January 21, 2014
This is Happening: Mexican Modernism
Lately, we've been finding ourselves drawn to the look and feel of Mexican Modernism, perfectly captured in the living room of designer Emily Henderson. While the name may seem new, the movement is steadily gaining style-savvy admirers and popularity with top interior designers. As a fan of the aesthetic, we asked Robert Willson, co-founder of expertly-curated Los Angeles showroom Downtown (a destination for lovers of the look), for a lesson in the style and its defining characteristics. "The 20th century produced not only a revolution of the Mexican people, but a revolution of avant garde art, design, theater, and politics," Robert Willson says. "Modern Mexican design was influenced by the influx of international styles evident throughout the world in the early 20th century, and by the indigenous materials and furniture of a very old culture." Simultaneously traditional and contemporary, to incorporate this style into your home, look for three major things: familiar shapes and lines with a twist, use of natural materials, and an emphasis on beautifully hand-crafted pieces. As an aesthetic that draws influence from international design, it is only fitting that you may recognize the lines and shapes of Mexican Modernism's signature pieces. "The designs of the Mayans and Aztecs and the many occupiers of Mexico, including the Austrians, French, and Spanish, influenced the work of the 20th-century designers," Willson says. The curving lines of French neoclassicism are interpreted through alternate materials and classic midcentury pieces are updated with exotic woods and unexpected accents. For example, table lamps receive a play on scale with small bases and exaggerated shades. Due to the wide range of influences, furniture of this style comes in many shapes and forms, but one of its most defining characteristics is the emphasis on natural, Mexican materials. "The styles vary greatly from simple modern tropical wood design to intricate and sophisticated gilded metal and eglomise glass," Willson says. Yet these pieces share a common "use of indigenous woods, iron, caning, and rush." Local hardwoods and wickers appear in updated forms and modern shapes, while gilded iron brings sophisticated yet rustic glamour to a space. Natural materials and unexpected geometric forms combine to yield fresh interpretations of midcentury staples. With a concentration on craftsmanship, something we can all appreciate, this style resonates with today's decorators. In fact, Willson notes this is a central theme of the look. Champions of this style furniture designers Arturo Pani, Pedro Friedeberg, and Don Shoemaker focused on the care that went into the production of their designs. "All the furniture was hand-made by local artisans," Willson adds. It's the perfectly imperfect, hand-crafted nature of these pieces that gives them mass appeal and makes them relatable to the modern design-lover. Now, if only we could plan a buying trip to Mexico City... What do you think of this look? Would you incorporate it into your own home? Let us know in the comments.
Photographs: 1-2. Emily Henderson, 3. Courtesy of Elle Decor Norway, 4. Courtesy of The Milanese, 5. Nate Berkus featured in Architectural Digest, 6. Ford Wheeler, 7. Guilherme Torres, 8. Jaime Navarro, 9. Lorenzo Castillo, 10. Margherita Missoni, 11. Nate Berkus featured in Architectural Digest, 12. Downtown, 13. Courtesy of Architectural Digest, 15. Trevor Tondro for the New York Times, 16-17. Courtesy of the Design Files.
|Arteriors Oromaya Lamp, $624, Zinc Door||Laura Kirar Guernica Lounge Chair, Price Upon Request, McGuire Furniture||Zapotec Wool Rug, $375, Novica|
|Iron Chairs, $1400, 1st Dibs||Ceramic Shark, $495, Jonathan Adler||Laura Kirar Baroque Mirror, $792, Zinc Door|
|Taurus Coat Hook, $15, CB2||Storsele Chair, $119, Ikea||Nogal Accent Table, Price Upon Request, Baker Furniture|
|Niko Dining Table, Price Upon Request, Downtown||Laura Kirar Maze Lamp, $1755, Arteriors||Captain's Chair, $9035, 1st Dibs|
|Gigi Rattan Chair, $850, HD Buttercup||Plateau Mirror, Price Upon Request, Downtown||Assam Metal Basket, $50, CB2|