25 April 2013

Art For The Mid-Century Home -Pt 1: Starting With The Basics.

It's been some 6 years since I started Amidst Mod as a blog. At the time, we where trying to decorate our loft where we lived. I was in a limbo between vintage, retro, mid-century and contemporary modern. I had very little direction in my design life. Just about anything bright, and outstandingly modern or retro in style was the dish of choice. In fact, looking back, I sort of cringe to see what some of my choices where. Like anyone or anything, I realize those where my stepping stones, and they have led me to a more refined view on the Mid-Century, and Mid-Century Modern worlds.

At first, I didn't really realize that these worlds where different. Terms like Mid-CenturyModern and Mid-Century are thrown around for everything from mod to good ole fashioned hippie flower power styling. Unfortunately, that can, and has, created some major confusion for many. All you have to do is just look on Flickr and you'll see what I mean.  In fact, I was confused for a while and with time and study, I started to clear and categorize the genres and where they belonged.

Another frustrating aspect of the mid-century modern world, is the time in which it covers. In my years of study and work, I've seen MCM applied to everything from Art Deco, up until some buildings and interiors of the late 70's early 80's. Clearly, it's impossible for a term like "Mid-Century", which is so specific, to apply to such a range of time. So, one needs to be discerning as to what is clearly outside the appropriate time frame. Of course there are always the delicately duplicated designs of a mid-century interior that can be considered mid-century, even though, it's outside of the physical mid-century time frame. Even still, I tend to find that most of the time there is some sort of incoherency, or lack of absolute truth to the true mid-century and mid-century modern design that has been recreated.

 By this point, I know you are asking, what does any of this have to do with my art choices for my MCM home.? Never fear, the aforementioned, has everything to do with this important choice we are to discuss. Lets talk about why.

Step 1: Decide on a specific look and follow it.

 Furniture is not the whole defining factor 

You may say, but I have some mcm furniture, that means that the inside of my house is, or is going to be MCM.  Does it really though? Why the question?

To put simply, Mid-century modern furniture in it's origin, was just the contemporary modern furniture of its time. Don't get upset, I not putting these great designers down.  However, modern furniture of the late 40's -mid 60's could be purchased by anyone and placed an any kind of home or interior setting.
       To illustrate: Jon Doe and Jane Doe live in a single story ranch, non modern, (believe it or not, not all ranches from the 40-60's are modern in design).  Jon got a raise, Jane wants some new furniture. After a few bats of her eyes, Jon on his way to the local furniture store and Jane is dreamy eyed imagining how her house will look like one of the new case study houses she just read about.  Once at the local furniture store, and they decide to get a "modern" danish sofa.(possibly such as the turquoise one shown)
However, the rest of their decor is of western design. By buying the sofa, do they now have a mid-century modern living room? In short. No... What they now have is a mid-century western living room with a mid-century modern sofa sitting out of place in it. Do you see the point?

Point being, that just because you own some mid-century modern furniture, that doesn't mean you instantly have a full mid-century modern theme going on.

Really what you want to determine is, with all you have at the moment, or plan to buy, what the theme will be. Just remember, you can't always have what you want, but more often than not, your stuck with what you have.This is very important if you are on a very tight budget and know that buying completely theme appropriate items are out of the question.

So you'll want to be realistic or, very patient. Either way, pick a style and stick to it, or you'll never get anywhere.

Choosing your Modern

Within the Mid-Century Modern genre, there are number of sub genre's. Some of the more common ones would be Googie, Minimalist, Japanese modern, Futuristic modern, and Tiki Modern (There is a fine but important overall difference to typical retro tiki.).

Step 2: Realistically seeing your housing floor plan

See it for what it is, but also for what it can be.

This means keeping a balanced view of what your floor plan can handle with the theme you have in mind.  Remember, we're talking about selecting artwork. Keeping in line with step 1, it's a good idea to investigate the typical sizing of artwork that fit your theme, and the typical size of the art work you prefer.

This is very important, for instance, if you have a 900 sqft home that you intend to decorate with the California modern style. Why? Well, typically the California modern styling of the mid-century era uses large and bold paintings. If
each painting is close to 3ft in size, how many can you really fit in the space? Another factor is, will such a style truly add, or take away from the ambiance of the room? It may be that a simple minimalist mcm style would make the area more appealing.

Each person must decide what will fit their own space best based on personal taste and judgement. Please note that in most cases, almost any style can be modified to the space at hand. Many times though, in the case of small or closed in spaces, being extremely judicial with the art chosen is crucial.

Next article: Step 3: Seeing art for what it truly is.

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