Contemporary Furniture Design – History And Influences

Contemporary furniture design came about through the combination of enquiring, innovative minds, advances in technology and the ability to produce incredible furniture at more affordable prices. The industrial revolution also played a huge part in this, particularly in terms of cheaper materials, access to factory space and the ability to create artistic furniture pieces at a price more suited to the public at large.

From the late 19th century, designers started to look towards sleeker, simpler designs for modern furniture. Whereas in the past furniture had been constructed almost entirely from wood, resulting in heavy overstated pieces indicative of grandeur and luxury. This access to new materials and different ways of working allowed designers to make more compact and modest sized items. These new furniture designs were easier to incorporate within any required living space and also gave the purchaser an opportunity to buy items that were an expression of their own personal tastes, with less limitations. Contemporary furniture design became known for being serviceable and functional but with a creative slant that saw modern furniture often viewed as pieces of art in their own right.

Odd angles, clean lines, curved shaping and materials such as metal and moulded plastic paved the way for modern furniture to infiltrate into our consciousness. It’s hard to ignore the striking designs of contemporary furniture pieces – the fluidity and sharpness often used in these designs made people really start to sit up and take notice of modern furniture.

Many designers of modern and contemporary furniture are also noted for being incredible architects – contemporary furniture is really about functional items being seen as architectural and artistic designs. Architects such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright and even Antoni Gaudi started to incorporate contemporary furniture design into their overall architectural visions. Gaudi would often design furniture pieces to complement the interesting nuances of his buildings, creating a harmony between the external structure and internal decoration.

Other notable contributors to the contemporary furniture movement include Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eileen Gray, Le Corbusier and Lilly Reich. Mies van der Rohe invented the now famous and often copied ‘Barcelona chair’ and his contemporary furniture often used cantilevers to enable supportive yet delicate framework, often created out of chrome. Mies worked in collaboration with Lilly Reich for over a decade, sharing both a professional and personal relationship. In addition to her involvement in the design of the Barcelona chair, the couple also worked together to create the Brno chair, another iconic piece of modern furniture that continues to be cited as both inspirational and aspirational.

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The ABC’S of Sailing in Palma De Mallorca

Setting sail from Palma de Mallorca – How to get there?

Amongst other reasons, a Mallorca yacht charter is so incredibly popular because of the easy accessibility of its international airport from all major European destinations. There are hundreds of daily flights coming in during the summer, making it a real hub for sailors and seasoned yachties from all over the world. In addition, the airport is a mere 9 km away from the capital `Palma`, as it is simply known to the inhabitants.

Its favourable location in the western Mediterranean Sea sets this gorgeous island and the surrounding Balearics in the immediate vicinity of the Spanish mainland and the port cities of Barcelona, Valencia and Denia. Often sailors will use Palma as a resting point when crossing the Mediterranean. The area is a great cruising ground for yacht rental because of the diversity of the different islands that make up the Balearics. Ibiza, Formentera and Menorca are reachable within only one sailing day. Yet they each offer something completely different in terms of culture, landscape and atmosphere.

Which marinas in and around Palma de Mallorca are there for a motor or sailing yacht charter?

There are some very established and some pristine new marinas to choose from for your yacht charter in Mallorca. The yacht harbours in Palma itself are offering quite a lot of both, luxury and bareboat charter, whereas the exclusive marinas of Puerto Portals, Port Adriano and Puerto Andratx are perfectly suited for luxury boat charter in Mallorca. In Palma there is the Club de Mar, La Lonja Marina Charter, the Real Club Nautico and the Marina Naviera Balear. A lot of day charter, especially for motor yachts, is available here. Very nice as well is the newly redone `Muelle Viejo` directly adjacent to the magnificent Cathedral. There are some fantastic new restaurants right opposite which even bring you some take away on board. There you can then sit on your own deck for dinner, enjoy the enchanting view of the lit up cathedral and feel the pulse of the vibrant centre of the city. Puerto Portals is only a 10 minutes´ drive away and has long been renowned as a prime port for luxury yacht charter Mallorca. If you sit in the restaurant `Flannagans`, for example, you may even be table neighbours with the likes of the King of Spain or Rafael Nadal. And Port Adriano (about 20 min drive from the city centre) with its cutting edge design by Philippe Starck is a true superyacht harbour with the flair of sober elegance, yet undeniable beauty.

What has Palma de Mallorca got to offer for après sailing?

Now you may have come here for sailing holidays, but there is way more to do if you only know where and when… Not a day goes by in Palma that there isn’t some sort of party or event. From January to December, there’s always something going on here. If you have not attended it yet, seeing the Three Kings arrive in the port on the Spanish Christmas day, January 6, is a sight to behold. And in the end of January there is a whole week of festivities called San Sebastian. Numerous life bands play in the streets, you can `run with the devils` or join in for the huge barbecue at the very end of the week. In summer you can pick your choice of regattas: Be it the Superyacht Cup in June, the Princessa del Rey in July or the Copa del Rey in August.

Downtown Palma is wonderful to behold, as is the old quarter. You’ll find the overall architecture is a blend of the intricate eastern style and the imposing western style. The famous Palma Cathedral, commonly referred to as ´La Seu´ is second to none in the world. Also a must is the impressive Castell de Bellver that towers over Palma and boasts some unbelievable views over the whole bay.

Apart from seeing the abundant sights, sampling the local specialities like the famous Sobrasada sausages or the popular `lomo´ (pork loin) along with some Mallorquin wine is a pure joy.

Shopping facilities for souvenirs or in preparation for your yacht charter in Palma de Mallorca are plentiful. Just head to the big department store El Corte Ingles (they have a luxury delicatessen department too) or to the shopping mall Porto Pi that is situated just around the corner from Club de Mar. You can purchase fresh produce in abundance in the centrally located Santa Catalina market during the mornings. And in the Old Town and the city centre there is an endless array of gorgeous boutiques and shops for you to choose from.

The nightlife is splendid; you just need to head down to the water towards the promenade known as Paseo Maritimo. There you’ll find the best clubs, bars and terraces, all overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and all packed full with happy yacht charter visitors.

What are the best day charter trips from Palma de Mallorca?

Off course Palma is the heart of Mallorca, yet it isn´t everything there is… By car you can do many excursions, head into the spectacular Tramuntana mountain range and visit some of the enormously charming little villages there. Deia, Valdemossa or Puerto de Soller are just a few names you should remember. There is a very cute, over 100-year-old train that goes from Palma to Soller and from there you can take the equally quaint tram to the port. A recommendable trip on the water would be going on a guided tour to the island of Cabrera, which is also a nature reserve. On the way they will tell you a lot about the interesting history as well as the fauna and flora of this place. Go swim in caves with crystal clear water and soak up the Mediterranean sun. A day yacht charter, most likely on a motor yacht from Palma would be another option to go there. One of those motor yacht charter boats can fit up to 6 to 8 people and you get a skipper to take you to the island, where you can snorkel or dive and admire the unspoilt underwater world.

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The Secrets Of A Traditional Moroccan Hammam Experience

If you ever visit Morocco (or Barcelona for that matter) then enjoying a hammam is an essential tourist experience, but for the newcomer the words hammam, gommage and rhassoul could leave you confused and nervous as you step into the traditional baths.

But even for the experienced visitor, the tkissila, an incredible secret acrobatic massage handed down through families and practised in only a select few places in the world, takes the hammam experience to a new level.

Here, I take you through the different stages of the traditional experience, and divulge the secrets of the tkissila for the more adventurous spa visitors.

Hammam

I have been confused by this description, as it is usually described as a Turkish steam bath. Our hotel in Barcelona for example was described as having a hammam, which was actually a sauna and a steam room. Don’t get me wrong, they were great, but not what I expected.

In Morocco and Barcelona our hammam was a hot room, with a water source, so it was somewhere between a sauna and a steam room. The hammam in Barcelona also had a very hot steam room, a plunge pool, rain showers and Arabian water bowls and sinks, so that you could relax and refresh yourself.

In the Palais Rhoul in Marrakech you actually lie on the floor to let the heat rise up through the mat into your body.

Hammams are really enjoyable – especially when it’s cold outside – but you do have to remember to drink lots of water – most will give you bottles of water to take in if you like – or bring your own.

Some hammams are mixed, requiring swimwear, and others are single sex where you can go naked – but always check first – some single sex ones still require swimwear.

If in doubt ask exactly what the details are – don’t be embarrassed, they all seem to be different!

Traditional Gommage

Literally an exfoliation (in French), in traditional hammams this means that someone will first wash you, normally with savon noir (black soap) – which is a beautiful ritual and then use a gommage or scrubbing glove to scrub all the dead skin off your body.

When we went to a hammam in Agadir, Morocco, we thought that there would hardly be any dry skin left – after 3 days on the beach. Also we were a little bit worried by some of the stories from people who had tried hammams elsewhere – so we asked for a gommage doucement – a soft scrubbing.

She scrubbed so hard it was actually on the edge of being painful, which I thought a bit unnecessary, until she scrubbed my forearm and I saw rolls of dead skin sloughing off. It grossed me out and I thought how dirty the Moroccans must think we are – they do this once a week!

Although in some places you can keep on your bikini and/or paper knickers, really I say what’s the point? After 2 minutes I wasn’t aware if she was scrubbing my boobs or my back. Speaking of which, it is the best back exfoliation I have ever had. I often get an itchy patch between my shoulder blades – she just scrubbed it right off – leaving it smooth and soft.

For the next few days I couldn’t help running my hands over my skin. And I continued scrubbing at home with a glove I bought in Agadir – seeing the dead skin actually coming off on the glove! Sadly it fell apart – so I am now on the lookout for a serious gommage glove in the UK – but no luck so far!

I have heard that gommage is not suitable for people with sensitive skin – but I have very sensitive skin and I love it and feel it only does my skin good.

A traditional gommage will leave your skin so smooth you won’t be able to stop stroking it.

Rhassoul

Rhassoul is a type of therapeutic mud. And a rhassoul treatment is basically when, usually after a gommage, you are smothered in rhassoul mud, left to “bake” for a while in a hammam, and then washed down.

It can be a little hot, and if it is your first time in a hammam I would actually recommend you give this a miss – perhaps build up to it, as a lot of treatments in one go can dehydrate you – if you haven’t drunk enough water or just simply because of the detox effects of the massage.

I’ve enjoyed the treatment but haven’t really noticed much of a specific effect – but it does smell great.

Tkissila

Tkissila (also sometimes written as Teksilla, Teskssila and Tkssila) is an ancient form of Moroccan massage, which I understand is now only practised by two brothers, descendants of a long line of practitioners, in Marrakech.

A cross between a massage and the kind of manipulation you might receive from a physiotherapist, the fact that it is done on a heated floor means that muscles are already relaxed and it is much easier.

I experienced this at the Palais Rhoul in Marrakech. When you enter the actual hammam, you won’t find opulent, colourful mosaics or indeed a steam room or heated benches to sit on.

If you decide to opt for just a massage, as my sister did, then you can go naked, as the masseur is female, but, if you opt for the traditional tkissila (pronounced as in tuxedo – tuxila), then please make sure you wear your bikini (and make sure it’s a sturdy one!)

My masseur and his brother are masters of the art of Tkissila, descendants of a long line of practitioners and this is one of only two places I understand you can have this treatment (his brother works next door at the more expensive spa).

So… first I was lead by the lady in charge to a simple brown cell and asked to sit on what looked like a yoga mat on the floor.

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea to have big buckets of warm water thrown over them, but provided you keep your mouth closed it’s rather like being in a nice warm waterfall.

She grabbed the black soap with eucalyptus efficiently soaped me up and left me lying on the floor.

I was a bit disappointed. No steam, no elegant bench, no funky mosaics, just some subtle, cool lights. It didn’t seem like the best spa in the world. It took me a while to realise that the heat in the room was actually coming up through the floor and lying down, my body was slowly starting to relax.

That’s when my masseur came in. After a few days of covering up from neck to ankle I had been a little aware of my naked legs at lunch. All of a sudden I was in a little brown cell with a Moroccan man in nothing but a pair of bathing shorts (and I was in my bikini!) But it didn’t actually feel weird when he slipped on his Palais Rhoul gommage glove and started to scrub me all over.

Unlike my experience in Agadir a few years ago this scrubbing wasn’t rough at all, but I could see the rolls of dead skin sloughing off. According to my masseur, the cheap gloves (about 20 dh – £1.50) I’d bought in the market were useless, his kind of glove was much better quality (about 50 dh – £4) and exfoliated all the dead, dirty skin without hurting at all. (He presented me with it at the end too.)

After the gommage, he got down to business. It’s funny, last year I saw a physio who had manipulated my spine and there were moments when, even fully clothed, I felt very awkward about having my foot on a guy’s shoulder while he pulled my leg in the other direction. I actually felt quite comfortable with it this time around. Even when I was lying face down and he was pulling my hips in the air. There were clicks, a bit of tightness, but nothing painful or even really uncomfortable, although I think I did sometimes breathe in or out in the wrong places.

Then it got weird.

My masseur lay down on the mat, his knees pointing up and this is when he asked me to sit on his knees.

I’m glad I speak French or this could have been a very different review.

One minute I was balancing on my bottom on his knees, the next I was flying, watching the room go whizzing past, not quite sure anymore which way was up. Suddenly I realised why, as the dramatic shape of the door flew by, this is a very muted room. If there had been lots of colours I’d have probably got dizzy!

When my feet landed on the floor I was giggly. Then he made me do it again – this time backwards. I sat facing his feet and leant backwards. Anyone who has ever done that trust exercise of falling backwards will understand that I felt elated and ridiculous at the same time.

At the end I was giggling and amazed, as much by the fact that I had done it and enjoyed it as by the experience itself.

He sat me down on the floor and washed me all over, including my hair with orange flower blossom products. When we were all done he rough dried my hair, tied my dressing gown up for me and told me I’d sleep like a baby that night.

I sat down for a while on the bench by the pool, until the lady masseur came to find me and give me my final relaxing massage (ditching my wet bikini).

Would I do it again? I’m not sure if it’s a regular one for me, or a once in a lifetime (our taxi driver said it should be twice a week!) and I don’t think it would be for everyone. When she’d finished she left me alone in the room so that I could fully relax – and it was so hard to get up when she did come back!

While my masseur described the usual local hammam, gommage and massage as “for the tourists” there’s something lovely about that experience too, and certainly one I would recommend. But I am so glad that I tried the tkissila too. It was certainly an eye opener and a new level of experience for me.

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How the 1992 Summer Olympics Benefitted Tourism in Barcelona

Not only did the 1992 Summer Olympics bring Barcelona to the centre of the world stage, but they also gave this historical city a new lease of life. As with many cities that have been given such a prestigious and monumental event, cash was injected to give visitors a good impression, and the numbers of these visitors increased dramatically. Tourism soared, and has continued to do so ever since.

However, the benefits to Barcelona went further than this. Barcelona is the capital city of Cataluna, one of the seventeen autonomous regions of Spain, and the Games brought the Catalan culture into the eyes of the rest of the world.

A survey carried out by the Games organizers had demonstrated that Spain was largely associated with sun, siestas and sangria, and also bullfighting, castañets and flamenco. The Catalan culture was virtually unheard of outside of Western Europe, and in keeping with the objectives of most other modern Olympic Games, the challenge was how to fairly and accurately project the culture and people of Spain while maintaining the essence of this part of the country.

Barcelona had applied for these Games three times previously without success, and it was particularly appropriate that the city should be awarded the 1992 Olympic Games because it was exactly 500 years after Christopher Columbus discovered America for Spain.

The city was transformed in preparation for the event, not only in terms of the new sporting complexes constructed but also with the refurbishment and renovation of the El Prat Airport and the Olympic Port in Poble Nou. Better known as Port Olimpic, this area is close to the Villa Olimpica, and famous for its fabulous restaurants and its unique clubs and bars.

However, the most important consequence of the Barcelona Olympic Games of 1992, other than the sporting spectacle itself and what it did for tourism in Spain and Barcelona in particular, was in the promotion of the Catalan culture. In 1992 Catalonia, as Cataluña is generally know outside Spain, was not generally recognized abroad as a distinctly separate area of Spain, and its culture was likewise unknown to all but those with an interest in the country.

These Olympics changed all that, and Barcelona and its Catalan culture hit the map and has been prominent in the geography, culture and cuisine of Spain ever since. Many tourists visit Barcelona only because of that. However, that was not the only aspect of Spain and Barcelona that was brought into the public eye. The architecture of Gaudi and the art of masters such as Goya became known to ordinary visitors, not just to those educated in these facets of Spanish culture. The great Pablo Picasso has a museum in Barcelona.

In terms of advertising Barcelona as a cultural centre and a ‘must’ on many people’s lists of places to visit, the Olympic Games of 1992 achieved in a few short weeks what it would otherwise have taken decades to achieve. It was not just the construction of Port Olímpic and Villa Olímpica, but also the sports facilities in Montjuic, Vall d’Hebron and Diagonal that are lasting reminders of the benefits that Barcelona won when they also won the Olympics.

Unlike most games sites, those in Barcelona have been put to use after the games, and many are still well-used sports facilities while others offer high-class luxury apartments for business and tourism. The Olympic Village (aforementioned Villa Olímpica) is one such area that now offers luxury apartments, many for short-term let.

The Olympic pool in Montjuic is still in use by the public, and not only facilities such as these, but also the significant increase in tourism since 1992, has rendered Barcelona a very popular destination for vacations and business shows and conferences. Over the 10 years from 1990 to 2000, the city experienced a 110% increase in tourism, and between 1992 and 2002, 105 more hotels have been opened.

Barcelona is now amongst the top 4 most visited cities in Europe, the others being London, Rome and Paris. The people of Barcelona are rightly proud of what have been described as the ‘model Olympics’ because of the sustained benefits to the city that that they brought. It is that word ‘sustained’ that is so important, because the ephemeral results of most other cities that hosted the Summer Olympic Games soon disappeared – but not so with Barcelona.

It is a source of pride, not only to the organizing committee, but also the people of Barcelona, that they can look at the benefits that this great city is still enjoying. In the words of the New York Times of August 1992, the athletes “could never dominate these Summer Games. The city won the Games. The people of Catalonia won the Games.”

Never were truer words written or spoken.

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