Artisans refine their craft—while distinctive design emerges at High Point
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 1/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Big Sky Dreaming
Montana artisan Ty Best met his mentor, New York artist Malcolm Hill, through a job at Barneys New York in Orange County, California. They then worked together on displays for Barneys in Tokyo before Best returned to Montana, where Hill had a studio. Meanwhile, Brad Rowley, a fellow Montanan who'd just abandoned his banking job, met Best through mutual friends. Soon the two were discussing a business partnership.
"To provide Ty with a venue," Rowley says, the partners traveled to Chicago to open Caste, a 1,000-square-foot retail showroom newly renovated with smooth white walls and a troweled concrete floor. Tabletops of dark ebony or pale holly perch on hand-forged bronze bases. Steel tables are produced by a welder who spends most of his time making feed bins for cattle. A chandelier intended as a shop fixture has already attracted buzz from would-be buyers: The design's walnut ribs cradle what appears to be a glowing dinosaur egg but proves, on further inquiry, to be a pendant globe by Jasper Morrison. Call it the Barneys touch. 521 North Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60622; 312-432-0717; castedesign.us. circle 312
Sweet Home Alabama
When Natalie "Alabama" Chanin cofounded Project Alabama in 2000, the made-in-the-U.S.A. fashion collective felt like destiny. Soon enough, her collection of handmade garments in heavy-gauge cotton jersey was helping to reinvigorate needlework traditions in her native town of Florence. Then the hand-stitching decamped to India—and Chanin parted ways with the operation, deciding to start again.
"We pretty much picked up right where we left off," she says of her new venture, Alabama Chanin. This time, though, contemplating fabric samples put her in mind not of fashion but of furniture. Send in a paper pattern for a chair cover, and her home-based artisans, standing ready with their needles, will return beautifully embroidered jersey panels for your upholsterer. Next up are borders, reconditioned secondhand furnishings, and possibly new chairs. For those with more time than money, a pattern book is planned for this spring. 6534 County Road 200, Florence, AL 35633; 256-760-1090; alabamachanin.com. circle 313
Lead is just one of the noxious ingredients in 1950's enamelware. "It shortens your life, like trans fats. But, boy, is it delicious!" Elissa Ehlin of Kiln Enamel exclaims. Today, enamel skips the lead, which means Ehlin and her partner, Jay Leritz, work overtime to formulate colors as luscious and vibrant. No wonder Kelly Wearstler, Murray Moss, Kate Spade, and Gwen Stefani eat them up.
Because of his metalwork background, Leritz can take raw copper right through to finished enameled shapes right in the studio. "We have the ability to create really beautiful three-dimensional forms," he says.
For the holidays, Bergdorf Goodman stocked Kiln's Winterberry bowl in snowy white, surmounted by a copper branch dipped in 24-karat gold and tipped with berries of reddish-orange lamp-worked borosilicate glass. There's also a new line of colorful grouted copper tile. "Everyone who sees one asks why we're not patenting it," Ehlin says. Enameled architectural panels, recently developed, will never need painting.
"We're dying to do a building exterior," Ehlin says. As for interiors, the couple are updating a Civil War–era hospital that now houses a charter school where they teach design to seventh graders. 307 Scholes Street, Studio 101, Brooklyn, NY 11206; 718-456-6722; kilnenamel.com. circle 314
Turn, Turn, Turn
Sometimes, a Hawkrim Studios bowl begins with salvaged construction timbers. Sometimes, it's a newly fallen tree. Green wood is "full of sap and life-giving juices," explains the company's founder, Glen C. Philpot. After roughing bowls out on a lathe, he might let them dry for a year.
When inspiration finally strikes, he shaves the walls as thin as possible to produce pottery-inspired vases and bowls that range in diameter from 2 to 14 inches. Interior designers may prefer the more sculptural sizes. Not Philpot. "There's a lot to be said for picking something up and rubbing it in your hand," he says.
Useful species range from box elder to sassafras, the more distressed, diseased, S-curved, or burled, the better. "The wood speaks for itself," he says. "I sign the bowls, and that's all." To anyone who donates a tree, he likes to give one of the resulting vessels in return. 262 Martin Road, Rockmart, GA 30153; 770-684-8746; hawkrimstudios.com. circle 315
The Button and Beyond
Pearl buttons were a point of pride in the Mississippi River town of Muscatine, Iowa, where the McKee Button Company used freshwater mussels to make its wares. In the 1960's, natural materials made way for marbled and pearlized plastic, sold to customers such as Christian Dior. Ultimately, however, the apparel industry migrated to Asia. "The button thing went away," says Jay McKee, a fourth-generation company man who serves as vice president of finance for the renamed McKee Surfaces.
Fortunately, Muscatine is a neighborly place, and Allsteel asked its fellow manufacturer to provide decorative plastics. Adapting technology formerly used for button manufacturing, McKee now cooks up custom architectural panels. Some are matched to a single Pantone color, while different colored layers can serve as the basis for patterns excavated with a CNC router. Marbled plastics recall psychedelic bowling balls. Adding corncobs displaces up to 40 percent of the petrochemical-based resins. Translucent resins encapsulate surprises—an ice cream shop asked for counters seeded with rainbow sprinkles. There's even a product that incorporates shiny white shirt buttons. P.O. Box 230, Muscatine, IA 52761; 563-263-2421; mckeesurfaces.com. circle 316
Medieval motifs go mod with Pierced. The frame of dark walnut-finished solid rosewood, 40 inches in diameter, contains a beveled mirror. 7301 Ambassador Row, Dallas, TX 75247; 888-956-0030; globalviews.com. circle 317
A universe of 300 fabrics and leathers dresses up Saturn ottomans. Underneath, polyester-wrapped polyurethane foam pads a frame of hardwood and industrial-grade plywood. Plastic glide legs are standard, swivel castors optional. 796 East Harrison Street, Corona, CA 92879; 951-372-9199; dellarobbiausa.com. circle 318
Flip could be a vintage desk lamp—on steroids. Made of solid brass with an aged-brass finish, the floor lamp stands 74 inches tall. It's shown with this company's Butterfly chair, available with exposed oak legs, straight or turned. 230 South Road, High Point, NC 27262; 336-886-2454; julianchichester.com. circle 319
Asian and Scandinavian elements have infiltrated Baker Studio's 30 latest additions, including a dining table in quartered oak with a round top 60 inches across. Choose this light finish or a dark limed one. 444 Highland Drive, Kohler, WI 53044; 800-592-2537; bakerfurniture.com. circle 320
A sofa that Milo Baughman designed for this company in 1970 inspired Guy Hill's Design Classic II. Set on ebony-finished maple feet, its 87-inch-wide body is upholstered in a cotton-viscose blend. Eco-friendly jute, offered in three color combinations, covers the fiber-fill pillows. 230 South Road, High Point, NC 27262; 336-841-6000; thayercoggin.com. circle 321
They take a licking—and keep on sitting. The plastic polymer seats of Archirivolto Design's Lollipop chairs come in transparent fluorescents and matte black or white. For the bases, specify extruded anodized aluminum, chrome-plated steel, or steel wire. Leif Petersen, 975 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, CA 94939; 415-925-2701; leifpetersenfurniture.com. circle 322
Babette Holland Design
The stork has delivered an illuminating dividend, the Baby Anne. A silk shade and a hand-spun aluminum base with a copper-fade finish make up only one combination among multiple finish choices. 810 Humbold Street, 2K, Brooklyn, NY 11222; 718-349-1325; babetteholland.com. circle 323
This eco-minded manufacturer unveiled Thomas Bina's Giramundo swivel chair, covered in yarn scraps collected in Rio de Janeiro. Legs come in a variety of metals or Sustainable Forestry Initiative–certified hardwood. 7257 Beverly Boulevard, Suite 108, Los Angeles, CA 90036; 323-935-1330; environmentfurniture.com. circle 324
Wrap rice in palm or coconut leaves, and you get a Ketupat, an Indonesian dumpling. Marga cubes are made from ingredients that are even less fattening: solid teak and teak veneers. Available in 19 ½-inch and 32 ½-inch sizes. 1417 First Street, Sarasota, FL 34236; 941-366-8164; boxfurniture.net. circle 325
The twisting Wood table lamp is accented by a bronze-finished base and stem and topped by a woven polyester shade with hints of charcoal gray. Meanwhile, Alexander Julian's Scrolled Brass table lamp is finished in satin nickel. 5750 West Bloomingdale Avenue, Chicago, IL 60639; 773-384-0800; frederickcooper.com. circle 326
The Woodland family is mid-century Scandinavian with a contemporary global inflection. A cane back accents the plantation-grown mahogany of the more squared-off occasional chair. Its curvier sister is veneered in mahogany and upholstered in organic hopsack. P.O. Box 225, Richmond, CA 94808; 800-274-7730; palecek.com. circle 327
Prisma eschews hardware and detail in favor of multidimensionality. Constructed of rift-cut oak in a matte finish, the six-drawer chest is just one component of a seven-piece bedroom ensemble. 172 New Highway, North Amityville, NY 11701; 800-533-9235; excelsiordesigns.com. circle 328
Geometric lines border on the brutalist in Stanley Jay Friedman's first line of occasional tables for this company. Walnut-veneered Zitton comes either as a 42-inch square or as a 21-by-54-inch rectangle. Both feature magazine-friendly slots. 2325 East Kivett Drive, High Point, NC 27260; 336-882-7400; phillipscollection.com. circle 329
Barbara Barry has expanded her prolific licensing empire. Her first design for this company, the Lotus table lamp stands 33 inches high on a white plaster round base 10 inches in diameter. The shade is hard-backed silk. 2021 Bingle Road, Houston, TX 77055; 713-686-5999; visualcomfort.com. circle 330
Bolier & Company
Michael Vanderbyl's Domicile collection is notable for gracefully updated silhouettes and an emphasis on contrasting materials. To wit, his cocktail table pairs a top of sculpture-grade Carrara marble with abase of polished stainless steel. 651 West Ward Avenue, High Point, NC 27260; 336-887-2815; bolierco.com. circle 331
Lines reminiscent of California's mission and craftsman traditions distinguish the Ventana Vista sofa, with its solid chestnut frame. The aniline-dyed, vegetable-tanned leather resists UV rays and comes in sand, black, chocolate, red, green, or plum. 298 Harvey West Boulevard, Santa Cruz, CA 95060; 831-457-2900; mariayee.com. circle 332