Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mid-Century Modern...Design Elements That Can Be Incorporated In Any Interior...( even yours!)

Mid-Century Modern....its' the magazines,  on television ( Mad Men ), and maybe (hopefully) in your Grandmothers basement, waiting for you to fish it out..

So what is Mid-Century Modern ?  To most, it has become a recognizable style in today's "hip" interiors that bring the best from the 1950's and there about..( everything from orange and aqua color schemes, lucite coffee tables, and Italian Murano lamps...) into the most ordinary of homes, adding a panache that just can't be ignored.

I had two real moments when I first began my journey learning about the design elements of MCM ( Mid-Century Modern)...

The first one was when I purchased my first lucite, glass and sliced coral end table from a terrific dealer at Scott's Antique Market...I thought my husband and  son ( who was at Scott's when he was only a week old!) were going to have me committed!  My house and personal taste in design is built around our antiques...pre-1900 .  My son, who was 21 at the time, looked at me as if I were crazy and said , " Mom, why did you buy a plastic table? "   I exclaimed, "  It's not plastic.  It's lucite!"...I will never forget his face...disbelief...He survived, and so will you if you dare to have a little fun with this wonderful, colorful era.

My second moment with MCM was when I realized that I was a MCM person....born into the 50's, remembering ( and loving !) my Dad's pink and cream car...So, if I am a by-product of the MCM generation, it seemed foolish not to embrace the style and learn all that I could about the era. 

First, I look specifically on Ebay and 1stDibbs for Mid-Century Modern items...It is the quickest way to learn everything you can in a short period of time.  You can view the best and the worst...but focus on the best.  If you see two similar items that are priced very differently, then you need to always read the vendors' history on the item...Usually in Antiques,  age is a significant factor.  However when dealing with a very specific period,  age is not a factor as long as the age is authentic.  I then look for quality...with Mid-Century Modern I feel that it is all about the silhouette of a piece...the clean lines...and the quality of the material...even when looking at lucite pieces, there are pieces that gleam and sparkle almost like cut crystal...with other selections,  maybe a newer piece from the 70's, the lucite may be scratched, without depth and lightweight, without substance.  Quality will raise the price, but also look for pieces designed and perhaps even signed by specific furniture designers....I would always select an original piece over a copy-cat, but if the copy-cat was still from the same period... and the quality is there with a great price,  then it depends where you are in your home decor.  If you are at the tail-end and only need a very few items to make your home complete, then consider the original...BUT, if you have alot to do,  many pieces to buy, then look for quality and price, and select a great decorator piece of furniture.  1st Dibbs is an excellent resource for viewing the best of the best quickly...their standard is almost always high, and the price will reflect the quality, as it should.

My favorite items that work great in almost any design style are as follows:

* Bar Carts ( Martini Carts )... not your Grandmothers' "tea carts"...these make wonderful chair side tables, that can be rolled into the kitchen to replenish drinks and appetizers, they work in our dining rooms, obviously....made of a variety of materials and styles..usually small rubber wheels, they can be covered in dark leather (goat skin)...a very masculine look...they can be of glass, stainless steel and almost anywhere but the best pick for a traditional transitional interior and for a more contemporary look, there are the chrome and glass with chrome covered round revolving casters...and then for the industrial chic crowd, they have the more commercial, industrial style carts with several levels...very sleek lines...all in all, a great fun look...tons of personality, versatility and function....the perfect item for your home.  Price?  Anywheres from $150 if you are very a good quality piece at around $450...$750 for a fine stainless and brass combo or a sleek older lucite tray...up to the beautiful and extravagant carts made with mirrors, and bronze and porcelain...$2000...

* Sleek glam chairs...even those made from well known manufacturers' can be found at a great priced...I am always amused when a client tells me they don't like antiques...what this client doesn't know is that almost all great current designs out there today, are just copies or stylized copies of " antiques"...Most of the sleek  side chairs out there today are copies of these Mid-Century Modern chairs....What I like about the original period chairs are that they are usually better made, and are of a more normal scale...I think we are about to see the end of what I like to call the " Paul Bunyon" furniture, where one chair could take up the space of a normal size sofa....If you have a large room to fill with furniture, you don't need a sofa or chair with padded arms that are 2 feet wide!, you just need more groupings of seating.

* Lamps...lamps made from Murano glass, lamps made of stacked lucite, lamps made from hand-formed clay, glazed in gorgeous drippy colors, and lamps made of chrome and stainless steel....don't let the over-scale shades and harps throw you...all you have to do is go to a good lamp repair shop with access to current style shades...have the lighting and cord checked out or replaced,  ( very inexpensive and always a good safety tip when using older lamps ), reduce the height of the lamp by buying a normal scaled harp, and purchase a wonderful new shade that fits the style of your lamp... whether a white linen drum shade or perhaps a rectangular or square shade...

* Coffee tables...this period had great coffee tables, very similar in what you can find in the bar carts; composition was made of glass, lucite, stainless and brass...marble and bronze...and even the more organic root or cypress base, topped with glass or lucite.  Most had really great lines and were of a size that would work with multiple seatings as discussed...

* Rugs...Have fun trying everything from rugs with bright, artsy abstract patterns to Super Chic "shag" rugs...they look great with sleek low sofa's and chairs...showing visibly through the glass or lucite coffee table...

* Colors: Lots of white and off-whites, grays, and wonderful brights...My favorites from Benjamin Moore:

Whites: Natural Cream...Ballet White...Baby Fawn...Glacier White....Distant Gray....Swiss Coffee....Horizon....Titanium...Moonshine....Gray Owl...Collingwood... Balboa Mist...China White...White Dove...Frostline...Steam...Vapor...Classic Gray...

Grays: Thunder...Metropolitan...Eternity...Cinder...Dolphin...Pashmina...Revere Pewter...Rockport Gray...Galveston Gray...Coventry Gray...Stonington Gray...Silhouette ( this is a soft black that makes a great accent for painting architectural accents, such as Mantles...Bookcases...Handrails...and I love it for the inside mullion trim on windows, leaving the outer trim your white...)...Granite...Nightingale...Fusion...Storm...Secret...Cumulus Cloud...La Paloma gray...Harbor Gray...and Ozark Shadows...

The Brights:  Grasshopper...Tranquility...Agave...Soft Pumpkin...Buttered yam...Firenze...Salsa Dancing...Moroccan Spice...Grasshopper...Agave...Anjou pear...Wasabi...Atmospheric...Flint...Amorous...

Use large swatches of white/off-white with two-tone trim and wall colors staying in the whites and off-whites...find second-hand pieces with simple lines and paint some of the bright colors I suggested in Benjamin Moore Aura Semi-gloss....Throw in some charcoal and white houndstooth,,,or orange and white with a gray MCM style with Metallics...Pull gray in as a wall color,  as a stainless bar cart ...or in your fabrics...Large paintings in bright colors on white and white photography on dark gray or bright walls...Pepper MCM bright glassware throughout your bookcase or room...Ask your Grandparents for their old stacks of National Geographics, (dust them off !) and stack them on your bookcase painted Silhouette, with a white background...Paper extravagant over-scaled bright and.or metallic wallpapers on the back of your bookcase for a jolt of color...Basically, follow a few simple guide-lines and have fun treasure hunting!

Color Jedi

Saturday, February 25, 2012

2012 Design Trends and Critical Mass....What Happened?

I have never seen such a shift in my customers' Design Style as I have seen in the last year...the 2012  "look" has hit Critical Mass...Critical Mass is an interesting phenomena where enough people  experience a change or a shift in thought, action or environment... ( they embrace the change thus affecting change in others) ... the action spreads...when enough people are adapting to the event or process, then BANG!   Critical Mass hits and the rest of us are almost magically  aware of the change and find that they, too, are involved in the new process...We have definitely reached Critical Mass in the Design Arena.  Below are just a few remarks from those with the Design Bug caused by Critical Mass Design Trend 2012:

* " We don't want all of our golds, gilt and reds..."
* " We don't want these drapes and valances and swags and tassels..."
* " We don't want all this stuff...OMG! everything is poly-resin with a silk plant hanging out "
* " We don't want all these dark colors...EVERYWHERE!"
* " We don't want medium golden oak floors and banisters "
* " We don't want all of this 'art' purchased only to match our golds and reds"
* " We don't want anything that is too much, too fussy, too crowded, too fake..."

Maybe you find yourself in one or even all of the above ....and in a nutshell, the "look" that is permeating every age, socio- economic bracket has invaded our homes with a vengeance ...people are literally pulling drapes off of their walls, giving furniture away, putting all the family photo's in a pile and letting each member select ONE to display...Craig's List is probably about to implode....

In Contrast, what are people asking for their homes to look like in 2012 ?

* " We want monochromatic colors..."
* " We want simple drapes in natural materials like linen and/or simple decorative wooden blinds "
* " We want quality accessories...natural and organic are even better "
* " We want much lighter, fresher colors...warm grays, the color of linen is the new best favorite "
    ( Check out my blog on Gray Is The New Neutral )
* " We want floors with character whether they are very dark, or distressed, reclaimed or a Zen-like
     bamboo "
* " We want original art...whether canvas or clay "
* " We want simple clean lines and unusual accessories "

For the most part the 2012 Design Plan creates an excellent platform for everyone to begin to build their own individuality onto.  The walls fall into the background with softer, monochromatic grayed neutrals  allowing the room to breathe a little, with furniture, soft-furnishings, rugs, art and accessories moving into the foreground.  The wall color is the ingredient that weaves the other components into a complete " fabric "... I also believe that it took a decade for the excess of the late 80's and 90's to be faced ( sometimes in horror and at the very least,  with the " what were we thinking "  running through our thoughts!)   I am certain that the economic worries we have all experienced in the last 3 years in some form or fashion was the "stimulus" (sorry!) that began the need  to declutter our homes, starting with our closets, moving to our bookcases, continuing all the way to our drapes and furniture.  What most people are wanting from their homes today is a refuge...a bit of peace and tranquility...I try to always help my customers create their haven, whether it meets the trend standard or not...As long as the room is functional, inviting and hopefully, a room where they like to spend their time,  then I have assisted the homeowner in achieving their goal for the space.

I predict once the dust has settled those that truly love the 2012 trend will continue down the same path.....some, who really loved color,  will explore the impact of adding color through their art, accessories and soft-furnishings and will have created a more classic, timeless look...and then there will be those that just looked at the magazines, loved the room not understanding that they can appreciate a well-designed space without throwing the baby out with the bathwater!  This group will admit that they still love gold and reds but maybe not EVERYWHERE and that a good neutral allows some space between stronger colors...and if nothing else, the dejunking/decluttering is good for the soul every decade or so.

My final observations on the 2012 Design Trends to help those in a panic by providing a step-by-step plan to creating a more beautiful space for YOU this year is as follows:

1. Determine your color Palette...Go to a fabric store and clip, quickly! in 15 minutes fabrics that you, not like ...most people will not pull fabrics they do not like/love...and if you remove price from the equation, there is truth in that little pile of remnants, as this collection will show you what colors you still gravitate towards and what neutrals you should really be working with...have you really moved to another palette or did you just need to de-frill an over-exuberance of what you genuinely like...Textile artisans are at the front of every trend...they take what we love in our head and make it happen through their textile designs.  Beautiful color combinations weave themselves throughout history and through our homes.  I have beautiful 17th century pillows made from fragments that have colors that are very current today...a beautiful color is always a beautiful color when applied correctly.  You are not using these fabric clippings to purchase, but to help visualize the color in your head to paper. You may find in this excursion that there is, in fact, a fabric that is perfect for a pillow in your space or may work to recover a chair..if so, then buy it!...but even if you cannot purchase any fabrics now... allow the fabrics to help you translate what you like to your walls, then in 6 months or a year, when you are ready to purchase fabric, or buy a sofa, you will have the correct color on the wall because once again, you will gravitate towards the fabrics ( and colors) you love and textile artisans will have created other fabrics in similar colors but perhaps in a different pattern. What I do love about the "linen trend" is that it really isn't a trend at all...linen is the oldest fabric in the world...and the color of natural linens, in all their splendor from a dark hemp to an off-white that has been bleached outside on the fields over 200 years ago, is the most perfect of neutral wall colors, because almost every color works well with some variation of a natural linen.  Even now, with 100%  linen being dyed every color imaginable with beautiful designs, from classic distressed toiles to tribal Ikat and all the way to linens woven with modern platinum metallics for a perfect mid-century modern look, these linen fabrics, if considered carefully into your design plan, should stand the test of time.

Allow  textiles to guide your hand in selecting a wall color...remembering that your walls can be the corps and not the prima ballerina..I would rather someone walk into a room and exclaim,  " Wow, what a beautiful room! instead of " Wow, that's really yellow isn't it? "  Create a tentative plan of color for every room, but start slowly, one room at a time if you are unsure of your direction.  It is fine to tweak as you go ...when making a drastic change, start with what you can control immediately...such as the following:

2. Declutter- Basically remove what you don't love or that provides no function or that holds no wonderful memories...

 Even if you can afford to purchase new furniture, before you remove the old you need to decide the following: is a piece well-made and can it be painted to work in a new plan better?   Can a frame be painted and used in another space?  I had a young customer once who was in a panic and suddenly hated everything in her home...she had basically a Tuscany style...Her garage was piled with furniture she had pulled out of her home.  She was ready to start dragging out the dining room pieces which were a traditional Chippendale table and chairs. Too "old" for her taste.  The table was older, from the 40's, and was a gift from her mother.  It had a nicer quality than the chairs and a nice patina.  Fortunately, it had also aged naturally to that beautiful black brown that we try to emulate today on "new" furniture.  I suggested that she keep the table until she had the money to get what she really loved...BUT,  I also suggested that as the chairs were not a wonderful quality but were still made of wood and were sturdy,  then we would spray them with a high-gloss soft white, Ben Moore's Vanilla Milkshake Oc-59.  We painted the walls a very light soft gray blue ( Horizon) ,  recovered the chairs, and threw a very large creamy white cowhide under the table ($500)...added one stainless 1960's Martini Bar Cart from the antique market that cost $450 and there you had one brand new room for very little dollars.   What else can you salvage from your own existing inventory?   Can a brass chandilear be sprayed with Rustoleum primer and sprayed a flat black or white or made silver with Modern Masters Metallics?  It is easy to drill holes to hang crystals and add some retro sheer tiny drum shades.  If you have a well made chair or sofa, does it warrant recovering?  Remember that slip-covers cost almost the same as recovering so this is not a savings rather a style preference...If the chair or sofa is well-made but you hate the style of the piece, then try to list it first with an established Consignment Store...this may also be the first stop for you to look for your "new" pieces...The Consignment Stores have NEVER BEFORE had such wonderful pieces available to the shrewd buyer...remember you are looking for quality first, then comfort, then style and finally price...knowing that it will need to most likely be recovered.

3. Paint a Room- Focus on an area that needs the most help that you have de-cluttered you can probably breathe a little better...what do you like about the room?  What do you dislike?  Prioritize your needs and wants (there is a difference between these!)...If you want a big quick change then painting is a quick fix...but you HAVE TO KNOW the DIRECTION you are going in....Do you need to go lighter or you want to stay in warm colors or go to the "gray side" ? If you have to keep your existing furniture for awhile, then like it or not,  you need to find a color that will still look good with your existing furniture but push a little in the direction you want to head towards...

If you want lighter neutrals that are warm, yet still look fresh with the "linen look", consider the following Benjamin Moore colors: ( I will move from the warmer more yellow neutrals to more warm taupes to warm grays )

Oc-8 Elephant of the first drab yellow tones I began to use to replace stronger yellows and golds...Oc-7 Creamy white...233 Cream Fleece...Af-95 Hush...Af-80 Jute...I love this color and it looks like it has some yellow..some green and just enough gray to keep it soft...HC-81 Manchester Tan...a classic and still looks great...966 Natural old classic... great color....other Oc colors that are light and lineny with warm undertones...White Sand...Baby Fawn...Clay Beige...and my favorite...Oc-14 Natural Cream...has more green and gray than a yellow-based cream, but is still a nice, light warm FRESH neutral....If you can ease into the WARM GRAYS, then I recommend HC-172  Revere Pewter and if you go along the same vein, but a little darker you can add to the mix, AF-100 Pashmina...What I like about Pashmina is that it definitely has a gold undertone so that it still looks wonderful with fabrics that look equally good with classic golds like HC-31 Waterbury Cream.

4. Revaluate and Revise-  The room is painted a lighter fresher have either recovered or purchased new furniture that you love.  You have recovered some existing pieces that were still family favorites...and perhaps some pieces look better than they ever did before with the new wall color. Buy some new pillows.   Pillows solve so many problems...they freshen up a room and help sequay an old piece with a new look...this is a small place to splurge...Pottery Barn always has great pillows at a good price...and for those of you that love jewel colors but want to lighten up, look for pillows at PB that have a nice linen or burlap background and on top is a beautiful crewel design in those jewel colors you love mixed in with some taupy grays..Did you remove your old drapes and jabots and tassels?  Look at PB and JC Penney as both have some great quality simple drapes that are lined...or find a friend that sews and barter with them to make some custom panels out of linen...this is a good, classic investment...If you have built-ins that are white...paint them a darker color...they do not need to match your trim..they can be one or two shades darker than your walls...or even a very dark color...I use AF-720 Sparrow alot...a great gray-green and looks wonderful in the appropriate space...I also use AF-100 Pashmina and Classic Color BM Iron Gate with a lighter neutral wall.  Paint the back of the bookcase either an accent color or try a soft gray-blue...I like 2148-60 Gray Cashmere...this is also one of my favorite ceiling colors!...Rearrange your treasures in your bookcases...and I mean treasures...don't just buy stuff and fake plants to fill up the space...cover books with beautiful art papers...looks for shells at reasonable prices...or pieces of pictures of bookcases in Design pieces of sculpture and clay from local galleries...stick to a subject with your objects or a colorway...this will keep you on track...

5. Recover- No, not your sofa! You!....You have a pile of fabrics you like that you are collecting in a notebook along with your paint swatches you like and have tested and hopefully applied to one room.  You have several good magazine pictures pulled out and added to your notebook showing rooms that you like...maybe for the wall color, maybe for a piece of furniture you like, and maybe for the bookcase/accessory lay-out...Look at the space you have just finished, knowing that art and rugs and other pieces of furniture and lamps are still to come...Do you like what you did?  I hope so.  Are you missing anything? Like your reds or golds or bright greens or Tiffany Blues?  Not to worry...some color has come from your may need to use a bright print on a linen or creamy background for a smaller-scale occasional chair,  you may need a really bright piece of art with alot of reds, or other color your soul is craving...Is this all you need?  Probably.  What if you move into the next space to paint.  You may want another neutral for your may want to go darker than the space you just painted or lighter...let's paint the railing and the back of the front door in your foyer a dark black brown...I like BM 2134-10 Night Horizon...softer than a straight black, but still reads black....Recover and Re-evaluate...let's say your Dining Room is a stronger color, i.e. red or that two spaces are neutralized,  maybe you like the stronger color in your Dining Room more than you ever did before...maybe you can just leave it, except you have holes in the walls where you pulled off curtain rods the size of your arm and hundreds of little gold framed pictures have been removed leaving hundreds of nail you have to repaint you go back to some of your pillows in the family room and the red in here may be a little more orange than what you had before so you are once again inspired by your textiles to help you select a color.  Now!, you have your red, but its' a new red for you, with a little more life to it with the orange undertone.  (And if you want a really beautiful color and finish, particularly with darker, stronger colors like reds, please try Benjamin Moore's Aura. I prefer the scrubbable Matte for walls. It covers like crazy and the depth of the color is untouchable )...By moving slowly through your plan, it has given you a chance to take a moment to figure out what you really like....and how much of "it" you need to implement into your home.

I know that this has been more of an E-Book than a Blog, but everyday I am working with people trying to help them create a plan.  None of us can do this in a week, or month, or maybe even a year...but if we have a plan, The Plan, and if we are open to the fact that this plan is almost a living breathing organism that changes and grows with us when we have time to focus on our home, then we have some piece of mind when we at least have direction..and I hope that I have helped some of my readers with their plan. This year I want to blog  about ways we can re-use what we have and what is available to us through Antique Markets.  What kinds of pieces are the best investments, what pieces are the most functional, and which ones look great once they are painted.  I want to explore Mid-Century Modern in detail and how you can use elements from this style to freshen up a traditional look or as I like to call it , Traditional Transitional.  I will be blogging about great to get them and how to pull the look together... ART...I want to address the importance of art this year to your home...and how important it is to find art that has some meaning to you at some level...and, once you have "art", how do you hang it to best advantage.  Our home is where we rejuvinate... where we can be ourselves.  Our home is where we raise of families, where we visit with friends.  Our home is an expression of who we are and where we are in our lives.  Let 2012 be the year you enjoy working in your home, to make it YOUR home.  I hope I can help you with your plan.