The McCoys’ Five Faves
When Cranbrook Academy of Art, a premier graduate school of art, design and architecture in Michigan, offered the couple a job as co-directors of its Design Department, they jumped at the chance to be in academia (along with the ghosts of Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen and Harry Bertoia, who also spent time at Cranbrook), with the freedom to pursue their own projects.
During his time at Cranbrook, Michael began working with iconic furniture manufacturer Knoll, where he designed the ergonomically incomparable Bulldog Chair—which has since sold more than one million pieces. Working for Steelcase, he designed a line of healthcare furniture—the pieces seen in a hospital or doctor’s waiting room or in a clinic. “It’s not my most beautiful stuff,” he says, “but it was a good job.”
An “aha” design moment came at Cranbrook when colleague Daniel Libeskind (the designer of the Denver Art Museum’s Frederic C. Hamilton Building) helped McCoy realize that, in a mass-produced world, he could also design limited-edition pieces. “In 1981, I created the Door Chair—10 of them—and recently an art gallery in Chicago called to tell me my work is now officially vintage,” he says, “since they were auctioning off one of my Door Chairs for an unbelievable sum.”
The couple’s love of Colorado brought them to Buena Vista, where they bought land in 1972, camping there for 10 years during summer breaks. A 1,000-square-foot cabin followed, as did an addition and a studio. Their architectural inspiration? The harsh landscape and mining architecture. “We loved mining architecture for its way of creating civilization in an otherwise untamed environment,” Michael says. Arts and Crafts furniture—some original, some great reproductions—fill the house. The exterior is clad in redwood siding, because it ages beautifully in Colorado, turning the color of dark brown sugar.
Katherine’s collections of 19th-century frontier photos, plus Pueblo and Arts and Crafts pottery, belie the couple’s modernist—and minimalist—sensibilities. Their second Colorado home—a loft in Denver—is all Knoll and Eames, a stark contrast to their mountain retreat, says Katherine. But they love the dueling design sensibilities reflected in their lifestyle.
Today, Michael is working on the McCoy Collection—limited-edition furniture pieces—along with his collaborator John Guse. (The pieces are sold at Alesso Modern Source in Denver.) He is also the Director of Professional Programs at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. And he and Katherine are deeply connected to the thriving, young design community in Denver.
But it is in Buena Vista where the two designers find inspiration amid the Collegiate Peaks. They also find it in each other. “We communicate through design,” Michael says. “And design, like life, is a mixture of humor, complexity, practicality and poetry.”