OPEN SEASON: Hi Hotel is bringing a jolt of modern design to the French Riviera.The new boutique hotel, which recently opened in Nice, is the brainchild of Matalli Crasset, an interior architect and graphic designer who trained under Philippe Starck. The main point of departure for the 38 rooms is open-plan layouts, with bedroom and bathroom mingled in a single area. Instead of walls, Crasset often employs plants as partitions. One room has multiple levels for different activities like washing, sleeping and relaxing.Throughout, Crasset adds high-tech touches like flat-screen TVs and centralized control panels, figuring "a short-term stay away from home is a great moment for experimenting." The bar is equally unusual, with a suspended basket-like structure that doubles as a DJ alcove, and the spa features a hamman fashioned from resin, while the rooftop swimming pool looks like a giant terra-cotta pot. Room rates range from about $150 to $360.DECO DREAMING: The Victoria and Albert Museum is celebrating three decades when the world, from Hollywood to Paris to Bombay, went wild for Art Deco. The exhibition, "Art Deco 1910-1939," which kicked off earlier this week, features 300 works that include sparkling Cartier pendants, silver canopy beads and the foyer of London’s Strand Palace Hotel, which the V&A rescued from demolition in the late Sixties.Chief curator Ghislaine Wood said it was time for Deco to be treated seriously."Art Deco has so often been dismissed as decadent and frivolous, but it was a global style that had such an impact on world culture," she said. "And it’s still so popular."Deco hit its peak during the Paris Exhibition of 1925, when countries were asked to design pavilions filled with furniture, paintings and decorative objects aimed at the consumer. After the stock market crash in 1929, Deco designers adapted to harder times — and the drop-off in luxury goods consumption — by using cheaper materials such as plastic, chrome and aluminum.During the Depression, "streamlining" emerged as the new Deco trend as companies tried myriad ways to package and add a little glamour to everyday objects such as toasters, clocks, radios and water pitchers, and to stimulate sales.The exhibition runs until July 20 and will then move to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto this fall. It will also be shown at the Museum of Fine Arts in San Francisco and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 2004.

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