Last Pieces of the Puzzle

farrow & ball red earth with mid-century cabinet, softa and lighting

There are any number of splendid exceptions but generally speaking I’m opposed to slavishly aping a given decorating period, whatever it may be. And yet here I am, my apartment now more or less complete, and I find I’ve slipped into the mid-century modern trap, fully and completely.

As lovely as it was, my 1940s chinoiserie cabinet simply wasn’t working with the canary yellow daybed or the Saarinen table and ’60s Swedish pendant light. It had to go. My ’80s glam TV stand was similarly at odds with the rest of the room. And so they’ve left the building, saluted for their service but not much missed.

In their place, a couple of period pieces, a 1950s modular shelving unit and an Ed Wormley-style side table that provides a brilliant perch for the TV and video components without hoarding precious floor space.

The chinoise cabinet more or less paid for the new unit, purchased from Ethel. The doors were originally black and white which screamed ’50s and so I gave the black a spritz of the same blue paint I used on my side table. But there was a bigger problem to be solved with the unit, namely that the support poles were 5″ too short for my ceiling. I mentioned my dilemma to Kate Eisen at inAbstracto and she gave me the name of her carpenter, a semi-retired gentleman named Gil Steiner who kindly agreed to fashion some feet for the posts (below left). Gil charged me $125 for four feet (my space only allows me to use three of the poles), thus allowing the unit to be resurrected.

The TV stand was a lucky find at MacCool’s Reuse this past weekend. The wood is finished in the identical shade as the modular piece and the vertical supports mimic the taper in the floor-to-ceiling posts. MacCool’s will be open for a couple more weekends before closing down for the season and all furniture is presently discounted 35 – 50 per cent. My shelf set me back just $110. As a bonus, the power bar and electrical cords all tuck neatly out of sight on a rear shelf.

Yes, there are elements in the space that don’t adhere to the mid-century aesthetic but not too many. That MCM daybed proved to be a mighty big domino and when it fell it knocked over all the other pieces in my living space. I feel a bit sheepish about my stylistic conversion but when I sit in this room I’m honestly delighted with how all the parts have come together and with how supremely functional and comfortable this small space actually is. After three years and as many moves I feel at home at last.

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Monday, October 8, 2012 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 865 posts on styleNorth.

21 Comments For This Post

  1. Lois Says:

    Happy Turkey Day Chris and I love the new apartment seems you are truly happy once again :)…Gayle of never going with styles or periods, but buy what you love it will NEVER let you down

  2. Gako Says:

    A nice approach to American 50′ with some, can I say, small touches of Scandinavian 60′. I like especially the color scheme with good use of yellows. The rug and a table lamp ad an eclectic note to the composition underlying the contemporary rhythm of multiple interesting influences …

  3. David Says:

    As much as I coveted that Chinoiserie cabinet your place looks great, and I love the wall unit. The blue was totally the right call.

    As for going MCM, I think something happens to us as men “of a certain age.” What I wan’t most in my rooms now is calm, literally and visually.

  4. shescomeundone Says:

    Mm hmm, totally righteous call on the blue doors ;)
    A stylish being must evolve or implode – says she of up at 3 am thinking about those bloody unfinished Castelli’s languishing in my dining room beside the Pearsall coffee table frame sanded to a naked walnut propped against the glass top leaning precariously against that incongruous, encaustic canvas I know you (Chris) didn’t want me to buy and yes you were right to have rolled your eyes . . .


  5. Mary Says:

    Your Chinese cabinet looked great against that wall colour but it was sort of a black hole in the room, no? This piece feels much lighter and airier. Looks great!

  6. Linda W in Ontario Says:

    I just love how it looks! It feels welcoming and happy. Very cool. :)

  7. VegHead Says:

    Your furnishings may be period but your color scheme is not. I think that’s what keeps the space feeling “now” instead of dated. It feels happy. Good job.

  8. debbie Says:

    i like that although it’s all mid-century, there are no iconic yawns (ur beautiful tulip table nothwithstanding)

  9. TIm@DesignMaze Says:

    Welcome to my fav design era!! You place looks amazing and I can’t wait to come visit you soon. That chinz cabinet … I will miss it. It was just a stunner.

  10. Shauntelle LeBlanc Says:

    The wall unit looks waaaay better in your place than it did at my shop! The blue is gorgeous!
    So glad it found a good home.

  11. sc Says:

    Congrats for making your house your home. MCM is really not my style at all but your apartment is very nice.

  12. Chris Says:

    Thanks Shauntelle. Yes, the blue really gives the unit some oomph, I love the way it came together.

  13. kindofpurple Says:

    Just gorgeous, Chris! I didn’t think it was possible to improve on your already lovely space, but you’ve done it – with your own flourishes to keep it relevant and warm. I’m a little concerned now, though, because my MCM daybed is being delivered this afternoon…! Michale

  14. Margo Says:


    I have been waiting to see what would fill the space that once belonged to the beautiful Chinese Cabinet, again you did yourself proud, nothing dull about you, I love what you have done with your apartment, so sit back and enjoy.

    Margo on Vancouver island.

  15. Chris Says:

    Michale, thanks for the chuckle. Decorating dominoes aren’t necessarily bad things but they do wreak havoc.

  16. Lin Says:

    Your place is now done, done, done! Looks terrific.

  17. Cora Says:

    Hi Chris, was thinking of you so went onto StyleNorth and surprise, your apartment was the first post. Congrats of finishing it! Looks great. Of course we’re lovin’ the MCM decor. But the wall colour is noteworthy, too: the perfect shade. We’re finally nearing move-in date on our reno so can sympathize with your euphoria upon putting it all together and making it work. Just remember to leave one thing undone. Otherwise, you’ll be be on the move again the instant that last thing is finished. Happens every time ; – ) Cheers, Cora

  18. larysa Says:

    Wow! I love the way your space looks, some iconic pieces put together with great style and flair. The colors are vibrant, the individual pieces pop, and altogether the space looks terrific, and doesn’t feel like a slave to a specific design model. Very nice!

  19. Denise Says:

    Great job !! I love the photo from the dining room looking into the living.

  20. Chris Says:

    Hi y’all. I submitted my space to Apartment Therapy’s Room for Color contest so if you feel like voting for me, please go right ahead:

  21. Jen Says:

    MCM was the way to go with your space, and your warm colour palette, artwork and accessories (especially the fab rug) make it current instead of mad men or sterile, which too many MCM white gallery wall rooms fall prey too. Nice touch lighting the new painting from below!

    Great find at MacCool’s, you really lucked out stumbling across a piece that riffs off your other elements AND has a ton of functionality. One of my best vacations was a cottage rental five minutes away from their barn, so many vintage temptations!

    Like your room a LOT more than the contest winner’s red stripe affair…

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