Alexander Girard brought a new meaning to color and texture for Mid Century Modern creators. Born in New York, raised in Florence, Italy, and educated in London, Girard was a man of many talents—his design repertoire consisting of architectural, furniture, exhibition, interior and graphic design.

girard color wheel ottoman and his Alexander Girard Armchair
Left: Alexander Girard’s iconic colorwheel ottoman. Right: Alexander Girard Armchair. A cast aluminum frame supports an upholstered seat that is shaped in steel and buffered with rubber edging. Upholstery in contrasting blues. Part of the collection that was done for Braniff Air Lines Terminal in NYC.

Girard shook up and ultimately formed many of the modernist American trends today, his projects led to iconic buildings and restaurants, and he also produced textiles for his own pieces and some of his fellow designers’ works. He believed all things could be designed into something worthwhile, and often used the unusual to set his own pieces apart from the rest

a collaboration between eames and girard is the patterned eames shell chair
Left: Rare Eames LAR (Lounge Arm Rod) low lounge chair with “cat’s cradle”painted-steel base. Manufactured by Herman Miller in 1950-1967. Original upholstery by Alexander Girard. Via Artsy. Right: Coffee table designed by Girard for Knoll. Via Design Within Reach.

Folk Art

Inspired by his wife’s love for folk design, Girard utilized many materials in unique, inventive ways. From different types of yarn to multiple blends of fabrics and eye-catching patterns, his love for brightly colored design translated into pieces that are highly coveted by collectors today. Unafraid of a challenge, Girard used materials uncommon in modernist design like lace, flower and heart prints, burlap and even tea paper.

wooden fish with red, white and black painted designs such as scales and a face
Girard’s Wooden Fish (1952) were part of a larger collection of toys crafted for the designer’s Santa Fe home. Of them, Girard said they “represent a microcosm of man’s world and dreams; they exhibit fantasy, imagination, humor and love.” Photo via Herman Miller.

“I have no favorite material; anything can be used to create beauty if handled well,” he said. His willingness to work with odd materials set him apart from designers of his time, but unfortunately sometimes 1950s consumers weren’t ready to display his inventive designs in their homes.

colorful range of graphic design by Alexander Girard

samples of alexander girards graphic designs
An example of Girard’s iconic and vibrant pattern and graphic designs as shared in the book “ALEXANDER GIRARD” by Todd Oldham & Kiera Coffee. Via Ammo Books.

Last Impressions

His methods showed later designers that textiles aren’t just for function, that fabrics can work alongside a design, elevating not only the look, but also the feel of the pieces themselves. Girard’s designs and patterns have stood the test of time and are still in production today, proof of his lasting influence on the Midcentury Modernist community.

An example of Girard’s textile and interior designs. Girard’s repertoire includes an incredible list of projects, including his bold, colorful, and iconic textile designs for Herman Miller (1952-1975), his typographic designs for La Fonda del Sol restaurant (1960), his celebrated retail store Textiles and Objects (1961), his own Girard Foundation (1962) that houses his extensive, personal collection of folk art from around the world, and his complete branding and environmental design for Braniff International Airways (1965). as shared in the book “ALEXANDER GIRARD” by Todd Oldham & Kiera Coffee. Via Ammo Books.

 

portrait of Alexander Girard
Alexander Girard, 1907–1993. Most famously worked with Herman Miller, Charles and Ray Eames. He’s most legacies are The Girard Foundation and La Fonda del Sol restaurant in New York.

Looking for on era icons? Check out this post on Paul Mccobb, one of the mid century’s most prolific furniture designers.

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