S. Claire Conroy's Favorite Design Objects

Roadsters perennially play at the heartstrings and wanderlust of Americans, and this one is among the most eye-catching in recent memory. The 2001 BMW Z3 was perfectly designed for exhilarating motoring. Not painfully low to the ground and not too sedately sedan-like, its performance ramped up in the twists and turns. The body shape was all lovely curves, especially after a tail revise in 2000. And the handling (cobbled together from the parts bins of two previous 3 series models) was just primitive enough to make things interesting. It was the first new BMW model built in the United States, when it was introduced in 1996.

Although her last name is synonymous with mid-century modern furniture, Florence is somewhat underappreciated among her better-known peers. A student at Cranbrook Academy of Art in its Bauhaus-like heyday and a protégé of Eero Saarinen, she ultimately married Hans Knoll and helped build the eponymous company into a design powerhouse. She had a great eye for other architects’ furniture flare and a strong talent for the discipline herself. Her furnishings are still as fresh looking today—in either a home or office setting—as they were 50 years ago. Her credenza is especially handsome and one of the best versions ever of its type.

I decided to become a writer in part because I love office supplies. Pens, pencils, paper, markers—I can’t get enough of them. One of my favorites of the genre is the fountain pen. Although I do have some fancy French writing implements, they languish in my desk with their nibs hopelessly dried out from inattention. Keeping them writing smoothly is a full-time job. So, my fallback is this practical little pen from Pilot. It’s always ready to flow when I need it to and in my favorite purple ink. Admittedly, it’s not as eco-friendly as the refillable kind, but I barely write more than my signature by hand these days anyway.

Maybe most people don’t think of dogs as design objects, but they are the ultimate curated animal. An ancient breed, the Portuguese Water Dog was cultivated for its swimming prowess and its guard dog capabilities. I know that no one in the package delivery business will ever enter my house uninvited while my dogs, Moby (pictured) and Ellie, are on the job. But with their human pack, they are loving and lovable, soaking up as much attention as we can give. I’m confident if handlers would only leave their coats trimmed in proud retriever style, instead of humiliating them with the bottomless “lion cut,” they would take all the dog shows by storm. We’ll have to see what influence young Bo Obama can wield.

As a big fan of Florence Knoll’s designs, I suppose it’s no surprise that I also love Eero Saarinen’s work for her company as well. I’m especially fond of his oval tables—in coffee table size and side table form. The oval side tables in their 20-inch height make the most elegant TV “tray” table I know—just wide enough for a dinner plate, silverware, and a proper glass of wine. And, in the laminate finish, they wipe clean with a sponge.

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