No Need To Be Afraid of the Dark

There has been an unspoken rule in interior design over the years that says “not to threaten anyone with your choices.”  Making a place comfortable generally meant that it needed to be neutral in its color palette and unassuming in its design.  Classy and nondescript was said to be better than being bold.

HvH Interiors has a wonderful photo essay on some dramatic departures from conventional design wisdom.  The use of dark colors and bold accents led author and interior designer Holly von Huene to write of the spaces, “I’m quite impressed by the use of black walls in this space. It’s a bold thing to do, but a great example of how to do it right.”  The vibrant choices within the spaces shows that comfort and beauty can be bold and daring and that unassuming, non-threatening styes aren’t the answer for everyone.


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99 Boxes of Beer Make a Place

For many architecture students there were undoubtedly moments on the college campus where the consumption of adult beverages led to a series of fantastical ideas.  One such project, the Boxel pavilion in Germany, might be the perfect marriage of ideas  and adult beverage by-products.   Inhabitat author Andrew Michler writes about the design: “Students from the University of Applied Sciences in Detmold, Germany recently developed and built this extraordinary Boxel pavilion out of 2,000 beer crates. The pavilion is part of a course on how to develop structures from computer modeling to construction. The result is a full-scale pavilion that spent its summer on campus, providing the coolest music venue around.”

Photograph by Matthias Rhomberg

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Vidal Sassoon “The Architect of Hair”

Vidal Sassoon passed away May 9th of 2012.  The British hairdresser found a real passion in creating hair styles that were inspired by architecture.  He was credited with several innovative styles in hair including the “Bauhaus-inspired” wedge bob. His popularity and memorable commercials in the 1980s helped foster the personal image that he was “a rock star, an artist, [and] a craftsman who changed the world with a pair of scissors.”

As Wikipedia writes, “His ‘wash and wear’ philosophy liberated women from the ‘tyranny of the salon’ and ‘revolutionized the art of hairstyling.’  Sassoon’s styles became ‘emblematic of freedom and good health’  and their popularity allowed him to open the first chain of worldwide hair styling salons, complemented by his hair-treatment products.  After his passing a closer examination was given to his love of architecture and the influence it had on his approach to hairdressing.

The Telegraph author Becky Sunshine writes of how Sassoon found his initial traction in the fashion industry: “It was his geometric haircuts of the 1960s and 70s that made Sassoon a global name and exposed him to the world of architecture and design. ‘I’ve always believed that architecture is the most important creative form,’ he says. ‘Architects create buildings seen by thousands of people who walk by every day. Buildings can make people happy.’” Sunshine continued, “Sassoon drew a parallel between hairdressing and building in an interview with Architectural Digest last year: ‘My whole work, beginning in the late 1950s, came from the Bauhaus. It was all about studying the bone structure of the face, to bring out the character. I hated the prettiness that was in fashion at that time.’ In the 1960s he had an opportunity to meet one of his heroes, the Bauhaus-educated modernist architect Marcel Breuer in New York. ‘We discussed how, despite working in such different fields, we had common ground, such as the beauty of angles and geometry. He praised my work as groundbreaking. That was astonishing to me.’”

Photograph from Wikipedia

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Good Books: “ReThinking A Lot”

Easy parking is as American as apple pie and baseball.  We drive to our destinations and generally take for granted the fact that there will be a place to park our automobile.  A new book by Eran Ban Joseph called ReThinking A Lot is a fascinating look at America’s love affair with the car, parking, and our suspension of general market principles for the sake of parking ease.

Design Observer author Ian Baldwin writes: “Parking lots are the most common and least questioned typology of the built environment. Ben-Joseph is not out to change this. He is no polemicist in the mold of James Howard Kunstler (The Geography of Nowhere). He is not a scholar building an exhaustive, data-saturated argument like Donald Shoup (The High Cost of Free Parking). Nor is he a historian grappling with a cultural shift like Brian Ladd (Autophobia, which like ReThinking a Lot features a cover image of the now-demolished ‘Spindle’ car sculpture) or Peter Wollen (who edited the anthology Autopia: Cars and Culture).”  ‘So situated, the surface parking lot is a landscape ripe for transformation. … The question is, why can’t parking lots be modest paradises?’ ReThinking a Lot is an attempt to undo Joni Mitchell’s dichotomy.”

Joseph’s book highlights our thinking about parking, the auto, and what they mean for society as planning moves into the next century of design.

Photograph by radworld

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A New Zealand Oasis

Some kinds of housing reserved for the corners of the imagination can cause a person to utter the very Liz Lemonish phrase, “I want to go to there!”  This fantastic house in New Zealand is one such architectural marvel.  The setting is incredible, the home is magnificently designed to capture all the natural beauty of the landscape, and the contemporary architecture allows the visualization of an evening on the porch watching the water roll by.  Sous Style found the home and has a wonderful photo essay of the house in its setting.  And all of it can be yours for just over 11 million dollars!

Photograph by Jo Munday

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The Russian Consulate in New York

During the period rises in tension brought by the Cold War, Gerald Ford and Leonid Brezhnev decided that a simple way to ease anxiety was to buy some very large houses and make them into consulates for their respective countries.  New York Social Diary author John Foreman recently wrote about his tour of  the Soviet Consulate in New York.  The home, as he writes, was sold to the Soviets by “Dr. Ramon Castroviejo, a famous pioneer of corneal transplant surgery who, in 1938 was the first medical doctor to urge an astonished population to will their eyes to science. “  He continues about the storied history of the house: “Castroviejo’s house was one of a pair, each a sumptuous wedding gift from furniture magnate W.D. Sloane. Sloane’s daughter Emily and her husband John Henry Hammond settled into 9 East 91st in 1902.”  The photographs and essay that he wrote about his tour shows the opulence of the Victorian era and the remarkable craftsmanship that defined luxury at the turn of the last century.

Photograph by ktylerconk

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Charleston’s Charge Towards Modern Design

Charleston, South Carolina is not known for a love of modern design.  Perhaps the iconic southern  city, Charleston is rooted deep in its history as the hub of the Antebellum south.  Its rich architectural heritage has made it a favorite of the design community for longer than many U.S. cities have been in existence.

One couple, in love with the charm of Charleston but also deeply passionate about modern design, decided to see if these two incongruent aesthetics could be married to create the best of both worlds.  Helen Rice and Josh Nissenboim, designers and sweat-equity enthusiasts, took on the challenge in a dilapidated Charleston Single.  ( A type of home, native to Charleston that is one room wide and blanketed on one side with a two story verandah.)  Dwell author Kelsey Keith writes about the projects owners and designers: “Rice and Nissenboim’s design ethos is rooted in gallant perfectionism: If it’s done right the first time, the effect is lasting. Such is the case at their home. Though the house was nothing remarkable in the surrounding landscape of stately peninsula homes, it had solid bones for a decidedly breathable, low-key, and modern living space—even if its windows hadn’t changed since the 19th century. ‘It was our love of the old materials that dictated a lot of the renovation decisions,’ says Rice. ‘We didn’t want to overshadow or alter those elements in any unnatural way. We wanted the space to feel warm but spare, with a mixture of old and new.’”

Photograph by Muffet

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Scaling Down in Seattle

Scaling down has been a favored trend lately, especially among urbanites and the counter-culture.  Seeing the previous generation’s love affair with square footage and “space for all the stuff” as a waste of resources and money, many have migrated to small-space solutions.  Some have even taken this way of life to extremes.

The Seattle Times writes of one such person: “Steve Sauer likes this precision. Awkward spaces, wasted places annoy him. Two alarm clocks, two music sources, extra furniture. Needless, needless, needless.” As author Rebecca Teagarden found out, “‘I wanted to compress my home to squirt me back out to the community,’ he says, taking inspiration from dwellings in Scandinavia and Japan, places where space is dear. ‘That was one of the philosophical reasons. I want to be able to shop daily, not store a lot and eat really well.’”

His 182-square-foot Seattle condo shows the value of precision space design, from the soaking tub built into the entry floor, to the “video lounge” tucked beneath the “cafe area.” The home is long on design and efficiency and short on wasted space.

Photograph by audinou

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Nathaniel Kahn: “My Architect”

In 2003 there was an fascinating documentary released about one son’s personal journey to understand his father.  Nathaniel Kahn is the son of one of the world’s most famous architects, Louis Kahn.  While Kahn’s architecture was prominent and always the subject of the public discussions, his private life was secretive and secluded—so much so that he secretly had three families around the world.  This amazing talk by his estranged son Nathaniel is about how he sought insight into his father’s mind and life.  The movie is a heartfelt journey of forgiveness and understanding.

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Some Post-Father’s-Day Fun

Dad: the king of his castle, master of the grill, keeper of the landscape.  The home is dad’s domain.  The quintessential do-it-yourselfer, dad is always on the lookout for his next project or a way to improve his man cave.

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