Students of designer-architect Eileen Gray may employ various frames for understanding her oeuvre, for she explored myriad modes and scales of creation. Given her prolific rate and high quality of design work in the late 1920s related to the construction of E.1027 in Southern France, it provides an ideal case study. Photographs from the special edition of L’Architecture Vivante dedicated to documentation of E.1027, “Maison en Bord de Mer,” edited by architect Jean Badovici and released in 1929, reveal a bright, airy house situated on the Mediterranean Sea. Intended as Badovici's Riviera vacation home, Gray carefully considered how he and his friends would occupy E.1027. The result is very comfortable, including details such as glass walls that push back to connect the inside to the ocean view and breezes; built-in headboards with white reading and blue night lights; and storage for suitcases and hats in the poche of the walls. Atmospherically, it is a house for slower, more leisurely inhabitation, and the design supports that aim.
Students of Professor Wilfried Wang's "Eileen Gray and E.1027" seminar (Fall 2015) selected a piece of furniture or some aspect of the interior finish to investigate and document in greater detail. For her study, Master of Interior Design candidate Amy Witte researched several of the textiles original to the master bedroom. Although they have been lost or sold over the years, historic photographs from L’Architecture Vivante reveal rich layers, including a woven rug designed by Gray, an animal pelt throw and channel-style duvet on the bed, and flat panel curtains in the windows. As scholar Caroline Constant noted in Eileen Gray, "Gray’s fascination with opacity and indecipherability led her to focus on the surface of elements, their colors, textures, and reflective qualities, rather than on their profile, modeling, or placement in a legible space. She never isolated the individual element or made it represent the ensemble as a whole. The boundaries of elements are no longer frontiers, but extend into the lines of the adjoining walls" (London: Phaidon, 2000, p. 111). Fortunately, the seminar included an opportunity to study this early modernist villa in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France in person, which was invaluable to better understanding Gray as a designer and the ways her textiles might have helped form a cohesive whole at E.1027. Several students also opted to travel to Paris, London, or Dublin, cities that house significant collections of Gray's work.
Amy wishes to acknowledge the generous travel support from the Emily Summers Excellence Fund for the History of Interior Design, as well as the O'Neil Ford Centennial Chair in Architecture.