Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mid Century Modern

Concluding this history of design series we will now look at my favorite addition to the Modernist Movement, Mid Century Modern (1933-1965). Included in Mid Century Modern is Danish Modern and Swedish Modern Scandinavian designs. (see definitions in the introduction)

Mid Century Modern was defined by sleek and organic designs taken from the Bauhaus and Art Nouveau but morphing into a more relaxed and carefree attainability. One of the driving factors of this style was the idea of bringing furniture into as post war America. Also very influential in furniture design was the Mid Century Architecture spinning off of earlier Frank Lloyd Wright designs. Take for example the Brazilia Series By Broyhill. These architectural furniture pieces were directly inspired by Brasilia the capitol of Brazil. This city planned and built in 1956 employed the principals of Mid Century Modern Architecture. Take a look at the relation of design between the Palacio da Alvorada in Brazil and this Broyhill Brazilia credenza.

You don't have to go all the way to Brazil to see this relationship in action. Just take a look at the famous Eichler tract homes developed by Joseph Eichler in suburban California built during the 1950's. This home style and more like it placed emphasis on open floorplans, with large windows and archways meant to bring the feeling of the outdoors in. Post and beam architecture style was responsible for putting an end to the need for bulky support walls and introduced walls of glass or beams sparse and minimal. This style that met form and function and the needs of the average American family was often referred to as California Modern. The furniture placed in these homes and built with the same concepts in mind compliment the home flawlessly.

You can't discuss Mid Century Modern design and furniture and not talk about the designers themselves. Greats such as George Nelson creator of the slat bench and ball clock played an integral role in the risk taking and cutting edge designs of this era. Husband and wife team Ray & Charles Eames dabled in architecture, philosophy, film, and design.

One of their most popular works was the LCW Bent Plywood Lounge Chair. Companies such as Herman Miller debuting their first modern line of furniture in 1933 as an effort to survive with a new look and a coming depression and Knoll founded in New York City in 1938 can be credited for bringing modern designs to the world.

They introduced iconic pieces that will never be forgotten and employed these and other desiners known as some of the greatest of their time and arguably of all time, and whose furniture continues to be highly sought after and produced today.

Scandinavian designers certainly inspired and influenced american design companies and their creations adorned the homes of Mid Century Modernist Americans along side American designs.

Danish pieces were highly appreciated for their use of Teak wood known for being one of the hardest, strongest and most durable woods as well as its high natural oil making it one of the most attractive and resilient to all weather woods. Accomplished Danish designer Finn Juhl is credited for introducing Danish Modern to the U.S.

*pair Finn Juhl chairs

Swedish designs utilizing more light colored woods such as, birch, alder and elm encompass the natural, organic, simple and handmade properties that are highlighted with the Mid Mod movement. A perfect example of Swedish inspired home designs can still be enjoyed today at the popular chain of Ikea stores around the world.

What a journey it's been for modern design and what a full cast of characters that built it's backbone. So what is next for modern design? Are we destined to repeat classics or can we expand with new innovations and traditions for the future? As is seen with any history lesson it takes many years for an evolution to bring about something so new and different that it stands alone. Still, furniture designers all over the world today continue to add 21st Century components to their work. Let us wait and see. Come December 31st, 2100 a new timeline of design will most certainly exist.

Signing off for now,


Saturday, June 18, 2011


As we continue to explore important aspects in history effecting modern and mid-century modern design certain unifying themes will continue to arise. One of these themes is the reaction and evolution of the arts as a result of social and economic factors.

This couldn't hold more truth than with the modernist movement (1920-1960's). Due to a paradigm shift in the 19th and early 20th centuries modernism became a major revolt against conservative aspects of society and art such as realism and romanticism. It's impact was a reshaping of old ways to new more efficient ways through a clarity of meaning and a re-examining of every aspect of daily life. Truly the concepts of minimalism and absolutes define modernism.

In order to understand the modernist movement you must also understand the post-modernist movement. Postmodernism came as a bold reaction against the modernist. The perspective of the post modernist was skeptic towards society and the blanket ideals of a modernistic world that saw things as either one thing or the other. To me postmodernism came in and filled in the blanks so to speak of modernism. Where once things were either black or white now grey and
color would exist.

Some of what we have already reviewed will fall within the context of the Modernist Movement including Bauhaus. However it also encompassed several other important movements in the arts. Some of these movements that I consider to be most impacting including Bauhaus are American Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco and Mid Century Modern.

Though the modernist movement is broad in the since that it reached many facets from politics to philosophy, we will primarily examine its impact in relation to design.

Although just on the cusp of the Modernist Movement, American Arts and Crafts (1900-1915) being a nod to the similar British movement, embraced the theory of nature and home and saw influences well into the 1930's.
Overlapping with similarities to the Bauhaus, American Arts and Crafts produced solid and entirely handcrafted objects. Its hallmark was Mission Style furniture and designs known for horizontal and vertical lines usually in an oak finish. Arts and Crafts was in direct rebellion from Victorian era complexity and industrial mass production of home goods. Simplicity is once again the focus tying together this and other interpretations of modern ideals. Here is one of the first chairs attributed to the mission style by A.J. Forbes around 1894 (well before the movement gained it's popularity) for San Francisco's Swedenborgian Church.

Art Nouveau though not strictly modern was an important part of the
timeline of transition into modernism and more specifically helped initiate the arst and crafts movement. This is true with American Art Nouveau (1890-1910) primarily demonstrated through the designs of ceramics and glass, drawing also from Japanese influences that leant to the creations of notable designers such as Van Briggle and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Their unique interpretations in their work began to obscure the line between fine art and decorative art.

Emerging from it's origins in Paris, American Art Deco (1920-1940) can be broken into two decades of distinct and different designs. This divide came as a result of the Stock Market crash of 1929. Prior to that time outlandish and exotic designs characterized by curves and enticing luxury lead the Deco movement. After 1929 a switch to a futuristic angular feel with streamlined culminations dominated main stream. Art Deco was also very influential in the architecture of its time including such buildings as the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center. Despite the differing versions of Art Deco, elements and trends from this movement are very distinguishable and continue to appear in modern design. Because of its obsession with the Buck Rogers brand of "future", later lending "atomic" elements to mid-century modern and retro designs, this period in many ways is still ahead of it's time.

The final and one of the most important chapters of the Modernist Movement is the Mid Century Modern era. I feel this particular style deserves it's own section and so will be visited in our next post.

Many exciting and innovative expressions of design can be attributed to the modernist movement and the surge of change it brought to the world. With these primary examples there remain countless advances and innovations still influential today.

Signing off for now,

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Bauhaus Movement

Now that we've been introduced to some basic concepts for this exploratory summer series of modern and mid-century design let's delve deeper and begin with an overview of the Bauhaus movement.

Officially named Staatliches Bauhaus and founded as a school of the arts in Weimar Germany, the Bauhaus movement beginning in 1919 and continuing through 1933 encompassed a time in the world that would shift and change humanity forever. Though it came against many obstacles from its start including economic hardship and Nazi propaganda, Bauhaus was a highly effective free form platform for the arts that pushed the boundaries of convention. It has since impacted all facets of the
arts including art, architecture, graphic design,interior design and typography.

Ultimately opened as an inspirational push back to the devastation of Germany after World War I and an answer to inflation due to sanctions placed on Germany the guiding principal of the school's students and teachers was "less is more". This discipline would result in minimalistic and modern design but more importantly affordable furnishings and decor for the home. This was possible through simplistic production methods and appealing to consumers with sleek lines and curves that presented a comprehensive "new look". Focusing on Consumer goods, furniture, and the overall concept of interior design Bauhaus was effective in pushing the notion of a cohesive integration of all facets of the home.

An example of a classic design coming from the Bahaus is the Wassily chair, also the B3 chair designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925-1926 while he was at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany and the head of the cabinet-making workshop.

Making several moves throughout the country and later settling in Chicago, Illinois the Bauhaus influence reached far beyond their school borders becoming an unparalleled movement that transformed design. It ultimately opened the world to a fresh and edgy look at design through the incorporation of art and architecture in daily life with an obvious approach to modern yet practical design.

Signing off for now,


Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Importance of the History of Modern Design; the Many Faces of Modern and Where it is Heading

When you see modern furniture, architecture, art or decor and it appeals to you, how do you describe or explain the piece or structure and its draw?

Where does this style come from and what makes it as modern today as it was yesterday? As designers and architects continue to produce modern pieces and structures, what influences their works and can this revival of the Scandinavian and Mid-Century Modern movements and continuing expressions of Modernism bring about a new revolution in design?
I hope to explore this subject at length throughout the summer. If you should have anything to contribute, please let me know.

First we must understand the basics. Here are a few terms and definitions to get us started. Note how many of these overlap and influence one another. This will be a reoccurring theme.

Bauhaus:(1919 – 33) Influential, forward-looking German school of architecture and applied arts. It was founded by Walter Gropius with the ideal of integrating art, craftsmanship, and technology. Realizing that mass production had to be the precondition of successful design in the machine age, its members rejected the Arts and Crafts Movement's emphasis on individually executed luxury objects. The Bauhaus is often associated with a severe but elegant geometric style carried out with great economy of means, though in fact the works produced
by its members were richly diverse.

Modernism (1920-1960's): Modernism, also known as the Modern Movement, marked a conscious break with the past and has been one of the dominant expressions of design practice, production, and theory in the 20th century and is generally characterized visually by the use of modern materials such as tubular steel and glass, the manipulation of abstract forms, space and light, and a restrained palette, dominated by white, off-white, grey, and black.

Mid Century Modern: (1933-1965) is an architectural, interior and
product design form that generally describes mid-20th century developments in modern design, architecture, and urban development, and is an organic offshoot of Modern design that’s often associated with the casual furnishings and carefree look of Eichler tract homes in suburban California during the 1950s.

Scandanavia: is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula, whereas modern Denmark is situated on the Danish islands and Jutland. In English usage, the term Scandinavia, which refers to a cultural region, is occasionally confused with the Scandinavian Peninsula and is sometimes also taken to include Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Such usage, however, is considered inaccurate in Scandinavia, where the term Nordic countries instead refers to a broader group comprising both Scandinavia itself as well as countries and territories that are historically associated with the Scandinavian countries, including Finland and Iceland.

Danish Modern: is a vintage style of minimalist wood furniture from Denmark. Popular in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, Danish modern is part of the mid-20th century Danish design movement, and is commonly constructed of teak. Noted Danish furniture designer Finn Juhl popularized the style (especially in the United States).

Swedish Modern: This term first became current in the 1930s when modern Swedish design was becoming increasingly well known in Europe and the United States. However, it was at its height in the 1950s and was characterized by many of the qualities of Modernism blended with natural materials such as wood and a Scandinavian respect for craftsmanship.

By looking at differences and similarities among these particular design trends, styles, ideas and regions we will gain a comprehensive idea of what this diverse time of design meant to the world and how it continues to influence arts and culture today.

Signing off for now,


Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year New Design

I always feel after the holiday bustle has come to an end and we've rung in the new year, it’s the perfect time to start fresh and clear out our spaces as well as our minds!

While getting organized and making room for new beginnings and opportunities I like to create simple yet warm spaces that say winter still lingers, but spring is on the horizon. To do this I work on de-cluttering, bringing in fresh whites and soft yet bright lighting. One of my favorite touches…a simple bouquet of a dozen white roses cut short in a clear round vase. On a clean surface this makes a great statement.

The practice of change and renewal with your decor is another perfect example of how design and daily living go hand in hand. What you want for yourself in the new year can start with your home. Breathing life and revitalization into your space will energize you and give you that since of accomplishment that will spur you on to other achievements. But don't just take my word for it. Let's take a look at a few tips from the ARA top ten decorating trends for 2011 article .

"The mad, mad world of furniture
Taking a nod from the award-winning AMC series "Mad Men," Linda Fougerousse of Interior Transformation, Inc. also sees furniture styles returning to the '50s and '60s with round tapered legs on angles, geometric accents and seating with curved backs. Jase Frederick of Jase Frederick Sustainable Interiors adds that classic wood pieces made from sentimental stock like fallen trees or scrap wood from ancestral or historic structures will become heirlooms to pass from one generation to the next. "

"There's nothing bland about neutrals
In a recent video posted on her website, Michelle Lamb - co-founder and chairman of Minneapolis-based Marketing Directions, Inc. and editorial director of The Trend Curve - spoke about a resurgence in neutrals in 2011. These more complex "chameleon" neutrals will have more color, and will shift and change based on the light and whatever's around them. Lamb claims that these neutrals will be "the likes of which we haven't seen in 20 years or more."

"What's old is new again
Whether they're genuine period pieces being repurposed or home furnishings reproduced from popular items from the '50s, '60s or '70s, vintage will be hot next year, according to Kenneth Ludwig of Kenneth Ludwig Home Furnishings, Ltd. Examples include chair frames redone in new upholstery, traditional lighting fixtures in newer brass or pewter finishes, or products imported from Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic such as chairs done in old grain sacks, or old carts from factories used for end tables or coffee tables."

With so many fabulous ideas to ponder 2011 is full of possibility.

Signing off for now,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ghost of Artists Past

This morning one of my delightful customers introduced me to the art of Louise Nevelson. This education was sparked by the large art piece I have hanging at Domino behind the counter. The completely white piece is constructed of computer packing material on canvas and creates a delightful abstract depiction of what some call an ancient city or others a modern cityscape. Whatever it is you see, Are’ Andi the local HP executive that created this work in the late 1960’s, was without a doubt inspired by Louise Nevelson.

My customer who had the privilege of meeting Louise in her 90’s while he was studying architecture at Cambridge described her small frame and bohemian style. Most often with a scarf tied around her hair and three layers of fake eye lashes, her unique style and brilliant sculptures inspired a principal that gives meaning to things once forgotten. In her words Nevelson described it best, "When you put together things that other people have thrown out, you’re really bringing them to life – a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created."

The evolution of her work including the inspiration she gained from a Christmas Gift Box that led her to placing her wood and discarded objects assemblages in sectioned boxes and then stacking boxes to make room in her studio resulting in the vertical direction of her work, brought her to the creation of some of the most impressive and impacting sculptures. Noted as the leading

sculptor of the 20th century, as impressive as her pieces, one of them reaching three stories high, was her charisma and her way of looking at the world. Most of her creations were painted entirely in flat black and she believed in that color, “…black creates harmony and doesn’t intrude on the emotions.” She also explained, “I don’t think I chose it for black. I think it chose me for saying something. You see, it says more for me than anything else. In the academic world, they used to say black and white were no colors, but I'm twisting that to tell you that for me it is the total color. It means totality. It means:contains all."

With fresh inspiration from this incredible woman I am reminded of why I do what I do in this small corner of the world. My shop is my expression and my love of bringing once forgotten pieces to new life and hopefully inspiring others to see things in a different way. Every time someone reacts to something in Domino, whether good or bad, I have achieved my goal…to create my own assemblage…and possibility.

Sometimes people ask me if I’m an artist. To this I have thought about what I do, and how I live. My response has confidently become, “I am a creative. Everything I do is about expressing that creativity.” So when I learned about Louise Nevelson I found confirmation. Everything about the way she lived was art, “Every time I put on clothes, I’m creating a picture.” So is art imitating life or is life imitating art, or do they simply exist in perfect harmony?

Signing off for now,


Friday, September 10, 2010

Where once it was only a daydream, now it’s a reality; fall is at Domino’s doorstep and with its coming it brings yummy smelling candles, fur throw rugs, warm blankets and creamy colors that are sure to make you melt despite the temperature outside!

The new season also means premieres of some of your favorite shows, one of mine being Mad Men! So what is all the hype about? Why does this iconic show capture our hearts? Well if all the drama, fashion, lovely ladies and John Hamm aren’t enough to get your blood pumping then I’m sure the sexy retro furniture and accessories are!

Satisfying our need for modernism and more this show is sure to continue to produce a plethora of eye candy for the modernistic, atomic and mid-century modern aficionado for another glorious season. So grab your cocktail and let’s take a look at a few of the most fabulous and most shocking pieces seen on the set of the Mad Men series.

In Betty’s Updated Living Room who could forget the “fainting couch” that Betty had to have even against the advice of her decorator. No matter what your take is on the sofa, it goes to show that the right or wrong piece (in this case), can make or break a room.

In Don Draper’s Office

the Diz Armchair by Sergio Rodrigues

A Brazilian classic made from solid eucalyptus. This sleek curvy beauty is styled with looks and comfort in mind.

This double shaded fabulous lamp graces

Don Draper’s Desk. I love it and then some. Classic industrial meets art deco!Other lamps have graced the show, but there is something so symbolic of the two shades reaching into the two lives of Don Draper!

Let’s not forget where all the magic happens, or used to happen anyway, in Don and Betty’s Bedroom! Talk about regal. This Upholstered Tufted Platform Bed and Headboard makes for damn sure you sleep in style!

Truly I can’t express enough the magic that is Don Draper’s Office. All work and no play is not Mad Men’s problem! In actuality not everything on the set is purely vintage. While still keeping with the 1960’s spirit designers on the show like dabbling in a bit of Modern, as is the case with this Futurama sofa.

Ok now, time to wipe the drool from your mouth and take heart, you can always find a touch of Mad Men at Domino where we’re just mad about modern, mid-century and otherwise! (Bad joke right?)

Signing off for now,