Books: Humble Masterpieces by Paola Antonelli

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Now we want to meet Paola Antonelli. When we first picked up her book - Humble Masterpieces: Everyday Marvels of Design - we read it from back to front (on the subway - two rides).

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The books premise is that design's greatest achievements are humble masterpieces - objects that serve us well, but often go unnoticed as they slip into the daily vernacular of our lives. We couldn't agree more. Modern design's greatest achievement was and remains the melding of form and function. The rest is all hoo-ha. Cases in point are the sugar cube, the champagne cork, the zipper and the condom (great story!). There's no iPod or fancy cell phone in here.

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Antonelli devotes two facing pages to each of her 100 inventions and the layout is gorgeous and not overwhelming. We wish, however, that she'd written a bit more about the inventors themselves. For us the heart of the matter isn't the stuff, it's the living, breathing people who have expressed themselves through their inventions. For us this is a great launching point for a Designer's Almanac. Perhaps we'll be able to do it with her.

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(Re-edited from a post originally published 11-30-05)

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.