Modernist Designers Series / Sam Maloof

This month’s designer hails from our very own state of California. Meet the man behind some of the most defining wood craftsmanship of the mid-century.

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Sam Maloof (1916-2009)
United States
Designer, Craftsman

Sam Maloof was born in Chino, California with a natural talent for woodworking.

Following his service in the army during World War II, Maloof earned a position at a local college art department, where he began designing and crafting furniture. When his creations appeared in Better Homes & Gardens magazine and the LA Times, the custom orders came flooding in and never stopped.

Of the designs he created during this time, Maloof was best known for his rocking chairs, some of which even appeared in the White House for use by Presidents Reagan and Carter.

Walnut rocking chair, 1977  (   source   )

Walnut rocking chair, 1977 (source)

Though his work continued to develop throughout the Crafts movement, you can see an undeniable modern influence on his style — the simplicity of form, the focus on function, and the way he brought out the beauty of natural materials.

Rosewood Rocking Chair, 1963  (   source   )

Rosewood Rocking Chair, 1963 (source)

In 1953, Maloof began building and furnishing his own home with his wife, Alfreda. In 2000, a freeway extension project (the 210) required he move their Alta Loma home, which was later recognized as a historic property.

Music Stand and Chair from the Maloof House, 1969 and 1972  (   source   )

Music Stand and Chair from the Maloof House, 1969 and 1972 (source)

He relocated to the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, where anyone can tour the 22-room estate today, complete with his own handcrafted spiral staircase.

More Modern Designs by Sam Maloof

Loveseat in Maple, 1992  (   source   )

Loveseat in Maple, 1992 (source)

Leather Lounge Chair and Ottoman, 1960s  (   source   )

Leather Lounge Chair and Ottoman, 1960s (source)

Hornback Chairs in Walnut, 1960s  (   source   )

Hornback Chairs in Walnut, 1960s (source)

Coffee table in Ash, 1954  (   source   )

Coffee table in Ash, 1954 (source)

Free Standing Cradle in Walnut, 1977  (   source   )

Free Standing Cradle in Walnut, 1977 (source)

Keep an eye out for our next featured designer in September…

In the meantime, who are your favorite modern designers so far?

Sustainability + Interiors Series / Introduction

We’re excited to kick off a new series on sustainability and what it means for interiors! In our first installment, read on for thoughts on how to consider sustainability for yourself.

Armadillo & Co’s rugs are made by hand from natural or sustainable materials using Fair Trade practices (  source  )

Armadillo & Co’s rugs are made by hand from natural or sustainable materials using Fair Trade practices (source)

I had always thought of myself as environmentally-conscious with my parent-instilled habits of religiously recycling and only buying new things when the old things could no longer be used. I even wrote a paper in college analyzing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards and criticizing the loopholes in how they evaluated sustainability. But if I really dig into my life, there is so much unsustainability that escapes notice on a daily basis. Our beloved iPhones, for example, do we really want to know the conditions in which those rare earth metals are mined? (We don’t.)

Sustainable, green, eco-friendly - these are all words we hear often, but what do they really mean? Depending on who you ask and the context, there can be many different answers. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states, “To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.” 

Whether or not you care deeply about the global environment, your immediate environment most certainly has an effect on your well-being. As many people have unfortunately experienced at one point or another, paint and carpet fumes most definitely cause headaches. According to the Sustainable Furnishings Council, our indoor environments are two to five times more polluted than our outdoor environment because of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) off-gassing from the furnishings that we bring into our homes. Not to mention, the textile production industry is one of the most chemically intensive in the world, and we are surrounded by textiles on our bodies and environments. 

Inside Cisco Home’s furniture workshop, a company known for their use of Forest Council Certified wood, natural materials, and lack of chemical fire retardants. (  source  )

Inside Cisco Home’s furniture workshop, a company known for their use of Forest Council Certified wood, natural materials, and lack of chemical fire retardants. (source)

So how do we evaluate products and companies for sustainability? Here are four main areas that are helpful in evaluating:

  • Transparent Sourcing

    • Can you trace back the origin of the materials used?

    • Is the material provider producing within ethical and sustainable guidelines?

  • Ethical Manufacturing

    • Are the working conditions safe?

    • Are labor practices non-exploitive?

  • Low-Impact Production

    • Are the negative by-products of production minimal?

    • Are harmful chemicals being used in the product?

  • Upcycled Materials

    • If plastic is being used, is it recycled?

    • Is the wood reclaimed?

It is absolutely difficult, if not impossible, to be 100% sustainable in all areas currently. Our goal in discussing sustainability is not to be perfect, nor to judge or criticize, but to present information so that you can make informed decisions on your interiors based on what is most important to you. Trade-offs are often necessary in design when there are budgets and schedules to consider. However, it’s becoming increasingly easier to make sustainable decisions for your spaces, and we seek to educate and highlight those alternatives in this new monthly series. 

Stay tuned for our next post on textiles. In the meantime, what topic most interests you in sustainability and interiors? Share with us in the comments below.

Modernist Designers Series / Sergio Rodrigues

Our featured designer for June brought new levels of comfort and relaxation to modern design. He was also one of the first to spread the Modernist movement to South America. Meet the father of modern Brazilian furniture...

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Sergio Rodrigues (1927-2014)
Brazil
Architect, Designer

Sergio Rodrigues’s modern designs epitomize the relaxed lifestyle of his native Brazil.

After studying architecture and design in Rio de Janeiro, Rodrigues introduced Brazil to modern design, opening its first modern art and furniture store. Two years later, he founded a firm called Oca to design modern furniture himself.

Rodrigues’s work embraced robust woods — like jacaranda, rosewood, and imbuia — and he often used leather. Together, these rich materials would create many uniquely modern designs, all of which boast an undeniably suave style.

In 1957, he developed his infamous Mole chair. “Mole” means “soft” in Portuguese, and this chair is also known as the “Sheriff Chair” abroad. This design won him first prize in Italy’s International Furniture Competition in 1961 and was immortalized in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection in 1974.

Mole armchair in jacaranda and leather, 1957  (   source   )

Mole armchair in jacaranda and leather, 1957 (source)

Mole sofa in jacaranda and leather, 1957  (   source   )

Mole sofa in jacaranda and leather, 1957 (source)

Rodrigues also worked closely with Oscar Niemeyer to style the interiors of Niemeyer’s buildings in Brasília. Rodrigues named a chair design “Oscar” after him.

Oscar chair in jacaranda and cane, 1960s  (   source   )

Oscar chair in jacaranda and cane, 1960s (source)

Rodrigues stayed with Oca for 13 years and continued to design into his later years. He churned out more than 1200 designs in his long career, and it’s said that all of them stayed true to the relaxed and playful nature of his people.

In other words, he is more than the first to bring modern design to Brazil. He was also the first to bring Brazilian comfort to modern design!

More Modern Designs by Sergio Rodrigues

Diz chair in imbuia wood, 2002  (   source   )

Diz chair in imbuia wood, 2002 (source)

Kilin chair for his firm, Oca Industries, in Brazilian pine and leather, 1973  (   source   )

Kilin chair for his firm, Oca Industries, in Brazilian pine and leather, 1973 (source)

Tonico chair in jacaranda and leather, 1950  (   source   )

Tonico chair in jacaranda and leather, 1950 (source)

Benjamin lounge armchair in freijó wood, 2013  (   source   )

Benjamin lounge armchair in freijó wood, 2013 (source)

Cuiaba chair in freijó wood, 1985  (   source   )

Cuiaba chair in freijó wood, 1985 (source)

Keep an eye out for our next featured designer in July!

In the meantime, tell us your favorite modern designer in the comments below!

Pro Tip / All About Tadelakt

Current tadelakt inspiration courtesy of the Wandsworth House, London.

Current tadelakt inspiration courtesy of the Wandsworth House, London.

Tadelakt has been steadily gaining popularity in the design world in recent years, but what exactly is this wall finish all about? While relatively unknown in the United States, tadelakt has been used in Moroccan architecture for centuries, and is perhaps most well-known for its presence in traditional hammam baths. This wall finish is favored now for its natural materials and organic look, and is most commonly used in showers or baths.

Made from limestone and olive soap, this durable material is simple to maintain and offers a luxurious, textured finish. Tadelakt is a perfect alternative to tiles in the bathroom, as it is naturally mildew and mold resistant, and its smooth application means no grout lines. We love that this material is free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and requires no special maintenance. Also, since the pH is very basic, insects are repelled by tadelakt.

Tadelakt as backsplash in kitchen designed by Leigh Herzig (  image source  )

Tadelakt as backsplash in kitchen designed by Leigh Herzig (image source)

Given its properties, tadelakt is a great choice for kitchen backsplashes as well as fireplace surrounds. For a slightly less expensive alternative, one may use lime plaster, tadelakt’s cousin, which forgoes the extra waterproofing steps.

Tadelakt fireplace surround from Elizabeth Roberts Architecture (  image source  )

Tadelakt fireplace surround from Elizabeth Roberts Architecture (image source)

We recently visited Color Atelier here in San Francisco to learn about the process of tadelakt application. Applied over plywood and waterproofing, the application process can be lengthy at 4-5 days to install a standard shower and 30 days to fully cure. A wax or sealant is applied at the end to complete the process. The final outcome is a smooth, resilient surface with a look and feel that will stand the test of time; tadelakt does not fade. Costs are comparable to mid-range tile and stone installations. While highly resistant to cracking, if tadelakt is sufficiently damaged, it cannot be spot repaired and must be replaced.

A variety of colors and finishes for tadelakt and lime plaster at Color Atelier in San Francisco

A variety of colors and finishes for tadelakt and lime plaster at Color Atelier in San Francisco

If you want to achieve a similar look in dry areas of the house without the cost, lime paint or lime plaster can create a comparable finish. These are not recommended for the bathroom as they lack the water-resistant qualities of tadelakt, however they offer a similarly rich texture to elevate your space.


Modernist Designers Series / Eva Zeisel

This month, we’re introducing a Hungarian-American designer whose incredible 105-year life took her through several countries, a World War, and into the history books of modern design.

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Eva Zeisel (1906-2011)
United States (born in Hungary)
Designer, Ceramicist

Though born to a wealthy Hungarian Jewish family, Eva Zeisel ignored the leisurely callings of her status and immersed herself in the laborious role of ceramicist’s apprentice.

After graduating as a journeyman, Zeisel spent several years in Germany, designing modern-inspired ceramic dinnerware, vases, and tea sets. In 1935, she moved to Soviet Russia to assume the role of director of the Soviet china and glass industry.

In 1937, a series of events paused her work. First, she was falsely accused of plotting to assassinate Joseph Stalin and was imprisoned for 16 months in Russia. Then, when she was finally released and deported to Vienna, the Nazis invaded; she and her husband fled to the U.S.

The couple arrived in New York, and Zeisel’s career took off over the following years. She taught at the Pratt Institute, created a ceramics line for Sears, and was commissioned to create a line of modern ceramics for the Museum of Modern Art.

Town and Country Salt and Pepper Shakers, MoMA, 1945 ( source )

Town and Country Salt and Pepper Shakers, MoMA, 1945 (source)

Hallcraft/Tomorrow’s Classic Sauce Boat with Ladle, MoMA, 1949-50 ( source )

Hallcraft/Tomorrow’s Classic Sauce Boat with Ladle, MoMA, 1949-50 (source)

In her more than 75-year career, Zeisel was famous for pushing boundaries. Although her ceramics included the clean lines and simplicity of modernism, she challenged these limitations with designs inspired by nature, the human form, relationships, and her own playful approach to life.

That Zeisel’s pieces were featured in the Museum of Modern Art and mass produced for the general public is a tribute to her skill in creating beautiful and functional designs.

More Modern Designs by Eva Zeisel

Large Biomorphic Silver Platter designed for Nambé, 1952 ( source )

Large Biomorphic Silver Platter designed for Nambé, 1952 (source)

Eva Zeisel Schramberg Tea Pot, German Modernist, 1929 ( source )

Eva Zeisel Schramberg Tea Pot, German Modernist, 1929 (source)

Eva Zeisel Schramberg Coffee Set, German Modernist, 1929 ( source )

Eva Zeisel Schramberg Coffee Set, German Modernist, 1929 (source)

Serving set designed for KleinReid, 1999 ( source )

Serving set designed for KleinReid, 1999 (source)

Pitchers, 1946-1960 ( source )

Pitchers, 1946-1960 (source)

Keep an eye out for our next featured designer in June…

In the meantime, tell us your favorite modern designer in the comments below!