Tag Archives: interior design

Friday Finds: Fireplaces

For the past couple of weeks, I have been contemplating the transmission of ideas as it relates to architecture. While browsing Special Collections, I found several books on fireplaces – two catalogs, one a history, and the last a reprint of an eighteenth-century pattern book – that provide another opportunity to think a bit further about ideas on the move.

Architectural Decorating Company (Chicago, Ill.). Fireplaces: catalog no. 101. Chicago: Architectural Decorating Company, [19–].

The writer of the catalog proclaims the importance of the fireplace to any American home:

For ages at the twilight hour humans have drawn together at the firelight’s cheerful glow. In habitations throughout the centuries, the fireplace has received special attention, and some of the loveliest art of all ages has been lavished upon it.

Today, thanks to modern methods of production, the best of classic mantel designs from various periods are available to every home. For the bungalow or palace, there is an appropriate mantel in cast stone whose lines will focus the very spirit of the home into a glowing shrine about which the family may gather. (pg. 19)

Each page is dedicated to a single fireplace with a black and white photograph, measurements, molding profile, and an identified style. The styles include Louis XIV, XV, and XVI, Adam, Colonial, Tudor, Georgian, Italian, and several variations on the theme of Renaissance. The intended audience of the catalog is builders and architects. The writer notes “They [fireplaces] help close sales.” (pg. 1)

Young & Martin, Ltd., London. The HUE (Heat, Utility, Economy) adaptable barless fire; a book of designs for discriminating home-lovers. 15th ed. [London? 19–?].

The second catalog comes from a British company in which a new type of stove can be placed into an existing fireplace. Accordingly:

The “HUE” has been placed before the public as an Easy, Inexpensive and Efficient method of converting the old-fashioned, coal-wasting type of grate into a modern barless stove, possessing all the advantages of the very latest improvements in open grates without the necessity of pulling down mantelpieces and removing existing stoves. (pg. 2)

The models are assigned one or two to a page, accompanied by measurements, a rendering – some reproduced in color – materials and finish. Unlike the catalog from the Architectural Decorating Company, the target audience appears to be the general public. Some of the illustrations, for example, create atmosphere and context so that the customer would not have to imagine how the fireplace might look in their homes. The cover includes an illustration of the “glowing shrine” as described in the previous catalog. Furthermore, Young & Martin, Ltd. refrain from architectural styles, preferring to bestow names onto their fireplaces like “Hampton” or “Windsor.”

Our copy is well worn. A previous owner sketched a ruler onto the rendering of the “Henley.”

Pgs. 14-15

Rothery, Guy Cadogan. English chimney-pieces, their design and development from the earliest times to the nineteenth century; with an architectural notice by A. L. Kocher. New York, Architectural Book Publishing Co. [1927].

Guy Cadogan Rothery provides a brief history of the fireplace from the medieval period to the nineteenth century, followed by an extensive photo essay and accompanied with some architectural drawings of fireplaces. Our copy of English Chimney-Pieces belonged to J. A. Sherman of Ipswich with an associated date of August 1928. After a bit of research, I was not able to positively identify Sherman as an architect. A previous owner of the book, whether Sherman or otherwise, taped a drawing of a fireplace into the front end papers of the work.

Langley, Batty. 1750. The city and country builder’s and workman’s treasury of designs: or, The art of drawing and working the ornamental parts of architecture. Illustrated by upwards of four hundred … designs … engraved on one hundred and eighty-six copper-plates, for piers, gates, doors [etc.] … With an appendix of fourteen plates of trusses for girders and beams, different sorts of rafters, and a variety of roofs, &c. To which are prefixed, the five orders of columns, according to Andrea Palladio … The whole interspersed with sure rules for working all the varieties of raking members in pediments, modillions, &c. … By B. L. Boston: Boston Architectural Club, 1922.

Of the four books, the reprint issued by the Boston Architectural Club of B. Langley’s architectural drawings for various decorative elements – including fireplaces – is my favorite. Our copy is part of the Paul Cret collection.  While the work is a facsimile of an eighteenth-century work, it also includes extensive advertisements often associated with a trade publications. I find the juxtaposition of these two elements speaks to both historical practice and need.

Stuff and Things: Better Homes and Gardens

Better Homes & Gardens Decorating Book. Des Moines: Meredith Pub. Co., 1956.

Front Cover
Front Cover

The staff at APL is in the process of reviewing our circulating collection. During this process, we sometimes come across a gem. The Better Homes & Gardens Decorating Book from 1956 is one of those. The photographs and graphics are amazing, making the book well worth a look. I recognize parts of my grandparents’ house in it. If you are researching interior design and decorating during the 1950s and 1960s, this book is a great primary source. It’s a how-to-manual for the home owner without a decorator.

Back Cover
Back Cover

New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library: Collecting

This week, I am highlighting new books on collections- of various sorts.

Karch, Fritz, Rebecca Robertson, Jen Renzi. Collected: Living with the Things You Love. Abrams: New York, 2014.

CollectedKarch and Robertson explain their motivation behind Collected:

We yearned for a forum to relate these design methods to a wider audience. To showcase the scope of possibilities for displaying, arraying, and repurposing collectibles- be they museum quality bibelots or garden variety knickknacks. To demonstrate how to live with antiques and vintage objects in an elevated manner, no matter one’s personal style and aesthetic preferences. To share inspiring examples of how collections can infuse and inform the surrounding decor- and how that decor can in turn act as a beautiful foil those objects. And thus Collected was born. (pg. 8)

Karch and Robertson identify fifteen personalities with regards to collecting: Modest-ist, Exceptionalist, Minimalist, Maximalist, Miniaturist, Colorist, Neutralist, Machinist, Zoologist, Containerist, Artificialist, Naturalist, Seasonalist, Pragmatist, and Fantasist. They examine the traits common to each type of collection and collector, the motivations driving a specific personality to collect, and how the collections might be displayed. The illustrations focus on the collections themselves, primarily photographed in situ. As I was looking through the book, I was surprised (not surprised) to see Henry Mercer’s Fonthill included.

Terragni, Emilia, ed. Room: Inside Contemporary Interiors. New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2014.


According to the preface:

ROOM features 100 interior-design projects from around the world chosen by 10 widely respected interior-design critics, practitioners and curators. The 100 designs featured in this volume, all of which were constructed in the last five years, are pushing the boundaries of design and constantly revising our understanding of interior space. (pg. 7)

Room is bookended with the 10 biographies of the curators and the 100 biographies of the designers. Nacho Alegre, Michael Boodro, Tony Chambers, Aric Chen, Frederico Durarte, Miles Kemp, Ko Matsubara, Jon Otis, Robert Thiemann, and Alan Yau were chosen as the curators of design; interestingly, all men. I am also intrigued by the use of “curator.”

The majority of the projects represent retail/commercial spaces, residential spaces, and restaurants/bars; followed by  installations, offices, hospitality spaces, and cultural/civic spaces; and finally, a few outliers- clinics, a yacht, a religious space, and a night club. Each project is accompanied by a description written by the curator who selected it and a series of both photographs and drawings of the spaces.

Friday Finds: Source Books for Woodwork and Terra Cotta

Each of the following companies presents their products differently, both visually and textually, which led me to speculate about the intended audiences.

Universal Catalogue Bureau. Universal Millwork Design Book No. 20. Dubuque, IA: Universal Catalogue Bureau, 1920.

It’s a no nonsense book. It begins with a brief introduction and instructions for ordering. Accordingly:

In compiling this design book, we have endeavored, as far as possible to meet the requirements of the prospective home builder, as well as architect, contractor, and dealer, and in so doing, have eliminated a great number of superfluous designs, limiting the book to what we, after careful study, consider Universal Designs.

The designs shown are not mere creations of a fanciful mind but are practical designs that have been carefully selected and approved. (pg. 5)

The products are arranged largely by department, and a color rendering of an interior room highlighting a specific element such as a door, staircase, or mantel introduces some of the sections. If a rendering is present, a short explanation about the importance of the feature is included.  Aside from the mantels and staircases, most of the products in the catalog are presented free from context; rather, they float on the page. Brief descriptions also accompany the products suggesting certain styles or rooms for which it might be appropriate. Arguably, it falls to the purchaser to envision how the particular element would look in the home.

This copy of Universal Millwork Design Book No. 20 does not have a donor associated with it; however, it does have indications of use. On the back endpapers, a cabinet and window were sketched. Throughout the book, notations (often names), measurements, or alterations to the design were made.  Another interesting aspect of this particular copy is that it was produced with or for the Steves Sash & Door Co. of San Antonio. At this time, it is unclear to me what the relationship is between the Universal Catalogue Bureau and this local company.

Curtis Companies. Architectural Interior and Exterior Woodwork Standardized: The Permanent Furniture for Your Home[Clinton, IA.]: The Curtis Companies, [c1920]. From Joe Gutherie. 

Unlike the Universal Millwork, Curtis Companies undertook great effort to contextualize their products. The company introduces four styles- Colonial, Southern, English, or Western- to which their products could be adapted. Each style has a lengthy description which also includes color renderings of the interior and exterior and suggestions for which pieces to consider. The catalog is arranged both by room (living room) and product type (windows). Like Universal Millwork, each section is introduced by a color rendering and a description regarding the importance of that particular feature in the home. Each of the pieces are contextualized with a sketch of the element in situ, associated with one or more of the styles, and accompanied with a description.  The company even notes that it can help when one lacks an architect.

If there is no architect available to help you in working out your problems, the Curtis dealer will do it for you. He will give you sound advice on the advantages and disadvantages of using certain materials and information as to their relative cost and procurability. Tell him your ideas, your desires, your troubles. He is worthy of your confidence….

If this book helps you to know and select correct architectural woodwork for your home, it will have done its part to help you obtain a home that will endure “as long as human work at its strongest can be hoped to stand.” And the Curtis trademark…will symbolize, to you, as time goes on, woodwork which helps immeasurably to make the center of your world, to you, the loveliest spot on earth. (pg, 6)

Even without the reassuring text about the Curtis dealer, the catalog itself suggests that the Curtis Companies sought to reach a much broader audience than that intended for the Universal Millwork. One has to do much less work to envision oneself surrounded by Curtis Companies woodwork.

The Northwestern Terra Cotta Company. The Northwestern Terra Cotta Company, Chicago[Chicago: The Company, 190-?]. From the Ayres and Ayres Collection.

Unlike the two woodwork catalogs, this catalog presents itself as a portfolio of the company’s work. While they do include instructions on how to request estimates and the information the company needs to produce architectural terra cotta pieces for you, the book itself is primarily examples of the company’s previous work. After a brief history and the advantages of terra cotta, the company highlights their accomplishments and process:

WE PRESENT THIS CATALOG TO OUR PATRONS, not in an attempt to repeat or resell that which already has been done, but to show in some degree what has been accomplished, and the approval standard methods that have been evolved….We omit the usual catalog sheets with all kinds of ornamental stock work, as it is impossible to meet even a small fraction of the ever varying demands, as to style and dimensions, of the long list of architectural features. When desired, we shall attempt to find stock molds approximately corresponding with designs submitted and will send photographs and drawings of such features as we have for approval. (pg. 3)

While the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company may have stock pieces, their catalog is intended to generate custom work from architects as opposed to the stock products carried by the Curtis Companies or the Universal Millwork, which could be purchased by anyone constructing a house.

New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library: Heart and Home

Linda O’Keeffe. Heart and Home: Rooms that Tell Stories. New York: Rizzoli, 2014.

The journalist, Linda O’Keeffe invites her readers of Heart and Home into the houses and spaces of various professionals of the art and design world. She writes:

Each person featured in this volume feels a strong affection for their possessions, and while most are avid consumers none is fettered to the material world. (pg. 5)

Each chapter explores the narratives of the individual collectors, reflecting on childhood experiences & interests, education, work, partners, and how they interact with space, color, and the objects themselves. The titles of the chapters are intriguing quotes from those interviewed. I was attracted to “Antonio Pio Sarcino: It’s Nurturing to Be Alone in My Own Mind, I Mean, World”, “Marjorie Skouras: Dressing Dinner Tables from Target and Tiffany’s”, and “Philip Michael Wolfson: I’m a Minimalist at Heart but I need to Touch Everything”.

The photographed spaces appear as carefully constructed testaments of their owners. I was surprised by my reaction to the spaces. I appreciated some for their design, while others produced a decidedly negative response. Even the spaces that I appreciated did not feel like home- beautiful perhaps, but not comfortable. Perhaps this feeling is a reflection of O’Keeffe’s closing remark in her introduction:

At the end of the day the colors we respond to and the objects we love reveal who we intrinsically are. They paint our portrait and write our biography. (pg. 5)

New Books at the Architecture & Planning Library: Identity and Interior Design

Interior design is based on expectations and aspirations of how the inhabitants of a space will live and behave.  In this way interior design not only reflects the lifestyle of the inhabitants, it can be used to project personality traits the inhabitants wish to convey. Several new books at the Architecture & Planning Library this week focus on the fascinating intersection of interior design with personal identity.

Biography, Identity and the Modern Interior edited by Anne Massey and Penny Sparke is a collection of essays that consider the historical insights that can be gleaned from investigating the lives of individuals, groups, and interiors. The authors use case studies to explore the history of the interior as a site in which everyday life is experienced and the ways in which architects and interior designers draw on personal and collective histories in their practice.


Bachelors of a Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern Interior by John Potvin examines the ambivalent and uncomfortable position bachelors have held in society by considering the complicated relationships between the modern queer bachelor and interior design, material culture, and aesthetics in Britain between 1885 and 1957. The author discusses the interiors of Lord Ronald Gower, Alfred Taylor, Oscar Wilde, Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, Edward Perry Warren and John Marshall, Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton.

Ron Arad: Another Twist in the Plot with text by Anatxu Zabalbeascoa is the catalog from a 2013 exhibition of the work of architect and designer Ron Arad, that includes photographs and sketches of some of his most iconic works as well as several mock-ups and architectural projects. Arad considers himself to be a self-taught designer with an approach to form and structure based on freedom from tradition and convention.  ‘The principle is that everything should be based on something that didn’t exist before’, says Arad.


*Click the title of any book in this post to link directly to the library catalog.

New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library 9/23/14

We’ve got so many great new books this week, it was hard to choose! Here are three I didn’t want to put down:

The Air From Other Planets: A Brief History of Architecture to Come by Sean Lally is an intriguing discussion of the future of architecture as the design of energy. In the introduction Lally asks “Instead of thinking of architecture as a mass of inert and ossified energy–even stone and steel were not always solid masses–standing as walls in opposition to their surroundings and carving out interior space, why not look to intensify those very energy systems we know are capable of creating microclimates and distinct ecosystems so as to make them architectural materials in themselves?” (p14).  This book is a great read for anybody interested in interactive design.

Superkilen: A Project by Big, Topotek 1, Superflex edited by Barbara Steiner takes the reader through the design and construction of the multi award winning one kilometer long urban space located in an ethnically diverse neighborhood of Denmark. This book includes interviews with architects and residents, plans, maps, drawings, photographs, and an index of objects used in the project. Superkilin is sure expand your perception of the possibilities of public spaces.

Spa-De: Space and Design 19 published by Artpower is a fun source of inspiration for your next design project.  This book covers design projects from Europe, North America, and Australia completed in 2011 and 2012. Projects are presented in three sections: “Lighting Graphics,”  “Elaborately Designed Food Shops,”  and “World Spatial Design.” The beautiful large color photographs, site plans and elevations are described in Japanese and English.  Some of my favorite projects from the book are pictured below.

*Clicking the title of any book in this post will link you directly to the library catalog.

Semester Recap: “Inside Modern Texas: the Case for Preserving Interiors”

The Spring 2014 semester was an incredibly exciting one at the Architecture & Planning Library – especially for events! My personal favorite brought together multiple facets of the library and beyond: Emily Ardoin’s curation of the exhibition “Inside Modern Texas: the Case for Preserving Interiors.”

Beginning as a Graduate Research Assistant appointment in the Fall 2013 semester, Emily, a recent May 2014 Master of Science in Historic Preservation graduate, was tasked with the goal of pulling together an exhibition for the Architecture & Planning Library’s Reading Room that would be on display from early April through September 2014. This was no easy task, as she started completely from scratch! For inspiration on finding a topic, she sifted through myriad issues of Interiors magazine, Texas Architect, and more journals from the Architecture and Planning Library. Ultimately, Emily utilized her Interior Design background and Historic Preservation studies to create an exhibition topic that was specific enough to pin down a clear focus, yet broad enough to include a wide array of archival materials from the library and Alexander Architectural Archive.

The end result was “Inside Modern Texas: the Case for Preserving Interiors,” which aligned perfectly with the Society of Architectural Historian’s Annual Conference, held in Austin in April. We were lucky enough to go behind the scenes with Emily in the final weeks of her curation process. The exhibit’s opening reception on April 10th brought together conference visitors, library and archive employees, UT professors, students of myraid majors, and more.

Emily’s exhibition is a visual testiment to the incredible depth of resources available for researchers at the Architecture & Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archive, as well as the vital research endeavors that are created from endowments and scholarships. Says head librarian Beth Dodd:

“We are always looking for ways to enhance the student experience, and curating an exhibit is an incredibly rigorous process that demands thorough research, careful selection and interpretation of materials, and exhibit design,” says Dodd.  “The endowment created by the late Professor Blake Alexander now enables us to offer our students this funded internship.”

Now, as we approach the official first day of summer, we want to remind you that “Inside Modern Texas” is on display in the Reading Room until September! We can’t think of a better way to beat the heat than to go on the beautiful visual journey that Emily has curated for us.

in full COLOUR

Looking for some design inspiration or perhaps an exciting summer read?  Check out  in full COLOUR: Recent Buildings and Interiors with projects selected by Dirk Meyerhöfer. This book documents a wide variety of projects where use of color, either of colored surfaces, colored light, or both, has a transformative effect on the built environment. These projects illustrate the remarkable power of color in architecture to define and organize space, and to create an emotional response.  Perception of color is both personal and social; the colors we see are a result of our brain processing physical stimuli from our eyes through the filter of our cultural experience, which means each person’s experience of color is unique. This might make a less daring designer hesitate, but as the projects in this book illustrate, the bold use of color activates and energizes the built environment. In the introduction Meyerhöfer says “through the warmth or coolness of a given colour…or through the choice of several, interrelated colour families, a building can be endowed with a ‘soul.'” If this seems like a stretch, choose the image below that most appeals to you. Now try to imagine the space with only neutral colors, or with entirely different colors. How does your experience, or your feelings about the space  change?

Vertical Gardens

The arrival of spring compelled me to dive into the Architecture & Planning Library stacks this week looking for some greenery. I leafed through several lovely books about gardens in Europe, the United States, and Japan, spent some time with works on topiary, and then I found Vertical Gardens.  As an avowed urbanite I am very interested in the greening of city spaces, so I was delighted to find this book with its focus on the utilization of “vegetal vigor” on the vertical plane.  The expense of horizontal space in cities often precludes the development of the gardens and green spaces that so greatly improve quality of life for city dwellers, but the designers featured in this book have found ingenious ways to work with limited horizontal space in interior and exterior design, public and private space, and in a wide variety of built environments. My favorites are the designs that incorporate flora into the facade of a building, blurring the distinction between artificial and natural, interior and exterior space, and dynamic and static.  I would love to spend time in any of these spaces, wouldn’t you?

Vertical Gardens includes an introduction by Jacques Leenhardt which briefly discusses the history of gardens and architecture, vegetation in an urban context, and aesthetics of vertical gardens, short essays by Anna Lambertini, and large color photographs by Mario Ciampi. Celebrate National Landscape Architecture Month by exploring the Architecture & Planning Library’s collection!