Ideas for Contemporary Living

Category: Here/There

Sea Ranch

Posted on August 10th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Knowledge. No Comments

I recently came back from my first stay at Sea Ranch. This was a pilgrimage to visit the works of Charles Moore, William Turnbull and Joseph Esherick, and it was a chance to disconnect and relax. Sea Ranch, which was formed in the 1960’s, is a planned community which was built on the idea of preserving and appreciating the land. Homes were designed to sit gently on the land and are built-in a mid-century rustic vernacular: timber-frame structures clad in wooden siding or shingles, and designed to open onto the landscape. Homes blend into the landscape, sitting low to withstand the rugged winds, and are clustered together to maximize the open meadows and woodlands to be enjoyed by all. Connection to nature is crucial, and during my stay I enjoyed viewing the resident deer, jack-rabbits, turkeys, and varied coastal birds, along with the local frogs that lived under the deck.

Blend into nature.  Inspiration and lessons abound at Sea Ranch. First, homes are set close to the land, with the boundaries between home and open-space blurring.

Window seats. You probably know that I love a good window seat…probably a reflection of upbringing on the farm, where being immersed in nature was a … Read More »

Fog Fair 2018

Posted on January 23rd, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

We just had the Fog Design+Art Fair, which is one of my favorite events. Once again Bjørn Design was a Fog Forum member, which benefits the SFMOMA’s Department of Architecture and Design. Unfortunately this year I was down for the count: a poorly timed infection meant that I stayed home for much of the fair, missing all the fun parties and lectures. On the very last day, however, I did manage to drag myself out of bed to visit the fair.

Color, line, texture, and ingenuity were on display, and this was our chance here in SF to see some of the best art and design from galleries from all around the world. Here are a few of my favorite things.


If you know me, you’re aware of my commitment to the local art community.  So I was happy to see some of my favorite local galleries supporting local artists.

Haines Gallery impressed with a selection from John Chiara’s latest show. In particular, I love this camera obscure work, “Westline Drive at Mussel Rock, 2017”

Jessica Silverman Gallery included new sculptures by Woody De Othello and visceral paintings by Dashiell Manley.

Fraenkel Gallery did not disappoint, and in particular I loved this Diane Arbus piece “Clouds on-screen at a … Read More »


Posted on January 6th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Inhabit, The Moment. 2 comments

2017 was blur…great projects and clients, a growing business, and some amazing travel. One of the highlights was the debut of my powder room at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase House. A small, windowless room, the smallest room in the house.  Low ceilings, and no architectural details to salvage, this was not much more than a closet when I started.

The challenge was to make this enclosed space feel larger.  Inspiration came from a simple Roman fountain, with execution and detailing influence from trips to Rome and Milan. The result is a self-contained, immersive space that is quiet, reflective, and exquisite…in a way the anti-jewel box powder room. Like many of my projects, the design focused on the confident handling of materials, the detailing of which are revealed in the soft light animating the space.

Here are some of the techniques that I employed to expand the space:

Trick the senses. The rounding of all inside corners not only highlights the thickness of the materials, but also results in a lack of shadows. Our peripheral vision, lacking the vertical shadow lines that define space, is tricked into perceiving the space as bigger.  I like this about the work of James Turrell, using light-spaces … Read More »


Posted on February 28th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Here/There, The Moment. 1 Comment

I caught the Cooper Hewitt’s Design Triennial at the San Jose Museum of Art just before it closed.  Titled Beauty, the show explores contrasting themes in contemporary design, where the worlds of art, craft, technique and automation intersect or contrast. While offering a glimpse at the work of some of the hottest designers working today, the exhibition also offered an opportunity for me to ponder the age-old question…what is beauty?  Here are a few of the standouts from the show.

Max Lamb might be one of my favorite designers working today.  There is something visceral in his process, as Lamb explores and integrates the process of furniture making into the end pieces.  Lamb uses raw, often inexpensive and throw away materials, in combination with experimental techniques which result in a rough and tactile quality. This work resonates directly with me, perhaps because I believe that intellect and education only bring us so far in the designing of spaces…we need to ask how does a space feel.

To get a glimpse of Lamb’s process, check out this video of the fabrication of the Pewter stool, where Lamb pours molten pewter into a mold dug into the sand at the beach. He then excavated the hardened piece from … Read More »

Fog Fair

Posted on January 12th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

I’ve spent the afternoon being inspired at the  Fog Art+Design show at Fort Mason Center, January 12-15. The fair brings some of the best contemporary furniture dealers and art galleries to San Francisco. There are many amazing objects and pieces of furniture which will make you stop in appreciation, especially if you appreciate  process and technique. New discoveries and works by old friends abound. Even if you’re not a collector, a show like this helps to train your eye, which will make it easier for you to sort through all the design choices you encounter. It also helps one learn how to stylishly display our own personal and prized treasures at home. I hope you’ll go explore. Here are a few of my favorite objects from the show.

Finally, check out this great ad…love my day job!

David Bjørngaard, January 2017

Building Art

Posted on December 13th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

On my travels this summer, I took as a little light reading Frank Gehry’s biography (haha, only an interior designer or architect would call this light reading!).

For me it was an unlikely choice, as I am not a huge fan of Gehry’s work. Admittedly, I haven’t seen any of his best work in person.  My understanding is from impressions made over twenty years ago when I stood on the banks of the Mississippi River as a young college student.  The “Standing Glass Fish”, at the Walker Art Center, with its’ internal structure supporting the fish scales, is fabulous;  the Weisman Art Museum, with its’ impractical gallery spaces, is a mess to my mind.

But long ago impressions and prejudices can be overcome by new encounters and gentle persuasion by others. While in Paris, artist Daniel Buren provided that persuasion with his “visual tools”: acrylic colored paneled applied in checker board fashion.

At Fondation Louis Vuitton , Buren transformed the Gehry designed space and its’ context to create Observatory of Light.  Now Gehry’s twelve glass covered sails, or “icebergs”, are defined in thirteen colors and stripes. This intervention gives physical presence to light, as the light shifts and moves throughout the day.

My … Read More »

Snapshot 25

Posted on September 6th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

Design is about turning fantasy into reality, dreams into inhabitable spaces. The work comes from turning ideas into something that can be built. As summer came, I tasked myself with an ultimate task…starting my own firm, a client focused firm built on my professional (and personal) experiences, knowledge and dreams. The timing of this was perfect, in that it coincided with a long planned trip with Sean, my mom and sister to explore Paris, the Loire Valley, Normandy, and London. Seventeen days to daydream, seventeen days to explore what design and life can be. This trip ended up being a great reprise from the work that was about to come, and a time to reconnect with family, while being inspired by great design current and historical.

While in London, I revisited the Serpentine Gallery, which yearly invites one architect to build a summer pavilion. This years architect is Bjarke Ingels, of BIG, who is known locally for designing the new Google campus in Mountain View. Known for architecture with expressive gestures which are joyful, Ingels took his starting point of a brick wall, and worked to create something beautiful out of this ordinary structure. Instead of clay, Ingels  stacked fiberglass blocks to create a cavernous cave.  The blocks shift forward … Read More »

Oslo Opera

Posted on April 6th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

I have big expectations for the new SFMOMA expansion. A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to see first hand the work of the architects when I visited Oslo. I was so excited! It was an architecture pilgrimage. I dragged my poor dad across the city, and together we roamed around and over and throughout the Oslo Opera House. It was early summer of 2008, and my dad and I were just beginning our heritage tour, during which my dad would introduce me to places and relatives that he knew well. But on the first days of our trip, I was able to show my dad the things that excite and animate me in my work: good design, great art. This meant exploring Stave churches, museums and the opera house.

What makes the Oslo Opera House so unique and visually interesting is the seamless integration of art and architecture. Due to a art-sales tax, the architects were able to incorporate the work of several artists into the bones of the building. Four particular pieces shine bright.

Roof (2007). The building is like an iceberg that floats on the edge of the bay, with one lip emerging from the water and rising to large, monolithic structure. The … Read More »

Cenote Spa

Posted on March 21st, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There. 1 Comment

Spending time in the Mayan Caribbean clearly reveals how life and landscape are influenced by geology: limestone bedrock erosion reveals subterranean water, which affects plumbing, foundations, electricity and gas. All building are dependent upon this condition: one cannot go deep into the earth. Natural forming subterranean pools and chambers are known as cenotes, and are connected by underwater rivers, known to many a tourist day tripper. The Mayans used these cenotes, or pools, for bathing, worship and ritual sacrifice. These cenotes are recreated for body worship by the Rockwell Group.

The Rockwell Group has re-created the ritual of bathing in the cenotes in their subterranean conical structure featuring a reflection pool at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen resort. The effect is magical: integral lighting reminds us of the night stars, so prominent here; an opening high above at ground level lets in filtered sunlight, similar to being in a natural cenote; layered limestone catches the light, creating a dramatic shadows; and simple detailing prevent the whole thing from becoming kitsch.

The spa is first glimpsed on a path that meanders from the lobby to the beach that is punctuated by kiosks selling coffee, smoothies and tacos. Looking like a mini-volcano, it pokes its head out, letting light filter below.

The spa … Read More »