Archives for category: Interiors

COVER’s readers are invited to the opening tomorrow of Take Off Your Shoes and Open Your Eyes – a collaboration between Alberto Levi Gallery and Idarica Gazzoni (see COVER magazine Summer 2012). Contemporary carpets from Alberto Levi will be displayed in fantasy room settings enhanced by selections from Gazzoni’s Arjumand textile collections. (cont)

Idarica invite

Each designer is inspired by similar source material. Overdyed recycled silk sari hand knotted rugs from the Aquasilk Collection sit alongside Gazzoni’s new collections including the Deco collection based on ivory and black patterns from Japan as well as the geometric abstractions of Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann.

There are two sites to visit, each a short walk from the other. Alberto Levi Gallery at Via San Maurilio 24 and Spazio Arjumand at Via Santa Marta 11, a marvelous Renaissance courtyard. The opening is tomorrow 10.00 to 2000 hours and the exhibition continues until 15th April (1000-1900 hours). To attend tomorrow contact Carola Galliani. carola AT albertolevi DOT com.

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Mad Men series 6

It’s 1968 in the world of Mad Men. Or so say pundits speculating on the time jump for series six which debuts with a two hour special 7 April (US) and 10 April (UK). Your scribe is unable to watch since cable poached MM from BBC4, so no plot spoilers please. Nevertheless it’s hard to avoid blog speculations on MM6 set design and fashions.

Newsletters from a certain vintage and modern US design site drop into your scribe’s mailbox weekly. Adherence to a blog code not dissimilar to Queensbury Rules means your scribe won’t name the site, but 1) they seem to believe years beginning with 19 refer to the 19th century, and 2) their prognostications for MM6 sets are skewed to the pop end of the design scale. Yes, there will be pop art inspired elements, but your scribe hopes they are curtailed to clothing and the MM office is dressed to emulate textile maestro Jack Lenor Larsen.

Jack Lenor Larsen Mercury textile, 1969, Verel, metallic gimp, rayon, cotton leno weave. Collection Cowan & Tout. Image from Jack Lenor Larsen Creator and Collector by McFadden, Friedman, Stack, Larsen, 2004

Jack Lenor Larsen Mercury textile, 1969, Verel, metallic gimp, rayon, cotton leno weave. Collection Cowan & Tout. Image from Jack Lenor Larsen Creator and Collector by McFadden, Friedman, Stack, Larsen, 2004

Wealth was still largely “quiet” in the 1960s meaning it wasn’t the done thing to crassly broadcast earnings as is now the norm. Madison Avenue ad merchants might wear à la mode madras suits, but office decor would veer to luxe moderne rather than a surfeit of pop art modernity. Larsen’s 1969 Mercury cabin dividers for Braniff International Airways, prioritised materials, technology and technique without sacrificing a richly designed surface. Understanding the “worth” of Larsen designs was a sign of design discernment, and your scribe suggests senior partner Bert Cooper would recognise how Larsen textiles would complement his Asian art collection.

Jack Lenor Larsen Nimbus made for curtain wall windows

Jack Lenor Larsen Nimbus made for curtain wall windows. Saran, polyethylene monofilaments; woven and heat shrunk. Collection Cowan & Tout. Image from Jack Lenor Larsen Creator and Collector by McFadden, Friedman, Stack, Larsen, 2004

Larsen’s innovation-led textiles were appreciated by like-minded clients. Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP commissioned Larsen to design vertical space treatments for Lever House (1952), which coincided with their growing renown as the progenitor of International Style glass curtain wall skyscrapers.

Nimbus – still in production – demonstrates how Larsen’s decision to use the three metre width newly achieved by European textile mills in the 1950s as length, allowed him to dress skyscraper curtain walls from mullion to mullion with a single textile width. Simple idea? Sure. But Larsen was the one who spotted the potential, and it’s this type of irrational creativity that inspires the superlative set designers and writing staff of MM, and they in turn will drive millions to watch Mad Men this weekend. Your scribe thinks it’s time to buy that Sky subscription. DJ

First day of Spring 2013 is achieved, and now it’s almost time for sum, sum, summertime. Blazing glory is three months distant for northern climes, and yes London’s sufferance of summer gloom will likely continue, but nevertheless your scribe is thinking summer madras and madness. Fans of the American television series Mad Men will remember the eye popping splendour of Pete Campbell’s madras plaid suit. Too bold? Too bright? Too retro for now? Wrong. Madras has been a perennial US summer favourite since the Jazz Age (did fictional Jay Gatsby own Madras shorts? Likely), and its legacy is sterling. (Cont)

Osborne & Little Trapani Madras Spring 2013

Osborne & Little Trapani Madras Spring 2013

When Cole Porter sang “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” he meant folk like Elihu Yale, i.e. denizens of the Northern Hemisphere who become intoxicated by the Southern Hemisphere’s hot sun on tap. Said to be the first Yank to wear madras, Yale spent 27 years as Governor of the East India Company at Madras (now known as Chennai), India. Local fascination with Scottish tartans is said to be the source for Madras plaid designs. Maybe Yale’s Madras office was decorated with a forerunner print similar to the portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie in a tartan suit which by comparison makes Campbell’s Mad Men madras look rather conservative. (Cont)

Osborne & Little Trapani Madras

Osborne & Little Trapani Madras

Your scribe longs for barbecues with dads in chef hats and madras board shorts manning the poolside grill, but in lieu of that and in expectation of a damp squib London summer, your scribe suggests SAD sufferers, Mad Men fans and Madras aficionados buy Osborne & Little’s Trapani from the Lorca Silk Road Collection. A riff rather than a replica of traditional Madras plaid, Trapani’s colourways include pink and Indian sunshine yellow which will lift spirits in any hemisphere. Whatever the source, Madras has stayed the course through preppy Ivy League alignment, to parody in National Lampoon’s Animal House, to Andy Spade’s recent reinvention of the classic. And so too Osborne & Little’s Trapani is the bright note sun lovers can count on for Summer 2013. DJ

Osborne & Little Trapani

Osborne & Little Trapani fabric

The Alf Onnie curtain shop in East Ham, London, was on its uppers. Established in 1920, the family owned curtain company was one net curtain away from financial disaster. But then along came Alex Polizzi. Star of BBC television reality show The Fixer, Polizzi uses her business nous to rescue a company in each episode (filmed over four months). Daughter of hotelier Olga Polizzi, niece of Rocco Forte, granddaughter of Lord Forte, Polizzi is – in an unconventional but illustrative use of the legal phrase – a force majeure. Ignore her at your peril.

The three brothers who run Alf Onnie were in a pickle. The store was crammed with unrelated merchandise, the accounts were shipwrecked and the brothers were at odds. Most of Polizzi’s advice made sense, and without her expertise the shop was doomed. But on the subject of craft and skilled hand work your scribe sides with brother Jeremy. In 2008 Robert Hanks reviewed Richard Sennett’s book The Craftsman. Hanks told a story about his decorator Peter. Hanks feels guilty because he can’t pay Peter enough to account for “his meticulousness and dedication”. One day Hanks finds Peter re-doing an area because irregularities had appeared. Hanks jokes about obsessive-compulsive disorder. “Peter responded with an agonised, reproachful look. ‘It’s not me’, he said. ‘It’s how it has to be.'”

“How it has to be” is at the heart of superlative craft. It is the bulwark against bodging. And it is at the heart of the rug companies who will exhibit superlative handmade rugs at COVER magazine’s Forza Tappeti: The Rug Revolution exhibition at Edit during Milan Design Week 2013.

Polizzi takes the brothers to five star Brown’s Hotel. They visit a guest room. Youngest brother Jeremy – “I am a perfectionist” – examines the room’s curtains. He doesn’t like what he finds. Polizzi calls him a “curtain nerd” and tells viewers he’s “all het up about some very minor details”. But the devil is in the details, and Jeremy has observed the curtains are unweighted at the hemline, a professional taboo. His hangdog expression says it all as he tells Polizzi, “I’ve never ever made a pair of made-to-measure curtains where I haven’t put weights in . . . I think that would be almost like cheapening myself.” Polizzi is unrelenting. But Jeremy is right. He is a consummate craftsman. He knows how it has to be. And for that your scribe salutes him. Here’s to the next ninety years of Alf Onnie, and “how it has to be”. DJ

Apartment Therapy asked their readers the interior design $64,000 Question (inflation adjusted maybe half a million): What do you think is the next big thing? While your scribe hankers for Edgaroso’s “trilobites and burlap”, more realistically your scribe has selected Netta as the winning prognosticator. She called it for Art Deco inspired interior design. Others did too, but Netta was the only one who divined a mix of 1920s series 3 of Downton Abbey, and the forthcoming Baz Lurhmann film The Great Gatsby. Underscoring this trend prediction is Designer Rugs‘ new Catherine Martin Deco Collection which feature in Lurhmann’s film.

Black Pearl rug by Catherine Martin

Black Pearl rug by Catherine Martin for Designer Rugs

The winner of multiple awards (Oscars, BAFTA, Tonys etc) for set design, art direction, costume design (as well as being married to Lurhmann), Martin’s new collection features four designs hand knotted from Tibetan wool and silk. She told Vogue Living hand-knotting allows her to create “more intricate designs with gentle carving and a thinner profile.”

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Garden Party by Catherine Martin for Designer Rugs

Westchester (below) is in the scenes of Gatsby’s bedroom (played by Leonardo diCaprio), and was bought for the actor as a birthday present.

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Westchester by Catherine Martin for Designer Rugs

But a word of warning to exuberant Gatsby and Daisy wannabes (or Downton Abbey fans who fancy they have a fleet of servants waiting in the wings) who may be tempted to reckless acts with Martin’s exquisite rug collection. As The Great Gatsby races to its tragic dénouement, the gang attempts to flee New York’s insufferable heat by checking into The Plaza Hotel. Daisy reveals the truth of her love, and as she fumbles with her words she flings her cigarette and burning match onto the hotel carpet. “Oh, you want too much!” she cries to Gatsby. But all your scribe can think is “what about the carpet!” DJ

Confession. Your scribe Christmas self-gifted on her way to the Anne Kyyrö Quinn reception last week. Signposted by a clock on the pavement of the retail juggernaut that is Oxford Street, St Christopher’s Place is a wee lane with enticing small shops. Marimekko is one. The siren song of a horizontally striped poncho was sufficient to shipwreck your scribe at the cash till. “Inspired by Finnish autumnal nature with its wonderful colours”, the “Pasma” poncho was designed by Noora Niinikoski for the 2012 Autumn collection.

Marimekko poncho Autumn 2012

Marimekko Pasma striped poncho Autumn 2012

D/RDesign Research – was the first US retail apostle for Scandinavian and Marimekko lifestyle design. From its founding in 1953 until bankruptcy in 1978, D/R was an extraordinary store. Its founder was an architect and associate of Walter Gropius, and its employees seemed to know they were working for a visionary store that would leave its mark and inspire Scandinavian design acolytes like Crate & Barrel.

The lure of the poncho includes its resemblance to Pendleton’s famous striped National Park wool blankets. But its brand allure is strong too. When your scribe was a sprite, Marimekko was attractively foreign, decidedly exotic (Finland!). and its bright, happy designs magnetic. The fortunes of Marimekko waned in the 1980s (timeline), but in 2012 Marimekko is making a full court press to penetrate the US market with stand-alone stores and more “shop-in-shops”.

Marimekko founder Armi Ratia envisioned a global “Marimekko Village”. A renewed push to establish Marimekko “meeting places” (i.e stores) throughout the world means there is ample time for many more design sprites to attach themselves to the happy patterns of Marimekko. DJ

Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay are the Raw-Edges Design Studio. Their TEX Tile ceramic tile collection for Mutina is inspired by the texture of textiles. “Almost every object has its own particular texture, whether it’s a natural or a handmade material”, the duo declare. Their tactile reference library was the springboard for experimenting with plasticine molds on a variety of objects and materials. To their surprise, textiles gave the best results.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

The tile shape mimics a macro knitted stitch. The rhombus (often found in knitwear) tile pattern is a tessellation of parallelograms (two equilateral triangles), and three rhombi are a hexagon.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

For the mathematically or games-minded, TEX Tiles are tessellations of hexagons. TEX is available in ten colours (black, blue, brown, cream, grey, olive, white, yellow), each of which has three shades (also inspired by different yarn dye lots). The permutations seem endless. Shades are crucial to the effect, as it is the subtle elements that produce the 3D optical illusion “knit” effect. (More text after the image break.)

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

To ensure a bespoke installation for each customer, single colour orders have randomly selected shades in the tile order. Or customers can order predetermined patterns set into a mesh. The natural glaze applied on a white ceramic base creates a slightly irregular effect which adds even more depth and character to each installation. DJ

Finding treasure in the attic doesn’t just happen to punters on the Antiques Roadshow. The launch yesterday of Warner Textile Archive’s Wendy Bray wallpaper collection (nine designs) at the Fine Cell Work pop-up shop in Mayfair, London, was the result of a rummage round the roof space.

“Umbrellas” and “Stylist” wallpapers by Wendy Bray for Warner Textile Archive. Pillow by Fine Cell Work.

Warner’s Archivist Kate Wigley selected and developed designs Bray created between the 1950s and 1970s to create a wonderful vintage-inspired collection with a fresh 21st century outlook. The elegant octogenarian designer divides her time between England and France, and doesn’t appear to be the type to hide her light under a bushel. Nevertheless Bray’s vintage designs languished for decades in her attic. Adam Gilchrist of Veedon Fleece rugs tells your scribe how Bray was rediscovered a few years ago:

“Finding and redefining Wendy Bray was one of those wonderful coincidences. Her daughter, a great friend of ours, had for some time talked about how her mother had had an active role in textile design during her youth. Then when searching through an attic, great bundles of original artwork were discovered, and we had the privilege of first sight to see if anything could be suitably adapted for our medium.”

“Fruits de Mer” wallpaper by Wendy Bray for Warner Textile Archive

Gilchrist purchased Bray’s “joyous, floating, multi-directional” “Feathers” and “Skandi Girls”. “Feathers” presented a “difficult challenge”, but one which Gilchrist knew their weavers could resolve while retaining the movement and the lightness of Bray’s original design.

Ruffled Feathers rug by Veedon Fleece and original design by Wendy Bray. Images courtesy of Veedon Fleece.

Designed (1951) when all things Scandinavian were in vogue, Bray’s “Skandi Girls” was tweaked and updated with a new title by Veedon Fleece.

“Happy Blondes” by Veedon Fleece and original design by Wendy Bray. Images courtesy of Veedon Fleece.

The success of the Veedon Fleece collaboration encouraged Bray to take her portfolio to other design houses resulting in her current collection with Warner Textile Archive. All nine designs are on display at Fine Cell Work’s pop-up shop through Christmas 2012 along with cushions and other textile delights by the UK prisoners who hand-stitch products sold by Fine Cell Work, which introduces your scribe’s final comment. . .

Did your scribe’s slightly irreverent attitude to bushy upper lip twin blade props in last week’s post about Foundation’s Rug Addicts launch upset London’s moustachio mafia? How else to explain the recriminating stares from the Edward Gorey-like furry faces on this Fine Cell Work cushion? The main character even has a 3D moustache. Stitched by a prisoner whose name may not be published, your scribe decided to edge carefully away, make her goodbyes and hurry through London’s deepening Autumn gloam to the safety of her wee East End atelier. DJ

Fine Cell Work moustache cushion stitched by Mr Anonymous

Fine Cell Work cushion stitched by an “anonymous” prisoner


On the back of the V&A’s fabulous Hollywood Costume exhibition, how about following it up with a Hollywood Carpet exhibition? Andrew Hearst has designed these carpet tiles based on the creepy hotel floors in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and is looking for a producer. Any more ideas? RW

Each year your scribe looks forward to her alma mater’s annual used, vintage, and rare book sale at Somerset House on the Strand in London. Tuesday October 2nd is the public opening of the 2012 Courtauld Institute of Art book scrum err, sale.

Rugby lingo is appropriate because the sale does indeed contain out of print treasures covering topics of interest to COVER’s readers, including design and architecture. While the scrum won’t reach the level of wrestling with a granny for the last $9.99 widescreen television at a certain US store’s famous (but now discontinued) “Blue Light Specials”, be prepared to employ polite but sharp elbows to secure the best book bounty. DJ

Public opening hours (below) follow two images of books in the current sale kindly provided by the Courtauld Alumni Relations Manager.

Courtauld Institute of Art Annual Book Sale Public opening dates and times:

Tuesday 2 October: 10 am – 9 pm
Wednesday 3 October: 10 am – 6.30 pm
Thursday 4 October: 10 am – 5 pm
Friday 5 October: 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 6 October: 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 7 October: 10 am – 5 pm
Monday 8 October: 10 am – 5 pm
Tuesday 9 October: 10 am – 9 pm