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Open Door: Vess Ruhtenberg's Living Room

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BARCELONA CHAIR
Designed in the 1920s/early 30s by Vess’s architect grandfather, Jan Ruhtenberg, who worked with architect and Bauhaus director Mies van der Rohe. Yes, you are allowed to sit in it.
PAINTING
Unfinished, it was thrown in the trash by Vess’ aunt and saved from the garbage heap by his grandfather. “He hung it in his office, and if you knew just where to grab it on the side, it opened a secret passage to a hidden room,” Ruhtenberg says.
TABLE
A Jan Ruhtenberg-designed parson’s table.
TURNTABLE AND AMPLIFIER
Vintage Harmon Kardon amplifier and turntable handmade by Ruhtenberg’s father in the 1960s. When he’s not serving omelets and cinnamon toast at his day job at Cafe Patachou, he’s serving up a customized music experience as the official music curator for Martha Hoover’s empire.
PIANO
Made by the Winter piano company who manufactured his grandfather’s Modernist piano for the 1939 World’s Fair.
GUITAR
Ruhtenberg bought this 1968 Gibson ES335 guitar from defunct music store Indiana Music in 1991 for $400. It accompanied him on three tours with various bands but not with the ’80s punk group Zero Boys. “I just never thought it would survive the slam-dancing violence of a Zero Boys show,” he says.
VASE
This Alvar Aalto milk glass vase was purchased from Form + Function as a gift from his late friend, musician Sophia Travis.
LAMP
Purchased during his intrepid travels to an antique mall in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 2001.
BOOKS
“Amassing an array of vintage architecture books then going on tours and seeing the same buildings I learned about in those books was my DIY architecture education,” says Ruhtenberg, who lectured at Butler University for two semesters on Modernist design.
ARMCHAIR
Cantilevered prototype chair—a one-off design by Jan Ruhtenberg. “When I was a kid, my grandfather would come over to our house and sit in this chair. He would pat the arms and say in his thick Swedish accent, ‘I designed this chair and I designed this watch and that lamp,’ and so on. I just assumed he designed everything. I suppose around here, it’s true.”

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