Sunday, May 31, 2015

Estate Sale in San Rafael (or Welcome to Living by Design)

I saw an ad on Craigslist for an estate sale that would include Mid-Century Modern furniture and lighting so I stopped by on Saturday for a look around. I fully expected the prices to be way out of my league and so, I was not surprised when I saw the set of Marcel Breuer chairs and little danish table marked at $500. Not knowing what I was looking at I took a few pictures and moved along taking in the Saarinen tulip table and chairs ($800) and various other iconic pieces of design that would lead me to much research over dinner that night. Though I didn't buy anything, I thought my time had been well spent as I actually saw and touched the works of art these designers had created and started to get a feel for the simplistic, no frills items they produced.

The sale was also open on Sunday and with prices discounted 50% to move the merchandise out the door I decided to return and see what I could pick up ... 

I had seen a lamp the previous day that embodied the 1950's modernism for me and when I walked in I went straight over to the corner it had been sitting in and YES it was still there. The tagged marked $150 was hanging from one of the lamp shades and though I was not able to find any references to the maker or the designer I knew I wanted this piece for our new house ... sort of an anchor for whatever was yet to come, something to build the decor of a room around. I took another look at the now $250 Breuer dining set and thought ... nope ,,, too soon, but I did grab a small sunburst kitchen clock and a couple of wavy looking aluminium candle holders and walked up to the counter knowing I could get a better price than the $104.50 asking price. I had been going to Estate Sales in the area for a few years, furnishing our old Farmhouse with a mix of European and Arts & Crafts style furniture and accouterments, and knew that Sunday at these types of sales was always negotiation day.  

I had 6 items in my arms (including the three shaded lamp!) and when it was my turn at the counter I asked about the Sunday discount and and quickly followed with an offer of $70 for the lot in my hands. The lady at the desk, looked at each item, nodded and wrote up the ticket SOLD! 

I had to re-wire and polish the lamp, polish both sets of candle holders, clean the clock from years of kitchen dust and oils, wash the Briard plate but had found a few little items that with a little research turned into a nice exposure to the MCM designers.

The lamp is still unknown but the clock turned out to be a well known and readily available (Ebay, Etsy, etc.) Spartus Starburst, the little Georges Briard Plate also lead me to MCM glasses and Ice Buckets, the candle holders were danish and suddenly all the influences on the American designers from the Europeans became apparent, the little Japanese candle holders showed me how Asia contributed to the 'Look' and finally, the Simtex Table Cloth designed by Russel Wright and coordinated with his Steubenville American Modern dinnerware lead me to his work and that of his wife, Mary, who so eloquently defined 'Easy Living' which in turn introduced me to the husband/wife team of Charles and Ray Eames.
The defining item
I still do not know anything about this lamp - if anyone knows manufacturer or date of production please let me know!  

Spartus Sunburst Kitchen Clock 
Wavy Stainless Steel Candle Holders

Georges Briard Dish
Simtex Russel Wright Table Cloth

Russel Wright designed tablecloth, made by SIMTEX in the 1950's
The tablecloth was a gorgeous piece of cotton woven unlike anything I see in the shops today. The colors match the American Modern tableware I have seen and the plaid is bold and symmetrical.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Lightolier Plastic Lamp P1 - 79424

An Estate sale in Novato gave me my first hint at the local Mid-Century Modern scene. I stopped by on the way to a soccer game just to look at the contents of the living room of this Eichler designed home that was being vacated.

The room had been cleaned out by the 'Professionals' the previous day, the sales lady said most everything MCM had been taken within the first hour but there was a little lamp on a table in the corner that caught my eye. I plugged it it and it worked so I bought it for $15 and walked out with my first truly mid century artifact.

Lightolier Lamp
Researching what I had picked up I found a company with a rich history and a profound contributor to the changing designs of the 20th century. Lightolier introduced the first track lighting system in the 1960's designed by Anthony C. Donato. The little lamp I had grabbed was attributed to Gerald Thurston, was all plastic with heavy metal base. It measures about 22" high. Shade is 14" across by 7" high. 

#MCM, #Mid-Century, #Lightolier, #Thurston, #Plasticlamp

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

First Impression

Last week we received a letter from the property owner of our home 'Casa' that his daughter was getting divorced and that she and her 3 kids would be moving into the grand old house we had made our home for the last 4 years. Not much I could say so when I spoke to the property manager I asked her to keep an eye out for a house in town that myself, the 3 kids and our grand piano would fit into.

Casa had been built in 1923 and most recently was the home of the current owner's mother. The house had many rooms (17?) with the kitchen being the smallest and the hardwood floors all covered in a dark green carpet from a remodel done sometime in the 1970's. The whole house, with the exception of the small kitchen had dark redwood paneling on the walls which made decorating a challenge but mostly just required covering the walls with art work and large furniture pieces, moving in a bunch of classic Italianate furniture and keeping fresh flowers from the garden on all the tables to combat the old house smells.

She truly was a grand old house and our family used the back deck for dinners, the garages for the vintage cars, the many rooms for the various things young adults like to do - sewing, xbox, reading, homework, watching movies and of course EATING!

We started going to open houses and saw a lot of VERY SMALL houses in our price range and at one of the houses, the largest we had seen, our real estate lady was showing a country house that reminded us a little of our Casa and we asked her why she hadn't thought of us for this property? She responded without missing a beat "Oh, Robert, your house is up the hill. I will call you next week to come see it.".

Walking up to the front door of the on the hill, the kids and I were looking at each in anticipation and as the door swung open all pushed in to see what our real estate agent had found for us. Stepping through the doorway we found ourselves standing in a hallway two steps above a sunken living room with high light wood beamed ceilings, a fireplace on an internal wall and 2 exterior walls with ceiling to floor windows looking out over the heritage oak forest behind the house. The room was a large rectangle and still had paper runners on the pearl white carpet to protect it from cleaners, movers, and others walking through the house.

This felt SOOOOOO different than our last house and in a way, there was an immediate attraction to something built in the last half of the last century - for the last 10 years we have lived in houses originally built in the early 1900's and architecture and room layouts were definitely dated. Not in this house!!!! Big rooms, light wood ceilings and floors and the windows, OMG, no more small wood framed vertical sliders for us. Here where there wasn't ceiling to floor glass we found modern double pained horizontal sliders that would stay open when we opened them.

The house had been designed and built in 1962 and still had many of the period pieces reminiscent of the 'days of camelot'. I could almost hear Frank swooning as we took in the views of the valley and regaled at the openness of the kitchen, living room and family room. Cool, very very cool.

Living Room with corner windows and vertical blinds
Living Room < -- > Dining Room shared wall fireplace
2 walls o'windows in dining room

I immediately put my classic italiante furniture on craigslist and set out to learn what I could about the MCM aesthetic.