Remembering a Harvard Square Fixture

A new history of Design Research remembers how the store brought modern design to Harvard Square and the United States.

The new book Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes will jog memories for many Harvard alumni. The volume, deemed "a loving scrapbook of Design Research and its era," uses narrative, quotations, and photographs to tell the story of the store that brought colorful, modern design to Harvard Square and to homes all over the United States. Its author, Jane Thompson, knows the subject well: she is the widow of Ben Thompson, the architect who created the store (and once chaired the architecture department at the Graduate School of Design).

The Boston Globe gives some highlights in its review, noting that Design Research supplied cooking and serving dishes, utensils, and other trappings for Julia Child's kitchen, as seen on her cooking show, and remembering the store's innovative approach:

Products were not displayed in categories—glasses here, chairs there—but rather in lifelike groups. A dinner setting might include everything from the carpet and table to spoons and salt shakers, all of it for sale. It was easy for a customer to imagine herself in such a setting. The Thompsons wouldn't have liked the word, but they were selling a complete lifestyle.

The store closed in 1979; its iconic Brattle Street building was later home to Crate and Barrel, and the clothing store Anthropologie recently moved in. In 2003, the building was awarded the Twenty-Five Year Award, given by the American Institute of Architects each year "to one building that has proved its merit over time," according to the Globe.

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