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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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?)
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!
My love of all things Mid Century left me with little choice but to get sucked into the vortex that was Mad Men (binge watching TV series on Netflix is a favorite past time round these parts) And as sad as I am to see it finish, its impact on modern design trends is undeniable. Even Target has come out with a range of Vintage Modern homewares and furnishings. Which is lovely, but to me, nothing beats an original piece. A sumptuous lava drip glazed lamp from the 50’s, a walnut end table from the 60’s…these things sing to me in a way that a replica can’t.
Of course much of the time spent watching each episode of Mad Men was spent coveting the gorgeous furnishings and backdrops. From divine credenzas to burnt orange sofas to atomic ashtrays and bronze crane statuettes, it was Mid Century perfection. Oh to be a set designer on Mad Men!
I seem to do this a lot. Another perfect example recently was Hitchcock’s 1958 movie “Vertigo”. Yes, the movie is visually stunning and the story captivates, but it was the little details that grabbed my attention. The coffee percolator in James Stewart’s apartment, the cocktail glasses in the restaurant, a pin on Kim Novak’s coat. All eye candy for the accessory obsessed. It’s not lost on me that a good portion of the movie was spent trying to determine the manufacturer of the white chair in Midge’s apartment – was it Woodard or was it Knoll – rather than following the storyline. It’s a bad case of mid-mod design ADD.
But…surely I can’t be the only one? What movies have hit you in the design bone? What movie or TV set would you love to ransack? Or replicate? We’d love to know!
Chocolate & Cheese…the way to many peoples hearts (especially ours!) And what better way than a melty, gooey, scrum-didly-umptious fondue session? Heaven in a pot.
The Swiss, French & Italians blazed the way in the 1930’s with the ever delectable, traditional cheese fondue. It wasn’t long before North America jumped on board in the 1950’s & 60’s, making fondue a household favorite. And why wouldn’t they? Fondue is fantastic. In addition to the classic cheese fondue, chocolate with fruit for dipping became a popular treat, as did “fondue bourguignonne“, in which pieces of meat were cooked in hot oil.
This vintage Danish Modern style fondue set, with fabulous dark wood accents, is perfect for any fondue favorite. Cheese…chocolate….makes us hungry just writing about it! Click on the photo to see this stunning piece in our store.
Every now and then we get an update from one of our customers about the piece they’ve purchased. Such is the case with this atomic-fabulous Mirro Medallion candy bowl. Mirro is well known for its vintage aluminum homewares, but the Medallion line was very short lived (1958-1960). Touted as high-end serving ware, it was largely cost prohibitive for most customers, with pieces ranging $8-$22 (think 1950’s dollars!) Due to this short production span, these amazing pieces are highly sought after, and very collectible.
Absolutely appropriate that this sweet bowl ended up in a classic Mid Century Eichler designed home – and how incredible are those wood paneled walls?! Modernist architecture at its absolute finest. Swoon!
For more amazing mid century pieces, please visit our store!
This super cool vintage “Swank” gents dresser valet looks like it was ripped right from the set of Mad Men. A fantastic piece of 1960’s mid century decor, it is the perfect caddy for catching cufflinks, watches and other man-cessories on a nightstand or vanity. So fabulous in fact, that it barely hit our store before it was snapped up, no doubt by some dapper young man-about-town. Featuring gorgeous dark walnut with brass fixtures, this valet is an elegant, swanky boudoir accoutrement.
Visit our store for many other amazing Mid Century pieces, and look out for more Swank valets, coming soon.
We ADORE anything Scandinavian, wooden & mid century modern. Now these beauties are California made, but they are mid century, they are wooden and they are pretty Scandanvian-esque. Made from stunning Black Walnut by Gladmark of Burbank, they are truly outstanding vintage pieces.
Just recently we happened upon another Gladmark piece, a gorgeous carving board. We’ll be listing it soon, but we are definitely fans of this mid century (non Norwegian) wood company.