Portugal's Boca do Lobo was another company I wasn't sure about at first, but the more I looked around at their pieces, the more I started to appreciate what they're doing. There's something quite clearly 1930s about the work, and I'm sure that were Helena Rubinstein transported here, she'd adore this stuff. There's also something completely Rococo, over-the-top, and gaudy about the pieces, which was what initially put me off. But once I got used to that, I realized that they have great balance and proportion at the same time, and a careful handling of different textures and forms. In other words, BL is blending disparate and terribly loud forms, but they do know what they're doing with them.
They have three lines, first is the SoHo Collection. I really enjoyed this mirror, "Apollo":
Click images for larger.
And a desk, "Trinity," which is representative of some of the more remarkable work below, but I'm not convinced the silver leaf is is enough to make this more than an interesting novelty piece:
It somehow doesn't go far enough to make this piece more obviously a product of the current century. Nonetheless, the repetition of the crazy hardware--in the perfect serial amount: three--thankfully dampens its ability to appear obnoxious. The fact that the silver hardware is given a similarly silver ground shows a certain restraint, as well. There's a sophistication in the handling of these elements at work here.
Next there's the Coolors line, which is a bit more intriguingly edgy. Here's an end/occasional table, "Zaragoça":
Now, the color is something, and it's pretty unusual for sure. That alone wouldn't get my attention, however. I'm sure about a third of all Lower East Side apartments have a piece of old furniture found on the street that some art school student thought to salvage and paint some funky color or another. Clearly it's the amoeba shaped top that sets this one apart, its color just adds to the almost surrealist quality of it. There's the taste of traditional ornamentation, of something homey and familiar, but all together the table is without question a product of our times. It's a theme that I realize comes up here a lot; it's not interpretations of history, but rather reinterpretations that I find most inspiring.
"Tower" is one of my favorite pieces of theirs:
It exploits the most luscious contrast between the stark, rectilinear, Mondrianesque pattern of shelving and the curvaceous, traditionalist base, and in perfect measure. That is to say, for me the base goes a lot further, speaks a lot louder than the modern sharpness of the cabinetry, and therefore, being a much smaller adornment at the bottom gives this piece incredible balance and proportion.
This "Boulevard" desk is also a great piece:
It is definitely interesting, but I don't consider this a tour de force. The best part about this is obviously the mirrored filing cabinet. But a lot of things have gone wrong, and a lot of opportunities were missed. Firstly, paper files are a thing of the past or at least most certainly should become so. I would be a lot more excited about this if it were a compartment for a CPU.
Secondly, I wish the mirrored surface were accomplishing more, interacting more with the desk proper. There was a wonderful opportunity to create some kind of a surrealist effect here, especially as seen in this studio shot where the mirrored casing almost wants to disappear altogether. I'm tempted to fantasize about the undersize of the desk being mirrored, as well. There was also the opportunity for a display of real attention to detail, had the underside of the desk reflected in the mirror had some incredible inlay--either something loud and flashy and acid orange, or something so small and subtle it would be visible only upon very close inspection.
Lastly, the claw feet are doing the file case no great favor. They ruin the effect of it having a mirrored surface, and its ability to contrast the hardware of the drawer pulls. I'd much have preferred the file case to have hidden legs or none at all, with even more robust hardware and woodworking on the body of the desk. If the claws absolutely have to be there, then for sure they need to be much, much larger and more ornate. As it is, they feel like an afterthought.
And then, Boca do Lobo's Limited Edition pieces, which are completely insane. Here's their "Victoria" cabinet:
This has a lot of the same qualities going for it as "Tower," with the geometric, crystalline pattern on the cabinet and the curvaceous, Baroque base. Here, though, the balance comes from the cabinet being so big and black and monolithic. It very interestingly casts the base in a light that reveals its delicacy. Nonetheless, the base is utterly obnoxious, and I love it. For that reason, I think black was the perfect choice for this. I don't think this could have worked nearly as well in a soft color--or any color at all, for that matter--and definitely not white. The only colors that could have this kind of impact would be bright primaries, and I can imagine that'd push this way too far.
Their "D. Manuel" cabinet displays a wonderful handling of texture:
The solidity and vertical force of the cabinet beautiful counteracts the swirling complexity of the legs. At the same time, the legs are uniform enough to dampen their intricacy. The choice of two basic tones, gold and gun-metal gray, also show a restraint that gives the piece elegance and simplicity, despite its complex forms.
One of their more shocking pieces is this "Mondrian" console:
It's like a bunch of drawers from different pieces of furniture fit together like a puzzle inside a clear Lucite casing. It's a brilliant idea, really, totally insane, and nicely useful in a situation where you need to store lots of different types of objects. However, I think I'd like it a lot more if some of the drawer faces weren't patterned with the BL logo.
I'm already not convinced logo patterns need to be on Louis Vuitton handbags, much less furniture. At the very least, I think for a logo to be successfully extrapolated into a pattern, it needs to be widely recognized beforehand. It also seems like a strange form of decoration on a console unless it's being used in their own showroom...or by someone with those initials, Bruce Lee? They also offer this one in black with silver hardware, but I honestly can't decide which I like better.
I think this one has to be my favorite of all of them, the "Diamond" console:
The shapes of the casing are conceptually simple but visually fascinating. The choice of color is striking but not at all offensive to the eyeballs. And those feet. Those feet are just beyond bizarre, to the point that they're almost creepy, I love them.
To be honest, I have a very hard time imagining an interior scheme that this piece would fit comfortably into, right off the top of my head. I'm sure one exists, though. If nothing else, it's so utterly unusual and unique, I can't help having the suspicion that it is, in fact, quite visionary.
©2009, Ryan Witte