Who: Stacy – we met her through a Scout Living recommendation.
What: 2 bedroom/ 1 bathroom two story home.
Where: South Land Park, Sacramento, CA
What attracted you to MCM design?
My personal style has evolved over the last 20 years. During my teens and up through my thirties I experimented with shabby chic, nautical, French Country and equestrian/hunt themes. As I’ve matured, so has my taste. I prefer less complicated furniture and design now. I’m attracted to MCM because of its clean architectural lines and the simple compilation of natural and man made aesthetic. I love the mix and textures of metal and glass, wood and chrome, stone and ceramic. I also appreciate the craftsmanship in each piece. There is an inherent pride in so many MCM pieces. When you run your hand along a teak buffet or heft a glazed pot, you can feel the intentionality and thought that envelops each piece. MCM speaks to a time and place when people knew their neighbors, sat down to dinner and shared about each other’s day and handed down pieces from family member to family member. In such a disposable society as ours, I believe MCM allows us to reimagine that time and bring it back into our lives and homes.
Favorite designers and biggest influences for your style?
My mother has and will always most influence my style because she always supported my experimentation with design. If I wanted to paint my room mauve with sea foam and cream accents one week and primary colors the next, she let me. If I moved my furniture around and rehung posters every month, she let me. She showed me that design is personal and ever evolving. I remember her switching the entire look of our house each season merely by switching out pillows and linens. She would rotate art in the different rooms so that each piece took on new meaning depending on where it hung. She also showed me how to curate collections with both low brow, inexpensive items as well as heirloom and museum quality ones. She was creating vignettes in shadow boxes with African tribal pieces from my grandfather’s collection from the Belgian Congo long before Pottery Barn made a mint doing the same with seashells. I still seek her opinion about pieces and placement. She’s an amazing teacher with an amazing eye.
My favorite MCM designers, architects and artists are: (In no particular order) Paul McCobb, Pieter Groeneveldt, Jean Prouve’, Arne Vidder, Denys Lasdun, Erik Buck, Albert Frey, Mies Vander Rohe, George Nelson, Vladimir Kagan, Milo Baughman, Frank Llyod Wright, Taylor Wooley, Hans Wegner, Stanley Piltz, Alexander Calder, Warren Platner, Eero Saarinen, Arne Jacobson, Aldo van Eyck, Joseph Eichler, and Richard Neutra.
How do you feel about reproductions?
I’m not a big fan of reproduction. I would rather save my money and buy an original. The reason so much MCM furniture is around is because of the quality of materials used and the craftsmanship. I’d rather invest in one or two signature pieces than spend $20 on a do-it-yourself bookshelf made of particle-board that will be destroyed the first time a Delta breeze wafts by. I like the patina of age and wear that comes with purchasing an original piece. Collecting MCM pieces allows me to hear the stories of the people who cherished the piece before I did. I like to imagine the family from Dubuque, Iowa having the piece in their family for years before it found a new place in my home. I do, however, believe in ‘gentle’ restoration. For example, I will re-stuff a leather cushion (B& T Upholstery is fabulous) or wood polish a piece if need be, but I tend to like the scuffs and scratches. Like a scar, they tell a story of the adventure.
Furniture wise, what do you think is something you should invest in?
I think chairs and substantial pieces like a hutch or sideboard should be investment pieces. For wood pieces, look for substantial joint construction and that the entire piece is made of wood. Most pieces that are knock-offs or reproductions have particle board backing instead of the entire piece being teak, rosewood, etc.
Where are your favorite places to shop for home décor?
- New York: Obscura Antiques, The Evolution Store, Hell’s Kitchen and GreenFlea Flea Markets
- Palm Springs: a La MOD, 20 First Modern & Vintage, Swank, Palm Canyon Galleria, Retrospect
- Sacramento: Scout, 57th Street Antique Mall, Antique Trove, Midway Antique Mall, The Antique Company, Fringe, monthly Antique Fair under the freeway
- San Diego: Klassik , Antiques on Kettner, Newport Avenue Design Center, Solo
- San Francisco: Stuff, Past Perfect, Paxton Gate,
- Seattle: The Mod Fix, Lucca, Velocity Art & Design, Kobo at Higo
- Ebay, Craigslist, 1st Dibs
What are some of your best finds? From where?
Furniture Piece: I pinch myself whenever I use my Vladimir Kagan coffee table. It’s from the Palm Springs estate sale of Lena Horne. I have the provenance on it and got it for a steal. It actually cost more to ship home than the actual purchase price but it’s worth every penny. It’s sensuous and beautiful and I tell my self that the nicks in the glass came from a Rat Pack stumble and bumble. Even better, it reminds me of my best friends who have shared some of my favorite memories of them being patient with me while I make them traipse through every MCM store in Palm Springs when they’d much rather be lazing around the pool.
Collectible: I also love a MCM glove mold I purchased at Obscura Antiques in NYC. I had been a fan of their TV show and really wanted to visit this quirky shop and its purveyors. I trekked about four miles in sub zero weather to the store on my way to dinner at WD-50. The shop is about the size of a closet and while there realized that Anthony Kiedis and Flea were there buying several pieces. It was funny to think of these two rockers as fans as well but they were. Sort of a cool movment that I got my $20 hand while they purchased a two-headed cow in formaldehyde.
Art Piece: My Leiroy Nieman Dressage serigraph. Horses have been in my blood since I was 5 years old. I also grew up with close family friends who collected Nieman’s work. I remember telling them when I was visiting once as a child that I liked the artist who “drew outside the lines”. That such scribbles could be so full of vibrancy and energy was thrilling to me. I had been trolling ebay for his horse related pieces but most were either post card size, prohibitively expensive, or focused on racing. I really wanted one of his Olympic jumping pieces or one of his basic equestrian pieces. After about 11 months, a piece came up. Amazingly, it is one of his extremely rare dressage pieces, my riding discipline, and it was absurdly priced at bargain-basement levels. I immediately snatched it up. It has been authenticated and comes with provenance from a woman in New Jersey cleaning out her aunt’s attic. It now hangs in a prominent space above my couch. Even better, another one recently came up at auction for over $3000, a good $2800 more than I paid for mine. Score!
Greatest achievement in your home? Biggest challenge?
I think my greatest achievement in my home is that it is functional. Every piece is used daily; there is no piece that is off limits because it is too valuable or fragile. MCM pieces were meant to be used and I use everything in my home. I also like that while there is a clear design sensibility to my home, it is not overly decorated. It feels lived in as if every piece was acquired over time and from different places, all of which have now found their rightful ‘home’ with me. My biggest challenge is constantly editing my collection so that I can bring in new pieces that add brightness to the overall feel of my home. I believe in displaying items in odd number groupings 1-3-5-7…I can tend to move beyond 3 of something in a series, like my coral collection or horse sculptures. I am not a hoarder but there are so many stunning pieces, I would need a warehouse to hold everything would love to collect about MCM. Luckily, there are magazines, blogs, and places to visit the exquisite examples that exist elsewhere.
Future goals/ projects?
At some point I would love to build a MCM house from scratch on a piece of property along the American River bluffs with enough room for my horse. There are actually many firms that do some pretty amazing MCM pre-fab that would work. And materials today are so focused on sustainable green living that ensuring a low carbon footprint in the home would also be a priority. I appreciate that MCM design is all about the intersection of form and function so I would not need a lot of space. I love the open concept of one room merging into the next. The continuity of MCM creates a ‘loft like’ feel that I miss from living in Seattle and San Diego but have found in the current house I rent. I’d love lots of glass to invoke the feeling of living in a tree house. I’d probably have floating doors to merge inside and out. Sacramento is a great place to create indoor and outdoor living spaces year round.
I have three current drool-inducing goals:
- I’m dying to get my hands on a George Nelson for Herman Miller or Paul McCobb floating library shelving unit.
- I’d also love the one two punch of a John Stuart teak daybed sofa and an Adrian Pearsell sofa with floating end tables
- The stuffed marlin hanging at Scout Living. I have the perfect place for it to ‘float’.
Do you have any home inspiration recommendations for our readers?
I recommend actually keeping an inspiration folder/binder/scrapbook. I keep a hanging file folder in the same drawer where I keep my ‘travel’ wish file and files for all of my purchases, including provenance information. My inspiration file includes photos I’ve taken of pieces in stores and museums, pages ripped from magazines with architectural, art, and design inspirations. I go back to it constantly to help re-imagine what I might do with pieces I currently have and inspire me to experiment as well. I also recommend using frames as a unifying element in all of your rooms. Even though I have different styles and mediums in the art I collect-watercolor, needlepoint, pastels, ink, oil, serigraph, etc-I unify them all by using the same silver frames. Mid Town Framing does all of my pieces in museum quality UV glass and I trust them so much, I can literally drop off a piece and say “Do what you do” and the matting choices will be absolutely perfect for that specific piece. Lofing Lighting is the same w/ my lamps and shades. I really believe in supporting local business. Again, establishing relationships is key. It’s also economical. I get excellent service and often discounts because I bring in repeat business and referrals. I also constantly ‘shop’ my own collections. This allows me to curate my collections and create vignettes and change the look in the house merely by how I choose to organize and display pieces. This pieces that didn’t necessarily ‘pop’ in one placement or collection do so in another place.
Advice and last words?
In terms of collecting and curating, I have three simple rules to live by:
- Establish relationships with quality dealers. Erin and Stefan at Scout Living know me and what I collect and for what I am looking. They are an extra set of eyes and ears to help me find that perfect gem. They never push something on me but they will also introduce me to new names or designs based upon what they know I currently have and to further push my learning. They let me ask questions and never condescend or trivialize my endless curiosity. They also are extremely generous about proving referrals and other connections in the MCM community. It really becomes more of a partnership based upon a common love of MCM.
- Buy it when you find it but wait for the right piece. Every single time I’ve seen a piece and thought to myself, “I’ll come back and get it tomorrow”, the piece was gone. I’ve lost out on a few to-die-for pieces because of not acting right then. But I also got my Kagan coffee table because I was in the right place at the right time even though I wasn’t looking for a table at that time. Snatch it up before someone else does! On the other hand, there have been times when I waited and instead of buying a particular piece right now, I waited for the right piece. For example, my buffet took me almost two years to find and was worth the wait. This is also where a relationship with a trusted dealer works to your advantage. I had described the exact specifications of the piece I had in mind and Erin and Stefan kept showing me possibilities. Nothing worked until one day I got the call that they had found ‘the piece’. It was perfect down to every last detail, as if I had drawn the plans and had it built to spec. Waiting, and having a trusted relationship with experts, made it possible to find. It is one of my most cherished pieces.
- Mix it up. I don’t think people should be married to only one style or design period. While I have an almost obsessive fetish for MCM, I also have Regency, Art Deco and even Salvation Army and other pieces that speak to my soul. I really embrace an element of quirkiness in my design. I have a rubber shark that cost me two bucks that is one of my favorite statement pieces. Another is a small needlepoint of a dog that reminds me of my beloved schnauzer, Sophie: cost me 50 cents. My coffee mug set of retro animals is garish but they are the exact set I watched my mom drink tea out of while growing up and remind me of lazy foggy Sundays reading on the couch curled up with her. The Design Police aren’t going to come and haul you away if you mix pieces and periods. If they do, I promise to post bail!
Thanks you so much for sharing your lovely home, Stacy. It made me come home and want to change my whole house.
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