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June 29, 2006

America gets Smart


Already a hit in Europe, the Smart car by Mercedes-Benz is slated to hit U.S. roads in the first quarter of 2008. Small size makes the car urban friendly and good on gas, cool styling make it a smart move for style conscious city slickers. Mercedes had been looking for a worthy distributor and seems to have found it in UnitedAuto Group. They'll send the cars throughout the U.S and Puerto Rico.

Welcome! We like great design on four wheels too.

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Room #2, The Mirrored Room


I couldn't pass up the opportunity to comment on the reference, made below, to Greek born sculptor, painter, performance artist and photographer Lucas Samaras.

Room #2, 1966, later retitled The Mirrored Room, is the first piece of art I remember seeing. It takes up little room in the gallery and is described just as "Mirrors on wooden frame," along with the dimensions, 96” x 96” x 120".

But take off your shoes and go in, two at a time, and you've entered an enormous palace of a place. A place, much more than mirrors on a wooden frame, where you see yourself reflected countless times in millions of ways and where you somehow get to know the person in there with you.

According to Samaras, “The idea for a completely mirror-covered cube room occurred to me around 1963 when I incorporated the idea into a short story, Killman. The reason I used a cube rather than any other geometric shape was to minimize the number of planes that would reflect the space enclosed within them but still give a convincing illusion of perpendicular extension in every direction…"

As a child, I believed in the reflections and thought I could walk straight in any direction.  I learned to keep my arms outstretched, and paid attention to the edges of the floor, where I could see the wall rising forever upward.

But the most fascinating part of The Mirrored Room was at the center.  There, sat two items I'd seen in perhaps every room I'd ever been in.

"I included a table and chair, two important objects that can be found in a room…A table and a chair for someone to sit down and imagine or think or discover,” said Samaras.

Indeed, these were normal, comforting, regular-day items. But mirrored and in this otherworldly place that distorted everything in sight, and sight went on for miles, a table and chair were suddenly very interesting.  They gave the possibility of finding stillness in a crazy, closed in room. 

I never did, but I always wanted to pull the chair out, have a seat, and with my elbows propped up on the table, look up at the ceiling and see into infinity.

Today I called the Albright to see if The Mirrored Room was currently on display (it is in the permanent collection but sometimes goes to storage when other exhibits come through).  “Yes,” the woman on the phone told me, “It’s here. Are you coming by today?”

“Well, I hadn’t really thought about it,” I said. “But perhaps later on, I will.”

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The Mirrored Table

Jules_mirrortable4_1Mirror is truly one of the great wonders of the world. It takes a tiny space and enlarges it, it takes a dark space and lightens it.

Here, British designer Julian Lwin created a mirrored modular table, inspired by the late American minimalist sculpture Donald Judd. Judd, who was a fan of the cube shape, would enjoy how this table creates a perpendicular extension in all directions.

This study of light and reflection is a wonderful museum experience, akin to Greek-born Lucas Samaras' Room #2, part of the permanent exhibit at the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo, NY. But how practical is it for a conference room or dining experience? In a museum a curator can artfully choose what will be reflected -- as in this photo where we see bookcase (and all white folders!) and the great expanse of windows seemingly in perpetuity.

But what of the clods who eat with their mouths open? Or as one of our editors pointed out -- ungroomed nose hair? A table that causes us to look this introspectively at ourselves and others may not be the most appetizing of venues.

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June 27, 2006

Outdoor Gardens get Modern


Landry Design Group, Inc. focuses on over the top works that can be strictly modern or classically traditional, but a recent project challenged the firm to do something new--build a beachside garden and outdoor rooms along the Pacific Ocean. The rarity of a lush and green garden and section of lawn at the beach enticed the architects and they worked with the clients to create and even more singular, magical space.

See how Richard Landry and Marc Welch transformed this beachside land into a luxurious outdoor retreat in Oceanside Gardens & Outdoor Rooms.

Architect Richard Landry, AIA has been named as one of Architectural Digest's top 100 Architects / Designers in the world. His firm, Landry Design Group , Inc. has been featured on HGTV, Travel Channel, E! Entertainment, A & E television and of course, in PURE CONTEMPORARY.

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June 26, 2006

Bad Table


Treecabinetmagazinehr_1The Bad Table is just one example of the often witty, whimsical work of Judson Beaumont. It's fun, funny and actually attached to that striped Ikea rug. But, the Bad Table lacks the sophisticated beauty of some of Beaumont's other work, like the Tree Cabinet.

Working in Vancuver, B.C. through his company Straight Line Designs, Inc. Beaumont creates one of a kind cabinets, furniture and full room exhibits along with assorted "extras," like the Pet Camper, a silver, vintage-style trailer sized for pups.

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June 25, 2006

Elegant Dining Scaled Down

Metal_dining_table_1Outfitting the eating area of an upscale kitchen is tough when so many smaller-sized sets seem to scale back on style along with size. Not so with this new dining set from North Carolina's Johnston Casuals. The steel frame, which can be finished in any of 18 powder coated finishes, features a pressure-curved wood back -- available in natural or wenge. The delicate high back turn a casual set into an elegant one. The table is available with glass or granite top -- although we like the glass which better shows off designer John Leshane's strong lines.

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June 23, 2006

The Finishing Touches

CustomerpanochairsThe number one category of questions we receive in our Ask the Design Experts section is on paint. "What color...?" seems to be on the minds of everyone. It's funny really. Because of all the design choices we make, what color to paint the walls seems to haunt us the most -- even though a roller and a weekend will erase any miscues. But what color can do if all of us were a little more intrepid!

Some months ago we showed a pic of a reader's new dining set from Outer Limits -- depicting their bouquet of colorful dining chairs. But now the room is complete: As part of a remodeling effort, the room was painted a deep red, black columns were added, a well-matched triptych was found and placed -- and the room is now stunning. Thanks for the update, Michelle & Bryan!


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June 22, 2006

Puzzled about Floors?

Hardwood floors maintain their popularity and good looks as finish styles and stain colors go in and out of fashion. Hardwood is a classic, and a can't go wrong material in flooring, but change its shape and you've got a fun pop look.

Flooring from Puzzle Floor did exactly that, giving its 5/8" hardwood floors a puzzle shape in 13 finishes. We like it for a child's room or to warm up a space with stark, moderninst furniture. It's cute, good quality and a fun alternative to the classic strips and planks for about $15 a square foot.

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June 20, 2006

Modern Pillows


They may be sold through a children's store, but these modern pillows appeal to mod loving kids of any age.

Children's decor and accessories mecca Modernseed launched pillows by textile designer Alexander Girard (1907-1993) in six of his best loved designs. Girard's use of traditional folk art to infuse color,
whimsy, and humor into vibrant modern design earned him the reputation as one of America's most unique and iconic designers.

His NYC store, opened with Herman Miller though ultimately a financial loss, sold his textile designs on pillows and the like as well as an assortment of objects he collected while globetrotting. The experience Girard tried to create for his shop's visitors is much like that he tried to create for people seeing any of his work. For him it was about "seeing, touching, and remembering familiar associations and all the other intangible activities of the mind and soul."

The pillows are each 100% linen with a small scale size, 12" x 12", perfect for little ones. All six could make a big splash on an adult size piece of furniture as well, for $49 each.

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June 19, 2006

Britain's Architecture-Police Stakeout IKEA

Is what's on the outside a fair indicator of what's on the inside? Britain's culture minister David Lammy says yes, and that Ikea's run afoul of good taste by peddling design from stores that look like "badly converted warehouses." Ikea calls the architecture "no frills" and environmentally friendly.

Here, London Times writer Isabel Oakeshot looks into the design quarrel.

Ikea accused of building blots on the landscape

Captlon80402100908britain_ikea_lon804_1FOR shoppers who flock to the blue and yellow stores, the slick modern designs inside are the attraction. But David Lammy, the culture minister, is to accuse chains such as Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings giant, of "dumping" faceless and ugly buildings on Britain's towns.

His comments, to be made at the Royal Institute of British Architects this week, will contrast how chains are "spending a fortune" marketing cheap furnishings while "appearing to give no thought" to what the shops look like from outside.

The minister will compare stores such as Ikea, Tesco and B&Q to "enormous versions of the Tetra Paks they sell inside".

"Good design and high-quality built environments are fundamental to a decent quality of life," he will say. "Too many supermarkets and DIY stores look like huge faceless boxes. These companies need to recognise they have a huge impact on the look and feel of communities."

An aide at Lammy's department said: "Many of these stores look like badly converted warehouses. David is calling on the Ikeas, Sainsbury's and Tescos of this world to think about cleverer designs of their buildings, and bear in mind how they affect communities."

Lammy's comments follow an attack on big retailers last month by David Cameron, the Conservative party leader.

He said politicians should not be afraid to complain when "a company as big as Tesco" or other chains acted unfairly or blighted their neighbourhoods.

Ikea this weekend defended its building policies, saying it was not out to build "fancy museums". It admitted its stores might not be beautiful, but said they were environmentally friendly, and its no-frills architecture helped keep prices down.

Ikea has 14 stores in Britain, with 33m shoppers passing through their doors last year.

In his speech to mark Architecture Week, Lammy argues that while there is much debate about the design of housing, tower blocks and public buildings, little attention is given to the look of retail outlets.

Architects describe such buildings as "big-box stores". Typically made from concrete blocks, featuring plain, windowless walls, they are cheap and easy to build. In America such sheds account for a third of new retail construction.

Ikea argues its customers are not interested in what stores look like and it prides itself on environmentally friendly buildings. Most of its stores use rainwater collected on-site to flush the in-store toilets, while its new Milton Keynes store has a "biomass burner" to recycle rubbish that would normally be taken to landfill sites.

A spokeswoman said: "The Ikea way of architecture is about function, not fanciness."

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