Friday, April 9, 2010

Mid Century Modern Done Right

When I first started reading design blogs back in 2008, my design style really wasn't all that set yet -- though I was immediately obsessed. I devoured design blogs with gusto, hoping from one blog to the next, reading through all the archives of my favorites. During this nascent period in my design education, I vacillated wildly among various styles until I began to settle into certain styles that felt the most "me". One of the styles that I was initially drawn to, but have subsequently abandoned (at least for the most part), is Mid Century Modern. And no wonder really: some of the best design blogs out there (e.g., Making it Lovely, Door Sixteen, Decor8, Design*Sponge) have a distinctly MCM tilt. In any case, the long and the short of it is that, while I completely respect MCM style, it's not really a look I'm strongly attracted to right now.

At least that was the case before I got a load of this house decorated by Palmer Weiss. Now this is MCM at its best. Plenty of color and pattern and the classic, streamlined furniture that are the hallmarks of MCM. But there's also a number of traditional and trendy touches here that shake things up just enough so that you know that you're not looking at a home decorated in the 1950s.

I love the classic lines of this sofa (and the yummy cotton velvet upholstery) paired with the vintage coffee table and the Raindrops Sculpture by popular mid century artist Curtis Jere (recently reissued and available through Jonathan Adler). The cheetah print ottoman is a bold touch, especially next to the psychedelic orange print accent chair (pictured in the first image).

The dining room is perhaps my favorite room. I'm really loving the comeback that grasscloth has made in the past year or so and this chocolate-y brown version is a great bold stroke. By keeping the wainscoting and trim in the same color, the walls are able to provide a great textural contrast between the glossy trim and the grasscloth, without the bold color dichotomy. This allows the white latticed chairs to really take center stage. The pops of soft turquoise in the lamps are a nice addition of color in an otherwise brown, gold and white room, and also reference the soft grey-blues of sofa in the adjacent living room.

I like how Palmer kept the wood floors bare in the dining room. The contrast between the dark wood and the glossy white of the buffet (which I covet) is fantastic. The brown and white print on the dining chairs is a nice addition of pattern in the room. I'm a firm believer in the notion that all rooms need at least one print (however subtle) to create some real interest. The ceiling is painted a muted beige, a much softer statement against the chocolate walls than a standard white ceiling would have been.

Sunny yellow in a kitchen or breakfast room/nook just makes me happy. The ikat print is a great, on-trend update to this very retro breakfast room and looks great against the green apple velvet pillows and Adler's lemon pillow (which perfectly picks up both the yellow and the green in the other fabrics). The large, happy photograph introduces some other equally bold colors into the room and keep the vignette from feeling too static and "decorated" (often a danger with tight color palettes). I love that Palmer had a rectangular top put on a tulip base, which fits the space better than the usual round or oval top would. The meringue pendant is a fun and inexpensive alternative to the ubiquitous Nelson bubble lamps.

In the kitchen, the Bertoia bar stools coordinate with the Bertoia side chairs in the breakfast nook, right down to the matching cushions. Other than the yellow ikat print, the palette in the kitchen is kept pretty neutral, with the focus on the gleaming, modern stainless steel appliances, large slab of marble (which matches the marble on the kitchen table) and the warm walnut island, all classics that could work with any decor should the existing owner decide to sell or decide to redecorate.

I always love to see a "budget" item featured in a designer's work and this zigzag rug from West Elm is perfect for this hallway. The mix of high and low continues with the gorgeous sputnik light fixture in brass.

I'll be honest, this wallpaper isn't my favorite -- the metallic foil backdrop and the yellowish green are just a bit too retro for my taste. But I'm a firm believer in taking bold chances when it comes to kitting out a powder room, so I applaud Palmer for taking the risk here. And of course the yellow and green palette work nicely with the nearby kitchen. The floating vanity is a great touch, especially in a tight space.

The den is just off the kitchen and brings together the yellow in the kitchen/breakfast area, the pops of orange in the living room, and the rich browns of the dining room. The style here is also more traditionally MCM, with the oval Saarinen coffee table and Adler rug (the Peter Rug) and pillow (the Mother Child pillow). There are just enough modern choices (like the clean lines of the sofa and the ikat print pillow) to keep it from veering off into retro.

Palmer tucked an area dedicated to children into this den and I think this is a great and practical solution for most families. The segregation of adult and kid spaces is a luxury many of us don't have -- and, since younger children require more constant supervision, ultimately, is not a particularly workable solution unless parents want to spend all their free time in a room catering exclusively to children. A much better path is to incorporate your children into the design of all the major rooms in your home. The addition of this mini-craft table and cushy rug ensure that your children have a spot all their own right in the heart of the action. I'm not sure this top is anything other than gray laminate, but how cute would it be if it were made up in chalkboard paint?

The oval shaped tiles on the fireplace are '50s and '60s modern at its best, but the textural quality they give the fireplace is very today. There are a number of manufacturers of this type of tile, but if you're in the market, Heath Ceramics' version is a great option. I love how Palmer paired a traditional Chinese garden stool with the Knoll Womb chair. The tension created between the two styles creates a lot more visual interest than pairing the Womb chair with, say, a small tulip table would have been. And, I think, this sort of mixing it up is precisely what MCM really needs to make it translate to 21st century style, the hallmark of which is eclecticism. Staying married to a single type of design style is a guaranteed way to get a room that feels both staid and dated.

32 comments:

Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle said...

Love the eating area in the kitchen. There are too many things here to list all my favs though. I too am not feeling the bathroom wallpaper though.

suzannem80 said...

Awesome post!!! Your explanations of all the different design desicions are very informative!!! :)

Dayka (Life +Style) said...

i love palmer weiss. loving your editorial, too.

Carolyn said...

Barf on the den and bathroom....loving everything else!!

Kathysue said...

Now here is another great post from Miss Averill!! I think this could be added to my , Wish I were brave enough!! I find in jewelry I like old vintage or more conteporary. I guess in design I could say the same!! Love this post, thanks for sharing your brain!! Have a great weekend!! Kathysue

Amanda said...

Wow, this is the most amazing post, like, EVER! I think this is my ultimate dream home *sigh*

Patch said...

LOVE IT! So California and gorgeous. So here's a question -- how do they put lamps willy nilly without yucky cords trailing over the floor?

ashlina said...

well written averill. i have to agree with everything you said....
and i just cant get enough of this home! :)

Averill said...

P - I'm told that most designers/shelter mags have any cords photoshopped out of their pictures!

Marija said...

Awesome post, Averill! Totally informative, great explanations here. I know what I'm about to say is not going to be popular but I like the powder room! (I know, I know.) I don't typically get into retro but it works here bc retro is the feeling I get looking at this as a whole. Maybe I'm drawn to it for the floating vanity and vanity to ceiling mirror? We used that look in our master and everyone thought I was nuts because of the lack of storage but so far it's working out! And while I'm taking the unpopular position here, I have to confess I'm really troubled by the rectangular top on the saarinen table. Everything else in that breakfast nook, however, I dig. Love this post :)

Marija

Sanity Fair said...

You're right - this is not my genre/era, and yet, I love this house. It's deceptively simple - really every room has SO much going on with color, texture and pattern. It's really complex! Thanks for broadening my design horizons Averill!

Christy said...

Wow what an informative post Averill. Mid century modern isn't generally my cup of tea, I guess, but I like a few elements of this house very much. Specifically - that orange/white low chair in the very first image is just gorgeous. I would love two of them, please. And that photo over the fabulously decorated breakfast nook is just too cool. And that kids area - you're so right - it makes so much more sense to incorporate them in, as they get into tons of trouble when out of sight! Loved reading this whole post, hope you do more posts on different design styles! I hope you and Dave have a great weekend!

Tracy @ ComfortandLuxury said...

Great analysis, Averill. Palmer Weiss' work is the closest I've seen to an MCM look that I could live with for longer than a two-week vacation. There's something really pretty and warm about this home especially that appeals to me. I wonder if it's because she's Southern. Oh, and I'm completely in love with that cheetah ottoman! One note about chalkboard painted children's tables: if you must have one, never, ever, ever put a rug under it. Especially not a fluffy white one! In a week, that rug will be every other color but white.

Liz @ It's Great To Be Home said...

Huge fan of both Palmer and this home - I love MCM design and I agree that it's done beautifully here. That's it, I'm moving in!

annechovie said...

While MCM isn't exactly my style either, I definitely love Palmer's take on it, especially because of the great color chices. Nice post, Averill. Enjoy your weekend!

Destination Seaborn said...

I'm a big fan of MCM and Palmer Weiss. I enjoyed reading your comments and take on each of the spaces. Have a good weekend! Lisa

Dumbwit Tellher said...

So perfectly described and appreciated. I am in MCM heaven, this is 'me'. His design captures all the good of mid-century modern and brings it into the 21st. century. Like you stated, these rooms won't be dated for years to come, or if ever. Thank you Averill for showcasing this whole home. Soak up all this tremendous weather.

The Zhush said...

WOW! I love Palmer Weiss so much, and your writing just perfectly articulated all the reasons why I adore her spaces and style, not to mention how I prefer to see a fresh spin on MCM...(done right)!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You nailed this one! Does anyone know anything about the "circle" pendants in the dining room? Thanks!
Amy in Greenvile

walrus studio said...

I enjoyed reading your post, it was nicely written. The dining room chairs are my favorite.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

Super post, complete with amazing images, and despcriptions!!! MCM is not my style, but I do agree with your assessments and truly appreciate how tasteful these spaces are!

Laura@JourneyChic said...

Beautiful home! I love the dining room chairs and how the mirror above the sideboard mimics the chairbacks. So pretty!

SogniSorrisi said...

I'm with you on the MCM for the most part, but I do adore this house. So many beautiful elements.

HAMPTON HOSTESS said...

I love the orange sofa in the den--so happy and pretty and the lamps are truly one of a kind. Great post! best, Barbara

Isabella & Max Rooms said...

Great design! Just a couple days ago I spent some time "studying" these rooms and others in Palmer's portfolio to better understand her use of color. These rooms stand out as simply amazing.
Janell

Bromeliad said...

I'm not a big MCM fan either, but this place is great - kind of an MMCM

MyLittleHappyPlace said...

1) The lines of that sofa slay me! (Am I cool enough to say that? ;)

2) I'm REALLY gaga over those blue, opaline-esque lamps!

3) That unique garden stool in the last pic? My mom snagged one EXACTLY like it (albeit, in turq-WAZ, natch) at Homegoods for $50 - score!

MyLittleHappyPlace said...

1) The lines of that sofa slay me! (Am I cool enough to say that? ;)

2) I'm REALLY gaga over those blue, opaline-esque lamps!

3) That unique garden stool in the last pic? My mom snagged one EXACTLY like it (albeit, in turq-WAZ, natch) at Homegoods for $50 - score!

Southern Aspirations said...

Yep, you nailed it. I could love MCM if done like the dining room and living room here. Fabulous space. It's tough though as some venture into an odd mix between the Jetson's and the 1950s.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

While I'm not a huge fan of retro 50s or even the updated version - I LOVED reading this. This really is one of the most well thought out spaces. The flow of shapes, colors and even minor touches throughout is exceptional. Reading design blogs really does expand your horizons. A few years ago I would have glanced and said, "eh - not me." But now I dig a little deeper and see the great design. I love how I now find some inspiration in such unexpected places.

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I've been enjoying your blog for months, but this is my first comment. Like you, I'm a lawyer/design enthusiast... and I hope to start blogging soon. Right now, I'm working on decorating my soon-to-be refinished basement - and have been trying to marry a new interest in MCM with my generally more traditional tastes. Great analysis of these spaces - I agree with all your points! Thanks for all the inspiration :)

- Alicia

The Ringleader said...

Beautiful! Do you know the source of the yellow ikat fabric? Thanks for a great post.

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