Saturday, February 27, 2010

All Things Oscar

With the Academy Awards upon us next Sunday,  I thought conduct a quick history lesson on Oscar, perhaps the most coveted award next to the Pulitzer or Nobel Peace Prize (depending on who you ask!)

He was born in l928 at the hands of celebrated MGM art director Cedric Gibbons, one of the 36 founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Lore has it Gibbons sketched the design on a notepad during a meeting). Gibbons was nominated a record 39 times and won eleven for his outstanding work in art direction. Since the first Awards ceremony in l929, 2,071 have been awarded to date.

The dashing Cedric Gibbons (left)

Legend also has it that Oscar is named after AMPAS librarian Margaret Herrick's uncle Oscar (who remarked on the resemblance after seeing the statue and the name stuck). He stands 13 1/2" tall and weighs 8 1/2 pounds and fifty statues take up to 3-4 weeks to manufacture. Officially known as the Academy Award of Merit, Oscar is actually a  knight standing on a reel of film with five spokes at the base -- each one representing a branch of the Academy (actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers).

The most recognized, coveted, speculated and dreamed about award resides in some pretty interesting places. For some, Oscar is placed proudly on the library or home office shelf (Sidney Poitier, James Stewart, Cecil B. De Mille, John Wayne and George Clooney)  while others honor his presence in the most unlikely of spaces -- the bathroom (Kate Winslet) or a suit closet (Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful award).

James Stewart's Oscars on display in a library niche

Cecil B. Demille's home office houses
his award for The Greatest Show on Earth

John Wayne called this space his "50 Years of Hard Work Wall"

Sidney Poitier's awards reside on the top shelves of his built -in bookcases. His office
was designed by his wife, interior designer Joanna Poiter of JSP Interiors

Winslet quoted "The statue is going in the toilet, next to (husband) Sam's (Mendes)"

Kevin Costner had a specially designed shelf for his Dances With Wolves Oscar. "I used to have my Oscar in my underwear drawer for three or four years until I built the scrrening room. Now they are in a specially designed shelf unit." Barbra Streisand reportedly houses her award in a barn (custom built for her memorabilia collection) at her Malibu ranch).

The little gold man has even found himself orphaned in a pawn shop or given away (father /daughter Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie passed the awards on to their mothers) while Julia Robert's sister became the lucky recipient of her award for Erin Brockovich.

At least the Oscar winners didn't turn their statues into lamps. One day I hope to have a pair to use as bookends (which will of course be after I win the lottery, become Mrs. George Clooney, find a cure for cancer and discover the meaning of life):)

For all things Oscar, take a look at 80 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards by Robert Osborne (you know him from Turner Classic Movies) and my friend Jim Piazza (truly one of the wittiest people I know) and Gail Kinn's book The Academy Awards: The Complete Unofficial History (Black Dog). Both are available on Amazon.

The Oscars will be telecast on Sunday, March 7th at 8:00 PM CST on ABC.

Photo Credits: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cathy Whitlock, Architectural Digest

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Design Inspirations: The Movie as Muse Part Two

There are people you meet in life that are instant kindred spirits, ones you feel like you have known forever. Usually there is a common link -- such as a love of design and movies. Such was the case when I met Joe Ruggiero.

I had the pleasure of meeting the multi-faceted interior designer and television personality at the High Point market last October and our paths crossed again at his lecture at my friend Donna Hysmith's Designers Gallery in Nashville recently. His incredible career has spanned a variety of multi-media disciplines within the design profession for the past 27 years ranging from design consultant on Good Morning America, host and producer of a number of shows and specials on HGTV (Homes Across America), Editor in Chief of Home Magazine and Director of Advertising at Ethan Allen -- and this list just barely scratches the surface. My favorite gigs are his HGTV specials on international design where he literally traveled the globe reporting on one incredible residence after the next based on the best of French, Italian, Japanese, Irish, Portuguese, Mexican, Scandinavian and Spanish design. The ultimate dream job!

Today he designs the JR Home collection that includes the Domino line of all seasons wicker for Woodard,  an upholstery line with Miles Talbott, the Sunbrella  textile line, a wood furniture collection with Caperton and an outdoor furniture line with Terra Furniture

His Maxfield sofa is reminiscent of the classic Harlow movies of the thirties -- streamlined, modern and sophisticated while low to the ground and comfortable. The Bergen chair is influenced by all the twenties and thirties travel themed escapist films  where ocean liners played a predominant role. Art Deco, French Deco and Moderne ocean liners were notably featured as both a backdrop and plot device in films such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical  Shall We Dance (1937), The Big Broadcast of 1938, Transatlantic (1931) and Reaching for the Moon (1931). 

One of Harlow's most stylish films was the 1933 comedy Dinner At Eight

Harlow in Life Magazine

The Bergen chair was a Pinnacle Award winner in furniture
and as Joe notes, "inspired by French design but paired down to the bare essentials."

Ginger Rogers publicity photo for Shall We Dance

Barrymore Chair
(think thirties actor John Barrymore, grandfather of actress Drew)

Joe's travels have taken him literally all over the world and he was particularly influenced by his visits in Kyoto which later became the muse for his Geisha fabric as seen on the kimono and interiors below. While in Kyoto, he purchased kimono fabrics from garments of the early 1900's and a collection was soon born. "I have always loved the simple design principles of Japan and have been inspired in the design of all my home furnishings," he details.

His collection reminds me of the film Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). Production designer John Myhre (of Chicago fame) designed a section of the pre World War II city of Kyoto on a horse ranch near Los Angeles. Seen below is the tatami room for the geisha and the baron's lair. The geisha district was miraculously built in 14 weeks and strongly influenced by the novel of the same name, traditional dance and Kabuki theater as well as actual historical and cultural references.

The JR collection's Chop Block Mist Sunbrella fabric also found its way on the television hit Melrose Place. Seen below is the star Heather Locklear.

Chop Block Mist

For more on the  Joe Ruggiero Collection, see his website here.

Photo Credits: Architectural Digest/Columbia Pictures Company, MGM, Life Magazine.