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'Handcrafted Modern' looks inside midcentury designers' homes

December 20, 2010 |  9:41 am

Here's something you don't see every day. Shelter magazines are filled with lavish layouts of contemporary architects' and interior decorators' residences, but the homes of the giants of post-World War II modernism are rarely documented, much less compiled into a book as attractive as Rizzoli's "Handcrafted Modern" ($45). 

Leslie Williamson conceived the project and shot the photos over five years, capturing the interiors as she found them and using only natural lighting. The book took her from the Park Avenue apartment, above, of New York furniture designer Vladimir Kagan to the Eames House in Pacific Palisades.

HandcraftedModern_COVER copy Her subjects include craftsmen such as woodworkers Wharton Esherick, whose home appears on the cover of the book, right, as well as George Nakashima and J.B. Blunk.

"Handcrafted Modern" also showcases the Culver City residence of Jerome and Evelyn Ackerman, who have been featured in The Times, and the homes of architects Walter Gropius and Albert Frey, the furniture designer and sculptor Harry Bertoia, and midcentury dish designers Russel Wright and Eva Zeisel. 

There are no captions -- darn it -- but Williamson's introductory passages for each residence are filled with anecdotes and an eye for the curious details that humanize legends. Each 500 words or less, these essays are impressionistic literary snapshots of an ambitious undertaking. They suggest that Williamson is able to tell stories in words as well as pictures, and they leave one wanting more.

See a gallery of photos from "Handcrafted Modern."

-- David Keeps

Photo credits: Leslie Williamson / Rizzoli 


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