Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This Week's Top 5 Favorite 1stdibs Items: Mid-Century Modern Desks!

Whether you work from home or travel each day to an office for work, you probably need a desk of some sort to conduct your tasks. Just because a desk is for work doesn't mean it can't be good-looking! We've gathered some great looking desks of the Mid-Century Modern variety out of today's newest 1stdibs listings. Simple, with great lines and a lot of style, these desks just might help you do better work!

1) Desk by Osvaldo Borsani for Tecno
From the 1960s, this Italian Mid-Century Modern desk not only looks good, it features quite the fancy details! It is composed of two pivoting elements, each with 3 drawers, which allows you to arrange this desk how you need and like it. You can even keep things interesting by changing the arrangement every few weeks.
Price: $6,857
1stdibs Paris

2) Alain Richard Custom Order Mahogany Executive Desk
French and from the 1950s, this desk is such a great simple example of a typical executive desk, it's almost iconic. Quite spacious with lots of drawers for storage, it also features a desktop that overhangs longer on one side to allow for an extra person to work if needed.
Price: $4,800
Galerie Sommerlath

3) Robsjohn-Gibbings desk
From 1950, this desk is a simple, compact, light and cheery desk, perfect for those who don't need a lot of space to work or just like a nice, uncomplicated desk. We love the lopsided feel of the desk---it gives it interest. The tapered one leg on the side has a great Mid-Century feel to it and the simple drawer pulls aren't distracting.
Price: $6,500
Pascal Boyer Gallery

4) Desk attributed to Ico Parisi
Another Italian Mid-Century Modern desk, this piece features all sorts of stylish details, from the organically shaped legs and supports, to the simple and fluted drawer fronts to its great green original Formica top.
Price: contact dealer
Caira Mandaglio

5) A "Diplomat" desk by Finn Juhl
This piece comes from Denmark from the 1960s, and is made of Rosewood and aluminum details. We love that it has such a retro, office-feel and like all the simple Danish details that are still quite evident. A great addition to an office of any style!
Price: $5,400
NOHO Modern

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, September 29, 2009

A Perfect Pair: An Egg Chair and Iridescent Swank Lamps!

After researching Arne Jacobsen’s wonderful furniture pieces for yesterday’s Designer Influence, we couldn’t help but fall in love with one of his pieces. Doing a quick scan of Swank Lighting’s website proved that there was a perfect pair and a perfect match!

After featuring a cabinet last week, we’re back in love with chairs, and this time it's this leather Egg Chair of Arne Jacobsen. Also a prolific architect, Jacobsen produced many of his iconic furniture pieces for his famed Radisson SAS Hotel in Copenhagen, among them, the Egg Chair. While this 1stdibs dealer isn’t sure whether this particular chair was made for the hotel, he can promise that it was one of the earlier models, due to the seat cushion being intrinsic to the chair (later models saw a separate seat cushion). Whatever this chair was made for, we don’t really care, because just look at it---it was made to go in any space! We are in love with the worn, leather look on this modernly-shaped chair. What an interesting and dynamic combination, don’t you think? The leather lends a bit of masculinity to the chair, wher eas the curved and organic shape feels feminine. This particular Egg Chair is definitely a successful study in contradictions.

With it, we would pair this stunning set of Swank Lighting lamps, the Iridescent Clear Crystal Murano Lamps in Sleek Sculptural Style, which are from Swank's new Contemporary Murano line currently being imported from Italy. These lamps are over-the-top luxurious, featuring many crystal details that give them a great texture. A clear color, but with an iridescent finish, the lamps are at once neutral, but also refusing to sit in the background. With a tall, cylindrical shape barely containing the great irregular shapes of the crystals, these lamps are a bit of a contradiction themselves.

Together, the Arne Jacobsen leather Egg Chair and Swank Lighting Crystal Murano Lamps make for a dynamic and unexpected combination. The leather chair brings both masculinity and modernity, whereas the lamps bring unbridled femininity and a sassy Hollywood Regency feel. Instead of fighting each other, the lamps and chair heighten each other’s commonalities, making for a gorgeous composition fitting for either a Mid-Century Modern or Hollywood Regency styled room. The power of this combination of décor pieces could even be enough to create an entire space on the premise of mixing two seemingly opposite styles: modern and luxurious.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Iconic Danish Designs of Arne Jacobsen!

We don’t talk much about Danish Modern design here on the Swank Lighting blog, and that’s a darn shame. This style of furniture, architecture and interiors is gorgeous and has played a huge role in shaping other styles around the world, especially American Modernism. Today we bring you the work of Arne Jacobsen, one of the leading Danish designers of his time and a big hit in today’s homes still.

Like many other important designers, Arne was well known for being involved in every aspect of his design projects. Trained in architecture, he worked both as an architect and a furniture designer, but he is overwhelmingly famous for his furniture designs, which many consider to be some of the most important furniture designs of the century.

Born in 1902 in Copenhagen, he spent some time as a stonemason before studying architecture at the Kongelige Danske Kunstakademie in Copenhagen until the year 1927. Next up for Jacobsen was a stint in the architecture office of architect Paul Holsoe. It didn’t take long for Jacobsen to open his own practice though, and he soon began one in Hellerup in 1929.

Even when he was in school, he was winning awards for his furniture design. Many of his designs, with easy to remember names, have since become iconic. In 1952 he created the Ant Chair, with its signature “pinched” back resembling an ant, and able to stack, making it quite functional. In 1958 he designed the Swan Chair, which was a soft and organically shaped chair. That same year he came out with the Egg Chair, with its soft frame, high back and decidedly egg-shaped seating space. The next year saw the Pot Chair, which was a low-backed and circular shaped seat and the Giraffe Chair, which had a long, narrowing back and a very graceful shape. His most iconic seat, though, was his Model 3107 chair, also known as the Number 7 Chair. With a simple, stacking shape, the Number 7 chair takes its name from the simple curves of the back.

While you still see Jacobsen’s furniture in today’s interiors, Jacobsen did contribute to the architecture world as well, perhaps known for the Radisson SAS Hotel in Copenhagen. So ensconced with design Jacobsen had a say in everything in the interior, from curtains, to cutlery to even the ashtrays. Often called futuristic, and ahead of his time, his designs not only helped usher in the International Style and modernism into America, they were even featured in movies about the future, like 2001 A Space Odyssey. Simple, organic but extremely relevant, Jacobsen’s high quality work is well-deserving of its iconic status.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Design Blogger Profile: Emily Johnston of Material Girls!

For today’s Design Blogger focus we bring you one of the talented ladies of the great blog Material Girls. And talk about perfect timing, the Material Girls blog celebrates its 2nd anniversary today! Congratulations guys! We asked Emily Johnston, Material Girls founder and the writer for the Dallas city page, how she came up with idea for the blog and what her favorite part of being a design blogger is. We also picked her brain for some design tips:

Where did the idea behind Material Girls start? When did the blog begin?
Well, it was actually my boyfriend who suggested that I start a design blog back in September 2007—so I definitely owe a lot to him! The blog’s original name was “Dear Designer” and it started as a general design blog (not categorized by cities). I never thought anyone would read the blog and mainly started it as a creative outlet for myself. A few months later, Lauren (our Houston blogger) started blogging for Dear Designer also. I went to design school with Lauren at The University of Oklahoma and our design styles were so in sync and we got along so well, that it felt only natural to blog together! About a year later, we decided to expand Material Girls into different cities, as we felt that we couldn’t cover the local content ourselves and big interior design cities such as Chicago, LA and New York needed more exposure on our blog! Jill (LA) joined our blog in September ’08, Julia (Chicago) in November ’08 and Hilary (NY) in April ’09.

I like that you give out interior design information and tips from the perspective of your love of materials. Are you a details person or a big picture person?
Personally, I am a details person. I tend to be more of a perfectionist and end up focusing on all of the little things in a room. I think that you need all of the interesting little things in order to create a fascinating “big picture”. Adding in intricate patterns, textures, materials and accessories to a room really give it its character and helps it all come together. It’s definitely the little things that count!

What's a typical reader of your blog like? What are they looking to gain from reading your site?
We find that about 90% of our blog readers are women between the ages of 18 and 44. Homeowners, designers, architects, magazine editors, artists—you name it. There is definitely a wide range of people who read our blog, but they all seem to have one thing in common—they love a beautiful space. I think people are looking to gain design ideas, inspiration, tips, and “eye candy” in general from our site. There are so many fascinating interiors and home products out there, which is why reading design blogs is so interesting. I have a handful of design blogs that I am addicted to myself!

What's your best advice for people who are afraid to experiment with different materials, patterns, and textures?
A lot of clients can’t envision the end results of a room just by looking at a busy piece of fabric. They need to see the big picture. I will often make design boards for a client that shows the complete design of the space. This way, they can see where each fabric will go and can start to envision the outcome of the design. Usually, after they see the total picture and how it all makes sense, they aren’t as afraid to experiment with unique fabrics!

Have you ever tackled a project and it turned out a failure?
No comment…ha. I wouldn’t say that any of my projects have been a complete failure; I am usually pretty happy with them…but I definitely have regrets on some projects—things that I would have done differently. But I guess all you can do is live and learn!

What's your biggest/best interior design project success?
I think you are most successful when the client ends up loving the end results. You want them to be happy with the finished design and also to feel comfortable within their own home. Their own home needs to be a reflection of themselves—not a reflection of their designer.

What's in store for the future for the Material Girls blog?
Within the next year, we hope to add another city to our blog. I have one city in mind, which has been on my radar for a while now and I think they just have so much to offer design-wise that it would be a shame not to blog about it! We also hope to do more with our weekly newsletter, “The Weekender.”

And finally, what's your favorite part about running/writing a blog about home design?
My favorite part about running a design blog is the people that you encounter each and every day. There are so many talented people who live all over the world, which I have gotten to virtually “meet” through our blog. Now I just wish they lived closer so we could share ideas in person!

Thanks, Emily!

And, you can also check out some of the previous design bloggers we’ve profiled, like Tina Roth Eisenburg of Swiss Miss, Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge, Jane Freiman of AtticMag, Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind, Anh Minh Le of and Holly Becker of Decor8.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Turned Wood Lamp Photos!

We promised a few more photos of Amy Grigg's great work today, and here you are! Two gorgeous examples of the wonderful and organic wood lamps Swank Lighting will now be selling!

Keep checking back to the blog for more information and for more photos!

Announcing Turned Wood Lamps from Amy Grigg!

While we’ve been offering you some of the most gorgeous vintage Murano, contemporary glass and even rock and mineral lamps since the beginning, we’re proud to announce we’re adding another wonderful material to our catalog: wood! Working in conjunction with talented and bright craftswoman Amy Grigg, we’re happy to give you a taste of the new line of Swank Lighting turned wood lamps we will soon be debuting!

Bringing a warm and gorgeous wooden aesthetic to lamp bases, Grigg’s work also offers a wonderful environmental element to the line: using responsibly harvested woods, sustainable materials and natural dies, you can be sure that these products are both good-looking and green. We asked Grigg some questions to help us explain the new line as well as to discover more about the other great woodwork Grigg creates:

Were you always creative?
Pretty much always. I loved to draw and play with building toys even as a kid. I was a perfectionist from the start, coloring in the lines was an obsession and I would sort my Lite Bright, or Legos, or blocks into like color piles before using them. I have also always loved to be in the woods ever since I was young which connects me to the material on a deep level even today. My relationship with nature is the wellspring from which my passion for working with wood comes. When I first connected with wood as a medium it was more of an object with properties that needed to be learned. Wood was a raw material and I was eager to play with it without giving much thought to it's source.

Then as time went on and I got more into wood turning my relationship to the material totally shifted. Instead of buying lumber from a dealer , (which is still a lot of fun - like finding diamonds in the rough) - I could grab a log off the ground and make something out of it. Suddenly I could be making something out of the tree that my neighbor had felled the day before. A tree that I had enjoyed for its beauty, its shade, its changing colors. A tree that took in my out breath and gave back my in breath. We were one and using its wood, its body, was a continuation of the relationship. Woodworking has become a spiritual exercise for me, a meditation. There is a trinity at work at all times. There is the tool, the wood, and my influence. There are a seeming infinite number of relationships at work between these three at all times. (but that is a book unto itself). If I let an element of the trinity go without attention, danger ensues.

Are your parents creative?
Growing up my mom liked to do needle point and crochet. My dad was more of the artist with his drawing and painting and woodworking and stained glass. I am much like him. He was very inspirational and supportive. I was so curious about what he was creating and he would let me make my own project even if it involved tools. He would teach me the rules of safety and then trust me. It gave me great confidence at a young age. There was never a question of me being a girl and not being able to use the tools. I still encounter people who are continually taken aback that, as a woman, I know what I am doing (I have some funny stories about this) but my dad gave me confidence from the start that I am no less than anyone else. That was a great gift.

When did you first realize you might want to do something creative for a living?
That's hard to pin down. I have been very non-committal about future plans my whole life, still am. I suppose in high school when I had to make some kind of decision I chose art school. I was also fascinated by psychology, but that seemed too academic so I went with the only other interest I had and was good at. I know that sounds lame, but it's true.

I see you went to Paier College of Art, were you interested in woodworking then?
At Paier I majored in Illustration. I was a realistic oil painter and had a brief run as an illustrator. I was quite successful there winning many awards both locally and nationally. Paier didn't offer wood work, or even sculpture. It is a very small school. I didn't know what I was missing. My focus was two dimensional, but looking back I always knew something was missing. There was so much effort put into something that at best would hang on a wall or be printed on a page. Later I would find out that I love having my senses engaged, and I love it when other people can interact with the finished product in a tactile way.

When did wood really become the medium you work in?
Wood became a passion for me in 2001. I was asked to help out a local woodworker who needed a hand. He had heard that I had some basic skills (common sense carpentry I used to build loft beds, work benches, platforms, etc). I took a part time job with him that ended up lasting a few years. That was where I discovered exotic and domestic hardwoods. The mere introduction to this medium sparked a blaze in me that is still burning strong. I bought any book and magazine I could get a hold of to learn all about tools, techniques, you name it. I was constantly studying. It was as if I put myself through school. In 2003, I bought my own machinery and began selling my work---mainly jewelry boxes and cutting boards, selling wholesale to craft galleries throughout the US and Canada.

How would you describe your style?
My style is plain to see. Weather I make a book, (I made hand bound books for a few years) a box or a painting. The style is the same: simple, clean, highly polished to a refined finish. Craftsmanship is paramount, and giving the natural material it's stage to shine. As far as interiors, art and fashion I will have to admit that none of the above are a main focus of mine. I keep my world small and simple—just the basics. If I were to choose a style from magazines I clearly am drawn again toward clean, simple, contemporary. I can appreciate people's love of ornate, but it is not my taste. Greene and Greene, Stickley, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mark Rothko come to mind initially.

Where do you come up with the ideas for your designs?
What's your creative process?The process will vary depending on the project. Sometimes it starts with a particular piece of lumber and the design is built to best display the wood. Sometimes I am in the mood to sketch and then with pen and paper I will use shapes and shading to bring forth the foundation of a design. Sometimes I revert back to playing with blocks and then some scraps off the shop floor will become ways of relating directly with proportion, contrast, color, size etc.

What's the hardest thing about woodworking?
I suppose the dust and the noise are a bit of a drawback. Also it can be trying to be an artist. Making due financially and sticking to my guns creatively can be a trying exercise.

The most rewarding?
This answer is difficult. The way I feel about working with wood is intense. It is like asking what is most rewarding about being with the love of your life. I dream about wood nightly. No joke. It is more than what I do; it has become a part of who I am and how I relate to the world. Like I said above, it has become a spiritual practice for me. The reward is a constant. It is with me whether I am working or resting. The reward is the relationship itself. If I were unable to ever work wood again, the reward would still be there.

Talk a little bit about what you'll be doing for Swank Lighting.
I am creating a line of wooden lamps for Swank. I am profoundly grateful for having been asked to work with Ed and Doug. They are selling lamps of an established style and quality that is the perfect complement to my work. I couldn't have dreamed up a better scenario. I am working out four basic designs to start. We will offer a variety of wood species within those designs. From there we will see what develops. To start we are producing simple, clean, elegant design of the highest quality work. I know that sounds general, but you will have to see what comes about. Heck, even I am curious.

There are a lot of great eco-friendly elements to your work, could you go into more detail?
As far as working with wood goes, considerations are made in the harvesting of the wood I use. Much of the wood I buy is from small local lumber dealers. With the exotic woods I use, the wood is harvested in a way that does least damage possible. Sustained yield harvesting is what I look for when I buy exotics. After the wood is here in my shop, nothing is wasted. What I can't manage to use is offered to woodworker friends or used as fuel for heat.

What are the other media you work in, and how do they affect your woodworking designs?
Right now I am not actively working in other media. I am consumed. That which affects my wood working design is all around me. I don't know what doesn't affect my design. I am influenced by an old wooden fence and a shiny new sports car zooming by. I am influenced by all of life and I marvel at it all.

Lastly, what does the future hold for your art?
If I know anything it is that I don't know anything about what the future holds for my art or otherwise. I mean this is a positive way. It involves faith and willingness to adapt and change to what my curiosity brings. I am surrendered to what life brings. All I insist upon is that I enjoy my work and the people I work with. It is important to me to listen to the intuitive call that has lead me this far. Circumstances and people are swept out of my life as quickly as they come into it. I have today and so far, I am amazed.

Thanks Amy! Stay tuned to the blog in the very near future for more photos of this amazing upcoming line. We'll also post some more photos of the wood-turned lamps as soon as we get them!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This Week's Top 5 Favorite 1stdibs Items: Geometric Designs!

Over here at Swank Lighting, we're always keeping our eyes peeled for the best and newest trends in home decor. A trend we've been spying a lot recently is the trend of geometric furnishings. Furniture pieces, art and accessories that have a very distinct, geometric-feel to them are both modern-looking and precise. Grouped together or combined with more organic, softer furnishings, the geometric trend is something everyone can experiment with in their home! Check out these great examples we found on 1stdibs's newest listings today:

1) Wrought Iron Settee
You wouldn't think this fabulous modern settee is from the year 1949, but designer Darrell Landrum was obviously before his time when he crafted this great piece. We particularly love the way the structural elements become design elements reminiscent of the geodesic dome shape. The outline of the piece would really make an impact in a space.
Price: $7,500
Full House

2) Brass Double Framed Mirror In the Style Of Pierre Cardin
From the 1970s, the brass finish might seem a bit old-fashioned, but that's overshadowed by the great geometric details, such as placing the square on its side creating a diamond, and the shape being accentuated due to the double frame detail. Beautiful and functional!
Price: $3,750
Assemblage Ltd.

3) Modernist Brass Ball Shaped Wall Sconces
Italian and from the 1950s, these wall sconces are all about the sphere, a rather important geometric shape. Curved, organic and yet very modern, they'd make a great addition to a wall. The fact that they light up makes them functional, as well!
Price: contact dealer
Galerie Van Den Akker

4) Chrome Cityscape Cube Table
From one of our favorite designers, Paul Evans, comes another pieces from his "Cityscape" series. This time a very modern, very shiny cube table. There's no denying the geometric quality of this table, but we also love its high-gloss appeal. We could easily see this table being a transitional piece and going with a lot of different styles.
Price: contact dealer
Todd Merrill Antiques

5) Hollywood Regency Fire Surround
From the 1940s, this great fire place surround or mantle reminds us of one of the oldest geometric designs ever: the Greek key motif. Big, white and quite stunning, this would be a show stopper in a space and set a great geometric tone for the rest of the room!
Price: $1,800
ABC Modern

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!