Monday, March 29, 2010

Lecaron Architecture as seen by Jean-Jacques Salvador


If you look at the architect Jacques-Emile Lecaron's website you'll find factual images of the houses he designed over a period of time in the the rue des Fougères, Clamart as well as some of his other notable buildings. Photographer, Jean-Jacques Salvador, has taken these already imaginative constuctions and gone a step further giving them another dimension. An interesting example of one art beckoning to another.
(Click on the photos, they are best viewed enlarged.)

Toulaho is Lecaron's own residence/agency. A contracted form of  "tout là-haut", it's name simply means that it is the house at the top of the street.  If its glass block facade makes a display case for the goings-on inside, there is also a classicly contoured house of green such as a child might draw - square + triangle - that has been encrusted for the dwelling's more intimate spaces. It's a little cabin in the woods that appears to float in the reflection of the trees, or then, some see it as a cuckoo clock fixed to a wall.
Lecaron explains,
"Je l’ai rêvée maison libre, maison qui vole, maison dans les arbres.”
I dreamed of it as a house that was free, a house that flies, a house in the trees.

one of the 7 houses in Clamart

Reflections, shadows, and views through the windows show inhabitants, intimate memories and passing events. Salvador's photos are rarely just interesting angles and light. He reworks the scene, associating it with the  pieces needed to complete the puzzle. There's somtimes a breath of wind, but what blows there?
Take a closer look.

Derrière le Miroir

Where does the the photographer's fantasy take up and the architects's leave off ?
Jacques-Emile Lecaron conceived each architectural design in keeping with the personalities of their owners. Salvador then set up the occupants in the houses according to each individual story.  Both architect and photographer are inspired by the universe of fairy tales as a souce of wonder, mystery, sometimes of fear.

 Tombeau de l'oeil oiseau

This truncated column, also designed by Lecaron,  is a control site for polution levels of the river Seine
located on the Ile Saint-Germain. Salvador's photo consecrates the monument.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gray's Progress

The question is: should we listen to an artist's/designer's ideas? How much do their opinions count in our appraisal and appreciation of their work? Eileen Gray completely rejected the luxurious symbolist lacquer work of her early days (see my previous post). She had moved on to pioneer a more functional design style.
At the end of her life she "blamed" Doucet for encouraging her early elitist style.  
Do we have the right to appreciate, even prefer her early work? 
What do moral stand points have to do with her aesthetic judgement? 
Some might say it is just a matter of taste.
 Today many of her modernist designs are in production an sold throughout the world. For the record, I wished to show you a few of the designs she found acceptable -
lest she come back to haunt me for misrepresentation!
Above are the perhaps the two most known designs, the Bibendum chair and the E1027 adjustable table,
as sold today in the Bon Marché furniture department.

Eileen Gray named her tubby tubular chair Bibendum, after the Michelin tire man. (ad from lejournaldunet)  Right: Gray's sister liked to have breakfast in bed; the E1027 table was made with her in mind. A key secures the placement of the sliding table top.

The S chair is one of my favorites
- open -

and closed.

The Non-Conformist chair is the really funky one.  Ultra chic through the law of repetition in a restaurant or similar space, I imagine a right arm line-up facing the opposing left in chorus line precision.  But in a private space, one or two of these, interestingly placed (for me that means not in a chrome and glass jungle), and you have an element of interest for a collector in a Cabinet d'amateur.

photo Alain Irvine 1970

Because that is what it's all about, isn't it - the right mix? 
 Mlle Gray certainly  looks comfortable in her 18th century rue Bonaparte apartment that she furnished with her own modern designs, and she didn't feel it necessary to rip out the mantle or
replace the doors and mouldings.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


It's Spring. One year ago today I decided to open a window, letting out some of my aesthetic leanings, stylosophic ponderings, and a smattering of things that make me tick in my interior world and that are best expressed in the realm of "objects" Since then, I find ideas come flitting in and out. There is something so delightful about a waft of fresh air coming in and a shimmer of light illuminating an interior. That was the surprise. The reality of that clumsy but clever little thud of a word, BLOG, is that it is a magic password that connects to others. For that, I am grateful.

(I have added a little explanation to my profile quote. True, I haven't figured out how to make it continue properly to the "complete profile" page, but I've sneaked it in as best I could under "interests.")

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jean-Charles Moreux: poetic, not pc

At the risk of displeasing those who fight for animal's rights, I have to say I'm wild about this hunter's repair decorated in 1935 by the architect, landscape architect, decorator, designer, historian, museographer, astronomer, naturalist - in short, by the Renaissance man, Jean-Charles Moreux.  Often inspired by Ledoux and Palladio, his mission here was not to achieve a stately palace interior, but to express his client's  passion for hunting in an smart Paris studio. The  classical sobriety in the arrangement of these objets insolites speaks also of the architect and his love of collections, encouraged to tweek the curious side of things by the surealist leanings of his colaborator, Bolette Natanson.

Let's look at the some of the details: Among the traditional huntsman's trophies, in the right upper corner, a floor lamp made from a towering urn and a crocodile skin; placed centrally, a table top left in its irregular shape - is it wood, stone?  Elephant ear! Walls are covered with untreated cork, the floor with sisal providing a rugged but warm framework for the owner's collection.

The top of this elephant foot lifts up to reveal glasses, decanters, and bottles -
single malt whisky would seem suitable.

The entrance doors are covered with bark cloth or another African textile; an upward turned tortoise shell forms the bowl top of another striking light; door handles are made of horn; a bamboo ladder leads to a mezzanine with carved guardians and walls covered in black shantung. 
All right, I'm not sure it was shantung. 
My source says black silk, but wouldn't black shantung be perfect? 

The bedroom is an alcove covered with straw mats which receives light from the living room through bamboo bars. The recessed ceiling was decorated with Bolette Natanson using various pressed leaves, dried butterflies and insects.

Stylé !
This is a very personal home or pied à terre.
Yesterday's souvenirs of adventures have become today's forbidden pleasures.

All photos Plaisir de France, Atelier Sougez

Thursday, March 18, 2010


 Morning light at the Ministère de la Culture  rue Saint-Honoré.

The 1920 building was wrapped in a lacey stainless steel web by architect Francis Soler as part of its renovation in 2005. The laser cut shapes were inspired by an Italian Renaissance painting reworked and then deformed to abstraction. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Philippe Starck: Objects in Question

Ara lamp (Flos)   via objectsby

The new Maison et Objet blog has recently come out with its English version. It's off to a good start as a great source for information on contemporary design. The blog came out with a bang in January by producing for one of its first posts an interview with Philippe Starck,
freshly elected Designer of the Year by the trade show.
Is Starck a material man at odds with objects?
With a touch of provocation, designer raises questions about the validity of design at this moment in time and asks "what more do we need"?

 Starck toothbrush (Fluocaril)     photo via Virtual Design Museum

"Clearly and luckily, we are witnessing the end of the consumer society – which raises questions. Even astrophysicists ask themselves fundamental questions about the reason for their existence. So if they do, we lowly toothbrush designers can hardly escape it."

the transparent Louis Ghost chair (Kartell) almost disappears
but that doesn't stop it from being a best seller

"Is the designer a producer of ideas? Obviously. Is he a producer of materiality? I say again that I have my doubts. Can ideas really prove useful, truly and honestly, through action rather than materiality? I think that is a more interesting scenario. In my opinion, the material response is an obsolete, archaic response, dating from the 19th century. The stinking, sweaty century of materials and mechanization. Locomotives, transatlantic steamers… nowadays we have other priorities for which an answer cannot be found in habitual solutions. So, today the major question concerns questioning." (italics mine)

Disney's Rémy is an exceptional example of an inspired animal who longs to create*

 "The only difference between us and other animals is intelligence and creativity. And a lovely little symptom of intelligence is poetry. I don’t think there are many animals that practice poetry and humour. Humour is crucial, since it makes everything relative. Which takes us back to Einstein’s famous relativity, which is at the very root of all modern thinking, along the lines that nothing exists, everything is energy. And from that perspective, poetry is a duty."

for the complete interview, click  Philippe Starck Maison et Objet

Should man continue to create and surround himself with so many things? Are objects to be a thing of the past as we move on in our evolution ? Mr Starck is right about asking questions. And humour and poetry seem more necessary than ever. As for  evolution, there's always Rémy. 

* "I know I'm supposed to hate humans, but there's something about them.
They don't just survive; they discover, they create."  Ratatouille

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fontainebleau: Avoir du chien !

What would the home be without our furry friends? More sweet smelling? Less hairy? Yes, well, in any case, many are there among us who would find something missing without an animal in the house. I was reminded how very doting the relationship has been even for kings the other day at the Chateau of Fontainebleau. As the French have it, "avoir du chien" or literally,
"to have some dog" is a very good thing ! !
Which means, more accurately, TO HAVE OOMPH !
The expression often refers to an attractive woman, but in this case, it's the dogs who are stealing the show.

The chateau of Fontainebleau is a magnificent site that represents 800 years of royal tradition. It is an architectural and decorative splendor composed through time and originally favored
for the proximity of its forest - a hunting paradise.
Naturally the relationship between man and dog here was strong. This painting snapped in passing in the chateau shows many a pup and care was taken to label each one with his name.
(Apologies for the awkward photo and nasty glare on the painting.)

Clearly, these pampered pets had more than one kind of flair.

Effigies of these faithful friends were enlisted for tasks other than hunting.

detail of desk

Fetch, Rex !
panelling in the Francois I gallery

Beneath  frescos by Primaticcio in the Rennaissance gallery of Francois I,
reverent hounds frame the king's salamander symbol.

photo chateau de Fontainebleau

The garden of Diana takes its name from the bronze statue of the Huntress, copy of the antique Roman marble created by Francini and placed here in 1603. The original statue is today in the Louvre; this one dates to 1684. Surprisingly, the dogs by sculptor Pierre Biard date to 1603
and were part of the original group.

source le chien dans l'art

Fine Lise and Lise pose with a forest warden under  Louis XV
in a painting by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755), artist famed for his representations of animals.

source le chien dans l'art

Polydore by Oudry

Art lovers who love dogs might be interested to see Le Chien dans l'art, a repertorial site dedicated to  the appearance of man's best friend in painting, etching, sculpture and decorative arts. Visiters are invited to participate by sending in photos of their discoveries.