Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Embracing my mid-century modern heart

In my twenties, I rebelled.

Not in the usual way - the sex, drugs, rock'n'roll way. Nope. I rebelled against the house and furnishings I'd grown up with. Mum's house was firmly held in a late 50s/early 60s time warp. Atomic furniture with little legs that diminished in diameter until they were almost pins at floor levels. Tangerine dining chairs. French polish everywhere. Colourful walls when the world was heading to white. And the bar in the living room - black glass top with yellow vinyl sides - oh no, how horrible! How …. embarrassing!!!

My taste vacillated between the modern - and we're talking 1980s, yikes! - and the more distant past as I hit my 30s. In the 80s I bought some questionable storage furniture from Freedom Furniture which, sadly, I still have as we need the storage facility. By my mid-30s I was into 1920s, Edwardian and art deco, even a jaunt here and there into repro Georgian, which didn't quite fit into this very 1959 property. I tried my best, buying two beautiful Edwardian chairs and a recliner that could have been designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh but I don't think it was. I swapped my bed for one with a gorgeous iron frame. I bought a 1920s maple wardrobe. I created my own little 1920s hideaway downstairs. When I moved out I took the 1920s with me and created a cosy cottage which mixed a bit of Danish with earlier pieces and repro.

Having inherited Mum's house, with its original wall paint, original kitchen, mostly original bathroom and laundry, I have seen my childhood home with new eyes. It rocks.

I love the big stone fireplace in the living room. I love the yellow bar. I love the 1950s pulldown light over the dining table. I love most of the wall colours. I find myself tending the French polished doors and trying to get scratches out of them, and cursing Mum for touching up one of them with varnish that looks bloody shocking in daylight.

Slowly I am trying to refurnish the living room to period furniture - or at least get rid of most of the 80s stuff Mum bought when she was feeling a bit flush and some of my own contributions. You can see by my previous post I have a new dining suite. On the other side of the room there is a hodgepodge of 80s sideboard and repro Queen Anne hi fi cabinet (yes, of course Queen Anne loved a good CD or vinyl) which is going to go when I've saved up enough to buy a period sideboard from the late 50s.

This house isn't the best example of Mid-Century Modern, but it has good bones. Mum was about five years too old to really embrace the Atomic look or go for a mad coloured mural on the wall such as that at Rose Seidler House. Being a child of the Depression, she was thrifty. She may have lashed out on tangerine chairs and a green lounge suite that were the height of fashion in 1960, but the mirrors in this place are early 50s or 1940s, for example. There's a mix of decor which basically ended in 1960.

With the research I've done this year on mid-century modern furniture and decor, I have fallen in love with the simplicity and elegance of it. I think it has been creeping up on me. I used to drool over IKEA catalogues at our old house, loving the simple Scandinavian design with its nod towards the great designers of the 50s and 60s. Now I'm hooked. I get on Pinterest and drool for hours over chairs, sideboards, tables, paint colours and architecture.

I think I've found my life's work: making this house what it should be. A paean to the mid-century modern era.

Now I just need to win the lottery - do you know how much some of this stuff COSTS!!!???

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