Greycoats Invasion of Ralph Rapson's Glass Cube

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted September 11, 2014 in Architecture, Cave Chair, Cranbrook, Greenbelt, Loll Designs, Minneapolis, Minnesota Modern Cabins, Photography, Ralph Rapson, Rapson Architects, Rapson Cave Chair, Rapson Greenbelt Rocker, Rapson Rocker, Wisconsin Modern Cabins

Perched on the quiet bluffs above Wisconsin's Apple River, the iconic Rapson “Glass Cube” recently played host to a collaborative invasion by the Minneapolis-based band “Greycoats”, videographer Nate Matson, and numerous roadies. The event was part of Nate’s recent project “Spaces”, a series of music videos highlighting popular bands within their creative process; this was a foray out of the studio and into a visual and radical sound box.

 

Not only were the resident eagles soaring close for a curious look, a passing thunderstorm layered in some serious sound effects sure to please. We hope the sound man found its rumbling as opportune as we did, as we thought they added wonderfully to Greycoat’s engaging style that City Pages writer Rob Van Alstyne said shows an “appetite for the unusual”.

 

Ralph Rapson would have been intrigued by the use of what he considered his place of retreat. For over 30 years he welcomed others to share in its beauty and experience the tangible influence the rolling hills and his “cube” within those hills impart on the consciousness.  Adding in a little great music was a wonderful new twist. The fact that Greycoats are effectively the in-house band for high-energy Rapson retailer Forage Modern Workshop made the whole idea of the recorded jam session just too cool to pass up.

 

 

Lead singer Jon Reine appears contemplative and content while “taking five” in the Rapson Cave Chair by Loll Designs.      

 

The Rapson family has a new-found appreciation for the amount of equipment necessary to record, film, light, and create beautiful music. In turn, I hope the crew is appreciative of the clapping (for the great music) and slapping (as a result of the mosquito invasion that took place after hauling in and out said equipment). I fondly remember Ralph harping—“quick, close the screen doors before the local population joins us”. Thanks, Greycoats (Jon, Titus, Mike, and Matt) for an interesting day, and of course, thanks to Ralph for providing a great hang-out.

 

 

 

Nate Matson and the Greycoats setting up.

 

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Rapson Designs Featured at Chicago Modern Art Exhibit

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted August 20, 2013 in Chicago Modern, Cranbrook, Greenbelt, Knoll, Ralph Rapson, Rapson Architects, Rapson Greenbelt Line, Rapson Greenbelt Rocker, Rapson Rapid Rocker, Rapson Rocker, Rapson-Inc.

We are so thrilled that two Rapson Greenbelt Chairs were included in this great new exhibit on the New Bauhaus in Chicago.  

 

The exhibit, housed at the Ukrainian Institute for Modern Art, highlights the role of the New Bauhaus designers in Chicago in the late 1930s and 1940s, when Ralph Rapson was practicing in Chicago and teaching at the school.

We at Rapson-Inc. are hoping for a road trip in September to see it for ourselves, but here are a few pics of the exhibit in case you can't make it to Chicago:

 

 

 

 

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George Heinrich

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted May 05, 2013 in Architecture, Minneapolis, Minnesota, modern architecture, Photography, Ralph Rapson, Rapson Architects, Rapson Greenbelt Rocker, Rapson Rapid Rocker

George Heinrich is a Minneapolis based photographer whose exceptional work was much admired by Ralph. He has photographed for both the Children's Theater and the Jungle Theater. His photo's have graced the covers of Architecture Magazine and Architecture Minnesota. 


George also has a person connection to the Rapsons, and took a very nice set of portraits of Ralph late in life. Over the years he also photographed projects for Rapson Architects including the Pillsbury House and the U of MN 19th Street Parking Ramp. More recently George took pictures of Ralph's prototypes for Rapson-Inc's current furniture line. The photos below are all Heinrich work.


Ralph Rapson's personal Rapid Rocker with custom bentwood back.

Ralph Rapson's personal Rapson Rapid Rocker (with custom bentwood back).


Rapson-Inc. Greenbelt Rocker in custom black lacquer and hair-on-hide leather

Rapson-Inc. Greenbelt Rocker in custom black lacquer and hair-on-hide leather.


Rapson Architects' 19th Street Ramp

19th Street Parking Ramp, designed by Rapson Architects

Portrait of Ralph Rapson at the Pillsbury house by George Hienrich

Ralph Rapson at the Pillsbury House.

Visit George's webpage for more of his work: http://www.heinrichphotography.com/

George's work will be on display this Friday, May 10th at the Huscha Studio in Downtown Minnepolis. Stop by to support this excellent artist.

Friday May 10th, 2013
5:00 - 9:30 pm

700 South 3rd St, LL2
Minneapolis, MN 55415

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Retailer Spotlight: Markanto

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted February 04, 2013 in Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, Florence Schust Knoll, German Modernism, Markanto, mid-century, Midcentury Rocking Chairs, Modernism Cologne, Ralph Rapson, Rapson Architects, Rapson Greenbelt Rocker, Rapson-Inc.

We here at Rapson-Inc. are very excited to introduce our latest retailer, Markanto. Based in Cologne, Germany, it has established itself as a premier European retailer of unique designer furnishings, both current and vintage, and ships across the EU.

Now featuring Rapson Greenbelt® Line, Ralph Rapson is the latest Cranbrook Academy alumni whose designs are sold at Markanto. (In the 1940s-50s, the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan was known as the hotbed of American modernism. Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Ray and Charles Eames, and Florence Schust Knoll are a few of Rapson's best-known classmates and colleagues from his Cranbrook years.) 

Sven Vorderstrase, the Markanto owner/manager, graciously took time for an interview with us just as Markanto's Rock It Baby exhibition in Cologne was in full swing:



I am always interested as to how people get their start in the business. How did you become interested in modern design?

In the 90s of the last century I was personally already interested in design classics. I loved the Bauhaus design, specially the tubular steel furniture, which was very popular at this time. Getting deeper and deeper in this stories, I recognized many other great designers, their creations or their stories.


I see Markanto opened in 1999. How has your business evolved over the years and where would you like it to go in the future?

At the beginning we had another business model: The idea was to be a platform for vintage design originals for dealers and collectors (like maybe today Deconet or Designaddict). We had over 1.000 vintage products published at this time on our web page. But the time was too early; dealers did not update us with information or response; and for many dealers the web was an enemy! But today we still offer a nice collection of vintage originals for museums and collectors.

So we started one year later as a second step with a web shop of design classics in current production. We were the first online dealer for many important design brands like Knoll, Vitra or Zanotta in the German market. Then we started our own re-editions, too – this include the re-edition of the carpet collection from Knoll International by Sigrid Wylach. She designed in the 70s for almost every furniture group of Knoll a special carpet, and this collection was very popular in Europe. But this collection was not sold in America, that's the reason that the nice collection is not published in the literature about Knoll.



And nearly every year we make now a special version of a design classic with one of our partners, like a limited version of the Ball clock from George Nelson with Vitra, an Art Deco version of the stool 60 with Artek or  a collector version of the seating object Otto by Peter Raacke (one of the first furniture in cardboard from the 60s).


I love the Rock It Baby exhibition you organized for January 2013. What feedback did you get from attendees about the Rapson Greenbelt Rocker?

Thank you for the compliment! In the last years we made already some exhibitions about STOOLS for example or last year about architects chairs in co-operation with the design museum in Cologne. So the idea came to us, to make this year's Markanto exhibition about rocking chairs, where we show designs by Panton, Tapiovaara, Guhl, Eames, Wegner – and Ralph Rapson. Many people liked the idea of this concept and came to see the exhibition. The Ralph Rapson rocking chairs were  a big surprise – because I think, they were shown for the first time in Germany (because they were never part of the Knoll collection in Germany). 



You have chosen to feature the three Rapson chairs from the Greenbelt line in Markanto. What was it about these chairs that attracted you to them?

I think, that there are not many really good rocking chairs, and the Greenbelt rockers are one of the best designs. I like especially the combination of American walnut and the cotton. It is timeless. We are proud to present the Rapson collection in Germany. 


I know this is a terribly hard question to answer, but if you had to choose a favourite piece or designer, what/who would it be?

That is really not an easy question! I love the period of the last mid century. At this time, many great designers made milestones like Eames with the first plastic chairs, George Nelson with the wall clocks, Eero Saarinen with the Tulip Chairs and many more. But I don't have an all time favourite piece, this changes every quarter – at the moment it is a fantastic vintage radio from Braun.



We really love the Rapson Greenbelt rocking chairs. They have a great story, because they belong to one of the first collections from Knoll, and together with the Jens Risom furniture, they look fantastic and are enjoyable to sit in.


[All photos sourced from and property of Markanto.de]

The Markanto showroom is located in the South of the  city, only 15 minutes away from Cologne Central Station. 

Markanto Depot, Mainzer Strasse 26, 50678 Köln. Germany 
Opening times: every Saturday from  11 am - 4 pm.


Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc. 
  1. I am always interested as to how people get their start in the business. How did you become interested in modern design?

In the 90ths of the last century I was privatly already interested in design classics. I loved the Bauhaus design, specially the tubular steel furniture, which was very popular at this time. Getting deeper and deeper in this storys I reconised many other great designers, there creations or their storys.


  1. I see Markanto opened in 1999. How has your business evolved over the years and where would you like it to go in the future?

At the beginning we had another business model: The idea was to be a platform for vintage design originals for dealers and collectors (like maybe today Deconet or Designaddict). We had over 1.000 vintage products published at this time on our web page. But the time was to early, dealers did not update us with information or resonse and for many dealers were the web an enemy! But today we still offer a nice collection of vintage originals for museums and collectors.

So we started one year later as a second step with a web shop of design classics from current productions. We were the first online dealer for many important design brands like Knoll, Vitra or Zanotta in the German market. Then we started our own reedition  too – this include the reedition of the carpet collection from Knoll International by Sigrid Wylach. She designed in the 70ths for almost every furniture group of Knoll a special carpet, and this collection was very popular in Europe. But this collection was not sold in America, thats the reason, that the nice collection is not published in the literature about Knoll.

And nearly every year we make now a special version of a design classic with one of our partners, like a limited version of the Ball clock from George Nelson with Vitra, a Art Deco version of the stool 60 with Artek or  a collector version of the seating object Otto by Peter Raacke (one of the first furniture in cardboard from the 60ths).


I love the Rock It Baby exhibition you organized for January 2013. What feedback did you get from attendees about the Rapson Greenbelt Rocker?

Thank you for the compliment! In the last years we made already some exhibitions about STOOLS for exsample or last year about architects chairs in co-operation with the design museum in Cologne. So comes us the idea, to make this year a Markanto exhibition about rocking chairs, where we show designs by Panton, Tapiovaara, Guhl, Eames, Wegner – and Ralph Rapson. Many people like the idea of this concept and come to see the exhibition. The Ralph Rapson rocking chairs were  a big suprise – cause I think, they were shown the first time in Germany (cause they were never part of the Knoll collection in Germany). 

You have chosen to feature the three Rapson chairs from the Greenbelt line in Markanto. What was it about these chairs that attracted you to them?

I think, that there are not many really good rocking chairs, and the Greenbelt rockers are one of the best designs. I like specially the combination of American walnut and the cotton. It is timeless. We are proud, to present the Rapson collection in Germany. 

I know this is a terribly hard question to answer, but if you had to choose a favourite piece or designer, what/who would it be?

Thats really not an easy question! I love more the time of the last mid century. At this time many great designers make milesstones like Eames with  the first plastic chairs, George Nelson with the wall clocks, Eero Saarinen with the Tulip Chairs and many more. But I dont have an allltime favourite piece, this change every quarter – in  the moment it is a fantastic vintage radio from Braun -

http://www.markanto.de/product_info.php?language=en&products_id=1265


Please write anything you would like included in the blog that I may have missed. Also, do you have any photographs from the Rock It Baby exhibition? I would love a photo of yourself as well to feature on the blog - possibly one with a Rapson chair. Whatever you like! Finally, would you give permission for us to use any of the photos featured on your website?

We really love the Rapson Greenbelt rocking chairs. They have a great story, cause they belongs to one of the first collections from Knoll togther with the Jens Risom furniture, they look fantastic and it is enjoyable to sit in.

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Retailer Spotlight: Forage Modern Workshop

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted September 23, 2012 in Case Study 4, Dogwood Coffee Co., Forage Modern Workshop, Midwest design, Minneapolis, Ralph Rapson, Rapson-Inc., Rustica, Victory 44

The Forage Modern Workshop is the new kid on the block in the design scene in Minneapolis, specializing in Midwestern designs and vintage curios. Their brick and mortar shop, opened on September 6th, is located in an up-and-coming area of East Lake Street, and I have to say, all the recent buzz around them has been well deserved. I stopped into the shop last week to see it for myself and meet the lovely faces behind it. We here at Rapson-Inc. are thrilled to have pieces of the Rapson Line in the mix of other great Midwestern designers. To top it off, Forage Modern Workshop is soon to be home to the new restaurant, Parka, a collaborative concept by the owners of the acclaimed Rustica, Victory 44, and Dogwood Coffee Co

Below is an interview conducted with Business Manager, Rebekah Cook. 


Forage Modern Buyer Heidi Smith and Business Manager Rebekah Cook

  1. I love the concept behind the Forage Modern Workshop. How did you come up with it? I envision a late night conversation around a bonfire, or has it been a project in the works for years?

    The owners of Forage also own a general contracting company, Brownsmith Restoration in which they focus on Period Design.  It's impossible to learn about modern architecture without coming across names of influential architects from the Midwest. They wanted to find a way to continue to tell the Midwest Modern story.  Forage Modern Workshop is basically the natural outflow of their interest in Midwest Modern architecture and furniture. 


  2. How do you see the Workshop growing in the coming years? 

    We really would love to see Forage become more of a idea shop/creative space. Really working to provide a community around design and educating people about the importance of supporting artisan, local, small, hand made, ethically produced products. However, we also want to be flexible to let Forage morph into what makes the most sense for our community and supporters.  It's already been exciting to watch it get it's own personality!


  3. Along with high design and vintage pieces, Forage Modern features work by Midwest designers. What do you think it is about Midwest and Minnesota design that makes it unique? Do you have any favorite designers/artists?

    We think what makes Midwest and Minnesota design unique is really the people behind the design.  There's a sense of humility and respect in the way people like Matt of Eastvold Furniture and Chris and Jessica of Squared Furniture, have in their interactions.  Also - their design, to us, comes more out of a sense of "people and place".  It's grounded.  Its beautiful design thats functional. If you come in to our store or look on our website, you'll find our favorites. We are carrying a curated collection of pieces we really love.



  4. I am a big fan of the Twin Cities. What would you say sets Mpls/StP apart from other American cities?

    Where do we start?  The Twin Cities are approachable.  The cost of living allows for artists and young entrepreneurs to put their dreams into reality.  Great music comes from here.  The weather.  The work ethic.  The lakes.  The Walker.  The Guthrie.  The architecture - from Art Deco downtown St. Paul to the Midcentury gems in Golden Valley.  We could go on and on and on. 


  5. I saw you featured a picture of the Rapson Rocker by LOLL in your blog piece about the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF). Was that the first time you came across the Rapson-Inc line? And now that you have one in your showroom, what do you think of it?

    No.  We've been admirers of Ralph Rapson, Rapson - Inc, and Loll for quite some time.  We actually couldn't get the Rapson Rapson by LOLL in our showroom quick enough!  We love the chair.  What's NOT to love?!  Beautiful design, functionality, color options, comfort. It's got it all!



  6. By reading your personal profiles on the Forage Modern website, I can see that you all share a love and understanding for the importance of the built environment in our lives. Happily, Ralph Rapson is steadily gaining recognition as a major 20th century modern architect. Of the Rapson designed buildings, do you have any favorites?

    Cast Study Number 4. Hands down.

      

    Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc. 

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Retailer Spotlight: Mid2Mod

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted October 21, 2012 in Deep Ellum, Mid2Mod, midcentury, midcentury furniture, midcentury modern, modern furniture, Ralph Rapson, Rapson Greenbelt Line, Rapson Inc., Rapson Rocker, Texas

Not too long ago, a trio of chairs from the Rapson Greenbelt Line made the journey from Minneapolis down to the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. Mid2Mod is a relatively recent addition to the scene there, specializing in great vintage furniture, and also the best new designs for the home. Joe Eggleston, pictured below, owns the shop with his wife, Jennifer, and his mother-in-law, Dana, keeps their blog fresh with a bottomless pool of all things mid-century, featuring beautiful photos and articles about the 'greats' and the equally great lesser-known designers from then and now. Dana recently published a lovely article on the watercolors of Ralph Rapson (Travel watercolorsOctober 18). The detail and life in his sketches never cease to amaze me. I want to thank Joe and Dana for taking time out of their days for this interview. It is always so interesting to hear the personal stories behind people's businesses and passions, so thanks again.


  


Tell me about Mid2Mod's beginnings. When and how did you get your start in the mid-century modern furniture retail business?

My wife Jennifer, my mother-in-law Dana, and I opened a mid-century booth at an antique mall in early 2010, which turned out to be a time-consuming hobby rather than a profitable business, so when our lease was up in November, we had a huge yard sale and got rid of our inventory. After three grueling days of selling, I looked at my pregnant wife and my exhausted mother-in-law and said, "Be honest. Aren't you going to miss selling mid-century furniture?" At first they thought I was joking, but that very night we started tossing around plans to have a store, and four months later, I quit my job as a data analyst and opened Mid2Mod. What started as a vintage store has grown to include exceptional new furniture too, such as the Rapson-Inc line. One of our goals is to help customers combine the two in their homes to create a unique personal space.


 


Deep Ellum sounds like a lively artistic neighborhood, and a perfect place to open Mid2Mod. What is it you like most about the area?

What I like most about Deep Ellum is its eclectic nature. There are all types of stores, restaurants and music venues here, and everyone is welcome. I also love the rich history of the neighborhood. It was established as an industrial district in the 1800s and was home to a cotton gin and a Ford automobile plant, but its real claim to fame is its importance as a jazz and blues scene in the 1920s, hosting the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly Ledbetter and Bessie Smith.

 

In your opinion, what is the most interesting mid-century piece to pass through Mid2Mod's doors?

My favorite piece was a George Nelson Comprehensive Storage System (CSS) wall unit, but Dana would probably say her favorite was an orange daybed by Richard Schultz for Knoll. She was trying to talk herself into buying it, but a customer got there first. She still grieves the loss.


Who is your favorite 20th century designer and why?

Naturally, Ralph Rapson is one of my favorites, which is why I decided to start carrying the line in my store. Another favorite is Poul Kjærholm. I love the simplicity of his design, and the matte finish he used on steel makes his pieces really stand out.




Finally, what do you like about the Rapson-Inc line?

Again, I come back to the idea that nothing is more elegant than simplicity. What could be more uncomplicated and beautiful than the curves of a Ralph Rapson chair? I like that the line stays true to its 70-year-old roots, yet has evolved to meet today’s needs. But, most of all, I love that Rapson designs combine a combination comfort level/coolness factor that appeals to everyone from 18 to 80.





Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc. 

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The Cranbrook Years: Rapson & the Saarinens

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted May 14, 2012 in Cranbrook, Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, modern architecture, Ralph Rapson, The Rapson Line, WWII

By the time Ralph Rapson was starting to study architecture at the University of Michigan in the late 1930s, he had already begun researching the emerging modern works of European architects and adopted the clean sketching style of Le Corbusier.  But it was the two years Rapson spent under the tutorage of Eliel Saarinen in the graduate program at Cranbrook were the most influential to his designs and method.

Rapson had arrived early the summer of 1939, before classes started, so that he could get a work space close to Saarinen’s studio. "It was an enormous studio, with six or eight big tables. It was on the corner, and my windows looked right out over the next building. Twenty feet away was “Pappy” Saarinen’s studio, so every morning I could wave and pop over there and talk to him.” (King Hession, Rapson, & Wright, 13)

Saarinen was soon calling on Ralph Rapson to help with projects in his the office of his architecture firm as well. Saarinen was a well-respected architect and urban designer in Finland before moving to the US, and much praised for his ability to portray the Finnish national identity through a more modern, symbolic form

Though Rapson cherished his apprenticeship under Saarinen, he, like other students in the studio, regarded the elder Saarinen's designs as increasingly dated:

"...I really didn’t appreciate Pappy [Eliel Saarinen] at the time. We thought of him as not necessarily out of style but as a regional traditionalist. And because I was just beginning to discover Le Corbusier and others, I felt Pappy represented more of a Scandinavian arts and crafts approach to design. It wasn’t until years later that I, and others, recognized what he was truly contributing to the field of modern design. Perhaps the most important lesson he imparted was the careful, patient search – that to ignore the question of the style was the most sincere way of achieving an architecture of our time."         (King Hession, Rapson, & Wright, 15)


Ralph Rapson (left), Eero Saarinen & Fred James discussing plans for the College of William and Mary, February 1939
[Cranbrook Historic Photograph Collection, #4832]

Rapson developed a strong working relationship and friendship with the son of Eliel, Eero Saarinen, who had graduated from Yale and joined his father’s office at Cranbrook two years before Rapson’s arrival. Eero is known to have worked feverishly on projects, often working into the wee hours of the night. Rapson had no choice but to follow suit, though he incorporated a few antics of his own to lighten the studio mood. 

Among other things, Rapson was known to instigate a game of touch football on warm autumn afternoons. (Yes, Ralph only had one arm, but he loved football.)  Thinking of the work to be done, Eero neither condoned playing football nor understood Rapson’s motivation. When Eero confronted Rapson about it, Rapson just smiled and pointed out that football helped the architects to vent frustrations and return to their desks revived and ready to work.


Ralph Rapson running down sideline during touch football game at Cranbrook, 1939.
[Cranbrook Historic Photograph Collection, #284]


Some time later, Rapson pushed his luck and half carried, half dragged Eero from his office to the field.

Before long, Eero had taken command of plays and made himself permanent quarterback for all future games.

Read the full story in: King Hession, J., Rapson, R., & Wright, B. N. (1999). Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design. Afton: Afton Historical Society Press.

 Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc.

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Rapson Chairs by Loll Designs on Sale Now!

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted September 01, 2012 in Loll, Loll Designs, Minnesota designs, modern outdoor furniture, outdoor furniture, Ralph Rapson, Rapson Architects, Rapson Inc.

The annual Loll sale runs this month and includes all the Rapson chairs for made by Loll Designs in 100% recycled plastic! Stunning classic designs in innovative materials - now at 15% off! 


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Modern Retailer Spotlight: Mod Livin'

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted July 05, 2012 in Denver Design, Denver Modernism, Mod Livin, modern furniture, Modern Living, Ralph Rapson, Rapson Rapid Rocker, Rapson Rocker, Rapson-Inc.


The very hip Mod Livin' in Denver has recently signed on as a retailer of Rapson-Inc. designs. Mod Livin' was started by husband and wife team, Erick & Jill, with the intent to provide the Rocky Mountain area with a resource of modern design. Their selection ranges from things within reach to the college student to the high-end pieces that would appeal to the avid collector. I have such a fun time browsing their website, which sells all the classics and great new pieces by up-and-coming designers. Store Manager, Amanda Lezan, was kind enough to fill out a short Q & A with thoughtful replies that reflect the personable nature of their company. We are absolutely thrilled to be working with them! 


1. I see you opened your doors in 2001. Congratulations on over 10 years in the business! What initially drove Erick & Jill to open Mod Livin'?  

 

Jill first started out over 20 years ago entirely because she’s loved furniture and home design for as long as she can remember. The first iteration was with a small shop on the other side of Denver selling vintage exclusively, this seemed like a nice side project and a great excuse for both she & Erick to get out of town regularly on their scouting trips to & fro across the country. They were received amazingly well by Denver and saw the opportunity to parlay the small operation into something bigger.  Not a pair to walk away from a good thing (it also helps that they are two of the hardest working people you will ever meet), they began the search for a bigger piece of real estate.  Mod Livin’ opened its doors on East Colfax in 2001 with the ‘infant’ version (as Erick likes to call it) of the website first launching in 2002. 

 

 

2. Mod Livin' has such a wonderful selection of home accessories. How do you keep up with all the new designers? Do you have your eye on anyone new to the scene?

 

Thank you!  It can be tricky (which I realize is a lovely complaint to have).  I recently returned from a trip to NYC & Brooklyn with a laundry list of addresses to call on in my pocket; for five days I couldn’t quit smiling.  There are some fantastic minds out there adding to the foundation which greats like Ralph Rapson established.  I also think there’s been a revival in people calibrating their lives and patterns around modern design, once again we’re embracing that less is more and it’s plain to see that thinking is funneling energy into the design community.

 

Aside from that, I think we probably do what everyone else does; try to get to both ICFF and the Milan Furniture Show and lurk around online (Design*Sponge, Apartment Therapy, and MoCo Loco are permanently bookmarked).

 

As for new to the scene, we’re thrilled we get to be a part of the reintroduction of Rapson.  It’s a beautiful thing when you can introduce a classic to a new generation.

 

3. Being surrounded by beautiful objects day in and day out, I imagine it would be tough to pick a favourite, but if you had to pick a favourite designer, who would it be and why?

 

This question is why my answers are late to you.  It is impossible to choose one.  Of course everyone at Mod Livin’ loves the legends who initially introduced modern to America in a way that made it entirely accessible, and in a way, friendly.  The names we all know, Eero Saarinen, George Nelson, Harry Bertoia, Charles & Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Russel Wright, and of course Ralph Rapson.  I wouldn’t have this job if it weren’t for those names, they’re our Rushmore.

 

Personally, the last year or so I’ve wanted to buy every piece of Adrianne Pearsall that comes within arm’s length.  I love the exaggerated lines.  The designs are simultaneously whimsical and elegant.  


 

4. The Rapson Greenbelt line of lounge chairs is a fairly new addition to your inventory. If I may ask a leading question, what is it you like about the collection?

I think Rason Inc’s description of the line summed up my feelings perfectly, “…heirloom quality built with a conscience.”  That’s what we’re all after today.  We want heirloom pieces and we refuse to turn a blind eye to the materials and the hands that create them.

 
Amanda, Cinder & the Rapson Rocker

 

5. Lastly, what do you enjoy most about your career with Mod Livin'? 

 

The amazing people I get to work with.  I respect & appreciate everyone here more than I can explain.  Being in an environment that revolves around creativity, design,  art, & history while constantly learning from people who have seen all of the ins & outs of this industry is absolutely as good as it gets in my book.  I learn something (usually several things) every single day.



Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc.

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Boston, Rapson-Inc. and the Growth of Mass Modern

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted May 29, 2012 in AIA Twenty Five Year Award, Ben Thompson, Boston Modernism, Design Research, Knoll Associates, Modern furniture, Ralph Rapson, Rapson-Inc.

Boston isn't perceived as a hub of Modernism in the way that Palm Springs is, but in reality, the city and its modern retailers played a huge role in the development of Mass Modernism.

Ralph Rapson's drawings usually featured interiors with wildly modern furniture for the time. However, in the earlier part of his career, this furniture was often a sketch of his imagination; the real selection of Modern designs very was limited for Americans in the first years after WWII. 


It was not that modern design had not fully ventured into furniture, but that the gap between high design and the American consumer market had not yet been breached. In 1940, The Museum of Modern Art in New York held a competition entitled, Organic Design in Home Furnishings, for which many of the most iconic mid-century furniture designs were submitted from international architects and designers. In the decade that followed, as many of these designs reached mass production, Ralph Rapson decided to open a store specifically for this type of merchandise. 


Rapson-Inc. opened in 1950 at 282 Dartmouth Street, one block from Copley Square in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. The store sat just steps from some of the greats from the previous architectural eras, such as the Trinitiy Church in the Romanesque Revival style employed by H. H. Richardson and the Italian Renaissance styled Boston Public Library by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead, & White. 

In the beginning, Ralph's wife, Mary, proposed that their stock rely heavily on goods of his own design and other larger pieces on credit from Knoll Associates, with whom he had been collaborating on a number of projects. The long and narrow space acted as a showroom for modern design. Creatively making use of the limited space, Angelo Tasta's fabrics hung full length from the ceiling and Knoll chairs were suspended from the walls. A mock living room arrangement and Rapson-designed storage cabinets were used to show customers how to incorporate modern design into their lives.


Not far away and not long after Rapson-Inc. closed because Ralph had gone to Europe to design a fleet of thoroughly Modern American embassies abroad, another store opened that would become the most influential design store for modern design. Rapson-Inc. was a store success with early adopters of Modernism in Boston, but another store would be the epicenter for Modern design not only in Boston but (arguably) in the whole of the U.S.

Founded in 1953 by architect Ben Thompson, Design Research (D/R) was a retailer of contemporary furnishings, from furniture to dinnerware to clothing. The first store opened on Brattle Street in Harvard Square.  The concept - similar to Rapson-Inc.'s but with a much larger selection - was branded as a "lifestyle store", where patrons could buy nearly anything for their modern lifestyle in a range of prices, from a Joe Columbo chair down to $1 Mexican martini glasses. The store carried designs by the likes of Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer, and Charles and Ray Eames, but it favored the European designs, particularily those from Scandinavian. 

Design Research held sole rights in America to sell the Finnish Marimekko fabrics and garments from 1959-76. Jacqueline Kennedy was photographed during her husband's campaign and presidency wearing a number of Marrimekko dresses she purchased at D/R, bringing the until-then unknown Finnish designer to the forefront of American Modernism as the perfect model for the emerging independent woman. 

A second store was designed and built in1969 by Thompson's architectural firm, Benjamin Thompson & Associates, at 48 Brattle Street. Thouroughly modern, the 24,000 sq ft building was constructed of concrete slabs supported by interior concrete columns, with floor-to-ceiling tempered glass exterior walls. In 2003, the building was awarded the AIA Twenty-Five Year Award for "architecture of enduring significance", and although Design Research closed its doors in 1978, its influence is not forgotten. 

Written in part by Jane Thompson - Ben Thompson's widow, founder of I.D Magazine, and an architect and urban planner herself - Design Research: The Store that Brought Modern Living to American Homes documents the whole story of this influential enterprise. 


[photo credit: Wikipedia]


[photo credit: coolhunting.com]


Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc.

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