California Style


Let’s talk design for a second.

I didn’t grow up knowing much about design, because I hail from a family where sciences and math reign supreme. Fortunately, I had an art history teacher in high school who fixed that all when he took us on on tours of Los Angeles art, architecture, and design.

Years later, once I started working in editorial, design became my job as I’d collaborate with the art team to plan photo shoots, analyze layouts, and make mood boards to visually flesh out stories. Through it all, the design eras that resonate with me most are art deco and mid-century, which coincidentally are the two most prevalent styles in Los Angeles.

Mid-century design is most celebrated in Los Angeles through the Case Houses — a series of concept homes conceived by the mid-century magazine, Arts & Architecture. My sister lives across from Case Study House No. 22, which happens to be my favorite of all the houses and is the home in the above picture. From architecture, I’ve come to admire other designers from this era, so I was jazzed to see LACMA bring it all together in their latest exhibit, California Design.

From the moment you walk in, it looks like you’ve entered a freeze frame from a Mad Men episode as the whole space is defined by an awesome curved wall, that in LACMA’s words, “is designed to create a powerful sense of solid and void, and to lead the visitor on an exciting, smart journey through the history of California design.”

This is the first major display of California midcentury modern design and showcases more than 300 items, including pieces from greats like photographer Julius Shulman, design duo Ray and Charles Eames, and pottery from Bauer.

My favorite pieces from the exhibit were this 1936 Clipper trailer by Airstream, an ice gun (for making crushed ice, of course!), a high-design doggie bag for Lawry’s steakhouse by Saul Bass, and this limited edition car by Studebaker, The Avanti.

By far, one of the most impressive parts was a detailed reconstructed room from the Eames house — here’s a cool timelapse look into its construction. The exhibit is part of the enormous “Pacific Standard Time” arts initiative that is a collaboration of various art galleries, museums, and cultural institutions through mid-year 2012 so definitely check it out if you get a chance.

Julius Shulman photo via J Paul Getty archives

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