Mid-century creativity and Danish design today

June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

As I mentioned before, the Shoreditch loft needs refurbishing. Given that it is going to be used for showcasing Raw Dice, we really want the furniture we choose to complement our existing product lines. So, I have been looking for inspiration with this purpose in mind. So far designs of Hans J. Wegner have caught my eye. Wegner was a very successful mid century Danish furniture designer. The purity of his chair designs are sublime. There are 3 chairs in particular that I think are worth looking at.

The Shell Chair, designed in 1963, is top of my list. It was presented at a Danish Furniture exhibition, where unbelievably people did not like its design and sales were poor. It was produced in very small quantities during the 1960s and re-introduced in 1998 by Carl Hansen & Son. Thank goodness, otherwise we would be deprived of this magnificent chair and certainly poorer for it. Strangely, it reminds me of a Samurai sword! Maybe they can rename it ‘The Samurai’ just for me! I am not sure whether I find the design elegant due to its curved seat or the three proportional legs. Either way, I think that it is best appreciated as a stand alone statement piece.

Shell Chair by Hans J. Wegner

Shell Chair by Hans J. Wegner

I also like Hans J Wegner’s easy chair, designed in 1952, called Sawhorse. This chair is made of pure wood. A marriage between American walnut (for the rounded armrests, back and seat) and European Oak (for legs).

Sawhorse Chair by Hans J. Wegner

Sawhorse Chair by Hans J. Wegner

The Sawhorse resembles a folding lounge chair made by one of our designers WE:DO:WOOD. Founded in 2006, this young and energetic Danish furniture design firm base their vision on the principles of sustainability and good design. We, at Raw Dice are very proud to stock their Trestle Table and Vario Bookcases.

WE:DO:WOOD Lounge Chair

Danish WE:DO:WOOd Bamboo Trestle Table

WE:DO:WOOD Trestle Table

Danish WE:DO:WOOD Vario Bookcases

WE:DO:WOOD Vario Bookcases

The Wishbone Chair, designed in 1959, would complement our WE:DO:WOOD trestle table perfectly. Hans J. Wenger drew inspiration from antique Chinese armchairs to come up with this design. The curved back is common as with the other chairs I have mentioned. Wegner’s strive for beauty in simplicity and comfort is evident from this chair. It comes in a variety of woods with natural cord seating.

Wishbone Chair by Hans J. Wegner

Currently we have 4 DSW Eames Side Chairs to go around our trestle table, 2 Wishbone Chairs would fit perfectly at either end. The beauty of the trestle table is not just in its purity of design but also the fact that it is made of sustainable bamboo.  It is as organic and environmentally friendly as they come. So, when I am eating my organic vegetables on my environmentally friendly table, I can sleep easy at night, knowing that change happens incrementally and every little helps!!

Musing from a country window

June 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

As I sit here and look at the rose arch in the front garden, I am off in my head planning my next few outings to London, Chichester and Salisbury. There are 3 exhibitions that I really want to see; The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, Robin and Lucienne Day exhibition at the Pallant House Gallery and Constable and Salisbury at the Salisbury Museum.

I am very excited to inform you all that one of our artist/designers at raw dice Francisca Prieto is exhibiting at the Summer Exhibition. We are lucky enough to showcase Francisca’s limited edition character prints, which are inspired by the origins of the contemporary Latin alphabet.

Francisca Prieto Limited Edition Character Prints Box Framed

Characters 8 and 1 Limited Edition Box Framed Prints - Francisca Prieto

Francisca’s work ‘Between Folds/British Birds‘ has been selected from over 11,000 entries to be hung at the Royal Academy! Francisca has been working on a series of ‘Between Folds’, where she finds old books and through a process intricate experimentation, creates a work of art. Hence providing a new narrative and a new lease of life to these old publications. Francisca is highly collectable in the art world, where her art is snapped up by international art collectors. The ‘Between Folds/British Birds‘ is already sold! You can find her work in the Saatchi Gallery and we are very proud to have her work at raw dice. We have had 10 prints beautifully box framed and  ready to hang up.

We were particularly drawn to these due to the numerical interpretations. As we were deciding on our company name and logo, we envisaged the throwing of the dice and the chances it represents. If we want to get philosophical – life throws an infinite number of chances ones’ way, the trick is to capture the right number!

As I mentioned before, I have a weakness for textiles. I am an aesthetic at heart, I recently went to ‘The Cult of Beauty’ exhibition at the V&A. It covers the Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 in art and design. Aesthetic artists, designers, poets and collectors promoted the idea of ‘art for art’s sake’ and the idea of ‘house beautiful’ became the standard for all Victorians aspiring for a cultured life. It was truly inspirational to see the iconic works of Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Leighton, Whistler, Willam Morris, Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde. Images of peacock feathers galore (natures own beautiful display of courtship), my head was spinning with the paintings of beautiful pre-Raphaelite women. The image of Pavonia, Frederic Leighton, is quite haunting. A raven haired Spanish beauty amongst images of Elizabeth Siddal, the muse and wife of Rossetti.

The exhibitions and collections at the V&A are always worth a visit. For anybody that has the same fascination with the V&A as I have, I recommend you read A S Byatt’s ‘The Children’s Book. It follows the adventures of  various families during the turn of the century and part of the narrative is set around the South Kensington Museum (later named the Victoria and Albert Museum). It is a book rich with descriptions of works of art – especially pottery.

I am planning to visit the Constable exhibition and the Pallant House Gallery next week. I will keep you updated!

Marylebone – Kitchens to die for

June 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

We need to decorate the Shoreditch loft. It needs a new kitchen and a bathroom. Beyond a lick of paint, that is about all it needs. Since we moved in there at the beginning of the year, we have not done anything but gather catalogues and ideas. Given that we want to use the flat as a showcase for all our interesting finds that we have at rawdice, I feel we need to make a statement. Having ventured out to two of my absolute favourite kitchen showrooms, I am in a dilemma. Do I go for a  Bulthaup b2 kitchen workshop or my all time most desired kitchen company Plain English?

These kitchens ooze quality and I have fallen for them. The Bulthaup b2 kitchen has been designed with the idea of a workbench and toolbox. The kitchen cabinets fold away like a toolbox when you are not using them. It seems to turn the idea of a conventional kitchen upside down. The workbench is versatile, you can put it in the middle of the room, if you had enough space – instead of arranging everything against a wall. I can really see this kitchen working in our flat. It will not be intrusive, given that the kitchen is part of one big space for dining and living.

I am equally drawn to the elegance of a Plain English kitchen. I have been a fan of these ever since we moved to the country and started looking for a replacement kitchen for our cottage. I never did get to convince David that this was the one we needed. We did have an artist/yatchmaker David Storey (who was featured in Coast magazine) to design and make our kitchen. I was very pleased with it and still love my country kitchen, but I still covert a Plain English kitchen, regardless of the fact that my kitchen does not need replacing!

This design is called Spitalfields, which would also suit the loft. It will be very aptly named as well, given that the flat is a stone’s throw away from the Spitalfields. 15 years ago, we almost bought a huge house opposite Spitalfields Market, in Puma Court. We decided against it and bought a warehouse flat in Wapping instead. Back then, Spitalfields was not the busy hub it is today. The City was just beginning to burst and spread east and northwards. People were buying up derelict Georgian houses for around £350K. Anyway, I must tell you more about Spitalfields another time.

I really am torn between the two kitchens. I am off to contemplate the virtues of both and will keep you all informed of progress (if any).

Charleston House

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have been dying to visit Charleston House for years and finally got there recently. On a windy Sunday, we approached the house via a long and bumpy lane. Charleston House is the home of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. It became a country retreat for the Bloomsbury group of artists, writers and intellectuals. The house is lavishly decorated by these artists and their friends.

The garden room

Walking through each room, I was imagining how to transform my little cottage in the style of Charleston. They painted on almost every surface, the walls, the tables, chairs, fire surrounds etc. The colour schemes were bold, yet never garrish. The style is very freehand and the results are very pleasing to the eye. I have totally fallen in love with the place. My current bedside reading is the book of Charleston by Quentin Bell and Virginia Nicholson – descendants of the Vanessa Bell. I am very intrigued by their lifestyle and hooked on Quentin’s recollections of his childhood. The economist Maynard Keynes visited, as well as T.S. Eliot, not to mention Quentin’s aunt/Vanessa’s sister Virginia Woolf, amongst many other great figures of their time – how amazing to be surrounded by so much creativity!

Luckily for me Charleston Shop are selling fabrics designed by Duncan Grant in 1931 – West Wind, Grapes and Queen Mary (designed in 1937 for the first class lounge of the Queen Mary). I cannot decide which of these fabrics I want. Who am I kidding? All of them, of course!

Grapes fabric designed by Duncan Grant 1931

Grapes fabric designed by Duncan Grant 1931

Westwind fabric designed by Duncan Grant 1931 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Queen Mary designed by Duncan Grant 1937

The Queen Mary designed by Duncan Grant 1937

I do have a weakness for collecting fabric and not doing much with it for a while! My friend Wayua and I went to the V&A Quilts exhibition last year, where I bought (many) limited addition fabrics, with the purpose of making a quilt. As yet no quilt has been produced, but any moment now, I will do it… honest!

I am currently working on a design to transform my fireplace, which at the moment is painted white. I have never been a huge fan of the Swedish minimalist look. It looks great in other people’s houses, however, I collect far too much on my travels to ever be accused of being a minimalist! There is always a bowl or plate, painting, fabric etc. etc. that I find too hard to resist. I have many weakness in the purchasing department, books being one of the many on the list. I do recommend reading the book of Charleston House and then visiting it. I am hoping to visit Charleston again this summer and feasting my eyes upon this artistic house and garden for another time.

Charleston House

Charleston House - Outside of Garden Room

Charleston House from walled garden, with the Studios to the right


London and the 2 M’s

June 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

What a cultural week I have had! I started my tour by visiting the Miro exhibition at  the Tate Modern. I didn’t know much about Joan Miro before I went. I must confess to not knowing much about art to begin with, so it’s always good to go and enjoy an exhibition and be enlightened. Even if you don’t fully understand what the artist was trying to convey. I did take away the fact that Miro was hugely political and his paintings reflected the turmoil and angst he was suffering during Spain’s dark and violent early 20th century history.

One quote from Miro has stayed with me: “I understand that an artist is someone who, in the midst of others’ silence , uses his own voice to say something, uses his own voice to say something and who makes sure that what he says is not useless but something that is useful to mankind.’ A very profound utterance, I sometimes wonder whether artists are created or just are born creative. Surely, we all have something to say in response to our world but how we say what we feel differs from person to person. I admire people who can express their feelings through a creative process.

I especially love his painting of ‘A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress’ despite the translation of the words.

A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress

Miro - A Star Caress the Breast of a Negress

In the evening I met up with friends and we had a pre-theatre drinks at the Covent Garden Hotel – Brasserie Max. The chairs in the bar area caught my eye. I am obsessed with finding out the name of the fabric they were covered in. The design is floral and bold, the colours are very alluring – I must have some of this fabric.

Covent Garden Hotel - chair

The Harold Pinter play ‘Moonlight’ at the Donmar Warehouse, left our group somewhat perplexed as to the meaning of who, what, where and why. After some discussion during dinner, we came to the conclusion that although thought provoking and worthy, we might choose a more uplifting play for our next outing. There is no set change during this short play, just a man on his deathbed, discussing life and woes with his wife. The dialogue between the brothers reminded me of Graham Greene characters. There is no doubt that it is a well written play with some memorable quotes. Beats a musical though, I really don’t enjoy musicals very much!

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