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furniture

The West Elm-ification of Gracie Mansion

capizMeticulous historic preservation of a landmark interior meets…West Elm? (If you listen carefully, you can hear interior designer Jamie Drake sobbing quietly in the corner, near the lone pair of Schumacher velvet-upholstered John Boone chairs that has not been replaced by beanbag poufs.) Such is the worlds-collide aesthetic ushered in by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his brood. Last week the family moved from Brooklyn to Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence nestled on the banks of the East River in Manhattan, but not before making a pit stop at West Elm. The Williams Sonoma-owned purveyor of artisan-inflected midcentury homegoods donated $65,000 of Capiz Orb pendant lights (pictured), sofas, desks, chairs, and pillows to the de Blasios–chump change compared to the $7 million of private funds made available for the Bloomberg administration’s Drake-led restoration. In an editorial that appeared in yesterday’s New York Times, writer Alexandra Lange considers “The Mayor’s Showroom” and why it might be preferable to live in a museum after all. God save the Zuber wallpaper.

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Collective Design Fair Throws a Few Curves

The Collective Design Fair returned to the Frieze-time fray this year, and we sent Nancy Lazarus to check out the new venue and the many curvaceous works on view.

Galerie BSL
A screen by Taher Chemirik was the undulating centerpiece of Galerie BSL’s booth at Collective.

International in scope yet moderate in scale, New York’s Collective Design Fair debuted last year “to provide new commercial and educational platforms for vintage and contemporary design,” according to Steven Learner, the fair’s creative director. The sophomore edition ran from May 8-11 in a new venue—Skylight at Moynihan Station—and added to existing strengths in Scandinavian design and ceramics with a new focus on wearable art. We chatted with some of the 36 exhibitors and joined a tour led by Cooper-Hewitt curator Sarah Coffin to round up five highlights.

Joseph Walsh, Enignum Canopy Bed, 3-562x748, 2013, Courtesy of Todd Merrill Studio ContemporaryTodd Merrill 20th Century Studio Contemporary, New York City: “A tour de force of woodworking” was Coffin’s apt description of Irish designer Joseph Walsh‘s Enignum Canopy Bed (at right), since it consists of ribbons of olive ash wood positioned on a raised platform. Walsh explained the craftsmanship involved in the accompanying materials: “In the Enignum series of works I have stripped wood into thin layers, manipulating and reconstructing them into free form compositions. The title derives from the Latin words ‘enigma’ (mystery) and ‘lignum’ (wood).”

Sienna Patti Gallery, Lenox, Massachusetts:Jacqueline Lillie‘s beaded jewelry plays off of Wiener Werkstätte, but is updated to be contemporary,” said Coffin. The French-born, Vienna-based designer works with materials including glass beads, corian, and stainless steel. “In addition to form and function, I also insist on flexibility,” Lillie has said. “That’s essential because all good jewelry should adapt to the wearer and be an extension of that person’s character.”
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Watch: IKEA, the Final Frontier

In the deepest reaches of an IKEA superstore, no one can hear you scream. OK, so they can hear you, but they cannot be bothered to listen, because who can heed the anguished cries of others when attempting to decide between the Söderhamn (in Replösa? in Isefall?) and the Härnösand, or maybe the Tidafors, but what about the Strandmon (does that still come in Skiftebo)? Grab your morning course of meatballs, pull up an Esbjörn, and treat yourself to Daniel Hubbard‘s dramatic reenactment of the lost-in-IKEA-by-way-of-Alfonso-Cuaron‘s-Gravity experience. We think it’s out of this world.

Drink Champagne, Design Tiny Chair, Repeat

champagne chairs

Two of our favorite things—Champagne and chairs—come together in a festive contest from the bubbly furniture fans at Design Within Reach. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: create an original miniature chair using only the foil, label, cage, and cork from no more than two Champagne bottles (glue is the only permitted adhesive). Entering is the easy part. Simply snap a photo of your tiny, fizzy throne and upload it here. A panel of Champagne-loving chair experts, including David Weeks, the dapper and effervescent gentlemen of Rich Brilliant Willing, and design journalist Pilar Viladas, will judge the chairs, and three winners will receive a DWR gift card. Drink fast, because the deadline for entries is Tuesday, January 14.

Friday Photo: Chair and Chair Alike

What would a plastic lawn chair do? That’s the big question for Bert Löschner. The Munich-based artist infuses this bland yet globally ubiquitous piece of outdoor furniture —officially known as the Monobloc—with personality by contorting it into poses that include that of caped crusader (“Superchair“), eager-to-serve butler (“valet“), and hitchhiker. “Like other everyday objects, the Monobloc chair is something we have in mind. A certain un-removable picture,” Löschner has said. “This picture can be used as a canvas.” His work includes a chair on a swing, 24 stacked to resemble a human spinal column, and a meta-moment in which one reclines in Gaetano Pesce‘s famed “Donna” chair. We like the look of “The Dudes” (2011, pictured), a chair pair that may have the makings of a loveseat.

Seven Questions for the Campana Brothers


Humberto and Fernando Campana (Photo: Fernando Laszlo)

“I think our work is always based on materials,” said Humberto Campana, glancing around the first U.S. solo gallery show for him and his brother, Fernando. “And we’re more and more interested in natural materials.” And so the new works on view through July 3 at Friedman Benda in New York swap plush and plastic for cowhide, fish scales, and gemstones, upping the luxe quotient while maintaining the brothers’ signature straight-outta-Sao-Paulo brand of whimsy. While putting the finishing touches on the show last week, they made time to plop down on their leather Alligator Couch–a handcrafted update to the 2005 plush version–to share some stories behind the new pieces, their working process, and how they might spend their summer vacation.

What was the starting point for this show?
Humberto Campana: This [points to "Racket Chair (Circles)," pictured at right] was the seed for the exhibition. This chair was born from a mistake. We didn’t want to do weaving…it was projected to be made with leather cushions. But that didn’t work out and it stayed for two years in our studio, unfinished. And then one day we asked a guy to weave it. I think these look like tennis racquets [laughs].

Fernando Campana: Here we are showing many different concepts. The thing with this exhibition is that one piece generated another one.

You’ve covered the walls of the gallery in coconut fiber. Did you expect it to have such a dramatic effect?
FC: It’s to bring some part of Brazil–the nature of the place–and also to combine with the pieces that we put in this exhibition.

HC: Also, it was a way to to come back to our roots, with using simple materials to construct the look of luxury. And the idea that this is luxury today. We wanted to make those statements–or pose those questions.

How did you decide to use amethysts?
HC: It’s the best! My father was an agronomic engineer. He used to work on farms in Brazil and in some areas you can find crystals. And whenever he would find a crystal he would bring it back home to our house. And I would always hold up the crystals to the sun to see the details. It kind of gives…a shamanic quality.
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Of Amethysts and Alligators: Campana Brothers Debut Exotic ‘Concepts’


An installation view of “Campana Brothers: Concepts,” on view through July 3 at Friedman Benda.

New York’s Friedman Benda has been temporarily transformed from a white cube into a moody, tobacco-hued chamber–a backdrop that evokes art deco treasures rather than the gallery’s typical twenty-first century prototypes. Visitors are greeted by a brass buffet comprised of square panels filled with vortices of bent metal, like the sprightly cousin of a Paul Evans console. But take a closer look: the walls aren’t paneled in silk or leather but nubby coconut fiber, and that buffet’s checkerboard of metallic explosions calls to mind a certain Alessi fruit bowl. This is the latest work of the Campana Brothers, who, after three decades of working together, could coast for three more on their greatest hits and Brazilian charm. Instead, they’ve challenged themselves with a selection of exotic new materials–including constellations of Sao Paulo-sourced amethysts and the skin of an ancient fish unique to South American waters–and craft techniques.

“It’s important for us to keep the traditions that are disappearing but at the same time give them more modernity,” said Humberto Campana (the older of the two by eight years) last week, as he and Fernando led a group of journalists through the Friedman Benda exhibition, the brothers’ first solo gallery show in the United States. He sidled up to their new “Racket” collection (pictured), which includes a chair with a hand-stitched motif made from leftover Thonet chair backings. “The guy we work with who weaves with straw, it was a matter of helping him understand what we’re doing–this idea of weaving with leftovers. It’s to reinvent the traditions that may otherwise die.” Added Fernando, “And instead of making traditional weaving with straw, we decided to make it with nylon string.”
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Vitsœ Reengineers a Dieter Rams Classic

Best known for its widely coveted modular shelving system designed by Dieter Rams, Vitsœ recently scored the exclusive worldwide license to Rams’ original furniture designs. First up on the relaunching pad for the London-based company is the designer’s 620 chair, which hits the market this month following a top-to-bottom reengineering. Every last purpose-designed stainless steel bolt in the chair, designed for Vitsœ in 1962 and later the subject of a legal scuffle that led to the design being copyrighted, has been given the once over, and the versatile seat–add castors for swivelling, connect a few together for a multi-seat sofa–emerged from the makeover with a reduced price ($3,340, sans casters) and a footstool.

In Renovated UN Chamber, Salto & Sigsgaard’s Council Chairs Take Center Stage


The Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations, originally designed by Danish architect Finn Juhl in 1952, reopened last month after a three-year renovation.

“We all moan about the United Nations, but there was no supranational body, no international forum [in 1914],” says Harold Evans in this week’s New York Times Book Review Podcast, discussing the DIY state of diplomacy at the dawn of the First World War. “You were reliant on these errant telegrams, these errant messages, these ambassadors in their frock coats carrying these ambiguous messages. Oh, crikey! What a thing worth studying.” The frock coat-free body has just had an update of its own, with the reopening of the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the UN headquarters in New York. Originally designed by Finn Juhl in 1952, the chamber has undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation–a collaborative effort by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Danish Ministry of Culture, Realdania, and the UN.

The floor and wall panels have been restored, but this was basically a gut reno: new ventilation, piping, wiring, and carpeting as well as a fresh floor that recreates the original, including the sunken section in the middle of the horseshoe configuration. And then there’s the furniture: a modified version of Juhl’s FJ51 chair is joined by pieces designed by Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard. The Copenhagen-based designer-architect duo won a 2011 design competition for new tables for the delegates and a new table and chairs for the secretariat. “Our motto has been letting the furniture add to the existing room by having them consist of as few elements and parts as possible,” say Salto and Sigsgaard, who were on hand last month for the opening ceremony. “Respecting the room and the consequent use of wood in the room.” Their Council chair (pictured) is an elegant two-part shell of molded Reholz 3D veneer in oak, upholstered in light-colored leather. Juhl’s Chieftain chair was a primary inspiration.
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Twelve Outstanding Objects at Collective Design Fair


At left, the booth of Jousse Entreprise at the inaugural Collective Design Fair, which runs through today at Pier 57 in New York. (Photos: UnBeige)

NYCxDESIGN is upon us, and among our favorite happenings so far is Collective, a new design fair that has brought 22 galleries from around the world to New York’s Pier 57. Spearheading the impressive initiative is Steven Learner, working with a supportive bunch of designers, curators, collectors, and dealers (hence “Collective”). “As an architect and collector, I have visited the greatest design fairs in the world and realized that it was essential to create an event of this caliber in New York,” says Learner, whose architecture and interior design firm managed to make the gritty, 70,000-square-foot hangar feel breezy and inviting. Here are a dozen of our favorite works from the fair.


J. Lohmann Gallery brought a stunning assortment of new works from five European artists. Here, a ceramic and PVC “Tied Up” piece by Steen Ipsen.


The gorilla in the room, shown by Southern Guild of South Africa, is Bronze Age’s “Welcome to My World” (2012), a bronze and timber primate that stands nearly seven feet tall. “Shadow of Time,” a 1989 floor clock by Ron Arad, is at the booth of Stockholm-based Modernity gallery.


Win the rat race with Atelier Ted Noten‘s lucite tote, at Ornamentum.
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