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Entries in Mid-Century Modern (4)


Postcard: Jackson Lake Lodge

Jackson Lake Lodge, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. The majestic guest lounge, over 100 feet long, is highlighted by its 60 foot picture window. This window frames the sweep of the Tetons, one of the scenic spectacles of the National Parks.

If there's anything to love about this postcard it's the chic mid-century modern design with a touch of Wyoming rustic. I love the giant tree root in the center of the square of sofas, and the Danish-looking wood end tables. I also love the oversized lamps placed here & there. I have no idea how this room looks now, but I prefer to think of it in this decor.

I've seen a few editions of this postcard, so I would imagine it was free-bee left for hotel guests in each room. Quite a view to bring home!


Vicki & Norman's Fabulous House

Vicki sings to Norman - with a Barcelona chair in the backgroundIt's funny - during the two years I've been working in the interior design industry, I've started to notice set and production design in film much more than I used to do. When I worked in fashion I pretty much only looked at costumes, but the interiors and mise-en-scene (as we learned in film class) are just as significant. I know that's stating the obvious, but when you spend your whole day looking at furniture, lamps, rugs and accessories, it puts the whole thing into greater perspective.

Tonight I watched Judy Garland in A Star is Born on TCM and absolutely fell in love with Vicki (Judy Garland) and Norman's (James Mason) fabulous house on the beach in Southern California. (To be fair, I should state that every frame of A Star is Born is gorgeous and Judy Garland's performance is just incredible. It kills me that she didn't get the Oscar she deserved for this film.) But, the house that Vicki & Norman share on the breakers of Malibu is truly a luscious example of pitch-perfect mid-century California modern. You see it in detail in the scene when Vicki comes home from the studio and sings "Someone at Last" to her husband Norman before dinner. You know - the scene right before he drops an atom bomb on her Oscar speech? It's a goodie.

The house is spacious, no walls, and utter Southern California in the mid-fifties. Neutral tones, stucco, and pale stone meet hardwood floors in deep acorn, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Pacific. A geometric mustard-yellow sofa is matched by another in chocolate brown; these are both dressed in casual cushions in fuscia pink, cobalt blue, and deep orange. A geometric-link rug in black and white dresses the main group while leopard and zebra skins serve as throw rugs in other parts of the room. To complete the look, crisp white Barcelona chairs are placed strategically throughout.

The vivid, glamorous room shows the last carefree moments of this film and it's absolutely wonderful, as is the entire picture. Who would have thought that a Judy Garland pic would feature such cool design?

Since I couldn't find a clip showing the "Somone At Last" song, I decided to leave you with the most famous song from A Star is Born which is "The Man That Got Away"... Judy is delish.


Habana Me!

While we're thinking about Mid-Century Modern...

Many years ago, my high school put on a production of Guys and Dolls; if you don't know, it's a fabulous musical that even heterosexual men can appreciate. (Of course, the movie version starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra helps with this.) There is a scene where the original player Sky Masterson convinces Sargent Sarah Brown to come to Havana with him. Actually, they struck a deal: if he provides a roomful of "sinners" for her prayer meeting, then she has to come to dinner with him at his favorite restaurant, which happens to be in Havana. Of course this was really a ruse to get her drunk on Bacardi so she'd fall in love with him. Sigh...gamblers are tricky.

I remember at the time, many years ago in high school, that I asked my Dad... "Why Havana?" Incredulous at my innocent ignorance, he answered me: "Well, in the 1950s, Havana was the hot spot. Nightclubs, restaurants, entertainment - and from New York it was only a few hours away. You know it's only 90 miles from Florida..." Sheesh, well duh - geography I knew, but I knew nothing of the mambo.

I remember many years later seeing the documentary of the Buena Vista Social Club, recognizing that Cuba is the place where time stood still. All of those hot American cars that drove people to the Habana Hilton are still there - a little rusty from the sea spray, but gorgeously tattered and still perfect in their aged elegance. It's a postcard of lost things and inherent traditions: the household saints married to Communism, cigars with rum, music with discipline, run-down ornate colonial buildings next to the mid-20th Century streamlined details. Nothing has changed much since New Year's Day, 1958.

To celebrate this time capsule, a new book has come out entitled Havana Before Castro. The author, Peter Moruzzi, has gathered beautiful archived images from the 1950s and before, and sets them next to his own photographs taken in 2007. I saw the mention today on Boing Boing, but following the links I panned through the gorgeous images and I know I have to get a copy of this one! Then, when I finally get to Havana, I'll know what I'm looking at...

Check it out here on Havana Before Castro.


Everyone's Mad!

Christina Hendricks as Joan HollowayBeing more of a modest type, I don't like to toot my own horn unless its absolutely necessary. Well, here goes: I think I should set the record straight on the matter of Mad Men... I first wrote about this amazing show almost a year ago (September 2007) when it first aired and I became the MM super-fan that I am. Now, EVERYONE's mad for it, blogging it, worshipping the style... it's everywhere! I'm not complaining because I love to see such beautifully-crafted entertainment succeed for once, but I just want to be clear about the timeline. Kaythanx...

I do love what everyone is writing about it! Jezebel wrote this great piece calling out the many design elements in the production with great humor. Victoria at SFGirlbybay one-upped this by putting together a round up of some great mid-century modern products that can be found for sale around the web so you too can get the look. The lovely Sophia at Chic & Charming is even hosting live Plurk parties during the Mad Men airings so everyone can discuss, and both of us share a common love of the fabulous blog What Would Joan Holloway Do?, celebrating my favorite red-headed, curvaceously gorgeous vixen. I so wish I were her! This blog gives you some of the great Joan H zingers and sassy wisdom, a la: "If you want the girl next door, you should go next door," and "Any one you have to convince to be with you isn't worth convicing." Yes.

Here's the gorgeous Joan, pen-round-neck, supervising the bullpen girls in their authentically cheap-looking costumes. After all, you can't have the secretaries dressing like partners' wives...

Season 2 has been fantastic so far, picking up in February of 1962. The first episode even incorporated Jackie Kennedy's historic tour of the White House - which you can learn more about by reading this post from TV Squad. (Courtesy of Chic & Charming.) The producers and designers are so keen to get it right - everything, right down to the soda bottles and desk lamps shown in this image. 

Or how about the party dresses in this scene? I love the red floral on Peggy, plus the fact that she's using a Mason jar to hold her cocktail - hey, we've all been there and this is clearly a "kids" party... I do love how Peggy looks at Pete's wife as if to say: "You really have no idea that your husband screwed me in his office one morning and gave me a little bastard child to take care of...did I mention I'm a Catholic?"

I also love the green-chartreuse-gold combination worn by Mrs. Bobbi Barrett to Lutece. The kid gloves and the sideways-swoosh hairstyle are perfection.

And then we have Don and Betty, or "Birdie" as he likes to call her when feeling especially tender. Betty's Grace Kelly-cool is certainly no accident and this lady has nary a hair out of place unless it's first thing in the morning and she's yelling at her husband. But even then she's wearing a perfectly precious negligee - the kind you used to hear about but didn't really believe existed. I like that Betty is finding her voice in this marriage, I suppose that realizing that your husband is a lying, cheating dog gives you the gumption to do just about anything you like...

I recently purchased the Mad Men soundtrack which is full of 1950s gems - perfect for a Friday happy hour at home, or any kind of a cocktail event. You don't even need to wear a crinoline! Of course, if you'd like to mix together your own mid-century set of tunes, here's some albums I recommend:

The Very Best of Julie London Yma Sumac - Mambo Nat King Cole - Mis 30 Exitos En Espanol

Jazz 'Round Midnight: Mel TormeLouis Prima - Jump, Jive an' Wail: The Essential Minight, Moonlight & Magic: The Very Best of Henri Mancini

Maybe design is more your thing? Here are some great books to get you caught up on the look of Mid-Century Modern. Since there are so many books on the individual designers and architects, I just rounded up a few good primers. I love the graphic art and the furniture design especially...

Mid-Century Modern by Bradley Quinn Birth of the Cool by Elizabeth Armstrong The Work of Charles & Ray Eames by James H. Billington  History of Modern Design by David Raizman  Cartoon Modern by Amid AmidiThe Art and Flair of Mary Blair by John Canemaker

With some of these on your new George Nelson coffee table, and the tunes mixed above, you will definitely show your Mid-Century Modern smarts to all of your guests. Or, why not host a Mad Men viewing party on Sunday night? Cook up a nice steak, a baked potato, and maybe some pie for your main man and tell him to relax and take off his tie clip...shed your kitten heels and turn down the hi-fi. It's time for some T.V.!

Here's some more links to my favorite sites for Mid-Century Modern stuff:

The Mid-Century Modernist - a fabulous blog with images and info about how to bring the look into the 21st-Century.

Design Within Reach - yes, you too can have a Barcelona Chair and a Nelson Bench! A bit pricey, but worth dreaming about... - Matt Hinrichs' blog about all things cool, well-designed, whimsical and nostalgic.

Plan 59 - a site of vintage advertising imagery from the 1950s & 1960s - you know Don Draper reads this!

Images courtesy of