Monday, August 31, 2009

The Classic Mid-Century Designs of Milo Baughman

Though perhaps not as well known as other Mid-Century furniture designers like Pierre Paulin, Mies van der Rohe, George Nelson, or Alvar Aalto, Milo Baughman’s modern and gorgeous furniture creations made a huge design impact and continue to be an important contribution to the world of furniture design.

Baughman was born in Kansas in 1923, but moved with his family to Long Beach, California not long after. While many designers first start their design careers by attending school, Baughman’s design origin was a bit more unusual. When he was thirteen, his family built a new house, and he was presented with the daunting job of designing the exterior and interior! Obviously enjoying the task, he discovered his unique passions and talents at design. Even while later enlisting and serving in the army, Baughman found a way to incorporate design, often charged with decorating officer’s clubs. After the army, Baughman finally decided to get a formal education and enrolled in the California Institute of the Arts in product and architectural design.

His first official design job was as an interior designer and custom furniture designer for a store called Frank Brothers Furniture. He quickly got noticed for his brilliant modern creations, and the store soon became famous for its modern offerings. Also soon after graduation, he started a publication with a fellow designer, Georgia Christensen, called “Furniture Forum”. In 1947, after already achieving much, he decided to strike out on his own with Milo Baughman Design Inc.

Almost right off the bat, Baughman started working with other furniture manufacturers on designs, like Glenn of California and Pacific Iron, both prominent companies of that era. Soon Baughman would be collaborating with many other famous furniture companies like Mode Furniture, Calif-Asia, Murray Furniture of Winchendon, Woodard, Arch Gordon, George Kovacs, Directional, The Inco Company, and Henredon and Drexel.

In 1953, he began his most important and long lasting (50 years) collaboration with the company Thayer Coggin Inc., who are still in business today. Though he made many high-quality designs for Thayer Coggin some of his most recognizable are 1962’s 951-103 chair, the 820-400 chaise from 1954, the 989-103 Lounge Chair, and 955-304 Sofa.

While he often worked with walnut, iron and Formica materials, his furniture designs are varied and not easily categorized. Baughman often said that “furniture that is too obviously designed is very interesting, but too often belongs only in museums.” He aimed to create good, quality designs that could be enjoyed by a wide range of tastes. Seeing as his designs are still popular today, it would seem he succeeded.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Design Blogger Profile: Jane Freiman of Atticmag!

Today’s design blogger focus is Jane Freiman of the great blog Atticmag. Featuring a wealth of home design and d├ęcor advice with a healthy smattering of kitchen advice and even a few design quizzes, Atticmag focuses on bringing simple, smart ideas to you in a clean and fresh format. Formally a newspaper editor, magazine editor, art gallery worker, and cookbook author out of New York, Freiman first got the idea for the blog when she was doing some home renovation of her own. Though Atticmag focuses on many aspects of design, Freiman’s deep background in food writing and even cooking (she even has a certificate in Culinary Arts from Luberon College in Avignon, France), has made kitchen design and inspiration a huge part of the blog. We asked Jane a few questions about her blog, and she provided some great answers:

I see that you started a blog after renovating your own house. Did you find there was a lack of resources for inspiration out there?
In my case, my husband fell in love with the property. But the house, oh my, it was a 13-year-old center hall colonial that was so sad. We both loved the setting but we had just lost out on a 50's style ranch that would have been perfect—the style I grew up with in California. But, it was not to be. We decided we could change the house but not the stream in the back, or the big old trees, or the 200 year old stone walls, or the unusual elliptical lawns in the front and back. I have an innate love of antiques and vintage so I felt that the only way the house would work for me was to age it to look like an older, renovated house vs a newish build. Meanwhile, I began collecting inspiration photos of various rooms and houses I liked and book marking sources I found. That collection of photos—kitchen photos in particular—was the basis for Atticmag and my whole idea for a younger, more modern magazine with accessible ideas—eventually what Domino became but not quite as sweet. I have been a magazine and newspaper editor for more than 20 years, as well as a James Beard award winning cookbook author, so doing my own venture came very naturally. Of course, I knew nothing about blogging and this has been quite a wonderful education and a way to grow and learn new things.

What's a typical reader of your blog like? What are they looking to gain from reading your site?
I think a typical reader of Atticmag is FDO—fairly design obsessed. Some readers are touring or viewing, the way you do when you go on a house tour, or window shop, or go to a museum or gallery. Some are trying to figure out their own style or refine it and looking for visual ideas—just the right thing to buy. Others are looking for practical ways to make what they have work. We want to offer a little something for all of those people. And, of course, we also indulge in what we love ourselves.

What's in store for the future? We have so much news this week!
First, is that we have a new contributor, Anne, who is a virtual artist. Tomorrow, my partner Jane T, who's a rug expert (there are four of us now -- two of us named Jane, Allison and Anne) teamed up with Anne to do virtual makeovers based on changing rugs. She shows how the change of floor covering can impact everything else in the room. We also are starting to offer advertising very soon and we hope potential advertisers will contact us and inquire about coming on board. We post new content six days a week and sometimes seven. We hope people will drop by every day and get to know us and tell us what they think of what we're showing and what they want to see as well. We also recently added recipes and love linking up with food blogs, as well. It's logical because we have more than 200 hand-picked photos of kitchens we love in a variety of styles and colors on Atticmag. So food is a natural partner for kitchens that work.

And finally, what's your favorite part about running/writing a blog about home design?
My favorite part about running the blog is working with Jane T and Allison and Anne and of course being able to show beautiful things all the time. It's rarely sad and it's so much fun to see how happy and contented people can be when you are able to show them something that makes them feel more peaceful and happy in their homes. Also, I am besotted by working online and work very hard at learning everything I can about this emerging culture that is changing our lives so quickly. I love being part of it every day.

One of our favorite things about Atticmag (despite the awesome content) is how organized the site is. Divided into carefully thought out categories, you can read articles about collecting, antiques and other interests to choose very specific inspiration posts like “farm kitchen sinks” or “lavender kitchens.” Along with simple inspiration posts, you can also view video posts, house tours, interviews and much more. And, we’re proud to announce that Swank Lighting was recently featured on Atticmag (so they clearly know good stuff when they see it)!

Thanks Jane, for answering some of our questions, and thanks for featuring Swank Lighting! Don't forget to check out all the gorgeous lamps at Swank Lighting's website!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Flickr Features: Weird and Crazy Table Lamps!

When we think of a table lamp, we probably all get a pretty similar picture in our minds. Perhaps of a simple lamp base with a neutral colored lamp shade sitting on top, right? While lamp bases and lamp shades vary wildly across the board, did you know that the idea of a table lamp varies pretty wildly, too? We've collected some fun Flickr photos today that represent items that are table lamps...but something else, also. You could call this a collection of weird and crazy table lamps, if you will:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This Week's Top 5 Favorite 1stdibs Items: Autumn Hues!

Here in Texas, it's been blistering hot this summer. Over 100 degrees, fry-eggs-on-the-sidewalk hot. But these past few days, though the temperature has remained high, there's been the slightest hint of the Fall season coming. Just a faint smell, a bit of a breeze and a slight change in the leaf color---but it's enough to give us hope! In honor of our favorite season (and perhaps even to hurry it along) we've chosen among 1stdibs' newest listings today some gorgeous Autumn-colored items. When combined, they'd be sure to create a Fall wonderland in your home!

1) Pair of Sculptural Lounge Chairs
Oh we love these two lounge chairs by Carlo di Carli. Not only a great Mid-Century shape, the beautiful natural tone of the wood is complimented perfectly by the gorgeous, textured brown fabric of the upholstery. If we were creating an Autumn-colored room, we'd start with this pair. Price: contact dealer
Lobel Modern, Inc.

2) Brazilian "Cercadinho" credenza
This credenza also comes in a great streamlined, modern shape just like the chairs, but its finish offers a gorgeous array of wood colors, making it a beautiful and natural decorative piece. The striped woods evoke the feeling of a gorgeous, Autumn-hued forest. Just beautiful.
Price: $14,000
R Gallery

3) 19th Century Coxcomb Quilt
With Autumn colors comes a bit of a chill in the air, and what better way to create the feeling of warm comfort in your home than with a lovely Fall-colored quilt? We love this antique quilt with its great vintage pattern and gorgeous Autumn colors. And what a price!
Price: $975
Steven Sclaroff

4) Industry and Agriculture, WPA carved oak panels
From the 1930s, this carved oak wall panel is great example of evoking Autumn by using a symbol most associated with the season: the harvest. It doesn't hurt that this panel's wood is a rich, golden Autumn hue perfect for complimenting other Fall-colored home decor items.
Price: $15,000
Renaissance Man Antiques

5) Pair Venini Sconces
These lights are bit luxurious for a room centered around such a natural season, but we couldn't resist including these gorgeous, Amber-colored glass sconces from 1935. Not only would their unlighted color be a perfect match for an Autumn-colored room, when lit, they would give the space around them an awesome warm glow.
Price: $21,295
Lorin Marsh

Don't forget to check out the rest of this week's listings from 1stdibs, where you can find more fabulous, one-of-a-kind show-stopping pieces, as well as a number of other great pieces!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Perfect Pair: A Ribbon Chair and Vintage Murano!

Pierre Paulin’s design for the Ribbon Chair is one of our favorite modern designs to date. Created at a time when modern design ideals were springing up everywhere, there’s just something about Paulin’s work that seemed to stand out above the rest. His Ribbon Chair is a great example of a modern piece of furniture, but with a stunningly simple design. We love the curved, organic shape of its edges, and the unique cut out in the middle makes for a surprise. The sturdy, masculine base is a good balance to the upholstered part, but doesn’t detract for the overall look of the piece. In a dark, heather gray, this chair highlights its unusual shape and could be used as an addition to any style room, without standing out too much.

We’d pair Paulin’s Ribbon Chair with an equally unique set of lamps. Swank Lighting’s Seguso Blue and Green Vintage Murano lamps with controlled bubbles and fins are a favorite choice to go with a modern chair like Paulin’s because they features lots of modern details, but don't immediately stand out as too futuristic or too modern. With a relatively simple overall outline, the lamp surprises with the fins on the bottom of the piece, which really give the lamps some personality. We also like how on the lamps the bases don't detract from the glass, similar to the Ribbon Chair's unassuming base. Combined with two gorgeous colors that gracefully fade into each other, an emerald green and cobalt blue, these lamps give off an air of elegance.

Combined as a vignette or placed in the same room, Paulin’s Ribbon Chair and Swank Lighting’s Seguso Vintage Murano lamps would go together because they both have a seemingly simple appearance at first glance, but then slowly reveal exquisite details as you examine them. The deep, earthy colors of the pair of lamps would absolutely pop next to the heather gray of the chair, and the two styles would meld together nicely to create quite the pair! Can't afford a Ribbon Chair but still want to recreate the look? Match up Swank Lighting's lamps with another modern chair with simple, curved lines and muted color fabric.

You can see last week's Perfect Pair where we brought together Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Chair and a pair of Rock Candy lamps. Be sure to check out all of Swank Lighting's new lamp selections.

The photo of the Ribbon Chair was taken from

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Japanese-Inspired Creations of George Nakashima!

Last week we brought you the profile of George Nelson, one of the most important designers of the Mid-Century and a creator most known for his large, modern bubble lamps. Today we’d like to bring you another important George, this one with the last name of Nakashima. A woodworker, architect and furniture maker, some consider Nakashima to be the father of the American Craft movement.

Born in 1905 in Spokane, Washington, Nakashima, a Japanese American, started his career in design by studying architecture at the University of Washington, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1929. Not done with studies just yet, he eventually attended M.I.T. earning a Master’s degree in architecture in 1931. Though many ambitious young men may have jumped right into a career, Nakashima bought a train ticket around the world, eventually visiting such places as France, North Africa and Japan. Japan’s architecture and designs had quite the effect on the young, impressionable architect. Meeting up and working with an American architect living there, Antonin Raymond, Nakashima would have his first experience in furniture making while working on a project for Raymond’s company.

After his trip around the world, Nakashima ended up in Seattle in 1940 making furniture and teaching the art, where early on he exhibited both a passion and an immense talent for woodworking. The time period was a dangerous one for Japanese Americans, though, and Nakashima ended up being interned during the Second World War. It was there, however, that he met Gentaro Hikogawa, a Japanese furniture expert. Remembering his love and admiration for the Japanese designs he saw while in the country, he began to study under Hikogawa not just the design principles of the Japanese, but also how to use traditional Japanese woodworking tools and how to master the complicated and awe-inspiring tradition of Japanese joinery techniques, which are a way of combining wood pieces without using nails or glue.

Eventually, Raymond was able to sponsor Nakashima’s release from the camp, and brought him to Pennsylvania to make furniture in a studio with him. Working on design projects and commissioned pieces, Nakashima’s talent, skills and recognition grew quickly, and he was soon recognized for the immense talent that he was. Perhaps the largest commission of his career, Nakashima was once chosen to create over 200 pieces of furniture for Nelson Rockefeller’s New York state home. Some of Nakashima’s famous pieces are the Concordia Chair, the Conoid Host Chair and the Conoid Bench, but his most well-known designs are probably his tables, which often featured massive pieces of smooth wood tops with organic, rough edges placed on modern legs.

With his unique take on modern design ideals, mixed in with his appreciation and inspiration of Japanese traditions, Nakashima’s body of work was wholly unique and incredibly important to the history of modern furniture design. He would go on to win many AIA awards as well as the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor and Government of Japan in 1983.

You can visit 1stdibs for many more photographs of Nakashima's gorgeous woodwork, and while there, be sure to check out some of the newest listings of Swank Lighting's products, too!