I came across the story of Eileen Gray on the blog curated by a company named Kaufmann Mercantile.
First, a bit about KM. Some know them as the source of the famed Palomino Blackwing pencils (there was a recent New Yorker piece by Blake Eskin on these delightful beauties which brought back memories of the carefully penciled marks on their page proofs). I’ve yet to spring for some blackwings but I did succumb to temptation and ordered a postalco notebook which I’ve tucked away in my secret place for beautiful notebooks I hope to someday fill (despite the fact that I rarely if ever write by hand anymore).
Their catchphrase is “products that will outlast you,” which I do not doubt, for among other things they carry tube wringers and widu hair brushes, pewter flasks and lemon peel baseballs. I’m hoping to someday order their french rolling pin, which is something I’ve wanted forever and believe it or not was the only thing on my wishlist when last the family from across the ocean asked what I might like. They sent one, a rolling pin that is, but not like this. This could even make a baker out of me. I just want to hold it, it looks as smooth as a baby’s bum, so tapered, so…I get carried away.
But besides their products they also have an incredibly interesting and delightful blog, which mirrors the eclecticism and search for beauty that they show in their products in musings by several authors on a panoply of topics, tied together by the thread of creativity and design, touching on art, literature, pop culture, nature…
Their latest post, written by Lisa Bartfai, tells a fascinating story of a woman named Eileen Gray, who designed a house on the French Riviera where she lived with her lover. The house had views of the Mediterranean from each room and was isolated on a cliff to lend it a perfect view and incomparable privacy. The twist of the story is that her house, the one she lived in with a woman (which today would not require secrecy, but then it surely did) was built in the 1920’s!
It is indeed an incredible design, even to my architecturally uneducated eye, and not only inspired the devotion of Le Corbusier (better said obsession, but read about that in Bartfai’s piece), but continues to enchant. It even has friends!…The Friends of E.1027 (the name of the house, based on a code which Eileen Gray came up with to include both her and lover’s names). Their website has photos of the then and now as well as the home’s history and its renovation. Fascinating.
Beauty in design is everywhere, in the simplest carved rolling pin and the most elaborately simple maison minimum.