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SEEING "YOU" IN ON-SCREEN FURNITURE
Plus: is STAR TREK the best design education?
Hollywood is a mere 7 miles from where we sit at present, but its exceptional influence looms large. Because, contrary to popular belief, movies and television are actually incredibly popular and most people have at one point seen at least one.
If you are among those viewers, you’ll know that the most compelling and thought-provoking aspect of these cultural gems is not the “acting” or the “plot” but the SET DESIGN.
Today, we explore life on set.
A mini agenda for this meeting:
Introducing the theme via “Both Screen-Acceptable Sexy Business Lamps”
Screen culture’s most thorough inspiration source: STAR TREK (that’s right: it’s not f*cking Mad Men, or whatever)
Furniture As Main Character
Films are a means of communication, and – as we have argued in our pseudo-Manifesto here – so are our homes (but you knew that already!). ERGO, are set decorators not a kind of super-powered hybrid of DOUBLE COMMS? i.e., They support a director’s narrative storytelling, and they are also kind of “interior designer” adjacent, and hence are communicating through furniture with both lenses of ‘Entertainment’ and ‘Actual Human Life’?
The set decorator – if they are skilled – with choose STUFF that is both realistic to life but also LOADED WITH MEANING.
A THEORY in the form of rhetorical question:
… if we dress our homes as if dressing a set, can we indeed help our own plotlines move forward?
1. INTRODUCING BOTH SCREEN-ACCEPTABLE SEXY BUSINESS LAMPS:
In the WALL STREET image above, we see the TIZIO table lamp by Richard Sapper. Sleek, spacey, very serious but also enormously expressive.
Here is a complete list of acceptable “BUSINESS LAMPS” in film:
TIZIO (as above), Richard Sapper, 1972
TOLOMEO (as below), Michele De Lucchi, 1987
Yes, there are only two.
BUT: taking a cue from these storylines, we can also infer what narrative function these two lamps play – a function that doesn’t stop if they’re off-screen and in your own house.
HERE IS OUR OWN INTERPRETATION OF THEM:
2. A SURPRISINGLY EXTENSIVE DÉCOR SOURCE:
If you’re looking for a Design education, there are few who provide quite as thorough a review as STAR TREK. And, it’s been exceptionally well-documented in the niche décor resource “STAR TREK + DESIGN”.
We always like to spell out a “WHY?!”:
S.T. involves an incomparable mix of hyper-pricey and hyper-cheap stuff, including lots of desirable IKEA, showing that price point is, of course, not a direct indication of INTERESTING vs NOT INTERESTING. Too much FANCY and the result is the uncomfortable “DESIGN SHOWROOM” look
S.T. is a case study in the incredible power of CONTEXT, given that some of what is sourced for Star Trek is kinda simple stuff but looks very UTOPIAN-FUTURE when placed in the right constellation of other stuff and/or against the ubiquitous Star Trek spacey grey walls
ON THE EVOLUTION OF “SPACEY” SPACES (not Kevin) via SET DECORATION
S.T. first aired in 1966, and its original set designer, MATT JEFFRIES, kinda refused to watch subsequent iterations (i.e., The Next Generation, Voyager), and complained that his Navy-vibe bridge had been turned into “the lobby of the Hilton".
Cut to 2020s (for time this is very abbreviated timeline) → and we understand SPACE in the context of “Billionaire Colonialism,” i.e. “White Earth Saviour” Race To The Moon, the aesthetic of which is super derivative and Graphic Design Agency’d to the f*cking max. We hate. This is an aesthetic appropriated on Earth by the Kanyefied Kim Kardashian.
We’re intrigued but ultimately wouldn’t you agree it’s quite ick (morally)?:
ONTO THE STAR TREK GOODIES:
As an introduction ALL OF THESE CHAIRS WERE ON STAR TREK (five more than we posted on Instagram, if you can spot them):
ZOOM IN on this and note the exceptional range, which is a lesson for us all. Straight from midcentury m*dern, to normal modern, to post-modern.
Who comes out on top?
When STAR TREK imagines its violent intergalactic future ‘utopia’, there are a few designers that really tweak. One is PIERRE PAULIN who, for those in the Niche, will have noted is on the current cover of Milan-based CAPSULE MAGAZINE.
Here is Paulin’s RIBBON CHAIR (1966), in orange – which is a great relief from the notion of SPACE = GREY:
And, the Only Bucket Chair To Matter, the F300 CHAIR (also 1966), again in a NOT-GREY:
Paulin has been “Future”-relevant throughout ALL OF STAR TREK, which is so many decades, and also currently selected by top-tier, brainy folks like CAPSULE and Mr. F. OCEAN. That’s gotta mean something.
The meaning of “PIERRE PAULIN IN STAR TREK” is that our aspiration for future life is not about PURE FUNCTION and hyper-efficiency. The on-screen architects of future buy into Paulin’s idea that this sh*t should also be fun and colorful. We are being MISLED by Kardashian.
FURTHER INFO ON THE STAR TREK CANON:
Some of the other stellar designers/brands adopted by STAR TREK as absolute Space Masterpieces: a f*ckload of IKEA, lots of Philippe Starck, the Castiglioni Bros. (FOR SCALE faves), the aforementioned Michele De Lucchi (Tolomeo guy), Pierre Cardin, the lunatic Ron Arad, as well as, thankfully, some women: Cini Boeri and Eileen Gray (both of whom we’ve talked about before). ALL FOR YOU TO GOOGLE IF A NAME SOUNDS CUTE TO YOU.
3.1 ONTO MOVIES… FURNITURE AS CHARACTER-MAKER
Our main source here is the very excellent website “FILM AND FURNITURE” – which as a name is great SEO but it also covers TV. It is extensive and ergo noble.
We’ll begin with a surprising St*r Tr*k crossover, that again highlights the insane capacity of CONTEXT. Used in 2003 for S.T. the 1902 HILL HOUSE CHAIR by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scottish legend, was used three years earlier here, in none other than AMERICAN PSYCHO:
NOTE: the Hill House chair is not a “MODERNIST” chair, as maybe you’d expect in AMERICAN PSYCHO. This is, like, Art Nouveau. It’s when those of the floral-stained-glass mindset first started toying with “sleek”. Yet, brilliant set decorators have inserted the HILL HOUSE CHAIR into both FAR AWAY GALAXY “SPACE” and also Cocaine-Fuelled MANHATTAN.
It is a lesson for us to reach OUTSIDE the borders of whatever “Style” we imagine ourselves to be committed to. Because, GOOD THINGS HARDLY EVER CLASH, tbh. Or it’s in a good way. WELL ROUNDED CHARACTERS (A.K.A. PEOPLE) DON’T JUST HAVE ONE STYLE OF THING.
3.2 LA VIE “TATI”: FURNITURE AS A CHARACTER ITSELF
There are other circumstances in which furniture is a very clear “CHARACTER” and not just décor. And we don’t mean symbolically, as in Throne (i.e. “battle for the –”). We mean that furniture – as in life – can make itself known: it can squeak, it can be confusing to sit in, it can leave silly impressions on your skin, etc.
All this is present in your very own home, probably. And so too is it present in the work of name-to-know JACQUES F*CKING TATI, filmmaker - and, as we’ve learned, furniture designer.
Professional Design People are often obsessed with Tati, and there are two critical texts, which we will cover AS BRIEFLY AS POSSIBLE:
1. MON ONCLE (1958)
Summary: Tati as “Mr Hulot” visits his sister’s gadget-filled suburban home and is thoroughuly repulsed – but audiences are in love.
Tati’s critique of wacky ultra-modern post-war bourgeois life in Paris. And yet, in jest he help himself designing some kind of fantastic things, like this double pool noddle of a sofa below.
There is NOT a lot of dialogue in a Tati film, we warn.
1. PLAYTIME (1967)
(link there to the whole movie)
Summary: As above, pretty much just a kind of failed critique of modernist France, because even though there’s a lot of furniture-related chaos it looks F*CKING UNBEARABLY GOOD.
The plot is LOOSE. You kind of just meander around Paris, but not the Paris you first think of.
Here is Tati and the squeaking chair on YouTube.
We haven’t even selected the most stylish sceens of these films, because if you’re part of the un-Tati’d then we shall leave the real glory for what will be a gasp-filled first watch.
THE POINT IS: Tati was the absolute MASTER of understanding that in film, as in love, furniture is NOT PASSIVE.
Quick HONORABLE MENTION to Pedro Almodóvar for 1/ a commitment to THE COLOR RED, and 2/ for Pain and Glory which is kind of an Italian design catalog, oddly.
Until next time. LOVE AND GOOD LUCK,