Category Archives: Cult Classic
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In the time between the two World Wars, it was the countries of Scandinavia that really began to develop a unique and revolutionary approach to design. Their approach to design was heralded for it’s cultivation of a fine balance – between the preservation of craft materials and traditions and standardized mass production and social reform. It is this unique Scandinavian synthesis of modernism that was born of the molded plywood and laminated birch chair designs of the young Finnish architect, AlvarAalto ( 1898-1976).
His armchairs, still manufactured by Artek (the company he establishe in Helsinki in 1935) were inspired by the light tubular metal furniture designed by Marcel Breuer at the Bahaus.
Whilst committed to the use of industrial processes, Aalto preferred wood to tubular metal and experimented with laminated birch (an abundant natural resource in Finland), in the process, doing away with upholstery and decoration. The use of laminate rather than carved woods permitted uniformity and ease of construction – thus his designs appeared industrial as opposed to hand-crafted. The use of organic forms and natural wood surface also served to soften the geometry and austerity of comparable metal constructed from standardized components. Most experts agree that his designs were in close continuum with the free and irregular abstract forms of surrealism.
Aalto was able to explore the connections with Surrealism further in the design of glassware that suggests a particular analogie to the suggestive forms of the sculpures of Belgian-born sculptor, Jean Arp. This can be seen in Aalto’s Savoy vase of c.1936 with its amoeba-like form and plays to activate negative space.
At HFOC we have some great Alvar Aalto pieces that would bring an important slice of Scandinavian design history into your home.
“I believe that beauty is healing and inspiring; I want to help others see beauty in all areas of their lives.” – Barbara Barry.
She has an air of Coco Chanel about her. That understated glamour, that graceful and refined elegance and of course the pearls. And just like the Mademoiselle before her, American interior designer Barbara Barry (with a decidedly less glamorous name than her Parisian counterpart) advocates a design philosophy of simplicity and understated elegance. Just as Chanel changed the course of fashion by removing superficial decoration and advocating comfort in women’s clothing, Barry’s interior spaces are paired back to only simplest of design statements, encouraging every space to be as comfortable as it is beautiful.
Barry was born of a family of artists and it is this upbringing she attributes to the way she sees her work. She explains, “I think of rooms as paintings, with the same requirement of composition, colour and clarity of line that create a balanced whole. In the products I design, I strive to find the fluid line, with forms that speak to the body and call us to use them.” Like an artist, she observes the spaces she works in terms of light, form, colour and texture and strives for harmony through perfect proportion and working with natural light and palettes derived from nature.
The designer has a huge following and her work clearly resonates with many people worldwide, perhaps more so now that we are witnessing a global design trend towards a more simplistic, quality-driven way of living. Her style holds its appeal in the refined elegance of her rooms, each one imbued with a characteristic air of peace and calm.
She is one of the most successful designers in creating what can only be described as a calm and comforting haven from the outside world and it is Barry herself who believes that, “good and thoughtful design can affect our lives profoundly, and hold us in quiet ways”. A philosophy she quite clearly upholds in everything she does.
For those interested in her work, her public projects include The Savoy Hotel in London, Gordon Ramsey’s Boxwood Cafe at the Berkeley Hotel in London, the very smart A.O.C. restaurant in Los Angeles, the Brooks Brothers flagship store on Madison Avenue and the famous Avon Spa in Manhattan. Barry also has a best-selling line of furniture for Baker, plumbing fixtures for Kallista, fabric for Kravet, fine china for Wedgewood and crystal giftware for Baccarat.
HFOC currently has in stock a number of Barbara Barry items, that include the following:
Giò Ponti lies amongst the very greatest of Italy’s design talents. His work was vast and varied, dabbling in the realms of automobiles, furniture, interiors as well as building architecture. He was a pivotal figure in the history of twentieth-century design, remaining a firm source of inspiration for designers to this day.
The works for which Ponti is best known range from early ceramic work as design director for Richard Ginori, his architectural works, Milan’s Pirelli Tower and the Museum of Modern Art in Denver, his automobile designs for Alfa Romeo, interiors for Italian luxury liners, bathroom fixtures for American Standard and that very famous Superleggera chair for Cassina.
It was the 32-story Pirelli Tower, the second skyscraper built in Milan, that many say was the climax of Ponti’s architectural career. It certainly raised his profile amongst the international community with Ponti drawing attention and commissions from places as far and wide as Venezuela and Baghdad, to Hong Kong and Denver.
Ponti himself regarded the Superleggera chair as one of his three masterpieces (together with the Pirelli Tower and the Concattedrale of Taranto). It represents a symbol of perfection and balance between solidity and lightness, with a minimum weight of 1,700 grams. It is the fruit of Gio Ponti’s research and the experimental and creative ability and expertise of Cassina and its craftsmen, who have produced this chair non-stop since 1957. Ponti said of his superbly symmetrical design that “In the darkness it will be even lighter because it will be supported by just two legs”.
The chair is a beautiful classic and we currently have one in store. Hurry, this piece will not stay on the floor for long.
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most prolific American architects and interior designers of all time, recognised for his pioneering work in organic architecture – a style of architecture that promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world. By the time of his death in 1959 at age 92, he was an internationally recognized figure, famed for his innovative building style and responsible for some 1,141 designs of which over 500 were completed.
Wright’s work in organic architecture was a consequence of his distaste for the urban environment. Having grown up in the roaming, wild plains of Wisconsin, Wright was determined that we should all live in close proximity to the natural world by integrating it into our homes. Through the use of natural materials, skylights, expansive windows and structuring buildings on forms found in nature, Wright proclaimed the natural world should stand as the basis for all good architecture.
Some of his most famous works include the Larkin Company Administration Building in Buffalo, New York (1903), the Guggenheim Museum in New York City (1943), which resembles the structure of a shell or a snail, as well as his famous home, Fallingwater, that was constructed over a waterfall.
His mantra ‘form and function are one’ was applied not only to his architecture but also for his furnishings and interior design. A fine example of his design work is the Taliesin 2 Floor Lamp, which was designed by Wright for his own home, Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The lighting originated from an earlier project, where he had designed lighting pendants made up of square boxes and plywood shields suspended from the tall ceiling of a theatre building. The fixtures had proved to be a lighting innovation and Wright enjoyed their soft, indirect light so much that he had a standing floor lamp version of the same design fabricated for use in his own home, Taliesin.
Frank Lloyd Wright was once quoted as having said “…having a good start, not only do I fully intend to be the greatest architect who has yet lived, but fully intend to be the greatest architect who will ever live. Yes, I intend to be the greatest architect of all time.” Clearly Wright did not fall short of his lofty dreams, as he remains one of the true architectural geniuses of our time.
“Never design anything that cannot be made.” - Prouve
Jean Prouvé – one of the greatest French designers of the 20th century – was a man who believed in design as a means of forging a better world. Over a career that spanned some sixty years, Prouvé worked not solely as a designer, but defined himself also as craftsman, architect, teacher, engineer, manufacturer and for a brief time, politician. The morality of his design and his socialist principles saw Prouvé make great inroads in the world of mass manufacturing of furniture. He avoided the domestic market and never designed for form alone, choosing instead to focus on practical designs for the public sector – with hospitals, schools and government offices all benefited from his work. He strove constantly to make his designs the most efficient designs possible, driven by the constant quest for innovation in process and use of materials.
Born in 1901, Prouvé was the product of an artistic family, his father a ceramicist who collaborated with the great Art Noveau artists Emile Galle and Louis Majorelle. He began his career as an artisan blacksmith working in his hometown of Nancy in Northern France. Some fifteen years later, he founded Atelier Jean Prouvé and taken by the work of avant-garde architects such as Le Corbusier and Robert Mallet-Stevens, Prouvé began to make metal furniture and developing a taste for design.
Prouvé’s personal history is rich and reveals a strong sense of social justice and morality that underpinned everything he did. He was an active member of the French Résistance and after the liberation of France he was briefly appointed Mayor of Nancy. He ran his factory at Maxéville on socialist principles – a man completely ahead of his time, he provided employees with insurance and paid holidays and encouraged an atmosphere of community where workers contributed eagerly to design and production research and innovation.
Later in his career, Prouvé moved away from manufacturing and entered a more creative stage. This stage allowed him to realise some of his most technically ambitious projects – from building himself a pre-fabricated house using recycled factory elements, to a pavilion on the banks of the Seine to commemorate the centenary of aluminum and an innovative spa building at Evian. It was during this time he famously collaborated with designer Charlotte Perriand to create the furniture for the student rooms at the Maison de la Tunisie and Maison du Mexique at the Cité Universitaire – some of his most famous work.
His work is highly sought after and he bore an enourmous influence upon early modern design. One of the simplest, yet finest examples of Prouvé’s aesthetic is the Antony chair – it’s construction is entirely unconventional and yet the chair is undeniably practical, sturdy and ergonomically sound.
“Most people spend their lives living in dreary, beige conformity, mortally afraid of using colours. The main purpose of my work is to provoke people into using their imagination and make their surroundings more exciting.” – Verner Panton
He was l’enfant terrible of the Danish design world, a radical and free-spirited thinker who used a Volkswagen bus as his studio as he trekked solo across the European continent. Like other artists and creatives of the Beat years, Verner Panton’s vast imagination was spurred on by a life on the road. Each time he returned home to Denmark, he was bursting with unconventional ideas and soon became the master of a fluid and futuristic style that introduced a pop aesthetic to interiors.
1950’s Denmark was the centre of the contemporary design scene, famed for its naturalistic forms using organic materials. It’s little wonder then why Panton’s designs shook the foundations of the status quo, a perfect example of which is the seemingly gravity-defying Heart Chair. Part of a series of chairs he constructed using the shape of a cone, this particular design is rumoured to have been forcibly removed by police from a New York City shop front after the chaos it caused amongst passing traffic. To this day it manages to draw attention with its dramatic heart shaped silhouette and sweeping curves.
Panton’s passion and advocacy for ‘space-age’ living saw him pushing the boundaries of furniture design and re-imagining common household items in plastics and other rapidly advancing man-made materials to create vibrant colours in the geometric forms. A renewed appreciation of the spirit and forward-thinking of his designs has seen Panton enjoy a revival over the past few years. Indeed, many of his objects are seen as design icons of the 20th century.
Another great example of his dynamic work can be seen in his ‘Easy’ Rocker – in one sweeping single curve, Panton has defined the art of seating – ergonomically fit to anybody’s size and posture. The chair is fun and one of the most bizarrely interesting icons of Verner Panton’s design universe.