Still, Obama is not George Bush on a practical as well as a policy level, and he spends a lot of time in the Oval Office. Given that he is prone to more substantive talk than his predecessor, things like couches and chairs seem important accessories. The taupes and beiges of the new décor, moreover, are in keeping with his style: Let all those commentators asking for more passion look at the room and acknowledge that the man doesn’t work in primary colors; he likes the muted and the neutral. It’s who he is.

Obama also has young children, not to mention a puppy. You’ll say that the Oval Office ought to be off limits to children and animals, but the barn door was opened ever since the world saw the photo of John-John under the Oval Office desk — a tradition, I might add, that continued with the entertainment… More…

Larry Hart got the idea to decorate his mansion with spackle squeezed out of cake-frosting tubes from a book on Versailles. “As I looked at those pictures,” he said, “it just struck me that it [Versailles] looked like a giant wedding cake.” As Joyce Wadler recently described it in The New York Times, ornate plasterwork swirls throughout the Hartland Mansion, slathered on the ceilings, mirrors, pillars and angels.

 

Wadler gives us a tour of the mansion, all the while sporting an ironic New York attitude:

A house with 32 chandeliers, twin spiral staircases and so much rococo plasterwork that Marie Antoinette, were she planning a weekend in Vegas, would say, “The heck with the Bellagio, I want to stay with the Hart family in that rundown neighborhood where Liberace used to live,” may not be for… More…

 

Have you noticed how ambitious furniture has gotten these days? An easy chair that is simply content to be a place to sit is taking the easy way out — why shouldn’t it also be a table? Bookshelves are reinventing themselves as couches; prim, buttoned-up benches lead secret lives as voluptuous sofas. The Calypso Chair, a contraption more functional than a medical exam table, can be configured in so many different ways it should probably come with its own on-board help system.

Such aggressive utility is not unprecedented. In 1866, an Ohio man named Charles Hess obtained a patent for a piano, that along with all the standard piano parts, also contained a trundle bed, two closets, a four-drawer bureau, a writing desk, and a sewing area. In 1927, a pair of cousins, Edward M. Knabusch and Edwin J…. More…

 

 

Let’s get one thing straight: The International Contemporary Furniture Fair, which just finished its run at the Javitz Center in New York City, is nothing like the Philadelphia Home Show I wrote about earlier. For one thing, it’s not in Philadelphia, and for another, it’s not about the home, at least no home that I know.  Instead, it’s about furniture in the Platonic sense. Take a piece of furniture out of the context of all restrictive impediments, forget even about the fact that it’s supposed to be used, and you’ve got an ICFF piece of furniture.

Who are the furniture philosophers? Clipped-haired men in cinched jackets and Philip Johnson spectacles, and hollow-cheeked women in linen shifts with a resemblance to Cruella de Vil. These are the people with the creativity and chutzpah to produce asymmetric… More…

In my bedroom, my father crouches close to the ground. He’s wearing jeans, a long-sleeve collared shirt, and a dark-green fleece vest. In his right hand he holds a hammer. His face is solemn, and his eyes are focused down. He’s staring at a small plastic bag of screws, pegs, and nails.

My dad understands how to use all of these fasteners. He’s worked with wood since high school, when he built a bed from scratch. The man knows his oak from his pine, his awl from his planer. But right now, my dad is confused, hesitant.

He is helping me put together my IKEA “Aneboda” bed.

My father pulls open the plastic bag and dumps its contents on the ground, separating the different fasteners into little piles. While he’s doing this, my boyfriend and I start laying the particleboard pieces of the bed around him like we’re reconstructing a… More…

I’ve long been inclined to read stores the way I read texts. The nature and display of merchandise, the style of salesmanship, even the pricing are all signifiers in what, at its best, is an esthetic as well as a commercial spectacle. Some stores create a kind of embrace that is both familiar and strange — rather like a good poem.

In recent weeks, I find myself returning to a store called the Painted Cottage. It’s a furniture store that sells armoires, vanities, ottomans, and armchairs. The pieces are not expensive — rarely does even a large piece exceed $1,000. This is because all the furniture is secondhand, found in junkyards or purchased from estates, then refurbished by the store’s staff. Despite the humble origins of the pieces, the results are delightful: Nails, whitewash, and hand-painted flowers transform a broken-down dresser into a Country French chiffarobe; chintz upholstery turns a… More…