Category Archives: mid-century modern

retro respect

Negotiating with the Deaf

While driving along Fountain yesterday I spied the coolest looking yard sale on my way to pick up a co-worker for our job working a party in the Palisades. I am a mid-century modern fanatic and my radar can always pick up on it.  I’ve seen this sale on Fountain before, a block or two west of Highland, but never stopped by sensing these are pro yard sale sellers and prices won’t be so negotiable. I spied more cool kitsch than usual such as a set of green wakefield chairs, atomic barstools, yellow mod file cabinets, a fabric rainbow wall hanging and a patio set (Brown Jordan, perhaps?) It was only 10:30 am. I was hoping the really good stuff might still be out later. Not everyone is a mid-century modern fiend like me.

Later after working this awesome gig in the Palisades at a charity event where we all got a very handsome tip, then navigating pre-grammy night party traffic and dropping off my co-worker, I was ready to hit the sale again. Sure enough the cool stuff was still there, and lots of it.  “Uh oh,” I thought, “They must be charging a lot since everything is still there.”

I sloppily parked my car.  It was starting to rain but still light out.  There was a gorgeous sunset in the west and I was hoping for a rainbow.  The only rainbow I saw was the fabric wall art.  I flagged down the seller and he told me the wall art was $100.  Despite my generous tip burning a hole in my pocket that price was too steep for me.  I remembered we are bordering Weho and rainbows, not to mention kitsch, are popular here.  I asked some more prices.  He had to go across the street to ask the sellers over there.  I figured this must be a joint yard sale.  But he had to walk all the way over there, not yell, because the other sellers on the other side of the street were deaf.

Ahh the infamous deaf yard sale.  I have heard about this for years and have never been.  Because they are deaf they have no problem staying up all night and selling.  One of the guys across the street is only partially deaf and the hearing guy on my side of the street could in fact yell to him if only to get his attention, but not always.    You can’t read lips or sign that far away.

To be clear there were two deaf guys across the street, one completely deaf and one partially hearing, and one hearing seller on the side of the street I started on.  They were all gay (I presume) and all quite savvy about their pricing.  Whereas they used to sell a lot of mirrors and more current decor they seemed to have recently switched more to vintage and nostalgiac kitsch (my kind of merchandise.)

The negotiations went like this.  It took forever to get prices on things because the hearing guy had to keep yelling and/or going across the street to ask about prices.  I wasn’t clear who’s items where who’s. It took frigging forever.  I was starting to see that the reason they still had so much product was not just because of their pricing.

I got answers on some prices right away: the 50’s styrofoam wig heads with authentic painted faces were $20 each, the atomic coffee table with black legs was $60 (reasonable – I would take it if I actually didn’t need it), the atomic barstool was $30 but apparently there were two others across the street.  I never saw them.  When it came to the tin laquered camping mugs the hearing guy had to ask deaf guy if he would go a dollar less for the chipped one.  He also had to ask about the price on a lamp and a trunk. I had to go across the street to find the plates to match the tin cups.  I wanted to negotiate a price on a coat.  They wouldn’t go down.  Crazy.  There was an amazing daisy painting in late sixties hand carved frame that would have matched a similar one of mine with purple flowers, but whereas mine was $12 at a thrift store, they were asking $75 for theirs. I ended up buying the cups for a dollar less but decided the rest of it just wasn’t worth it.

Neighbors complain about this sale.

I think it’s hilarious. A yard sale that goes all night.  They have so much stuff they just keep it out all night for a two days sale.  I wanted to go back later to see if the sale was in fact still going on in the middle of the night, but the Grammy traffic was too daunting to deal with.  Seriously, the only worst night to drive through West Hollywood than the weekend of Gay Pride is the night before the Grammys because of all the parties in the Hollywood Hills.

I am happy with my camping mugs but to be honest I never would have bought them if not for the nostalgia factor.

Next time I go back maybe I should learn sign language and they will be more willing to negotiate.  Everyone appreciates when you at least try to speak their language. They speak mine: mid-century modern.

Mid-century Modern; Addiction or Psychological Affliction?

by Claire Partin on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 from facebook

They say that some of us get stuck somewhere in our childhood, that this is where we go emotionally when things get tough. I don’t know if I am emotionally a five year old, but this is definitely where my design aesthetic is stuck. Back when my parents were still together, back before I knew about pain or separation or what it meant to be an outsider, my parents bought a super cool 60’s house in the Eichler Tract of Orange, CA when my father, Robert, (everyone called him Bob) got a job teaching art at Cal State Fullerton. He was a hip young artist, his large canvases informed by his years in New York at Columbia when artists such as Rothko, Frank Stella, Jasper Johns and Warhol were emerging prominently on the scene. My mother, Martha, was a stylish Vassar educated woman who graduated at the top of her class at Parsons School of Design in New York City. And though my parents were probably both in New York at the same time they did not meet until my mother moved to Los Angeles to be a young designer for Lanz. Rumor has it my dad was first attracted to my aunt Molly at the party set up for young adults associated with the University of Kentucky; That’s where my Grandpa Ted (Martha’s dad) ran the Art Department and my dad had taught for one summer. But since my dad was shy, my mother was definitiely more his speed than charismatic aunt Molly. When my parents met they were two adorably shy, gorgeous, thin and stylish young adults in California. (When My Grandpa Ted and my Grandma Doris met they were two gorgeous stylish young adults at the Art Institute in Chicago – I see a pattern forming.)

On their first date my dad took my mom to Zuma Beach to see the Pacific Ocean. Imagine her joy at coming over the hill to see the long stretch of beach and the impressive blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean! She said she had never seen it, though she had, but certainly not like this. They collected pebbles on the beach. They were in love. They got married. From what I can tell from the photos it was a very sweet wedding except that my dad insisted she have blue roses and the dye got all over Martha’s hands. Still Martha was gorgeous in the fifties gown she designed, and daddy was devilishly handsome in his white tux. I think it was white.

My parents moved to North Carolina where my father got a position teaching art at North Carolina Greensboro, and one after another all three of my sisters and me were born in Moses Cone Hospital. Then my dad got a better position at Cal State Fullerton and off we went. California was so very dramatic in those first few years. I was only 3 1/2 when we first got there. I got very sick and was hospitalized before we left, and my younger sister Melissa was with a high fever when we moved out. What with sisters in and out of the hospital getting tonsils out, getting stitches for hitting our heads (usually me), not to mention floods and fires and Santa Ana winds, it was very dramatic being here in Southern California. Not only that as I recently learned the people who brought my father to the art department at Fullerton had a falling out with the department and he was left without a political foothold in the department.

And then there was a big earthquake, literally, a really big one. My bed slid across the room. Daddy said he was in the kitchen and felt like he was surfing. I have never been too much afraid after that of earthquakes; nothing has been that bad since in my experience, not even the Northridge one. So if you are ever freaking out during an earthquake just know that maybe I am the one who will be cool enough to check the gas line.

Ironically not long after that quake my parents separated and eventually divorced. The day my mother sat us down at the table to tell us they were getting divorced is a story for another day, and it’s pretty interesting in terms of mine and my sister’s reactions and how we all turned out. I used to perform a monologue I wrote about that day called “Divorce.” It is so very common now, but it wasn’t so much back then.

But before all that turmoil my parents were supposedly happy together, and we kids loved playing tiger with daddy (daddy on all fours, one kid on each leg, one on his back, one hanging from his stomach) in the hip orange rug living room of our modern house with the gorgeous tall windows and white painted fireplace. After you got out of the station wagon parked in the cool carport you opened the turquoise front door with the exaggerated large knob to an atrium where I bounced around on my blue hippity-hop. Sliding glass doors opened to a pebble walkway that looked like a river bed. We even had burlap covered closet doors. Outside, lining the front of the house, fun banana leaf and bird of paradise plants to run behind and a fairy ring of pink geraniums. Inside, beamed wooden ceilings and sleek Danish Modern sideboards and living room tables and chairs and lots of light. Daddy would come home from his studio in the Orange Circle off Chapman in his paint bespeckled coveralls and kiss our mommy. We were happy. Is it no wonder this is where my design aesthetic is stuck?

And don’t think this was the stuffy heavy Hollywood Regency coolness like you see on Mad Men with all the fake gold and big heavy ceramic ashtrays for smoking. Sure they smoked but they quit when I was seven and everyone grew two inches. My parents were hip and colorful and streamlined; think Marrimekko. They both had fair skin and dark brown hair. They made a beautiful couple. My dad wore these soft velour striped sweatshirts in blue and green and drove a light blue VW bug. He had a soft elegance about him, a quiet American earnestness. My mom made these bright bold patterned sleeveless dresses she called jumpers, and had her thick brown hair piled in a big bun on her head, and when my parents had dinner parties she would laugh and laugh through her bright red lipstick. I thought my mom was the coolest woman to walk the earth. She wore pantyhose. She was slim from her days as a dancer. My dad was handsome and funny. I learned later he was shy and reserved around strangers. And sometimes he would get mad. But to me he was silly and warm and fun, especially when we played tigers or went to the park to play on the swings.

I once asked my mom if she missed fashion design once she got married. She said she didn’t have time to think raising four girls. Besides which she was very creative making all our clothes and matching clothes for our dolls. Apparently my dad told her when they got married there would only be one artist in the family. “How could you let him say that to you?” I asked. Martha shrugged and said, “It was the fifties.” Wow.

But the time I am idolizing in my brain was when my parents were still together and I thought it would be like that forever. And it’s no wonder I find the 70’s aesthetic to be a little sleazy and uncomfortable. Oh sure now I can appreciate the kitschiness of a smoky plastic dining room set or a hang ten tee shirt or a hooked rug you hang on the wall or a torn boot clay planter, not to mention macrame. But at the time I cringed at the brown plaid couch we had in our rented townhouse that my mom got while she was selling our gorgeous wood paneled, high ceilinged, beautiful Eichler Tract home. I hated our Avocado fridge even though the Brady Bunch had one kind of like it. It took me a long time to wear brown and I still shy away from earth tones.

Case in point my current couch is a sectional in bright pink. Super kicky and bright. Maybe this is a combination of 60’s and 80’s. The eighties were when I came into my own as a young adult. I bought clothes at thrift stores and developed my own style. I wore stretch black denim skinny jeans (back in style!) with a long, cut-out neckline bright pink sweatshirt, and scarves; lots of scarves. I stopped being the girl from Orange County (who I never really was anyway) and embraced the midwest.

I have been back in California for many years. I love it here. But I don’t think I could ever live in Orange County again, despite the nice wide streets and ample parking they have there. No, I like LA and all it’s ethnic diversity. But it doesn’t mean I will ever give up my love for 60’s mod and mid century modern. No way. I guess to me it represents the new happy. It signifies a new life, the sense of possibility California presented to me and my family when we first moved here. And there is nothing wrong in staying stuck in that design bubble, so long as I mix it up with something new and keep it fresh, so long as I am aware of what I like and am not just drawn to it out of comfort. I have learned a lot about mid century design since then. Who knew the Eichler tract would turn out to be so revolutionary and famous? I didn’t. As a child it wasn’t design, it was home. Nothing wrong with going back home.

Feline Furryous

Babaloo and Gremlin

The guilty ones

For those of you who know me you know I love a good bargain almost as much as I love mid-century modern design.  So imagine my utter glee at finding a five-piece mid-century modern sofa in beautiful cream upholstery right off the truck at my local Salvation Army store.  The only flaws were a little discoloration to the upholstery which I easily cleaned up with carpet cleaner.  I imagine it was covered in plastic at one point by some very stylish and careful, bossy even 1950’s housewife who sent it to the garage and covered it in plastic when it went out of style, and the markings are simply from the move in the truck.  People used to take better care of their furniture, and it was made better too.  Good fortune and a life long swap meet shoppers intuition brought this gorgeous sectional to me just when I really needed it even though I didn’t need it, really.  Whatever.  I wanted it badly and there it was.  I can’t believe my luck sometimes.

The cost was 300, a good price for such a lovely quintet of two triangle upholstered side tables topped with wood style formica and a couch that consists of two love seat sectionals and an armless chair.  Yet I was contemplating the price along with the size and how to move it and what to do with my current sofa sectional of pink vinyl when another savvy shopper pointed out to me that today everything was half off.  150!  OMG!  I had to have it!

I currently have the two side triangles together as a corner table with the remaining three pieces forming one bad ass super long couch, but I imagine this arrangement will transform many times over the years.  This couch was just the solution to go with my orange mid-century mod still life painting that was clashing with my pink vinyl fifties sectional. I love a good sectional and have relegated the pink one to the other side of the room where it no longer clashes with the orange painting and resides under my black velvet matador painting and a pink guitar. Beauty and flexibility!  Ahhh, bliss!

I think the five-piece sectional is actually worth a lot more than 300 in resale.  I bet I could get double that, or even 800 which a vintage furniture store would then again resell for maybe as much as 1200.  To think I got it for 150!  That comes to only 30 dollars per piece!  AMAZING. Not only that I moved it for free in two trips in my convertible Beetle and my neighbor helped me drag the pieces upstairs.  Oh the joy, the rapture, the ecstasy of brilliant find combined with great deal!

But guess what?  Babaloo and Gremlin love it too, and have been expressing their ecstasy over and over in using the side arms as scratching posts.  They must have a lot of built up tension having never had sex being two neutered rescue cats.  So much for owning an 800 dollar sofa.  It’s now worth more like 150.

Nothing to be done, and I am not getting rid of either the cats or the couch.  We will all just have to live together, flaws and all.

That is what Feline Furryous is all about.