vintage brass

Night Shadows…Vintage Brass Karakusa Globe Lanterns

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The items I get inquiries about all the time are my vintage Japanese filigree globe fixtures. The pierced brass scrolling arabesque pattern, known as karakusa, which appears everywhere in Japanese decorative arts, from porcelain to textiles and more, creates the most playful shadows on the ceilings and walls at night.

The largest of these globes that I have seen is this 18 inch diameter one now hanging in my Doha living room with its lovely high ceilings. It lived in a box in Tokyo as none of the rooms had ceilings high enough to accommodate it. That story can be found here.

doha living room

I’ve never been able to source the original maker and the fixtures themselves are unmarked but I would confidently date them to the post war period around 1950. Other dealers seem to make the same assumption, although I occasionally see them listed as 19th century or art deco, but that is incorrect. These modern fixtures take their cues from the ceremonial lanterns found at Japanese shrines and temples in terms of their pierced design work, but the round globes are a simplified modern form, quite different from those more ornate lantern shapes – often hexagonal or even octagonal. That said, I have sold a few hexagonal versions that take their cues more literally from the old shapes. No examples to show here as those lights are awaiting installation in clients’ homes, but I will share when they are ready. I don’t know if the globes were used as temple lamps or made for personal home use (I highly suspect the latter), but perhaps one of my readers will.

japanese temple lanterns

Over the last few years I have noticed them popping up all of a sudden on the internet, from Emily Henderson‘s LA shopping haul, where she found one identical to mine…

brass karakusa chandelier from emily henderson LA shopping

…and subsequently hung in the entry of her old house. I haven’t seen it anywhere in her new house so I am wondering what may have happened to it. You’ll notice that this globe is the same giant size as mine and she has had to semi-flush mount it, instead of hanging it from a chain, as the ceiling height is too low. It looks a bit awkward like that, don’t you think? Both of our fixtures have their original hanging cap and O-ring, but sometimes over the years those get lost.

emily henderson house brass karakusa fixture

Like me, Emily chose not to polish it much and kept the patina, unlike this highly shined one sold on Etsy. The seller used the horrible come-to-mean-anything-and-nothing terms ‘Hollywood Regency’ and ‘Moroccan Modern’ when this fixture is absolutely neither. You’ll notice this one still has its rice paper lining, unlike mine or Emily’s.

karakusa globe via a storied style

The fixture above seems to be a mid-size version (it’s listed as having a 14 inch diameter), but definitely made by the same maker. I’ve shown you my small size pair (9 inch diameter) that I found at a shrine sale before and now one hangs in our stairwell in Doha. You’ll notice how having the rice paper lining creates a completely different effect at night, casting no magical shadows but highlighting the detail of the pattern.

brass karakusa globe lantern pair resized

I can’t resist showing these two Katie Ridder rooms again either, as each uses a pierced brass globe to great effect in the bedroom. The one on the left has a floral pattern added to the scrolling vines.

Katie Ridder japanese pendant lamp in guest room ED0306 and girls room

There is a plethora of shapes and sizes available right now on 1st dibs, including this one from Downtown at Profiles identical to mine for a whopping $4200. They also have a midsize one available, and both have been fitted with triple bulbs as opposed to the usual single. Both are missing their original hanging caps and loops.

japanese brass globe lantern 1stdibs

Another 1stdibs dealer called Duo has a series of trios available (from $4200-$5800), including this 11.5 inch diameter group and this 9 inch diameter group. You’ll note they both have their original hanging caps and rings, although the latter are different in style. I find larger fixtures came with the more half-loop shaped style on the left and smaller fixtures have the upside down vee-shaped loop as on the right.

karakusa brass lamp trios

Duo also has this wild and unusual mismatched group, which includes a barrel-shaped fixture adorned with an imperial chrysanthemum and an egg-shaped one with ume (plum blossoms) in addition to the standard karakusa globe. I am fascinated that in the couple of days since I started writing this post and noticed these trios for sale, all three sets are on hold, so clearly a buyer is choosing between them or perhaps a designer is planning on using all of them for a commercial project.

trio of karakusa fixtures

Also worth looking at is this wacky three ball fixture with cracked ice and ume pattern here on Etsy, although it is sold. And if you are looking to buy a karakusa globe and your budget isn’t up for these prices, there is a lovely one available from Kodo Arts in Kyoto on Trocadero with its cap, hanging loop and rice paper intact for $1400. Or just drop me a comment or a note and I’ll add you to my waiting list 🙂

Related Posts:
Expat Decorating…Getting Lucky and Making Do
Katie Ridder, Eat Your Heart Out (Over My Latest Shrine Sale Find)

Updates on an Oldate…Beach House Bathroom

Some finishing touches happened this week on one of the earliest projects I took on here, the downstairs bathroom renovation. Long planned, Mally Skok‘s gorgeous and utterly perfect fabric Nichola in Aqua/Sand on Canvas went up as a Roman shade on the window. I have long adored this fabric and in this space it reads like bits of coral and sea life.

mally skok nichola roman shade

There’s not really anything left to do in this space – finishing touches aside. I still can’t quite figure out where to put or hang the toilet paper.

beach house bathroom mally skok nichola

The brass has all been patinating very well. I could not be more pleased with having chosen unlacquered brass and the exposed shower workings shine like jewelry through the glass doors.

beach house bathroom shower

The sink faucet is also looking great, although as I showed in my last post, the sink bowl not so much. I’ve been reading up on reglazing and porcelain home repair kits but I am still really unsure of what to do about this.

rust bubble vintage porcelain sink

There is still a bit of room for finds – and certainly more sand dollars and shells – on the display shelves. With my iphone there was no way to get the upper ledge of kashigata in the photo, but the patterns in them look wonderful with Mally’s fabric.

beach house bathroom shelves

I do have one little marriage to make, between this Japanese print and vintage frame, and then its simply a matter of placement.

japanese print and frame

I think we can call this one finished, don’t you?

Related Posts:
Renovation Report…”Oldating” the Beach House Bathroom
Renovation Report…Do You Throw Good Money After Bad? Thoughts on Fixing My Master Bathroom
Freshening Formal Furniture With Mally Skok Fabric

A Clear Choice…Vintage Baker Brass and Glass Coffee Table

There are many modern furniture items that have a chameleon like ability to work in a multitude of decor styles. Some are very famous, like the Saarinen Tulip table (more on that later) or Wegner Wishbone chairs, both commonly used and talked about. Seen less often, one of my favorites is a certain vintage Baker glass and brass coffee table which, while being fundamentally the same table, comes in many variations. Pegged as 1960s and made by Baker Furniture, the table has a glass top with an elaborate pie-crust brass edge and the base is wooden, carved to resemble bamboo. baker brass glass black bamboo table

This is the most “classic” version of the table, shown again below in a Kelly Wearstler interior.

kelly wearstler Baker glass brass coffe table

Beyond that the variations are endless. The top can be the scrolled version of a circle above, oblong, rectangular and even smooth edged. The base can be thick or thin faux bamboo, wood tone or painted. Other base variations exist as well and over the years some of the tops and bases seem to have been separated and remarried to other pieces. The terms Hollywood Regency and Chinese Chippendale are thrown around a lot with this table.

Baker glass brass coffee table rectangle ModHaus 1stdibs baker glass brass coffee table round wood base Homme 1stdibs

Some versions have the tray top set into an octagonal wooden base, giving it a more Moroccan vibe.

bakercoffeetableoctagonal

This version has even been painted to enhance the feeeling.

baker octagon painted via Harris Kratz 1st dibs

The table has also gained prominence in being featured on Mad Men in Betty Draper’s new living room. I don’t even watch the show, but it was big enough news to be featured on Apartment Therapy. It’s hard to see in these photos, but it looks like is is a marquis shape  – a pointy thin oval – with a different base.

Madmen Betty Draper's LR Baker glass brass table

mad men betty draper coffee table

Most of these examples are selling in the thousands on 1stdibs, but with a little hunting the tables can be found for good prices elsewhere, like on One Kings Lane

Screen shot 2013-01-13 at 2.59.31 PM
…or eBay.
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The table’s resurgence is no surprise as everyone is in love with vintage brass these days (While the world is catching up to that trend, I’m expecting some blogger to announce it’s over any day now!). And while I love the bit of vintage bling they add to a room, while simultaneously keeping things light and airy, this style can be a bit too fancy for some. My actual favorite has the simple smooth brass edge and a thinner bamboo leg like the one below. I’ve seen this version in a circle and more commonly in a nicely sized oval. The example below is selling for $3250 on 1stdibs.

Baker Tortoise Shell Lacquered & Oval Glass Tray Coffee Table Assemblage 1stdibs 3250

I am currently consulting long distance on two different projects, with different aesthetics, but both of which had living rooms that would benefit from a Baker style coffee table.  Imagine my pleasure when both found the same one! The rooms are only partially assembled and being worked on slowly, but I think there is enough to show how well it works in different spaces.

The first one, located visiting relatives in Tennessee had a real Tennessee consignment shop price – somewhere in the neighborhood of $300.

vanessa coffee table

Here it is now in its new home in Westchester with two newly recovered vintage wingchairs and a reimagined Pottery Barn ottoman. Don’t you just love that contrast piping!

Vanessa living room

The other table was found in urban Chicago, so it had more of a big city price – about double – which seems expected.

Kathleen coffee table shop

Here it is sitting in front of a dark grey velvet sofa from Jayson Home & Garden. You can also see a Saarinen Tulip table (see, we get to it) and some beautiful mid-century Danish chairs, as well as the new french doors and bookshelves we had built to divide the space and create an office guest room. You’ll be seeing lots more of this project in coming months as we make progress.

kathleen living room

A rug is greatly needed and yet to come but we are thinking about something along these lines, also in a Chicago apartment featured recently in The New York Times.

CHicago apartment

So which shape do you like best? Have you seen this table used elsewhere? I’d love to know if you have, as I rarely see it in the design press.

Tokyo Jinja

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