Mid-Century Modern icon – needs your help

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Fay Jones Home

1962 exterior of a Fay Jones home

A couple of clients called recently asking for design help with their latest mid-century modern find, an elegant E. Fay Jones home in Arkansas.  I worked with the clients to re-design their mid-century Berkeley, Ca. home and they’ve since moved to Arkansas, where Jones did much of his work.  A long-time student of Frank Lloyd Wright’s, Jones is known for his organic and detailed architectural style.  An early bonus: after a bit of research here in Fayetteville, we came across an original copy of House Beautiful from 1962 that has a seven-page photo spread of the home just after it was built!  To have these photos at the beginning of a restoration project is really ideal.  We’re off to a great start and the owners have encouraged me to post this process to my blog.  So stay tuned, and see more as I’m in Fayetteville this week.


fireplace + barnwood


I’m often asked, “How do you work?” or “What is your process?” or “What does your ring have written on it?

So, as 2012 wraps up, I wanted to share the process used on a small project completed earlier this year.  A fireplace dealer in Marin asked Torbit Studio to design a hearth and surround to show off one of the beauiful fireplaces in their showroom.  I was delighted to have the opportunity to push the boundaries of fireplace design. On the left is a snapshot as the project started.


Working closely with the client, we discussed the many possibilities.  We landed on the idea using some kind of old, worn lumber that would hint at an earlier life or two, lives exposed to the elements.
I wanted to pair the lumber with a material with a very different texture, and thought the smoothness of a ceramic tile would contrast well with rough, weather-worn wood.  But we needed a tile with a highly varied finish for it to work nicely next to the color variations of weathered wood.

As the design developed, I presented the client with a series of hand-drawn sketches, along with materials as seen above.  We narrowed down the concepts and I created the 3-D drawing for a clearer picture of the final concept.

Once the final design was approved, it was time to source and locate the materials.  A five-inch hexagon tile was sourced from Heath Ceramics in Sausalito.  Then, I drove north to a salvage yard to hand-pick the perfect barn wood planks for the job.

Once at the salvage yard, it was pouring rain, and I was wearing a cashmere sweater. At least I had my trusty leather work gloves and a man in the yard to help be gather the fencing.

I hand-picked 35 linear feet of fence planking that started out as walls of a chicken coop, and was now going into service as a fireplace surround.  But first the planks had to be pulled apart and loaded up. The nails had to come out and then into the wood shop, where the old barn wood was scrubbed clean, twice, and cut to size. A natural stain was applied bring out and smooth out the patina.  Then the planks and tiles were delivered on site.

Because each plank was unique, I was careful to arrange them with the final composition in mind. Then, a carpenter installed the planks on site.  An expert tile-setter laid the handmade five-inch hexagon tiles.

Heath Ceramic Tiles and Barn Wood surround    followed by a few final touches and…Voila!

Torbit Studio featured in Houzz.com article – December 2012

Browse Bedroom Products on Houzz- For Example:

backwards life in San Francisco

the city I love, live and work in

Eichler Home – before, during and after

Eichler Home – before, during and after a remodel from Torbit Studio on Vimeo.

Décor at the Core

Elizabeth Torbit of Torbit Studio is interviewed on mixing up furnishings in mid-century and modern interiors… click here to read more

a Verner Panton on the wall & Ligne Roset in the room brings

in the studio, February 20th …

a few colorful projects going on here in the studio + our love affair with Heath Ceramics continues with a dark hex tile, we’ve laid out these “hexs” to see what to expect for the glaze variation on install day.  Here’s a peak at a few combinations we’re loving this week…

Torbit Studio Cinnabar and Cinnamon Textile Inspiration

Heath Ceramics Tile inspiration


Modern Dance, Expression, Art and Design – a Call to Action

I don’t know much about modern dance, or any form of dance for that matter.  But, one thing I know for sure is I love it! With my amateur dance knowledge, when I witness an amazing performance, it simply rattles my core.

For almost two decades I’ve wanted to see the Martha Graham Dance Company, which I finally saw this past weekend in San Francisco.  Click on the image below to link to the Google Doodle that was released on May 10th, 2011 commemorating Martha’s birth.  It will give you 15 second taste of the movement she was known for, which still lives on in this, the 85th season of the Martha Graham Dance Company

May 11th Google Doodle Martha Graham Modern Dance - Interior DesignI considered posting a video of pre-recorded performance I saw this weekend but so much can be lost and untranslatable on a screen.  As I now try to explain this “experience”, I must share with you how I prefer to experience art and design.  In my opinion, one must witness art and design in person, live within it, and be with it, in the moment.  This allows the viewer to have both a direct connection to the experience and to feel the impact of the artist or designer’s own expression in their work.  When you see an image of a home or hotel, even if it’s represented accurately in the images, you will not feel the full impact of the environment until you stand in that space. By enveloping yourself within that environment you “get” and “feel” a true experience.

When I attend a dance performance I’m always taken back by how the dancers’ movement connects to my core.  Maybe it’s the simplicity of their medium, the human body.  After all, we non-dancers have a body too.  Are we able to easily relate and understand the expression without words and sometimes without music, because their medium is the human body?  I think yes!  The dancers’ refined sense of expression through their studied movement, allows those of us who are non-dancers to transcend their art form by bringing it into our souls.

So, I’ve titled this post “a call to action” to suggest that you to find a local dance company near you, or look up when a dance company might be coming to your city and attend a performance!  Don’t be at all daunted by this art form.  Though many claim, “I find modern dance intimidating”, you know everything you need to know — you’re a human!  Watch with an open heart and let the performance show you something about humanity you may have not noticed in a while.


Texas Mid-Century!

Over the holiday, while visiting family, I took a few snaps (from the car) of what Mid-Century looks like in Texas… they sure had their proportions right!  Lots of brick too…This beauty, in my opinion, is classic high-end Dallas Mid-Century! The house is perfectly placed on this large lot, in the same way a perfectly composed Clyfford Still painting is to a viewers eye. When viewing the house from the street your eye moves from detail to detail, left to right and takes a brief rest in the lawn as you take in all that this beautiful, architectural creature has to offer. Hmm, maybe that’s a game room to the left side of the house? From google earth I can also see that there’s a flawless pool in the back yard with of course…a cabana to accompany it, making this home a perfect package of three structures. The vast lawn stretches as far as your eye can see! So seemingly decadent by today’s standards, as many Dallas developers plot out land parcels this large by dividing them into multi-lots cramped with many houses and viturally no yards. Unfortunately a lot of these one-of-a-kind Dallas Mid-Century homes still standing today, face the fate of being scrapped and turned into multi-lot collections of Faux-Chateaus. If you find yourself it Dallas look for these beauties while they still exist.

This house (above) is interesting for so many reasons, but the white brick makes it all the more stunning.  This Frank Llyod Wright (FLW) house built in 1950 (above) in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas, holds a vivid childhood memory of mine. My cousin lived a few blocks away and we’d ride our bikes all over the neighborhood. But the real reason this house was so special to a 7 year old was because each time we’d ride our bikes up to the gate it would trigger the gate to open automatically. We’d do it over and over, it was so exciting!  Even though I was terrified of getting caught, I knew I had to impress my older cousin. Needless to say when I drove by it, (for the first time in 30 years!), this past Thanksgiving break, I DID NOT test to see if the gate still operates the same way. Back then the gate was painted a FLW aqua color that was a common color on FLW buildings in the 50s. That aqua was more of a 1950’s FLW color, in my opinion, than the brownish taupe it is today.
This house (above)  sits perpendicular to the street making this structure even more dynamic as you approach. Lovely corner detail (above) where the wide span of brick breaks the line of long vertical siding.I love this welded iron gate detail!


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