Archive for January 17th, 2008

Our house is just about as old as me. The blueprints are dated 1958 and ’59; the house was completed in 1961.

It harkens back to the advent of the great room, The Brady Bunch, green (or orange) shag carpeting, sunken dens, and bean bag chairs.

No wonder I feel so comfortable here.

Until I moved into this house and started doing research, I didn’t know what to call it. All I knew was Jim and I fell in love with the place the moment we walked in.

The walls were dingy and the oak and quarry tile floors dark from decades of Mop-N-Glo’ build-up. Yet underneath we saw clean, horizontal lines and untouched red brick and honey-stained birch.

Even though the house was built for function — with cabinet and closet space galore and a big laundry room — we recognized a whole aesthetic. 

“It reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright.” That’s what I said to Jim over and over the first day we walked through the house. Dutch doors that open wholly or just the top. Symmetrical ceiling joists. Neat little pocket doors. Built-in accordian room dividers.

Built-in everything, for that matter — built-in desks, built-in shelves, a central vacuum system, a central radio/intercom. All of it intact. Nothing ripped out or painted over or broken. The house even had its original stainless steel double ovens and cooktop range.


We’ve moved in slowly. What I mean is, we’ve taken our time getting to know the place. Well, I take that back. Jim’s domain is the outside, and he’s had to jump in to do the work required for each season.

But I’m in charge of how the home feels inside. What stays and what goes. What to add to the mix. Here’s what I know so far:

Colors & Textures

A cross between sage and celery green, light and soothing.

Blue, also gentle.

And remember the velvets from the 1950s? Mrs. Tabet had a formal living room with blue plates hanging on the walls and in her china cabinet, and blue velvet pillows with buttons. I like that blue and I like that fabric; I skipped the formality.

Black and white. Pillows and a slipper chair that was Jim’s grandmother’s. Accents, which, strange how they anchor.

And because it all seems to match (or maybe because I’m Gemini) I’m throwing in bright orange. Not in the furniture or the rugs or anything like that. But ceramics. It’s gorgeous.



OK, it’s taken me this long to say, the house is a Mid-Century Modern. There are no definitive web resources on this style, as far as I could find (I’ll add a link once I find one that satisfies me) but already I have several favorite sites for Mid-Century Modern furniture. Such as:

This is barely scratching the surface. These stores have top-of-the-line vintage pieces, as does ebay, and my goal at this point is simply to look, see, learn.

I’ve started scouring more affordable sources, like craigslists in various cities. I found a 4-foot-diameter Danish teak circular coffee table to go with the vintage contemporary couch we got from Jim’s parents, at a fraction of the price I could find anything similar in the specialty shops.

New Mexico doesn’t do Mid-Century Modern, not in any huge way, but so far I’ve found great deals on two lamps, four simple teak chairs, and a bizarre enamel chair. The trick is to find things that are affordable and real. And to figure out how to mix it with some of the interesting pieces we already have.

   Santa Dolorosa, gesso and oil painting by Susanna Chavez

I’ll be writing a series of posts about the place and our attempts to make it something special. If you have any ideas on where to go and what to do, please share them. Or, just stay tuned. I’ll let you know how it’s coming along.

And as I find out more about this style and aesthetic, I’ll share what I know. One thing that’s already clear: there are people who make their whole lives about Mid-Century Modern (kind of like how some of us make our lives about Writing). I can definitely see the attraction.

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