Wright place, Wright time!

Much of what we do here at Atomic Magpie is treasure hunting. Scouring markets, thrift stores, rummage and yard sales, we’re always on the lookout for the perfect mid-century pieces.  

Recently, we stumbled across a treasure that made the hunt all the more sweet. A set of stunning hand crafted Russel Wright American Way wooden plates. Perfection!

Gorgeous! Russel Wright wooden plates

Widely considered one of the fathers of mid-century modern design, Russel Wright was an industrial designer from the 1920s to the 1960s. Wright was known for his simple, modern lines, and designed furniture and homewares with the goal of bringing modern design to everyday homes. He is possibly best known for his line of dinnerware, the “American Modern” collection. His ceramic tableware, produced by Steubenville Pottery, is still wildly popular among collectors.

Etched into the underside, Wright’s iconic signature.
In the mid 1930s, Wright designed a limited line of handcrafted wood serving pieces, manufactured by the Klise Woodworking Company. These pieces, known as the “Oceana” collection, were part of a larger collection called “The American Way,” and are considered some of his most collectible, sought after pieces. Extremely rare, this collection is typically only found in auctions or on display in museums – and it is easy to see why. These hand turned pieces, made from Walnut, Olive Wood and Maple are sculpturally stunning. 

Russel Wright “American Way” wood plates
The excitement of finding these pieces is a huge part of why we do what we do. We love the prospect of unearthing something special and sharing it with the world, and on this occasion, we were not disappointed! 

New year, new project.  

By Sarah from Atomic Magpie

Happy 2017! We know that a lot of people were happy to see the back of 2016 but, for us, it was a great year. A big thank you to everybody that supported Atomic Magpie throughout the year! We look forward to the year ahead.

Happy New Year from Atomic Magpie!

Now, on with the show! The pile of “future projects” has been growing in the garage, and New Year’s Day seemed like a great time to tackle one. It was a quick and easy one, but fun none the less. It made a teensy dent in the pile, but some progress is better than none, right?

I picked up a pair of small, vintage stools for a couple of bucks on a local sell site a few months back, and when I was looking for a new place to put a plant in my bathroom, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

The “for sale” photo

I started off by wiping the whole piece down with a damp cloth, and lightly sanding the legs and wiping it down again. There was no rust, so prep was minimal on this one. 

No rust = easy prep!

After unscrewing the seat from the legs, I grabbed my ever trusty Rustoleum Metallic Gold and went to work. A couple of coats and it was done. 

Seat before
Legs before (see the foil on the bottom?)

I knew I wanted a two tone look, so I decided to go with a gold dipped look for the legs. I measured the legs and used aluminum foil to cover up the part I wasn’t painting. This is an old trick I’ve used for a while, easy to put on and off, and no risk of tape taking off any paint. The color I used was Rustoleum’s Ocean Mist. It’s a pastel, minty color that looks divine with a gold accent. I love it! 

Tin foil is your friend!

Put the whole thing back together, and voilà! Done. The perfect height and size for the spot I need it in…and, if I’m ever in a pinch for extra seating, I have a stool! 

Finished! From stool to plant stand.

Mid-West Mid-Century

By Sarah – Atomic Magpie 

Several times a year, the Mid-West beckons and I come running. From the prairies, to the corn fields, I love the rural serenity and wide open spaces. Oh, and then there’s the lakes. All 10,000 of them! 

1960’s whisky decanter and the first snow of the season. (Central MN)

What I also love, is the abundance of amazing mid century pieces to be found. At the end of every visit, when I head back to California, my carry on luggage is usually loaded with Pyrex and coffee pots. At some point or another, I’ve had footstools and lamps, fondue pots and Franciscan ware, all carefully stuffed in my suitcase.

1950’s Danish modern lamp & hand knitted throw. (Stearns County, MN)

I have this theory that people in the Mid-West don’t live with the same “disposable” mentality as many of the rest of us. That the kitchen canister set someone got as a wedding gift in 1966, is the same one in their kitchen until the day they die. Now, clearly there is no science behind this theory, but there has to be some explanation for the volume of incredible, well treated pieces I always find there.

Inland Glass Coffee Pot. (Minneapolis, MN)

 A lot of manufacturing in mid century America, was found in the Mid West and surrounding states.  I’m sure this also has something to do with it. Whatever it is, I get excited any time I have a free day to go searching for treasures. And the results have always been fantastic and rewarding!

Hairpin legged footstool, found at “Pioneer Days” (Albany, MN) Restored and updated by us.
1960’s Turner Wall Art print. (South Dakota)

QWERTY Martini

Recently, we had a customer ask us to find them a mid century era piece to use as a bar in a man cave. Something steampunkish and industrial, vintage and clean lined. So when I stumbled across this awesome 1960’s rolling metal typing desk stashed behind some old bookshelves and a discarded desk, I knew I’d found “the one”. 

Hidden away behind a pile of old furniture…bingo!
This style of desk was a staple in many offices during the 60’s & 70’s, and this beauty still had the original government “Property of…” sticker on the underside. The only thing that would have made this desk any cooler would have been the words “CIA” or “FBI” (instead of the County office in which it once resided).
Isn’t she lovely? Vintage Kromex Ice Bucket
Loaded with a cool c. 1952 whiskey decanter, some retro cocktail tumblers and a shiny, vintage Kromex ice bucket (you should really check out our store!) this bar quickly took shape.  
1950’s decanter – sweet bar accessories are a must!
Sturdy & vintage, this bar cart is a cool piece of history – I wonder if the person who once sat typing at this desk daily, ever imagined it would one day serve this very swoon inspiring function? 

Cheers!
This piece really didn’t require much restoration, it was in great shape. Custom wooden wine bottle racks slide on to the bottom shelf and there is room for hanging wine glasses underneath. Perfect!

Fake it til you make it!

By Sarah from Atomic Magpie. 

I love mid century decor and heaven knows my house borders on being a museum, but sometimes the price sticker for an original piece can quickly put something out of reach (and straight onto my wish list!).

I’ve wanted a vintage starburst mirror for ages, but I’ve never found one that I loved enough to spend the big bucks on. So when I saw this rusty, beat up, department store effort on a local swap and sell site (FOR FREE!), I knew I could make it (aka fake it) into something that scratched my Mid Century Starburst itch…well, for now anyway!

Before. A little bit tacky and way too bedazzling

Before I continue, I need to confess – this thing sat in my garage for months before I touched it. In fact, I avoided it….refusing to even look at it. I’m not sure why exactly, but now that it’s done, I wonder why I was so intimidated by a piece of metal. Anyhoo, I digress. This mirror was rusty and grimy. The smaller mirrors were either falling off or gone, which was ok because I hated them. And that was the first step – after removing the large center mirror for safety, I used pliers and pushed/popped the smaller mirrors off. This was not too hard as many of the joins had rusted.

Mangled baby mirrors

I worked my way around the frame until all the small mirrors were gone. As bad as the rust looks in the photos, thankfully it was only surface deep, and none of the rods had rusted through.

Is it seven years bad luck if you break a mirror deliberately?

Once I had removed all the small mirrors, I wiped the whole thing down with a wet rag. This is where it got a little messy. A lot of the paint starting flaking off in chunks where the rust had lifted it. These chips of paint stuck to everything – the rag, my hands, the drop cloth, you name it. After removing as many of the obvious paint flakes as I could, I went over the whole thing thoroughly with 200 grit sandpaper to remove peeling paint and rust. This part was laborious, mostly because every time I thought I was done, I’d see another patch I had missed. I’d say I spent about an hour sanding. Not my favourite thing to do, but necessary.

Almost there!

Once I had gotten as much of the rust and paint off as possible, I sprayed the whole thing with a coat of Killz primer with rust protection. I then followed up with 3 coats of my ever trusty Rustoleum Metallic Gold. It is by far my favourite gold spray paint, I love the final colour and tone.

And there you have it! A modern day starburst mirror, with a mid century vibe. Love it!

After1-001
Starburst in the Afternoon Sunshine….Fabulous!

Handy hint #1 – Classy & brassy, removing paint from Brass. 

Here at Atomic Magpie, we spend as much of our time cleaning and restoring vintage items as we do sourcing them. Pieces that are 40+ years old come in all conditions. From pristine and barely used to well loved, thrashed and modified.

Looking past decades of paint, grime and use can be challenging. That said, seeing good bones underneath 1980’s seafoam green paint and then restoring the item to its original glory is extremely satisfying.

Along the way I have picked up many handy hints and tricks for restoring items, and this post is going to talk about one of them.

Before. These Danish modern candlesticks covered in paint, have seen better days

This gorgeous pair mid century Danish modern candlesticks had been gold spraypainted (badly). Maybe the original owner didn’t feel like polishing them? Or wanted a matte finish? One can only guess, but they were covered in an uneven, drippy coat of paint and looked miserable.

A close up of the sadness

Here’s where the fun starts! After doing some research, I learned that brass expands when heated. Meaning that heating it would almost force the paint to come off. I’m no scientist, but this sounded legit, so onwards to heating the candlesticks.

After filling an old pot (that wasn’t going to be used for food again) with water and a shake or two of baking soda (I’m not big on measuring), I boiled the candlesticks for about 90 minutes.

The film of old paint appeared very quickly

The paint started to come off almost immediately – and stuck to the pot, which is why you should use an old one you don’t plan on using again for food prep. It should also be noted that it’s probably a good idea to do this in a well ventilated area, with the window open or an exhaust fan on. While the smell wasn’t terrible, it was present and, like all things old paint, you are never quite sure what you’re dealing with unless you’re the one that first painted it (lead anyone?)

Bubble , bubble, toil and trouble!

After removing the pieces from the pot, they were scrubbed gently with a regular kitchen sponge/scourer to get the remaining paint residue off. An engineer friend mentioned afterwards that it’s probably not a wise idea to put heated metal directly under cold water, as it can crack with the sudden heating and cooling/expanding and contracting. Brass is a softer metal so that doesn’t typically happen, but if you’re not 100% sure what type of metal you’re dealing with, take care with that step.

Last up, a quick polish with one of my faves – the ever trusty “Barkeepers Friend”. This stuff is amazing, and polished the brass in an instant.  Pretty flash I think!

Shiny, shiny!

Time flies when you’re having fun! 

Wow, we can’t believe it has been a year since our little mid century table makeover! Not only was the response on social media amazing, but it was featured on one of our very favourite design websites, Apartment Therapy, as one of their Before & After projects! It also appeared on the Norwegian design website “Kreative Ideer”.  So cool! 

Click on the photo to check out the story behind this fab table makeover! 

A mid century rescue

Do you know the way to San Jose? (an Eichler pictorial)

By Sarah from Atomic Magpie

Recently, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the Fairglen tract, just outside of downtown San Jose, home to one of the iconic Eichler neighborhoods. Inspired by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, Joseph Eichler was a prominent property developer in the late 1940’s-1960’s, and was responsible for these very unique neighborhoods.

Eichler Homes sidewalk stamp
 
img_6822
Gorgeous streamlined frontage & flat roof
I did a short walking tour through the tree-lined streets, and imagined life way back when, in this Mid Century time capsule. It is a design and architecture lovers dream.

img_6820
Slightly A-framed roof, still low profile
img_8975
Yard facing glass walls
There’s something special about warm wood paneled walls, interior atrium, window walls and flat roofs, and these stunning San Jose Eichler’s are a true piece of Mid century modernist architecture. The open plan and airy feel were considered futuristic by many, and have influenced many design trends since.

img_9115
Iconic original kitchen cabinetry & glass wall
img_9116
Exposed wood beam ceilings, and stunning wood paneled walls. Swoon!
img_9113
More fabulous wood paneling & radiant heated floors.
img_9114
Afternoon silhouettes, windows galore!
img_9117
A gorgeous Mid Century abode, appointed with a mixture of modern and vintage pieces. Perfection! (Vintage Lava Drip glaze lamp & Mirro Medallion candy dish courtesy of Atomic Magpie!)
Street after street of these gorgeous, well preserved and respected homes make this neighborhood a treat to wander. Original fixtures, gates & mailboxes, some updated, some preserved, all fabulous. Anyone with an interest in all things Mid Century, or even those who just appreciate classic architecture, should go take a stroll around one of these incredible neighborhoods. You wont regret it!

To check out our selection of Mid-Century treasures, click here

From TV Dinner to Happy Hour!

By Sarah from Atomic Magpie

Recently, I picked up a couple of vintage tray tables for a few bucks. You know the kind, the ones that fold up and fit neatly down the side of your fridge or couch. Metal trays for eating TV dinners on the couch, all the rage in the 50’s and 60’s. They were in rough condition, but I loved the shape of the legs (anyone that follows my projects knows about me and great legs!)

Before. It’s hard to see how damaged the tray is, but it was
 
I knew the tray tops were pretty close to unsalvageable, as they were dinged and rusty and chipped. It’s hard to tell from the photos just how beat up the trays were, but trust me, they were. When it comes to vintage furniture, I’ll almost always attempt a restoration over a revamp, but alas it wasn’t an option this time. The legs were in much better shape, so I set about to repurpose them. I wiped them down with a wet rag and lightly sanded them with 200 grit sand paper. Next I applied a thin coat of Kilz spray on primer with rust protection. I did the same to the trays, just to see how they might look with some paint on them (the answer is – not much better). Accepting that the trays were beyond help, as I had originally figured, I decided to ditch them and move onto another plan.
  
I’m all about the legs!
 I covered the black feet caps with painters tape and applied two coats of Rustoleum’s metallic gold paint to the legs, making sure I gave them plenty of time to dry in between coats. I finished them with a quick spray of Rustoleums clear coat.

I had an old wooden tray lying around that was the perfect size to fit in the legs, it even had a ledge on the bottom, so the legs just clipped in without sliding all the way open. I painted the tray with Rustoleum’s flat black. Once it had dried fully, I found some awesome paper, which I cut to the size of the tray. Using Mod Podge, I applied a thin layer to adhere it and, when it dried, I applied another layer over the top to seal. After my Peacock table makeover and the Mod Podge freak out I had then, I knew the bubbles this time were normal and would go away once dried, which they did. Easy. 
 

Voila! A portable bar table
 
So there you have it. A quick and simple repurpose – from a TV dinner tray table, to a sweet, portable bar table. Easy and fab!
Cocktail time!
 

Let there be light!

It’s no secret we love a good vintage lamp round here, and with so many different mid century styles to choose from, accent lamps are a great way to jazz up a room or change up a space.

We’ve sold some gems in 2015, and currently have more in our store. So in honor of Christmas lights and all things bright, here are some of our favorites from this year!

Check out our store for more great Mid Century lamps!