Notions

  • An Aesthete’s Pursuit

    The life of an aesthete is a life lived in pursuit.  Something is always slightly out of reach, something can always be a little better.  At least this is the case in my life.
    On my desk I keep a picture of John Muir, a man who by any measure could be considered a journeyman simply passing through the world.  His poetic writings are filled with imagery of the vastness and beauty of nature and our connection to it.  He was however also an aesthete seeking beauty in nature.  I of course purchased the picture while antiquing.  The irony of this was not lost on me.
    Above (Top)St. Laurent (photgraphed by: Jean-Loup Sieff)
    (Bottom) John Muir photographed in the Yosemite Valley, CA.
    (photographer: unknown)

     

    I’ve recently been enjoying pouring over the pages of The Private World of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge written by Robert Murphy and Ivan Terestchenko. As an ardent Saint Laurent fan I have always found him extraordinary in a glamorously talented yet haunted way.  It is no news to those familiar with his biography his struggles with depression throughout his life.  I have often wondered if he struggled with the excess of his life and perhaps held dear the memories of being a young carefree boy in the streets of his native Algeria.  
    The home Yves shared with Pierre at 55 Rue de Babylone in Paris is exactly as one might expect, resplendant, decadent, over the top perfection suitable for a prince.  Yet, he also maintained a bachelor studio on the Avenue de Breteuil to where he could escape that was very simply appointed, a seemingly very introspective space on which he collaborated with .  One can imagine him retreating to this space during the intense weeks leading to the premiere of a collection so as to avoid distraction.
    The many other homes of St. Laurentand Berge you can discover for yourself in the beautiful pages of the book which in addition to being well photographed have interesting insight from the interior designers involved.  Needless to say the collection of homes speaks to the many facets of his and Pierre’s life and collective passions.  What strikes me are the extremes in the interiors, some are very ornate others very spare.  Interiors are spaces that when done well reveal who we are.  St. Laurent  was once quoted as saying: “I’m an aesthete; I’m constantly looking for perfection.”  A futile effort some might argue.

     

    A Constantin Brancussi sculpture from the Collection of Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Berge.
    (Photo: Christie’s Auction)
    Half Dome in the Yosemite Valley
    (Photo: uncredited)

     

    In my estimation there really is no difference in creating a beautiful space or inhabiting one, like the Yosemite Valley.  According to Muir: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken , over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
    For Muir the stage was set.  Mother Nature had done the bulk of the work.  For St. Laurent, the set was created.  Decisions made, nature explored through the creations of man; art, sculpture and furniture.
    We all make decisions in our daily lives about the objects in our life.  From pencils to automobiles decisions are demanded of us daily.  For an aesthete those decisions are shaped and informed by seeking the balance of those new objects in the greater context of everything else in his/her life. 
    It would be presumptuous to know what meaning if any lay in the private world of M. Saint Laurent et M. Berge but they certainly created remarkable spaces that so obviously spoke to them much the same way the natural landscape spoke to Muir.  As for myself, I continue to seek meaning, perfect or otherwise in my own work as a designer, hoping that in some small measure it enhances my client’s lives. 
    I am leaving you  with a little eye candy tour of St. Laurent’s home in all it’s excessive glory courtesy of luxuryculture.com.
    Bye for now.

    CG

  • A Day of Renewal

    As we reflect on the past year and look forward to the next, I am enjoying sitting by the proverbial fire with my favorite fella and enjoying a gift from a dear friend, a snifter of Islay Single Scotch Malt Whiskey.  With its well regarded peet smoked aroma only possible from this small but rarefied island, can’t make you but a bit wistful to be Scottish or at least have a better understanding of Auld Lang Syne.

    The little research I did indicates that our favorite tune on New Year’s Eve is based on a poem by Robert Burns in 1788.  I won’t bore you with more details as it is all well summarized elsewhere.

    What does interest me, is the sentiment which I have to admit I have only a vague idea as to its meaning.    The premise basically begs the question if whether it is OK to forget times gone by. 

    As a designer, I am always looking forward to what is next and what is new.  However, the romantic in me is fond of the past and all it’s flaws, enhancements, and general degradation into various shades of rose.

    Islay Scotch has been distilled in the same manner and arguably in the same location for over three hundred years.  Which leads you to the insurmountable argument that no, not only can we not forget the past, old friendships, or anything we experience but we must embrace it, celebrate it, and probably be making a conscious effort in our daily life to improve it. 

    I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my favorite version of the tune is from Mairi Campbell and David Francis featured in the first Sex in the City.  So to all of you that I hold near and dear here’s a toast to good health, improving the past, improving the relationships in our life and the promise of wonderful 2011. 

    Bye for now.
    CG

  • 162 Years Old and Still Looking Good

    On Christmas Eve Eve, John and I headed into San Francisco to The Original Cold Day Restaurant, Tadich Grill.  It also happens to be the oldest restaurant in San Francisco.

    Established in 1849 on Clay Street, it was painstakingly relocated to its current location in the 1960’s.  Moldings were recreated by local craftsman, original fixtures re-used, just about everything was done to  make sure the look and feel of the original location was preserved.

    The first thing you notice when you enter Tadich is how completely ordinary it is.  There is no flash, no daring art, and best of all no hyper tall hostess staring menacingly down at you.  A simple eighty foot wood top bar (oiled with mineral oil twice a year and sanded every couple of years…yes, I asked.), oak panelling, brass hooks for your coat, and simple art deco light fixtures.  What you do notice is the service delivered by impecable waiters of a certain age in crisp white jackets and ties.  We opted to sit at the bar versus wait for a table.  We find the service to be equally good if not better than at a table, the atmosphere more casual and the people watching superior.

    Known for their seafood, John had Petrale sole but I choose as I always do when given the choice, steak.  The menu is a classic.  San Francisco treats like Crab Louie, Sand Dabs, Cioppino, and Hangtown Fry are regular features.  A large wedge of fresh sourdough bread accompanied the meal.  Topping the meal was a spot on custard with a single espresso.  My attention however, I have to admit kept being drawn to the details in the room.  The overwhelming sense of history, the leather stools, the oak panelling, the brass fixtures and the tile work, it was all perfect.

    At one point looking out towards the street from our perch at the bar, one of the older electric city buses from the 40’s puttered by and looking through the glass window, the neon sign, and the waiters, you would have sworn that you had been transported back in time.

    There is an authenticity about certain places that is tangible.  Classic, simple and in good taste.  Being in some trendy restaurant with the all too often overdone dining room and underdone menu seems so irrelevant when you know you can have this.

    CG

  • In The Space Where Dreams Meet Design

    I love projects like this.  It is design at its best.  A question is posed by a client, a concept is developed, and installed.  The freedom to create without limits or hesitations.

    The question posed to each pairing of designer and artist by the LA Mart Design Center for their DreamScape installation was, “What do our personal spaces reveal about the essence of who were are?”

    As one of the participating designers I had the good fortune to work with artist Joe Davidson (http://www.joedavidson.com/).  I was not familiar with his work and was incredibly inspired and moved by his talent.  The common thread I found in his work was a great depth in the simplicity and silence of his message.  A stoic elegance evocative of a modern world and a yearning for nature.  His installations sometimes look like cityscapes but could just as easily be a coral reef.
    Here are a few examples of his work:

    After meeting several times to get to know each other better and understand our individual points of view, we agreed upon a study of light and dark.  We decided to call it Shadow Garden.  The exploration of what happens in the interplay of the spaces that are not spaces.  His gentle spirit as an artist made the entire process possible as we created a space that brought his work to life in a way that had not been installed before.  We also installed his Scotch tape bottles which are skeletons of actual bottles of various libations. They are as haunting as they are beautiful.  My contribution was to introduce a palette and furnishings with a whimsical touch but not loosing the serious nature of Joe’s work and wanting the art to speak volumes while the furnishings anchor the space but receed at the same time.  Lighting played a huge role to guide the guests through the space and gently lead the eye.  A Ruhlman-inspired burlwood coffee table, a driftwood lamp, a danish chair, a black glass table all added to the eclectic message.  Below are the results.  Can you tell which shadows are real and which are painted?
    In design you make decisions guided only by your inner compass and your eye.  It is only when the work is done that the design will reveal itself to you, slowly and if you are lucky enough, ever changing.  Hopefully our point of view was clear.   So remember to be daring in your decisions, confident in your eye and most important of all be true to yourself.
    Thank you Joe I look foward to our paths crossing again.
  • Caskets To Die For

    To quote Oscar Wilde, “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”  but inevitably we all go.  So in that spirit why not go in style.  I recently came across these real beauties by the Danish design firm Tommerup Kister from the Diamant collection designed by Jacob Jensen:

    This got me to thinking about what other options might be out there for that last stroll (or push) down the catwalk for the design conscious.  In Gana they seem to think that you should have one made up special order to honor your greatest passion.  From Louis Vuitton luggage to camera caskets for that uber photographer, skys the limit it seems.  A few of the more adventurous interpretations I have come across:

    I wonder how you work out the lead times on these things?

  • Inaugural Post

    So here we are friends.  I am going to try my hand at blogging as way to share what’s on my mind, organize all the wonderful notions I come across on the internet and never know what to do with, but also to stay more in touch with all my friends.  A way for us to share ideas and thoughts.  I hope those of you who find my meanderings interesting will follow me, join in on the discussion, and help me build something worthwhile.  I promise to take the bloggers oath of posting regularly, not rambling too much and at the very least sending out some interior/art/culture eye candy when I don’t have a story to tell.

    So welcome to Notions Of An East Bay Gentleman..I hope you find something here that will inspire you.

    Cheers!

    Bye for now.

    Christopher