Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 11/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
The Art of Living
by Bärbel Miebach
New York: Monacelli Press, $65
240 pages, 200 color illustrations
Photographer Bärbel Miebach, who moved to the U.S. a decade ago and occasionally shoots for this magazine, has made some interesting artist and designer friends. Here is generous coverage of their wonderfully eclectic houses and apartments. Some of the subjects employed professional help; others did not. (A few who didn't should have.)
Ellsworth Kelly's home and art studio in Spencertown, New York—expanded by Gluckman Mayner Architects—is enlivened by large sculptures. Ruth Nivola, widow of sculptor Costantino Nivola, occupies a farmhouse in Amagansett, New York, that's enriched by his work as well as objects by old friends, such as lighting by Isamu Noguchi, a painting by Josef Albers, and a mural by Le Corbusier. In Guilford, Connecticut, the house and studio of painter Rebecca Quaytman and cinematographer Jeff Preiss was originally designed by artist Tony Smith and recently restored by K/R's John Keenen. Then there are two New York interiors that span the aesthetic spectrum. Vivienne Tam's apartment, renovated by Ether, is spare but softened by Ming dynasty furniture and luxe wall treatments, while photographer Andres Serrano's triplex is chockablock with choir stalls, a bishop's throne, religious relics, skulls, and a taxidermic cat.
Highly personal choices have produced highly personal results. We might not wish to live in many of them, but they are a delight to visit.
Wallpaper: A History of Style and Trends
by Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz
Paris: Flammarion, $75
240 pages, 270 illustrations (260 color)
Behold the fascinating history of wallpaper, luxuriously retold. With its full-page images, large format, and thick stock, this volume resembles a sample book. Turn the leaves, and it even smells like wallpaper.
Early chapters cover the French 16th-century dominotiers, printers of playing cards and marbled bookbindings; John Baptist Jackson's company in London and the masterly Jean-Baptiste Réveillon outside Paris; and the influences of Pompeii and Napoléon's excursions in Egypt. A chapter titled "The Great Adventure of the Panoramique" describes the murals of Jean Zuber et Cie and Joseph Dufour et Cie. The heroine of "Wallpaper in America" is decorator Nancy McClelland. "Aesthetic Renewal and the Road to Modern Art" brings us to Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, E.W. Pugin, William Morris, Christopher Dresser, Charles Voysey, Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, and the Bauhaus. Perhaps of greatest interest to current designers is the final chapter: "The Contemporary Revolution" features papers by Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Ettore Sottsass, and Alessandro Mendini as well as Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. Some of their patterns are presented in rooms by Interior Design Hall of Fame members Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, Jamie Drake, and Juan Montoya.
Strangely, however, the author—a dealer in antique and vintage wall coverings since 1986—seems to believe that they're a secret just being discovered. Her foreword states, "I sincerely hope that through this book, I can. . .open a door onto a most magical world and enable readers to discover a unique area of the decorative arts." Strange also and a great pity, considering the amount of riches assembled in these pages, is the lack of an index. Even without it, though, this book makes an important contribution to the literature.
What They're Reading...
Leon Ransmeier, Principal of Ransmeier Industrial Design and creative director of DBA
Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: Over 30 Years of Conversations with Robert Irwin
by Lawrence Weschler ; Berkeley: University of California Press, $25; 310 pages, 86 illustrations (50 color)
Old joke: How many designers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Does it have to be a lightbulb? Even by those industry standards, Leon Ransmeier swings to the extreme when it comes to defying conventional expectations. He says he's constantly searching out the "space between understanding an object's historic-cultural cues and shifting its perception on a physical level." Since his school days in New York, he's found inspiration in the conceptual installations of Robert Irwin, who manipulates light and space in an effort to question and transform visual perception. "When you experience his environments, your way of being shifts," Ransmeier says. He himself is now working to bring metamorphosis to the daily grind—with a desk commissioned by the Philip Johnson Glass House, to be produced in a limited edition by Wright. —Deborah Wilk