How I Became a Designer

I grew up in Rob and Laura Petri’s town, New Rochelle, at precisely the time the Dick Van Dyke Show was on the air, in a thoroughly Danish Modern suburban home. I knew we had a Womb Chair before I knew what a womb really was. And even though my father owned an office supply store, my parents designed some of the furniture in our home. It was this slightly arty, slightly boho, slightly naïve and very suburban sense of design that I remember best.

Even though our homes were, to the outside world, normal suburban fare, the interiors were nothing so ordinary as that. Names like Wegner and Juhl, woods like teak and walnut, fabrics void of flowers or polish were the stuff of my upbringing. Magazines were stored in large gourds and 'interesting' ceramics dotted our home. Even our dinnerware (Heath, of course) and tablecloths (Marrimeko, of course) couldn't escape our family's need to make every decision a conscious jab in the eye of normalcy.

I hated the furniture in our house, the dominance of olive green, ochre and orange, the slightly African art, the way nothing was normal. But now I realize that it made me a designer and now, as then, nothing I make is normal. And I thank my family for that.

Postscript: On October 7, 2016 Ruth Biber, surrounded by the Danish Modern furniture she loved, died at home. She will be missed by all who knew her, but the impact she had lives on.