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.

The Shock of Color 3: Yellow

First, let's get this out of the way: The smiley face. To contemporary consciousness, an object that's done more to torture the image of happiness from yellow than anything else. Yellow's associations with flowering spring, youth, life-giving sun, etc, etc, not withstanding, that crude yellow visage has been inescapably branded into our front brains with a red hot poker. Across all cultures, generations, and geography and probably only slightly behind the crucifix, yin and yang, and the crescent moon as one of our most potently iconic universal images.

The use of smiley faces as weapons of marketing aside, optically, we receive color as stimulants. Yellow comes to us as a forceful nerve tonic, energizing and invigorating. Yellow is the vibrant symbol of life, described as the climax of luminosity. It produces joy and gaiety. Wow. Who couldn't use more of that?

Because of its power, yellow can work on scales small and large, as table accent in a dining room or a color wash on exterior expanse.

Effective as muted and reflective;

Or on the periphery acting with a balancing impact.

In a forest of blue, red, orange, and green, yellow stands alone.

Below, yellow-orange whispers out of interior windows mixing with the waning sky blues and deep grass greens of dusk.

Or, as below, yellow can go big as this office in Copenhagen demonstrates: A ceiling-to-floor flaming arrow to be fired into the otherwise half-awake retinas of office worker bees. It's the picture of the buzzing hive where even the walls are caffeinated.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Masters of Time

It looks like it could be rain for the watch industry. Sales haven't been this desolate since the introduction of cheap Japanese quartzes. Descriptions of international sales, especially in the luxury stratospheres of the market, have been anywhere from a slip to a
nosedive. And don't expect the Swiss to be less stern anytime soon.

Predictions for End Times of the watch come with many explanations: The effect of the recession on executive bonuses, the industry's hallucinatory and outsized price-to-value points, and a general death of the watch due to a digital generation uninterested in wearing them. (Indeed, maybe it's the pant-load of time-bearing gadgetry that's making their pants sag.) It's certainly not for want of design. In fact, it appears the oracles predicting the industry's end times have inspired a new frontier of design experimentation. Fear of death can do that sometimes.

With that in mind, maybe it's time to take another look at the watch.

Above, a stunning display of design essentiality by designer Tokujin Yoshioka from Issey Miyake's "TO" watch series. Mechanical movement provided by Seiko.

This is a wristwatch as wearable Zen garden. Its face is separated into three stainless steel circles, two moving like rake strokes on gravel and one calibrated outermost ring to stablize the visual field, boulder-like. Despite its overt minimalism the watch is easy to read. As you'll see below, other watches take a more whimsical approach to readability. Time, it seems, can be made even more abstract.

The Vue watch from Swiss-born, San Francisco-based designer Yves Behar (under the fuseproject banner). As time proceeds the numbers fade leaving only the present time visible (be always present). A watch to offer not only thick layers of meaning but even thicker conversational possibilities. Another from Issey Miyake.

The Hublot Black Caviar Bang: Visual caviar that includes a white gold case tiled over in a mass of black diamonds. The weight of the diamonds is 34.4 carats but the weight on your estate may be slightly greater: With a price tag of million dollars you may want to take this off before painting the tool shed this weekend.

Yet another Issey Miyake piece, this time the OVO watch designed by Shunji Yamanaka. The reflective face is stainless steel (also available in all black). And at the relatively Walmart friendly price of $310, this watch is practically as affordable as its namesake ("egg" in Portuguese or something or other).

Telling time with this watch has been described as "cryptic." Designed by Denis Guidone, well known for his ultra-minimalist watch designs, the graphic face of his "Ora Unica" consists of two circular dials that position "graphical gesture" endpoints as hands. Somehow, you'll be able to figure out what time it is. (Probably not the best timepiece to wear if you're timing stock day-trades.) Guidone's non-linear design was selected as the winner of the international design competition Adamo Eva.

Still in its conceptual phase, this watch is not yet available for purchase.

This art deco-looking number is the "Hu" Watch designed By Ross Lovegrove from Issey Miyake. Its sensuously tumid contours make the proper accessory for weekend rocketeering or cruising for heiresses in the Avanti.

A lady's watch, as you might've guessed: The Corum Golden Bridge Diamond. It features a mechanical movement of an innovative linear bar shape with red gold all around, sapphire crystals, and a galaxy of diamonds. Price
: $96,000

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gathering Moss

The image of moss brings a sense of calm, age, and stillness.
Japanese gardens, and the Chinese before them, have long used this quality of quietude to excellent effect.

A carpet of moss on hard porous stone is more than an brilliant image, it is the essence of coexistence: Moss thrives on materials which are porous and water retentive, such as brick, wood, and certain coarse concrete mixtures.

Above, the Karesansui garden at TMfuku-ji in Kyoto, Japan.

A moss covered wall to soothe the spirit like a vertical meditation rug.

Moss requires shade and moisture as its soft membrane and poor vascular system aren't well suited for moving water throughout the plant by itself. Without damp conditions moss desiccates quickly, especially in the sun. It will appear brown and dead but will return to green efflorescence when watered again. (Some mosses can hold up to ten times their weight in moisture after watering.) Water is also a necessary element in the reproductive cycle as it moves spores away from the plant.

Japanese-born and Los Angeles-resident artist Mineo Muzuno created these large pebble forms dotted with holes for a moss covering that serves as a kind of organic glaze.

Moss covered bath mat by Switzerland-based designer
Nguyen La Chanh. As you might suspect, the often humid and sometimes drippy conditions of the bathroom are hospitable to moss. The substrate is made from porous polyethylene Plastazote foam, used most often in prosthetics for its low skin irritation qualities.

London Artist Anna Garforth is building a poem using moss lettering (to be installed in four parts). As the moss grows the stanza will grow out of the confines of the individual letterforms as a kind of work in progress.

Living moss jewelry from Icelandic designer Hafsteinn Juliusson. (Discovered at GreenMuze blog, here.)

Last year's Milan Furniture Fair featured this display by Japan-based flower artist Makoto Azuma in a collaboration with Unitika Ltd.: A living indoor carpet featuring a variety of mosses.

The moss is implanted into a receptacle made from a plant-based plastic called Terramac®. The plastic provides protection for the plant's roots and seeds as it holds the moss together. It decomposes, slowly (after ten years), into water and carbon dioxide, the latter which is captured by the plants roots through photosynthesis.

Below, Hanging Moss Garden from the Moistscape Installation, Henry Urbach Gallery, New York NY.