The Mid-Century Modern Office
This fantastic mid-century modern office looks like it’s straight off the set of AMC’s Mad Men or a James Bond film, but it’s actually the original office of Harley Earl, Vice President of Design at General Motors.
Harley Earl was a visionary and innovator, being the originator of clay modeling for automotive designs, designer of wrap-around windshields, two-tone paint and the iconic 1950s tail fins. It’s no wonder that he hired Eero Saarinen and Associates to design the interior of his offices.
The office was a beautiful mixture of cherry wood, organic form and technology. The desk had built-in TV control, temperature controls, and a desk light that would automatically rise up and illuminate the work space at the push of a button.
The space was put together with such detail that a Finn Juhl armchair was customized into a swivel chair so it would match with the others in the room. Along with the modern, there were also touches that reflected GM’s history, for example, the round design of the desk and built-in sofas mirrored the wood molds once used to form the panels on car bodies. Other custom touches in the office were ceramic planters were designed by Mia Grotel, and ashtrays by Natzlers.
Now after 50 years the office is still in pristine shape and now occupied by Ed Welburn, the current Chief of Design at GM. The office wasn’t always appreciated though. During the tenure of the VPs of Design between then and now, it was considered “dated” and at times referred to as “Dracula’s Bathroom”, but people are starting to understand the significance of its design. “Now people come in, you have to charge them admission. I don’t take this office for granted at all. The more I learn about Saarinen and Harley Earl, the more I treasure this space.”
The office, 50 years later is still in pristine condition and still used daily by Ed Welburn.