Enduring Modern Classics

Judy Smilow Q&A in Mid-Century Home

When Marco at midcenturyhome.com reached out to us to discuss Smilow Furniture and the impact of growing up in Usonia, we were more than pleased to sit down and chat. Read an excerpt below, and the rest here.

Judy, you lived in Usonia in the 60s, together with your family. Can you describe the atmosphere of such an avant-garde experience?

People sometimes joked that Usonia should have been named Utopia. I moved to Usonia when I was 3 and joined a large group of kids that would grow to become more like family than neighbors.

Usonia was founded in the later forties by a group of idealistic people who shared a commitment to architectural principles, cooperative and social ideals. There was a common aesthetic, as well as a common view of life—both socially and politically. Growing up in this environment blurred the line between family and neighbor. Our parents socialized together (New Years Eve, July 4th, Labor Day Picnics), played together (tennis and softball), and organized day camp in the summers to entertain us kids.

Growing up surrounded by this modernist common aesthetic, and in a house set in the natural landscape of the community (every room in my glass and wood home had access to the outdoors and the home was filled with both my fathers art and his furniture) had a major impact on my voice as a designer.

What are the most important pieces that your father created? And which of them are still being manufactured and sold today?

My Father was a prolific designer and was a self taught master of simplicity and proportion.

In re-introducing collections, I’ve chosen to focus on his earlier designs, which are curvier and more sculptural.

Personally, I love the entire Hand Woven Rush Collection. His Rail Back Collection introduced the idea of a set of finished pieces that can be on display from all sides and angles.

The frames could last forever and cushions could easily and inexpensively be cleaned, swapped out or refreshed. I think it is one of his most important collections.