Archives for category: Modern architecture

l620b6f44-m2oThe current TV show Mad Men has sparked a renewed interest in all things mid-century modern. The lead character Don Draper and his advertising partners inhabit a 1960s world fueled by mid-day martinis and cigarettes, filled with hidden identities and changing gender roles. But even amidst the sophisticated drama, the viewer can’t help but be dazzled by the gorgeous sets, which capture the high styles of the time beautifully. As a result, young hipsters today are re-discovering the modern clean lines in both the furniture and household items of the era. The “shelter magazines” have gone mad for the MCM (mid century modern) look; one can see both the original and the knock off pieces for sale everywhere now. The unfussy, easy-on-the-eye furnishings have a fresh upbeat feel.l620b6f44-m3o

I was recently asked by William Rochford, realtor at Sotheby’s, to stage for sale a 1970s ranch style home in Rockport. The house was empty and presented a clean slate. The moment I walked in the front door, it hit me immediately what the house needed. A large picture window opens up to the acre plus property and the commodious combination living/dining room complete with built-in shelving and open bookcases flanking the fireplace screamed out for MCM. Staging the house could show the home to its best advantage and give potential buyers an idea as to what life could be like living there. My basement and attic is a bursting treasure trove of all things MCM. A perfect fit.l620b6f44-m7o

The furniture I chose for the house are mostly warm woods and all original pieces from the 1960s and 1970s. For a bit of gloss, a pair of teak and smoked glass topped Danish modern side tables flank the sleek lined sofa. A wire see-through Bertoia chair with sheepskin added was placed next to the fireplace. Selecting a Paul McCobb dining table with stiletto legs and Franco Legler woven wicker basket chairs completed the furnishings. For accent colors I opted for a burnt orange and lime green. When used sparingly, these colors work amazingly together. The bookcases were filled with books of the era, such as The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Art objects, glass ware, and framed art from the period complement the room. No knock offs used here, only the originals please. Rather than look like a frozen in time room, the space oddly enough looks fresh and updated, ready for a modern family to move right in and begin living the MCM way. Makes one mad for a Singapore Sling.

If you have caught the MCM fever, check out all my modern offerings at Cambridge Antique Market, Msgr. O’Brien Highway, Cambridge, MA, space #274/275 on the second floor.l620b6f44-m5o


What do you do when the attic, basement, and closets are full of “treasures” that you have been collecting over the years? Open a store and begin selling it all! The combination of lots of storage space and a yen to collect things different and unusual is fraught with danger. Spaces quickly fill up and items get forgotten. I live in an 1840 converted barn with a huge hayloft and full basement. When we moved in three years ago, the empty spaces seemed cavernous. Now it is a struggle to pass through the hayloft and basement. The time had come to make some hard decisions about what to keep and what to jettison. The Cambridge Antique Market provided the solution. It is a multi dealer space and had a vacancy. Serendipity!

Mid-Century finds

Mid-Century finds



Susan, a close friend, had recently transitioned out of a position at an antique shop on Beacon Hill and was looking for her next business venture. She had previously managed a gallery in Palm Springs, California which held an amazing variety of vintage and antique objects. While working there she became conversant with collectible mid-century modern pieces and developed an unerring design eye. I grew up with a houseful of 1960s Danish modern furniture and all the attendant household goods that fit that design. A perfect marriage of acquired knowledge and past experience.

The 1950s through 1970s were a hopeful and optimistic time in America. The outlook is reflected in the design of the architecture, furniture and household items of the time. A new generation of twenty and thirty year olds is discovering the period’s upbeat mood and style. The TV show Madmen, which captures the era so deliciously with its mid-century modern set design and clothes, has helped fuel the renewed interest in the time and its design. An idea for a market niche for our space at the Cambridge Antique Market was hatched!

Flower power tray

Flower power tray

Since setting up shop there, our space was shown in several shots of a segment of the Boston area TV lifestyle show, Chronicle. The Boston Globe also recently sent a reporter to write an upcoming piece on the Cambridge Antique Market. When the reporter asked Michelle, a knowledgeable long time staff member, what was currently “hot,” Michelle ushered them to our space. Last week, set designers from a movie being shot in Boston came looking for mid-century modern items and found our treasure trove. Our space is hopefully becoming discovered.



017 I wish I could say my hayloft and basement were bare once again, but in fact my collecting has just gone into hyperdrive. While the space is no less crowded, the items are constantly changing. Susan and I have a full press hunt on for mid-century modern and other unusual treasures. We need warehousing space.  It feels a bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Basement to Cambridge

Basement to Cambridge

Attic treasures await new owners

Attic treasures await new owners

Susan and my “finds” can be seen at The Cambridge Antique Market, 201 Msgr. O’Brien Highway, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Space 274/275 is on the second floor.

Click on any photo to enlarge

. . . should not throw stones. In 1949, the architect Philip Johnson built a glass house in New Caanan, Connecticut. This house was so far ahead of it’s time that it is still shockingly modern today. I recently had the opportunity to visit this house on the occasion of a milestone birthday (we won’t say which one). I have had a yen to see Johnson’s Glass House since it was donated to The National Historic Preservation Trust in 2007. It is now open to the public for very small groups to tour.

Glass House

The Glass House immediately captures your imagination with its glass walls on all sides and no interior walls, save a small brick silo in the interior which houses the bathroom. There are no curtains on the windows. Luckily, the house sits on forty five acres with a high stone wall that wards off prying eyes. Your natural reaction when visiting historic houses is to imagine yourself living in the house. One guest was obviously ruminating on this idea when she exclaimed, “Well, it may be very beautiful, but I certainly couldn’t live here.” Philip Johnson replied, “I haven’t ask you to, madam.”

An architect known for his many smart one liners, Philip Johnson was a cultivator of self promotion and sound bites long before they became de rigeur. He called Frank Lloyd Wright, “the greatest architect of the eighteenth century.” Phillip was also an enigma.

Philip Johnson 1930s

For a time before World War II and the full horrors of the Nazis were known, he was an admirer of Hitler. It may have been the extreme order and the hyper-masculine uniforms that drew him in. This, while he was carrying on an intimate relationship with Jimmie Daniels, a black night club owner/entertainer in Harlem. As a kind of atonement for his flirtation with fascism, he later designed a synagogue in Port Chester, New York for no fee.

Many of Philip Johnson’s buildings were quite controversial when originally built. The new addition to the Boston Public Library was called a “mausoleum.”  The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California was dubbed, “a holy intersection of business, commerce, art and religion, in that order.” The pediment atop the AT&T building in New York City was likened to a “chippendale bookcase.”

Even with all of Philip Johnson’s foibles, both in his personal and professional lives, he did make a major mark on modern architecture and art. He was responsible for introducing Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko to the Museum of Modern Art, of which he was also a board member. His way-ahead-of-his-time architectural designs were cutting edge and some have stood the test of time, the true measure of an architect’s work.

Johnson’s sculpture gallery

The Glass House was his own personal retreat. He used it to bring people together from the world of art and architecture to discuss ideas. Scattered on his forty-five acres are other buildings designed by him, including an art gallery with an ingeniously designed system to house and display art work, a guest house, an office, a building for sculpture display, a Greek temple folly by a pond, and a structure that was designed after a Frank Stella sculpture dubbed “the monstah.”

Da monstah

All of them pale to the glass house in purity of design and visual beauty. Even though some of the buildings on the forty-five acres are almost Dr. Suess cartoonish in nature, the property showcases his widely divergent creativity.

Sitting in his magnificent house, Philip Johnson tossed about many a verbal stone. So . . . maybe you can live in a glass house AND throw stones.

Architectural millinery

In honor of mother’s day, a look at my mother’s house in Del Mar, California felt fitting. The house is a modern architectural gem, full of angles, patios off every room, walls of plate glass and vistas of the California coastline.

When my parents retired and began looking at places to build their dream house, they settled upon Del Mar after exploring Austin, Texas and Carmel, California. As my mother recounts, Austin was too hot, Carmel too cold, but Del Mar was just right. The lot they found was a very steep one graced with a massive old Torrey pine tree at the top with swoopingly dramatic branches like a piece of sculpture. Views abound of the Pacific Ocean below and the town of La Jolla across the Los Penasquitos lagoon.

My father’s room mate at West Point, Herbert Turner, became a designer of buildings instead of pursuing a career in the military. He studied architecture with John Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s son. Herb’s houses are decidedly California modern in style and incorporate many Wrightian features. Dentil molding, using outside siding materials inside, and bringing the outside in are all features of Wright’s style that Herb Turner re-tooled for the California coast. Once the empty lot was found, a scarcity in the area, Herb Turner drew up plans for the challenging steep hillside lot. The garage was placed on the lower level and the house situated above and behind it. A challenge was, how to get from the garage up into the house without climbing many steps? As my parents planned to live in this house for the remainder of their lives, an elevator was placed at the back end of the garage, which carries you up to the living room, two stories above. Ground was broken for the construction just as my father discovered that he had cancer.  Unfortunately, he never saw his dream house completed. Single handedly, my mother moved forward with the project. Although I lived three thousand miles away, I helped as much as I could.

The end result is a stunner of a house which fits the lot and is in perfect scale with its surroundings, which so few new homes are these days. Designed for just the two of them, it is not large but has a spacious feel when inside. The living, dining and kitchen areas take up one side of the house. The ceilings there are two stories and give the spaces a sense of drama. The bedrooms, baths and laundry room are on the other side of the house with lower ceilings for a more intimate feel. These two spaces feel separate and are divided by a wide galleria which runs the entire depth of the house. It also doubles as a large, high ceilinged entry hall. The walls of the galleria are hung with artwork collected over the years, including a painting by Herb Turner.

My mother Wootsie (nicknames abound in my family), proper name Margaret, has happily lived in this house for over twenty years now. The house has been featured in newspaper articles and is featured prominently in the book Art and Architecture of Herbert B. Turner.  While my father Tom never saw his dream realized, this house above the Pacific serves as a fitting capstone to the adventurous years of my parents’ life together.