Reston in and of itself is a mid-century modern invention. It was founded in 1964 with an eye toward the future. And while this town has gone through several redevelopments, many of us still live in retro-style houses. I happen to love this style and made a point to buy a place that was pretty much in its original 1964 condition. This being my first home of this style, I was in a quandary about how to furnish it without it looking like the set from The Brady Bunch. My goal was to find a few key vintage pieces that could mix and match with today’s furniture. But what, exactly, was I looking for and where could I find it in the DC Metro area?
What is mid-century modern (MCM) furniture?
Technically, all furniture made roughly between the years 1945 to the mid-70s is considered MCM. It is characterized as having clean lines, a variety of vivid colors, and made from unconventional materials.
As a rejection of the elaborate and highly-designed styles previously, MCM furniture is minimal with sweeping lines and sharp, geometric shapes. Furniture of this time period also incorporates vibrant and optimistic colors like red, yellow, blue, or green.
Mid-century designers were extremely innovative and worked with unique man-made materials such as fiberglass, plastic, Bakelite and Lucite. Woods such as walnut, oak and rosewood were common, but the use of teak introduced by Danish designers was incredibly popular.
Because of its minimalism, MCM furniture blends well with pieces that West Elm, Room and Board, and Design Within Reach produce today. It is also a surprisingly good match with Ikea.
MCM furniture was mass produced and cheap to buy so much of it survives today. Your parents or grandparents probably had a set of Eames lounge chairs and got rid of them, not knowing they would be worth upwards of $7k these days. I weep a little for the Saarinen Tulip table and matching chairs I used to eat oatmeal off of as a kid (I’m looking at you, Mom).
Unfortunately, because of its popularity there are a lot of fakes and reproductions on the market. A reputable dealer either won’t carry these or will be upfront about it. If it’s just the look you are after, reproductions are usually cheaper. They are also usually of lesser quality. Look for manufacturer (such as Knoll) and designer labels. Know how they marked their pieces before you shop. If you are looking for a specific chair, bring a picture with you and compare the subtle details. Make sure it’s made from the correct material, is it plastic or fiberglass? Look for appropriate wear. These pieces are vintage and should show some evidence of their previous life.
There are many places in DC, VA and MD that specialize in finding great quality vintage pieces at competitive prices. Most dealers are passionate about this time period and ready to share their knowledge with you. Below are some great places to check out.
510 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Modern Mobler specializes in Mid-Century Modern and Danish Modern home furnishings — primarily from the 1950’s – 1970’s. What began as a passion evolved into an addiction, resulting in over 4000 square feet of quality vintage pieces from the most popular designers of the day. Our showrooms offer affordable pieces of functional art, ranging from fine wood furniture for every room in your home, to lamps, paintings, dinnerware and other decor to complete your interior design. Add a unique flavor to your space with the superb construction of vintage furniture that will last for another 50 years.
7313 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20012
3730 Howard Avenue
Kensington, MD 20895
1626 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Home Anthology was started in 2002 by Rob Degenhard and Nini Sarmiento. Home Anthology carries vintage furniture and accessories including mid-century American classics from Knoll and Herman Miller as well as Danish Modern pieces. The 5,000 square-foot retail space is located 15 minutes outside Baltimore, Maryland. Items arrive every week and the website, is updated frequently.
91 Mellor Avenue
Catonsville, MD 21228
Acme’s primary location is in Old Town, Alexandria and has limited hours. One block south of King Street and the famous Market Square, this location is in the heart of Old Town’s historic dining and shopping district. Acme also has a location within Evolution Home, a large multi-dealer facility with a wide range of styles and periods offerings in furniture, decor, household goods, collectibles, and much more.
Acme’s Old Town Gallery
128 South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Acme Mid-Century + Modern @ Evolution
6239 Shields Avenue
Alexandria, Virginia 22303
The Antique Center
8101 Richmond Highway (Route 1)
Located in the heart of the U Street shopping corridor in Northwest DC, Millennium has continued to be a reliable and affordable source for home interiors ranging from sublime Danish Modern and designer pieces to the occasional eyebrow raising design oddity (plus a small but healthy bit of kitsch) for both collectors and enthusiasts alike.
1528 U Street NW (lower level)
Washington, DC 20009
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