greta grossman show coming to pasadena in october

pair of Greta Grossman Cobra table lamps with twin fixtures for Ralph O. Smith, Burbank CA

Okay, time to mark the calendars!

The show “Greta Magnusson Grossman: A Car and Some Shorts” will travel to the Pasadena Museum of California Art and be on exhibit October 28, 2012 – February 24, 2013. It’s the first comprehensive museum exhibition for this iconic 20th century designer and architect who started in Sweden and worked for much of her career in California.

The exhibit originated at the Swedish Museum of Architecture in 2010, and is currently in Oklahoma at the Price Tower Arts Center. Can’t wait until the show arrives in California!

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sam maloof at the huntington

During this week’s installment of California Design Road Trip, I managed to swing by the Huntington Museum near Pasadena and take in the Sam Maloof show “The House that Sam Built”. It did not disappoint in the least.

The show featured pieces from throughout Sam’s career alongside works that Sam and Alfeda Maloof collected from their artist friends in the Pomona area. It was a great idea for a show and gave context for both the furniture and the art that enhanced the experience of seeing it.

One of the super nice docents said that if Sam had been at the show that he would have been going nuts, since people weren’t allowed to touch the furniture. He wanted people to be able to feel it and appreciate it by touching it as well as by looking at it. Luckily they had a Maloof lounge chair made of maple and ebony from 1984 that was available for people to sit in. I gave it a whirl and it was hard to imagine a more comfortable chair. Amazing!

maloof string chair

"string" chair and plywood and walnut coffee table, both from 1950 with some rad Natzler hanging around

Maloof's 1952 chair "after Wegner"

after wegner chair 02

detail of the "after Wegner" chair - I love the dovetailing on the back

rough chair seat showing the five strips of wood that are used in the chair's construction

form progression

forms showing the progression of a chair arm (from the bottom up)


jigs for the backs of different chair designs

mcintosh grouping

a grouping of sublime Harrison McIntosh pots

woolley box

really cool Ellamarie and Jackson Woolley enamel top box


more pieces by Sam's Pomona area pals - two paintings by Doug McClellan, another McIntosh piece, 1956 stoneware by Rupert Deese (hard to see in this pic but great shapes) and a beautiful Bob Stocksdale bowl

That was a great show. OK, now we need to go take a tour of his house.

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schindler house in west hollywood

After the LAMA auction preview I had some time, so I headed towards Hollywood from Van Nuys via Laurel Canyon Blvd. This took me kind of near the Schindler house on King’s Road in West Hollywood, where I had wanted to visit the Esther McCoy exhibit and see the house. Since it was Monday the show was supposed to be closed, but I figured I would swing by and at least see the outside of the house.

I found King’s Road and pulled over when I saw a space, which turned out to be right in front. After cautiously walking up the steps I learned that the exhibit was indeed open – woo hoo! I ponied up seven dollars and except for a video monitor playing an interview with Esther McCoy I was all alone. This time I had my camera ready so I took a lot of shots.

The King’s Road house was designed and built by R.M. Schindler for his wife Pauline and another couple in 1921. He was inspired after camping in California to create a modern living and working environment that evoked the feel of a communal campsite.

Come on in!



one of the fireplaces inside


an exterior fireplace


"sleeping baskets" on the roof are where you conk out for the night under an open platform with canvas to protect from the rain





Schindler’s King’s Road house is now widely considered to be the first truly modern house. It’s made of concrete, glass and wood. No trim, paint or stylistic decoration. His spatial compositions and the layout of the house are magnificent – it’s really unlike any other house I’ve been in.

He had furniture too of course! I especially love the wooden cube chair:



 For more info, please visit the MAK Center Schindler House web site.

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even more california design road trip

On this trip I was also hoping to get to visit:

I know, pretty ambitious. However, it was a Monday the day after we went to the LACMA California Design show. Almost all of the other museums on that list of Pacific Standard Time hot spots were not open for business. (Or so I thought… more on that later. )

All was not lost however – LA Modern Auctions was having a preview all week for their Dec 11th Modern Design auction! So I figured out where Van Nuys was and first thing Monday morning headed out there to check it out.

I was not disappointed. The auction featured a vast range of furniture, design and art, including some major museum-worthy pieces.

In some ways the LAMA preview was more satisfying than the LACMA show, believe it or not. For one thing, there were fewer iconic and well-known pieces at the preview. Don’t get me wrong, people need to see the “hits” and the LACMA show of course had an educational angle as its primary focus.

It was just really cool to leisurely examine up-close some great pieces like a hyper-rare Prouve Antony chair, three Maloof tables, more rare Grossman tables, a bunch of Cressey and Stan Bitters ceramics, a MASSIVE Natzler vase (estimate was 100K on that one) along with some exquisite smaller Natzler pieces, uh… it went on and on. Oh yeah, plus they had their *own* Raymond Loewy Avanti Studebaker up for auction! And this one had been owned by Loewy to boot.

They also had a really nice pair of Bruce Nauman lithographs that I wish I had a time machine to go back and bid on, since they didn’t go for too much.


I did get to the “Crosscurrents” show at the Getty the next day, which was great, and have two pieces of wisdom: 1) be sure to go later in the day so as to avoid the roaming gangs of noisy school kids on a field trip and 2) resin art is really cool in person!

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more california design road trip

After the California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way” show on Sunday, we hopped across Wilshire and took in two smaller California design shows at CAFAM, the Craft and Folk Art Museum.

First was The Golden State of Craft: California 1960-1985. Highlights included an Espenet Wishbone chair, JB Blunk’s saucy “Mr. Peanut” and some fine Natzler and Marguerite Wildenhain ceramic pieces. Quite a small show after the dense LACMA show, but any room with the above heavy hitters in it is alright with me.

We also breezed through the June Schwarcz enamels show on the next floor down since at this point our collective retinal stimulus was pretty maxed, and even though she had some great pieces, we were done for the day. (Above is a picture of an enamel bowl of hers from the LACMA show.)

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california design road trip

Events took us to the L.A. area earlier this month, and so it was a perfect opportunity to take in some of the museum exhibitions that are part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980. This massive project was initiated by the Getty Center and Getty Research Institute as a call to arms to gather and preserve archival material pertaining to post-war modern design, art and architecture in Southern California before it got scattered to the four winds. Go archives!

Destination #1 (and the top one on my list) on Sunday the 4th was the California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way” show at LACMA. Here’s a picture of the catalog, which is highly recommended:


I was a good boy and obeyed LACMA’s notice that photography was not allowed in special exhibition halls, so I left my groovy new Sony NEX-5N camera at home and don’t have any pictures of my own to post. It turned out that photography *was* allowed and the shutterbugs were going nuts in there. Oh well!

The show was not super huge but very dense and compact like a good double espresso. The show’s curators did a really great job of hitting all the iconic pieces and references you would expect (like Eames and Neutra) and at the same time covering less well-known creators like David Cressey and Olga Lee (whom some will know as Mrs. Milo Baughman).

One of my faves was a large vase by F. Carlton Ball:

carlton ball vase

There was a low chest by Mabel Hutchinson that was superb. Incredible Greta Grossman pieces included the iconic Grasshopper lamp along with a floor version of the Cobra lamp with shade and reflector. Great Grossman desk too.

Spent some quality time grooving (with my eyes only, of course) on this lounge chair by Arthur Espenet Carpenter:

espenet chair

There was a re-creation of the living room for the Eames Case Study House. Maybe because it was behind glass and off-limits it seemed a little sterile, which is the opposite of what I imagined the Eames’ living room to be like. Or maybe it was the fake plants. In any case it was cool to see but not really a highlight for me.

When you stop and think about the range of the show (furniture! ceramics! architecture! fashion! cars and jewelry! graphic design!) it really seems impossible but they pulled it off. I liked how they included hard-to-find furniture by Neutra and Schindler, like this chair by Schindler for Sardi’s Restaurant:

schindler chair

The show is deep deep deep and is up through March 20th, 2012.

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I like it, whatever it is (#2)

wicker iron floor lamp

About a year ago I bought this lamp at the most excellent reform gallery in L.A. – I couldn’t resist the cool woven wicker and the shape of the shade combined with the three hairpin iron legs. Plus it has a great vibe when it’s lit up on a dark night.

It looks delicate but it is surprisingly strong. It has managed to withstand any interaction with our cats so far.

It stands about two feet tall and has no markings that I can find. I am guessing it dates from the 70’s but really it’s hard to say.

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the laugh riot that was interiors magazine

Well, it’s actually pretty subtle, but I enjoyed coming across this very amusing old school flame war between the architect William Everitt and the editor Francis de N. Schroeder in the August 1952 issue of Interiors magazine. As time marches on you forget that people really knew how to write back then.

The next time I disagree with someone I am going to be sure and denigrate their teeth!

interiors letter

I had to look up what the word “pyorrhea” means, so if you are like me and don’t know, here is the definition: “purulent inflammation of the sockets of the teeth leading usually to loosening of the teeth”. Snap!

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I like it, whatever it is (#1)


A couple of years ago I got this iron catch-all that I was intrigued by. I really like its shape, color and patina.

Currently it serves as the mail catcher under our mail slot. Its original purpose may have been as an ashtray with sand loaded in the conical bowl.

It’s about three feet tall and has no markings except for an enigmatic “18” on the bottom of the base.

catch-all base bottom closeup

I have no idea where or when it is from but we dig it!

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hawaiian holiday


During our visits to Honolulu we have always enjoyed discovering the bounty of unusual cool mid-century architectural elements that they have there. Concrete seemed to be a popular medium of expression in the 60’s and we applaud it.

So on one of our O’ahu excursions we drove past the Hawaiian Holiday Apartments at 1420 Wilder Ave. in lower Makiki and went “Whoa!” – and then had to figure out what we saw. We knew it was a cool concrete facade to a downright bleak apartment building, but that was all we knew.

After some poking around we discovered that the facade for the Hawaiian Holiday Apartments was created by an artist named Hon-Chew Hee around 1962. It’s a three-story tall piece that was created in sections with the help of some assistants in his back yard, then arranged into place like a big puzzle. It’s really cool and we are very glad it is still around.


(There is an excellent book entitled “Sculpture in the Sun” by Georgia and Warren Radford from 1978 that documents this piece and other outdoor sculptures in Honolulu. We scored our copy at Jelly’s.)

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