Monday, March 30, 2015

Details Matter

If you follow me on Instagram (@architectdesignblog) this weekend you probably saw a number of pictures I posted of a grand apartment building here in Washington DC in the historic Kalorama neighborhood.
Buildings such as these are listed in the Washington real estate bible, Best Addresses, by the local authority on such matters, James Goode.  I live in a 'best address' building myself, although not as grand as this, and it really was one of my apartment's selling features. It's always the first statement of any real estate description of any apartment in these buildings in Washington. I would recommend the book to others who don't live in DC as a great compilation of grand apartment buildings from 1900 till the 1970s, full of floorplans and historic photos.
The details matter here and separate this building from common apartments. Symmetry and aligned spaces are key, but delicate plasterwork, marble mosaic floors, and charming original stairwell doors and exit signs are all details that speak of care and quality.
Notice the well thought placement of modern HVAC grilles discretely placed above the exit door. I think also important to notice are the signs that this building is a home;  minimal quality non-cluttery furniture and artwork grace the spacious halls.  Compare this to atrocious new-construction apartments we see going up all over this city and also cities around the country as we experience this (wonderful) return to urbanism. Why do people prefer new construction to this again?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Holly Hunt opening at Washington Design Center

Yesterday (March 18, 2015) was the grand opening of our new Washington Design Center. Washington is finally coming into its own and our new design center just goes to prove that. These gorgeous light-filled showrooms are at the heart of the New Washington action on 14th street NW.
The crowds were soul-crushing, as one expects at these events, but it's important for design professionals to go out and network; share ideas and potential new jobs! I only attended the Holly Hunt showroom opening party out of many events with some very dear friends (hi Steph and Mark!) and thought I would share some highlights with you.
The Holly Hunt showroom is the largest in the design center I believe, measuring in at 10,000 SF over 2 floors. It also is the only showroom to feature a street entrance -welcoming in the public.  The ground floor focuses on the more modern collections carried by Holly Hunt while the 2nd floor focuses on the more DC-centric traditional lines. Above the cozy Coco Sofa was empty and beckoning us over to get away from the crowd!
I briefly chatted with Holly Hunt who was delightful. She is intensely focused on bringing new artists and work to the public -meeting and working directly with the artists on items such as their lines of (brilliant) lighting which are the focus of my snapshots here!  Alison Berger is one of the prominent lighting artists with these delicious handblown glass fixtures seen in the images here. Above is the Lure sconce - nothing is MORE alluring than a sconce (my favorite lighting source!).
Most popular with us were the Sea Urchin pendants with heavily seeded glass featured below over a nightstand. These are designed by an artist named Stefan Gulassa, no relation (for those readers who don't know, my name is also Stefan).
I loved their updated version of the classic wingchair below upholstered in rope with a luxurious velvet cushion (in my favorite turquoise -this would fit right into my own apartment, how I wish!)
Be sure to visit Holly Hunt here in DC at the new Washington Design Center, they'll be happy to see you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hubert de Givenchy - Fashion at the Thyssen-Bornemisza

On a note different from what I normally feature on this blog, I thought I would share some images from the recent exhibition on Hubert Givenchy at one of my favorite museums, El Museo de arte Thyssen-Bornemisza, in Madrid which my penpal kindly sent me.
Givenchy will forever be known for his relationship with celebrities, primary amongst them Audrey Hepburn, but also Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the Duchess of Windsor, and the list goes on.
I think these clothes appeal to me not only for the obvious reason, their beauty, but their architectural qualities and attention to detailing are astounding.
 The use of vivid color and black together also is architecturally appealing.
 Recognize Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany's above?
 Or Wallis Simpson, aka the Duchess of Windsor, in mourning here.
Or the Duchess again here in a striped gown. These clothes are iconic and a part of our culture; instantly recognizable.
Seeing some of these famous gowns in color, such as Jackie Kennedy's gown from the Paris opera, is a delightful surprise; cream and soft colors.
 Bridal beyond boring white....
 The details of this non-white wedding dress (emphasis on NO BORING WHITE) are amazing.
 I don't even know how one makes something such as this!
 Clothes make the woman or so one would believe based on the models below in the room entitled elegance and simplicity.
 Who needs jewelry with clothes as beautiful as these?
While many of these gowns are surely dated would 'Fashion Police' mock them on the red carpet I wonder? Does style such as this date?  Maybe the jackets.....
 but what jackets they are!
Givenchy is a master of color - unusual colors - and pairings that give life to one another.
 I'm sure the yellow/orange dress is difficult to wear but on the right woman....amazing.

 And don't forget the hats!
Thanks to Neil for sharing his images with us all. See more on the exhibit at the museum website HERE, which includes the program and an interactive video walk-through of the exhibition.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Plaza de España, Seville

Why don't we have World's Fairs anymore? They provided us with some of the worlds great monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the entire City Beautiful movement. If you have any Beaux-Arts styled buildings in your city or town, such as a courthouse, museum, or townhall, you can thank the World's Fair movement!  I saw an exhibit on that at the National Building museum a few years ago and it was really an eye opening experience (read more about that and how it influenced modernism HERE).
Recently I was sent photographs of the Plaza de España in Seville, which was the centerpiece of the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929, by my Australian Penpal which really took my breath away.
This enormous plaza designed by Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier contains fountains and a Venetian-style lazy river complete with boat rides, surrounded by a semi-circular building which now houses government offices.
At the base of the building designed by architect Anibal Gonzalez which surrounds the plaza are 48 alcoves which represent the provinces of Spain, seen in the image above. These have provided great photography fodder with Spanish tourists posing in front of the alcove representing their home province.
This grand entry loggia leads one into the center of the main building and provides a shady respite from the harsh Spanish sun.
In true Spanish tradition albeit with an Art Deco twist, the ceiling of the loggia is beautifully patterned.
Lets step inside the main building to the central staircase, setting of many Spanish weddings. The image below shows why!
The tilework of painted encaustic tiles is beautiful and lends human scale to the otherwise massive stair.
As if one needed another reason to visit sunny Spain, be sure to check out the Plaza de España in Seville!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fabric decision - designers help!

At this past weekend's estate sale HERE I purchased a Biedermeier stool for use with my comfy reading chair, another estate sale find which I recently had reupholstered (see that transformation HERE). You can see the upholstery that came on the stool is in good shape, a synthetic material from the 1960s, but doesn't quite go with my apartment.
Of course the easy answer is to use the remaining fabric I have on the chair, a linen printed with a white paisley. Is this too boring? I also worry the light colored fabric will soil easily.
I have some lovely black mohair I purchased for another project and never used. I worry this is the opposite - too dark.
Some striped velvet left from a chair I recently had reupholstered in my bedroom would work but I'm not sure it works here.
The last choice I already own is an embroidered paisley silk in blues and french grays. I think the colors seem to go with the room, the darker colors may mask any dirt, and the paisley patterned fabric relates to the chair.  I'm obviously leaning in this direction but what do you think, will any of these work?