Thursday, April 21, 2011



Sometimes the line between what we put on a hanger and where we hang the hanger can be a little blurry. Like little foxes we interior designers steal from the fashion world and sometimes the fashion world pays us back with the compliment of finding us interesting enough to steal from us.

Last week I got a press release from our former office manager, Scott Perkins. Scott is now the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1956 the Price Tower is Wright’s only built skyscraper. The concept for the building was to combine office space with retail space and apartment living. As with all of Frank’s designs not a single detail was left up to the client. Every light fixture, every piece of molding, every drape, every nail if not designed by him had to acquire his stamp of approval before it could assume its rightful place in one of his designs. The Price Tower is no exception; every detail is pure Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Now designer, Lauren Dreiling from Hopestone Studio Designs has reproduced a textile designed by Frank in 1954 and come up with this amazing jacket. The pattern and color palette are what Frank had designed for the drapery treatments in the tower. Now like Scarlet O’Hara, you can rip those drapes off their rods and wear them with your head held high.

The designer, Jean-Paul Gaultier, has taken his fashion obsession and made his living environment model and wear his designs. You walk on it, sit on it and it pads the walls. For many this may represent the insanity of a mental hospital, for others it may lull them into a serene sense of total bliss. 

Like the beautiful jersey tee Jean-Paul wears with its horizontal stripes and contrasting white yolk, the stretched fabric covering the settee make you smile with its humor inviting you to contemplate jumping up and down on it like a trampoline and bouncing off the walls.

UK designer, Hussein-Chalayan, twice named British designer of the year has completely blurred the line between fashion and furniture. With this collection, shown at Design Museum in London, Hussein has made fashion that also doubles as furniture. Here the model is wearing a table that doubles as a skirt. It’s not very good for dancing close but if the dance hall is crowded you need not worry about finding your owns table.

We also got into the act with the introduction of the Shaver/Melahn furniture line. Rick’s ingenuity brought with it the line of Emmy furniture available with or without little pleated skirts made from the customer’s choice of fabrics. The most popular skirted item was the Emmy cigarette table, perhaps because of its slender legs and curvaceous drum modesty forced the addition of the hiked up schoolgirl skirt. It was flirtatious and whimsical and juts a little naughty. 


We had seats, first row center in the balcony, for Disney’s initial entry into the field of the Broadway musical. It was our daughter’s first time at a live production and her eyes grew to the size of saucers as the curtain rose. She must have been all of five, she had been to movie theaters before but she’d never seen the three-dimensionality of live theater. I have to admit that the opening scene of Belle’s little hamlet in “Beauty and the Beast” with its brilliantly oversaturated sunrise is a breathtaking moment for anyone’s first glimpse at the magic of Broadway and the perfection of Disney. As if that wasn’t enough, our daughter’s mouth formed a perfect “O” when the prince was magically transformed into the Beast and that was only the beginning of the anthropomorphic transformations in this musical. So to carry out the theme of this week’s posting I’d like to move past Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs.Potts and pay homage to my favorite transformation, from opera singer to wardrobe, it’s Madame de la Grande Bouche. Actually Madame is more a combination of a chiffonier and a chifforobe than a wardrobe. La Grande Bouche’s face is where you’d find a mirror on a chiffonier but since a real chiffonier is a very thin chest frequently used for lingerie Madame’s body wouldn’t quit fit in it, thus the chifforobe body double with a place to hang wardrobe on one side and an abundance of drawers on the other. We all cheered at both the movie and Broadway versions of Madame de la Grande Bouche, falling in love with tartly painted veneers and coquettish hardware knobs.


On a blustery evening on January 23 in 1931 a long line of luxury automobiles had pulled up to the canopied entrance of the Hotel Astor on 44th Street in New York City. It was the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects annual costume ball. Most of the well-to-do of the city’s social registry were dressed in their interpretation of the, “Fete Moderne” theme. Advertised in the New York Times as “modernistic, futuristic, cubistic, altruistic, mystic, architistic and feministic” the ball had become a diversion from the economic depression facing the world and a competition of avant-garde outrageousness. The festivities didn’t begin until late into the evening where revelers danced to the unconventional sounds of an orchestra made up of pneumatic riveting machines, live steam pipes, ocean liner whistles and sledgehammers. A group of prominent architects had collectively decided to come attired as their most recognizable buildings. Ely Kahn came as the Squibb Building, A. Stewart Walker was completely hidden underneath his Full Building, the spire of the Empire State Building rose from the head of William Lamb but the most flamboyant was William Van Alen who not only wore the helmet replica of his Chrysler building but wore a cloak and space-age boots made of patent leather with the same exotic wood inlays used in the elevators at the Chrysler Building. Gargoyles fashioned after those that protrude from the building’s 61st floor grew from his shoulders daring the rest of his competition to challenge his costume supremacy.
Although all of the costumes have since deteriorated and become lost to our architectural history, the image of these self-confident architects remains in an amazing photograph, an image that has inspired later cultures to revive the tradition at their own Beaux-Arts Balls.

Photographer unknowm

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