Minimalism vs. MCM

My brother's name is Axel.

It's also my father and grandfather's name - my grandfather was born in 1895 - he had the name  before it was cool - back then it was just Swedish.
Chair by Carl Axel Acking, Sweden. 1950's

For reasons too complicated to explain, my Dad called my brother "John."

When I asked about it, he said the names Axel and John were very similar - in Sweden the name Axel was as ubiquitous as John. Although I doubt he used the word "ubiquitous."

When I started first grade, there was a boy named John who sat next to me. The first words out of my mouth to him were,  

"Oh, your real name must be Axel." 

I was six. I was missing teeth. Substitute the "x" sound with a "ss" sound and guess what I called the kid...

Yeah.

He never talked to me again and it took twenty years for me to figure out why. 

**************

The mixing of two dissimilar names is not that different than my recent style faux pas.

I am an aspiring minimalist.

I wear black in winter and white in summer. It is my uniform.

I purge the house every January and delight in throwing things out.

Recently, I have had an awakeing.
 
Mid Century Modern is to Minimalism as Axel is to John

In other words - they have nothing in common!

Whoa!

I was at the home of an acquaintance who collects MCM and, although I didn't take a photo, the room looked something like a cross between the two photos on the right.

I wanted to grab a trash bag and start throwing things, I consider clutter, into it.

I restrained myself. Later, she started to talk about each item in her room and why she had selected it. After about thirty minutes the room went from a cluttered feeling to a home-y feeling.

Her personality and love of her collection made the room feel welcoming and comfortable. 

One of my favorite things is to have my opinions stretched.

I walked away feeling the room was perfect.

I'm mildly claustrophobic, I don't think I can live with too many items surrounding me (I already battle the kid's clutter), but I no longer feel MCM and Minimalism are one in the same.

Minimalists can be a little smug.

I try not to be, but I see that I can kind of fall into that category.... and now I realize my tendency to judge style can make me a bit of an Axel...or Ass-le...as my six year-old self would say...

See you soon
Marla

Danish Modern Furniture

 
My post today was going to be about Danish Modern furniture and how the design ushered in the American mid century modern style of furniture....

but instead, I'm going to talk about something else we get from the Danes that inspired mid century furniture. There is the Danish concept of : Hygge

Here is what Hygge looks like-

 


 The Danish word, pronounced "hoo-ga" - is defined as:



The ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures. 
Friends. Family. Graciousness. Contentment. Good feelings. 
A warm glow. 


It includes the idea of surrounding yourself with things you love. 

Much of the vintage Danish Modern furniture are also works of art - beautiful with a warm teak color - similar to the color of a warm glow from a lantern or campfire.



It's not just the Danes who practice this - It's similar to the Buzz words we all hear about being Present. Mindful. Creating moments. Living in those Moments. 

However, the Danes have incorporated the word Hygge into defining their culture - especially in winter  -they have 17 hours of darkness right now - and yet they are rated as the happiest people...they achieve this by surrounding themselves with things that make them happy -

We have copied their furniture in MCM design,  I'd like to copy the concept of Hygge which underlies the design.

Surrounded with things I love, people I love, and moments to remember...






See you soon
Marla

The phrase.. Mid Century Modern...

Where did the words come from?

Mid Century Modern

If you read my back history, you will know that I was collecting MCM (Mid Century Modern) furniture before I knew it was called MCM.

I want to think it was because I was uber-cool - but, honestly it was because I was uber-clueless.

I explained my attraction to it in an earlier post - but essentially it was the clean lines and simplicity of the furniture during a chaotic period in my life (raising babies) that pulled me into this design world a decade ago.

A few years into collecting, a friend told me it was called MCM.

I just assumed that the words: Mid Century Modern evolved naturally - because the furniture was from the mid century...makes sense, right?

Well....how wrong can one be? I will tell you.

Based on a paragraph I stole from a website and then forgot to document and subsequently can no long find...MCM has a provenance.

Even the used book is collectible - over $100 on Amazon
 According to the stolen material below:

"Author Cara Greenberg coined the phrase "midcentury modern" as the title for her 1984 book, Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s. In 1983, Greenberg had written a piece for Metropolitan Home about 1950s furniture, and an editor at Crown urged her to write a book on the topic. As for the phrase "midcentury modern," Greenberg "just made that up as the book's title," she says. A New York Times review of the book acknowledged that Greenberg's tome hit on a trend."

She updated the book in 1995

I have never seen this book. It was news to me.

According to this same website, that I can't find - The magazines Wallpaper* and Dwell are two magazines that deserve much credit for championing the midcentury look to the Gen X'ers and Millennials who are the primary purchasers of MCM furniture.

(I'm an X'er...I hate being classified, I also hate how much I actually resemble the description of an X-er - and yes, X-er's hate to be classified.)

Back when my kids were babies I remember getting Dwell Magazine. (Technically, I frantically leafed through it in line at Whole Foods - I was on a budget, and being a cheapskate I wouldn't pay $6 for the magazine each week.)

On reflection, I can say that the magazine must have had a huge influence on me that I didn't fully realize.

However, in my cocoon living, I had never heard of Wallpaper magazine until I read this information. I looked it up, it's very similar to Dwell only edgier.

The final unaccredited quote below that I copied and pasted explains why MCM is still growing in popularity:

"The trend toward urban living may also be part of what keeps the midcentury look alive. "The designs were conceived for the smaller post-war home," says Greenberg, who notes that they were designed to be mobile and lightweight for city residents who moved frequently. "All of that still plays into the way we live today."

Today's history lesson is over - Enjoy!

See you soon,
Marla

My Love Affair With Laminate : Mid Century "Party Proof" Formica ...

It had to be six or seven years ago, this really delightful and funny couple came to see a Drexel surfboard Dining Table in mint condition. They were expecting a baby boy in a few months.

The mom-to-be was a little worried about the baby scratching the table as she envisioned her future son pounding it with matchbox cars and dragging utensils across the surface.
What my Mind's Eye Saw in Their future

The soon-to-be-dad declared, "We will keep the child away from the table, and say, 'No!'."
 
Did I mention they were having a boy?

Anyway, they were very funny and I enjoyed visiting with them. They bought the table and through all these years, I have wondered how the "...say No," method worked out.

It didn't work for me. I have two boys.

Which is how my love affair with laminate began....but first a little history and explanation of what a laminate top is and why its so common on mid century furniture.


*****

Is the top real wood?

This question is only slightly more common than the, "Is it solid wood?" question that I wrote about a few days back.

If I have, lets say, a dresser posted on craigslist and the top is a laminate  / formica top, I always write that in the description. So - first of all - read the description.

I have had so many people ask me..."Did you add the laminate top?"

That does make me laugh. I envision my garage full of faded wood laminate tops in various sizes that I whip out and glue over real wood before trying to sell it...

To put that burning question to bed......

Uh, no...they came that way. 

Now, on to the interesting part -- the history of why there are so many laminate tops on amazing wood dressers and tables from the mid century time frame.

Guess.

Think Space Age.

Tang.

Exactly! New products were flying out of NASA and the manufacturing industry. They had this great new plastic that was harder than wood, could be dyed to resemble wood AND....it was impossible to scratch, stain or destroy!

Laminate tops were the BOMB! It's not just Formica.. It's GENUINE Formica!


It may seem funny now, but it was a new product - it was a "house-wife's" dream to clean AND it was advertised as...Party Proof!

You could spill your drink and it wasn't a problem. Formica was an international sensation.


When I first began collecting mid century furniture, the ones with a Formica top always disappointed me. I just loved the real wood BUT that quickly changed.

Like I have mentioned, I have kids.

Kids are messy.

I also have people over for parties. People are messy (especially drinking people).

Turns out all my friends drink.
 
Wine Stained Wood

At first I only kept the "real wood" dressers and credenzas in my home.

However, I found myself shrieking at the kids to get a coaster (they were little tykes then) and I followed party guests around with a towel.

I really did this.




Real wood tops made me an insane person.

In addition, I tend to spill my tea, pretty much every morning, so wood tops were a real hassle to keep from getting stained or damaged.

In short order, I replaced the "real wood" credenza/dressers with beautiful ones that had a laminate top. Changed my life.

My Credenza with a White Laminate Top - I LOVE IT - I spill my tea on it every day
I am all about ease of living, minimalism, and making furniture work for me, not the other way around.

At this stage in my life, it works perfectly. When the kids are grown and gone, I might go back to the wood tops, I might not.

You may think you want a "real wood" top on your buffet, credenza or dresser...and maybe you do.

However, consider your lifestyle - laminate tops are wonderful inventions -  it might work for a season in your life or for an area in your home.

There is no denying, real wood tops are beautiful. However, laminate tops are useful - it's a toss up.

New Website? Not Really...

Sometimes I get so sick of looking at my primary Blog-page (www.modmidcentury.blogspot.com) that just typing it in makes me wince.

It's been almost 8 years and I still haven't purchased a domain name (its $12 - right? How hard is that?) and I am still using a blog / blog format...

Today, I went on blogger and picked a new format - made no customized changes, just a plain old template format change. It doesn't look better or worse - just different.

It may last a day or a week or forever.

See you soon-
Marla

Is It Solid Wood?

Is It Solid Wood?

I get asked this question all the time. I understand that the idea of solid wood is appealing - I wish all my mid century dressers and credenza's were solid wood but the fact is, 99% of all mid century made furniture was made with lovely walnut, teak or mahogany veneer (real wood, just sliced thin ) glued over an ash, pine, fir or other composite wood.
Teak..It's a veneer

If that disappoints you, look up "solid walnut furniture" on Google and you will see that a small dresser made of SOLID walnut will run you about $2,000. That is NEW walnut -

Vintage, old growth, aged SOLID walnut is worth more.

If I had a solid walnut dresser from the 1960s, I would keep it. If I were to sell it, it would be worth about $4K -- and that is just for the vintage walnut that could be salvaged and sold as planks.

However, the fact is - I'm not sure solid walnut dressers from the mid century exist  (I'm 10 years into collecting and 8 years into selling).

I have had solid wood items - Heywood Wakefield (Solid Birch) - I have had solid Maple dressers (McCobb) (Wright), - they were lower cost woods so it was feasible to use solid planks. Bissman is the only manufacturer that I know of who used solid walnut and they were super small potatoes in the furniture market - just in Kansas, I believe.

Walnut Veneer
I know many people believe they have solid walnut furniture from the mid century, but really, it's just a good adhesive job - it's veneer.

I promise you, after selling 6,000 items of mid century furniture, I can assure you that it is a lovely, lovely walnut veneer over another wood.

I'm sorry.

The great news is that veneers are awesome!

It makes furniture beautiful and affordable for everyone -- you get the look of an amazing walnut -- at a reasonable cost.

Brasilia? YES - Its a veneer!
Many people are under the impression that solid wood furniture is somehow "better quality" than a veneer --
just so you know, almost 100% of the  furniture by the top dog Danish designers such as Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl are veneer over another wood. (They are all teak over a composite.)

It's okay.

Relax.

Solid wood is MUCH more prone to warping and cracking than veneered wood. The only advantage to solid wood pieces is that they are a bit easier to bring back from severe damage than veneered pieces, only because you don't have to worry about sanding through the veneer.

YES! You can sand veneer! It's still wood, just not SOLID wood.

When dealing with mid century modern furniture, the issue of solid wood vs. wood veneer is almost a non-issue -- it's all veneer.

It's still beautiful and amazing.

When someone is selling a piece of mid century furniture on craigslist or eBay and they claim it is solid wood, there's a 99% chance that it isn't.  I can almost guarantee its a veneer.

So, to answer the initial question - No, it's not made of solid wood.

If you want solid walnut, fork over two grand.

If you want a solid walnut mid century dresser (or dining table)...you are out of luck -- it just doesn't exist.

That Was Fast!

Wow.

Sometimes I amaze myself.

Just a week ago, I posted that I was going on the hunt for more Old World Primitive / Industrial Items to compliment my Mid Century Furniture -- yesterday, through a friend-of-a-friend, I met an awesome....well.... hoarder is probably the best way to describe his place.

He's a picker, collector, junk remover -- who is willing to sell his "excess" to make room for more. I would tell you his name, but it's Korean and had a lot of sounds that I can't make. (My daughter is Chinese, don't judged me too harshly.)

After a few minutes of browsing - I found this peeking through a pile of debris:




After several minutes of clearing, I could see this:

Finally - this popped out:

If you are strictly a MCM fan then this may not be your cup of tea - but to me - a mixture of MCM and old primitive pieces look amazing - it softens the hard lines of MCM with old world warmth.

I'm not a fan of items that are made to "look" natural / rustic -- but when time creates that Old World look, then I love it.

I found a few other items that I grabbed as well. The Nameless-guy told me that he gets stuff like that all the time...Did I already find a new source 6 days into the New Year?

I hope so....