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Vintage Vessels

Four L.A. Landscape Designers Create Modern Looks in Yesterday's Pots

August 03, 2003|Barbara Thornburg

Herman Miller benches, Vladimir Kagan sofas--are ubiquitous in Southern California homes, outdoor furnishings of the era are more elusive. California's harsh sun and pollution take their toll on garden furniture--both then and now. Vintage pots, in good condition, are even rarer in the land of earthquakes.

Andy Hackman has been bringing these hard-to-find pieces to the public since the '90s. His now-defunct store OUTside was one of the first to specialize in vintage outdoor furniture from important Modernist designers Walter Lamb, Hendrik Van Keppel, Taylor Green and others. Hackman and his wife Lisa recently opened California Living on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, which also carries rare pieces, as well as new vintage-inspired classics by Miller Fong, Danny Ho Fong and other California designers. His mission: to provide simple, modern furnishings that enhance today's architecture, interiors and landscapes--as well as lifestyles.

Last month, in the Modernist Case Study spirit, the Hackmans invited four Southern California landscape firms' designers to work with a collection of vintage pots. "We want to build on the basics of modernism and present these pots in a progressive way as interpreted by renowned landscapers," Andy Hackman says. "It's important to honor our past but not copy it."

The pots on the following pages are from the defunct Architectural Pottery, a Los Angeles firm that, for more than three decades, supplied planters, sand urns, sculpture and space dividers to architects and designers across the country. Founded in 1950, Architectural Pottery made a name by breaking with traditional fat-lipped terra-cotta pots. It introduced a line of sculptural earthenware and later stoneware and fiberglass vessels based on geometric forms to go with the new modern homes and buildings of the day. Often known colloquially by their shape--dominoes and doughnuts, woks and cones, sombreros, totems and bullets--these sculptural pieces landed in New York City's Museum of Modern Art's 1951 "Good Design'' exhibition as well as a number of "California Design" exhibitions at the Pasadena Museum of Art in the '60s and '70s.

Here, designers plant the pots, using everything from hot chilies to Japanese fisherman's buoys and chunks of Phillips' Milk of Magnesia bottles.

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Resource Guide

Pots and furnishings from a selection at California Living, Los Angeles, (323) 930-2601. Plants and arrangement materials from a selection at California Cactus Center, Pasadena, (626) 795-2788; Tropics, Los Angeles, (323) 469-1682; Serra Gardens, Malibu, (310) 456-1572. Fisherman's buoys from Glass Garage, Los Angeles, (323) 651-4231, Phillips' Milk of Magnesia glass from United Terrazo Supply, La Mirada, (714) 523-1530. Rita Azar, Rita Flora, Los Angeles, (323) 938-3900; Pamela Burton, Pamela Burton & Company, Santa Monica, (310) 828-6373; Michael Ferguson of Space International and Sasha Tarnopolsky of Dry Design at the HEDGE Design Collective, Los Angeles, (323) 954-9084; Mia Lehrer, Mia Lehrer + Associates, Los Angeles, (213) 384-3844; Rob Steiner, Rob Steiner Inc., Los Angeles, (323) 931-4425.

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