Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ancestry.com: For your MCM furniture (1953)

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Hall mirror by Paul McCobb, and its Victorian era counterpart. Which do you like better?

Hello again!

As often as you hear the old adages about history repeating itself, nothing being new under the sun, and whatever else village elders tell their adolescent population about the cyclical nature of fashion, I am always surprised to see lines drawn directly back to the past from the present. In this case, our present is a December 1953 issue of Life magazine, where the good folks in the modern living column have selected, for our viewing pleasure, a number of verrrrry modern pieces with verrrrrry antique predecessors in style and shape! Wanna see how a Eames stacks up to a Chippendale (no, not that Chippendale)? I kno-o-ow thatcha do!

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"A walnut sofa by William Pahlmann", reads the caption, and its 1800's counterpart in the form of a Shaker-esque settee. Even the lines of the legs are similar, where I would have thought those especially to be "so 1950's". I wonder what delicious Life Saver color the foam cushions are.

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Two mundane-ish articles and their actually-a-little-fancier ancestors. Neither of these captions name the designer, but there is something to be said for the spartan, wrought-iron-ness of the 50's pieces. If I had to choose though, I would go for the pretty walnut shaving mirror and the limber-legged plant stand of the 19th century variety. Imagine an overhanging, tendrily green thing sitting on top. So Edith Wharton!

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I remember, in one of the several systematic attic clean outs that seemed to happen quarterly in my house growing up, my mom unearthed a tabletop "Lazy Susan" from the 70's, which was just a revolutionary item in our-family dining table efficiency. Put into practice, it had to be rechristened a "Lazy Phyllis" to avoid offending my sister, who is named Susan, and who's definitely not lazy enough to have a dang piece of furniture named after her. Sorry, you Phyllis's out there, no offense meant! George Nelson designed the *ahem* table above, as well as the iconic space age marshmallow sofa...pretty much everything he makes you probably would like to have in your home (check out more here). What do you say on this one? Does midcentury or traditional get your vote?

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The bubble lamp at left, which I swear shows up in so many midcentury cookbook illustrations to show how "mohhhdren" the little caricatured cooks are, of course has its roots in Japanese paper lanterns, but don't you prefer this elongated, almost-smushed silhouette? And the chair, there's no question which is a better buy in my book. As "classic" as the wingback looks sitting in Cary Grant's study in 1940's movies, I just don't like wingback chairs. Maybe something about all the hideous knockoff ones you'd see in people's houses in the eighties'; I don't know. Eero Saarinen made the lovely eggish chair here, and you know what? THAT'S the one I want. Or at least a reasonably unhideous knockoff. :)

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A "Morris chair" is an "early type of reclining chair", according to Wikipedia. So kind of like the grandfather of the Barkalounger? I like both of these equally, but wouldn't I walk a mile for an arts-and-crafts version of one of these in place of either.

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NOW we're talkin'. Lemme sit in that Palace chair! Lemme sit in it! Either one!

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Robsjohn-Gibbing is listed as the designer on the table above, and what a name! The table is neat, but its predecessor looks like something you'd see in Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks's Pickfair, which in my book wins out. I think one of the lessons to be drawn from this post is that I have absolutely no real sense of what would go together until i actually see it together. My house would be so crazy if I was allowed to go fantasy shopping in real life! Hope Bab doesn't win that Grammy and make a million dollars so that dream comes true (correction: TOTALLY hope that happens. Think of the scientific interior design value!)...

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I'm sorry to break it to them, but that Modern Windsor is just exactly like its antique counterpart. Straight lines instead of curved lines, but still. Now the modern hanging lamp at right, however, I am NUTS about. Gas lamps can be pretty, but how FLIPPIN CUTE is the mid century lamp?

Last but not least, two beds. Which one would you like to rest your weary vintage head upon?

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Well, that does it for antique predecessors and their modern (now vintage) descendants. Which piece of furniture did you like the best? Are you like me and hopelessly divided as to what vintage items you prefer, or are you "ALL MODERN, ALL THE WAY!"? Have you ever bought something you could have sworn was midcentury, only to find out it was much older? Do tell!

Til next time.

3 comments:

  1. Fascinating stuff! In most cases, I prefer the more "modern" pieces but lately, I have been seriously wanting a big chunky farm table that can take some serious abuse. "Lazy Phyllis" is KILLING me.

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  2. Oh my, there are some real gems amongst the pieces you've highlighted here. I'd be hard pressed to pick a favourite, too. I think the Robsjohn-Gibbing table might win out for me though. I love that while mid-century, it also has an older, almost primitive colonial feel to it that helps ensure it will always be timelessly appealing.

    Thank you sweetly for your comment today on my vintage Easter cake recipe post. I hope you have a fantastic holiday weekend, dear gal!


    Oodles of hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

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  3. Give me that Palace Chair!!! So retro! i love it

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