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  • JF Chen: A Love For Eames

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    Highland showroom warehouse

    As you know, here at ESL we are modern design enthusiasts, which is usually what we like to talk about. However, today we're going to acknowledge someone who enjoys going back in time to truly understand today's favorite modern elements. JF Chen is a curator of antiques with showroom locations in Los Angeles. Chen is not shy to say, his general collecting parameters include an unrelenting addiction to mid-century modern Danish. His collections are endless and his knowledge of what defines a classic is not to be rivaled.

    He greets architects, designers, celebrities and design aficionados daily, helping them find what they're looking for, but making sure to stay out of designing their projects. He explains in an interview " I don't know how to sell, but I sure know how to buy".

    Collecting Eames, the JF Chen Collection

    Chen has recently published a book, "Collecting Eames" (above) surveying the iconic modern designs of Charles and Ray Eames. Upon debut of the book, he also held an exhibit at his showroom. I am, of course, very sad I did not know about this sooner. 

    The Eames chair he decided to use on the cover of his book is one of most rare Eames chairs in existence. Recently sold for low six figures, it was a prototype high-back armchair designed by the Eameses and Eero Saarinen in 1940-1941 for the Museum of Modern Art Organic Design Competition.

    JF Chen

    This business is a family affair, Chen seen here (above) with his wife and two daughters. Like in any industry, the more you love what you do, the better you are at it. However, with Chen the saying might also be the more you love Eames, the more you collect.

    Eiffel Tower base

    It's important to develop your own aesthetic and favorite products, whether they are modern or a combination of different styles. But sometimes it's also fun to know where those designs came from and truly understand their form and function.

    To learn about another Eames lover, be sure to check out this video with Ice Cube.

    Images: 1stt Dibs, Exl Deal, Architecture Digest

  • Iconic Design: Helvetica

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    Kasmir Malevich inspired Helvetica poster

    When we speak of design, we often refer to architecture, furniture and graphics, but rarely do we talk about letters. "Typeface" is a typography term that refers to the visual characteristics of a set of letters and numbers, and no typeface is more universally used, imitated, loved and loathed than Helvetica. A Google image search of the word Helvetica speaks volumes of its iconic place in 20th century communication design. What is is that makes this typeface so ubiquitous?

    Developed in 1957 by Swiss designer Max Miedinger, Helvetica is the Modernist's dream - a sans serif typeface that eschews ornamentation for clean, crisp function. And it can be found absolutely everywhere.

    On the New York City subway:

    Helvetica in urban transportation design

    In the mark of some of the world's largest corporations: 

    helvetica in modern logo designs

    And all over the place in graphic designer tributes such as this one (clearly inspired by the Russian artist Kasmir Malevich):

    Malevich inspired Helvetica tributeIt arouses a range of emotions among designers. Some love it. Some don't:

    typefaces and fonts

    Some imitate it. It's younger cousin Arial (developed in 1982), has been packaged with Microsoft operating systems since 1992 and is one of the most widely used computer fonts today.

    How Helvetica differs from Arial

    I'll admit, the more I look at Helvetica, the more I start to notice that the same rules that dictate good typography apply to good design as well. You don't have to go far to see it, we have some on our website. Check out some of these fixtures below. There's the variable shaped bowl of Helvetica's "d" and "b" that reminds me of this Lite Source Kito Green Table Lamp:

    typeface modern lamp design

    And there are the straight, flattened finials at the top of both the Helvetica letter "t" and this Possini Euro Design Triple Column Wood Table Lamp:

    Modern lamps and letters

    I'm not suggesting that one influenced the other, but it is fun to note how the formal rules that govern typeface design are very much at play in the larger design world. The Modernist design principles that informed the creation of Helvetica are as ubiquitous as the the typeface itself.

    Love it, hate it, use it, or don't. Whatever your reaction to Helvetica, one thing is certain: it's everywhere.

    Images: AM Design Perspectives, Thirteen, Thomas J. Quinn, DeviantArt, Roberto Blake, Whitezine, Penny Finder

  • Iris Apfel: Style + Design Icon

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    bohemian eclectic style

    "Taste you can learn, but style is charisma"- Iris Apfel

    Iris Apfel, an interior designer, business woman, and fashion icon is still as charismatic and stylish today and she was in her youth. "I'm a geriatric starlet, my dear, don't you know" explains Iris.  At the age of 83, 13 years into retirement, is when she actually became a celebrity. In 2005 the Metroplitan Museum in New York had an exhibition featuring Apfel's style. What was truly amazing about this exhibition was not only the clothes, but the way the she wore each piece. Each outfit was put together like a work of art and with such style.

    At the age of 90, believe it or not, she is even more famous today than 7 years ago. She has a ridiculously successful line of makeup at MAC, an accessory line, a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes named after her, and so much more. She's a true style icon. Take a look at how her personal fashion style can be interpreted from an interior design perspective, which is how she got her start. The rooms are as eccentric on the inside as she is on the out!

    midcentury gold chandelier
    The layers of gold, brown, and charcoal gray silk taffeta in this Lanvin gown, circa 1985, are as sculptural as the gold chandelier in this room. Adding gold accessories to your space can feel both elegant and eclectic.

     jewel tone pillows

    This deep jewel tone silk-taffeta Nina Ricci evening dress, designed by Gérard Pipart (circa-1985), belong in this sitting room. The colors of the painting and rug, along with the bold deep hues of the pillows combine to create a bohemian eclectic space as rich in color as the dress. Colorful pillows can bring a lot of energy into any room and is a great way to accessorize!

     modern graphic art 
    The hot pink blouse blossoms and flows like the dye on this stylish comforter. The necklace makes a bold and dynamic statement and pretty pairing in color, much like the painting above the bed . The bold black in the art and in the pillows create contrast and a strong grounding element for the colorful decor. Playful, sophisticated, and whimsical define both the room and the outfit.     

     black and white tartan plaid

    Tartan plaid and a furry friend, that's why these two go hand in hand! Sophisticated and casual is what makes this outfit and this room so lovely.  

     sculptural necklace

    And of course Iris Apfel has her own jewelry line as well! We can't help but notice, her sculptural White Bone Necklace resembles the form of our White Flower Ceiling Light! Her jewelry collection is "Natural, eclectic and fun". You can channel a little bit of Apfel's energy by wearing any of the pieces from her collection or designing your space with color and lots of personality! 

    Cheers to hoping that we all can have a small dose of Iris Apfel in us when we're 90. She is a true style icon in every sense of the term.  

    Images: Architectural Digest, Architectural DigestRue Magazine, HomesteadDesigns2Wear

  • Landscaped Structure: Melbourne Hill House

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    Hill House in Melbourne

    When we study eco-friendly architecture and landscape, it's not often that we come across a landscaped structure. Architect Andrew Maynard designed "Hill House" in Melbourne, Australia to be the exception. This once single structure residence has been turned into, not only a much larger home, but a study on combining architecture and building.

    Melbourne is predominantly flat. This could be why Melbourne’s architecture is ambitious. There's no landscape to confine structure design, therefore buildings are free to become landscape.

    architecture diagrams

    The design goal was for a family of five to have a long-term residence, which could meet the requirements of three small children and their transformation into young adulthood. Above is the evolution of design toward that goal, starting with the just original building (white).

    Fundamental issues offered Maynard a starting point and he noticed that the original structure faced North which relegated the backyard, where the family spent much of their time, to shadow throughout the year. This was not ideal.

    modern window wall

    The proposal was to build a new structure on the rear boundary, which was once the back yard.

    multi-structure home

    The new structure now faces the sun and the pure cantilevered box above acts as the passive solar eave, cutting out summer sun, while letting winter sun flood in.

    Upon entry, you can see (below) how the structure effects the interior, creating a lowered dining area. The change in floor level creates a bench seat for the Maynard designed "Zero Waste Table".

    modern great room

    Despite structural efforts outside, there are ways for any interior to circulate aire and keep cool in the summer. There are some great modern ceiling fans the accomplish this without detracting from the decor. This fan below is our suggestion for achieving Maynard's design aesthetic.

    Turbina Oil-Rubbed Bronze Ceiling Fan

    multi-color dining chairs

    Much of the color in Maynard's design comes from the landscape outside, but he had a little fun with the dining room. Multi-colored modern dining chairs is a great way to add personality to a minimally designed space. We suggest this red Eames-style dining chair.

    Zuo Spire Red Dining Chair

    modern playground

    Wouldn't it be fun to have a well designed attractive home that is also your playground? Apparently, Maynard is the go-to architect for innovative, fun and smart design. "Environmental issues and responsible, intelligent solutions are trademarks of his work, utilising clever concepts for a dynamic output. Clients come to Maynard when they’re seeking a unique and challenging solution..." Alaana Fitzpatrick, DQ magazine.

    Images: Maynard Architects

  • Plan Check: Industrial Restaurant Design

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     handwritten restaurant menu

    Plan Check Kitchen + Bar is a quaint little restaurant located in West LA's Little Osaka. Many of you might be familiar with this area for the sushi, but maybe you've frequented the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety on a regular basis to have your plans reviewed for permitting. The concept behind this restaurant design embodies the creative lifestyle of architects, designers, and developers that flock here on a regular basis.  

     modern restaurant patio

    The minimal industrial warehouse vibe of this gastropub has the laid back feeling of a corner general store or corner bar in any small town.The outside patio is very welcoming with its warm, minimal lighting aesthetic. Modern outdoor lighting paired with industrial awnings makes for a perfect L.A. evening hang out.  

     industrial interior

    The long communal tables are centrally located with an open bar on the left and sculptural wood booths to the right. The natural wood and metal tables do a great job of warming up the space. Poured concrete floors and industrial modern lighting fixtures consistently create a warehouse style interior.

    These gunmetal barstools paired with this bronze wall sconce are perfect for giving your space that feeling of an industrial warehouse.  

    industrial barstool

    Set of 4 Zuo Modern Marius Gunmetal Counter Stools

    industrial wall light

    Robert Abbey Iris Bronze Plug-In Swing Arm Wall Lamp

    menu design

    Even the menus look like a set of plans!  How great is that?  But really, what's so great about this place is the menu.  

     gourmet hamburger

    Umami Burger's, Chef Ernesto Uchimura, has created a menu of comfort food topped with things like bacon candy and ketchup leather and stuffed with things like bone marrow and swiss cheese fondue. You can't go wrong with anything on this menu.  

    Now you've got something to look forward to next time you're visiting the Department of Building and Safety!

    Images: Plan CheckGDX

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