hans olsen’s bikini chair

bikini chair, hans olsen @ dosbananos.com

bikini chair, hans olsen @ dosbananos.com

this chair is a beautiful rare sculpture of wood and upholstery.  from the 50s or early 60s this is a masterpiece of design skill, with the compound bent wood and dramatic shape. the piece was expensive to build and few were made.  

the name makes me smile.  i wonder what shape of woman he had in mind when he came up with the shape.  or after it was designed, what woman and bikini did it evoke, and hence the name. either way, it reminds me of a visit to a gym or a walk on a beach.  a normal beach, mind.  your average neighborhood gym.  not the ones on tv where the beautiful slim selection is on show. come to florida and give the normal american world a glim.  the possible variations of women’s shapes is wider than you may think.  the abstract design world has plenty of models!

panton’s unlikely chairs

last week i was calmly sitting on a swivel barstool when it decided to collapse. i had sat on this chair many days a week for years at a thrift store’s desk.  not that i sit much, but unnoticed this wood chair had succumbed to the florida heat and humidity so that when i did sit there this day, it gave out.  it was a strange feeling having the chair collapse under me, once so trusted.

so i come to the unlikely chairs of verner (or vernon?) panton, l’enfant terrible of danish furniture design. his designs have been described as innovative, provocative, sensational, visionary, and eccentric.  

vernon panton cone chair @ retrodecades.com

vernon panton cone chair @ retrodecades.com, a 1958 design

will it hold me?  maybe you are a small person and this question has never come up.  i am not particularly large, but i would not call myself small either.  i find myself eying this chair with suspicion.  impressed by the improbable design, i am not convinced of its strength. given the larger average proportions of people over the decades, i would be interested to know what weight the design holds.  

panton seems to have been escaping reality and weight, as others were in the 1960s.  

the first one-piece molded plastic chair, the panton chair, 1960

the first one-piece molded plastic chair, the panton chair, 1960

phantasy landscape, verner panton, 1970, at the visiona 2 exhibit, cologne design fair

phantasy landscape, verner panton, 1970, at the visiona 2 exhibit, cologne design fair

marcus miller explains panton’s well known fantasy landscape: “This soft, undulating womb of an environment, composed of upholstered foam panels, virtually dispenses with gravity. Leisure-seekers would recline across any number of organic protrusions built into modules that paid little or no attention to conventional coordinates like up or down. Panton’s immersive environments and futuristic designs of the 60s gave flesh to the dream of a blissful world free of constraints.” Marcus Miller

the phrase l’enfant terrible, literally the terrible child, refers to a successful avant garde, unorthodox person.  it also carries the meaning of a shockingly candid child embarrassing his elders with his comments and ideas.   i do find panton’s dismissal of constraints shocking, but the wild abandon has it’s attractions… can’t get the falling chair out of my mind, though…

dosbananos.com has several vintage panton pieces available this week.

vintage cone chairs, denmark @ dosbananos.com

vintage cone chairs, denmark @ dosbananos.com

vintage heart cone chair @ dosbananos.com

vintage heart cone chair @ dosbananos.com

george nakashima and burlwood furniture design

it strikes me as an anomaly that we should highly prize furniture made with burlwood.  george nakashima, american architect turned furniture maker, was famous for his inclusion of this type of wood in his designs.  

burls (brit. burs or burrs) are malignant abnormalities that form on some trees when they have been under some unusual stress from disease.

burr on an old scottish black poplar

burr on an old scottish black poplar

burr on a larch tree in scotland

burr on a larch tree in scotland

not the graceful elven tree forms forms we expect.  they remind you of the hunchback of notre dame.  yet when sliced or carefully detached from the normal wood (this takes a lot of work and care because of the twisted, hardened nature of the burl) the veneer, the table tops, or the naturally sculpted forms that emerge are rare treasures.  

burlwood bench @ artcollector-usa

burlwood bench @ artcollector-usa

burlwood bench @ artcollector-usa

burlwood bench @ artcollector-usa

nakashima dining table

burlwood and glass end table @ TSandCompany

burlwood and glass end table @ TSandCompany

cabinet, george nakishima, @ treadwaygallery.com

cabinet, george nakishima, @ treadwaygallery.com

why is this not the case with people?  we shun abnormal people.  we stare at and then pull back from people with scars or injuries.  we do not relish visits to hospitals and nursing homes.  our tv screens are filled with the beautifully perfect people only.  our tv news anchors are the ken and barbie dolls we love.  

yet my experience is that there is a deep strength and beauty in the hearts of the not normal.  i would rather their company than many more outwardly perfect people i know.  nakashima had a soft heart for the suffering.  i suspect he had suffered himself at some points in his life.  maybe this explains his long successful work with not normal wood.

jens risom, living and working past 92!

i plan to live into my 90s and be productive and useful in some way until i die. you think about these things when you are nearing 50…  

if you need inspiration to set yourself such a goal, read an article about furniture designer jens risom at dwr’s design notes.  in my hunt for decent design websites, dwr, design within reach is so far my favorite.  they offer some thoughtful substance, not just bits of waffle and a picture or two. 

2008, jens risom (age 92), with dwr design studio, originally designed in 1949 for the caribe hilton hotel in puerto rico.

2008, jens risom (age 92), with dwr design studio, originally designed in 1949 for the caribe hilton hotel in puerto rico.

dwr worked with risom in 2008 to remake a 1949 chair and ottoman, and a bench.  what an opportunity, to be able to tap into all those years of hard work and wisdom. they used different materials and techniques, but risom has always been interested  in efficient production and exceptional accessible design.  he worked with this dwr team to do the same thing again.  

my granny lived into her 90s.  i remember her, her smile and the twinkle in her eyes well.  my goal is a distinct possibility….

vladimir kagan furniture design and the lounge search

a torrential down pour moved through florida early this morning.  i have an outdoor lounge chair search on, and vladimir kagan’s set strikes me on this soggy day as almost perfect.  no damp cloth seats or moldy wood to deal with when our sun returns.   

vladimir kagan chairs and table @ dosbananos.com

vladimir kagan chairs and table @ dosbananos.com

 but on a dry day, this one would be wonderful

multi position aluminum frame lounge chair @ vladimirkagan.com

multi position aluminum frame lounge chair @ vladimirkagan.com

kagan’s simple lines and sweeping curves are most elegant

contour high backed lounge chair, walnut frame @ vladimirkagan.com

contour high backed lounge chair, walnut frame @ vladimirkagan.com

kagan has some cubist designs i am not so crazy about, but his use of plexiglass and contours combined is interesting

erica chaise @ vladimirkagan.com

erica chaise @ vladimirkagan.com

 

 here we go, for a super lazy florida day!

 

outdoor chaise, 1960s @ architonic.com

outdoor chaise, tubular steel, 1960s @ architonic.com

geometric furniture design by frank lloyd wright

my first encounter with frank lloyd wright’s work was a tour one summer’s afternoon through fallingwater.  set deep in its beautiful wooded pennsylvania valley, you walk through the property and have a slight suspicion that you might be falling with the water below.  

fallingwater, frank lloyd wright

fallingwater, frank lloyd wright

actually, his design was not perfect and the building had been falling.  when we were there there were props holding it up while reinforcements were being added… not so impressive.

wright was so famous and popular because he accomplished a lot and preached himself successfully.  in effect, he was his own prop.  like many great designers, he taught, wrote, travelled, lectured, and was an interesting, and at times controversial individual.  (americans love trailblazers.)  in personal and business matters, by contrast, he was often a failure … like the faulty cantilevered fallingwater.  

living room at fallingwater

living room at fallingwater

living room at fallingwater

 

but you cannot deny both the drama and the serenity of the place with its stone floors and big open great room, balancing there as the water falls on and on below.  

when i was in school i loved mathematics, especially geometry.  i could happily fiddle with ruler, compass and pencil for hours, drawing neat curves and perfect angles.  very satisfying.  i later became a draftsman of engineering and architectural drawings, for a time (before the days of autocad!…yes, i am getting old).  so wright’s furniture designs make me smile.  

he borrowed traditional japanese styles.  he loved the japanese respect for the beauty of wood.  then he set about drawing neat circles and lots of straight lines.  easily manufactured and reproducible, was one of his goals.   

 

desk and chair at fallingwater

desk and chair at fallingwater

 

copy of the wright barrel chair, made for the dining area at fallingwater

copy of the wright barrel chair, made for the dining area at fallingwater

 

frank lloyd wright 1937 desk chair, us patent print

frank lloyd wright 1937 desk chair, us patent print

i have my doubts about his furniture’s comfort, though.  in his architecture, he studied the landscape and made his buildings spring out of it’s surroundings.  this organic emphasis seems lost in his furniture.  it disregards the body’s curves. function and form do not meet.  and aesthetically i miss any tribute to the subtler curves and lines found in nature.  

i don’t think he tried to make any cantilevered chairs. they would really worry me.  

but the cantilevered shelving at fallingwater is great.  i love the clean lines and smooth wood, especially in contrast to the rough rock floors.  perhaps i will knock my walls about a bit and cantilever some shelves….

Built in 1895 for the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, these side chairs have high backs that extend above the heads of the sitters. When positioned around a dining table, the chairs created a temporary, intimate enclosure of space, a room within a room.

Built in 1895 for the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, these side chairs have high backs that extend above the heads of the sitters. When positioned around a dining table, the chairs created a temporary, intimate enclosure of space, a room within a room.

Frank Lloyd Wrights 1949 Taliesin Origami Chair

Frank Lloyd Wright's 1949 Taliesin "Origami Chair" (whimsical but comfortable??)

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.