Tag Archives: aesthetics

Aesthetic Preference – Mid Century Modern

Rialno Designs

As we move forward into the new century, Mid-Century Modern refers to a period increasingly distant in the past. In this case even the word “Modern” refers to what now seems a quaint retro aesthetic – but one that has seen a rediscovery in recent years, especially in interior décor and furniture.

The Mid Century Modern style is characterized by simple, geometric shapes with an emphasis on the horizontal. Related to Danish Modern, the woods of furniture tend to be light in color. Surface details are minimal, with the emphasis on repeated shapes rather than textures.

Furnishings are often low in over all height but still float above the floor on think legs, rather than anchored with weight like Traditional or Art Deco styles. Close to Minimalism, the furniture tends to sleek and slim – never overstuffed or puffy. Alternatively, pieces display amoeba type shapes, again reflecting the post war fascination with science, and new technology.

Stylized botanical print

The textiles and art work of the era include barkcloth – a heavy plain weave cotton – usually printed in either large muted stylized florals or sci-fi/technology themed motifs. It was the dawn of the atomic age, and the designs that looked so futuristic then, look so fun and retro today. Both original yardage and reproductions of these fabrics are available today, and are used to restore original pieces as well as make focal point or accent pieces.

Vintage Mid-Century Modern pieces look cool upholstered with contemporary fabrics and colors. Wooden pieces like sideboards or floor lamps tend to work great as individual statement pieces. If you furnish a whole room with the style using reproduction textiles, you might find you look like you live in a 1960’s sitcom.

Finding it

  • In the 1959 scandalous melodrama A Summer Place, the film shows a pointed visual distinction between the traditional Victorian style boarding house, the titular summer place, and the new Frank Lloyd Wright designed modern home where the unfaithful spouses take up residence. Ultimately they are considered the better people, the film having gone to considerable lengths to highlight the inadequacy and downright evil of their first spouses.

Interior of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Clinton Walker House as used in the movie. The public living areas are on the street level, while you go downstairs to the bedrooms.

(In an interesting piece of cultural trivia, the posters of the American version of the hit film feature the young lovers, Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee, as the beleaguered lovers who learn the folly of judgmental attitudes. However the Italian versions of the poster highlight the parents’ steamy sexuality, and their story of love rediscovered. I can only imagine this reflects the different mores and attributes of the ideal between the two cultures.)

  • Jacques Tati’s humorous masterpiece, Mon Oncle (1958) makes much of some of the extreme characteristics of the futuristic style, especially the furniture.
From Jaques Tati's Mon Oncle

The interior of the modern home

Life in the future

  • The USS Enterprise  NCC-1701
Photopin.com

Photopin.com

  • North by Northwest (1959) – it is interesting that this architectural style was often used to signify wealth and luxury.

Aesthetic Preference – Steampunk/Clockpunk

This is one of my personal favorite Aesthetic Preferences. Steampunk and the visual offshoot Clockpunk have both become very popular and accessible, especially in the form of jewelry and home décor. You know an aesthetic has entered the mainstream when there are a bunch of scrapbooking and papercrafting lines devoted to it!

Steampunk began as a literary sub-genre within science fiction. The original idea was an alternative history where steam power, as it began in the Industrial Revolution, is the basis of technology and industry. For example rather than an internal combustion engine, vehicles would continue to be steam powered. Part of the assumption is that air travel would have developed along the lines of dirigibles rather than fixed wing planes. The early steam ships would have become bigger and more luxurious, instead of diesel engines taking over. Imagine Leonardo da Vinci with the addition of steam engines. Iron is needed for the engines, so it is not wasted on body work – instead there would be a great deal of wood, ahead of aluminum. The first solution to any problem would be mechanical rather electrical devices. The writers started in the Victorian era and moved on from there.

Leonardo da Vinci Spring Device

Leonardo da Vinci – Spring Device

The aesthetic springs from that idea and includes pipes, pulleys, wheel mechanisms, valves, tubes, steamy mists and late Victoriana. The preferred metallics are brass, stainless steel, copper and galvanized iron, or iron with rust. Motifs spring from steam engines including pistons, turbines, and of course clockwork, including keys and all sorts of cogs. On clothing the garments of the Victorian and Edwardian era are embellished with buckles, turnbuckles, grommets and belts. Look for small machines and vials, leather either new and glossy or distressed and worn.

Here’s my current Etsy Treasury of a small selection of the myriad of cool steampunk themed items around. It includes some of the accessory staples, goggles – based on a combination of old driving glasses from nascent automobiles and safety goggles.

Timelady by WolkenschiffRebecca

Movies whose plots are founded on steam powered technology include The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), Wild Wild West (1999), City of Ember  (2008) and the recent Sherlock Holmes (2009) and sequel. For some nice clock work see Hugo (2011). The presence of steampunk technology in the design was a point of contention in The Three Musketeers (2011).

Literary genre scholars tend to believe that the presence of steam technology in earlier times would have a ripple effect on culture and politics. There are popular forums and academic discourses devoted to it.

However there are more movies where the steam punk aesthetic is present. To find it lurking in classic movies takes some more observation but certainly includes Metropolis (1927), The Time Machine (1960), Modern Times (1936) and The Wizard of Oz (1939). It feels like some of the iterations of Gotham City show steampunk influence. Take steampunk medieval in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), and notice the visual motifs in Time Bandits (1981) and Van Helsing (2004). How about the machine in Princess Bride (1987)?

The Machine from The Princess Bride.

Steampunk characters are staples of cosplay. I think it’s because those garments so much fun. And everyone is flattered by a nice corset.

steampunk

Aesthetic Preference – Art Deco Industrial Chic

Art Deco carved Penobscot facade

Ooh this is one of my personal favorite Aesthetic Preferences! I find it appealing on so many levels – partly because of where it leads visually (to Steam Punk especially in one direction, and Craftsman in the other) and partly because of the places where it is found – those wonderful glamorous movies, books, theater and retro magazines. I like clean lines and simplicity, but I also like curves.

Here’s how I describe it on my Etsy Treasury:

Geometry, repetition, symmetry, Fred and Ginger, high contrast, the Chrysler Building, Erte, clean lines, metals, hard edges, Ayn Rand, “Metropolis”, Poirot, the Nile, luxury train travel.

To this I would add the Pyramids and Scarabs, 1930’s Vogue magazines still lush with fashion illustration, and some of that hard edges, three color screen printing that transformed so dangerously into totalitarian propaganda. (That’s where I stop liking it.)

Cunard Line Poster

Of course I was imagining “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile”. Add “Hugo” for the clockpunk end, and never forget Busby Berkeley and all the theatricality of “Gold Diggers of 1933” and the harder edged “42nd Street. Had it softened by the time “Casablanca” added Moroccan lushness?

Thoroughly Modern Millie movie still

Julie Andrews in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”.

You can see still it in Gary Cooper’s ties in “The Fountainhead”. You can enjoy it on the roof of spook central in “Ghostbusters”. “The Great Gatsby” – both the movies, and the book. For a very light take try “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. For the dark side try Fritz Lang. “Metropolis” is his most famous, but his work includes “M” a film noir classic.

In no other style or time period are the architectural forms so clearly influential in jewelry design.

So many of those wonderful buildings are lurking in New York, but Los Angeles has a surprising number of them downtown – the old Wiltern Theater on Wilshire is one example. You can see many examples on my Pinterest board.

In terms of design Elements, Art Deco Industrial uses line to create simplified shapes and moves away from the uneven abstracted leaves and flowers of Art Nouveau nature forms (that’s coming, never fear). The Principles it embodies include high contrast (High Major Tonal Schemes), repetition and symmetry. (This is coming too.)

Using Art Deco Industrial Chic

As a style of decor, it can be quite easy to incorporate into many modern homes, by the use of painter’s tape and paint. Try a little Trompe L’oeil and create some faux molding with painted shadows. Chevrons, so popular right now, are an offshoot of it.

 

 

Winged Circle from Egypt

Collect vintage posters and frame them simply, or incorporate a bit of Egyptian into your decor like my late mother-in-law did with her black and white striped mirror frames.

Egyptian applique scarab

Art Deco definitely lends itself to stencils. Try layering – start with a light grey or silver paint over white, then offset the same stencil again in black.

Silhouettes, that work so well with romantic styles, look great in an Art Deco situation, with simple black and silver frames or perhaps with a fan shape in the background.

I like it because it is so easy to incorporate actual and reproduction vintage with very simple modernism and the clean lines of Mid-century Modern furniture – although I would be cautious with the textile prints and textures from that period and let Art Deco textile designs create my drapes and pillows.

Is this one your favorite too?

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Aesthetic Preference – Shabby Chic

Lois Crowley Heritage layout

Lois Crowley Heritage Layout

I’m talking about Shabby Chic this week, because it follows on so sweetly from Romantic Country Cottage.

The term was coined, and trademarked, by textile artist and interior designer Rachel Ashwell. The style in home decor is characterized by a lot of whitewashing and very pale pastels. The accessories, textiles, and furniture are usually old or look old with intentional distressing. The watchword is Texture.

Hallmarks of shabby chic style include using glamorous and luxurious elements like gorgeous chandeliers in casual settings, and layering folk art elements like quilts and lace tablecloths.

There are two ways to achieve the worn and distressed look on furniture or other items. The most effective, in my opinion, is to sand back the paint at the edges, high spots, and places where “wear” would naturally occur. Using a nice wax based colored polish will add patina.

The other way is to add paint in a rough, even sloppy, way so that the underlayers show through. The best way to achieve that is to use crackle paint finishes, which are designed to shrink as they dry and reveal the underlayers as if they were aged in the sun and rain over decades.

Shabby chic designs include laces, textures, and frayed edges. Printed and stenciled texts remind us of old flour sacks or tea chests. Chalkboard – black with white lettering – is another recently popular element. Empty picture frames, sometimes stacked, suggest the idea of incompleteness.

A shabby garden would have more white flowers, and wild flowers, rusty metal elements, old bathtubs filled with shrubs, lavender (again) and peonies. Clothing would include antique and Victorian lace blouses, tulle layers, granny boots and textured tights (roll on winter). I think faded velvet shawls too.

To me fairy tales sometimes feel shabby chic – the cottage in the forest that is run down and filled with old books, the strange old castle with wrought iron fencing.

Here’s how I described it in my shabby chic treasury:

Simple, aged, distressed, neutral colors & pale, weathered, folk. Old lace. Connection, history, folk tales, burlap, farm house, sheers. Timeworn. Miss Haversham. “To Kill a Mockingbird”. “Picnic at Hanging Rock”.

To this I would add pale lilac, mint green, robin’s egg blue, blush. Wabi-sabi all over again.

Quail Eggs in a dish

Quail Eggs in a dish

Ways to Bring the Shabby

It’s popular because it’s easy.

One way to add shabby chic elements to your decor is to paint vintage or old things – tins, hooks, wood boxes, candlesticks, ornate picture frames – with white or pastel paint and sand the edges. The paint color adds a unifying aspect.

Another is to bleach floral prints and incorporate plain muslins, lace, crochet in cream string, doilies, and many layers of sheers as the textile elements – drapes, table cloths, pillows and slipcovers.

Include vintage and aged garden accessories – especially urns, wire frames from topiary work, and baskets.

Add nostalgic and memory elements – like hanging a vintage baby’s christening robe on a twisted wire hanger among a bunch of silk hydrangeas. Use old pewter and tarnished silver cups and jugs. Mercury glass.

Bring architectural elements, carvings and castings, that might normally be on the exteriors inside.

Shabby looks great in company with industrial, mid-century modern, or minimalism, and loves Beach Cottage style too. However, in my opinion, it doesn’t work as well with Traditional – since it either looks like you aren’t done refinishing the rest of the furniture, or that you have a bunch of old stuff that needs refurbishing. In a house full of very Traditional furniture, I would stick to a few pillows, and small items.

There are a lot of scrapbookers using shabby chic style in their layouts. It works especially well with a touch of glam – silver beads, tiny rhinestones, pearls and old buttons.

Family Ancestors mini-album

Family Ancestors mini-album

Because it is all about the white, it is also a very popular wedding theme.

Plus it’s a great way to affectionately showcase beloved heirlooms.

Carved old mirror

Carved old mirror

 

Please visit my Shabby Chic Aestheric Preference Pinterest Board to see more examples. Do you love it? 

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If anything turns out to be useful to you, please let me know in the comments.