Feb 23, 2013

Discovering space

This posting is not about some nice piece of furniture. Neither it is about some exceptional find we made in some internet auction. It's not even really about renovating anything. It is about the need of being organized, and finally finding the time to tackle a grande disaster called a storage room.

Have you ever sworn to the name of "Intelligent Move"? Tried to get rid of all the junk while packing, and then right away move every box and package to its designated spot? Maybe for two days in last August, we were fantasizing about this type of move. But as always, as there was way too much to do and way too little time, one of the many compromises to follow was an extremely messy storage room, which has been driving Minna crazy for all these months. So, when Pekka went skiing in Lapland with a bunch of friends, Minna chose to use the time efficiently and attack the mess downstairs.

Storage room before

With the right energy and motivation, it is always interesting to notice how little time it actually takes to get a lot done. Just one afternoon later, all the boxes were de-junked and organized. And miraculously, a relatively tiny storage room now fits much more than it did before. What is even more surprising, is the empty shelf space gained in the process!

Storage room after

The efficient hours spent in the storage room convinced Minna even more of her love for two specific things. First, her storage boxes of choice are the translucent SmartStore boxes made by Hammarplast. They come in several different sizes and are just perfect in so many ways for organizing one's home. She will never, ever look in any other way again.

Bliss of being organized

Second, she can no longer remember a life before her beloved DYMO! It is, without a doubt, the most practical purchase made in a long, long time. DYMO is also a brilliant little device to improve communication between family members, by reducing unnecessary confusion and search time concerning various shared household items. So, if your heart yearns for organization, we warmly recommend you invest in one!

I love my DYMO!

Feb 16, 2013

The Cherner Chair

Remember the problem concerning the dining room chairs we addressed in the Round of Excuses posting? Briefly, after switching to a larger, elliptical table, we noticed there is no way to fit two DAWs between the table legs. Therefore, a global hunt for new chairs was initiated and finally we are delighted to report the most recent success of the HDP model!

The chair of the choice is the Cherner chair, by Norman Cherner for Plycraft (1958). Four (out of desired six) arrived to our home about a week ago from Florida. They are vintage (naturally), beautiful and fit nicely on the sides of the table. These chairs are made of plywood walnut veneer with a vinyl naugehyde upholstery. The search still continues, however, for two armrest versions of this same chair, which will be placed on each end of the table.

Cherner chair by Norman Cherner for Plycraft (1958) 

There is actually an interesting story behind the Cherner chair. In the 1950's, the Herman Miller company, led by George Nelson, wanted to create a lightweight chair out of plywood. However, the pretzel chair, designed by Nelson's office in 1952 and produced by another US company Plycraft located in Lawrence Massachusetts, was too fragile and costly, so the production was stopped in 1957.

At this point, Plycraft didn't want to waste the tooling, materials and techniques they had for constructing plywood furniture. Therefore, George Nelson recommended that Norman Cherner would design a sturdier and more economical Pretzel-like chair. Subsequently, Paul Goldman, the owner of Plycraft, hired Cherner. After turning in his design to Plycraft, however, Cherner was told the project had been stopped.

Curiously, a while later Cherner ran across his design in a furniture showroom in New York. Based on the label, he saw it was manufactured by Plycraft and designed by "Bernardo". As a result, Cherner sued Plycraft in 1961, won and received his royalties. Goldman also admitted that Bernardo was a fabricated name. Because of all this sometimes the design is mistakenly also attributed to either Paul Goldman or George Mulhauser. What a mess!!

Afterwards, Plycraft continued to produce Cherner's chair, but it was still difficult and expensive to produce. They continued to modify the original design over the years, leading to some visual variability among the vintage chairs. Ultimately, because of these difficulties the chair remained in production only until the 1970's. Cherner's sons have recently reissued their father's original designs with a company called Cherner Chair Company so a newer option exists for those who prefer new over vintage.

Label underneath our chairs indicate that they were produced after the law sued (1964)

So back to our fantastic four. After a long search we actually happened to find our chairs from Miami, USA, and they finally arrived about a week ago. Excited to see how they looked, felt and matched with the rest of the dining room, Pekka unwrapped and assembled the chairs right away.

Fresh from the Helsinki airport customs

Cherner chairs waiting to be assembled

And these four chairs are simply stunning! Someone has stated that these are the most beautiful pieces of furniture ever made out of plywood - and yes, we absolutely agree! What makes them stand out from their plywood rivals is the graduated thickness of plywood. This can be seen both on the legs and the seat. It is this structural feature that eventually enabled also the most important design cue of the Cherner chair: the narrow waist. The graduated thickness, together with the flowing shape of the armrest, were additional features making this chair difficult and expensive to manufacture. Considering all this, it is easy to see why this particular design is very difficult to copy. This is also the reason why there are so few knock-offs in the market, and if you happen to find one it would be fairly easy to distinguish a knock-off from an original.

Cherner beauty

And not only these four chairs are amazingly beautiful, they are also in exceptional condition! Manufactured in 1964 they are now nearly 50 years old and practically flawless. It is almost as if they landed to our home in a protective time capsule from a bygone era. It makes you wonder where they have spent the past 50 years - unused in some warm storage room, maybe?

Label from 1964

The foot pads, intact and like brand new. Yet, they are almost 50 years old!

At this point, we would like to present our sincerest regards to the person who sold us these beautiful chairs, Anna from Miami (dosbananos in eBay). This purchase was definitely one of the smoothest, fastest, and most reliable processes we have ever experienced. So please take note, if you are looking for a design item from the North American market. Please do not hesitate to contact her - we are glad to give her our highest recommendations!

And just to conclude - what did Urho think of all this? Honestly, he could not care less. After all, they are just chairs. Way too high for a sausage dog to enjoy them.

While you are working on those chairs, let me just rest my eyes for a minute...or two!

So the problem with the dining room chairs is now solved. Right? Well, not exactly. With the new chairs, the table no longer looks as nice as it once did...

Feb 2, 2013

Northern Lights

We have been collecting antiques for quite a while. Instead of a hobby, it has rather become a way of living, covering all kinds of household items. Interestingly, it all started from collecting vintage lights, and at some point, things got a bit crazy. When Pekka still lived in his old apartment, the shelves of his walk-in closet were so packed with vintage lights there was really no more room for clothes. Since then, we have tuned it down a notch, but there still are many, many lights around the apartment, both in use and in storage. Here are some selected pieces we would like to introduce to you!

In interior design, lighting plays an important role not only from a functional viewpoint (in other words, providing light where it is needed) but also in setting up the ambience of a given space. Given this, lights can be roughly divided in to two distinctive gategories: the "mood lights" and the "functional lights". Additionally, even though most lights in our apartment are from the fifties and sixties, there are some which go back all the way to 1946 and maybe surprisingly also some which are brand new (similarly to the new sofa in the living room).

In our previous postings you have already seen a lot of different lights that we have, yet there are many to be seen. So let's take a little tour, shall we? Starting from the bedroom, above the night stands are the newest lights of the collection. They are Tom Dixon's Beat Lights, falling clearly to the mood light category. Indeed, they are mood lights up to the point that if you are searching for a proper reading light, this is definitely NOT your choice. They provide almost no functional light, and if we'd do ANY reading in bed, they would need to be changed.

Beat light by Tom Dixon

The design of the Beat Lights originated from Dixon's trip to India. Inspired by the local craftsmen, these painted brass lights came to employ some of the traditional techniques Dixon came across during his trip, for example they are spun and hand beaten by skilled craftsmen in Northern India. The way the light makes the brass shine is just beautiful, and the reason why these "non-functional / non-vintage" mood lights still stay in their places.

One of the oldest light of the collection, Paavo Tynell's Tähtitaivas ("Starry Sky"), also resides in the bedroom. This light was produced around 1946 by Taito Oy. The light housing has a typical perforation of small holes found in several Tynell lights. Actually, the rumor is that it was Alvar Aalto who noted this series of small holes reminded him of his grandmothers nickers (isoäidin pitsipöksyt). Tynell's lights are another great example of mood lights. They have often been used in spaces calling for a certain ambience, like cafes, restaurants and movie theaters. On the other hand, they were never renowned for being technologially advanced when compared with the other new arrivals back in the days.

Tähtitaivas by Paavo Tynell for Taito Oy

Even if these two lights are separated by 60 years of age they still work quite nicely together. They both are mood lights, and very appropriate for the bedroom ambience. They also match in terms of color and material, both having a painted matte black exterior surface and a shiny brass interior, which lights up nicely when the light is turned on. Stunning!

The oddball of the bedroom is a ball-shaped light designed by Heikki Turunen from 1970's. Manufactured by Finnish manufacturer Orno, several modifications of this light exist, one of the being this standing version. The round part of this light had actually been designed earlier by an unknown designer. As the design of this light differs significantly from the two other bedroom lights, it wouldn't be surprising if instead of staying here, it would move to some other, more suitable location in the apartment.

Heikki Turunen for Orno

A great example of a functional light is a very anonymous and humble light by Hans Bergström for Swedish company Atelje Lyktan. His table lamp from 1960's, which has a foot stand of black leather, matte black painted share and an adjustable arm, does not stand up too much but located next to the Eames lounge chair, provides a great reading light to a person sitting in the chair.

Table light by Hans Bergstrom for Atelje Lyktan

A pair of lights currently (and unfortunately) in storage, is a pair of Globals by Frank Ligtelijn for Raak from 1960's. Raak has manufactured a wide range of lighting sources including wall and standing lamps as well as hanging models. Designs were often combinations of glass and various metals adding futuristic effect. It is surprising that these two glass balls with 35 cm diameter survived intact from Netherlands to Finland, and subsequently our move from Tapiola to Niittykumpu. We absolutely adore these lights, but as they currently have no set place in our apartment, they are on sale. However, it remains to be seen if we will be able to let this beautiful pair go if (or when) the time comes...

Global by Frank Ligtelijn for Raak

Remember the hunt for the Biny Zodiacs? Well, it has now been ongoing for a few months and as a result we have managed to acquire two more scones. In total, there are now three of Zodiacs in the apartment. Actually there is one more, but as this one is a bit different with a clip it is for sale. We have placed the three Zodiacs to the old electricity sockets found in the ceiling and then tried to find something interesting to light up. The one close to the atrium terrace now emits light to the wooden curtain. The second Zodiac closer to the fireplace has been directed to the Eames house bird, and the third one lights up the two ceramic plates by Lisa Larsson.

Zodiac and the wooden curtain

Zodiac and the House Bird