The Palm Springs Art Museum plans to create an architecture and design exhibition and study space by restoring a Midcentury Modern building by E. Stewart Williams. The 1960 glass-walled building in downtown Palm Springs, a short walk from the museum, was built in the International style to house the Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan. In its new incarnation,the building will be called the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Edwards Harris Center for Architecture and Design.
“It’s incredibly unique," museum spokesman Bob Bogard said. "All of the walls are glass. It’s a really elegant building.”
Los Angeles architect Leo Marmol, whose Marmol + Radziner Architects will oversee the restoration of the building, called Williams "an incredibly powerful Modernist who yet had grace and sensitivity" in his designs. The museum, Marmol said this week, will be one of the few stand-alone architecture and design spaces in the country; in a time of economic uncertainty, the project is a message of hope, showing that the museum is "committed to our future by preserving our past."
The backyard swimming pool can be an object of desire or a sign of suburban sterility, an icon of the good life or a symbol of its demise. The Palm Springs Art Museum’s new show, “Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography,” looks at these contradictions and provides a revealing peek at this fixture of Southern California life, one that dots the landscape but nonetheless often remains hidden from view.
The photographs, taken from 1945 to 1982, are just plain fun to look at — the exquisite skill of the photographers, pretty bodies in pretty settings, recognizable pieces of recent cultural history. But a closer look uncovers a much more thought-provoking exhibition.
“I had been wanting for a really long time to do a show that looked at cultural geography,” the idea that place is not just its physical coordinates but also “the ideology that makes up people’s imagination of a place,” said Daniell Cornell, senior curator.
Life seems perfect in the 1970 photograph “Poolside Gossip” taken by Slim Aarons — from the pose of a lounging woman and her flip hairdo, to the glassy blue of the generous-sized pool, to the purples and blues of the mountain view.
The group of partygoers in “We Don’t Have to Conform,” a 1971 photograph shown at top by Bill Owens, practically screams Southern California stereotypes. Seven people, drinks in hand, sit in a hot tub with their feet raised at the center, touching, forming a leg tepee.
The Times photo studio was abuzz (and aflame) earlier this week as we re-created an October 1951 Los Angeles Times Home Magazine cover, swapping out the furniture of the past with California design of the present.
Inspired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's authentic restaging of that 1951 scene, the Home crew earlier this month took key elements -- indoor armchair, patio chair, planter, fire feature and so on -- and nominated contemporary California designers and manufacturers who embodied modern living. We added a category, pet beds, to acknowledge the larger role that pets play in our lives (and our pocketbooks). Then we asked you to vote.
More than 6,700 votes were cast, and the designs pictured in the photo at top represent your favorites, assembled and staged by writers David A. Keeps and Lisa Boone with an assist from Katy McNerney. Your choices -- a rechargeable LED outdoor lamp, a computer-cut room divider and more -- spoke volumes about what modern living means today.
In thinking about California design that truly embodies the idea of modern living, the Home crew kept returning to the new ModSeries shelving system created by Bernard Brucha, founder of Mash Studios in Venice.
Why? Take a look at this adorable ModSeries video and you'll discover what won us over: a modular system that has a clean, Scandinavian vibe coupled with practical versatility.
The components are shipped flat and assembled at home with one Allen wrench (included), but the construction is solid: The system is based on cubbies made of powder-coated steel uprights and shelves made of wood (shown in pine here but available in other finishes). Each cubby is 24 inches wide, 13.5 inches high and 15.5 inches deep, and it can be configured with doors (plain wood or upholstered), drawers or a drop-down desktop, right.
The units can be built as nightstands, dressers and low media consoles. Construct them as tall towers joined together and you've got a wall unit that appears to float on thin, metal plate legs.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will open “California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way” on Saturday with a 60-year-old magazine cover brought to life. An October 1951 cover of the L.A. Times Home magazine has been re-created as part of the exhibit, complete with plastic Eames armchair, Van Keppel-Green cord patio furniture and other pieces of modern living. It's a scene that Times editors presented with the headline: “What Makes the California Look.”
“People are still clamoring for accessible modernism, and these pieces fulfill that desire as well as speak to interest in the past and in how people lived when there was promise and hope, the dawning of a new age,” said Bobbye Tigerman, co-curator of the show. “It speaks to contemporary desires and hearkening back to old times.”
The California Look poll: Epilogue -- design honorable mentions
In the past two weeks, you've helped us to determine the California Look of 2011. You've voted on room dividers, lamps, rugs, lanterns, fire features, planters, even pet beds -- all reflecting different aspects of a modern, indoor-outdoor California home.
The L.A. at Home team had some spirited discussions about who our nominees should be for a modern-day version of that vignette. Source of debate No. 1: Unless you were planning to put your drink inside that sleek barbecue, the original 1951 scene had no coffee table.
Some compelling lobbying was made to break from the 1951 template and nominate two coffee tables by Los Angeles designers. In the end, we didn't add that category to our poll, but we'll share the designs here:
The Logpile table, at the top of this post, is by Alexander Purcell of Aprro Design, who dropped his Sake Bomb decanter on us in 2010. It's made of Douglas fir with a glass top. The Logpile is made to order in Los Angeles; as shown here (42 by 33 inches), it costs $3,450.
The Redlands table by Lawson Fenning, a simple yet elegant blending of the organic and the synthetic. The table, below, is made from Northern California-sourced buckeye or redwood spalted root balls, co-owner Glenn Lawson said.
"They dig the root balls of long-ago cut down or fallen trees, which can be as big as 20 feet in diameter, and cut them into slabs," he said. Set on an clear acrylic base, the hefty slabs seem to float in the air. Lawson Fenning keeps a selection of slabs in stock, and prices range from $2,250 to $3,850.
This is the Golden State, so it seemed fitting that the final category of our two-week poll on contemporary California design focus on the glow of candlelight. The finishing touch to a warm and intimate atmosphere, inside or outside. We've selected two locally designed lanterns for your consideration.
And the nominees are ...
A. The Season lantern was designed by Chiaki Kanda of NotNeutral, the product design group of Rios Clementi Hale Studios in Los Angeles. The Mexican meets Morrocan lantern is made from powder-coated steel with pinholes that have been acid-etched into patterns that cast dramatic shadows, above left. Each lantern comes with a handle for hanging and a removable interior candle stand so you don't have to stick your lighted match all the way down to the bottom.
B.Steve Halterman's 18-inch-tall stained glass lanterns have a Big Sur vibe. They're made from sandblasted redwood, circular glass rondels and leather straps. During the day they cast colorful shadows in sunlight, above right; at night candles illuminate the stained glass.
Cast your vote below and share your comments about which lantern captures the spirit of home design today. Winning pieces and reader comments will be featured in a forthcoming article.
Back in the day, Snoopy would have spent the night in the doghouse and Garfield might have been let out in the morning, but now cats and dogs are a larger part of the family -- and they have beds, boxes and fancy furniture to prove it. As we hit the home stretch of our two-week survey on the best of contemporary California design, we decided no depiction of modern life would be complete without a place for our furry friends. But cat lounger or dog bed? Set aside your pet preferences and focus on the design merits of our two nominees:
A. Artist and furniture designer Elizabeth Paige Smith founded Kittypod in 1998, making scratching pads and habitats from recyclable corrugated cardboard. Her Kittypod is a sleekly minimalist 2-foot-diameter bowl perched on a wooden pedestal. It's 100% recyclable and made in California.
B. Eva I. Sobesky of the residential and landscape design firm EIS Studio in Venice has created a line of indoor-outdoor table-seats called Pebbles in cast stone, resin and upholstery. This version, carved from stacked laminated plywood, forms a curvaceous dog nest complete with upholstered cushion.
Vote below and let us know which design tickles your dog or cat fancy. The poll in this category will close in three days, so share your opinions now about why your favorite captures the spirit of California design today. Winning pieces and reader comments will be featured in a forthcoming article.
Coming Friday: Our final poll in the series: patio lanterns
The floor, interior designers say, is the fifth wall of a room -- one that deserves a work of art, usually in the form of a beautiful rug. Although shags offer a groovy vibe and antique rugs have always had a place in the home, the latest looks in carpets seem to get their magic from organic forms, ethnic patterns and graphic design. That's why we've selected these four contemporary rugs as part of our two-week reader poll to define the California Look in 2011. Which one of these rug designs really floors you?
A.Tracery is an abstract carpet by Los Angeles decorator Kelly Wearstler, known for her high-voltage Hollywood glamour. Depending on how you look at the wool and silk design for the Rug Company, it appears to be a flattened floral pattern, a richly and randomly veined marble floor or ... you decide.
B. Los Angeles designer Michael S. Smith, who owns Duke & Duke Gallery and is best known as the decorator of the Obama White House, created Oslo for Mansour Modern. The folkloric print, shown in detail here, has a topstitch-patterned border that is decidedly Scandinavian. The rug also exhibits the illustrative flair of modern craft designs.
C. The Los Angeles design firm Commune, which created the ultra-hip look of the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, has teamed with Decorative Carpets on a collection of floor coverings. Among them: Letterpress, shown in detail, which references Victorian handbills and the graphic alphabet patterns of midcentury designer Alexander Girard.
D. Designed by Ben Soleimani of Mansour in Los Angeles, the Talaa rug is part of the fourth-generation rug expert's signature line for Restoration Hardware. Made from hand-knotted mohair, it has the graphic punch of a trellis pattern with Moroccan coloring and texture.
Which rug could you picture in your living room? Voting in this category will close in three days, so share your opinions now about why your favorite captures the spirit of California design today. Winning pieces and reader comments will be featured in a forthcoming article.
These days, how a chair is made can be just as important as how it looks. We continue our California Look 2011 poll by asking you to consider these four California designs. Vote for your favorite and tell us why you think it speaks to the idea of modern living.
And the nominees are ...
A. Gregg Fleishman's Lumberest dining chair. Culver City architect Fleishman, no stranger to L.A. at Home, uses interlocking parts to create a chair that is cut from a single piece of 4-by-8-foot laminated plywood, reducing waste. It ships flat and unfolds for use. The intricately patterned design provides a springy seat and back for comfort.
B. Katso from Cisco Home. Talk about modern times. The Los Angeles firm has made an admirable attempt to keep manufacturing local and in many ways symbolizes the challenges facing the furniture industry. Locally made, the Katso stool is a wonderful example of fashionable industrial design: a tractor-style seat carved from solid wood and set on a steel base.
C. The Maria chair from Sidecar Furniture in the Highland Park neighborhood of L.A. Owner David Johnson not only designed the chair but also builds them himself. He uses "urban forested" walnut for a frame constructed with mortise and tenon joinery, and he weaves the cane seat and back by hand. The result is exceptionally strong and stylish -- an example of classic craftsmanship that we think speaks to the desire for handmade work in a manufactured-in-China world.
D. The dining chair from Marmol Radziner. The Los Angeles architecture firm's achievements include the restoration of Richard's Neutra's Kaufmann house in Palm Springs, the design and production of prefab homes and a line of furniture. The firm's Dining Group has a strong architectural presence and is made to order from solid walnut or maple.
Which should take the throne? Cast your ballot below. We'll close voting in this category in three days, so share your opinion now about which chair best captures the spirit of home design today.