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Tiffany treasures on the auction block from the Garden Museum, Japan

The Garden Museum in Japan was one of the premier museums of Tiffany kit in the world. Concerned after the awful tsunami of March 2011, its owner decided to close the private institution and sell its contents through Michaan Auctions and Sotheby’s.  I know Tiffany lamps, jewelry and silver, but this sale opened my eyes at an array of less traditional and beautiful things they produced 100 years ago.  Follow me…


Tiffany Studios made glass for lamps and windows, so it’s not a far stretch to imagine clients clamoring for vases and decorative objects for their homes.  This tiny glass vase (above) has that amazing Tiffany iridescence – a technique that the workmen kept secret to keep themselves employed! – and it bubbles and swirls in a mix of shades and colors.  I don’t quite understand the complex process of making it, but I do know that it’s a keeper!



While not the most useful of objects in today’s computer age, an inkstand used to be a staple on every desk.  Here Tiffany combines the brilliance of favrile glass with their renowned silver.  Such a great example of art nouveau style – I love the beading on the collar of the silver and those big silver swirls.  I have seen people use these inkwells for paper weights on a desk or for a few precious rings on a dresser, so it’s about using your imagination when repurposing an object.



This one I just couldn’t resist:  called a lava ewer, I think we can all see why.  The thick layers of “lava” oozing down the ewer against that textured surface are divine!  I have a feeling this was never used.  I wouldn’t dream of serving iced tea or lemonade from this – no one would want to pass it around the table!



The final piece is a small tea screen (made to place on the tea table to shield the tea takers from the heat of the spirit lamp warming the tea kettle – how civilized).  It takes the windows for which the firm was known, and remakes it in a smaller, more intimate scale.  Can’t you just picture the light coming through and catching the varying shades of glass to dazzling effect?  I also think the subject is so charming.  The emerald green parakeets all clustered over the goldfish swimming in their own little world!

I guess the important thing to take away for this, is not to assume you know everything about your favorite design firm – they just might surprise you after all!


image credits: Michaan Auctions, San Francisco


PS: Thank you for stopping by and reading my feature today.  I love what I do as an interior designer and art advisor, and it’s my hope that through these blog posts I’m enriching and heightening your aesthetic sensibility towards art, design and fabulous interiors in some way ~ Richard Rabel (a.k.a. the modern sybarite)

The Modern Sybarite

Interior Designer, art advisor and blogger, Richard Rabel brings fresh perspectives on art + design for today’s interior in his blog TheModernSybarite.

Based in New York City, Richard is consistently asked by his clients for advice on art, design and decoration and ultimately provides clients with livable, warm and unique interiors that reflect a 21st century lifestyle based on his rich experience in fine and decorative art of all periods.

A multi-linguist with a ten-year career as a senior director and specialist with Christie’s, the London-based global auction house, Richard has lived in seven countries and has had access to some of the most exquisite and exclusive spaces.  From San Francisco to Mexico City, Sao Paulo to Geneva, Istanbul to Delhi and Sydney to Shanghai, the breadth of his travels has cultivated his eye and contributed to defining his exacting taste and modern aesthetic.
The Modern Sybarite

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