Fifty shades of Eileen Gray

Most people in their 90s are content with tea, biscuits, and perhaps the odd game of bingo. Furniture pioneer Eileen Gray, however, was busying herself making astute business decisions – working with furniture store Aram to put her classic early 20th century designs into production for the first time.

St Tropez rug 1925 -1940
St Tropez rug 1925 -1940

Now, to coincide with a retrospective of her work at Paris’ Pompidou Centre, London’s Aram store is displaying a number of Gray’s beautiful works that cemented her position as a key figure in Modernist furniture design.

Lota sofa 1924
Lota sofa 1924

Born in Enniscorthhy in southeastern Ireland, Gray initially studied painting at the Slade School of Fine art in London. After a brief spell in Paris, which piqued her love of the Art Nouveau style, she returned to London in 1905, before settling in France for the rest of her life after World War II.

Black Board rug 1920s
Black Board rug 1920s

It was only much later in her life, on meeting Aram founder Zeev Aram in the 1970s, that many of her designs gained the recognition they deserved, when she agreed on key pieces, including a number of beautiful chairs and the E-1027 table going into production.

 Bibendum chair 1929
Bibendum chair 1929

Among the pieces on show are Gray’s iconic Bibendum Chair –  a piece that looks as fresh and modern today as it did when it was created around a century ago. The rounded, semi-circular padded tubes that form the back and arm rests informed its playful name – Bibendum is the moniker given to the original Michelin tyres man.

Height adjustable table 1927
Height adjustable table 1927

We also love the imposing 1920s Brick Screen, which somehow bridges the gap between chunky and industrial and elegantly sleek:

 Brick screen 1922 - 1925
Brick screen 1922 – 1925

The Eileen Gray display runs until 6 April at Aram Store, 110 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2B

Non-Conformist chair 1926
Non-Conformist chair 1926

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