Sunday, April 19, 2015

JEWEL BOXES: A classic Modernist home for Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio recently confirmed his status as Hollywood's leading fan of Modernist architecture, by purchasing a 1963 estate designed by famed mid-century architect Donald Wexler. The stunning home, in the the Old Las Palmas neighborhood of Palm Springs, CA, was originally commissioned by big-band-era singer and TV host Dinah Shore.

Wexler, who is still living but in frail health,  is considered a dean of CA mid-mod architects.
A Midwesterner by birth, he was known to be a low-key personality who rejected the strict categories or abstractions of architectural theory. “I never tried to do any kind of style,” he has said, claiming not to know whether he is "a modernist, a practitioner of the International Style, or any other pundit-created label."

In a conversation with Palm Springs Life (see "The Quiet Elegance of Donald Wexler" by Morris Newman), he recounts a  story from early in his career -- a time when he had relatively little work. A couple came to his office and requested a house designed in “an early American style.” “You mean like a tepee?” responded Wexler impishly. "End of interview."

According to an article in, DiCaprio paid $5.2 million for the house. "Steeped in Old Hollywood charm, the California modern boasts a classic open floor plan with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and wood-paneled ceilings. Spanning 7,022 square feet, the layout has six bedrooms, seven full bathrooms, and a living room with a sunken bar and sauna." And if that's not enough, the pool area has "sprawling mountain views."

                                        Living room

Dining area
(I love George Nelson's hanging Bubble Lamps -- very space age-ey!)



Pool by day and night

"Like the man himself, Wexler’s buildings chronicle 
quiet intelligence in the service of human beings."
                                                                                              ... Palm Springs Life, Feb. 2011


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

ON FILM: A Picture of Eileen Gray

Update: On April 13, 2015, the NY School of Interior Design
wil host a panel discussion entitled "Eileen Gray -- Why Now?".
Details here

Left: Eileen Gray; right: actress Orla Brady

Recently released, with March 2015 premieres in Dublin, Cannes, New York and London ... 
a biopic about seminal Modernist designer Eileen Gray, and her turbulent relationship with famed architect Le Corbusier. Gray created her stunning and now-iconic E1027 house on the French seashore in 1924; it is now recognized by many as the first Modernist house ever built. 

Called "The Price of Desire", the film casts Le Corbusier as Gray’s rival (in a fit of pique, he defaced the E1027 house with his infamous sexually graphic murals), but also presents him as an admirer who tells “the story, from his point of view, of how Eileen Gray came to be the most important, inspirational and innovative architect of their generation, and gives her back the right to be recognized for that work.”

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Link here to read my article Eileen Gray: from Shadow to Light, published in Modernism magazine 
(Spring 2011 issue.)

Rue de Lota apartment designed by Eileen Gray
 with her Pirogue sofa

    Eileen Gray Rivoli Tea Table
E.G.'s much-reproduced E1027 table --
now even Target makes it!

Link here for interview with film maker Mary McGuckian

Friday, April 3, 2015

EVENTS: MAD MEN returns on April 5; NYC celebrates

At last, the long-awaited final half-season of AMC TV's Mad Men will begin on April 5. The show has been a singular cultural phenomenon, in no small measure because of its meticulous recreation of the look of Sixties decor and fashion -- that furniture! those dresses! 

New York City, home of the "Mad" in the show's title (i.e., Madison Avenue) will pay homage to Mad Men's closing weeks in a variety of special events, to wit:

•  A jazzy exhibition titled “Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men” opens March 14 at the  Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

 This three-month exhibition vividly brings the show’s wardrobe -- and much of its creative process -- to life. More than 25 ensembles developed by Mad Men's costume designer, Janie Bryant, will appear alongside large-scale sets (including Don Draper’s office, and the kitchen from the Don & Betty's Ossining home), props, advertising artwork and other ephemera from the show’s design departments. 

The exhibition will feature screenings of 10 films creator Matthew Weiner considers 
essential for Mad Men fans, including The Apartment.

Link here to a NY Times article: 
The Most Memorable Costumes of Mad Men Get the Museum Treatment

                 Mad Men' s leading ladies, dressed to kill

                                                                                      Megan's "Zou Bisou Bisou" dress, season 5 premiere  

“To see a costume in full action on screen and then see it standing still,” says Bryant, 
“is a whole different kind of visual experience.”

•  Mad Men Dining Week: 
How to Eat and Drink Like Don Draper

From March 23-29, 33 of NYC's classiest restaurants participated in 
Mad Men Dining Week. Each offered either a two-course prix-fixe menu 
or two cocktails inspired by the 1960s, at a cost of $19.69 (the year Don Draper's 
"final act" -- whatever that means -- takes place.) Booze OR food -- your choice.

AMC President Charlie Collier commented, 
"The men and women of Madison Avenue inspired Matthew Weiner’s story, and we couldn’t imagine 
a better way to celebrate than by eating, drinking and raising a glass together in their honor.”

Don drinks his favorite cocktail -- ironically, an Old Fashioned.
The drink has made a big comeback since Mad Men's 2007 premiere.
3 oz bourbon
1 sugar cube
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 orange slices (not if you're Don Draper)
Maraschino cherry garnish (definitely not if you're Don Draper)

Cheers, Don Draper and Co.!

Late-breaking Mad Men news

• The Brooklyn Academy of Music will host a two-day “Mad Men at the Movies” festival, April 22-23. Matthew Weiner or a cast member will attend each screening to discuss that film.

• Weiner spoke on March 29 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and will do another talk on April 28 at the 92nd Street Y.

• The New York Public Library will host a “Mad Men” event after the finale in May, and will publish a “Mad Men” reading list, based on 25 titles mentioned during the show’s run.

• On March 21, Weiner, Jon Hamm and cast members Christina Hendricks, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones and John Slattery sat on a panel at Alice Tully Hall for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Topics included favorite episodes, and the Film Society also sponsored a free two-day screening of some of Weiner’s own favorites. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

ODD BITS: A Rube Goldberg-inspired Passover happening

This witty bit of Passover fun was created by students at 
the Technion, Israel's most prestigious technical institute. Here they 
use modern design to tell an ancient tale.

Above: The parting of the Red Sea ...
In the background is a toy Ferris wheel that pulls a string, 
lifting a mini pyramid and revealing a seder plate underneath.

Baby Moses floating in the bullrushes

 The burning bush
(It can double as a bowl for your matzah ball soup)

You can watch the entire video here.
Happy holiday, happy spring!

°   °   °     
And, in parting ...

Charleton Hes-Peep as Moses
(thanks to for this image)