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November 29, 2005

Contemporary Flooring Dilemma Solved

Readers often come to us regarding what type of flooring to install in their contemporary home. We've contacted three experts to lend their advice on several flooring options.

My 1960s, modern home has a black granite fireplace suspended between the LR/DR. The floors are currently covered with wall to wall carpeting over concrete. This home is also 70% glass with rosewood and black lacquer furniture and neutral upholstery. What flooring material and color should I use to UPDATE this area?

A former materials curator at the Parsons Department of Interior Design, Emily Stevenson's area of expertise includes design, culture, and materials technology:                                                            

The simplest and least expensive way to handle the floor would be to polish the cement (this entails grinding it down for a smooth surface if it doesn't already exist), and use a pigmented finish. The least amount of doctoring to alter the nature of the concrete the better. Visit Concrete Network, a good general information site.

With a concrete floor you can put down area rugs -- Orientals, vinyl flooring for high traffic areas like Chiliwich and Bolan, animal skins (very 1960s), or my current favorite -- a looped suede carpet (found at Patterson, Flynn & Martin, NYC). Leather carpets are incredibly durable and look good with age.

Concrete is also a good base for a poured floor, allowing you to use a mat, semi or high gloss finish – a compliment to your furniture. If you are afraid to use a high gloss black then red is a great alternative. I used a red poured floor on a project that made the room incredibly inviting. Take your cues from your black lacquer furniture and the reflective surfaces of your granite fireplace.

Nancy Epstein, founder and CEO of Artistic Tile, an importer and distributer of tile and stone to over 120 luxury showrooms nationwide:

Use flooring that will make the space more transitional and warm. With a black granite fireplace and so much glass, the use of a warm, neutral stone on the floor will help the space feel comfortable while upholding your contemporary aesthetic. Try “Smoke” limestone, a rich grey-brown with a smooth, waxed finish and a slightly rolled edge. You can use this very new finish in a very old pattern, such as a modular format in which stone tiles of various shapes are set in an interlocking pattern. While ancient in origin, the modular style will look right at home in a contemporary setting.

Another old-plus-new effect can be achieved by using porcelain mosaic tile in a new, contemporary size, such as Artistic Tile’s “Live” mosaic in a one half inch by sixteen inch stick shape. The linear shape in a field across the entire floor gives the room a contemporary and clean look while employing the ancient technique of mosaic. You can achieve the desired effect of drawing the eye across the entire space, uniting living room with dining room by combining ancient themes with modern ones, ideally complementing a contemporary home.

A design consultant for The Anderson Family of Fine Hardwood Floors , Joe Tice has a master’s degree in interior design and is an Allied Member of ASID. Tice has owned Joe Tice Interiors in Memphis for 20 years:

For a more conservative option you can choose a light wood floor, such as natural bamboo. This material keeps in line with the sleek airiness of a 1960s ranch style home.  Add an animal skin rug atop the bamboo flooring. Flokati or Zebra skin will stand out next to the blacks and neutrals in the room.

The second suggestion, which is my preference, is a darker wood. Because the home is 70 percent glass, you don’t need to worry about getting enough natural light and take a chance by going dramatic. A teak floor with a high gloss finish would be beautiful. Most wood floors use a satin finish, but a higher gloss can give your floors a more contemporary look. Use an area rug, but be careful not to cover the floor completely. This will give you some texture on the slick surface. Use a high-nap shag in a neutral color to compliment the upholstery.

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Samburu_braclet_1Individually handmade by female members of the nomadic Samburu tribe of Northern Kenya, the Samburu Bracelets are now available for the holiday season. Priced at $30, proceeds will go to the Thorn Tree Project, a foundation working to create the Thorn Tree School -- the first school for this nomadic tribe.

An active supporter of the Thorn Tree Project , the bracelets are available through Clodagh at [email protected].

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November 28, 2005

Contemporary Table Setting

Table_setting_holiday_1We asked Architectural Designer Cat Wei, co-host of DIY Network's Material Girls series and co-founder of her firm CMCW, LLC, in New York City, how we could dress up a table for the holidays.

She suggested a sophisticated palette of warm chocolate brown, winter whites, and polished silver to create an elegant and modern holiday place setting. Candlestick holders cast from deer antlers were paired with organic inspired flatware set on rich brown napkins. The red felt placemats are handmade and cut into snowflakes, using the same process as you did in grade school. Crisp white china on kiri wood stumps with red chopsticks add dimension. A red ceramic votive flower holder adds interest to the center, while scented pinecones scattered at the base of the antlers complete the holiday ardor.


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Tables of Multiplication

Archipelago2_2PLUS is a web only magazine focused on highlighting the beauty and practicality of math on culture. The magazine's graphic artist Charles Trevelyan was proficient in illustrating that beauty in two dimensional space -- and he is downright masterful in 3D. Trevelyan made his foray into furniture design this past year, and his pieces are notable for their geometry and whimsy. A bookshelf -- with embeded chair and table -- was featured in Wallpaper* while here, we happen to like Archipelago. This table with tiny islands is available in high gloss lacquer. The sum of the parts is definitely greater than the whole.

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Great Kid Toy

Modernseed_1871_7675992A child's car with an old school pedal driving system, with modern looks. Bright red and green keep the Zoom Sports Car in site, no matter how fast the little one can move his feet. Available for $100 from

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November 27, 2005

Le Corbusier's Ignoble Villa

Famed Swiss architect Le Corbusier still is creating controversy 40 years after his death. Few dispute his importance and contributions for the birth of Modernism also known as the International Style. But critics scorn his efforts when it came to sub-urban planning. Le Corbusier's intention with Immeubles Villas was to create a city for 3 million people that eliminated the squalid sections of the city where the poor inhabited. Highrise apartments would give everyone access to sunlight.

But critics then, and even now, warned that such monstrosities would merely create silos of poor -- segregating them upward. Christopher Caldwell writes about the recent rioting in France's suburbs in The New York Times Magazine "Revolting High Rises." It hardly seems fair to blame a man whose goals were so noble for the unrest caused by hidden class systems and chronic unemployment. Hopelessness, be it laid out vertically or horizontally, is deleterious to any society.

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November 25, 2005

Holiday Treasure Hunt

Treasure_cover1If you need another reason to avoid the throngs in the stores and on the highways, we have one. As you browse through the PURE CONTEMPORARY Product Guide looking for gifts for friends and family, take part in our Holiday Treasure Hunt.

From November 21 to December 26, 2005, we designated one product in our Product Guide as the "buried treasure." We sprinkled some clues on different pages to help you along. When you find the treasure, follow the directions on the page to enter to win. On or about December 27, one entrant will be chosen at random to win that product. Any reader over 18 is eligible to partake. Free registration is a requirement.

Happy Hunting!

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PURE CONTEMPORARY's Guide to Modern Gift-Giving!


Creating a gift guide for lovers of modern is no small feat. First, buying any gift is an extremely personal activity. Secondly, modernists -- well -- they are a breed unto themselves. They tend to like what they want -- and they want gifts that reflect their personalities.  Mass-market items are going to be a tough go for this crowd. So what Caroline and I did was put together a list of types of people that we all have in our lives. We then chose items for them that tickled our imaginations -- if not the American Express card. What could be more luxurious or intimate than the Scirocco towel heater packaged with two plush towels?

We started taking note of interesting gifts early last year, and compiled a rather lengthy list. We sharpened our pencils and started critically examining each. We bumped those items that had limited distribution, were too pedestrian, and those we knew had manufacturing problems. Some late entrants onto the list were actually older products such as Achille Castiglioni's retro crystal Paro vessels and Bang & Olufsen's speakers.

Finally, we thought long and hard about price points. While for many readers price may be no object, we objected to having only high-ticket items on the guide. Four gorgeous knobs for a bathroom cabinet would be heartfelt, personal and highly regarded by the recipient.

Still, we know there are those “big”presents that are for the entire family to enjoy. We were tipped off by a reader to Quench's breathtaking stainless bar, and saw the BeoLab 8000 speakers in just-out red -- hot for any home theater.

We hope you like our choices for this year's Modern Gift Guide 2005

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Bert and Dennis Fold Chair

Bert and Dennis of the Netherlands created the Fold chair as a comfortable oragami-like side chair of steel and felt. But they're not done yet. The duo is working on changing the form of the chair to make the upholstery process easier, and they say, a couch is on the way.

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November 23, 2005

Stylish Pet Decor

You love your pets, we know you do. Now reward them -- and yourself -- with colorful and festive feeding bowls from Koziol. Made from recyclable plastics, Koziol's productsKoziol_miaou_cat_bowl are useful, contemporary trendsetters made to bring color and fun into your home and office.

Pet decor is quickly becoming a hot commodity -- from designer bowls and elaborate dog houses to the Kittypod. This season show your pets just how much you appreciate them without sacrificing your own style.

Choose from the WOW Dog Bowl or aptly named MIAOU Cat dish (shown).

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