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October 31, 2007

Outer living

While the warm weather has vanished for the Pure Contemporary staff up here in Western NY, those of you closer to the equator are still feeling the burn -- and in need of some mod outdoor furnishings.

These will definitely be on my wish list come early Spring -- and should be on your property ASAP!


Mod_outdoor_conj_vergara_2 Mod_outdoor_conjunto_camar_2 Check out Pampaexport's full line.


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Category: PATIO & OUTDOOR | Permalink | Add Your Comment (0) | TrackBack

A Nip and a Tuck to a whole new set!

Nip_tuck_3 Tuesdays just got better... Nip/Tuck is back -- and more modern than ever!

I don't know what I liked more -- the blue sofas in the reception area at the new Rodeo Drive office of McNamara/Troy, or the black kitchen table in Christian's new LA pad.

With the boys soaking in the L.A. sun we're sure our readers will be clamoring to know who designed what -- and where they can buy it! Send us your inquiries and we'll do our best to get the inside dish from Ellen Brill, the set designer behind this provocative program.

Category: ART & ACCESSORIES, COLOR, MODERN BEDROOM | Permalink | Add Your Comment (3) | TrackBack

Modern Concrete Fireplaces

Span_pl_2Solus makes modern, minimalist, warm looking fireplace surrounds and tiles. It's rare to find such smooth finishes and deep, even colors in the company's medium of choice. concrete, but Solus achieves it in a  variety of styles. Check the website for images of its 10 cast surrounds, and 4 tile shapes, which can be used on floors, walls, or of course, fireplaces. Don't see the concrete style of your dreams? Contact them. Solus can customize to meet your needs, everything's handcrafted anyway.

Category: ART & ACCESSORIES, CAROLINE BARRY, GREEN DESIGN, MODERN FURNITURE | Permalink | Add Your Comment (7) | TrackBack

October 30, 2007

Get Wired

Bertoia would be proud. Decades after he perfected the art of wired furniture, the modernist craze is still unraveling, and we can't get enough of it. To wit, the DWR issue of Platner's wire collection...

Arik Levy's wire tables for Zanotta...
And this exhibit of wire furniture sculptures by Forrest Myers at Friedman Benda in New York City...

1 2

The exhibit open November 8.

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October 29, 2007

Eileen Gray, 1st Lady of Modernism


Eileen_2 Here at PC, we often comment on the plight of female architects. They so rarely attain the household name status of their male counterparts. Is it because women just aren't as good at that sort of thing?  We don't think so. After all, theirs is the creative sex.

But living in the shadows of male architects is nothing new, as the story of one our favorite creators, Eileen Gray, illustrates. Her greatest masterpiece is not the adjustable table, or even the Bibendum chair, but a house on the sea.  She alone scouted for and found the perfect plot of land. And she alone created the furniture that would fit into each space she conceived of. Her mistake? She bought the land in the name of her then lover, Jean Badovici.

A struggling architect, Badovici was to be the recipient of a very expensive gift from the independently wealthy Gray. She built her dream home for him, implementing only a few of his ideas into her design. But, following his death, and the bizarre influence of Le Corbusier, Gray's home was remembered as having been designed by Badovici. Only in the late 1980s did public consciousness in France begin to realize that the now crowded, crumbling seaside home was the creation of one of modernism's greatest contributers - and that wasn't Badovici.

An engaging and beautifully written account of Gray's life and of her experiences with her home, named E1027, follows. Take the time to check it out, and discover more about a progressive female architect now remembered more for her furniture than for her true masterpiece, a home.

The Guardian (London)

THE HOUSE THAT EILEEN BUILT: She was, for a brief moment in
the 20s, in the vanguard of architectural modernism, feted for the 'little
refuge' she built on France's southernmost tip. So why is Eileen Gray's
contribution overlooked?
BY: Frances Stonor Saunders
July 21, 2001
    Just beneath the railway line at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, on the easterly end
of the Cote d'Azur, there runs a narrow pathway. Here, in summer, the heat
punches you with the smell of dog faeces dropped by the ridiculous breeds in
which wealthy populations tend to indulge. At one end of the path, there is a
telephone box, its cables conspicuously severed. Two large galvanised lids sit
across a sewage outlet, and empty beer bottles and constellations of cigarette
stubs suggest that this isolated ribbon of concrete offers an alternative
nightlife to the casinos and restaurants of nearby Menton. A hundred feet below,
but only intermittently visible through tangled overgrowth and chicken-wire
fencing, the Mediterranean dashes against the honeycombed limestone rocks.
Above, the Metrazur train, which runs the 150 miles between Ventimiglia and
Marseilles, hugs the steep Provencal hills in its slow, littoral trundle. Only
from the train would you glimpse the house that sits between the pathway and the
    Seventy-six years ago, Eileen Gray, an Anglo-Irish woman who dressed in
superbly tailored trouser suits and a floppy bow-tie, parked her car next to the
little station and walked down on to this path. A few minutes later, she turned
off it and clambered down over crumbling stone walls, through the scattered
Levant pines and bushes of wild rosemary and euphorbia, before coming upon a
small terrace in the rocks. Gazing out across the Mediterranean, to the west,
she saw the massive rock of Monte Carlo and part of the harbour peeping out from
behind it. South and east, there was nothing but sea. For weeks, Gray had been
scouring the coast for a suitable plot on which to build a house. Now, suddenly,
she knew that this was the place.
    Gray was then 47 and an accomplished designer. But her experience as an
architect consisted of little more than a few small models in wood. Three years
from this moment - years measured out in wheelbarrows and loneliness and an
unshakeable sense of purpose - her quixotic venture would be completed: a
"maison en bord de mer" that, for a brief period until the senators of the
movement overwrote her contribution, placed her in the forefront of
architectural modernism. This was Gray's "Invitation au voyage", the words taken
from Baudelaire's prose poem of the same title and stencilled on a wall of the
house: "It is there we must go to breathe, to dream, and to prolong the hours in
an infinity of sensations."
    Gray was born in 1878 at Brownswood House in County Wexford. Her mother,
Eveleen, who was descended from the 15th-century peer Lord Gray, had run off to
Italy, when she was 21, with James Maclaren Smith, a handsome painter 10 years
her senior. They married in 1863, producing five children, of whom the last was
Eileen. Her childhood was conventionally happy but, from an early age, she
developed a sense of being unloved. Early photographs show her beautiful, feline
features locked in a distant, wistful gaze, her lips turned down, even when
smiling. She was extremely frightened as a child. Sometimes she would get up
from her bed and steal down the dark corridor, quietly put two chairs in front
of her mother's door and there fall asleep until the servants found her at dawn.
Even in old age, she wrote: "I have instinctive fears, fears of ghosts, of
people. I have tried in vain to conquer (them)."
    If Gray was a frightened child, she was also physically courageous. She once
dragged an invalid chair up a hill and raced down at breakneck speed. Later, she
became one of the first women to fly in an aeroplane. She also loved cars and
even investigated, at the age of 80, buying a Vespa. Although she inherited from
her mother a sense of decorum, of rectitude even, from her artist father, who
lived mostly in Switzerland and Italy, she acquired a burning need for
independence - a need she was rarely to compromise in her long life.
    As Gray entered womanhood, she began to strain at the expectations of her
class and upbringing (she disdained her title, "The Honourable", deeming it
suitable only for operettas). Life had been spent between Brownswood and the
family house in Kensington, her education imparted by a series of governesses.
There had been a few short trips abroad to visit her father, or to board at a
private school for a term. In 1900, the Boer war claimed her brother's life and
natural causes her father's. Perhaps to distract her from grief, her mother took
her to Paris to see the Exposition Universale. Its most celebrated pavilion was
the Palace of Electricity, whose facade opened in a fan illuminated by 5,700
electric light-bulbs. It was this Gray fell in love with, the modernity of
Paris, in contrast to the gloom of fog-filled London. She resolved to return.
    Two years later, having attended, patchily, the Slade School of Fine Art,
Gray settled in Paris with friends Kathleen Bruce (later Lady Scott, wife of
Robert Scott, the explorer) and Jessie Gavin. "Les trois jolies anglaises", as
they became known, enrolled at the Ecole Colarossi, an art school popular with
foreign students, but soon changed to the more lively Academie Julian.
    Recalling Gray years later, Bruce wrote of her as "fair, with wide-set, pale
blue eyes, tall and of grand proportion, well-born and quaintly and beautifully
dressed . . . the most romantic figure I had ever seen". Gavin evidently felt
the same way, and by the end of 1902 their friendship had developed into an
affair. Gavin had taken to wearing corduroys and a Norfolk jacket, and
occasionally a wig and false moustache, telling Gray, "We'll . . . play chess in
a cafe. I can take you to places where you can't go without a man."
    Gray, at this time, was still wearing her thick auburn hair in the Edwardian
style. Later, she had it cut into a bob and shed her corseted dresses for
couture suits. She was always impeccably, discreetly elegant and shunned the
more aggressive look of that clique of lesbians - Gertrude Stein, Alice B
Toklas, Natalie Clifford Barney - with whom she was acquainted.
    Gray had affairs with men as well as women, but never spoke of her
sexuality, perhaps in deference to her mother, who hoped that she would marry
and marry well (she did neither). But what characterised all her relationships,
sexual or otherwise, was her intolerance of the intrusion into her interior
life, whose secrets she stubbornly defended. She was, said American journalist
and photographer Therese Bonney, "unassuming, unexplosive, entirely consecrated
    In 1905, Gray returned to London to be with her mother, who was unwell. One
day, walking down Dean Street, she stumbled upon a lacquer repair shop and
enquired if she could work there for a while. She spent most of the following
months in the shop, watching and sometimes helping to rub down the many coats
used to decorate screens and furniture. The next year, she returned to Paris
armed with materials and the names of people who worked in the field. Soon, she
met Seizo Sugawara, a penniless Japanese student in his 20s who had come to
Paris to restore the lacquer pieces Japan had sent to the Exposition Universale.
Gray asked him to teach her. Eventually, she mastered the medium to a perfection
that assures her a place in history as one of the great lacquer artists.
    Lacquer is an austere, obdurate material that can't be rushed. Sensuous and
ascetic in equal measure, it suited Gray's temperament well. For weeks, months
on end, she hardly left her workplace, her hands and arms developing the lacquer
disease, a rash that is hard to heal. Mostly, she worked on wood (she was, one
admirer said, an "alchimiste du bois"), and in time she achieved screens,
tables, chairs and beds of great subtlety and richness. By 1912, she was
producing pieces to commission for some of Paris's richest clients.
    The dominant style in Paris in these years was art nouveau, and Gray's
lacquer work has often been placed in its context of decadence (she would later
refer to the work as "the sins of my past"). Yet her pieces were not so much a
product of this style as an argument with it, a challenge to what she called
"those ghastly drapes and curves of Tiffany and art nouveau".
    Form, as many artists were now discovering, can be a prison. Suddenly, a
series of break-outs was made: Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907),
Brancusi's The Kiss (1907), Duchamp's Nude Descending A Staircase (1912), Peter
Behrens' AEG factory in Berlin, the Ballets Russes, Stravinsky's Firebird
(1910), Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto (1909). These works were not simply
matters of private belief, but strategic incursions into the public
consciousness, making "modernism" a recognisable state of mind. And Gray, in her
desire to "simplify the figurative with almost geometrical designs", was very
much a part of it.
    Then there was war, the Great War, which Henri Gaudier-Brzeska called "the
great remedy" and Ezra Pound the "cleansing" that would purge the capitalist
world of all ills. The Futurists glorified it as "the world's only hygiene" and
set off on their bicycles to join it. Most didn't come back. At the end of it,
Gray, who had served as an ambulance driver before returning to England (she
took with her Sugawara and as much lacquer material as she could squeeze into
her car), came back to a Paris where the myth of the future had gone into shock.
She resumed her lacquer work and was now called to exhibit it at the great
salons. Newspapers began to write of her exquisite pieces, but she cared little
for such recognition and began to feel uncomfortable with the class-bound
opulence of her work. The question now was how to rebuild society after the
devastation of war. How could art, design and, in particular, architecture
ameliorate social crisis?
    In L'Esprit Nouveau, Le Corbusier promised a new age animated by technology,
mass production and geometric order. After the blood and mess of war, he was
going to build a clean, white world for everyone. So where did Japanese resin
fit in? For Corbusier, nowhere. "European lacquer, smart opium, reimported to
the Far East, return freight," he wrote in June, 1924.
    Gray had met Corbusier. She was introduced to him through Jean Badovici, a
penniless young Romanian architect who shared a garret with the Greek journalist
Christian Zervos. In 1923, they published the first issue of L'Architecture
Vivante, which soon became the most distinguished magazine of its kind. Badovici
saw in Gray a woman of both great artistic talent and independent wealth, who
might be able to help him put his creative ideas into practice. She, in turn,
was much taken by his enthusiasm and by his insistence that she should build,
should stop frittering away her time and "make a door that will last".
    As Gray climbed back up to the footpath at Roquebrune that day in 1925, she
knew for certain that she was going to build. She immediately called Badovici in
Paris. He came down, loved the place, and Gray bought it in his name. They were,
by this time, lovers. She returned to Paris and began to make architectural
plans. Over the next months, she travelled down to Roquebrune several times,
before finally presenting Badovici with a model for his "little refuge". At his
suggestion, she re-drew the plan to include pilotis, concrete columns that would
elevate the main living space. By early 1926, she was ready to start.
    Taking a little flat in Roquebrune, Gray hired a mason and two assistants.
For the next three years, she remained on or near the site, following her design
exactly, "determined not to make any compromises". She saw hardly anyone for
months on end, except for the locals who wandered down to see what this "mad
Englishwoman" was doing. The work was hard: all the material had to be brought
to the site by wheelbarrow. There was no one to talk to and she took most of her
meals alone. At the end of each day, she was lonely and tired, her only reward a
swim in the crystal clear sea.
    Occasionally, Badovici came down to give advice. It was always clear that
the "maison en bord de mer" was to be his: the land had been purchased in his
name, and the structure and furnishings, all designed by Gray, were consciously
developed in response to his personal needs. Gray named the house E.1027. "E"
for "Eileen", 10 for the letter "J", 2 for "B" and 7 for "G" - "Eileen Jean
Badovici Gray". Fittingly, for someone so private, in the very act of announcing
their collaboration, she managed to conceal it in code.
    T he site Gray had chosen was difficult terrain, but she had decided to let
the house embrace the natural contours of the land. It consisted of a large
living room, extended by a terrace, and two main bedrooms. A spiral staircase
linked the two floors (and extended to the flat roof, Badovici's idea) and the
lower floor was divided between a guest bedroom and two tiny cells for a maid
and children (not having any, Gray worked on the principle that the best
children were those who were not seen). Gray had spent months studying the light
and wind direction to make best use of natural elements, and the distinction
between outside and inside was deliberately dissipated.
    Everything recalled the architecture of boats. "Entering a house is like . .
. the sensation of pleasure when one arrives with a boat in a harbour, the
feeling of being enclosed but free to circulate," Gray said. Taut sailcloth
membranes on the terrace's metal railings offered protection from the sun and
her "Transat" deckchairs (in reference to the ocean-liner company
Transatlantique) suggested a cruise; inside, wall-mounted headboards for the
beds included compartments for cushions, books, a hot-water bottle, while
supporting lights, clocks and extending table-tops, as in a cabin. There were
also hidden areas for storage - or secrets. If a house is a metaphor for a life,
then these layers of interiors within interiors spoke of Gray's habit of stowing
away her most precious possession, her inner life. There was wit, too:
life-preservers hung from the balcony deck, too far from the water to be of any
use. But seen from the sea, they added to the impression of the house as a ship
that had glided through the rocky incline until it had come to anchor, a stanza
in the odyssey of modernism.
    In many aspects, this was a manifesto house formu lated on the basis of
Corbusier's famous "Five Points of the New Architecture", which stipulated a
house that "stands on pilotis", where "the roof is reached via a staircase",
"open-plan living is achieved by the mixture of free-standing and fixed walls",
"the windows are oriented horizontally" and "the south window creates an open
facade". It was also influenced by Corbusier's interest in creating the "maison
minimum", a small, prototype house that could be adapted and multiplied to help
ease the housing shortage resulting from the war. Gray's use of prefabricated
elements shows an engagement with these ideas, but if she was influenced by
Corbusier's teachings, she was not wholly acquiescent. Deviating from his famous
dictum, she wrote: "A house is not a machine to live in. It is the shell of man,
his extension, his release, his spiritual emanation. (It is) a living organism
in which each of the inhabitants could . . . find total independence and an
atmosphere of solitude and concentration."
    The house was read first through its relationship with the body. Gray strove
to heighten bodily awareness, providing a profusion of glinting materials in the
bathroom - tiled walls, folding mirrors, porcelain sinks - whose cool surfaces
provided a respite from the relentless Mediterranean sun. Such material
palpability invoked a sense of the erotic, the sensual. "The poverty of modern
architecture stems from the atrophy of sensuality," Gray said. "Everything is
dominated by reason in order to create amazement without proper research." (In
some vital aspects, she fell short of her own standard of "research". The
kitchen, for instance, was sadly neglected, probably because its inadequacies
didn't affect her. She couldn't boil an egg and always had a maid to deal with
domestic duties.)
    There was a further ironic commentary on the contemporary obsession with
machine imagery. Gray used Corbusian stencils to caption the house for the
uninitiated: in the entrance, "Defense de rire" and "Entrez lentement"; next to
the mirrors in the guest room, "Madame petite et coquette" and "Monsieur qui
aime se regarder la nuque". The house, Gray said, must "be useful for comfort
and for aiding in joie de vivre". Such playfulness was seen in Gray's Bibendum
chair, modelled on the Michelin tyre man, and in the swivelling arm of a bedside
table. At a time when modernism's dominant tone was one of muscular religiosity,
Gray was puncturing its inflated seriousness.
    She went further. When, that year, Badovici devoted a special issue of L
'Architecture Vivante to the house, he quoted Gray attacking architects who
confused "simplicity" with "simplification" and mistook "formulas" for life
itself. "The world is full of living allusions, living symmetries, hard to find,
but real . . . Their wish for rigid precision has made them neglect the beauty
of all these forms: disks, cylinders, wavy and zigzag lines, ellipsoidal lines,
which are like straight lines in motion. Avant-garde architecture has no soul."
    Gray had given her soul to this house. And, for a while, she was to enjoy
her achievement. She spent several summers here, sometimes with Badovici,
sometimes alone. In 1937, Corbusier visited for the first time. That summer, he
came often for tea with his wife, as did Fernand Leger. There was much
conversation, practical jokes and laughter. But Gray's relationship with
Badovici was becoming strained. He was 14 years her junior, drank heavily and
was a great womaniser. She talked later of his "lies and silliness". So she did
what she always did. She moved on. "One must never look for happiness," she once
mused. "It passes you on your way, but always in the opposite direction.
Sometimes I recognised it."
    Later that summer, Corbusier wrote: "I am so happy to tell you how much
those few days spent in your house have made me appreciate the rare spirit which
dictates all the organisation inside and outside. A rare spirit which has given
the modern furniture and installations such a dignified, charming, and witty
shape." Gray was enormously proud of this: Corbusier was acknowledging that it
was the house she had built.
    But in 1938, the situation turned: Corbusier again visited the house, but
this time he stripped naked and started painting her blank walls with murals. He
did not seek Gray's permission and it was an act she deeply resented. He covered
her clear and consciously low-key house with overtly sexual, garish paintings
(eight altogether) in what she called "an act of vandalism".
    Gray continued to see Badovici, with whom she remained on good terms, but
she wouldn't visit him at E.1027, preferring to meet for a quiet lunch nearby.
She had already built a new house for herself in the village of Castellar and
was to be seen speeding around the Provencal roads in a little MG, usually
accompanied by her maid. She did little or no lacquer work now, preferring to
work on new architectural designs (she was to realise only one more project in
her lifetime) and on designing furniture.
    Then war. Again. As a resident alien, Gray was forbidden to live near the
sea, so she moved inland to Lourmarin, a little town in the Vaucluse region.
Here she drew and made sculptures, using odd bits and pieces, and scribbled
notes on architecture in a little brown book. In 1944, her house at Castellar
was ransacked and a flat she had rented before the war in St-Tropez was blown
apart by German shelling. She lost most of her furniture and designs - decades
of work destroyed. E.1027, meanwhile, had been occupied by Italian, then German
soldiers, who used one of Corbusier's murals for target practice.
    After the German retreat, Gray returned to Paris, but her love of the South
of France was undiminished. In 1953, she started converting an old cabanon near
St-Tropez. She was now 75, but as determined as she had been when she built
E.1027. She camped out in the half-finished house for weeks on end, sleeping on
a camp bed with the rain falling through the roof. By the time it was finished,
she was 80 and Badovici was dead. Gray arranged his funeral. She had been a
catalyst for his architectural ambitions, advising him on elevations for his
sole independent project, a house he designed in the late 30s on Paris's Right
Bank. Yet when the Union des Artistes Moderne arranged a memorial exhibition in
his honour at the first Triennale of Contemporary French Art in Paris, Gray's
offer to assist was rejected and E.1027 attributed to "Jean Badovici with the
collaboration of Eileen Gray for the furniture".
    Corbusier, who knew this was a misattribution, did nothing to correct the
error. Indeed, determined to preserve the house and his frescoes, he actively
promoted the impression that Badovici was its creator. In 1950, he had acquired
a small plot of land next to E.1027, on which he built La Baraque, a tiny wooden
shack. Then, shortly before Badovici's death, he had erected a "hostel" on the
land directly overlooking the villa. Elevated on pilotis, this intrusive,
two-storey building not only destroyed the visual isolation of E.1027, but also
operated, together with his cabanon, to situate Gray's masterpiece within a
Corbusian frame.
    For four years after Badovici's death, E.1027 languished. As it had been
registered in his name, his sister was now the legal heir, but she was stuck in
Romania and prohibited from owning property abroad. In 1960, Corbusier
successfully solicited a buyer, a wealthy Swiss widow called Marie-Louise
Schelbert. Telephoning her in Zurich, he told her to "bring all the money you
can get hold of, and a hat!" She went to Roquebrune and found the house in a
miserable state, but decided to buy it anyway. The house was auctioned at Menton
in June 1960 and the contract of sale signed between Schelbert and a
"representative" for Badovici's sister (he was, in fact, acting for the Romanian
government, which pocketed the proceeds). Gray tried to retrieve some furniture
but was, she later said, "prevented". She could never again be persuaded to
visit her "maison en bord de mer".
    E.1027 was now saved. Schelbert made several alterations, but was on the
whole a decent custodian of Gray's house, even if she had never heard of her.
Corbusier, by now recognised as the architectural titan of his age, was often
there, spending the summer in his shack while members of his burgeoning
architectural practice stayed in the "hostel" behind the villa. On August 27,
1965, he walked down the steps that had been rudely carved out of the rocks
below the house, and lowered himself into the water. Since the death of his wife
Yvonne two years earlier, he had been drinking heavily and had gained weight. He
swam for a while, then staggered out of the water, his face riven with pain. And
there he died, of a massive heart attack. Shortly after, the little footpath was
designated "Promenade Le Corbusier". And thus he still looms as a presence,
looking down, literally, on Gray's work.
    Sometime in 1980, in the middle of the night, a man parked a lorry next to
Roquebrune station and made his way down the footpath to the house. Opening the
door with a key, he proceeded to remove most of Gray's furniture to the lorry,
before driving to Zurich. His name was Heinz Peter Kagi and he was Schelbert's
physician. Three days later, she was found dead in her apartment. Kagi produced
documents to show that he had purchased the house from Schelbert in 1974, but
her children, suspicious that he might have had a hand in her death, pursued
legal means to block the change of ownership. Their lawsuit was unsuccessful and
Kagi moved into the house, selling off the remaining furniture at auctions
handled by Sotheby's in Monaco. When the Centre Georges Pompidou arranged
separately to buy some of the furniture, it was with the understanding that Kagi
would use the proceeds to restore the villa, but he made no effort to do so.
    Under Kagi's ownership, E.1027 deteriorated rapidly. Rumours spread that the
villa was now a kind of orgy den, with Kagi picking up local boys and offering
them drugs and booze. On August 22, 1996, an argument broke out and Kagi was
stabbed with a long knife and left bleeding to death on the floor of the living
room. His assailants were two vagrants he had taken into the house in exchange
for work on the garden. They had demanded money for their labours but he'd
refused to pay, so they took his life. After stealing his car and passport, they
made for the Swiss border, where they were arrested and charged with his murder,
for which they received life sentences.
    After Kagi's death, the villa was squatted and vandalised. Surprisingly,
Corbusier's frescoes survived. In any case, this mutilation finally prompted
official efforts to save the villa, which was reclassified a full "monument
historique" in November 1998 (in 1975 it had been included on France's
supplementary inventory of historic monuments). Ironically, the murals were its
best-preserved aspect; without them, the house would undoubtedly have been left
to rot.
    The job of securing the villa for posterity has fallen to Renaud Barres, an
architect in his mid-30s who admires Gray and reveres Corbusier. As a child, he
spent summers with his father in Corbusier's "hostel". Now, as official guardian
of the site, he enjoys the right to stay in Corbusier's cabanon, used by the
architect from 1954 until his death. This stark wooden shack is highly ascetic,
with none of the sensuality of Gray's building. It, too, has a mural, whose most
prominent feature is an erect penis Barres calls "the big dick".
    Barres has a vision for E.1027. It will be restored (though there doesn't
seem to be any money) and preserved, together with Corbusier's buildings, as a
study centre for architects, with public access offered for a limited period
each year. When pushed for details of funding and schedules, Barres is vague. In
June 1999, Norman Foster and Partners submitted preliminary plans for the
construction of a villa on St Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Noting that the region hosts some
of the world's finest examples of domestic modernist architecture, the proposal
specifically refers to E.1027 as "associating modernism with the traditions of
the Mediterranean". On seeing the plans, Barres at once wrote to Foster, seeking
his support in saving the villa. He has not yet had a reply. It seems that
architects, as much as the corrosive winds that whip up from the sea, have been
unkind to the dreams of Gray.
    As I tour her house with Barres, I have the strong sensation of visiting a
shipwreck. Here, beached on the shores of conservation and heritage bureaucracy,
the bitter infighting of executors and lawyers, lies the skeletal frame of a
once noble vessel. The concrete is crumbling, exposing long sections of iron
support rods. The stairway leading to the raised deck is leaning perilously to
one side. All but a few windows are smashed, the rude crisscross of masking tape
and plastic sheeting flapping in the breeze. Stripped of its fixtures and
fittings, the villa's walls cast the shadow of the past and no longer the light
of the future. Like all shipwrecks, the ghosts of the past linger. Ghosts that
would have frightened Gray.
    She died in Paris, after a fall, on the morning of Sunday, October 31, 1976.
She was 98. French radio announced her death that evening. She was buried the
following week at the Pere Lachaise cemetery, in a simple grave numbered 17616.
"There is a path which leads upward and there is a path which leads downward.
Both are one and the same," she once said. A suitable epitaph
    Eileen Gray, by Caroline Constant, is published by Phaidon, priced pounds
39.95. Peter Adam's biography, Eileen Gray: Architect/Designer, is published by
Thames & Hudson, priced pounds 16.95. To order a copy of either book, with free
first-class p&p, call 0870 066 7979.

Category: ARCHITECTURE, CAROLINE BARRY | Permalink | Add Your Comment (4) | TrackBack

October 28, 2007

Surfs Up for Modern Kids


Toilet training and teeth brushing just got a whole lot cooler. This bamboo step stool makes reaching the sink or the toilet much easier for little ones, and it's sturdy enough for an adult to stand on too. With a surfboard shape that makes this a handy seat as well, this little stool is a stylish, modern and functional addition to any aspiring surfer's decor. $99 through ModernTots.

Category: ART & ACCESSORIES, CAROLINE BARRY, GREEN DESIGN, MODERN KIDS | Permalink | Add Your Comment (1) | TrackBack

October 27, 2007

The World’s Most Expensive Green Mega-Mansion

Just got this press release in. What do you guys think? Can giant really be green? Seems that all the energy expended and products used (think of their manufacturing and shipping impacts) could be better used to build several smaller efficient homes. I'm thinking this kind of defeats the purpose. But this is America, after all, and we're going to have people who want McMansions even after NYC is underwater. So if it has to be giant, at least it's more green than the monstrosities that have come before... 

We have to give the developer kudos for stewardship, just maybe not of the environmental sort: he does use profits from his previous succsses to build homes for people in the poorest countries. I also have to give him points for wearing vests and sticking with his Winger-style hair decades after anyone besides Dog the Bounty Hunter thinks it looks good.  (Check the link to the YouTube for evidence)

MANALAPAN, Fla. -- Is it possible to build a green mega mansion? Is that an oxymoron, or worse yet, unethical? 

One man is risking a fortune to prove it can be done.

Legendary real estate "artist" Frank McKinney is creating the world's largest and most expensive certified green mansion ever built. What is even more amazing is that McKinney is doing so on speculation (without a buyer in mind), in Palm Beach County, Florida. The price tag? $29 million.

The entire process is being filmed by the well-known production company, RIVR Media, for a yet unsold docu-series currently titled "The Green Giant." The trailor for “The Green Giant” is viewable now on YouTube.

McKinney is an American original; a real estate "artist", 2-time international best-selling author and visionary who sees opportunities and creates real estate markets where none existed before. At age 18, with $50 in his pocket and without the benefit of higher education, McKinney left his native Indiana for Florida in search of his "highest calling."

For the full story on Frank McKinney and updates on the $29 million green mega-mansion, aptly named "Acqua Liana", visit

Green features of “Acqua Liana:”

§ enough solar panels to cover a regulation-size basketball court and could generate enough energy for two average-size homes;

§         a water system that collects enough “gray” runoff water to fill the average swimming pool every 14 days;

§         enough reclaimed wood to save 7.5 acres of Brazilian rain forest;

§         renewable woods that regenerate every three years vs. every 50 years for other hardwoods;

§ pools, reflecting ponds, water gardens, misters, etc., to drop the site temperature 3 - 5 degrees over neighboring properties;

§         recycling 340,000 pounds of debris during construction;

§         air-conditioning and air purification systems four times better than an operating room in the Mayo Clinic.

Category: ARCHITECTURE, CAROLINE BARRY, GREEN DESIGN | Permalink | Add Your Comment (0) | TrackBack

October 26, 2007

Orange is in


According to all the fashion mags, orange is in for fall! And while my fair locks, pale complexion and rosy cheeks wouldn't take well to tangerine, my home sure will!

Check out the Ray Designer Dining Table, starting at $2802 from Spacify.


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Category: COLOR, MODERN DINING | Permalink | Add Your Comment (0) | TrackBack

Modern Lounge - Grasshopper Chair!


An opportunity so fabulous I just had to stop everything I was doing and post this immediately has presented itself. Now this isn't for everbody, but the serious collector of modern who has deep resources should take note...
In honor of Fabricius & Kastholm's 40th anniversary, the Grasshopper chair is now available from SUITE New York in white leather in a Limited Edition of 40.

The Danish design duo's most famous chair, the Grasshopper has been featured in top international design magazines, including PC. Isn't nice just to know that such beauty exists?

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Get High

High_point_5 Attention buyers, designers, students and press: Register Now!

High Point Market 2008 is set for April 7-13. Check out modern and contemporary design from around the world, and get an inside look at the hottest home trends.

(P.S. - High Point is not open to the general public)


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