Michele Varian’s wonderful architecting

Cabinet of curiosities was my first “ahaa”-reaction when I entered Michele’s home in New York City three years ago. Her take on the interior design impressed me as a combination of cultural romanticism, folklore and local and international history, which is seemingly inspired by old European palaces and by American colonial style. Among my first impressions were careful details, which were adding an extra feel into the objects and furniture. Playing with light she emphasizes smaller and bigger objects against their background, adding dimension to wallpaper and painted walls. The candles together with the wooden surfaces create an atmosphere of light and shadow; this play is making beautiful things look even more attractive.

Michele Varian’s name and style has become famous deserving a new bigger flagship store on Soho’s 27 Howard Street (the former store used to be on Crosby Street). First Michele Varian’s name is attached to her own designs, which are amazing silk, velvet, linen and suede pillows with so much imaginary. The designs show patterns with inventive names too, such as Versailles. The pillows have colorful Asian-inspired textures, embroidery, and floral and nature inspired prints in them, and of course strong single colors. Varian’s store carries lighting, eco designs, and objects and gifts with organic materials and with aspect of social responsibility.As a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ her store carries items that add almost ghostly dimension from the nostalgic past times.  The valor and texture of the baroque breaths through her choice of picture frames and mirrors. They tell about the lifestyle that echoes beaux arts and obscurity at the same time, communicating with shiny metallic objects, curved glass and inventive porcelain. This amazing Menorah designed by a Californian Company is made of metal and looks especially elegant with long candles. Menorah without candles is almost 2 feet tall.

Michele Varian has chosen local artists, which have created great little pieces of art. Also, industrial vintage is present in the store’s selection as steel tables etc., the small animal sculls create both rough and decorative touch. Michele Varian’s Architecting comes with every single aspect, which is thought through. Her new flagship store in New York’s Soho is a reinvented loft space. I interviewed her about the loft and the history related to it.

MV: I had always admired the space I have moved to. It is one of the few “loft” retail spaces left in Soho that hasn’t been ruined by previous occupants. It used to be a metal works, and then a print maker so there is still a long metal rail on the ceiling along with chain, hooks and winch for lifting heavy pieces. The previous owner of the building was Jasper Johns, for whom the print maker did lots of work. Before me it was Ted Muehling’s Atelier. I love that I’m now in a space with so much great history.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Who is the designer for the porcelain animal sculls (and they are all real, right)?

MV: The porcelain animal skulls are cast by a woman who has done illustrations for the Museum of Natural History here in NYC. She is Norwegian and you can find her pieces on our website. They are some of my favorite pieces in the store and are made in Brooklyn.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you end up choosing Kristian Vedel’s little wooden birds? (I love them by the way, and know his daughter).

MV: I had been admiring Kristian Vedel’s family of birds for years in European design mags, but had difficulty finding them here in the US. Their modest simplicity is so appealing to me. It’s amazing how much expression they have just by moving their heads. It’s very cool that you know his daughter.

Shop Michele Varian online: http://www.michelevarian.com/

Feeling good about my environment

I was tuning into Björk’s Joga, looking at videos of Icelandic landscape and thinking about the affective aspects of our environments. Where we grow up, the landscapes that we get used to, has an impact on us. I strongly believe that landscapes shape our emotions and our approaches to different environments.

When I think about some of Björk’s own comments about the environment she grew up in, I feel the same way as she does about the North. We should reconsider the Arctic resources and the Northern environment, and take climate change more seriously. Rapid climate change would be huge threat to our landscapes, and even change our feelings about them. I recently learned about a new book, which speaks about the unspoken sites of the climate change process. “To Cook a Continent. Destructive Extraction and Climate Crisis in Africa” is a book by Nnimmo Bassey.

Bassey writes about Africa, where nature and natural resources have been traditionally considered a blessing. His insight is that by using the nature in a wrong way can turn it into a curse. Bassey accuses global North for taking raw materials from Africa. This also means that when the wealthy economies are consuming fossil fuels, indigenous forests, and commercializing the global agriculture, those economies also destruct their own sense of the good. Our question should be, how to maintain our responsible approach to nature and environment? Perhaps one way is to keep enjoying the nature, and also bring that sense into our designing.

The human aspect in the community development is a central part of the contemporary design of environments. A new and innovative design-thinking considering public spaces is now more focused in the ‘good-feeling’ aspect that can be attached to making the spaces. Adding dimension of ‘feeling good and happy’ recreates the interiors and designs to fit better in our lives, and to serve us better as communities. Design education at its simplest comes with a recognition that people want to feel good, weather they are in their work offices, at home, or visiting serving centers and service points in public spaces.

Also, another important question is, what is my favorite place and environment? And, how do I define the good feeling attached to my favorite environment?  I consider a human component to be the core factor even when it comes to a work environment. Feeling good would come with additional space for interaction, which would bring awareness and a sense of collaboration. My experience of my favorite environment is attached to my own memory of different places, which I have visited in my life. Then, the collective images surrounding places shape my feelings about them. In retrospect, my feelings about different environments is influenced by various representations about them.

In modern design the interiors and exteriors can change my perception of my surroundings quite significantly. How I experience the space, of course, depends of my age, size, and my habitat. I have become nostalgic about the childhood landscapes that my family used to visit. Calling those national parks also my favorite places on this earth makes me rethink how important they are today. Feeling good and remembering the favorite places is one way to respect the future of our environments and the nature.