Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Portrait in Wood & Brass

Vintage wood and brass combine to gorgeous effect in this antique French camera, circa 1860. Featuring a body made of walnut, this Chevalier Appareil Universel No.1 transitional tailboard camera also came with a walnut storage box and brass bound convertible lens set. Originally designed and built as a practical instrument, it is an object of profound beauty in its own right, combining wood craftsmanship with science, optometrics and other technologies of the day. This camera is part of the Spira Collection of photographica in New York, founded by historian and author Fred Spira, regarded as the 'Henry Ford of photography' for his innovative work to standardize photographic equipment among national and international manufacturers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wood Floats

Design that is simple yet astounding - not easy to achieve but pulled off brilliantly by the Dutch architecture and planning firm MVRDV with their Wozoco Apartments project in Amsterdam. The building's ingenius cantilevered box units were designed to add floorspace without increasing the building's footprint. Their wood cladding, juxtaposed against the glass and steel curtain walls of the main structure, enhance the building's eye-popping, playful appeal.

Wood, Food, Life

Wood becomes richer and more compelling with age and wear, which is why I love this photograph by the superb Irish food photographer Katie Quinn Davies. The patina and texture of old wood compliments the dark, moody feel of her work, which is shot mostly in natural light and is reminiscent of a Dutch painting. The worn wood handles of these utensils, laid out upon a worn wood table, evoke the timeless communal experience of cooking and eating. Wood is a material that laces through the fabric of human experience like no other.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Red, White & Bold

I love the bold use of stained wood for this house outside Oslo by Jarmund/Vigsnaes Architects (JVA). The vibrant red color and sharp lines of the house make a dramatic statement, especially set against the white and grey Nordic winter landscape. While the Scandinavians possess a special genius for wood and for pure form, they also have a special affinity for color, perhaps because of their long, dark winters. This house is a striking example of all three of these Nordic attributes.

The Quiet Power of Hans Wegner

In starting to think about this blog, Hans Wegner chairs kept appearing in my mind. They are an iconic expression of wood design and craftsmanship lodged deep in my consciousness. So simple and unassuming, yet so thoughtfully and exactingly composed and executed, with a Jedi Master's focus on detail. (CH37 Chair, 1962, Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen & Son.)

Wood Peddler

This is one of those stunners that hits your design sense like a right cross. These wood bike frames are not only gorgeous and unique, they also provide superior performance. They are lightweight, durable, stiff, responsive and offer a smoother, quieter ride than metal frames. Wood also ages better than metal, becoming more beautiful with use and wear. These bikes are made by Renovo Hardwood Bikes of Portland, Oregon using sustainably sourced hickory, ash and other hardwoods and finished with low-VOC finishes. The natural beauty of these bikes make conventional metal frames seem inelegant and crass - like a Louisville Slugger vs. a souless metal baseball bat. Go with the soul. (Pandurban Commuter, laminated bamboo.)

In the Woods by the Sea

What cooking is for the French, design is for the Scandinavians. And their natural medium is wood. This house to me is a classic expression of Nordic design. Simple, functional, restrained but with subtle details, quirks and surprises that make it endlessly engaging. This house, located on the Swedish archipelago of Trosa, won the Swedish Wood Award in 2000. The house was designed by WRB Arkitekstudio and features stunning views of the Baltic Sea. The designers' use of wood slats was a forerunner of the wood slat trend that has emerged over the past decade.