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Friday, December 31, 2010


There's no sense writing a serious post about furniture or architecture on a holiday weekend. People are either too busy or feeling too jovial or too depressed to read something like that. Food and drink, on the other hand, are always good subjects for the holidays, so you'll get a couple more, and then we'll go back to my more standard fare till the next one rolls around.

I'm old enough to have seen my share of New Year's Eve parties in the 60s, and I remember some that my parents had in the 1950s.  If you're wanting an authentic mid-century party, then here are some drink recipes that were popular back then...starting with my favorite at the time, the whiskey sour. Have a wonderful New Year's Eve, and be sure to have a designated driver. We want you safe and sound tomorrow to celebrate New Year's Day!

Whiskey Sour

2 oz. whiskey
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. sugar
1 cherry
½ lemon slice

Put all ingredients in mixing glass and add ice cubes. Strain into highball glass. Add lemon slice and cherry to garnish.

Tom Collins

1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 ½ oz. gin
Lemon slices

Mix sugar, gin and juice over ice in mixing glass. Stir, strain into cocktail glass with ice and top off with soda water. Garnish with lemon slices.

Brandy Alexander

¾ oz. cream
¾ oz. brandy
¾ oz. dark crème de cacao

Pour the liquors and cream into a mixing glass. Shake and pour into martini glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top or on rim of glass.

White Russian

1 oz. vodka
½ oz. coffee liqueur
1 oz. heavy cream

Pour vodka, coffee liqueur and heavy cream into a cocktail glass. Stir well.


1 ¾ oz. bourbon
¾ oz. sweet vermouth
1 dash aromatic bitters
1 Maraschino cherry

Pour bitters and liquors over ice in a mixing glass. Stir and strain into martini glass. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.


1 oz. cognac
1 oz. crème de menthe

Put all ingredients in mixing glass. Shake briskly. Serve in a brandy snifter.

Gibson Martini

2 ½ oz. gin or vodka
¾ oz. dry vermouth
3-5 cocktail onions

Stir gin or vodka and vermouth on ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a martini glass and add cocktail onions.

Old Fashioned

2 dashes aromatic bitters
½ tsp. sugar dissolved with water and bitters
1 ½ oz. bourbon
1 cherry
1 orange slice
1 lemon wedge

Fill glass with ice. Add cherry, orange slice and lemon wedge. Pour in bourbon. Serve in a rocks glass over ice.

Vodka Gimlet

1 ½ oz. vodka
¾ oz. lime juice
3-4 lime slices

Pour vodka and lime juice into mixing glass. Shake and strain into martini glass. Add lime slices.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Norman Cherner

Norman Cherner (1920-1987) studied at the Columbia University and later taught there in the Fine Arts Department. He was also an instructor at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1947-1949, where he explored the Bauhaus concept of multidisciplinary design. While he is best known for his furniture, he also designed graphics, glassware and lighting, as well as prefabricated housing.

One of the first pre-fabricated houses in the United States was Cherner's "Pre-built". It was designed, produced and assembled in 1957 for the U.S. Department of Housing. After being exhibited in Vienna it was shipped back to Connecticut to become his first home and studio outside of New York City.

Norman Cherner's furniture designs include a modular storage system, the "Konwiser Line" of furniture and lighting and molded plywood seating for Plycraft which he designed in 1958. The molded plywood "Cherner Chair" became his most recognized design and is found in furniture collections worldwide.

When Cherner presented his design for the famous chair to Plycraft, he was told it was impractical to produce, yet six months later, he saw the chair on a showroom floor attributed to a designer named "Bernardo," who was a creation of the Plycraft marketing department. Cherner sued Plycraft and won. As a result of the legal actions, the chair is sometimes attributed to the fictitious Bernardo, to Cherner, and even to Paul Goldman, the founder of Plycraft. The chair appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in a Norman Rockwell illustration, so it is sometimes even referred to as the "Rockwell Chair."

If you'd like to see a beautiful Cherner chair restoration, see my Toshmahal post about Dallas furniture restorer/refinisher Hank Tosh.  He brought a badly abused chair back to life.

From, and

Cherner armchair

Cherner armchairs and side chairs

Cherner upholstered chair

Cherner iron and maple chair

Cherner iron and walnut tables

Cherner barstools

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Boys

Just a quick departure from discussing mid-century to being Grammo and showing you my two little darlings...15-month-old big brother Holden and brand new baby brother Grayson, born yesterday morning.

These are the two lights of my life and hearts of my grandsons.

15-month-old grandson Holden

Brand new grandson Grayson, born yesterday
9 lbs. 2 oz., 20 1/2" long

Their mom, dad and I are about to go into the mid-century business in earnest, so they'll be our little partners when we go out buying. :)

Cliff May's modern ranch house

Cliff May (1908-1989) studied at San Diego State but left school in 1929. While he was a student, he created furniture, which he sold for use in model homes. Using that experience with the industry, he designed and built his first house when he was only 23.

He pioneered the California ranch style house with an emphasis on designing homes with interiors that were in harmony with the way people wanted to live. He watched people use his homes, and when he found a design concept that pleased his clients, the idea was worked over and improved in the next house. He also made an effort to connect every room with the outdoors, so it is not uncommon to find floor-to-ceiling glass in the place of walls in his homes.

During his career, he designed more than 18,000 tract homes and more than 1,000 custom homes across the country, many of which are listed in the Cliff May Registry.

One of my Christmas gifts from my daughter and SIL was the book Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House by Daniel P. Gregory. It's a gorgeous book with beautiful photography that any Cliff May fan would enjoy.


Cliff May home in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Cliff May home in  Long Beach, CA

Cliff May home in Long Beach, CA
Cliff May interior in Long Beach, CA

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Can't get enough of those Eames chairs

Before Christmas, several of us mid-century bloggers were commenting about the Herman Miller Eames chairs Mr. Modtomic got in trade for the Brasilia desk, and I said I'd post a picture of mine. My holiday countdown distracted me, and I'm just now remembering.

I got this yellow chair a year or so ago...also in a trade.  I had a Vermont Castings stainless steel gas grill that I wasn't using, and the owner of the Eames chair was willing to trade for it.  Dollar for dollar, she probably came out ahead, but I figure the grill will continue to depreciate, and the chair will only increase in value over time.

I fell in love with this little beauty the minute I saw it, but I really didn't have a place for it, so it's bounced all over the house, finally landing in a corner of the living room, as a quasi-cover-up for that unsightly Bose thing that has something to do with my surround sound system (though don't ask me what). It was here when I bought the place. But I digress...

When I got the chair, it had a four-point star pedestal, which I stored in my workshop when I replaced it with an Eiffel rocker base. The change significantly decreased the height of the chair, making it the perfect height for my 15-month-old grandson to climb up on and rock...with a little help from Grammo.

I've sold other shell a fiberglass armchair and another a tan jackstraw fiberglass on a swivel base...and I'm always tempted to buy more, even though I have one sitting in the workshop right now waiting to be restored. There's something irresistible about the potato chips or pistachios.  One just isn't enough.

My sweet little chair

Then there are people who don't understand when "just one more" is entirely too many.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pssst...They're called slubs.

Nubbies, knots, flecks, knobblies, tweedy-things…no matter what you call them, you’re probably talking about slubs. From barkcloth to wool upholstery fabric, and all kinds of blends in between, much mid-century fabric was all about the slubs. By definition, a slub is a soft lump or unevenness in a yarn, either an imperfection or created by design.

One of the early problems with automated carding and spinning processes was the appearance of an incidental section of the yarn that was fuller than the yarn was intended to be. This soft lump would have to be removed before the material would be ready for warping or twisting. Originally, there were standards set in place that established what was considered an acceptable amount of slubbed or nubby yarn for first quality grading and sale.

Over time, however, the concept of yarns containing a high count of slubs as a textural and style alternative began to develop. Slub yarn began to be used intentionally, especially in fabrics that were characterized by what is referred to as roves. Essentially, a rove is an intentional pattern of slub yarn that is produced when spinning and twisting machinery is adjusted to allow the presence of the fuller lumps in the yarn itself. The result is that when the fabric is woven, the slubs form a continuous pattern in the material.

While slubbed fabric was very popular for mid-century furniture and draperies, the presence of slub yarn, particularly in upholstery fabric, results in a lower level of durability than one finds in smooth, more tightly woven material, making it all the more amazing that some of our favorite pieces have been preserved with their original covering still intact. 

From and

My highly slubby sofa, with original upholstery fabric

Close-up of sofa upholstery fabric

My semi-slubby chair

Close-up of chair upholstery fabric

A few months ago, I found a set of drapes at an estate sale that must have originally been ceiling-to-floor and covered an entire wall. I got half a dozen huge panels for $5. The orange and green fabric is very slubbed and is so typically mid-century. I've literally covered everything that would sit still with the stuff, including my daughter's dining room chair seats, the seat of a desk chair at my house and several pieces we sold in our booth. I've made pillows out of it too, and I still have a ton of fabric left. I swear, every time I cut a piece off,  the stuff regenerates in the dark at night.

The oddly regenerating slubby fabric that will never be used up

One of the chair seats I've recovered with the drapery fabric

Slubby pillows in my TV room/grandson playroom

Some highly slubbed Robert Allen fabric I'm considering for a reupholstery project

Sunday, December 26, 2010

In the pink

During 20th century, china, lamps and vases all looked pretty in pink. Most of the major producers of ceramics had at least one pink pattern or solid. Here are a few examples of the feel-good color that I thought might brighten your day and make you smile.

Santa Anita Ware California Fantasy

Kenilworth covered casserole

Salem Mosaic

Salem Martinique sugar and Hopscotch Pink creamer

Iroquois Impromptu Frolic

Russel Wright Iroquois Casual

Marc Bellaire Natives

Klein Reid vase by Eva Zeisel

Universal Stratoware by Eva Zeisel for Sears

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Best wishes for a very mid-century Christmas

Wishing you and yours
all things biomorphic and beautiful
this Christmas.

My dad, mom, brother and me in saddle oxfords, c. 1955,
with my first "walking doll"...a Saucy Walker.
The baton came with a pair of white leather majorette
boots that must be somewhere under the tree.

Friday, December 24, 2010

New furniture nestled all snug in my house

Just an update...Here are pictures I promised of the new sofa and chair after I got them set up in my house...instead of the Atomica Modern shots I posted yesterday.

Joe not only delivered the pieces to me, but he also repaired one of the springs on my other sofa that had come loose.  What he thought was going to be a very simple fix turned out to be a big job, but he didn't charge me a dime. He's such a nice guy...and such a pleasure to do business with.

December 24...1 day till Christmas

As I've mentioned, my maternal grandmother was an interior decorator at heart. While my mother was very traditional when it came to holiday decor, my grandmother was more concerned with things cutting edge and color coordinated. She was determined to be au courant about everything in the design world.

Naturally, she had to have an aluminum tree the first year they came out, and though she bought the multi-color revolving color wheel, her ornaments were always monochromatic...usually red, but occasionally all blue if she were feeling particularly Picasso-ish that year.

ONE aluminum tree with red ornaments

According to American Chronicle, the vintage aluminum Christmas trees sought by collectors today were introduced in 1959 by Aluminum Specialty Company. Soon after their debut, aluminum Christmas trees were rapidly introduced by a variety of other firms and they became one of the staples of the modern American home decor during the Yuletide season throughout the 1960s and well into the 70s.

I don't care for the Charlie Brown Christmas look of the really sparse ones, and I haven't been willing to spring for one of the really full ones, which usually cost in the neighborhood of $250-300. I admitted several days ago that I'm not much of a holiday decorator, but I bet I would be if I had the Number 1 item on my Christmas Wish List...a gorgeous Evergleam aluminum tree...with sensational new frosty finish!

#1 on my Christmas Wish List
Aluminum Specialty pom pom tree, c. 1959

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2 days before Christmas...and 2 mid-century pieces for me!

For those of you who followed the saga of the disappointing sofas in Austin a few weeks ago, I had to break into the Christmas countdown with an extra post of a heartwarming holiday story that's destined to become a classic.

I was checking craigslist a couple of days ago and clicked on a listing that said "Mid Century Modern Vintage Retro Eames Era Sofa Couch Set," and what to my wondering eyes did appear but the sofa and chair of my dreams.

I emailed the seller, afraid that someone else had already scooped them up, but he still had them. I went to see them in person yesterday, and they were even more beautiful than they looked in the pictures...not a single flaw on the upholstery, firm and supple cushions, tight springs...absolutely perfect condition and just the right color for my house (very similar to the orangy brown of my living room sofa, some of you may have noticed).  Best of all, THEY'RE BEING DELIVERED TODAY!!!

You told me something better would come along eventually, but I never thought they would come along this soon...or that they would be this good. Merry Christmas to me!

My new sofa
The matching chair
Arm detail
I'll take pictures when they're set up in my former guest room, which has now officially become a media/reading room and grandson playroom.