2003 Gallery Catalog

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House Beautiful Room
Entitled “A Room to Be Alone In,” the room that graced the front cover of House Beautiful in October, 1954, was “designed as a retreat for a business man who sometimes brings his work home and who is interested in mineralogy.” This room is a prime example of the intent of The Arts of Daily Living exhibition, organized by Millard Sheets, supported and covered by the well-known magazine, and presented by the L.A. County Fair

The original exhibition precepts were: to demonstrate how beauty is created when the architecture and furnishings of a room dovetail with perfect fit, to show examples of how personal passions can be woven into the fabric of interior design and to illustrate that useful objects can be both functional and attractive. These same principles are the focus of our 2003 interior design exhibit.

Forty nine years after the original exhibit a portion of this famous room has been recreated for the current exhibition, The “Living” Room: Art as an Accessory. For this room, a pleasing structural arrangement was created through repeated use of diagonals. Triangles, chevrons and diamonds ricochet throughout the room – the floor plan, the slanted window, the concrete block walls and wide cave-like fireplace with its four-sided grate – a total integration of positive shapes and negative spaces. Distinctive furnishings reflect this same theme, repeating oblique lines in the sofa, rug, cushions and little tables. All these angles are enhanced by “up lighting” and recessed spots set to play up the deep shadows and roughness found in the layered block wall. The surface textures of this room are composed of contrasts – smooth, natural fabrics, sleek leather, gnarled wood, a lush pile rug and leafy plants.

This recreated room acknowledges a second important premise of Sheets’ interior design exhibition: that ideas for decorating and accessorizing may be borrowed from everything you like. As previously stated, this room’s occupant was fascinated with mineralogy, an interest ultimately used as the basis for some of the room’s decor. Delicately faceted rock specimens are collected at the base of the fireplace while terrazzo blocks, cut in geometric shapes, were used for the tops of the small tables. Not shown in the replication, but present in the original room, are books, magazines and equipment of a dedicated mineralogist. House Beautiful wrote, “Surround yourself with beauty in the smallest details of your life.”

There is an age-old debate about art versus craft. Does fine art only mean paintings and sculpture; does function denote craft or are the boundaries blurred? Surely there are some paintings that are not art and some pottery that transcends the modest vessel format. To illustrate that everyday objects can be both functional and attractive, Sheets commissioned many local craftsmen to design furniture, mosaic panels, table ware and textiles for the rooms in his exhibition. The list of these artists reads like a “who’s who” of Southern California’s well known twentieth century artists and artisans, but at the time of The Arts of Daily Living exhibition, their names were relatively unknown. A handful of the participants survive: sculptors John Svenson, Betty Davenport Ford and Blaine Gibson; potters Harrison Mc Intosh, Jerome & Evelyn Ackerman, Rupert Deese and Otto Natzler; furniture maker Sam Maloof and weaver Marion Stewart. The list of recognizable names goes on and on: Albert Stewart, sculpture; Jean and Arthur Ames, mosaics; Bob Stocksdale, wood; Glen Lukens, glass; Laura Andreson , Marguerite Wildenhain and Peter Voulkos, ceramics;, furniture; and painters Phil Dike and Dong Kingman all participated. In terms of the 2003 re-created room, John Svenson has again provided sculpture, just as he did for the original room.

Millard and Mary Sheets Padua Hills Home, Claremont, CA
Claremont in the mid 1950s was a place of post war change and excitement for the arts. The artist community was vital and progressive. Artists shared with each other their creative ideas, their talents and their friendship.

Millard and Mary Sheets had built their home in Padua Hills, three miles north of Claremont in 1942. They had moved to Claremont following Millard’s completion of art school in 1929, at Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles. The Padua house was the second home he built in the Claremont area. It was designed and built in a style, and with materials, which were ahead of their time. Millard designed a home with high ceilings and a flat roof, giving the building a sleek look as it sat on the Padua Plateau, overlooking the canyons and mountains to the north. The view to the south was equally beautiful then, with citrus groves as far as one could see. River rock had been removed for the planting of the citrus trees, and piled in mounds, which rose above the trees like the pyramids of Mexico.

In the late 1930s, Millard had been designing Thunderbird flight training schools which were later used by the Air Force. One of the construction methods they were experimenting with was rammed earth. He decided on this type of construction for the Padua home, since there was a large amount of adobe clay soil on the property. This method of construction requires the building of inner and outer vertical forms for each wall of the house into which damp adobe clay was placed. The clay soil was then rammed with pneumatic hammers to compact it into a solid wall. The forms were then removed and a structure remained which was self -insulating and structurally sound. The home remains today as one of Padua’s finest tests of time.

Millard was an avid collector of art, and felt that artists, for the betterment of their own art, must be worldly in their knowledge of art. What better way than to collect art from around the world so he could see it daily. The Padua home, as well as previous and future homes, was the essence of art and living, and a perfect example of this year’s Fair show. Millard and Mary’s family and friends were treated to ancient and contemporary art from every continent.

This room is intended to be a glimpse of the Sheets’ Padua home in the mid- 1950s. While all of the furnishings and art belonged to Millard and Mary, certain pieces of furniture have been substituted. However, the accuracy of the style and content is correct. There are two examples in this room of artists represented in past and future Fairplex exhibitions; Carl Milles and Sam Maloof. Carl Milles, whose work was shown here last year, was an influenced Millard greatly as an artist. In the late 50’s he purchased the bronze sculpture of the “Sisters”, which stood on a stone pedestal in their Padua studio home. Sam Maloof, who worked for Millard before he began his career as a furniture designer and maker, will be the centerpiece for an exhibition of his personal art collection and furniture next year. His rocking chair was a gift to Millard and Mary on the occasion of the birth of their first grandchild.

Millard’s life was dedicated to the arts. For him and his family, art was an integral part of their every day living. We welcome you to this small insight into the lifestyle of these two remarkable people, Millard and Mary Sheets, who were such a positive influence on the arts and culture of this area for so many years.

Brady Bunch Room
It’s one of the most famous and most instantly recognizable rooms in history - the living room of the Brady Bunch. It’s where Marcia kissed Davy Jones and Jan was introduced to her Aunt Jenny. It’s where Bobby was tried for stealing Kitty Carryall and Cindy danced to On the Good Ship Lollypop with Penelope Fletcher. It was there that Peter discovered he really did have a personality and there that Greg showed off his groovy shades. An homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, the spacious floor plan with its signature twelve-step staircase stands as a memorial to a more innocent time when six kids could share one bathroom and still get along.

At the time if its debut, The Brady Bunch was one of the last gasps of innocence in a turbulent time while at the same time being a ground breaking program. There were plenty of widows and widowers raising children on television in the late ‘60s, though the Bradys were television’s first blended family, reflective of the changing landscape in American culture.

The first season dealt with the problems of the coming together of that lovely lady and her three very lovely girls and the man named Brady with three boys of his own. The subsequent seasons settled into timeless half-hour situations about growing up that just about anyone could relate to. Although the political climate in the real word was tense, the world of the Brady Bunch was representative of typical childhood dilemmas like the trauma of braces, overcrowded bedrooms and sibling rivalry.

Polyester clothing aside, The Brady Bunch will always remain an eternal classic, just like the mid-century modern design of their living room.

Lisa Sutton



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