May 6, 2015

Design Defined: Ziggurat

In yesterday's post, I mentioned El Castillo at Chichén Itzá was a ziggurat-style pyramid.  A ziggurat is a stepped, pyramid-type structure constructed of successively receding tiers, or levels, with a flat top. Ziggurats are believed to have first been erected in Mesopotamia and inspired by the biblical story of the Tower of Babel.
The Ziggurat of Ur, built by the Sumerians, is shown in this drawing from 1939 by Sir Leonard Woolley, a British archeologist.

The ziggurat motif became widely used during the Art Deco period; both right-side up and inverted. You can see a great example of it used both ways in the lobby of 450 Sutter Street in San Francisco.
Photos by Chanda Seymour Mattson

Here's a recent example of a stylized ziggurat used in a rug design by Kelly Wearstler for Patterson, Flynn and Martin.  
Living room design by Melanie Elston via Traditional Home.

May 5, 2015

Travel: Chichén Itzá, Mexico

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, I thought it would be appropriate to share my recent visit to Chichén Itzá.

Chichén Itzá is a Mayan archaeological site dating from as early as the Late Classic Period (c. AD 600–900).  As a designer, I spend countless hours creating drawings that are used to build new structures, or to remodel existing spaces.  The drawings need to be precise and detailed in order to avoid mistakes during construction. It amazes me the architectural wonders that were once built without the use of today's technologies.

The Temple of Kukulkan (a feathered serpent), also known as El Castillo (the castle), is one such wonder. Each of the four sides of this ziggurat-style pyramid has 91 steps rising to the platform at the top - considered the final step - totaling 365 steps. One for every day of the year. On the north side, there are two serpent heads at the bottom of the steps, representing Kukulkan. The temple is perfectly aligned with the sun, so that on the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow is cast along the balustrade (stair rail) that creates an illusion of the snake slithering its way down the steps.

The angle of the steps create an amazing effect, as well.  From below, a clap results in an echo reminiscent of a bird's chirp; specifically a quetzal, the living representation of Kukulkan.  Here's a short clip of it being demonstrated.
At the Great Ball Court, men in full head dress played in teams against each other. In a quest to put a rubber ball through a ring 30 feet above the playing field, the player had no knowledge to whether he was playing to become the next chosen priest, or the next sacrifice to the gods.
Chichén Itzá consists of three separate areas, North, Central and South (or Old Chichén).  The Great North Platform is where the excavated and restored structures can be found, but excavation is still taking place as seen on the east side of El Castillo.  The following photos are of other structures found in North Chichén including the Temple of the Jaguar, the Skull Platform, The Platform of Eagles and Jaguars, the Platform of Venus, and the Temple of Warriors.  
Chichén Itzá was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.  It is well worth the two-plus hour drive from Cancun for a visit.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
All photos and video clip by Chanda Seymour Mattson

May 4, 2015

Celebrating an Icon

Today marks what would have been Audrey Hepburn's 86th birthday; not only a beauty on the exterior, but a beautiful soul.
“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It's the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows & the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.” - Audrey Hepburn
How are you expressing your beauty?

January 19, 2015

Vegas, Baby!

For the next few days I will be in Las Vegas, attending Las Vegas Market, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), and checking out the NAHB International Builder's Show (IBS).

Come, see what I'm up to and follow along, here on the blog, and at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

I hope you'll join me!

January 8, 2015

Events: Design San Francisco

Save the date for Design San Francisco, an annual event held at the San Francisco Design Center. This year's dates are February 4 - 6, 2015.  Along with two keynote presentations, attend seminars and workshops hosted by SFDC showrooms.  See the full schedule, here.

January 7, 2015

Get the Look: Nous for You

Peruse through any decor blog, and you are bound to find a get the look post -- a post displaying a photograph of a professionally designed room showcasing furnishings sold to the trade only, or priced outside the average human's budget.  In addition to the photo, a selection of items proposed as substitutes are suggested to help the reader create a similar look, or feel, for a lower price.  I've done my own version, here, on this blog.
Last fall, I met the team at nousDECOR, a website and online tool to help individuals create beautiful rooms. On their site, you can browse through rooms of every type and shop the items curated by the site's designers, or other members, right from the screen.  The site also allows you to shop alternative or additional items within the same aesthetic, but at different price points with their "same look, different price" tool. Have an inspiration photo of your own?  Upload it and shop items within their database, or add your own.  Not sure where to start, or which items work best to create your room? Chat with one of the site's decor specialists who will work with you.  

Now, you can take nousDECOR with you using the mobile app that launches today in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  Download it from iTunes, and comparison shop on the go.  When you find an item you're interested in, snap a picture and search nousDECOR's library of over 8 million pieces. The database consists of products from online retailers, boutique retailers, flash sale sites, and vintage sources such as Crate & Barrel, Target, Serena & Lily, One Kings Lane, and eBay.  Find something you like?  Buy it right through the app.

NousDECOR makes creating a look easy.  Happy decorating!

January 6, 2015


I recently came across the following image on the internet -- a kid's room by a designer in the UK, and highlighted in House and Garden in 2013.  Does it look familiar to you? It sure did to me.
It looks very much like the room Kelly Wearstler designed for her son, Oliver, which she featured in her book Domicilium Decoratus, published in 2006.
As a designer, I don't see a problem with using another's work for inspiration.  I do it myself. I will recreate a color palette, or try to find a match to a particular furniture piece. But, this is not that.  This is taking the main features of someone else's creativity, and using them as one's own. You may be thinking, "But, they aren't exactly the same," and no, they aren't, but the similarities are obvious.

I would love to hear your opinion.  Is this design thievery, or just a form of flattery?