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August 31, 2007

DWR Q&A: Sandy Chilewich.

Sandychilewich During the month of August DWR is celebrating women in design.  Sandy Chilewich is one of our favorites. Her company, Chilewich, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.  Sandy recently chatted with me about her brand, her new designs and the female designers she most admires.

We’ve launched your new woodgrain lines and they’re really beautiful.  How did they come about and what is different about this manufacturing process?
Woodgrain was more of an experiment to see how far we could push the envelope weaving with unique and challenging vinyl yarns. I wanted to see if we could create the shading and dimension of a woodgrain with a simple jacquard.

Are there other natural patterns that you’d like to replicate using manmade materials?
Yes, the success of the woodgrain from both a design perspective and from the great response we have had, has led to much experimentation. Not just wood, but it’s a secret.

When we met you spoke about a few collaborations you’re currently involved in. Can you share with our readers these stories?
I am working with Luisa Cevese, an Italian designer, who is known for her proprietary process of encasing textile remnants in polyurethane. It is absolutely gorgeous. She is now incorporating some of our “waste,” the selvage (the irregular edges that are cut off) from our spun vinyl products. Her process, which requires heat, melts our material in different degrees and it looks very different than the other materials she has used. She will be making table mats and bags. I am also intrigued with introducing wire into our products and have been working with a British designer who is an expert in weaving with metal. This is already very challenging but still promising.

Design Within Reach is celebrating women designers in the month of August and you’re definitely one of our favorites.  What women designers have inspired you in the past?
My all time favorite female designer is Lucienne Day, who I imagine will forever continue to inspire me. She just has it all   such a tremendous graphic range and not a “one note” designer who’s imagery or some version of it is repeated over and over. She was constantly exploring, but her work is unified by a consistent personal aesthetic.

Design Within Reach customers may only be familiar with our floor coverings, but Chilewich also makes an extensive collection of bags and table top items.  What products came first and are there new categories you intend to launch?
In 1997 when I launched the Raybowls™ they were my first foray into the home accessories market and, happily, they met with success. They had a simple and inventive mechanism for making fabric concave, with covers made from stretch netting usually found in lingerie. In a quest to source other suitable fabrics to incorporate into the Raybowl, I discovered woven vinyl. It didn’t work for the bowls, but where others saw an industrial material, I saw placemats, flooring, bags and more. The durability of the yarn, its tremendous design versatility and the fact that it is washable continues to inspire me.

Your products are all made in the United States. Do you do this intentionally?
It is great to be manufacturing in the States for many reasons. Most important is the ability to hop on a plane to do some R&D or solve a problem at the mills. Working on my home turf and speaking the same language (however I am not sure if our southern suppliers would say we speak the same language) just makes the design process, sampling, lead times, etc., easier. It is also very gratifying that I am supporting American production.

Chilewich’s color palette is very sophisticated. Have you or will you ever experiment with floor coverings or table tops in brighter colors?
I don’t know why people assume that bright colors are less sophisticated. It’s the particular tone which is decided upon from an infinite number of possibilities as well as the relationship to the other colors surrounding it. That determines sophistication. It’s true that I have focused on grays and browns in the past but this fall you will see indigo and next spring lemon and coral. I think they are thoughtful colors, which is for me what makes things sophisticated. It takes hours and hours of work to attain a color and palette that satisfies one’s imagination.

You’ve designed jewelry, launched a hosiery brand and now Chilewich.  Any plans to venture into uncharted professional/design territories?
We are launching window treatments with the Shade Store shortly. This is our first licensing arrangement. I will be introducing napkins next season - my first venture with natural fibers, which is funny. There is much on the horizon that I am contemplating, but it takes a lot just to keep up with the growth of the business that I am in now.

August 28, 2007

Egg Chair McMuffin.


Is someone at The New York Times reading the Design Notes Blog? Methinks yes. Just this weekend the paper wrote about McDonalds going high-end modern in many of their European restaurants. The interior designs, complete with Arne Jacobsen’s Egg and Swan chairs, cost more than McDonalds typical location redesigns. They’re seeing a return on investment as sales in European markets are up 15%. Could McDonalds reinvent themselves as a design-savvy lifestyle brand, like Apple or the Mini Cooper? Only time will tell. Spotted here first by DWR’s Melissa Howard.

August 22, 2007

Whimsy in Santa Barbara.


I received an email recently from my friend Steven, a recent transplant to Santa Barbara from Portland, Oregon. His note was about the architect Jeff Shelton. Steven works next to one of Shelton’s designs, The Zannon. He was right in his assessment that I’d be a fan.

The buildings evoke Dr. Seuss and Antoni Gaudí in equal parts. They’re quite remarkable, specifically The Ablitt Tower House. He also collaborates with a core group of artists, whose works, in addition to their decorative purposes, serve practical functions within the buildings’ designs. His website is pretty fantastic too.

August 15, 2007

100 homos.


Design Within Reach has always had a significant gay following. That goes without saying. So of course we fell in love with Don Florence’s “100 Homos” exhibit at Boltax Gallery in Shelter Island when we read about it on Towleroad. The pop portraits depict 100 name homosexuals, many of whom are famous in the art and design worlds: Jonathan Adler, Andy Warhol and Todd Oldham all made the cut. They’re great pop for $1,800 a pop. PDF of the portrait list is available here. [pdf]

August 13, 2007

Fall Colors.


We are showing off our newest colors. Last year, DWR launched the Eames Soft Pad Management Chair in Spinneybeck powder blue and chocolate. This fall we are launching a new Spinneybeck color palette, exclusive to DWR. The palette, developed with Laura Guido-Clark includes warm tones of fern and persimmon, to name a few. Color swatches will be available by early September. Oh, and the powder blue and chocolate Eames Soft Pad Management Chair are on sale for a limited time.

Sunday in the park with Robert Royston.


When my wife and I bought our Eichler home six years ago, we never knew it would lead us to a game of petanque at the home of the world-renowned landscape architect Robert Royston. This past Sunday it all came to be. After discovering the original plans for our garden in our kitchen cabinets, my wife Iris tracked them down to the offices of Royston, Hanamoto, Alley and Abey. Robert Royston, along with Thomas Church and Garrett Eckbo, was one of the most influential landscape architects in America during the ’50s and ’60s (see the September 2007 issue of Dwell magazine for more on these legends). As it turns out, RHAA is still a functioning landscape architecture and urban planning firm with headquarters in Mill Valley, California, and, along with senior partner J.C. Miller, we have been working with them to restore our garden back to its original glory. During this time we’ve had the great pleasure of meeting Robert Royston on a number of occasions, who is still practicing landscape design at the young age of 80+ years. Still full of life and sharp as a tack, he plays a mean game of petanque and certainly gave our team a run for it’s money.

Learn more about Robert Royston in the recently released book, Modern Public Gardens: Robert Royston and the Suburban Park.

Posted by Micheal Sainato, DWR Art Director.

August 10, 2007

Celebrating the acrylic maestro.


Charles Hollis Jones’ revolutionary use of acrylic has brought him to the attention of some of the 20th century’s most important architects and designers – including Paul Laszlo, John Lautner, Arthur Elrod, Hal Broderick, Stephen Chase and John Woolf. His list of clients includes a host of Hollywood celebrities: Lucille Ball, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sly Stallone, Tom Ford and countless others. The Los Angeles Times refers to Hollis Jones’ as a “pioneer in acrylic design”. On July 19th, the Beverly Boulevard Studio hosted a one-night retrospective of CHJ’s work. Two hundred of Charles’ die-hard fans were in effect. The admiration for this man and his work is undeniable. A few of the items on display included Charles’ Twisted Four Poster Acrylic Bed (designed for Dean Martin), the Wisteria Chair (named by Tennessee Williams)  and the well known Sling Chair. People lined up to have Charles sign his recently published book, Charles Hollis Jones, and his “100 Chairs” poster. The evening ended with the crowd singing Happy Birthday to Mr. Jones and everyone noshing on cake from Sweet Lady Jane.

Numerous pieces of Hollis Jones’ designs will be available this October through the Wright Auction House.

Posted by Susie Cordes,Proprietor-DWR Beverly Blvd.

It takes three to Tango.


I don’t watch Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, so please don’t judge. However, Aaron Levy, who works out of our Flatiron Studio, is a proud watcher. Aaron got so excited last night that he emailed half of DWR about one couple’s unique dance partner: DWR’s Workscape Table. And just in case you care, Neil and Sabra “are totally contenders for the finale next week” according to Aaron. The table was an effective dance partner.

Made in Brazil.


From the land of the beautiful people and supermodels comes this from a Brazilian gym’s ad campaign. It’s an effective and playful use of graphic design and one of my favorite print campaigns of recent times. Playing on the old adage that there is a thin person in every fat person dying to get out, the posters clearly make you imagine your inner ripped-body Brazilian longing for the light of day. It’s the last thing I needed to see as I sit here with a cookie in my hand, but it works. I just felt compelled to find a spin class online I’m hitting after work. Via Jockohomo, a site you should know and love.

August 08, 2007

Ol’ Blue Eyes blunder.


We’ve written some on this blog about the Palm Springs location shoot last spring that resulted in some of the fantastic photography in our summer catalog. (The one with the nice Bertoia Diamond Chair on the front. You know, the one that made you want to go swimming?) One of the most utterly hip places we shot is known as Twin Palms, which was built for Frank Sinatra starting in 1947. According to the Twin Palms historical page, architect E. Stewart Williams recalls that “Frank came in with a white sailor hat and an ice cream cone and said ‘I want a house.’” The result is simply stunning. As a proofreader of the catalog, I was somewhat traumatized to learn that we mistakenly printed the wrong website for this piece of mid-century modern history. Learn all about Twin Palms (including a contact to actually book it) at

August 06, 2007

Mid-century design at mid-century prices.


Join us for our San Francisco Sample Sale August 11-12. You can save up to 75% on top modern design for dining, seating, lounge, workspace, outdoor, lighting, storage, bedroom and more. Save hundreds on samples, overstocks and scratched and dented products. Learn more here.

August 01, 2007

Eero Saarinen revealed.


Heading on the road this fall is the first-ever international retrospective of the work of Eero Saarinen. Given Saarinen’s legendary status, it’s hard to believe that there’s never been a survey of his career, but this one promises to be worth the wait. Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future was organized by institutions both here and in Finland and includes a six-stop tour of the U.S., as well as an exhibition book by the same name and a documentary film. Learn all about it, including the tour stops, here.