Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mid-century. Just Not Modern.

After owning a Mid-century home for a year and spending time in the blogosphere with other people who do too, I've learned that once again I'm not quite fitting in.

Not really on purpose, like from burping at tea parties or failing to impress the popular girl--though I've been guilty of both social gaffes at one time or another. Lord help them, my family can't take me anywhere.

No, it's more from buying into the Mid-century home ownership adventure at the opposite end of the era from where all the excitement is. The era as an architecture, design, and fashion movement is roughly from 1933 to 1965, and it's as if the timeline is a street where all the swankiest parties happen at the 1950-1960 addresses. You know, the homes with the ranches and glassed courtyards and butterfly roof lines. Down here at the quiet beginning of the lane, the 1930s, the houses are still wearing last era's party dresses, Colonial Revival. Like this:

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

But when people talk about what geeks them up in Mid-century, they're talking about Modern. Like this:

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

They're getting all giddy about amoeba coffee tables with hairpin legs. Starburst clocks. Ash blonde furniture with clean lines. Those poor Colonial Revival ladies just can't compete with these new Mid-Mod girls.

On the 1930s end of the street folks stick with those cottage gardens:

While the 1950s-1960s get to work with suburban patios and indoor-outdoor space: 

I'm not fussed about it. I've always been drawn to the 1930s, and I'm comfortable down here at the quieter end of the street. I think the furniture's more comfy cozy too, though admittedly not nearly as swanky looking. It's true. A 1940s Hepplewhite dining set is going to look more at home in my house than some Saarinen tulip table. The richer, clearer colors of apple greens and royal blues popular in Art Deco fit more in my home than the tropically inspired fruit punch colors of the Atomic Age. 

I'm finding that the quieter, more traditional, Colonial Revival style persisted in various forms into the 1970s, and for that reason those styles of furniture mix well into my home. And I suspect that for many people, it would have been these styles they were buying all along. The Mid-Century traditionalists from the 1930s and any of the decades after were not cutting-edge people. They didn't throw their money away on fads. They made pot roast every Sunday, drove a ten year old Buick, and bought their living room furniture from Montgomery Wards. They voted for Eisenhower, and didn't think much of Elvis or Jerry Lee. 

Now when I'm up the street at my neighbor's houses, I enjoy the rad design, the fun colors, and the cheerful demeanor of those decades. I'm just as geeked as they are over pole lamps and Heywood Wakefield furniture. I really am. I love to see how their Atomic Age ranches shine with the sparkle that was that era. 

Me, I'll walk back down the street to where it all began. Yes, in modest Cape Cods and cottages. But we had Kit Kat Clocks, and Myrna Loy and Grant Wood and E.B. White. I'm perfectly at home with that.

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