Beds: Ancient and Modern, Silk Velvet and Canvas
Christa Kelly, a senior designer at our office, entered JANUS et Cie’s contest for the best dog bed design using their outdoor canvas. Her “Canus at Sea,” a bed patterned after nautical flags was one of the winners. I like her design very much; the colors and layout are bright and direct in a straightforward way, just as many other examples of good American design seem to be (consider American quilts and Eames case furniture.) Hopefully, it will provide great comfort and style to someone’s pet, maybe at a seaside cottage. Her design and eight others will be auctioned at Janus et Cie’s New York showroom on Thursday, April 2, and will benefit Animal Care and Control of New York City.
This leads me to a broad aside—Christa and I both share an affinity for seeing new uses in old ideas. Her design lead me to consider the antique precedents for such beds, namely “Temple Chien”—temple-like dog beds popularly used by the aristocracy in 18th century France. We both agree that dogs are household deities that deserve temples or at least elegant accommodations.
One example sits in the splendid surroundings of the Paar Room, a period room at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Through the largess of the museum’s great patron, Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, the rooms have recently been reinstalled to reflect recent scholarship with new lighting that can adjust to simulate the candlelight of the 18th century or bright light suitable for the 21st-century study of exhibits. All the better, of course, for examining the luxurious dog bed in its midst.
If you were fortunate to visit the room, in addition to admiring the lovely small-scale dog palace, you would also be partaking in one of the few opportunities in America to study formal elements of French decoration, particularly upholstery technique and period fabric. This is a great chance to admire the rarest of silk velvets and, of course, French 18th-century furniture, which is considered the apogee of the decorative arts for both quality and design. In fact, the Met’s dog bed is gilt wood and silk velvet, and it is quite extraordinary.
The modern version of the French dog bed that will be auctioned this week are geared towards practicality and comfort. Janus et Cie’s versions are made of indoor/outdoor canvas that add durability to the list of good design features. And while there may seem a long run from the high design of the ancient regime to today’s republican take, both reflect a heartfelt admiration for man’s best friend. After all, the success of a civilization can be measured by its treatment of animals—and not the quality of its silk velvet.
We hope you will support these and any other animal welfare organizations in your community. My good friend and tireless supporter of the ASPCA, Linda Lambert, informed me that it is not the large donations but the smaller ones that make the majority of their support. It is those people who donate $20 or $30 and do so at regular intervals that keeps the ASPCA’s budget balanced. It is important to remember that no donation is too modest, and making the effort is what is important.