Your library for sassy, creative ladies

Mary Roche Writes Up a Domestic Storm

Hello to the very foxy Ms. Mary Roche, who from 1944-1949 served as New York Times’ Home Editor/Interior Design columnist. Writing more than 500 articles for the Times within just 5 years, Roche touched on a wide range of home decor and design-related topics for the modern American housewife. While our girl worked at the Times, most of her contributions to the newspaper involved domestic spaces: you know, the dining room, the bathroom, kitchen, living room, the bedroom.

Mary Roche, 1929, photograph credit: 
Bryn Mawr College Yearbook, Class of 1929

Writing exclusively on the home in the 1940’s may sound stifling (actual article titles include: Children’s Furniture, How To Judge Furniture, Modern Interiors, Decorating Ingenuity, Color Combinations), but our babe Ms. Roche totally owned it! Rich and creative in content, she wrote her pieces using the housewife’s space as a lens for in-depth and cutting-edge reports on things like contemporary trends, designers, artists, and architects, thereby allowing her readers to 1) make the hubby happy, but also 2) gain insight to a world extending far beyond the home interior

For the New York Times Roche both covered and interviewed creative figureheads like Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Charles Eames, Dorothy Liebes, Egmont Arens, Raymond Loewy, Eero Saarinen, and George Nelson for Herman Miller to write on topics like bathroom design, children’s furniture design, DIY design, safety design, sound absorption design, fabric design, designing a  room for your guest when there is no room, cordless iron design, knife design, refrigerator design, even low-cost housing design. Whew. I’m going to stop there.

In 1944, our girl received first prize in the annual Dorothy Dawe-American Furniture Mart Awards. You go, LADY! Roche also served as news editor for House Beautiful, managing director for Charm Magazine, and finally, she served as managing editor for House and Garden from 1958 until retiring in 1971. Ms. Roche died in 1977 at 69 years old.

I don’t design nice buildings–I don’t like them. I like architecture to have some raw, vital, earthy quality. You don’t need to make concrete perfectly smooth or paint it or polish it. If you consider changes in the play of light on a building before it’s built, you can vary the color and feel of concrete by daylight alone.” –Zaha Hadid


Babes Of the Month: To Those Without Histories

Panning through the glorious AIA website, I stumbled across this depressing goldmine:

"Firsts" for other groups, such as Hispanic or Asian-American members, are not known. This would be a fruitful topic for future research…

…Asian American women identifiable by name include Po Hu Shao who joined in 1958, and Theresa Hsu Yuen who joined in 1964.

Identifiable by name only. My hat off to you two lovely anonymous ladies. I have no images of them, no history on them, nothing. What buildings did these women architect? Who were their influences? I don’t know.

I use the word “goldmine” because at least we have their names, which means there’s potential for more research.

Moreover, let’s talk about industrial designer, and total babe, Ms. Greta Von Nessen.

Greta Von Nessen, Anywhere Lamp, 1951, aluminum and enameled steel

First of all: where is this fabulous woman’s monograph??? I’ve been researching her for the last month, constantly running into dead ends after being bounced from one scholar to the next.

So who is Greta Von Nessen? Well, the brief, much-too-easy answer is: she was born 1900, died 1978, and was the wife of Walter Von Nessen, who was also an industrial designer (whose life and works have been thoroughly documented, interestingly enough).

After Mr. Von Nessen’s death in 1943, the Ms. continued her husband’s lighting and furniture design business. It was at this point our girl really began fiddling around with materials and designing her own things. In 1951 she came up with this total cutie (pictured above), the widely successful Anywhere Lamp, which was heavily reported on, pictured, and publicized upon its release.

The best part about this lamp? When it came out in 1951, there was nothing like it, but at the same time, there was absolutely nothing new about it; all of the lamp’s parts had been available as early as the 1920s.

It was Ms. Von Nessen who decided instead of totally reinventing the wheel, to wield already-been made parts together (each from different design periods) to create something completely new. Amazing! And it was extremely popular. In a sense, her lamp was a game-changer–or at least part the effort towards taking design to its next level.

And that’s all I know about our girl Greta. Which is definitely a lot more than our poor ladies Po Hu Shao or Theresa Hsu Yuen, previously mentioned. But none of this is enough. We need (I need) to know more. If anyone has any more information on these fabulous women, please send it Whoa Girl’s way.


Whew, do we have some hotties in the birthday house this month! Happy birthday to these fabulous women!

From the left: Mary Cassatt, Marisol Escobar, Tamara de Lempicka, Sally Mann

Sally Mann: The potent black and white American photographer turns 59 May 1st. Mann has spent her career capturing unforgettable, chilling moments of nature and childhood

Cecilia Beaux: Also born May 1st, the American painter worked in the manner of contemporaries John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt (died in 1942)

Mary Cassatt: Among the most fabulous women ever, Cassatt was an expat American Impressionist painter who spent her career depicting intimate scenes of women and children indoors. Moving to Paris in 1866, she became good friends with ballet dude Edgar Degas, who had a tremendous impact on her career and style. Our girl was born May 22 (died 1926)

Mary Cassatt, Lady At the Tea Table, 1883-85

Marisol Escobar: Also born on May 22nd, our girl Marisol, Parisian New Realism sculptor, turns 80 this year!

Marisol Escobar, The Family, 1963

Tamara de Lempicka: Polish Art Deco painter Ms. de Lempicka celebrates her birthday May 16! De Lempicka found difficulty in maintaining roles as daughter, wife, housekeeper, and mother, often abandoning them altogether in order to further pursue her art career (died 1980)

Dorothea Lange: An incredible photojournalist for the FSA, our girl photographed some of the most influential and memorable moments of the Great Depression. Lange was born May 26 (died 1965)

CREATIVE COUPLE: Charles and Ray Eames

What’s fascinating about married creative couples — beyond whether or not they’re happy together — is how they work together. Is it collaborative? Or are they simply just working alongside one another?

It would seem that married designers are more likely to collaborate than married artists. However, married artists clearly influence each other’s work; it’s impossible not to see the similarities between the couples’ paintings.

But otherwise, art is personal expression, and more often than not a solitary practice. Design, on the other hand, whose root is in problem-solving, requires collaboration. The more heads involved, the better the product.

Well, might as well solve things head-to-head with your sweetheart.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

The Love Bugs: Ray and Charles Eames

  • Married in: 1941
  • Status: Married until Charles’ death in 1978
  • Occupation: Industrial designers
  • Work produced: Very happily together 


Child’s Chair, 1944

Lounge Chair and Ottoman, 1956

CURRENT: The lovely Emma Marga Blanche on impossible things, places, dreams

Whoa, Emma Marga Blanche is awesome. Our girl’s got some serious style! Colorful, quirky, and super fun, the French-Swedish designer has come up with some fantastic stuff from floating magnetic chairs to modular carpets!

I asked Ms. Blanche what inspired her. Her reply: “Impossible things, places and dreams!" And what makes for great design? Well, "to think that everything is possible." (Me: ♥ ❤)

While looking through the adventurous designer’s projects, I was taken in by the simplicity of each. I wouldn’t exactly call Blanche’s designs elegant – but they are fun, and their construction well thought out. Using carefully selected, colorful patterns and creative constructions, Ms. Blanche always manages to weave a delightful hint of pop into her projects.

Check out these awesome repurposed grocery baskets. So cool! Turned over with pretty little removable cushions plopped on top, they now function as seats. Totally an inexpensive, resourceful solution to seating, and so ideal for picnics! Yeh, EMMA!