Vintage Design 101 – From Dwell Magazine March 2012

This article from Dwell is fantastic- I couldn’t have said it better myself…

An Introduction to Buying Vintage Design (Dwell/March 2012/Diana Budds)

We’ve all been there, gazing enviously at a friend’s broken-in leather Brazilian chair or peering at the perfect parabolic curve of a 1960s Castiglioni Arco lamp. but instead of spotting that mid-century bargain yourself, you stand dumbfounded at acres-large flea markets and haplessly click on endless eBay listings promising authentic designs. Must you live with the sinking feeling that there aren’t any halfway decent vintage furnishings left at a reasonable price?

For as long as people have made new things, they’ve wanted them old. Renaissance architects sought the mathematical purity of, and a tangible link to, the ancients, thus the thriving trade in the relics of Greece and Rome. Designers in the 18th and 19th centuries mined the past for aesthetic cues, and one revival followed the next. In the realm of interiors- even the high-design ones- rococo and toile seem to crop back up every few years, and nothing suggests stately elegance like antique brass.

The modernists of the 20th century took a different tack. Instead of pandering to what they saw as middle class nostalgia for inauthentic ornamentation, pioneers like Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe created designs that were consciously new. They championed the machine-made, executed with skillful workmanship, and a generation later their American disciples, most notable the Eamses, George Nelson and Harry Bertoia, did the same thing. But what does it mean for a modernist of today to year for the modernism of yore? As we lionize a group dazzled with novel forms and cutting edge materials, why do we hunger for old-new? And isn’t ‘vintage moden’ and oxymoron?

“With modern furniture, when it’s brand-new it might be even more in keeping with the spirit of modernity- the ‘machine aesthetic’ and so forth,” say Sam Kaufman, owner of an eponymous gallery in Los Angeles. “But people are attracted to the patina of an object- the subtle signs of age make it more appealing.”

As much as we’re angling to hit the right aesthetic note, we still have an unshakable yen for the story behind the chair, a sofa, or a piece of pottery. We want to track down a good design that speaks to us as individuals. “It all goes back to our origins and hunter-gatherers,” says Kaufman. “We’re wired to go out, hunt for something, and share the trophies.”

With the consumate vintage find, you’re getting a piece with a detailed backstory of how it came to be yours, along with time-induced character. And if you’re successful, you’re a step closer to a home that’s curated, not merely consumed.


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