Friday

Creepy

These photos mysteriously appeared on our camera, seems the Christmas pixies get up at night and mess around with our stuff.  Amber loves her vintage Christmas decorations, and I do too, mainly because they are so creepy.


Tuesday

Thank You

I have noticed several new followers in the last few weeks which is exciting, and I just wanted to thank everyone who regularly reads this blog.  In addition to the regular followers, each day I am amazed at how many people visit, and it is fun to see the different countries that they visit from.  I am not as diligent about posting as some, but it is certainly nice to have a place to put things down when I feel like it and know that people read it.  So again, thank you.

I also wanted to share our Christmas present to ourselves this year...and yes, it was a craigslist find. 



It is a Hans Olsen dining room chair and table set, in MINT condition.  The set is perfect for our small dining room because the chairs become part of the table when pushed in.  Behind the chair you can also see our danish fold away table that extends to seat 6 people, so we can entertain large groups as well.  Hopefully you all have a safe and wonderful Holiday season!

Monday

Eames Lounge Chair

The chair that, in my opinion, best defines the forward thinking of mid century design is the Eames lounge chair.  Basically, whenever you sit in a comfortable chair nowadays, you can thank Ray and Charles Eames and the work they did to develop the 670 Lounge, and 671 Ottoman.

I have always, and still, want one but my pocket book doesn't allow for it quite yet so for the last couple years I have used my Plycraft knock off to watch tv in, listen to records, sleep, etc.  I am not a supporter of knock offs as a replacement to the original but they do have their place.  For example, the Plycraft chair was a re-designed version which had features not found on an original like the reclining/rocking base.  It was also much less expensive, and although its price is reflected in it's overall construction quality, the fact that it is put together with screws rather than heat bonded rubber shock mounts makes repairing it much less expensive than a real Herman Miller chair.  There are people who say that the Plycraft chair is more comfortable than the real one, but I am not willing to facilitate that debate.

Our chair looks like E.T.
One day while searching craigslist, I came upon an add that featured two "retro bentwood chairs" among other things at a garage sale.  In the photo was a Plycraft chair, and what appeared to be a real lounge chair in a light tan color.  I went to the sale, offered $75 for it, and brought it home.  Although it is not real, it is much closer in appearence to the real one and will make a nice replacement to the Plycraft chair. This one has metal hardware made by Middleton Mfg. Co., and the wood shells are made by Davis Wood Products.  I am still researching to find out the age, and company who sold these because as you can see it is very close in proportion to a real one.

Last night I began the process of cleaning it all up.  I will post photos of that process, but I have taken all of wood shells off, stripped, sanded, and stained them and they look much better.  The seats are real leather, so I am actually going to dye them black with a process used for dying auto upholstery and if I screw it up I will just have them re-upholstered by a professional.   Stay tuned...

Wednesday

Why I like old stuff.

I figured it out, and I didn't even have to pay for a counseling session to do it.

The short answer, and the one I give most people is that things were made with a much higher standard of quality, and that many of the things that i gravitate towards were even hand made, giving them an energy that new things lack.  But there is a much deeper reason, one that goes all the way back to my childhood, and that may even be true for the lovely people who read this blog.

I was having lunch with friends when the topic of antiques came up.  It was everyone else's opinion that people who collect things are simply holding onto junk that should have been thrown away long ago.  Except my house of course, and added that my stuff is different because it is cool.  Anyways, after a little more conversation I realized that they don't like old things because they grew up around antiques that they weren't allowed to touch, and that much of it was junk and not functional.  The whole moderne movement came from this very problem of too much fuss, not enough function.

When I was a kid, I watched a lot of tv.  I was also pretty close to my parents and the things that they did or said had a lot of influence on me.  My dad in particular grew up watching television while, I presume, his parents went out on the town and to parties.  Subsequently as a kid I found myself watching tv with him a lot, and with cable tv and specifically "Nick at Nite", I watched most of the shows that he watched as a kid; The Brady Bunch, The Munsters, Leave it to Beaver, and Gilligans Island were among my favorites.  Added to this interesting mix of shows that came in different shades of gray, were the commercials.  Before showing real commercials, they would often show a commercial from the era of whatever show you were watching to add to the atmosphere I suppose.

I was also influenced by print media from a whole other era, I inherited national geographic magazines from a neighbor once and I would spend my time in my room reading them and because they were a current events type publication, what i read would be in a non-historic context.  I learned a lot about specific eras in a non-kitschy way and at a young age so to me it was perfectly normal to grow up liking those things.  I would also spend a lot of time at my great grandmothers house (which you can read about here ) immersed in a 1950s world.

In 7th grade I did a book report on One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and did a hanging mobile (influenced by Calder I suppose) about communism to go along with it.  My teacher acted impressed but probably thought my parents dropped me as a baby.  I got an A.

A lot of my friends find it strange that I am so drawn to the mid century era, and specifically the 1960s, so much so that perhaps I border on insane to them.  Well, maybe but when you consider that I grew up doing and seeing a lot of the same things that my dad did having actually grown up in the 60s it makes sense.  I like other things too, from other eras, I love many many old things but the mid century era makes me feel at home and comfortable.  Having a house that is period correct feels right, and allows it to function better.  My wife and I live a perhaps slower life than other 25 year olds, but we enjoy it.

Monday

It's always something....

I mentioned a creative project that I am starting, and that I would 'reveal' it on here.  Well, the project had just begun and relied heavily on the use of a camera and my camera was recently stolen.

We were getting ready to leave the house on Saturday morning, only find that the back window of our car had been broken and I immediately knew why.  For the prior week, I had been using my camera frequently and I had left it in my car.  Fearing it being stolen but too lazy to bring it inside, I had placed it under the driver seat.  Apparently at some point, it slid out from under the seat where it could be seen (so no, I am not one of those people who just left it sitting on the seat).  It wasn't a terribly expensive camera or anything, just a Nikon L100, but I had gotten it setup the way I like it and I was used to shooting with it and now I have to start over.  The moral of the story is, don't leave valuables in your car.

In other news, we recently took a trip to McMinville to visit the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oregon which was really fun.  You pay $10 for a guided tour, and then you can wander around the home afterwards, which we did.  It was designed in 1957, but wasn't built until 1963 due to cost. It was a very interesting tour and it sparked an interest in Frank Lloyd Wright as being a bit of a playboy and quite controversial, as opposed to my view before which was of a quiet frail old man. Oh and the best part, I was able to borrow a camera for the trip so at least I got a few pictures.
Here Amber shows off the doors that close at a 90 degree angle.  This picture also shows how low the ceilings are.  Mr. Wright was short, and said that anything above 6 feet was wasted space.
I love the gallery hallway.  This is taken from an upstairs bedroom looking down the hallway to the opposite bedroom. Mr. Wright did not like hallways, but when required he made use of it as a gallery and offered a lot of storage.
 We also went to the Evergreen Air Museum and had a good time, although their tactics for making money are a little annoying.  You pay $20 per person to get into the museum which is a marvel in size, as it houses the Spruce Goose, and then you wander around and look at the planes.  You can walk right up to many of them, but if you want to look inside of a B-29 bomber, you have to pay $10.  You can step inside of the Spruce Goose and marvel at it's interior, but if you want see the cockpit you have to pay $50 per person for the chance.  I just found it a little tacky that they don't just charge you for all of the extras at the front.  

 I was able to snap a picture of this MiG 17 for free!  That grey thing in the background that looks like a wall is actually a portion of the side of the Spruce Goose.  It effing huge.

This a Soviet satellite, with styling cues from 60s era Disneyland?

And a missle!


 

Friday

Urban Outfitters

I posted about the whole "going green" movement a while back (Click for that post) but I have to just mention something again that is bugging me.

Once again, I would like to point out that going to thrift stores and buying things that a lot of people consider junk is wonderful.  There are many reasons for that, but here are a few that Amber and I use to rationalize our borderline hoarder behavior.

1) You are recycling. There is no manufacturing process involved in furnishing your home with old things, because it was already done years ago.

2) You help your local economy.  If it is a second hand store or pawn shop, you are helping keep that place in business which allows them, in some cases, to compete with the box stores.

3) You are helping charity, when you shop at Goodwill or a similar store and you are employing folks that are overlooked by a lot of employers because of their unique situation.

4) If you re-sell furniture, you can make money! Eventually you run out of room, but can't stop buying so you can start selling the stuff to someone else.

With these things in mind, what the hell is up with Urban Outfitters?  It used to be that Urban Outfitters sold cheap trendy clothes but now they have gotten into the business of completely 'outfitting' your hipster lifestyle.  They sell cheap furniture, cheap toys, cheap bicycles, cheap art, and yes they do still sell cheap clothing.  I encourage you to visit their website and look around if you haven't in a while, because it is ridiculous.

I am fairly conservative in many of my values, especially when it comes to business and believe that any company has a right and an obligation to make as much money as it possibly can.  I also believe that you should do it responsibly and with as little negative impact as possible.  In this case, they are offering a place where a person can buy cheap 'mid century' furniture, simply because the real stuff is too hard to find.  It will all end up in a landfill too when the thrifty hipster changes his/her medication and is all of a sudden not into mid century anymore.

Always support local first, shop at local thrift stores, but at the very least if you need that special piece that truly is hard to find, shop online at one of the many stores specializing in mid century designs.

Wednesday

The end of summer.

I am guilty this year, yet again, of not finishing the projects that I set out to tackle.  Although, I suppose that failure is offset by the fact that I accomplished other tasks that I had not intentionally set out to finish. But I did take a few photos to mark the end of summer.  These are from Smith Rock state park which is about 12 miles from our house.

With our careers running on all cylinders, Amber and I spent very little time at home this summer, we basically slept there.  At 25 I think this is what you are supposed to do, especially when you don't have kids, but next summer we will be in a much position to spend money on the house and be there to enjoy it.  We took a few trips around Oregon, which is a great state to just take a day trip in as there is so much to see and so many different environments, and we had a lot of fun.

The winter is supposed to be long, so I will be in the garage again working on furniture which I am excited about and we can get interior projects done.

I will be launching a new project soon on this blog, so watch for that.  I have always wanted to have a creative outlet that ties into the aesthetic of mid century modern design and i finally created one so I hope that you will enjoy what I have come up with.

Friday

Mad Men kinda sucks...

I told myself that I wouldn't become one of those annoying Mad Men fans that analyzes every scene for mistakes, and I have been pretty good about not being like that, but this season is really disappointing.

With regard to production design, the first season was extremely cautious about not having an office that looked like a 1960 magazine ad for office furniture.  Because of this attention to detail, many elements of the first office seemed a bit old fashioned.  This is the way most offices are though, even nice new ones are not opened and furnished with all the latest in design and fashion.  The exception to this rule in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s were huge companies that commissioned companies to dress their entire office.  Knoll, Herman Miller, Steelcase, they all made their way in the world by designing furniture especially for a particular company which is even where you get some of the names for the pieces (like the Herman Miller Time Life chair that Don used in season 1).

So imagine my excitement/dismay when season 4 opens with a tour of the new office.  The walk through is anything but subtle, and you get to see all of the wonderful colors of 1963 in vivid detail.  The front waiting area is furnished by Knoll and it is all brand new, the lovely secretaries all sit in brand new Herman Miller task chairs, the walls are white and colored glass with modern draperies throughout.  The conference room is nice, but DOESN'T HAVE A CONFERENCE TABLE.  Kind of funny and ironic, but this is an ad agency and most of season 1 took place in the board room and showed the teams impeccable attention to detail.  So they branched out on their own, with very little capital, a few accounts, and were able to put themselves up in an office that is even more modern then their old one?  Please.

Then, we get to see Roger's new office.  I could actually hear the collective furniture-gasm experienced by many watching that first episode, and I thought they were pretty cool digs myself but it does not fit.  Roger Sterling is old fashioned enough that he still calls them Nips, and Japs, so why would he opt for a pop art office?  Furthermore, he doesn't exactly love the Brits, yet he has a Bridget Riley painting adorning his walls.  The lack of a desk is ridiculous, for him, and the Nesso lamp sitting on his desk wasn't even marketed until 1965, even though it was designed in 1964.  Perhaps Roger has a special deal with Artimide.



Having just made an office transition/merger of my own I can tell you that it doesn't go this way.  I was very excited at the prospect of watching these guys make that difficult transition and then pull out of it with grace, I was excited to be inspired by it.  Instead I feel worse about my own situation, that perhaps the key to my own success would have been to buy nicer furniture....

In addition, the season is not as edge-of-your-seat interesting as it was in years past.  I have found the cadence slower, and not as interesting.  All of the characters seem less interesting, we have no idea what they are going to do next, and the use of constant one liners is horrible, oh and I hate Peggy.  I really really hope that they figure it out and make it better because I would love nothing more than to see Mad Men show the evolution of characters through the leisure suit 70s all the way until the 80s when Don is a washed up old man living in Florida in a mobile home.

Thursday

The Model B3 Chair

If you have ever been to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, then you have most likely seen this chair.  If you are like me, then you probably saw this chair and thought to yourself, "this is an ugly chair, and it looks uncomfortable, but I can appreciate it for its forward thinking design."  or something like that.

It was indeed forward thinking.  The design came from Marcel Breuer who, along with many of the designers to come out of the Bauhaus in Germany, sought to design furniture that could be easily produced in large quantity, be broken down easily for shipping, and that was simple yet striking.  At the time (the turn of the century through the 1930s) furniture, especially in Europe, was gawdy and bulky and as people began to move around they found it difficult to take with them.  Aside from that, the furniture was pretentious and Bauhaus designers wanted to change that so that even the common man could have a chair that was comfortable, and elegant, that he could take with him wherever he goes.
Marcel Breuer in his chair -c. 1927

Enter, the model B3 or Wassily Chair (Pronounced: Va-silly).  Breuer had admired the process of bending tubing for the construction of bicycles, specifically their handlebars, and wanted to use that technique to construct a chair.  When you sit in an overstuffed club chair, it is comfortable, but hideous.  It's lumpy bulges certainly do not lend themselves to much more than watching television, but if you take that form and strip it down to it's bare bones you can start to see this chair emerge.  The name Wassily was given to the chair much later because Breuer apparently gave one of these chairs to his colleague at the Bauhaus, Wassily Kandinsky the famous painter.
Picture taken by Bauhaus alumni Erich Consemüller c.1926

The original chairs that were made before World War II used canvas straps and seats. During the war, production on many things ceased and the B3 was no exception.  After the war, the new consumer economy took over and there became a need for easily mass produced furniture so the design for the B3 was purchased by Gavina in Italy who began mass producing the chair.  Those Gavina chairs were distributed all over the world by Stendig, an international import/export company from the 1940s until 1968 when the design for the chair was purchased by Knoll.  The myth currently is that the only true original B3 chairs are made by Knoll, but that is because since 1968 they have been able to tell people that they are originals.  In actuality, if you have a B3 marked Stendig, or Gavina you have a "more original, original".  Furthermore, the chair that is in the permanant collection at MoMA is indeed a Stendig by Gavina.

Anyways, here is my Stendig B3.  Picked it up at a thrift store for $20, and while it is in mint condition and properly marked, it is a mass produced chair and meant to be used.  It is extremely comfortable to sit in and while it is the most copied chair design in history, having an 'original' makes me appreciate the design a whole lot more.

Monday

yeah...and tell your neighbors too!

Please stop referring to modern design as "Mad Men style".  Thank You.

Wednesday

A weekend of treasures

We recently picked up a few cool items that I thought were worth sharing. I am still trying to figure out how to photograph artwork that is behind glass, so the pictures aren't great.

This picture was in a little antique downtown and we really liked it because it reminded us of our dog Jupiter.  The price was something like $200 so we held off on it, and quite honestly I had forgotten about it.  I saw it again this weekend in a thrift store, marked $5.  It is signed, numbered, and professionally framed and now hangs above Jupiter's bed.
This one was $3, but has an interesting story.  Apparently from the little story typed on the back, this image was created by a Hewlett Packard computer using a plotter attachment sometime in the late 1960s or early 70s.  The person who made it input two birth dates, one in red and one in black, and the computer then generated this image....somehow.  I don't know, it is cool.
 I do not play guitar, I am learning very slowly but I think guitars are so cool looking that I have a couple.  This one was sitting behind the counter at the Goodwill and was being held for someone.  It was $29.99 but it looked vintage to me and was in pretty good shape so I asked if I could buy it.  After much deliberation by the employees, I learned that you cannot hold something at Goodwill for more than an hour, so it was mine.  It is a Stella guitar and was made in 1966.  These guitars were mass produced and despite being well made, they were people learning to play.  Because it is smaller, they were often traveled with or given to children and damaged over the years.  I had it cleaned up and re-strung and it 'plays' very nicely, at least when the guy in the music store played it. He had a couple of them in his store but none of them had that cool trapeze tail piece, they sell for about $300.

The praying Polynesian kids.... I like the pink color with the blue upholstery in the living room.  I don't know anything about them, probably just another mass produced set from the 60s tiki craze.
This was a $12 Lane Acclaim table, that had been fugly-fied.  I love acclaim stuff, and I have had good luck with restoring it.
Looks better now.

Tuesday

Does anyone still read this blog?

If they do, they can read this!

I made a quick trip to Portland for a big antique show recently and met some great people, saw some cool stuff, and didn't buy anything!  It actually wasn't too hard because the show consisted of either junk, or really nice stuff that could be thrifted with patience, besides we really don't need anything right now.

On my way up I usually go through The Dalles to check on the house there and because it is, in my opinion, a nicer drive.  I took some photos there though in the early morning hours and I think they turned out pretty good. The Dalles has not changed much in it's history but in the 50s they built some pretty cool buildings.  The nice thing about being there early was that there weren't any cars in the way.



We have not really been working on the house too much, just furniture projects which I will post photos of soon.  Cheers!

Sunday

New Kitchen Table

A few weeks ago, a friend from out of town contacted me about a cool tulip table knock off that was for sale in our area for a great price, and asked if I would pick it up for him.  He lives 3 hours away, so I was happy to help.  The really awesome part was that we had just sold our cheap 60s american modern table and chairs so we were table-less.  The ultra modern look of the tulip table was a  bit much for our house as almost everything here is danish, and wood.  We had sold our old table to make room for a Paul McCobb Planner Group table that Amber has wanted for a long time. 
Early in our relationship, while flipping through auction catalogs, she pointed one out and described it as the perfect table as it mixes traditional with modern. These usually go for no less than $400, and the chairs often go for $200+. We got this table for a good price, but it was without chairs.

I found these Northwest Chair Company chairs for $50 and thought they were enough in the Paul McCobb style to suffice.

The design genius of the Planner Group is that they are made to look very delicate, but are very heavy. The optical illusion is the beveled edge on the table top that makes it look very thin.

Pufferfish toothpick holder approves.

Wednesday

Excuses

I have been working on a new blog/radio podcast, unrelated to this one, and have been lazy around the house.  I will be updating this one soon, and now that the weather is good I am looking forward to getting some projects done.  On my list for the next few months:

- Replace trim on the front of the house.
- Paint the home office.
- Cut down the dead tree in the front yard and plant a new one.
- Hang solid wood paneling in the den.
- Landscape the back yard and install grass.

There, now I have it documented as setting out to accomplish those tasks...

Here is a cool picture: