A Louis XV for the Modern Age

Since the Cooper and Hewitt National Design Museum at the Smithsonian Institution is the "only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design," and since its mission is to "advance the public understanding of design across the twenty-four centuries of human creativity represented by the Museum's collection," it's only fitting that one of the nominees for this year's Cooper and Hewitt People's Design Awards is the Louis XV Commode Buffet and Wine Rack by Axis FormLAB.

Louis XV Commode Buffet and Wine Rack, plywood. Designed and manufactured by Axis FormLAB.

You all remember King Louis? And, no, I don't refer to the street-smooth, banana-swigging, Be-Bop-dancing Simian Royalty who tormented Mowgli in The Jungle Book, but rather to the 18th century Louis, erstwhile King of France from 1715 to 1774, the age of Rococo. If a brief refresher is in order, "Rococo" refers the ornate-style of architecture and design that dominated France (and therefore much of Europe) just prior to their revolutionary war. Likened to "Baroque gone mad," Rococo designs featured "plain exteriors counter-poised to exuberant interiors, continuous undulating curves, asymmetrical and fluid forms, and whimsical interpretations of classical designs characterized by carved shells and S-shaped curves." A quick glance at the Louis XV Buffet reveals a piece that confirms some of these attributes and refutes others. Just so, an "historical meets contemporary" flavor pervades.

A Louis XV for the Modern Age

A Louis XV for the Modern Age

The overall form and shape is distinctly 18th. Century-anyone who has ever taken an art history course or wandered through the remnants of a European Palace will recognize the subtle curves and miniaturized legs of this distinctive buffet. But, much like the play between inside and outside mentioned above, the guts of the piece are quite different from those of King Louis' time. Appropriately for fans of contemporary design, there's nary a carved shell in sight, but rather a geometrical checker-board pattern of criss-crossed shelves and cubbyholes-repository for Louis' favorite beverage and yours.

Manufacturer Axis FormLAB confirms that the buffet intends to confute the historical and the contemporary: "modernity inspired by the classic lines of the time, this festive piece provides an elegant but playful home for your wine and is a suitable platform to decant and serve hors-d'oeuvres." Not only that, but it comes in Plywood with Oak Veneer, ghostly-white MDF, and enticing (as well as see-through, so potentially even ghostlier than the MDF version) transparent acrylic. With Axis FormLAB's Louis XV Buffet and Wine Rack, you can have your history and drink it too.

Posted October 17, 2008 by Joseph Starr

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