Sex Appeal and Furniture

Armani is commonly considered to be the real star of American Gigolo. He and Richard Gere where at the beginning of their careers and are a perfect fusion of understated elegance and effortless cool. After AG, Armani continued to dress Gere for the rest of his life for free, since he so beautifully embodied the ideal Armani man.

Though I think it was set dresser George Gaines that was really the unspoken hero of American Gigolo. His fingerprints were all over the film. From the sleek interiors of Julian Kaye’s apartment to the red drenched dining room of the Beverly Hills Hotel, his chic eye continued the vibe of high class style seamlessly throughout the movie. With the assistance of visual consultant Ferdinando Scarfiotti he took every scene and made it cool. Most notably the line play across walls created from the metal horizontal metal blinds that would go on to be a staple of 80’s film Noir and music videos… think The Hunger and anything by Ridley Scott in the 80’s. I recently tried to recreate that for a portrait and instead of metal blinds had to make do with blue tape stuck on the window….. I’m sure the people across the way thought we were nuts..

Gaines had a stunning if short career doing art direction for visually lush movies like Shampoo, The Cotton Club, The Big Chill, Heaven Can Wait and All the President’s Men. American Gigolo not only represents quintessential 80’s Beverly Hills luxe and Palm Springs desert Chic but the minimalist Armani inspired touch keeps it utterly timeless as well.




Maximalist

Nothing says 80’s like the Memphis design movement. Launched in 1980 by Ettore Sottsass when he gathered a group of designers at his home in Milan for a pow wow. The result was a visceral response to the austerity of modernism that had dominated for decades, and the quintessential, over-the-top-ness of the 80’s began.

They chose the name from a Bob Dylan song, “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” Apparently that was the soundtrack for the night.

For me the Memphis look is one of the few true original styles of design that didn’t come from a previous decade or look, much like the Punk movement. Nothing has ever been seen like it before or since. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a design aesthetic since that is so original. This makes me respect and admire it even more...

Primary colors, graphic patterns, geometric shapes mixed with bold black and white stripes was coveted by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and David Bowie. Lagerfeld was known for periodically getting rid of everything he had and starting fresh. His Monte Carlo home in the 80’s is the best example of Memphis in full swing. Bowie was also a huge collector, though after his death it performed poorly at auction. Recently Memphis has started to gain popularity on the market and many of the designers that created the movement are discovering a rebirth in sales. You can see much of his collection in GQ.

I would never go so extreme with it, but the occasional statement Memphis piece really brings a sense of fun and contrast to a room. London was one of the first places to rediscover Memphis and about 5 years ago I started seeing pieces popping up in London home interiors which for me opened the vault to all things 80’s...

Speaking of statement pieces, the furniture design of Swiss architect Mario Botta has been high on my shopping list lately. Known primarily for his work as an architect, he too embraced pure geometric forms and major volume. Quintessential attributes of the 80’s.

He began his career working with Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, he went on to open his own practice in 1969. His ‘Mountain Church’ San Giovanni Battista at Fusio is one of my favorite references. The fluid lines and intricate patterns are almost otherworldly. He built the church in Switzerland after a small town was destroyed by an avalanche in 1986. The innovative building is made of alternating layers of Peccia marble and Vallemaggia granite. The church has no windows, and the interior is lit only by natural light that enters through the glass roof. So so chic.




Symbols, Shapes & Synchronicity

When it comes to inspiration, the more I dig, the more I find. Lately I’ve been drawn to symbols, carved in relief, sculptural shapes and the synchronicity of linking childhood influences to my current designs.

The intersection of the ancient past and the imagined future was a popular theme in the later 20th century. One of my favorite films Blade Runner (which incidentally is set in 2019) incorporates Mayan inspired carvings and architecture in the future apocalyptic earth. The famous Ennis House by Frank Lloyd Wright makes an iconic appearance and influences the otherworldly feeling with its bunker shapes and geometric carved stone.

You can also find similar symbols on the costumes of the Apes in the original film “Planet of the Apes”, another post-apocalyptic prediction of humanity causing its own extinction with a heavy subtext of racial inequality. Sounds like the world today….

Predictions of impending doom aside, the use of carved relief and geometric symbols is something I am absolutely loving. It adds dimension to raw materials and texture to minimalist color palettes. I recently acquired a pair of carved lamps that reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan revival style tiles and drew me down this rabbit hole and I decided to use his incredible tiles for a current project. Can’t wait to see the results.

Another recent obsession is the work of sculptor Francois Stahly. His molded wood carvings looked almost liquid and his stone sculpture recall the same flow and shapes of the Mayan inspired style. It’s interesting how looking back helps us to envision the future; and it’s certainly fascinating that some of the oldest evidence of human ingenuity is still the ideal structure for a future world.

Further evidence that maybe we truly always come full circle.




Organica

The name Brutalism comes from the French term beton brut, which literally means “rough concrete”. Le Corbusier is known as the creator of Brutalism, born of his love for the simple material, which enabled him to build incredible shapes, inspired by nature. Even though it found its name in the 20th century, examples of Brutalism exist from antiquity – the Pantheon is an exquisite structure that certainly embodies the classic philosophies of Brutalism.

Brutalism developed from economic need after WW II. Concrete was cheap and abundant, but the tie to nature, with its organic texture, raw, unrefined, earthy and unpretentious brings this trend back around, again and again.

There is a contrast to the hard stone and the fluid shapes it can create. Casting relief in concrete is a recent obsession of mine. Concrete is surprisingly malleable, flexible, expressive and has a soulfulness. I also love to see the contrast of living, green nature growing over the rough stone of city landscapes.

It has a flip side too. Cold, heartless and man-made, symbolic of man’s conquering and destruction of nature...

The below image of the Olivetti showroom in New York, designed by Italian Costantino Nivola is a current inspiration. I’m working with a well known and uber talented textile designer to create a fabric inspired by this incredible wall. Nivola and Le Corbusier developed a unique friendship in NYC after the war. They became a huge influence on each other and Nivola introduced Corbusier to his technique of developing bas relief.

The Salk Institute by Louis Khan is a Brutalist utopia. Known as the most famous building in California, the design is built around the patterns of natural light and influences the way the scientists interact with each other. It mimics nature in its epic perfection.

Another gorgeous use of concrete in the below walls, with cubbies carved in natural, imperfect forms, discovered through Michael Kramer and this unknown image of kitchen storage walls are just stunning. Now all I need is a concrete house…




Modernist Superstar

I’m looking back to move forward and focusing my eye on the work of Charles Gwathmey, an architect and designer known for his innovative work that started in the 1960’s. At 27 years old, he designed his first home, a beach house in Amagansett made for his parents. The home was a study in geometric forms (a common thread of his DNA) and the building redefined the idea of the classic Hamptons beach house. The home appeared on a multiple choice question for his final exam at Yale, as one of the examples for ‘organic design’. The correct answer was Frank Lloyd Wright, but this was a clear nod to his early brilliance.

“I have always been interested in fashion as an informing design discipline: proportion structure, detail, materiality, texture, color and quality. With a heightened interest in, and awareness of the build environment, the ‘store’ has become a critical, perceptual and psychological component of merchandising as we as imaging. Architecture and fashion are partners.”  

I think Peter Marino would agree with this statement.

Gwathmey was dubbed a ‘modernist superstar’ and quickly became named as one of the New York five in 1969 (along with Richard Meier). His namesake firm has created countless private residences and iconic structures like his renovation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, the Astor Place condominiums, and the Yale Art Complex. He designed amazing homes for clients like Faye Dunaway, Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.

In true modernist philosophy, Gwathmey’s designs were often led by the vision of how and who would be living in his structure. Form was a response to the need and reactive to the inspiration. A Gwathmey bedroom would be the first time I saw a bed positioned in the middle of the room. I recently moved into a new house and positioned my bed in the center of the space. One day while I was out and the cleaning lady was there I came home to find the bed neatly made, but pushed back into the corner of the room. This is what I love about design…

Who ever said the bed had to be against a wall?



The Elements of Style

“You should feel at all times that what is around you is attractive . . . and that you are attractive.”

If you know about Angelo Donghia, then you know he was America’s original superstar designer and multi-hyphenate. Encouraged by his father to start designing for his tailor shop at a young, Donghia built a true legacy and a versatile career all before the age of 50, when he tragically passed away from AIDS.

Donghia’s first major hit was in 1966 designing the Opera Club for the Metropolitan Opera House

at Lincoln Center. It has silver foil ceilings, blue chandeliers and black upholstery. He had a glamorous take on minimalism with luxurious surfaces and lots of texture, two things that ended up defining his career and iconic look.

“I’m going to be an interior designer, it doesn’t mean that I should die being an interior designer. I’d like to write a book. I’d like to do a movie. I’d like to do everything.”

Amen to that philosophy.

In 1968 Donghia launched a collection of fabrics and wallcoverings, which is still an important source today, the incredible Donghia Textiles. He was the first American decorator to put his name on a mass-produced line of sheets for JP Stevens and his empire of textiles, furniture and licensing deals is worth over $60 million.

Donghia’s style was minimal, based in 30’s glamour with a love of white. His trademarks included the use of silver gray, often through gray flannel, an attention to ceilings and “fat” furniture which we are starting to see again after a plethora of mid century small apartment proportions.

Interesting little fact, his most iconic sectional sofa designed for Ralph Lauren’s apartment in the early 80’s is still the number one selling collection at the studio. Style is never out of fashion.

The quintessential touches like suede walls in his master bedroom design below and the evocative lush glamour of his interiors is very 70’s and 80’s New York.

Needless to say Halston, Diana Ross  Barbara Walters, Mary, Liza Minelli, Grace Mirabella were amongst his residential clientele. I mean, c’mon who wouldn’t kill for a client list like that.

I wish he was still here today, I am sure he would have incredible stories to tell. The AIDS memorial on Instagram recently wrote a post on Angelo which is the reason I wrote this post today. I can only imagine what he would have gone on to inspire us with.



Travertine. The Other Marble.

Not to sound jaded but I’m starting to get bored with marble. Yes, it’s beautiful but it’s also everywhere these days. A buddy of mine is convinced everyone will be ripping it out in 5 years, and though I can’t say if that will happen, I think it’s a good time to start looking at other alternatives.

Lately I have been drawn to the more understated, but very chic, travertine and limestone.

Travertine is a cross between marble and limestone, formed by mineral waters, the formation process gives the stone incredible texture. It’s both soft, so easily manipulated, and extremely durable, it ages very nicely. Even in its most polished form, travertine is earthy. The porous grain maintains a raw feeling of nature.   

The stone is such an important part of our ancient history, it has almost mythical qualities.  The material has endured for literally thousands of years in the Turkish amphitheater of Hierapolis, constructed around 200 BC, in the ruins of ancient Egypt and the Etruscans, and of course in the Coliseum in Rome, completed in 80 AD.

Travertine is a not only beautiful, it’s quite indestructible.

Richard Meier used travertine to build the Getty Center in L.A. because of its historic importance with public architecture and also to express the qualities the Getty wanted to embrace: permanence, solidity, simplicity, warmth and craftsmanship.

Perhaps the most well known modern moment for travertine is the Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe. Perfect in its simplicity and fluid connection to nature.

Travertine is not a trend, it’s totally timeless.

This past year I’ve been coveting the travertine offerings from Studio Twenty Seven. A geometric side table by Plueersmitt and another number with by Francesco Balzano are two of my current favorite pieces. The travertine coffee table in my Orchard St. project is a beauty from the 70’s found on 1stDibs. I think we are drawn to items we have a history with, and for me travertine in the 80’s as a kid was the go to coffee table, so it takes me back to my happy teen years when I had 8% body fat.

Stéphane Parmentier

Fashion + design, architecture + interiors. Intrinsically linked. Their connection is how they shape the way we live.

I’ve been deep in the 80’s lately (please note my previous post) revisiting the sculptural shapes of the Memphis period. A style that in its full expression can be categorized as borderline cartoonish. I wanted to pluck elements from that, but streamline them for a more modern feel.

I love discovering new and unusual designs, and the artisans that make them.

A favorite piece in the home is by the incredible and versatile designer Stéphane Parmentier. The Scala table has an almost surrealistic quality with its perfectly curved silhouette, crafted in luxurious Nappa leather. I also highly covet the Bivio collection made from leather with suede trim on the internal leg structure. It’s a bit of decadence. Explore the collection at Studio Twenty Seven.

Parmentier has an incredible body of work that spans multiple disciplines and subtly dominates each one. Beginning with his work for Lanvin, Karl Lagerfeld and Givenchy as the director of women’s ready-to-wear, Stephane transitioned to interiors via a re-design for Singapore Airlines and moved on to design homes in Paris, Ibiza, London, Geneva and Mauritius Island. His expansion to the world of design in 2005 is a sophisticated extension of his vision and something I can also have a piece of.

Below are some of Stephane’s super chic rooms and the Scala at 196 Orchard St.



The 80's are coming...

When I was designing the Orchard St., 3 bedroom show apartment on the LES, I turned to New York in the 80’s for my inspiration. The culture clash of Uptown meets Downtown. Yuppies, punk rock, Haring and paradise garage.

Nothing says 80’s LIKE A VIDEO MONTAGE. Check out some of my favorite 80’s design moments in this little montage with some major Memphis vibes that I showed at “What’s New What’s Next” this past September in 200 Lexington Design.

Down and Out in Beverly Hills with some Steve Chase realness and Ruthless People for Memphis overload. I’ll be dancing on the ceiling baby…

MODA ARCHITETTURA

When it comes to design, for me it is a blend of architecture and fashion.

Cecil Beaton was an interesting chap and the legendary photographer was also a three time Oscar winner for his set and costume design.

His images were not just about the woman, or the clothes, they were also about the spaces they inhabit.

In addition to his many (many) other talents, Beaton was an incredible illustrator. His fashion illustrations were particularly sublime because the detail did not end with the clothes, it continued to the room that surrounds the models and depicts the décor in lush detail.

One of the initial inspirations for who the “Halsey” woman came from The Row. Their minimalist palette, clean lines and cozy textures were a reference point and are my key notes for design. As the rooms came together, I wanted to create an artistic extension of my overall vision and asked my friend, the talented designer and illustrator Michael Ward, to create images of Halsey.

Michael is a longtime staple in the fashion world, a designer who’s worked for everyone from Diane von Furstenberg to Burberry. But lately it’s his live sketches of runway shows and his chic new brand The Salting that occupy his time. Below are the two renditions of Halsey that he created for me.

The results are stunning and the perfect blend of all my inspirations.