was created with yellow martial arts belts. While the birch of the frame isn't recycled, and the chair itself has no pretensions of sustainability or low cost, it's design is certainly influenced by design that does. In this way the work is much in the same spirit as the disheveled chic of Clarke and Reilly.

Designers Humberto and Fernando Campana created this chair in response to the recycled crafts they'd seen in favelas (slums or shanty towns) in Brazil. The irregular pieces of wood used are glued and nailed together.

Chilean designer Alexandra Guerrero creates thread from recycled cigarette butts. The spun filters create a thick knitted-like cable: Urban wool.

Thanks to the treehugger blog for the heads up.

Recalling Frank Gehry's experiments with corrugated furniture (1969 - 1973) is this recycled cardboard chair built in the Gomi style below.

Below, a Capellini Love end table from designer Stephen Burks. The table has a paper structure and core and then covered, paper-mâché style, in shredded magazines and then treated with adhesive and a hardener. Each piece is assembled by hand in South Africa.

Close-up of the texture:

A black enamel-coated packing crate reimagined as a console.

Before the Wang Guangyi painting on the wall, bundled fabric bound as chairs.

This Ayako Uenishi chair is formed from recycled steel pipes and rubber base boards, fixed together with reclaimed nuts and bolts. The chair weighs 250 lbs.

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Disruptive DNA

The history of art is the DNA of Art. Nothing crawls from the evolutionary muck without first standing on the shoulders of a long ancestral line. And like any evolution, innovation and change happens at a pace so slow and incremental as to be hardly noticeable. Creating the truly innovative work requires stepping outside of natural selection and hacking into art's DNA, engineering the genes like a GMO. The more divergent the work, the more radical the splice.

To wit, two interpretations on baroque style
antique chairs:

Georgian armchairs as imagined by London-based designers Clarke & Reilly (otherwise known as husband and wife team David Grocott and Bridget Dwyer). The chairs are covered in 19th century Mennonite petticoats. In bringing together divergent materials with their own histories, the designers have genetically spliced the chairs way beyond mere reupholstering. They have added not only value but dimension. Like the apple farmer who joins together two trees through grafting, enabling the tree to bear more fruit.

In this version, Dutch artist/designer Sebastian Brajkovic takes his inspiration from digital graphics. Unlike Clarke & Reilly, Brajkovic doesn't graft with pre-existing materials but creates his objects from scratch. This work, from his "Lathe Series," is designed with CAD and assembled by hand. The graphics on the upholstery are embroidered. The history Brajkovic seeks in his work is of a more surreal nature. Says he: "My decor is the dreamworld." A world that normally exists only in "the back of our heads."

Above, this version of Brajkovic's chair seems to be cleaved between two dimensions.

Clarke & Reilly's work, as with the above chair, is described as "chic utilitarian," "shabby chic," and simply "disheveled." To simply call it Adaptive Reuse would be to drain the work of all its poetry. And what about the designers themselves? They call it "unashamedly romantic and tirelessly imaginative." They travel the world with an eye acutely open for vintage, antique, and otherwise extraordinary pieces from which to begin; For David Grocott, it was an eye trained with 20 years experience in the antique industry, including running his own company, Plinth.

Like a vine crawling over a brick wall, an antique textile is layered over a vintage couch. The raw appearance is no accident. Rather than cover the essence of his pieces beneath upholstery Grocott prefers to let its historicity show through.

Below, a bedroom outfitted with unpainted shutters and an antique wood-burning stove used as a kind of console/bureau.

Below, the Suitcase Chair from South African designer Katie Thompson

Like the work above, Thompson goes beyond simply recycling objects or adapting them for reuse. In some of her work she also mashes-up narratives. For her Suitcase Chair she plays with the tension of two opposing narratives: In the suitcase we have the experience of travel and relocation with its attendant anxieties and misadventures as the yin. For the yang she intersects the first with the cozy comfort of home and hearth in the deep white linen cushions and turned legs.

Then, the white linen Ottoman Tub: The wash tub gets its own Cinderella story.

Below, a reupholstered vintage couch with embroidery: More use of the Suitcase Chair yin and yang tension. The DNA of home and homeostasis spliced with the chaotic flight pattern of a butterfly
. Or something like that.

Le Courbusier revisted: The Theater of Cruelty take on the Swiss master by fellow countryman, interior architect and artist Stefan Zwicky. Manufactured from concrete and rebar the chair weighs in at a ton. The title: Domage a Corbu, grand confort, sans confort (1980)

Your eye is the lamp of your body

Let's see the very thing and nothing else.
Let's see it with the hottest fire of sight.

Burn everything not part of it to ash.

Wallace Stevens, 1946

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Orange You Glad

Yes, orange was
so five years ago.

But at the same time it never really went away. It needed no comeback for it was never gone. Because there's nothing in our color spectrum so infused with earth and sky, vibrancy and comfort as orange. It's the abundant harvest, the wizened final burst of color before the intemperate winter comes. And unlike spring in all its fresh obstinacy, orange is the symbol of maturity and ripeness.

Orange is warmth, even when buried deep into the depths of brown.

Orange steals away the sterility of white and allows it to be purity and serenity.

It warms and softens the stone.

It can even make the traditional brash again. (Le Courbusier chair from the 1928 design: corbusier chair petit confort.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

This Ella Sings

It's not Los Angeles or New York, Chicago or D.C., not London or Paris. It's downtown Sacramento. The Ella Dining Room and Bar: A "modern American bistro" where rustic luxury and modern vintage converge with adaptive reuse and disruptive design to create something entirely new.

The owners were looking to create something akin to "Sacramento's living room." It looks like they got their wish.

The restaurant's design, concept, and branding were undertaken by Amsterdam-based UXUS (this project taken on by their Napa office).

The floor is Mexican concrete tile. A creamy smooth surface to interplay with the jagged textures of the shutters behind.

Five hundred pairs of reclaimed shutters were culled for the restaurant's interior. There's also a hand-carved stone and marble bar along with hand-screened wallpaper. One of the features of the restaurant is a Host's table situated within the kitchen where diners "may experience firsthand the excitement and artistry" of making a meal. Presumably, without the expletives of Gordon Ramsey disturbing the mood.

Above is the intimate banquet room with custom wallpaper.

Ella was also featured at the excellent arch daily blog.

A Gardenful of Secrets

British garden designer Stuart Craine pulls off two amazing bits of magic in this Notting Hill project; 1) Within the yard he's built a kids' play area which is completely unseen from this living room view, and 2) somehow he's created the quintessential suburban English garden sanctuary in hot pink.

This project came to our attention via a story in The Guardian.

The aforementioned play yard as unseen from the living room.

The sloping elevation of the property is used to ultimate effect. Craine gently volleyballs our eyes with modulations of red, pink, blue, indigo, and violet.