Jackie happens upon a design book that changes her notions about some midcentury designers and architects.
On a recent shopping expedition, I was wandering through a woman’s apparel shop when I unexpectedly discovered an amazing and inspirational design book. Handcrafted Modern: At Home with Mid-Century Designers by photographer Leslie Williamson is a masterpiece of images that reveal the residential interiors of some famous midcentury designers and architects. Subjects include Walter Gropius, Russel Wright, Eva Zeisel, and Charles and Ray Eames.
Williamson approached her photo shoot and book with specific criteria, but the one I admired the most was her stipulation that the homes be intact with the designer still living there or, if the person was no longer alive, that the home be preserved with the designer’s personal effects still intact.
In her photographs, Williamson captured the everyday, intimate lives of 14 design icons. What struck me was a distinct commonality among the various homes: They were lived-in, unpretentious and unassuming, yet still beautifully crafted, detailed and personally curated. A visitor would feel very much at ease in any of them.
I reacted the most strongly to the interior of the Eames House. The exterior of this famous house is well-known to many people. Yet surprisingly, Williamson learned that the home had rarely been photographed inside, and certainly not to the level of detail she envisioned. I always imagined that the interior would be very minimalistic, the only real décor being the iconic designs of its inhabitants — Charles Ormond Eames, Jr. and his design partner and wife Bernice Alexandra “Ray” Eames. Much to my surprise, the house conveyed the same modest warmth and lived-in look as all the others — it’s a richly decorated, almost cluttered space full of thousands of books, art objects, artifacts and charming knick-knacks, as well as dozens of projects in various states of completion.
As designers and architects, I’m sure you occasionally get the comment from your clients, “Your house must be amazing!” And I’m sure it is — but perhaps in a very unexpected way, just like the homes of these famous design icons.