14 June 2013

Jetset Accessory You Can't Live Without

Accessories, are in fact, accessories. Something that is not necessary to sustain life. Granted, they can make life easier, better, and more enjoyable. Even still, they are not a necessity of life.

Typically, I would stand by this rule very diligently, however, I found something on that is making me rethink the concept of this theory. I find that the piece below is so cool, that is demands to be you our homes. I'm seriously contemplating the purchase of this. I mean, it's a shaker, it's got retro styling, and it's made of plywood. So, judge for yourself, and let me know the coolness factor of this piece. 

Photo Source: Chris and Tanya on

Plywood: More Mid-Century Than Most

Photo Source Trulleberg
While plywood is not exactly new, and...while plywood has been used in production setting of mass scale since around the early to mid 30's. It's only been since the mid (more or less) 40's that it took a full on production value and designer interest.

Photo Source: Premier Antiques NY
Plywood, was designed to be the magic wood you could say. It was to be lighter, stronger, more versatile, more economical, and longer lasting than standard wood. Uses for plywood, have been everything from building your house, making your furniture, all the way down to the toys for the kids, and from time to time, even to make tools. Families all over the states from the late 40's until the mid sixties were using and buying plywood products. Everyone could have their own outboard motor boat for a few hours, and just a couple of sheets of plywood. Plus, an outboard motor of course. Furniture could be made at home without having to find the right lumber stock. Your life could be yours for the making!

Photo Source: Out of Print Plans*
Still, today... it seems that plywood is recognized, but not respected like it deserves. This is a sore spot for me, because I find plywood to be the best and most attractive furniture material to use. I also find it to be the most Mid-Century of wood materials. It's relative explosion in popularity and the exploration of its use, in the Mid-Century era makes it that much more Mid-Century for me.

Overall speaking, I'm not saying that plywood is the only good material, or that all others should be done away with. However, personally, I find a much grater visual aesthetic in plywood crafted products than in standard board cut products.

It's for this reason that almost all my projects are made with plywood. While still respecting plank and board furniture, I almost always look at a piece and try to imagine how it would have looked in plywood.

Today, plywood is still heavily used in some industries. Many a cabinet maker uses plywood. Many door manufactures, and even some boat manufactures. Construction uses it too. Even some furniture designers are still using it. One thing I have noticed though, is a trend for plywood furniture of today, to look less refined. Not all mind you, but much of the furniture today that is made of plywood, is overly focused on being self locking, and collapsible. Where as in the mid-century era, plywood furniture was made to be relatively light, pliable, and strong. Even when products were created to be knock-down or collapsible, they retained a cleaner and more sophisticated styling. Plus, more importantly, plywood furniture was to be economical and have a fine furniture look and quality while being economical.

Plywood today, is not as affordable as it seems it once was. For instance, a good hardwood plywood is upwards of $50 as sheet. In the case of the bed that I made, I used 4 sheets. That's not including the tools, and the consumables of the trade. So, high quality plywood can be very expensive to use for making furniture.

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Yet, with all of this, it still seems to me that plywood really brought the mid-century design motto's of designing for function, and using engineered material that can be multifaceted together. Even today there are hobbyist books on boat building, cabin/house building, lamp building, furniture building, toy making, and many others that are produced and sold to the public.

Also, there are many people creating some really nice mid-century modern styled pieces today, with this fascinating and iconic material.

Below you will find a number of examples of original mid-century modern plywood furniture, as well as some very intriguing and wonderful mid-century modern inspired pieces. At the bottom, there are a few books that are great reads and very helpful as well. Ones that I either own myself, have read but don't own, or ones that I want to purchase soon.

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Books on Plywood woodworking

1975 BUILD MODERN PLYWOOD FURNITURE W/O TOOLS Gerrit Rietveld inspired designs*


WELDWOOD Movable Wall Partition Weldrok ASBESTOS US Plywood Catalog 1963*


Click Here

13 June 2013

Modern Retro Appliances: Dualit

Not all technology of the past is so bad. I mean, they got man to the moon right? Well, even with such advances of the 50's/60's as getting men to the moon, we can say that not all technology of the mid-century era was the most efficient. One such difference in efficiency can be clearly seen in the energy uses of mid-century appliances. Everything from the can opener to the refrigerator had a nasty habit of sucking the juice right out of your wallet, right thru your electric bill.

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Today however, there a number of interesting options that one might want to look into. One such option is buying products from one of the modern brands that models themselves after vintage designs. Dualit is one such company. While their products are not 100% modeled after the vintage styling of the mid-century era, they do have tendencies to show the influence of early electrical appliances in their current designs. This mix allows for the design you would want in a mid-century/retro interior, but with the efficiency of modern electronic appliances.

Clearly, with any new (contemporary) product, you have to take into consideration the ideal they have in producing and selling a product. Much of the modern day product line offered is much less sturdy. Use of plastics instead of glass or metal is quite common, and this also effects not only the price, but the durability of said product.

Therefore, if you are looking for a contemporary appliance, with the flair of the vintage styling you like so much, this may just be the product for you. Dualit has a large product line including Toasters, mixers, blenders, juicers, coffee makers, coffee grinders, scales, electric ovens and friers. Some of the lines that Dualit offer are more on the commercial line. However, many of the smaller appliances are specifically designed for home use.

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One instance of the residential designed appliance is their toaster line and hand mixer line. Both of these are very vintage in look. While the coffee makers/grinders, and the juicers have a retro influence in design, they clearly are less vintage in appearance than the mixers and toasters.

To see a fuller line of products they offer, I recommend looking at the 2012 product catalog here. (not an affiliate) also has a seemingly nice selection of Dualit home appliances.

10 June 2013

Mosaics: A Lost Mid-Century Styling?

Mosaic: A picture or pattern produced by arranging together small colored pieces of hard material, such as stone, tile, or glass.

From the first search I did for MCM furniture and design, oh... almost 10 years ago now, I still remember thinking about how cool this one particular amoeba table with mosaic was. While that table is long gone, my interest in mosaics still lives on. If our schedule ever cools down, we'd (my wife and I) like to do a couple of mosaic projects together. Still, I often wonder, what happened to this wonderful artistic aspect of the mid-century era gone by?

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In all my research, I have yet to find mas production mid-century modern furniture that was tiled or that was finished in mosaic. I'm not saying that they don't exist. If they do, pleas lead me to them. I'd really like to learn more about this particular aspect of mid-centutry furniture.

Still, it seems that mosaics played a large character role in the art scene of the mid-century eras. Buildings held large mosaic murals on the outside, or in the lobby. Many parks had mosaics on the walkways or in the promenades, many pieces of furniture even carried mosaic tops or boarders, and even production mosaic wall art* was produced for the home or office.

These pieces weren't just pieces of ceramic or glass put together. They were real images a lot of the time. Whether it was an abstract design, a bull/bull fighter combo, still life of fruit/bottles, or a peacock, these pieces had character.

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One thing that I can say for sure, is that mid-century design today has not forgotten completely about the mosaic tile trend. Many a refurb of a mid-century home is, and has, used tile mosaic in the shower or bathroom. Unfortunately, that's as far as it seems to go though.

So, what happened to the attraction of mosaics? Is it that tile is too expensive? Too hard to clean? To hard to creat? Lack of imagination? I really don't know. No matter what the reason, it's clear that mosaics are not nearly as popular for the mid-century styling as it once was.

In the effort of encouraging at least one person to take on a mid-century styled project, I'm adding photos below of some very cool mid-century/mid-century styled mosaics. Don't worry, I'm not leaving it all to you, I'm going to try and take on one too. I already have a mirror frame planed with my wife. So, go get some mosaic materials*, start designing, and get to making a new mid-century styled mosaic piece. Why leave all the creativity to the masters of the past? Just remember, they would have never become masters without starting as novice.

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If you are interested in mid-century books on the subject, I suggest that you look at some of the following.
The Ebay app below is part of my affiliate program. For more information on what this means, please see my income page.

09 June 2013

Eames Plywood Lounge: Impressive In Every Process

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It's impressive to me how that Charles and Ray Eames could work out molding processes of plywood so early on. Especially, when we consider the complexity of the designs that they had engineered. Today, those complexities are much more automated than they where back in the beginning, but the making of an Eames Lounge is no less impressive. Precision is of maximum importance. From the cut of the frame to the depth of the buttons on the upholstery, every thing is measure and precise.

So, if you've wondered how these incredible pieces of functional Mid-Century Art are made, here is your opportunity to find out. Here is also your opportunity to see why buying a Herman Miller^ Eames Lounge is a decision well worth pondering. If you are interested in buying a  Herman Miller^ made Eames Lounge, you can be assured the money will be an investment, rather than just an expense on furniture.

^I am not sponsored nor paid for my promotion of Herman Miller products over other manufactures. From seeing the process, and having had Herman Miller products, I believe in their quality.