Sunday, July 10


I love industrial. I love steel, copper and chrome and ADORE aluminum!

And offering my customers industrial is not a small thing to me. You will almost NEVER find a simple old green or beige powder-coated typewriter stand in one of my booths (although they do make great plant stands for your patio). That's because my space is limited and frankly I know that the good stuff means hard-worn patina, unusual colors and great design too! So when I offer you industrial, it's a serious piece I looked hard to find.

A few times a year I find specific types of rust patterns and this year I thought I'd try to capture some of them-- as well as share a few insights about cleaning and preserving these pieces-- before they sell!

So far this year my favorite piece (available in the Melrose Market) is a 48" x 36" handmade cubby with 12, 1 sq. foot cubby holes. It appears the maker used medium weight steel shelving and standards and cut the shelves, drilled the cross areas (except the top) and simply bolted it all together. She additionally added a power strip of about 6 outlets to the upper back edge (which I have not had the courage to test!). By far it's the most sturdy and usefully sized cubbies I've seen.

In the above image you can see the dramatic rust streaks off the shelf holes running almost perpendicular to the shelf wall. This is a pattern you ONLY get if the piece was on its side and outdoors for at least several seasons in bad weather. Rain or snow collected in the holes and then dripping with the pull of gravity, repeatedly stained the metal as it degraded.

In the picture above you can see how dense the rust is. If it were thicker, I would have treated it with my favorite prep recipe.*
This process exposes new colors and creates a smooth surface to either oil (which I do with Howard's Feed N Wax) or seal, with an acrylic sealer. You can use the prep recipe on any well-rusted piece but beware-- once the rust is gone you will be exposing what's left of the unpainted metal!

A final note: ALWAYS oil your metal pieces. Like wood, metal dries out. Applying a very thin coat of a fine furnish oil (NOT WAX) will ensure your metals' colors (and 'grain') will be deep and lustrous!

*RUST PREP & FINISH RECIPE: using a 2 or 3 grade steel wool, rub off the loose rust with white vinegar. Completely wash off the vinegar with soap and water. Then using a 4 grade steel wool just smooth the rust down to the surface without removing completely. Rinse loose particles again. Sometimes there will be a light or white residue that seems impossible to remove. It can be done, again with soap and water. I temporarily seal metal with Armor All Protectant wipes. Personally, I never seal the industrial pieces I sell. Different sealers have different effects so I leave that to the buyer, but generally you can use any acrylic sealer-- even floor finishes like Mop n Glo (for a fragranced outcome)!

Saturday, July 9

15 Phoenix-area stores for Midcentury Modern furnishings

WOW! Great cover article in Arizona Republic Home section today for Mid-Century enthusiasts, listing their take on the top MCM valley stores. Includes descriptions and directions too. And lucky for me, both outlets carrying MODERN LIFE (Antique Trove and Melrose Market) are included!

So proud...

Sunday, June 19

To own or not to own-- VENEERED mid-century furniture.

I hate it, I don't hate it. I can deal with it, but I can't buy it. I can buy it, but do I like it?

Below is an example of a typical good-quality maker (Mersman) end table. The top is veneered in a Formica walnut pattern.

I'm STARTING to well, respect it anyway-- and offering veneered furniture to my customers. Here's why...

Modernism has many conceptual roots. One of its most egalitarian was the attempt to remove class distinctions from furniture design. It was part of the move to flatten the tiered-class system after the crashes of the Great Depression. If ornate furniture not only implied wealth as well as excess, that visual marker and therefore the class identification of it, could be removed by removing the detail. Additionally, the move toward industrial design and the war-learned lessons of material conservation fostered a true less-is-more and form follows function mentality, a hallmark of modernism. One of the obvious upshots was the creative use of wood veneers to lesson expensive exotic wood costs. Eventually those veneers became plastic, further lowering the cost of mass-produced furniture, again making modern design more accessible to middle-class buyers.

That's a good philosophy, yes? To me, it IS good. Design is a function of human cultural expression. Cultural expression is a means to fashion society. I am nothing if not a human interested in good civil society and THAT means expressing my concerns for good civil society through all available means. Green responsible business, DIY, et al-- I know you get it.

So although I have not yet made up my mind on veneer absolutely, as I have for example on vintage teak (always a great choice) I am committed to giving veneer-- in good condition-- of all types, a real try. Besides, it is fairly UNPOPULAR and that means the pieces are still WILDLY affordable. For the new family or student decorator that is a VERY GOOD thing!

MODERN LIFE at MODERN ON MELROSE (was Melrose Market), 7th Avenue.

UPDATE 2013: MODERN ON MELROSE!  In August 2012, Melrose Market closed.  I and dealer Kevin Lanctot took the lease at 4610 N. 7th Avenue and opened MODERN ON MELROSE and my great booth evolved into a great store!  Wheeeeeee!!!  Come and see what happens when creative and energetic mid-modern dealers rule!

I get around.

Last year in April I found a home with Modern Manor. A wonderful cool mid-century space, but by July owner Ryan Durkin and I parted ways over design differences; his editing is toward Danish design and mine toward modern design principles and modernism in general.

Fortunately for me this spring a new resale 'mall' popped up in a commercial space two buildings to the north and a simple one-minute sashay from Modern Manor toward Seventh Avenue. Once there you are at the backyard and parking entrance to MELROSE MARKET!

Owner Allen Parker is all about finding dealers into eclectic-- toward the modern, industrial (including chippy chic) and world market themes-- so it's quickly developing into one of THE hippest spots on the street. Clean, air-conditioned, organized and well-lit with a very wide variety of furniture and home accessories, I'm finding myself way comfy at MELROSE MARKET-- and way appreciated as well-- yoo-hoo!

NOTE: Keep an eye on Craig's List Phoenix for my item updates to catch the best stuff early!

And BTW, thanks to Dream Book Design for noting my inclusion at Melrose Market, including a pic of a metal cubby (now gone, alas)!

Tuesday, April 5

Dream Book Design

As you know I adore DIY and myself tend to choose the more rough and tumbled look of metal, rust and concrete -- everything urban-- and generally shy away from what I satirically term the Etsy-Ate-Anthropology look; just too twirlygirl, if you know what I mean.

Recently though I came across a home decor site, Dream Book Design, that while influenced by the Euro-world Anthropology look and Apartment Therapy layout, manages a very specific point of view (so far).

Maybe it's Jeremy's influence, maybe not, but there's a weight to the collections and layouts they choose to post that gives the site just enough, uhm-- testosterone?-- to keep it grounded.

For example, their idea to turn a card catalog into a buffet (the after shot is their website heading image) is not only genius in concept but execution. Even I would have to have it (were I living in my dream home of an urban 3000 s.f. loft)!

Maybe you can score a far smaller catalog and build yourself a TV credenza or side tables-- who knows --and though I won't be building any of their current projects myself, I do wish them great luck and look forward to "the Lentines" inventing more large DIY projects and expanding their site.

Sunday, March 27

HACKED: IKEA Frosta hack -- something you should know!

As you know, I ADORE all things DIY and not that you haven't already read it, but Apartment Therapy has a list on their current Weekend Inspiration page of ten projects for bedroom, kitchen and seating.

My personal favorite is How to Hack an IKEA Frosta Stool, so it can look more like the original Alvar Aalto original (60). Well, Aalto DID make a four-legged stool (60E) -- basically the Frosta stool-- just so you know.

One caveat with the AP hack is that it suggests one version can be made by adding a 1" round of glass to the top. Good luck with that, as buying a piece of glass that size will run you ten times the cost of the chair and the weight will be crazy heavy!

I'd suggest using a 3/8" to 1/2" round large enough to turn your stool, hacked or otherwise, into a useful sidetable. That means the glass should be about six to eight inches more in diameter than your stool top, so you have an extra three to four inches overhang on all sides.

You can easily find yardsale glasstop tables so ugly they're almost giving them away. Grab one with a 3/8" or better thickness piece and make sure before you haul it off that the glass has polished edges, meaning it's smooth to the touch. WARNING: unfinished or raw edges will easily slice your finger, so be careful testing the edge!