Monday, April 27

Sean Michael Beolchini, Milan

Sean Michael Beolchini, a photographer in Milan (below, elbow), hosted a dinner party last weekend during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual furniture fair and the reason I went to Italy. I arrived late--more shamefully than fashionably--to the 9:30 pm soiree. I was with some friends, and there'd been a curling-iron session and a foreign-bank withdrawal situation and a series of winding streets and four pairs of women's shoes on cobblestones and, and, and--never a good enough excuse for such tardiness. Still, Sean and the design-industry guests, seated around a massive rectangular dining table, greeted us warmly with wine, food and Italian chatter. The spinach quiche was a surprising delight...

I was invited to Sean's by Marco Velardi of Apartamento, a wonderful magazine about everyday interiors (mostly of very cool, eclectic people). And I never knew it existed. Somehow, in the sea of design in Milan, our paths crossed one night at the infamous Bar Basso. I found a Homebodies soulmate! If you like Homebodies, you must check out Apartamento. Even better, buy the book. The writing and the photography is fabulous.

Anyway, I ended up hanging out that night with Marco and his friend Andy Beach, author of the blog Reference Library, with whom he organized a much-talked-about pop-up store during the fair. Friendship solidified in the following days. And so, the dinner party.

I don't know much about Sean, except he's from DC and now lives in Italy. He shoots for Pig, which is the coolest magazine in Italy (said a graphic designer seated my left). And according to a quick Google search, he also co-founded the sunglasses company Super. (Google Image is informative, too.)

Sean was totally laid-back about this whole blog thing during the party, which kind of surprised me. I wasn't so sure I should leave the conversation, let alone budge from a prime spot in front of the Parmesan cheese, to take pictures of a photographer's home. Plus, all I had was an iPhone, though Sean offered to lend me one of his many cameras. No time to learn a new machine, though. I decided to just go at it on my own. Sorry about the poor quality, and Sean apologizes for the mess, just like everyone seems to, needlessly.

Dining Area
How amazing is the series of arcing lamps that mimic the room's arches? Overheard at the party, the story goes that Sean's relative swiped them from Corso Magenta, a main drag in Milan, when city workers were replacing these antique lights with new ones along the avenue. Do you believe it?! It's too great of a tale to be true.

Familiar faces can make uncool lateness feel a bit better. New York designers Kiel Mead and the trio known as Rich, Brilliant and Willing were there, as was British designer Max Lamb. And of course, my fellow late friends, Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov of Design Unseen (until recently, they were the girls from I.D.), and Kristin Victoria Barron of Kreist.

Nearby on sideboards and tabletops, sunglasses and assorted objects sit on organized piles of books, arranged to reveal the good bits.

Everyone kept asking me, "Did you get the Elvis?" Yes, see below. A portrait of Kiel at 11:26 pm or 23:26 pm, as some might say. The lanky hipster also coaches cross country at Pratt, his alma mater. We talk about running together. I am terrified of the challenge.

Sitting Area
Just below, a shot from the other side of the long, open room. A sitting area is adjacent to the dining area. There's a stack of televisions and a row of old folding cinema chairs. Pig and Apartamento are on the coffee table, along with a tiny skateboard. Life-size skateboards are plentiful, too. Also on the table are headphones, sneakers and tiny jars filled with tinier things.

The Skinny-Fat Chair
I loved this chair, how curvy the arms are, how narrow the back is, how wide the seat flairs. It goes everywhere. It's Beyonce. Theo Richardson of RBW liked it, too. That blur to the left is Kiel jumping into the shot. Weird, huh? Here's what happened in about one minute:

The Far End
Way in the back is white wall and an open space. Maybe Sean shoots here? There are a few clues to what might go on in this space: a bicycle with a banana seat, a rolling ladder and a lonely frame........Oh, and Marco claims the plant is his.

The apartment is below ground level. The windows look out onto the street.

Eventually we moved outside. Theo demanded to know everyone's middle name. Skinny design boys--all members of the New York-based American Design Club--in their skinny jeans. I sat in front of a bicycle. We talked about moving to Italy.

Friday, April 10

Jessica Fleischmann, Echo Park

Graphic designer and typographer Jessica Fleischmann lives in the hills of Echo Park, Los Angeles, where, behind her house, a converted garage serves as a playroom for her creative projects and the home base of her design firm still room. I think it's a little piece of heaven, and I want to move in...

Jessica and I worked together at Western Interiors & Design magazine a few years ago, where I was an editor and she was the art director. Many an afternoon we spent behind her artfully cluttered desk, making the sure her visual presentation of a story was complementary to the words I was smithing. We scrutinized the width of columns, and we ragged each and every line for uniformity and to the best effect, so line breaks didn't give the paragraph a funny shape. We paused frequently to discuss her metallic-pink clogs. And almost always, we reached agreement with smiles and exhalations. Oh, how I miss those afternoons. I also miss her eagle eye and design tutelage, though getting her feedback on these blog pics felt almost like the old days. She'll probably wince looking at this post due to its lack of proper design. Working on it, Jess!

Jessica left WID three years ago and is now working on all sorts of cool projects, including the design of a book about houses by Frank Gehry, coming this fall from Rizzoli. She recently designed the posters and ads for her playwright-sister's Red Fly/Blue Bottle, a dark musical theater extravaganza that opened this week at HERE in NYC. Literary publications like the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest 6 also have her touch. Last but not least, she teaches typography and graphic design at Otis College of Art and Design and USC.

I drove up and down and up and down some big LA hills to reach her home. Surrounded by her wonderful collection of art, quirky objects, design books, a blooming garden, and some freshly baked orange-nutmeg muffins, I allowed myself the ultimate dwelling fantasy--that I would never leave.

A former garage, the building behind the house wasn't accessible by car, anyway, so Jessica upgraded it into a studio. Shelves of books line one wall; along the other, a work table extends the length of the room. Interior walls are raw Homasote, a "low impact, low budget, old-school wall surface made out of pressed recycled paper and has insulating properties," she explains. (Jessica apologizes for what she calls "a mess." I think she's crazy. It looks great--and it's a work space! Can you trust an artist with a perfectly neat studio?) A flowering tree stands just outside. Stacked orange chairs from IKEA, the pink-and-black print above is by Jessica's former student Cheryl Humphreys. Inspiration in objects, print, everyday, everything.

Below, on the shelves, a curated mini-gallery of books with a stack of Jessica's work on the left. The pic with the purple poster is an aerial shot of some of her designs. The magnifying glass, she says, is for looking at bugs. Or maybe it's for soldering small things. Lanterns hang from an old camellia tree, views of Echo Park beyond.


Jessica's house, with a pretty blue door. On the window, "YES, YES WE CAN"--an Obama moment. At the entry, Jessica built a light box. "Oh, it's just some fluorescent tubes in the wall," she says. "Then I put Plexiglas over it instead of drywall." Fun!

Jessica's well-worn "Dallas-cowboy-cheerleader-meets-pimp" silver boots near the door are by n.d.c. from Barneys, and I love them. The little painting is not of a bird--it's a lovely portrait of Jessica by a disabled elderly man named Willy who had the development of 4-year-old. He was in an art workshop she led in Luxembourg years ago. On the wall, framed works by artists Cynthia Madansky, Olga Koumoundouros and others.

Jessica loves her avocado-green stove. I love her orange-nutmeg muffins! The green-plastic rug was a $5-steal from a Chinese store in L.A. 
Jessica, reflected and reflecting, with a cup of green tea. Pink walls, loads of shelves, and two more light boxes--don't you LOVE these??? Her desk. "My monkey!"

Living Area
Beautiful light! Tord Boontje's garlands wrap around bare bulbs. On the wall, a poster by Tuan Phan, a former classmate at CalArts: "I have no idea of what's going on."
Below, prints on the wall are by Felix Gonzales-Torres. Framed print and rolled-newspaper piece by Olga Koumoundours, a friend with whom she sometimes collaborates. The stone walrus is an old family piece, and the colorful feathers are from a Zero + Maria Cornejo sample sale last year. "25 cents each," she says. "Wish I'd gotten more." The "fuck" plate is by James Victore, a gift from the artist after a Sahre, Victore, Wilker workshop last summer. Close-up of a basket-weave lampshade--it's actually plastic--bought at a garage sale. She put a string of lights inside and uses it as a lamp.
She says the wall is "tomato-soup-with-a-splash-of-milk" red. On the other wall, the watercolor of a gate in the Cornwall countryside is by Jessica's mom, Elsa Leviseur. Artistic family, no? (WHAT?! Jessica, I just Googled her; you never told me your garden-loving mother was an accomplished architect! All those afternoons I spent at your side, practically in your armpit, and we didn't discuss her work on the Hollywood Bowl?) Another print by Olga Koumoundouros. More inspirations on the table. Jessica loves that the battered clay African warrior figurine is "so beautifully detailed." It's from her South African mom.
An IKEA sink sits in a "custom stand," says Jessica. "Designed by moi." A mirror fragment is bandaged with neon tape. Cool. Also, more feathers. Sharp and soft, I like.
A blue table and white chairs mirror the colors of the sky—the best place in the house to sit and think about your next creative endeavor.