written by:
June 10, 2013
Last week, JCPenney (now known as JCP) launched several collaborative home collections from renowned designers. We sat down with architect Michael Graves to chat about designing for large retailers, Habitat for Humanity housing, and his upcoming Dwell on Design appearance.
Michael Graves collection launched in 2013 at JCP includes kitchenware and picture frames
Architect and designer Michael Graves (top left, along with JCPenney CEO Mike Ullman) in front of his homewares collection for the recently in-flux retail giant. Check out all the products in his collection here.
Courtesy of 
Kelsey Keith
Michael Graves collection launched in 2013 at JCP includes kitchenware and picture frames
Architect and designer Michael Graves (top left, along with JCPenney CEO Mike Ullman) in front of his homewares collection for the recently in-flux retail giant. Check out all the products in his collection here.

Form, function, and a reasonable price: Architect Michael Graves's new pieces for the JCP home collection are the apotheosis of these three assets working together in harmony. Intuitive slow cooker? Check. Bookshelf clock? You bet. Nesting trivets and stacking bowls for less than $25? Why not! On the occasion of Graves's product launch, he—along with several other design personalities from Jonathan Adler to Sir Terence Conran—alighted last week onto New York City to introduce design-driven collections that go hand-in-hand with JCPenney's new look. We took the chance to chat with Graves about his industrial design process, upcoming projects in the realm of universal design, and his imminent keynote address at Dwell on Design 2013

Can you fill us in on the Habitat for Humanity project you’re working on in L.A.?

It’s a prototype, meaning the first one will be built in Los Angeles (so they tell us). But they will be built in other places too, which are similar to that kind of site. For this one, it was required to have a garage, which is really silly in a house. I say that you don’t need a garage in Los Angeles, but they say you do so [people don’t] leave their junk out in the street.

Is the house also meant for a suburban application? Where people drive cars?

The purpose is really to find a more handicapped-accessible, universal design out of this house. We had done two houses for Wounded Warriors, for people coming back from war, and they were a huge success for the amputees and burn victims who moved in. The idea here was to find a house that would work for not only all the things that Habitat for Humanity stands for, but also for the elderly, for the arthritic, for the obese, for people with problems like I’ve got—so that’s what we did.

How did you incorporate universal design while keeping costs low?

The cost is minimal, but one of the things that you want in a universal design is to make the plan as open as you can…and to still have walls around bedrooms and that sort of thing, and to keep the corridors wide enough so the wheelchair can do a 360 in the corridor. So that makes the corridors a little wider [just under five feet wide], which costs a little more money, but not very much. Given that this is all donated services and we’re just talking about a little bit more material, it’s a good deal.

How does universal design factor into the home goods you’ve designed for this JCP collection?

Well, anything that we’ve designed for JCP will work in that house because they’re priced so well.

You had a long collaboration with Target, and then switched retailers. How is this collection different?

The major difference is that this collection is shown in the store in a dramatically different way. Whether we work for Bloomingdale’s or Target, we would have a tea kettle in the tea kettle department, and we would had a toaster with the toasters, and everything [I design] would be separated. But here all our work is together. All of Conran’s work is together; all of Adler’s work is together; they are shops within the store. It’s how the department stores in Japan work now.

You were appointed by President Obama to the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. Can you tell us a little bit about what that will involve and who you’ll be working with on that project?

I think I have a four year term—

Like the President!

Just like the President! He and I are like this! [Laughs] I’m called a “public member.” Each of the cabinet members puts one of their staff on the Access Board, so we have somebody from education, transportation, so on. I’m the opposite—I’m Joe Q. Public, there to represent access to buildings that are federally funded. If you get federal funding, then you must comply to the Access Board Standards, which are a little more stringent than ADA’s.

On a city level, things like the subway aren’t very accessible at all.

I can’t take a cab.

So why are there not more regulations in place on city-level?

It’s a money issue. It’s always money. At least in San Francisco, we can take the subway [BART] to Berkeley…so it’s improving.

We are very excited to have you at Dwell on Design in about two weeks’ time. What are you going to be addressing there?

My subject is a talk I’ve given before, but I’ve remodeled it for Dwell. It’s called “The Grand Tour,” which is based on a junket that young architects, painters, and sculptors did in the 18th and 19th centuries. They started in Egypt, went to Greece, and then to Italy: Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Pompeii, which was being dug out and excavated. So, they would draw what they saw. I’ll talk about universal design, too, and I might have to mention JCPenney’s!

For more Graves, shop his new collection for JCP and visit Dwell on Design in Los Angeles this June to hear him live during our keynote address.


Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016