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Friday, November 9th, 2012

Around the Web This Week

Becky

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What a week! Personally I ruined my fall back extra hour of sleep by staying up late for election results and speeches and never caught back up; it’s like a week-long political hangover and I’m just glad there aren’t 6 billion dollars worth of annoying ads assaulting us anymore. It’s been fun to think about other things; here are a few fun virtual design stops I’ve made this week.

First, let’s get serious. Victims of Hurricane Sandy need help. A lot of helpful tips have been posted all over the web this week; I’m finding first-hand accounts from friends on Facebook have some of the most useful information. Bottom line, these people don’t need your worn-out clothing right now, what they do need includes warm outerwear (coats, scarves, mittens, hats, wool socks, etc.), cash, hand sanitizer, batteries, wipes, cans of soup and can openers, diapers, warm blankets, power cords and more. An easy way to help is to text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Another charity that is doing great work and makes it easy to donate online is Family-to-Family.

If you need to lighten your mood, I highly recommend a viewing of Moonrise Kingdom from the comfort of your living room. If you’ve already checked out Wes Anderson’s latest visual feast but can’t get enough, check out the behind the scenes tours, particularly Bill Murray’s guided set tour.

I loved this post from Tablet about great spots for what they call “the annual man trip” but I have decided to call mancations, dudescursions and/or bro-jurns. While I’m not a man and I don’t really care to go fishing or smoke cigars, I would happily cozy up in any of these awesome spots around the world.

I finally had time to sit down and savor the latest issue of Anthology magazine. The theme is Rhythm and Hues and it’s a great look at the homes of music-industry types. I love that during a time when so many home glossies were going out of business, this talented group had the guts create a fresh and original print magazine. I treat each one like I would a book, and they will never be making their way to my recycling bin.

By the way, if you got too caught up in the fray and forgot to shop our Blu Dot sale, don’t fret. It’s been extended through November 19th. Click here to start browsing and saving.

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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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Thursday, August 30th, 2012

The New Classics: Predicting Iconic Furniture for 2050

Becky

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I ate up the cover story on The New York Times’ Home Section today; “The Classics, Circa 2050.” For one thing, I’m always trying to determine what the new classics are (i.e. new furniture that will eventually gain icon status, today’s equivalent of a mid-century icon like a Wegner Wishbone Chair or an Eames Shell Chair). Beyond aesthetics and one’s own judgement, a sign that a piece may be well on its way to icon status is if it’s a part of a museum’s collection. Another when prominent architects choose to use it in their own homes.

Anyway, I was very pleased to see a handful of my favorite products that Design Public carries made the cut. Here they are:

The Louis Ghost Chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell (this probably inspired the most discussion)

The Emeco Navy Chair already had mid-century icon status in my book, now the experts are choosing the latest version, made from 111 recycled plastic bottles, the 111 Navy Chair.

Kartell scored again, with their Bourgie Lamp by Ferruccio Laviani

Vitra’s Algue made the cut

Tod Boontje’s Until Dawn Curtain made the cut, we love the way his botanical cuts look on the Midsummer Light

There were a few others I would have added to the list:

Sori Yanagi’s Butterfly Stool, manufactured by Vitra

The Coral 600 Pendant Lamp by David Trubridge

Bend Seating Lucy by Gaurav Nanda

Blu Dot Modulicious Case Goods

Nobody asked me, by the way! But I’m asking you – Which recent furniture and accessories do you think will achieve icon status in 30 years? Keep in mind the process can involve becoming unpopular or passé for a decade or three and then re-appreciated later. Personally, I have trouble looking beyond chairs and lighting most of the time.

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Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Spotlight On D.I.A. (Design in Action)

Becky

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We’re looking for some hot design in action, also known as D.I.A. Email us a photo of design in your home and get $10 off your next order. In addition, if your photo includes you or a friend in the shot you’ll be entered to win a monthly drawing for a $200 gift certificate. If you have a camera on your phone, there’s really no excuse not to do this; we’re not going to critique you on composition, color or cleanliness, I promise! Here are five D.I.A. shots that caught my eye this week.

Thanks to Cindy for sharing this photo of 2 Hybrid Home Limited Edition Large Print Visible Ghosts. They look especially snazzy against that dark wall:

From the awesome photograph adorable baby files, thanks to Christy for posting this picture of the Flensted Mobiles Rollephant Mobile. If I were them, I’d be begging Christy for this picture for a future catalog:

Thanks to Joe for putting his Inhabit Current Organic Throw in Orange into fashion action mode. Lookin’ good Joe!:

I am loving this cutie living large in Fatboy Junior. It’s rather genius to use this modern beanbag to make your sofa more kiddo-friendly and fun. Thanks to Laura for sending this in; I love the way the socks and the book go with the color of the Fatboy!

I love the serene and sophisticated bedroom sent in by Robert Bernard. Underfoot there’s a lovely rug that adds a big pattern to the room without overwhelming it. It’s a perfect use of DwellStudio’s Home Gate Rug in Ash and Cream:

Thanks to everyone who shared their D.I.A.!

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Monday, July 18th, 2011

Designer Interview: John Eric Byers of Jeb Jones

Becky

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Today we’re sitting down with John Eric Byers, the furniture designer behind Jeb Jones. Jeb Jones is an environmentally conscious company that creates furniture distinguished by simple geometric forms, traditional construction methods, hand-tooled surfaces and hand finishing. Based in upstate New York, the designs are influenced by the four seasons and the surrounding countryside. Without further ado, meet John!
Jeb Jones Spools (Short)

What was the first piece of furniture you ever made?

I made a ladder back chair in high school shop. Gave it to my Mom of course.

What has your career path been; what led you into designing furniture?

I always had a desire to work with my hands and with wood. When I discovered the furniture of Wendell Castle I was hooked. I was very fortunate that he had a small school of which I attended for 2 years and then went out on my own.

Jeb Jones Stacking Drawers Dresser

What is your philosophy when approaching the design of a new piece?

Excitement and anxiousness.. I get this kind of  buzz.

What inspires you? What do you do to overcome a creative block?

Honestly, I have never had a creative block. But the best cure to indecision is to stay disciplined and make a decision and hope for the best.

Jeb Jones Wood Ball

Please tell us a bit about the sustainable aspects of your practice and products.

At the onset  I wanted JEB JONES to represent sustainability and enduring quality. We use only FSC select hardwoods and VOC-free environmentally safe opaque and clear coat finishes. Our costs are higher but I refuse to cheap out on the environment . When you purchase one of our pieces, you can feel proud that you are doing right by your planet. And you can feel that way for a lifetime because our pieces will last a lifetime and our warranty supports that.

Can you tell us a quick story about three of your designs and how they came to be?

Most of my designs start as quick thumbnail doodles, I never do working drawings. I often have a few designs being made at the same time and then I begin to see variations on the pieces as they come to life.

Jeb Jones Open Form Bench/Table

The idea of emphasizing the interior space of the Open Form Tables led me to to extend that interior consideration and attention to detail to all the open pieces in the collection.

What’s your workspace like? How do your surroundings in upstate New York influence you work?

My private studio is short 30 foot  commute from my 1860s farm house which makes it easy to go to the studio every day.  I think the simplicity of my lifestyle in the country has contributed to the simplicity of my design forms . The four seasons certainly has influenced my color palette.

Thanks so much to John for sitting down with us today! Here are more of his designs.

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