Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cruisin' In A Land Yacht - Part 2

We covered the origins and history of the Airstream in Part 1. We learned about its colorful past. What about the present and future?
Well, it looks a lot like this…

Only a few years ago, the average age of a first-time RV owner was 64. Just as Walter Byam brought Airstream to its full potential when he redesigned and marketed it to the public, Airstream is doing it once again… this time by updating the interiors to appeal to a younger generation by making the inside as aesthetically pleasing as the outside. covered this dramatic revitalization when it happened in 2001. You can read about how Wilsonart, the laminate manufacturing company, worked with designers Christopher Deam and Jim Huff to create a hip, ultra chic new interior using laminates on nearly all surfaces. Says Grace Jeffers of Wilsonart, “Laminate is, like the trailer, nostalgically familiar and modern, even futuristic, in attitude.” It gives it a totally sleek new look.
Design Within Reach and Deam came up with a special edition DWR Airstream. It doesn’t get any better than this. Check out the other models in the 2008 fleet - you will definitely find one to your liking.
Can’t afford an Airstream? There are actually parks where you can rent permanently moored Airstreams by the night! This new idea of Airstream and retro RV parks lets you live the nostalgic Airstream lifestyle without owning one! The Shady Dell in Bisbee, Arizona has eleven different vintage RVs ready for you to stay in, complete with retro interiors right down to old tube TVs!! It truly is a living time capsule. Want to get a more worldly view? Airstream Europe is the first retro RV park in Europe, located in a BEAUTIFUL field in the foothills of the Pyranees Mountains near Mirepoix, France. Absolutely breathtaking surroundings enjoyed from the comfort of a vintage Airstream definitely makes this a non-traditional European vacation!

At the start of the Airstream Empire, Popular Mechanics wrote, “Once you live in a home on wheels, you’re never satisfied to be anchored to a permanent one again.” Sounds tempting… wanna join me?
-Genevieve at Swank

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Swank Lighting's Murano Lamps Now Featured on Bond & Bowery

We have the largest and best inventory of Vintage Murano Lighting available for sale and want to reach as many designers and enthusiasts as possible! After hearing about online global marketplace Bond & Bowery, a website that represents the best of the best in antique furniture, fine art and design, we knew we had to become a part of this. Swank Lighting is now a dealer on Bond & Bowery, offering some of our favorite pairs of lamps. Check out the selection here, and peruse the site - very user friendly, which is always a plus! Not only can you make a typical category search (furniture, fine art, etc.), but you can also search by maker/artist and time period.

Bond & Bowery gets its name from historic New York intersection of Bond and Bowery Streets - Bond being a cobblestoned street lined with cutting edge architecture and design, Bowery being the epicenter for industry and creative fields - obviously very fitting! We love what Bond & Bowery represents to the design industry: “a crossroads for the fusion of the old and the new, the modern and vintage all undergoing a rejuvenation”. Swank Lighting shares this enthusiasm for mixing old and new, and looks forward to a great future through this new opportunity!

We are adding to the inventory on our Bond & Bowery weekly, so keep an eye on it. New listings come out every Thursday.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cruisin' In A Land Yacht! (part 1)

Back when I was a kid, about 100 years ago, my best friend’s parents had a wonderful old Airstream trailer which they permanently installed behind their house. It was the place we kids gathered after school - a place to do our homework, a place to just hang out. I loved the way it looked on the outside and I loved the way it felt on the inside. It was stylish. I didn’t ever use that word or think about its meaning until that Airstream. And I sort of just got then what I feel emphatically now - an integral part of good design incorporates humor, fun, and whimsy. Look at a couple of Frank Gehry’s works, for example. The Bilbao Museum in Spain and The Disney Hall in California. I think it’s entirely possible that Mr. Gehry spent some time in an Airstream.

So when Genevieve came to me with an idea to do an article on the Airstream, I jumped at the chance. I hope you enjoy this as much as she did writing it and I did revisiting my ancient childhood.

Enjoy! Doug at Swank

Like a silver bullet on a straight shot of highway, the Airstream has been gracing our interstates and backroads since the 1930s. Synonymous with luxury, adventure, and even camp (pun intended), this iconic RV has a colorful history which only adds to its exotic nature and appeal.
Hawley Bowlus, the designer of Charles Lindburg’s “Spirit of St. Louis” airplane, designed the first aluminum RV. He may have had the genius to create a sleek-looking RV, but he lacked the business sense needed to launch it into its eventual cult status. When Bowlus’ business was failing, it was taken over by Wally Byam. A non-practicing lawyer who built kit RVs for a hobby, Byam reworked the design, making it even more wind-resistant, which in turn made it more gas efficient (it was just as important back then as it was today)! The Airstream operation outlived 400 similiar production facilities of its kind, being the only RV company to survive the Great Depression. Though it was temporarily shut down due to a supply shortage during WWII (as scrap aluminum was barely available), it came back big time after the war and continues to be the “land yacht” of choice for travelers everywhere.
There is an undeniable mystique that comes with an Airstream… as if there are magical magnetic powers behind that reflective aluminum shell. This mystique is due largely to Wally Byam himself, who took every opportunity to photograph the Airstream in front of great world landmarks, building the reputation of an RV that could survive any environment and travel to all four corners of the world. The Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) remains active and strong today, with a website that is updated frequently to keep all “Airstreamers” up to speed on future trips and events. It allows them to gather and share their common love and devotion to these metallic beauties.
Check out these photographs showing Airstreams amidst their adventures. It’s as if they had paparazzi following them along their asphalt “red carpets”. I even found a video clip from the first WBCCI caravan trip “Capetown to Cairo” from 1959-1960. I find it particularly interesting because you can really see how cult-like these gatherings became… watch it, you’ll see what I’m talking about!!

The Airstream is still as beautiful today as it was back then. Though its possible to buy a vintage Airstream, renovations can be quite expensive. Of course, its hard to put a price tag on something you truly enjoy and love doing. If you are interested in buying vintage, this site showcases pictures of virtually every model made, and classified ads abound on Ebay and the internet. Since there are decades worth of options, I recommend starting out choosing a favorite model, and go from there.
If you want to learn even more about Airstream history, Amazon carries a great book entitled “Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht” by Bryan Burkhart and David Hunt. I merely scratched the surface, trust me!
Are you lucky enough to own or know someone who owns an Airstream? We’d love to see your photos and hear your story, which we will share in a futureAirstream posting. Coming up… see how the Airstream is revered by a new generation of owners, chic new interior conversions, and AWESOME RV parks devoted to Airstreams around the globe.

Enjoy! Genevieve

Update: thanks to Leo Garvey of the Metropolitan New York Unit of WBCCI for providing us with these additional two sites for our readers to enjoy.



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Swank Lighting and Joe Cariati IV

OK we may be having too much fun with this. We can't seem to work on anything but our Joe Cariati line.
This one fashioned after a popular Barovier & Toso model from the 1940s is my favorite so far.
We're having a debate in the studio about what to call it. Here are our suggestions so far:
1. Emphasis!
2. I really mean it!
3. I've made my point!
4. I really really mean it!

email us at with your suggestions.

Ed at Swank

Swank is back!!

We are back up and running. Check out our main web site at Swank Lighting.
We will be posting more photos of the Joe Cariati line over the next few days and the full line will be available for sale at the end of August.
Ed at Swank

If you have questions about pricing and pre-ordering, email us:

Swank Lighting's main web site is currently down

I can see by the Google stats that many of you are coming here because you can't get onto Our tech team is working on the main site and hopefully it will be back up and fully operational later today.
Please check back.

UPDATE: We are back live at
Thank You
Ed at Swank

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Swank's Collaboration With Joe Cariati (update)

I promised to post more photos of the lamps we are currently building with Joe Cariati’s hand blown glass. Well here are some of my favorites to date. The files are large so the photos are best viewed in the full size.

The full line will launch in a few weeks. Each lamp will be signed by the artist Joe Cariati. As you can see, the lamps will have that sizzlin’ hot look of mid century Murano Lamps but priced for a much broader market.

If you're interested in pricing, please email us at

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tales From The Thrift

I read a wonderful quote recently which said, “Some beautiful things are more impressive when left imperfect than when too highly finished.” I couldn’t agree more, in fact I find what usually catches my eye are those things which “have character”, and show signs of their past. Its like you know that someone else lived with it and loved it as much as you will, you know someone handled that object, used it, and that gives it its energy, its life, its appeal!
When life gets either really hectic or really boring, there’s a great little shop where I like to go and surround myself with these objects of energy and recharge my batteries. Its called Aladdin’s Lamp Antiques, etc., located at 2648 Government Street in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and owned by Greg and Jeanne Hanson. Talk about the nicest people, they are very knowledgeable and handy. When they aren’t telling you the interesting histories behind any object in the store, they are reparing antiques and furniture. What started as a love for scouting out goods at garage sales and junk shops, Mrs. Jeanne retired from her repping job to create her own “Garage Sale Shop”, which of course holds higher end antiques as well. There are several vendors, including John, a kind man who specializes in restoring and reparing lamps, some of which he sells along with various Mid Century Modern goodies. That’s the beauty of this place, its a great mix of old and older, different styles and periods… eclecticism at its finest!
I walk in and I get the most amazing vibes from this place. Its as if you’ve discovered your own personal island and it is full of treasures that have been waiting there just for you to find. I’ve been into several antique and thrift stores, but there’s something special about the hodge-podge arrangement of everything, and the way it naturally goes together, that inspires me to do the same in my own spaces. I posted some pictures below, its a beautiful thing to just snap and shoot and know that the composition will be naturally pleasing. And COLORS GALORE, which is ALWAYS good!

David Hicks once said, “The best rooms also have something to say about the people who live in them.” Its a wonderful feeling to walk into a home, or a shop for that matter, and just know its personality right away. At Aladdin’s, its quite evident- it has a life, soul, and huge heart that LOVES those little objects in life that bring us joy.
Store Hours: Monday thru Saturday, 10:00-5:30. 225-336-0969 for more info!
p.s.- Now that I’ve shared my favorite thrifting spot and finds with you, send some pics of your favorite finds and some stories along with them! We’d love to hear from you and will post them in an upcoming article! Email me at, looking forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

One Order of Googie, Comin' Right Up!

In the world of “Big Box” buildings, strip malls, and new construction that looks like it could be pushed down with a running start, a nostalgic feeling overwhelms me. I’m only 23, but my old soul wants to turn up the Sinatra and daydream of being in the optimistic 1950s, sitting in my perfectly decorated living room, (which would look something like this, by the way), waiting to be picked up by my gorgeous boyfriend (in a car that looks like this, and he would definitely look something like this), where he’d take me on the date of my dreams.
Guess where?
A perfectly designed architectural treasure, a Googie Diner, of course!
Alas, dreams do come true! Lucky for us there are a few specimens of this dying breed of beauty left in the world of architecture. And now that I have your mouth watering for more, here are some tasty examples.
First, lets go to Norm’s Restuarant in Los Angeles, CA. You can’t miss the sign, an icon of sorts that penetrates the skyline with its five white boomerangs and space age orange letters. Inside is even better.

Or maybe you prefer the neon glow of Pann’s sign, a beacon of hot pink and orange hope leading you to its roof of jutting lines and its plate glass walls; inside you’ll find a long red bar lined with white vinyl stools, and you’ll smell its famous fried chicken still being served up today.

Sadly, when the high times of optimism which inspired the look of Googie architecture died, out came the bulldozers driven by a new generation. We have lost some of our Googie treasures, but the look is coming back big time. Its that same nostalgia I am feeling lately that’s inspiring the reintroduction of this iconic movement in design. I found some great examples on ebay for space-age lighting and furniture. Here are some pics of current listings I really love.

I absolutely adore Googie architecture not only because of its great space-age look, but also what it represents. Check out the history of Googie Architecture here, and expect more posts in the future! As the boyfriend of my 1950’s daydream would put it, “That’s Amore’!”

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why I Love Paul Frankl !!

My first piece designed by Paul Frankl was the biomorphic ’Cloud Table’. When I purchased it, the original cork top was covered by Formica. I mean, come on - the laminate was glued to the cork! And not with a little bit of white glue but some super-duper industrial strength bonding cement. It was horrific, but I was determined to have the top restored. Look at the picture above- how beautiful are those splayed legs with the hunk of cork on top? Good news first - I got that table perfect again. The bad news? I subsequently sold it - what was I thinking? But it started me on a Paul Frankl high from which I have never come down.
We now have a glorious circular Paul Frankl coffee table and matching rectangular side tables. We have three of his enormous credenza pieces in storage just waiting on a future dream house. And check out the photo below of that great Frankl sideboard in our showroom. I love Paul Frankl’s design. His pieces from the forties look way more stylized and modern than the usual forties suspects. His later pieces are so simple in design, but so playful and optimistic in feeling. And best of all? He is still an affordable designer - I believe his prices are a bargain compared to his contemporaries from his Brown-Saltman days.
Yes, I admit it - I love Paul Frankl. He was a brilliant designer who was the unfortunate victim of some bad luck over the years. His collaboration with David Saltman in the early 1940’s produced some of his most popular and innovative pieces. With the post war economy coming back strong, Frankl’s line for Brown-Saltman sold better than either men anticipated. Over lunch one day they agreed to a long term contract. Saltman was so excited he said “now my worries are over - I have a designer for life - tomorrow I go fishing!”. The next day on his way to a fishing retreat he was killed in a collision on a sharp curve in the road. Frankl, missing his buddy, decided not to continue working with the firm. He never attained the level of success he deserved.
Check out the book written by Christopher Long, an associate professor at University of Texas, titled “Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design”. It is quite a good read. But first, look at these gorgeous Frankl pieces I found on 1stdibs, and enjoy!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Father of Hollywood Regency, Billy Haines...Was a Hollywood Actor

I see it and hear about it everywhere, the sights and sounds of a style that will never grow old to me, because it encompasses a plethora of ideas which, in the end, just want to create a joyful atmosphere. I’m talking about the Hollywood Regency Style! Think about it, why do we go to the movies? What draws us to follow the lives of actors and actresses? We simply long for entertainment, and perhaps a temporary escape from reality.
That glitz and glam can be attained! And right inside our own homes by infusing a few Hollywood Regency elements into the mix. Just be a little rebellious, retro, and risque’, and do something different than the neighbors, which is exactly what the Father of Hollywood Regency Style, William “Billy” Haines, decided to do!

Billy Haines was a popular actor in the early years of Hollywood, working for MGM Studios alongside the likes of Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, and George Burns. He stole hearts on playing romantic leading roles, but ultimately left the big screen to further pursue his love for interior decorating and to live with his lifelong partner and on-the-set stand-in, William Shields.
Haines was known for his lavish parties, and his non-traditional take on decorating caught the eye of many top actors of the day. He soon opened a design studio, using his acting skills to pitch to clients and to sell his unique look. And what a studio it was! Clients instantly saw what his look encompassed: lightness with color and glass walls to break up the heaviness of traditional Hollywood interiors, custom lighting solutions, simple and functional furniture designed with entertaining in mind, and various objects d’art on Lucite bases.

Billy’s unique studio with cork walls and pull-out brass knobs allowed him to easily display fabrics for his clients.

One of his rooms, showcasing a low-profile furniture arrangement with flexiblility and good looks, perfect for entertaining.

His popular “Pull-Up Chair” is still being faithfully replicated by Lindley Associates in Los Angeles, CA, using the original manufacturing facility! Check out more of his designs online here.

One of his most important rooms was his “Desert Living Room” for an exposition in San Francisco, CA in 1939. It was radical even for Haines, as he adopted “American Modernism” into his design solution, slowly transitioning from neo-classicism into modernism. A decade later he opened a new studio and fully adopted the new modernist aesthetic. It is this important fusion of the two styles that we refer to today as the Hollywood Regency Style. And Billy Haines was the first to do it!
Billy was a firm believer in giving a room what the residents needed, and what they felt was necessary. This movement in design gave more power to the owner and filled their needs as opposed to what was trendy at the time. Rooms began to take on a life of their own and reflected the lives of the people who lived in them. He said, “The only real freedom we have left is the Home. Only there can we express anything we want.” Truly, this man was a genius and way ahead of his time because his style is as current and groundbreaking today as it was back then.

After browsing, we found some great pieces in the style of Billy Haines.

From top to bottom here are the links:
1. Quotient
2. Dragonette, Ltd.
3. glo
I highly suggest checking out for wonderful inspiration when trying to achieve the Hollywood Regency look, or pick up the 2005 Class Act: William Haines Legendary Hollywood Decorator on Amazon here.

Genevieve Addison