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Posted at 7:34 AM ET, 09/20/2010

Modern design and an empty storefront

By Blake Gopnik

By Blake Gopnik

Out for a morning jog in Adams Morgan, I couldn't help noticing the newly empty storefront that, until very recently, had been the Design Within Reach store, full of juicy examples of modern and contemporary design.

Conflicting thoughts:

-- The empty store looked cleaner, more modernist, more Design-Within-Reach-ish, than it did when it was full of stock. The plain white walls and lovely pool-deck floors, cast from the kind of polished pebbles you put in your aquarium, made for a lovely pared-down aesthetic. Could DWR have achieved its own apotheosis only in its closing?

-- There was a note of pathos - and I guess of comedy - in the signature wallpaper left behind in the entryway. It covered the walls in black-and-white headshots of all the greats of modernism, from its 19th-century roots to its postmodern epilogue: Thonet, Bertoia, Pesce, Gehry and even radical young Dutchmen such as Marcel Wanders and Joep von Lieshout. There they were, looking forlornly at the space that used to house their goods.

-- And I felt a little tickle of pleasure, and of anticipation. Yes, the store had "better" design than most furniture stores do. I bought a sofa there not long ago. But how did "better" come to mean a slick look conceived 50 years or more ago? I know that it's insanely optimistic thinking, but maybe now the neighborhood's modern-design addicts will be forced to move on to something new, genuinely of our time. For ideas, they could start by visiting Industry Gallery down on Florida NE, or even peek at Viewing the corpse of this store made me swear that, the next time I buy a sofa, I'll head for something with more life left in it.

By Blake Gopnik  | September 20, 2010; 7:34 AM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Design  | Tags:  design  
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