If you love midcentury modern style, how do you use it to create a home that feels like your life in 2017 — and not like a “Mad Men” set frozen in amber liquor?
Loosen up, suggests Neal Kielar, co-owner of MidModMen+friends in St. Paul.
“People do midcentury design with a checklist — an Eames this and a George Nelson that,” said Kielar. “We think design should be very personal, including things crafted, things inherited and things from thrift stores.”
That’s the approach he and co-owner Jon Mehus took when designing their eclectic Swinging ’60s room vignette for next weekend’s American Craft Council (ACC) show in St. Paul, where more than 225 artisans will display their handcrafted wares, from furniture and home accents to clothing and jewelry.
This year marks the ACC’s 75th anniversary, so four Twin Cities design teams were invited to create a room inspired by craft, and by the style from any decade from the 1940s through today.
The ’60s might seem the natural choice for guys who own a shop that celebrates midcentury modern design, but it wasn’t their first choice, Kielar admitted.
“We didn’t want the ’60s,” he said. “Too obvious for us. We wanted a design challenge.” They would have preferred to create a ’70s room vignette. But another designer (Victoria Sass, Prospect Refuge Studio) had already claimed that decade, so Kielar and Mehus nabbed the earlier decade. (Two other vignettes will celebrate the ’90s (Ashley Schulzetenberg, Very Inc. and Portu Sunberg studio; and the 2010s (Mike Smith of Forage Modern Workshop, with wallpaper by Aimee Lagos and Christiana Coop, Hygge & West).
To create their homage, Kielar and Mehus started with two craft pieces — a handmade clock sculpture in black walnut by James Borden of Timeshapes, and a copper fox sculpture by Turtle Clan Art.
“We chose both for their organic nature,” said Kielar. “They felt timeless, like personal touches ... a real room in somebody’s real life has unexpected elements.”
The room vignette includes some classic midcentury modern pieces, including a streamlined Scandinavian coffee table and an Italian Triannale lamp. But the MidModMen also added an American-made chest with Asian detailing, some Turkish kilim accent pillows, ikat-patterned chairs and a wooden Hungarian “dough bowl” set on legs and re-imagined as a console/planter by Josh Midland of Ferrous Furnishings. Vintage colored glass from a thrift store adds a final decorative touch.
Eclectic mixes were common for home decor during the actual ’60s, as opposed to the imagined one of nostalgic purists.
“When people think about ’60s interior design, everybody thinks midcentury modern,” said Kielar. “But there were a lot of aesthetics then, including Early American, French Provincial, and a big embrace of things non-Western, with global influences.”
You see those combinations in old furniture ads from the 1960s, he added — a futuristic Broyhill Brasilia piece paired with a carved American eagle and Ethan Allen chairs. “They mixed it up. It was not this slavish devotion to a style.”
All four room vignettes will be on display throughout the craft show. And if you want to envision your favorite style decade as a fashion statement, plan on being there April 8 at 11:30 a.m., when four stylists will each style a model, using craft-made clothing and accessories, to create the imagined persona of the person who would live in each room.