Monday, March 30, 2009

It's All in the Hand

Recently I have been inspired by the illustrations of the late, great Mark Hampton. Much has been written in the blogosphere about him and as you probably know, Mr. Hampton was an incredibly talented and very prolific designer who sadly passed in 1998. During his career as a “Decorator” (something people used to be proud to be called) he worked for some of the most talented and well-known firms of the day including David Hicks (with whom he was in partnership), Sister Parish and the prestigious McMillen & Co.
Portrait of Mark Hampton by Henry Koehler which graces the back cover of the Legendary Decorators book.

Mr. Hampton wrote two books; Mark Hampton on Decorating, published in 1989, a collection of essays and illustrations largely drawn from his columns in House & Garden magazine and Legendary Decorators of the Twentieth Century (there is that word Decorator again) published in 1992 which profiled everyone who was anyone in the decorating world from Elsie DeWolf and Billy Baldwin to Madeleine Castaing. Sadly, both books are now out of print but widely available from used sources online. I was introduced to the Legendary Decorators book by my business partner Barbara, who had used it as a text when she was studying at the New York School of Interior Design.

An illustration by Mr. Hampton from the On Decorating book which talks about "The Incomparable Reds" *Notice the Modigliani painting reflected in the mirror that belonged to the owner's grandmother.

Both books are filled with grisaille (monochrome) and full color watercolor illustrations done by Mr. Hampton in the most delightful manner. These illustrations give credence to the fact that there is nothing more beautiful than something done by hand. In this age of mobile phones, email and Twitter, it is rewarding to look at something that is clearly not rushed or immediate. It is apparent by looking that these illustrations that it took a great amount of time to convey the feeling of the space in a far superior way than any photograph or computer illustration would allow.

An illustration of the dressing table belonging to Mr. Hamptons wife in their New York residence from the On Decorating book.

An illustration of a room done by the master Billy Baldwin from the Legendary Decorators book showing Baldwin's trademark etageres.

I have only included some of my favorites from the two books here and encourage you to seek out these books and experience the magic or Mr. Hampton’s hand for yourself. I will post more of these fantastic images as part of another post.

David Hansen

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Bit of Sophisticated Fun!

Bonaldo Multi-use Chairs

The Italian company Bonaldo, which was started in 1936, has always been dedicated to experimentation and innovation. Like most Italian furniture companies they are not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to trying new and different approaches to furniture. One of their credos is ”Furnishing items that express design and emotion for the contemporary home”

As part of their range they produce fun, versatile polypropylene chairs that are stackable and have been produced for indoor and outdoor use. These chairs which have the versatility to be used in both commercial and residential applications are, some would say the future of design as they are as affordable as they are beautiful.

Many pieces have been designed in collaboration with Karim Rashid, the international star of Industrial design. Mr. Rashid has worked for numerous clients globally such as Prada, Giorgio Armani, Foscarini, Guzzini, Zanotta, Estee Lauder, and Issey Miyake.

The company’s “Poly” chair which was designed by Mr. Rashid won the prestigious Red Dot award in 2008 for furniture design.

The "Poly" chair

The "Poly" chair in color range shown stacked

Another one of their great designs is the “Viento” which has either a solid or perforated back, and has an amazing range of colors including gold and silver.

The "Viento" chair

The "Viento" chair shown in Silver

Their most recent and notable design, which was introduced in January is the “Giuseppina” chair, which was designed for Bonaldo by Giuseppe Viganò. The “Giuseppina” recalls a paired down “Shaker” style of furniture in it’s simplicity, and moves the idea into the present in a way that the “Louis Ghost Chair” became a modern interpretation of a classic French style.

The “Giuseppina” chair

As always, I have my eye on the Italian design firms to predict the future of contemporary design. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

David Hansen
All photos from

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Touch of Blue

I have had a lifelong love affair with everything “Holland”, and more recently with Delft tiles.

On a trip to Munich in the late 90’s I found myself absolutely mesmerized with the most sumptuous “bath” I’d ever seen. It was a bathing room in the Badenburg Pavilion on the grounds of the Nymphenburg Palace. Imagine an entire room with walls and ceiling all in Delft tile, not to mention the elaborate faucet fixtures in what I am sure was 24k gold. Transom windows were perfectly positioned, allowing the tiles to glisten and sparkle in the sunshine. The bath itself was monstrous in scope… and divine. A large indoor pool if you will, and really out of this world.

Since that time, I’ve ventured out with more practical uses for Delft tiles. In my design “past” before Ashfield Hansen, I’ve used them as a fireplace surround in an East Coast sitting room done ALL in blue and white and as a baseboard in a kitchen room with strong olive green walls. I would love to do a “firebox” in Delft but unless the fireplace was purely decorative, the tiles would only end up with a “sooty” covering, altogether hiding the glorious color. We have yet to design a “bathing pavilion”, but I’m not giving up hope; even if it’s for me.

In my research on Delft tiles, I’ve discovered that … “Delft tiles have been produced in Holland since the 16th century. At the time, the tile culture flourished in The Netherlands and the Delft tiles were used for interior design on a large scale”.

Another point of interest, as for the color, would be that Delft tiles are found most frequently in blue and white. It’s true that the shade of blue influences the ambience of the décor; where pale powdery tints create an airy ethereal or cool mood; deeper values soothing and serene. The brighter blues range from vivid and acid and electric for powerful, playful or dramatic. Dark blue/black shades create an authoritative look for a feeling of dignity, stateliness or polish. I’ve often paired Delft tiles with blue and white Export Porcelain which makes the tiles look even more fabulous… if that’s possible.
Barbara Ashfield