I’ve always been fascinated by designer’s houses, their personal space, even unlike their offices. They’ve always been a fascinating source of information about the particular designer’s inherent visual sensibilities and innate aesthetic sense, a veritable treasure trove, call it a cornucopia if you will, of tsotchkes, souvenirs, knick knacks and conversation pieces. More than that, whether they are minimalistic with clean lines or cozy and comfortable with fuzzy rugs, this is probably the only place you will that designer’s particular taste, unadulterated by any professional or business considerations.
Unlike artists such as painters and sculptors, who get to manifest tangibly their creative visual imagery, practicing professional designers must create to a set of determined criteria, taking the client’s business and marketing strategies into consideration, budget and time constraints for production, and suit the client’s brand image appropriately. So while you may see design work of the highest quality in portfolios, you will never get a glimpse into the designer’s secret soul, unlike an artist’s, because unless the work is a concept car or an exercise in free style imagery, everything is tailored to a client’s specifications.
Their personal spaces however, with their collections of pieces – be it furniture, rugs, paintings, curios or even regular old books and music and posters – are all examples of their personal preferences in design. Last week, I was introduced to an "Eichler house" by Bill Hill, when I went to share their fried turkey feast. Cliches about sights for sore eyes apart, the house was beautiful. Simple lines, open spaces, and an attention to details that gave the house a vaguely Japanese Zen garden feel. Bill’s emphasized that a little with his teeny gravel garden outfront and the use of lengths of metal chains instead of gutters for the rain. When I walked in, I *knew* it was a designer’s home. Nothing was out of the ordinary, particularly, but a certain sense of "something" – grins – my old typography teacher would say it was either balance, harmony or tension in the composition. Come to think of it, he also used to say I was lazy and had never worked a day in my life. Oh well. Sorry Manubhai.
These low-slung, jazzy spreads, built by Joseph Eichler from the late
1940s to the early 1970s, were the avant-garde architectural expression of
California dreamin’ – an optimistic, middle-class, mid-century vision of
the good life.
"They illustrate the advantages of socially-responsible development –
something that’s integrated with the local culture, respectful of the
physical environment," Adamson said. Also, Eichler’s homes reflect "the
enduring value that good design can bring to any housing project."
It’s unclear how Eichler came to be a modernist and a lover of good
design. One inspiration, according to Adamson, may have come when Eichler
sublet Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bazett House in Palo Alto, from 1940 to 1942.
That initial inspiration was probably reinforced, Eichler said, by the
belief that "the masses could have good design."
Italics mine in surprise and delight, to see the same language we use today to talk about design’s strategic advantage in raising shareholder value for products like the iPod, and the fact that these homes have not only endured over 50 years, they are considered "still modern" in their design. Timeless, indeed.