Enduring Design: My Midcentury Obsession

Enduring Design: My Midcentury Obsession

Full article at Curbed.com

As a kid, I would read midcentury design books and magazines my parents had lying around, taking note of the pristine rooms styled just so, with floor-to-ceiling windows, teak wood polished to a semi-gloss shine, and all the right accessories (sculptural mod candlesticks! Macramé hanging planters! Riotously colorful art!). I remember thinking that someday I, too, could have a house like that.

What I didn’t know at the time was that many of the homes in those publications are rare, historic, or just plain expensive—so no, I’m not living in an Eichler or Frey just yet.

But my love of midcentury modern design is well alive, and it all started with one piece of furniture: a Danish dining set that I inherited from my parents.
A chair with semi-circular wooden back and cream-colored cushioned seat with black dot pattern.
My love of midcentury design hasn’t just filled my home, it’s also led me to start a tour company so I can share my passion for this era and aesthetic with visitors to the midcentury mecca of Palm Springs, California. Erin Lawrence

The oval table seats four to 12 people with extra leaves and comes with “Made in Denmark, Gudme Møbelfabrik” stamped underneath; Gudme Møbelfabrik was a midcentury Danish furniture maker, and similar tables can still be sourced on 1stdibs.

The six accompanying chairs, I learned, are much harder to find. Despite my infatuation with scouring the internet for vintage teak furniture, I’ve never seen chairs like these. They’re round with semi-circular backs that stretch to encircling arms, tiny lumbar cushions, and smooth, spindly legs.

As a child, they were fun. As a teen sitting across the table from my parents at family dinner, they were uncomfortable, though perhaps that had more to do with our conversations around that time. As an adult, I see them as art.

The chairs have lived many lives, including an ill-advised year wrapped in a light black silk. When I started looking for new fabric, I knew exactly what I wanted, but a cursory Google search for “midcentury starburst” led me in a more hokey direction. After browsing hundreds of image search results, I finally found exactly what I’d seen in my mind’s eye, and placed an order for a circa-1947 Charles and Ray Eames dot pattern textile, now produced by Maharam.
An oval wooden dining table is surrounded by wooden chairs with cream cushions and white curved plastic chairs.
I thought the set finally met its end during a move 10 years ago when the table, with legs removed, rolled off a moving truck ramp, splintering like kindling. Luckily, a furniture restoration specialist (on the moving company’s dime) returned it looking like nothing ever happened. Erin Lawrence

Since I’ve been sitting on these very same chairs for four decades, last year I started thinking I should change things up even more.

I couldn’t bear to part with the set or break it up, so I decided instead to expand my midcentury collection and added two gleaming white Panton chairs to the mix. I love how they add a different texture and some bright liveliness to all the wood.

Despite its rich design pedigree, my evolving dining set is no museum piece. It’s one of the first things I see each day and a remarkable backdrop to every meal at home.