Friday, October 31, 2008

Heywood-Wakefield Furniture

Last week I began to discuss Mid-Century Modern style furnishings and how Charles & Ray Eames' influenced this genre of design style. Another influential furniture of this time (and one of my favorites) was manufactured by the Heywood-Wakefield Furniture Co.

Designed for the masses, Heywood-Wakefield knew the world was ready for modern furniture. Their interpretation was to create solid birch, steam bent pieces that were blonde or champagne finished in colour.

Heywood Wakefield Modern (1936-1966)
Christened "The Heywood-Wakefield Modern Line," they produced limited quantities of these pieces and in this golden age, and America turned blonde, filling homes with the bubbly boost of birch. Various lines were introduced, ("Sculptura", "Encore", "Kohinoor") and if you can get your hands on an original piece it will be highly coveted in the mid-century modern world of today.

Heywood Wakefield Furniture

Sculptura Bedroom Suite

Kohinoor Vanity

Encore Double Chest

Back in Circulation
In the early eighties, entrepreneurs began locating new businesses in the so-called "Art Deco District" of South Beach in Miami, Florida. It was during this period that a new small store called the South Beach Furniture Company was founded. This store specialized in finding and restoring unusual or interesting furniture and decorative items from the Art Deco, '40s and '50s periods. The store owner noticed that a particular type of light-colored, solid-wood furniture would immediately find a buyer any time he was able to locate a piece for the store. This furniture was Heywood-Wakefield Modern.

In 1992 the remnants of the Heywood-Wakefieled Furniture Co. was purchased by the South Beach Furniture Company. The new Heywood-Wakefield Company began research into available sources for the manufacture of solid wood furniture, and by 1993 the first pieces of newly-made Heywood-Wakefield Modern furniture - now called Streamline - were produced.

Since that time the line has grown to more than 35 items, with new pieces added about four times a year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mid-Century Modern Designers

A few weeks back I discussed Mid-Century Modern Architecture and some of my favourite architects. Now let's take a look at some of the influential designers who created this functional, streamlined furniture.

Being a collector of this furniture myself, I have a soft spot for the pieces of this time. They are of a smaller scale, so great for those loft apartments many of us live in these days; the pieces usually make sense and have ingenius capabilities, since they were created for function first; and while modern in line and scale, the pieces transcend time in a way that makes it work in today's interiors.

Charles & Ray Eames
This husband and wife design team are best known for their groundbreaking contributions in furniture design but were also involved in architecture, industrial design and manufacturing, exhibitions, photography and film making. Married in 1941, the Eameses lived in Los Angeles and arguably became the most important designers of the 20th century.

Firmly believing in modernism as a way of social change; they were “idealistic realists” who wanted to create “the best, for the most, for the least”. They sought to bring the good life to the general public by integrating high and low art forms, modern materials, and production techniques, along with craft and design.

Eames Lounge Chair Wood (LCW)
Looking for a solution to provide affordable, comfortable furniture that could be easily mass produced. Charles’ entries into the Organic Furniture competition were designed to have the seat and backrest joined in a singe 'shell'. The plywood, however, was prone to crack when bent into the sharp angles and had to be covered with upholstery. Through extensive trial and error Charles and Ray arrived at an alternate solution: create two separate pieces for the seat and backrest, joined by a plywood lumbar support, with plywood legs. The result was a comfortable chair with a sleek and modern appearance. The seat was joined to the lumbar support and legs with a series of four heavy rubber washers with nuts embedded in them (later these came to be called 'shock mounts'). The shock mounts were glued to the underside of the seat, and screwed in through the bottom of the chair. The backrest was also attached using shock mounts. The rubber mounts were pliable, allowing the backrest to flex when the chair was occupied. This was one of the first examples of a chair with a responsive backrest.

Even though the plywood chair was a compromise of the Eames' vision to create a single shell chair it still constituted a successful design. Following the LCW the Eames created a family of plywood chairs. The chair continues to be an icon of Modern Design style. It is valued for its comfort as well as its status symbol. Original production models are highly valued by collectors. The chair was initially offered in 3-4 natural wood veneers such as ash, walnut, and cherry. It was also offered in two aniline dyed colors: ebony black, and red.

Eames Lounge Chair
The Eames Lounge Chair and ottoman, correctly titled Eames Lounge (670) and Ottoman (671) were released in 1956. It was the first chair the Eames designed for a high-end market. These furnishings are made of molded plywood and leather. You can see an example of this chair and ottoman as part of the permanent collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The chair is composed of three curved plywood shells. The shells are made with several thin layers of wood veneer glued together and shaped under heat and pressure. The shells and the seat cushions are essentially the same shape: composed of two curved forms interlocking to form a solid mass. The chair back and headrest are identical in proportion, as are the seat and the Ottoman. The chair has a low seat which is permanently fixed at a recline. The seat of the chair swivels on a cast aluminum base, with glides that are threaded so that the chair may remain level.

The Eames Lounge Chair appeals to people for several reasons. It is a classic design that has been in production continuously since its creation. In addition to the style, it is also very comfortable, a combination not always found in high-end design. There is a decent used market for these chairs. Some collectors are willing to pay high prices for earlier chairs made with Brazilian Rosewood veneer, which is no longer available. In 2006, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the chair, Herman Miller released models using a sustainable Palisander Rosewood veneer. Prices for original rosewood chairs have recently reached as much as $7,000 USD in auction.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Using Colour in Your Home

Colour does more than decorate your home. Colour has a psychological element. It makes you feel a certain way. It affects your body, mind and spirit, therefore; knowing which colours affect us and how is helpful when choosing new colours for our rooms.

First think about what kind of mood you want to create in your home? What colours make you feel happy or sad? Do you prefer a more subtle palette or are you looking for something brighter? Once you got an idea of what kind of look you're after make sure it goes well with your furnishings, upholstery, window coverings, etc. Remember, paint should be one of the LAST steps in decorating your home. It's much easier to match a paint chip to flooring and furniture than the other way around.

Limit your colour palette to 3 or 4 colours. If you use too many colours in a home it will hinder the rhythm and unity of your interior and your home will feel cluttered with no flow. If you have a larger home, you can utilize additional tones of the same colour to provide additional variety.

We react to colour in three basic ways: active, passive or neutral and you can easily match every room's colours to your personal taste and to the room's purpose.

Light colours will provide a expansive and airy feeling. The rooms will feel larger and brighter. Whereas, dark colour are more sophisticated and warm. The rooms will feel more intimate and cozy.

Not suprisingly, RED will raise the energy in a room. It’s a good choice when you want to stir up excitement, particularly at night. In the living room or dining room, red draws people together and stimulates conversation. In an entryway, it creates a strong first impression. Red has been shown to raise blood pressure, speed respiration and heart rate. Some feel it's too stimulating for bedrooms, but if you’re only in the room after dark, or use it just for an accent wall it can provide quite a libido boost.

Capturing the joy of sunshine and happiness YELLOW is perfect for kitchens, dining rooms and powder rooms. The colour is energizing and uplifting. In halls, entries and small spaces, yellow can feel expansive and welcoming. Although its a cheery colour, yellow is not a good choice in main colour schemes of a room. People are more likely to loose their tempers in a yellow room. Babies also seem to cry more in a yellow room. This could be because this colour is the most fatiguing on the eyes.

The most calming hue, BLUE brings down blood pressure and slows respiration and heart rate. It's considered relaxing, and serene, and is often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms. Blue is universally the most popular colour on the colour wheel. It comes in a variety shades - a pastel blue will look chilly on a wall and a deep blue evokes feelings of sadness. It's best to stick with the warmer blues such as periwinkle, or bright blue, such as cerulean or turquoise. If you do decide to go with a light blue, balance it with warm hues in the furnishings and fabrics.

Considered the most restful color for the eye by combining the refreshing quality of blue and the cheerfulness of yellow, GREEN is suited to almost any room in the house. In a kitchen, a sage or medium green cools things down; in a family room or living room, it encourages unwinding but has enough warmth to promote comfort and togetherness. In a bedroom, it’s relaxing and pleasant. Green also has a calming effect when used as a main color for decorating. It is believed to relieve stress by helping people relax.

This colour is rich, dramtic, sophisticated and a signature for royality. PURPLE is associated with luxury and creativity. It does well as an accent or secondary colour. Lighter versions of purple, such as lavender and lilac, bring the same restful quality to bedrooms as blue does, but without the risk of feeling chilly.

Excitement, enthusiasm and energy is what one feels with ORANGE. While not a great idea for a living room or for bedrooms this color is great for an exercise room or office. It will bring all the emotions out that you need when jumping into your fitness routine or getting your creative juices flowing.

Neutrals are the colours basic to the decorator’s tool kit. All-neutral schemes fall in and out of fashion, but their virtue lies in their flexibility: Add color to liven things up; subtract it to calm things down. Black is best used in small doses as an accent, some experts maintain that every room needs a touch of black to ground the color scheme and give it depth.

A note about ceilings...

The ceiling represents one-sixth of the space in a room, but often it gets nothing more than a coat of white paint. In fact, many say that white is not only the safest but also the best choice for ceilings. As a general rule, ceilings that are lighter than the walls feel higher, while those that are darker feel lower. However, instead of using stark white paint on your ceiling, try mixing it with your main wall colour. This will give your ceiling the light airy feeling your after but provide a better continuity between your wall and ceiling. Another tip includes painting your entire room, including the ceiling, all one colour. This works especially well in bathrooms, where the space is small and you may want to evoke a feeling of cozy intimacy.

Choosing paint colours for your home does not have to be overwhelming. Following just a few simple guidelines can turn the experience into a personal road of self discovery. Remember, regardless of the rules, personal taste needs to be taken into consideration, choose colours that make you happy and comfortable for you, your family and lifestyle.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mid Century Modern Architecture & Style

Last weekend I attended a “mid-century modern residential home tour” sponsored by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation. Being relatively new on the scene to Vancouver’s architectural styles, I was very happy to see some great examples of this clean lined, fairly modest in it’s adornments, but high in it’s functionality style we refer to as “Mid-Century Modern” architecture or style.

I first became a fan of this style when living in California, where its affectionately referred to as “California Modern” style. Emphasizing bringing the outdoors inside, structures are created with ample windows and open floor-plans. With many of the homes utilizing the post and beam architectural design that eliminated the need for bulky support walls in favor of walls seemingly made of glass.

Frank Lloyd Wright
This architectural style came into vogue pre and post second world war, when new materials and technical innovation brought about a more practical approach to living for the everyday family. One of the most famous architectural pioneers to further develop this style was Frank Lloyd Wright, whose principles of organic architecture combined with many of these elements. In fact, Vancouver is home to one of only two commissioned Wright residences that were built in the 1980’s when Wright was designing primarily commercial and public buildings.

"Falling Water" stands as one of Wright's greatest masterpieces and boldy demonstrates Wright's ability to fuse organic architecture with brining the outdoors inside. This private residence was intended to be a nature retreat for its owners. The house itself is built on top of an active waterfall which flows beneath. The fireplace hearth in the living room is composed of boulders found on the site and upon which the house was built, with one set of boulders left in place and now protruding slightly through the living room floor. The stone floors are waxed, while the hearth is left plain, giving the impression of dry rocks protruding from a stream.

"Falling Water"

Commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., the department store magnate, in 1936 as a family retreat. The house is now open to the public as a national historic landmark.

Joseph Eichler
Inspired by living in a Frank Lloyd Wright home when first moving to California in the early 1940’s. Real estate developer Joseph Eichler was instrumental in bringing the Mid-Century Modern architecture to subdivisions in California and on the East Coast. Unlike many developers of the day, Joseph Eichler was a social visionary and commissioned designs primarily for middle-class Americans. One of his stated aims was to construct inclusive and diverse planned communities, ideally featuring integrated parks and community centers. Eichler, unlike most builders at the time, established a non-discrimination policy and offered homes for sale to anyone of any religion or race. In 1958, he resigned from the National Association of Home Builders when they refused to support a non-discrimination policy.

Eichler used well-known architects to design both the site plans and the homes themselves. He hired the respected architect and Wright disciple Robert Anshen of Anshen & Allen to design the initial Eichlers, and the first prototypes were built in 1949.

Eichler homes are from a branch of Modernist architecture that has come to be known as "California Modern," and typically feature glass walls, post and beam construction and open floorplans. Eichler exteriors featured flat or low-sloping roofs, vertical siding, and spartan facades with geometric lines. One of Eichler's signature concepts was to "Bring the Outside In," achieved via skylights and floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out on protected gardens, patios, and pools. The homes had numerous unorthodox features, including post-and-beam construction, concrete slab floors with integral radiant heating, sliding doors and cabinets, and a standard second bathroom. Later models introduced the famous Eichler atriums, an entrance foyer designed to further advance the Eichler concept of integrating outdoor and indoor spaces.

Eichler homes were airy and modern in comparison to most of the mass-produced, middle-class, postwar homes being built in the 1950s. At first, potential home buyers (many of whom were war-weary ex-servicemen seeking convention rather than innovation), proved resistant to the new homes, and Eichler faced competition from other developers who used elements of Eichler homes in watered-down, more conventional designs. Though fresh and exciting, Eichler homes never achieved large profits for their creator.
Home in San Rafael

Despite the fact that most of the “Eichler Homes” are now approaching their 50th anniversary, these homes have never been more popular amongst homebuyers looking for good modern design that’s both practical and livable. Eichler homes today sell for extraordinary sums, and Eichler-inspired designs are featured in an ever-increasing number of newspaper articles, websites, and even TV commercials

Richard Neutra
Specific to the west coast design is one of my favorite architects, Richard Neutra. Celebrated for rigorously geometric but airy structures that represented a West Coast variation on the midcentury modern residence, he was famous for the attention he gave to defining the real needs of his clients, regardless of the size of the project. Neutra sometimes used detailed questionnaires to discover his client's needs, much to their surprise and in stark contrast to other architects eager to impose their artistic vision on a client. His domestic architecture was a blend of art, landscape and practical comfort.

The Kaufman House, notably Neutra's most famous project, is a 1946 glass, steel and stone landmark built on the edge of Palm Springs. It has twice been at the forefront of new movements in architecture, first helping to shape post-war Modernism and later, as a result of a painstaking restoration in the mid-1990's, spurring a revived interest in mid-20th century homes.

In May of 2007, the current homeowners, who undertook the large restoration project, divorced and offered the Kauman House at Christie's Auction House in NYC in the hopes that it would attract a select group of art-world connoisseurs who would appreciate its significance and pay a price that would all but ensure its preservation.

The Kaufman House

Originally commissioned by Edgar K. Kaufmann Sr., the Pittsburgh department store magnate, was designed as a desert retreat from harsh winters.

Friday, October 3, 2008

No-Fail Front Door Colours

Paint is the easiest and most dramatic way to transform your front door. Here are five favorite picks from paint manufacturers "Farrow & Ball". The company's Oil Full Gloss paint can be used for interior or exterior applications but is particularly well suited to front doors, where the durability of oil and the shine of full gloss are top priorities.

Citron 74
Many realtors say a yellow front door is a lure for homebuyers. Even if you aren't selling, yellow provides a cheerful greeting and works well with most home styles.

Stone Blue 86
True blue in a muted medium tone is a classic welcoming colour with a country appeal. It looks great on homes with grey, taupe or yellow brick or siding.

Olive 13
Earthy olive green is a good choice for a Craftsman style home. If you have a red brick home, painting the front door a contrasting green will make the door a focal point.

Rectory Red 217
There's no colour more eye-catching than true red for a front door. Red is daring yet formal and looks smashing on home with while painted siding or pale stucco.

Off-Black 57
A glossy black door adds an air of formality to any home. Pair it with polished brass hardware and a lion door knocker for a stately look or chrome hardware for something more contemporary.