Some of you may be familiar with the Stuff White People Like blog. Why? Cause it’s funny. And who doesn’t like funny? Still, as a former student of architecture, I was slightly disturbed by this recent post. What? People, even white people, like that bony, poorly-designed crap? Not that I’m dissing ‘Modern’ design, or that I don’t agree with the principles behind designers like the Eames or some of the stuff that IKEA tries to do. The idea of easy assembly, the beauty of everyday objects, and using science as a foundation for design are all good ideas that I agree with. Ideas such as “Design is the appropriate combination of materials in order to solve a problem” or “The details are not the details. They make the design.” enthrall me. I just don’t think the follow-through takes me where I want to go.
Take the two versions of the Eames Lounge Chair. Both are probably comfortable for sitting. The second one with the ottoman may even be comfortable for lounging. Still, as furniture, it fails to meet my needs. I am a reader – I want to be able to curl up with a good book. Try tucking your feet under you in either chair and I guarantee you’ll be on the floor instead. Plus, even the cushy padding of the ottoman model doesn’t look terribly comfortable. And as one of our dominant senses, looks count.
Or, take the chaise lounge of one of the icons of Modernism, Corbusier. To me, it looks like a frightening dentist’s chair, rather than an object of comfort. But who knows? It could be very relaxing, once you have reclined in it. And I’m sure it’s a well-thought solution to the way people move and recline. What it fails to take into account is my perceptions and associations. As a dentist’s chair look-alike, am I going to be able to overcome my own inhibitions and actually sit in the thing?
Or the Eames Case Study house, below. Part of its design purpose was to use only off-the-shelf parts. I’ll let you decide if the house says ‘loving home’ or colorful factory’ to you. Again, the overall visual impression affects my experience of the space.