DE SIGN MIN DS: S A R A RU FFIN COSTELLO A N D LEE LEDBETTER DISCUS S T
We asked two New Orleans tastemakers to give us their thoughts on a few of the objects in the exhibition The Essence of Things – Design and the Art of Reduction: An Exhibition of the Vitra Design Museum. Don’t miss your opportunity to explore this exhibition, on view all summer, which brings together approximately 150 objects covering 100 years of design history. Sara Ruffin Costello is the former editor and founding creative director of Domino magazine. She is also a regular contributor to T: the New York Times Style Magazine, and is the co-author of The New York Times bestseller book, The Domino Book of Decorating. She is a decorator and style consultant for private clients in Los Angeles, New York, and New Orleans. Lee Ledbetter is a practicing architect and founder of Lee Ledbetter & Associates. The firm’s projects have received numerous local, state and regional American Institute of Architects (AIA) awards, and have been featured in numerous local and national publications. Ledbetter’s projects include the design of NOMA’s Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden and the Joan Mitchell Center studio building, among others. 6
WILLIAM MIDDLEBROOK (INVENTOR) PAPER CLIP 1890 (INVENTION) 0 X 2.8 X 0.7 CM METAL WIRE COLLECTION VITRA DESIGN MUSEUM, WEIL AM RHEIN
MICHAEL THONET & SONS NO. 14 CHAIR, 1859–60 THONET BROTHERS, VIENNA, AUSTRIA, 92.5 X 42.5 X 50 CM BENT BEECH WOOD, CANE WORK COLLECTION VITRA DESIGN MUSEUM, WEIL AM RHEIN
LL It’s bentwood and it’s beautiful. SC This is a personal favorite. I just love this bentwood movement; it’s feminine, and you get that beautiful curve. The ability to bend that wood so beautifully and perfectly is an engineering triumph.
LL My first thought was: it’s actually just as useful being unwound and stuck into the back of a computer. I think I unlocked a bathroom door with one at one point in my life. And this is reusable! SC I think the paper clip may be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. To me it symbolizes everything great about design. And whenever anyone says, “I wish I had invented something” they always say the paper clip. It’s one of those things that’s cited as thinking outside of the box as an invention. You wouldn’t necessarily come up with it. It’s just perfect.
LL I think this is a time machine. After 150 years it’s still in every beautiful restaurant that you go to. SC That’s so true. It’s all over Pinterest. Every kitchen, this is the chair. It’s such an optimistic little chair, isn’t it? The way it splays out, its curves... LL It fits your backside well, too. I think that’s another reason it’s used so much. It’s comfortable.
SC I’m not sure how successful this is. I think it exists as a trendy moment; it’s not as ingenious. I like the idea of cables and light bulbs, but this is still too tricky for me. LL I agree. To me, this is the least successful piece in the catalogue. I don’t understand why it’s in the catalogue, because it’s the antithesis of the idea. It’s not reductive, it’s repetitive. A single light bulb, as you said Sara, is a beautiful thing, but the light from a single light bulb is not great, so you multiply that times 85? It seems silly, gratuitous.
LE CORBUSIER (CHARLES-EDOUARD JEANNERET), STOOL FOR THE PAVILLON DU BRÉSIL, CITÉ INTE NATIONALE UNIVERSITAIRE, PARIS, 1953–59, 43 X 33 X 25 CM, WOOD, COLLECTION VITRA DESIGN MUSEUM, WEIL AM RHEIN
RODY GRAUMANS, 85 LAMPS CHANDELIER, 1993,DROOG DESIGN, AMSTERDAM 100 X 70 X 70 CM LIGHT BULBS, CABLES, AND CABLE CONNECTORS, COLLECTION VITRA DESIGN MUSEUM, WEIL AM RHEIN
SC This is less beautiful than the paper clip. LL 85 times less? [laughs]
LL I love this. If Wilma Flintstone had worn shoes, this is what they would have come in. I also love how kind of monastic it is. SC How much does this go for? $50,000? [laughs] Don’t you just want to put it under Lucite on a plinth in your house? I love when things this far into being rigidly simple.
Arts Quarterly New Orleans Museum of Art