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My Love Affair with “Less is More”

The Bauhaus was founded in Weimar, Germany. It was a citadel of the new. It gave birth to sleek chairs with tubular steel legs that gave them the look of a bicycle’s handlebars. One of the school’s faculty members, Wassily Kandinsky, painted the first truly abstract painting. I never studied at the Bauhaus, a veritable temple of modern design, though from time to time I’ve had to remind myself of that. Such was the profound impact on me of the revered art and design school, which would turn one hundred years old a few years ago if the Nazis hadn’t forced it’s closing in 1933.

I was raised in Muscatine, Iowa, in the 1960’s, where over- stuffed armchairs were enveloped in plastic slip covers. My parents were mid-western traditionalists. They worked hard from their teenage years on to make it to the middle class. They wanted their home to look like those of Americans who inherited an elevated social standing. I dimly recognized that I was witnessing the age-old battle between the avant-garde and the bourgeoisie.

My parents made it clear which side they favored. The art and crafts displayed at home included a large wooden fork and spoon and framed prints of the infamous “Blue Boy” and “Pinky” paintings. Art work was chosen to compliment the furniture, – something to hang over the sofa, that would compliment its silver thread accents. To be clear, my parents had good taste. Our home was organized, color coordinated and clean. At the same time, it was a message to me: “don’t take this design thing too far.”

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