A recent issue of an upscale magazine featured an article about the great fashion icon Georgio Armani focusing chiefly on Armani Casa, the part of his empire dealing with furniture and interior design.
While thumbing through the many illustrations and mentally devouring the accompanying text, I was struck by the similarities between the “great one” and myself in our long-held approach to design. In many ways, we are much the same.
The stunningly brilliant and innovative ideas that came out of Italy and that so influenced me when I first “cut my teeth” in design back in the late ’70s — were among the most wonderful ever; borne out by the fact that they’re now in full resurgence as shown, for example, in Armani Casa. And like Armani, I’ve never followed passing trends (sometimes to my own detriment, I might add); and have remained stalwart as a custom designer. Unlike Armani, I’ve never had to deal with the exigencies of a fashion world that moves considerably faster than interior design.
Yet our goals to create a timeless style, elegant and sophisticated and based on the principles of excellent quality, comfort, functionality and design are very much in sync; with many of my own minimalist forms having preceded Armani’s in the marketplace by a number of years.
Working with shapes, textures, finishes and volumes, taking care to always combine beauty with comfort and function is a philosophy that I’ve tried to apply to everything I do. The spirit of my favorite designers such as the French minimalist Jean-Michel Frank; Tadao Ando, who brilliantly transforms steel and concrete into such exciting things while finding beauty in simplicity; and of course, Le Corbusier, the 20th century architect and trailblazer of modernism, remain strong influences on my own interiors collection that I live with and offer to clients who share a love of elegance and timeless style. In this respect, Armani truly is a kindred spirit.
The type of furniture design that I so revere (like Armani) finds its beauty in form instead of in surface decoration, or “gingerbread” as it’s sometimes called. These are basically geometric forms, probably first embraced by the Greeks of old that remain with us today. What we have come to regard as modern or contemporary has existed for a very long time, giving credence once more to that familiar saying, “everything old is new again.”
The great Greek philosopher Plato declared that when he speaks of beauty of form he means “straight lines and circles, and the plain or solid figures which are formed out of them by turning lathes, rulers and measures of angles; for these I affirm to be not only relatively beautiful, like other things, but they are eternally and absolutely beautiful.” I agree with this assessment wholeheartedly.
I don’t know how many of us realize that Western culture has had a natural inclination towards geometric shapes over nongeometric forms for a very long time; probably because their beauty is superior, timeless and just simply based in pure rational appeal. The qualities expressed in this type of design are economy of line, beauty of proportion and the extreme precision necessary to create furniture of lasting interest.
Now, more than ever, square shapes, rectangles and simple lines appear to be the order of the day for tables, storage units or beds of any kind. It all takes me back to when I began. I was charmed and delighted recently when a client emphatically stated that what she wanted for her new home was “all square furniture.” I’d be going back to my roots and it felt wonderful.
The finishes now are, mostly, shown in dark stained woods like wenge, mahogany and walnut and hardly ever in exotic finishes such as goatskin, lacquer and unusual veneers.
Naturally, these and other specialty finishes that I’m so accustomed to working with are available to those clients who request a more inspired look and one more unique to their personality and home.
Today’s contemporary furniture with its minimalist, geometric forms is so prevalent in design possibly because it’s a reflection of the straightforwardness and order that we’re all looking to manifest in our lives. They are, simply put, functional solutions that are expressed in minimalist designs, thus helping us to define a simpler lifestyle. And amidst the chaos of our time, there’s nothing wrong with that noble pursuit.
For some homeowners, the furniture I’ve described here may seem somewhat oversimplified with its inherent similarity to geometric shapes; they may very well refer to this as “the square, spare and bare period.” Nevertheless, it’s plain to see that the “old” is again visibly influencing the “new.”
Dynamic changes are going on in peoples’ lives and thoughts. And as the Viennese architect, Otto Wagner, observed back in 1894, “a new style consonant with our modern requirements would stress horizontal lines … great simplicity and energetic exhibition of construction and materials.”
Welcome to 2015.