Do­minic Lu­tyens dis­cov­ers the im­pact of Cal­i­for­nian Six­ties style on all our lives at a new De­sign Mu­seum show

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THE Golden State — Cal­i­for­nia — is the in­spired theme of a new ex­hi­bi­tion at the De­sign Mu­seum in Kens­ing­ton. The West Coast state’s count­less cut­ting-edge de­sign in­no­va­tions have changed the way we live. Yet sur­pris­ingly, this is the first show to ac­knowl­edge their im­pact.

“There have been many shows about West Coast mid-cen­tury de­sign,” says co-cu­ra­tor Justin McQuirk. “But this is the first to ex­am­ine Cal­i­for­nia’s global reach in many ar­eas of de­sign.”

Cal­i­for­nia is Hol­ly­wood film’s birth­place and it was here that much mid­cen­tury, light-filled mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture was pi­o­neered. The in­ter­net was first de­vel­oped in Cal­i­for­nia and hi-tech gi­ants Ap­ple, Face­book and Twit­ter are head­quar­tered in Sil­i­con Val­ley to­day.

The en­tre­pre­neur­ial, in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic spirit of Cal­i­for­ni­ans can be traced back to the set­tlers who ven­tured as far as the Pa­cific Ocean, as well as to the 1848 Gold Rush. But the show, Cal­i­for­nia: De­sign­ing Free­dom, charts its de­sign his­tory since the Six­ties.

That decade saw Cal­i­for­nia’s eco­con­scious hippy coun­ter­cul­ture raise con­cerns about the en­vi­ron­ment and ex­per­i­ment with self-build ar­chi­tec­ture far from the pol­luted cities. One of its heroes was ar­chi­tect Buck­min­ster Fuller, a cham­pion of so­lar and wind en­ergy, whose trans­par­ent ge­o­desic domes brought peo­ple into closer con­tact with na­ture.

The show fea­tures 200 ob­jects, among them a Fuller dome, surf­boards, psy­che­delic posters, orig­i­nal art­work for clas­sic 1982 movie Blade Run­ner, the 1984 Ap­ple Mac — the world’s first per­sonal com­puter — and Google’s self-driv­ing car. Ap­ple has sold over a bil­lion iPhones but just as the state is a hi-tech pow­er­house, so its mid-cen­tury de­sign her­itage is peren­ni­ally ap­peal­ing.

It evokes an easy, laid-back life­style. Fur­ni­ture cre­ated by West Coast de­sign­ers was clean-lined and con­tem­po­rary yet com­fort­able and colour­ful. They favoured rounded shapes in­spired by na­ture and or­ganic forms. Cal­i­for­nian mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­ture, too, aimed to con­nect with the great out­doors. Take Pierre Koenig’s glass-fronted Stahl House, built high in the lush Hol­ly­wood Hills and fa­mously pho­tographed by Julius Shul­man in the Six­ties.

LA-based hus­band-and-wife de­sign team Charles and Ray Eames pro­duced fur­ni­ture in or­ganic, sculp­tural shapes. Their home was mod­ern yet cosy with wood­lined walls, a pro­fu­sion of plants, rugs, cush­ions and ex­otic or­na­ments bought on their trav­els. They weren’t averse to homely clut­ter, and their taste still in­flu­ences in­te­ri­ors to­day. John Lewis’s colour­ful new Palm Springs col­lec­tion,

named af­ter the Cal­i­for­nian city where mid-cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture thrived, chan­nels this spirit. The 300 pieces, in­clud­ing fur­ni­ture, light­ing and rugs, avail­able from late sum­mer, demon­strate the style’s en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity. The range’s many stylised plant and an­i­mal mo­tifs, in­clud­ing owl-shaped vases, echo the mid-cen­tury pe­riod’s love of na­ture.

“Soft, rounded shapes are pre­sented in dark wood, glass and brass, while the tex­tiles nod to the vi­brant colour, plants and en­vi­ron­ment of the Palm Springs re­gion,” says Philippa Prinsloo, head of de­sign ( john­

The in­for­mal vibe has also in­spired Martin Waller, founder of An­drew

Martin, which stocks Cal­i­for­nia-style Tru­man arm­less so­fas (an­drew­martin., while Atkin and Thyme’s Cal­i­for­nian-style fur­ni­ture in­cludes the New­ton side­board, made in mango wood with brass-plated han­dles (visit atk­i­

Amer­i­can de­signer Jonathan Adler’s L-shaped Mal­ibu sofa evokes Hol­ly­wood glam­our, while his funky needle­point cush­ion spell­ing out “San Fran­cisco” re­calls Six­ties flower power. Adler’s web­site also stocks Slim Aarons’ pow­der blue-tinted photo of The Bev­erly Hills Ho­tel ( The

De­sign Mu­seum Shop (de­sign­mu­se­ is an­other source of Cal­i­for­nian-themed prod­ucts, many in­spired by the state’s lush veg­e­ta­tion, in­clud­ing Finest Imagery coast­ers shaped like cheese plant leaves, and

Ar­per’s out­door Leaf chair. Other items tap into Cal­i­for­nia’s orig­i­nal de­sign her­itage, in­clud­ing Eames chairs and Buck­min­ster Fuller-style domes.

Cal­i­for­nia: De­sign­ing Free­dom, un­til Oct 15 , De­sign Mu­seum, Kens­ing­ton High Street, W8 (de­sign­mu­

Go green: back to na­ture, Cal­i­for­nia style — the brightly coloured Ur­sula jug by Kahler at Skandium (£36, Iconic shot: de­tail from a Bev­erly Hills Ho­tel Slim Aarons photo, 30in x 30in (£1,450 at

In­spired by na­ture: evoke lush LA green­ery with a set of four cheese plant leaf coast­ers by Finest Imagery, right (£15 at de­sign­mu­se­

Com­fort, Cal­i­for­nia style: Tru­man arm­less sec­tion sofa cov­ered in Sa­van­nah Par­adise fab­ric (£1,595) and Serengeti cush­ion (£49), both from An­drew Martin (an­drew­martin.

Left: there’s a clean-lined, laid-back Cal­i­for­nia in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the S2/Caché side­board from byKATO of Den­mark (£3,174 at

In mod­ern mode: cac­tus vase, £40; Soren 5 shelv­ing unit £429; Soren mag­a­zine ta­ble, £150; Hen­drick chair, £499; Soren cof­fee ta­ble, £199; Astrid cush­ion, £30; Felix rug, £160. All from the Palm Springs col­lec­tion, new for sum­mer at John Lewis (...

Think flower power: Jet Set needle­point San Fran­cisco cush­ion (£98, uk.jonathan Twist­ing by the pool: be­low, Di­a­mond chairs by Harry Ber­toia with re­mov­able seat pads in Div­ina fab­ric for Knoll (£1,227 at

Six­ties geo­met­rics: in mango wood with brass han­dles, the New­ton side­board, left (£699 from atkin

Mid-cen­tury ma­gi­cians: rocker by Charles and Ray Eames from Vi­tra (£465, de­sign­mu­se­

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