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Poppin

It was the Poppin file cabinet that caught my eye–a nice shade of mint, a clean white, rounded corners–it was not your ordinary gunmetal grey with no personality.

It was also time for me to set up shop–to own a space in our house for my business. Where? We’ve been intentional in design to utilize every square inch. Or so we thought.

What do closets really do–store your stuff? What if your stuff isn’t serving a purpose? What if your stuff is just sitting there taking up space and hasn’t been touched in years? What if there was a better way to make use of the space. These are questions I ask my clients, so why not challenge my own thinking in my own home?

Time to repurpose.

I wanted the space to be peaceful and tidy and set the stage for me to be productive. The color green is supposed to encourage productivity, or so they say. I’m also kind of a turquoise freak. Soft turquoise and soft mint–sounds great!

A little paint.

Getting there.

Continuity within a house is a design must. I love the birch cabinet doors in our kitchen, the way they look so clean and light. That would be a great desk surface as well, and help to tie the first floor with the second–a repeating element. What would I do without my stepdad? He managed to have this ready for me within a week.

Come inside the completed office.

My mom had just given me this adorable vintage Midcentury Modern desk lamp before the concept of this office took hold. I’m thinking it looks even more adorable in this context. The $25 Menards vintage-style radio lets me jam to some tunes from my iphone while I create.

On a recent trip to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, NYC) I fell in love with the scribble placemats and coasters. One for under my ipad, one under my coffee mug. Perfect. Some may think desk accessories don’t matter- they are there for utility. For me, I find the details inspiring. Every element is intentional and makes me happy. You may be able to squint and see a tall blade of grass in my pen holder. That was a MoMA purchase as well, but then of course I had to order 12 more from China (not proud) to create a full grass patch. They still aren’t here–months later….on the boat. Maybe I’ll receive them some day?

Isn’t it said that people are drawn to comfortable spaces? (Or maybe I just made that up?) Well, they are. And here is the proof. My kids seem to gravitate to MY desk when I’m not there. I’ll share, because this is what seems to be left behind.

the couch

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The couch became a saga. A good saga.

I was reminded that there is good in the world- all through a couch (and chair).

a killer Midcentury Modern couch

Rewind a few weeks ago….  A friend of mine made me aware of a killer Midcentury Modern couch listed on Facebook. I contacted the owner within milliseconds, or so I thought, only to find out I was already second in line to come look at the couch. I made my enthusiasm for the couch known to the owner and he explained that he had to be fair and show it to the person scheduled to come see it before he could entertain selling it to me over the phone (I honestly did not even need to see this couch in person- I wanted it that badly).  He told me he would be in touch after the 4p appointment. I awaited the phone call at 5p telling me that the first-in-line person was not interested after all, but that was not how the story went. I missed out and was heartbroken. It really was THAT cool of a couch! I practiced patience and accepted that the couch was maybe just not meant to be mine. I was ok with this (sort of 😉 ) and moved on.

I missed out and was heartbroken.

Fast forward to the present…

I get an imessage from the original owner. He sends me a link to Craigslist and says the same couch has been listed for sale! For real? He really made the effort to loop back around and let me know it was for sale again? Remember, we are strangers to one another. He had sold his couch and was done with it. I was blown away that he took the effort to reach out to me to let me know it was back on the market.  I was insanely excited at the prospect of maybe getting this couch after all!

This was our exchange:

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I immediately reached out to the new owner and discovered he had increased the price by $450. I bargained with him by saying I’d take the couch off his hands for the original price. Deal. He was thrilled.

My husband and I drove to Detroit to pick it up. It turned out the second owner was also a very kind man. He loved the couch as much as I did, but simply couldn’t make it work in their house (ie. it wouldn’t fit down the basement stairs). He said his wife wanted to keep the matching chair and just sell the couch, but he said, “oh no, they have to stay together”. I told him I respected his integrity, that he very well could have split the set to make his wife happy, but he knew it was the wrong thing to do. A set is a set and the two were better together than separate. They’d made it a few decades together already. The set was in the back of the truck and we were homeward bound. I was giddy.

Karma.

Karma. That was my take home. Everyone involved did ‘the right thing’. I practiced patience and let it go in my mind. Two men were very kind in their actions. The couch and chair are together and in a very happy Midcentury Modern home. (Well, they are in the garage while we remodel the room that will house them. Stay tuned….)

 

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macaroni and cheese?

The bath/laundry room in our lower level was the color of Kraft macaroni and cheese when we moved in. With the cheese came a free standing round telephone booth (remember telephone booths?) as a shower. It was all rather hideous. I wish I had a before photo of the bathroom before demolition, but it was just too ugly to shoot (or that’s my justification for forgetting to take a ‘before’ shot).

Here it is with the walls removed.

If you look carefully, you can see the telephone booth shower tucked in the corner. The washer, dryer and utility sink were exposed to the rest of the bathroom just as you see here. The water meter sat just under the window and it too was visible. We could have no more of any of that!
Originally, there were two small rooms (one for the bathroom and the other a cinderblock storage closet). One wall was removed to combine the spaces, creating a slightly larger bathroom with an adjoining walk-in closet.
The shower came out and the plumbing reworked to shift the toilet over to expand the shower footprint. What a mess, all the way back to dirt.
I had dreams of a curved call, no door shower. It was time to put this into action.
Next step- drywall.

Getting there. The water meter, washer and dryer are enclosed in the walled off are to the right.

Determining what to put under the laundry shoot to catch the clothes was proving to be a challenge. Not only did we not want an ugly laundry basket sitting out, the space is also quite tight. I determined that a Modesto planter was the perfect solution. Sculpture-like, colorful AND practical. Incidentally, it came with a false bottom (who would want to fill that entire planter with dirt?!) so I had to get out a saw (there is always a way!) to open up the space.

Photo by Bob Foran

A glass block wall serves as the privacy divider between the bathroom and adjacent walk in closet. It is also in keeping with MCM design and mimics one other glass block wall in our house. You know, need to repeat the elements for continuity and flow.

Completed. Photo by Bob Foran

Sourcing:

Penny round tiles in white

IKEA Storjorm vanity mirror with built-in light

IKEA Godmorgon vanity in Grey Gloss

Cloud toilet paper holder

Umbra soap dispenser in Surf Blue

Caroma toilet

Blomus towel bar, hooks and toilet paper dispenser

bring it back

We were nearly pained to see this room taken so far from its origins when we first stepped in this living room. Having said that, one reason we purchased this house was because the two original light fixtures were so cool!  You can see the tri pendant hanging here. My gut tells me the only reason the lights didn’t come down by the previous owners was because the ceiling is so high and hard to reach. I conveyed to the realtor that the offer would not stand if these two fixtures were not included. The owners snickered, I’m sure, that we wanted them.

sorry for the small photo- it’s all I have!

What did we do to get from there to here?

photo by Bob Foran
  • removed the wrought iron railing and replaced with custom bent electrical pipe to mimic the front porch railing (good design is about repeats throughout the house- same material, same look and feel)
  • painted the walls SW Ellie Grey (matched by Benjamin Moore, of course)…with an accent of Valspar Carrot Cake. (I made the switch to Benjamin Moore shortly after this time- the quality is worth it!)
  • added interest to the expansive ceiling with a colorful mobile from MODmobile
  • installed simple cordless cellular shades 
  • brought back the original picture windows on the front of the house (I made reference in an earlier post that the original owners thought their kids would fall trough windows this large, so replaced them with a much smaller version. Really??)
  • added an inviting welcome with a crazy fluffy shag rug (I didn’t know they came this exaggerated!)
  • curated the room with 11 vintage pieces:

orange bullet planter found on the side of the road (some people just don’t know when they have a good thing worth some $)

ottoman originally a really neat orange squiggle 1950s fabric that was badly stained and worn- we recovered with a grey/black geometric ‘sketch’ grid fabric

1950s tapered leg lounge chair was given to us by my mom (she’s always out picking at resale shops and antique stores). Unfortunately, our cat also loved the chair and had a way with her claws. We ended up recovering it and chose a fun black/white geometric fabric. Although not planned, I love the contrast of the black and white against the backdrop of the colorful Lego wall that sits behind it.

vintage lucite and glass ‘snail’ Vladimir Kagan coffee table.

mint green 1950s tapered leg lounge chair, 100% original as we just can’t seem to part with this fabric. It’s not in perfect condition, but it’s worth the flaws for the gorgeous color and texture. The wide arms are the perfect spots for our twin orange tabby kitties. How regal they look when perched here!

vintage eyeball chrome arc floor lamp

1950s tapered leg couch (see below for details)

1950s turquoise hand-painted lamp (wish I could tell you more about it)

1950s green (sheet metal, slatted, collapsing, pyramid) venetian blind shade lamp

1950s Danish modern Krenit bowl in turquoise

1960s Laurids Lonborg Denmark atomic kinetic ball sculpture in green and blue

photo by Bob Foran
  • abstract painting by my grandma on the orange wall; geometric painting by my dad on the green wall (If only I could paint the way they did!)
photo by Bob Foran
  • midcentury modern tapered leg couch found in the window of an antique wall. It was originally in green (that we loved), badly worn and super “itchy” (the kids complained). The details of this couch are amazing! Flip the ‘end’ caps over for a hard surface end table, center console (to be used if we move to a bigger house) with a built in radio (!!!!!), and diamond patterns on the ends. A local reupholster was able to retain the beauty of this couch and we chose a more comfortable, neutral fabric that would allow us to use color to accessorize.
photo by Bob Foran

We continue to mix midcentury modern with contemporary modern,  mainly because the styles can fit together so seamlessly. I appreciate the purist homes with nothing but original pieces, but I also know that mixing the two is more feasible and fun for me and my husband. We will keep hunting and when those fun pieces present themselves we may just have to keep rotating the collection!

(Next on the list….stairs are coming out to be replaced with a floating, single-stringer. To us, the airiness of the room stops short at the stairs. We hope by taking the clunkiness of the stairs away that the room will feel even lighter and more expansive, and keep with midcentury modern aesthetic. Stay tuned…)

 

a new place to cook

You will have to get your magnifying glass out to capture these next two images of our kitchen when we moved in. These are the only ‘before’ photos we have. One of these days I will slow down enough to get my own ‘before’ images. Getting straight to work seems to be my MO.

Apparently the previous owners had redone the kitchen prior to putting it on the market and I imagine they were proud of their work. We took one look at it and said “ick”. We were appreciative of the well-constructed, quality cabinets (not the appearance) and the U-shaped layout. Knowing that the original floorplan was an L-shape, we were thankful that they added a bank of upper and lower cabinets to maximize the use of the space. Cabinets and layout, that was all we appreciated about this kitchen. We were anxious to get the midcentury vibe back and set out to make this happen.

We started by covering up the incredible eyesore of a floor! (Flimsy vinyl sheets with a spectacular 1970s pattern- not our thing).  I’ve had a love of rubber tile for years – something about the geometric shapes, fun colors that it comes in, and modern feel, along with it’s ease of installing and it’s low cost. We knew we wanted colorful accents, with subtle grays and natural wood as the backdrop. Grey rubber it was, sporting my favorite geometric shape: the circle.

Ouch- look at that ugly countertop!

The beauty of the rubber tiles is that they can very easily be replaced should you have an accident.  Each tile interlocks and you simply lay it down over a flat surface. We covered up that ugly floor in minutes. The life of a designer is such that what has been done often needs to be redone- just to keep it fun and interesting. When we tire of rubber, we may be on to VCT (vinyl composite tile)– another very common material in midcentury modern design – one that also has lots of options for color and pattern. That may be next!

Counters next.

Years ago, I came across this Wilsonart cartoon-like woodgrain pattern- Ebon Grain. I knew the second I saw it that we HAD to do something with it in the future. There was a strong pull for concrete for our counters, but the laminate won. And, seeing that our home was built in 1958, it was definitely in keeping with the MCM era to install laminate. I also like the suggestion of ‘natural’ in the fact that it mimics wood. It is not fancy, but it sure is cool looking!

Cabinets were painted turquoise, a perfect choice both for its MCM-ness and the fact that it is one of my favorite colors.

We had been surviving with a half-size dishwasher until the renovation. With kids and friends, this was just not ok. Out it came. IKEA to the rescue, as we needed a new base cabinet to accommodate the larger dishwasher. New sink and faucet in.

Family is invaluable. My stepdad got busy in his wood shop in Goshen, IN and whipped up these solid slab birch plywood doors. There were sprayed with a clear coat to protect them from use and bring out the grain.

As soon as the doors went up, we started to see figures in the grain. Check out the owl lying down.

New IKEA hardware. What would we do without IKEA for some well-designed basics?

To tie in the turquoise of the cabinets with the gray floor, we chose simple grey subway tiles accented with square, turquoise, glass tiles as our backsplash.

White appliances (not really white anymore!) were swapped with stainless.

Ahhh, now it feels right.

photo by CJ South
photo by Bob Foran

curb appeal

tiny size photo because that is all we have from the listing!

This was our house in 2009 when we moved in. A very modest midcentury modern ranch in a superb neighborhood in Ann Arbor, MI. We bought it because of the proximity to downtown, the walk to the three schools our kids would attend and the apparent friendliness of the neighbors. We were confident we could make this little box into something special!

Through the years, it has transformed. We knew at the onset that we wanted to pull the porch off and start over, but we also knew we had hundreds of projects to work on. Where to start in the interim?! A fresh coat of paint and a few orange accents. We found an original midcentury, diamond cut-out, door at the ReUse Center in town and immediately took the metal door off. That door was later replaced with an all glass door, as we were aching for more light in the main living area. We were sad to say goodbye to the diamond, but the glass has been even better!

The peach tree that we transplanted took over and soon blocked the house (oops, didn’t realize it would get that big), but it took care of itself and fell over with the weight of the peaches one day!

In 2016, we had a huge incentive to finally get to the porch. The magazine Atomic Ranch liked what was going on in the inside of our house and requested a photo shoot. First thought ‘but the porch’!

The final version in 2017. photo by Bob Foran

Let me walk you through the process. We made the porch work for a while, replacing the rotting deck. We were not crazy about the shoddy built railing, but it served as a perch for the kids to sit and it gave us a little privacy.

It was pleasant, and very well used. My husband and I enjoyed coffee every morning during nice months in these two vintage chairs given a new life with a favorite color of ours.

We improved the landscaping and built a cement board clad planter, keeping with the clean lines of the midcentury aesthetic, while adding a modern touch.

Before.
After.

When the magazine contacted us in the Fall of 2016, we asked if we could push back the photo shoot date until we could rework the porch.  Sarah Jane Stone, the editor at Atomic Ranch, was happy to wait, so we got to work designing.

My stepdad is amazing in the wood shop and whipped up a cute little model- just like a doll house! Computers are not his thing, but I am not complaining. This little jobbie is adorable. 🙂

Work began. The windows were brought back to their original state. A few years back, the son of the original owner stopped by our house while attending a garage sale next door and came in for a tour. He said, “Oh yeah, my parents took the original windows out and made them smaller when they thought we would fall through the glass as kids”. We were not as fearful, so out they came. The light that streams in is amazing and in true midcentury modern style, the outdoors have come inside- we love feeling like the plants are creeping inside.

Off came the roof and the deck.

A new concrete pad was poured, expanding the original footprint of the stoop simply because we use the front porch SO MUCH and wanted a bit more space for additional seating.

We wanted the porch to have the appearance of floating, so designed the 4-inch pad to cantilever a bit.

Winter set in. The photo shoot was to take place at the end of January. We had to keep working.

The winter months made it impossible for us to build the entire porch outside. If we could put it together like a kit, rather than from the ground up we (or my husband and stepdad, rather!) could keep out of the cold a little less while building.

Up drove my stepdad from Indiana with our entire porch in the back of his van!  I joke that our porch was like a Sears Kit Home.

This is quite honestly the entire porch, sans concrete!

Record breaking temps set in. I am pretty sure 7 degrees was on the thermometer this day. Yikes! Poor family.

With lots of hot chocolate and tea, the porch took shape.

A neighbor asked, “Are those poles to hang plants from?” Me, “Well, I guess you could. We were intending for it to just be a design element. I don’t expect everyone to understand it”. 😉

Happy that the porch is completed. photo by Bob Foran

You may notice that as we stand there, the planters have been ‘planted’. And how did we do that in the middle of winter you may ask? We drove around the neighborhood looking for used Christmas trees on the curb. We disassembled them and laid the branches in the planters. Magic- they are presentable and ready for the photographer!

And just this past week, we found this stone slab to serve as the step. Complete, that is until Spring when we get live plants!

 

midmodist

ist /ist/ noun
imgres-a follower of a distinctive practice, system, or philosophy, typically a political ideology or an artistic movement.

I’ve been putting my thoughts, ideas and notions on paper on a page on my website under BLOG. Recently, I’ve been feeling like I’m not giving it the attention that it deserves. I add to the page at varying intervals, as thoughts pop into my head. No consistency. Up to this point I’ve not had a theme. It’s random—like my mind. Some would say that is creative. My orderly self is saying a bit of structure is needed.

My take on blogs is that they are platforms to share with the world who you are, what you like and what you can think about. Most of us read blogs because we are searching for a nugget of information, an idea, a way to relate, a moment of entertainment, a concept to think about.

I’m hoping I can contribute to your life in some way, shape or form. I don’t think I’m important, but I do know that there are some things I’m crazy about and there are a few thoughts floating around in my mind and perhaps you might find a way to relate to me.

images

Of the handful of passions of mine design is the most prominent. I see it everywhere. I live it. I breathe it. Design manifests itself in my life in every facet: my home, my clothes, my conversations, my job.

So, I’m setting off to dedicate some real time and energy to my blog

MIDMODIST. It’s what I love.

Break it down MID (as in Midcentury) MOD (as in modern) IST (as in follower).

Curator of midcentury modern design.

images-1What will you experience in my new venture? Hard to tell. But, I bet it will have a few things having to do with midcentury modern, and of course my random thoughts thrown in for good measure.

Come along for the ride.

basic form

I’m kind of Charley Harper obsessed. Do you know him? He was a conservationist/artist depicting nature and animals in their most geometric form, both in sketch and paint. Texture, color, shape and pattern were all integrated into what I like to call a neat, little package- his drawings were complex visual candy cleanly presented in basic, geometric form. “Wildlife art has been dominated by realism, but I have chosen to do it differently because I think flat, hard-edge and simple.”- Charley Harper

For as long as I can remember, geometry has intrigued me. The clean lines of geometric shapes is pleasing to my soul. Lines, circles, triangles, rectangles and squares are neat and tidy; there is an order that feels comfortable to me. There is a flow of sorts when geometry works together to create a scene.

Continue reading basic form

intentions

(written on January 5, but a pressing goal kept me from finishing)

I’m not one to set New Year’s resolutions. I do, however, believe that goals, wether loose or firm, keep me moving forward. I’d rather have a goal I didn’t actually reach in it’s entirety than have not made any and not feel the push to achieve.

write your intentions down.  tell someone your intentions.

There is a crazy phenomenon that happens when you do two things:

Continue reading intentions

end of the day

At the end of the day and I mean the LAST day, as in the final breathing hours, what do you have? Do you care about your boat, your second house, your bank account, the designer clothes in your closet? I would argue that you care about the people holding your hands as you pass into another realm, whatever your beliefs. You probably care about your impact on your world and others, how you affected those around you, what you said or didn’t say, how your loved ones will be when you are gone.

Continue reading end of the day