Welcome to the social design: loose lessons from the stylized representation of the social in cinema and print. A blog very often about the interior design, fashion, social manners, and music created for and reflected in vintage cinema and print. Especially from the Sixties and Seventies, especially Italian, and especially from swingin' party scenes. We're awfully big on disco hippies and the OpArt accent here. Guaranteed, of course, to wander off on the occasional tangent into (maybe?) related subject matter, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek commentary for your consideration along the way. Comments are welcome, so please consider yourself invited...

Thursday, May 26, 2011



So - regrettable as it is - this is the final post for the Five Dolls for an August Moon (5 Bambole per la luna augusto) marathon. I said I had a lot to post, and I didn't lie. Hope you have enjoyed.

For this dispatch: two more glimpses of that swell villa where Bava shot the film back in 1970.  And both feature one of the more amusing details of the production: a large, round, spinning bed. Honestly, I've always found the "novelty bed" to be a little off, a little tacky. There is (or was?) a round bed available at IKEA and every time I pass it, I think, god-that's-really-horrible-where-the-hell-would-you-get-decent-sheets-for-it-anyway?  IKEA? Probably not decent sheets...

But the thing of it is, it's a big, wide world with room for all sorts of people and all sorts of things.  And sometimes what might be an anxiety-provoking nightmare in your home is perfectly fun in someone else's.  And what really helps integrate a big, spinning bed into an interior isn't so much an arrangement of throw pillows, really, so much as a vixen...

Above, vixen #1: the fabulous euro scream-queen Edwige Fenech in the red bra and panties. 1970 was a very good year for Edwige: with the eye-liner and the big, sexy hair and all those great clothes, what a swell time to be a beautiful, swingin' young woman.  It should be noted that Edwige Fenech, who did not suffer from excessive modesty and would happily go topless for her art, had remarkably perfect breasts. And this is when a perfect breast was grown, not implanted. Maybe she still does.

Here's another clip, ending again with the spinning bed. Only this time it's not topped with the frivolous and sexy Edwige character in red bra and panties, but rather it's the calculating and bisexual Ira von Furstenberg character in red silk pajamas. Yes, a bit of a plot spoiler, this scene, but not entirely. And who cares anyway, since the plot is the least interesting thing about this film? What is very interesting is that terrific spiral staircase. Film critics have noted it's symbolic dollar sign appearance in a film very much about money. I'll just say it's hot.

Another architectural detail that intrigues: those great sliding doors, with the black lacquered frames and the semi-translucent grid panel. Goodbye privacy, hello fabulous! Though I will say I can seriously do without the recurrent use of putti in the hallway.  By putti (singular: putto) I mean the frolicky little statues of angelic babes, like cherubs without wings, that always seem piled up on one another for no easily discernable reason.  It's not that I don't understand the designer's intention: to juxtapose the Renaissance/Baroque ornateness of the statuary against the architectural modernity of the villa. I just tend to be highly unresponsive to statues of angels and babes and children.  

And finally, more of that great Piero Umiliani soundtrack...

Monday, May 23, 2011




So when I posted all these clips from Mario Bava's Five Dolls for an August Moon on YouTube, I also included the very short one above, just because I thought it was kind of a hoot and was having a "why not?" moment. Well, as it turns out, some of the other videos posted at the same time have had less than 100 hits - and yet this one has had over 6,000...

Apparently footage of smoking from a pretty lady's foot plays better than mod Italian interiors and swingin' organ music. Especially in the Middle East, as this video has been most viewed in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates respectively.  Maybe it has something to do with the feet being very dirty and insulting in Arabic culture. This video might very well be completely obscene over there! I don't really know, though, anyone is welcome to chime in and explain the appeal...

Well, fortunately I'm the kind of person who gets hotter from mod Italian interiors and swingin' organ music than foot smokin'. And I rather liked the rest of the scene, as well:


There's that great Umiliani soundtrack, for starters - this time integrated into the scene as music from the radio.  And then, really, why not get out of bed feelin' fabulous? So fabulous in fact you want to dance around a little in your pleated chiffon caftan? Well I'd probably do the same if I had a zebra skin rug like that, too. Or maybe a big beefcake in bikini briefs and gold chains. Or again, really more so the zebra skin rug...

Friday, May 20, 2011




As I've written before, Mario Bava, who directed Five Dolls for an August Moon (5 bambole per la luna d'agosto), historically discounted the film. In fact, apparently he cited it as his worst.  Well, whether or not that's the case, it was definitely the best work of Piero Umiliani, who composed the film's very groovy, mostly upbeat soundtrack.  Full of swingin' electric organ and very engaging and diverse percussion, it's a terrific exercise in theme and variation.  I personally put this on par with the soundtrack from Jesus Franco's Vampiros Lesbos of 1971. They're terrific in their own right, and both exceed in quality the film for which they were composed.

Above, a scene from the film when Professor Farrell burns his secret formula everyone is hot to get their murderous little hands on - and the organ goes crazy! Well, I won't lie - from Ray Manzarek's keyboard work for The Doors, to Italian cinematic jazz, and everything in between - electric organ from the '60s and '70s fascinates me. Then of course and somewhat sadly the synthesizer came to the fore and the organ pretty much died away in pop and cinematic applications. And though it did retain a small niche in jazz, to me it will always be the sound of an era, really.

Here, more tracks - breezier, sexier, probably more typical of the album. Listen to these when you drive your car at night in the summertime, with the sunroof open and all the windows down...

The Five Dolls/5 Bambole soundtrack is available from iTunes in 22 tracks, but eMusic.com, while cheaper, is also offering a 34 track version, with even more variation on Umiliani's catchy riffs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011



Came across this the other day trying to find a way to burn $12 in accidentally prepaid eMusic.com credit, and sure glad I did.  My musical obsession of the moment: Jim Noir's latest EP, Zooper Dooper, released November of 2010. 

Jim Noir is the stage name of the English singer-singwriter Alan Roberts, who works in a style influenced by '60s sunshine pop, though still very respectably his own, with plenty of Beatles-esque and Beach Boys-y gestures fused with contemporary sounds and gentle lyrics. The track "Kitty Cat" (above) first got my attention, since also being into '60s and '70s Italian cinematic jazz, I am of course fond of a good instrumental.  To quote Peter, Paul, and Mary: I dig rock & roll music when the words don't get in the way, and believe me, usually they do.  But then I turned on to the whole EP, actually, words and all.  Probably because Noir is one of the least pretentious lyricists ever and there is intimacy and vulnerability to his work.  Below, a live track of "Map" (do try to get a listen to the studio version, it's really very nice):



Interestingly, I had a laugh when for a moment I couldn't quite recall what an "EP" actually was.  "Extended Play" I remembered. But wasn't it not just a less-than-an-album collection of songs but specifically a 33-sized vinyl record made for playing at 45 speed? Or was that just a 12" Remix? I don't know anymore.

Anyway, enjoy...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011




Of course much of the fun of the vintage media here on The Social Design is the great design components found within - while often more or less ancillary to the original intent of production, these details certainly warrant a more starring role in our current, light-hearted consideration. And then of course there is also the pleasure of nostalgia: little, inviting windows to other times and other places, somehow the same world we exist in today yet hardly recognizable, lost but relived in memory for just a moment...

For your consideration today, a very groovy commercial for The International House of Pancakes from 1969.  Talk about a time, a place, an ethos one is hard pressed to find today.  There's sooo much to love here: The unabashed psychedelia. The trippy early-synthesizer soundtrack. The brilliantly fresh orange/blue complementary color scheme. The contemporary California family that dispenses with the car and prefers to run free across the landscape with great bouquets of colorful balloons...

Well, it's a world that is fresh, expansive, optimistic and free. Of course the food looks like hell, so in regard to actually promoting the IHOP product, the commercial is a complete failure. But in shaping the perceived IHOP experience, that's another story. Though I have to wonder how this little jewel ever got the green light to go beyond a sketch in an ad firm and actually make it onto the American airwaves - probably more of a reflection of the freshness, expansiveness, optimism, and freedom of today, I suspect. So really, America, lighten up. TUNE IN, TURN ON, AND DINE OUT!

Saturday, May 14, 2011





Five Dolls for an August Moon mania continues! Another great clip featuring more of the main living room interior. I'm still loving the predominantly neutral scheme peppered throughout with accents of color. Of course I've written of the virtue of the red accent, but I'm going to extend that deference to the orange accent as well. Hello, look at those floor pillows! Actually I've historically lived for the orange accent more, but found examples for posting of the red accent before the orange. Still, they are both fabulous.

Something else fabulous in this scene?  Let's talk about the character of Trudy making that dire reel-to-reel tape.  Of course in the U.S. when you hear the name von Furstenberg pretty much one person comes to mind: Belgian-born fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, creator of the iconic 70s wrap-dress. But Trudy here is being played by I think an even more interesting von Furstenberg: Ira, the sister of Diane's princely ex-husband, Egon.

Born Her Serene Highness Princess Virginia Carolina Theresa Pancrazia Galdina of Fürstenberg, Princess Ira is an inspiration and role model to anyone looking to break free from the gilded-ghetto hell of privileged aristocracry and really make something - oh, you know - more sensational! of themselves...

Ira Furstenberg by Iriving Penn, for Vogue, 1968

Princess Ira zu Furstenberg was born a princess.  Her mother was also a Fiat heiress, sister of the legendarily dapper Gianni Agnelli.  At fifteen she wed Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, then aged 31. When (hmmm, surprisingly) that relationship didn't last for the long haul, she married the Brazilian industrialist Francisco "Baby" Pignatari.  It pleases me oddly to say that they were wed in Reno and divorced in Vegas.  And then at some point Ira decided to become a film star.  So, living in Rome, she naturally begins an acting career at Cinecittá, the product of which includes the very fabulous Five Folls for an August Moon (5 Bambole per la luna d'agosto) of 1970, directed by Mario Bava, as well as many others.

Later Ira Furstenberg was romantically linked with Prince Ranier III of Monaco after the death of Grace Kelly, and was apparently assumed to be the next Princess of Monaco until speculative media attention dashed the odds. Well, who cares when you already are a princess?

Ira Furstenberg, closer to today, still working it.

Today Ira Furstenberg creates some very opulent, borderline over-the-top knick-knacks. Objets d'art, if you will.  She works predominantly in gilt-mounted rock crystal, such as this rock crystal bowl with crab ornament:

Or this rock crystal bunny wearing a gold top hat...

I know I'd truly like to use that to bludgeon someone to death in an Italian giallo film.  No idea how much these little treasures run but likely not cheap.  Maybe you can find something to your own taste on Ira's website: http://www.irafurstenberg.com 

Friday, May 13, 2011


Another scene from the fabulous Five Dolls for an August Moon (5 bambole per la luna d'agosto)!

One thing about this gorgeous film: the villa in which it's filmed is another character in itself. So compelling architecturally and in its furnishings, a lot of which stand up quite well today (Look at the lines on those club chairs!). So this is a very short clip, yes, but relevant here on two counts - firstly that it shows off said fabulous interior, and secondly, it features some really premium lounging, which of course we love...


So says the tenth principle. And though technically these aren't disco hippies (they are in fact rich Italian bon vivants), the spirit is the same. Lounging makes for good times. Lounging makes for an opulent accent. Few things signal having it good more effectively than easy leisure and an unhurried sense of time. Anyone can buy the latest conspicuous status symbol, but of course the one who isn't working to pay for it hardly needs it at all. People speak of "effortless chic". Well, I am talking about chic effortlessness...


Wednesday, May 4, 2011




I mean really, how much lounging around a villa is one possibly expected to endure? Sometimes the very best you can do is - oh - spontaneously erupt into wild, unbridled dancing.  It never hurts to make yourself the center of attention, provided of course you're already gorgeous and put together.  But if that's not your style, consider the potential of heavy and intriguing eye-play...

A great cocktail party scene from the film "Five Dolls for an August Moon" (5 bambole per la luna d'agosto, and also known, rather unfortunately, as "Island of Terror").  That's fabulous euro scream-queen Edwige Fenech in the heavy eyeliner and big, sexy hair letting you know who's the belle of this ball.

A great favorite of mine among the Italian stabby films.  Mario Bava directed this film in 1970, and though it is often written that he was not proud of the final result (it was hastily produced, the cast was already hired before he signed on to direct, et cetera), it is still a stunningly delicious piece of eye (and ear) candy.  Like most giallo films, the plot is thin and basically beside the point - it's more a less a variant on Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" - but who cares?  Otherwise it's rich with a masterful use of gorgeous, saturated color and features a fabulous Italian modern villa, some great clothes, a charismatic cast, and a very, very groovy soundtrack from my absolute favorite of the Italian cinematic composers, Piero Umiliani.  I ask you then, what's not to love?

From a strictly interiors standpoint, note the sparing and effective use of red to accent the otherwise fairly neutral interior, harkening of course back to #12: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE RED ACCENT PIECE.  I have quite a bit more to post on Five Dolls, interior and otherwise.  I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Untitled, 2011 Acrylic on Plywood

Untitled, 2010 Acrylic on Plywood

Untitled, 2011 Acrylic on Plywood

Thirsty for color? Consider the wonderfully psychedelic "pour paintings" of artist Holton Rower. Working out of New York, Rower pours on layer after layer of acrylic paint to create these lively, curvilinear compositions. Each is about as rich as one can get with fabulous color. The disco hippies crashed around your pad are definitely going to drink it up. Probably a lot like dropping acid and shopping at Paul Smith, too.

Below, the studio in action:




Kristen McMenamy was and always has been my absolute favorite of the great 90's Supermodels.  Maybe she didn't have the broad recognition of a Linda, Kate, or Naomi, but she did have (and still has) a spirit to her work that made her a muse-y favorite among designers and stylists looking to push beyond convention.  So last year when Kristen reappeared on the modeling scene - making her return with a distinctive head of very long, very straight, very grey hair - it really was like a breath of fresh air. 

Check out this editorial being published this month in Italian Vogue. http://www.vogue.it/en/magazine/cover-story/2011/05/swimwear 

Of course for me, it's like hitting the trifecta.  Kristen is back and looking as good as she ever did. She's 46 and frankly fabulous.  Stephen Meisel shot this spread at the famous Chelsea Hotel, pretty much synonymous with the Warhol Factory set, and (in congruence with design principle #2) Kristen and company are giving us some very serious lounging, disco hippie vibe.  And finally she's styled in one shot with Op-Art printed bikini bottoms (see design principle #1).  The Op-Art accent is just a jag of mine that is not going to go away.  Of course nudity is always great - though is it an accent, too, like Op-Art or piece of chinoiserie, or is it a neutral, like diamonds or camel hair?  Food for thought, when the appetite is very light...