Eileen Gray was born on 9th August 1878 in Ireland, her childhood was spent in London where she grew up. She was among the first women who were admitted to Slade, where she was able to train as a painter. In 1898 she underwent an apprenticeship in a workshop in London where she was able to learn Lacquer. The experience she gained from this workshop influenced her greatly when she settled in 1902. She underwent further training in lacquer works and making cabinets. Equipped with the training she was able to establish herself among the leading designers of decorative panels and lacquered screens. In her life she worked with notable European artists. The passion exhibited by Eileen Gray propelled her into opening her lacquer shop with Sugawara in 1910.
Eileen was able to go solo and opened her own gallery in 1922, in Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore. She wanted to showcase her designers, this later propeled her as the leader of the revolution of new theories of design and construction. Eileen was able to work with several artists to spearhead the movement of modern design and construction, among them was J.J.P Oud and Le Corbusier.
In 1925 she was able to showcase chrome, glass and steel tube furniture. The furniture was used in Eileen Gray’s interior when she constructed her house which was to house her and her lover (Eileen Grey, 2018). This boosted her creativity when it came to furniture design. She was able to come up with new designs which were not seen in the furniture design industry, this boosted the development of interior design. While coming up with her pieces Eileen focused on coming up with modern designs while maintaining the antiqueness.
Eileen had a romantic affair with a Romanian architect known as Jean Badovici. Jean was able to inspire her to develop her interest in architecture. It was through her interests that she was able to learn her craft through an apprenticeship as she had never received any formal training with regards to architecture. She was able to improve on her craft through reading technical and theoretical books and taking drafting lessons. She was able to get the help of Adrienne Gorska in visiting construction sites.
Her architectural prowess was seen when she worked on her holiday home near Monaco which was to be shared with Jean. The construction of the house took her three years for her to complete it. After completion of the house, it was given an enigmatic name of E-1027, the house has been occasionally described as a masterpiece within the field of architecture. The E-1027 was built on a rocky land. Pillars were used to raise it, where a white cuboid lies. E-1027 has been praised for having taken into consideration Le Corbusier’s 5 points of new architecture (Eileen Gray Architect Designer Painter, 2014). The house has an open plan, where it stands on pillars which have horizontal windows, a roof accessible by staircase and open façade.
Gray played a crucial role in developing the avant-garde movement, the movement focused on the exterior of buildings. In one of her writings, she had proposed that the interior plan should not be the secondary result of concealment; it should lead to a whole harmonious, and reasonable life (Janvier, 2013). There are other notable building designs that she was able to come up with eventually placing her at a higher pedestal as a designer some of those building include Roquebrune Cap Martin, Tempe a Pailla and Lous Perou.
Eileen Gray has been able to have a tremendous contribution within the field of architecture and furniture design. The use of geometric forms saw her create plush designs in leather and steel. She was able to provide inspiration to so many generations of Bauhaus and Art Deco, who were inspired by her unique style of handling things. There have been many artists who have continued up to date to draw inspirations from her works and they have written extensively on her influence and contribution to architecture and furniture design.
Eileen Gray’s work has continued to get reviews from the current or rather present generation designers and architects. Lindsay Brown who is a Canadian designer stated that Eileen Gray’s E-1027 had something to do with her obscurity. Marco Orsini in his documentary Gray matters examined Gray’s body works and came up with a conclusion that Gray matters had an influence in the world of design (Moore, 2013). The film looked at Gray’s architecture and designs, it also focused on her modern house, E-1027. It also focused on her furnishing the same house after she had finished constructing it. The documentary has been able to focus on the contribution that the E-1027 has made in architectural school. According to the documentary E-1027 has been used in architectural schools to teach modern architecture. The contribution that Eileen has been able to make in the world of architecture and design remains to be remarkable. She was among the pioneers that were able to foresee or rather help the development or architecture and also furniture design. Her ability to develop modern furniture but still maintaining the antique touch remains to be something that made her work unique compared to that of other furniture designers.
Eileen Gray Architect Designer Painter. (2014). Irish Museum of Modern Art, https://imma.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/eileengray-econdlevelresources2013.pdf.
Eileen Grey. (2018). Retrieved from Aram Designs Ltd: http://www.eileengray.co.uk/
Janvier, C. (2013). EILEEN GRAY . Centre Pompidou.
Moore, R. ( 2013). Eileen Gray’s E1027 – review. The Guardian.