Friday, October 23, 2009

Dining By Design Pre-Event at Gump’s October 22, 2009

Barbara and I have been on the steering committee for Dining by Design in San Francisco for the last couple of years. We have become quite close with some wonderful people on the committee, and our tenure there has proven to be a wonderful source of new friendships. Dining by Design is an event that we are all passionate about as it promotes creativity and serves a wonderful cause.

A window dispplay at the entrance to Gump's which featured tableware and quotes about meals.

Our local San Francisco event benefits the Positive Health Program at SF General Hospital. This program allows people with HIV and AIDS to get treatment on demand, and provides a clinic for those who may not have adequate access to health care.

A detail of Claudia Juestel's table for Adeeni Design Group showing a wrapped box with their signature ribbon.

This year our dear friend Claudia (of SF Luxe) had the idea to have a “Pre-event” at Gump’s, the wonderful San Francisco institution. The title of the event was “The Art of the Table” and featured four prominent San Francisco designers designing tablescapes using their imaginations and Gump’s wonderful merchandise. The four designers who participated were Claudia Juestel of Adeeni Design Group, Martha Angus, Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, and Ken Fulk. The table designs produced were festive, and just the right note to launch this season of Dining by Design. The event culminated in a panel discussion with all the table designers moderated by the marvelous Diane Dorrans-Saeks (of the Style Saloniste, and so much more) which proved to be candid and lively.

Diane Dorrans-Saeks moderating the designer panel with Claudia Juestel and Orlando Diaz-Azcuy.

Barbara and I were happy to meet Katie Denham of katiedid blog. She was lovely and it’s always nice to meet other designers and bloggers in person.

Ken Fulk's table featuring Hermes saddles and scarves as seats.

Gump’s always puts on a lovely event, and the staff is amazing. As an added bonus, one of the sponsors, Hermès had a drawing to win a gift bag (they gave away 10) and my significant other “The Duke” was one of the lucky winners. The bags contained an Hermès neck tie, a small plate in the “Jardin des Orchidèes” pattern, a cookbook, fragrance and a magazine. What a lovely surprise!

The Hermes gift bag spoils.

We’re now less than one month to the actual Dining by Design event in San Francisco. The event will be held on Wednesday November 18th (Table Hop and Taste) and Thursday November 19th (the gala dinner). The event will be held in the Galleria of the Design Center at 101 Henry Adams. Tickets can be purchased on line here.
A table by Martha Angus using antiques and an Ikea rug.

*As a side note: I must apologize for the quality of the photos. My camera broke a day before the event and I was forced to use an “older model”.

David Hansen

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Civility of Country Life Personified

An early image of Althorp in Northamptonshire.

I recently took in an episode of Antiques Roadshow, the television series on BBC America (the English version is the only one going as far as I’m concerned) and for this installment, the show was being filmed at the Althorp Estate (pronounced “Al-trup”) in Northamptonshire, England.

Antiques Roadshow host Fiona Bruce with Charles, The Ninth Earl of Spencer with items from the family estate.

The Antiques Roadshow faithful at Althorp on the back lawn.

Althrop is probably best known as the childhood home, and final resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales. Diana is buried in a classical structure in the middle of an oval lake on the estate, and the stables have been converted into an exhibition of the memory of her life. Althrop is presently owned by Diana’s brother Charles, The Ninth Earl of Spencer, and the home has been in the Spencer family now for over five hundred years.

The resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales, which has been built on an island in the middle of the lake on the Estate.

I was happy to learn of this impressive 14,000 acre estate which seems to have been a result of the family’s hard work from mere sheep farmers to “Landed Gentry”. The Spencer family were sheep farmers since before the time of the Tudors, and through the sale of livestock and commodities, was eventually able to buy Althorp outright and the land has belonged to the family ever since.

An early view of Althorp showing the red brick that would later be overhauled in the 18th century to be more "fashionable".

Over the years the Estate has been host to a number of “characters”, many who seemed to have had a penchant for collecting portraiture and books (this is where my interest was piqued). One comment made about the collection of books was that they were equal to their own “internet”. I have always said that if I were to collect something on a large scale, books would be my first choice.

A view showing the front of the home at Althorp.

In the mid 18th century the Honorable John Spencer, who had inherited the estate at age 12 commissioned Joshua Reynolds to paint family portraits that are now highly prized. He was also responsible for building Spencer House in London, which overlooks Green Park, near Buckingham Palace.

A Neoclassic dream. Spencer House in London circa 1800.

I’ve put Althorp on my list for my next trip to England. My trips to England in the past have focused on London, and I’m anxious to experience the civility of “Country Life” first hand. The estate has a wonderfully informative web site which can be visited here.

David Hansen

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Toast to the Oast – The first in a series on Vernacular Architecture

This will be the first installment of a series on “Vernacular Architecture”.

Oast houses in Kent, England.
I’ve always been fascinated by how people live; what they live in and how they live in it. Since seeing my first windmill in Holland at the tender age of 5 (not to mention learning that people actually lived in them) my curiosity has had the best of me. Certainly many of us can relate to past issues of National Geographic, whose photographs have given us a pictorial essay of life and lifestyles far different than our own.

All roads lead to home. Approaching Wendy and Andy's Oast house in Kent, England.

Wikipidia defines vernacular architecture as follows…“methods of construction which use locally available resources and traditions to address local needs, fitting the needs of an industry or locale. Some styles which I hope to feature in future pieces are the pyramids of Egypt, the Trulli houses of Apulia, Italy, and the cliff dwellings in Turkey, among others.

Roofs of Oast houses in Sissinghurst, England.

This first selection on Oast Houses is fitting as I actually have a family member who resides in one with her husband in a village in Kent, SE England. An Oast House you say? That’s exactly the question I posed when the news broke that they were considering the purchase of one of the same. Believing always that this terribly chic couple would only select something unique and wonderful, I was anxious to learn all about the history of this seemingly magical example of historic English architecture.

The home of my cousin Wendy and her husband in Kent, England.

An Oast is an oven, or kiln, that is used to dry hops which is used in brewing beer. The first structure appeared around the 1750s in Kent near Cranbrook and Tunbridge Wells, SE England and was constructed for the sole purpose of drying hops. Following the harvest, the hops were taken to the Oasts, raked flat and left to dry by means of hot air from a wood or charcoal fired kiln at the bottom of the dwelling. When the drying process was complete, the hops were raked out to cool before being bagged up and sent to the brewery. The conical roofs that you see in these photos made way for the cowls, which allowed the hot air to escape. These cowls turned with the wind, bringing the cool air in, turning with the wind.

A diagram showing how Oast houses were originally used.

As I did have the opportunity to stay with family, I made myself at home in this very spacious abode. With some parts of the house historically intact and in good condition, other rooms such as the kitchen and bathrooms were state of the art, no doubt the work of my cousin, a designer herself.

Another view of Wendy & Andy's Oast house.

The land surrounding the property is extensive, and although the hops industry in this area has now ceased, the once productive fields are now resting. The open space is unbelievably open and gorgeous in its raw beauty.

A look through the proverbial looking glass to Wendy & Andy's Oast house.

That’s it for this piece. Serendipitously, with the proverbial pen to paper, an email popped up with an invitation to travel and the question was posed…“Where would you like to go?” – Maybe those plans should include something in the ‘vernacular’.

Barbara Ashfield

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Destined to Become a Classic?

As a designer I do my best to stay on top of what’s happening in the world of furniture designers and new furniture, although it’s not easy. Many new furniture pieces brought to market have a short shelf life due to lack of sales, costliness, or a perception that the design may be too “avante garde” to actually live with. Some pieces are intentionally produced in limited editions and perceived more as collectible art than rudimentary furnishing.

It looks like a wing chair from the front and is made from Mahogany and traditional caning in "crystalline" forms, the Lui5 designed by Phillipe Bestenheider for Fratelli/Boffi.

The "Ad Hoc" chair designed by Jean-Marie Massaud. A beautiful sculpture, but not the least bit comfortable.
When seeing furniture pieces for the first time I ask myself “Is this destined to be a classic?” Certainly a piece like the “Egg chair” designed by Arne Jacobsen must have seemed like a “flash in the pan” over 50 years ago…right? Whether designers are likely to specify this chair, or whether clients would pay to have it in their home, they still recognize it is an icon and the chair’s distinct lines are instantly recognizable. An instance that comes to mind is the designer Bunny Williams, who placed one of the chairs, married with other more traditional pieces in her room in this year’s Kip’s Bay Show house in New York. It was a welcome addition, and seemed almost conventional in the way it was used.

The now classic "Egg" chair designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958.

The most recent example of a chair that has already attained classic status is the “Louis Ghost chair” designed by Phillipe Starck first sold in 2002. A transparent, post modern version of a classic, which normally has such richness, history and detail associated with it hit just the right nerve in the design world and was embraced on a global level. The chair has proved to work equally well in either a traditional or contemporary context.
The already classic "Louis Ghost chair" designed by Phillipe Starck, and first sold in 2002.
I see chairs quite often that I find interesting, but would never consider using in my design work (some appear in this post). I applaud the creativity of designers and see the making of some “show” pieces as a way to become recognized and then go on to produce other, more approachable work.
The "Peacock" chair designed by Dror Benshetrit for Cappellini.

I find myself drawn time and time again to a handful of designers whose work always seems to resonate with my sensibilities. These designers, in my opinion have what it takes to design a classic piece.
The "Ami" line of seating by Paola Lenti. This seating can be used indoors or out.

My absolute favorite is the Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola. She has had an incredibly prolific career designing for some of the biggest names in modern furniture, such as B & B Italia, Moroso, Molteni and has even designed pieces for Anthropologie. Her work consistently hits the right chord. She has an immense understanding of materials and scale and often references culture and history in new and inventive ways. She is one of the furniture industries current luminaries and doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, and I’m crazy for her!

The "Canasta" line of seating by Patricia Urquiola for B & B Italia with it's oversize caning reference.

Cheap Chic: The line of "High Wire Act" chairs designed by Patricia Urquiola for Anthropolgie at affordable prices.

The "Crinoline" chair with floral accent by Patricia Urqiola. I see a reference to the rattan "Queen" chairs from the 1970s.

I also love the work of John Reeves from England, Paola Lenti and Dror Benshetrit, who designed the “Peacock” chair for Cappellini. These artists have a point of view that, in my opinion will produce pieces worthy of standing the test of time.

The CAS1 bench by British designer John Reeves. This already looks classic to my eye.
This is certainly a subject I could go on about for weeks on end, but I won't. The only question is which chair will become a family heirloom in my home? I will keep you posted!

David Hansen