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Twenty years ago or so, we came across a neat little book that told the story of a graphic icon: the funny little man, as the author (Virginia Smith) called him.  On the cover was a truly dapper Parisian gent created by AA Cassandre for Dubonnet, the aperitif made with fortified wine, herbs, and quinine.

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As we recall it, the book (check it out here) tells the tale of how companies, mainly companies selling alcoholic beverages, mainly in Europe, mainly in the 1920’s and ’30’s, often gave the job of promoting their product to a little guy.

You can find some lovely drawings by AAC here presenting the little guy doing all kinds of stuff.

It seems that Chaplin’s Little Tramp had pretty much started the whole thing rolling.

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The book has disappeared from our local bibliotheque (though still available, it seems, from the warrior woman), so we went looking on our own to find some colourful little guys hard at work

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Ads for the Italian herbal aperitif Campari have used a weird little jester/devil of a man in a body stocking wrapped in an orange peel.   Nothing about Campari is ordinary.

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The artist is Leonetto Cappiello, nice site in French here.

 

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Cointreau has favoured Pierrot as their pint-sized sales guy graphically

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and ceramically

 

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If you, man or woman, drank aperitifs in European bars in the 1920’s, chances are you lit up a cigar at some point. This little German guy was the guy to call.

 

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But if you wanted music with your beverage, at home, you’d ring up Little Mr Disquehead  shown in this Dutch design for record players, disques, and radios.

 

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Yes, you can say this is not a little man at all, but I don’t think we should exclude the hard-working fella just because he is red and has a trunk.

 

For now, we’ll say goodbye to the funny little guy by way of a little portrait of Mr Chaplin himself, apparently by himself, sketched on a cocktail napkin.  Salute.  Santéchaplin

These days, not many of us stop and take note of what we are walking on or where we stand.  But over the years, lots of talented people have been putting lot of thought and creativity into the stuff that goes under our feet.

Treat your feet and feast your eyes: Viva Terrazzo…..

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Above is just a peek at the bedazzling variety of patterns produced by the terrazzo process–part construction part sculpture pure elegance that lasts a lifetime

Found here.

If your two feet happen to prefer wood to stone, but you still want the visual variety of Terrazzo, you need to budget for Parquet wood floors.

Floors Parquet types

Above selection, tip of the parquet iceberg, found here

The idea certainly appealed to the folks at the St Petersburg Winter Palace–the Hermitage, nice photo from here. 

But what do you do in 2015 to satisfy the floor fetish in your own contemporary home?

Well here’s one idea:

Grey wood is all the rage.  It seems we now favour a neutral background for our lives and ourselves, a bare stage on which to strut our stuff.

Floor my foot new floor

But what does that say about us and how we value ourselves relative to the things around us?  Have we lost a step or two in always clambering to be the centre of attention? If Princes and High Priests were willing to share their habitat with the likes of this…

Duomo, Siena
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or this….

Santa Maria della Salute, Venicefloor santa-maria-della-salute

Why can’t we just suck it up and give ourselves a floor worth dancing on?

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But, hang on, you don’t have to run out and replace your floor;  what a waste. The truth is you can dramatically raise the creative temperature of any room by covering parts of it with a piece of hand-woven cloth.  Oh yes you can…

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Zoe Luyendijk gets it and she’s got it, woven by hand in silk and wool to slip nicely between your foot and the floor while your eyeballs explode.  Fall in love here:

Surely we are ready to revive the art of the floor.  Why should fridges, counter tops, and faucets get all the attention.  Look down, imagine the possibilities.  Imagine your personal terrain.

Floor of San Giorgio Maggiore,  Venicefloor san giorgio maggiore venice katie5-2

Don’t stand for anything less.

And what about that ceiling?

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Gotta thirst at the end of a day?  Well, there is no shortage of colourful, solutions to be concocted–by you yourself or by a licensed professional (image from here).   Cocktails are back.  Lucky us.

Cocktails in a row

The mixed drink for adults that goes beyond the quick and simple rye and ginger, rum and coke, scotch and water, tequila and tequila is very much in favour just now and shows no sign of retreating any time soon.

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It’s all about variety, visual panache, and finding the ONE for you.  You’ll find plenty advice, history, images, recipes, stories at your fingertips, e.g at cocktail builder  or imbibe.

Funny how things come and go.  Not so long ago, the thing to do was to keep everything simple, including your brain buzzing beverage of choice.  Open the bottle, pour a healthy slug, add something a child might drink, and repeat as necessary–or just make a giant jugful.

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But now, it’s all about multiple ingredients, hard to find, mixed in just the right proportion, requiring some care and skill, served in a special glass, beautiful to look at.

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They say the cocktail craze started way back before we let television in the house.  Almost a hundred years ago, people of means and money looking to fill the void between the afternoon nap and dinner decided the thing to do was to have friends over for drinks, real drinks, stiff drinks crafted with expertise made from hard-to-get components, just like their hats and furniture.

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Great design above by Beverley Nichols found here.

Invitation to a cocktail party circa 1925

Invitation to a cocktail party circa 1925

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Actually, the invitation looks more fun and interesting than the party (photo from here; you can acquire the invitation here)

Those who looked into it seriously say the cocktail hour was born sometime between 1917 and 1924, somewhere between London and America, moving inevitably from houses to bars, cafes, nightclubs, fund raisers…

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The bunch above are slurping their cocktails during prohibition in America, meaning you needed a password to get in and you had to lie to your mom when you got home. From this article.

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This crowd is on the town Berlin at a time when, it seems, nothing was prohibited (and just before just about everything was prohibited).

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Wherever you are, the cocktail seems to be best consumed in the presence of someone you think is swell.

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Or at least someone you used to think was swell.  This is a fine photo by Irving Penn was taken in Lima and found at this eye-opening site.

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Then again, some gals just like to put on their best cocktail hat and go it alone.

 

OK, so back to the here and the now.  Below is the bar at the Brasserie NYC in the one and only Seagram’s building where, we can tell you, you will not go wrong in acquiring a satisfying cocktail, New York style: big, quick, yummy, and served by someone who won’t make you feel like you don’t deserve this.

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If you find yourself near NYC or just thinking it, it would be a fine occasion to have a Manhattan cocktail.

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Recipe here; image from (yes) Booze & Yarn.

Wherever you are, spare an hour late in a day to seek out seat at the bar somewhere in your town.  Give the bartender a chance to try something new on you–or challenge him/her with something little known.

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At the r of l, our official cocktail is the negroni.

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Why?  it tastes really good in any season and any time of day, it only has 3 ingredients, and it goes very well with any activity, whether you are being quiet and reflective (wondering where you put that note reminding you to do something) or hosting a gathering of 20 friends and neighbours in celebration of the fact that you have 20 friends and neighbours. (Image above, History, and more from Swide)

Find your cocktail, find your reason to sip it.

 

 

 

 

All of us are born with more than enough imagination.  It is not exclusive to people who go on to write novels, paint pictures, make movies, design buildings, or start a fashion label.  Just look at any child under 10–look at what they are doing.

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F Carpenter Three children drawing on panels, Japan, 1909

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Middle photo, children drawing on panels, Japan, 1909 b7 “F Carpenter”. Top photo and lower one, kids on the street in New York, by Helen Levitt. Lots more here.

But if you ask people over 20 about their imagination and how they use it, you’ll find them frowning while they try to come up with something that won’t sound stupid.

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It seems that once we get it into our heads that we are grown ups, most of us abandon the inventive use of our imagination and only call on it when hankering for something we don’t have: a tropical vacation,  possession of a winning lottery ticket, a cigarette, a cheesecake, a white Christmas, dream girl/guy.

daydreaming-gentleman

Fine, but isn’t there something a bit more useful you could do with this amazing tool that takes you beyond the here and now and the run of the mill?

It doesn’t have to be the invention of an alternate reality or a re-imagining of the modern metropolis.  It could be your choice of an outfit for a walk downtown.

Like this inventive and still playful woman. The Japanese, bless their hearts, take their imaginations to the streets as a matter of course.

And they are not alone.

Above The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas of NYC, photo by NPR found here

More than anyone (as we at the RofL noted before) we have the amazing Bill Cunningham to thank for finding and photographing people who set their own standard every day in New York.

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These are people who wouldn’t be caught dead in some other persons clothes. Above from here 

But, hey, public displays of originality aren’t for everyone, of course.  And plain clothes have been the choice of some of the most imaginative humans who ever lived.

 

An undated photo of Albert Einstein at New York's Saranac Lake: A newly digitized letter from Einstein's personal collection reveals that the physicist once saved a former lover from the Nazis.

Mr Einstein at the beach, almost blending in, seen here

The point is: somewhere in all our lives there is an opportunity to do what feels right to us and what we strongly suspect is not what most people are going to do.

Don’t we have some sort of responsibility to do something, sometime, that is all our own, a demonstration of our DNA writ large?

All we need is the courage to let loose our imagination, our playful side, and put it out there.

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Start small, start with lunch. This is a sandwich, a baby grandwich.  Bravo, and bon appetite. After lunch, maybe go outside and paint the house, pushing yourself beyond taupe with charcoal trim.

Nice building, personalized, and you won’t have any trouble finding it again. It was given a lick of paint by Stanley Donwood, pen name of an artist and is the London office of XL Recordings. More here

Tired of hauling a spruce into the house or the landlord just won’t let you?

We all have an oceanful of ideas–some bright, some wacky, some spooky, some great–floating around in our heads.  Giving ourselves permission to dip into that ocean a bit more often would make the world a bit more interesting, don’t you think?

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Paris, the 1920’s, letting it loose, 24/7. Photo from here

Happy New Year.  Go play

Everyone should live alone–at least for a while, we think.  It teaches you how to take care of yourself and your cave.  It will make you a better roommate when the time comes.  If you make the choice–or it is made for you–to live on your own, you mostly have to make do with a place designed for two or three or seven.  Unless you get lucky.

Tobacco by Avehideshi Architects and Associates

A few designers have, luckily, turned their heads to solo living. Above dwelling (“close to transportation”), is in Tokyo (of course) and is a solo abode designed for a 60-year-old woman above a tobacconist shop.  Architects : Hideshi Abe / Avehideshi Architect and Associates. Photos by Hiroki Kawata.  Viewed at dezeen here

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The cost of land being what it is, the building has a small foot and lots of stairs to climb–beautiful stairs in this case, so take your time.

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This drawing shows where the living quarters (or eighths) are, but how the solo householder has arranged it all is her secret.

 

Nor is this little lady telling us how she arranges her life and her bonnets inside this tiny red place.  Chances are it’s either neat as a pin or a spectacular mess.

 

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If you want some space around your home alone, here’s a nice little cube among the trees and rocks to call your own.

 

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This is a tiny onesy tucked right into the woodsy countryside for the winter.  Fits right in (“Maybe I should have the Birches over for hot chocolate”).  Seen here.

 

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Back to the future, this prototype for one is designed to supply food, energy, heat and oxygen to its occupant.  Its maker calls it  Oogst 1 Solo.   Sadly for us, no mention of it providing wine and potato chips.  Seen at polychroniadis on tumbler.

 

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This is Piiri house, mostly wood, just for one, good for thinking about where you are and where you aren’t.

 

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And if you aren’t yet sure where you want to live, consider the mobile option.  This one in Lego colours folds up into a trailer and folds out into different rooms.  More here

 

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Mmmm. Designed for one, maybe but surely occasional sleepovers are allowed.  APH80 tiny home designed by the Spanish design team at Abaton,

Once you start looking, it turns out there are more people than we thought, professional designers and just plain soloists, who have considered the uni-dwelling:

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Blob VB3, Designed by Belgian architectural firm, dmvA above.

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A bit of a cliffhanger, by Front Architect

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The lovely  L41home, designed by Architect and Urban Designer Michael Katz and Designer Janet Corne

So if you’re ready to go it alone, at least for a while, you just might be able to find the right fit after all.  Lots more here and here  Just don’t be a stranger, OK?