Monday, June 23, 2014

What’s Inspiring Now in Design

This Week For Your Enjoyment, a Brilliant New and Provocative Vintage Catalog from Obsolete, the great Venice, California gallery.

Obsolete is Showcasing a Rare Collection of Centuries-old Work Tables That Celebrate the Nobility of Hard Work.

Bravo, Ray Azoulay.

Come with me this week on an exciting adventure—discovering great and eccentric old raw-wood tables and benches. They’re elegant, practical, handmade, funky, severe, witty, time-traveling.

See these beauties, and then sit down with me for a private chat with Ray Azoulay, who leads the way with vintage ideas. Let’s see what’s on his mind. 

Ray Azoulay has just created the most thought-provoking and inspiring new catalog, WORK.

The new Obsolete catalog honors and celebrates handsome and highly functional old and antique and …yes, obsolete… hand-wrought work equipment and furniture crafted in massive timber, from around the world. Tables. It’s a bold new perspective in design—and sure to set trends.

They were all site specific, work specific, and made with pride and with a precise purpose. Each is one-of-a-kind…authentic and real.

The pure and classical style of Jesse Stone’s images remind me of Snowdon’s mid-career perfection or even Helmut Newton’s early work. They are sensual yet understated, pure and yet full of emotion and humanity. 

Ray’s concept: superbly crafted workshop or factory furniture with chips and nicks that has withstood the wear of time. These are pieces from another era far away from today’s teched-up world and that makes them so immediately likeable.

They were found all over the world—in dusty attics, in fusty old barns, in forgotten warehouses. They were dusted off a bit, but not touched up. Great.

This is not today's hardedge ‘industrial’ style—but rather a throw- back to the time when worktables or benches or trolleys or multi-functional surfaces were handcrafted from wood. Think of these as pre-industrial’ and timeless. Classic. Rare. Singular.

There are massive raw wood work tables from Belgium and in-their-juice century-old timber pieces Ray trucked back from France. Several pieces were found in an old building in Malibu.

On the pages of the new WORK catalog are startlingly modern old wooden shelving and uncompromisingly functional wood objects.

He’s dug them up and he’s uprooted and dragged back from remote parts of the US—wherever there was a working person defiantly stylish, practical, inventive, original, and good with a hammer and saw. 

The honesty and nobility of this well-designed and humble work equipment make these inspiring. I can see one of the elongated tables taking pride of place in a Neutra-designed living room in LA, or placed with reverence against a blank white wall in an art gallery in New York, or used with a sense of style and irony in a historic house in Houston or a restaurant in San Francisco.

Ray sent me the images of his new gallery pieces—and my head exploded.

Take a close look at Ray’s superb and elegant and truly uplifting new catalog. Admire the photography by Jesse Stone.

Insight and Inspiration: A Chat with Ray Azoulay

I chatted recently with the great and restless and gregarious and inventive and far-seeing Ray Azoulay, the founder of Obsolete.

Here’s what he told me.

“In my past life I lived in New York City as a fashion director for menswear. It was a wonderful learning experience. Then I moved to Venice Beach, California.”

“Obsolete began 13 years ago as a science experiment. My concept was fine art and antiques and vintage all co-existing in wonderful synergy, informing each other and jostling. We found that contemporary artists often were inspired by the past and we had collections from the past. We soon began to see the relationships of these items from the 17th -19th century and the works of artists we represented, the work of Ethan Murrow, Robert and Shana Parke Harrison, Ron Pippin to name a few.”

“Obsolete has continued to evolve in our fine art selections as well as the one of a kind unique pieces.”

“We have been of the belief that this planet really does not need to manufacture one more of anything, not another chair, table, lamp, blue jeans, t-shirt, so we have searched the world for dynamic pieces that are centuries old and have great soul and character. We do not believe in adding to or supporting the design pollution that can be so prolific in so many giant retailers.”

“Everything at Obsolete is considered for form, design, and re-imagined purpose.”

“Its placement, the way it is lit, the way it is photographed. No rules, no procedures, no titles and especially NO MEETINGS. Free to do what we feel is inspiring.”

“We have been motivated by the power of the worldwide web and it's endless potential. We are updating and enhancing our web site weekly, and we connect through so many social media platforms. We try to bring the magic that exists in our four walls to a tablet and iPhone. Our latest catalogs are meant to be read on an iPad or mobile device or the perfect example--THE STYLE SALONISTE.”

“Imagery on the web is so strong and so exciting. We are thrilled to be part of this motion....
We look forward to remaining relevant and inspiring.”

Inside Obsolete: Ray's Great Experiment

When you are in Los Angeles, you must visit:

222 Main Street
Venice, California 90291

Phone: 310.399.0024


All photography used with express permission of Ray Azoulay, Obsolete, Venice Beach, California.

Photos by Jesse Stone, Los Angeles:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Inspiring New Design and Interiors in Mexico Today

I recently discovered the superbly edited and inspiring new design book, LIVING MEXICO CITY, by Marcela Aguilar y Maya. The vivid and richly detailed photography is by Allan Fis.

It was published this spring by teNeues, the German publisher that specializes in books on design, travel, photography, and architecture.

Come with me and see how the author and photographer have captured a richly delineated slice of design and architecture in today’s Mexico—without the clichés. They portray a talented group of architects, designers, and art collectors, and creative talents well-known in Mexico City but hardly known beyond.

In particular I admire the way Fis portrays a range of architectural styles and design approaches while being true to his own direction and point of view.

LIVING MEXICO CITY, with texts in English, German and Spanish, presents lofts, apartments, hidden gardens, sunny new architecture in historic neighborhoods, as well as rooms crammed with collections of books (lots of books), and objects of delight, art, and wit.

My favorite house (and couple) of the 25 Mexico City dwellings in the book is the all-white residence of Ana and Miguel Ángel Aragonés. The rooms and décor are tranquil, monochromatic and crisply framed and modulated, a clear expression of restrained Modernism in a country that worships color, the baroque, and rich embellishment.

Writes, the book author, ”An internationally recognized architect, Miguel Ángel Aragonés’s best showcase is the home he shares with his wife, Ana, and their two children. With uncluttered spaces, double heights, and a minimalist palette, the house was primarily conceived to host friends, especially during barbecues the couple often organizes. Frequent travelers, the Aragonés’ home serves as their oasis among the city’s chaos. Ana’s visual taste—informed by her calm spirit—is seen in the airy ambiance.”

And with their linear purity, white walls act as a gallery for their contemporary art collection, many items of which were specially created for the walls on which they now hang.

A Book of Ideas

The book also includes the dynamic residences of a Buddhist chef, a graphic designer duo, an entertainer, an artist and his wife, and several more architects. There's a restaurateur, and a gallerist, and internationally recognized painters. 

It's the author's eye view—and her friends—that offer a very private tour of an accomplished and focused coterie.

The book is full of surprises. I loved the moody residence of antiques dealer Rodrigo Rivero Lake, which feels like traveling back in time to colonial Mexico or India.

And the book takes the reader on a tour of some of my favorite central Mexico City neighborhoods, including Condesa, Roma, and Polanco.

In Polanco, Rodrigo Lake is renowned for his immense knowledge of Namban art (Japanese works influenced by European colonizers) as well as art produced when Mexico was a Spanish colony. The house is crammed with his wares (it’s the antithesis of the all-white house I show here). Like several of the others portrayed in the book, he is photographed in a yoga pose. Yoga in Mexico City. No wonder these talents all look so calm and so chilled out.

There’s a wonderfully expressive sculptor and his house, and a music composer with his wife, who grows beautiful orchids and paints subtle canvases. And, for a change, the author did not feel a compulsion to publish Frida Kahlo’s house, nor a dash of the great Barragan, or a splash of Diego Rivera. Not in this book.

There’s an art collector in her Legoretta house, and more architects. I loved the artists’ houses—and seeing the collections of antiques, sculpture, paintings, objects, and different ways of living in this intense and cacophonous and vibrant city.

Christina Arellano & Alejandro Escudero (above) originally met in New York City, where Christina left her life as a successful financier to have a family with Alejandro, an interior designer, in Mexico City. 

Writes the book author, “Their home—which could easily be located in Tuscany—has a timeless style that both of them are immensely fond of.

Although every room is perfectly appointed, the interiors are comfortable, fresh, and unpretentious. While each object has a story to tell and every space possesses a certain atmosphere, the whole is harmonious and picturesque.

The ground-floor outdoor space was conceptualized for having company during open- air lunches and nighttime cocktails—for, in addition to being talented designers, Christina and Alejandro are entertainers par excellence.”

In this humanistic and revealing book, the author highlights cosmopolitan residences that speak to the very international nature of Mexico City.

In her introduction, author Marcela Aguilar y Maya notes:

“In residential zones like Las Lomas and San Ángel or apartments and lofts in the central neighborhoods of La Condesa, Roma, and Polanco, the spaces showcased in this book are all authentic, amiable, and very Mexican. If only you could smell what’s cooking within them, you’d surely perceive the delicious aromas of Mexican cuisine. And music? A bolero, the sound of mariachis, or some good jazz. For me, each of these houses is special, and I believe I’ve been in all of them at some point in time, raising a glass to this city of wonders that we all love so much.” 

Allan Fis

About the Photographer:
Allan Fis one of Mexico’s most acclaimed image-makers. His activity developed since 2001, when he graduated from the Universidad Iberoamericana in chemical engineering while simultaneously studying photography at the Escuela Activa de Fotografía. Allan has worked with magazines such as Vogue, GQ, Esquire, and Elle as well as for diverse brands. His first book, Retrato en voz alta (Outloud Portrait), published by AEditores, compiles portraits of twenty-five of Mexico’s most important visual artists. His work has been exhibited both individually and collectively in galleries and museums. He resides in Mexico City with his wife and three children. 

Marcela Aguilar y Maya

About the Author:
Marcela Aguilar y Maya studied graphic design at the Universidad Iberoamericana, specializing in editorial design and photography. She has directed several periodicals, such as Quién, Estilo México, and La Revista and has collaborated with a number of international publications in the areas of travel, architecture, gastronomy, and lifestyle. She is currently the director of the publishing house AEditores. Marcela lives in Mexico City with her two children, where, apart from her publishing company, she devotes herself to photography and publishing artist books, another of her great passions.

Images: All images here are published with the express permission of the publisher and the photographer. Courtesy of teNeues. © Allan Fis.

Photography Assistants: Daniel Zepeda, Salvador Arenas, Jossue Maya at FisFoto
Photography Coordination by Andrea Acuña at FisFoto Photography Post-Production by Antonio Vilchis
Editorial Coordination by Victorine Lamothe
Design by Elle Chyun
Production by nele Jansen, teneues Verlag

Click on the following link to acquire this book:
A link to the Te Neues website:

Special thanks to Allan and to Victorine.