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The designer behind Ford's most iconic cars.
McKinley Thompson Jr was a designer at Ford.

McKinley Thompson Jr. Drew the Future

The designer behind Ford's most iconic cars.

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Mckinley thompson car design.

Mckinley thompson jr designing.

A nuclear powered car.

The ford Gyron.

The ford gt40 racer.

 

1. Header image: McKinley Thompson Jr. at a drafting table. / 2. The design that won Thompson the Motor Trend contest — a turbine-powered car. / 3. Thompson, second from right, at ArtCenter College. / 4. A design for a nuclear-powered tractor trailer. / 5. The Ford Gyron. / 6. The GT40 racer, which was built to beat the dominant Ferarri racecars.

In terms of iconic product design, the Ford Bronco is a standout. First released in 1964, the Bronco has made a lasting aesthetic impression. You still see vintage Broncos here and there, and with the 2021 launch of the new Bronco, it’s clear the burly vehicle continues to capture our fancy. But the story of the Bronco’s designer is no less interesting than the vehicle itself.

McKinley “Mac” Thompson Jr. was born in 1922 and raised in New York. It didn’t take long for him to discover the world of automobiles — in an interview from 2001 he recalled seeing a DeSoto Airflow at the age of twelve “It just so happened that at that moment the clouds opened up for the sunshine to come through. It lit that car up like a searchlight. I was never so impressed with anything in all my life. I knew that’s what I wanted to do—I wanted to be an automobile designer.”

First, Thompson had to hone his drawing skills. During World War II, he served in the Army Signal Corps as an engineering coordinator and draftsman. In 1953, Motor Trend magazine hosted a “From Dream to Drawing Board to ?” design contest. Thompson won — and as part of his prize received a scholarship to the ArtCenter College of Design in Los Angeles. He was the first Black student in its Transportation Design department.

After graduating in 1956 with a degree in industrial design, Thompson was hired by Alex Tremulis. Tremulis ran the Advanced Design Studio at Ford Motor Company, where the team was given free reign to explore futuristic and far-fetched concept designs on behalf of the automaker. Thompson was the first Black designer at Ford, and the Detroit Free Press once called him “the Jackie Robinson of car design.” Thompson’s work fit right into the forward-looking team, though some of his designs were more far fetched than others: one design for a nuclear-powered tractor trailer is particularly fanciful. But, of Thompson’s early work on the team, his best known concept was the Ford Gyron, a three-wheeled car inspired by the shape of military aircraft.

Throughout the sixties, Thompson shaped some of the most legendary Ford vehicles. He was instrumental in the development of the first Mustang coupe, the GT40 racer (of Ford vs. Ferrari fame), and Thunderbird models in the early part of the decade. In 1962, he received the ‘Ford Motor Company Citizen of the Year Award’. Meanwhile, Thompson’s early concept sketches for the Bronco informed much of its still-recognizable design language. The four-wheel-drive SUV was launched in 1964 and quickly became popular among consumers for its style and its utility as a work vehicle.

1. Concept sketches for the first Bronco, by Thompson. / 2. More concept sketches by Thompson. / 3. An early advertisement for the Bronco.

 

Thompson rose in the ranks at Ford until he retired in 1984 as the manager of Ford’s Appearance Development and Feasibility Design Modeling Department. While he took a step back from the auto industry, he didn’t stop dreaming. He spent the next ten years working on a concept car called “The Warrior”, which used a light fiberglass body that was strong yet easy to produce. Thompson hoped that the vehicle could be a low-cost product for developing countries. While the vehicle never reached production, it’s clear that Thompson’s fascination with alternative materials and streamlined production was ahead of its time. But that’s hardly surprising. One wouldn’t expect anything less from the Jackie Robinson of car design.

Learn more about McKinley Thompson Jr. here.

A writer built a dream home that's perfectly suited to his collection of art, books, and music.
The exterior of a modern home in Austin Texas.

Alejandro Puyana’s Bold Austin Home

The writer built his own modern sanctuary.

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A writer sits at a Floyd desk with his laptop and cat.

Built in bookshelves in a compact living room.

A kitchen with deep blue tile.

A collection of screen prints behind a moped parked on a concrete floor.

 

1. Header image: A slatted facade helps to mitigate the hot Texas sun. / 2. Puyana often writes from home. / 3. Looking into the living space from the kitchen. Custom built-ins house Puyana's extensive book collection. / 4. A sleek kitchen is built for entertaining. / 5. Map drawers house more of Puyana's screen print collection (that didn't make it onto the walls).

One glance at Alejandro Puyana’s home reveals its owner’s creative nature. The writer, originally from Venezuela, built the bold East Austin house from the ground up. The exterior is certainly distinctive, with elegant vertical slats and an angular facade. But the interior is where Alejandro’s personality really shines — his sharp eye for color and form evident at every turn. The small space houses large collections of books and art, but feels impressively airy. We asked Alejandro about his space and learned how the author showcases his pop culture obsession without sacrificing style.

Give us an intro!

My name is Alejandro Puyana, I’m a 38 year old house builder and writer in Austin, currently getting an MFA at the Michener Center for Writers. I live here with my cat, Logan.

Where do you live? What should we know about your home?

My home is in the East Side, in Austin, Texas. It’s a brand new home! I designed it with architect Murray Legge and then finished building it about a year ago. I built it on a corner lot with a sister home, a 900 SF accessory dwelling unit that I sold to my very nice neighbors. It’s a modern house, designed to be in scale with homes on the street and to fit with the East Side’s funky neighborhood character.

Did you fall in love with your home the first time you saw it?

Yes! I guess it’s more apt to say that I fell in love with it as it came to life. I’ve spent hours and hours thinking about this house, been in its bones while it was coming up and I’d like to think we are both learning to live with each other now.

Were you worried about anything in the space, before living there?

Yes! It’s a small living room/dining room/kitchen. I didn’t quite know if I’d be able to figure out a way to make it feel right and look right and still have definition of spaces. I feel it worked out really well and it suits me perfectly.

What room do you use the most? Did it surprise you?

The kitchen, office, living room and dining room (and when the sliding doors are open, the deck!) are all one big room full of light. I always thought it would be the place I’d spent the most time, and I’m glad it turned out to be true.


An open-plan living space with black kitchen cabinets.
A large balcony with slats to block the sun.
A bathroom with deep blue tiles.
A modern home with large windows in Austin Texas.

1. The bedroom opens onto the patio, where Alejandro's favorite hammock hangs. / 2. The credenza is a recent find. / 3. A balcony runs the length of the home. / 4. The shady outdoor space overlooks Alejandro's favorite pecan trees. / 5. The home's unified color scheme extends to the master bath.


What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration for your space?

Color, plants, books, movies. I wanted a place where people would feel happy to engage in conversation and feel surrounded by things that they want to spend time with.

How would you describe your interior style? Has it evolved over the years?
I would say eclectic but clean. I like color and texture and angles. I’ve been a pop culture enthusiast since I was a kid: comic books, science fiction movies, and so many books—and that aesthetic really centers my style. I don’t think there’s anything that brings a house to life more than books and plants, so I’ve got them scattered around the house. The most beautiful wall in my house is the library (designed by Trey Farmer and Adrienne Lee Farmer of Studio Ferme), I usually just sit and look at book spines, remembering what a particular book made me feel, or just look at the colors and shapes, it relaxes me. I also collect screen prints, both alternative movie posters (from galleries like Mondo, Spoke Art, and Bottleneck) and art prints, and my house is full of them (some on the walls and some waiting to be framed in the flat file cabinet!)
How did you go about furnishing the space? Was it a start-from-scratch process, or did you bring old favorites along with you?
I pretty much started from scratch. I really wanted to have pieces that could stand the test of time, that were practical and beautiful without being too frilly or ornate. I gravitated to modern American design, companies like Floyd and Bludot, and really took advantage of floor sales that allowed me to afford some pieces otherwise out of my price range. The two old favorites I brought were Venezuelan hammocks that at some point hung in my home in Caracas.
Do you have any favorite pieces? What’s their story?
My yellow hammock, for sure is a favorite. You have not truly read a book until you’ve done so swaying in threaded fabric! I’m currently in love with my Lap Credenza, which I use as a bar, one of those floor sale finds that cost me a fraction of what the piece is actually worth. And finally, every time I see the handsome angles of my Floyd table I swoon a little.
What's the one thing you’d rescue in a fire? (Other than family & pets, of course).
A pen drive with my novel manuscript. I get anxious just even thinking about the possibility of losing that.
What makes you feel most at home when you walk in the door?
My cat, Logan, and walking up the stairs and feeling like I’m in a canopy of pecan trees.

 

What’s a favorite memory you have in your home?

Every time I’m able to sit at my desk and look out the huge window and write. Like I’m doing right now! But also the prospect of all the other memories that are yet to be made, can’t wait for those.

Shop The Bed. 

The Brooklyn couple on designing a space that reflects both of their personalities.
Liron and Gal in their brooklyn kitchen.

Liron & Gal’s Colorful Loft in Brooklyn

A couple maximizes the lightness & brightness of their airy loft.

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East Williamsburg Brooklyn.

An exterior of a loft with lights illuminated.

A couple at a blush Floyd table.

A Floyd bed with an Enzo Mari poster above.

 

1. Header image: Liron & Gal love to cook at home. / 2. East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. / 3. Their apartment has huge windows overlooking the neighborhood. / 4. The couple have lived together for ten years. / 5. A Floyd Bed underneath a newly acquired "La Pantera" print by Enzo Mari.

 

New Yorkers aren’t typically associated with a taste for exuberant color. But for Liron Eldar-Ashkenazi & Gal Eldar, bold shades are a starting point. The creative couple converted an industrial-style apartment in Brooklyn into a modern space with big, colorful impact. Inside, an enviable plant collection thrives under massive windows, while modern furniture mixes perfectly with design classics. We spoke to Liron and Gal about their space and how it’s an extension of their graphic, bright design style.

Give us an intro! What should we know about you?

We’re Liron Eldar-Ashkenazi & Gal Eldar. I’m a freelance design director and 3D artist and Gal is a senior product manager at a fin-tech company. We’ve been married for a little over 3 years and have been living together for around 10.

Can you tell us a bit about your home?

We live in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY in a medium size multi-family building. It’s a renovated post-war building with concrete ceilings and a generally open floorplan.

Did you fall in love with the space the first time you saw it?

We did indeed. We walked in and saw the large wall-to-wall windows, and how lit the apartment was at around 5 pm, it was the golden hour and the house was glowing. We decided right there and then.

Were you worried about anything in the space, before living there?

We were afraid it wasn’t going to be big enough to fit everything, but after we started putting in the furniture we were relieved to find out it was just an optical illusion and it is indeed spacious enough.

What room do you use the most? Did it surprise you?

Living-room kitchen combo and the fact that it’s all in one large space so light-filled is the great part about it. We love cooking and entertaining so it didn’t come as a surprise at all.


A Saffron Floyd sofa with chaise and birch arms.
East Fork pottery mugs on a shelf.
Work from home with a Floyd Sofa and Floyd table.
a console with books.
A Birch Floyd bed with a modern lamp and bedside table.

1. The yellow sofa is a favorite piece. / 2. The open kitchen lends itself to creative cooking. / 3. Workspace and living space. / 4. Liron & Gal want to continue collecting art for their home. / 5. They'd rescue their book collection in a fire. / 6. Lighting sets a warm mood.


How would you describe your interior style? Has it evolved over the years?

We always loved cozy living spaces, calming colors and natural textures such as concrete and wood. Our last sofa was velvet grass-green, then we switched to our lovely yellow Floyd sofa, and our dining-room table has a light pink top. Our apartment is filled with plants, they contribute a lot of bright colors and more natural textures. We have many types of woods, some are darker some light, but they all seem to work nicely together. We’re dedicated to filling our lives with bold colors.

What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration for your space?

Hominess and coziness. We love creating spaces that feel warm and invite you to spend time in them, so the feeling we get from being in the space is our guiding principle. Looks are important, but balance and feng shui is key.

Did you furnish the home from scratch, or did you bring in pieces you loved from previous spaces?

We brought a selection of furniture from our previous apartment, most of our dark wood furniture for example, but for the big pieces, Sofa, dining-room, and bed we got all new. Putting the time and the money to make it just like we dreamed really paid off.

What's the one thing you’d rescue in a fire? (Other than family & pets, of course).

Our book library, we’ve been collecting it slowly for years now, it’s a really nice combination of philosophy, science and design.

Is there anything you think the space needs that you haven't yet added?

More art on the walls. We have a really hard time committing to pieces, but we’ve slowly been creating our collection.

What makes you feel most at home when you walk in the door?

The smell. We cook a lot and our home usually has that light aroma.

Is there anything you can’t feel at home without?

Gal - All of my books. Liron - All of my clothes, haha!

At Floyd, we make lasting products for how people live today.

A Note on the Floyd Design Ethos

At Floyd, we make lasting products for how people live today. That means we take great care to design thoughtfully, so that each of our pieces is functional and beautiful where you live now and where you’ll live next.

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We believe in friendly & approachable designs made of materials that last. Because furniture belongs in your home, not the landfill. We call it furniture for keeping.

We created a short film about the Floyd Design Ethos. It’s easier, after all, to show rather than tell. Come take a look inside the way we design, prototype, and build the pieces that are made to fit where and how you live.

Shop Floyd.

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Tour the famous Van der Leeuw research house.
Richard Neutra Sitting Room

Inside Neutra's Living Laboratory

Richard Neutra's Van der Leeuw research house was a living experiment in sustainable building.

12 07 20
The exterior of the Van der Leeuw Research house.

Looking into a bedroom at Neutra's van der leeuw resesarch house.

An internal courtyard at Neutra's van der leeuw research house.

The view from the van der leeuw research house designed by Richard Neutra.

Ten thousand dollars doesn’t go very far in Los Angeles these days. But in 1932, it was a $10,000 loan from Dutch industrialist Cees H. Van der Leeuw that allowed the renowned architect Richard Neutra to build a home that would become a jewel of California Modernism.

Although the original home burned to the ground in 1963, leaving only the workshop and basement intact, Neutra and his son Dion rebuilt and used the tragedy as an opportunity to incorporate new technology into the structure. They added a penthouse solarium and reflecting pool, and experimented with bio-responsive, sustainable features, like automatic louvered blinds that adjusted to the day’s changing sunlight. The result is a home that moves beyond a singular architectural vision, instead embodying a progression of technique and style that spans decades and generations.

Inside the home, the notoriously detail-oriented Neutra paid equal attention to the minutiae of furnishing. He used low-cost and durable materials, including plywood and formica to fit built-ins designed for functional daily use. Other furniture was chosen (or made) by the architect for durability in high-traffic settings or efficient use of space. Glass walls, reflective surfaces, and an open floor plan make the home feel more spacious than its 2000 square feet. Even so, the space fosters a sense of privacy despite its airy feel. Neutra wrote, "I was convinced that high-density design could succeed in a fully human way, and I saw my new house as a concrete pilot project. I wanted to demonstrate that human beings, brought together in close proximity, can be accommodated in very satisfying circumstances, taking in that precious amenity called privacy.”

Today, the VDL Research House is owned by Cal Poly Pomona, and is once again home to architects and students, who now study Neutra’s masterpiece and use the space as inspiration for their own work. Nearly ninety years after its construction, and almost sixty after its rebirth, the home still shines in the California sun. It’s easy to imagine Neutra, whose ashes were scattered on the property after his death in 1970, feeling satisfied that his architectural experiment inspired as he intended. On a plaque in the courtyard, Neutra’s words set out his intention for each visitor: “...man’s survival depends on his design.”

Learn more about the VDL Research House and plan a visit.

Neutra posing by the reflecting pool on the property.

 

1. Header image: the sitting room at Neutra's Van der Leeuw Reasearch House. / 2. The home is perched just above the Silver Lake Reservoir. Image via the Richard and Dion Neutra Institute for Survival Through Design. / 3. Small interior spaces open outward. / 4. Outdoor space furnished with boomerang chairs, designed by Neutra. / 5. The view invites the outdoors in. / 6. Neutra on his rooftop, overlooking one of three reflecting pools on the property. Image via the Richard and Dion Neutra Institute for Survival Through Design.

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