Design for Urban Living

Tag: Italian Design


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 »


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 »


Posted on December 11th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Knowledge, The Moment. No Comments

This is the time of year when we entertaining friends and family at home to share the joy of the season. We are celebrating another year together, friendship, accomplishments and losses, and tradition. Friends at almost every party gather in the kitchen. Often that is where the host is making last-minute preparations, and we all want to be a part of it. The kitchen really is the center of our homes. As an Italian grandmother would say, the way to their hearts is through their stomach. Food, cooking, entertaining…these are the things  that bring us together.

The idea of kitchen, and how it looks and functions, keeps changing to meet the needs and moods of our lives. In Milan, the major kitchen showrooms are leading the way interpreting how people live now. This year I am thankful for my trip to Milan, which seems like a distant memory, but really was only a couple of months ago. It was so inspiring, and I was able to reinforce my modernist understanding of our design industry. Although it was over 100 degrees everyday, and my feet hurt (cankles was an added vocabulary term this year), I visited a lot of kitchen showrooms. It was worth the pain, especially for someone fond of materials, texture and a warm modernism. Details … Read More »


Posted on October 8th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

On my recent trip to Milan, it was hard to decide where to go and what to see simply because there was too much to see: Milan is the hub for Italian interior design. Friends and colleagues gave suggestions to me, and in the course of the adventure my weary feet lead me to other sources of inspiration. Here’s a quick survey of four showrooms that I found particularly inspiring. (For two more, check out Italian Design Now)

Artimede is making an impact on design by employing some of the most famous designers working today to design light fixtures utilizing the latest technology. It was great to see this showroom in person. The results are innovative and modern, using minimal design for maximum impact.

Poliform is know in the US for kitchens. A revelation for me was their furniture showroom, with its contemporary mix of materials, color and design. It would be easy (and expensive) to outfit a home shopping here.

An unexpected find was the opulent Meissen showroom, off the main shopping street, tucked into a renovated private home. Oh the splendors of money and good taste.

Close to our hotel was the Poltrona Frau showroom. I was never a big fan on the company over the years, but this may have been … Read More »

Snapshot 21

Posted on October 6th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There. No Comments

My summer trip to Milan was an immersion in Italian modernism, where detail and decoration animate purer northern forms. Milan’s historic boulevards are alive with new design — from the crisp modern architecture of the 1930’s and the Suprematist/Superstudio styling of 1970’s to today’s diverse modern strains. This is a vibrant cosmopolitan city. Walking the city was like being in Lewis Carroll’s wonderland: circles and squares, arches, columns, cobblestone, and inscriptions animate floors, walls and ceilings of the city. Take a turn and the unexpected appears. Perhaps this is why Italian designer are so at ease in mixing styles in both architecture and furniture.

My Italian affair began right at the metro station from the airport. You might not personally like the aesthetic, but it’s bold and they went for it! Cool I say.


Not far from our hotel was the Museo del Novecento, designed during the 1930 but built in the 1950’s, and adding symmetry and weight to the Piazza del Duomo. The road leading to Rome is framed by the two buildings, completing the axis of the Galeria Victor Emmanuel built in the 1800’s. This is the type of modern classicism which I love. Step through the arches to see the high relief sculptures of the portals. A thoughtful renovation completed in 2010 by inserted a glass shell inside the arches, … Read More »

Italian Design Now

Posted on August 27th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Here/There, Inhabit, The Moment. No Comments

Summer and travel go together, and for me I had an abundant year. Yosemite. Milan. Cape Cod. It was a WASP-y, worldly and rugged summer, and I’m grateful for the friends and colleagues that made this a reality. I will cherish this summer for a long time. Now that I have had a few weeks to get back into the daily grind of work, I keep thinking about all 3 trips. My green tent at Half Dome is my screen saver at work. I’m still finding sand in my shoes from New England (plus I’ve watched a few too many episodes of the just-adequate Turn on HBO). And I’m still finding inspiration from my trip to Italy.

You know I love Italy and Italian design {click here for more posts}, so it should be of no shock to you when I say that Milan was fantastic. The food, the fashion, the history. And the design. While in Milan I took the opportunity to strike out on my own, going to a few of the furniture showrooms that are making design news. Over the next couple of posts I’ll share with you some of the inspiration. Here is a look at two showrooms. Both are in the retro-Italian … Read More »

Prada Museum

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

I had never seen in person a building by OMA, but as a student I was a huge fan of the work, especially the Maison Bordeaux house, which I studied, analyzed and emulated in all its glory. And thanks to EuroWest, I was traveling in Milan, with a chance to visit the Prada Museum, designed by OMA and recently opened in time for Milan Expo. To finally see in person OMA’s work was a great surprise, providing encouragement for me to continue in a modernist vein of design: modernist organization, simplification, and clarification of design with richly detailed, original and varied materiality. The Prada Museum especially excels at the juxtaposition of materiality: travertine and plexi-glass, steel and glass, end-grained lumbered and metal grating, concrete and hollow-core plastic. This museum is a dream for someone who loves thoughtful use of materials. So I’m not going to bore you anymore with my inadequate words…here it is…enjoy!

David Bjørngaard, August 2015

Venice, again

Posted on October 16th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

Venice is one of those cities which you cannot go to enough, so I am circling back once again to tell this tale. The mysteries of Venice reveal themselves slowly, each time you go. On this last trip I explored more of the great culinary and artistic traditions which this great city has to offer.

My first stop on this trip was to the fish market, the heart of Venice’s culinary soul, where you see Venetians shopping for their dinner. I too wanted to know what was for dinner!

My favorite place in Venice is the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, a 700 year old library with modern and post-modern architectural interventions, and with an art collection of Baroque, Rococo, and modern art. The first floor museum and garden were designed by Carlo Scarpa. These spaces are a sublime ebb and flow of the water, the foundation of the city. I also enjoy how the work of Maria Morganti  (color field paintings) interpret the fantastic paintings by Bellini and Tiepolo. In many respects the play of old and new animate this museum, and the lack of crowds is refreshing.

Next we treated ourselves to the perfect Italian donut. Half the fun was navigating the city to get to this shop written … Read More »