The iconic mid-century designer reflects on life.

contourRocking Vladimir Kagan

 Contour Low Back Lounge Chair | Contour Rocking Chair | Tri-Symmetric Chair | Limbus Glass Top Cabinet all from Vladimir Kagan Classics

I am a huge fan of the mid-century furniture designer Vladimir Kagan. His Contour Low Back Lounge Chair is one of my all time favorite pieces. So I was tickled pink to discover that at the age of 86, Mr. Kagan has a blog! And what a delight it is.

In the simply titled “Vladimir Kagan’s Blog“, Mr. Kagan recounts his extensive travels to world-class design exhibitions, his daily life in both New York and Nantucket, as well as the little things that inspire him:

Fly in flight 7%22

The first fly of the season. – It is not your cozy love affair. More a mutual admiration society – She only likes me because there are crumbs on the kitchen table – my love runs deeper. I love the hum of her flight – it is truly the first sign of summer. For me, it is not the smell of flowers nor the warming sunshine… it is the buzzing sound that brings back early memories

Excerpt and image from The Seagull and the Fly, 6/2/2013, Vladimir Kagan’s blog

The blog is light-hearted and self-effacing as Kagan pokes fun at himself and his status as an “icon”. I seriously laughed out loud at his description of being a “trophy” to be photographed with fans at the Paris design expo Maison & Object.

Kagan’s  wife Erica Wilson was also an amazing designer whose work I admire greatly. Called the “Julia Child of embroidery” she led a rebirth of interest in traditional hand embroidery techniques in America.

Her iconic works are available in kits to be reproduced at home. I am so, so doing this someday.

Four Footed Beasts Erica Wilson  unicorncaptive_lg
Four Footed Beasts in the Garden of Eden and Unicorn in Captivity by Erica Wilson

Rocking chair owned by Vladimir Kagan and Erica Wilson (presumably, crewelwork is done by erica) image via the Selby.


  • Please visit Vladimir Kagan’s blog “Witty observations by Design Icon Vladimir Kagan. This personal blog features one on one encounters with designers, exhibitions, current events and culture.”
  • Vladimir Kagan Classics. Kagan’s official collection of his most iconic works.
  • Erica Wilson Official Website.
  • Vladimir and Erica’s amazing Manhattan home featured in the Selby, 2010.


Medieval and Gothic Influences in Interior Design.

  Tessa Kennedy from The Bedroom, 1995, Abbeville Press 

After the D-Day commemorative celebrations, the next big event on Bayeux’s calendar is its annual Fêtes Médiévales. Taking place this year the 6-7th of July, the festival is a fun family event featuring lots of reenactments, expositions and spectacles de rues all enhanced by the ambiance and beauty of the town’s Medieval Norman Romanesque architecture.

This year’s theme is particularly cool: Medieval builders. In tune with the festival’s theme, I thought it would be fun to do some research to see if there were any design inspirations from the Middle Ages we could use for our Tour without going full Game of Thrones.

Renzo Mongiardino, House & Garden Best in Decoration, 1987

Unfortunately, when I perused the chapter on the Middle Ages in my copy of A History of Interior Design by John Pile, I wasn’t too inspired. What I learned was that Medieval dwellings were sparsely furnished affairs even in the most noble of homes. Furniture was very limited and mostly consisted of three-legged stools, trestle tables and benches. Even chairs as we know them today were very rare during the Middle Ages and served in part as a status symbol of the importance of the person sitting in it.

So where did our idealized notions of Medieval interior design come from? I believe they mostly came from the design movement known as Gothic Revival.

Alexander Jackson Davis’ Lyndhurst Mansion, Tarrytown, New York, circa 1940

Gothic Revival, Victorian Gothic or encore Neo-Gothic was a popular design movement that started in the late 18th century and continued till the early 20th. Previously during the Renaissance, the term “Gothic” had been used pejoratively as a connotation of ignorance and all things Medieval were held in particular disdain. In contrast, the Gothic Revival mirrored a new interest in the Middle Ages as architects like Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (later succeeded by his son EW Pugin) in England and Alexander Jackson Davis in the United States, revisited the visual themes of  Medieval architecture by applying them to new constructions, furniture design and home decor. Thus, Gothic Revival interior design borrowed inspiration from the central motifs and lines of high gothic architecture such as castles and cathedrals and not from real interiors of the Middle Ages.



        Alexander Jackson Davis, wheel-back side chair, 1842-45 via NY Times | A pair of Victorian Gothic side chairs circa 1880 from Christie’s | Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, Glastonbury chair, 1839,  V&A Collections | EW Pugin, The Granville Chair, 1870 via Arts & Crafts Org.UK | 19th century Rustic French trestle coffee table from Ancient Point | Pair of Canadian rustic Gothic Revival Benches, circa 1880’s via 1stdibs

What I find so interesting about the above examples of furniture is the variety of styles that exists within the genre. From the intricate high design and production of Davis’ wheel chair to the rustic folk pieces pictured at bottom, Gothic Revival was deeply entrenched in the public psyche and influenced designers and craftsman of all backgrounds. The two chairs featured in the middle column are particularly interesting. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin created the Glastonbury chair based on designs of one of the rare known chairs in existence during medieval times, while his son EW’s Granville chair is a combination of Grecian and Gothic lines suggesting more of a fusion of styles. The Gothic Revival greatly influenced the later Arts & Crafts design movement and the Granville chair reflects both. (more…)


Adding trim tile for that vintage effect.

PicMonkey Collage6 Top left: Bathroom by Clay Squared to Infinity image via Houzz  |Top right: Bathroom by Good Home Construction | Bottom left: Bathroom by Bungalow Tile image via Apartment Therapy | Bottom right: Bathroom by Good Home Construction

We won’t be going over the top trying to be historically accurate to any set period in our vintage bathroom renovation. Instead, it will probably be a mix of Art Deco and bungalow styled bathroom details.

One area that I’m particularly obsessed about, however, is the tile. As I mentioned, we want to do white subway tiles with beveled edges like the ones found in the Parisian Metro. And it would be great to be able to add some classic retro trim details like the examples here.

347423b8f1d8d48fc4bee19b874bba42   0fbcea69af76e8aed479bfed1f7f6681
barber-stations Art Deco motif shower | Mint subway tile bathroom | Vintage barber shop with subway tile. Credits unknown.
romanwilliams12bpw-5-web Roman and Williams

The above image is work by design gods Roman and Williams. The detail here is crazy amazing. The design duo had the tiles specially made for Ben Stiller’s home bathroom renovation. The tiles are now commercially available through their creative partnership with Waterworks.

To evoke American athletic clubs of an era past, Alesch and Standefer sought tile that looked like it had been soaking up steam for a century — not the typical glossy, looks-new subway tile. So the designers worked with Waterworks to create a custom tile with an aged patina. “It’s a surface that looks a little like bone or stained teeth,” Alesch said of the variations in the tile. “The fire really caramelizes the glaze.” They also designed a decorative tile that avoided the “pregnant molding” syndrome of so many tile collections. “We wanted the decorative tile to lie flat, not bulge out like cake frosting,” he said.

LA Times

*Sigh*. While we won’t be developing our own “aged patina”, I will be trying to source some vintage tile components to add to the mix.



Inspiration from a Danish Castle and an iconic furniture company’s photo shoot.

Republic of Fritz Hansen Republic of Fritz Hansen

Republic of Fritz Hansen is the legendary Danish furniture design company whose designers included Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjærholm, Piet Hein and Hans J. Wegner. The above photo shoot featuring Poul Kjærholm’s PK31 furniture set is a real stunner. While the location of this shoot is fantastically beautiful, the styling also shows the transformative powers great design and amazing furniture can have.

With our apparent stone walls and exposed ceilings, we will also need to insulate parts of our Tour to keep us warm from the chilly Normand weather. Although reclaimed wood walls are lovely, we might also want to add traditional moulded wood casings just to the walls that touch the street side exterior. As I was looking over the design inspirations I had collected, I made a funny realisation; they were all coming from the same place!

Poppins from Sweden has a lovely blog featuring her beautiful photography and other projects. On a trip to Denmark she took the above shoots of Selso Slots Castle and added this description:

Today the house is still empty and has no decoration, only stripped walls and floors, a few bits of wallpaper and wall paintings”

 Left side images: Poppins’ Garden | Right side: Republic of Fritz Hansen

Low and behold, as I was looking at Poppins’ pictures, I realized I had seen this cadre before. Yes, this post is just proof that I really do spend too much time looking at pretty pictures on the internet.

Other posts you might like:

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Beautiful examples of exposed ceilings and some things to consider.

Mikkel AdsbolImage Mikkel Adsbol

We’ve been discussing a lot lately how we want to treat our exposed ceiling beams. The big question is whether we want to expose the joists as well.

The above photo shows a traditional configuration of exposed beams and joists which has been plastered in between in the spaces. It’s also in the traditional dark wood color you see in a lot of Normand homes.

While I love the look of dark wood beams, some think that the dark wood makes the room dank and the ceiling feel lower.  My main concern here, however, is that this open treatment will not provide enough sound and heat insulation between the floors.


Another possibility, like shown above, is to use dry wall between the joists. The look is cleaner and some additional insulation can be added. This image is actually drywall under the floor boards, so it’s not really the technique we’d use if we went with this option. As our joists are very narrowly spaced, applying drywall between each of the joists just seems like a LOT of work.

However, seeing the joists is beautiful and we might use this option for the main living space. Also, a splash of color between the joists like the yellow below could be fun too.

saraessexbradley5   ac3c50112742f3d8ee83c6c48c1cbde5 Left: Image Sara Essex Bradley | Right: Interior design Axel Vervoordt

Another color option we see a lot of lately is white. When done in a distressed manner like below, it can be quite beautiful and add to the perceived height of the ceiling.

Axel VervoordtInterior design Axel Vervoordt

Now, the other easier option would be to just dry wall between the support beams. This means that we would be covering up the joists. Aside from being simpler to install, it has the added benefit of being able to further house insulation and electrical work. The image below left  also looks like the beams were treated with oxalic acid which gives them a grey, almost driftwood like appearance.

7ef44d4b4146fa000b55d12abd23da23  saraessexbradley26   Left: Image Brigitta Wolfgang Drejer via Australian Design Review | Right: Image Sara Essex Bradley

Or instead of dry wall we could cover up the joists with wood slats.

stainless stell kitchen with white washed exposed beams Magdalena Bjornsdotter

In the end, our ceiling might resemble something like below. Though maybe not that color.

cuisine-aurelie-mathigotEric Flogny via Marie Claire Maison

I really, really like the treatment below. Noma restaurant in Copenhagen is a 3 time number 1 champ from The World’s 50 best Restaurants list. I really like the color of the wood and the use of bulb lights between the beams instead of the usual imbedded spotlights. Those chairs are awesome too.

da634472e5747436b0691fc0db31ad49 Noma restaurant. Image via Sochictravels



Is this beautiful or what?

l2p1t7Image via Dusty Deco

Stockholm based vintage design store Dusty Deco has a collection of the most impossibly beautiful design inspiration images. This photo above probably started me on my double basin bathroom sink obsession.

I finally had the time to add a couple of new posts, and they’re all about bathrooms. It’s really quite premature however, since as I mentioned in this post, we don’t even have a working bathroom in our Tour yet. We’re still kicking around a lot of ideas and when the time finally comes, who knows, maybe we’ll go in a completely different direction. Oh well, it’s fun to dream.

  • More images of this beautiful 19th century house in Antwerp, Belguim owned by Bert Verschueren and Vincent Defontainers via Remodelista.
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