ICFF in New York City...

By Lindsey Theobald

ICFF is known for being a High End Furniture Fair that showcases the latest and greatest furniture, finishes, and lighting from all over the world.  This last May was my first trip to the fair and now I wonder why I haven’t gone every year.  Practically every manufacturer, designer, and product I admire showcased there and it was such a treat to see it all in person.  As a specifier of furnishings and lighting, I believe that products are understood so much better when seen in person.  Scale, quality, craft, and detail can be realized only when seen in person.  And that’s exactly what I was able to do at ICFF.

The show itself was at Javits Convention Center, NYC’s HUGE convention space on the Hudson. However, some of the best showcases were dotted throughout the city as part of New York’s Design Week.  One of these treasures was the design gallery NEXT LEVEL.  A handful of NYC contemporary designers (Asher Israelow, Eskayel, Hart Textiles, Here Projects, Patrick Weder, and others) curated a large gallery space in NoHo that blurred the line between furniture exhibition and art gallery.

The furniture was crafted to a high level of artistic expression and it was a treat to discuss inception and procedure with the artists themselves.  I had picked NEXT LEVEL as a must see because of wood worker Asher Israelow and leather artist Brit Kleinman (of AVO).  Asher takes brass inlays to a new level, creating brass constellations in wood table tops and brass rivers in dressers.  He collaborated with AVO, an artist of printed leather rugs and tiles that I’ve used in past projects, on a low slung walnut chair with painted leather upholstery.  Patrick Weder was a new find for me.  His wood and concrete credenzas were insane!  Hand carded concrete molded perfectly into beautifully crafted wood credenzas and turned simple furniture into art pieces.  It’s wonderful to find new artists and designers and Patrick Weder is one I hope to use in future projects.  Another fun find at NEXT LEVEL was Kin & Company, a collaboration between two cousins (get it? Kin?).  I had the pleasure of talking with co-founder Kira de Paola about her whimsical side tables and mirrors that are the exact products that can add so much life to an otherwise neutral and “safe” design.  I’ve been liking the half circle shape and I saw it reflected frequently in Kin & Co’s work – a beautiful balance between architectural and decorative.

Since it was Spring in NYC, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked from NEXT LEVEL in NoHo to my next destination – SoHo.  Not only were there multiple New York Design Week pop-ups throughout SoHo, it was a thrill to see other stores and spaces that just had great design.  One of these spaces is the Rachel Comey flagship store designed by Elizabeth Roberts and Charles de Lisle.  My idea of heaven is where architecture and fashion come together!  Lately, I’ve been a huge fan of terrazzo and the store used a concrete version on the floors.  The store is located in a former mechanic’s garage, so a bit of the industrial flavor remains in the steel store front and some heavy timber.  Those items, plus the terrazzo and the addition of board form concrete walls highlighted by soft natural light from skylights above, create an idyllic serene setting that highlight the clothing on display.

The first night consisted of party hoping in SoHo, starting with the Boffi/DePadova showroom, organized by our friends at DZine here in SF.  Boffi is located right in the middle of the design district of SoHo, so I was able to stop in at many more design store happy hours from there, including Artemide, Ingo Maurer, Lee Broom, USM, Foscarini, Tom Dixon, RBW, and Kartell.

The next day was another off-site design stop, this time at the Radnor curated apartment in The Bryant, David Chipperfield’s new residential tower.  Upon arriving I was thrilled to see even more terrazzo!  Tons of it!  David Chipperfield used concrete terrazzo panels on the exterior and interior walls.  The terrazzo was gorgeous, with large aggregates of marble and stone in them.  Plus, Radnor’s curated rooms were the perfect complement to the stunning apartment.  Radnor is a new company formed by the amazing Susan Clark who has a total knack for finding amazing artists and designers and taking them under her wing to curate a showroom of beautiful artists.  Radnor currently represents about 11 designers, only a couple of which I knew (Pelle, Egg Collective, and Workstead I’ve used in past projects and am a huge fan of all three).  Su is a kindred spirit in terms of the design world.  I could easily sense her excitement about each of her designers and that excitement transferred as she spoke about each one and told me their story. I even got to meet one of her designers, a fabulous woodworker name Adam Rogers, whose work celebrates the construction of furniture in its design.

I could have wandered around the city visiting off-site exhibitions all week, but I needed to focus on the actual ICFF fair itself!  I thought it may be dull compared to the amazing exhibitions I’d seen so far, but I was wrong.  It was amazing to see so many of the brands and manufacturers in-person that I usually only view online. I got to say hello to the folks at Brendon Ravenhill, who supplied most of the decorative lighting for our new office, make new connections at Concrete Collaborative (from San Clemente, my old hood!  And they have gorgeous concrete terrazzo!!), and learn about new-to-me designers and manufacturers (Larose Guyon, Hinterland, CVL Luminaires, Sollos, Empire rugs, District Eight, Ercol, I could go on and on!).  I loved talking directly with the designers themselves and just seeing so many products in person was a huge treat.

Another wish list item for me was to visit Bec Brittain’s showroom and studio.  Bec is a lighting designer, originally from Lindsey Adelman’s studio, and now very much successful in her own eponymous line.  Each line of fixtures from Bec Brittain feels like individual art pieces, yet I’ve been able to use them in many projects without them looking out of place or too precious.  Bec opened her studio for NYC X Design Week and showcased a collaboration between her and John Hogan, a glass artist.  I was blown away by their new line, ‘Aries’, where Bec’s lights shown on John’s glass pieces in such a way that each piece threw off rainbows of color, looking different depending on your point of view.  Again, her pieces are super fun without crossing the line into gaudy.  Her showroom is also her working studio, so I was able to see prototypes, items used at special installations, custom pieces, and all the baubbles and shiny pieces that get crafted into one of Bec Brittain’s fixtures.  I continue to be a super fan of hers!

Many of our SF reps were busy at ICFF too.  I got to meet up with Anne Luna from CRI San Francisco to swap stories about what we’ve seen and liked.  I attended a cocktail party thrown by Jenne and Adam from Jak-w at the Bolon flagship, which was great, not only because Jenne and Adam are the best, but because I finally got to see the vinyl carpet they’ve been raving about.  One night, I was invited to attend a dinner hosted by a favorite of mine, Muuto.  The dinner was held in a large space on the 4th or 5th floor of a downtown building that was completely furnished in Muuto sofas, chairs, lights, rugs, etc.  As a big fan of Muuto, I thought the place looked awesome.  And in a classic NY moment, the dinner was being prepared by nineteen-year-old Flynn McGarry, the boy wonder chef who just opened his own restaurant on the Lower East Side.  He has been written up in the Times on a couple occasions, and he’s a bit of a phenomenon, so that made the dinner even more special!  Only in NY.

On my last day in New York, I got to meet up with our SF Herman Miller reps at their flagship store.  Not only is the store home to the Herman Miller NY offices, it also is home to Maharam.  We were treated to a champagne breakfast and then given a $100 golden ticket to spend on anything in the store on the street level.  The store itself was super interesting.  For each season, the curators make up a family and give them personalities, jobs, interests and use those stories to craft their displays.  I forget their entire story, but it was a fun concept to think about while browsing the store.  I picked out a Jaime Hayon vase that uses the Japanese flower arranging technique, Ikebana.  It’s beautiful and I’m pleased to own an item from a designer I admire.  After shopping, we toured the Herman Miller offices; got to try out their newly launched task chair, the Cosm; and then were led on a tour of Maharam to see how they operate, get a glimpse of their sample library, and get a sneak peek at some of their new collaborations.

I needed to stay in NY a couple more days to absorb it all, but I had to get back.  I feel now that ICFF is a must, at least every other year, though I’d love to go again right away in 2019.  Not only was it an opportune way to see so many products in person, it was great to meet up with so many SF reps and designers 3,000 miles away!

Portland in 48 Hours...

By Evan McCurdy // Photos by Liza Karimova

Recently, Liza and I spent a short rainy weekend in Portland. Traveling around with a group of 8 friends, we were in search of two things: beer and architecture. In that order. We made the most of our first day in Portland by exploring Kengo Kuma’s pavilions at the newly renovated Japanes Gardens. It was an absolute architectural gem. Soon after, we found ourselves wandering from brewery to Powells bookstore to brewery to Voodoo donuts. We also managed to discover many street murals, food trucks, and coffee shops. Not bad for under 48 hours!

 

East Asia Tour: A Cultural Trip Through Thailand & Vietnam...

By Ben Welty

My wife and I spent our honeymoon in southeast Asia this past January visiting the northern and southern regions of both Thailand and Vietnam. The first stop was Chiang Mai, Thailand, for temple touring, hiking with and feeding and bathing rescued elephants at a preserve, white water rafting, and visiting remote villages via ATV in the Golden Triangle. However, the best part of our stay was participating in a Thai cooking class where we got to visit local markets and using the ingredients we found there to make our new favorite Thai dish, Khao Soi! After Chiang Mai we were off to Koh Lanta in southern Thailand for some rest, relaxation, snorkeling and motor biking before heading off to Vietnam.

We spent our first night in Vietnam in Hanoi before making the trip to Halong Bay for a 3 day, 2 night cruise. Though overcast for most of the trip that did not take away from the experience of exploring one of the most unique geological formations in the world. The views were breathtaking and it was truly an amazing experience waking up on the water in the midst of towering, monolithic limestone islands covered by rainforests. Finally, our last stop was Ho Chi Minh City where we spent our last few days exploring the city, taking in some somber history at the War Museum, and dining at a rooftop restaurant during a very rare Super Blue Moon.

Overall it was an amazing experience! Great people, great food and great culture. We will be visiting again!

African Expedition...

By Matt Lindsay

At the end of 2017, my wife Abby and I traveled for just over two weeks to South Africa and Victoria Falls.  The main purpose of the trip was to visit Abby’s cousin and her family, who are currently serving their third tour as employees for USAID in Harare, Zimbabwe.  We agreed to meet them in Cape Town for the Christmas holiday, but spent the first four days of our vacation in the eastern South African Lowveld on the Timbavati Game Reserve.  From our lodge in the bush, we were treated to twice-daily guided game drives where we saw an unbelievable array of wildlife: endless birds, baboons, leopards, lions, giraffes, rhinos, elephants, and more.

After relaxing days on safari, we flew to Cape Town to meet up with our family for the holiday.  Despite being a world away, Cape Town felt very familiar to us San Franciscans.  The center city is densely populated and sits at the foot of towering mountains that overlook the broad bay.  During our stay, we experienced some of the city’s most popular attractions, with a hint of Bay Area nostalgia: urban hikes (Lion’s Head and Table Mountain), great museums (Zeitz MOCAA), wine regions (Stellenbosch), a decommissioned island prison turned historic landmark (Robben Island), and even an impending water crisis…

After Christmas, we flew from Cape Town to the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia where the Zambezi River surges over Victoria Falls and cuts a narrow canyon through the surrounding hills.  Despite a few frustrating border crossings and battling the crowds at the falls, we found unmatched natural beauty at the falls and in the surrounding river valley.  From our river lodge, we were also able to explore local villages and spot more wildlife including hippos, crocodiles, monitor lizards, and monkeys.  After fifteen incredible days, our first visit to Africa was over and we made the long journey by plane straight over the top of the globe and back to San Francisco.

Vancouver in 3 Days: Where to Go, How to Get There, and What to Eat as an Architect in the City...

After five years since our move to the US, we decided it was high time that we expand our travels beyond the borders of the country. The province of British Columbia has always held a strong allure to us for its stunning landscapes and fascinating culture. So I was thrilled when the better half planned a surprise getaway to Vancouver for my birthday.  Four days felt awfully inadequate but we decided to roll with it. A short early morning flight transported us to a very warm sultry Vancouver. The airport with its wonderful First Nation sculptures and totem poles hinted at the rich history of British Columbia. A large ‘living wall’ affirmed Vancouver’s reputation for being one of the early adopters of environmental sustainability. The Skytrain took us through the suburbia to a very urban jungle that is Downtown Vancouver. We Airbnb’ed at a condo right in the heart of Gastown, one of the historic neighborhoods that is a surreal mix of high-rise buildings and cobbled maple tree-lined streets with vintage streetlights and a historic steam clock to boot!

Steam clock

Gastown

We realized immediately that this was a city where public transportation was supreme. The ‘waterfront-town’ is densely populated with a small footprint of 44 sq. miles. Across the peninsula is North Vancouver, accessible by the sea-bus and by road. We got ourselves travel passes and set out to explore our hood, Gastown by foot. We were within walking distance to the famous 17mile SeaWall that forms the waterfront wrapping around the city. One could see the snow-capped tips of the Grouse Mountain in the distance. The SeaWall starts at Canada Place – known for its iconic Sails of Light. Right next to it is the impressive new convention center – a majestic waterfront development with a six-acre living roof, the largest in North America in a non-industrial context. We hopped on a bus that took us to the famous Stanley Park. Unlike the Golden Gate Park which is fairly introverted and embedded in the heart of San Francisco, Stanley Park fingers out from the city, thus allowing views of Vancouver that change as one walks the wall. We took trails into the park at different points alternating between dense wild shaded vegetation to emerge again at the perimeter wall delighting in a different view of the city. We exited the park and headed to our pad by bus, exhausted but excited about our dinner plans. We had reservations at the popular Forage known for it’s locally-sourced innovative menu.  It did not disappoint my vegetarian palette. We strolled back home taking in the expanses of open urban spaces between the dense high rise condos. The lights had started coming on and the city glowed, draped by the ever-present shimmering water. This was a truly urban oasis where people lived outdoors than in their cramped condos. The city felt safe.

Convention Center Convention Center-2

From Sea Wall

Stanley Park

On day two, we walked to  Medina Cafe, a Mediterranean restaurant with a solid reputation for unique flavors and the best Belgian waffles in the city. We beat the long queues and got ourselves a table within the hour. Pleased with brunch, we set forth to take the sea bus to North Vancouver. We landed at Vancouver’s carnival style farmer’s market at the Lonsdale Quay – a visual treat with its fresh produce and local vibe.

Lonsdale Quay

We proceeded to our next destination- the Lynn Canyon public park with its suspension bridge and miles of hiking trails. Per our host’s recommendation, we chose Lynn Canyon over the more popular touristy Capillano Suspension Bridge park. We hiked for a few hours and then took a taxi to the foothills of the Grouse mountain. The Grouse mountain is accessible only by a gondola skyride that takes you over the forest to the a chalet on top. An alternative is the daunting but highly popular Grouse Grind hike aka ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’ involving 2800 odd steps through dense forest. We took the gondola — let’s say only because we were out of time. Ahem. The chalet at the top houses a few restaurants and a theater. A short hike took us to our first sighting of two rescued grizzlies that live there. They seemed very indifferent to our presence. We walked around the chalet to capture the panoramic vistas of the city across. A bus, a sea-bus and a train took us back into the city within the hour. Soon we headed out for our Italian night — to Lupo, a Vancouver icon in the entertainment district of Yaletown. Located in a charming heritage house with interconnected rooms, the menu was limited but inspired. We concluded a fabulous birthday dinner with a creme brûlée that was to die for. We walked home. The streets and landmarks were beginning to feel familiar…

Lynn Canyon Park Lynn Canyon Park2 Lynn Canyon Bridge

Day three – we walked a different section of the SeaWall to board an aquabus that took us to Granville Island- an old industrial hub that has been revived by local artists who set up their workshops in these factories. Weekends draw large crowds from the city. The tiny peninsula is animated with live music and fresh food at the large public market, accompanied by shopping unique finds at the artist workshops and boutiques. We picked up a few tchotkches and set forth to the piece-de-resistance of the day, the Museum of Anthropology by the Canadian modernist, Arthur Erickson. The museum is set in the large lush campus grounds of the University of British Columbia. The campus boasts of a good number of modern buildings but the museum was the jewel in the crown. The collection focuses on artefacts of the First Nation, the Canadian Aboriginals of the NorthWest Coast, though it has an extensive ethnographic collection of cultures from around the world. The strikingly modern building cleverly reinterprets the post-and-beam architecture of the First Nation people in concrete. Staggered concrete frames are spanned by vaulted skylights that filter natural light strategically into the museum spaces. The varying heights of the vaults along with a gentle slope in the floor, gradually expands the volume of the central exhibit area. The space culminates in a frameless glass wall that seamlessly merges into the outside. The outdoor landscape is marked by a reflecting pool and a few reconstructed Haida houses with signature totem poles acting as coordinates.  We were unable to do justice to the vast collection housed in the museum but it was really the architecture that was our main focus. It inspired, and humbled, leaving us in a contemplative state of mind. Like all good museums, the MoA has a great gift shop. We picked up some wonderful prints of modern reinterpretation of First Nation art by local artists.

MoA2 MoA3 MoA4 MoA5 MoA-1

The mythology of the First Nation and their survival despite colonization and repeated pressures to assimilate, runs strong. At the MoA, we had discovered the works of Bill Reid, a true Renaissance man who drew from his Haida roots as a sculptor, carver, goldsmith and artist. Reid was one of the pivotal figures that championed the cause of the First Nation people and gave their art legitimacy in modern history. Born to a mother who was a Haida, Bill immersed himself in their culture and became one of the leading artists of his time. We knew we had to make time to visit the Bill Reid Gallery set right in Downtown Vancouver. The next day, we chose to skip the larger Vancouver Art Gallery and visit this tiny gem instead. Tucked away in the bustling downtown neighborhood, this building though surrounded by high-rises doesn’t get dwarfed. Well-proportioned and thoughtfully detailed, the gallery is carefully curated with permanent exhibits by Bill and a few by his protégés. The silver and gold jewelry display by Reid are spectacular. The gift shop offers a varied collection of original aboriginal art. We couldn’t be happier with our decision to visit here on our last day. It felt like an appropriate homage to conclude our first venture into British Columbia.

Reid Gallery2Reid Gallery1

In a little over three days, we had gained some insights into the story of the First Nation people and into the cosmopolitan urban pulse of Vancouver, it’s most populous and popular city today. As someone born and raised in India, there was a comfortable familiarity with Vancouver’s British influences- be it describing temperature in degree Celsius, distances in kilometers or getting a ‘bill’ at the end of a meal 😉 We explored the nightlife on our last night. No vacation of ours is quite complete without a sampling of the local music scene. Gastown was perfect for our quest. We walked the streets exploring a few bars and clubs. We settled on one which had a live jazz session. It was evidently a neighborhood haunt as the regulars seemed to know each other. It wasn’t touristy. We had lucked out with warm sunny days for our entire vacation concluding with a smattering of rain as we made our exit. This was a fun trip- a teaser that had whetted our appetite for more. We knew we would be back…soon. – Anjali

Jazz Bar

Barcelona: The Common Ground between Gaudi and Tapas...

This fall my wife and I traveled to Barcelona with a contradicting agenda:  Relaxation and exploration.

05_Park Guell

We’re no strangers to Western Europe, but neither us had made it to Spain in our previous travels.  We decided to stay in the city for a full week, wanting to sink in and get to know Barcelona.  The only items on our agenda were to relax and gain a renewed perspective.

We stayed at a small apartment on the edge of the Eixample and Gracia districts with ceramic tile floors and a vaulted brick ceiling.  Heavy wood French doors opened onto a small balcony that had enough room for a cafe table and chairs.  The street below buzzed with cars, scooters and pedestrians.

02_Apartment

The Eixample was once a middle class neighborhood on the outskirts of the dense Gothic quarter.  In recent years, it has become home to high-end retail and trendy dining.  The neighborhood scale is defined by large blocks and tree-lined boulevards that terminate in octagonal intersections intended to provide increased openness and ventilation.

01_Barca birds eye

In sharp contrast, the Gracia to the north is an energetic, unpredictable neighborhood. Many streets are scaled to fit only pedestrians or scooters.  Dense blocks of cafés and markets open up into unexpected plazas with children playing and adults socializing.  The Gracia feels like a tight-knit community   ̶  a city within a city.

03_streets

The northern tip of the Gracia is capped by Antoni Guadi’s Park Guell.  The park reflects Gaudi’s naturalist style and free-form organic tile mosaics.  At first glance, the park resembles a greatest hits album.  All of Gaudi’s architectural styles fit neatly into one park.  A closer look reveals an artist in his prime experimenting with organic shapes and skewed structural forms.

04_Park Guell

Later, we found Mies Van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion tucked among stately civic buildings.  Van der Rohe’s flawless modern details provided a few quiet moments and a lot of inspiration.  The pavilion is constructed primarily with steel, stone and marble slabs  ̶  heavy materials that paradoxically achieve lightness, texture and a unique warmth.

07_Barca Pavilion 06_Barca Pavilion

We explored the city’s culinary scene alongside its architecture and found that both traditions are deeply rooted in history.  Tapas and pastries rule the streetscape.  Every block of the city seems to boast a beautiful pastry shop and multiple cafes spilling onto the sidewalk, where residents enjoy their ritual late-afternoon beers and salty snack

Just as Gaudi experimented in his work, many local chefs in Barcelona are taking risks by studying food on a molecular level and reassembling tastes and textures into something modern yet familiar. Bodega 1900, located in the Poble Sec neighborhood, presents itself as a classic Vermuteria – a casual gathering place for tapas and Vermouth.  Chef Albert Adria, a stalwart in molecular gastronomy, uses modern cooking techniques to recreate classic tapas in unexpected ways.  Though many of Adria’s dishes are conceived through the lens of modern technique, they remain soulful and deeply rooted in Barcelona’s culinary history.

Experimentation seems vital to the Catalan capital; Barcelona remains vibrant by respecting its collective history and embracing artists that forge a new path forward.

On our final morning in Barcelona, we embraced the spirit of experimentation by emptying our pockets of all our spare Euros and purchasing enough pastries to cover our small kitchen table.

 

 

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