After a trip to the Tate Modern in London, we headed over to meet a friend at Kings College. We walked over the elegant, sinuous Millennium Bridge. It’s has been a couple of years since our last visit and this time we noticed that everyone was looking down and pointing, not the sort of thing you expect to see in the middle of this busy thoroughfare. The once magnificent, pristine bridge has definitely aged.
The metal rungs of the bridge are now the repository for discarded chewing gum. It’s a bit shocking to see the how little regard people have for their city’s icons. I am always surprised that so many people do not consider discarded cigarette butts and chewing gum as destructive litter.
The silver lining however is that Artist Ben Wilson, aka The Chewing Gum Man, apparently a regular sight on the bridge, takes these disgusting remnants of people’s chewing gum and turns them into mini works of art.
Many of the pieces are commissioned by tourists and locals commemorating their visit or someone in their lives. The intricate paintings can take hours to make.
Ben likes to create art that means something to the people who ask for it. This was a tribute to victims of the Japanese Tsunami.
This image shows people on the bridge looking at Ben’s artwork and St Paul’s Cathedral at the end of the Millennium Bridge axis.
It’s the endless possibility of patterns that seems to excite Ben’s creative mind. As Ben explains “sometimes I can look at the shape and I can see what I want to create…the gum gets stuck between the tread and takes on an echo or a form of the bridge.”( quote is from (image from Inspiring City)
The Millennium Bridge has now become an experiential, free, outdoor art gallery. In his words, about painting onto discarded chewing gum, “it’s not criminal damage” he tells me “the chewing gum is already there I’m just transforming it into something beautiful that people would like to look at.” (Quote is from Inspiring City)).
This may be the ultimate expression of ‘taking lemons and making lemonade’. Ben Wilson has taken trash and turned it into an amazing interactive tourist attraction. Now if he could only turn his hand to those cigarette butts. (The 3 image above are from Inspiring City)
Yesterday, while rummaging around in a mid-century modern vintage store, Refind, I found a fabulous painting of a magnolia branch by an artist I had never heard of before, Vladimir Tretchikoff, the King of Kitsch. It’s actually a print with an added pencil signature by the artist. The painting is called ‘Pink Magnolias.’
Those who know me know that I have a thing for kitschy Tiki, Hawaiian and Asian objects of art. I love vintage Hawaiian postcard, I throw tiki parties, love the cocktails and will wear a Hawaiian shirt without any hesitation.
However, I have never delved into the world of kitsch paintings. Perhaps in my mind the prohibitive image of black velvet paintings is too strong. This all changed when I went to an open house in Los Angeles a few months ago. I was so inspired and taken aback by the collection of vintage Hawaiian paintings, hanging in the master bedroom, that looked so elegant and stylish, and totally complimented the aesthetics of the room.
I realize it took a certain amount of panache to combine so-called real art with the flagrantly low culture pieces. But this was done, not for Kitschy irony but for the simple beauty afforded by the combination of colours and imagery. Read my blog post here.
My husband said to me yesterday just before we bought the painting “You have to be pretty confident in your design style to hang this kind of stuff.” Well we decided we were,so we bought the signed print, replete with its original frame.
I am so pleased we did because it is amazing! I haven’t decided where to hang this gorgeous piece so, in the meantime, I decided to do a bit of research on Vladimir Tretchikoff.
It turns out I may be the only one in the world who hasn’t heard of him. Tretchikoff was a self-taught artist who painted realistic figures, portraits, still life and animals, with subjects often inspired by his early life in China, Singapore and Indonesia, and later life in South Africa. “His work was immensely popular with the general public, but is often seen by art critics as the epitome of kitsch (indeed, he was nicknamed the “King of Kitsch”). He worked in oil, watercolour, ink, charcoal and pencil but is best known for his reproduction prints, which sold worldwide in huge numbers. The reproductions were so popular that it was rumoured that Tretchikoff was the world’s richest artist after Picasso.” (Wikipedia)
The Magnolia and other tropical flowers, as well as, women from the Orient and Africa seem to be common themes in his paintings. “Arguably the prints had a populist appeal for being representational not abstract, yet they were also intriguingly exotic and enigmatic with their unfinished backgrounds, unconventional use of colour and Far Eastern or African subjects.” (Flashin’ on the 70s)
The Tretchikoff painting above, called ‘Chinese Girl’ (popularly known as “The Green Lady”), is one of the best selling art prints of the twentieth century. Recently, the original sold for nearly $1.5 million in London. The model for the painting was Monika Sing-lee who was around twenty at the time and was spotted by Tretchikoff working in her uncle’s laundrette in Cape Town.
This short Youtube video explains the interest in the painting.
The Chinese Girl painting has appeared in numerous famous depictions of popular culture. For example the painting can be seen hanging in the background of an animated living room in the music video for the song Young Folks by Peter Bjorn & John.
It can be seen adorning the living room of Bob Rusk, the killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Frenzy in 1972.
The painting is seen in the apartment of Ruby, Shelley Winters’ character, in Alfie (1966).
As I always knew, exploration of junk stores leads to discovery and education. So next time you see a kitschy oil painting remember that these iconic pieces have their own stories and are touchstones of their period in time. Tretchikoff was interesting and his stuff is appealing – even with the layer of nostalgia and kitsch. Remember It’s OK and even pretty darn cool to combine disparate pieces – high and low art – Let’s not forget Mr. Warhol! It shows confidence and leadership – instead of waiting to see what might be cool – you go with your instincts and have confidence in your taste.
Finally, don’t forget to drop in to some open houses because you can learn from touring real estate and seeing other peoples Mojo.
I decided to hang my Vladimir Tretchikoff, Pink Magnolias painting in my entry foyer next to my blue West German vase.
Some of the images above were found on google images. If these photos are yours and you have concerns about their usage on this blog, please contact me and I will remove them. Thanks!
Sorry I’ve been MIA, but I’ve been busy working on a number of different projects that I hope to share with you soon.
Today I did some design sleuthing. The Chinatown Experiment showed up on my Instagram feed so I headed down to 434 Columbia street to see ‘ADDRESS’ an assembly of fine furniture and home accessories put together by Kate Duncan. ADDRESS is a carefully curated display of locally designed and crafted furniture, lighting, textiles, artwork, as well as natural and sculptural home accents.
I met Kate and was very impressed by the wood furniture and accents which she personally designed and made. There were beds, coffee tables, cutting boards, dressers, and an amazing bathroom cabinet made from a number of different maple finishes.
The second innovative house project, involving female clients and well-known architects, is the Schroder House, in Utrecht, Netherlands. The house was designed by Gerrit Rietveld for Truus Schroder in 1923-1924.
This house is of particular interest to me because as an architecture student I made the pilgrimage to The Netherlands specifically to see it. I was studying in London when I made the trip to see this fine example of the De Stijl (aka Neoplasticisim) movement and icon of modern architecture.
It took a while to find it and when we did it was smaller than I had imagined but so beautiful. There it stood in all its acontextual beauty like an exotic alien species against the backdrop of austere traditional dutch architecture.
The Schroder House house looks like a 3 dimensional Piet Mondrion, De Stijl painting. The two are often compared to one another and arise from the same geometric theoretical principles of pure abstraction of horizontal and vertical forms expressed using only primary colours to achieve a kind of universality of form and expression. Ironically the Schroder, while in stark contrast to its historic neighbours, still expresses the Calvinist severity and clarity of the Dutch mind.
Truus Schroder was a young widow with 3 children when her family moved into the house. She had a vision of family life in the modern world. Friedman describes this saying “the house had a double personality-playful and carefree on the one hand, yet disciplined and even moralistic on the other-reflects the complex personalities of architect and client, and the unique nature of the collaboration between Rietveld, who had never built a building before, and Schroder, a well-to-do women with strong ideas about how and where she wanted to live.”
The house was an opportunity to break free of ‘repressive traditions and rules-both social and architectural, and create a totally modern environment. The use of bright coloured elements represented freedom and choice.
Truus Schroder and Gerrit Rietveld went on to work together on a number of important projects together during the 1920s and 1930s. “The work Rietveld and Schroder did together was not simply to communicate this new sense of life but literally to guide body and mind toward clearer and more actions and thoughts”
The Red and Blue Chair was designed in 1917 by Gerrit Rietveld. It represents one of the first explorations by the De Stijl art movement in three dimensions.
All Photos are from Google Images. All quotes are from Women and the Making of the Modern House by Alice T. Friedman
This week was minted for me. Minted in all senses of that word; fresh, new, optimistic, tasteful and of value. Every year we receive a Christmas card from family friends, the Ds. Over the years, their family of 9, (seven children) has grown with each wedding, and with each new grandchild. This year’s holiday card was particularly beautiful. The D family photo was of all 15 of them on their 5th child’s wedding day. But this year’s card was different. This one was really beautiful. It had a pearlized, lustrous finish that made everyone in our household turn it over to find out who had printed it. It was by a company I had not heard of before called Minted. I had made cards through other companies but this one was very distinct. Because I do not have official permission to show you my friend’s card, at this time, I am just going to show you a slice, to give you a sense of what Minted can do.
Coincidently, a couple of days later I received an email from Matt from Minted. He asked if I would consider doing a review of Minted’s on-line stationary site. Normally I might not have paid any attention to the request, but because I had just received the D family’s Wedding announcement/Christmas Card, I was intrigued. Minted would like to introduce people to their 2014 wedding series. Here is the link to this new collection: http://www.minted.com/save-the-date .
What I noticed immediately about Minted is that they have an amazing collection of modern designs. The compositions are fresh, current and aesthetically pleasing. They have the look of being thoughtfully composed by trained designers. This is no coincidence, because Minted prides itself on their commitment to good design. They can give this assurance because of the Minted Design Challenge.Designers submit their ideas and the Minted community votes on which designs Minted should sell.
Minted has a great selection of announcements, as well as, photo cards.
Their “mission is to connect he world’s best design geniuses with a community of design-savvy customers who enjoy the creation and appreciation of good design.” Well, I cannot help but to agree with this statement. As a design-savvy consumer I instantly appreciated the quality and artistry of this year’s D family Christmas Card. I will be looking to Minted to give my family card the same ‘lustre’ and panache next year, and you should too. Given my own commitment to good design you can trust that I mean what I say. Have a look at the Minted options and see how you can wow your friends and family! www.minted.com
If you missed getting out your holiday card, try one of these Valentine’s Day cards and show your love!
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.
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.
They maintained the exterior character of their shingled Kitsilano house to respect the context of the neighbourhood. Only the large modern front door hints at what lies on the other side.
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.
The stairs are pure sculpture. Glass rails are bolted with stainless steel fasteners transparently enlarging the space.
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.
Of particular beauty is Rochelle’s homage to China and Hong Kong, manifested through artwork, ceramics and the cinnabar high-gloss tiles in the powder room.
The couple are avid art collectors, and have acquired work ranging from graduating artists at Emily Carr to eclectic pieces that span the globe.
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.
Even family time is design accented as the family plays backgammon on a Jonathan Adler tapestry board in the casual attic lounge.
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.
The bits and pieces:
All photographs have been taken by me unless noted on the individual photos.
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.
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)
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.
‘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 stylein 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.