Movement + simplicity
To open this month’s issue, I’d like to invite you to experience one of my most prolific meditation locales. For most the ballet is a place to observe some of the most beautiful, seductive and patient artists move their bodies in an evocative way, but it can be so much more with the right company and mindset. I recently attended the season opening of Modern Masters, choreographed by the legendary Balanchine. The feature began with a very simple, deeply saturated blue backdrop while the ballerinas donned simple neutral leotards. Immediately, I felt a connection with this art direction and our work. I muse on how much our work in design has in common with other art forms such as dance or studio arts; using simple backdrops, sculptural shapes and paired with our signature “never too precious” style. The essence of the performance was palpable from the opening curtain and continues into very raw performance that for me was aiming to focus on the movement of the performers. No frills, no sparkle. According to the ballet notes of the Joffrey the performance “references the medieval concept of psychological humors through its classically grounded but definitively modern movement.”
The ballet is not only a visual feast for me; it’s a pastime that I hold very close to my heart. Having danced for many years, ballet and modern dance, the art is something I feel on a cerebral level both as a viewer and in empathy for the performers. I studied here in Chicago with a Russian coach, and as the profession relies on very stringent physical parameters, there were limitations brought forth due to my height. However, the passion of the art has never wavered and I now make it a priority to not only support the local Joffrey ballet here in Chicago but I also seek out dance performance in my travels. I’ve been lucky to have seen some amazing performances in unexpected places such as the dance company in Cuba. The transference of energy and subtleness of dance is something that has crossed over into my design process in many ways. The Modern Masters: Four Temperaments displays a classic, yet interpretive style that parallels with the aesthetic identity of our work at MDPGD. There is a level of complexity, masked gracefully by simplicity. Similarly, just as one discerns those who enter their home, the company you keep at the ballet changes the way the performance renders. Choose wisely or don’t choose at all and go solo. Just go, I insist.
My recent trip to the ballet reminded me so much of the last trip I took to Milan, I was there a year ago for our bi-annual sourcing trip to the area. We start our buying journey in Milan and continue on to Parma, which I’ve mentioned in Issue IV. Our secret weapon on these sourcing trips is a very good friend from Buenos Aires who always travels with us to Milan. He knows the roads well and speaks Italian, which is of course, an asset. As I reminisce of Milan I remember in greater detail the seasons and reasons for my repeated return; international furniture shows, exquisite artisans of all things imaginable and the antique goodness that seems to be in the very fiber of the traditions Italians hold so near and dear.
My drive behind traveling here so often is that it is nearly a guarantee to not only be reinvigorated in my craft but also share what I find through our shop as well as see new products for our client projects. Last we were in Milan we were working on a small apartment in Manhattan and were searching for art work to fill the space, it was either so well-planned or serendipitous, I can’t decide, but all needs were filled in a way that felt organic.
Milan is a city and therefore, in my opinion, the beauty is more about what it offers as opposed to a sightseeing city. So I try to make it my own by seeking inspiration that can only be experienced first hand. One sight which is always fun is the women, who tend to be the most fashionable in the world. I am always inspired by their style! Last time I flew from Dublin, which by contrast, has little to do with fashion! The fresh faces, rosy-cheeked young women of Ireland were in strong contrast to the chic sophisticated Italians.
Milan hosts not only it’s own fashion week, which recently finished in February but also a world of mid-century Italian lighting and furniture. The dealers typically ask top dollar which is why we head to Parma for the markets, shh. Although, there are special pieces in Milan and it’s certainly worth the visit. We have found beautiful tables of stone with amazing patina — interesting modern chairs and beautiful paintings if mixing the two is your style, which for us it’s a fit!
If you’re planning a visit this spring, I would suggest saving a full day for the annual Salone Del Mobile Milano, the leading international furnishing and design event. From April 17th- 22nd, a vast array of exhibits that marry quality and creativity will be on display. With over 1,100 exhibitors, they are carefully organized by category for easy browsing based on your desired product. Whether it be the classics, or the functional and innovative design section, the Salone has something for everyone. We advise to pre-register on their website here, and remember it’s not just for trade professionals.
The visual splendor of Milan is only rivaled by its infamous regional food. While there, it’s imperative to try a classic dish that has withstood the test of time, and many Italian grandmothers. Risotto Alla Milanese is a deceptively simple dish that uses saffron, butter and bone marrow to create a fabulously rich flavor. If you’re in Milan, our favorites are at Andre Berton’s Ristorante Berton, and D’O by Davide Oldani. If you’re at home, try one of our favorite recipes.
The effect of good design
in retail environments
A savvy designer understands that in this current climate, “brand” is synonymous with design, the two cannot be separated and need the other to exist. What I suggest by this, is that when understood to its highest detail a brand communicates its message through its design and vice versa. The design is the brand. A coveted company that speaks this language well is The Row. A fashion favorite of mine, The Row exudes a class and sophistication that easily carries the brand on its own. However, their Santa Monica store is a flawless interpretation of what The Row would look like if it were a home furnishing brand or if it were simply the designers’ (the Olsen Twins) personal residence. Focusing on warming home elements such as fireplaces and mid-century furniture vignettes, the space renders as a comfortable gallery-esque vibe. It’s truly where minimalist New York chic, meets California effortless.
Zaha Hadid on collaboration
As the 2 year anniversary of the late Zaha Hadid’s passing approaches, we reflect on her guiding philosophies of the collaborative aspect of design.
“Today, our collaborations with other creative industries provide us with an opportunity to express our ideas through different scales and in many diverse media. We see it as part of a continuous process of our on-going design investigation. It’s a two way process – we apply our architectural research and experimentation to these designs – but we also learn a great deal from the process of collaborating with others who lead their own industries. A brilliant design will always benefit from the input of others. Of course there is a lot of fluidity now between art, architecture and fashion—a lot more cross-pollination in the disciplines, but this isn’t about competition, it’s about collaboration and what these practices and processes can contribute to one another.”
A value we couldn’t agree more on.
iN the field
Sourcing and placement
When traveling I always keep an eye out for pieces that will add detail and finish to a current space or possibly be a starting point of inspiration for another. Sometimes I seek them out knowing my objectives for the finished product and other times it’s genuine good fortune that leads me to some of my favorite international finds. Found pieces are often what make a finished space multi-faceted, the eye doesn’t know where to settle first. They add a certain amount of intrigue and narrative that creates a spatial identity. For example, the bedside portrait in the image above was sourced on our most recent trip to Milan. It adds depth to this vignette and appears as a family heirloom. Not precious, but thoughtful.