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October 29, 2009

They came to Can It!


Above, Can It! hostess Veronica Webb autographs her portrait. 

Last night, Design Within Reach's flagship SoHo Studio was transformed into a festive event space for Can It!, the gala benefit hosted by DWR and VIPP to raise money for DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. Five of the one-of-a-kind customized VIPP trash bins were auctioned live at the event. Flashbulbs popped as, under the supervision of Sotheby's auctioneer Benjamin Doller, Nigel Barker and Can It! hostess Veronica Webb auctioned off David Rockwell’s LED-covered bin for $6,500. Yoko Ono’s bin went for $3,400, and Ralph Lauren’s leather-clad bin closed at $3,000. Lady Bunny’s eyeful of a trashcan was auctioned off for $1,100 with the help of Evette Rios, and Veronica Webb’s Africa-inspired waste bin, complete with her portrait and the Robert Lee Morris tribal jewelry she wore in the photo, brought in a whopping $7,500.

Above, VIPP USA president (and grandson of VIPP founder Holger Nielsen) Kasper Egelund poses with Lady Pink's bin, which raised over $4,000. Below, some of the bins waiting to be won in the silent auction. You have to wonder what signature touches George Nelson, Edward Wormley, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia and Charles Eames would have applied to their custom VIPP bin.

Between the live auction, silent auction and eBay auction, DWR and VIPP successfully raised over $50,000 for DIFFA.

October 27, 2009

Cranbrook comes to DWR.

The Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum hosted the 10th Annual National Design Awards on October 22, and the DWR E62nd Studio proudly offered our expansive split-level space to the Cranbrook Academy of Art's Alumni Reception to honor their winners and finalists. The illustrious crowd of designers and architects, both famous and soon-to-be famous, nibbled, imbibed and reunited merrily.

Luminaries in attendence included Lorraine Wild (2001 finalist), Neils Diffrient (2002 winner), Lucille Tenazas (2002 winner), Masamichi Udagawa (2003, 2006 finalist and 2008 winner - designer of the new subway trains and Metrocard machines for the MTA), Kathy and Mike McCoy (2005 winners) and Andrew Blauveldt (2009 winner, on behalf of the Walker Art Center), as well as noted inventor and industrial designer Eric Chan.

We had the opportunity to chat with Neils Diffrient who was charming, courtly and laugh out loud hilarious.  After going through the chairs that he designed in the DWR collection, he was game for a photo op, perching in his now iconic Freedom Chair with Headrest sandwiched by me and Reed Kroloff, Director of Cranbrook.DWR_ReedNielsJae1

A great time was had by all, and the atmosphere was enhanced by the images of Cranbrook alumni Ray and Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia and Eero Saarinen that adorn our walls. For us design-obsessed DWR employees, it's a daily privilege to be associated with the Academy's amazing legacy. As the New York Times said in 1984, "the effect of Cranbrook and its graduates and faculty on the physical environment of this country has been profound...Cranbrook, surely more than any other institution, has a right to think of itself as synonymous with contemporary American design."

Posted by Jae Hah, Proprietor of DWR East 62nd Street Studio

October 21, 2009

Can it!

In Danish, the function of opening and closing is called “vipp,” which is also the name of a design company that’s been producing iconic pedal bins since 1939. To celebrate their 70th anniversary, Vipp has partnered with Design Within Reach to hold a charity auction that will benefit DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS). Being auctioned are 35 Vipp bins that have been customized by Ralph Lauren, David Rockwell, Calvin Klein, Nigel Barker, Yoko Ono and others.

While you can’t rub elbows with these celebs at the actual auction (it’s by invitation only) there are two other ways you can participate: Five bins are on eBay, and through October 28, all 35 bins are on display and available for bidding at the DWR: Tools for Living in SoHo. And I don’t want to make your head explode or anything (thus, needing a bin for a beastly task) but the SoHo store also has a new window design by artist Mike Perry.

Of the 35 bins, the award for the farthest-flying Vipp goes to Michael Aram, who sent the bin to his workshop in India to be transformed into a golden pear.

A Vipp Bin in size medium at left, and a Vipp Bin transformed by Michael Aram into a Golden Pear at right. (Pear photo courtesy of Christian Larsen.)

“In the world of mythology,” says Aram, “pears represent bounty and gluttony. What’s more perfect for a receptacle of waste than a golden symbol of excess?” Sporting an oxidized bronze stem (the leaf was lost in transit), the brass body was hand-hammered from the inside to give it the somewhat nubby texture of a real pear. Perhaps, however, it was a bit too realistic, as the bin ended up stuck in Customs when it was deemed a botanical and flagged as a possible restricted item for entry into the U.S. Fortunately, the Homeland Security folks didn’t blow up the suspected Trojan Pear, but I’m guessing that at least one of them jumped when they pressed on the pedal and popped open the top.

From a symbol of gluttony to an example of what’s at stake if we do not curtail our habits, the Vipp bin customized by Nigel Barker is wrapped in a photograph he took when he spent two weeks on the ice in northern Canada.

Nigel Barker, and a Vipp Bin wrapped in his photograph titled “Frozen Cauldron.” (Nigel’s portrait courtesy of Nigel Barker LLC. Photograph of customized bin courtesy of Christian Larsen.)

Barker took this photo in 2007 when he went to investigate the horrors of seal hunting. Since then, there have been significant changes, including strong bans on seal product trade, thanks to the efforts of the Humane Society. The seals, however, are still at risk. A few years ago, the ice melted earlier than usual and hundreds of thousands of baby seals drowned because they were not old enough to swim. The concept behind Barker’s Vipp bin is that it provokes the user to think about the climactic effects of waste before throwing something away. He selected his photo “Frozen Cauldron” because “it’s beautiful, and yet the ice also looks a bit angry, as if Mother Nature has something in store for us.”

David Stark with his Vipp bin transformed into a cactus. (Photo courtesy of Christian Larsen.)

To appease Ma Nature, designer David Stark used a material that is normally seen as trash to create his Cactus bin. Made of simple cardboard, the cactus was hand assembled out of 279 individual and uniquely shaped laser-cut pieces. When asked about his inspiration, Stark said, “it was a trip to Arizona and the various sculptural forms of cacti throughout the landscape, along with my ongoing interest in turning everyday unsung materials (including trash) into extraordinary objects.”

The fact that Stark chose a cactus – a plant covered in sharp thorns – is also interesting. As if to remind people that there can be painful consequences to the items we throw away. Congratulations to all the designers who participated in this special event for DIFFA.

Gwendolyn Horton

P.S. To see a Vipp bin transformed into a xylophone, click here, and to see a video of the Can It! exhibit in SoHo, click on the video below.

DWR: Tools for Living SoHo Artist Window Series, No. 5.

October, the fifth installment of DWR: Tools for Living artist window series in SoHo. This month we invited Mike Perry for an encore performance. Mike is also a contributing artist in Vipp’s October charity auction for DIFFA, hosted by DWR.


For the current window, Mike revisited theme of building cities and towns through drawing. Using the idea of a city grid as the structure, but like any city, the grid is always disrupted. Mike Perry works in Brooklyn, New York, creating books, magazines, newspapers, clothing, drawings, paintings, illustrations and teaching whenever possible. Mike’s window will be up at the Tools for Living store for the next month. Stop by before October 28 to see the display of Vipp Bins that are up for auction. 

Posted by Dan Murphy, DWR: Tools for Living, SoHo

October 19, 2009

Newsletter 09.04.09: Swinging left and right, north and south.

Newsletter 08.06.09: Wine, Corian and getting high.

Newsletter 07.26.09: Remembering Julius Shulman.

Newsletter 07.02.09: Two Franks and one city.

October 16, 2009

Vipp VIPs.

If you’re in New York, check out the Vipp exhibit at our Tools for Living store in SoHo. On display and available for bidding are 35 Vipp bins that have been redesigned by Yves Behar, Calvin Klein, Nigel Barker and others. On October 28, the bins will be part of a charity auction benefiting DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS). Shown above is Jes Gordon and her bin, which she describes as a “sunny disposition + gritty-ness = turning garbage into gold.” The materials used include Plexi, LEDs and an illustration by David Pfendler. Learn more here.

October 13, 2009

A master of film, now on film.

The next best thing to actually spending a day with photographer Julius Shulman, is virtually spending a day with him – which is possible with the release of Eric Bricker’s documentary: Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman. Now open in New York and opening October 16 in Los Angeles, the film examines how Shulman’s work impacted architectural history. Peppered with Shulman’s quips and anecdotes (and a bit of gossip) about some of architecture’s most iconic figures, Visual Acoustics is a marvelous refresher course on the subject of modernism. You’ll also pick up photography tips from the master himself, as Shulman discusses his use of one-point perspective and how to avoid distortion through a wide-angle lens. He jokes, he reminisces, he basks in well-deserved praise. A fun ride that’s touching, informative and stunning, I strongly recommend you check out this film. For a sneak peek and a chance to meet Bricker, go to the DWR Beverly Boulevard Studio on Wednesday, October 14. 

October 08, 2009

Buildings sang to him.

At DWR we're very excited about Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman, the new documentary about the noted architectural photographer. We're honored to be able to introduce our audience to the film, which is both a moving biography of a true character, as well as an engaging primer on modernist architecture from the 1930s on. DWR is hosting several talks with Eric Bricker, who directed Visual Acoustics. Bricker spent seven years with Shulman, and knew his subject as a dear friend. In the first of our Q&A sessions, held at the DWR Flatiron Studio in New York, the first-time director shared clips of the film and spoke about his experience working with Shulman in the final years of the photographer's life. Visual Acoustics opens in New York on October 9 at Cinema Village. People in the Los Angeles area will have the chance to meet Bricker at the DWR Beverly Boulevard Studio on October 14 (as a sneak peek just before the film opens there on October 16). Check back here soon for DWR's full review of the engrossing film. Below, Bricker rests post-Q&A in his favorite piece of mid-century modern design, the Eames Lounge and Ottoman.


October 07, 2009

Why Wellesley women live at the library.


The brilliant students at Wellesley College probably don’t need a reason to go to the library, but if they do, I suggest they spend time in the room filled with Womb Chairs. Eero Saarinen designed this chair in 1948, after Florence Knoll challenged him to create a chair that she could curl up in. Florence didn’t go to Wellesley College, but the result of her challenge to Saarinen should earn her an honorary degree.

October 05, 2009

Announcing the winners of the DWR | Tabletop Contest!

Sincerest congratulations to:

DWR Staff Prize: Fred Carriedo, who takes home the Grand Prize of four Singe Dinnerware sets, as well as the Amsterdam Flatware and one Water Pitcher.

Community Prize: Nicole Lanteri will receive a $50 DWR Gift Card.

Random Prize: Mary Rauch will receive a $50 DWR Gift Card.

Thank you to all who entered – there were many great ideas to select from. Keep on the lookout for a new DWR contest soon.

Arne Jacobsen enrolled at women’s college.


The Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center at Wellesley College is an engaging structure that I hope to tell you more about in an upcoming Design Notes. It’s also the location of a recent DWR sighting: Series 7 Chairs (which were designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1955) in assorted colors are used throughout the space. P.S. Our classics are rarely on sale, but you can save on the Series 7 Chair during our Semiannual Sale through October 13.

October 02, 2009

Are they or aren’t they?


I spotted what appears to be a row of Eames Molded Plastic Chairs in a Laundromat in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. What do you think, are they Eames? If you live near Charles Street (and are doing laundry), see if there’s a stamp or anything under the seat. I was going to do that after I went to the Paramount (best breakfast in Beacon Hill) but then I forgot to circle back.