Photo by Ezra Stoller, published in Detroit Home
Born in New York City and raised in Florence, Alexander Girard spent much of his life living in the suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. He moved there in 1937, opening a small design gallery and designing auto interiors as well as commercial and living spaces (I have long kicked myself over the missed opportunity to purchase a chair he designed for the cafe at the Detrola radio company's offices in Detroit's Fisher building---someone showed the chair to Charles Eames up in Bloomfield Hills and he immediately sought out Girard and their collaborative friendship was born). Girard worked as a color consultant for General Motors and in 1949 he designed the Detroit Institute of Art's "For Modern Living," a significant early exhibition of midcentury design. In 1952 he became the director of textile design for the Herman Miller Furniture company.
Joseph Giovannini said it well in New York magazine: "The multitudinous fabrics he created, sometimes bold and sometimes capricious, were a little like Andy Warhol's platinum wig: Shocked by the platinum, you don't notice it's a wig. Girard's fabrics warmed up and camouflaged the functionalist, factory-produced furniture, making it more palatable to suburban taste buds."
One of my favorite stories about Girard is the 1958 discovery of the Herman Miller San Francisco studio that he would design: "On a scouting trip to San Francisco, Girard, Eames, and Herman Miller’s Hugh De Pree (D.J.’s son) chanced upon a boarded-up building while searching for somewhere to have lunch. Taking a hammer and crowbar to the layers of plywood, they began to uncover what had once been a music hall of considerable ill repute (ed: the Hippodrome), rife with life-size nude satyrs, nymphs, and all manner of marvelous ornamentation. At Girard’s behest Herman Miller secured the property, and he set about creating a thoroughly modern interior design that would complement the location." (dwell)
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