Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 2/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
International Beach Houses
by Louisa Wattson
New York: Harry N. Abrams, $35
192 pages, 350 color illustrations
Although the presentation is somewhat uneven, this book excels in the ways that matter most, in the choice of houses and the manner they're shown. The selection is truly international, with only five houses among the total 23 in the U.S. and the rest representing Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania. Without exception, these interesting projects on splendid waterfront sites are shown amply via fine color photography and floor plans.
The book opens with a bang, Crosson Clarke Architects's striking wood box on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. "By means of a simple electronic mechanism," we are told, two large sections of exterior wall can be lowered to form terraces, leaving the inside of the house open to the air and view. A few pages later we are in Japan, with a daring horizontal house by Shigeru Ban Architects—the upstairs bedroom acts as a kind of bridge over an open main floor. Another Japanese project is a small, ingenious tower rendered in Tadao Ando Architect & Associates's signature reinforced concrete. Largest and most elaborate of the houses is one that Richard Meier & Partners built in Malibu, California; the house is white, of course, and filled with light and art. Contrasting with the predominant sleekness of the other examples, a heavily textured masonry house by Studio Alberto Ponis is roughly hexagonal in plan, nestling among rock outcroppings on the Italian island of Sardinia.
The text, unfortunately, is more descriptive than factual, more adjectives than nouns, and some phrases read like an unpolished translation. (The book was first published in Spain.) It would also have been nice to have some identification of the architects and designers, many of whom are unknown to this reviewer, and of the author herself, who has given us a first-rate compilation.
Michael Taylor: Interior Design
by Stephen M. Salny
New York: W.W. Norton, $75
325 pages, 311 color illustrations
The late Michael Taylor, a charter member of our Hall of Fame, was among the most acclaimed designers of his time, with clients including Norton Simon, Jennifer Jones, Nan Kempner, Steve Martin, and many leaders of San Francisco society. As Rose Tarlow writes in her foreword, Taylor "had two very different expressions," namely his "traditional rooms" and his pioneering "'sticks-and-stones' style." The latter refers to Taylor's penchant for natural, humble materials and objects: plants, baskets, clay pots, straw. These he combined with overscale furniture and white walls—never pure white but a very pale beige that came to be known as Michael Taylor White—to produce what has been called the California Look.
One of the few disappointments of this long-awaited book is that the cover image, while handsome, shows one of Taylor's traditional rooms instead of a more innovative interior. (Another is that John Dickinson, who also made contributions to the California Look, goes unmentioned. It would have been interesting to know what the two San Francisco contemporaries thought of each other's work.) What we are, however, given is thoroughly researched, well written, and beautifully illustrated. Stephen M. Salny tells Taylor's story from his birth to his death from AIDS at age 59 and the celebrated posthumous auction of his many treasures. Figuring prominently in the story is the great Frances Elkins; Taylor was a devoted disciple, and Salny uncoincidentally wrote a book about her in 2005. The body of the Taylor book presents 46 of his designs, all residential, although some hotel and restaurant interiors appear in the introduction. Taylor's work still looks masterful, and Salny has made a valuable addition to the design literature.
What They're Reading. . .
Japanese Interior Design: Its Cultural Origins
By Shigeru Uchida
208 pages, 43 illustrations
As a museum curator, it's David Revere McFadden's job to turn the prism on a seemingly finite idea to create new ways of seeing and thinking about what we thought we knew. Recently, however, the tables were turned when designer Shigeru Uchida presented his latest, self-published book to McFadden. "Mr. Uchida feels that design, for the most part, has global influences," McFadden says, "but that is not the case in Japan." Japanese design, Uchida argues, is largely born from the country's own cultural fabric. Beginning with what he calls the national poetry of seeing, the book examines four design sources: ethnicity, history, geography, and the individual. "The Japanese house is a sacred space," McFadden says, and the tranquillity of the home also extends to public interiors. "It's the reason we find even a boutique so calming. It's an exploration of inner values expressed externally." Perhaps the moment has come to think about design from the inside out.
Brandie Herbst - 2009-04-15 12:00:00 EDT
Where or how can I purchase the Japanese Design/Cultural Origins book? Can't seem to find it available...