November 2013 Posts

Light. First.

By: Elisabeth Paulson

Good design is a well-curated collaboration of pieces and no singular object may be more impactful to a room than an exceptional light. Often considered the last piece of the puzzle, here are a few luminous creations that inspire us to examine lighting from day one.

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This Buenos Aires Pendant from Jonathan Adler creates a modern warmth. Simple. Beautiful. Hand-blown. Makes me ever-appreciative of artists who hold on to form and materials but still manage to create something we have never seen before.

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We are waiting patiently for the perfect setting for this chandelier….is it yours? This over-the-top Flamingo Chandelier from Currey & Company is made of wrought iron and blanketed with candy, er, glass. This is sure to bring your dining room to that place you’ve been dreaming of.

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I’ve had my eye on this sculptural beauty for a while. Black Wax Shade and Matte Walnut base. Say that again? Let’s put this in front of a white brick wall with 12′ window sheers. In Copenhagen. Next to a balcony. I digress…the Balbosar Floor Lamp from Arteriors.

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I appreciate an artist who allows the consumer to take charge. This is actually a tripod stand, meant to hold up to six of Tom Dixon’s Mirror Balls, all held together with industrial clamps in the composition of your choice. Take it from minimum reflection to Hollywood film set by adding more lights.

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Last but not least, these rare sconces are original by Milan-born Gugliermo Ulrich, circa 1940s. Love them for their form and material and then go to www.1stdibs.com to admire more gems like this.

Wilde, Wilde Life: Denizens of the Aesthetic Movement

By: John Hunt

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Aesthete:  A person who has, or affects to have, a special appreciation of art and beauty.

The Aesthetic Movement of 1860-1900 was an Artistic, Social, and Design movement largely based in England.  It was a reaction against the staunch Victorian Styles and mores and the Industrial Revolution.  Its main tenets involve the appreciation of pure beauty, art for art’s sake.  It also stressed the importance of the utilitarian and handmade works.  Furniture and décor of the period were characterized by ebonized and gilt wood, far eastern influences, and naturalistic themes such as flowers, birds, gingko leaves, and peacock feathers.  An 1858 Trade Treaty with Japan had opened ties with China and Japan, re-introducing the West with Asian Art and Porcelain.

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By far the most well-known, oft-quoted, and strongest supporter of the movement was Oscar Wilde.  Before his literary career, Wilde appeared on the London Scene as a self-proclaimed Professor of Aesthetics and Art Critic.  The picture above shows a portrait of Wilde by William Powell Firth, showing him surrounded by his aesthetic followers while being ignored by the Victorians.  Wilde’s (then) outrageous outfits and sharp wit brought new-life to the Movement, and he became the editor of “The Woman’s World,” a publication which supplied a checklist for all that was desirable in interior design at the time.  Regardless of scandal and outrage at some of Wilde’s beliefs, he was sent on a tour of the US to lecture on design and aestheticism.

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A sometime friend and always contemporary of Wilde was artist and designer James McNeill Whistler.  His Peacock Room is one of the most recognized and scandalous interiors of the modern age, preserved to this day.  Hired to design the entryway of the estate, Whistler was asked to suggest a color for the shutters and doors of the dining room, which had been designed to hold the owner’s blue and white china collection.  After the owner’s departure back to Liverpool, Whistler completely changed the room’s design, coating it in gold leaf and peacock feathers.  The owner was furious at the over-ornamentation, and Whistler turned one peacock mural into an allegory of the conflict.

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Another contemporary and acquaintance of Wilde was designer, artist and writer William Morris.  His designs for wallpaper and textiles are lush, elaborate styles with a proliferation of vines, flowers, leaves, birds…all of the elements of the Aesthetic Movement.  While on his American Tour, Wilde told spectators “…find your subjects in everyday life, your own men and women, your own flowers and fields, your own hills and mountains, these are what your art should represent to you.”  The work of William Morris is the embodiment of this ideal, a beautiful representation of the sensualism of nature.

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Most critics agree that the Aesthetic Movement died with Oscar Wilde in 1900.    However, this movement gave rise to the next major movement:  Arts and Crafts.  If you strip the last vestiges of Victorian Embellishment from the Aesthetic Ideal, you are left with the utilitarian appreciation for handcrafted items and the beauty that can be found in nature.    It also gave us the modern appreciation for Blue and White export porcelain.    These are the best aspects of the movement which have come down to us, and I will agree with Mr. Wilde:

“I have the simplest tastes.  I am always satisfied with the best.”