Books: MR Architecture + Decor

In the opening paragraph of Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus Manifesto, the founder of the movement suggests “The ultimate aim of all visual arts is the complete building!”, further professing “Architects, painters, and sculptors must recognize anew and learn to grasp the composite character of a building both as an entity and in its separate parts. Only then will their work be imbued with the architectonic spirit which it has lost as “salon art.”

David Mann clearly understands the importance of these dictates.

The 18 projects featured in his new monograph from Abrams are as varied as they are dynamic… Continue reading “Books: MR Architecture + Decor”

The New Chic: French Style from Today’s Leading Interior Designers

The title of Marie Kalt’s new book from Rizzoli New York references ‘The New Chic’, but she could just as easily have suggested ‘the radically cool’ as an alternative description. Every room in this book is sublime, especially those created for the annual design showcase AD Intériers where the participating designers are given carte blanche to create living spaces unfiltered by commissioning clients… Continue reading “The New Chic: French Style from Today’s Leading Interior Designers”

VMAD’s West Elm Headquarters

By Lisa Zeiger

When Mark Murashige and Kay Vorderwuelbecke of VM Architecture and Design (VMAD) began redesigning the Empire Stores on the docks of the East River in DUMBO for West Elm in 2013, a high water mark from Hurricane Sandy was still visible, eight feet up the brick walls of the nearly 140-year-old structure, rich with history… Continue reading “VMAD’s West Elm Headquarters”

Alexa Hampton: On Tradition

A bust of Brutus, purchased from a dealer in London, holds court on a William Kent table that belonged to Mark Hampton, Alexa’s father. Photo credit Steve Freihon

In design, traditional elements are loaded with the meanings they have accumulated over time. The iconography that accompanies neoclassicism, for example, has always spoken to power and those who would seize it. Greek, Roman, Napoleonic, Federal, Fascist: their not coincidentally shared imagery is meant to convey strength and mastery. The dynastic decor of the caesars, the sinister visual domination of a mammoth monolith in the era of Mussolini, the suggestion of solidity and security in the decorations of a Federal Bank in the American Midwest—traditional cues can function as tropes that help invest a space with a thought, a sensibility, or a hope, their meaning immediately identifiable to a passing glance.”

Alan Wanzenberg: On Modernity

“Modernity and its manifestations in the physical world—what is considered “modern”—can be easily misunderstood. Modernity is not about minimalism or everything being white and reductive. When this happens—and the pendulum often swings in that direction—modernity falls into a style or, worse, a cult.

It then has the potential to become tyrannical and intolerant, unaware of all the potent and fascinating forces in design that brought the modern world, as we think of it, into being. True modernity in design can reference the past and allude to the future, but it always exhibits a confidence and resolution that is completely understood in the here and now.”

Thomas O’Brien: On Vintage Modern

A vintage modern piece features ideas that become layers in the DNA of a design that materializes at a later date. It’s how something of the 1920s can have echoes of eighteenth century France, which borrows from Greek or Egyptian antiquity. It’s how intriguing it is to play with that heredity in the choice of a material, the colors and the proportions of a room or a piece of furniture, when designing for the time of now. It’s how the same forms get reinvented over and over, because they work the best.

I’m interested in the ways that history adds this depth and grounding to newer things. It’s the collective memory that makes even the most chic interiors feel familiar and accessible; it’s literally the reason we are all, instinctively, born collectors. This is a continuum that I try to bring to what I design: adding the vintage—as a lineage and a classicism—to new things being made today. And this is the bridge I cross with each of my clients. Everyone needs his or her own particular connection between past and present.”

Alan Tanksley: On Destinations

“I believe the first consideration with any project should be to establish the hierarchy of spaces, which is generally based on the function each space serves; this runs the gamut from the initial approach and entry through the shared communal spaces to the most intimate and private realms beyond. Of course, this can be accomplished in a relentlessly clinical manner—think of Louis Sullivan’s oft-repeated edict “Form follows function.”

Alternately, if one chooses, there are opportunities to create interesting, useful diversions or delightful distractions along the way without compromising efficiency and functionality. For instance, when creating a place to pause along a passageway by recessing a console table loaded with curious, eye-pleasing objects into an alcove and useful items, you add immeasurably to the experience of trudging from point A to point B with little or no added expense.

To further illustrate the subtle importance of this perspective, consider experiences we’ve all had when arriving at and moving through a house or apartment we’ve never been to. The most successful experiences are those that begin by being intuitively guided from the street, sidewalk, or parking lot to a welcoming front entry, ideally through a garden, forecourt, or intimate public lobby. Along the way, one may have encountered a place to pause, and though we seldom do so, the very idea of it is intriguing and thought-provoking. Moments such as these might evoke memories of peace, tranquility, or security—not a bad thing for an otherwise eventless transitional space.

When we perceive that an otherwise unremarkable approach has been transformed through skilled planning into an exceptional experience, we feel that something special lies in store, something akin to an adventure. If all goes well, the same effort undertaken to provide a nuanced and welcoming sense of arrival will be revealed throughout the rest of the home.”

How They Decorated: Inspiration from Great Women of the Twentieth Century

By Carl Dellatore

Maugham. Elkins. Parish. Castaing. de Wolfe. Draper. Brown. These are the names that typically appear in any list of great women decorators of the 20th century. In fact, it would be hard to consider yourself well versed in the decorative arts without an intimate knowledge of their collective work.

But within the new book How They Decorated by P. Gaye Tapp, to be released April 11th by Rizzoli New York, we meet 16 other high-culture women who forged their own remarkable aesthetic in the residences they decorated and occupied…

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Bobby McAlpine: On Intimacy

The seating area of a Nashville master bedroom is nestled beside windows at one end, and the bed sits atop a dais of antique wood. Photo credit Richard Norris

“Intimacy begins in the lap of parents where we once sat, held close but also emboldened to venture out, knowing that we were backed by love. In architecture, this experience is found within alcoves, bays, a fireside inglenook, and the spaces beneath low mezzanines or beams—all sheltered spots existing adjacent to loftier ones. Without thinking about it, we are drawn to them.

“In the language of cathedrals, we are more likely to allow ourselves to be vulnerable in chapels and side aisles; a timid person who might evaporate standing alone in the middle of the nave thrives along its shadowy edges. We experience this constantly and unconsciously in restaurant booths, which are far more intimate than tables in the middle of the room. When we sit buried in a banquette, we dissolve in safety and the conversation changes.”

Robert Adam: Country House Design, Decoration & the Art of Elegance

By Carl Dellatore

Mention English Neoclassical architecture and decoration in a room of serious design aficionados, and several names dominate the conversation: James Wyatt, John Soane, James Stuart and John Nash among them. But it is Robert Adam (son of William Adam, another of the period’s most revered) who is often noted both for his superlative ornamentation and for his voluminous record of published designs and drawings.

Adding to that record is Jeremy Musson’s new volume Robert Adam: Country House Design, Decoration & the Art of Elegance, due to be released by Rizzoli New York on March 21st. I received an advance copy earlier this week….
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