Design for Urban Living

Tag: Interiors

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 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 »

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 »

Island Life

Posted on March 15th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Inhabit, The Moment. No Comments

As you read this I will be lying in a hammock, swinging in the humid breeze of the Mayan Caribbean. A good book, a cool drink and a friend or two will make for a great trip.

Living in a tropical location, or setting up any vacation home for that matter, revolves around several basic tenants: keep it simple, make it user friendly, and encourage large gathering of friends. You don’t go on vacation to work, you go to have fun. So put a little thought into design to further your fun. Here are some tips.

Make the kitchen big and open, because that is where you’ll be spending a lot of time in the evenings. Provide lots of countertop space and durable surfaces, so you have room to work and don’t have to worry about cleaning up right away.  Closed storage allows you to store staples out of sight until needed.

Focus on the pool, this is where everyone wants to be during the day, but celebrate both the shade and sun…some of us want to be in the shade! The shade will give everyone a place to retreat from the mid-day heat, or take a nap after that afternoon Pina Colada. Treat the … Read More »


Posted on February 4th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Inhabit, Knowledge. No Comments

Winter in the mountains, to me, is all about the warm glow of a fire and the comfort provide by rustic materials, friends, spirits and a good view. It’s all about the view, a nice hike, and the deep quite of nature. With the majestic environment holding sway, ordinary materials used in extraordinary ways help to humanize the environment, providing beauty and interest within reach.

When designing a mountain ski retreat, I’d remove the fussiness and kitsch, provide straightforward, tactile furnishings and detailing, in order to create a contemporary and comfortable environment. As a point of reference, the aesthetic of Angelique Buisson would look great in Tahoe and Mammoth. Here’s what we can take away from her work.

Keep it practical. Use durable materials that handle the elements. Slate works great in bathrooms and mud rooms, and unfinished wood will keep looking better with age.

Have fun. Animate a space with artful use of materials. Below are two examples, one using Bocci lighting, and one using inexpensive sconces found at the hardware store. Each is effective: one feels like blowing leaves in the wind, and the other creates a geometric pattern drawn by an intentional hand.

Clean it up. Remember you’re a modernist, so bring your aesthetic to the mountains. You don’t need to over decorate. Remove … Read More »


Posted on June 25th, by David Bjorngaard in Inhabit, Knowledge. No Comments

This Tudor home outside of Boston is a good example of how to update a more traditional home: clean up the detailing, update the kitchen and bathrooms, and add an element of contemporary design. I think this is a viable blue-print for a lot of home-remodeling, and can be amped up or down depending upon your budget.

David Bjørngaard, June 2014


Shelton Mindel

Posted on May 21st, by David Bjorngaard in Inhabit. No Comments

You will often hear me say “let’s get the architecture right”. Once the bones of an interior are strong, providing a sense of order, rhythm, function, then the more decorative aspects of movable belongings can happen. The interior becomes the stage, or film set {if you will indulge my background} for life. One of the modernist firms that gets this right is Shelton Mindel in New York. The interiors they design are clean, well detailed, and provide a stage for great art, antiques and furniture to shine. The color palette is usually very restrained, with a few pops of color. I’ve been following their work for years, paying attention to detailing, materiality and space planning.

This New York apartment is a good example of their work. Architectural gestures, such as the floating stairs and hidden televisions, animate the space; storage is built-in, creating a greater sense of space {a precious commodity in city living}; volumes are sheathed in different materials, thereby alleviating the tedium of all white walls; and order is created with Classical alignment and uninterrupted sight-lines.

A common thread of Shelton Mindel’s work is the use of mid-century modern furniture. Names that consistently come up are Mies, Saarinen, Poulsen, Bertoia, Prouve, Knoll. Looking has been a primer on how … Read More »


Posted on April 9th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Inhabit. No Comments

This Paris home by Tristan Auer is the perfect blend of casual and elegant, mid-century antiques and modern, spare and meticulously detailed. Not everything is precious, but everything is sculptural, intentional and quiet.



David Bjørngaard, April 2015




Posted on March 19th, by David Bjorngaard in Inhabit. No Comments

I’m on a David Bowie kick, thanks to YBCA’s March movie program including The Man Who Fell to Earth, Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, and The Hunger. The pioneering androgynous performer of the 70’s and 80’s was a role model for outlandish self reinvention, challenging my belief in what was possible. I loved him!

I was fascinated when I recently came across this London home designed for David Bowie and Iman by Jonathan Reed. How does a creative artist, whose shifting style so fascinated a young boy from the midwest, live? Well, if this home is any indication, he lives modestly (but expensively) in a beautifully crafted interior which is smart, understated in a way that transcend trends. Is it too boring for the man who created Ziggy Stardust? Here are a few of the images for you to decide.

David Bjørngaard, March 2015

PS Clearly this was intended as a pied-à-terre.  Sadly Bowie and Iman never lived in this residence, as the cover was blown and the paparazzi found out the address.