When I bought my house, I thought of all the wonderful Mid-Century things I could do to it. The place was built in 1961 and is begging for a retro remodel.
One of my first projects was sprucing up the front (if you look back, the area to the left of the entry was soil, with a topiary-style tree and a yellow bush). I remembered an amazing style of chair from my childhood. I didn’t know the name of the chair, but several web searches later, I found out: The Solaire.
Two Solaire chairs now sit in my front entry. As luck would have it, one of the few places in the country where I found the chairs was right here in Seattle!
I transplanted the tree and bush to the backyard, covered the soil with weed-inhibiting fabric from the garden store, and laid down a layer of pebbles. Now I have two sunny pops of color by my front door and a place for friends to sit. The backyard is quieter and more private, but it’s nice to people watch and catch the evening sun from the front.
I like the story behind the chair. The Solaire was designed in 1972 by Fabio Fabiano and Michelange Panzini. It’s a terrific representation of a clean, modern design. They were popular poolside in backyards and motels across Canada and the USA. I’m proud to have a piece of Canadian design history. And in case anyone else wants them, I chained them down! But if you’re in Seattle, you can buy them at Click! Design That Fits.
I finally got a house!
I’d been looking for a place on and off for over a year–I had a failed offer this past spring–and finally, I got a cool little house. It’s a three bedroom rambler with a double garage, a family room, and a great backyard for Frankie. Mr. Jean of all Trades loves it too. He’s already set up the garage so he can work on his car.
This was a one-owner home, build in 1961–that’s a long time to live in the same place! Now we have it. As my colleague, Kim, said, it’s a great place to go “all Mad-Men crazy in.” You can count on a few mid-century modern interior design posts in the near future.
The acquisition stage of home ownership is proving to be pricy: inspections, appraisals, closing costs, down payment, movers, appliances–the list goes on. So sadly, clothes purchases have been at the bottom of my list.
My offer was accepted just before I went to Boston, so I had my last hurrah there. I’ll post my Boston purchases, and then you’ll see me remix my wardrobe until the house is in order. Don’t worry though–I haven’t even showcased all of my existing clothes on this blog, so things won’t get stale. And I’ll be hosting a clothing exchange when I get settled in. Where there’s a fashion will, there’s a way.
I went to the Bellevue Art Museum on the last day of the George Nelson exhibit a few weeks ago. George Nelson was an industrial designer and one of the founders of American Modernism, a style I’m really fond of. It was exciting to see a floor in the museum dedicated to his work and filled with his creations.
I first learned about Nelson when I saw his Nelson bench in a Herman Miller catalog. I still want one of those–and as soon as I get a place with a hallway or front entry big enough for a bench, I will. His designs are simple, beautiful, and iconic.
Nelson argued that designers should make the world a better place. He believed that nature was already perfect and designers should follow the rules of nature to create pleasing designs. Staying true to his word, he designed many of the quintessential mid-century modern styles we know today, from starburst clocks to three-cornered “coconut” chairs.
Nelson introduced people to the concept of the family room and storage wall, forever changing how we lived in our homes.
But he did makes some decisions that he later regretted. While working with the Herman Miller furniture company, he came up with the idea for the office cubicle. It was hugely successful, but as Nelson later lamented, the cubical system “is definitely not a system which produces an environment gratifying for people in general. But it is admirable for planners looking for ways of cramming in a maximum number of bodies.” He was right. Herman Miller’s Action Office II line has sold over $5 billion worth of products. I’ll think of that next time I sit in my cubical.
Critics have pointed out that George Nelson tool credit for some of the designs that came out of his studio even though other designers created them. The marshmallow sofa is such an example.
Overall, the exhibit was fun. I learned a lot about the man, his designs, and the changes happening in post-war America.
Filed under Decor, Events
Have I mentioned how much I like Mid-Century Modern furniture? Yeah, I know I have. I recently bought a reproduction Tulip Table and Panton S Chairs to match. Until now, I haven’t written about my reproduction Barcelona Chair. Piece by piece, my place is getting Modernized.
The Barcelona chair was designed in 1929 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German architect. He created the chair for the International Expo being held in Spain that year. It’s still every bit as modern now as it was then. Pure designing genius. Mies van der Rohe eventually sold the rights to Knoll; the Barcelona Chair can be purchased through them—for about $4000.
The biggest challenge for me (other than finding a reasonably priced source) was finding a non-leather version of the chair. Even if I had four grand to fork over on a chair, the real deal is cowhide. Not very vegan. After much research, I found a manufactured in China who will make the chair in leather or polyurethane. The price was reasonable (shipping almost doubled the cost, but the grand total was still under $500).
I had to take a big gamble: Send a money order to an unknown company halfway around the world. Lucky for me, the people at Pretty Stores were responsive and helpful. About six weeks later, the chair arrived at my front door.
I can’t believe how comfortable this chair is. Since it’s not a “comfy-looking” overstuffed style, I wondered about it. I’ve read entire books cover to cover in one sitting—in this chair. The quality is great. It’s constructed of a one-piece steel frame with PU cushions. I’ve had the chair for a year now and it’s sturdy and stable and the cover hasn’t cracked or stretched.
If you ever decide to order from Pretty Stores, going in with friends and buying several pieces at once significantly lowers the freight charges. They have a ton of furniture—tables and chairs especially—so buying all at one time is smart.
Another time, I’ll write about the Picasso on the wall above the chair and the painting above the fireplace.
A while back, I wrote about the Tulip table and Panton chairs I ordered online. I promised to write about them when they arrived, and I haven’t forgotten.
I love the pieces! I ordered the table from Lexington Modern and the chairs from Pretty Stores because they have great reproductions at decent prices. The chairs are sturdy, durable, and haven’t scratched. They wipe clean and would be a great outdoors as well. I wouldn’t leave them outside to get mossy or sun bleached, but they’re a great temporary outdoor seating alternative. Best of all, these are comfortable chairs. And if you can call a chair sexy, well this would be it.
The table is great too. It was well packed and easy to assemble. I chose a marble top in case the wood veneer easily scratched. I have four chairs, but I set this up using only three so you can see the table pedestal more easily.
My only complaint—and it’s my own lack of foresight—is that I ordered the 36″ diameter table, not a larger size. With a small top, and a large base, sitting close to the table means my feet rest on the base. It’s not horrible, but if you buy a Tulip table, go for a 40″ diameter or larger size. I was afraid of ordering too big a table for my small dining area, but an extra few inches wouldn’t have mattered.
The space is sparse, but I like that look. A bouquet of flowers on the table will brighten things up. I added a retro-style clock on the wall. It’s from Chiasso. The framed photo of the Space Needle is actually a 1960s Jazz album cover. I liked the photo and it matched the period of the rest of the room.
After changing everything in the room, my old chandelier looked out of place so I bought a simple black dome-shaped ceiling lamp from Ikea and swapped it out. I love my dining room now and I’m actually using it (as opposed to sitting on the sofa and eating dinner in front of the TV like I used to do).