Design Escape: 7 Remarkable Objects From the Cooper Hewitt

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Need a design escape today?

Let’s pay a virtual visit to the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Though the museum is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, that won’t stop you from getting a private tour of some of its key holdings via digital docent and the “Museum Moment of Zen” series on Instagram.

We have indeed been finding Zen in the series, and suspect you might, as well. Here is a sampling of the featured holdings. Stop by the Cooper Hewitt Instagram for much more going forward.


“Leopards lounge and explore in this wallpaper produced by Philip Graf Wallpapers Inc. in the late ’60s. ⁣Likely intended for a young girl’s room, these glamorous magenta felines would also have been right at home on the walls of a powder room.” (Sidewall, A Leopard of My Very Own, 1967–68; made by Philip Graf Wallpapers Inc. New York, USA. Screenprinted on paper; gift of Philip Graf.)


“‘Kinetics’ is a mural design from the Kaleidoscope collection of murals and supergraphics by James Seeman. ⁣The designer may have been inspired by a technology that was beginning to enter people’s lives in a big way: the barcode. ⁣The Kaleidoscope collection was produced in 1971 for the 1972 year and won many awards.” (Kinetics Mural Miniature, designed by James Seeman Studios Inc. Screenprinted; gift of Vincent Scalia.)

glass birdcage

“This fantastical glass birdcage was designed by Charles Lin Tissot in 1959. He collaborated with the legendary glassworkers of Venice to create a souvenir drawing on ancient artistic techniques, applied with modern twists. ⁣Not only is this birdcage beautiful, but it is also fully functional. The doors slide open, and inside the cage are perches, swings and a feeding bowl that would be perfect for a chirpy pet.” (Verdino Birdcage, ca. 1959; designed by Charles Lin Tissot (American, 1904–1994); Italy; glass, brass, plexiglass. Gift of Göran F. Holmquist.)

Wood model

“These staircase models were crafted in 19th-century France by a guild of traveling craftsmen called the compagnons. On their journeys to mastery, apprentice craftsmen completed a ‘tour de France,’ studying under craftsmen in cities like Tours, Marseille and Lyon. Only when the apprentice proved his competence in both drawing and workmanship was he allowed to advance to the next studio. ⁣A tour took between four to seven years. It concluded when an apprentice produced a masterwork—traditionally, a staircase model. ⁣The Compagnonnage system dates to the Middle Ages. About 12,000 compagnons are active in France today, and women are now included among their ranks.” (Dome-shaped Architectural Staircase Model, mid-19th century; walnut and beechwood. Gift of Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw.)

Rainbow stool

“This sitting stool is decorated with real rainbow sprinkles. Designer Fernando Mastrangelo coated the colorful confections with resin to make them long-lasting.” (Stool, Rainbow Sprinkle Drum, 2017; designed by Fernando Mastrangelo (American, b. 1978). Gift of Fernando Mastrangelo.)


“This pattern comes from Casa Hermosa, a collection of wall coverings and coordinated fabrics that debuted in 1995. The collection is the brainchild of artist Nancy Glenn-Nieto and designer Marcie Vesel Bronkar. ⁣Nieto, an American-born painter of Mexican descent, drew on her heritage and her studies of pre-Columbian art to inspire the patterns and colors in the collection.” (Sample Book, Casa Hermosa (Beautiful Home), 1995; made by Imperial Wallcoverings Inc. Machine-printed on paper. Gift of Imperial Wallcoverings Inc.)


“This design, titled ‘Four Seasons,’ was created by Luba Krejci in 1964. She sought to revitalize the tradition of lace-making in her native Czechoslovakia with her artistic expressions.⁣” (Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Herbert Paskow.)


“Let’s time travel through the photographs of Thérèse Bonney, an American journalist who documented the architecture and design of Paris from 1925 to 1935. ⁣⁣Featuring everything from charming trompe l’ceil storefronts to stylish furnishings, more than 4,000 of Bonney’s photographs are digitized and available to browse from the Smithsonian Libraries.” (Photograph, storefront of printer and bookbinder Brodard & Taupin, ca. 1924. Photographed by Thérèse Bonney. Collection of Smithsonian Institution Libraries.)