Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Irish-born designer and modernist architect, who lived in France from 1902 onwards. Eileen Gray was born in Brownswood, Co. Wexford, on 9 August 1878, the fourth and youngest child of James Maclaren Smith, an amateur artist, and his wife, Eveleen, who in 1895 inherited the title Baroness Gray from her kinsman the 14th Earl of Moray. Maclaren Smith assumed the additional name of Gray in 1897, after which his children were known simply by the surname Gray. Eileen is said to have turned her back on Ireland after the unpretentious family home at Brownswood was greatly enlarged and remodelled in the Jacobethan style at the instigation of her brother-in-law, Henry Tufnell Campbell.(1) 

After studying drawing at the Slade School in London, Gray settled in Paris, where she practised as a designer and where she later met the Romanian architect and critic Jean Badovici.  Badovici, who was editor of the influential avant garde magazine  L'Architecture Vivante and became Gray's architectural mentor.  Only a few of her architectural projects were carried out:  three houses  in the South of France - the first in collaboration with Jean Badovici, the second a house for herself and the third a conversion from a barn, also for herself - and a studio apartment in Paris for Badovici.

Gray died in 1976.  In the last decad of her life her designs began to attract renewed interest, which has continued to grow.  Her life and works are described and illustrated in J. Stewart Johnson, Eileen Gray, designer (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1984), Peter Adam, Eileen Gray: architect designer (Thames & Hudson, 1987), Philippe Garner, Eileen Gray: Designer and Architect (Taschen, 1993), and Caroline Constant, Eileen Gray (Phaidon, 2000).


(1) For photographs of the old and new houses, see Adam, op. cit., pp. 16 & 17. The McCurdy & Mitchell collection in the IAA contains designs by W.M. Mitchell for Tudor-style stables at Brownswood, 1889 (Bin VIII, roll 22), and it is not unlikely that Mitchell remodelled the house as well.