Down the Drain
The Cooper-Hewitt has several wallpapers designed by Christine Tarkowski and produced by the Thematic Wallpaper Company which she founded in 1992. Like many of Tarkowski’s designs, this wallpaper features an everyday object, in this case a drain, to serve as its unconventional motif. Other wallpapers feature hands, meatballs, cacti, and rose thorns seemingly taken from...
Ancient Technique
This tie-dyed wool head wrap from Tunisia was woven in the sprang technique, an ancient method of loom plaiting that, in its finished form, resembles knitting. In fact, before the development of knitting, sprang was often used to create bags, gloves, and head coverings due to its stretch characteristics. Vertical yarns are fixed at both...
Deco Dictators
Contemporary critics generally considered Gustav Jensen’s stylish illustrations and overall design for “The Rise of Rome” to be the highlight of the 1932 publication. The book, a simplified history of Rome’s transition from Republic to the Imperial rule of the Caesars, was written for a high-school audience by Gordon Congdon King.  Reviews frequently complimented Jensen’s contributions, noting the pleasing “aesthetic experimentation” in format,...
Scrollwork and Squirrels
I love the contrast in this paper by Jacquemart et Bénard between the monochrome neoclassical ornament and the vibrantly-colored animals. This sidewall hovers on the border between the austere Empire style of the first decades of the 19th century and the mid-century taste for highly-detailed, brightly-colored designs. The overall layout of this paper, with its...
Shaken or Stirred
In a scene from the 1934 film, The Thin Man, retired detective Nick Charles (William Powell) demonstrates to a group of bartenders the skills needed to shake a good cocktail. While vehemently shaking a cocktail shaker with one hand, he says to them, “See, the important thing is the rhythm, always have rhythm in your...
This Museum is Gorges
Where does a building end and the earth that surrounds it begin? Often, this question is easy to answer. We tend to think of buildings and land supporting them as separate entities. This preliminary drawing by the Weiss/Manfredi Architects for the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York shows us that sometimes buildings and...
Bedazzled All Over Again
I acquired Bedazzled for the museum collection in 2004. I had seen an advertisement in a shelter magazine and wanted to visit the showroom to experience it and pick up a sample. When I walked into the showroom this wallcovering, in silver, was installed on a large curved wall and was totally breathtaking. It was...
Planning and Designing Beyond Equity in Cities Across America
Interview with Toni L. Griffin and Chris Reed, who collaborated on the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework—an innovative planning model for urban revitalization.
Appliances Sailing into the American Home
By 1942 the streamlined modern designs of Walter Dorwin Teague, Norman Bel Geddes and Henry Dreyfuss were becoming familiar to the American public. Those people who attended the World’s Fairs throughout the 1930s were witnesses to the marvels exploding on the consumer front, affecting everything from cars to home appliances. Blenders were originally introduced in...