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…..
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.
“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)
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…