The Roots of Modern Japanese Design

SNLongLongviewScreen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.23.04 PMWe recently released a collection of 8 traditional Japanese prints form the 18th and 19th century. We did so, primarily because we feel these pieces are timeless and will look great in many spaces, but the are also touch stones for the roots of many aspects of contemporary Japanese design that we hold in high regard.

We think the obvious modern connection is the  link to the theatrical nature of these wonderful traditional prints and the street fashion of Harajuku. The use of patterns, make-up and the sentimentality of character are often echoed.

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These concepts are also bred from the traditional theater of the Kabuki, from the Edo period. Simple scenic settings with narratives that examine moral dilemmas of the heart. This thematic element is inescapable in all Japanese design, and it is the horse one rides upon to enjoy the emotive journey that draws in the eye. See this video about that nature of the Kabuki and Japanese culture.

On any given day in Tokyo one stills see traditional Geisha and traditional Kimonos on the street, contrasted with the iconic inventiveness of street trendies



Either way contemporary Japanese  there are still representing the traditional culture through their fashion. The role it plays in society is important to the ethics of the people. To some extent this drives a collective value and motive behind the desire to continue to display their traditions.

Perhaps the most curious and hard to understand example of this play between , character , setting and narrative as an exponent of emotional reality as a key to aesthetic value is Hatsune Miku , the top grossing hologram pop star. Packing live venues , the embracing of character over reality, and perhaps the value of emotive reality over personage is something that is deeply Japanese, and has it’s roots in the kinds of prints we love from the 19th century. See below this live performance of Hatsune Miku


String art a modern take can still inspire today!

Sometimes a new take can reopen your eyes to something you may have otherwise looked right over before. It has been said many times, that string art is straight out of the 60’s and that it has a “hokey” feeling. These artists put that hokey stereotype to rest with ease. Take a look at these images and how they can relate to other works of art.

(Insert dramatic music here and prepare to be wowed!)

This image transcends your mind into a blissful optical illusion


Artist Gabriel Dawe

There are many ways to show color and for that color to show depth. This is a beautiful example of that. You can easily see the current look of this piece. Imagine if you will how much space this piece takes up. It truly is beauty on a grand scale.
Shown Below is Mask.

Mask is an Expressionist canvas that articulates beautiful Greens and Yellows. You can see the relation to the image above it. The use of color creates a scene with a rich background. The depth that comes from this color is just gorgeous.


Artist Anne Lindberg

Here is a beautiful piece by Anne Lindberg. Again, this is string and nails. The depth of this work is quite lovely. Notice how the string illusion plays off of the wall color and the flooring. The softness of the color blending and the cohesive ambience of the entire room as a work of art, truly creates a warm and delicate feel, while at the same time stating its presence. The overall feel of this image relates perfectly to a new image we’ve created called Sponge. Sponge is a rich spectrum of soft greens, punctuated with supple bands of orange. Dreamy, evocative, and beautiful are the words that describe this wonderful new contemporary image (shown below).


While there is no denying the string art of the 60’s, this modern new take will definitely turn some heads in today’s world. The newer take and grander scale of these pieces are simply not to be denied. They are beautiful, colorful and command you to look. We love the feeling these pieces invoke in people.

Primary Colors

All colors we see are essentially combinations of the 3 primary colors Red, Yellow and Blue. Black is the fully saturated of these 3 and white is simply the absence of these three. 

In the advent of modernism , this intellectual concept was brought forth as a visual aesthetic in the Bauhaus and with the Dutch painter Mondrian. This kind of restriction to primary colors and box shapes is commonly referred to as “formalism”. We have always admired this kind of purity. 



This same notion was reflected in the realm of decorative design in the famous Rietveld chair , designed by Gerrit Reitveld in 1917 , then painted in 1923. 


We see this kind of primacy in the work of Leger as well , while he was working in representative cubist forms, as well as post cubist styles, he carried the primary color influence throughout his career.


Later in the century pop artists refrained this same concept but through a lens of advertising and comic book art, while its roots were not commingled, the visual touch stone remains the same. See this piece by Roy Liechtenstein in 1963. 


This kind of purity in some way hits the soul in a very unexpected way , we have created a collection of Primary Color canvases to give you this rich sophisticated look with the ease of use and great prices of an m-dc canvas.

Take a look below at Mud, a simple graphic images that fetches all of these visual and conceptual ideas. In some way it brings to mind the early 1980’s , when primary colors made a big comeback. We feel they once again are coming back into style.


using words to inspire

We love this house by Robert M. Gurney, FAIA and it is located at Glen Echo Heights, Bethesda, Maryland.


It has all of the elements of a classic 60’s design , yet it renders the warmth and functionality you would expect in something built in the early 20th century. We particularly love this room.


We like the whimsy of the words, which imply a famous tire brand, yet can equally be construed as a motto for life.

In our words collection we offer a similar kind of notion, see our “Now” canvas below.


This kind of conceptual simplicity is what we love about modernism. By clearing clutter and keeping things simple , you have space to appreciate a single word. In this case , the motto of living in the now is a powerful one.

Learn more about this wonderful home  below

Southampton Landscapes

The breezy open light filled spaces of Southampton have for more than a century attracted painters to  express and reinterpret the particular forms of this landscape. None more famously than William Merritt Chase.

ImageWhile European impressionists have grabbed all the glory, Chase epitomizes the curia of New York City sophisticates reside and have gained inspiration in the Hamptons.

Chase cultivated multiple personae: sophisticated cosmopolitan, devoted family man, and esteemed teacher. Chase married Alice Gerson in 1886 and together they raised eight children during Chase’s most energetic artistic period. His eldest daughters, Alice Dieudonnee Chase and Dorothy Bremond Chase, often modeled for their father.

In New York City, however, Chase became known for his flamboyance, especially in his dress, his manners, and most of all in his studio. At Tenth Street, Chase had moved into Albert Bierstadt‘s old studio and had decorated it as an extension of his own art. Chase filled the studio with lavish furniture, decorative objects, stuffed birds, oriental carpets, and exotic musical instruments. The studio served as a focal point for the sophisticated and fashionable members of the New York City art world of the late 19th century. By 1895 the cost of maintaining the studio, in addition to his other residences, forced Chase to close it and auction the contents.

In addition to his painting, Chase actively developed an interest in teaching. On the urging of a patron, Chase opened the Shinnecock Hills Summer School on eastern Long Island, New York in 1891 and taught there until 1902. Chase adopted the plein air method of painting, and often taught his students in outdoor classes. He also opened the Chase School of Art in 1896, which became the New York School of Art two years later with Chase staying on as instructor until 1907. Chase taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1896 to 1909; the Art Students League from 1878 to 1896 and again from 1907 to 1911; and the Brooklyn Art Association in 1887 and from 1891 to 1896. Along with Robert Henri, who became a rival instructor, Chase was the most important teacher of American artists around the turn of the 20th century. In addition to his instruction of East Coast artists like Charles Demuth, Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones, Silas Dustin, Marsden Hartley, M. Jean McLane, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Marin, George Pearse Ennis, Leopold Seyffert and Edward Charles Volkert, he had an important role in influencing California art at the turn of the century, especially in interactions with Arthur Frank Mathews, Xavier Martinez and Percy Gray.

We love this Chase Painting from Southampton.

ImageOne of our newest images “Kamakura” was inspired by these soft tones and landscape concepts, though our image is decidedly more abstract and a little edgier, hopefully the influence of this fine artist is remainsImage as inspiration.

Bridgehampton Style

Over the years in the Hamptons , Bridgehampton has always been a great place to shop for furniture and home furnishings. Stores have come and gone in the last 10 years, but one purveyor Commerford Collection has expressed perhaps the finest, and best curated modern store we have found anywhere.

ImageKaren Commerford , (a good friend) brings her impeccable taste and background as a textile buyer and jewelry designer to offer  wonderful furniture and accessories. You can shop online from the link above, and of course, if you are in Bridgehampton we encourage you to stop by.

This eclectic and thoughtful sense of modernism is perhaps what Hamptonites do best. Our new image , “Info” , a newspaper collage reflects this sense of mixing literary concern with themes of conceptual art. 


Hamptons Style

Our design studio is located in Bridgehampton New York , which lies at the center of an area on the eastern end of Long Island that is commonly know as The Hamptons. Originally a farming and fishing area , it’s near proximity to New York City betrays it’s wondrous natural beauty of clean fresh ocean beaches and brilliant sunlight that has attracted artists to the area for over a hundred years.

Generally , when artists and other intellectuals find undiscovered haunts, their patrons are soon to follow. While Southampton has always been a playground to the American wealthy, areas like East Hampton, Montauk and Sag Harbor have more slowly attracted the super rich. We moved out here for the beautiful nature and quaint towns 20 years ago , and we are truly blessed to  live and work in such a beautiful part of America.

Yet the ghosts and gestalt, of the amazing painters and writers that have lived and worked in this area, always inspire and are referenced in our design concepts.

A partial list of painters who have lived and worked here are , Jackson Pollack, Barnett Newman, Willem De Kooning, Chuck Close , Roy Lichtenstein , Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol. Writers as well, have lived here including Truman Capote, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut among many others.

This mix of mind and visual art has inspired and influenced the way urban modern style has with the traditional  shingle style homes. The rough loft style that the artists brought with the from lower Manhattan found a new expression in ocean side retreats.

See below a collection of images from some these studios and homes of the Hamptons.

ImageDe Kooning , East Hampton studio interior.


De Kooning exterior.



Lichtenstein in his studio


Pollack in his Springs BarnImageTruman Capote in his Bridgehampton living room

ImageWarhol and friends in Montauk

Graphic Images from Advertising.


Graphic advertisements in Paris at the turn of the century are pieces of artwork in themselves. Artists like Privat Livemont and Toulouse Lautrec were the forerunners for this style of art.  We love the idea of using a strong bold graphic piece to decorate with. La Metro is our contemporary version of a Paris Metro advertisement.

lemetro-Vertical2chairRoomView-tempLa Metro, our contemporary version of a decorative advertisement.

Over the years we have design and sold many images that feature advertising concepts and they have been very popular, see below.


Story, we love this canvas for the way it depicts present day social commentary.


Beauty, a modern interpretation of advertisements

Marche Aux Puces

A key element in designing your Paris Apartment is shopping at one of famous Marche Aux Puces  (or flea market). The most famous and arguably the largest in the world St.-Ouen (also know as Clignancourt) is comprised of about a dozen mini sections with no clear order. There is a map provided, but to find the good stuff you just have to keep looking!


Check out the interview below with author of the book “The Paris Apartment”, Claudia Strasser and “HiP Paris” blogger Erica Berman for excellent advice on hitting  the markets, when to buy and when not to, and what to do when you purchase a couch, …  but live in the US!

See the entire interview and more here.

When is the best time to hit the flea markets?

Marche d’Aligre is held almost everyday and that’s right in the city center. Vanves is weekends only and Clignancourt has special days for dealers on Friday mornings. Otherwise you can find everyone there on the weekends and a couple on Mondays. Montrieul is Mondays.


St-Ouen (also known as Clignancourt) is the biggest flea market in Europe. I’ve heard that people have gotten lost in there. Is there a strategy one should adapt before even attempting to visit the flea market?

Not really, because you’re bound to find everything you want whether you cover the entire market or not. The truth is you could never cover the whole market. Ok, well, I have, actually! But it’s nearly impossible even for me. I suggest taking your time to look down every alley and not have an agenda. Bargains can be found everywhere.


It’s expected by all the vendors that there will be negotiations involved in any purchase. Any advice on that? And is the inability to speak French a barrier to a successful negotiation?

If something is already a great price, I don’t ever negotiate, especially on small items. But if I’m purchasing two or more things, I’ll ask for the best price for all of it.  When you’re asking for a price, always ask for the Export price (that is, if you’re shipping it), because they know you’ll have to pay duties and taxes and always give you a break. If it’s a small item, ask ‘How much is this?’ (C’est combien?) Or ‘How much for both?’ (Combien pour les deux?).

So, say someone makes a big purchase—a piece of furniture, for instance. How would they get that purchase back to their home (if they don’t happen to live in Paris)?

There are a number of shippers on the premises at Clignancourt from Camard to Edet to Hedleys. Most of them are on the main road where everyone goes when they get off the Metro and make their way through the market. All of them are English-speaking and will walk you through the process, which is involved but not overly complicated.


You could easily see a few of our canvases at flea market! Jubilee reflects a sense of found object and Brady is a great mid century graphic image, just the thing you could find lying around if you looked hard enough. Maps are always around in the flea market, you would be lucky to find one like our Paris image that dates back to the early 1800’s. Eden makes a nice simple nice still life.

Visit “The Paris Apartment” book here

Interview via The HiP Paris Blog, see this interview and more here.

Modern and Traditional Architecture Of Paris

Our “Paris Apartment” theme would not be complete without talking about the beautiful exterior architecture. One theme that we find in this urban design landscape is a recurring theme to think about light and space. Below is the Pomipdou Center , one of the best modern museums in the world, with its’ bold form and function metal structure by Piano and Rogers. This flexible design is a stark counter balance to the classical architectural vocabulary of the city. Yet it’s energy and provocative nature fits with the intellectual curiosity and vanguard nature of French culture.


Steel structures are nothing new to Paris, see this roof and interior of the illustrious Ecole des Beaux Arts, home to countless famous painters and sculptors who have crafted their skill in this luminous space.


And below , tale a look at the Louvre itself with the I.M. PEI pyramid , which echoes the structure and openness of the Eiffel Tower and even the skyward vision of Notre Dame.


In a sense Paris has become an eclectic collection of itself in the last hundred years , mixing these kinds of steel modern buildings while balancing the rich traditional history that abounds.