MCM

Mid-Century American of Martinsville Dining Set

We recently revived a MCM American of Martinsville dining set. Manufactured in the 1960s, the table and chairs combine the beauty of Scandinavian lines, the warmth of walnut wood, and the sturdiness of American craftsmen.

American of Martinsville

When David and Michael brought the set home, a quick assessment revealed that everything needed work. The chairs: cleaning and recovering. The table: refinishing.

Mid-Century Modern Chairs

Chair seats became my responsibility, so let’s start there. A striped, canvas fabric covered the seat, very utilitarian but a bit casual for this set.

American of Martinsville

I began removing the staples and soon discovered the next layer. Someone previously ripped off the black dust cover, but the under fabric appeared to be a formal gold brocade.

American of Martinsville

Yikes! A stained gold brocade.

American of Martinsville

Undeterred, I kept popping those staples and encountered a new surprise — a third layer of fabric.

American of Martinsville

I had made it down to the original orange fabric. How perfect for these chairs, but the edges showed brittleness and staining was evident:American of Martinsville

The final step, uncovering the foam. It appeared to be 1960s polyurethane foam.

American of Martinsville

David went outside to pull the foam off the wooden boards and clean them up.

By the way, I generally buy my supplies from Joann.

  • 2″ high density foam from their online site. An employee once asked why I use 2″ instead of 1″. Because American bottoms appreciate 2″ foam.
  • Polyester batting
  • Fabric. I usually select a neutral color, preferably from the remnant section. For these chairs, however, I wanted something special. I tried to match the original fabric as closely as possible.

You can read my earlier post on recovering MCM dining chairs here: Recovering Dining Chair Seats: Mid-Century Modern

The narrow backs are cane over walnut, making it more durable than cane alone. An added bonus, the lumbar arch of each chair offers back support along with its graceful curve.

American of MartinsvilleAlthough we have 5 dining chairs, the captain’s chair did not go into our booth. Apparently odd-numbered chairs unnerve customers. They tend to say, “Hey, you’re missing a chair.” This way, if we offer 4, we have the ability to throw in a bonus chair should the buyers show interest.

MCM Dining Table

David took charge of the dining table. Sadly, there are no before or during photos.

The chair leg joints all needed tightening, so David removed the legs from the side rails (aka apron) and discovered a few of the dowel pins that align and strengthen the joints had broken off. Nothing is ever easy — or quick.

He drilled out the broken ends and created fresh holes for new dowel pins to be glued and inserted. Each leg required gluing and clamping, then the sides had to be joined to the legs. More gluing and clamping. Finally, he assembled the whole frame, trying to keep it level and square. Once more, gluing and clamping. He gave each of these individual sections a full 24 hours for the glue to set.

The refinishing process involved lightly sanding the old finish with 220-grit sandpaper and then applying 5 coats of spray lacquer.

Now the details really pop.

The wood grain pattern, with its dynamic, flowing arches, is called a cathedral design. A  woodworker achieves this effect, one of the most desirable patterns for tabletops, by sawing a log using a flat cut. Often only half of a table shows the cathedral effect, but — bonus — this table has matching cathedrals.

American of Martinsville

The original craftsman laid out and joined these 4 cathedral graining wood veneer panels in a Reverse Diamond Pattern. Abutting the ends of the patterns is tricky and requires careful cutting to make an exact match at the apex of each triangle. Reverse Matching Triangles give the face of the table the same matching pattern on all four sides. The result, as you clearly see, is one gorgeous tabletop.

Of course the x-shaped inserts, the hallmark of all American of Martinsville tables, appear at each table corner:

American of Martinsville

American of Martinsville’s Dania II

American of Martinsville is a storied American furniture maker, whose bold designs helped furnish homes throughout the 20th century. Our chairs definitely belong to the Dania II collection, as seen in this 1963 ad. I circled the chair in red:

American of MartinsvilleAt this point, I can’t verify the American of Martinsville furniture collection and time period of our table. Probably Dania or Dania II, but more research is necessary.

This next ad, also from 1963, doesn’t feature our table and chairs but offers a description of Dania II:

Why The Bride Set Her Cap for Dania II Too! She knew it would lead the life they love — casual, easy-going, impromptu. She wanted to begin it right — flair without frills — simplicity with just a touch of sophistication — and unbelievable storage space. She was delighted at so much Dania II to choose from. Smart component wall units with numerous shelves, drawers and trays. Occasional tables for every conceivable purpose. Inviting chairs and sofas, smartly upholstered. Even a spacious cabinet for their growing record collection. And all in warm walnut with a durable matte lacquer finish. Now the three of them are set for a long and happy life — new bride, new groom, new Dania II. One of the many contemporary designs for living, dining and bedroom by American of Martinsville for young people who want authoritative design, quality craftsmanship.
American of Martinsville

On Display

American of Martinsville

We moved this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern American of Martinsville dining set into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Interiors. I want to give a special shout out to our son, Michael, the Avonlea photographer, for his beautiful photos.

On Avonlea Antiques’ new website, customers can make online purchases. It’s worth checking out, and items are added each week. This dining set isn’t on the Avonlea website yet, but stay tuned. It’s coming soon!

Ann Marie and David

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Harvey Probber: MCM Rosewood Dresser

Harvey Probber Rosewood Dresser

Design has a fourth dimension; the intangible quality of aging gracefully. — Harvey Probber

I’d never heard of Harvey Probber before we acquired his dresser. But the moment David and I laid eyes on its sleek lines, dark, sumptuous rosewood veneer, and perfectly matched grain, we wanted it.

A little research: Probber emerged as a leading designer when American modernism flourished in the mid-20th century.

Harvey Probber is part of that unsung second wave of mid-century modernists. Though he hasn’t achieved the ‘label’ recognition of Eames or Noguchi, I think he’ll become considerably important on the secondary market over the next few years. — James Zemaitis, former director of 20th-century design at Sotheby’s. Source

MCM American furniture designer
Harvey Probber, Source

Acquisition

Our son Michael fielded the initial inquiry. A woman wished to sell her father’s Harvey Probber dresser. A quick look at the outlandishly inflated prices on 1stdibs led to two discoveries: original Harvey Probber pieces are rare and expensive.

I set up a time for us to meet the client at her dad’s retirement community. David and I discussed the highest amount we could offer, stopped by the bank, and hoped for the best.

The dad had acquired the piece in the 1960s and loved it. His room in the nursing facility provided just enough space for a single piece of furniture beyond his bed and nightstand. This was what he kept. But alas, he faced a move to a smaller room. The seven-foot credenza with original glass top couldn’t join him. Because of her father’s health issues, the daughter served as negotiator.

We told her the amount of cash we could offer and her face fell. I found myself apologizing  and explaining that we’d have to cover the costs of transporting and cleaning it — and it needed a lot of cleaning. Beyond that, we’d pay rental costs to display it until we sold it to someone proud to own a Harvey Probber.

She had to discuss our offer with her two sisters. Sure, that’s fine. And she’d get back to us, one way or the other. But as we left, David speculated that we’d never hear back. I reassured him that we did what we set out to do. We made a reasonable offer, up front with no gimmicks. What more could we do?

A few days later she phoned and agreed to our offer. I’ve got to tell you, we were amazed.

Harvey’s Dresser

Probber used exotic woods for his cabinets and tables. This dresser, with finely crafted details, is rosewood:

Harvey Probber Dresser

We immediately dropped it off at our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. The legs  showed damage from a senior citizen’s walker, a constant presence in the dad’s life. Mop buckets could have caused the nicks, too.

David used Timbermate Woodfiller on the legs, filling in and evening out the corner edges. He applied ebony stain over all 8 legs. When dry, he sprayed a clear semigloss lacquer and topcoat on the legs.

Next came Howard’s Restor-a-finish on the wood surface. David carefully hand rubbed until the finish shone. The dresser had a few scratches, but the Howard’s minimized them. And David polished obsessively. His reward was a luxurious finish.

Have a look: This generous top middle drawer holds jewelry.

Harvey Probber DresserThe maker’s label:
Harvey Probber label
David achieved this brilliant sheen:
Harvey Probber Dresser
Harvey Probber Dresser

Harvey Probber (1922-2003)

So, who was Harvey Probber? While in high school, Harvey took a job at a used-furniture store and soon began to sketch his ideas for furniture. At 16, he sold his first sofa design for the glorious sum of $10. After high school, his formal training was limited to a few evening classes at the Pratt Institute. He learned furniture production on the job at Trade Upholstery in NYC.

The key to salvation was in bits and pieces of plane geometry . . . they were meaningless alone, but when fused to conventional shapes, profoundly altered their character. — Harvey Probber

After World War II, he started his own business, Harvey Probber, Inc., in 1945, and spent the next four decades designing furniture.

His greatest contribution came from developing modular furniture in the late 1940s. That is to say, he developed upholstered unit furniture — 19 pieces — that could be juggled into endless configurations. He named this the Sert Group in homage to architect and city planner Jose Lluís Sert. Expanding on that concept, he developed Nuclear Furniture, which included various shaped occasional tables with interchangeable pedestals.

Imagine rearranging your living room with these quadrants, half-circles, corner sections, and wedges. Oh, it would be magical. Check out the examples provided:

Probber Modular Systems Concept
Probber Modular Systems Concept 1945, Source

Production Continues

In 2012, licensed by the Probber estate, M2L began manufacturing selected authentic reproductions from Harvey Probber’s collection.

Probber ‘s designs won awards. The Museum of Modern Arts, for instance, selected his  Elastic Sling Chair and Upholstered Nuclear groups for their 1951 exhibition.

Harvey Probber
Harvey Probber Sling Chair, ca. 1948. Source
Harvey Probber sectional
Harvey Probber Nuclear | Sert Sectional, designed 1946. Source

Starting in the 1970s Probber focused exclusively on contract design. He always maintained his interest in modular seating, urethane foam and luxe upholstery fabric. It’s a delight to review his eclectic designs:

Harvey Probber Cubo Cluster
Harvey Probber Cubo Cluster, designed 1972, Source
Harvey Probber Deep Tuft
Harvey Probber Deep Tuft Sofa, designed 1972. Source
Reproduced by M2L
Harvey Probber Mayan Sofa, designed 1983. Source

Thanks for your interest in Harvey Probber and our absolutely gorgeous rosewood dresser. Until next time!

Ann Marie and David
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4 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

MCM Dining Table Sets

After several barren weeks of estate sales devoid of bargains and success, our luck finally changed. We bought 2 Mid-Century Modern dining table sets in one weekend (along with several additional pieces), to add to the 3 dining sets we have distributed between our booth and warehouse.

This seems a good an opportunity to discuss what characteristics we look for.

  1. Clean Lines

    Mid-Century Modern dining table sets should convey a sense of lightness, sleekness. The shape should capture your attention. As a rule, MCM tables and chairs are more compact and, therefore, perfect for smaller spaces. Once you begin studying tables and chairs, their differences become evident.

  2. Manufacturer

    We always check the name of the manufacturer before buying Mid-Century Modern dining table sets. That means one of us is slithering around under the table and tipping over a chair. If we find a name like Drexel or White Furniture, we’ll stop our investigation right there. An unknown manufacturer, however, isn’t dismissed; we just double our efforts to make sure the pieces structurally sound and aesthetically appealing.

  3. Wood Grain

    Although MCM designers experimented with other materials such as plastic, glass, vinyl and shaped plywood, the tables we buy are made of wood. Tabletops are covered with good, wood veneer, which is a thin slice of actual wood. This process changed in the 1970s when furniture companies began to incorporate particle board and MDF to save money.

  4. Condition

    How much work will the pieces require? Our biggest expense is outsourcing a table for sanding and refinishing. Are the pieces sturdy? If any legs are wobbly, can we easily fix them? We hope for good padding and original fabric on the seats. Both of these, if problematic, can be remedied. All these elements, however, add to costs that can lower our profit margin

Now that we’ve covered the characteristics we consider when evaluating MCM dining table sets, let’s look at our sets.

  1. Drexel Profile

This dining set belongs to Drexel’s Profile Collection, designed by John Van Koert. Drexel manufactured Profile between 1955 – 1961. This set dates from 1956 and includes table, 6 chairs, and 3 leaves.

Mid-Century Modern dining table sets

First, look at its shape: tapered legs, gentle curves, borders on the table top, and chair spindles. It’s Drexel made, so the quality is excellent. Rich brown color, made of pecan and walnut woods. When we encountered this piece at an estate sale, I froze in horror seeing  that heavy metal container on the bare wood.

The chairs look great. I made sure to dust between every one of those exquisite spindles. One chair has a small stain on the fabric, but I think we can clean and avoid the recovering process.

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

2. Caldwell Furniture Company

Caldwell Furniture of Lenoir, NC, manufactured this table and chair set in 1961. My research hasn’t led me to any rich details on Caldwell’s. The company started in 1906 and Thomasville bought it in 1968. Despite knowing very little about the manufacturer, this is a well-designed table.  I like the way each side gently bows. Caldwell Furniture, Lenoir NC

The tabletop had sustained topcoat damage. Davis stripped the top and outsourced the table and its 2 leaves for refinishing. The final result reveals a highly grained walnut with contrasting light and dark grains.

Here are 3 of the 4 recovered chairs. The backs remind me of bow ties. We recovered, and seriously upgraded, the 4 dining chairs seats, which we wrote about in a previous post. At present this MCM dining set sits in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

MCM Dining Table Sets

3. White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC

White Furniture, known for high quality, manufactured this set, probably in the late 1970s. It came with 6 chairs and 2 leaves.White Furniture MCM Dining Table & Chairs
The chair spindles gently curve, the legs taper. The oval top contrasts with the square and rectangles of the chair and there’s an Asian sensibility to these chairs.  David believes the wood is walnut but we haven’t studied it enough to identify the finish. As for the condition, the table needs refinishing.

The square cushions are in great shape, generously padded and covered in a white vinyl. I’m not a fan of vinyl, but it can be useful if children are anywhere near food. Here’s a chair detail:

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

4. B. F. Huntley of Winston-Salem, NC

My research hasn’t led to any unusual discoveries. A small business, Huntley’s started in 1906, sold to Simmons in 1929, burned in 1935 and reemerged as Huntley once again before Thomasville bought it in 1961. Although the table has a series of stenciled numbers on the bottom, each company had its own system of identification. I can’t say definitively when Huntley made this set without a code to decipher the numbers.

This drop leaf table came with 6 chairs and 1 leaf. Ironically, a previous owner had the table refinished but neglected/forgot the leaf. As a result, the leaf doesn’t match the table’s newer finish. David claims the table needs work, and Michael tells me the seats need recovering.

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

When David and Michael picked up the set from the estate sale, they — and the sales rep — realized it was a drop leaf. The rep claimed, had she realized that when pricing, she’d have marked it higher.

What I appreciate about the chair design is the “H” back, and the upper back slat reminds me of a surfboard. At a glance the padding and fabric looked OK to me but I haven’t studied it. I know at least one of the chairs wobbles.

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

5. Drexel Today’s Living

Milo Baughman designed Drexel’s Today’s Living Collection, Our set was manufactured in 1952. The shape of the table holds interest because its thickness narrows down from the center.  I wrote about our struggle to acquire these pieces at an estate sale.

Milo Baughman Drexel 1952

The woods are elm and beech; the finish is beech. Between its wood color and the matching orange fabric, there’s a sense of lightness. Happily, we kept the chair seats as is.

Lastly, our son Michael will choose one of these Mid-Century Modern dining table sets for his personal use. He narrowed his selection down to two sets (#1 and #5), both manufactured by Drexel, Michael’s considering either the Drexel Profile set by John Van Koert (4 chairs, 3 leaves) or the Drexel Today’s Living set designed by Milo Baughman (6 chairs, 2 leaves).

If Mid-Century Modern dining table sets appeal to you, which would you choose?

Ann Marie and David

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Finding Milo Baughman at Drexel

Acquisition

A few weeks ago, my son and I ventured into an estate sale madhouse. A lot of times a seller mistakenly identifies a sale or item as Mid-Century Modern (MCM) when it isn’t. My son  makes a game out of it, Ignorance or Malice? The rules are fairly self-explanatory. I just think it’s an attractive hook used to lure interested shoppers. Since there does seem to be so much confusion, I put together a primer on MCM.

But this sale wasn’t like the others. What it had were numerous photographs — posted earlier in the week — of an incredibly cool household.

The pack of buyers frothed rabid that morning. Fortunately Michael and I signed in as numbers 3 and 4 among the early dawn enthusiasts. Michael was still on crutches — a broken ankle from rugby. The melee didn’t favor his physical impairment, and being out of practice with first-day estate sales because of his job, the cutthroat frenzy took him by surprise.

The first people swarmed into the home like locusts — and we were among them. I reached the dining room first. I came face to face with the lovely table pictured below. “Where’s the price tag on this dining table?” I like to think that I presented my question in a calm and civil manner, but chances are the hapless worker witnessed a wild-eyed customer shouting incoherently about tags. After a chaotic few seconds I located the tag snatched it up. Others crashed toward me. This was the craziest sale I’d ever attended.
Milo Baughman Drexel 1952
Later, I learned Michael had headed to a bedroom but couldn’t grab sale tags speedily with his crutches hindering him. Faster shoppers outmaneuvered and frustrated him. We left the sale after an hour or so, only to be confronted by a line of shoppers still waiting to be ushered into  the home for the sale.
Milo Baughman Drexel 1952

We also purchased the matching china cabinet and lots of smalls over the next few days as prices dropped.

Research

Research came next. Who manufactured the dining set? The table, cabinet and chairs  provided a big clue: Drexel, all made in 1952.

Matching those exact pieces on the internet proved difficult. I came across suggestions that pioneer modern furniture designer Milo Baughman (pronounced MEE-lo BAWF-man) designed the set, but I wanted irrefutable proof. By training, I am a researcher.

Days later I cheered when I found a Chicago Tribune newspaper article from June 22, 1952, focused on Chicago’s big summer show of new furniture and accessories. It offered the first proof that linked Baughman with Drexel’s Today’s Living Collection. The important part of the article is in bold:

One of the largest new collections ever to be shown at once was brought out by Drexel Furniture company and includes a new Precedent group, “Precedent ’53,” of 35 pieces, designed by Milo Baughman in silver elm and beech. . . Baughman designed another modern group in elm and beech, with a spice finish, called “Today’s Living.” It is designed for young families with limited space. Source

I researched on Google, Google Scholar, our local library — they informed me I had exhausted their knowledge. I sent emails to Drexel Heritage with photos, especially the numbers.

Today's Living Dining Table -Stenciled Numbers
Today’s Living Dining Table – Stenciled Numbers. 100-4 is the model; 752 identifies the month and year the table was made: July, 1952

Drexel Heritage sent a pdf of the 1955 Today’s Living Catalog, which helped us verify our pieces.
Drexel's 1955 Today's Living Catalog Buffet
See? Our buffet numbers match the catalog number.
Drexel Today's Living Buffet numbers
Drexel 1955 Catalog Today's Living

Verification

My key question remained: Did Milo Baughman design the 1952 Today’s Living Collection for Drexel? And– at last — the confirmation email to me from Drexel Heritage:

“Yes, from the information we have that is correct.”

Baughman worked at Drexel in 1952, just a sliver of his successful life. The next year he moved on to Thayer Coggin, where he acquired his stellar reputation, and continued with them for the next 50 years. In the 1960s and 1970s designers at the High Point Market eagerly awaited the unveiling of Baughman’s newest pieces.

Several museums feature his designs, including New York City’s Whitney. The Furniture Hall of Fame inducted Baughman in 1987.

We’ll leave you with examples of his later designs. First, the man himself:
Milo Baughman

Burl Buffet by Milo BaughmanBurl Buffet by Milo Baughman / Thayer Coggin. Source.

T-Back Lounge Chair by Milo Baughman
T-Back Lounge Chair designed by Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin. Source.
Circle Sofa by Milo Baughman
Circle Sofa by Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin. Source.

We’re so fortunate that Drexel Heritage is still a functioning furniture manufacturer. Despite this fact, however, the Drexel rep still couldn’t provide me with a copy of the 1952 Today’s Living Collection catalog.

Researching source material such as catalogs and information on notable designers can be difficult, but this story has a happy ending.

Thanks for stopping by, and we love reading your comments.

Ann Marie and David

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5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Mid-Century Modern (MCM) denotes a style of design and architecture that stretched roughly from 1933 to 1965. Some would limit it to 1947-1957, but I prefer the wider range.

Cara Greenberg gets credit for coining the term in the title of her book, Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s (Random House, 1984).

Furniture made in the middle of the 20th century isn’t automatically Mid-Century Modern furniture.

Craigslist sellers and estate sales often slap a Mid-Century Modern label on their wares because they know the style is popular. Perhaps they don’t know the difference. Perhaps they hope buyers won’t know the difference.

For those who remember the I Love Lucy TV show, Lucy and Desi moved to colonial home in Westbury, Connecticut in 1957. Here’s their Early American dining room in the television studio. It’s Colonial Revival in style — casual and rustic yet traditional. And unlike real homes, unusually large.

Lucy and Desi's Colonial Westport Home
Lucy and Desi’s Colonial Westport Home

This next photo provides more realistic proportions for a room, but both examples show sturdy maple dining sets, farmhouse curtains, braided rugs, and hutches displaying serving ware.

Early American 1950s Living Room
Early American 1950s Living Room

Now, here’s the Birkenstock House, an home in New Canaan, Connecticut, built in 1962. Geographically, it’s about 10 miles away from Lucy and Desi’s fictional Westport home. Stylistically, it’s a world apart.

Birkenstock House
Birkenstock House. Architect: Victor Christ-Janer. New Canaan, 1962

5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

1. Lines

Clean lines, curves and smooth surfaces create an understated look. Less becomes more. The heavy, boxy, ornamented pieces of the past were banished and replaced with slimmed down furniture in open spaces. Suddenly, MCM homes became light and airy.

Mid-Century Modern
MCM Family Room: Open and Colorful

2. Materials

Furniture continued to be made from wood, but now with international influences. Scandinavian design and teak wood soared in popularity. Broyhill’s popular Brasilia line, introduced in 1962, imitated the waves and lines of the Brazilian capital. Despite this being a large piece, designers managed to visually reduce its mass.

Broyhill Brasilia china cabinet
Mid-Century Modern Broyhill Brasilia Style Server and Hutch, 1st dibbs, $2,950

New materials — and uses for them — emerged in World War II. Post-War designers conscientiously applied plastic, plywood, glass, and/or lucite to their creations, integrating these materials into the design.

Mid-Century Modern Designers
A few of America’s greatest designers, assembled in 1961, Playboy. Left to right: George Nelson, Edward Wormley, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, Charles Eames and Jens Risom

Design husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames (pronounced EE-ms) experimented with a variety of inexpensive materials. Their work with molded plywood, for instance, resulted in the much coveted (if it’s original) Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. We own a couple of replicas at our house.

Eames Chair
Rosewood Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. 1stdibbs, $4,700

This 1950s bar, made of bamboo, vinyl and formica, holds center stage in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

Dry Bar and Stools
Royal Chrome Dry Bar, Stools and Matching Wall Shelf, 1950s

3. Colors

Color exploded. Neutral walls receded to emphasize shapes and colors in the room.

Mid-Century Modern Living Room
Source: Chris Barrett Design

A bold accent wall, on the other hand, as in our Iris Abbey booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, gives a pop of excitement — just not too much.

Heywood-Wakefield living room furniture - $1,995
Orange Accent Wall in Iris Abbey Booth

4-5. Pattern and Texture

In the photo below, textures flex their power. The shag rug, rough stone fireplace, smooth glass table, sleek ceramic lamp, and furniture fabric all work together. Patterns emerge in the abstract painting, pillows, and pottery. The wood and glass of the coffee table suggest the lines and shape of a modernist sculpture.

Form follows function for all of the pieces seen in this room. Again, I’ll mention the lightness and airiness of the space. The sofa sits on a floating frame. This serves to lift and suspend the heaviest piece of furniture, giving the same ethereal feel as the lounge chair.

Midcentury Modern living room
Source

In our last photo, what textures can you identify in this photo? There’s natural wood and brick, tile flooring, ceramic lamps, a nubby rug, the metal chandelier, fur throw, and fabric on the pillows, chairs and sofa. I like the exotic bookcase that features items from the owners’ travels.

MCM Living Room
Contemporary Living Room in MCM Style

Despite some of the prices seen here, you can find Mid-Century Modern furniture to fit your budget. If you are not a collector, you don’t need an original. Replicas are an alternative. All you need is one statement piece and you can build your room around it.

5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

If you liked this post, share it with your friends.

Ann Marie and David

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Mid-Century Modern Vanity and Upholstered Stool

The Discovery

We drove to an apartment complex for a look at a Mid-Century Modern desk listed on Craigslist. Michael had made arrangements for us to evaluate and purchase, if acceptable. The pictures didn’t offer much information and a description was nonexistent. Still, it caught our son’s eye, so maybe worth a look. When we discovered a Broyhill Premier Saga desk, David and I knew it was more than acceptable.

The seller and I chatted while David went out to arrange blankets in our SUV. She asked — with David still muddling about in the back of the car — if I’d like to see something else. Sure.

This glowed in a back bedroom. Oh my gosh. David appeared and took photos to send  Michael. I ignored him and told her we’d take it. The monster mirror wasn’t attached, so no need to unscrew it. David and Michael could return tomorrow to load and transport these vanity pieces. Very carefully.

Mid-Century Modern

I speculated that Heywood-Wakefield manufactured it, but that was just a gut feeling. And wrong. When I showed pictures to someone much more knowledgeable, he suggested it was made in England.

It’s a lady’s vanity, where she keeps her lingerie and perches on a stool to apply her makeup. Her jewelry drawer sits below the that fantastic full-length mirror.

Still, I did not have a manufacturer. I posed the question on a couple of Facebook furniture groups. Nothing definitive emerged from the many and varied suggestions. David speculates Mid-Century Modern. More research needed.

The vanity itself didn’t require much work but every lady who owns a vanity should have a stool.

The Stool’s Wood

We needed a vanity stool, and my knowledgeable friend produced one from his stash. Alas, its mahogany color was too dark and too red. But David plunged into this project. He stripped and sanded the finish. After several attempts he achieved a finish somewhat approaching the vanity’s color by coaxing a warm medium Walnut overlaid with Fruitwood stain. The wood really does look like it matches the vanity.

Mid-Century Modern

Upholstering the Stool

The original fabric, dark, dirty and completely unsuited to its new task, needed replacing.

Vanity Stool Original Fabric
I had a period fabric, a remnant, that would work. It’s much brighter and seems better suited to Florida. If you’re really paying attention to my projects, this fabric went on a Heywood-Wakefield desk chair (M 953 A) a few weeks ago.
Vanity Stool old and new fabric

Here’s the original material: jute webbing, batting and the fabric.
Upholstery materials

The original jute webbing lacked tension; it sagged pitifully. David applied pressure to the webbing and it drooped down to touch the table beneath.
Jute webbing

We removed staples from half the stool. David used a pliers to pull the pieces of webbing taut while I stapled them down. Much better. We could bounce a quarter.
Vanity Stool Tightening Jute Webbing

Starbuck found her peaceful nook for a nap: she stayed there for hours.
Vanity Stool Sleeping Starbuck
We cut foam and placed it on the jute. Then came the batting, followed by the new piece of fabric. I cut it larger than the original because the additional foam and batting commanded a bigger piece.

With an embroidery needle and fishing line, I basted around the top edge of half the fabric, leaving long ends. When I pulled the two opposing ends, half the fabric gathered, theoretically allowing me to create smooth sides. Repeat on the other side of the fabric, so I could then gather the extra fabric, cut and staple to the bottom. But…. I didn’t cut the piece big enough and we struggled — and struggled — to create smooth sides.

What’s a day without creative struggle? It’s character building.

Vanity Stool basted fabric
The Display

We moved the vanity and stool into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.
Mid-Century Modern Vanity and stool

Here’s a closer look at the completed stool:
Mid-Century Modern Vanity Stool

We created a MCM vignette by arranging Heywood-Wakefield living room furniture, hanging a silver-framed mirror over the sofa, a silvery abstract painting on the other wall, and adding the wonderful Mid-Century Modern vanity and upholstered stool. Did I mention I love that full-length mirror?
Heywood-Wakefield living room furniture

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends. Better still, come to Avonlea and take this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern Vanity home with you.

Ann Marie and David

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ASCP Barcelona Orange Bookshelf with Spots

I’m so pleased with how Barcelona Orange turned this Ugly Duckling bookshelf into a trendy display case for our booth.
ASCP Barcelona Orange

Our bookshelf emerged from humble beginnings. David and our son Michael found it curbside and brought it home. I liked the rounded corners and the Denmark label. But it’s made of particle board, not solid wood like we’re used to. This little guy had plenty of strikes against him. Scratches, dents and a few gouges.

David cleaned and shellacked it and we forgot about it for a few months. I remembered the bookshelf only when Michael wanted a way to display his modest collection of Pyrex dishes in our booth.

Obviously it needed paint, and I wanted to do something splashy.  We have an orange back wall in our booth, a nice contrast to the pale gray side walls. The orange wall looks fantastic — very Mid-Century Modern, which complements a lot of our furniture.
Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery Booth 76

I’d never used ASCP Barcelona Orange, so it was time.

I checked the internet and found my inspiration picture. Beau Ford, one of Annie Sloan’s Painters in Residence, painted this for a child’s room. Colorful and fun.
Annie Sloan Barcelona Orange

I planned to give variety to my spots by using cool colors like ASCP Florence and Aubusson Blue. Maybe a few white spots.

Rain poured down for days, forcing me to work in our kitchen. I put down some paint and then remembered I needed a Before photo. This is it. You can see one of the gouges I slapped wood fill over.
ASCP Barcelona Orange Bookcase

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint goes a long way but this bookshelf took much more paint than I anticipated. We shellacked its dark veneer twice before painting but this little guy’s size — his inside and out — required a lot of paint. Several coats.

Fortunately I had cracked open a new can. Here is the painted bookcase without its shelves. I considered painting one of the shelves Florence and the other Aubusson Blue but decided that would be too much. I stuck with Barcelona Orange.
ASCP Barcelona Orange Bookcase
ASCP Barcelona Orange

I used a wine bottle cork to make the random spots. That gave me the general circular shape. I filled in any uneven circles using a small paintbrush with Florence, Aubusson Blue or Pure White. Then Clear Waxed everything.

The first time I slid in the drawers, they scraped paint off. Ugh. More work. By the second time, I had sanded down the rough particle board edges, applied Clear Wax to the edges, and used a piece of paper between the board and the bookshelf side. Smooth sailing.

A couple of final thoughts: I didn’t add a lot of spots because the purpose of this display case is to showcase the Pyrex. We don’t plan on selling this case — the whole particle board issue again. My knowledge of Pyrex is practically nil but I’m thinking of a future blog about what makes some pieces more valuable than others. Or maybe pass that assignment on to Michael.

We plan on rearranging our booth in the next few weeks, so our lovely display case will soon be at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery — against a gray wall.
ASCP Barcelona Orange with spots

Thanks for stopping by. Comments always are met with excitement and rejoicing. You can like for our Iris Abbey Facebook Page and follow our adventures in searching for success in an antiques mall.

Ann Marie and David
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