Saturday, March 25, 2006

Good Design and Easier Living

I still don't know why I believed as a beginning reader that this book on my mom's high shelf was a Guide to Easter Living. It must have been the font, as it is unlikely Fritzi would have called it a "homemaker's Bible". Still, Mary and Russel Wright's book, Guide to Easier Living, is a treasure reminding me of Mom. I brought it back from Nebraska last week after a good spring break with my dad. The Wright's book is the precursor for Martha Stewart, and for Proctor & Gamble's website, HomeMadeSimple "simple solutions for easy living," where you can play a Swiffer Dusters Clean Scene interactive game resembling The Sims, but tidier.

Mom's Guide to Easier Living is copyrighted 1954. It was a revolutionary volume for the post-WWII families moving into suburbia and a new casual lifestyle. Russel Wright's dinnerware pattern, "American Modern" sold more placesettings than any other in history with it's clean borderless aesthetic and stackability. You can find lots of this dinnerware on eBay. Wright "merged organic grace and technical rigor with an air of luxurious utility" according to Design Within Reach. The more I Googled, the more connected I felt to Fritzi.

The book has been reissued, and is as vital now as it was fifty years ago when we lived at 26th and Franklin.

My parents and my college watercolor professor were the only people who ever spoke of the "Good Design" mid-century modern movement. Now "Good Design" is more widely appreciated than ever. A touring exhibit, Russel Wright: Good Design is for Everyone will open at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster, Ohio on May 5, 2006, before traveling to Columbus, IN, Palm Springs, CA, Tulane University in NOLA, and Bellevue, WA.

Each year The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design awards prizes in a variety of categories. The Museum’s historic GOOD DESIGN program originated in Chicago in 1950 and was organized by Edgar J. Kaufmann, Jr., former curator of the Museum of Modern Art. Originally the program introduced state-of-the-art, modern products into the office and the home marketplace throughout the post-World War II decade. The program featured products and installations by some of America’s pioneers of modern design including: Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Russel Wright, Florence Knoll, and George Nelson—the most prominent design minds in America in the 1950s who blazoned a new international direction in design.

The Good Design/Easier Living proponents believed that products for the home, office, and business should be beautiful as well as functional and affordable. So did Mom. I am lucky that she shared this aesthetic philosophy with me.

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