Living in a Modern Way

Posted July 23, 2017

Living in a Modern Way: California Design 1930-1965 is the well researched, and carefully footnoted catalogue of the LACMA exhibition of the same name.

This book outlines the history of Charles and Ray’s work in California, beginning in 1941, and provides a context for understanding their work alongside other artists and designers.

Visitors to the exhibition were treated to a number of classic Eames designs, including the original Eames Plywood Elephant, and at the Los Angeles venue, a recreation of the Eames House living room.

In 1951, designer Greta Magnusson Grossman observed that California design was “not a superimposed style, but an answer to present conditions….It has developed out of our own preferences for living in a modern way.” California design influenced the material culture of the entire country, in everything from architecture to fashion. This generously illustrated book, which accompanies a major exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is the first comprehensive examination of California’s mid-century modern design. It begins by tracing the origins of a distinctively California modernism in the 1930s by such European émigrés as Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, and Kem Weber; it finds other specific design influences and innovations in solid-color commercial ceramics, inspirations from Mexico and Asia, new schools for design training, new concepts about leisure, and the conversion of wartime technologies to peacetime use (exemplified by Charles and Ray Eames’s plywood and fiberglass furniture).

The heart of California Design is the modern California home, famously characterized by open plans conducive to outdoor living. The layouts of modernist homes by Pierre Koenig, Craig Ellwood, and Raphael Soriano, for example, were intended to blur the distinction between indoors and out. Homes were furnished with products from Heath Ceramics, Van Keppel-Green, and Architectural Pottery as well as other, previously unheralded companies and designers. Many objects were designed to be multifunctional: pool and patio furniture that was equally suitable indoors, lighting that was both task and ambient, bookshelves that served as room dividers, and bathing suits that would turn into ensembles appropriate for indoor entertainment.

California Design includes 350 images, most in color, of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, architecture, graphic and industrial design, film, textiles, and fashion, and ten incisive essays that trace the rise of the California design aesthetic.

Editor: Wendy Kaplan is Department Head and Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“This book beautifully documents how climate, immigration, and industry influenced California’s modern design aesthetic.”—Publishers Weekly


Hardcover  360 pp. | 9.5 x 12 in | 250 color photos, 100 color illus. | September 2011 | ISBN: 9780262016070

eBook  September 2011 | ISBN: 9780262299862