Monday, December 2, 2013

Les Lalanne Designs (1967)

Good morning!

I hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving-- I ate way too much of the rabbit food I told you we brought over to my parents' holiday celebration! This week I'm gonna have to be on diet lock down, lest all those teeny waisted dresses get beyond my reach (a tragedy no gal should have to bear). I spent most of my time off trying to excavate my closet, taking things to Goodwill, cooking (I learned how to make seitan from vital wheat gluten, which is a major coup), playing Super Metroid (I am not as good at this game as I would like to be, but that does not stop me from trying), and listening to Guns n Roses on Spotify (judge not! That post last week has had me thinking about Slash and Axl Rose nonstop in my idle moments). But enough about me! We've got vintage home decor to talk about today, circa year of our Lord 1967. And if you don't like unconventional, figural, way on out there furniture, this is not the post for you! (Ah, c'mon, give it a try)

I came across the following panels of photographs in a February 1967 issue of Life magazine with a little thrill of recognition. Weren't these the same living room chairs shaped as sheep I had seen in a magazine profile of Andy Warhol's home in the seventies'? I had definitely drawn a primitive picture of a sheep in my little "don't forget" notebook, with the cryptic message "SHEEP AS CHAIR", but It hadn't occurred to me to source the whimsical weirdies until happenstance brought me to the article. And when it did, boy! Am I interested! I was able to find some examples of the pieces without that "it's 1967", Doctor Zhivago color saturation Life and other magazines favored in the late sixties', and don't these pieces look even more impressive all on their lonesome. 

Les Lalanne was a design team comprised of François-Xavier Lalanne and Claude Lalanne, a (demonstrably) French husband and wife duo who spent 1967 selling animal shaped furniture to the masses! Well, not the masses, but to people in the market for fine, upscale furnishings with a little edge of "what the heck is that". Bank president's young wife who wants to shock the bourgeois? Well paid Broadway producer who wouldn't dream of just having any old four poster in his kid's room? Les Lalanne was your best bet. Can you imagine the frisson of sheer eccentric joy that would play upon the first impression of your late sixties' house guest when you reveal your living room is a little more, say, pastoral than one would immediately think possible? These weren't for the faint-of-pocketbook, but I'm amazed, the same as when I see a Milo Baumann chair or some Eero Saarinen masterpiece on Antiques Roadshow, that someone's wealthy grandparents could buy these for what would have been a fortune back in the day, but good gracious, it's a museum piece now! You couldn't buy it even if you wanted to!

This, my very favorite piece, is called a Rhinocrétaire--a combination of the words "rhinoceros" and "secrétaire", a kind of writing desk. Does this portmanteau word not just crack you up? I also love that the child has pulled up one of the sheep as a chair for his rhino desk. Retail on this all-brass piece which also features a piggy bank in the creature's ear that rolls down into its snout? $24,000....which is approximately $162,800 in 2013 money. Still! See the desk below without the glaringly sixties' filter. I think you owe to yourself to be even more impressed now.

Don't these designs look so fresh and contemporary it's hard to believe they're almost fifty years old? The chairs in Andy Warhol's townhouse and these Life magazine pictures didn't take my breath nearly as much away as when the individual furniture pieces were divorced of that setting and just allowed to speak for themselves against a white background. They look avant-garde NOW, which is crazy. Also, someone please lend me several hundred thousand dollars so I can secure one of my own. Or someone get crackin' on some knockoffs. That is all.

I nosed around on the internet a little longer to see what else this fabulously inventive duo came up with during their illustrious shared design career, and the only thing I found that I loved more than the rhino (I know!) was a set of pieces made with crocodiles. UGH. THIS IS MY PERFECT EVERYTHING.

Do you see the little reptilian "legs" on each leg of the coffee table? How about the way the crocodile is moving through the murky underwater plant life? Can't stand it. I would remove every stick of furniture in my house just to showcase a piece like this. Why bother with a couch! Just sit on one of these cushions and behold the greatest acquisition of my life!

I'm going to try to find out more about Les Lalannes, but wasn't my discovery timely-- there was just a Soethby's selling exhibition of some of their major works last month ("Les Lalanne: The Poetry of Sculpture" featured a "Crococonsole", which is almost as great as the coffee table above) and the Paul Kasmin gallery in New York City is doing an installation/exhibition of pieces that ends today. Quick! Book a plane, folks! Kidding. Though I can't wait to vicariously travel through these exhibits via the wonder of the internet.

What do you think? Which of these pieces is your favorite? Could you live with a giant hen as a bed, or are your tastes a little more traditional and subdued than ginormous bronze figures could account for? Am I going to have to learn the art of metallurgy so that I can have that crocodile coffee table in my life? Any crazy design finds lately that have the pinwheels of your imagination spinning? Let's talk! 

That's all for today, but I'll see you back here tomorrow. Have a great Monday! Til then.


  1. Replies
    1. Aren't they cool? I want one really badly now.

  2. I have to change the subject back to G-N-R for a minute, I judge not and I have to ask, have you read Slash's book? I was never a Guns fan but I got the book and could not put it down, Its really good, its all drugs and rock n roll, the sex was noticeably absent.

    1. Got it on request from the library now...! We'll talk after I read it, so looking forward to it (don't tell anyone....ah, tell everyone)!

  3. Replies
    1. Isn't that neat?! I'm actually losing my mind over the crocotable, though.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...