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A Modern approach to holidays

For the Midcentury fan, consider the films of the Eameses, 'California Houses of Gordon Drake,' Greta Magnusson Grossman's iconic grasshopper floor lamp and prints of Arts & Architecture covers.

November 25, 2011

DIGITAL

"The Films of Charles and Ray Eames." $79.99, available at the Museum of Modern Art online gift shop, momastore.org.

NONDIGITAL

"California Houses of Gordon Drake." $39.95, available at William Stout Publishers, stoutpublishers.com.

SPLURGE

Grasshopper floor lamp, $875 at Design Within Reach, (800) 944-2233 or dwr.com.

BARGAIN

Arts & Architecture prints, $19.95 each, shop.lacma.org.

Thanks to Pacific Standard Time and in particular to the ongoing LACMA exhibition "Living in a Modern Way: California Design 1930-1965," L.A.'s Midcentury design pioneers are back in the spotlight. One of the best ways to dig deeper into this well known body of work is through the rich variety of short films made by the husband and wife team of Charles and Ray Eames. Collected in a six-DVD set, the series includes the classic "Powers of Ten" along with "Toccata for Toy Trains," "Day of the Dead" and my personal favorite, "Blacktop."

Though it is sometimes hard to believe, there are still corners of Midcentury architectural practice in Southern California that remain underappreciated. One example is architect Gordon Drake, who worked for Harwell Hamilton Harris before striking out on his own and designing a handful of small, exquisite modern houses in and around Los Angeles. Drake died in a skiing accident in 1952 at age 34. Douglas Baylis and Joan Parry wrote a study of his work four years later, "California Houses of Gordon Drake"; this year, William Stout Publishers has reissued it in beautiful form, with a new introduction by Pierluigi Serraino.

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Sticking with the Midcentury theme, how about a reissued floor lamp by one of the great pioneers of modern industrial design, Greta Magnusson Grossman? Grossman was born in Sweden but moved to Los Angeles with her American husband, jazz bandleader Billy Grossman; she is one of the stars, without a doubt, of the LACMA exhibition, and just in time for that show, Design Within Reach has begun selling one of her finest designs, the Grasshopper floor lamp, with its delicate, canted, three-legged profile.

Bringing the modern spirit into your house doesn't require seeking out a Grossman design, however; a more modestly prized alternative is one of the prints available at the LACMA shop reproducing covers from Arts & Architecture magazine, the L.A.-based journal that launched the Case Study program and championed the work of the Eameses, Raphael Soriano and Craig Ellwood. The covers include designs by Saul Bass, John Follis and others.

—Christopher Hawthorne

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