Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Yours Trulli, third in a series on Vernacular Architecture

The Trulli houses (Trullo, singular) of Puglia, Italy are something quite extraordinary. I became enamored with them when I was looking at the region as a possible holiday destination last year. With further research, I was hooked. The Trulli of Alberabello have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they are defined as follows:

“The Trulli, limestone dwellings found in the southern region of Puglia, are remarkable examples of drywall (mortar less) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The Trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighboring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs.”
Looking at the roof of a Trullo from the interior.
An interior of a Trullo house with contemporary bathroom.

“The Committee decided to inscribe the nominated property on the basis of cultural criteria (iii), (iv) and (v) considering that the site is of outstanding universal value being an exceptional example of a form of building construction deriving from prehistoric construction techniques that have survived intact and functioning into the modern world.”
UNESCO web site.
A multitude of Trulli houses.

The Trulli houses were not constructed with blocks of stone but a combination of stones of many shapes and sizes. Piled into rough circular shapes and topped with a key stone upon which all the roof depended in order to stay up. The dwellings are topped off by gleaming white pinacoli (pinnacles), often decorated with symbols painted with lime. Legend has it that they were painted for magical or proprietary rites.
Trulli houses with symbols painted in lime.
Trulli "pinacoli".

For centuries, the Trullo house was typical in this region. As of today, most have been demolished, with the exception of 1,400 in the town of Alberabello.
An original Trullo home from greatbuildings.com

A thriving industry now revolves around the restoration and building of Trulli houses. You can rent a Trullo house, or stay in one, as with Villa Santoro.
A Trulli rooftop landscape.

I know that this will be one of my destinations, that is, of course, after my Windmill.

Barbara Ashfield

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jewelry Makes the Outfit!

In Design School one of the best adages I learned about Interior Design was “A room is like an outfit” and “If a room is like an outfit, then lighting is the jewelry”. I always tried to keep this analogy in mind…It all needs jewelry, but not too much! Of course a crystal chandelier epitomizes this idea of jewelry and traditionally has provided the perfect accent and “sparkle” to beautifully appointed rooms.

A variation on Windfall's "Balance" chandelier featuring topaz crystals available at Moura Starr.

I recently learned about the Windfall Company in Munich, Germany who has gone about re-imagining the idea of a crystal chandelier on a massive scale. They have managed to build a bridge from the past to the 21st Century using the traditional crystal in new ways.

A Windfall concept for a Mosque in Sheffield, England-not realized.

The company is the brainchild of German Clarissa Dorn and Dutch born Roel Haagmans. Both parties brought a vast knowledge of lighting and chandelier design when they formed Windfall in 2004. The idea of the company was to “explore the contemporary potential of crystal chandeliers”.

Clarissa Dorn and Roel Haagmens, the Principals of Windfall in Germany.

You won’t find Windfall’s products featured in magazine ads or see their work in most domestic showrooms however they are represented by Moura Starr in New York and Los Angeles. Windfall’s work has caught like wildfire with global high-end retail and commercial clients such as Cartier, Roberto Cavalli and numerous hotels world wide. They have also completed commissions in numerous private homes throughout the world. All of their work is custom and is designed per project.
A Windfall creation in a Roberto Cavalli store.

The most instantly recognizable of the company’s designs is the “Balance” chandelier which at first resembles a traditional chandelier, but upon further examination has no frame and is suspended using nearly invisible means, where each “candle” becomes independent, but allows the piece to work as a dazzling unit.
Windfall's "Balance" chandelier in context.

In doing my research for this post I noticed that fellow local blogger Katie Denham featured one of Windfall’s pieces in her post here.

I think the jewelry analogy is quite appropriate to the work that Windfall does as they have been asked to outfit every Cartier store around the globe with variations on their Balance chandelier.
A chandelier done for a private commission in Bukarest.
I admire Windfall’s approach to the idea of a chandelier, and since they are a relatively young company, look forward to what they will bring to the market next.

David Hansen

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Ranking a list of favorite tangibles, I’d say that SHOES AND CHAIRS top the list. With that being said, imagine how surprised I was to come across a "Louis" shoe in a recent issue of the Style section of the San Francisco Chronicle. What could be better? Combining all the grandeur and decadence of the stylish Sun King within the constraints of a sling back slipper or even something a little more sensible -- one would think that there might be endless possibilities. Having a “Louis” shoe inspired by antiques in the Louis XV period is the brainchild of Christian Siriano (former Project Runway winner) who has created this line for Payless Shoes no less. Can it be said that HIGH style is finally breaking through the glass ceiling and into the mainstream? Jean Paul Gautier, Michael Graves, Liberty of London and Isaac Mizrahi, among others, are designing for Target, and now Payless Shoes. Could it be that that the shrinking globe is bringing couture accessibility to the masses?
Christian Siriano's Louis shoe for Payless.

Christian Siriano on the runway with one of his creations.

Could this be the inspiration for a Louis shoe?

The Liberty of London store in London...UK chic.

The "Martha Grace" pattern for Liberty of London for Target.

Getting back to the subject of shoes and moving on to other favorites while broadening my horizons, I’m thinking that there might be no end to inspired styles. What would you imagine the Calder shoe to look like? Might it be strappy? Might it be airy? Would it be red, yellow or black? Or would that be more Mondrian? What about Queen Anne style, what would that shoe look like? Might they be fawn suede with the heels something akin to Bambi’s foot? What about William & Mary - how about this literal translation; one shoe is constructed for a man, and the other for a woman, but both are worn together?
Could an Alexander Calder mobile be inspiration for a shoe?

A Queen Anne chair in White.
The "Queen Anne" chair by Knoll.
Could a William and Mary chair be even more inspiration?

Needless to say that while the quintessential spark of creativity flying on the wings of genius is boundless, I am amused, to say the least…that there are still market segments yet to be conquered, albeit this one with sole.

Barbara Ashfield

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Bunny Factor

Barbara and I attended a talk by Bunny Williams during Design San Francisco in early February. She was booked as one of the keynotes for the program, and I knew I didn’t want to miss it.

Bunny Williams speaking at the San Francisco Design Center.

I must admit that I was not as familiar with Ms. Williams as I probably should be. I knew that she worked for Mrs. Parish and Albert Hadley (American decorating royalty), and I knew that she had married John Rosselli, a celebrated antique dealer in New York, and I knew that I seem to always like whatever I saw of her work (I even mentioned her in my post about Classic chairs here).

Bunny Williams and her husband John Rosselli at their home in the Domincan Republic.

An Entry Way in one of Bunny Williams projects.

Now I know why I seem to like her work so much. In decorating as with many other vocations I find successful people have a pre-disposition to their trade, and this seems to be the case for Bunny Williams. I found her to be charming, down to earth and completely void of any of the “haughtiness” traditionally associated with high profile designers. From her talk, I found her approach to design to be sensible, pragmatic and ultimately tailored to her client’s needs. Although she is known for working on large projects, she talked candidly about “budget” jobs and shared some of her secrets for handling awkward decorating situations e.g.; Paint a low ceiling in a Dining room with shiny Pale Grey or Grey Blue to add height. They don’t really teach this type of thing in Design school per se, this is the voice of experience!

A room by Ms. Williams with plenty of seating.

Bunny also talked at length about a longtime love, her “New England Manor House” featured in the book An Affair with a House. I loved the fact that she bought the windows for the Conservatory literally on the side of the road and knew they would be perfect. My favorite from the book was the Pool house that was built as a sort of Log cabin temple…complete with classical proportions. She spoke about how the center of the pediment in front, covered in pinecones finally needed nails because the glue gun wasn’t working. This from a world class designer!

The Pool House "Temple" from An Affair With a House.

I feel Ms. Williams ultimately elevates our profession through her approachability and graciousness. I spotted her in the Shears & Window showroom afterwards signing copies of her book. When one of the showroom employees (hanging on her every word) asked her if she needed anything she replied “I’ll take a tear sheet on this chair” (the one she was sitting in).

David Hansen

Bunny Williams signing books at the Shears and Window showroom.