Ideas for Contemporary Living

Tag: Inhabit

Tropical Modernism

Posted on December 20th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Knowledge. No Comments

I’m excited to experience a bit of tropical modernism in Southeast Asia. While I’m extremely excited for the food, culture, world heritage sites, beaches, and down time half a world away, I’m also very excited to see how modernist respond to the climate, materials and culture in a tropical zone.  Here’s a couple of things I’m hoping to see.

Inside Out. Adapting modernism to a tropical climate pushes the integration of indoor and outdoor (average LOW temperatures never fall below 75 degrees F in Singapore, Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City).  Pilotis supporting columns free the perimeter of load bearing walls, allowing expanses of glass, moveable walls and shutters to open spaces, blurring boundaries. Pavilions, patios and expanse of water really do connect one to the elements.

Garden Spaces.Corbusier’s preference to rooftop gardens can be interpreted as gardens, everywhere.  Many local architects respond with vertical gardens, and multiple landings creating a vertical oasis.

Great circulation.  Did I mention the abundance of floating and spiral staircases in the work of Tropical Modernism that I’ve studied? These are great for allowing air to circulate.

Open Floor Plan.Open spaces to allow tropical breezes, blurring distinctions of room and usage.  Interior passages ways allow heat and air to rise, creating soft breezes.

Sun … Read More »

Moving Light

Posted on December 4th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Knowledge, The Moment. No Comments

I’ve recently designed several stained glass windows and skylights for windows. While color abounds, this is not a requirement, and there is absolutely no reason to veer from a modern point of view. To begin these projects, I referenced a few of my favorites projects and designers for inspiration. Here’s a look at a few of these.

A new point of view. Architects, designers and artists having been rethinking the possibilities, the idea of a stained glass window.

Shifting light. The effect of light tracking across a room can provide animation, and reveal the metaphysical passage of time.

Private spaces. Bathrooms are a natural location for stained glass window, which can obscure while providing transcendent light.

Stairwells. These are a natural location for stained glass windows and skylights, providing much need light, and a does of design into a transitory space. Color here is great, as you don’t need to live with it all day long.

Introspection. Translucent glass, arranged in a geometric pattern, can provide light and style in spades, while setting the stage for serious concentration or relaxation.

Creativity. Artist continue to employee stainless in their work, introducing contemporary ideas into an old art form.


David Bjørngaard, December 2018

Check out what I’m up to at Bjørn … Read More »

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 »


Posted on June 23rd, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Inhabit. No Comments

Summer is finally here. Time to relax, get outside and enjoy the fruits of our labour in comfortable style. For outdoor spaces, the right mix of furniture has  flexibility, personality, durability and style. Above all, an outdoor space requires fun, sculptural pieces to compliment the organic shapes of nature. To help kick off your summer, get inspired, or find that right piece to mix into your outdoor room, here are a few of my favorite outdoor furniture finds.

Mix light and airy with solid volumes. For this outdoor space in Palo Alto I designed with Monica Ream and Stephen Verner, I paired oversized Lolah Lounge chairs with a Paola Lenti Otto footstool and Orlando daybed, resting on a custom concrete platform. The white curved slats of the chair create an organic volume, and echo the wood of the trellis. The solid shapes of the day bed and ottomans don’t compete with the chairs, while offering a really relaxed, carefree and flexible space to enjoy the sun, shade and pool. Click here to see more of this project.

Every outdoor room needs a piece of sculpture. The view is inspired, so should be your furniture. Simple, refined shapes mix well with the outdoors, and hold their own … Read More »


Posted on December 13th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Inhabit, The Moment. 2 comments

This brilliant restaurant, Loulou Restaurant Paris, recently got me thinking more about the use of caning in interiors.  I love how the technique softens and adds texture to a clean modern space.  I also am intrigued by the veiling of our voyeuristic tendencies:  cane gently obscuring mirror. Clean interiors require a bit of texture, and modern interiors require a bit of history.


Lately I’ve searched out the variety of caned furniture. I like the touch of artistry and handicraft, plus the sense of exotic glamour.  Adding warmth, texture and color to modern interiors is the key to creating inviting, comfortable spaces to live. Here are a few of my favorite interiors and pieces of furniture.  I recommend you embrace the trend.

I’m not terribly acquisitive – could be an occupational hazard –  but I regret passing up a set of 6 Marcel Breuer chairs at a second-hand store in San Rafael years ago.  Bent tubular steel fashioned into a continuous frame, softened by the caned seat and back. Casual yet elegant, modern yet grounded in craft techniques, nearly a perfect chair…and now someone else’s chairs!  Probably in a breakfast room in Mill Valley, or a second home in Palm Springs.

Here are a few other … Read More »

Little Details

Posted on March 28th, by David Bjorngaard in Inhabit, Knowledge. No Comments

I sit with a copy of several of John Pawson’s books at my desk…I love the detailed, expressive work produced by his firm. At times his work has a warmth found in vernacular architecture of Scandinavia, the rigor of a Donald Judd sculpture, and the restraint of Italian and Northern European modern architecture. His work provides a master’s class in elegant detailing. So when I opened up my latest edition of Architectural Digest and saw a home by Pawson featured, I saw some of the lessons come to life.

Less but better. Instead of lots of stuff, surround yourself with thing things you really love. Don’t love your lounge chairs? Then live with a comfy sofa and some great art…or floor cushions.  With minimalism, the key is to find pieces that have a sculptural quality, and that speak to each other.  In time, you can accumulate more things on trips and through people you encounter, and these objects will have a greater impact because of the memories and connections.

Think in volume, not just floor plan. Volume is one of the most under used aspects of design. Entering a double height space from a narrow hallway adds drama, and makes even a … Read More »


Posted on December 29th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Knowledge, The Moment. 2 comments

One of the materials which I have embraced this year is terrazzo. Part of the reason is that terrazzo reminds me of Italy, where it was invented in the 16th Century; terrazzo is widely used in Italy in homes, lobbies and restaurants. Part of my interests is due to terrazzo’s sustainability, being made from remnants of marble, quartz and glass. I also like the Art Deco and 1950’s vibe, as can be seen here San Francisco in many residential developments; just take a drive through the outer neighborhoods and look at the beautiful terrazzo entry stairs, still colorful and intact.

What is terrazzo? Terrazzo is a composite material originally made of cement and marble remnants from quarries. Today, resin is also used now as a binder, while quartz, glass and metal are being used in addition to marble. Terrazzo is either poured on-site, or can be purchased in tile or slab form for easier (and often less expensive) installation.

Why choose terrazzo? In addition to the charmed history and sustainability, terrazzo is extremely durable, and is available in nearly unlimited colors, in a range of materials. Terrazzo, which retains warmth, is also a great choice when using radiant heating.

Where can you use terrazzo? I’m … Read More »

Swiss Chalet

Posted on December 20th, by David Bjorngaard in Inhabit, Knowledge, The Moment. No Comments

In the dark, cold days of winter, I dream of settling into a nice chalet in the mountains. Surrounded by snow and cold, but engulfed in the warm glow of a fire and the comfort provide by rustic materials, friends, spirits and a good view. A comfortable modern aesthetic, laid back with a good place to read, nod off and cook up a good meal. My friends can go skiing.  For me, a really comfortable chair, a nice window seat,  and a simple but well designed kitchen would work wonders.

This home in the Swiss Alps plays on local architectural vernacular, and provides a glimpse of what I admire: a mix of wood both warm toned and cool, refined and rustic; vintage furniture; organic shapes and materials; punches of color; and a bit of brainy fun. A home in Tahoe could take inspiration from this chalet.

The entrance provide multiple points of interest. Lined in red-painted shingles, the entrance inverts the skin of the exterior into the interior, singling that something different is going to happen. Unfinished metal walls and raw wood floors, combine with contemporary art and velvet to create a warm embrace from the cold.

When the floors, walls and even ceiling are wood, the eye needs … Read More »


Posted on October 15th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Inhabit, Knowledge. No Comments

Connecting and working with talented individuals is one of the highlights of my job.   Local crafts people and artists have a thoughtful perspective on design, and they help create objects that are both more meaningful and fully realized.  International designers often have a different cultural perspective, a different aesthetic framework, yet it is exciting to see that many of us are working on projects that emphasize the same core values: using traditional techniques, sustainable materials, and cutting edge designs. I recently meet Nani Marquina, a talented designer and founder of the eponymous firm which creates and explores ideas surrounding rugs. Here are a few of my takeaways from our meeting.

Rugs define a room, creating atmosphere and emotion.  Rugs provide the foundation of a room, while adding warmth, color and comfort. Bohemian. Tailored. Artistic. A rug suited to your personality and taste really can provide a transformative experience to your space, expressing your personality. A thoughtfully selected rug transforms an existing room, making your existing furniture look new.

Collaboration yields striking results. Through a range of collaboration with designers such as Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec  and Ron Arad, the company is pushing experimentation of textures, shapes and materials. Carpets are being pieced together, or woven … Read More »