Mid-century Modern Soars
By Karen Parr-Moody

With the revival of Mid-century Modern reaching a fevered pitch, the timing is right for this atomic-era aesthetic to be seen in yet another booth at GasLamp. This new booth, B-318, is called In Retrospect and is part of the recently created niche called Printer's Alley.

One step into In Retrospect and a shopper may feel like sipping a dirty martini. Dealer and photographer Mary Elizabeth Long-Simpson has transformed the Sixties' clean lines into a homey setting of warm woods and amber tones (rather than the starker version of the look, with its white plastic and chrome).

"It is very interesting, but not surprising, that Mid-century Modern has become so popular," Long-Simpson says. "I think people are drawn to the artistic design and the cool vibe that you just can't get with brand-new merchandise."

Mid-century Modern, the architectural, interior and product design movement, was popularized by American and Danish designers such as George Nelson, Charles Eames, Jens Risom, Milo Baughman, Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen and Hans Wegner. The style they espoused, currently seen on the award-winning television drama “Mad Men,” made such items as teak desks, boxy sofas, and starburst clocks the norm for American families.  

In a move apropos to reviving the Sixties, one could serve guests from the vintage Fred Roberts of San Francisco daisy tea set, above right (six-piece set, $48). "The tea sets are little works of art," says Long-Simpson. At the height of the tumultuous Sixties, in 1965, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was the first to coin the phrase "flower power" as a suggestion for turning war protests into peaceful events. The daisy flower went on to become a powerful icon, first as a symbol of anti-war sentiments, but then as a fashion and home décor statement. The Finnish fabric company Marimekko took full advantage of the trend, creating brightly-colored floral fabrics for use in women's garments and home furnishings. The daisies on this ceramic set mirror the single-petal flowers one would have seen in original Marimekko prints.

Another influence during the 1960s was that of India. This movement was crystalized when the Beatles traveled to the Himalayan foothills in 1968 to find inner peace at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Soon, Indian prints such as batik and paisley began to make an appearance in home and fashion. The figural tea set in the photo, left, was made during this time period by a company called Jai Bhrat Industries ($79). "I just love to look at this set," says Long-Simpson. "It's so cool and different; you can't pick up something like that at Target!" The sinuous, dancing goddess teapot has its spout as the right arm and a removable head for tossing in tea bags. The "love me" phrase inscribed on each teacup fits the groovy mood of the '60s.



Many Americans watched the Space Age unfold while lounging on such a sofa as the gold-and-cream sectional seen in the photo, right ($300). Like so many sofas of the period, this one has its origins in the streamlined and boxy frame originally designed by Milo Baughman in the '60s for Thayer Coggin. It has been much copied for good reason. The modern design looks sleek and light, but the deep seat creates a cozy perch. "It can look like one long couch, or you can make two seating areas," says Long-Simpson of the sectional arrangement. "It's perfect for the person who likes having options."







One of the most influential designers of the Mid-century Modern era was, clock hands down, George Nelson. He ushered in the era of the sunburst silhouette in clocks, which had countless imitators at the time (and still does). Among these fans was a firm called Lux, which created the starburst clock in the photo, left ($195). With its handsome wood spokes and brass-toned details, this clock is an eye-catching way to bring a bold design statement to any room.




Bassett Furniture Industries, Inc., has been in business for more than 100 years; it started in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where the Bassett family operated a sawmill. By the 1960s, the firm followed the trend of furniture being created by Danish and American designers. The nine-drawer dresser with mirror in the photo, right, is one of the many popular results ($450). There is a matching dresser available for $375.

"I love the clean lines and quality of these vintage Bassett dressers," says Long-Simpson.

With "Mad Men" trouncing other television programs at the awards shows (it recently won a fourth Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series), imitators are following. There are the recent premieres of the high-flying "Pan Am" and the frothy "The Playboy Club," both set in the '60s. Such entries speak to the public's continuing fascination with martinis, bouffant hair and go-go boots. And in the home, the Mid-century Modern trend will certainly be around longer than a summer of love.


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