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My Modern Met
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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".
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.
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.
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
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:
In the mark of some of the world's largest corporations:
And all over the place in graphic designer tributes such as this one (clearly inspired by the Russian artist Kasmir Malevich):
It arouses a range of emotions among designers. Some love it. Some don't:
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.
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:
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:
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,
Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal
As I plan a trip to Mexico soon, somewhere I have been many times as a child, I can't help but do some research as I prepare for my trip as an adult. More specifically, an adult who loves design and architecture.
Mexico is a country built on tradition and history. As you tour its cities, you will see modern structures next to old, broken down buildings from ancient times. Rather than tear down and build new, much of the architectural philosophy is to build around and upward. Progress, but do not forget.
Maya civilization dominated southern Mesoamerica in the second half of the first millennium AD. Classic phase (600 to about 900) architecture (above) is characterized by an exquisite sense of proportion and design, seen in the structural refinement and subtle detailing.
The National Palace in Mexico City
Mexico's colonial history marked the collision of the European and Indigenous cultures, giving rise to a new form of art and architecture. Most colonial cities were planned around a plaza, which held the three main institutions: the cathedral, the administrative center (above) and the court.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
During the 19th and early 20th century Emperor Maximilian I brought a new set of urban design ideas to Mexico. Drawing from the mid-century Parisian redevelopment plan, he built a broad new diagonal avenue called Paseo de la Reforma. This elegant boulevard ran for miles from the downtown National Palace to the lush Chapultepec Park where the Austrian ruler lived. Neo-Gothic designs incorporated into the monumental public buildings, including its cultural center (above).
La Torre Latinoamericana
As modern times began to impact the urban design of Mexico, functionalism, expressionism, and other schools would leave their imprint, combining techniques and stylistic elements of Europe and North American techniques.
It's quite interesting to see modern Mexico develop and how it seems to be coming around full circle. I can't help but notice the similarities between The Soumaya Museum (above), completed in 2011, and The Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal (top).
This stunningly modern structure houses one of the most important art collections in Latin America with over 6,200 artworks and 60,000 square feet of exhibition space. It also includes an auditorium for 350 people, library, offices, a restaurant, a gift shop and a multi-purpose gathering lounge.
This stunning structure is located in a former industrial zone dating from the 1940’s, providing the opportunity to play a key role in the reconversion of the area as a cultural center and defining a new model for Mexican and international architecture.
Structurally, this organic and asymmetrical design is constructed with twenty eight steel curved columns of different diameters, offering a soft non-linear circulation all through the building. Located at each floor level, seven ring beams provide a system that braces the structure and guarantees its stability. It widens at the top, where a roof suspended from a cantilever allows natural daylight onto the top floor gallery. The windowless facade is composed of hexagonal aluminium tiles. Strategic track lighting is great for complimenting natural light. The lack of any modern furniture, such as benches, keeps the space clean and leaving the spotlight on the art.
The study of modern design and architecture would be endlessly entertaining, but understanding it's history provides inspiration at an entirely new level. The develpment of entire cities goes hand-in-hand with the culture of that particular civilization, giving the architecture that emerges immesurable personality.
Images: MVTPRD, Wikipedia, Open Buildings, The Architect's Newspaper, Positive Magazine
"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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 Possini White 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 Digest, Rue Magazine, Homestead, Designs2Wear
Of course we all know, nothing in life is black and white, clear and simple, but sometimes it looks really good when you're talking about interiors! The bold, stark contrast provides a modern element and leaves room for more casual furnishings, like seen above. That sofa is a little worn, arguably vintage, as well as the table, but the color palette of the space screams modern.
But, no matter the style, whether a room is modern, traditional, black and white, or colorful, any decor benefits from the use of mixed materials. The iron chair, leather sofa and rustic wood table make a perfect trio. These Zuo accent chairs below are a great way to get this look. Their leaf inspired pattern gives them an organic aesthetic.
Whitworth Chrome Accent Chair
Art is a great way to bring in color, but it's also a cool way to bring in the bold! This black and white art collage leaning against the wall creates a laid back environment that is highly stylish.
This kitchen is on trend with its clean white walls, industrial lighting and dark, black cabinets.
Want to get this simple, yet chic look? Here's an idea for getting modern industrial pendant lighting for your own home.
LBL Isla Mini Pendant
While designing using the modern black and white combo, this living room also brings in a natural element by using lots of wood finishes. There is a lot of furniture in this space, but it's grouped efficiently and doesn't look cluttered. The use of multiple small accent tables instead of a coffee table is a popular trend right now. It provides versatility and a more eclectic look.
Don't be scared to go bold, there's lots of ways to use this cool color palette!
Images: Japan Trash blog, Pretty Peach Peonies, Skonahem, Solid Blog
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