The great selection at Lounge Lizard, in Portland, OR.
Photo provided by Lounge Lizard Vintage Furniture and used with permission. Visit www.pdxloungelizard.com
In Part 1 of this three-part series, we discussed sourcing smaller decor to create a vintage mid-century atmosphere in your pad. Good modern design originally was not meant to be the elitist, almost unattainable thing that it seems to have become nowadays. So don’t be afraid that going for cheaper items makes you some kind of philistine. Today, we move up to the “flagship” items of home decor: your furniture.
If you search for the prestigious standard-bearers of mid-century modernism, such as authentic Herman Miller products or vintage Scandinavian pieces, you may choke on the prices, which easily run into the thousands of dollars each. Does this mean you have to give up on your dream of a mid-century home? Not at all!
Buy used, buy lower-profile
Even at the height of the mid-century era, some national brands were more affordable than others, and there were also lesser known local furniture producers that made pieces designed to emulate the popular style of the higher-profile items from Danish or American designers. The construction might not be quite as solid, and they might be made of lesser quality materials; for example, finished in laminate instead of being made completely of solid wood. But if they’ve lasted sixty years, they’re obviously durable. You can often find vintage pieces of this type at very reasonable prices. But where?
For one, Craigslist (I still don’t know whether it’s supposed to be capitalized or not) is a veritable treasure trove. Through a Craigslist ad, I was able to obtain a walnut-stained “surfboard” side table which was an American imitation of a Danish teak design, for only about $80, as opposed to upwards of $900 for a Danish original. Only I can tell the difference!
Try search terms like “mid-century” or “mid-century modern,” or specific decades of furniture such as “1950s” and “1960s.” Private sellers don’t have all the markups of retail operations, and oftentimes they are trying to get rid of something quickly, either to make room for something else or because they are moving and can’t take all their stuff with them. You may wish to expand your search to surrounding towns to find a greater variety of items. Prices may be even lower in smaller towns where this kind of retro modern design aesthetic hasn’t quite caught on in recent years. You may also want to see what’s available for local pickup on eBay.
Another great idea is to check local antique stores or shops that specialize in vintage furniture. Larger antique malls will often have a dealer space or two that specialize in items from the mid-century period. You can find something with great vintage character, for example, a sofa in the hundreds of dollars, or a dresser under $200, instead of having to shell out thousands of greenbacks. If you are located in my region, the West Coast, you may wish to head to one of the following destinations. Check out their websites for hours, contact info, etc. These are just a few suggestions to get started. Careful online searches will undoubtedly reveal even more great sources in your locale.
Pacific Galleries Antique Mall: http://www.pacgal.com/malls/seattle_AntiqueMall
241 South Lander Street, Seattle, WA 98134
Make sure you look in every corner of this antique mall, as mid-century furniture is found in more than one dealer space. Some of it is more high-profile designer stuff, and some of it is at the everyday affordable level.
Lounge Lizard: http://www.pdxloungelizard.com
Original location: 1310 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214
Expanded store: 1426 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214
I have personally been to both of Lounge Lizard’s locations on many occasions. They never disappoint! The photo above gives an idea of their diverse selection. In addition to vintage furniture and decor, they produce their own reproduction 1950s-style lamp shades, which are conveniently available for purchase through their website, in case you are located elsewhere.
Midway Antique Mall: http://midwayantiquemall.com
5130 Madison Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95841
Their display areas feel like you walked into one of the sets of Mad Men. Check out the singing Dean Martin doll. (if it hasn’t been sold yet!)
Sometimes, even after all that searching and antiquing, you may find that, for the particular piece of furniture you are in the market for, the used or vintage items that you find in your area just have a little too much wear and tear for your taste, and you’d rather not go to all the trouble of restoring and refinishing. What can you do in that case? Stay tuned for Part 3, later this week!