Tagged: Mid-Century Modern

This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the newsClick on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.

10 Forgotten Lessons of Mid-Century Design– Build


Image via Build

I don’t know that these principles are necessarily forgotten or that they existed only in mid-century design, but they are definitely rare these days. You don’t see many mcmansions with small cozy bedrooms, naturally scaled proportions, or interiors that really invite the outside in.

Breaking Bad’s Reality – Four Dirty Paws


Aaron Paul (as Jesse Pinkman) in a photo mash-up outside the Dog House in Albuquerque. Image via Four Dirty Paws

The hit AMC series Breaking Bad builds a highly textured and believable reality by using real sites in and around Albuquerque, NM.  The blogger at Four Dirty Paws tracked down some of the places featured in the series, including the unique mid-century car wash owned by Walt and Skylar and the quirky Dog House Drive Thru. If you are a fan, check it out!

Reversal of Fortune – 99% Invisible

“I fell in love with architecture on the Chicago River. It provides a beautiful vantage point to take in all the marvelous skyscrapers. Unlike other cities that cram you on the sidewalk between looming towers.  The Chicago River pushes buildings apart, giving you the opportunity to really take in the city’s glory in glass, steel, and concrete. But Chicago’s biggest design achievement isn’t a building at all—it’s the Chicago River itself.” The REVERSED it’s flow!

Rare Fore-Edge Paintings Revealed at University of Iowa – Colossal


Image via Colossal

“A few days ago Colleen Theisen who helps with outreach and instruction at the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa shared an amazing gif she made that demonstrates something called fore-edge painting on the edge of a 1837 book called Autumn by Robert Mudie. Fore-edge painting, which is believed to date back as early as the 1650s, is a way of hiding a painting on the edge of a book so that it can only be seen when the pages are fanned out. There are even books that have double fore-edge paintings, where a different image can be seen by flipping the book over and fanning the pages in the opposite direction.”

GHF 2.0 – Time Tells

time tells

“Wanna lose a million dollars a year? Take a general store and turn it into a house museum.” Image via Time Tells

“Now of course I screamed and shouted to save buildings, but for over thirty years I have understood preservation/conservation to be an economic strategy. I recognize the distinction between the museum and the everyday to be an artificial distinction. You can raise money to preserve a museum piece, to be sure, but you need to keep raising that money – forever. I soon realized that the majority of preservation happens not by removing objects from our everyday and our economy, but by placing them at the center of our everyday economy. By exploiting their use value”


The Mad Men Effect: A Preservation and Design Recap


If your Sunday evening was sadly bereft of the SC &P crew and your Monday has been spent pining for more mid-century mod eye candy and late 1960s  goodness, don’t fear! I have just what you’re jonesing for. Behold, a collection of blog posts and articles about Mad Men/1960s style and (of course!) historic preservation.  Here’s to the anticipation of Season 7 and crossed fingers that the  Mad Men Effect will continue to inspire a love for those mid-century buildings that so often get overlooked just because George Washington never slept in them.

1. Mad Men Creator Matthew Weiner on Why Don Draper Is a Preservationist – Preservation Nation

2. Is Mad Men Good for Preservation? – DOCOMOMO

3. Mad Men Inspires Appreciation for Architecture of the ‘Recent Past’ – Planetizen

4. Mad Men Locations in Los Angeles – Discover Los Angeles

5. Mad Men’s Village People – GVSHP

6. Montgomery’s Mad Men Modern Buildings – Are They Worth Protecting? – The Washington Post

7. Mad Men, Mad Buildings – Preservation Journey

8. Mad Men Motif Comes to Life in New Canaan, Conn. – Boston Globe

9. Touring Los Angeles’ Modern Skyline – Preservation Nation

10. Mad Men Style : The Best of the 1960s from House Beautiful – House Beautiful

11. Mid-Century Modern? Not Here – LA Times

12. American Style Through the Decades: The Sixties – Apartment Therapy

The Mad Men Effect


First season promo.

With season six wrapping up last Sunday, I’ve been reflecting on the effect Mad Men has had. Sometimes it seems like Mad Men single-handedly made mid-century styles popular again. Each week for six seasons, millions of viewers have tuned  in as much for the furniture, art, interior design, clothes, make up, and hair as for the storyline. In the years since it premiered, stores from Banana Republic to Manhattan Home Design rolled out Mad Men inspired collections. It’s undeniable that mod is back in a big way.

And it’s popularity has been a boon for preservation. Mid-century buildings are suddenly cool again. Preservation organizations have harnessed the power of pop culture by throwing Mad Men themed fundraising events and awareness campaigns. The series has become a touchstone around which to discuss preservation and preservation issues. Mad Men itself  even joined the conversation when it featured the demolition of Penn Station in Season 3, which was the birth of the modern preservation movement in the US.

Many television series have been set in the past, from westerns such as Gun Smoke to teen dramas/comedies like That 70s Show, The Wonder Years and Freaks and Geeks, but few have had the cultural impact of Mad Men. I think the secret* lies with show creator/runner Matthew Weiner’s notorious attention to detail.  His staff tirelessly works to make sure each peculiarity, from the size of a bouffant to the size of a pastry is accurate.  This translates into set design and wardrobe that is thoughtful, clever, nostalgic, sumptuous and beautiful.  It also feels authentic, never theatrical or costumey (unless the scene, of course, is meant to be those things).


The fictitious office of SCDP cum SC&P is located in the real Time Life Building for which Eames designed the executive chair used in this scene. Talk about attention to detail! Image via copycatchic.com

One key to authenticity is Mad Men’s use of a variety of sets and styles. With the exception, maybe, of the SCDP/SC&P offices and the Drapers’ apartment which were newly furnished, no scene design is comprised solely of pieces from one era. Nor is every set a “1960s” set. Take the Draper residence in Ossining, for example. It is based off of a 1910s colonial revival design and is filled with a hodgepodge of furniture. It’s easy to imagine that some of the pieces are family heirlooms or holdovers from Betty or Don’s singledom and that some of it is new. The Francis residence, a Victorian, is similarly decorated with a range of styles from early American to modern. If in each scene every stick of furniture and nicknack and chotsky  was produced in1968, it would feel fabricated and fake. That’s not how people live now and it isn’t how people lived then, either. So the mix and match approach of Mad Men’s set design feels real to us in the present and it makes it easy to see how mid-century pieces can work in contemporary spaces, too.

When possible, Mad Men also tries to utilize the built environment – it films on location in places that existed during the time period. Of course, the “authenticity” of using these places is questionable considering they are in LA locations masquerading as NYC places, but I think that charge (which has actually been leveled by some preservationists) is a little nitpicky. Showcasing existing historical locations, whether they be in LA or NYC makes a scene feel more real and is good for preservation. In fact,one shooting location,  La Villa Basque actually became the center of a preservation campaign.  Shortly after Mad Men filmed, “The Suitcase,” the restaurant planned to overhaul its historic interior. (Unfortunately, despite pressure from preservationists and the media attention generated by its link to Mad Men, the remodel was completed.)

Alas, only one more season of Mad Men remains. Even so, I’m left with a lot of hope.  I hope preservationists use this next year to their full advantage and ride the Mad Men train all the way to the station – educating and  inspiring and saving  places all along the way. I hope Mid-Century Modern styles remain popular and the discussion around buildings of the recent past continues. And I hope there is another period drama in the future that helps people to reexamine the buildings and places around them, that preservationists can hitch their wagons to, that makes preservation topical and interesting a cool.  (Are you listening Matthew Weiner!?) Here’s to the Mad Men Effect and here’s to season 7!


Image via IMDB

*I think another reason is pure chance. Mad Men came along at just the right time. Mid-Century Modern was already on an upswing (however small) and the series catapulted it to the forefront of design trends.

This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the newsClick on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.

Retro Slim Aarons Pool Side Photos – Apartment Therapy

Lounging In Bermuda

Lounging in Bermuda. Image via photographersgallery.com

Get your weekend off to a dreamy early start by clicking through this photo gallery of  mid-century poolside snaps by photographer Slim Aarons.

Thorncrown Chapel in Arkansas – Colossal


Image via Colossal

The Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is considered one of the crowning examples of organic architecture in the US.  Built in 1980, it was designed to be “a weightless, almost translucent structure that offers sweeping views in all directions of the surrounding Ozark habitat. In keeping with the organic design of the chapel [architect E. Fay Jones] asked that no construction element be larger than what two people could carry through the woods by hand.” Because of it’s significance in design, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 when it was only 20 years old! Now it is being threatened by a power company that has has applied to build a 48-mile high voltage transmission line through Northwest Arkansas that will cut through the woods right next to the chapel. For those interested, the Arkansas Public Service Commission is accepting comments from the public regarding the proposed power line construction. You can also read much more over on Hyperallergic.

Houses in Disrepair Have A Place in History – The Columbus Dispatch


The Gamble House, and historic landmark in Cincinnati, was demolished earlier this year. Image via WCPO

In Ohio (and around the country),  millions of tax payer dollars are being used to demolish historic buildings in an effort to rub out blight. What this 1960s solution (that history proved with empty lots 50 years later isn’t actually a solution) neglects is that these buildings didn’t get this way on their own.  Property owners and cities allowed them to fall into disrepair. As the author notes, “A 100-year-old house in Europe is a baby. Some houses in Britain, France and Germany are three or four times older than those in our country. The point is that the houses are in bad shape not because they’re old but because they were allowed to fall apart.” And while not all houses/buildings are historically significant because someone famous slept there, they make up the historic character of neighborhoods and cities. “Without them, the character changes. And, if history repeats itself, the new character will be defined by a gaptoothed landscape of weed-filled lots.”

Epic St. Petersburg Palace – Curbed


The Gothic Hall. Image via Curbed

A rare historic palace on St. Petersburg’s famous English Embankment has come up for sale and is sure to attract interest from some of Russia’s newly minted billionaires. The only trouble? The price is so high, it is only available upon request. Recently used as bank offices, the 18th-century palace was built for “Duke Trubetskoy, one of Peter the Great’s favourite companions” and was passed down through the noble generations until the property was nationalized in 1917. Now restored with input from conservators at the Hermitage and State Museum, the commodious house has been returned to its original use as a single-family mansion for Russia’s ruling class. The 39,000-square-foot structure features 22,000-square-feet of preserved historic interiors, including an ‘Armoury Gallery, the Hunting Room, the White Hall, the Knights Hall’ and the especially ornate ‘Gothic Hall.'”

1 Main Street, Apt. 16, DUMBO, Brooklyn – The Corcoran Group

I’ll just let this video speak for itself!


Happy weekend, ya’ll!

This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the newsClick on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.

Midcentury Furniture + Grandkid Nostalgia = Modern Trend – NPR


“NPR’s Andrea Hsu paid $75 for her midcentury modern table and chairs, shown here in a 1963 Drexel Declaration catalog. She quickly realized it was a steal.” Image via NPR

So I think we all know that Midcentury furniture and architecture is a huge trend these days. But why? Turns out people tend to like what their grandparents liked and reject what their parents like. It happened in the 60s with Art Deco, as well.  Additionally, there is a lot of Midcentury Mod to be had. “After World War II, home ownership surged. People who bought homes in the 1950s and ’60s would now be in their 70s and 80s. Many no longer want or need houses full of furniture.”

Done on a Dime: Creative Reuse Method Aims to Save Neighborhoods -Freshwater Cleveland

1171 Addison Ave

Image via Freshwater Cleveland

In Cleveland, a developer is renovating homes scheduled for demolition for a fraction of the cost of a typical rehab by using inexpensive local labor and materials bought at places like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  He prefers historic homes with balloon frames because “which are strong enough to withstand the removal of interior walls and ceilings. The net effect is that Scaravelli can fix up his houses more cheaply. ‘I don’t have to fix that wall because it’s not there,’ he quips, gesturing at the open space.”  By inexpensively and creatively rehabbing vacant buildings and then renting them at reasonably rates, he is helping to strengthen Cleveland neighborhoods that are in decline. After seeing his success, other developers see his methods as a new model.

30 Terrific Tools for Small Businesses – Forbes

Small businesses and historic spaces/historic Main Streets very often go hand-in-hand, therefore, their success or failure can have a profound effect on the historic built environment. Small business face a lot of challenges, but Forbes is here to help. Here is a list of 30 great tools to help small businesses succeed!

To Be Saved Anatok (an African American and Religious) Needs Help TODAY – The Kaintuckeean


Image via The Kaintuckeean

Anatok is the birthplace of  Daniel Rudd. Born into slavery, Rudd would go onto establish the American Catholic Tribune and found the National Black Catholic Congress. Anatok is currently in danger of demolition as neighboring Bethlehem High School seeks to expand. Time is running out. Today is the last day for preservationists (who hope to partner with the high school to adapt and reuse the mansion as an education space) to receive matching funds for donations. According to Preservation Kentucky,  “if preserved, this historic site would be the only site directly associated with the rise of Black Catholicism in Bardstown – known as the cradle of Catholicism in the early 19th century on the Western Frontier.”

Please contact Preservation Kentucky at director@preservationkentucky.org if you can help save this important piece of  Kentucky, Catholic, and African American history.

Crowd Funding Success: Silo City Rocks – Adventures in Heritage

silo city

Image via Silo City Rocks

“Crowd funding is getting a lot of buzz in the heritage world. But there are very few examples of instances where its worked. At a recent #builtheritage chat the only cited example was the creator of The Oatmeal, who raised funds to buy the lab  (a historic building) of Nikola Tesla to  create a museum. They raised over $1 million. However, there is another recent example I’d like to share. It was a crowd funding campaign through Indiegogo to raise funds to turn a grain silo in Buffalo into a rock climbing gym. The new centre will be called Silo City Rocks.”