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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Passing muster

After my daughter grew up, I admittedly became a lazy holiday decorator. Even after the grandsons were born, I rationalized that they were too young to care, but that excuse flew right out the window this year. Starting the day after Halloween, they wanted a Christmas tree up at my house. They made it quite clear that they were in charge, because my poor performance last year had clearly disqualified me to be the decision maker.

Right off the bat, Grandson #1 let me know that a tabletop tree was out of the question. I had to have a big tree. Those of you who followed the building of Grammo's Little House know that my space is limited. (If you're a new follower, you might want to click on the Home Tour tab above in order to get an idea of the layout of my living quarters.) We searched online and found a solution...a 6'5" artificial fir of the tall, slender variety known as a pencil tree, specifically designed for small spaces. To a 5-year-old, it seemed adequately big, and since I'm only 5'3" tall, it seemed big enough to me too.

I need to point out that Grandson #2 had concurred about the size of the tree, and he also warned me that white lights weren't allowed. They had to be rainbow, so I made sure to buy a tree with multi-colored lights. I thought we were in business.

One night when they were asleep, I put the tree up and covered it with ornaments, expecting them to be delighted the next day. Instead, Grandson #1 examined it closely and reported back. "Nope, Grammo. Not pretty yet. It needs more decorations." So more ornaments were ordered, and when they arrived and were put on the tree, I awaited the verdict.

This time Grandson #2 gave the tree the once-over and asked somewhat disgustedly, "Where's the star?" I pointed to the vintage style reflector finial at the top of the tree and sheepishly said, "That's kinda a star." With typical 4-year-old candor, he responded flatly, "No, it's not."

Unwilling to receive more scathing criticism, I decided to go all out on the star and buy the most sparkly, most garishly rainbowy star I could find.  I also added a few more glittery ornaments, just to be on the safe side. After another inspection, they apparently decided that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. They dug through a box of ornaments at their house and came over with several more for my tree, insisting that they hang them themselves.

Now we're in business.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cees Braakman

Cees Braakman (1917-1995) was a Dutch designer. At age 17, he started his career with the furniture manufacturer UMS Pastoe, where his father was manager and head draftsman. There he learned the basics of furniture design.

In 1947, he was sent to the United States to study American design and  production processes. He visited 12 companies but was particularly influenced by the designs of Charles and Ray Eames at Herman Miller. He took their bent plywood technique back to Pastoe, where he created their first line of modern furniture.

His clean, forward-thinking designs were a success for Pastoe during the 1950s and 1960s, and he headed their design department until 1978. Some of his best known work included a series of modular cabinets that were self-assembled.

From and

3-seater sofa

Combex easy chair

EB32 desk

FM06 chair

FM08 chairs

TM05 side table

Tea trolley

Birch series sofa

Teak cabinet

Teak credenza

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Perfect plantings: Cannas

A plant that was frequently found in the gardens of mid-century homes was the canna, a colorful and hardy perennial. My grandmother always had both red and yellow cannas in her yard. These plants have made a comeback and are popular again today.

We have two varieties in our "mid-century correct" flowerbed, the Rosemond Cole and the dwarf Picasso. In some areas, the tubers have to be dug and stored for the winter. Luckily, in the Southern U. S., cannas usually survive when left in the ground.

Rosemond Cole canna

Picasso canna

When we had a few below-freezing nights a week or so ago, it was time to cut back the plants...which were still blooming into November. I'll look forward to the return of their showy blooms next summer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Put a cork in it.

A few days ago, I posted about the designs of Giorgio Biscaro, and I was particularly taken by his use of cork on the Cobu suspension lamp. After looking around a bit, I found several other modern pieces that utilize cork. I'm in love...especially with the white frosted glass lamp by Tomas Kral.

Vitra cork tables

Float by Benjamin Hubert for Unique Copenhagen

From the Plug series by Tomas Kral

From the Plug series by Tomas Kral

From the Plug series by Tomas Kral

Ladder trivet by Hetta

Monday, November 24, 2014

For kids: Oiva Toikka Dodo

Many of you know how fond I am of Oiva Toikka's birds. The Dodo he designed for the Magis Me Too collection is no exception. This beautifully clever indoor/outdoor rocking chair for children combines play with functionality. With any luck, it will never be extinct.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

It's paperwhites time!

Another favorite Christmas tradition of mine is having the delightful smell of paperwhites in the air during the holidays. My grandmothers and my mother always grew them when I was a child, and I've grown them myself most holidays during my adulthood.

If you've never had a paperwhites Christmas (or if you just need a refresher tutorial on how to force them), here's a great article that will get you started.

I just finished planting a Russel Wright bowl. Now there's nothing to do but make sure they have water and wait for the heavenly scent of their blooms.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fifty years from now: Giorgio Biscaro

Giorgio Biscaro (1978- ) is an Italian designer. He was born in Vercelli and received a degree in industrial design from the University of Venice.

His first job was with Foscarini, and he has subsequently worked with Imago Studio for Mizar, Doimo Group, Birex, Nuovostudio, and Disenia. He has also taught at the Politecnico di Milano. In 2007 he opened his own studio in Treviso, and in 2008 he returned to Foscarini as senior designer in the R&D department. He is currently the art director of Fontana Arte.

Biscaro's designs have won numerous awards and recognition in Italy and internationally, and he has been cited by several publications as an up-and-coming designer to watch.

I predict that we will still be seeing his work fifty years from now.


Aquilles desk lamps

Atlas bench

Cobu suspension lamp

Flynn 3D printed vase

Kappu lamp

Nish bowl

Offset stool

Sable lamp

Torii chair

Zellij modular room divider

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dorothy Liebes and Frank Lloyd Wright

In June of 2013, I posted about the textiles of Dorothy Liebes. Not long ago, I ran across an interesting article about her by Alexandra Griffith Winton entitled "Color and Personality: Dorothy Liebes and American Design." The article is worth a read. In it, Winton, who is quickly becoming a recognized expert on Liebes, explained how the artist got her start creating one-off pieces for architects. The first of these architects was Timothy Pflueger, who commissioned Liebes to do a series of drapes for the Pacific Stock Exchange building.

It was also through Pflueger that she met Frank Lloyd Wright. The story, as Liebes described it in her unpublished memoir, struck me as charming.

Tim Pflueger telephoned one day and said he was bringing Mr. Wright to the studio. I went into complete panic. I had rather associated him with the Bauhaus school, the “less-is-more” group of architects who scorned the fur-belows and gingerbread of the Victorians. I felt sure that a “hair shirt,” as I would have described Mr. Wright, erroneously, would absolutely hate the vivid colors and extensive use of metals in my fabrics.

I swept up my bag and prepared to flee. “Tim is bringing Frank Lloyd Wright here,” I said. “I can’t bear to see the disaster. Call me when he has gone.” In the hotel, I waited for the phone to ring, picturing one of the world’s most celebrated architects wrinkling his nose in disdain at everything he saw. A half hour passed, an hour. Then the telephone rang. In whispers, Ruth said, “You’d better come down here at once. He’s ordering everything in the place.” Unbelievable!

Far from rejecting my designs, he liked the metal threads and the desert-Western look of the weaving. Gesturing toward the tall stack he had chosen, he said, “Ship it all to Taliesin.” When he had gone, I said, “I can’t really believe he means it. Let’s wait and see.” Two weeks later a curt telegram came, saying, “Where are fabrics? Ship without further delay. Advise. FLW”

According to Winton, that was the first of many orders from Wright. He remained a customer and a friend until his death in 1959.


Leibes's studio (Liebes standing behind the man on the right)
Example of Leibes's work

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Leon and Elno

Grandson #1 just turned 5, and he's starting to read, so I figured it was time to let him in on an old family tradition. I looked on Ebay for s set of Christmas candleholders like some my mother had when my brother and I were kids in the 1950s, and I found just what I wanted.

My mother loved Christmas, and she liked her decorations to be set out perfectly. This particular set of angels correctly spelled out N-O-E-L, at least when she unpacked them from their cardboard box with excelsior padding. But every time my brother and I walked through the living room, we'd rearrange them so they spelled L-E-O-N or E-L-N-O, giggling at how clever we were. As soon as our mother put them back in order, we'd rearrange them again, and this went on for the entire holiday season, year after year.

So now we have our own set, and Grandson #1 is looking forward to rearranging them. Naturally, Grammo will happily play along, just like my mother did.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Eero Rislakki

Eero Rislakki (1924- ) is a designer, artist and teacher. He was born in Helsinki, Finland and studied ceramics and graphic art at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki. Rislakki has the distinction of being Finland's first industrial designer.

He started his career at the Stavangerflint ceramics factory (then Stavanger Fajansefabrikk) in Norway in 1950. After two years he returned to Finland to work as a jewelry designer, first a Kalevala and then at Westerback. He was one of the first designers to work with domestic polished jewelry stones. His work was a departure from the more decorative jewelry of the day and was exhibited at an avante garde show at Artek. It was considered a breakthrough for modern jewelry in Finland.

Rislakki started his own studio in 1959. At first he freelanced in exhibition planning but later moved to product design. Industrial designers were rare in Finland at the time, so he had a great deal of work. He has worked on more than 200 products, including coat hangers, water fittings, reflectors, fan equipment, airline dishes, TVs, glass products, boat engines, bicycles, and forest machinery.


Kettle produced by Ammus-Sytytin

Crystal bowl





Crystal bowl