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Marc Jacobs Reveals Favorite of His 33 Tattoos, Plans for 34th

Marc Jacobs is not perfect, but the word is etched–in a distinctly imperfect slant of capital letters–on his right wrist as a reminder of an acceptance mantra (“I’m a perfect being in a perfect world where everything that happens benefits me completely”) he learned in rehab. That’s just one of the fashion designer’s 33 tattoos, many of them inked by Scott Campbell, he told Fern Mallis during a wide-ranging conversation held last night at New York’s 92nd Street Y. As for his favorite, that would be the furniture. “A couch. A Jean-Michel Frank couch that is tattooed right here,” said Jacobs, patting his abdomen. “And ask me why a couch, because everybody does, and there’s no reason. That’s exactly the reason.”

The outline of a classic Frank three-seater is joined by a jubilant SpongeBob SquarePants, Oui magazine logos, a red M&M character, and the world “Shameless.” When Mallis asked about the proliferation of cartoon characters, including the Simpsons-ized likeness of the designer himself, he shrugged. “Well, kids on the beach like them. They’re colorful,” said Jacobs. “I think I see life in a kind of cartoony way, and I like colorful tattoos. I never saw tattoos as a dark thing, or ritualistic.” And he’s already thinking about his next one. “I was talking to my trainer today, and there’s this character on South Park called Manbearpig, and I think we might be fighting over which one of us going to get it.”

Shiro Kuramata’s ‘Laputa’ Bed on the Block at Phillips

One of the less memorable parts of Jonathan Swift‘s Gulliver’s Travels sees the titular voyager astonished at the sight of “an Island in the Air, inhabited by Men, who are able (as it should seem) to raise, or sink, or put into a Progressive Motion, as they pleased.” This is Laputa, where inhabitants combine mathematics and music in wildly impractical ways and live in homes that are free of right angles (paging Frank Lloyd Wright!). The floating kingdom was an inspiration for Shiro Kuramata‘s final furniture design: the “Laputa” bed (pictured), created for a 1991 group exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy. Nearly 14 feet in length, the aluminum bed comes with Kuramata’s “Star Piece” silk sheets. One of the 30 beds made hits the block tomorrow afternoon at Phillips de Pury & Company as part of its Design Masters sale. Ready to float away to dreamland in Laputa? The bed is estimated to fetch between $80,000-$120,000, so probably best to sleep on it.

Tweet Seats: Blu Dot Plays Musical Chairs on Twitter

Love directional furniture but can’t make it down to Design Miami, which opens today in a vast tent adjacent to the Miami Beach Convention Center? Vent your frustrations through a game of Musical Chairs–with a virtual twist. Beginning this week, Blu Dot is bringing Musical Chairs to Twitter, giving players the chance to tweet their way to a free Hot Mesh Chair (pictured). As for the music, the Minneapolis-based maker of modern home furnishings partnered with creative agency mono and Tim Cretella and Brittany Yates of the band Doppio (those are their songs you’ll hear just before scrambling for a seat). Ready to play? Head here and then prepare to tweet that round’s secret phrases. Survive all four rounds of each game to win a chair.

In Brief: Ikea Linked to Forced Labor, Google Gives for Green Buildings, Nike to Sell Cole Haan

• Fast furniture giant Ikea knowingly benefited from forced labor in the former East Germany to manufacture some of its products in the 1980s, according to an Ernst & Young investigation commissioned by the company. “Even though Ikea Group took steps to secure that prisoners were not used in production, it is now clear that these measures were not effective enough,” the company said in a statement released Friday. A related investigation into purchase practices in Cuba (as trade with Cuba was supposedly initiated by the former GDR state trade organization) concluded that Ikea has never had any long-term business relations with suppliers in Cuba and found no evidence that the IKEA Group was aware of the possible use of political prisoners in Cuba.

• Google is pitching in for greener buildings. The company is donating $3 million to the U.S. Green Building Council. The grant, announced Wednesday at the annual Greenbuild International Conference in San Francisco, will help to transform the building materials industry and accelerate the creation of healthier indoor environments. “Working with Google enables us to broaden our efforts in the materials industry as we prepare for the next version of the LEED green building program, LEED v4,” said USGBC president and CEO Rick Fedrizzi. “This updated rating system will paint a more complete picture of materials and products, enabling project teams to make more informed decisions.” The Google funding will support research on building materials and health, development of transparency tools, and engagement of stakeholders from across the industry.

• Nike has inked a deal to unload Cole Haan. The buyer is private equity firm Apax Partners, which has agreed to pay $570 million for the 84-year-old footwear and accessories brand. The deal, expected to close early next year, is part of Nike’s move to focus on its Nike, Jordan, Converse, and Hurley brands. The company sold Umbro last month to Iconix Brand Group for $225 million.

Meet the Furniture Designer Who Owns Donald Judd’s Old Pickup Truck

(Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)

“Sentimentalizing the machine is now a malignity of the century,” wrote Donald Judd in his 1993 essay “It’s Hard to Find a Good Lamp,” as he called out Marcel Breuer and Le Corbusier for designing chairs that “derived from the better camping and military chairs of the nineteenth century”–with the addition of a steely, machine-age gloss. Judd found this particular buffing up and repackaging of old good ideas “almost forgivable” (for the latter, extreme examples of machine fetish, such as Rogers and Piano‘s Pompidou Center, he had not a trace of sympathy), so we hope that he’ll pardon us for sentimentalizing his own machine: a 1972 Dodge pickup with a distinctive black-and-white paint job.

The truck, which Judd acquired shortly after moving to Marfa, Texas, is now owned (and driven regularly) by Evan Hughes, a Brooklyn-based furniture designer who purchased it from Judd’s son, Flavin, in 2000 for less than $5,000. Hughes recently showed the truck–which lacks radio, air-conditioning, and the ability to go faster than 75 miles per hour–to Richard S. Chang for a story in the auto section of The New York Times. “The engine is a 360 V-8 with a 4-speed manual transmission, and it’s geared very low,” noted Chang.

“It’s pretty much as it was,” [Hughes] said.

He noted some points of interest: a winch on the bumper spooled with 100 feet of cable, passes for Judd’s trips into Mexico on the rear window and a first-aid kit mounted on the driver’s door.

Unsnapping the wire clasp that holds the tin cover in place, he demonstrated that the kit was still fully stocked (with, among other things, ammonia inhalants, aspirin and an eye patch).

In a compartment along the side of the truck, Mr. Hughes dusted off old engine belts, an owner’s manual and a rusted metal container that could have been used for ammunition. He had removed a gun rack when he bought the truck, and to make more room in the cargo bed, Mr. Hughes also removed a toolbox and a water tank.

“This was really equipped for the desert,” he said. “In case you get lost or stuck, there’s nothing for miles.”

Think Pink: Designers Customize Grete Jalk’s GJ Chair to Benefit Breast Cancer Research

From left, GJ Chairs customized by Rafael de Cárdenas, Harry Allen, and Deborah Berke.

If you’ve ever watched the eBay clock tick down to its single-digit seconds before clicking “Bid,” you know that timing is everything in the cutthroat world of online auctions. Unfortunately, the crucial final hours of Suite New York’s Pink Jalk Project auction to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation were initially scheduled for yesterday, as the East Coast continued to grapple with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. That grappling continues–the Suite New York Showroom remains closed and without power–but the auction has been extended until tomorrow afternoon, giving you one more day to score one-of-a-kind versions of Greta Jalk’s laminated teak plywood GJ Chair customized by 20 designers and architects, including Winka Dubbeldam, Kelly Wearstler, Harry Allen, and Maharam Design Studio. David Rockwell got creative with sparkly Swarovski tiles, while Rafael de Cárdenas united the usually disparate forces of op-art and floral chintz. Deborah Berke collborated with sign painter David Newcomb and decorative painter Alexa Davis of Lillian Heard Studio on a pink-bottomed chair that honors women pioneers in architecture and design (see the making of Berke’s chair in the below video). Bid to win here.
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Emeco Sues Restoration Hardware for Copying Its Navy Chair

Naval Battle. From left, Emeco’s famous Navy Chair and a Restoration Hardware ripoff.

Fresh from a scandal that saw its rugged spokesmodel and unofficial mascot Gary Friedman ousted from his post as CEO, Restoration Hardware is back in hot water for ripping off Emeco’s Navy Chair, the aluminum classic designed by the Hanover, Pennsylvania-based company in 1944 for the U.S. Navy and in production ever since. The cut-rate clone (pictured at right), which appears throughout the company’s phonebook-sized fall catalog, is called—wait for it—the “Naval Chair.” The lack of nomenclative creativity may make things easier for Emeco, which is suing Restoration Hardware and Friedman for infringement of Emeco’s trade dress and trademark rights for its Navy Chair. “The irreparable harm caused by Restoration Hardware, an established company, to Emeco’s reputation and significant goodwill is massive, incomparable to that caused by a typical, small-time counterfeiter,” noted Emeco in a statement issued late yesterday. CEO Gregg Buchbinder compared the knockoff to “stealing the Nike Swoosh or the Mercedes Benz logo, and then exploiting our brand and reputation to produce an inferior product.”

The lawsuit comes just days after Restoration Hardware filed for a $150 million IPO. Emeco seized upon a pre-IPO SEC filing as fodder for its cause, highlighting a section in which the company states that, “at our core we are not designers, rather we are curators and composers of inspired design and experiences.” By “[e]xternally discover[ing] and curat[ing]” others’ designs, as opposed to “[i]nternally design[ing] and develop[ing]” its own products, Restoration Hardware can cut the product development process from “12-18 months lead time” to “3-9 months lead time” and “reduce product costs.” In contrast, Emeco pegs its own product cycle of designing, prototyping, research and development, engineering, and tooling at approximately 2 to 4 years. While Restoration Hardware has yet to issue an official response on the matter, it has hastily renamed its Naval Chair “Aluminum Standard Side Chair” and sliced the price from $169 to $129. The authentic version, which comes with a lifetime guarantee from Emeco, sells for $455.

In Brief: Jason Wu’s Picture Perfect Spring, Shepard Fairey Sentenced, Future Design Classics

Backstage at Friday’s Jason Wu show. (Photo: Mimi Ritzen Crawford)

Jason Wu pared down his palette and toughened up the silhouettes for spring 2013. He described the collection, shown Friday at a downtown studio space, as “Helmut Newton meets Lillian Bassman.” The late photographers’ contrasting aesthetics inspired one of Wu’s most accomplished outings to date. Peekaboo sheaths, jackets, and suiting accented with leather (Newton never met a harness he didn’t like) and lace spotlighted Wu’s tailoring chops, while a floral x-ray print nodded to Bassman and offered a darker take on his signature ladylike luxe.

Shepard Fairey will not serve jail time in the criminal contempt case involving his Barack Obama “Hope” poster. On Friday, a New York federal court judge sentenced him to two years’ probation and a $25,000 fine. The sentence also includes 300 hours of community service. “I accept the Judge’s sentence and look forward to finally putting this episode behind me,” wrote Fairey in a statement posted to his website. “My wrong-headed actions, born out of a moment of fear and embarrassment, have not only been financially and psychologically costly to myself and my family, but also helped to obscure what I was fighting for in the first place—the ability of artists everywhere to be inspired and freely create art without reprisal.”

• In case you missed it, Julie Lasky recently jumped in the design time machine and considered which of today’s objects will be revered as classics come 2050, “the sort of thing our grandchildren will drag out of our children’s attics and install in their own living rooms.” In addition to querying a dozen contemporary furniture experts (including Murray Moss and Paola Antonelli), she came up with her own list of five future icons.

• And speaking of design classics, Vitsœ is lifting the lid on its 50-year archive. Look for digitized ephemera from the furniture company, best known for its modular shelving system designed by Dieter Rams, to be posted on its new Tumblr. The site debuted today with a look back to 1971, when live performances at furniture showrooms were a growing trend, at least in Karlsruhe, Germany, where Vitsœ plied shoppers with a vinyl sampler of the Sidewalk Hot Jazz Ochestra.

Design Within Reach in Expansion Mode

Design Within Reach had an eventful summer, from the June launch of its retooled website (clickable colorways, multi-angle product shots, a 3D room planning tool) to last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, where the company’s Sergio Mian-designed Baba counter stool took a star turn in the dramatic role of Clint Eastwood’s empty chair. Now comes word that the Stamford, Connecticut-based company is embarking on a plan to expand its retail presence: enlarging its existing store (“studio”) in New York’s SoHo, boosting its presence in Miami with a move from Lincoln Road to a new 13,800-square-foot space in the Design District, and opening a 22,000-square-foot store in Costa Mesa, California. Masterminding the design of the fresh spaces is New York-based Sayigh+Duman. Led by veterans of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (Laith Sayigh) and Frederick Fisher and Partners (Koray Duman), the firm created the successful store concept that opened last year at DWR headquarters. Meanwhile, the company has tapped furniture-savvy 2×4 to work its magic on the interiors and environmental design. According to DWR, the new and expanded locations, which will present merchandise in “stylistically defined room vignettes” (living, dining, outdoor, work, and sleep), are expected to open this fall.

In Brief: IKEA to Launch Hotel Chain, Restoration Hardware CEO Resigns, Fab Teams with Blu Dot

Blu Dot’s Real Good Chair, Medium Strut Table, and Perimeter Light, part of a custom color collaboration with Fab.

• Perhaps envisioning the day when the globe will be saturated by Ektorp sofas, IKEA is diversifying. The company’s real estate development arm is building an IKEA village, “Strand East,” on 26 acres in London. Expect underground parking and plenty of meatballs. Meanwhile, those who can’t score one of the 1,200 new homes in IKEAville will soon be able to spend the night in an IKEA-owned hotel. The company plans to build 100 hotels across Europe, according to a Reuters report. Rather mysteriously, the budget chain will contain no IKEA furniture. The first hotel is expected to open in Germany in 2014.

• And if those room vignettes in the IKEA catalog appear more alien than usual these days, you’re not losing your Ekenäs. In a move to cut costs and get more bang for its Boksel, the company is increasingly using 3-D graphics to fill its pages. “This year 12% of IKEA’s content for the Web, catalog, and brochures were rendered virtually,” notes Jens Hansegard in the Wall Street Journal. “That number will increase to 25% next year.” The army of photographers, carpenters, and set designers that produce the IKEA catalog (in 62 different versions in 43 countries) are being retrained to apply their skills to spaces that do not exist.

• Just when Restoration Hardware was firing on all cylinders with its ersatz Axel Vervoodt vibe, even heeding the call of urban dwellers for chunky armchairs fit for tiny apartments, chairman and co-CEO Gary Friedman has stepped down from his posts after an internal inquiry into an intimate relationship he had with a 26-year-old female employee. Carlos Alberini is now the sole CEO as the company prepares for an IPO. As nonexecutive chairman emeritus, Friedman will continue in an advisory role as he starts a new “incubator” company with ties to Restoration Hardware.

• In cheerier news, our friends at Fab have cooked up a unique partnership. Tomorrow the flash sale site will unveil seven furniture pieces from Blu Dot in exclusive custom colors. “Fab is offering Blu Dot design staples in bright orange, black, gray, and crisp white—that’s right, ladies and gentlemen: we’re one step closer to ridding the world of boring beiges,” noted a post on the company’s blog. Available through September 29, the pieces include a desk, tables, and a loopy floor lamp. We’re partial to the mod seating: shipped flat and folded into sturdy shape along laser-cut lines, Blu Dot’s Real Good Chair ($120) lives up to its name.
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