Charles and Ray Eames: Williamson was determined to get inside the Eames’s Case Study House No. 8: “I thought everyone had seen the house, and there was no need to photograph it yet again, but how wrong I was! The interiors have rarely been photographed.”  Inside she found evidence of Ray’s collecting habit; in the living room, animal prints, Americana quilting, and American Indian rugs speak to the couple’s democratic approach to design.

Handcrafted Modern

It’s possible you’ve spent hours foraging flea markets, wondering how a Russel Wright pitcher or an Eames shell chair or a Jens Risom credenza might fit into your home décor. But did you ever stop to wonder how those pieces may have figured into the homes of their own makers? Leslie Williamson, a San Francisco–based photographer, did — and the result is Handcrafted Modern, a new book that offers an intimate glimpse inside the houses of 14 of America’s most beloved mid-century designers.

Williamson writes that the book was born of pure, old-fashioned curiosity: “What would an architect build for himself, without the demands of a client upon him?” she wondered. “Would he experiment? Would what an architect builds for himself be the purest manifestation of his creative vision?” But as she immersed herself in the project it became less about the big questions and more about the tiny details, the items that told the story of who each designer was as a person rather than as a “demigod of design,” as she puts it. Williamson photographed personal artifacts as much as furnishings — Walter Gropius’s bath towel, Ray Eames’s bedside bobby pins, Vladamir Kagan’s shower, Jens Risom’s drafting tools — and in doing so, she’s created a warmer, more humanizing portrait of modernism than has perhaps ever been captured in print before. We’ve excerpted eight of our favorite details in the following slideshow.

From Handcrafted Modern: At Home with Mid-century Designers, by Leslie Williamson. Copyright © 2010 and reprinted with permission from the publisher, Rizzoli.