Contemporary Giving and Living
With the graduation and wedding season upon us, I started thinking about how I like to give well-designed contemporary objects like bowls or architectural book-ends as special occasion presents, and that brought to mind Placewares, one of the best contemporary design stores I have ever visited. To my mind it rivals Conran’s in London and New York because the objects on display are so well edited. Placewares and its adjacent Lyndon Gallery is in the tiny town of Gualala three hours north of San Francisco on California’s Mendocino Coast. Browse for everything from Marimekko pillows and mid-century modern dishware by Heath Ceramics to artwork by Lawrence Halprin, America’s most famous landscape architect, who designed the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D. C.
Luckily Placewares has an online store. This tempered glass trivet caught my eye:
And here’s a house that’s quite affordable at $150 (drawback: it’s only 8 inches-tall…) It’s a plaster model of the house of Victor Horta, the Belgian architect who epitomized the Art Nouveau style of architecture…
It and a variety of other models, including miniatures of Jane Austen’s house and architect Sir John Soane’s house (Richards is from Bath, England), are for sale at Placewares.
The architectural bent isn’t just a random act of architectural passion. It’s in the air and perhaps even the water. Placewares is a mile or so from The Sea Ranch, the second home community famous for its environmentally sensitive planning and contemporary ranch-inspired architecture. Halprin did the landscape plan in the 1960s. The original condominium building at the southern edge of the community–with its central sloping courtyard and shed-roofed tower forms–was designed by award-winning architects Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon (the brother of Maynard Lyndon, who owns Placewares with his wife Lu), William Turnbull, and Richard Whitacker. It draws inspiration from area barns, the 19th century Fort Ross just a few miles south, the Bay Region Style, and the architecture of Louis Kahn. Here’s an image of Charles Moore’s own unit by photographer Jim Alinder.
The big blue box on tree trunks over the built-in sofa is like a giant two-story piece of furniture. It defines a sitting area below and a sleeping loft above. Ingenious! The checkerboard pattern on the adjacent wall turns the kitchen into another focal point. Charles Moore was the Merlin of making small spaces live large in the imagination. Here the vacation begins as soon as you step inside.
You can read the history of The Sea Ranch and explore many important custom house plans through the sumptuous and critically acclaimed book The Sea Ranch, by Don Lyndon and Jim Alinder.
You can even rent a house here (many are by well known architects), which is an excellent way to test drive contemporary design as you plan your new Houseplans.com home. The rentable house shown below is from Rams Head Realty and should get you dreaming about summer vacation even if gas prices are making it impossible to actually go anywhere: