Often overlooked, but not forgotten, is the German-born designer and close collaborator to Mies van der Rohe, Lilly Reich. She began her career by designing furniture and clothing, along with shop window display designs. In 1912, Lilly joined the Deutscher Werkbund, and in 1920 she became the organizations first female director. Through their shared involvement with the Deutscher Werkbund, Mies and Lilly became close design collaborators for several Deutscher Werkbund exhibitions. Throughout the 1920s & 1930s they collaborated on several projects, including furniture pieces often solely attributed to Mies.
Decorating with transparent surfaces brings an unexpected element of surprise and illusion into a space. Tokujin Toshioka designs the most stunning furniture pieces that appear to float or magically disappear into their surroundings. The armchair from his Invisibles Light Collection is a covet-worthy piece. Along those lines is the Louis Ghost Chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell. Whether crystal clear, or opaque black, these chairs are a contemporary take on a classic silhouette. From the functional to whimsical, transparent surfaces also offer space saving solutions (illusions!) for small spaces. CB2 has a variety of acrylic furniture pieces that are simple, sleek, and multifunctional. Lastly, I couldn’t resist the playful nature of John Brauer’s Illusion Table. The acrylic is genius and bold in mimicking an actual table cloth. A transparent trompe l'oeil.
Ezra Stoller is by far one of the most prolific photographers of mid-century modern architecture. His images capture the sheer magnitude of Modernism, while also celebrating the industry behind this influential era of our architectural legacy. These intoxicating black and white photographs have helped define the culture behind (or cultural memory) of such iconic structures as the Seagram Building, Marin County Civic Center, and the Salk Institute. The photos included for this Modern Monday post are some of my personal favorite Stoller photographs.
Pattern is one of my favorite ways to incorporate color into a space. It can be done subtly with neutrals and pale tones, or the complete opposite spectrum. Whichever your preference, pattern is a perfect accent to creating a space that is fresh, inspiring, and classic with pops of whimsy. My automatic response to adding pattern is textiles. I love a pillow or three, and throw blankets. Cb2 has some eclectic pillow options, and Leif Shop always nails it with their pillows. A consistent favorite for patterned (colorful or monochromatic) throws is Caroline Z Hurley. Her throws are perfect for adding springtime color to your space. Another way to add pattern is hand-painting your walls or using wallpaper.The modern-romantic wallpaper featured in an entry way is inviting, and its color palate of blues & greens complements the pinks, reds, and yellows of the textiles within the space. Love color & pattern!
"It’s been more than 70 years since the Eameses began experimenting with molded wood, using their “Kazam! Machine” to press thin sheets of wood veneer against a heated membrane that was inflated by a bicycle pump. As the designers pushed the material as far as it could go, they continued to explore and discover, surrendering to the design process that ultimately led to their Molded Plastic Chair. In its longstanding commitment to the Eameses’ vision of continued exploration, discovery and refinement, Herman Miller introduces the Molded Wood Side Chair (1950)." - Design Within Reach
Lets talk about prints. Whether large or small scale they are one of my favorite mediums to adorn my walls. I love how versatile prints are. From the purely graphic, to photography, to other art and mixed mediums. They also work well framed or simply hung from clips. Here is a roundup of my current (some longtime) favorites. Mixed-media print series, Dark Island, by Evan Hecox are his graphic and visual explorations of New York City recreated on vintage newspaper. The color palate is brilliant. I can’t get enough of what Print Club Boston is doing right now. The hand-pulled screen prints are simply stunning. How I still haven’t procured For Like Ever is insane, but it will be my next print. Catherine Ledner’s Wild Animals series combine two of my favorite things: patterns & animals. The results are quite the conversation pieces. Xochi Solis’ mixed media creations (arrows of carnations shown) are layered, colorful gems. Print love.
Buildings are physical representations of the social, economic, political, technological, and cultural climates of their eras of origin. Ultimately buildings represent our cultural heritage and our architectural history. However, mid-century modern era buildings are increasingly interpreted as antiquated architecture that is functionally obsolete and lacking use in today’s society. Our recent-past modern buildings are being labeled as “failed” or “useless” architecture. As a result, mid-century modern architecture is rapidly being demolished and replaced with newer sustainable structures believed to better represent our most current social and cultural ideals. Current architecture is believed to be far more aesthetically pleasing than their modern predecessors.
BFramed in the context of history, it can only follow that Brutalist buildings were going to be executed as formal monumental concrete structures that directly juxtapose (even challenge) their environments. But more often than not, the perspective of historic context is outnumbered by present aesthetic preference. For example, Prentice Women’s Hospital (Bertrand Goldberg) in Chicago, the Berkeley Art Museum (Mario Ciampi) in California, and several of Paul Rudolph’s brut beauties were technological and architectural triumphs of their time. However, the Brutalist buildings like other modern era buildings that rate low on the aesthetic-scale have been equally disregarded in their maintenance. The argument for demolition based on deficiencies caused by a lack of maintenance becomes all too convenient. The wide-spread demise of Brutalist civic and urban buildings is a demise of the ideologies behind the intent of the architecture and those housed within.
Aesthetics cannot be the pretext for significance or the preservation of architecture. Letting aesthetics judge value will strip our architectural history of some of the most influential and innovated examples of modern era architecture. In effect, we are killing, and ultimately denying claim to, a portion of our architectural history. There is value in the perspective of context and value in re-using and re-imagining modern era architecture. If aesthetic preference continues to get in the way, what use is there for the architect or an architectural legacy?
Brass is back. Forget those awful brass accents and finishes from the 1990s, because brass got a modern update (hello, no more lacquer) and is here to stay. Brass accents and finishes have an understated elegance and modernist aesthetic. It is strong, won’t rust, and has been reimagined into a variety of geometric forms. Brass also adds a natural pop of warmth to any space, and is a perfect complement to textiles. I love the versatility of brass. It can be used as a singular show stopping piece like side chairs done completely in brass. Or as accents like a task lamp and side table. Whether you are sublet or bold with your brass, this precious metal is here to stay.
New Furniture. Edited by Gerd Hatje.
"New Furniture was conceived as a series devoted to the survey of international furniture. The first volume contains 275 illustrations showing the best and most interesting designs of chairs, sofas, beds, tables, cabinets, shelves, office furniture, and nursery furniture by designers from fourteen countries. This wide scope makes it possible for the reader to compare different trends and to discern future developments." - Modernism 101
Pink has long been one of my favorite accent colors (flowers, art, textiles, the list goes on). I am especially drawn to vibrant fuchsias or the palest shades. Currently, the pale pink accents are taking over. I enjoy the versatility pale pink accents offer. From softening and contrasting metallics, to adding color punch to predominantly monochromatic spaces. For this round-up of pale pink accents I chose both large scale accents (hello beautiful area rug and modern rocking chair) to small vessels, candlesticks, pillows, and one of the most amazing stools. Click the arrows to have a look.