How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior

*The Velvet and Silk Cafe*

Lilly Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The Velvet and Silk Cafe. 1927

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Installation view of How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 1, 2016–April 23, 2017. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Narrator: You are entering an evocation of the Velvet Silk Café, which was originally designed in 1927 by Lilly Reich and her partner, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, in Berlin. It was part of an exhibition about women's fashion. This was the first time the general public could try out these daringly cantilevered tubular steel furniture designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. And we're hoping you walk in and take a chance to sit around and get a taste of the fully immersive experience that this extraordinary café offered.

I think one of the main concepts is this daring use of copious quantities of silk and velvet. You're not entering a rectangular box but getting a sense of free-flowing space, which is defined by textiles.

As Lilly Reich said, one must have courage for color. And you can see that in this combination of golden yellow, the inky black velvet, and the red silk curtain. Those are the colors of what was then the young Weimar Republic. It was all part of this sense of national regeneration of the economy, of the society after a period of severe material shortages and political instability following the First World War.

Installation view of How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 1, 2016–April 23, 2017. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck
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