bold surreal josef frank fabric and furniture design

a designer savy friend is incorporating panels of josef frank’s wallpaper into her new home in florida.  frank’s dramatic designs are clean, crisp and full of color.  my friend is expecting a new baby.  perhaps she feels there should be more perk in the child’s upbringing.  or maybe she is freaking out from her move to florida from europe and this is a coping mechanism…..

Svenskt Tenn at Strandvägen in Stockholm

Svenskt Tenn at Strandvägen in Stockholm displays Frank's furniture and random design style.

frank’s designs come from vienna in the 1920s and then sweden from the 1930s on.  they are remarkable given their time and place.  while the severe minimalist bauhaus designers were becoming vogue, frank and his partners rejected those restrictions but still advanced in a modern direction of their own, adapting various 1800s styles and forms, european and asian.   

vegetable tree, josef frank

vegetable tree, josef frank

 

dixieland, josef frank

dixieland, josef frank

 

Gröna fåglar, cotton

Gröna fåglar, josef frank

 

catleya, josef frank

catleya, josef frank

 

teheran, black, josef frank

teheran, black, josef frank (he made a lot of patterns with an alternate white background)

 

US tree, josef frank

US tree, josef frank

“Mix old and new, colors and forms. Things that you like will all the same melt into a quiet unity. The home does not have to be planned in detail, not artful, just linked together by parts that its occupants enjoy and love.”

Josef Frank (1885-1967)

easy chair 568, josef frank, 1936

easy chair 568, josef frank, 1936

 

easy chair, 336, josef frank

easy chair, 336, josef frank

 

Sofa 968, josef frank

Sofa 968, josef frank

 

chair, josef frank

chair, josef frank

you can see this ‘chuck a whole bunch of unlikely things together’ philosophy in the fabric dsigns themselves.  personally, i do not see it all melting into a quiet unity.  although there are some more mellow designs in their inventory (see many more samples and info about frank at  Svenskt Tenn ) i cannot conceive of an inclusion of his fabrics on chairs or walls in my home without creating a loud disunity.  

fran, where is your sense of adventure?, you might ask. (and i have been asked many times…) sorry, maybe i am a bit dull, but i find the surreal aspects of his designs unsettling.  surrealism  has a disorienting, hallucinatory dreamlike quality.  like reading ‘alice in wonderland’ as a child, or singing along to ‘the yellow submarine’ as a teenager.  wow, strange but cool ideas. then later, when you are a mother reading ‘alice’ to your children, you are relieved to discover that lewis carroll was on drugs when he wrote the book, and so were the beatles much of the time.  ah, you say to yourself, that explains it.  not that you trash alice and the beatles, but they become less marvelous.  

i am not accusing my friend of being on drugs because she likes josef frank’s designs.  i cannot find any evidence that frank was on drugs.  he did live in disorienting times, though.  vienna was a dynamic crossroad of culture and history during his early training.  radical crossroad upbringings can be disorienting.

i wonder what his viennese jewish family suffered while frank and his wife took refuge in sweden from the nazis.  maybe to frank the world was surreal. understandable.   

for myself i need to hold on to truth and real ordered uncluttered design.  i find this settling in an unsettled world.   

but maybe i am looking at this the wrong way.  frank and his partner, estrid ericson, loved life, family, pets, and the ability to rearrange furniture and furnishings often.  they liked to incorporate new things and a variety of styles in one room, as if it had been thrown together by accident.  perhaps i am confusing accidentalism with surrealism.  even so, i find neither very calming….

you should have more color in your life, though, fran, my friends say…..  just spare me from too much pink…

Gösta Glase)

Josef Frank and Estrid Ericson admire Josef Frank’s "Primavera" pattern. (Photo: Gösta Glase)

hollywood regency interior design: glamorous… and dusty

 

creamy vintage paris boudoir vanity chair

creamy vintage paris boudoir vanity chair

the glamor of the hollywood regency interior design style is a mimicry of the early movie heyday star’s lifestyles and tastes.  these people entertained lavishly, their homes were adorned with exotic furnishings and dramatic flair. they were adored almost as royalty.  hollywood regency furniture is a broad category difficult to define.  the look is not minimalist, but some pieces within the design can be.  it can include mid-century modern or older styles, asian pieces, blacks, whites, wood grains, just about any kind of color combination that suits your taste.  but heavily carved and heavily upholstered pieces are often included.  

designers william haines and dorothy draper lived this life and developed this look for others.  they were gutsy, wealthy, successful and admired.  these websites are worthwhile.  

haines interior

william haines interior

 

william haines
william haines, 1900-1973
The lobby of the Hampshire House, completed in 1937, Dorothy Draper

lobby of the hampshire house, completed in 1937, dorothy draper

 

dorothy draper 1889-1969

dorothy draper 1889-1969

we do not have to spend thousands to incorporate this style (just look like we did), thanks to online used furniture dealers. there is a large assortment of hollywood regency style furniture online, especially on ebay.  my favorite companies are ts and company and art collector-usa.  they offer an excellent blanket wrapped furniture moving service, tsc moving.

a regency is a substitute government or rulership.  they had them in europe when the royal heir was still a boy, for instance, or when there was no clear ruler for a time, or when the ruler was absent.  some would argue that hollywood movie stars are the royalty of america, substitutes because we don’t have anything else.  you don’t vote for or against the stars and argue endlessly about their ideas and actions.  the adored actors are just there.  wonderful, rich, envied.  this was especially true during and the decade after the second world war.  their world was a welcome escape.  it was a reminder that war and the hardships it created were not the only reality.  we welcome the same kind of refuge in these times.  when we mimic their style, we attempt to capture something of their lifestyle for ourselves, the ability to impress and offer the comfort and luxury to our friends as we entertain. 

but be warned: this style is dusty.  writing this piece i cannot help thinking about numerous vintage furniture items i have dealt with in the hollywood regency style.  you need a maid (or you are the maid).  these people had maids, believe me.  the tufted upholstery chairs are tricky to clean.  folds of fabric and those fabric covered buttons trap dirt and animal hair.  the buttons tend to go missing.  they are one of the most expensive re-upholstery jobs, the most time consuming if you attempt it yourself.  lots of carved woodwork, chandeliers, interesting ornaments sitting on coffee tables, all gathering dust.  do we honestly have time for this?  does the imagined serenity of the rich and famous really rule our desires?  maybe that ambition is also dusty.

interior design colors – a case against pink

i have been thinking about pink.

 my thesis statement today: avoid pink in interior design.

now there are some wonderful splashes of pink in the world that occur naturally or seem just to fit.  

i am not against pink altogether.  who can argue with a pink rose in an english garden, or a pink wild flower by the road in the mohave desert.

 

owls clover, mojave desert

owl's clover, mojave desert

 

 

Then there are splashes of pink tones in a sunrise or sunset when the atmospheric conditions are in line.  rare because pink sits on the very edge of the color spectrum.

pink flower arrangements are usually tagged with “adorable” and “pretty”, while girls wearing pink are “sweet” and “cute” (=not to be taken seriously?). and the world and people are not by and large sweet, cute, adorable or pretty.  let’s face it, God is wise and he has used pink sparingly. 

when my children were small i worked for six months as a librarian’s assistant in their elementary school’s media center.  the regular assistant was on medical leave.  i love books and enjoyed the work. the librarian was a wonderful woman and good at her job. but she was in the process of redecorating and decided that the whole library should be pink.  it would calm the students and create a nurturing environment, she thought.  all the books were removed from the shelves and stood in stacks all over the place while even the shelves were painted in shades of pink.  i found the project oppressive.  i did not see a change in the boisterous nature of the children either, when they were finally allowed back in to the room.  but maybe the librarian found herself calmed and nurtured and that in turn would have trickled down over time to influence the room.  we moved to a different school district the following year, so i could not follow up on her experiment.  

there is all sorts of psychology connected with color choices, (most seem exaggerated).  i agree that the choices made say something about the people that choose them — who they are and what they want to be: calmed by the tones of dusk, brightened by the colors of day, cooled and soothed by water’s blues…etc.    i prefer the predominant colors found in nature.  

here in florida there is plenty of green (life, growth, change) and brown (solid, stable, usable earth and trees), and blue skies (though clouds and cloudy days are an appreciated contrast).  small splashes of bright color are here and there in the flowers, butterflies and birds.  this is the balance i prefer as i am a practical sort of person not feeling a great need for calming and nurturing, or for bright cheerfulness or emotional stoking.  (others might argue that i would be helped by these influences, but they are not decorating my house.)  live, grow, change, be solid stable and usable….fran, will you wear something other than browns and greens? my friends ask….  well, i do branch out into a few other colors… just not pink.

a little bit of feminine softness goes a long way.  god worked hard to make the world and he did it well.  let’s follow his color scheme and avoid the overuse of pink.