Tastemaker Elizabeth Gordon, House Beautiful, and the Postwar American Home Monica Penick

Publication date:
06 Jun 2017
Yale University Press
260 pages: 279 x 206mm
96 color + 90 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

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A riveting and superbly illustrated account of the enigmatic House Beautiful editor’s profound influence on mid-century American taste 

From 1941 to 1964, House Beautiful magazine’s crusading editor-in-chief Elizabeth Gordon introduced and promoted her vision of “good design” and “better living” to an extensive middle-class American readership. Her innovative magazine-sponsored initiatives, including House Beautiful’s Pace Setter House Program and the Climate Control Project, popularized a “livable” and decidedly American version of postwar modern architecture. Gordon’s devotion to what she called the American Style attracted the attention of Frank Lloyd Wright, who became her ally and collaborator. Gordon’s editorial programs reshaped ideas about American living and, by extension, what consumers bought, what designers made, and what manufacturers brought to market. This incisive assessment of Gordon’s influence as an editor, critic, and arbiter of domestic taste reflects more broadly on the cultures of consumption and identity in postwar America. Nearly 200 images are featured, including work by Ezra Stoller, Maynard Parker, and Julius Shulman. This important book champions an often-neglected source—the consumer magazine—as a key tool for deepening our understanding of mid-century architecture and design.

Monica Penick is assistant professor in the Design Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Finalist for the 2018 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize

Winner of the 2019 SESAH Publication Awards, sponsored by the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians

“This book is extremely important and timely. The intelligence and seriousness with which it frames questions about taste and modernism will move the conversation forward. It is a game changer in both architectural history and design studies.”—Alice Friedman, Wellesley College