Friday, December 13, 2013

HGTV... I do not think that means, what you think it means...

Baen Books editor Toni Weisskopf writes:

Toni WeisskopfSince when did hideous 1950s decor become "mid-century modern." (Confessions of an HGTV addict.)

It isn't and never will be...

The sort of garbage that she is talking about, which HGTV, and bad realtors, will often call "mid century modern", would be... Say, fake wood paneling, geometric green couches, red plastic "organic"chairs etc...

They're the cheap mass produced awful imitations of the style, with no grace, proportion etc...

They're lime green, seafoam, or "pink coral" bathroom (I bet you thought that sort of horrible bad taste came from the 1970s didn't you).

It's... whatever you would call this:

That's not really Mid century modern.

Mid Century Modern is Eames, Nakashima, the Philco Predicta etc...

Mid century modern is an aesthetic that emphasizes the fusion of clean geometric and organic shapes and lines. It's about deriving style from shape, form, and texture (and particular the textures of wood, metal, and leather); with limited, or no, ornamentation.

This is what good mid-century modern decor looks like:

It's an aesthetic I quite like in general, though it can be taken too far, and there are many poor imitations.

Monkeypod (used badly), shag, flocking, fake brass and fake chrome, are NOT mid century modern.

I like GOOD mid century modern, for it's simplicity and functionality.

Unless we're talking serious hand crafted, beautiful wood antiques, I like clean and simple design. Blending of the geometric with the organic, comfortable, functional, and with little ornamentation.

I'm not a huge Eames fan specifically; he could have a tendency to be... overly clever shall we say... but he's the only major American designer of the period most people have ever heard of, so he makes a good exemplar.

I grew up in a New England town that was founded in the 1630s, and boomed as Boston grew; and it shaped my aesthetic and architectural appreciation greatly.

The architecture I grew up with was largely Colonial, Federal, or Georgian on the older side (including two of the oldest standing homes in the united states); with a few queene anne or "victorian" (and very little gingerbread), a lot of craftsman and shingle style, and a smattering of mid century modern, and late century contemporary.

The house I grew up in was an almost prototypical Craftsman house, built in 1913. It had 12 foot plaster ceilings, knee to above head height divided light oak mullion windows, wide oak floors, plaster and lath walls with solid oak (not veneer) wainscoting and chair rails, built in cabinets and closets, baseboards and crown moldings etc...

It didn't use modern mill cut 2x4 pine studs for framing, it had BIG solid oak and california redwood timbers under the plaster and lath (I don't think any of the walls were less than 6" thick, and some were 8" or more).

The foundation of the house wasn't concrete; the back side of it was carved into a granite hillside, and the front side from the hill forward, was mortared granite block.

I LOVE that architecture. It's beautiful, warm, and organic, while still being clean and functional.

What I hate is overly decorated, gingerbready stuff. I hate odd colors or textures just for the sake of being different. Trendy colors and shapes... Style, or impact, prioritized over function.

Too often, that's what American architecture and industrial design WAS, from the late 1930s... and particularly from the late 1950s... through the early 90s.