Arizona Republic Reporter tells what it’s like to visit the Aaron R Thomas Design Studio

Posted by | January 29, 2008 | Blog | No Comments

Clear and icy

Acrylic furnishings, accessories are hot design topics

Jaimee Rose
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 9, 2007 12:00 AM


It is possible this summer to dedicate your home to a worship-fest of ice. You can hang icy Lucite chandeliers, eat Popsicles while sitting in icy-clear side chairs, even replace your nightstands with vaunted Kartell tables that look like you might pull them from the freezer and go sliding down a hill.

It's all very Alaska, which feels glorious in blazing Arizona.

Even basic ice cubes have morphed into drink decor: At worldwidefred.com, you can shape ice into mice (ew), guitars (think rock star on the rocks) and diamonds (ice, ice, baby). Your closet can play, too: Lucite-heeled shoes and a see-through Chanel bag are among fashionistas' summer must-haves.

And if you want to get really enthusiastic about ice - and I do - you either can spend $399 on a home machine that turns out crystal-clear rocks or spend an afternoon getting intimate with the freezer, trying to clear up ice on your own.

This quest is something of an impossible dream: The perfect tray-made ice cube is elusive, but purified water and those new silicone molds help.

Pretending to be the Alton Brown of ice, by the way, is not a bad way to spend a triple-digit summer day. It requires much time enjoying blasts of polar freezer air, and it does not cost $399. On the design front, igloo chic is a darling of designers, who are molding of-the-moment acrylic into furniture-turned-ice sculptures. (Acrylic also goes by the brand names Lucite, Plexiglas and Perspex - it's officially polymethyl methacrylate, or PMMA, if you'd like to continue our Alton Brown homage.)

It seems everyone is playing with this plastic, or versions thereof: You can find polycarbonate furniture at Haus and Design Within Reach in Scottsdale, scour for vintage acrylic finds along the Seventh Avenue antiques stretch in Phoenix or watch Jonathan Adler j'adore it on reruns of Bravo's Top Design. The made-over Mondrian Scottsdale hotel is deliciously chilly at every turn. Designed by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, you can visit and pretend it's winter while sitting in the iconic clear "ghost" chair by Philippe Starck.

Of course, all we really care about is this: Does it actually make you feel cooler?

The answer is yes. If you let yourself dream just a little, it can make for a lovely mirage.

"In the desert, where acrylic really shines is that it's almost like having water in your house," says Peter J. Wolf, who lectures on design history at Arizona State University and is writing a biography on Charles Hollis Jones, the Hollywood acrylic furniture pioneer. "It has this kind of watery feel to it, and even the largest pieces take on this lightness."

It's also a gorgeous material for showcasing the ethereal light of the desert, Wolf says.

"Acrylic carries the light," unlike glass, which reflects it, he says. "It's as if the piece was illuminated from within."

Clearly, I am totally sold here and launched a cooling console table quest of my own. I ended up in Costa Mesa, Calif., visiting acrylics designer Aaron Robert Thomas, whose work is featured in Scottsdale's Hotel Valley Ho. (Visit him virtually at www.aaronrthomas.com.) Thomas' very dear father, Edward, let me devour a book of their designs, and after I had said the word "cool" about 84 times, he also let me into the workroom.

He showed me sinks, chairs, lamps. He told me how the sheets of acrylic are heat-molded into shape, and taught me that the thicker the sheet, the more lovely (and expensive) the piece. I even got a sneak peek of the pedestals just finished for rapper Kanye West.

And I found my console table.


It's called "the waterfall," and already is accessorized in my mind: coral, seashells, a coffee-table book about the sea. The air-conditioning will be set at 74, and I'm going to drag out my faux-fur throw blanket, sit on the sofa and revel in this chilled denial decor.



Reach the reporter at jaimee.rose@arizonarepublic .com or (602) 444-8923.

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