The Twin Cities

You have to give a place credit for being the source of both the rock star Prince and the Mississippi River. And if you’re interested in culture and bodies of water, the lake-studded Twin Cities area is the place to go. Settled around 1680, sister burgs Minneapolis and St. Paul became milling, lumber, and rail powerhouses in the mid-19th century. A massive building boom resulted in streets lined with limestone mansions and in well-wrought train stations and libraries.

If you’re fortunate enough to visit in the Edenlike spring, be sure to take advantage of the many walking and bike paths. An efflorescence of new restaurants puts the state’s bounty of fish and organic produce to good use. So even if you find the weather a little fresh for your taste, you probably won’t feel that way about the food.


Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum

More famous for its Frank Gehry design than for its early-20th-century American art collection, the Weisman, with its brushed stainless steel exterior, is summed up in Gehry’s famous quote about the commission: “They told me not to build another brick lump.” The collection is shown in a handful of small, easily navigable galleries and features the largest holding of works by modernist painter Marsden Hartley as well as important pieces by his contemporaries Milton Avery, Lyonel Feininger, and Georgia O’Keeffe. 333 E. River Rd. on the West Bank of the U of MN campus, Minneapolis; [612] 625-9494; Tues.-Wed. and Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Foshay Tower

Modeled after the Washington Monument, this Art Deco limestone obelisk, designed by the firms of Magney and Tusler and Hooper and Janusch for public utility company owner Wilbur B. Foshay, was opened just months before the stock market crash of 1929. Until 1973, the 32-story, 447-foot-high tower was the tallest building in Minneapolis; now it’s dwarfed by the nearby IDS Tower. The observation deck affords views of downtown. 821 Marquette Ave., Minneapolis; observation deck/museum Mon.-Fri. 12 p.m.-4 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

St. John’s Abbey at St. John’s University Located in rural Collegeville, an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities, St. John’s Abbey is one of nine Marcel Breuer buildings (of a planned 22) designed for this Benedictine college campus. Completed in 1961, the structure is notable for its cast-in-place concrete form and a powerful bell tower that pokes over the treeline. According to I.M. Pei, the abbey had the potential to be the most important modern building in the U.S.–if only it weren’t in the middle of nowhere. Collegeville, MN; [320] 363-2011; open during school and worshipping hours, self-guided tour brochure available in the lobby.


Walker Art Center

Thomas B. Walker, the lumber baron, opened Minneapolis’s first art gallery in 1879. Now housed in a modern sculpture of a building designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes in 1971, the Walker is one of America’s preeminent contemporary art institutions. On any given day, a visitor can see performance art, international films, or a concert. Across the street, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden –the largest urban sculpture park in the U.S.–displays huge modern masterpieces by the likes of Tony Smith and Mark di Suvero. 725 Vineland Pl., Minneapolis; [612] 375-7577; Tues., Wed., and Fri-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., garden open daily 6 a.m.-midnight.

Goldstein Gallery

This little gem of a museum on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus is based on the collection of sisters Harriet and Vetta Goldstein, former home economics professors who wrote the influential book Art in Everyday Life. Its permanent holdings of costumes and textiles from the 4th to the late 20th centuries are exhibited with a growing assemblage of interior and decorative arts, including glasswork, basketry, and ceramics. 1985 Buford Ave. (McNeil Hall) on the St. Paul U of MN campus; [612] 624-7434; Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. a.m.-4 p.m., Thus. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.

Minnesota State Capitol Building

Architect Cass Gilbert had a Minneapolis-based practice for almost 20 years before returning to New York in 1899 to begin work on the Woolworth Building. The State Capitol, his Midwest masterpiece, boasts one of the largest unsupported marble domes in the world, and the construction, which the architect oversaw himself, spanned nine years. The St. Paul building is bedecked with peerless statuary and mural work and furniture and wood detailing designed by Gilbert. The nearby Minnesota History Center conducts tours daily. Aurora Ave. between Cedar and Constitution Sts., St. Paul; [651] 296-3962; Mon-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-4p.m., Sun. 1 p.m.-4 p.m., guided tours begin on the hour.


Located in what used to be the Ceresota flour mill, the Hyatt Whitney features a lobby with a marble floor, a soaring ceiling, and velvet couches for people- or river-watching. The hotel’s 97 rooms are elegantly furnished with slightly worn antiques and many have views of the St. Anthony Falls. (150 Portland Ave., Minneapolis, [612] 375-1234, rooms from $160.) \ Built on the banks of the Mississippi in 1893 of locally quarried limestone, Nicollet Island Inn resides in the former home of the Island Door and Sash Company. This antiques-filled hotel retains many of the building’s original beamed ceilings, stained-glass windows, and stone fireplaces. A loading dock is now a glassed-in dining room, a 150-year-old wood bar stands in the lounge area, and an old glass elevator moves between the inn’s three floors. (95 Merriam St., Minneapolis, [612] 331-1800, rooms from $135.) \ Reed and Stem, one of the firms responsible for Grand Central Terminal, designed the Saint Paul Hotel in 1910, easily the finest hotel in th e Twin Cities. The Renaissance-revival building offers 254 rooms and suites, a rooftop fitness center, and a breathtakingly grand lobby replete with coffered ceilings, potted palms, paintings, and crystal chandeliers, (350 Market St., St. Paul, [651] 292-9292, rooms from $165.)


Recently opened by a pair of local restaurateurs, Brasserie Zinc (1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, [612] 904-1010) features plush semicircular booths, professional but un-snooty service, and reasonably priced, if predictable, French classics that are a welcome addition to the sometimes bland downtown Minneapolis dining scene. \ Restaurant Alma (528 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis, [612] 379-4909), a two-year-old restaurant housed in an old brick industrial building near the University of Minnesota, has the peaceful ambience that comes from wood floors, bare walls, and potted trees. An ever-changing menu relies on produce available from local farmers and artisan cheesemakers. \ Across from Loring Park’s horseshoe courts and lake, the Loring Bar and Cafe (1624 Harmon Pl., Minneapolis, [612] 332-1617) serves up gourmet delights from an open kitchen. Mismatched chairs, dried flowers, and towering trees fill every nook of this character-infused spot. It’s well worth indulging in the pricey drink menu to enjoy a ba lmy evening on the bar’s patio in the shadow of the nearby Basilica.


Lunalux (1618 Harmon Pl., Minneapolis, [612] 373-0526) is a charming graphics studio selling restored fountain pens and ink, whimsical stationery, and novelty items like handmade books in which to paste in your fortune-cookie fortunes. The building, formerly a ball-bearing factory and then a Rolls-Royce showroom, is located next door to the Loring Bar and Cafe (see above). \ Danish Teak (801 8th St. SE, Minneapolis, [612] 627-9381) specializes in vintage Danish furniture and ceramics. A recent visit yielded a pair of 1950s Hans Wegner lounge chairs for a cool $5,000 and a whimsically striped unsigned loveseat for $450. It’s hard to find and open only on Saturdays, but the hand picked furniture in perfect condition is worth the effort and wait. \ On sale at City Salvage (505 First Ave. NE, Minneapolis, [612] 627-9107) is an entire staircase from a lumber baron’s South Minneapolis mansion (complete with directions for reinstallation) and the brass revolving door from the old Surgeons and Physicians Building. Mo re practical finds include intricate stained-glass panels rescued from Arts and Crafts bungalows and 1950S linoleum kitchen tables in buttery yellow, slate, and emerald green.

Buying used office equipment

The good news about the Nasdaq crash is cheap secondhand furniture. Here’s how to get it.

It’s a dark day when Joe Bandwidth, unhappy dotcom executive, finds himself on the phone with Eliot Millman, commission auctioneer. It signals the passing of an era, the end of the party. Those fancy modular cubicles, those elegant pieces of ergonomic seating, the beautiful Italian light fixtures venture capitalists paid for when the world was full of promise–they’re all that’s left of Joe’s ambitions. His staff has been laid off, his friendship with his co-founder went down in flames, and he’s on the phone, alone in his soon-to-be vacated, $25,000-a-month offices, asking Millman to sell off the Aerons for whatever price he can get.

These days Millman, whose liquidation outfit is based in New York (Eliot B. Millman Company), is a busy man. His is what analysts call a “reverse-cycle” business, one whose growth and success depend on the demise and failure of other enterprises. And as Internet-based companies tumble into the gutter of recession, reverse-cyclists thrive. “Oh yeah, we just did a couple [of dotcom office auctions] last-week,” Millman says. “One on 57th, the other on Madison Avenue. Herman Miller, Haworth, Knoll–we had probably 200 lots go out the door.” This economic schadenfreude is good news for many in Millman’s line of work: today hundreds of liquidators across the country are refining their business models into a very lucrative art–and that’s good news for designers whose clients want Vitra furniture on IKEA budgets.

Typically, a liquidator places an ad in the local paper on a company’s behalf, arrives at their office on an appointed day, finds an impromptu lectern from which to run an auction, and then turns whatever physical assets are left in the room into cold cash. Two dozen or so folks–designers, small business owners, and college kids–sift through light fixtures and coffee makers, jotting down lot numbers and calculating how much they might be willing to spend. During any given week, 30 of these auctions may be scheduled around the country.

Wellness, Inc., a health-services company in Naperville, Illinois, was looking to decorate its new office space, and found itself one morning in an ice rink, bidding on the fancy furniture of a failed ISP. “I bought a Herman Miller Aeron chair for $250, down from $750,” says Jeff Lindblade, the company’s director of technology development. “And they had custom-designed conference tables which would have been $10,000 a piece; I got one for $2,000.”

Nowadays, scavengers don’t even have to leave home: liquidators like Cowan Alexander (, Gordon Brothers (, and DoveBid ( joined Bid4Assets ( in conducting their auctions online, (Web auctions make it impossible to paw and bounce on the furniture, but some would-be buyers may find that bidding with no clothes on transforms them into cutthroat competitors.)

Credit for the dotcom chop-shop concept goes to Bid4Assets CEO Thomas Kohn, who founded his online liquidation venture in 1998, ignoring the heady dotcom optimism he observed all around him. His skepticism paid off. In August 2000, Bid4Assets became the first Internet company to liquidate the assets of another Internet company, CivicZone. The company puts out a steady stream of tragic press releases: “Happily Ever After? Not Quite. To Liquidate Bankrupt Bridal Business.” But thanks to the company, an incredible variety of high-end furniture can be salvaged every day from the brutal economic smackdown.

DoveBid is currently offering Design Formula’s Le Corbusier long chairs, which retail at just under $700, at a starting bid of $1. Cowan Alexander moved dozens of Herman Miller Aeron chairs at its liquidation of in San Francisco in March, and when (which struggled valiantly to stay afloat until this year) turned its inventory over to Cowan Alexander in April, a crowd of Boston bidders made off with hundreds of items.

Those hoping to get 60 to 70 percent off the usual $1,000 price tag for a Herman Miller Red Super Deluxe desk system will find the most favorable conditions in the Bay Area, where the cafes are full of former dotcommies and where liquidation companies have found a treasure trove of bankruptcy. But entrepreneurs sank investment capital into extravagant furniture all over the country, so if you keep your eye on the newspaper classifieds in almost any American city (and, of course, online), that Barcelona chair your client wants for the reception area is probably there for the taking. And if they go out of business, you know who they can call.

Selectric Memory

Things we miss about the old office…

The rapid evolution of the workplace has left behind many tools and customs that we at Interiors once imagined would be with us forever. Some, we are happy to let go of, like acceptably inferior roles and compensation for women, or like laborious card-fling systems. Others we regret losing, even if they’ve been superseded by more efficient technologies and services–sturdy electric typewriters with perfect springy action, dictaphone machines and stenography pads, regular mail deliveries that gave enforced breathing room to schedules, and the aura of formality and protectiveness that greeted us when we first spilled into the labor market, 20 years ago. Taking a break from planning this issue, we binged on reminiscences that evolved into a list of relics that call forth powerful associations with a not-so-distant past. Then we asked photographer Tony Law to illustrate several specimens for our own personal gallery. We invite you to contribute thoughts about these workplace objects and the practices to which the y relate, or to add your own entries to the list.

Telex machines

Office attire

Coffee carts

Elevator operators


Three-martini lunches


IBM Selectrics

Natural light

Onion skin



Smell of mimeograph ink


Leaving at five

Never calling your boss by his or her first name

50-year tenure celebrations

Drafting boards

Secretarial pools

Switchboard phones

Busy signals

Lunch hours

Brass directional signs


Company names hand-painted on glass doors

Hardwood floors


Brown suits with vests and wide ties

Skirts below the knee

Water coolers

Hand-cranked pencil sharpeners

Name plates

Venetian blinds

Windows that open all the way

Carvel birthday cakes

Interoffice memos

Rubber stamps

Desk sets

Manually revolving calendars

Wet copiers

Ladies’ lounges

Hat trees

Walnut paneling


Telegraph deliveries

Men’s room attendants

Tape adding machines

Mag card typewriters

Rotary phones

Stuff and Sense

So many trade shows, so many products–but what do designers really want?

Like juvenile delinquents, product designers are always looking for trouble. In their very quest to right the errors of objects or ride roughshod over traditional materials and forms, they sometimes remind me of a posse of rowdy cowboys. This was certainly the case at the international furniture fair in Milan last month, an annual tribute to design hooliganism (see next month’s issue for a full report). There you could find Fabio Novembre’s table prototype for Cappellini, with more than a hundred lengths of bright red rope dangling below a glass top. You could find Dutch textile designer Claudy Jongstra’s swaths of purple felt overlaid with huge, feathery floral patterns that looked like tie-dye, and a wickedly funny lamp for Flos that Jongstra’s countryman, Marcel Wanders, set in an old-fashioned candle holder and wired to turn on and off when you blow on the bulb. There were also a number of misconceived projects by junior cowpokes ripping off the homely-artifact-turned-sculptural approach of lighting maver ick Ingo Maurer (the worst was a chandelier of water-filled condoms), or putting out so much curvy, chartreuse-colored plastic that Interiors’s contributing photographer, Jimmy Cohrssen, noted, “It looks like Wallpaper threw up in here.”

There was great fun, and some genuine moments of brilliance. But at Milan and for that matter every other trade show, how well are interior designers being served? For every pavilion or convention hall filled with products, there seem to be an equal volume of unfulfilled desires–wish lists for items that vary with the nuances of every project or lie dormant waiting for technology to catch up with our needs. To test this hunch, and bring other viewpoints to our annual issue devoted to office design, we invited a couple dozen leading designers to tell us what workplace products they would like to see that have never appeared before on the market.

Space constraints prevent me from reporting all the suggestions, but they overwhelmingly concerned problems of flexibility. Robert Hills, a principal at Einhorn Yaffee Prescott in New York, proposed systems panels with easily adjustable public-to-private screening so that individual workstations can be quickly converted to work groups while the occupants are seated. Hills also suggested connectors that would allow any system to be altered from go degree to 45- or 30-degree formats, and four-to-eight-person plug-and-play conference tables “for those ubiquitous ‘huddle’ spaces where transformers and connectors usually end up on the floor and the wires over the edge.” Meanwhile, Joan Blumenfeld, of Swanke Hayden Connell Architects in Manhattan, longs for an “extension cord” for power feeds that would be legal in New York City, so she can specify compatible desking systems, such as Knoll’s Propeller, for local clients. Jaime Velez of SOM in Chicago is looking for a collapsible movable workstation to accommodate part-time help in perimeter overflow space. Rand Elliott of Elliott + Associates Architects in Oklahoma City suggests integral cordless lighting “in the desk and not on it” powered by cellular waves. Todd DeGarmo, of Studios Architecture in New York, pleads for “something to truly deal with acoustics in an open plan,” which would make the scheme more acceptable to private-office diehards, such as lawyers. And Randy Brown, head of an eponymous firm in Omaha, Nebraska, volunteered the idea of an “‘everything desk’ on hydraulics that c hanges size, shape, angle, and material surface depending on my needs. A desk to sit at, stand at, to draw on, with a tilt-top to draft on, meet with clients, hold my computer printer and scanner, light table, model-building area–even sleep on!”

Only one designer–Jurgen Riehm of 1100 Architect in New York–took a sustainability tack, suggesting “any new green product, like a photovoltaic day-light fixture.” Two designers mentioned items that would be compatible with new technology: Arthur B. Johnson, of Johnson + Hill in Dallas, wants a device that will allow him to plug his PDA into his computer and work on it from the keyboard, while David Meckley, of RMW Architecture and Interiors in San Francisco, seeks workstations “that are truly designed for flat-screen monitors and laptop docking stations.” Meckley’s other idea, “an ergonomic task chair that can sense mood and adjust automatically,” speaks to a desire for products that bear a more personal relationship to users. It was echoed by Shashi Caan, of SOM in New York, who proposed “a holistic work environment that senses my approach when I enter the building and positions itself to conform with my particular fit and preferences–temperature, lighting, a comfortable chair ready at my personal seat height. The space would waft freesia freshness with soft occasional background sounds of nature.”

Product people, are you listening? I know you keep tabs on interior designers’ needs and may have already made great strides in fulfilling the ones mentioned here, but there’s never too much dialogue and no end of trouble. So saddle up, cowboys.


Where stained-glass saints greet steel-and-glass facades in the wake of a New World economy.

Dublin is in the midst of a renaissance due to a booming economy (dubbed the Celtic Tiger) and a renewed sense of confidence. The buzz is evident everywhere, from the bustling waterfront along the River Liffey to the winding cobblestone lanes of the Temple Bar neighborhood. While the elements that Dublin is known for–Georgian townhouses, antique shops, and smoky, atmospheric pubs–remain, they now sit alongside steel-and-glass facades of trendy new hotels, modern furniture shops, and sleek cocktail lounges where martinis outnumber pints of stout. Today, Ireland’s capital is very much an alluring mix of Old World charm and cosmopolitan flair.


Trinity College

Famous for its thick stone, ivy-covered buildings, Trinity is the oldest university in Dublin, dating from 1592. Head to the Old Library (1712-32), designed by Thomas Burgh, for a peek at the priceless Book of Kells. The ninth-century illuminated manuscript of the four gospels is on display in the Treasury, at the end of what was originally an open colonnade. Then make your way to the Long Room, where a stunning barrel-vaulted ceiling spans a collection of 200,000 rare books. Note the copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the dozens of marble busts of prominent Irishmen that line the room (Jonathan Swift, Wolfe Tone, and others). College Green; 6772941; Mon.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat-Sun. 10 a.m-4 p.m.

Dublin Castle

Built in l204 during the reign of King John of England, Dublin Castle has been extensively rebuilt over the centuries. The most interesting aspects of the massive complex are the State Apartments, dating from the 18th century. Visit St. Patrick’s Hall (where Ireland’s presidents are inaugurated), which features several ceiling paintings, including one of Ireland’s patron saint on the Hill of Slane in 433 AD The Battleaxe Landing, named after the former bodyguard of the Lord Lieutenants, is rich with Waterford crystal chandeliers and carpets handmade in Donegal. The Throne Room bears a decorative cornice and a l7th-century gilded throne, last used by King George V of England. Dame St.; 6777129; Mon-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat-Sun. 2 p.m.-5 p.m.

Christ Church Cathedral

Though a cathedral has stood on this site since 1038, the current stone structure dates from 1172 and was built under the Earl of Pembroke, better known as Strongbow, the Anglo-Norman who invaded Ireland in 1170. It was extensively remodeled in the 1870s by architect George Edmund Street in Gothic and Romanesque styles. Of particular interest are the 15th-century brass lectern and carved oak pews in the nave, and in the baptistry, a font made of Irish marble surrounded by a series of stained-glass windows depicting various saints. The 12th-century crypt is said to be Dublin’s oldest structure. Christ Church Place; 6778099; Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.


Dublin Writers Museum

Set in a splendid 18th-century Georgian townhouse, this museum celebrates Ireland’s rich history of literature. Letters, manuscripts, and photographs from the likes of Yeats Joyce, Beckett, Shaw, and Wilde are on display, as well as memorabilia, such as a pair of Beckett’s eyeglasses and playwright Brendan Behan’s typewriter, reported to have been thrown through a pub window. Upstairs, check out the ornamented colonnade and gilded frieze in the Galley of Writers room and the plasterwork ceiling in the Gorham Library. 18 Parnell Square North; 8722077; Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Bank of Ireland

Edward Pearce originally constructed this imposing building in 1728 to house the Irish Parliament. It functions today, with stately Corinthian and Ionic columns, as the city’s leading banking center. The House of Lords chamber, little changed since the Parliament sat in it, is where you’ll find treasures such as carved oak paneling, an 18th-century crystal chandelier, and tapestries depicting the 1689 Siege of Derry and the 1690 Battle of the Boyne. There is also a fine mahogany clock and a silver mace. Guided tours are conducted on Tuesdays; otherwise ask a porter to direct you to the chamber. 2 College Green; 6776801; Mon.-Wed., Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Guinness Storehouse

Dublin’s renowned brewery, which dates from 1760, now boasts a spectacular new museum complex showcasing all things Guinness. The interiors of a historic turn-of-the-20th-century building located on the compound have been modernized with a stunning steel-and-glass atrium shaped like a giant pint glass. The tour begins with an explanation of the brewing process and moves into exhibitions on cooperage (the art of making barrels out of wood) and advertising. The displays are interactive–step inside the giant vats, touch the barley–so kids will love it. Parents will appreciate free samples of the potent black stuff in the Gravity Bar, whose top-floor attractions are the Panoramic city views. St. James Gate, 4536700, daily 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.


The hotel of the moment is the Morrison (Ormond Quay, 8872400, doubles from $292), minimalist hideaway on the banks of the River Liffey. Ninety-two chic rooms feature iridescent velvet bedcovers and dark wood furniture with cream accents. \ A perennial favorite is the posh 146-room Merrion (Upper Merrion St., 6030600, doubles from $320), fashioned from four Georgian townhouses. Be sure to visit the oak-paneled bar and the garden decorated with box hedges and fountains. \ The Clarence (6-8 Wellington Quay, 6709000, doubles from $250), owned by members of the rock band U2, attracts a fashionable crowd to a modern decor in the Temple Bar district. The 50 rooms (ask for one that overlooks the river) are done up with muted colors and blond-oak furniture.


Many of Dublin’s top restaurants can be found within its finest hotels. One such establishment is Halo (Ormond Quay, 8872400), housed in a soaring bilevel space at the Morrison Hotel and serving innovative fusion cuisine. \ It’s wise to book early at Patrick Guilbaud (Upper Merrion St., 6764192), the much-lauded restaurant attached to the Merrion Hotel. Chef Guilbaud’s gourmet dishes, such as Connemara lobster with apple and lemon jus and veal sweetbreads with wild mushroom sauce, have garnered rave reviews–and two Michelin stars. \ Peacock Alley (St. Stephen’s Green, 4787015), in the Fitzwilliam Hotel, is getting attention for its slick, minimalist Terence Conran-designed interiors, not to mention chef Conrad Gallagher’s flavorful Mediterranean/New World food.


Hip Dubliners are flocking to Louise Kennedy (56 Merrion Square South, 6620056), a boutique in a Georgian townhouse, to stock up on Philip Treacy hats, Lulu Guinness bags, and Kennedy’s own line of clothing. Plasterwork detailing on the ceilings and fireplaces with marble mantelpieces complement the original central staircase.  Francis Street is ground zero for Dublin’s antiques trade. One of the best shops is O’Sullivan Antiques (43-44 Francis St., 4541143), featuring 18th- and 19th-century period furniture, such as Victorian armchairs, Georgian tables, chandeliers and brass candle-sticks (owner Chantal O’Sullivan also has a shop in New York).  For 20th-century furniture, head to O (3 Cows Lane, 6770679). The eclectic collection ranges from Danish teak credenzas and Eames swivel chairs to copper light fixtures.