Living in a daylight basement in Central Minnesota, I had struggled to find a lighting solution for my “cave” that I found both functional and aesthetically pleasing. With an outlook onto a gorgeous lake, I had always positioned my work desk in front of the window, which was perfect during daytime hours, but offered no light fixture available in the immediate space during the evening hours. I needed a lighting solution that I could plug in, but also wanted it to hang from the ceiling and shine down on the work space, rather than be a floor lamp.
I’ve always loved mid-century pieces, particularly ones with a more industrial feel, so I had an idea in mind of what I was looking for and set out to find the perfect lamps. I found a pair of filthy hanging lamps, stashed away in my brother-in-laws shed, and knew I could rewire them and restore them to their former glory. They had originally come from an art studio, built in the early 1960’s, and were the exact mix of vintage and industrial I was looking for.
After cleaning off decades of grime, the enamel finish shone, and there was very little damage to the original finish.
Next up, it was a simple rewire and they were ready to hang. I connected a dimmer switch to the outlet and added vintage style Edison bulbs to complete the look. I tidied up the wires using cable staples and absolutely love the final outcome!
Check out the slideshow below for more “after” images.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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”.
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). 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. 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?
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
The original mailbox. Weathered, but fantastic!
Frontages generally featured few windows, windowed walls faced gardens and inner atriums
To check out our selection of Mid-Century treasures, click here
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!)
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 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.
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!
Recently, I was lucky enough to snag a trio of vintage Tulip style chairs for a steal. They were rusty, dirty and scuffed and needed a lot of love but, with bones like these, impossible to resist. Widely considered to be a classic of industrial design, the Tulip chair was designed by Finnish born designer Eero Saarinen in the mid 1950’s for Knoll. The smooth, modern lines of this chair have made it an iconic mid-century piece, and one I could not pass up.
After giving the chairs a good look over, I realized that the fiberglass uppers were actually in pretty decent shape and mostly just in need of a really thorough cleaning. That said, it was a good hour of scrubbing and buffing to get them into tip top shape. I started with a little regular kitchen cleaner to get the first layer of grime off, I then followed up with a magic eraser. Which lived up to its name! The chairs were shiny in no time.
The metal bases were another story – covered in rust and dings. Thankfully the rust was only surface deep and hadn’t eroded any of the metal too seriously. I started by sanding them (wearing a breathing mask of course!) with a coarse 100 grit sandpaper, which removed most of the obvious rust. I followed up with a 220 grit to smooth it all out. In between I used a wet rag to wipe away the rust and dirt that was coming off. Some parts of the bare metal were exposed, but I was able to get a smooth surface pretty easily.
In much of my research of restoring tulip chairs I had read about the difficulties many people had faced with getting the bases back on the seats after removing them, so I opted not to take them off, and instead covered the seats. This was mostly because I get frustrated by mechanical things easily and knew I would probably struggle to get them back on in a timely manner. I’m also rather impatient. So trash bags and painters tape it was, and this worked perfectly.
I then primed the bases using “Killz” spray on primer containing rust protection. After letting this dry, I used Krylon’s prime and paint in one, in Ivory. My only advice here is DO NOT USE KRYLON spray paint. I followed the instructions to the T, I shook the can for a good two minutes and the paint came out lumpy. Like little sand granule sized lumps. Freak out, lose my mind, lumpy. So, I had to let this dry completely and sand it off and start the process over (cursing Krylon’s name the whole time). Once I was back to square one, I used my old trusty Rustoleum Heirloom White. This was MUCH BETTER and I should have stuck with what I knew. Lesson learned.
I did 3 light coats of paint, letting each one properly dry in between. I’ve learned over the course of a few projects that when it comes to spray painting, the best finish comes from multiple light layers, as opposed to drowning the first layer. Of course, I’ve read this a million times, but had to learn it for myself. So, take my word for it, it’s true. Once it was fully dried (I let it sit for 24 hours) I went over with a final layer of Rustoleum’s spray on Ultra cover clear gloss.
So here is the mostly finished result. These chair pads aren’t the ones I’m going to ultimately use, they’re a temporary fix until the proper ones are finished. I just couldn’t wait to share, but will update the pics as soon as the new pads are complete.