Thursday, September 16, 2010

Phaidon Design Classics

PHAIDON DESIGN CLASSICS is the first comprehensive collection of classic design objects. Packed into three bright yellow volumes, this set presents 999 iconic industrially manufactured objects many of which are still in production today.  Beautifully edited, everything from cars to cameras is represented.  Big hitters like Breuer, Le Corbusier and Eames  predominate but there are some underdogs like the anonymously designed chop sticks and corkscrew.  The writing style is brief and informative and you're sure to drive friends crazy by giving them lessons on the history of the Toblerone bar or the glue stick or any of the other 999 iconic designs featured in the series.

The objects are presented chronologically, beginning with an elegant pair of Chinese bonsai scissors from the early 1600s and ending with Barber Osgerby’s Lunar bath accessories.  Phaidon Design Classics is a key reference tool for designers, architects and home enthusiasts with an interested in the history of design. 

 #1 - Chinese bonsai scissors from the early 1600s

#91 Toblerone Bar

#666 - Lamy 2000 fountain pen

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Twenty to One

I'm re-reading The Diving Bell and the Butterfly a memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby.  Bauby, the Editor-in-Chief of French Elle, suffered a massive stroke that left him with a condition called locked-in syndrome.  Unable to move or speak, he wrote the entire book letter by letter using a type of morse code that involved blinking his left eyelid and died shortly after publication.  The book is a slim volume of random recollections that is by turns funny, heartbreaking and totally random.  Trapped in his body with no freedom but thought, what did he think about?  Mainly food, love, family, missed opportunity and flights of fancy.  Bauby's mind soared like a butterfly.  In circumstances most people would find unbearable, Bauby found within him an invincible spirit.  My favorite story is twenty to one about a day at the races and a tip on a bet for a sure thing that thanks to a long wine drenched lunch he forgot to place.

"Frankly, I had forgotten Mithra-Grandchamp.  The memory of that event has only just come back to me, now doubly painful: regret for a vanished past, and above all, remorse for lost opportunities.  Mithra-Grandchamp is the woman we were unable to love, the chances we failed to seize, the moments of happiness we allowed to drift away.  Today it seems to me that my whole life was nothing but a string of those small near misses: a race whose result we know beforehand but in which we fail to bet on the winner."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jean-Michel Frank

Jean-Michel Frank was one of the most influential designers and decorators of Paris in the 1930's and 40's.  He's best known for his spare interiors and his use of  luxurious materials such as vellum, bleached leather, lacquer, straw marquetry, malachite and shagreen.   Today Frank is best remembered for his furniture designs.  His parson tables and blocky rectangular club chairs and sofas have been endlessly copied.  Last year there was a major exhibition of Frank's work in Paris at the Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Larent.   Rizzoli also recently published a book on his work and life entitled Jean-Michel Frank: The Strange and Subtle Luxury of  the Parisian Haute-Monde in the Art Deco Period.  It's an amazing book and even if it weren't, I will read anything with Strange, Parisian, Haute-Monde or Art Deco in the title.  

Sadly, personal demons took their toll and in 1941 at the age of 46,  he committed suicide by throwing himself from the window of a Manhattan apartment building.  

Portrait of the Designer

Cole Porter's Music Room

Blonde Dressing Table

Straw Marquetry Fire Screen & Parchment Cabinet 

Friday, September 10, 2010


I've heard it said that meditation is the art of enjoying doing nothing without falling asleep.  For me it can also be the art of trying to sit still without giving in to the overwhelming need I feel to dust every time I try to meditate.  Clearly I need a new meditation pouf.

There aren't a lot of stylish pouf's out there.  Most of them look like they were designed primarily for comfort.  However, I did find a few that manage to combine comfort and style.  Below are the contenders.

CB2 makes a cool chunky knit pouf.  It's like a cross between a  metallic fisherman's sweater and a bean bag.  When not being used to meditate it would look great on a bed made up with all white linens.  It's also really reasonably priced.

CB2 knit pouf $79

The white leather embroidery embellished pouf from Serena & Lily is very stylish and has such 1970's Morrocan vibe to it.  It screams Gypset.  I'd keep it in my living room and use it for extra seating when guests come over.

Leather embroidered pouf $450 Serena & Lily

The leather pouf/ottoman from Neiman Marcus is a good option for someone who doesn't want to sit to near the ground.  It's a great in between option.  Part pouf, part ottoman.  It would be great if you were meditating outdoors.

Leather ottoman pouf $499 Neiman Marcus

And the winner is.... A Missoni pouf!  I love the shape.  Square not the typical round.  It's part pouf, part pillow, would make a great side table with a tray on top and I love the signature wool stripe Missoni fabric.  I feel Zen just looking at it.  Ommmm

Missoni square pouf $416

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

God Save the Queen

Born September 7th, 1533 Elizabeth Tudor was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  When Elizabeth was three, her mother was beheaded and she was declared a bastard by Act of Parliament.  Seriously, you cannot write this stuff.  From this shaky start, Elizabeth became queen at the age of 25.  Upon hearing of her accession to the throne, she is reputed to have quoted Psalm 118, in Latin: "A Dominum factum est illud, et est mirabile in oculis notris" - "It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."  Indeed, Elizabeth's reign from 1558 to 1603 is considered the golden age in English history.  During her reign, art, theatre and literature flourished.  William Shakespeare, Francis Drake, Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Raleigh were all products of Renaissance England.  It was an age of exploration, expansion, peace and my second favorite English era of all time.

What did Henry VIII do besides kill all his wives and write Greensleeves?