Designing and Apartment like a Disney Legend

28 09 2014

I’ve got it! I’ve got a new design theme for my future studio apartment when I move out of the flophouse I currently live in (with roommates, ick). It’s going to be a 1950s fantasy world! ‘It’s the Cold War after all!’ Mary Blair - It's A Small WorldSince I work for a furniture company that sells Mid-century Modern furniture and home accessories, and I get a 30% discount on all purchases, I decided to forgo the Art Deco theme I had in mind for a Mid-century Modern one. Art Deco is my favourite interior design and architecture style, but it’s just too hard to find practical furniture, like convertible sofas, to pull off the Hollywood Regency look in a studio apartment.

The middle of the twentieth century was an awful time for urban planning—everything was about cars and highways, and tearing down old neighbourhoods to replace them with parking lots, strip malls, and suburban tract houses—but the interior design and architecture styles in themselves were really cool. Think Jetsons, Star Trek, the Dick van Dyke Show, EPSON scanner imageand the It’s A Small World ride at Disneyland—anything that seemed cool and modern in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, but which is considered retro nowadays. I’ve decided the ‘It’s A Small World’ 1950s Disney fantasy world is the look I’m going for, but it isn’t going to be a tacky carnival. It is going to be sleek and contemporary with a few nods here and there to that era in the decorative arts. Old 1950s record albums. Old cars. Old children’s story books. That is the look I am going to shove in your face when you come to visit my pad. And just imagine it at Christmas, with multi-coloured Christmas lights and retro glass tree ornaments reflecting pink and purple hues off white surfaces!

The artist behind the concept work for Disney’s ‘Small World’ ride was Mary Blair. Not only did she design the set and animatronic characters for our most beloved theme park ride, but she also illustrated the backgrounds for feature-length Disney animated films such as Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland. Mary Blair IIA pioneer among women in the world of animation, which was and still is dominated by men, she created some of the most memorable animated landscapes of the twentieth century, and anyone who has read a Little Golden Book based on a Disney film has probably enjoyed her magical artwork without realising who she was. So I have decided to take her as my inspiration. It is the perfect marriage of the retrofuturistic Space Age of Tomorrowland (as embodied by Star Trek and The Jetsons) with the mystical, magical world of Fantasyland, all using the tropes, motifs, and design elements of Mid-Century Modern art. I should add that Blair was not just a children’s animator, but also created remarkably evocative adult watercolours featuring the themes and landscapes of America during the early to middle twentieth century.

Anyway, here are the bare bones of my design scheme. I’ve decided to go with a sleek, contemporary, gravel-grey convertible sofa called the Tratus, by the Danish company Innovation. It comes with or without arms, but I am going with arms because I like the ‘complete’ sofa look. I also like the matte, dark grey legs and frame base. Tratus Convertible Sofa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am going to get matching chairs for either side of the sofa, in order to create a relatively symmetrical look, and also so I can convert the sofa into a queen size in case some queen ends up in my bed after a night of drunken debauchery. These chairs are made in the same matching grey, although only a picture of the yellow version is available. Tratus Chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To these I plan to add a kidney-shaped coffee table with a white, powder-coated, tempered-glass top and lacquered, steel-framed base. There will be matching end tables on either side of the sofa. Appropriate table and floor lamps will be included. Maybe a lava lamp. Hmm. Yes, a lava lamp. Cerise-coloured. Azalea Coffee Table               Azalea End Table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, let’s talk about art. Since I am drawing inspiration from Mary Blair, I have to have some affordable prints of hers to display on my walls. Just enough to conjure up the idea of Mid-Century Modern Disney fantasy world, yet subtle enough to be sophisticated. So here are the prints I have selected below. This one:

Mary Blair - Cinderella VI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this one:

 Mary Blair - Cinderella II

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this one: Mary Blair - Cinderella                   And this one: Mary Blair - Cinderella V                 And this one: Mary Blair - Cinderella IV                 And this one: Mary Blair - Alice in Wonderland                 And this one: Mary Blair - Alice in Wonderland II                   And this one: Mary Blair - Peter Pan III                     And this one: Mary Blair - Weird               And this one: Mary Blair - Headless Horseman                   As you can see, I’m going for the dark Disney look in my Mid-Century Modern flat. I shan’t have anything less. My main goal is to create a darkly retrospective atmosphere with a hint of Mid-century fantasy married with a little bit of retrofuturistic science-fiction. The furniture I showed is neutral—grey and cubical, or elliptic and white. The furniture serves as a device to show off the more carnivalesque prints I intend to put on my walls. What do you think? Can I pull off this Mid-century Modern, Disneyland fantasy look?





A Young Feminist Decries the “Pink Stuff”

28 12 2011

A very serendipitous gift was bestowed on me on Christmas Day: a video of a little girl railing against gender stereotypes inside a toy store. I unwrapped a present, a book called Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs (given me by my wonderfully open and progressive mother), and showed everybody the book, announcing the title for all to hear and accepting family photographs of myself, of course, with the cherished tome in hand. Noting my interest in the topic of gender theory, my elder brother showed me the video, which featured a girl named Riley critiquing the use of colour-coded gender stereotypes in marketing. This girl must have an IQ of 140, or if she doesn’t, she will when she grows up. She is precocious:

I love her! She’s like Lisa Simpson, and Lisa Simpson is like me. Watch this clip of Lisa Simpson, when she was me in, like, 1985 when I was seven years old:

Riley is a real-life version of Lisa—and me! Just like me at her age, she doesn’t buy into the marketing bullshit, and she makes no effort to hide her disgust with the crass commercialization of sex roles. It’s like she’s saying, “this stupid pink shit is fucked up, and it makes me want to vomit!” But, of course, she is a five year-old girl, so she doesn’t say that. What struck me as amazing was her reasoning abilities. She was able to create this abstract symmetry between what girls like and what boys like: “Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses; some boys like superheroes, some boys like princesses”. This is pretty sophisticated thinking for a five-or-six year-old.

Most amazing of all, I think, was this little girl’s ability to cut like a laser through the smoke and mirrors of the marketing industry and exclaim that “the companies who make these try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff instead of stuff that boys want”. So now little Riley has not only identified the unfairness of pressuring girls into buying princesses and pressuring boys into buying superheroes, but she has pinpointed the commercial mechanism which exploits these gender stereotypes to achieve a profit. I’m sorry, but that is a brilliant observation for a child so small.

It’s interesting to note the way in which the father relates to his daughter in this video. The father seems to insist that boys can have pink if they want, but the daughter seems to insist that, while this is technically so, girls are still pressured into wanting the pink princess crap while the boys are pressured into wanting the blue superhero crap. And, if we think about it, that’s true. Even if our children technically can buy cross-gender toys, they are very strongly admonished against doing so. There are social consequences to it, and little Riley is struggling in the midst of this gender fracas. At the same time, I commend Riley’s father for being a true father and taking the time to nurture his child by listening to her words, acknowledging her wisdom, and taking her to the toy store himself in the first place. Not many fathers would do even that much.

This reminds me of my childhood, which was raped away by the horrid spectre of a stepfather who hated women, black people, and gay people. Until 1986, when I turned 8, I was allowed to play with “girl stuff” as much as I wanted—both my parents were mild, good-natured, common-sensical people, if a bit religious and conservative—but once my mother divorced my father and married this odious troll from the American south, everything changed. She had to try to accommodate his stupid scruples, which included the immediate eviction of any gynaecoid play-thing. Suddenly, as boys, we weren’t allowed to play with anything that resembled women (or what women were thought to be). We were allowed to watch She-Ra: Princess of Power, but we were no longer allowed to play with the action figures themselves:

I thought that She-Ra was hot! And by hot I don’t mean sexually exploitable; I mean sexually confident. This woman was a sexual agent. She was in control, and for that reason she was admirable. But for some stupid reason, my stepfather hated the idea of his stepsons watching cartoons of women dodging lasers and throwing men over their shoulders. He hated the idea of boys liking “girl things”, and, on top of that, the idea that those “girl things” involved girls who wielded power. But every faggot loves that shit. It was all just too much of a mindfuck for his dessicated brain to handle. This is the type of gender-stupidity that I think little Riley is railing against in her father’s video.

Little Riley is an inspiration. She gives us a lesson. She is a tiny girl who helps us remember how both girls and boys can be hurt by rigid gender roles. Parents should not tell their daughters that they should like only princesses and pink stuff, and they should not tell their sons that they should like only superheroes and blue stuff. Because, even at an age as young as Riley’s, the stupidity and oppressiveness of these roles are apparent. And if you want to play the biological determinist card, I entreat you to read Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, by Cordelia Fine (who exposes the very recent, very cultural origin of the pink/blue phenomenon in her book). Reading that might make you think twice about how you treat your children. It’s all about what actually works for us as people who have to adapt to the demands of a modern world. It’s always been about that. Nothing else.