It's been said that it's a man's world, especially as it relates to home design, building and construction. I can count on two hands the number of female home designers, product designers, furniture makers or architects who have had a significant, lasting impact on things in their respective fields. And our world is worse off as the result.
Make no mistake: women see and experience the world differently than their masculine counterparts. Speaking in very general terms, a woman's sense for space and organization, her intuitive appreciation for "home" and connectedness, and her ability to appreciate light and color and comfort rival most men by a long shot.
But it certainly was a man's world in the early 1950's in oh-so-conservative Carmel, Indiana. That is, until Avriel came along. Born Avriel Joy Christie in 1933, this young lass would soon grow to become the eccentric designer and builder of local legend. Stories abound of a bikini-clad Avriel showing up to job sites - a cigarette in one hand and a paint brush in the other - rattling the cages of the construction crews. Oh, how I would love to have known her.
I am suddenly reminded of a Rumi poem, part of which says:
"I'm tired of cowards. I want to live with lions. With Moses.
Not whining, teary people. I want the ranting of drunkards. I want to sing like birds sing, not worrying who hears, or what they think."
I get the sense that Avriel didn't particularly care what the good ol' boys thought of her. She lived with lions.
Avriel married journalist Richard K. Shull in 1951, and their wedding was featured in LIFE Magazine.
After attending Butler University and the John Herron School of Art - graduating from neither - she set about designing her first home in Carmel. Known as "The Golden Unicorn," it set the stage for what would be a series of home, condominium, library, restaurant and commercial space designs spanning the next 20+ years.
Soon after her first home design, she platted her family's land in Carmel. That property is now known as "Christie's Thornhurst Addition," and is still home to some original owners,. The entire neighborhood is working its way through the process of becoming a spot on the National Register of Historic Places (thanks in large part to the hard work and dedication of local preservationist phenom Connie Ziegler and her company, CResources).
Between 1956 and 1971, Avriel designed and built 21 homes in Thornhurst. Avriel designed Ladywood Estates for its developer Fred Capp in 1965. She also produced homes in such Indianapolis neighborhoods as Springmill Estates, Williams Creek Heights, Somerset Hills, Devon Woods, Meridian Hills, Woodbrook Downs, Village Farms, Eden Forest, and Williston Green. Apartments she designed include Somerset Lakes (73rd Street and Keystone Avenue). Shull also designed homes built in Evansville, South Bend, Cool Creek, and Brownsburg, Indiana. (1)
Sadly, Avriel passed away in 1976 from complications of Diabetes.
Our world needs more women like Avriel, driven by fun and fury and passion, not afraid to challenge the norm and bring her vision into our world of beige and bland living and working spaces.