Monthly Archives: August 2013

Project Kick-off

On Aug. 30th the project kicks off with Grace Jeffer’s Introduction.

Grace Jeffers is an esteemed design historian, materials specialist and writer focusing on the 20th century, whose approach blends art history, social history, material science and the practice of design. A graduate of the prestigious Bard Graduate Center for the Decorative Arts, she is a pioneer in her industry because of her focus on actual materials, rather than the objects they become. She is currently working on The New Materials Handbook, an encyclopedia of modern design materials, which will be published by Thames & Hudson London in 2014.

As a curator, Jeffers is best known for her work restoring and preserving the Ralph and Sunny Wilson House in Temple, Texas, for which she received the prestigious Merit Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She successfully argued that the use of modern materials in architecture warrants recognition. To this date, the Ralph Wilson House is the only structure in the National Register of Historic Places listed because of its use of material.

Having been born into the laminate world, Jeffers has always taken inspiration from the materials that comprise design objects. At the age of nine, she shingled her Valentine’s Day project with laminate, while other students used paper doilies. As a designer, she has created patterns and designs for paper, flooring, laminate and other decorative surfacing materials for over ten different major manufacturers.

Jeffers contributed to the catalog of the Cooper-Hewitt exhibition Skin: Surface and Substance in Contemporary Design, and has served as a design editor to architectural trade magazines for twelve years.

Wilsonart Challenge comes to UH!

Wilsonart International ( is a leading manufacturer of decorative surfaces for more than 50 years. Wilsonart Challenge is a student design competition Wilsonart International sponsors different design schools annually. In fall 2013, we are very excited to be selected to host this competition in University of Houston. The competition is to create seating products that celebrate the richness of Wilsonart International’s laminate surfacing materials. In this challenge, students will have an opportunity to design and build a unique chair. The chair must be built in full scale and be able to support 400 pounds. Each student is responsible to build their own chair.

The theme of this year’s competition is SPACE. The seed idea of student’s design should be inspired by the space in Wilson House museum. The Ralph Sr. and Sunny Wilson House is in a classic mid-century modern home style. The interiors of the Wilson house feature extensive use of decorative plastic laminates in innovative applications, most of which had not been seen before.  It’s truly incredible. At the beginning of the course, students will visit Wilson House to learn more about the space, mid-century modern design and laminate uses in the house.




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