Ideas for Contemporary Living

Tag: Modern Design

Heath & Artek

Posted on October 23rd, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, The Moment. No Comments

Two of my favorite companies have teamed up for a terrific collaboration:  Heath Ceramics and Artek. The collection includes Alvar Alto’s Tea Trolly 900, Stool 60 and other designs, all of which have been updated with Heath’s take on the West Coast sensibility: handcrafted pieces, wonderfully tactile, attuned to the color of the Sausalito hills.

These are available in limited additions, so hurry to Heath Ceramics to learn more about this great collaboration.


David Bjørngaard, October 2018

Check out what we are up at Bjørn Design.


All images from Heath Ceramics.

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 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 »


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 »

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 »

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 »


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 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 »