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Monday, September 15th, 2014

(Re)Introducing the Spanner Lounge Chair With Arms

Becky

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We are so pleased to announce that we are carrying The Spanner Lounge Chair with Arms at Design Public. Originally created in 1950 by Russell Spanner (1916-1974), the award-winning chair has been out of production for more than 50 years. Gus*Design Group worked in collaboration with the Spanner family to revive this iconic chair, meticulously matching the materials, construction and details to the original chair.

The frame is constructed of  solid birch and curved birch plywood and the seat is 100% cotton woven strapping. During the design collaboration with the Spanner family, Gus*Design Group worked hard to match the finishes (both light and dark birch) and strapping colors (choice of green, red or black strapping):

Vintage Ad for Russell Spanner's Furniture

Today we’re talking with Joran Van Lange, the designer at Gus* Design Group who acted as design and production lead for the Spanner Lounge Chair reissue, to learn more about this exciting re-release.

How did you discover the work of Russell Spanner?
I first saw his work in a design lecture while I was in school.  His original designs show up occasionally here in Toronto at vintage and mid-century antique shops, so before we even knew Russell’s background story, we were familiar with the Russell Spanner “look”, which is very recognizable.

What drew you to the Spanner Chair in particular?
There’s something really positive and energetic about the lines and angles of the chair.  It’s bold without being too serious.

Which leads me to, what about its mid-century design still works so well today?

The design is relevant today for the same reasons it was relevant in the 1950s. At that time, North American cities were seeing an explosion of compact, post-war homes, which needed furniture that was smaller scale.  The movement toward condo and small space living in the last decade has meant that consumers are again looking for smaller, lighter furniture pieces.

Aesthetically, the chair embodies the mid-century tradition of leaving components and hardware in plain view.  Nothing is hidden by panels or upholstery.  There’s a transparency in that which people appreciate.

What is the history of the chair?

The Lounge Chair was designed by Russell while he was working as foreman at his family’s woodworking factory.  It’s believed that he used some of the jigs and parts of other industrial products to form the basic components for the Lounge Chair.  As an example, the frame for the seat shares the same proportions and joinery as the industrial battery boxes which the factory produced at the time.

Where are the reproductions produced?

We felt that because this chair was originally designed and produced in Toronto, it was important to carry on that legacy and produce the re-issue here as well.

Did you learn anything new about design and production from the process of putting the Spanner Chair back into production?


We realized once we began to dissect the original chair that there are some very sophisticated joinery details going on.  Everything must be manufactured perfectly in order for the design to work.

It works beautifully.

Purchase a Spanner Lounge Chair with Arms at Design Public

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Friday, April 18th, 2014

Road Trip: Greenville, South Carolina

Becky

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You know how sometimes you’re headed to some town you’ve only seen from an interstate highway (near the Peachoid) for a wedding and your expectations are low? This weekend I traveled to Greenville, South Carolina for a wedding and I could not get over how charming and beautiful that town was. I even ran into John Legend twice – go figure!

Once a thriving textile town, Greenville went through a rough patch, but now the downtown area, the west end and the newly developed Swamp Rabbit Trail along the Reedy river are very impressive. Refurbished mills and new construction include design studios, boutiques, restaurants, hotels and art galleries.

At one end of the trail was this cheerful rainbow garden.

Heading downstream (Greenville is along the fall line, so the river is full of falls and gorgeous rocks), I came across this amazing view of tree roots in section.

The Liberty Bridge is a pedestrian bridge that spans the falls and lands you at the West End of town, which is the cool design-centric area. The bridge is supported by two 90-foot masts that hold the one suspension cable. Quite impressive and a beautiful feat of engineering, the bridge was designed by architect Miquel Rosales.

At the West End side of the bridge sits the charming Passerelle Bistro, where patrons can enjoy the view of the falls from the stone patio. There are also nice clean public restrooms around the corner — always a plus on these adventures.

The West End is full of design businesses like Postcard from Paris. Is this a great ghost sign or what? This is a view from the Swamp Rabbit Trail below.

Circling the West End before heading back to the hotel, we came across an old-school Army-Navy store. Then we ran into Legend and his cutie dog Pippa in NoMa Square, which was icing on the cake. Greenville South Carolina is a charming livable city at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains that I’m still dreaming about almost a week later. I highly suggest a weekend trip, especially during spring or fall.

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Friday, February 7th, 2014

Cool Stuff We Spied Around the Web This Week

Becky

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What caught your attention on the web this week? Certainly there was plenty of Sochi not-so-funny terrible conditions fall over the internet. Here are five things that made me say wow this week.

1. Swimming on the Metro. The proposals for the abandoned Metro stations in Paris was my favorite link this week. Can you imagine if this:

Magically transformed into this?

What a beautiful and unique subterranean spot for getting some laps in.

Photos via NK Paris and RATP/ 20 Minutes; story via Messy Nessy Chic

2. Sochi, oh Sochi. I don’t know where to start, but this graphic certainly lightened the mood for me. Yes, I’m 12, potty humor gets me every time. I have to wonder about the graphic artist who had to sit and illustrate things like “don’t put a fishing pole in the toilet,” or “don’t do your business in the ‘upper deck.’” Is the one on the bottom right some sort of Olympic athlete-caliber calisthenic? That position looks tougher than eight-angle pose:

photo via @SebToots/Twitter

3. Thomas Wold adds his magic to Pinterest’s offices. I was so excited to see ingenious designer Thomas Wolds installation at Pinterest get attention from The Wall Street Journal online as well as at Fast Company. Though I would like to state for the record that I asked him for an interview about it months ago but the man was too busy building more magical things. Way to go Thomas!

Photo by Victor Ng

4. Other people’s Facebook Movies (or even your own). JUST KIDDING! Seriously Facebook, when we X it out as “annoying or unintesting,” stop putting them in our news feeds! Sheesh.

5. Vintage NASA photographs. There’s something so cool about these, I want to blow one or two up and design a room around them. I think it would be really neat for a kid’s room as well:

photo by Neil Armstrong/NASA via NBCNEWS.com

What kinds of cool things did you catch on the internet this week? Please let us know in the Comments section.

Also, we’ve been trying our hand at Instagram (I know, we’re WAY behind the times on that one!) Please feel free to give us any suggestions on how we can be better Instagrammers, we could use the help. Have a great weekend everyone!

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Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

A Little Moroccan Inspiration

Becky

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As I perused a Moroccan style house last night, it got me thinking about what a wealth of inspiration this far-off land has to offer. I thought I’d share a few ways Morocco’s style can inspire you at home.

One of the very first design blogs I ever started following was My Marrakesh, and it’s been such a joy to watch its creator, Maryam Montague, touted by major trendsetters and media outlets. While Moroccan inspiration has been a style influence around the world for a long time, I believe she was a major factor in making it so popular for the past few years.It’s also been exciting to see Maryam land her book deal. If you want a tome of Moroccan inspiration, pick up Marrakesh By Design stat!

It’s also been fun to follow her and her architect husband build their boutique hotel, Peacock Pavilions:

Peacock Pavilions, Morocco

Use bold colors and layers of textiles. Moroccan details you may pick up for your own home are the rich textures of kilim textiles and Beni Ouarain and groups of perforated hammered metal lanterns. Exuberant colors stand out against white walls, and one can never have too many layers of rugs, pillows and other textiles.

Borrow Morocco’s deep and electric blue. When I think of Morocco, it’s all about Yves for me. Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge bought his Moorish villa from French painter Jacques Majorelle. To learn more about the joint, Jardin Majorelle, I recommend this excellent post, Chic in Morocco, over at Habitually Chic. This electric shade of blue is seen in many images of Morocco.

3. Make your courtyard a peaceful retreat. While gardens as lush as those at Jardin Majorelle are rare, Morocco is full of gorgeous outdoor spaces. Many houses are riads, which have interior courtyards. While some are full of intricate tile and fountains, others, like Riad Tarabel (another private guest house where you can stay), are more subdued.

Another iconic Moroccan image is of original sixties boho queen Talitha Getty (taken by Patrick Lichfield). Minarets are a common sight from Morocco’s rooftops.

4. Stop with all that boring white and tan tile and go bold. Life is shore. Handcrafted tiles in bold color combinations and intricate patterns are the way to go sometimes.

5. You can never have too many layers of textiles, or throw and floor pillows. Just ask Yves.

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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Designer Interview: Meet Elana Joelle Hendler of EJH Brand

Becky

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Today we’re getting to know Elana Joelle Hendler, the artist and designer behind EJH Brand
Tell us a little bit about the journey that led you to where you are in your art career today.

I’ve been drawing all my life, drawing in notebooks with a ballpoint pen since I was young. I studied art history in college but never had plans for a career with my art. A few years later, my life took a major shift and I decided to go out on my own and start a business. I knew then that I would use my artwork as the basis for the brand. As I began to work on the concept for EJH, I was drawn to designing products that I’ve always loved and enjoyed in my home. (I’ve been obsessed with candles since I can remember!) Your home can be such a sanctuary from the busy world around us and I wanted to create unique, design driven works of art that people could enjoy in their own environments.
You feature wildlife a lot –­ what inspired that and how do you decide on which species you are going to feature?

My earliest drawings were doodles that I would work on without really knowing what they were. As I would continue to draw, I would always notice the designs began to look like animals and then I would continue the drawing to look like that animal. I suppose you could say I’ve always been a wildlife artist. I find the modern elements of intrinsic designs in nature and wildlife absolutely fascinating and that is what I explore in my work. As far as selecting a particular animal to feature, the Wildlife Collection is a combination of work I drew before my business existed and other animals I adore that I chose to complete the series!
What are some of  the benefits of and challenges with production in the USA?

The main benefit to having production in the USA is shorter turnaround and better quality control. The challenges are cost, sourcing and sometimes a combination of the two! The truth is, even though it has its challenges, I feel very proud to say that I partner locally and that my products are all designed and handcrafted in the USA.
What are your studio space and neighborhood like? How do they inspire you?
My studio is in Venice just lining the canals. I love working so close to the water and watching the different canal birds that share my neighborhood! The culture here in Venice has definitely had an impact on my aesthetic and how I create environments to showcase the brand. My studio is filled with reclaimed wood and metal furniture including an oversized wooden bookcase that I use to feature the full collection. The first print from each limited edition hangs along the walls and my view out the window overlooks the Venice canals.
Speaking of inspiration, what do you do when you have a creative block to try and shake it?

Whenever I have a creative block, I’ve learned it’s best to get up, walk away, and get back to it later. Since I live a block from the beach, I sometimes take a pen and notepad with me and will plant myself right there on the sand and take in the fresh air. Sometimes the change of scenery is enough to clear your head and inspire a new perspective.
I fear writing notes on nice notepapers and cards is becoming a lost art. Please tell us about the inspiration for doing stationary and how people should use it.

There is something so special about receiving a handwritten note on a beautiful card, whether it’s a thank you, invitation, or just to say hello. The heart of the EJH concept is to really appreciate the nuances of handcrafted works of art and in this spirit, I decided to design stationery letterpressed by hand on paper made from cotton recovered from the textile industry. It’s a modern spin on an age old tradition of expression, and I think sending a handwritten note can be such a beautiful gesture that people truly appreciate receiving.
Tell us a little about choosing luxurious fragrances for your candles.

Our two candle collections are designed with 100% pure essential oils, using a delicate combination of fruits, flowers, herbs and plants. I love fresh, sophisticated, clean fragrances! I have always been repelled by strong synthetic smells and so EJH is about all natural coconut wax, earth­inspired essential oils that make you feel connected to the environment and add that subtle sophistication to your home space.
Anything else to add that my questions don’t cover?

I was 24 when I started the company with no business, product development or even product design experience. That’s a fun fact people usually find interesting. This business began on a dream and sheer determination.
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