Skip to Main Content
Stories for being at home.
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.

02 16 21
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 bi-level Brooklyn apartment with an envy inducing art collection.

Vanessa Granda’s Apartment is a Study in Eclectic Minimalism

A bi-level Brooklyn apartment with an envy inducing art collection.

01 30 21






Inside Vanessa Granda’s Brooklyn home, you’ll find a curated and highly-personal collection of objects and art, all displayed within a rather minimal space. The photographer has a knack for pulling together a cohesive vision from inspiration that ranges widely — from the simplicity of Dieter Rams, to the galleries of art museums, to the European nostalgia of the sets from the 2017 film Call Me By Your Name. We spoke with Vanessa about the challenge of unifying a space that includes a basement room, the lighting she’s rescued from a favorite local cafe, and the art she found on the 40th page of an Ebay search.

Hi Vanessa! Could you give us a bit of an introduction?

I’m Vanessa Granda, I’m a photographer and live with my partner Davy, who’s a filmmaker and our dog Matisse. We are originally from Miami but live in Brooklyn, NY.

Tell us about your home. What stands out about it?

Our home is a two-story, one bedroom apartment located in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. It’s renovated but still has that brownstone charm with original crown molding around the entire space and windows.

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

At first, we weren't sure about living on the ground floor as our previous apartments were on higher levels and were worried about natural light and street noise, however when we realized the apartment included a basement and a backyard and the light was better than most ground floor apartments, we couldn’t pass the opportunity.

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

It’s a good balance between minimal and eclectic. I think we have always been color loving minimalists but now we are more inclined to collect pieces that we love regardless of era, decade or design.

Did you have any design inspiration that really drove the direction of your home?

We are inspired by so many designers and eras and wanted to kinda mix everything we love into one. We love the restraint Dieter Rams has in his approach to his designs and his home as well as the beautiful worldly maximalist outlook that production designer Violante Visconti de Madrone created on the film Call Me By Your Name. The mix of the two; very minimal functional design and lots of fun objects from travels and elsewhere is what we aimed for.

Did you approach the apartment as a cohesive unit?

It was a challenge to keep the entire apartment cohesive. Our top floor has natural light while our basement has no windows so we approached them quite differently. We wanted the top floor to feel peaceful and warm so we filled the space with plants, soft subtle patterns and warm woods, it’s still colorful but a little more subtle than our basement, which is where we play with more color, harsher lines and textures such as chrome and checkerboard. We work and watch films there, so we wanted it to feel more industrial and boutique-esc.

How much change and experimentation do you do?

It’s still very much a work in progress, as we live in the space, we are constantly rearranging things to feel what’s right. We are such visual people so our layout changes weekly just to keep it interesting!

Did you bring any favorite pieces from previous spaces?

One of our favorite pieces we brought with us is our work desk, it’s custom made out of African mahogany by a friend who’s a carpenter. It’s approximately 8ft long so we can work on it at the same time. There’s also a leather butterfly chair I bought on a trip to Sri Lanka that was hidden under our bed in our old apartment for so long. Luckily, we now have space for both these things.

How does your home reflect your work?

Oh, definitely! Since we are both in the photo and film industry we have lots of vintage film posters and photographs from people we admire. We love going to galleries and wanted our house to feel like a mini (lived in) museum, where everywhere you look there’s some type of art.

 

Could you tell us a bit about your art collection? You have so many interesting pieces.

It’s definitely a growing collection! We love being surrounded by art in all forms. It’s a mix of things we’ve found traveling, or friends have made, and scores found from online auctions. One of my favorite pieces is this Alexander Calder drawing I won at an estate auction. The painting of a woman that hangs in our cafecito (coffee) room was from the 40th page of an Ebay search on portraits. We also have a layered mirror piece that forms the symbol for Thursday in Japanese from our friend Sho Shibuya. There’s a few drawings we acquired from galleries in London and Copenhagen that are hanging around. A large photograph from the photographer Yumna Al-Arashi hangs in our foyer; It was a gift from a friend.

Do any of your favorite pieces have an interesting story?

There was a coffee shop called Relationships in my neighborhood that I loved to visit. I obsessed over the blue speckled pendant lights that hung above the counter. I even took a photo one time in hopes that I could make something similar. Unfortunately, the cafe closed down during quarantine last year and the owners mentioned via Instagram that they were selling everything including the furniture. I woke up early the next day, made a very long line and once inside saw one of the pendant lights tucked in the corner. I bought it and it now hangs over the Ebay painting. It’s a sad story but I love that I have a piece of a once favorite spot in my home and it won’t be forgotten.

What’s the last thing you added?

The bookshelf in our basement. We had so many books and random objects and had them spread out in previous spaces so we really wanted them to live somewhere collectively.

What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration, generally?

Vintage interior design books, Nowness’ in-residence series, and art museums.

What makes you feel most at home when you walk in the door? Is there anything you can’t feel at home without?

Candles, lots of candles. We love our home to smell nice throughout.

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

Our first snow in our new apartment. The backyard was a mini winter wonderland, Matisse (our dog) thoroughly enjoyed it too.

Images by Vanessa Granda. Shop the Floyd Shelving System.

Samantha Orley transformed Cranberry Pond.

Inside an Upstate Cabin Getaway

Samantha Orley transformed Cranberry Pond.

01 20 20





For Samantha Orley, the designer behind the Cranberry Pond House, it was important to create a space ideal for relaxation and connection. Inside the home, she’s created a warm, luxurious take on a classic “camp” cabin that works perfectly in a setting that encourages outdoor exploration and quiet time. We spoke with Samantha about the process of designing an ideal environment for her family and visitors, and what an ideal day upstate would look like.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself, and how the idea for the house came about?

I grew up in Toronto, Canada and spent a lot of time going “up north” to cottages - there are so many amazing lakes in Northern Ontario - and spent my summers going to camp in Algonquin Park, which is where I met my husband Matthew. Growing up in Canada, there is such a culture of loving and exploring the outdoors. Having somewhere we could escape from the city and have our kids be outside all the time was always something we had thought about, and over the years we’ve spent numerous weekends renting various houses all over upstate New York. We always knew we would want to share those values with a community and love being able to provide others with the experience we enjoy so much. We’ve loved designing and renting Cranberry Pond!

What’s special about the house and the property?

The light-filled home has windows in every room, which really brings the beauty of the outdoors in. The living area has a vintage wood-burning fireplace for chilly nights, and a large dining table for entertaining guests, with sliding glass doors that lead to the expansive outdoor deck. The newly remodeled kitchen has its own views and access to the deck and is stocked with everything a modern chef could need.

The house is located on ten private acres, with rolling open meadows surrounded by wildflowers and gorgeous views of Cranberry Pond. You can meander down the quiet private roads or explore nearby hikes, roast marshmallows around the cast iron fire pit, gaze at the star filled sky, and just enjoy the fresh air.

Is there a certain feeling you were hoping to create as you worked on the design and renovation?

We wanted the home to feel cozy with a modern feel but still really livable. I wanted to include a lot of natural materials, with different types of woods like oak, walnut, and burlwood, along with jute and wool rugs, ceramic lamps, and complemented that with softer textures like comfortable boucle chairs and a burnt orange sofa. We added color with custom textiles from Maharam that have a bit of a camp vibe but feel a little more luxurious.

Are there any details about the home that you put an extra level of care into?

In a pre-Covid world, we were frequent travelers and spent a lot of time staying in both hotels and rental homes so wanted to create a place with all the amenities we would want for ourselves. That includes a well-stocked kitchen with great cookware, condiments, and spices; toiletries from Public Goods; and luxury bedding and towels from Italic. We also have some down outdoor blankets for chilly nights!

Having two kids, we also know just how much “stuff” you usually need to travel with for kids so we try to make it easier on families by providing all the essentials. And while we purposely don’t have a TV, we do have Bluetooth speakers, plenty of board games like backgammon, chess, Scrabble and Monopoly, and Balsam Fir incense.

The Catskills are such a beautiful place. What are some of your favorite hidden gems that visitors to Cranberry Pond could look forward to?

Livingston Manor is about 10 min away and a super cute walkable town with lots of explore-worthy stores and restaurants. We love going to Main Street Farm to pick up sandwiches and local-made goodies, the Kaatskeller for pizza, Meg at Upstream Wine has an amazing selection (we leave a bottle of our favorite wine from there for every guest), Van Smokey for meat and jerky, Morgan Outfitters for gear rentals and other outdoorsy items, and Homestedt is small but has a great little assortment of Catskills goods. We also created a nearby hiking guide on Alltrails.

Which season is your favorite to visit?

Now that it’s winter, it’s been a lot of fun to be up there in the snow - we’ll take our kids sledding, go ice skating on the pond, and we constantly have a fire going so it is super cozy. We plan on building a dock in the spring to access the pond for swimming, paddleboarding, and canoeing, so we’re really looking forward to enjoying that!

Do you have any packing recommendations for future visitors?

We love to unplug and spend time outdoors while at Cranberry Pond and we definitely recommend bringing a good book (or two), sweatpants and sweaters, hiking boots in the warmer months and snow boots and gear in the winter. And so that we don’t have to leave once we arrive unless we want to, we’ll usually plan our meals and do a big grocery shop before we leave the city.

What does your ideal day at Cranberry Pond look like?

Our days are always relaxed and slow. We’re usually up early with the kids and will start the day by making a fire in the wood burning stove, we cook a big breakfast before letting the kids run around outside for a bit, then if we’re up for venturing out we might head into town to pick up some lunch, then we all have “quiet time” before our next venture outside, whether that’s a hike or just meandering around the property. After a big dinner and once the kids are bathed and in bed, we’ll usually sit by the fire with a glass of wine and a good book.

Is there anything else we should know about the home, property, or area?

There are so many ] things to do at Cranberry Pond and in the Catskills — hiking, fly fishing, horseback riding, snowshoeing, golfing, and tennis — or just stay put at the house and enjoy!

Book a stay at Cranberry Pond.

Norma Merrick Sklarek was a first many times over.
Norma Merrick Sklarek at work.

The Ground Breaking Career of Architect Norma Sklarek

Noma Merrick Sklarek was a "first" many times over.

01 14 21
Portrait of Norma Merrick Sklarek

San Bernardino City hall

Norma Merrick Sklarek with her business partners.

 

1. As a young architect, Sklarek worked at Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill. / 2. After a move to California, Sklarek worked on many large public projects, including the San Bernardino City Hall. / 3. Sklarek, center, with her business partners at Siegal, Sklarek, and Diamond.

“Everywhere she went, she was first.” That’s how Marshall Purnell, former president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) described the decades-long practice of Norma Merrick Sklarek. After becoming the first Black woman certified by the AIA in New York in 1950, Sklarek embarked on a remarkable career that continued to break barriers for Black women (and women in general) in the world of major architecture firms, an industry that is to this day dominated by white men.

Sklarek was born in Harlem in 1926, to Trinidadian emigree parents. She attended Hunter High School and was admitted to Barnard, after which she received an architecture degree from Columbia in 1950. In these primarily white institutions, Sklarek excelled at science and mathematics, and by the time she completed her studies was one of only two women with graduate degrees from the Columbia School of Architecture. But despite her academic accomplishments, the deck was stacked against her.

Upon graduating, Sklarek found herself up against entrenched institutional discrimination in the architecture field. In 2004, she was quoted in a local newspaper about the situation: “They weren’t hiring women or African Americans, and I didn’t know which it was (working against me).” After unsuccessfully interviewing for 19 positions commensurate with her education and experience, she took a job as a junior draftsperson in the City Department of Public Works.

The junior position was unsatisfying to Sklarek. In 1954, she sat for the grueling four-day architecture licensing exam. After passing, she became the first Black woman to be licensed as an architect in the state of New York. As such, she applied to architectural firms again. This time, despite a negative reference by an unhappy and racist supervisor at the Department of Public Works, Sklarek was hired by Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill. Sklarek dove into the world of major-firm architecture, and after relocating to California in 1960, Sklarek once again became the first Black woman licensed as an architect in the state.


Norma Merrick Sklarek
Pacific design center
US Embassy in tokyo

1. Sklarek practiced as an architect between 1954-1996. / 2. The Pacific Design Center, often called the "Blue Whale" is an eyecatching landmark in Los Angeles. / 3. The US Embassy in Tokyo is one of few projects where Sklarek was credited with as a design architect, here in partnership with César Pelli.


In California, Sklarek worked at Gruen, a firm often credited with “inventing the mall,” eventually rising to the position of Director of Architecture, the firm’s first female Vice President. In that role, Sklarek project managed and contributed design expertise to buildings like the Pacific Design Center, Fox Plaza, the San Bernardino City Hall, and the US Embassy in Tokyo. Like many women architects of the time, her official role as a project manager often meant she did not receive design credit, and to this day the US Embassy in Tokyo (which she designed in partnership with César Pelli) remains one of the few major projects where she is credited as a design architect.

Throughout Sklarek’s hugely successful career, she continued to be “first.” In 1980, she managed the project to complete the massive u-shaped Terminal One at LAX ahead of the 1984 Olympic games. Sklarek proudly noted later that her Olympics project was the only one that finished on schedule. Also in 1980, Sklarek became the first woman to be elected a Fellow of the AIA. Five years later, Sklarek became the first Black woman to co-own an architectural practice, with the founding of her all-woman firm Siegal Sklarek Diamond.

Despite her decades of impactful work, Sklarek never forgot the challenges she faced. She once noted that "in architecture, I had absolutely no role model. I'm happy today to be a role model for others that follow,” and she put her words into action by teaching and mentoring students at Howard University, Columbia University, and UCLA. Before her death in 2012, Sklarek was awarded the Whitney M. Young Jr. prize, which recognizes an architect embodying the “profession’s responsibility to address social issues.” Posthumously, Sklarek was awarded the AIA|LA Gold Medal.

Norma Merrick Sklarek was an architectural pioneer, but her groundbreaking “firsts” served us all by making the way clearer for the diverse architects who are pushing the industry toward a responsible, innovative future. For that, we are all grateful.

Learn more about Norma Merrick Sklarek by watching an oral history interview with the architect here.

The creative couple designed a home that's one-of-a-kind.
Container home in hudson, ny.

Dave & Victoria Built a Dream Home from Shipping Containers

The creative couple designed a home that's one-of-a-kind.

01 08 21
Dave hudson and Victoria Masters.

Living room with woodburning stove and lime green chairs.

Music collection.

Open airy shelving in metal walls.

Modern kitchen with black cabinets.

Open spaces rack.

Open kitchen and patio area.

Located just outside of Hudson, NY, Dave Sutton & Victoria Masters’ home cleverly repurposes shipping containers to create a space worthy of an imaginative, creative young family. A raw metal exterior is intersected by a bold slash of windows, while decks extend like wings from the central structure. On the inside, the couple has designed a space that nods to their love of art & music, all while maintaining an eye for craftsmanship and practicality. We spoke to Dave about the process of designing the home from the ground up, the tetris-like experience of planning within a constrained space, and the clever ways he was able to re-use materials throughout the home.

Could you give us a bit of an intro?

My name is Dave Sutton, I live with my partner Victoria Masters, our daughter Bowie, and dog Bean. Victoria is a creative director as well as a holistic health coach focused on growing your own food — she just launched Kitchen Garden Health. I’m a writer and work in music as part of the team at Ghostly International.

Tell us about your home!

We’re in upstate New York, right outside of Hudson. Our home is made out of six shipping containers stacked two-by-three, totaling just under 2000 square feet. Another unfinished container sits next to the house, which we use for storage and Vic’s makeshift photo studio. This past spring we started on a fenced garden and greenhouse.

What did the building process look like? Did you have any particular sources of inspiration?

We purchased vacant land in 2016. Our lives were still rooted in Brooklyn so we’d come up on weekends to camp and dream about living here one day, building a home and farming the land, expanding to cabins. In 2018, we met one of the architects at LOT-EK through a friend and spotted the c-Home concept in their book. We had never really considered steel as a building material, or the benefits of prefab construction. We were drawn to the upcycled elements, the large glass windows and sliding doors, and the way the decks angled out on both sides as if they’d been peeled from the exterior. It was easy to picture the open layout surrounded by trees, letting lots of sunlight and air in.

Since the c-Home had only existed as a rendering, the build-out process became a collaborative experiment. After the planning phase, we selected the used containers at a shipping depot in New Jersey, where they were then sand-blasted to remove old paint — we liked the raw look of Cor-Ten steel and decided to let the exterior rust into an orange patina before sealing it with clear finish. The builder did all modular fabrication in that same factory yard and oversaw the transport of the house one container per truck to the site in August of 2019, where a crane lowered each into place. Our local contractor’s team started the infrastructure prior to delivery, and then finished it up once the containers were stacked, finished the utility hook-ups, and welded everything in place.

Did anything change from your original vision?

Yes, the original design was four containers. Early into the planning, when Victoria was pregnant we started to re-think the size of the house. The change required some re-engineering and a series of adjustments as the project went on. Figuring out our kitchen layout was like moving a Tetris block around. We ended up tucking it partially under the staircase which cleared a path and set the sink view facing outward to the back deck.

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

Modern but warm, with an industrial edge and utilitarian sense. We both like earth tones and natural materials and lately, we’ve let some vibrant color into the mix. The house builds on a style that started in our old apartment. More plants, now with some matte blacks and metal, which is also a forgiving palette for a dirt-tracking bunch like us.

Did you approach the home as a cohesive unit or do you work on each room separately?

Room by room with some guiding aesthetics throughout.

Do you tend to change and experiment with your interior or do you stop once you consider a space “done”?

Always a work in progress but we’re feeling pretty done, for now. This was a new experience being able to map out our space intentionally. Now on the other side of all the interior work, we’re excited to just pause and live in it. Things are bound to change as Bowie grows.

Did you bring in pieces you loved from previous spaces?

A little of both. Our kitchen table, metal chairs, and side tables came with us, and our old bed is now in the guest room. We built the outdoor table with scraps from the deck and built our desks from the wood used for the closest doors. The welded shelves in each room come from that wood too.

How does the home reflect your family’s favorite hobbies/loves/vocations?

Our space reflects a love for nature, art, and the communities we’ve been lucky to be a part of. A few walls have paintings, photographs, and collages from friends, old flyers, and other artifacts from our time putting on shows in the city.

Could you tell us about one of your favorite pieces?

The firewood rack was made by a local blacksmith, David DeSantis, based on an image we kept coming across on the internet with no traceable origin or way to order. When he dropped it off we wheeled it into the house on a blanket. I see it as a centerpiece, an anchor for the room, worth its weight, and the extra energy for sure.

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

Our focus is now outside. Every day we’re out there pulling vines off trees and planting and cutting new paths. It’s gratifying to see this overgrown land come back to life. We’d also like to finish the roof with decking next year.

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

Our first Christmas, just having officially moved in a month earlier. After various transitions, including two years living with Vic’s parents, it felt good to settle into our own space and for the first time as our new little family.

Upstate new york garden.

Shop The Bed.

Frequently Asked
Questions

Have a Question?

Check the list below to see if we have your answer.

More information about the dimensions, colors, materials and shipping information can be found on individual product pages.

{[ section.title ]}

{[ topic.title ]}

Don't see what you're looking for? Reach out on the contact page.