Oct 29, 2010 thinking design
Le Corbusier collection, manufactured by the Swiss company KT Color: Perfect for Modernist Interiors
Oct 1, 2010 thinking design
From New York Times, by Alice Rawsthorn:
“Imagine one of those glacially chic early-20th-century Modernist interiors. What do you see? White walls and wide windows? Gleaming glass and tubular steel furniture? Constructivist paintings? A natty young woman with fashionably bobbed hair reclining langorously on a leather chaise longue?
Whatever you imagined, I’ll bet it was in black and white. It’s a safe bet, because our perceptions of early Modernism — at the Bauhaus design school in 1920s Germany, or the purist villas that Le Corbusier was building in France — are shaped by the photographs taken at the time, and they were all in black and white.
In fact, Modernist interiors were much more vivid than the photographs suggest. When you go to those places, you’ll discover that although many of them do indeed sport gleaming glass, tubular steel and so on, there are often glorious splashes of color to complement the white walls. And one of the most gifted colorists of the era was none other than Le Corbusier himself; the vibrant shades he chose then are among the best you’ll find today.
Why, you may be wondering, should paint colors that date back to the 1920s still seem special? Shouldn’t science and technology have produced something better between then and now? You’d think so, but if they have, I’ve yet to find it. No modern paint I know comes close to matching the rich, vivid colors of Le Corbusier’s.
Today there are 80 shades of paint in the Le Corbusier collection, which is manufactured by the Swiss company KT Color. Corb, as he was nicknamed, developed the colors from the 1920s onward while designing his purist villas. When the young French designer Charlotte Perriand went to work for him in 1927, her first job was to furnish the house in Paris he had built for his friend, the banker and art collector Raoul La Roche. In her memoirs, she described being shown around by Corb while Bach cantatas blared from the gramophone. ‘‘What a shock that experience was . . . almost an overwhelming sensation of bliss,’’
Corb’s idiot-proofing is one reason why those paints are still appealing. Another is that they’re particularly well made. Most paint manufacturers produce their colors from different combinations of about a dozen industrial pigments, whereas KT Color reproduces Corb’s from more than 120 mostly mineral pigments. You don’t need a doctorate in chemistry to spot the difference. Those extra pigments make his hues look richer, deeper and more complex.
No prizes for guessing that the extras also make them more expensive. Corb’s paint costs from $2 up to $5 per square foot for the priciest shades, which contain lapis lazuli, compared with as little as 5 cents for cheap paints. Though Corb’s version does win (very topical) eco-points for using nontoxic pigments.
But the main reason why his palette has lasted so long is that Corb picked it to suit two particular styles — the purist white walls of his early Modernist interiors and the raw wood and raw concrete of the later ones. These are the styles that dominated his architecture and have defined modern interior design ever since. It’s because they’ve proven so enduring that the colors he chose nearly 90 years ago resonate today.”