When I think about what truly inspires me I have to look no further than my workspace. On my desk I have a 1:12 scale Barcelona chair. (A highly prized gift which I show to anyone who will listen. How others do not have an affinity for chairs is beyond me.) The constant tick of my wind up Big Ben desk clock and ol’ blue eyes sings quietly from my computer. I have found it. Much to my dismay, I was not around to experience the wonder of the 1950’s and 60’s. It is through design that I have grown to love this era so much. When I was a child we had a “front room” that I was not allowed to play in. This is where we kept our nice furniture not safe for small slimy hands. It was a museum that I passed by daily filled with rich fabrics and clean lines of 1960’s furniture. When I visit my grandmother’s house I am tempted to turn over every piece of convex leg furniture and Sharpie my name on the bottom calling dibs. I could sit and watch Mad Men for days just to drool over the set designs. I was thrifting before it was cool. Looking at you, Macklemore.
So how do you do mid century without it looking like you walked into June Cleaver’s house without a fresh Jello mold? There are a few things you need to consider when trying to achieve an updated Mid-Century style.
Pick key pieces. This style is most successful when you have one or two really stand out elements. Not that piece that you say “yeah, that is kind of cute I guess” amongst the half broken Easter baskets and that weird smell of your local thrift store. That piece that you really love. For me it is a simple Danish Modern wooden chair that was in desperate need of new upholstery. Once you find it, build the room from there.
Buy decent quality. If you are shopping for an older piece of furniture be sure you are looking for something that isn’t already past its prime. It is no secret that a lot of companies cut corners to save a dime. Literally, look at the corners! Dove tailed corners were much more expensive to produce and that is usually a good sign of a more well-made piece. If you are thinking about refinishing the piece be sure you are getting something that is solid construction.
Don’t be afraid to update. Older pieces are often worth the money to update and keep in good shape. Wouldn’t Aunt Lois’ couch be perfect for your living room if it weren’t for her poodle’s toe nails? Fabric companies have made a lot of advances in the past decade and there are endless options for you to get exactly what you like. Spending a few hundred dollars to get a custom look and exactly what you want is still cheaper than settling for something that is “nice” in a furniture store today. Having something reupholstered does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. If you are feeling crafty (and cheap like me) try and tackle it yourself. I would recommend allowing about three times as much time as you think it will take though. My afternoon project turned into a weekend endeavor. Luckily, when I finally finished it, I was in love.
Keep it simple. Once you have labored for the perfect piece and have it exactly how you want it, pick a spot and let it shine. Don’t over shadow it with too many pillows or ALL of those accessories you HAD to buy at the garage sale. After all, isn’t the entire era about simple classic elegance? Let your perfect piece tell its own story. Surround it with things that accentuate its beauty. Think of it like perfectly coordinating bridesmaids at a wedding. They are all beautiful but the purpose is to be there for the bride. At the end of the day, she is still what catches your eye.