Saturday, December 30, 2017

CELEBRATIONS: Mid Mod Gingerbread Houses!

Gingerbread houses don't always have to look like
  Victorian or Edwardian painted ladies ... take a peek at some 
Midcentury Modern versions of this traditional holiday treat!

 Have Airstream, will travel

Above: A Mid Mod gingerbread house with gumdrop plantings and waffle cookie pavement

Right: Frank Lloyd Wright in gingerbread. (You know what this iconic design is.)

Every year there's a gingerbread house
competition in Palm Springs, CA. Mid Mod architecture is well-represented, reflecting the aesthetic of the city.

Above: A futuristic Zaha Hadid design, created for a
2016 gingerbread exhibition at the
National Building Museum in Washington, DC

There are DIY kits for crafting these witty structures;
the suggested ideas below are from a blog linked here.



Tuesday, December 26, 2017

OBJECTS OF DESIRE: Eileen Gray, a designer with moxie

I was recently looking at some of the articles I wrote for
the late, great Modernism magazine, and came across this one
about Irish/French design giant Eileen Gray. After being inspired to 
reorganize some of our living room furniture, I thought 
I'd post the article on Mad for Mod.

Here's the beginning of
Eileen Gray, from Shadow to Light
© 2011 Judy Polan

"Free-spirited, bold and enigmatic Irish designer Eileen Gray (1878–1976), was an inspirational figure to the Art Deco and modernist movements. “C’est absurde!”, she would often say about the dramatic rise, fall and eventual rebirth of public admiration for her singular artistry. As a woman struggling to build a career in a man’s world, an Irishwoman living in France, an aristocrat moving in bohemian circles and a natural rebel who was nonetheless demure and retiring, she was unselfconsciously at ease being the “other.”

It mattered not to her whether her pioneering designs in lacquer, furniture and architecture were celebrated by the likes of Vogue magazine: “She stands alone, unique, the champion of an unusually free method of expression”; or famed French architect René Herbst: he called her “the most gifted of our generation”; or essentially forgotten, as they were by the 1940s, a time when the contributions of female artists were regarded dismissively ..."

A link to the full article is here.

 Above: E.G.'s iconic E1027 side table
next to her Bibendum chair, a
"pop art take" on the Michelin Man

Below: Rue de Lota apartment designed by Eileen Gray
c. 1920 

Below: Bleu Marine rug, c. 1925
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

CELEBRATIONS: Contemporary Chanukah menorahs

There is an endless variety of contemporary menorahs available these days, in shops and online. With Chanukah 2017 drawing to a closeI decided to revisit  
Mad for Mod's 2014 posting about this design phenomenon.

°     °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °

 Skyline menorah, designed by Jonathan Adler
    This now-classic piece of Judaica is included 
  in several prestigious design museum collections.

One of the things I like best about being Jewish is the fact that decorative arts are so interwoven into our traditions, both at home and in public spaces. This is an outgrowth of the ethic known in Hebrew as Hiddur Mitzvah, which translates roughly as "the beautification of a commandment." Judaica in silver and gold, wood, glass and earthenware abounds in the form of candlesticks, wine goblets, tzedakah (charity) boxes, mezzuzot (door post prayer boxes), seder plates, spice boxes, and -- of course -- menorahs, which are traditionally placed in windows, to illuminate and affirm miracles for all.

You don't have to be Jewish to love these designs!

                  Flexus menorah (above)
          This menorah can be configured any way you like,
            and the candle holders can be used individually
                                 throughout the year.
                  Available through the MOMA Design Store

City Lights glass menorah (above)
Carmageddon (below)
 both by Shardz

Stanley Saitowitz architectural menorah

 Clear glass geometric menorah

  Column Menorah from Crate & Barrel

              Beaded traditional menorah by Jillery
This menorah matches my Sabbath candlesticks and wine goblet.

 Musician menorah
Shoshi Art Glass of Israel

                                                                                           Water blossom menorah
According to Jewish lore, the ancient temple menorah was made of golden almond-blossom-shaped cups. This modern take on that design inspiration sets a ring of almond blossoms in a shallow pool of water. The pool reflects the candlelight, and also provides a safe way for the candles to sizzle out as they burn down. 

        Lotus menorah by Michael Aram
       Available from

and a 
"Save the Elephants"menorah
by Jonathan Adler

The possibilities are infinite ...

Posting originally published 12/20/15

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

COLOR NEWS: Pantone Institute chooses 2018 Color of the Year

It's the royal color ...

It's the color of conciliation and class
(red + blue = purple) ...
Rejoice, fellow purple lovers! Our favorite hue has been declared Color of the Year by the Pantone Institute, a company that has shown itself to be an arbiter of upcoming trends in fashion, interior design, housewares, politics and pop culture -- in other words, the zeitgeist of the times. The official color of 2018 is an intense, blue-toned shade of purple called Ultra Violet (Pantone 18-3838).

Attributes that have been ascribed to purple include:
regal, soothing, exciting, scary, complex, inspiring, sexy and joyful.

According to, "Pantone views its selection as cultural barometer and a visual expression of our collective sentiment. For 2016, it picked Rose Quartz and Serenity (aka Baby Pink and Baby Blue) as commentary on the gender fluidity movement. Last year, Pantone selected Greenery, a metaphor for the the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose.”

Lee Eisenman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, says,
“Ultra Violet is a very provocative shade, but it’s also a thoughtful color–it sounds like a bit of an oxymoron. This is the kind of color attached, historically, to originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking. People are looking for that ‘magic bullet,’ and this shade is the perfect shade to lead 
right into it . . .  It’s intriguing, fascinating, and magical.”

Woman's "Purple Rain Dress", c.1980
 Boston MFA costume collection

~ oOo ~

Former colors of the year:

For more about Pantone's choice for 2018,
link here or here.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

ODD BITS: Is it a towel? Or is it a skirt?

If you like minimalistic travel accessories that
serve multiple purposes, all wrapped up in one tidy little package, 
you'll love this travel blanket/scarf/sarong/bathtowel/tablecloth 
created by Case & Drift.


Case+Drift specializes in "all-purpose travel commodities designed for 
the nomadic lifestyle of both vagabonds and professionals alike." Their stylish bags and towels are designed to maximize versatility and utility, 
making them great for both travel or everyday use.

The company's founder has even used one as
a tent cover when a canceled flight left her stranded at the airport.

It starts off as a towel ... or maybe a blanket ...

 And it might end up as a skirt!

Makes a nice tablecloth too, for a wine and cheese picnic by the pool.

Meanwhile, back here in New England ...

I'm carrying a rolled-up blanket on the back seat of the car,
in case we get stranded in the snow!

Check out
for everything but the snowmen

~ oOo ~

Monday, December 4, 2017

BOOK NOTE: The Secret Language of Color

With winter darkness coming on, I recommend this book as a tonic to the spirits. 
It's beautiful, illuminating, and lots of fun! (My review is below the cover image.)

The Secret Language of Color: 
Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue & Violet
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, hard cover,  240 pages, more than 500 color photos and illustrations, $29.95.

In their engaging and comprehensive volume, authors Joann Eckstut and Arielle Ekstut explore the subject of color from every imaginable angle -- spiritual, biological, chemical, sociological, artistic and historical, to name but a few. Open the book to any page and you'll find a plethora of diverse images and intriguing insights. The chapter on red is particularly vibrant, with photos of and informative notes on a blazing Russian revolutionary poster, a gathering of cardinals at the Vatican, a matador at work, and the sparkling ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. Violet, Elizabeth Taylor's famously favorite hue (as well as mine), is noted as the color of royalty, and is passionately described as "exquisite, delicious, and desirable." Each of the six colors of the visible spectrum has its own chapter, alternating with sections covering broader subjects: earth, the universe, plants, humans and animals among them. Along the way, short sidebars answer questions such as "How do animals see color?" and  "Why are waves white?", and reference expressions like "red herring", "green with envy" and "talk a blue streak". If you are enchanted by color, this is the book for you.

Originally posted 3/1/14

Sunday, December 3, 2017

EXHIBITIONS: Millennial Pink at the Williams College Museum of Art (and just about everywhere else)

What's the deal with pink, anyway?
When WAS it that pink, in its many manifestations, became the "it"
color in fashion design, room interiors, and even hair? Some think it got a boost from Wes Anderson’s star-studded 2014 movie The Grand Budapest Hotel, which 
"embodies a kind of arch retro-kitsch", and most of whose action takes place 
in the most flamboyantly pink building you'll ever see. 

Millenial Pink has been described variously as a
shade of "blush, rose, grapefruit, salmon, adult bubblegum, Barbie dolls or somewhere in between." According to Salon magazine, "It's like the untouched pink shelves of a girly childhood bedroom, covered in a thick film of dust. 
Pantone coined it Rose Quartz and named it Color of the Year in 2016, 
but the shade has been gaining momentum for years."

 °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °
Pink Art, currently on display at the Williams College Museum of Art, 
sets out to answer questions about a color that is arguably the
favorite of many and the most villified by many others:

"What happens when you see a museum’s collection through the lens of one color? And what happens when that color is pink, a hue rich in history, 
symbolism and cultural relevance?"

Love it or hate it, the color pink seems to have the ability to both soothe and stimulate, and exerts an outsize influence on our culture and imaginations.

If you're in the pink you're probably feeling mighty good,
but it would be hard to see the world through rose-colored glasses
if you've just received a pink slip.
You might be tickled pink if someone threw you a surprise
birthday party, but not so if you get so far into the pink (aka drunk)
that you start to see pink elephants. For little girls, pink has long been the 
color of choice -- romantic and exuberant -- but confident men have 
begun to embrace it too.

Below: Even Frank Lloyd Wright got into the act.
He seriously considered having his famed Guggenheim Museum
painted pink.

Frank Lloyd Wright Hated New York, Thought About Making the Guggenheim Pink

 °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °
If you've just about had it with pink, stay tuned.
Coming next: Gen Z Yellow! 

In contention for Pantone's 2018 Color of the Year:

Meadowlark (Pantone #13-0646)

"The bold and lively Meadowlark, a confident and outgoing bright yellow 
shade highlights the Spring 2018 season, glistening with joy and 
illuminating the world around us."

To read more on Mad for Mod about 
Pantone's Colors of the Year,
link here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

GOING ONCE ... Iconic planet lights from the Castle St. Café on auction

If you've ever explored the side streets of trendy
Great Barrington, Massachusetts, you can't have missed the
mesmerizing planet lamps that fill the interior of the
luxe but gregarious Celestial Bar at the Castle St. Café.

From now through New Year's Eve, these ethereal lights will be silently auctioned off to benefit the historic Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center right next door.
Three dramatic planets, eight whimsical wall sconces, and 
three glamorous blue drop lights will be sold.

I'm sure the new interior will be striking, but I'll miss
these lights, under which I've spent many an hour
celebrating happy occasions, sipping wine, eating locally sourced 
foods, and enjoying lively jazz. 

Cheers to newly retired Chef/Proprietor Michael Ballon, 
and to new owner Vern Kennedy!
And yes, I've made a bid.