There has been a lot to inspire me this year - from finding new innovative makers to rediscovering classics that had fallen off my radar. Not too long ago I would have been steeped in roughened woods with a grayish wash. Today we have rediscovered the quiet elegance of walnut and cherry woods. After many long seasons of linens that pretended to be burlap, we see the uprising of lux velvets and graphic prints. Even rusty finishes are ceding the way for a tsunami of molten gold faucets and fixtures. Design is always changing, always expressive of something about the moment. Perhaps our economy picking up has whetted appetites for things that lean toward the refined. Here are just a few of my current delights.
Sap Cherry Wood
I find the lighter sapwood from the outer portions of the cherry tree so engaging. When selected artfully, the result is a striking hi-low pattern that adds immeasurably to the impact of understated furniture like our Heartland Table. For many years Queen Anne-inspired furniture cloaked the warm and deep grain of cherry in dark stains that essentially masked the wood's characteristic cathedrals. Makers now are drawing influences from Arts and Crafts and especially from Mid-Century design, so the grain is left visible by the use of light clear finishes. This is the way sap cherry is meant to be dressed.
Our collection of pillows from Arnge embody everything there is to love about mid-century design. The bold retro graphics make me want to binge watch The Dick Van Dyke Show for hours, while the kaleidoscope of colors are a study in harmony with just a skosh of friction. Having been schooled in the finer points of sewing, I was pleased to see that the patterns match from front to back so that the design moves fluidly around the pillow. Each one is made to order in the USA without the use of sweatshop labor, which is another reason to tip our hats to this maker.
Wool & Silk Carpets
When I was apprenticing in design back at the turn of the last century, my mentor was a dealer in fine hand-made carpets. Helping to show her selections to her clients was an education. Peeling back dozens of beautiful carpets was good exercise, but it was also like peering into the pages of a journal from an ancient people. Combining forms from nature and architecture, the patterns and colors - as well as the art of weaving itself - are part of a cherished tradition. While wool is still the most common material in a hand-knotted carpets, the addition of silk adds highlights that outline the design and glimmer magically.
I discovered the designs of Spicher & Co. a couple of years ago and am still finding new uses for these fabulous designs. Not surprisingly, these graphics are created by artist designers and not fabricated from a short list of popular motifs. Drawing inspiration from vintage linoleum rugs that were popular well into the first half of the 20th century, there is something about these rugs that feels simultaneously fresh and nostalgic. I like using them because they add a strong graphic to a room and because they can exist in spaces where sometimes other rugs aren't ideal. And these are printed in house in Pennsylvania, so we feel like they come to us from just over the mountain, as they say.
When I first spotted this chair at market, I knew I wanted to put a whimsical and magical fabric on the frame. With its graceful arms and deeply scooped back profile, I was reminded of chairs from my favorite 1930s black and white films. This piece would have existed in a screwball comedy - in the country house of the haughty old aunt who wears a lorgnette, winds up getting a little tipsy on dandelion wine, and eventually comes around to like the mustachioed anti-hero her wide-eyed niece wants to marry. Her house would have gilded things but also ruffles. For me those Hollywood sets are an escape into unabashed style. So we outfitted this chair in a colorful Asian toile, trimmed her skirt in velvet, and the rest is history.
Thanks for indulging me on a journey through some of the things that have been in my look book and on my mind this season.