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White House decorator opens furniture gallery Duke & Duke

August 24, 2011 |  8:22 am


Michael S. Smith, best known as interior decorator for the Obama White House, is far from the traditionalist that his Washington appointment might suggest. A case in point: Duke & Duke, the new gallery for furniture-as-art that Smith and his longtime art collaborator, Maya McLaughlin, recently opened in West Hollywood. Its first exhibition features the wildly inventive designs of Mattia Bonetti.

"Mattia holds true to the French classical artisan ideal of creating quality sculptural design, and then takes it to the next level with his use of magnificent and often unusual materials," Smith said by email. 

B062111A-0225 copy These materials include automobile paint and the kind of plexiglass used for the windshields of fighter jets. (The transparent material can be seen in the cabinet behind Bonetti, right, embellished with gold-plated brass.)

"He plays with the idea of old materials versus new materials, traditional versus garish, while always being  in control of how far he pushes the boundaries," Smith said. "His works always have a sense of humor and playfulness."

Indeed, the designs bring to mind styles such as Italian postmodernism (including the off-kilter polished stainless dresser with multicolored acrylic trim at the top of this post) and the flowing shapes of Art Nouveau in a bronze table lamp and Alu, an aluminum dining chair that seems to melt before your eyes (photo toward the end of this post).

Bonetti also seems to be a fan of Salvador Dalí, Antonin Gaudí and, in the case of tables made from what appear to be beads, Coco Chanel.

Screen shot 2011-08-23 at 1.38.14 PM Prices? Brace yourself. The Alu chair costs $8,500. The Chanel-esque Broken Pearl Necklace with chrome- and gold-plated brass bead legs and a lava stone top, right, is $75,000 (produced in a limited edition of 12).

The pieces can be seen through Sept. 7 at Duke & Duke. The gallery then will have a show of Christophe Come work and, in mid-November, pieces by Mira Nakashima, the daughter of legendary designer George Nakashima

"We want to build a gallery that elevates furniture designers who cross over into the contemporary art arena," McLaughlin said.

Keep reading to see more of Bonetti's designs ...

B062111A-0212Mattia Bonetti in his Garden loveseat, made from gilded wrought iron. His hanging Necklace console, at center in the background, is made from polished stainless steel and black nickel-plated brass. The Miami coffee table, far left, is made from nickeled bronze and glass.Picnik collage The Alu chair has an intriguing detail: a leather applique depicting a shadow of the chair's distorted ladder back.Screen shot 2011-08-23 at 1.561.48 PM

The Meander coffee table is made from patinated bronze with an acrylic top.

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Ennis House ALSO:

Michael Smith chosen to decorate White House

"Michael S. Smith Houses"

Landmark Houses: The Times series

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: Duke & Duke