Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Señor Strack, porqué no México?

Sunstone - fragment

by Octavio Paz

willow of crystal, a poplar of water,
a pillar of fountain by the wind drawn over,
tree that is firmly rooted and that dances,
turning course of a river that goes curving,
advances and retreats, goes roundabout,
arriving forever:
the calm course of a star
or the spring, appearing without urgency,
water behind a stillness of closed eyelids
flowing all night and pouring out prophecies,
a single presence in the procession of waves
wave over wave until all is overlapped,
in a green sovereignty without decline
a bright hallucination of many wings
when they all open at the height of the sky...

Piedra del Sol

The book, Chic by Accident by Emmanuel Picault, forward by Philippe Strack.

Chic by Accident is no accident, but a carefully chosen selection of Mexican design of the 20th century, and just about anything else we find of great style.. Great style indeed. Everything, from the papier mache skull (I have always loved the imagery of El Dia de los Muertos) to the furnitures of Don Shoemaker, is visually striking to say the least.

It is all that and more--a furniture and object store in la colonia Roma, at the heart of the starkly divided Mexico City, and the home of the exceptional antique dealer and design mastermind Emmanuel Picault. -

Chic by Accident could not have been created anywhere else but in México. Nowhere else has that particular blend of severity, history, and passion. Que maravillosa!

Now playing: Chavela Vargas - Piensa en mi
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Receipt for a cerulean room

Take one French 1930s oil on canvas by Andre L'Hote (1885-1962), Flower Still Life and Vase.

Add cerulean blue oil glazed walls, colour concentrated at the centre fading to the edges, to match the sample of French porcelain. Moldings and ceiling to match the picture's frame - old plaster white dragged over an antique pine. Floor in a cerused antique oak parquet.

Add curtains in Robert Allen's Natural Linen Moire (top), and roman blinds in Robert Allen's Brilliance (bottom).

Add a 1920s Ebony de Macassar Desk by Dominique.

Take two chromed metal framed fauteils with seats and backrests formed by three black leather bound cylinders. An unusual "1960" design by Reinaldo Leiro and Arnoldo Gaite, and reupholster in Robert Allen's Abstract Velvet.

Take an unusual French wrought iron tripod table with circular hand hammered metal top in the manner of Edgar Brandt.

And add a heavy Scandinavian crystal ice bucket with sterling silver grape form handles. Signed Stromberg Hyttan.

Or substitute one Mexican sterling silver bowl in the style of Georg Jensen. With grape and scroll design throughout.

And serve with an Eastlake ebonized tete -a-tete, circa 1880, for garnish.

Stripped and reupholstered in Robert Allen's Baldelli Park.

Now playing: New Order - Blue Monday
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Every room needs a little black

Among the many inventions of modern times for diffusing the luxuries, and even the conveniences of life, there are few which have greater claims to our admiration than paper mache. Whether it meets the eye in the shape of furniture, or in articles of domestic utility, its beauty and agreeableness are equally striking and effective. Nor is it less so when applied to ornamental purposes - The World In Its Workshops, by James Ward, 1851.

Victorian papier mache chair with painted, gilded, and mother of pearl decoration.

English mid-19th century Étagère,
Black lacquered, painted, and gilded wood and papier mache inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

Superb Ex French Exhibition Victorian (1840-1860) papier mache tilt top table, the shaped oval top finely worked in inlay stained and painted mother of pearl in the form of a basket of flowers, pierced shaped apron with gilt decoration.

A Victorian papier mache and mother of pearl tilt top occasional table.

A Victorian black lacquer and gilt decorated octagonal papier mache work table, circa 1870, incorporating mother of pearl decoration.

The technique for making papier mache can be traced back to the 2nd century AD in China.
The process for making papier mache furniture was achieved either by pasting multiple layers of paper over shaped cores, or by pressing paper pulp between dies or molds to form a variety of shapes. Once dried, the resulting raw material could be carved and polished. Papier mache was intended to be japanned and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, glass, or stones.

Now playing: Frank Sinatra - That Old Black Magic
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 25 April 2008

The Devil Wears Prada

While the interiors industry is certainly gentler than the fashion industry, it is governed buy the same principles.
Lumpy nondescript blue sweater or lumpy nondescript blue cushion, it's all the same.

Now playing: David Bowie - Fashion
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Las Pozas explored

Surreal Eden : Edward James & Las Pozas by Margaret Hooks
Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2006.

After a visit to Xilitla in 1987 Margaret Hooks became interested in the English surrealist Edward James. She has written on the life and work of James for ARTnews (1998) and Grand Street(2004) and her book Surreal Eden: Edward James & Las Pozas, the first to be written on his surreal masterwork in the Mexican jungle, was published to critical acclaim in 2006.

Edward James was finally able to realize his artistic desires by creating Las Pozas -- a work twenty years in the making. In 1945, arrived in this part of Mexico, abounding in waterfalls, parrots and butterflies, in pursuit of wild orchids, one of James' many passions. - Margaret Hooks

Now playing: Chavela Vargas - Luz De Luna
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 21 April 2008

Builder of Dreams

A Surreal Life: Edward James

Edward Frank Willis James (1907 - 1984) the son of American railroad magnate William James and Evelyn James (nee Forbes), a Scots socialite, who was spuriously reputed to have been fathered by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII).
On the death of his father in 1912 James inherited the 6,000 acre West Dean Estate in Sussex. Where, in 1964, he would establish the Edward James Foundation, a charitable educational trust. Which in turn founded the West Dean College, an institution that supports the visual and applied arts.

Monkton House was James' masterpiece of Surrealist decor.

The hall at Monkton with the famous carpet woven with the paw prints of his favourite hound.

Salvador Dali’s White Aphrodisiac Telephone

Salvador Dalí and Edward James
Mae West Lips Sofa, 1938. One of a pair created for the dining room at Monkton, which had upholstered deep-buttoned walls.

James behind his desk in the Tent Room at his Wimpole Street house, London. Behind him hangs Picasso's Femme Assise Au Chapeau. The composer Igor Markevitch lounges at the right. Interestingly this photograph was taken by Norman Parkinson in the late 1930s

In art, as he was in life - slightly disjointed from the world around him.

Swans Reflecting Elephants by Salvador Dalí
James' portrait is to the left.

The Pleasure Principle: Portrait of Edward James by René Magritte

La Reproduction Interdite by René Magritte

Las Pozas

James' herculean task began in 1949, Las Pozas is a sculpture garden more than 2,000 feet above sea level, in a tropical rain forest in the mountains of Mexico. It included more than eighty acres with natural waterfalls and pools punctuated by towering concrete Surrealist sculptures and follies. From 1964 until his death in 1984 this was James' world. His dream.

I have seen such beauty as one man has seldom seen,
Therefore will I be grateful to die in this little room surrounded by the forests,
The great green gloom of the trees, my only gloom - and the sound, the sound of green.
- Edward James

Now playing: La Lupe - Puro Teatro
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Coming attraction

The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought
by Robert J. Richards

The definitive account of Darwin's greatest intellectual heir. The Tragic Sense of Life is a sweeping reevaluation of the Romantic ideas and calamitous biography of a man whose vision of evolutionary theory is still influential today.

Thursday, 17 April 2008


Interior of Flutter in Portland, Oregon.
Described as a delightful disarray of found objects and clutter. Clearly, more treasure than clutter.

These birdcages are just wonderful. Inside or out, what finch or lovebird wouldn't look fabulous housed in these?

Beehive Birdcage

Sage Green Rustic Birdcage

Pagoda birdcage with folding stand

Deco oval mirror with a sanded and weathered finish.
Very reminiscent of 19th Century zinc mansard windows that are often converted into mirrors. Very smart.

Now playing: Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship & Starship - White Rabbit
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

This is none of my business, but

it does rankle the hell out of me. And it is an excellent example of how a certain type debases, for what ever reason, what was once regarded as a learned perspective.

Magnaverde's Chicago Living Room 2002

Two anonymous comments were left on Decorno's post Status Anxiety: outsized social ambitions in response to magnaverde's comment:
Here's Charles Dickens bemused take on the whole process in Our Mutual Friend:
And now, in the blooming summer days, behold Mr and Mrs Boffin established in the eminently aristocratic family mansion, and behold all manner of crawling, creeping, fluttering, and buzzing creatures, attracted by the gold dust of the Golden Dustman!

That's the nice part about not having any status worth mentioning: you also have no obsequious hangers-on. And if you also have no particular interest in climbing the status ladder in the first place (and here's Andrew Marvel's "me lusteth no longer rotten boughs to climb" comes to mind) it's pretty easy to be happy with where you are in the status food chain. And to me, that's the secret of contentment: setting your standards really low.

Anon April 16, 2008 9:54 AM
Status anxiety is part of competition, and competition is an inescapable fact of life.

Whether you're competing over the number of things you know about someone named Mrs. Fish or how many Famous Writers you can quote (Dickens, Marvel, etc.), it's all competition.

ESPECIALLY claiming you're above it.

AnonApril 16, 2008 11:09 AM
Anonymous 9:54, THATS the way to smack the clawing knuckles of classics quoting social climbers. You go, girl!! Money isn't the only thing we need to defend against intruders.

Ah, the joys of visual aids. Though, quite frankly, I think the two Anons would benefit greatly from a different kind of aid...

Shiny Happy People

Jean Cocteau's Blood of a Poet, 1930


Pipistrello lamp: designed by the multi-talented Italian designer Gae Aulenti in 1966 for Martinelli Luce, Italy.
An absolute favorite. Thankfully, seldom seen in contemporary use. After all, only a very few are actually that cool.

Now playing: The Jam - Batman Theme
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 13 April 2008

The Great Lie

Sometimes there's a terrible penalty for telling the truth.
Bette Davis and Mary Astor in The Great Lie, part of the TCM centennial celebration of the birth of Bette Davis.

One of the best lines delivered by Sandra (Mary Astor) - I'm not one of you anemic creatures who can get nourishment from a lettuce leaf...

Back to basics

Moderne: Fashioning the French Interior
by Sarah Schleuning

Before colour photography in magazines there was the pochoir. Moderne is a catalogue of these sumptuous hand-coloured stencil brochures favoured by French designers of the 1920s. With the likes of Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, Pierre Chareau, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Charlotte Perriand, and Eileen Gray represented this really is required reading.

More than two hundred plates, selected by Sarah Schleuning, a curator of the Wolfsonian Museum, and faithfully reproduced to preserve their original color palettes.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Stop the presses

This just in from the Feast of Fools.
The Crayola crayon company announced this week that they are re-launching their famous box of crayons line, by renaming seven colours.

OLD: laser lemon, NEW: super happy
OLD: wild tangerine, NEW: fun in the sun
OLD: screamin' green, NEW: giving tree
OLD: beaver, NEW: bear hug
OLD: turquoise blue, NEW: happy ever after
OLD: hot magenta, NEW: famous
OLD: orchid, NEW: best friends.

I find this really irritating. Pass the sick bag Alice.
I wonder what colour Bite Me would be?

Now playing: Gnarls Barkley - Whatever
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

This is interesting...

The Age of American Unreason is Susan Jacoby's critique of modern culture. Listen to her reading, which took place in February of 2008, at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Could this (her premise) be a contributing factor to the indiscriminate rise in popularity of mid century modern? The reason for the proliferation and the justification of counterfeit goods? The lack of discernment? Why elitism is the new bogeyman?