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Cleveland Rocks!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 by Chris

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Guardian of Traffic art deco sculpture of Hermes

With the Toronto Raptors up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs, it seems like a good time to post about our awesome getaway to C-Town, back in April. We stayed downtown at the comfortable Wyndham Hotel on Playhouse Square and just about everywhere we went we saw Go Cavs! pennants and posters. Let’s hope the only place the Cavs go is home to lick their wounds after a good drubbing (if only!).

Sometimes called “the north coast” by Ohioans because of its vantage on Lake Erie, Cleveland was a prosperous industrial port from the late 1800s through the roaring twenties. That prosperity left a generous art deco legacy in the city, witness the pylon above, one of four Guardians of Traffic on the Hope Memorial Bridge. To the left of Hermes is Terminal Tower, a deco skyscraper completed in 1930 and for decades the tallest building in the USA outside of New York City. There it is again, below, peeking from behind I.M. Pei’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of the reasons we hit the road for Cleveland.

modern glass cubes and angles by I.M. Pei

The city is considered the birthplace of “rock ‘n’ roll” because it was Cleveland DJ Alan Freed who popularized the phrase on his early 1950s show, “Moon Dog House Rock and Roll Party.” Freed favoured uptempo rhythm and blues that appealed to both black and white youth; naturally enough, he is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

The Hall of Fame is tons of fun and provides a real learning opportunity, even for a former rock critic know-it-all like yours truly. No matter what part of rock history resonates for you, there is something to marvel at. I loved it all but the Patti Smith “Cult Hero” doll was one of my favorite bits of memorabilia.

Rock n Roll Hall of Fame memorabilia, Sly Stone fringe vest and cult hero doll of Patti Smith

As good as it is, the hall of fame paled in comparison to the Cleveland Museum of Art. I was blown away by the collection, by the architecture and by the sculptures — on the south side, Rodin’s Thinker, to the north, Anish Kapur’s enveloping C-Curve (right) and Tony Smith’s angular Source (left).

Anish Kapur's C-Curve reflects the Cleveland Museum of Art

Like Chicago’s Cloud Gate, C-Curve is made of polished stainless steel; the convex reflection is right-side up, the concave reflection is upside down. There’s also a warning cautioning viewers that they can be “burned or blinded” by the magnified sunlight. Now that’s powerful art!

Anish Kapur's C-Curve

The museum, which is celebrating its centenary this year, was beautifully re-imagined by architect Rafael Viñoly in 2000. Viñoly’s design tastefully unites the original limestone structure and Marcel Breuer’s 1971 addition with a magnificent indoor courtyard and new wings to the east and the west.

artchitect Rafael Viñoly's magnificent, light-filled indoor courtyard

Todd and I were amazed by the collection, which felt endless and featured superior works by Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Gaugin, and on and on and on. I was happily surprised to see works I’d grown up admiring like George Bellows’ Stag at Sharkey’s, below left, and Henry Bone’s enamel rendering of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne.

details of Stag at Sharkey's and Bacchus and Ariadne

For a Torontonian who spends entirely too much time on Nathan Phillips Square, it was a lovely surprise to stumble upon a maquette of Henry Moore’s The Archer on the edge of the inner courtyard.

Henry Moore's Archer

I was also happy to see that as is customary in American art museums, the CMA sprinkles extraordinary decorative arts throughout the galleries, giving them pride of place among the fine art.

gorgeous carved cabinet topped with fine chinese porcelain

From the glass cube below — one of Viñoly’s additions — you get a stunning view across the campus of Case Western Reserve University to Frank Gehry’s incredible Peter B. Lewis Building, part of the Weatherhead School of Management.

Cleveland Museum of Art exterior

Todd and I made a beeline to the Gehry even before feasting on the art.

Frank Gehry's Peter B. Lewis Building

The fanciful, steel-clad shapes are impressive, obviously, but we were also taken with how Gehry kept the curves and angles going with a more mundane material like brick. Art deco and rock ‘n’ roll aside, I would say that the Cleveland Museum of Art and its proximity to this astonishing structure, are worth the five hour drive from Toronto. And lest I forget, the museum is absolutely free.

Gehry has his way with brick, too

So what else did we get up to in Cleveland? We ate and drank very well for not a lot of money, exchange rate nothwithstanding. We enjoyed more than one breakfast at Lucky’s Cafe, featured in the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, where the nosh was delish and the servers cracked me up; any time I said, “Thank you,” they responded with, “Mmhmm.”

Like Toronto, Cleveland is a city of neighbourhoods, sprawling neighbourhoods, so a car isn’t just recommended, it’s essential. We covered a lot of ground and got to see plenty of the city while trolling for vintage furniture shops.

flower child vintage in cleveland

As previously mentioned, we did well at Flower Child, above, where patience and perseverance can pay off if your antihistamines can hold on. Yes, it’s a bit junktastic but not nearly as bad as “vintage department store” Sweet Lorain (7105 Lorain Road) whose door I will never darken again; too much junk, too much dust, not enough room to move without breaking something, which I did.

vintage chairs and tables at The Galllery in Tremont

At the other end of the spectrum is The Gallery (2415 Tremont Avenue), above, which we stumbled upon while cruising for breakfast spots. The shop is well curated with slightly higher prices, great quality goods and room to breath. I would have bought several things including the chairs, below, for $500 USD (the pair), if we hadn’t already bought a sofa and side tables. I didn’t love the upholstery but the frames had personality to burn with a cool double X detail in the back; they were also supremely comfortable.

vintage chairs at The Gallery

The super cool, brass “bullet” lamps, below left, were priced sky-high at $750 (the pair) but I’m sure negotiation would have brought them down to earth. Todd found similar on 1stdibs.com for much more money.

brass bullet lamp and star base glass coffee table

I also loved the coffee table with the upended legs; I’ve never seen another quite like it and thought it was well worth the $325 being asked.

crowded floor of Detroit Antiques in Cleveland

The other spot I’d highly recommend is Detroit Antiques (5015 Detroit Avenue) where quality was high but the prices were not. Owner Mike revealed that a certain Queen West dealer had been a frequent customer back when the exchange rate was more favourable. We spotted the closed shop on a drive by and kept driving by, day after day, until at last it was open. Apparently, in Cleveland, it’s common for stores like these to open Thursday-Sunday, so take note.

wowChair

There’s more to see in Cleveland, like the amazing turn-of-the-century shopping arcades, one of which has become a Hyatt Hotel, but that will have to wait until our next visit. Until then, greetings from Cleveland. Go Raps!

Greetings from Cleveland mural on side of a building

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Pearsall Up or Down?

Monday, May 9, 2016 by Chris

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Adrian Pearsall three-legged black side table

Adrian Pearsall is not my favorite mid-mod furniture designer but he definitely has some classics to his credit. This is not one of them. In fact, the side tables we found at Flower Child in Cleveland are so rare we could only find a couple of examples online. That said, I have no doubt they are Pearsall, the splay of the legs and general countenance are unmistakable.

We found them as below but Todd immediately guessed they were displayed upside down, that the plastic plugs supporting the glass were actually glides meant for the floor.

Adrian Pearsall sidetable

I rather like the tables turned on their heads but Todd prefers them pointing up as they were designed to be. The pair was priced at $269 USD but I bargained the seller down to $220, a good get and a nice birthday present for my man. I’m partial to the black-on-black look below, a strong, decidedly masculine approach.

Adrian Pearsall sidetable

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The Hunter With His Kill

Monday, April 18, 2016 by Chris

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Milo Baughman sofa on roof of car

Todd and I did not go to Cleveland last week in search of more Milo Baughman. But that’s how things played out thanks to my man’s keen eye.

We were thrifting in the well-regarded but slightly junky Flower Child (11508 Clifton Blvd.) when we came upon the scene below. Todd immediately recognized the arms and profile of the chrome frame as one of Baughman’s designs, more typically seen in his lounge chairs.

Milo Baughman sofa buried in a thrift shop

I would have walked on by but Todd was overcome with excitement. We cleared off the stained and sagging cushions and sure enough, it was Milo alright.

milo baughman sofa in a Cleveland thrift store

The tag said only “Chrome sofa, as found $325.” Now it was my turn to step up since Todd’s a bit shy about haggling. I asked for the seller’s best price and she immediately dropped to $250 USD, a price she’d settled on with a previous potential buyer. Sold! In like-new condition these sofas sell in the $5,000-$10,000 range.

Now our challenge was how to get it back to Toronto. Todd’s beamer comes equipped with roof rails but no rack. Ever the handyman, he was able to fashion a solution at Home Depot with a 2×4 cut to size, four U bolts, some cinch straps and a bit of duct tape.

baughman sofa strapped to car roof

The border guard barely blinked; he immediately recognized that the piece had been thrifted and since the cost was well within our allowable import limit, he waved us through with no additional duty.

It will be a little while before we can afford to revive Todd’s Baughman but our inspiration is below, plucked from 1stdibs.com. We may not go green, we may not go leather, but you can bet this beauty is gonna shine like a diamond by the time we’re finished with it. Stay tuned.

milo baughman flat bar leather chrome sofa

Stay tuned also for more on Cleveland, a first rate getaway just 5+ hours from Toronto with an amazing art gallery, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and some superbly curated and surprisingly affordable vintage furniture shops. In the end, Baughman wasn’t the only name designer we brought home (wink). More to come . . .

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It’s a Long Way to Milo Baughman

Saturday, April 2, 2016 by Chris

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chrome, cane and leather Milo Baughman dining chairs

I’ve been decorating again. My boyfriend, Todd, has moved into a nice big loft space and he’s starting over with next to nothing, which means we’ve been shopping. And shopping. And shopping.

Last weekend we drove to Detroit to score these fabulous Milo Baughman dining chairs. The U.S. border guard was incredulous: “You don’t have chairs in Toronto?” he asked.

chrome, cane and leather Milo Baughman dining chairsWell, no, not like these. Baughman is a staple on 1stdibs.com and Design Within Reach but his pieces rarely make it to Canada and even more rarely make it to Craigslist, which is where Todd found the chairs while combing through the Detroit listings. We both love a road trip and even though the chairs were not cheap at $1,560 USD, they’re still a great investment.

Todd appreciates mid-century design but he has something else in mind for his new space. His inspirational touchstone for the project is Tom Ford spiced with some ’70s/’80s glam. We’re definitely not there yet but the Baughman chairs are right on the money. Todd thinks the captain’s chairs look a little fetishy; I love the gleam of the chrome and the transparency of the cane, such an unusual combination.

We had to pay duty on the chairs — $267 CAD — which sucks, but what are you going to do? We were delirious about our score and couldn’t wait to get them home. What do you think? Worth the drive?

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A Window for Manuary

Sunday, January 10, 2016 by Chris

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diorWindow

This week’s window at consignment shop, Of Things Past (1096 Yonge Street), is a real surprise because it screams man and that’s not something I see a lot. All those dark masculine furnishings and accessories, and of course the transit-size Dior poster with its chunky chrome frame ($870). The poster is by artist Rene Gruau, the son of an Italian count, who built a fine career doing editorial and commercial illustrations for Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, as well as for Dior, Balenciaga, Schiaparelli, Lanvin and Givenchy, among others. There’s a companion poster, also Dior Eau Sauvage, inside the shop.

As a much younger man I coveted Le Corbusier’s LC4 Chaise Longue, especially in pony; this one is priced at $2875 (don’t know if it’s genuine Cassina). And I adore the ceramic cheeta sculpture ($620, sold), so beautifully staged on the red and brass drum table ($2050). The handsome chromed steel lamp with rectangular black shade (far left) is priced at $480. Kudos to merchandiser Eric Galbraith on consistently great work.

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