About a year ago, in the midst of one of my endless “what should I watch?” netflix scrolling sessions, I stumbled upon a documentary series titled ABSTRACT: The Art of Design. Each of the 8 episodes focused on a designer at the top of their particular field, be it architecture, illustration, automotive design, or photography. The episode I was immediately drawn to watch first, however, was the very last one, focused on the celebrated interior designer Ilse Crawford. I’d heard her name, knew she was the founder of Elle Decor magazine, but not much else. After the hour-long episode, she had my full respect and admiration. I loved how she thought outside the box, how she never sacrificed comfort for style, that she didn’t follow trends, she created them.
One example of Ilse’s work highlighted in ABSTRACT was a hotel she’d been commissioned to design. Built in 1910 as a private arts and crafts style Mansion in Stockholm, it was to be converted into an upscale hotel called “Ett Hem”, which is Swedish for “A Home”. Ilse’s revolutionary idea, before the craze of Airbnb had really taken off, was to rethink what a traveler who takes the time to seek out a boutique hotel might want. She reasoned that there was something glamorous and aspirational about the idea of being handed the keys to someone’s home, having free reign of the place. And so she set about creating a hotel that didn’t feel like one, with 12 private bedrooms/suites, but with fully a stocked, residential-designed kitchen, library, dining room, sunroom, living room, etc. It’s meant to be a home away from home, or as I like to imagine it’s as if you have a wealthy friend with a country house and you’ve been invited for the weekend. You’re encouraged to live in it, treat it as your own. Perhaps the idea, years later, doesn’t feel so revolutionary, but I believe at the time it was. Especially for a 5-star luxury hotel. You’ve got talented chefs and a full staff at your beck and call. I’ve seen the idea imitated several times since. A stay here is definitely on the ol’ bucket list.
Winter ended, I hope, this past Sunday with a last snow flurry, and just a few days later, it was nearly 90 degrees. To my dismay, it would seem we skipped Spring and headed straight from Winter to Summer. But, as they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Since I’m no Beyoncé, my lemonade won’t be in the form of a hit Grammy-winning album and since I’m trying to kick my sugar habit, it wont be the Minute Maid variety, either. Instead I’ll sweep my own particular brand of summer-induced seasonal effective disorder under the rug and lean into Summer by way of blogging about it from indoors, with the fan turned as high as it will go.
Thinking about Summer design, wicker came instantly to mind. Most people may associate wicker with outdoor furniture and as such with summer (at least for people living in locations with distinct seasons), and I do too, but I also remember a large wicker basket in our house when I was growing up, that at times served as a kind of family roof coffee table/toy bin/blanket storage. Indoor, outdoor. Seasonal, year-round. Wicker’s like that, it’s versatile. It’s warm, it’s natural, it feels casual as is often the case, there can be glamour to a piece that feels handmade with skill.
I have long kept an eye out for wicker furniture to store in the massive imaginary furniture warehouse inside my head, for future use. The key, I think, is often unusual shapes or unusual uses. A wicker lighting pendant would catch anyone’s attention. A midcentury modern piece with clean lines that incorporate wicker would be a sharp look as well. And of course the classics never go out of style. Below are a few samples of wicker items I’ve scoured the internet for, ranging from $150 (the handmade pendant lighting I found on Etsy) to $3,000 (the 1960’s vintage German pair of chairs, found on 1stdibs). Warm weather may have inspired wicker as my blog post topic today, but I’m standing firm in my conviction that I prefer being indoors. As you can see, I chose pieces for the indoors. However, since wicker is versatile, a few could be used outdoors – and certainly on an enclosed porch or sun-room – as well if need be. These selections, I feel, would add that extra something to a room or backyard patio.