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Quote of Note | Rick Owens

“People ask why I do monochromatic clothes; the reason is because I’m thinking in proportion to the world. In this room, your head is going to look so much more interesting if it’s on a monochromatic column. Whereas I think people think of outfits and gets a little too fussy, a little too detailed. I’m always thinking of the line of a person standing with their head in a room and I always feel like a stalk, or a stem, or a pillar is nicer. I always think of everything architecturally. The furniture ended up being a natural extension of the clothes. Architecture is what energizes me most for clothes anyway. Looking through architecture books is probably by biggest stimulation.”

-Rick Owens, in an interview with Terry Jones in the “lights, camera, action” issue of i-D

Pictured: Rick Owens’s black plywood and alabaster “Boudeuse” (2012)

Does Wobbly Furniture Tilt Perceptions?

Can fixing that shaky table affect your desire for emotional stability? A new study suggests as much. Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada sat one group of volunteers in slightly wobbly chairs next to slightly wobbly tables while another group was seated in chairs next to tables that looked identical but didn’t wobble. Then they asked both groups to perform a couple of tasks: first, to judge the stability of the relationships of celebrity couples by rating the likelihood of a breakup on a scale of one (“extremely unlikely to dissolve”) to seven (“extremely likely to dissolve”) and then to rate their preferences for various traits in a potential romantic partner, also on a scale of one (“not at all desirable”) to seven (“extremely desirable”). The Economist recently revealed the rather ground-shaking results of the study, soon to be published in the journal Psychological Science:

Participants who sat in wobbly chairs at wobbly tables gave the celebrity couples an average stability score of 3.2 while those whose furniture did not wobble gave them 2.5. What was particularly intriguing, though, was that those sitting at wonky furniture not only saw instability in the relationships of others but also said that they valued stability in their own relationships more highly. They gave stability-promoting traits in potential romantic partners an average desirability score of 5.0, whereas those whose tables and chairs were stable gave these same traits a score of 4.5. The difference is not huge, but it is statistically significant. Even a small amount of environmental wobbliness seems to promote a desire for an emotional rock to cling to.

Watch for this finding to launch a trend in divorce lawyer office decor: rocking chairs.

Pictured: A work from Dutch designer Anna Ter Haar’s 2010 “Cinderella’s Chair” project.

Noguchi Table Sells for $2.9 Million, Eames Sculpture Fetches Record $459K

It’s a table! It’s a sculpture! Stop, you’re both right. A fossil marble table by Isamu Noguchi sold yesterday at Christie’s in New York for a stunning $2.88 million (including commission), a new world auction record for a piece of furniture by the artist and the third highest price ever achieved at auction for a Noguchi work. The low table was made in 1948-49 for Mr. and Mrs. Samuel C. Dretzin to furnish their new Sydney Katz-designed summer home in Chappaqua, New York, and remained in the family until yesterday. Christie’s estimated the work, “unquestionably the most important piece of Noguchi furniture ever to come to public sale,” at between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

It was also a good day for the legacy of Charles and Ray Eames. A 1943 sculpture by the collaborative couple sold for $458,500 to a European institution. “As with any creative partnership, it is difficult to segregate the contributions offered by the individual contributors,” notes the sale catalogue, “however the playfully serpentine outline of the structure is clearly related to the mobiles, sculptures, and graphics of Ray, and in particular to the covers that she designed for the magazine Art & Architecture that same year, 1943.” Made of painstakingly layered laminates, the biomorphic work was exhibited a year later at the Museum of Modern Art’s “Design for Use” exhibition.

From Dust to Must: Emeco and Philippe Starck Debut Eco-Friendly ‘Broom’ Chair

Among our favorite finds at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, which wrapped up Tuesday at New York’s Javits Center, is the new Broom chair from Emeco and Philippe Starck. “It’s made of nothing,” says Starck. Well, almost. The latest addition to Hanover, Pennsylvania-based Emeco’s largely aluminum line-up consists of 75% reclaimed polypropylene, 15% reclaimed wood fiber, and 10% glass fiber—a new chair material composite derived from a compound of industrial waste from lumber factories and plastic plants. That’s where the sweeping up comes in. “Imagine a guy who takes a humble broom and starts to clean the workshop, and with this dust he makes new magic,” Starck says. “That’s why we call it ‘Broom.’” First shown last month at Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano, the chair is part of Emeco’s ongoing efforts toward zero-waste (remember that snappy variation on the 111 Navy Chair made from recycled plastic bottles?). “Philippe Starck and I have always agreed that it is not about recycling, but about restructuring production,” said Emeco CEO Gregg Buchbinder in a statement announcing the Broom chair. “Our aim is to prevent waste from being manufactured in the first place. Instead we use discarded materials to make things last.” Hear more from Starck in these three short films by Eames Demetrios, who as the grandson of Charles Eames knows a little something about chairs.

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Mod Squad: Inside Herman Miller’s NYC Pop-Up Shop

At the Herman Miller pop-up shop, a family of Alexander Girard figures implore visitors to peruse Todd Oldham and Kiera Coffee’s mega-monograph on the designer. At right, an Eames lounge and ottoman with pedestal tables and an asterisk clock designed by George Nelson. (Photos: UnBeige)

The International Contemporary Furniture Fair doesn’t kick off until next Saturday, but Herman Miller is getting a jump on New York design week with a pop-up shop in Soho. The 6,000-square-foot showroom, open to the public through July 1, is arranged as a series of vignettes sprinkled with whimsical objects and designer-friendly books as well as art from Portland’s PDX gallery. It’s also the first place to see the Herman Miller Collection, a mix of classic pieces (Eames chairs, Noguchi tables, George Nelson‘s enduringly endearing Marshmallow sofa) and the work of contemporary designers such as Konstantin Grcic, Jasper Morrison, and Naoto Fukasawa. The portfolio of freestanding furniture for home and office is a revival of sorts. Ben Watson, executive creative director of Herman Miller, looked to heed Nelson’s 1948 call for “the continuing creation of a permanent collection designed to meet the requirements for modern living.” And so Ward Bennett credenzas mix with Stefano Giovannoni‘s swooping Paso Doble chairs, and BassamFellows’ elegant Tuxedo sofas cozy up to Nelson’s own mod tables. Watson has lined up future Collection pieces from the likes of Leon Ransmeier and Ayse Birsel and Bibi Seck.

Wooden bears by David Weeks prowl a table of books and accessories. At right, Grcic’s new Medici chair, produced by Mattiazzi, has a mod Adirondack vibe.

A rainbow of Eames molded plastic chairs around a Nelson X-Leg table.
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Quote of Note | Peter Shire

A sofa designed by Peter Shire. (Photo: Peter Shire)

“I keep thinking about sofas. They’re weird, right? You can get into a sociological conversation about the value of furniture and the way it has evolved over the last 500 years. Once, nobody had furniture unless they were wealthy. Castles had thrones, and the rank and file sat on benches. It was a social signifier. Now you see sofas thrown out on the street. In ceramics, we have kiln furniture to set your ware; in printing, they have furniture that holds the type into a matrix. That’s kind of what we’re talking about: objects that we piece together like a puzzle to hold our perceptions in the matrix. In a house, that can range from the way we move around to the things in it that cause social interaction. Many people would say of Memphis, which was so extreme, ‘I can’t imagine living with a house full of that!’ But you’re not meant to live with a whole house of it, unless you’re Karl Lagerfeld. So I’ve been thinking about what I’ve done, what it means within the world, and what its value is.”

-Artist and designer Peter Shire, an original member of the Milan-based Memphis group, in an interview with Jill Singer for Surface magazine

Maarten De Ceulaer’s ‘Mutation’ Furniture Bubbles Up in Milan

(Photos: Nico Neefs)

Bound for the Milan Furniture Fair yet short on time? Focus on the work of designers named Maarten! That will keep you plenty busy. Start at Ventura Lambrate, where Maarten Baas will have a bunch of new projects on display beginning tomorrow. Among them are spidery clay stools that Louise Bourgeois would have loved, a massive tablecloth woven—in a typeface called “Font of the Loom”—with the names of the inhabitants of Amsterdam (all 780,559 of them), and a still-under-wraps “kinetic object” for Laikingland. Also on view will be his Martin Puryear-esque “Empty Chair,” a 16-foot tall ladder-back seat created for Amnesty International in honor of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

The other Eindhoven-educated must-see Maarten is Maarten De Ceulaer, who’ll be exhibiting at three locations during the Salone del Mobile. Head to Rossana Orlandi and the Triennale di Milano to be charmed by his “Mutations” series (pictured). “The pieces in this series look like they weren’t made by hands, but have grown to their present form organically,” says the Brussels-based designer. “They might be the result of a mutation in cells, or the result of a chemical or nuclear reaction. Perhaps it’s a virus or bacteria that has grown dramatically out of scale.” In fact, De Ceulaer created the molecularly marvelous seating, a kind of deep-buttoned upholstery run amok, by carefully composing patterns with sections of foam spheres that are then applied to a structure. The final step is coating the entire piece in a rubbery or velvet-like finish. “It is largely impossible to ever recreate such a specific pattern,” he says, “so every piece is completely unique.”

Sneak Peek at Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Stunning New Book

(Photos courtesy Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec)

It wouldn’t be the Milan International Furniture Fair without a slew of smashing new creations from Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. At this year’s mega-show, which kicks off next week with an eye-watering 1,400 exhibitors, the designing brothers will debut their glossy storage nooks for Vitra, a textured textile/shelving system hybrid created for Established & Sons, and assorted objects for Magis and Mattiazzi. Those who can’t make it to Milano can get their Bouroullec fix in the pages of Works, out next month from Phaidon. “Works is a comprehensive monograph featuring a wealth of images of our projects, models, drawings—that is to say all visual material we found interesting to dig out from the archives of our workshop,” said the brothers in an e-mail. “It documents what we do by proposing an intuitive understanding, a flowing journey from one project to another.” Organized thematically and designed by Sonia Dyakova, the book spotlights the Bouroullecs’ greatest hits—including collaborations with Vitra (Algue makes the cover), Flos, Alessi, Cappellini, and Kvadrat—and reveals previously unpublished images and drawings alongside text by Abitare alum Anniina Koivu. Also weighing in on the designers’ first dozen years of projects, which are all doumented in a catalogue section, are the likes of design critic Alice Rawsthorn, Vitra CEO Rolf Fehlbaum, and Didier Krzentowski of Galerie Kreo.

Quote of Note | Raf Simons

Looks from the spring 2012 Jil Sander collection.

“When I was at industrial-design school, we were all expected to like the Memphis Group and Philippe Starck, but I’ve always been attracted to midcentury modernism. My favorite is the French designer Jean Royère. I love the marriage between different things in his work—the aspects of kitsch, premodernism, and modernism, along with an extreme femininity—but there’s also a robustness. Royère’s designs are very eclectic, but they all come from the world he has put together. His work has had a huge impact on me, but I’ve never bought any of it—it’s unaffordable. Recently, a Royère table came up at auction; the estimate was €12,000 to €15,000. I thought, That’s mine. Then I was on the phone with the auction house wondering if I should go up to €18,000. My God! I didn’t have time to say a thing. The thing went to €120,000!”

-Raf Simons, newly appointed artistic director of Christian Dior, in a recent interview with Alice Rawsthorn for W. Among the designer’s other favorite things, lest you want to send him a congratulatory gift: art by Sterling Ruby, Valentine Schlegel‘s ceramics, the architecture of John Lautner, the Todd Haynes film Safe, and vintage Margiela.

Jens Risom on that Playboy Picture, Parachute Webbing, and Designing ‘Different-Looking’ Chairs

Copenhagen-born Jens Risom designed the first Knoll chair in 1941, which puts his age at roughly “two-hundred! Well, that’s almost right,” he said, seated in a high-backed rocking chair of his own design on a recent visit to the Stamford, Connecticut headquarters of Design Within Reach (in fact, he’ll turn 96 next month). This latest DWR Film features morsels of Risom’s chat, in which he discusses his storied career, interrupted early on by a stint in Patton’s Third Army; his creations; and that famous 1961 Playboy photo (above) in which he played musical chairs with George Nelson, Edward Wormley, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, and Charles Eames. Sure enough, he’s still the last one standing.