a monthly look at the faces that have made history

Eileen Gray

Leave it to a redhead to shake things up. Born to an aristocratic Irish family in 1878, Eileen Gray followed the path least expected, forgoing marriage to a fellow nob and the brood of children that would've been that union's likely result. Instead, she studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, apprenticed with a Japanese lacquer master, opened a shop in Paris, made furniture, designed interiors, and, in her late forties, launched an architecture career that would influence the modernist movement. Her famous E-1027 house won her praise from the likes of Le Corbusier, even as her earlier work enticed such clients as Elsa Schiaparelli and the Maharajah of Indore. Gray's personal style mirrored a minimalist yet opulent design aesthetic. Her auburn bob emphasized the angularity of her profile and bespoke suits accentuated a tall, thin frame. As for her Poiret coats and Lanvin hats, even reclusive intellectual types get a yen for glamour now and then. There's plenty of that in an exhibition of Gray's work at the Design Museum London up through next January.

—Laird Borrelli
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