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Design

When I Met Eames

I was eight and my mother and I were visiting family in North Carolina for a summer holiday. My great aunt Sissy insisted we stay with her and her husband in their brand new ranch style home in Durham. The first thing I wanted to know was if there were other kids to play with in the neighborhood and if Bosco, their Bernese Mountain Dog, could walk with me down to the creek because I was afraid of snakes and spiders.

We arrived at their home late after a long train ride from New Jersey and we pulled up to a red brick house with a chimney made of the kinds of stone one finds in fresh water creek beds in the South. The air smelled of fresh pine and magnolia.

We entered the house and the first thing I noticed were the smooth white pine floors that was fun to slide on in stocking feet. We put our travel bags in our bedrooms and embarked on a grand tour of their new home.

The kitchen had new built-in appliances with a breakfast bar and swivel stools. There was a Danish style living room with wood panel walls and a large picture window that would brighten the rainiest day. But the best part was the library, featuring two weird-looking, ultra-modern lounge chairs with accompanying ottoman pulled up to the massive river rock fireplace. I immediately jumped in one and placed my feet on the ottoman. The chair was black leather and felt very cozy for an eight year old boy. Aunt Sissy said they were Eames chairs. For years to come I would love sitting in those chairs every time I would visit their home.

Charles and Ray Eames designed these iconic chairs in 1956, and they have never gone out of style. Charles was born in St. Louis in 1907 and studied architecture at Washington University. He went on to open his own architectural firm with another young, brilliant architect Eero Saarinen (who designed New York’s TWA airport terminal in 1956), but his wife was his chief collaborator until his death in 1978.

The Eames worked with molded plywood, fiberglass and plastic resin. One of the modern day classics is the Eiffel chair (named for the shape of its base), which I have at my own dining room table. The deep seat and curved seat edge keep you comfortable by reducing pressure on the back of the thighs.

I can still smell the white pine floors and the feel the new leather sliding across my wool socks as I would bask in the glow of the fire at Sissy's and Roland new home. They are long gone now, but their memory remains.



Recommended Reading



Lorraine Pascale's Fast, Fresh and Easy Food, Lorraine Pascale, 2012





The Collected Home: Rooms with Style, Grace and History, Darryl Carter, 2012

Travel

Thoughts on the Pompidou

The radical nature of the structure is more apparent in person than in any photograph. All the escalators, elevators, water pipes, climate ducts, all the infrastructure, are on the outside of the building to maximize space inside. This is the largest structure of its kind anywhere in the world.

The view from the top completes the trio of iconic Paris views that include the Eiffel Tower and Montmarte. You can see the Tower and the Sacre Coeur from the rooftop cafe on any but the foggiest days.

There are three floors of intense interest, a huge research library and tons of meeting spaces. The Pompidou showcases fresh contemporary pieces, mostly from the last decade or two.

Some of the installations must be experienced to be understood. But you never ask, "Is this art?" because it captures you. You can't just breeze through the Pompidou. If you arrive an hour before closing, you should plan to come another time.

Don't miss the fantastic Stravinsky fountain across from the Pompidou. Look for Salvador Dali on the wall — he's looking at you and expecting you to respond.



Twelve Things I Can't Live Without (right now)

  1. Martha Stewart Enameled Dutch Oven ( Red ) (www.marthastewart.com)
  2. Cuisinart Food Processor ( Red ) (www.cuisinart.com)
  3. Lauren, Snow Lodge Bar Soap by Ralph Lauren (www.ralphlauren.com)
  4. Caffé Vita Coffee. Caffe del Sol is my favorite but they are all great. (www.caffevita.com)
  5. Jack Spade wool watch hat. Very warm on cold winter days. (www.jackspade.com)
  6. Harrods's Brown Leather Messenger Bag. (www.harrods.com)
  7. My two cats Mittens and Socks. They are always formally dressed in tuxedos and love hanging out in closets.
  8. Paris, I just can't stop thinking about being there.
  9. Steelhead Diner at Pike Market in Seattle. Chef Tony Polizzi is The Best. (www.steelheaddiner.com)
  10. Dolce & Gabbana’s The One Fragrance. (www.dolcegabbana.com)
  11. Pirkko. Thanks for bringing Finland to my doorstep. (www.pirkko.com)
  12. My Seattle family and friends.