Wednesday, March 7, 2012

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

Mid-Century Modern....its' everywhere...in 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 brass....works 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 lucky...to 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 backgrounds...play 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 sofa...play 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 walls...black 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

2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful "trip back in time" for me. I own heavy lucite tables I purchased in the 70's....ten years of National Geographic magazines and a houseful of my parent's furnishings. Thank you for giving me great ideas and to "keep on keeping" their things I have wanted to get rid of. You certainly gave me a new dream to chase.

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