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Monday, September 30, 2013

Eliot Noyes

Eliot Noyes (1910-1977) was born in Boston and attended Andover Academy and received a degree in architecture from Harvard University in 1932. He had knowledge of the Bauhaus movement in Germany and was dissatisfied with the Beaux-Arts training he received at Harvard.

In 1935 he joined an archaeological team from the University of Chicago that was excavating in what is modern-day Iran. He returned to Harvard in 1937 to an architecture department that had been completely reorganized under Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius.

After graduating in 1938, Noyes went to work for Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch and Abbot in Boston, but the firm proved too traditional in its approach for his liking, so he left to take a job as a draftsman for Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius. At their urging, he took the opportunity, as a recipient of the Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship awarded to promising architecture graduates, to make his way around the country studying contemporary architecture. He saw Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and Taliesin, Eliel Saarinen's Cranbrook Academy and several of Richard Neutra's houses in California before returning to work for Breuer and Gropius.

In 1940 Gropius recommended Noyes for the position as first director of the new Industrial Design Department at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). While there he became friends with Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen and helped promote their work.

In 1946 he left MoMA to become design director at the firm of Norman Bel Geddes, an industrial engineer known for his work on cars, planes, trains and boats. Noyes was chosen to design a typewriter for International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). Two years later, Bel Geddes's firm went out of business, and Noyes kept the IBM account himself, designing the Selectric typewriter in 1961 . During this time he also collaborated with Breuer on a few architectural projects, as well as teaching at Yale University.

Besides IBM, some of Noyes's main clients were Mobil and Westinghouse, for whom he designed products and buildings. He is known as a pioneer in integrating product, architecture, display and graphic design in the corporate world, often hiring other architects, industrial designers and graphic artists to complete parts of an overall project for which he had been hired.

Some of his best known designs are World's Fair Pavilions for IBM in Brussels, Belgium, and San Antonio, Texas, the Westinghouse Pavilion at the New York World's Fair and the United Nations Pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal, Canada. He designed the Bubble Houses in Hobe Sound, Florida and the iconic round roofs of Mobil gas stations. He also designed the IBM Education Center in Armonk, New York, and his own house in, as well as one very similar to it, in New Canaan, Connecticut.

From and

Bremer House - New Canaan, Connecticut

Bubble House - Hobe Sound, Florida

Chivvis House - New Canaan, Connecticut (based on his own house)

IBM Pavilion - Expo '58/Brussels World's Fair

Proposed Westinghouse Pavilion for 1964 New York World's Fair

Actual Westinghouse Pavilion - 1964 New York World's Fair

IBM Pavilion - HemisFair '68/San Antonio World's Fair

Round pumps and roofs of Mobil gas stations in the 1960s

IBM Selectric typewriter

IBM Selectric type elements (often called "type balls")

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The mirrors of Line Vautrin

Line Vautrin (1913-1997) was a French metal artist and designer. She was born to a family of metal workers and began learning the family business in her teens. She received no formal education in art or design, but by age 15, she was already selling her gilt bronze costume jewelry.

She took a job at the House of Schiaparelli, where it was her job to open the door and greet customers. She decided after only four days that working for a boss, even a famous couturier, was not for her, so she started selling her designs door-to-door.

In 1937 she rented a booth at the Universal Exhibition and showed bronze buttons, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belt buckles and bag clips. The next year, at age 28, she opened her first boutique near the Champs-Elysées.

In the early 1940s, she began to create bronze boxes, powder compacts, ashtrays and pillboxes. During this same time, she married Jacques-Armand Bonnaud, a talented artist and decorator who had graduated from the Beaux Arts in Paris. Together they bought and renovated a beautiful home which became one of the most fashionable venues in the city.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Vautrin became interested in new materials, primarily cellulose acetate, which she called Talosel, and synthetic resin, which she encrusted with mirrored glass. It was at this time that she began creating beautiful convex mirrors, most notably large sunburst designs. She called these mirrors her "witches," and sold them to celebrities such as Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner and Brigitte Bardot.

When she was 50, she left manufacturing and the retail business and began teaching.

Because her body of work is so large, I'm going to focus on her mirrors in this post, although the photos I include represent just a few of many. I will post at a later date about her dramatic jewelry and boxes.

From and

Aldebaran mirror

Colbert mirror

Ètincelle mirror

Ombelle mirror

Roi Soleil mirror

Satellites mirror

Sequins mirror

Soucis mirror

Soleil Torsade mirror

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Scheurich, thou art Temptation

Do you have something (other than chocolate) that won't quit calling your name, whether you need it or not?

Scheurich fat lava is that voice in my ear...temptation with a capital T. Honestly, I have all the fat lava I need. In fact, I have more than I need. A few pieces are languishing in the closet, because I simply don't have a spot for them. I've been saying for days that I'm going to list them on Craigslist, but the truth is that I'm not quite ready to part with them.

Yet I sat at the computer last night, poring over Etsy listings like some kind of crazed clay addict...even putting several pieces in my shopping cart. C'mon, encourage enable me. Which ones should I buy?

Scheurich 203-26 - Retro Fat Lava

Scheurich 206-26 - Veryodd

Scheurich 237-15 - EdibleComplex

Scheurich 284-14 - Retro Fat Lava

Scheurich 401-28 - RetroMinded

Scheurich 493-10 - Greta Allan Gallery

Scheurich 203-26 - JunkHouse

Friday, September 27, 2013

Paolo Soleri

Paolo Soleri (1919-2013) was born in Turin, Italy, and worked in the United States as an architect, urban designer artist, craftsman and philosopher. He received a Ph.D. in architecture from the Polytechnic University of Turin.

In 1947 he moved to Arizona to apprentice for 18 months with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West. In 1949 he and Mark Mills designed the Dome House in Cave Creek, Arizona. The house was made of cast concrete and natural stone and had a sunken living room and a glass dome overlooking the desert. Interestingly, he married that client's daughter.

In 1950 he and his wife were traveling in Italy, and Soleri was offered a job designing a ceramics factory. After that project was complete, the couple returned to Arizona and designed a studio, gallery and foundry near Scottsdale. In the late 1960s, Soleri purchased 860 acres of desert north of Phoenix and began building the experimental town of Arcosanti.

He became a counterculture hero because he didn't just theorize about a town that minimized energy use and encouraged human interaction. "Soleri went out into the desert and actually built his vision with his own hands," said Jeffrey Cook, professor of architecture at Arizona State University, in a 2001 interview. His work proved that there was an alternative to corporate modernism.

Arcosanti, as it was envisioned, was based on a concept Soleri called arcology, a combination of architecture and ecology. The idea was to create a beehive complex where human activity is concentrated in a small area.

Soleri believed that modern society should build up, not out. He said in an interview in the Arizona Republic in 2011:

The problem is the present design of cities only a few stories high, stretching outward in unwieldy sprawl for miles. As a result of their sprawl, they literally transform the Earth, turning farms into parking lots, and waste enormous amounts of time and energy transporting people, goods and services over their expanses.

To help finance Arcosanti, Soleri began designing and selling Soleri bells, cast-bronze or ceramic wind bells that have a uniquely pure tone.  However, since 1970, less than 5 percent of the buildings have been completed, and only 55 people live there. Still, over 7,000 students have participated in the building, and more than 50,000 people visit the site each year.

In addition to the Dome House, Soleri's commissions included the Artistica Ceramica Solimene ceramics factory in Vietri, Italy, the Indian Arts Cultural Center/ Theatre in Santa Fe, the Glendale Community College Theater, the University of Arizona College of Medicine chapel, the Scottsdale Pedestrian Bridge and Plaza; and his latest bas-relief murals part of the new I-17 Arcosanti/Cordes Junction Arizona traffic interchange.

Soleri has been awarded gold medals from the American Institute of Architects, the Union of International Architects, the Venice Biennale and the National Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian Museum.

From,, and

Artistica Ceramica Solimene ceramics factory in Vietri, Italy

Dome House in Cave Creek, Arizona

Scottsdale Pedestrian Bridge and Plaza in Scottsdale, Arizona

Arcosanti plans

Arcosanti, Arizona

Soleri bells

Bronze wind bell No. 128

Ceramic wind bell No. 707

Special Soleri bells, called cause bells, are created to commemorate a special event or celebrate a cause. Below is the Earth Bell, which was inspired by Earth Day 1990 and was dedicated to the conservation of natural resources, support of recycling and the preservation of our planet for future generations.

Earth Bell

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Delightfull lamps

Since I showed you a beautiful vintage lamp yesterday, I'll share some new modern lighting that I think you'll like too. We've added the Delightfull line to our inventory, and we'd like to introduce you to a few of their products that we love best. The Portuguese company offers many choices of metals, colors, stone bases and textile cords...even combinations of several colors. If you can imagine your dream lamp, chances are you can build it in this line.

Ike suspension light

Norah suspension light

Evans floor lamp

Scofield floor lamp

Meola table lamp

Diana table lamp

Miles wall lamp

Simone wall lamp

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In the store: Wire and brass table lamp

If you're a fan of wire accessories of the 20th century, then we have a lamp for you. This black and brass beauty is in the style of Tony Paul, and it's in very good vintage condition, with a beautiful patina on the brass accent. Even though we're going to leave it to the new owner to decide what kind of shade to buy, it's still a knockout.

Wire and brass table lamp, in the style of Tony Paul

Alternate view


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Video: Tapio Wirkkala

Quite by accident, I ran across a beautiful video of Tapio Wirkkala at work and at his leisure. Although it's not in English, I hung on every image. Being able to look at his joyful face and his skilled hands in a way I never had before made it a memorable video. If you're as devoted a fan of Wirkkala as I am, you will certainly enjoy it too. - Ullla Lundgren

Monday, September 23, 2013

In the store: American tables

Two tables have made their way into the store recently. One is a rosewood and chrome console table by Milo Baughman, which is low and sleek and designed for a low-slung sofa. The other is a round dining table by Edward Wormley for Dunbar which has four leaves and extends to seat twelve. The Dunbar table is made of Tawi wood with a dark mahogany base and has two additional legs that drop down to support the center of the table when extended. Both are exceptional examples of American design.

Milo Baughman rosewood and chrome console table

Alternate view

Tawi wood and mahogany table by Edward Wormley for Dunbar

Dunbar table with no leaves

Dunbar table with one leaf

Just a quick note to let you know that my blog is now officially part of the store website. You'll be redirected temporarily, but this is my new address: