Wednesday

NEW COUCH!

We have been waiting a long time for the perfect couch to fall into our lives via Craigslist, Goodwill, a garare sale....something.  So about a month and a half ago, I was searching cragislist as I often do and I came across this photo:


Judging by the picture, it looked kinda cool but I really wasnt sure it was what we wanted and since we have a garage filling up with furniture, an attic full, and several projects laying around that may never get done, I ignored it and decided I didnt even want to go look at it. 

Fast forward and I finally broke down and showed Amber as she has been wanting a couch to replace the Lafer set.  She looked and decided that since it is only $75 that we should at least go look at it.  When we showed up the entry way to this lady's early 90's home was lit by a George Nelson bubble lamp, that was yellowed and appeared to be original.  She showed us the couch and it was WAAAAAAYYY cooler in person so we bought it.  It was also much bigger than she had described.  Apparently it came from the same house where the, as she called them, "funky hanging lights" came from referring to the bubble light that she would not part with.  Anyhow, we called on my brother to come help move it as it is a hide a bed and extremely heavy.  We got it home and had to take it around the house and through the sliding glass door as it was only door wide enough to get it through.

We spent the rest of the evening staring at it:



As you can see, it is tufted and in near mint condition with the exception of a small tear in one cushion and small but fixable wear on the corners of the arms.  Aside from that, it is immaculate and is by far the coolest hide a bed I have seen.  It is a woven nubby type fabric and is green/gold/yellow. The Craigslist gods have been very good to us. Merry Christmas!

Saturday

Percival Lafer

About a year ago whilst cruising craigslist, I came across a furniture set that I had seen somewhere before. It was leather, and it was $60, and it looked cool. I was remembering seeing one of the chairs in an auction catalog and it had gone for $1500 or something crazy. These came from Brasil which is why they are so rare, they are hand made and they only imported them by catalog to a few vendors in the US. If you had a set it was because you had a lot of money and were forward thinking which, to me, makes theses even more interesting. I wonder who thought to purchase them back in 1975? So we reserved a uhaul truck and drove two hours one way to get it. We were super excited after loading it up and then holding in our joy until we could drive down the road a ways to get out and really lok it over. The beauty of craigslist is that everyone wins, the seller is happy to get rid of it, and we can celebrate finding something super cool. Well we have been using it as our furniture in the den area where we listen to music and entertain (there is no tv). Recently we have decided that we want something that is more cohesive with the rest of the house so it is for sale. I honestly thought it would sell rather quickly but it has been kind of slow going, probably because of condition issues. The other interesting part is that they didnt use any glue or nails, it is held together by a couple of screws, but mostly by straps and dowels. The leather part comes out and is rubber covered by glove leather. I wanted to post simply to show them off, but if you want them let me know.



Friday

New Fan...and other stuff

It has been far too long since our last post. A lot has been going on, especially with our careers, but we have not tackled any major house projects. Recently I finally took down the ugly old fan in the den and replaced with a fan that we got for $59 at Lowes. We had really been wanting an industrial fan as this room is eventually going to have concrete floors and be more modern than the rest of the house, however it is really hard to find flush mount fans that are cool looking.


Although there were a lot of cool things to some out of the 1980s, like Amber and I, this fan is not cool.

The new fan is modern, and sleek, and was easy to install. We had considered not puting another fan in, but they are so nice to have during the summer months.

We have also been working on nagging projects that have nothing to do with the house, like my recent obsession with old bikes. Here is a 1955 Hawthorne that I bought from a guy who used it for his paper route in Beaverton when he was a kid. I took it all apart, stripped it, painted it, and bought a new seat and grips. It took me about 8 hours to do, so I bought a couple more and havent gotten to them yet...


I also got a 1959 Schwinn Hollywood cruiser for Amber, and a 1951 Hawthorne fat tire with a tank, lights, etc. I will post pictures as I get those done. We have two Heywood Wakefield projects going on now, a square table and a small gametable. The coffee table was $20 at an antique store that we frequent. We figured it was a fluke that they didnt know what Heywood was, but a few weeks later we went back in and they had a very very rare Heywood Wakefield
game table that needs to be restored, but is awesome. Heywood purists would perhaps say that we are crazy for refinishing this stuff, but we use it daily and we dont buy it to sell for profit. We have 5 Heywood pieces and we have spent a total of $235 for all of it, not too bad I would say.

Heywood Wakefield M-307 table.

The gametable...I have never seen on of these before...




I saw this at a garage sale, it was $20 but I got it for $14. It is signed B. Rollins, anybody ever heard of him/her?

We will try to post more often, but in case we don't I made this one nice and long.

Sunday

The Extra Bedroom

I realized today that we havent posted much about our induvidual rooms in the house so here it goes. We have three bedrooms, one fairly large one in the front of the house, a smaller office, and "cozy" room in the back of the house. When we first moved in, we decided that the small room in the back would be a great guest bedroom because it is by itself and it is right next to the main bathroom which makes it easy for guests to use when they wake up in the middle of the night after one of our infamous parties.

The room has a very cool archway that leads into the room, making it the most unique in the house. Originally, in the 1950s, the room was pink and then for a time blue before the previous owner painted it an awful bright red. For a long time after we moved in, we used the room for storage, but recently we got everything that we don't use up into the attic where it belongs including lots of mid century furniture that nobody is buying right now.

Well, yesterday we decided to finally finish the room and make it a nice bedroom. In the winter time, we started sleeping in this room because it is much smaller and easier to heat, plus we can open the windows and not have our neighbors looking in to see what we're up to. But, if you ever come visit, we will make it comfortable for you.

We started by getting all of the furniture out of the room, we dusted, vacuumed, and then painted any spots we had missed before. I polished the floors, and then we took the light fixture down to strip it. Apparently anything cool in this house that needed to be cleaned at one time, the previous owners just painted.
In other news, July 9th was my 24th birthday and I had a lot of fun. Amber got me a 2nd edition furniture building book from 1957 which am very excited about. I have really been wanting to start building furniture as a hobby and this is certainly inspiring.
I also got something very cool from local pinstriper, John Harmon. He and I had met for the first time on my birthday and after meeting we had some people over to our home and he brought me this! I love it, and he is very talented.

Monday

It has come to my attention that in the last few years, there has been a lot of interest generated on the subject of “being green”. Everyone has jumped on this hybrid powered bandwagon and the millions of dollars that were once spent on telling us how much we can save on products, is now all about our contribution to the environment that somehow comes from purchasing more stuff. In the creative world of modernism, the green building techniques are worshiped but do these techniques really help at all? Does a wall of windows with no curtains on a solar powered home really reduce a carbon footprint?
My wife and I have been fans of modernism since we started dating, and we love the clean lines of modern homes and their accessories. One huge advantage to collecting modern furniture, for instance is that we are recycling. Almost all of the vintage modern furniture that we have collected over the years has been sold at an estate sale, a thrift store, or by an out-of-touch relative of a grandparent with impeccable modern taste, or even destined for a landfill. The fun that we have finding things, the sometimes zero cost versus new, and the added character of a scratch or patina all contribute to making recycling a fun endeavor. Conversely, one could spend an afternoon online and by the end have a fully appointed house ready for a magazine shoot.

Following the aforementioned fad of green building are the leading industry magazines, which need not be named, just insert whichever your favorite is. The editorials are very similar every week, and point out how the magazine is too big and wasteful, or that they have far too many insert cards. This elitist approach to a complex problem reminds me of the squabbles that go on between political parties, there is a lot finger pointing about something that both sides partake in. In this case, the reader that is outraged by such use of paper, has obviously purchased the magazine in the first place and may even have gone so far as to continue a subscription. Shouldn’t they be working on their compost pile instead of reading a magazine?

Within the pages of these magazines the reader gets to enjoy wonderful pictures of beautiful homes, furniture, art, and advertisements about products that are green, eco-friendly, energy efficient, solar, renewable, organic, natural, blah blah blah. This is all great, but the paradox comes from the idea that buying more stuff is somehow better. What’s more is that we, the modernist artsy type reader, is somehow better than the suburbia mom who lives in a “McMansion”. At first, I believed this and I drank the kool-aid. I honestly thought that it was ok to look down on those wasteful buggers, until I wondered how they heat those glass houses in the Midwest, or how they keep the Palm Springs homes cool. They must cost a fortune to heat and/or cool.

The cost of electricity and gas has undoubtedly gone up since my home was built in the 1950s, but the idea of passive solar energy being used in a home of that vintage is nothing new. In fact, the only thing that has changed in most cases is that they call it passive solar now. Our home sits in the high desert of Central Oregon so we do have four seasons and they can be quite extreme one way or the other. In the summertime, we average 78 degrees, with highs that get into the 110s. In the winter, we average 23 degrees with lows last winter getting to –9 degrees. Our home was indeed quite cold because of the lack of proper insulation under the home, as a result we spent a lot heating it. However, in the summertime our home stays very comfortable even without the aid of air conditioning. Even on those extremely hot days, everyone who enters our home asks if we have A/C or comments on the comfort. This is due to several factors, but one very important one that is found on all of the mid century homes in this area is that the homes are situated to only have direct sunlight during the cooler parts of the day. The other is that our older neighborhood has fully matured trees that shade the area during those hot days. These are simple, inexpensive, and rudimentary ways to help but they certainly do not employ the use of fancy technology to lower costs. The photos here show awnings which were a very low cost and popular way to keep sun out of the house. They were simply a way for homebuilders to add value to the home by keeping costs down, and following WWII this was extremely important to families who were use to rationing supplies and resources.

Although our home does not include any advanced solar technologies, they did exist when our home was built. In 1947, Simon and Schuster published a book that explored these technologies called Your Solar House. The book showcased some of the available technologies as they were used by some of the era’s great architects including Louis Kahn and Pietro Belluschi (from right here in Oregon via Italy) and even included simple plans for the homes. Included in those designs were homes that, even in the Midwest, could maintain temperatures of 70 degrees or more while outside was below freezing.

The point is, there were solar homes being built a long time ago and that this trend of going green (it is a trend, not a revolution as many will tell you) should probably be examined and exploited with a little more finesse. I love the look of an all glass home with the lights on and nothing but empty space inside, it is clean and orderly and nice, but I just see dollar signs flowing out those windows. I am all for conservation of our natural resources, which is one reason why I buy as much old furniture as I can and keep it so it doesn’t end up in the landfill. I also think that buying old homes and renovating them to be even more eco-friendly is much more appealing than having one built in the country far from schools, shopping, etc requiring longer drive times and wasted fuel. So if one of those magazines comes to your house to take pictures, will you draw the blinds in at least one picture?

Little projects are never little.

When I worked in a restaurant in high school, we were required to clean the grease hoods every week. This was a law in Oregon and still is to avoid the potential fire hazzard that grease build up can be, and to be clean. Well, the law does not apply to houses and our home has had the same exhaust fan for over 50 years. Amber really wanted to tackle the project of pulling the old fan down, cleaning it, and then stripping it to it's original awesomeness. We were both thinking that this would be a simple hour or so project. She pulled everything down and started cleaning them first. It really was 50 years or so of grease on there and I have no idea what our prior owners cooked, but I am convinced that they deep fried everything! The fan grill had been painted several times so once it was clean, Amber Jasco'd it and got all of the paint off. Then I took steel wool and aluminum polish and polished it for about an hour. We also sprayed oven cleaner into the housing and cleaned most of it. The end result is a very cool industrial looking post war fan. Now that it was all clean and perfect looking, I wanted to try it out. I flipped the switch while Amber wasnt looking and it sparked and blew a fuse at the same time Amber screamed and cursed. So hopefully all was not lost and after a week when it dries out I will try it again.



Any suggestions for a light fixture? We are going to install a halogen light fixture that we have had for a while and see if it looks good. The post war homes typically had the round glass lights but they arent very bright and our kitchen is already dark.

Screen Door Installation - Step by Step

The front of our house is starting to look less and less as it did when we bought it, which is a good thing. The three windows across the front used to have faux window panes that were in between the wooden windows, and the storm window. We took those out the day we moved in. The house numbers are terrible, a piece of particle board with some 50 cent numbers nailed on. The mailbox is OK, but it needs to be painted and eventually replaced with something cool. The screen door was a 1980s Sears storm door that I have always hated. So this weekend, I decided (while Amber was gone) that I would replace all of these things and make the entry way much more presentable. It is after all, the first thing people see when they drive by.




Step one should have been to investigate and plan and strategize, but instead it was to remove the screen door. I pulled the trim off, removed nails, and found that the old door was just kind of screwed on to a few blocks of wood underneath that appeared to be left over trim scraps.




Step two, go buy a door. I did not want anything fancy, I just wanted an old fashioned wooden screen door that thwaps when it closes and Lowes happens to sell them for $45.




Step three, stop working on the door before that project is done and start a new project. I am notorious for doing this and today was no exception so I took the old house numbers off only to reveal a surprise! The previous owner had foiled my plan by painting the house numbers underneath which means that in order to put new numbers up, I have to paint the house which means I have to match the color.......etc. I was very excited about the new numbers too, they are the modern Neutra style numbers that we got from Sears online for $56, total!




Step four was to go back to the door situation and stain the door which turned out ok, I will probably paint it instead though unless we get a lot of compliments. I got new lumber to piece in the jamb and did it right so that everything is level and hung the door. I personally think it looks good and it is much nicer to have then the old door which only let a little bit of air in the house. It looks old, and although with the stain it looks more 30s than 50s, it goes with the feel of the neighborhood. With this project I decided that owning an old home is way fun and it gets you thinking creativley about projects, but reality sets in when you spend the majority of your time fixing other people's mistakes. I will post again once I figure out a solution to the numbers.



So this is a possible solution to the numbers problem. They are mounted on a piece of cardboard that has been painted. If this idea grows on us, we will cut a piece of wood to fit and mount the numbers on it. The door also needs to be trimmed, and the concrete steps will be painted soon as well. Oh, and the ugly metal rail will soon be replaced by something else.
A close up, showing the corrugated details and custom mounting hanger.

Thursday

MCM Politics




Politics and MCM

So I read quite a few blogs everyday, and I get a kick out of the humor that comes with most of them. The majority of blogs I read are related to design, furniture, technology, etc, and then sometimes I will read a political blog just to see what they have to say about current events. Before I moved to Central Oregon, I worked in the Oregon State Legislature for a representative. My advice to anyone who has any desire to make a career out of politics, just know that all of the stereotypes are true about the back room dealings, with shady power hungry politicians which is why I moved and changed careers to be in the private sector. Having gotten out of that world, it is hard to ignore the politics that are around each day, at work, on tv, on the radio, and now even in my favorite blogs which is why I am writing today.

Now with the recent election of president Obama, I have noticed that of the blogs that did decide to post something regarding the election, they ALL supported Mr. Obama which is wonderful, but if that were reversed what would happen? If every blog that you went to in your daily or weekly blogroll was a totally cool, hip, MCM paradise and was suddenly an advertisement for John McCain or Ron Paul, would you be turned off?

A friend of mine here in Oregon owns an antique store that specializes in Mid Century Modern, and the very first time I went in there, he had allowed campaigners to put huge Bush-Cheney ’04 signs on the side of his building which is close to a major road. I asked him why he would allow those to be put up, to which he replied something like, “Because I support Bush”. He then proceeded to tell me about the horrible things that people say to him when they come in because of the signs, people who are coming in to shop for furniture! They are expecting to see a square-glasses wearing hipster I suppose, but are shocked that someone would actually have a differing viewpoint then them. I suppose this isn’t too interesting because that would happen anywhere nowadays, but my problem with it is that people who love good design and share this common interest in beautiful furniture, somehow think that you have to be liberal to appreciate it. I know that I absolutely hate going into stuffy modern specialty stores where a plastic stool costs more than a car, and I think that the bloggers that I subscribe to do as well. If that is the case, then isnt the condescension of politics is just as bad? I really don’t think that it is OK to ostracize so many cool people because of their political preference.

I think that everyone who reads this blog is unique, and some us way out there which is what makes us interesting. If not to anyone else, we are unique enough for ourselves. Those of you who are either conservative or liberal have your own opinions and your love of good design has little to do with it, that being the case it should have little to do with others as well. If you would please, let me know how you feel. Regardless of your personal political position, do you think that there as an element of elitism when it comes to the world of design, and do you think it matters?


The "Yes We Can" rug. Subtle, but clearly for a specific market.

Sunday

New TV!

Amber and I don't watch tv much, and we havent had cable in a year or so it rots your brain. When we did have it, we werent nearly as productive as we are now. So despite our friends always making fun of our tiny 17inch tv, we never went back. I found a 1965 Zenith Space Command tv on craigslist and had to get it. I have always loved vintage electronics because they always represent the forward thinking of the time, in this case space travel. I went and got it in Salem and whilst I was there, I went to an antique shop and among all of their extremely overpriced treasures, I found a mint condition small Mobler chair for $15. We dont have a child yet, but I love furniture for small people because you can have more of it as it takes up less room! The TV does work and now you can sit in our living room and not know that it is 2009, we are freaks.

A small Mobler chair built for a child. This is one of the icons of Danish design and apparently icons go for $15 in this economy.

As promised, another photo of the finished Lane Acclaim swivel. I am happy with how it turned out.

The table looks very shiny.














Monday

Still Refinishing

Ok, so this has turned out to be a fun project. I was very intimidated by the prospect of ruining a piece, but I figured that since I dont like Heywood Wakefield all that much ( in know that is totally sacreligious ) that I would test my abilities and not care if it didnt turn out perfectly. However, having grown up working on cars and learning the art of tideous perfection, coupled with the fact that I am German, I found myself fixating on the minor details. In short, I think that this hutch is turning out pretty nice. I have yet to add glass sliding doors and shelves but I have clients ( from my insurance practice ) that can provide both and will allow me to contribute to the local economy. With this turning out alright, I have moved onto other projects including our Lane Acclaim swivel coffee table. As you can see, someone tryed very hard to lose the dovetail detail but they were no match for Jasco, steel wool, and elbow grease. I don't think I will sell my insurance agency and start refinishing furniture, but it is fun and very rewarding. As for the cost; $50 for the hutch, $26 for Jasco, $3 for '0000' steel wool, $2 for scrapers, $12 for minwax finish, $93 total. Not too bad!






Lane Acclaim, Before.

Lane, After