Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Marimekko. Its personal...

If you are like us, your journey with  Marimekko has been a long one and perhaps that is why the opening of Marimekko's new Flatiron District store feels  like a New York homecoming worthy of celebration. Sure, there was the little upstairs Marimekko showroom hidden away above Madison Avenue for many years, but that always had the feeling of a Bird of Paradise being kept in a canary's cage. How could the full impact of the inspired and colorful patterns by such great textile designers as Maija Isola, Fujiwo Ishimoto, Sanna Annukka, Maija Louekari and Theresa Moorhouse be seen and appreciated in such a small space?

Rhonda and I are thrilled that Marimekko has opened its New York flagship at last bringing to New York the same experience as their stores in Europe.  With Occupy Wall Street in full swing. and an October chill in the air, the timing of the store's opening was an injection of colorful fresh air to the weary 99% and the equally jittery 1% .   Marimekko's upbeat and cheery design is truly for everybody!

We have been treading the Marimekko path for a while now, sometimes running, sometimes scuffling but always finding our way along their road.  We have loved incorporating these fabrics and products into our lives and those of our clients.  Much has been written about the company's brilliant founder Armi Ratia .  Truth be told, we would not have been exposed, while growing up, to great Scandinavian design such as Marimekko if it were not for the taste makers of another iconic company called Design Research.

Design Research began in the 1950's in Boston and opened it's legendary Harvard Sqaure store in 1969.  It was the brilliant vision of one couple for whom "thinking design" was all important.    To learn all about it you can get the Design Research Book  called "Design Research: The Store that Brought Modern Living to American Homes".

It s a terrific story.  Ben Thompson (above) and his wife Jane Thompson were, respectively, an architect and an urban designer and planner who were best known for their restorations of waterfront properties in cities here and abroad.  Marimekko was one of the scandinavian companies that they became passionate about bringing to America and they used their store Design Research to bring their curated selections to the public.

The Design Research store was at the time the chic " go to"  destinaton for anyone interested in fresh, modern living.

I have recollections of Marimekko coming to Westport, CT when I was in  kindergarten and first grade. We were lucky enough to live in a town with artistic and design oriented folks at a time when there was alot of unique personality to our downtown.  In short, the perfect demographic for a Design Research store. I remember going into DR and loving the patterns, especially the giant stretched canvases.  I also remember my Mom and her friends wearing the Marimekko dresses to the beach, to work, to cocktail parties, to the theater, to the mailbox - well, just about everywhere.

As an adult, every trip I made to Sweden I would make a pilgrimage to Marimekko Stockholm.  Rhonda would as well and inevitably we would bring back to the States suitcases full of fabric and clothing for friends and clients.   In 2006 we had the opportunity to become Marimekko dealers and kept a showroom at our Eleish van Breems store filled exclusively with the latest Marimekko collections.  What always struck us is how everyone we met at our store had a special, deeply personal relationship with Marimekko.  For some it was the backdrop of their college years, for others it was the dress they wore on their honeymoon or the fabric they used to decorate their first child's nursery. It was the pillow in the living room in the house they grew up in.  The memories they recalled were always happy and they themselves were so very happy to see Marimekko again at our store!

Like so many people, Marimekko reminds me of my childhood.  Sure it was 1969 and grownups were droning on about oil, men on the moon,Vietnam and Richard Nixon.  I didn't care about any of that!  All I knew was that the Remarkable Bookstore was at its hay day and my Marimekko clad mother would let me visit with Heathcliff  the bookstore's cat, who was always to be found sunning in the Philosophy Section - whatever that meant.  After the bookstore we'd go for a root beer float at the Ice Cream Parlor or for a perfect char-grilled burger at Chubby Lanes.

Sometimes we would meet my glamorous "Grandmommy"  for lunch at Chez Pierre
where everyone smoked at lunch.  Always! 

Once in a great while, if they could not get a babysitter, I would get to go with my parents to the White Barn Theater. And there were always children's matinees at the Westport Country Playhouse. I resolved that a life in the theater was for me.

It was a time of passions.  I had 4 hamsters, 2 mice, 2 rabbits, a cat and 2 little antique dollhouses that I decorated obsessively.  I collected china animals that I would buy at Kleins and The Carosel. I studied ballet with Joanne de Berg.  I announced to my parents at age 6 1/2  that I wished to"quit the ballet" to ride ponies bareback through the woods with my friend Vicky.  That idea, surprisingly, went nowhere fast. But that same year a boy I loved kissed my cheek on the playground on the last day of school! 

Martha was still on Wall Street...

 ....and our neighbors had just made a movie.

It was a happy time.  It was my Marimekko.

What was yours?  We'd love to know!

Photo Credits:  1. Marimekko, 2. Tuuli Fabric, Marimekko, 3. Converse Sneaker by Marimekko
4 -7.  Design Research, 8. Eleish van Breems, 9. Dan Woog's 06880, 10. Ebay, 11. New York Public Library, 12. New York Magazine, 13. My Scrapbook,  14. Satter Photography and Mom  Dress by Lanz of Salsbury.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Limestone of Öland

We love heavy, solid harvest tables that are sturdy enough to place a sculpture upon, that can hold massive arrangements of  branches or handle multiple wooden bowls laden to over flowing with the bounty of the fall orchard.  Bring it on!  The Swedish farm table can handle all of it! One of the most Herculean, dramatic and beautiful of the farm tables that we carry is a Swedish baroque table form topped traditionally with Öland limestone.

You can also find such a Swedish table at Lief in Los Angeles (above)
...Öland limestone mounted on an oak base, this table is
from 1740 and has a stone top that is an impressive 2 inches thick.

Raukar Sunset, Öland by Erik Aabjerg Friis.

Öland limestone was one of Sweden’s dominant rock exports during the 1600’s. The islands rock formations are stark and unusal and “rauk” or stone columns created by natural erosion can be found here as well as on the islands of Gotland and Fårö.

Stone Tower and Orchid by Zoefae Haas.

Carl Linnaeus himself noted in 1741 that the shallow soil and limestone topography creates a unique environment and haven for wildflowers such as Burnt Orchid (above), Henbane and Pasque Flower.

A drawing of Borgholm Castle showing it's Baroque Towers designed by Niccodemis Tessin the Elder.

Limestone from Öland was exported all over Europe for building purposes  but it's most impressive architectural form can still be seen on Öland today at the ruins of Bornholm Castle.   Bornholm was built and torn down and then rebuilt many times during its 800 years due to war and fire.  A fantastic history of the castle can be found on the Bornholm website:  Here we learn that in 1572 King Johan III's Renaissance reconstruction of the castle began:  " His plan was to create a modern Renaissance palace in the Italian manner. He wanted to break with the medieval traditions and sent for the four Pahr Brothers – German-Italian builders who had acquired their idiom from the pattern books of the Antiquity and the European Renaissance. Johan Baptista Pahr was the first architect King Johan III had appointed to Borgholm, but he stayed only for two years, 1572–1573. After that, his brother Domenicus Pahr took over.

The quarrying of building blocks from the limestone bedrock of the moor (”alvaret”) – began in 1568, the same year as Johan became king. He let a lot of the old castle be torn down, but used old foundation walls whenever they fit into the drawing, e.g. for the west wing. The lime was burnt in lime-burners nearby, presumably at Strandtorp, while timber, tar and birch-bark were transported by boat from Småland. White lime was taken from Gotland and well-trimmed limestone-blocks from northern Öland.

Red and grey limestone flooring in the ruins of Bornholm Castle.

The limestone of Öland is still being quarried today but on a much smaller scale.  Wonderfully rich, mellow red and grey limestone slabs and tiles can be found at Sjostrom Stenforadling

We celebrate this fall the simple stone and wood table and hope that
you are as inspired by the beauty of Öland as we are!