European design

Smeg refrigerators_8960

European refrigerators are narrow and smallish in comparison to American ones.  But what they lack in bigness they more than make up for in design.  Check out these three, by Smeg.  I mean–right?!  It was ‘mediodia’ when we snapped this picture.  (Siesta, in other words.)  Otherwise, this store would have been open and the gate up and these race-car-colored fridges available for further touching/coveting.

The yellow fridge?  What do you think?

Orange, Yellow & Blue_8955

A Smeg giveaway: now THAT would be something.

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Artisanal table_9421

So I could say I stumbled across Beriestain Interiores, in downtown Barcelona, but that wouldn’t exactly be true. I went looking for it. I’d seen some great photos in Habitania magazine, and I wanted to check out the source. The store is a fabulous combination of Mid-century and Now, of artisanal and retro. Moreover, most of the mid-century pieces have been reimagined, their bones remaining wonderfully intact while their surfaces get a little cosmetic surgery or their fabrics get replaced by something that represents a New Take on an old style.



Red chair grouping_9440

Tri-color chest_9446

Furniture grouping_9447

Below, I love the combination of rustic linens with cut crystal glasses.  And I love that the glasses are distinct from each other. In fact, one of the things I’m enjoying most about a certain European vernacular is the very rustic in collision with the very elegant. Such a cool concept. Same reason a delicate chandelier works in a room whose stucco walls are crumbling, revealing the brick underneath.

Cut cups_9413

And these chairs? Are they not the happiest things ever?

Chair happy_9416

Beriestain excels at reinvigorating pieces like the turquoise chair in the photo above. The old metal is treated, primed, and bathed in a new metal; then the seat is reupholstered. The result: mid-century modern . . . for the 21st Century. I’m smitten.

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So last summer, the boys in our family headed off to the torture museum in Rothenburg, ob der Tauber, Germany.  No, really:  the museum featured instruments of torture throughout the centuries, and you would have thought that Christmas had come early or something, the idea of being an eyewitness to such gruesomeness was such an exciting prospect for the males in our family.  Me and the Eleven O’Clock Girls, we walked the streets and exclaimed over the architecture.

The girls in this clan love (did I say love?) to talk about design, a category that for us includes everything from architecture to textiles to furniture. Set us down in the middle of a European city, and we will exclaim over design–exteriors, interiors, stuff to sit on, lie on, stick on your walls, make your cooking tasks easier, reflect your tastes, speak to your soul. Typical dialogue when an Object To Be Admired comes into view. Me: “No. Way. Look. At. That.” Either of the girls: “Oh my gosh. Oh. My. Gosh.” Clearly, we need a course in How To Talk Appropriately About Great Design And Everything It Encompasses. In the meantime, we stay busy, looking, pointing, swooning, chattering, all the while sounding exactly like we’re from the San Fernando Valley (you gotta be a Californian to disrespect your fellow Californians).

Recently, I saw a painted wood floor in the back room of a boutique. Perhaps I should mention that painted wood floors totally do it for me. They excite me as much as the prospect of an afternoon imagining centuries of torture excited three cavemen I know well. Picture it: a black and white ‘area rug’ stenciled onto an unfinished wood floor. Design lovers, are you feeling it? One of the petals was with me at the time. She smiled indulgently when I pointed it out to her, dutifully respecting the raptures to which I was temporarily surrendering.

My point: me and the girls, we’re especially us when we’re deep in a Design Moment, if you know what I mean. Some people base jump from towers in Dubai for excitement. The Eleven O’Clock Gals, all they need are grand facades, vintage European linens, and reimagined wood floors. We’ve got those, we’re chatting it up! (While the boys are happily considering the virtues of nifty things that pull people limb from limb.)

(Photo of a favorite street in Montpellier, France, taken by Miss Lavender!)

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Three pots_6287

Few things about living abroad enchant me more than colorfully shuttered balconies with window boxes or, in this case, window pots. The combination of the turquoise shutters with the yellow pots and pink petals made me smile. I have this fantasy that someday I’m going to save a great set of shutters from their grave and find a wall somewhere in my house for them. I love the idea of shutters on a wall, maybe above a master bed?

The Europeans are huge into ‘repurposing’–taking materials that might otherwise be destined for the trash and finding new homes and new iterations for them. I love the idea. It’s a way of folding the old into the new. Some months ago, we stopped for a while at an architectural salvage yard, where you could find anything from old shutters, to antique soaking tubs, to hundreds of different kinds of old tiles from houses from who knows what century. Antique light fixtures (a personal favorite), doors of all shapes and sizes and the hardware that no doubt held them in place once. For me, those places are like secret gardens. I could stay for days.

What bit of oldness would you save from a premature death? Would you snag an old chandelier and polish or paint it?–maybe ferret out some colored chandelier crystals from a box in a salvage yard?–to replace missing crystals from the piece you’d acquired? Lay a floor with old railroad ties? Rescue a door from an old city building and hang it in the front doorway of your house? Turn an old church pew into a bench for a big kitchen table?

I’d love to know!

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