Saturday, September 26, 2009

One Man’s Trash ...

Dan Phillips and his construction company Phoenix Commotion were featured in the New York Times a few weeks ago. The article, written by Kate Murphy, included beautiful images of Dan's work, photographed by Michael Stravato. For more videos and photographs, see my previous post, Recycled Houses, and the Houston House & Home article, From Garbage to Glorious.

About 12 years ago, Dan Phillips started Phoenix Commotion, a construction business in his hometown, Huntsville, Texas, where he builds low-income housing out of salvaged items.

So far, he has built 14 homes on lots either purchased or received as a donation. A self-taught carpenter, electrician and plumber, Mr. Phillips said 80 percent of the materials are salvaged from other construction projects, hauled out of trash heaps or just picked up from the side of the road.

Salvaged wine corks, which are easy to come by, provide an inexpensive form of cork flooring. "We have some heavy drinkers in town," Mr. Phillips said.

The bases of wine bottles function like stained glass on the top of a Dutch door.

Mr. Phillips created a counter out of slices of osage orange wood, a ubiquitous material in East Texas that many builders find difficult to use.

The osage orange wood is used as railing.

Mr. Phillips's houses use scrap wood for siding. City officials worked closely with him to set up a recycled building materials warehouse where builders, demolition crews and building product manufacturers can drop off items rather than throwing them in a landfill.

Thousands of picture frame corners were used to create the ceiling at left. Mr. Phillips said, "A frame shop was getting rid of old samples and I was there waiting."

A wood-burning stove from an old ship found a new home in Mr. Phillips's "tree house."

Kristie Stevens rents one of Mr. Phillips's houses. She is working with him on building a house of her own nearby, since Mr. Phillips requires the eventual owner of a house to help with its construction.

"If the walls are wonky, it will be my fault but also my pride," she said.

A chair's back is fashioned out of cattle bones.

Cattle bones are also used to form address numbers.

Mr. Phillips oversees employees building a house. "I think mobile homes are a blight on the planet," he said. "Attractive, affordable housing is possible and I'm out to prove it."

One worker, Tom McKinney, applies mirror shards to a wall.

Broken tiles are brought together to make up a bathroom floor.

Mr. Phillips used old shingles, arranged by color, to build the roof of what he calls "the storybook house."

"You can't defy the laws of physics or building codes," Mr. Phillips said, "but beyond that, the possibilities are endless."

Other materials used in Mr. Phillips's houses include bull vertebra for decoration.

For the windows on the house, Mr. Phillips used crystal platters and lids of Pyrex bowls, creating a series of playful porthole-like accents.

. . .

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

100 Abandoned Houses

Kevin Bauman began photographing abandonment in Detroit in the 1990s. As the population fell from 2 million to 800,000, the once wealthy enclaves became 138 square miles of nearly 12,000 abandoned houses. 100 Abandoned Houses is just a sample of the, "concerned citizens, packs of wild dogs, 20 foot high piles of toilets, and houses with the facades torn off, filled with garbage," the photographer encountered.

Check out Hooked on Houses for the Hooked on Fridays blog party!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rough Luxe and the New Antiquarians

Rough Luxe is the soon to be cliché term replacing shabby chic, vintage, bohemian, loft like, etc; but whatever we call it, this movement has been around for several decades. The Wall Street Journal published a story last week stating that the world of interiors has a new manifesto. Rough Luxe is antiminimalism and antiperfection. It is “a study in contradictions, an attempt to reconcile the antique or the just plain old with the contemporary, the accumulated with the newly acquired, the decrepit with the pristine.” The unfinished, unplanned and somewhat chaotic is now artful dissonance.

As with design trends of the past, design always lags behind literature trends by 10 to 20 years. The 1980s minimalism of literature gave way to a new cultural hybridity, where the individual’s physical self and cultural self can be two different halves of the same whole. The battle of theatrical and perfect versus the authentic and imperfect is leading to “a rejection of the minimalism that dominated the world we grew up in—a style that began as industrial and makeshift and gradually progressed to extravagant and precious.” This cultural hybridity is no longer restricted in time, place, style or the emotional range of the space.

Examples of the movement show a curiosity, almost ravenous appetite, for found objects and existing conditions, the use of unexpected materials in unpredictable ways, and the poetically juxtaposed. Decorating by the book is considered dry and unimaginative. These design rebels, referred to by the New York Times as the New Antiquarians, are spreading their rough luxe mantra of authenticity. The Future Laboratory is predicting authenticity as the next big thing and in their April 2009 trend report, called “Inspire: Rough Luxe,” stated, it “celebrates a heavy rawness erring on the artisanal. Because of the downturn, consumers are taking a bit longer to think about a purchase and they want to buy into a story.”

Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology, says of the New Antiquarians, “It’s way more than anti-modernism, this sort of deep spelunking into the past. It’s not aspirational and it’s not nostalgic. It’s a fantasy world that is almost entirely a visual collage. It’s a stitched-together, bricolage world, an alternative world. Authenticity is such a fed-up idea. But collecting these old things, it’s like there is an aura attached to them. It’s not some prepackaged product being foisted on you by a big corporation. Too bad it’s going to be commodified. Everything in the fashion world gets hoovered up.”

Cy Twombly’s apartment, Vogue, 1966

Cy Twombly’s apartment, 1968

. . .

Axel Vervoordt’s philosophy is, “Make people happy; make them discover things in themselves; make them feel at home and love their house.” With a love of everything that is real, the Belgian designer will recreate anything he cannot find and make it real. He says his spaces have a “timeless, universal feel and are not fashionable.”

. . .

The well known architectural and interior photographer François Halard’s frequent commissions for Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ and House & Garden have caught the eye of Armani, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint-Laurent, Hugo Boss and Ann Taylor. The photographer is fascinated by these artists and their creative dwellings, which has led to several collaborations. He describes the spaces as “autobiographical and a reflection of the soul.”

. . .

Rei Kawakubo, Japanese fashion designer and founder of Comme des Garçons, has been designing anti-fashion, austere, and deconstructed garments since the 1970s. She integrates graphic design, advertising and shop interiors as a part of one vision, deliberately synchronized.

. . .

Collectors like Hollister and Porter Hovey, sisters with an appetite for late 19th-century relics like apothecary cabinets and dressmakers' dummies, are turning their homes into pastiches of the past.

The New York Times article, The New Antiquarians, presented these modern rebels as searching for a “new vintage life,” as the smooth surfaces of modern design having lost its allure.

Sean Crowley, a neckware designer at Ralph Lauren, and Meredith Modzelewski’s apartment features Edwardian-style portraits, heraldic devices and mounted antlers. The connection between the objects and the impulse to acquire them is not nostalgia, they say. It is “the draw of authenticity, whether it's an aesthetic, a recipe or a technique.”

Ryan Matthew collects Victorian oddities like domestic taxidermy and osteological antiques. His shop, Against Nature, just opened last week in Manhattan.

. . .

London’s Rough Luxe Hotel, designed by Rabih Hage.

. . .

Check out Hooked on Houses for the Hooked on Fridays blog party!
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