Posts Tagged ‘conversation pit’


Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

From tumblr

Photos via inside (photo above is at, one of the best curated tumblelogs on tumblr. Well-named, also. And see its sister site, outside, which is equally good.

Indoor swing

Wooden things

Plaster, crooked paintings

My apologies for not knowing the name of the photographers, owners or designers behind these photos. It’s tumblr, so all bets are off. It’s a zone of 100% copyright infringement and rampant decontextualization. I feel a little funny reposting anything I find there, for that reason.


Whatever happened to the seating platform, the conversation pit?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Modern Seating Platform

Above, the 1970s modern two-level platform in painter Frank Stella’s loft, from the classic book Inside Today’s Home. Below, a recent photo of the renovated 1950s conversation pit in the Number 31 Hotel in Dublin.

conversation pit

Maybe it’s because I grew up around a hip artist aunt whose 60s/70s handmade house had a seating platform in it, but I am mourning the disappearance of the freeform seating arrangement. And apparently I am not alone. The seating platform and conversation pit of the postwar period (sort of the inverse of each other but amounting to the same thing, mood-wise) probably have their origins in the interior design of the Middle East or North Africa. Over time this form spread to regions within that sphere of influence, such as Greece, Turkey and Spain. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, conversation pits and raised seating areas looked variously Eastern, hippie, shagadelic, or modernist, but the effect was the same. Obviously architectural design influences mood and behaviour, and these seating styles do inherently invite a completely different form of socializing. And a different quantity of it. As a kid at my aunt’s I would spend all day on her padded window seat platform, which was large enough for about 6 people (maybe 4 stretched out) and which was covered with a huge, natural pale brown Greek flokati and pillows, far more comfortable than any couch or chair. Now when I visit her we still invariably congregate there. Of the two styles I think I actually prefer the seating platform, because it allows you to be even more free-form and informal than most sunken pits, and because it’s cheaper to build. Below, seating platform/window seat in British Columbia; further below, seating platform in the Standard Hotel in LA, by ChimayBleue on Flickr.

At the lake

The Standard Hotel Downtown LA

Miller House, Columbus, IN, designed by Eero Saarinen, 1957

miller house by saarinen, photo by ezra stoller

Saarinen's Miller House, 1957, via High Steel Heels on Flickr

Above, three photos of perhaps the most famous modern conversation pit of all: it’s in Eero Saarinen’s Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, built in 1957. The top two photos are recent; the last photo is how it originally looked.

Edersheim Apartment by Paul Rudolph, 1970

Above, the Edersheim apartment by architect Paul Rudolph, 1970. Most Paul Rudolph houses featured a conversation pit or equivalent seating arrangement. Below is a related but sort of rustic space age option: suspended sitting and sleeping pods in architect Bruce Goff‘s experimental Bavinger House (1950-55; photo by Lizzy Brooks is from here). Below that is another Bruce Goff building, the Nicol House of 1965, photo by Robert McLaughlin.

Bavinger House by architect Bruce Goff

Bruce Goff's Nicol House, by Robert McLaughlin

teen conversation pit

Teen conversation pit, above; below, the early 70s living/dining room of sculptor Sydney Butche—it appeared in House Beautiful in 1972.

Seating platform, house of sculptor Sydney Butche

Below, some historical precedents:

Estrado, from the Museo Casa Cervantes

The seating area above, an “estrado,” is from Cervantes’ 16th C house, now the Museo Casa Cervantes:

Estrado is the name given to the reception room which is characteristically taken up in part by the a dais ( the estrado itself) covered with rugs where normally the women sat in Moorish fashion on cushions following the Spanish custom of Islamic origin which foreign visitors found very surprising although it in Spain it survived practically until the Bourbon era.

There are numerous testimonies to the use of the estrado, both in literature and in painting in Spain and in the inventories which document household contents. It was normally the most richly decorated room in the house and the one used for receiving visitors .

Topkapi Harem - Twin Kiosk / Apartments of the Crown Prince

Above, the Twin Kiosk / Apartments of the Crown Prince (Çifte Kasırlar / Veliahd Dairesi), via onethirteen. Below, the low seating platform (at right) on Crete is typical of many traditional Greek houses, though some of them are more comfortably padded than this one.

Postcard - House in Rhodes

If building code (or cost) prohibits conversation pits and sunken living rooms, then raised seating platforms are a great cheap substitute – for that matter, make a raise platform with a recessed area within it. If you have an appetite for more images, see here and here, and there are more photos below. And if you’ve ever made one of these, man I’d like to see it.


Geodesic dome redux

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

geodesic interior, from randomfriendly via nomadicway, from tumblr

This post is sort of a follow-up to a previous post with a similar thesis: that the 60s and 70s aren’t dead, they’re alive and well and living on tumblr. These photos of geodesic dome interiors and exteriors are just a small selection from randomfriendly,  nomadicway, julesandnichostandardgrey and cerebralmuseum. Curious fact: Buckminster Fuller was not the inventor of these structures. The first geodesic dome was built 30 years earlier “by  Walther Bauersfeld, chief engineer of the Carl Zeiss optical company, for a planetarium to house his new planetarium projector,” according to Wikipedia. However it was Fuller’s utopian PR for his domes that fed these 60s and 60s-style experimentations. Welcome to the pleasure dome – though I’m sure these are not what that song is referring to.

geodesic interior from julesandnicho

shingled geodesic dome, via nomadicway via cerebralmuseum

geodesic dome, via

geodesic dome, via via nomadicway


geodesic dome, via

dome via random friendly via nomadicway

geodesics via cerebral museum

dome via julesandnicho

geodesic fail by standardgrey

The above by standardgrey really made me laugh, even despite an allergy to lolspeak (click on photo to see other amusing judgments passed on this thing). So many of these glass domes were eventually painted for privacy and shade, but this one takes defeating the purpose to a new level. The 1976 dome fire below, “Buckminster’s blaze,” is via standardgrey via mcslo and is originally from the Montreal City Archive. See some funny remarks about this, and about domes in general, here. PS. check out this Buckminster Fuller collapsing table.

Biosphère, Expo 67, Montreal

More Paul Rudolph houses – exteriors and interiors

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Milam Residence, Paul Rudolph, Architect, courtesy Paul Rudolph Foundation

Milam Residence, Paul Rudolph, Architect, courtesy Paul Rudolph Foundation

More houses by Paul Rudolph. I’m not sure why I like him so much; maybe it’s the feeling that every space is designed for a party, or the use of white, or that he went so glam/space age in the 60s and 70s. I like all the low Japanese-style seating, often set in one-step-deep conversation pits. Almost all his houses have this in common, whether they’re strict midcentury modern or 60s/70s mod. Whatever happened to conversation pits? I believe he’s underrated. His Modulightor house was in the previous post, and above is the Milam Residence; below is the Green Residence.

Paul Rudolph - The Green Residence

Paul Rudolph - The Green Residence

The Bass Residence, faintly like a white Frank Lloyd Wright:

Paul Rudolph - Bass Residence

Bass Residence, courtesy the Paul Rudolph Foundation

Below, the Cohen House, also via here, shown present day (in condition almost identical to original, for resale since it’s currently for sale) and also shortly after it was built. But what happened to the cool lamps flanking the fireplace?

cohen house by paul rudolph, photo by siebert architects

Paul Rudolph - The Green Residence

Cohen Residence by Paul Rudolph

Paul Rudolph - The Cohen Residence

The Hiss Residence, also known as the Umbrella House. All photos by Kelviin of the Paul Rudolph Foundation.

Umbrella House or Hiss Residence, courtesy the Paul Rudolph Foundation

Umbrella House or Hiss Residence, courtesy the Paul Rudolph Foundation

Below is the fairly psychedelic, late 70s glam Edersheim Apartments.

Edersheim Apartment by Paul Rudolph, 1970


Rudolph’s own apartment in the Beekman Building: lots and lots of parties. Lots and lots of house plants.

Rudolph Residence in the Beekman Building, NYC, by Paul Rudolph

And finally, as already shown in our first Rudolph post, the Alexander Hirsch Residence, later owned and refinished by Halston:

House by Paul Rudolph

Japanese interiors – updated traditional farmhouses

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Japanese country interior - lo res

The photo above shows the central living area of a rural farmhouse on the border of Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures. The house was restored by Kenji Tsuchisawa who bought it as a rundown heap when he was only 20, after seeing a photograph of a traditional Japanese farmhouse on a Tokyo magazine cover. He bought the house before realizing it was situated just one village away from the house in the magazine.

Many Japanese traditional farmhouses have now been restored and modernized, but the layout of these houses is so clever in terms of use of space and comfort that when they are updated, the original layout is often retained. It’s a house model being studied by North American and European architects aiming to produce smaller but more functional houses. Traditional Japanese houses are not large, but they seem larger than they are thanks to their well-thought-out layout. And their serene, warm version of minimalism makes them comfortable and functional. The use of natural materials and repeated colours makes the rooms feel balanced and uncluttered, and so does the fact that most objects have a real function. Decorative elements exist, but not to excess. When these houses are modernized carefully, the main alteration is usually the replacement of the original exterior doors and windows, and trading the sliding shoji screen doors and windows for more sturdily framed glass doors, windows and skylights to let in more light and keep out the weather.

Japanese country interior - lo res

Both photos above show the traditional indoor fire pit known as an irori, which sometimes sits on a raised seating platform, though in the photo above the irori has been traded for a more efficient (and safer) wood stove. The beautiful half-frosting on the glass screen doors in the photo above provides some privacy from the fairly public courtyard for people seated inside. Photos are from a book I think is really worth buying: Japan Country Living: Spirit, Tradition, Style, by Amy Sylvester Katoh, photographs by Shin Kimura, Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo, Japan, 1993. Kimura’s work has also appeared in Met Home and Paris Vogue.

Checkerboard textile of indigo-dyed hemp by Hiroyuki Shindo

Above is a checkerboard textile of indigo-dyed, handwovern hemp by Hiroyuki Shindo, on the verandah of his thatched house. It provides privacy (it appears opaque from outside, see here) and yet admits light and the view. Below, a functional modern kitchen produced by making only minor changes to the original.

Somewhat modernized kitchen in traditional Japanese rural house