Sunday, December 06, 2009

Schmid-century. So I've been trying to redecorate my living room for some time now. Unsatisfied with my blue-green rug, I have been trolling eBay for alternatives. Right now I am kind of obsessed with the idea of a fluffy white rug. Graham currently sheds lots of white fur all over the blue one, so perhaps a white rug wouldn't be so impractical. Also, it would look glamorous.

Persian rugs are still my sentimental favourite although the cost is prohibitive. If I got one with ruby-red tones in it, I could tie it in with my red velvet armchair (from freeBay – I won it for 50c but the lady was embarrassed to take so little; she was all "I'm just glad it's getting some use").

Since Talor moved out and took her coffee table with her, I obtained a new coffee table ($5 from eBay) which is a long smoked-glass rectangle with rounded edges and brass edging and legs. I bought it still with my fantasy Hollywood Regency thing in mind (hence the gold), but it's really more Hollywood Neo-Deco.

You know that '80s moment when things took on those sleek deco lines again and used luxurious textures such as marble, ebony, brass and chrome, but the colours were bolder (lots of white, peach, grey and aqua) and the shapes chunkier and slouchier. If you are familiar with the Franco Cozzo furniture ads or have even walked past his stores in Brunswick and Foot-is-cray, you'll instantly recognise this style as "Il Modernissimo".

I still haven't found a sofa that satisfies my increasingly specific requirements:
It's tempting just to give up and buy the Ikea Karlstad three-seater in white tufted leather. I hate its square wooden legs and am wondering about the feasibility of planing them down into wedges or round pegs – will that make the sofa unstable? Irritatingly, the Karlstad armchair comes with the right peg legs but not the sofa.

But anyway. To the point of this post! In my eBay, online and vintage store peregrinations I have become very annoyed with the absolute racket in mid-century furniture. I feel really frustrated that I like this aesthetic so much, and various vendors have cottoned onto to this and are selling either real mid-century or fake schmid-century stuff for astronomical prices.

The worst offender is Twenty21 on Johnston St Fitzroy. All their stuff is beautiful and in impeccable condition, but they're charging absurd prices for it. A coloured glass vase will be $500, for instance. Today I was in there sitting on the sofas to see how comfy they were, and the guy was looking at me haughtily like I was wasting his time, but at those prices he's wasting his own time.

As I walked away, it annoyed me greatly that this guy runs a successful business because there will be people prepared to pay those prices. They like the style but can't be bothered seeking it more cheaply elsewhere.

There are also heaps of reproduction furniture places with their Schmeames and Schnaarinen chairs – these cater to people who like the style but can't be bothered seeking/paying for vintage examples elsewhere. These annoy me for a different reason because the objects they choose to reproduce are always drearily the same – the Barcelona sofa; the Eames lounge chair; the Louis Ghost chair; the Noguchi coffee table.

This kind of stops me from imagining my living room as a space that reflects my aesthetic choices. What's weird about this is that I have the opposite attitude to Ikea. I tend to see their products as blank objects that aren't weighed down by the Design Classic tag – although of course you can instantly recognise the origins of an Expedit shelving unit or a Klippan sofa.

And finally, there are the eBay doofuses who list everything made between 1950 and 1970 as "Eames era" ("Parker era" begins in 1970 and goes through to 1990) and the matching doofuses who drive up the prices with their ineptly early bidding.

I was full of rage a couple of weeks ago because I had discovered a set of four original Aristoc Mitzi dining chairs with a starting bid of $0.99, but of course they ended up being sold for $496. While still comparatively cheap for Grant Featherston stuff (which you'd think was actually hen's teeth made from solid gold, the way people go mental about it online), this was out of my budget.

But rage aside, I keep coming back to eBay because I'm fascinated by the way it operates as a barometer of what has survived from the past. I keep thinking about the way the furniture industry constantly churns out products whose design is intended to say "I'm new! I'm modern!" and yet these meanings shift and alter over time.

And while some examples are fetishised and fought over by collectors and traders, others are treated casually by their owners and may even pass through several generations of a family, or several owners, before finally reaching eBay.

This is PAUL KAFKA lounge and chairs - featherston retro eames, a listing by a Brunswick antiques dealer. The provenance of the vinyl sofa and matching chairs is exhaustively documented, and the seller also gives a potted history of the designer, Paul Kafka. This lounge suite has been kept in the 'good room' and is in almost pristine condition.

This is RETRO EAMES FEATHERSTONE STYLE LOUNGE SUITE from Mt Whitestone in Queensland, an hour out of Brisbane. Perhaps due to the poor photography, this seems like the ghost of its Melbourne sibling, but it clearly was once exactly the same. However it's in worse condition; there are nicks in the vinyl and the buttons have lost their white paint.


At the time of writing, the Brunswick lounge suite has a BUY IT NOW! price of $3,850.

The Mt Whitestone lounge suite has 6 bids and will currently sell at $100.

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