Have You Discovered S.O.F.A.?

sofa-turned-wood“It is the creative spirit of man, expressed in a thousand different ways, that pushes him forward.  And this is what makes craftsmanship so important in the present industrial sweep of our society.”  Aileen Osborn Webb, founder of the American Craft Council, 1968

I was reminded, recently, of the profound impact of craftsmen on design. I attended the Structural Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) Expo at the Park Avenue Armory here in New York.  This event showcases contemporary decorative art and design.  Each item is individually designed and crafted using specialized techniques to create one of a kind hand crafts from glass, wood, ceramic, paper and other materials.  It is amazing for me to attend this show each year, as it reminds me of days gone by, when an individual’s craftmanship was highly regarded and sought after.  While we accept the homogenization of product and the immediacy brought about by technology,
these pieces of art (and they are art) represent hours of creation, in both thought and action.

sofa-longhouse-reserve-awardIn fact, this year’s show included a lecture by Jack Lenor Larsen, who is synonymous with 20th century textiles and the owner of Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton.  Longhouse Reserve is a public exhibition space, arboretum and sculpture garden.  Larsen lent his name to two awards this year – the first time awards have been presented in the 14 year history of the event in New York.  In his lecture, Mr. Larsen commented on journalists minimizing the value of craftsmen through their over use of the word craft. He stated that the

crafts represented at SOFA are truly remarkable and created with hands guided by intellectual minds.  I couldn’t agree more!

Like Larsen, I am inspired by use of different materials (Japanese safety pins vs. jeweler’s wire), texture (containers that looked like sofa-bamboo-artbaskets yet were turned wood) and style (Asian ceramics reflecting both the organic and rustic). It is fascinating to see art emerge from the separating of individual bamboo fibers so that they can be woven into a vessel. Or, to be reminded that clay (earth) is the foundation for all ceramics and to see it transformed into a functional piece of art (vessels, plates, or decorative such as figures, faces, etc.. ) If you are a collector of fine art, this show is for you. It educates and informs the collector through the unique perspectives of each of the artisans present. These types of hand crafts have strong personalities and will be the center of attention in any room.

sofa-glass-on-wallYou may wonder which pieces interest me. I have long been collecting unique glass pieces. The piece (picture at left) fascinates mebecause of its use of color and the feeling of movement. On the other hand, while your eye is drawn to the wall hanging made entirely of Japanese safety pins, I am fascinated the piece on the shelf (picture at right). The shape and flow of it, invite investigation! What materials appeal to you? Are you, like me, fascinated by unique glass objects? Or do you prefer edgier ceramics or metallic sculptures? Whatever it is, do not be afraid to incorporate it into your favorite space!


sofa-safety-pinsI strongly recommend that you take time out to enjoy SOFA when it returns to New York next spring. I am very grateful to the friend who first introduced me to this event. It opens our eyes to new design, innovative use of materials and the output of the creative thought process.

Are You Aging in Place?

I am part of the Baby Boomer generation and we want to age in place. What does that mean? It means that we are part of that post-World War II generation, born between 1945 and 1964. It means that we question the values and assumptions of the generations that came before us. It means that as we age, we don’t accept assisted living facilities or nursing homes as a fact of life. It means we need to figure out how to age gracefully, safely and confidently in our own homes. AARP surveyed adults over 65 and found that 83% of homeowners were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to reside in their own homes for the rest of their lives.

What does this mean for interior designers?  It is a hot topic as 2011 is the year when Boomers start to reach the standard retirement age of 65.  There are many factors a designer must consider if they are under taking a remodel or redesign of a Boomer’s home. Ease of access, ability to navigate and familiarity of place are all important design concepts. For example, when considering a bathroom remodel we normally make decisions about tile, bathtub vs. shower, paint or wallpaper, towel racks and lighting. If I am designing for a Boomer, I may consider a porcelain tile instead of a marble tile. Why? Porcelain tile is not as shiny or slippery as marble tile.  I will consider towel racks that can be installed as grab bars to provide instant stability, if needed.

I was working with a client who had an apartment with a bedroom located in a loft accessed by a captain’s ladder.  I have to admit, when I was in my 20’s I would have loved that captain’s ladder!  It was fun to scramble up a ladder to my bed.  However, now I look at a ladder or spiral staircase and think about how easy it would be to slip.  I would suggest two alternatives to dealing with this issue. One, is to consider turning the loft into storage space for items needed only occasionally.  The second, if space allows, is to convert the ladder to a staircase.  Both options are focused on limiting my client’s risk of injury.

The American Society of Interior Designers is very focused on the topic of Aging in Place.  In fact, they offer the following advice to designers like me:

  • Consider the ergonomics of aging
  • Think about furniture from the perspective of mobility and agility
  • Increase light to aid diminished vision
  • Reduce or eliminate door ledges or sunken floors
  • Judge the practicality of existing storage solutions and modify for ease of access
  • Organize electrical cords to avoid accidents

We Boomers want to retain our independence and age gracefully in our familiar, stylish and safe homes. Are you thinking about how to remodel for the next phase of your life? I’d like to offer the first five respondents 25% off an hours consultation on home design for aging in place. Post your comments and interest in a consultation here!

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