I was so excited to be invited to the Herman Miller showroom. I have always loved and appreciated the company, especially the classic design pieces. The showroom in Los Angeles is absolutely stunning. Typical of the warehouse architecture of Culver City, the showroom boasts beautiful exposed bowstring wood trusses, curved walls and freestanding forms in vivacious colors.
An array of Herman Miller product is on display. Ranging from the Eames Lounge to the Canvas desking system, there is quite a variety. Because of the history of design I always love the chance to experience the classics such as the iconic Noguchi coffee table. It never ceases to amaze me that many of the pieces have been in production since the 1940’s.
Two of the most influential people in Herman Miller History are Charles and Ray Eames. The husband and wife duo met while attending Cambridge and after marrying moved to California. They are most known for their work with molded plywood. The two were responsible for the design of the very first Los Angeles Herman Miller showroom which opened in 1949.
On the tour I had the chance to experience the Eames in a very intimate way. Their home located in Pacific Palisades was opened up to our group and what an experience it was.
Designed in 1945, it was one of nearly a dozen homes built as part of the Case Study House Program commissioned by John Entenza, the publisher of Arts and Architecture Magazine. The challenge was to design a home to express man’s life in a modern world. All homes were built and furnished using materials and techniques developed during the Second World War.
Each home was designed for either a real or hypothetical client. Charles and Ray’s client was a married couple working in design and graphic arts whose children no longer lived at home. They wanted a home that would serve as a background for “life in work” and with nature as a “shock absorber” as Charles would say.
One of the most amazing aspects of the home is the site itself. There is a beautiful meadow in front of the home and studio that is lined with giant eucalyptus trees. At the opposite end, the meadow gives way to a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. Charles and Ray loved the meadow so much that they altered their original design of the home to fit into the setting rather than the other way around.
While visiting, the true essence of the Eames can be felt. Form their super cool door bell to the Ray’s tree swing in the meadow I had an overwhelming sense of connection to them. Charles and Ray moved into the home on Christmas Eve 1949 and lived and worked there for the remainder of their lives. Today the home and studio are available for private tours through the Eames Foundation.
The entire experience of the trip was amazing. As a young designer who is truly passionate about design and loves the history of my profession, I was in heaven.
The global trend of sustainability has evoked an enormous amount of attention, but there is another global trend that deserves just as much concern, obesity. Technological advances, increased sedentary lifestyles and popularity of fast food are a potent combination. As a result, obesity rates are growing at an alarming rate.
Because we spend an estimated 2/3 of our life at the office, it seems to be a great place to start. Many companies are aware of the growing need to support healthy lifestyles, but providing a healthy work environment shouldn’t stop at adding a gym. A surprisingly simple solution is focusing on stairs to encourage staff to be healthy and more active.
In many existing office buildings the stairs are tucked away in a dark corner with no windows, bare bones finishes and are meant as a form of emergency egress rather than a healthy alternative to the elevator. Do not underestimate the value of taking the stairs. According to the Wellness Council of America, by climbing two flights of stairs per day, a total of 6 pounds can be lost per year. It also increases good cholesterol and reduces stress and tension.
In new construction, stairs should be designed as the primary source of movement. They should be interesting and inviting. Large landings can become break out areas for meetings and collaboration. Windows provide a view to the outside and create a positive experience that encourages their use. Also, locate the stairs in a more convenient location. Between the wait time and the distance to get there, the elevator will quickly become less popular.
In existing buildings, tear out the old, bland and basic finishes. That rubber nosing isn’t enticing anyone to use the stairs. Add attractive and bold finishes that will generate traffic. Install artwork where possible. Pump up the volume by adding speakers, especially if it is a boring back-of-house “emergency exit” stair. Relocate all community space at least one floor away from offices. By moving the break room to the second floor, the whole office will have to travel at least one flight of stairs for their lunch breaks.
Although a simple solution, making the stairs an enjoyable and enticing way to travel through the office will increase the activity level of the employees. Encouraging healthy habits and supporting active choices nationwide would have a huge impact on our obesity rates. So, the next time you go to work, ignore the easy option and take the stairs!
McMansions are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Recently, 2,000 International Furnishings and Design Association members participated in a once a decade survey to determine what home life in America will be like by the year 2020. Smaller more efficient use of space seems to be the overall trend.
76% of the survey takers foresee the American home becoming smaller and containing fewer rooms. What is interesting is that when asked the same question at the turn of the millennium only 49% thought that homes would become smaller.
Of the rooms available to disappear from homes, the dining room seems to be the one getting the boot. 71% predict the extinction of the formal dining room. This means big news for the kitchen. The consensus is the act of dining will move into the kitchen and therefore to accommodate, kitchen sizes will increase. In fact, it is thought by 91.5% that single use rooms will be morphed into spaces that serve multiple functions.
If rooms are no longer serving single functions, then the furniture must also be adaptable as well. 65.7% of participants think that movable and modular pieces will overtake large scale, heavy, built-in furniture. Also, we will see an increased interest in ergonomics and a decrease in disposable furniture.
Perhaps the most space age prediction is the integration of technology. We might be living in the time of touch pads, but 97% of survey takers think voice and sensor controls will begin to appear on more and more home equipment.
Even though we already practice many of these predictions, we will see a definite increase in their popularity. Smaller, more open and efficient homes are becoming the new norm. The glory days of the McMansion are officially over.