Over the last few months my lovely wife and I have been happily decorating our new home in industrial West Oakland. Most of what you’ll see in there, other than my books, was her choice. She has a good eye for home design so I mostly defer to her opinion, though my goal is to keep as little from coming in the front door as possible. I’m a minimalist at heart and our open space and large white walls look best without a bunch of clutter.
For Valentine’s Day I got my wife the bird in the picture above. It’s a reproduction of the famous Eames House Bird made by a company called Vitra.
The secret to a good marriage is the old saying “happy wife, happy life.” She gave me the subtle hint the bird would look nice on our credenza and I went shopping. Our holidays were very frugal because of the move so it seemed like it might be fun to splurge on something frivolous, but well made. There are cheaper reproductions, but the version Vitra does is made from the correct wood, alder, and is faithfully copied from the original.
Ray and Charles Eames were collectors and filled their home with a variety of objects from their frequent travels. The bird was much loved by them and sat in their home for years, often appearing alongside their own designs in photoshoots and catalogs. It was originally a crow decoy and was probably made in the early 1900s. You can read more about its history here.
The picture just above is the Eames’ living room. The original bird is hanging out near the bottom of the picture next to the marble square with plants on it. Several years ago my wife and I were at a design museum where this exact living room was assembled as an installation. The bird caught her eye, but it wasn’t until recently she knew a reproduction was available.
Reproductions of anything always remind me of Jean Baudrillard’s short book Simulacra and Simulation. His claim is that “our current society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that human experience is of a simulation of reality” (wikipedia). Discussing that book can send you down the rabbit hole very quickly. It was actually required reading for people who worked on the Matrix.
This little bird is a pleasant thing to look at and it really ties the living room together. It’s also a symbol. My wife is currently learning graphic design and for her it’s an inspiration. For me, it marks a time in our life I think we’ll remember as a happy one.