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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Designer fails: Where's the base?

I started this series on designer fails with a post about an Adrian Pearsall collection that was lush, plush overkill.   I mentioned at the time that I was starting with Pearsall to prove that I could be impartial, because I'm usually a real fan of his.

Without really planning it, this second post of the series is about another of my favorite designers, Jens Risom. My original premise was that even great designers have ill-conceived or poorly executed ideas, and I have an example residing in my own home.

At his best, Risom has produced furniture with the most gorgeous bases I've ever seen, including some that make the tabletop, chair or sofa seem to float. Take a look at some of these stunning designs.

Comfort Conscience lounge chairs...a definite SUCCESS

Floating bench...another SUCCESS

Lounge chair floating on a three-legged base

Floating coffee table...YES!

My Jens Risom credenza...a KEEPER!

Take, on the other hand, the tables I have in my home. They have beautiful bases. Unfortunately, you can't see them without practically lying on the floor. The table tops extend almost 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) beyond the bases and are simply too large. Couple that with the fact that the tables are extremely low, and even someone who's 5'3" like I am has problems seeing what's underneath. As a result, the bases that were designed to make the tabletops appear to float are hidden and seem crushed under the weight of the massive tops.

Remember the Wendy's commercial in the 1980s featuring Clara Peller asking, "Where's the beef?" That's how I feel about the bases when I look at my tables.

My table...Where's the base?
This has to go down as a FAIL.

The same table taken from a better angle
See, it really does have a beautiful base under there.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fort Worth's historic Eldred W. Foster House

I recently received the following press release from Quentin and Laurie McGown, owners of the first Fort Worth, Texas, mid-century home to be listed in the National Register of Historic places. The McGowns have owned the house since 2010 and are currently doing a thoughtful and faithful restoration of the structure. Not only is inclusion in the National Register a great honor, but it also protects the home in the future. Please join me in thanking them for their contribution to preserving architecture from the period.

Fort Worth Mid-Century Modern House Listed in National Register
of Historic Places

Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas – September 21, 2012. On August 28, 2012, the National Park Service, U.S Department of the Interior, officially listed the Eldred W. Foster House in the National Register of Historic Places. Located on the southwest shore of Lake Worth, the house was built in 1951 by Eldred W. Foster (1908-1995), then a design engineer at Consolidated Vultee, a predecessor of Lockheed-Martin. Plans for the house were published in the January, 1948, issue of the Woman’s Home Companion Magazine, which at the time had a national readership of close to four million. Before it ceased publication in 1957, the magazine introduced its post-World War II readers to modern architecture through a series of articles featuring designs by some of the leading architects in the country.

The Foster House was built from plans created for the first modern home featured in the magazine series. It was designed by the firm of Raymond & Rado, a New York and Tokyo based firm founded by Antonin Raymond (1888-1976), an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright, who served as Wright’s chief designer for Tokyo’s 1920’s era Imperial Hotel before launching a career in Japan that would eventually lead to his recognition as the father of modern architecture in that country. The Foster House design was a collaborative effort of Raymond, his wife Noemi, and Raymond’s chief designer at the time, David L. Leavitt (b. 1918), a Princeton and Rome Prize winner whose own body of international work includes the National Historic Landmark, Manitoga, in Garrison, New York.

Raymond’s design for his “Expandable House for the Woman’s Home Companion” incorporated Japanese building traditions adapted to the post-war housing market in the United States and anticipated many of the features now identified with the mid-century modern movement, including open living space, a central hearth, sliding room dividers and a strong linkage to surrounding outdoor space. A key element of Raymond’s design, common to many of the Companion houses in the series, was the provision to expand the structure as families grew and budgets allowed. Taking advantage of that concept, Eldred Foster completed two expansions of the house around 1958, matching the original materials and finishes.

Foster owned the house until 1983, when he sold it to his former tenant, Regina Payton. While both owners lived in the house for a time during their respective periods of ownership, the house spent many years as rental property. Foster and Payton carefully preserved the house so that most of its original interior and exterior features remain intact sixty years after its initial construction. Payton sold the property to Laurie and Quentin McGown of Fort Worth in 2010. Restoration of the house is being guided by the original plans as well as architectural renderings of the project completed by David Leavitt in 1947 and housed in the Raymond Collection at the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvaia.  Mr. Leavitt’s ongoing advice and suggestions are also providing invaluable direction as rehabilitation of the house continues.

The Foster House is the first documented example of a completed residence built from the plans featured in the magazine and is currently the only representative work of Antonin Raymond identified in Texas. Additionally, the house is the first example of mid-century modern residential architecture in Tarrant County to be listed in the National Register.

For more information about the work of Antonin Raymond see:
Crafting a Modern World: The Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noemi Raymond, William Whitaker and Kurt Helfrich, eds., Princeton University Press, 2006.

The Foster House, c. 1960

Rendering of front entry by David Leavitt for article in Woman's Home Companion, Jan 1948

Rendering of  living room to the east by David Leavitt for article in Woman's Home Companion, Jan 1947

Rendering of living room to the west by David Leavitt for article in Woman's Home Companion, Jan 1947

Rendering of bedroom by David Leavitt for article in Woman's Home Companion, Jan 1947

First page of the article from the Woman's Home Companion

Second page of the article in the Woman's Home Companion

Third page of the article in the Woman's Home Companion

Fourth page of the article in the Woman's Home Companion

Exterior of Foster house, 2011

Interior of Foster House, 2011

If you know about other examples of this house in other parts of the country, please let me know. I'll forward the information to the McGowns.

Renderings are part of the Raymond Collection at the Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania
All images courtesy of Quentin McGown

Friday, September 28, 2012

Back in the day: Texas State Fair

The State Fair of Texas opens today and runs through October 21. As a kid growing up, one of my favorite days was State Fair Day when there was no school, and we all excitedly piled on a bus for a trip to the fair in Dallas, which wouldn't have been complete without corny dogs, salt water taffy and the Tilt-A-Whirl.

A major attraction then, as now, was Big Tex, the 52-foot tall cowboy that greets visitors as they enter. Big Tex has an interesting history, which I only learned about recently.

In the years following World War II, the businessmen of the small East Texas town of Kerens (pronounced KER ‘nz) were concerned that citizens were driving to nearby Corsicana or even making the 75-mile drive to Dallas to do their Christmas shopping, so in 1949 they came up with the idea to construct a huge Santa Claus to encourage people to spend their money at home. What they came up with was a 49-foot-tall figure constructed from iron pipe drill casing and papier-mâché with 7-foot lengths of unraveled rope for a beard.

The giant Santa worked well that year, but the novelty soon wore off, so in 1951 the State Fair of Texas bought the components for $750 and commissioned artist Jack Bridges to create a giant cowboy out of the material. Big Tex made his debut at the State Fair in 1952. His denim jeans and plaid shirt were donated by the H. D. Lee Company of Shawnee Mission, Kansas. 

Big Tex's debut in 1952

Unfortunately, Tex had a somewhat lascivious expression, a crooked nose and couldn't talk, but that was all corrected before the opening of the 1953 State Fair. He was given the ability to wave in 1997.

Fun Facts about Big Tex

• Who makes the clothes for Big Tex? He's a practical guy who prefers the solid workmanship and comfort offered by Fort Worth's own Williamson-Dickie.

• What size is his shirt? Big Tex has a 30-ft. chest, a 10-ft. neck and shoulders measuring 12-and-a-half feet. His cowboy shirt sleeves measure 15-and-half-feet.

• What about his pants? Tex's waist is a surprisingly trim 23 1/2 feet, and the inseam of his Western-cut jeans measures 15 1/2 feet. Incidentally, Big Tex's pants weigh 80 pounds, and it costs in excess of $300 to clean them.

• Does he change clothes? An outfit typically lasts a couple of seasons. Standing outside for 24-days will take a toll on a fellow's duds.

• What about his hat and boots? He wears a pair of size-70 boots and a 75-gallon cowboy hat.

• What's Big Tex made of? His original body got an extreme makeover in 1997. Underneath those clothes, he sports a cage-like skeleton consisting of 4,200 feet of steel rods that weigh 3 tons.

• What's his most famous quote? "Ho-w-w-w-w-d-e-e-e, Folks! Welcome to the State Fair of Texas!"

• Do people in other places know who Big Tex is? Absolutely. Big Tex has enjoyed local, regional, national and international news coverage. His resume includes film, too. Big Tex 'co-starred' with Ann-Margret in the locally-shot 1962 remake of the movie State Fair.

Fair Park, where the Texas State Fair is held annually, was only half a block away from the original location of Mid2Mod. Our current location at 2928 Main Street is less than a mile away.

From, and The Great State Fair of Texas--An Illustrated History by Nancy Wiley

Big Tex greets fairgoers

Close-up of Big Tex's boots


State Fair corn dogs

For those of you who love watching taffy being made, here's a great video:
apcharles - May 22, 2009

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mid2Mod featured on CultureMap

CultureMap recently did a feature on the store (and my SIL), so I thought I'd share it with you. It sheds some interesting light on how much time and energy goes into finding things to sell.

(A word or two of caution though, lest some of you rush to turn in your two weeks notice at your day job...Despite what the article says, don't walk away with the impression that selling a piece for sixty times what you paid for it is the rule. While it's true that all dealers dream of "The Unbelievable Steal," such a purchase is, instead, a very rare exception to that rule. In the real world, your profit margin is usually far, far less, especially when you have made a decision to put only fully restored items in your store and have also resolved to sell them very often for literally thousands of dollars less than the prices you see on sites like 1stdibs.)


Eye for design: Mid2Mod owner knows just where to find midcentury modern masterpieces 

09.12.12 | 09:27 am
If you assume boutique furniture stores procure their treasures from secret stashes or faraway places, you might be surprised to learn that, oftentimes, the best pieces were uncovered from the most obvious locales. Like someone’s front porch.
Joe Eggleston is one such collector. Eggleston and his wife, Jennifer, are the owners of Mid2Mod, a boutique furniture store specializing in midcentury and new modern furniture and accessories. Eggleston tells the story of driving around town and spying a patio set on a stranger’s front porch. He knocked on the door, struck a deal with the owner and scored another gem for his eclectic showroom. He says great furniture is everywhere, from auctions and antique malls to bargain bins. Even tossed willy-nilly on the side of the road.
“Over the course of the day, you learn to look,” he says. Follow-up is crucial as well. He has e-mailed real estate agents about furniture he saw in a listing, checked out Craig’s List and strolled through estate sales. His tenacity and talent pay off. At one estate sale, a certain chair caught his eye. He bought it, restored it to perfection and sold it for 60 times his original investment.
In other words, Eggleston has an eye for those diamonds in the rough.
At one estate sale, a certain chair caught his eye. He bought it, restored it to perfection and sold it for 60 times his original investment.
Eggleston credits his wife for cultivating his affinity for midcentury and new modern furniture. She has long loved the aesthetics and pragmatic sensibilities of the design. Jennifer focuses on staging and merchandising, and she helps her husband as a buyer as well.
The majority of the pieces at Mid2Mod are from the 1950s and ’60s, but there are exceptions. Eggleston is also interested in showcasing what he calls “good new modern,” which he defines as the modern furniture of the last couple of years that has “great organic form” and also offers functionality. He isn’t impressed with “overdone modernism,” which he describes as “weirdness without function.”
Mid2Mod opened in 2009 in an antique mall, then moved to Fair Park and finally settled in Deep Ellum about six months ago at 2928 Main St. A cruise through the 1,800-square-foot store might reveal a Percival Lafer Brazilian modern lounge chair ($1,500), George Nelson credenza ($2,250) or Grundig stereo ($950). Mid2Mod has something for every room in the house, including floor, tabletop and pendant lighting; seating from designers such as Eames and Wormley; credenzas, desks and other case goods; dining and occasional tables; stereos; and accessories such as vases, bowls, decanters and glass figurines. The store also features Gus* Modern furniture and Bend seating.
Many pieces in the showroom are featured online, and while you’re on the website, you can get a great cursory education on modern furniture and designers via the blog, written by Eggleston’s mother-in-law, Dana. 
In the near future, Eggleston says he plans to offer kid-sized replicas of pieces from iconic designers, such as Eames. He also envisions that the Mid2Mod showroom will feature boutique modern furniture designers. “My business strategy is to show people that great design can be affordable,” he says. “It always has been and always will be.”

Among the treasures in the Mid2Mod showroom: chair and ottoman by Eames.
Leather lounge chair by Percival Lafer

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fifty years from now: Christian Woo

Christian Woo
Christian Woo (1973- ) says that working with wood is in his blood. His grandfather was a woodworker and a handyman, and Woo learned craftsmanship and working with his hands from him.

Woo came to furniture design in a roundabout way. He worked as a landscaper after high school. Then he got a job in the film industry building sets and rigging. From there, he went on to be a cabinetmaker and honed his craft. In 2005 he applied and was accepted at the Ontario College of Art and Design, but he decided at the last minute not to go. Instead, he started his own studio. He said, "I was already doing what I wanted to do, and so going to school would have meant doing it four years later."

His first commercial piece was a bar stool that came out in 2008. He followed with the Covert Series, a collection of low-profile chests of drawers that doubled as benches, each featuring a brightly colored horizontal strip in green, blue, yellow or white.

About his current collection,  the 39-year-old designer jokes, "We’ve been calling it the ‘2012 collection based on core geometry,’ but that’s pretty wordy." 

Woo was the winner of the 8th annual Carter Wosk British Columbia Creative Achievement Award for Applied Art and Design. He is quickly making quite a name for himself, and I predict that many of his pieces will be considered classics in fifty years.

From and

Angled table

Boomerang chair

Cantilevered side table

Covert Series low credenza

Bar stools


Maker's mark

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fun with floor plans

Fantasy Floorplans is the brainchild of Brandi Roberts, an artist who does drafting the old-fashioned way...with pen and paper. Roberts creates fictional floor plans from your favorite TV shows on archival matte paper, which are printed in blue ink to look like real blueprints. They are available in a range of sizes and prices and are currently featured on

According to the company website, Roberts is from Columbia, South Carolina, and works as a full-time artist. She has a degree in Interior Design but her love of house plans is nothing new. She has been drawing them since she was seven years old. Her company was born out of her love of drawing, pop culture and television. She has created more than 100 floor plans for fictional homes, capturing the evolution of the American home over the past seven decades.

From the 1950s, Roberts offers plans of the Father Knows Best residence of Margaret and Jim Anderson, the I Love Lucy first and second New York City apartments of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, as well as their country estate. She also has plans for the Leave It to Beaver Grant Avenue residence of June and Ward Cleaver.

From the 1960s, you can find the I Dream of Jeannie residence of Major Tony Nelson, the Andy Griffith Show residence of Aunt Bee, Andy and Opie Taylor, and the Bewitched Morning Glory Circle residence of Samantha and Darrin Stephens.

If 1970s retro is your thing, Roberts has you covered with The Brady Bunch residence of Carol and Mike Brady, the All in the Family residence of Edith and Archie Bunker, the Good Times apartment of Florida and James Evans, the basement apart of Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney from Laverne & Shirley, the Little House on the Prairie home of Caroline and Charles Ingalls, the Sanford & Son residence of Fred and Lamont Sanford, The Mary Tyler Moore Show apartment of Mary Richards, the Three's Company apartment of Jack Tripper, Janet Wood and Chrissy Snow, The Jefferson's apartment of Louise and George Jefferson and The Waltons home of Olivia and John Walton.

Later decades include floor plans from shows such as The Golden Girls, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Friends, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, The Simpsons, Dexter and Mad Men. A complete list is available on the Fantasy Floorplans site.

From and

I Love Lucy

Leave It to Beaver


Monday, September 24, 2012

Selling modernism: Era Atomica

Era Atomica, located at 1726 E. Passyunk Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the labor of love of one of our own blogger friends, Stacey of Mid-Century in Montgomery County. She opened the store just a little over a year ago, and it has been so successful that she's already thinking about opening a second location.

Stacey describes the store's current location, as well as the store's atmosphere, like this:  

The neighborhood is perfect for this type of store, the businesses have been super nice, helpful and excited over what we're selling.  The residents are a mix of young families, young hipsters, and gay couples with (clearly) great taste. Some people come in and just pull up a (Heywood Wakefield) chair and talk with us while we work about... well ANYTHING. 

When talking with Stacey via email recently, she told me that Era Atomica has established a great clientele niche, made up of new as well as many repeat customers, that is constantly growing as a result of the influx of people moving to the Philadelphia area, which I was surprised to learn is exceeded only by the number of people moving into Brooklyn and Portland.

The store has been especially busy lately selling to college students moving in and getting settled in their own places. Stacey says they have great taste and are very receptive to design ideas, so it's fun to help them furnish their homes.

Era Atomica will be participating in Design Philadelphia 2012 by offering a hands-on upholstery demonstration on Wednesday, October 17 from 6:00-7:00 p.m. If you're in the area, I hope you'll stop in and say hi, and if you're not, I know you'll enjoy this look through the store.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The lights fantastic

Yesterday was Live-Dangerously-on-a-Ladder Day at the store...and I'm very glad I wasn't there. The ceilings are perilously high, and my SIL scares me half to death with his impression of a high-wire performer when he hangs lighting. It's quite the challenge to avert my eyes from all that bending and balancing, shrieking "OMG...I can't look...Be careful, be careful," and retrieve his dropped tools at the same time. It's better for him to work alone.

His risking life and limb paid off handsomely though, because he got two beautiful chandeliers up and glowing. The first is a 12-light Lightolier in polished nickel and black. The second is a dramatic 12-light brutalist piece designed by Tom Greene for Feldman.

12-light Lightolier chandelier in polished nickel and black

Closer view of nickel and black arms


Brutalist 12-light chandelier by Tom Greene for Feldman

Close-up of Tom Greene chandelier