Saturday, 31 October 2009

And So to the Bedroom!

No, not like that. Hey, knock it off!

Just joshin'. But we have been leaving the bedroom to itself because only we go in there so it's normal to keep the doors to one's bedroom closed to visitors, whereas the living room, kitchen or bathroom, not so much (the bathroom-- that would just be mean. But when the bathroom was decorated with silver plastic-sprayed shells and had a huge, jagged hole in the ceiling, I was tempted to ask guests to visit the pub nearby).

Currently the bedroom is a mishmash. It was bright yellow, which I quite like, but done in that infernal-- what is it called? Ragging, sponging? You know the look. Again, so very 1991. It had an appalling and huge fan in black and brass over the bed-- you look up and it's like some alien spacecopter descending. And the shelves were just 2 by 4s laying on some brackets. Those shelves were the best part. The bed is one I brought in a container from Canada-- yep, filled it up with Edwardian antiques which, while fine on their own, have no place in the mid-century modern home (what became of them is a subject for another post!).  Anyway, the bed is a metal four-poster, but pretty low-key. My husband put his foot down when I tried to turf it. So I just imagine it's Granny's -- the old lady in Tweety and Sylvester.

Well, I got crazy on the Net and found the most beautiful shelving unit ever. Sometimes you can find things from that neck of the woods that work perfectly-- because modernism has so many Asian influences. It's a kind of cube pattern using one or two long pieces which are heated and bent. Could be a 50s-style room divider too. Gorgeous. So my agreeable husband took down the planks along with the evil fan and in came this paragon among furniture. It's black, which niggled at me at first (especially since I ordered walnut), but then I pictured the room in pale green with black and pink accessories and all was well. Now, of course, we have to paint the room. Luckily B & Q will take your House and Gardens 1958 sample and mix it up just right.

Monday, 5 October 2009

It's been a while since I last posted, but what a transformation has happened! Well, to several rooms of the house, anyway. Some of them are still stuffed with junk and circa 1990 junk (brass fittings, twee details, and some generic black stuff from Ikea. Not that Ikea is the villain: we have a mix of vintage and repro mid-century modern furniture in the Happy Rooms, and resplendent in the front room is an amazing coffee table from Ikea's last season: an exaggerated oval in an oak finish, it's got those distinctive tapered legs that trumpet 1958.

What else? My uncle discovered the date our row had been bombed (June 22, 1944), destroying the original houses, and gave us a V-2 drone model airplane as a commemoration gift. Guess we'd better not dig a basement.

We found a long and low vintage sideboard in teak and rosewood for a great price-- £150, when so many of them go for thousands. Mint. The key is to buy British, not Scandinavian. A further tip: collect 50s fabric and make up (or have made up) curtains and pillows. Small pieces can be framed or stretched across canvas. There are great vintage shops online, and repro ones too that make amazing bark cloth, for example.

Right, over and out. Next time I'll post some photos.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Early response to our blue geometric wallpaper was mixed, but mostly positive. Some people felt it was too loud or busy, but since retro so often departs from received Good Taste, you have to expect this kind of thing (these people have Victorian flats and walls painted in muted colours). MMM felt that one wall should be painted a solid blue, or we'd be overwhelmed. So that's what we did.

We had shipped all my worldly goods from Canada in a container, and one day it arrived: a whole apartment's worth of furniture and whatnot, most of it dating to the 1910s. This was the vintage of my apartment in Vancouver and the vintage I had been used to. My conversion to mid-century modern had only just happened. Now I found that (apart from my books) only ONE THING was of any use: a 1950s L-shaped couch, lightly brocaded and silvery-blue, complete with those little teak legs that are vaguely upside-down conical in shape. That sofa actually makes our living room. But now the house was even more jammed than before, and this time with heavy, dark Edwardian stuff that set us back in our quest for light, airy freshness than you can imagine. The house had an apartment sitting on top of it so to speak. The teenage movers were eager to dump it all anywhere and run away. We had furniture and boxes spilling into the garden. It was a mighty low point in the whole proceedings.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

curtain fever

As many of you retro reno folk know, one of the best ways to invoke mid-century modern is with textiles. And with an abundance of 50s, 60s etc. fabric available on the web, I am in a constant state of temptation. More on that later along with some links.

When we last left our council house heroine, she was still sitting in her council box surrounded by a) the ex's late-80s taste, and b) masses of stuff accumulated by her (my) actually adorable husband. He just thinks those hotel shampoos, free-with-the-paper DVDs, and kooky beer mats might have some life left in them. I know this syndrome, but it all fell away the night I moved out of my one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver. I had been there for ONE YEAR, and I was stunned by the amount of-- we'll call it stuff-- in that short time. I had movers, I had a cleaner, and still I was dealing with piles of dusty whatnots until minight, wit the new tenants furious and camped out in the living room.

One great advantage of the style we call mid-century modern is that it eschews CLUTTER. And now my husband-- let's call him MMM-- and we have allocated him his own room to clutter up as he likes. (Yesterday he surprised me with his pristine new decorating scheme.) One great advantage of this plan is that it frees me from being a minimalist nag: :"Sugar, do we really need this..." Poor MMM, people would mutter. No longer (not on that account, anyway).

We tackled the living room first, going at it with a blue and grey geometric wallpaper (to defeat the brown and orange flower wallpaper that was there. Sound 70s funky, Reader, it was not.)

Here's the best textile place I have discovered so far, based in California:

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Council House: Britain's Tract Housing

When I moved to South London three years ago to marry my wonderful husband, something big and complicated stood between us: the house he'd been living in for the past eight years. Take pity on me, though! He had chosen it with his ex-wife, and her ghost, mostly in the form of her taste, was everywhere. Plus it was an ex-council house, something like "the projects". Mrs Thatcher had given the occupants a choice to buy these houses (some of them were apartments in tower blocks, some of which have become super chic to inhabit recently).

I had always been an antique-loving, Victorian/ Edwardian sort of female. I looked longingly at the Victorian houses surrounding us-- our council box is in a row of eight or so, the previous houses victims of the Luftwaffe (we can't dig basements here for obvious reasons).

First, I wanted to move. I couldn't love the box, plus it had been overlaid with circa-1990 features that were vaguely twee and had nothing to do with the house. My husband agreed but I could tell he was unhappy. He is comfortable in his house, likes his garden and the neighbourhood. He had my Victorian furniture shipped over from Vancouver; it didn't look right at all. And now the house was jammed with disparate stuff. A nightmare for the trembing aesthete.

Suddenly, an epiphany! Talking to a friend, I said that if we sold the house it would be napped up by some groovy couple who would do it up all Fifties. Then it occurred to me: why should we not be that couple?