Cast Irony

We restored a set of huge antique light fixtures for Restoration Hardware, which tickles me until I cry.

If you happen to drive down Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich CT, you can’t miss the huge new Restoration Hardware store in the old Greenwich Post Office. I pass that way fairly often on the way back south from our showroom on West Putnam Avenue. I had always admired the three large neoclassical lanterns hanging in the graceful curved neoclassical loggia. In a funny turn of fate, I got to see them up close, inside out, and upside down recently.

Restoration Hardware gutted and remade that historic space into a massive new showroom which opened last month. A friend of ours who consults on lighting design for their architecture projects brought us to the job last fall. We brought them to our workshops in the Brooklyn factory and made a painstaking restoration of the original glass and metalwork. You can see the progress of that work below.

Restoration Hardware's new store in the old Greenwich Post Office

Before restoration

Before: Arriving at Remains Lighting for complete restoration

In the Remains Lighting factory in Brooklyn

After restoration

David Calligeros

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Altar Lamps from the Recoleta Cemetery

Most of the mausoleums in the Recoleta cemetery have simple, dark bronze hanging fixtures. All that I saw were based on ancient (Roman, Greek, or Egyptian) oil lamps. I didn’t see any of them working (electrified or not). I imagine that if there’s anyone who comes to visit the tomb, they may refill the font and light the wick for a few hours.

-David Calligeros

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Recoleta Cemetery: Bronze Sculptural Plaques

Without knowing much beyond the name, address, and reputation for super-coolness of the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, I made sure to find an art supply store on our way to buy a large roll of paper and some dense crayons to make grave rubbings, as is my usual MO. As it turns out, there are very few incised stones, no head stones in the US manner at all, in fact. The only fit subjects for rubbings were some of the bronze plaques, and most of those were challenging because of the high relief.

I wasn’t sure whether such behavior was allowed so I was a little Mission Impossible in the execution, my kids and friend serving as look-outs.

-David Caliigeros

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Recoleta Cemetery, Permanence and Decrepitude

The Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires is the final resting place of the city’s elite. Like Argentina, its fortunes have waned over the past few decades. It’s its decrepitude as much as its ceremonial pomp that makes it interesting to me. Mausoleums in general interest me because of their bare, mundane program. The designers have only to provide space for caskets and urns, beyond that all is symbolism and mythmaking in architecture, light, and sculpture. Without pesky driveways, plumbing, foundations, heating systems, etc. the designers are free to build architectural gestures to their patrons in an unfettered, vast array of historic styles, embellished with sculpture in stone, bronze and plaster, dramatically lit through stained glass and skylights.

Actually, with almost a third of the tombs derelict in some way, some spectacularly derelict, perhaps the architects should have spent a bit more time on their waterproofing plans. Doors hang ajar. Ferns take root; some of the tombs now resemble terrariums. Stained glass skylights crashed from the ceiling drape over altarpieces and coffins now open to the elements.

I love this image of the illuminated (skylit) stairway down to the crypt.

-David Calligeros

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Scenes from the Botanical Gardens in Buenos Aires

Scenes from the Botanical Gardens in Buenos Aires. The first comes from the impressive but odd monument to meteorogical discoveries. One of the eight plaques (each commemorating an inventor and his invention) celebrates Richard Assman, the German 19th century pioneering meteorologist, high-altitude balloon instrument maker, and inventor of the Psichrometer (a device for taking temperature readings in high altitude balloons).

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Assman is also remembered for publishing the popular monthly magazine “The Weather”.

The 3rd picture just makes me laugh.

David Calligeros

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Lightbulb Trash Tchochke Paperweights

You all likely know that I’m a sucker for all things lighting and all things recycled. I was in Buenos Aires with my family and saw this crafty bit of trash-art in a flea market stall in the Palermo neighborhood. If you look closely, you can see kitschy dioramas of celebrity, sports matches, along with odd terrarium scenes, all composed in discarded light bulbs and test tubes.

-David Calligeros

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I Married Adventure at Remains Lighting LA

Steve Jones and Amanda Malson have done up our LA showroom for this year’s Legends of La Cienega event with a fabulous display on I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson.

Inspired by the book’s highly coveted iconic cover, I Married Adventure has become the most widely used stylist prop; inspiring every realm of design. More importantly, beyond the cover, is a true testament to the spirit of adventure, curiosity and fearlessness. Osa Johnson investigated how others live, forged new friendships and created community.

Most design aficionados have seen Osa Johnson’s autobiography I Married Adventure, even if they don’t realize it. A bestseller when it was published in 1940, the book recounts Osa and husband Martin’s travels in exotic Africa and the South Pacific, with headhunters, pygmies and big game. The book introduced truly novel countries and customs to the imagination of folks who might not even identify Kenya on a map of darkest Africa. Used as a styling piece and prop in countless interiors and photoshoots over the years, the graphic zebra print cover of early editions of the novel has established it as a design icon in its own right.

But the plot thickens: Amanda grew up in the small town of Chanute, Kansas, where Osa spent her years prior to marrying adventure and traveling to farflung locales. So to create their window, Amanda tapped friends, relatives and colleagues back home to fill their Legends window with their cherished copies of I Married Adventure. Amanda worked with The Safari Museum, which houses the collection of artifacts and history of the amazing places Osa and Martin brought to American bookshelves, and continue that legacy of adventure.

Steve & Amanda’s ( window is on display at the Remains Lighting showroom and on view through May. Please visit us at 808 North La Cienega.

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Hutton Wilkinson on Elsie de Wolfe at Remains Lighting Los Angeles

Hutton Wilkinson will give an illustrated talk about the legendary Elsie de Wolfe: First Lady of American Design at Remains Lighting LA on May 9th as part of the La Cienega Design Quarter’s annual Legends of La Cienega.

Wilkinson, an interior designer, jewelry designer and author, President and Creative Director of Tony Duquette, Inc. and President of the Elsie de Wolfe Foundation, will include a preview of his soon to be published book, “The Walk to Elsie’s”, a rip-roaring tale of the last ten years of the great designer’s life, as told to him and his co-author Flynn Kuhnert by Tony Duquette.

Elsie de Wolfe’s long and rich life spanned for eighty five years from her birth in 1865. She was a true American original…from her rise in turn of the century New York society, her stint on Broadway and her many firsts including being the first woman to fly with Wilbur Wright, the first woman to sue the IRS, and the first woman to charge for taste, thereby inventing the multi billion dollar business of professional interior decorator.

Prominent in New York society and later in Europe, Elsie de Wolfe married Sir Charles Mendl and designed her storied home the Villa Trianon at Versailles, where she hosted her coterie of international society friends. Among her many friends and business associates were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Stanford White, Cole Porter, the dress designer Mainbocher, Elsa Maxwell, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Elizabeth Arden.

After her World War II escape by Rolls Royce, Elsie de Wolfe ended up in Hollywood with the likes of Louis B. Mayer, Mary Pickford and Tony Duquette, creating an entire new world for herself on the west coast towards the end of her long life.



Elsie de Wolfe with her blue-dyed hair and blue-dyed poodle (named Blu-Blu, of course) dressed by Mainbocher, wearing her sapphire and diamond bib necklace by Madame Belperon, seated in front of the secretary desk that she commissioned from Tony Duquette, c. 1944.

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