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Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Designer Interview: Rapson-Inc.

Becky

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Architect and furniture designer Ralph Rapson trained at Cranbook under Eliel Saarinen, designed furniture for Knoll, sketched the most charming illustrations of his designs, opened the first modern home decor store  in the Boston area with his wife in the 1940s and practiced as an architect.

Ralph Rapson

Today his son, architect Toby Rapson, and President of Rapson-Inc. Chris Reedy are carrying on the elder Rapson’s legacy, working with designers to re-release high quality Ralph Rapson designs, sometimes with a few tweaks they believe he would have approved of.

Chris, who lived in a Ralph Rapson house (above), met Ralph Rapson when Rapson knocked upon his door to check out how his design was holding up.  So, Toby, did you and your father make a habit of doing this at all the houses you designed?

Toby: I occasionally stop in at homes that my father or I designed. I’m sure that I get this penchant for dropping in unannounced from my Dad.

Chris: My son was only 1 at the time and had just strewn a crunchy layer of Cheerios all over, and the doorbell rings and it’s the great man himself come to look at what we’re doing with his house … Ralph pretended not to notice the chaos and kindly went about charming us all.

How long did it take after that until you two were launching this business together?

Toby: Well, the story is a bit long – my parents originally established Rapson Inc. in Boston during the 1940s selling modern living equipment as well as pieces designed by Ralph.  My father continued to design custom pieces for architectural clients and it wasn’t until 50 years later while working with my dad at Rapson Architects that we started dabbling in reproducing the Rapid Rocker.

This led to collaborating with Blu Dot, producing his Dwell Lounge, and working with other interesting teams of designers on additional prototypes.  After my dad’s death I felt strongly about continuing his design legacy and perhaps producing more pieces from his extensive design library.  My wife and I put together a show of Ralph’s furniture drawings in late 2010 to gauge public interest; it was quite successful.  But, my primary business is Rapson Architects so I knew I needed help to make a stand-alone business.

Chris: As it happened, I came to this impressive show, saw some prototypes, and wondered if Toby was looking for a business partner. The timing was right, I made my pitch, we started the company a little over a year ago, and it’s been a really, really fun time.

How did you choose which designs to release first?

Toby: So far, the choices have been pretty easy. First, we wanted to continue making the bentwood Rapson Rapid Rocker that my father re-introduced late in life.  Second, we decided to produce some of my father’s best-known designs for H.G. Knoll from the 1940s, we call these the Greenbelt Line.  We are also currently working on his iconic ‘Chair of Tomorrow’ and a few others.  The hard part as we move forward will be sifting through the vast options that my dad has given us.

Chris: Those Knoll designs are very important to telling Ralph Rapson’s story in design, obviously, but they also use natural materials that are very appealing today.  It turns out ‘natural modernism’ or ‘rustic modernism’ or whatever you want to call it today has quite long roots.  And the Greenbelt Line has those sculpted, cantilevered arms that are still so daring.

Toby: Yes, those arms are a signature piece of my father’s work.  Just as we were getting started with the Greenbelt Line, I ran into Greg Benson, the CEO at Loll Designs, and we started talking about doing outdoor versions in Loll’s signature material, recycled plastic.

Chris: This was a bit of a discussion; there are definitely Modern purists who might wonder about this.

Toby: But I know my father always wanted to push the envelope and I feel he would have loved knowing the pieces he drew long ago could be for outdoor use; particularly in such a responsible, innovative and incredibly durable material. The team at Loll has been great to work with and we’ve licensed these designs to them. I’m just sorry my father isn’t around to be a part of the fun.

What was the biggest challenge in re-releasing your father’s furniture designs?

Toby: Quality is always a significant challenge. My father’s signature is on each piece we make. Even though we’re a scrappy small company, he would not have wanted any less than perfect chairs to be delivered.

Chris: We take great pride in continuing Ralph’s legacy.

Toby: Luckily, we have found good partners who are excited to make Rapson chairs and understand we’re a small company entrusted with great designs.

What kept you going when the challenges mounted?

Toby: My father’s furniture designs are second to none.  His designs are embraced as modern icons by many, Chris and I just need to do our part.

Are you ever going to re-release the slatted coffee table? Because I want one.

Chris: Stay tuned.

Toby: I thought you were supposed to be the business guy.  Get her credit card number.

photo credit: Larry Weinberg

While we’re on that topic, which designs are you hoping to release in the future?

Chris: The next chair we do will be the first piece based solely off drawings Ralph left behind.

Toby: I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said “your father drew like an angel.” But beyond that, his furniture drawings often included people sitting, lounging with a martini, reading a book, sunbathing, etc; his drawings had personality and his designs were scaled for people.  It’s astounding how faithful we can be to his imagination – that is, his renderings – and still have a chair that’s very, very comfortable.

Toby: Actually, the public had a say toward this new chair.  We had an opening with Danish Teak Classics; a local gallery that showcased our Greenbelt chairs and we asked the public to vote between three designs.  They made a wise choice.

Chris: In fact, we’re behind schedule because I took the first prototype home, put it in front of the TV, and didn’t want to give it back because it’s so comfortable. The chair actually seems like it’s trying to put you to sleep.

Toby: Becky, I know, you’re thinking “Give me a break! There are a lot of comfortable chairs!”  But my father developed his approach while working with Eliel, Eero, Hans and Florence, Harry, Charlie and others, and brought his innovation to early modern furniture design and the design of this chair that adds both character and comfort in a way that’s surprising and still unique and timely 60 or more years after he drew it.  We can’t wait to get it into production.

No break necessary; I can’t wait to check it out. I also like that you’re on a first-name basis with the greats (Readers, that’s Saarinen, Saarinen, Wegner, Knoll, Bertoia and Eames, I think)! Where can we see more of Ralph Rapson’s amazing drawings?

Toby: We have literally hundreds of drawings, but a nice selection is included in his biography, Ralph Rapson: 60 Years of Modern Design.

Is there anything else you’d like people to remember about Rapson-Inc.?

Toby: Most importantly, I want people to learn more about Ralph Rapson and his role in the development of modern design.  One goal of the company is to ensure the legacy of my father’s designs; I hope people will view what we’re doing at Rapson-Inc as a thoughtful extension of his design process and philosophy.  Moving ahead, we are embracing collaborators and innovative materials with the spirit of my father as we expand the catalog of Rapson designs in production.

Thanks so much to Toby and Chris for taking the time to speak with us today. Readers, All Rapson-Inc. products are 15% off through October 31, so get shopping!

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Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Celebrity Real Estate

Becky

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I’ve been stalking celebrity real estate again – it’s my guilty pleasure, so I thought I’d share. Let’s kick it off with Matthew Broderick and SJP’s $25 million dollar Greenwich Village townhouse. This is the library:

spotted on Zillow, who found it via Sotheby’s.

Speaking of Carrie Bradshaw, the real Carrie Bradshaw, author of Sex and the City Candace Bushnell, is also selling her Greenwich Village home. Hers is a 2-bedroom apartment and it’s listed for $2.8 million. I remember this one from Elle Decor, in fact, isn’t it on the cover of the last Elle Decor book, So Chic? Yes, I believe it is. Photographs are so crucial to real estate listings. While most people can’t even remember to make their bed or put down the toilet seat, then celebs have spreads photographed by the likes of William Waldron.

photo by William Waldron, scoop via New York Daily News

I guess the cover of Elle Decor is a great way to market a house you’re about to dump. Reese Witherspoon is unloading her Ojai retreat. Elle Decor wasn’t the only place printing photos of the property; Witherspoon recently let RPat hide out from the paps and mend his broken heart here. The cozy revival ranch is on the market for a cool $10 million.

I really enjoyed this celeb house tour; it seemed like such a relaxing, family-friendly place that was actually attainable (the decor, not the house). It also respected the style and history of the home, preserving and honoring the best details.

photos by William Waldron; scoop via realtor.com

It’s not currently for sale, but Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ wedding had me looking up Boone Plantation. Scenes from The Notebook were filmed there, and the place has a driveway that’s as Lowcountry as can be – lined in beautiful live oaks dripping in Spanish Moss:

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Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Homeowners’ Association: Yea or Nay?

Becky

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So, I think this is a love it or hate it kind of thing. I’m talkin’ ’bout homeowner’s associations. Seems like it could be a blues song. Or perhaps a blessing? Depends on your opinion, and lord knows, when it comes to H.O.A.s, it’s all a matter of something for everyone. One thing I’ll say, just like at every communal apartment pool, there’s always a Nazi within diving distance, micro-managing how many friends people have brought and who may have slipped some vodka into their lemonade.

I got thinking about this subject thanks to one of my very favorite websites in the whole wide world, Passive-Aggressive Notes:

This made me laugh so hard that I’d think about painting my fence like this even if there was no Bob! I also love that you can see the photog in the rearview mirror!

I started poking around and found that Gawker has assembled an awesomely horrific collection of Homeowners’ Association nightmare stories. They include fines imposed for hanging a very “divisive” Christmas wreath in the shape of a peace sign, servicemen having their homes taken away while they are off fighting wars, being told they are not allowed to be greener and hang their clothes on a clothesline or (shudder) install solar panels, insisting that everyone buy and install the same mailbox, and banning subversive activities like playing outside or putting up a frog statue.

Do you live with an HOA? How do you feel about it? Have you ever had any run-ins with a president with a bad case of OCD who is drunk on power? Or do you prefer the uniform aesthetics the organization promotes? Tell us about it in the comments section!

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Friday, July 13th, 2012

Flickr Faves on Friday: A Hodge-Podge

Becky

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Hey All! It’s been a real hodge-podge of a week, sneaking a Monday off to get back from Fourth of July destinations, trying to get back in the groove on Tuesday, finally getting in the groove and then having the weekend here. I’m all over the place, so I thought, why not go through the Flickr hodge-podge and round up some images that are a bit all over the place? After all, I hit “Fave” on flickr all over the place for very diverse images.

To track back to the the original posters on Flickr, simply click on the images. It’s fun to see what else these folks with keen eyes for style have chosen to share.

This picture was added to the group by Flickr member The Good Old Dayz. The iconic mid-century furniture has certainly stood the test of time, from the Eames Eiffel Base Shell Chairs to the Artichoke Pendant.

This picture of a charming countryside loft in Portugal was added by margaridagirao.com. Isn’t the art fantastic? I also love the way the crisp white walls contrast with the wood floor and ceiling rafters.

Wow, what a difference a plaid on the diagonal can make! It’s so fresh and fun. Check out how Flickr member cheshirkgd styled the laptop screen to match – pretty crafty!

Oh Ivy! You have such a way with styling and with white! I love to follow her blog, Domestic Stories with Ivy – it always relaxes me.

We started with colorful, why not end this hodge-podge with colorful. This vibrant room by Spaces Designed was added by Design Shuffle.

What have you been up to around your abode? Snap a picture and share it with us in our Fresh New Spaces Group.

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Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Spot On Square: Modern, Sustainable, and Generally Awesome {A Giveaway!}

DesignPublic.com

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I have a confession: working in the modern design industry has turned me into a complete design snob (I mean this in a very positive way, of course).  I used to wander into a furniture store and have no clue what the various pieces of wood, metal, and plastic staring back at me were saying.  However, being that I come from a background in fashion, I could tell you all about clothing – and pinpointing the standout items, brands, and trends was second nature to me.  Now that I’ve been in this world for almost a year I’m beginning to feel the same way about modern design – I can tell you all about the industry and about standout items and brands.

Which is why I’m so excited to share my passion for Spot on Square – this is a brand that truly stands out – it shimmers with awesome.

In the sea of modern design, Spot on Square’s line of simple, eco-conscious, quality products truly shine.  The company was started by husband and wife team, Bob and Nicole Springer (an industrial designer and teacher, respectively) who used their combined knowledge to break into the world of modern furnishings. Spot on Square began their line specifically for children but it has morphed into a line that is fitting for folks at any point in their lives – the products are so well-designed that they can carry you through a number of life stages – from bringing home a new baby all the way to retirement!

modern design spot on square

Pictured are the Spot on Square Roh Credenza and the Spot on Square Roh Bookshelf

Spot on Square Modern bedroom

Pictured are the Spot on Square Roh Dresser and the Spot on Square Roh Nightstand

I’ll be honest – chances are that there are no babies in my future.  I already have two kids and well, my clock is quickly running out of time over here.  But when I look at the Spot on Square Roh Crib, I have to say that it almost makes me reconsider my decision. Almost.  Then I remind myself that having the opportunity to design a really cool, modern nursery is simply no reason to bring a child into this world.  And I almost convince myself.  Almost.  And let me just tell you – I’ve spent a lot of time shopping for cribs and other nursery decor (it’s a sickness, really) and I can tell you without hesitation that Spot on Square makes some of the coolest modern cribs on the market.

And don’t just take my word for it.  I have proof.

Spot on Square Roh Crib

Pictured is the Spot on Square Roh Crib

Spot on Square Eicho Crib

Pictured is the Spot on Square Eicho Crib

Spot on Square Hiya Crib

Pictured is the Spot on Square Hiya Crib, converted to a toddler bed

See what I mean?

If you are expecting, or know someone who is expecting, I encourage you to check out Spot on Square. Their furniture would make an awesome addition to anyone creating the perfect modern nursery.  It’s also your lucky day because we here at Design Public haver partnered with our friends at Spot on Square to give away one of their gorgeous Eicho cribs to one of our readers here on Hatch!  Use the form below to enter – we will draw a winner sometime after July 1, 2012.  Please share with your family and friends – we would love for one of our awesome fans to win!

Thanks for entering, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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