Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Looking for Mad Men in All the Right Places

Okay, the gig is almost up and this is the final season of that incredible series Mad Men. It's a well known fact that coupled with a dynamic cast and story line, the show helped spur a trend in Modernist interior design. From the 50s to the 70s, Mid Century designs have found a rebirth in homes and offices all over the country and even current architectural planning has hearkened back to the latter half of the 20th Century. Danish Modern is hot again and Ikea, Crate & Barrel and Pier One Imports get it. But what about the real deal? The stuff that was made in America by Americans in a highly charged Post WWII economy? It's no secret that Americans followed the Scandinavians when it came to style and were very adept at doing so. Major furniture companies hired young, enthusiastic designers who all tried to outdo each other. We hear about Adrian Pearsall, Paul McCobb, et al, but actually finding a piece of these designers' creations anywhere except on 1st Dibs has become next to impossible. For many of us the price tags keep us at bay, but there are places one can investigate to find comparable Mid-Century designs without emptying the coffers. Thanks to the internet, one does not even have to leave home to begin the search. There are the usual heavy hitters like One King's Lane and ebay. Etsy also has some killer Mid-Century stores as well. If you want to save shipping and aren't in a hurry, your local Craig's List is always a good bet. I can't tell you how many times I have scored thanks to this site. True, it was easier a few years ago, before the Mad Men craze hit full stride, but if one is willing to use intuition regarding bad picture taking and incorrect/incomplete descriptions, the treasures can still be found. A couple of years ago for ten dollars I scored a Thonet dinette set in a Danish Modern style based on a partial picture of the chair tops and a sweet black Lab pup which happened to be posing in front of the table. If one wants to get out and search locally, along with the usual antique and vintage shops, thrift stores and garage and estate sales, there is the Salvation Army Store, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Goodwill and City Mission. This past week alone I scored a Broyhill Brasilia (designer Kent Coffey) night stand at the ReStore and yesterday at the Salvation Army, a Lane Acclaim (designer Andre Bus) step end table. Though it would have been better to find these items in pairs, there are plenty of folks out there looking for mates, so they are still very desirable. Despite being saddened by Mad Men ending its television journey this season, I am grateful for the appreciation of Mid Century Modern design it has helped to promote and I will continue, as I hope you all do, to discover the next Modernist treasure just around the corner.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Creating Tacky Furniture

As we all know, tacky, unused furniture can be found in just about every home. It lurks in the recesses of our rooms, hidden behind piles of clothes or stashed in an attic or basement, future Salvation Army fodder. But the tacky I bring to you is something you can do to recreate a piece of furniture you might otherwise discard. All it takes is a little paint and a few tacks to create a design original. I first came up with the idea after I pulled a broken vintage stool from a cellar clean out somebody had left on the side of the road as trash. Along with the stool was a table that had been slightly modified with an extra board added at the bottom for stability. I'm pretty sure it had been used as some type of work bench. Both of these discarded items sat in my cellar for a few months before I decided to do anything with them. It was the find of an awesome primitive bench complete with tack embellishments at a nearby vintage store that led me to upcycle the pieces. First, I repaired the stool and spray painted it a John Deere green. Then I carefully hammered cheap white tacks you can get at the grocery store in the hardware section (the ones that are on cardboard backs) to the legs, but I didn't like the contrast between the white and green, so I spray painted over the tacks. I loved the textured look it gave to the piece. Instead of painting the table, I sanded its original green paint and sprayed with a coat of clear to show off where the wood came through and to give new life to the existing paint. Then, I embellished it with heavier brass tacks. It gave the piece a totally different and appealing look. I knew I had done something right when an interior designer friend of mine purchased it from me to use as a plant stand in his kitchen. I did other smaller stands later and have had great success with this type of furniture upcycling. It's a nice and easy alternative to keeping your tacky furniture in hiding.