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August 26, 2009

Preservation progress on Cape Cod.

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As we say goodbye to Ted Kennedy, his brother Jack has also been on my mind during my stay on Cape Cod. It was President Kennedy who established the Cape Cod National Seashore, and within this federally protected area are a handful of abandoned and threatened modern houses that we covered last October "Cubes on dunes: Exploring modern houses on Cape Cod.” I spent the last few days catching up with the Cape Cod Modern House Trust (CCMHT) to see the progress that has been made on preserving the Kugel-Gips house (shown above) in Wellfleet. Designed in 1970 by Charlie Zehnder, the house had water damage and wood rot when I saw it last year. Most of the damaged areas have now been restored, and Peter McMahon, executive director of the CCMHT, estimates that the project will be complete in about six weeks. After that, a scholar-in-residence program will begin, and the Trust will focus on the next house they plan to save, most likely the Hatch Cottage by John Hall, which I’ll tell you more about in an upcoming issue of Design Notes.

August 21, 2009

DWR: Tools for Living SoHo Artist Window Series, No. 3.

August brings forth the third installment of DWR: Tools for Living's Artist Window Series in SoHo. This month we invited French graphic designer and illustrator Fanny LeBras to showcase her unique sensibilities. Choosing "trees" as her theme, Fanny's meticulously rendered design is understated and elegant – a perfect complement to TFL's product assortment. 

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August 20, 2009

A sweet new look for San Francisco’s Lombard Street.

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King Kandy, Lolly and Princess Frostine helped to transform the crooked street into the land of Candyland in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the game. By 10 this morning, the famous section of road had become a color-blocked path for a life-size game, ready to be played by teams of excited children.

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The natural landscape of hydrangeas and shrubbery became fields of lollipops and cotton candy (at least to those in the crowd of onlookers who still have an active imagination). While looking on and resisting the urge to pluck and eat a hydrangea, I couldn't help but think about Vertigo – both the sensation one feels as they experience this section of Lombard Street as well as the 1957 Hitchcock film. Jimmy Stewart's character, Scottie, lived only a block away – and this section of Russian Hill often conjures up images and moods of the mid-century film. But today's setting and game couldn't have felt more opposite to the mood of that film, and today's events didn't have any unexpected twists, just the turns.

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The teams came running and winding down the hill as their color cards were drawn, from square to square. The yellow team from San Francisco Children's Hospital took the win. Participants celebrated the fun afternoon with plenty of candy and their very own Candyland boardgame to take home, play and enjoy for the next 60 years.

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August 18, 2009

Sweet!

Candyland Tomorrow morning, San Francisco’s Lombard Street (known as the crookedest street in town) will be remade into a giant Candyland board (known as the sweetest kid's game ever). To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the iconic board game, the street will be closed to traffic as young folk from San Francisco Children’s Hospital play the giant board. Stay tuned for some pics from the super sweet San Francisco event.

August 17, 2009

Over the river, through the woods.

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Having grown up in Western Massachusetts, it’s tough for me think of it as a destination (you know, a place where people choose to spend their time off, not to just visit their parents). This has all recently changed thanks to a week spent in the Berkshires. If you’ve spent any time driving through Massachusetts’ back roads (and by “back roads” I mean “highways” like Routes 2 or 9) you’ve seen the massive brick buildings that used to house the mill/factory/headquarters of many long-defunct manufacturing companies. These huge, gorgeous, industrial structures stand empty in small towns throughout the state, only now with a Price Chopper or Wal-Mart installed nearby. 

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August 09, 2009

DWR People: She knows upholstery and rugs.

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This summer we’re introducing you to some of the folks at Design Within Reach. In the “hot” seat this week is Tiffiny, who’s in charge of upholstery and rugs.

“We partnered with Maharam – a New York-based company that’s been in the textile business for more than 100 years – because they have continued the legacy of many mid-century textiles while also creating the classics of the future. I recently visited their corporate headquarters and got to see the exciting designs to come. I admire their attention to detail and creativity. My favorite is Layers by Hella Jongerius.”
– Tiffiny J. DWR Upholstery and Rugs Dept.

August 06, 2009

Wine, Corian and getting high.

After visiting the Guggenheim, I needed something to stop the spinning, so I checked out Clo Wine Bar’s bar. I went there for the Corian (and that’s not the name of a new wine). Like a built-in sobriety test, this interactive experience has users pointing and dragging in the air to “flip” through an encyclopedia of wine, which is projected on the white Corian surface of the bar. When you land on something you might like, you order a four-ounce taste, and if you like the taste of the taste you can order a bottle.

With images of wine bottles streaming by you like sushi boats from which you can pluck what suits you, your attention will not be on the plain-looking Corian bar. And that’s exactly why this seamless, germ-resistant material was a smart choice for this installation.

“Corian plays well with others,” said Michael Morris, designer of the recently opened Corian Design Studio in New York. Just like Emeco and its use of aluminum, Corian is one of the stalwarts of American post-war design. In the U.S., we tend to think of Corian as a countertop material but, as Morris explained, in Europe this material is used for radiator covers, interior walls, retail displays and more. In Bordeaux, Le Seeko’o Hotel claims to be the world’s first ever hotel to have its façade entirely covered with Corian.

Hospital interiors are an ideal market for Corian since it can be constructed with no seams (that’s where the germs hide) and it is bacteria resistant (even if they could hide, they couldn’t grow). It can also be embedded with LEDs, thermoformed into custom shapes, sandblasted, routed, etched, backlit and easily repaired. One final note about the Clo Wine Bar: Don’t be confused by the fact that there is a seam in that Corain surface. This is not the result of you having one too many (the installer is another story) but rather a mistake that they’ll fix shortly.

From a new bar experience to a new walking experience, the first section of New York’s High Line opened in June. If you’re not familiar with it, the High Line was an elevated rail on Manhattan’s west side that was abandoned in 1980. (Cocktail party trivia: The last train carried three carloads of frozen turkeys.) It then became the overgrown creepy place where bodies were found in NYC cop shows and the subject of a 22-year debate. In 2002, the Friends of the High Line finally received the City Council support they needed, and their reuse plan began.

I was there on the first weekend the High Line opened and was struck by how quickly New Yorkers “got” the space. They were there en masse. Lattes in hand and talking on phones while relaxing on one of the oversized benches that play to every urban dweller’s desire to have an outdoor deck. As I walked, I was intrigued by the geometry of the space, awash in angles, points, lines and grids. The palette consists of railroad tracks, concrete, plants and grasses, with one material leading to the next, giving the space balance and flow. I wasn’t crazy about the uneven concrete that I stumbled over a few times (alcohol, by the way, is not permitted), but visually, I liked the unexpected terrain.

Also unexpected was that I found myself being a voyeuristic tourist, peering into the apartments and offices that overlook the High Line. I watched a bit of a yoga class, saw someone in their kitchen talking on the phone (ordering mini-blinds no doubt) and noticed a handful of other folks watching me watching them watching me.

Over 80 years, these apartments have had quite a ride. Before 1930, many had unobstructed views of the Hudson River. Then the elevated rail was built and freight trains rumbled by at all hours. In 1980 the trains stopped but the drug dealers and vandals moved in. And in 2009, the non-stop parade of people began. The windows of these spaces are 30 feet off the ground, and yet they suddenly have the exposure of a street-level space in Times Square. It’s a lucky break for the folks at Phillips Auction House whose gallery is now clearly visible to every High Line visitor.

If you live near the High Line (bonus if you have Corian countertops), I’d be interested to hear how this space has impacted you. Please share your comments below.

Gwendolyn Horton

August 03, 2009

Dolls for a great cause.

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It may have been raining in New York City on July 23, but that didn’t stop people from coming out for the highly anticipated Nesting Works event at DWR: Tools for Living in Soho. The event, which was a benefit for the New York-based charity organization Housing Works, was just as flooded with guests as the streets were with rain. 

Tools for Living invited eight artists, designers and illustrators – Claw Money, West One, Aaron Meshon, Mike Perry (pictured after the jump), Alison Riley, Travis Cain, David Zachary and Heidi Kenney – to each interpret our blank Matryoshka Dolls. While some of the artists, like Heidi Kenney (pictured above), did a rather traditional interpretation of the Russian dolls, others, like industrial design duo David Zachary, turned the whole concept upside-down, transforming the dolls into a set of functional lamps. 

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