Revamped Vintage Chair, cushion and crystal glasses from Gild and Co. DIY flowers by homeowner, Bette.
Everything is designed, even household objects we use and look at everyday. Have a look at some of the beautiful everyday objects that I found at Vancouver Special on Main Street.
The ceramic bowl above, has a beautifully fitted wooden lid. The carafe, the juicer, and the bottle opener are all designed by Alessi, an Italian Design House. Alessi products are part of many permanent museum collections, which speaks to the quality of the designs they produce.
According to Alberto Alessi, “a true work of design must be able to move people, to convey feelings, to trigger memories, to surprise, to go against the grain… We work on expressive languages and on the expressive potential of the items… From this point of view, design intended… to conjure up images in people’s minds, which makes them a bit happier, still has tremendous potential. ”
I especially enjoy these objects’ mixture of utility and whimsy that puts the fun in functional.
The unique ‘crumpled paper’ cups above are another example of a witty twist on the expected. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but they feel good in your hands. The wooden spoons’ simple geometry are a departure from what we’re used to, but very functional and attractive. The toilet brushes and scrub brushes are all designed with wood and natural bristles. The toilet brush in particular has a kind of material gravitas that allows this often hidden object to be tastefully displayed.
This carpet is made from felted balls. Each carpet contains hundreds of felt balls, and will definitely brightens up any room while imbuing it with a hand-made human scale.
These classic vases are designed by Finnish Architect, Alvar Aalto, in 1936, and are still produced by Iittala. From the Iittala website:
“The Aalto vase dates back to 1936 and was first presented at the Paris World Fair the following year. Its fluid, organic form is still mouth blown today at the Iittala factory. It takes a team of seven skilled craftsmen working as one to create one Aalto vase – an icon of modern design, Alvar Aalto is undoubtedly one of the greatest names in modern architecture and Scandinavian design.”
It’s truly amazing how clean, modern design continues to feel fresh 77 years later.
Next time you are about to buy an everyday used object think about how it is designed and why you chose it. For me this kind of thoughtful connection with the design, and the designer, is part of a life well-lived.
Recently, I was at a friend’s birthday party at La Pentola Della Quercia in the OPUS Hotel Yaletown, when I looked up and saw something SPARKLE.
At the bar was a beautiful bride and her groom having a nightcap in full wedding attire. The bride’s retro style was very evocative, and evidently she had designed the beaded, low-back gown, accentuated with jewelry and sparkly shoes.
Seeing this bride, just dripping with glamour, I got a distinctly nostalgic feeling. The look is such a welcome departure from the conventional, puffy or ‘puffless’, strapless wedding dresses that seems to dominate the wedding scene.
This Gatsbyesque style dress by contrast is not only glamourous, it’s practical. A bride, according to traditional wedding designer Reem Acra, “…wants the glamour, but she wants the flowy dress — so she can move — the sexiness and the embellishment,” she said. “All these elements, in my mind, are saying ’20s.”
Jenny Packham, an evening wear and bridal gown designer in London, comments, “It was a wonderfully liberating time for women, to wear modern no-fuss clothing.” There’s a “strong contemporary relevance,” she added.
You don’t want to overdo it though and risk looking like a period piece. Instead, like this bride, update the look by focusing on the Art Deco embellishments and dress cut. The long reverse pendant necklace is playful, and accentuates the bare plunging backline of the dress.
Back to the party……cousins with style.
This is Rochelle’s fabulous home. Rochelle and her family have recently moved back to Canada after living abroad for the last 23 years, and in Hong Kong, for the last 7. Rochelle’s interior design degree from Parson’s in New York has served her well as is evident through the house. Wanting a pied-à-terre in Vancouver while her kids finished school, Rochelle and her husband took an old Kitsilano house and undertook a massive renovation.
Typically homes of this vintage are comprised of small rooms where one must pass through one room to get to another. To offset this rabbit warren feel, Rochelle has opened up the rooms and totally modernized the aesthetic. The living room, dining room and kitchen are all one large space. She recognized that with so much openness, ample storage would be a must. So all along one wall are built in storage cabinets setting a clean datum line for art and accessories.
Cleverly tucked away behind the kitchen is the generous ‘back of house’ where laundry, more storage, and home office reside. Recognizing that life happens, here the kids can drop their backpacks, shoes and what-have-you without impacting the pristine interiors of Rochelle’s home.
Above is the Scandia Easy Chair, 1957, by Hans Brattrud of Norway. Their sophisticated design aesthetic clearly shines in their collection of classic modern furniture pieces, right from the entry porch with its Verner Panton chairs through to the Saarinen dining table with Tulip chairs, nicely rounded out by the Arne Jakobsen Egg and Saarinen’s Womb chairs.
This 1950s ranch-style home in Sherman Oaks was completely renovated for Foofighter’s bassist Nate Mendel. This Mid Century Modern, was one of my favourites on the Dwell Home Tours. The home had an eclectic, tasteful decorating style with hits of colour throughout. Although the house has a new two-story studio guesthouse addition, from the street-side point of view the house sits low and unassuming. A wood-clad box demarcates the entrance. A hedge of Japanese blueberry provides privacy on the street side, “where a translucent gate opens onto a splashing fountain, and a bridge to the front door spans a sunken bed of succulents in lieu of a pond” (from Garden Design, read more).
Polished concrete floors ground the interior along with warm wood accents, while huge windows and sliding glass panels offer great views of the entire Los Angeles Valley, with a backdrop of the Verdugo and San Gabriel mountains beyond. According to the Architects, Scrafano and Gus Duffy Architects, the muted accents of a gray palette provide relief from the brilliant Los Angeles sun. The client’s desire for environmental sustainability influenced all material choices, construction practices, solar technologies as well as lighting and water fixtures (from Scrafano Architects website). The project is a collaboration between Scrafano Architect, Gus Duffy Architects and Mark Tessier Landscape Architecture.
My birthday was August 14 and I spent the day with my daughter who is visiting from Los Angeles. We took a walk down Main Street, in Vancouver, which has become a funky, hip neighbourhood with many boutiques, antique and vintage goods, cafes, and recently, home decorating shops.
Here I am sitting on a sofa in Vancouver Special, at 3612 Main Street (read more below). My daughter took this picture and it made me realize the vintage dress I was wearing was perfectly matched to the decor in the shop. This brings me to two points I want to share with you. Firstly, my dress is awesome and it goes to show you what you can pick up for next to nothing at a vintage store. And secondly, fashion now, more than ever, is one of main predictors of upcoming home decorating trends.
Photo from Freshome.
The styles, patterns and colours that graced the runways of Milan, New York and Paris are soon strutting down the pages of glossy fashion magazines and then end up in our closets. Yet people’s home decor would rarely reflect the fashions that they wore. (from Freshome)
Photo from Sourceable.
However, this is changing. What is happening in Fashion will often predict and inspire the latest looks in interiors. In recent years, the world of interiors has seen about a 2 year lag from runway to living room. Given the speed of information transfer now that time will only shorten. Fashion is not only about clothes and shoes anymore. Trends in the fashion industry have a direct impact on interior design all around the world.
So what exactly was I wearing on my birthday?
1. I am a big fan of vintage tiki and Hawaiian fashions. I found this dress recently at Community Thrift and Vintage, 311 Carrall Street. Cost $29.00. The dress is made of colourful heavy cotton in immaculate condition. 2. Shoes bought on sale for $50 from Madewell. 3. Silver charm bracelet handmade by Joan Scarabelli Jewellery Design. Each charm is a shoe based on the designs of Peter Fox Shoes and Manolo Blahnik Shoes.
‘Vancouver Special is a retail store offering a carefully curated selection of contemporary furniture, sofas, design objects, household accessories, and art and architecture books.’
Vancouver Special is a term used to refer to houses built in a particular architectural style in the period from roughly 1965 to 1985 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and its suburbs. The Vancouver Special house style has had a bad reputation because of its proliferation, its cheap materials, bland forms, kitschy decorations, ease of permitting and the fact that it was designed for two family occupancy. The Vancouver Special will be a topic of discussion in a later blog post.
This modern guest house built in 2012, was designed by Architect Noah Walker “to take advantage of the views without blocking them, and also connect with the impressive tree canopy on the site. There are125 coast live oak trees on the property.”
The guest house and concert hall as seen from the trees. Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope
The guest house consists of a low barn, extensively renovated, which is used as a living room and a concert hall for classical music. Adjacent to the barn is another structure described as a ‘glassy tree-house’ overlooking the nearby canyons. The main house is currently under construction and was not part of the home tour we took.
As we approached the house, we were first drawn to the gorgeous vintage brown Mercedes, parked in front of the house, and perfectly matched to the house’s aesthetic. It was a nicely appointed grace note for the whole experience. Although a large part of this house was a renovated barn, the whole project felt new. The materials, concrete floors, glass railings, open living, and floor to ceiling glazing made this guest house a jewel in the landscape.
Skylight in the upper bathroom.
Chandelier in the concert hall rafters.
Of all the houses we saw on the Dwell Home tours this was the one that my daughter emotionally ‘moved into’. When I asked her why – she said it was the house she could see herself living in very comfortably. Not to mention, ‘it’s so cool.’
Bruce Nassbaum, in his book Creative Intelligence, talks about the new ‘maker movement’ that is happening. He talks about how Generation Y has seen the negative effects of globalization and ‘throwing your lot in with a big corporation that has no loyalty to you’. Craft, is popular again, as we can see from on-line commerce sites like Etsy. Individuals can now put out their own music, make their own movies, and sell their home-made goods in a variety of ways. This is making.
We all have a need to create things, and we want real, tangible, authentic goods. HGTV television has shown us we can make through DIY projects. We recognize that organic or locally produced foods are better, and we love when our table is made from found materials. We are moving towards a climate of what I call, ‘local is the new black.’ In other words, GoLocal is the new Global. By buying recycled or used items (and locally made items with no transportation costs) we can realize some of the savings that were only to be had by exploiting underpaid foreign workers in unregulated environments.
My husband’s theory on two key contributors to the decline of Rome, (and comparable to our own experience) and relevant to mention, are:
- Mercenaries doing the work of Romans so the ‘locals’ forgot how to make, and therefore, became lazy, relying completely on others expertise.
- Decline in technical innovation – how do you innovate when you stop designing and making?
So who is making a difference?
A lovely new shop, called Gild & Co, has opened my neighbourhood. The store is where ‘Modern meets Vintage’. As a collector of vintage goodies I have a real soft spot for what proprietor Bonnie is trying to do.
Bonnie explains her philosophy:
She breathes new life into furniture that was manufactured at a time when high quality was the norm. With our tendency to over-consume, and when so many of the products of western culture ends up in landfills, it is exciting to know that buying vintage reduces the need to manufacture new furniture and harvest new materials. It is the ultimate in recycling because there is something very nostalgic, evocative and connective in rediscovering the classic artifacts of our shared past.
My friend Bette bought these beautiful Mid-Century Modern Chairs from Gild & Co to go with her new L-shaped sofa in a relatively small room. The chairs are the perfect scale, and are so comfortable and well made. It goes without saying, that it’s likely no one else will have these chairs! They are originals!
Beyond the great collection of furniture and embellishments, Bonnie is doing something for the vitality of our neighbourhood. It is not an easy neighbourhood in which to run a business. I have seen many businesses come and go, but as a designer and collector of modern furniture and cool stuff, I really want Gild & Co to be successful.
So please go out and support the local businesses that keep our cities vibrant!
Little did I know when my daughter suggested we have a drink at the Chateau Marmont, after a day of home tours in the Canyons, that it was the quintessential Los Angeles Hotel. Apparently the Eagles’ 1977 song ‘Hotel California’ is rumoured to be about the Chateau Marmont.
I have to thank the Vancouver Art Gallery’s latest show called, Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life for enlightening and informing me of the hotel’s notorious reputation for being the ultimate hedonist’s hangout. Without seeing this exhibition, I doubt I would have delved further into the seedier history of Los Angeles. Although I knew something was up when the hotel staff asked me to put my camera away. Anyone who knows me, knows, this is very hard for me to do. I did manage to sneak a few pictures, but my friends were nervous about being thrown out, so I had to limit my shots. We did see some recognizable faces in the courtyard so I assumed this request was in deference to their guest’s privacy. Evidently the Chateau’s tradition of carefully guarded guest privacy dates back to its opening in 1927.
The hotel was loosely modeled after the French Loire Valley’s Chateau d’Amboise and was purposely built and envisioned, as a place where entertainment industry talent could feel at home. The hotel was designed to allow guests to come and go discretely, resulting in the Chateau’s reputation as a place for intrigue and indiscretion. Most importantly, guests could come and go without being observed by the press.
The Marmont was originally conceived as a deluxe residential apartment complex. However, with the onset of the Great Depression, changes to the business model were required, so the Chateau became a hotel instead. The new owner capitalized on the flagging economy by purchasing antique furniture from estate sales, resulting in the Chateau’s distinctive style, so loved by visitors.
In the late 60s and 70s the Chateau Marmont was very popular with musicians and became the locus for the emerging Los Angeles music scene based in the Laurel Canyon. According to the exhibition, Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life, the Marmont was a retreat for some of the most famous musicians of the folk-rock revival, including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jim Morrison, The Mamas and the Papas, and the The Byrds. The Marmont emerged as the place to meet, hang out, jam and engage in a variety of shenanigans.
The exhibition further explains, “The stories are legendary: Janis Joplin wandering the halls at all hours of the night in a drug induced haze; Jim Morrison, in a fog of Jack Daniels and LSD, falling from his second-storey window and injuring his back; Led Zeppelin, in a juvenile gesture of rock ‘n’ roll tomfoolery, famously riding their motorcycles through the lobby; and Alice Cooper engaging in a spirited game of nude football. The Marmont assumed a tawdry feel in the 1970s, becoming a place to score drugs, entertain suicidal thoughts or hide from the world for a while.” John Belushi died of a drug overdose in his room, Bungalow #3 at the Chateau Marmont. Below is a 1956 view of the Marmont bungalows.
It wasn’t just musicians who made the Chateau Marmont their home. It also was a favourite place for old Hollywood from the 1930s through the 1950s. “Deals were made, careers established and destroyed, and relationships were forged and broken within the hallowed walls of the Marmont.” The founder of Columbia Pictures is known to have told young actors, “If you must get into trouble. Do it at the Marmont.”
Personally, we found the service to be incredible. When we were indecisive about which wine to order, our server brought us 3 varieties to try! I want to thank my agents provocateurs, Shelina, Devon and Paisley for making our Chateau Marmont experience so memorable! When in Los Angeles, pay the Chateau Marmont a visit, and if you are in Vancouver, go see the show, Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life.
Listen to Lana Del Rey’s interview on youtube where she talks about why she uses the Chateau Marmont in her videos.
Photo credit: All black and white photos are from the Vancouver Art Gallery and all others are taken by me.