Why We Love Mid Century Modern

Welcome back to the second article in our series on Mid Century Modernism.  In the first article, we explored how Mid Century design got it’s start and defined some of it’s guiding principles.  If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check it out here: What is Mid Century Modern.  Next week, we'll provide some tips for adding some Mid Century style to your home.  Today, we’re going to share why we love Mid Century Modern design with some of the reasons why it inspires us every day.  

Why We Love Mid Century Modern
 

As we learned last week, Mid Century design has been around for quite a while.  Most of the time, styles are cyclical with trends coming and going as the newest shiny object grabs our attention.  The strange thing about Mid Century design is that it’s never really gone away.  It’s had it’s ebbs and flows, certainly, but since it’s birth in the 1940s we’ve seen Mid Century elements incorporated into our living spaces quite consistently.  Why do we love it so much?  

Nature: The Foundational Element

Nature
Photo: Mosaikdesign.com

 

Nature’s calming influence permeates Mid Century design to it’s core.  Large windows and sliding glass doors connect the indoors with the outdoors making it easy to enjoy nature right from your living room.  Just like Mid Century design, simplicity and color are foundational elements in nature, too.  Next time you’re in awe of a landscape, step back and appreciate the shapes and colors that bring it all together.  Why we love nature: Nature’s clean lines, simple shapes, and bold colors are the perfect inspiration for a cohesive Mid Century room.

 

Simplicity: Focus on Function

Simplicity
Photo: Caterpillar House
 

Looking at the clean lines and simple shapes of Mid Century architecture and furniture, you can see that 'less is more’ is a guiding principle.  When the ornate embellishments and excess stuff are stripped away, function becomes the focus of attention.  Why we love simplicity: In a busy world with so many things constantly trying to get our attention, a simple, functional room with clean, geometric furniture can be an oasis.

 

Color: Let’s Have Some Fun

Color
Photo: Nestmodern.com
 

Simple, clean shapes are super functional, yet they do lack interest.  I mean, I love me a clean-lined mid century credenza, but a room full of simple geometric shapes leaves me wanting a bit more.  This is precisely where color comes in - to add a very necessary layer of interest to the room.  In the beginning of the Mid Century era, bright, cheerful colors communicated a fun, optimistic feel which was a welcome change after the Second World War.  Why we love color: It’s usually that bright, cheerful, colorful element in a room that instigates a joyful smile.

Mid Century Modern design has been a part of our interior designs for well over half a century and it’s showing little sign of going away anytime soon.  The connection to nature, clean lines, and bold colors are now timeless design elements.  Stay tuned for our tips for adding some Mid Century style to your home.

What is Mid Century Modern?

Here at Ciseal, our focus is on making Mid Century inspired furniture, lighting, and home decor for the modern day.  In this series of blog articles, we’re going to dive into defining Mid Century design for your home, share why we love Mid Century, and provide some tips for adding some Mid Century style to your home.  This week, we’re kicking off the series by exploring a question we get asked quite a bit: What is Midcentury Modern?

Mid Century Modern

When you hear “Midcentury Modern” what do you think?  Is it the set of Mad Men?  Maybe it’s your parents' or grandparents’ dated furniture and decor.  It could conjure up images of bright colors and earthy wood tones.  Or tacky wood paneling and a well-past-their-prime shag rugs.  Mid Century is such a broad category, and everyone seems to have their own definition and interpretation - which we love!  

Most homes that are considered Midcentury Modern were built between the 1940’s and 1970’s, but modern interpretations continue to be built today.  The originators of the style were modern architects including Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer who fled Nazi Germany for the United States before World War II. Other influential designers include Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who was the Architecture department head at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Frank Lloyd Wright students Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler, and Cranbrook Academy of Art Alums Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen.

World War II was important to the style because it necessitated experimental technologies and materials like plywood, steel, and aluminum which went on to be used extensively in buildings and decor after the war.  According to Sian Winship, president of the Southern California Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, “The birth of midcentury modern was after the war. The houses had open floor plans and giant sliding-glass doors, which encouraged people to go outside and be healthy. In a traditional home, the window height is 4 to 5 feet, and you can’t see out as a child. With these walls of glass, children became engaged and open-minded because the environment stimulated the senses in a different way.”

Mid Century Modern
Photo by Midwestliving.com
 

The ultimate goal of Midcentury Modern design is to inspire and encourage us to explore the world around us in new ways. At it’s roots, Midcentury Modern architecture utilizes four key elements to blend our interiors with the world around us:

  1. Extensive glass: Large windows and sliding-glass doors drape the outside walls of Midcentury homes to allow natural light to flood indoors.

  2. Open design concepts: Midcentury Modern homes will have partial walls, small sets of steps between rooms to create split-level spaces, and cabinets of varying heights to create defined areas in otherwise open spaces.

  3. Simplicity of form: The flat planes and geometric lines of Midcentury houses create low, sweeping flat or gabled rooflines, repetitive linear patterns in support beams and posts, and brick- or stone-clad chimneys that anchor the design.

  4. Connection with nature: Midcentury rooms have a connection to nature through expansive windows or multiple access points to draw the residents outside.

A few famous examples of Midcentury Modern homes include:

Stahl House - Case Study House 22
Stahl House
Photo by Midcenturyhome.com 
 
Eichler Homes (there are a lot of them!)
Eichler Home
Photo by MCMdaily.com
 
Jens Risom's Block Island HomeJens Risom's Block Island Home
Photo by Dwell.com 
 
Farnsworth House
Farnsworth House
Photo by Farnsworthhouse.org
 

So, that’s your primer on how Midcentury Modern came to be and how it’s defined.  Next week we’re going to explore the specific reasons why we here at Ciseal love Midcentury design.  You can read that article here: Why We Love Mid Century Modern.

4 Ways To Add Dimension to Your Room with Texture

Midcentury Living Room
Photo: Houzz
 

Designing a room is like a balancing act.  Line, shape, form, space, color, value, texture: all of these elements work together to create a cohesive design.  It’s easy to consider the shape and color of the various pieces you include in a room, but when you throw some texture into the mix you really make the room sing.  Here are four ways to bring in some texture and add depth to a space.

Walls

Midcentury in Del Mar
Photo: Houzz
 
Midcentury houses abound with naturally beautiful brick fireplaces, stone walls, and wood paneling.  If you’re lucky enough to live in a home with these textural elements, then draw attention to them with graphic wall art or even bright glass or pottery against your brick fireplace.  But what if your home lacks these textural details?  Never fear!  You can add some texture with wallpaper.  Choose one wall to attract attention, but not overwhelm the space.  Most wallpaper manufacturers have vivid, textural midcentury inspired patterns that will be the perfect accent.
 

Floors

Berkeley Hills House
Photo: Houzz
 

Hardwood and tile provide their own natural texture and make open spaces feel even larger.  To define different areas of your space for relaxing or dining, look to soft, textural area rugs.  Classic midcentury rugs range from white shag to colorful geometric shapes, so you’re sure to find one that fits your style.

 

Furniture

Mid-century Long Beach
Photo: Houzz
 

Textures are easy to mix with furniture.  Look to leather, wood, glass, plastic, fiberglass and upholstery to enhance your space with different textures.  For example, combine an upholstered couch with a leather and wood lounge chair with a molded fiberglass Eames rocker and a wood and glass coffee table.  

 

Fabrics

Cottesloe
Photo: Houzz
 

Pillows and throw blankets add the finishing touches to a well rounded room.  That’s especially true when you have a furniture set that has matching textures.  Bright, textural pillows and soft, shaggy throws bring a variety of textures to your space.  Plus, they’re easy and inexpensive to change out if your style changes.

Midcentury Inspired Must Haves: Wood Furniture

Natural wood is one of the basic tenants of midcentury modern style.  All along the spectrum from blonde birch to dark walnut, the warmth and varying grain of natural wood furniture brings natural beauty indoors to our favorite living spaces.  In midcentury spaces with pops of bright color and graphic patterns, the neutral tones of wood furniture help to bring the room together.  Here are 5 wood furniture pieces that will bring that midcentury touch of wood to any room in your home.

Fast Freddy Bench by Jory Brigham Design

Fast Freddy Bench by Jory Brigham Design

Whether you need a quick seat at the foot of your bed or a statement for your entryway, a midcentury-inspired bench is just the thing to bring in some wooden warmth.

 

Soto Concave Lounge Chair by Joybird

Soto Concave Lounge Chair by Joybird

It’s easy to make a statement with a wood midcentury lounge chair or two.  The wood arms and legs add a natural, sophisticated look to your living room, office, or bedroom.

 

Coleman Stool by Greta de Parry Design

Coleman Stool by Greta de Parry Design

By blending graphic, angular legs and a warm wood seat, midcentury inspired stools add a distinctive warmth to your kitchen.

 

Berkeley Bed by Hedge House

Berkeley Bed by Hedge House

Minimal and modern simplicity is all you need for a good night’s sleep.  Bells and whistles need not apply.  

 

Pontiac Table by Ciseal

Pontiac Table by Ciseal

Add a versatile side table beside your bed, next to your couch or between a couple of the lounge chairs above.  The natural wood tones are sure to add a relaxed feel to any room.

Inspiration Friday: Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater

Fallingwater
Fallingwater (Laurel Highlands)
 

Frank Lloyd Wright’s distinguished career centers on his most famous structure: Fallingwater.  Originally a weekend home he designed in 1935 for Liliane and Edgar J. Kaufmann, it’s sparked wonder for many who dream of what it would be like to live over a waterfall in the remote forest of western Pennsylvania.  In exploring the history of the house and Wright himself, I’ve come to appreciate that it represents the rebirth of Wright's career after a long period marked by frustration and unfinished projects.  It is a masterful application of Wright’s unique style, and I hope you enjoy the history and thoughtful design of this home as much as I do.

During the two decades preceding Fallingwater, Wright saw his personal and financial lives collapse.  His precious Wisconsin home, Taliesin, had two fires, and then he had to give it up due to bankruptcy proceedings and divorce litigation.  Between 1925 and 1934 only five of his commissions were built, and he struggled to survive financially.  The general public assumed he had retired.  He needed a project that would rescue him from the doldrums – both financially and publicly.

For Wright, the problem with modern architecture was how to harness new materials to create a humane environment.  Due to Hitler forcing many artists and architects out of Europe and after a 1932 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art the International style began to take hold in America.  Wright, however, disliked its sterility, boxiness and disregard for the individual and site.  While working under Louis Henry Sullivan in the late 1800s, Wright learned how to synthesize the sensuous, tactile, emotion-based architecture theories of John Ruskin with the structural rationalism approach of the modernists.  For example, the Wainwright skyscraper of 1890 in St. Louis, Missouri is a successful culmination of rational use of modern materials with richly decorated details.

Wainwright Building
Wainwright Building (Zbaren)
  

Fallingwater displays Wright’s distinct modern yet organic architectural style in what proves to be his most successful union of building and site.  Wright took what he learned from Sullivan, Ruskin and even the International Style architects (although he would not care to admit it) and developed his own organic-modern style.  Wright’s homes displayed unifying themes such as, 

  1. The effort to harmonize with their surroundings through low-hipped roofs and horizontal extension,
  2. The use of natural materials,
  3. Restraint in the use of ornament, and 
  4. Unification of architecture, nature, and interior design to create a modern home that’s fully integrated in it’s site.

Though Wright referenced his predecessors and contemporaries, his style was more natural and personal than the Internationalists, more innovative in the use of industrial materials and methods than Ruskin, and less decorated than Sullivan. 

To describe his unique style, Wright said in his essay “The Natural House” that the proper house should be one that is “Integral to site; integral to environment; integral to the life of the inhabitants.”  Houses had to be fitted to the client as well as the land it sits on, and the design should be so in tune with the surrounding landscape that the site would be lacking without it.  He called the style “organic architecture.”  His style was uniquely his, and all that Wright needed to emerge from the longest drought of his career was a client who shared the same ideals.

Kaufmann Family
The Kaufmann Family: Edgar Jr. (center) with E.J. (left) and Liliane (Post-Gazette)
 

Liliane and Edgar J. Kaufmann were wealthy Pittsburgh department store owners who were looking for a weekend retreat.  They were committed to bringing their Bear Run property back to life from years of overworking by the mining and lumber industries.  Mr. Kaufmann cleared away distressed or dead trees and re-forested the property with native trees and plants.  He also revitalized the fish and game on property by providing grazing lands and winter feeding areas. 

For their weekend home on their beloved property, the Kaufmanns wanted to put the land before architecture.  They had no interest in building a huge castle or chalet like the vacation homes of their contemporaries.  It was of utmost importance that this home would live in harmony with the land and even enhance the natural elements around it.  They hoped to build a country house in which they could renew themselves in nature.

Even though modern architecture was not very popular in the United States in the early 1930s, The Kaufmanns grew to appreciate the modern aesthetic through their many visits to Germany and California where Bauhaus, Modern and International Style architecture had taken hold.  With their appreciation for nature and their interest in modern architecture it only seemed natural for them to approach Frank Lloyd Wright and ask him to design their weekend home.

In describing his first impressions of the Kaufmann’s property, Wright commented: “There in a beautiful forest was a solid, high rock ledge rising beside a waterfall and the natural thing seemed to be to cantilever the house from the rock bank over the falling water…Then came (of course) Mr. Kaufmann’s love for the beautiful site.  He loved the site where the house was built and liked to listen to the waterfall.  So that was a prime motive in the design.  I think you can hear the waterfall when you look at the design.”  Wright’s prime motivation for the design was to preserve the site and enhance the natural elements around it.

Though the location on the side of a steep hill was challenging, it demanded that Wright be creative with the design so that it not only conformed to the site, but also enhanced its beauty.  The house would be anchored to four giant sandstone boulders at the top of the twenty-foot falls.  Cantilevering the house over the falls would imitate the layered sandstone ledges that extend from the boulders alongside the stream.  Terraces extend to different lengths and in all different directions to reflect the trees surrounding the site.  The colors he chose for the finishes were pulled right from the landscape around the house.  Wright loved to abstract pieces of the landscape into visual design elements of his architectural creations.

Fallingwater
Fallingwater (Roadtrippers).
  

The masonry walls of the building core were constructed from sandstone quarried on the site, and they were laid to resemble the cliffs bordering the house.  Some stones thicker, some longer, some jutting out a bit further than the others, and with nearly invisible mortar joints, the stone looks as if it was naturally stratified.  The creation of this stone core creates a strong base that makes Fallingwater appear as if it is an extension of the waterfall. 

Fallingwater Masonry
Masonry Detail (Wright-House).
  

From this central stone core, terraces and canopies constructed out of reinforced concrete create clean horizontal planes that contrast with the strong, vertical stone walls.  The first floor slab extends eighteen feet over the stream.  To Wright, the composition of terraces extending from the stone core is reminiscent of branches extending from a tree trunk.  Because the terraces were cantilevered through the use of steel reinforced concrete, the outer walls were not load bearing and could be open to nature through wall-to-wall windows.

The Kaufmanns wanted above all a place to enjoy nature, so it is only natural that the spaces inside Fallingwater bridge the gap between nature and shelter.  The entry to Fallingwater is relatively nondescript, but once inside the visitors are drawn through the uninterrupted interior to the expansive windows and eventually back outside.  True to his organic architecture style, Wright believed that buildings should provide a special kind of shelter: “I began to see a building primarily not as a cave but a broad shelter in the open, related to the vista without and the vista within.”  The interior of a house should feel safe and protected, but in no way cut off from the natural world around it.  The massive stone walls at the north side of the house provide the sense of protection that Wright desires.  In contrast, the wall of windows on the opposite side opens up views of the vista over the waterfall, and allow for abundant light to shine through year-round. 

Fallingwater Interior
Interior (Fallingwater).
  

The windows themselves create a linear contrast to the natural, irregular stone walls and the natural world outside.  To further enhance the view, the windows are framed in a color Wright called Cherokee Red.  He used this color extensively in his organic architecture because it is a deep, natural red color that is reminiscent of fall foliage or iron’s natural patina.  The metal serves as picture frames for the ever-changing views of the outdoors.

The living area bridges nature and shelter in other ways as well.  In the living room, a clear skylight frames the sky over a dramatic staircase that plunges directly to the water below, bringing the outside inside: water and sky unite.  The bathroom off the main bedroom features a sink that is set in an alcove of windows like a window box.  Even invisible corner joints serve to make the view to the outdoors seemingly seamless. 

Fallingwater Skylight to Stairs
Skylight from living room (Solitary Dog Sculptor).
 
Fallingwater Stairs
Stairs from exterior (Allyson Scott).
  

Wright designed the house so that the boulders that the house is anchored to will peek through the waxed flagstone floor – again abstracting the natural world.  With the boulders peeking through the shiny, water-like floor, it is as if the interior is sitting in the stream outside.  The focal point of the living room is the boulder-framed fireplace upon which the entire house is centered.  The kitchen includes another boulder in the floor that creeps inside, providing a place to set pots as the inside and outside become entwined with only a pane of glass in between.  Even hallways are treated to the outdoors with man-made stone walls giving way to natural boulders. 

Fallingwater Fireplace
Fireplace detail (Artsology).
  

The furnishings inside Fallingwater are mostly custom designed by Wright to reiterate the linear, cantilevered forms of the exterior.  Within the living room, Wright defines areas for dining, listening to music, reading, and writing by varying the ceiling level, quality of light with direct or recessed lighting, furnishings, and wall sections.  The black walnut veneered furniture also counters the straight, horizontal lines with some curved edges and soft, upholstered accents.  The natural tones of the upholstery fabric enhance the simple palette of the outdoors.  As a whole, the interior design reflects and enhances the landscape seen all around it.

Fallingwater Furniture Detail
Furnishing detail (Sandstead).
  

I hope you enjoyed learning some of the history of Fallingwater, what led to it’s design, and how thoughtfully it was executed.  It is the ultimate display of Wright's organic architecture style with its unification of modernism and landscape, but it may have never happened if not for the Kaufmann family and their appreciation for both modern design and preserving nature.  This home is unique in architecture in that it displays both Wright’s creative genius and the natural landscape surrounding it.  If you ever find yourself in western Pennsylvania, I highly recommend stopping by for a tour.

May 19, 2017

Inspiration ›   mid century ›   modern ›   summer ›  


Four Mid Mod Patio Essentials for Summer

Photo by Native Son Design Studio - Search midcentury patio design ideas
 

We’re finally getting some warmer weather here in Michigan, and it’s about time!  With our first heat wave in full swing, my thoughts naturally turn to lazy summer afternoons spent lounging on the deck: A book in one hand and a frosty beverage in the other, the dogs are sunning themselves and quietly watching the ducks swim on the lake.  Not a care in the world, right?  Well, before the deck or patio can be enjoyed to it’s full potential it’ll probably need some sprucing up.  Lets grab some sangria and look at four ideas to create the perfect mid mod patio for summer relaxing.

 

Soak Up the Sun

Summer can seem like a distant memory when it’s 8 degrees outside in January, so a spot for chilling in the sun is essential.  To create your sun worshiping space, find a comfy lounge chair and pick a spot that gets plenty of sun.  A location that has a nice view of your perfectly manicured garden is ideal, but for those of us without a green thumb, add a small table to hold a couple of magazines and a margarita.

Photo by Lambright Design Group - More midcentury patio ideas
 

Comfort and Conversation

Deck parties are the best part of summer, but it’s kinda awkward if everyone’s standing around with nowhere to sit, right?  Find yourself a comfy outdoor sofa or chaise to anchor your conversation area and round out the seating with some colorful MidCentury patio chairs.  Add an outdoor coffee table in the middle to collect your drinks and proceed with the party!

Photo by Margot Hartford Photography - More midcentury patio photos
 

The Perfect Entertaining Table

The nights are looooong in the summer, and deck parties require barbecue, so get yourself a decent outdoor dining table.  Your friends will thank you when they don’t have to eat their delicious potato salad on the same level as your dog.  For a dining table that will go the distance until the sun sets and beyond, go for something lightweight so it’s easy to move around the patio.  And remember it’s living outside and will get skuzzy, so maybe find one that’s easy to hose off.  

Photo by Gary Hutton Design - Look for midcentury patio pictures
 

Hearty Summer-Loving Plants

If you’re someone who can manage to keep flowers alive throughout the summer, I salute you.  For the rest of us, succulents are a perfect way to bring some life to your patio.  They’re perfectly Mid Mod too with their bright colors and angular shapes.  Mix a few varieties together in a bigger pot or two or space some smaller pots around your deck to add some texture and interest.  And you don’t need to worry about watering them (well, on occasion, but they’ll be fine if you forget, I promise).

Photo by Blu Design Group - Discover midcentury patio design ideas

7 Mid Century Inspired American Made Furniture Pieces We're Loving Right Now

Here at Ciseal, we’re always on the lookout for new takes on Midcentury style.  It’s amazing to see well-cared-for vintage Mid Century pieces set the tone for a room.  And what we really love about Midcentury is how it’s still inspiring designers to create new works today.  When those vintage pieces coexist with modern pieces it creates a super interesting mix that pays homage to the past yet feels current. Here are some of our favorite Mid Century inspired furniture pieces designed and made by independent American craftspeople today.  

 

Boulevard Table by Hunt & Noyer

Boulevard Table by Hunt & Noyer

The first thing that stands out about the Boulevard Table is it’s craftsmanship.  This table is built to last from specifically selected quality materials and tried and true craftsmanship.  It’s safe to say that this beauty will last a lifetime or more!  The Midcentury inspired angular base creates a lightness to the design so the table doesn’t take up too much visual weight.  Check out the Boulevard Table and Hunt & Noyer’s other pieces in their shop.

 

Riff Raff Kitchen Island by Wake the Tree

Riff Raff Island by Wake the Tree

Need a special something to brighten up your kitchen?  The Riff Raff Kitchen Island is your answer.  The bright powder coated pegboard and gorgeous black walnut island provides some cheery extra storage for your cookbooks, spoons, spatulas, colanders - all of the riff raff that kitchen’s accumulate.  It’s also a super functional option as a sideboard or buffet.  Check out the Riff Raff Kitchen Island and Wake the Tree's other pieces in their shop.

 

Roxy Arm Chair by One Forty Three

Roxy Arm Chair by One Forty Three

You had us at bent plywood.  The minimal yet comfortable Roxy Arm Chair is the perfect addition to any Midcentury inspired room.  The molded plywood seat is just like a warm hug, and that bright Pendleton fabric just looks hot when paired with the warm wood veneer.  Check out the Roxy Arm Chair and One Forty Three's other pieces in their shop.

 

Black Diamond Table by Alex Drew & No One

Black Diamond Table by Alex Drew & No One

The geometric lines of the Black Diamond coffee table draw us in like no other.  The ebonized black walnut sets a graphic tone for this table that is mesmerizing from any angle.  Plus, when you combine four of them together, they create even more interesting shapes and angles where they connect.  Check out the Black Diamond Table and Alex Drew & No One’s other pieces in their shop.

 

Mag Table by Ali Sandifer

Mag Table by Ali Sandifer

Classic Midcentury lines and impeccable craftsmanship is the name of the game with the Mag Table.  If Don Draper was designing your living room he would insist on this coffee table.  The functional magazine storage keeps the table top clean and tidy because you’ll want to admire that lovely wood grain.  Check out the Mag Table and Ali Sandifer’s other pieces in their shop.

 

Soren Chair by Coil & Drift

Soren Chair by Coil & Drift

The Soren Chair’s minimal aesthetic and it’s naturally beautiful materials pay the perfect homage to it’s Midcentury inspiration.  This is a bold statement in a relatively clean-lined chair.  The wood and leather play off of each other to provide a graphic, geometric look that we love.  Check out the Soren Chair and Coil & Drift’s other pieces in their shop.

 

Pontiac Table by Ciseal

Pontiac Table by Ciseal

We’d be a little remiss to not include one of our babies on this list.  The Pontiac Table is the newest addition to our collection, and we’re quite smitten.  It sports classic Mid Century lines with a bent plywood twist that’s sure to be right at home beside the bed or next to the couch.  Check out the Pontiac Table and our other pieces in our shop.

And there you have it!  These are just a few of the independently handcrafted American made furniture pieces that we’re drooling over at the moment.  Which ones do you want to add to your Mid Century inspired home?

May 05, 2017


For the Love of Wood

We certainly love our wood here at Ciseal.  It’s a material that brings natural warmth and beauty to our designs.  We love the variety of woods we get to use too.  Each species imparts it’s own unique look and feel that we just can’t get enough of.  The woods we use most often and certainly can’t get enough of are Birch, Oak, and Walnut.  Find out why these are our favorite woods to work with:

 

Birch: Elegant Strength

If you’re looking for a neutral backdrop, birch is the way to go.  It’s muted tones are perfect for building off of with either color or darker neutrals.  Birch is a classic choice for bent lamination because of it’s combined flexibility and strength, which produces lightweight, thin, and extremely strong products.  Discover birch in our Michigan Left Lamp, Interlochen Stool or Pontiac Side Table - all prime examples of the refinement of birch.

Ciseal Michigan Left Table Lamp
Michigan Left Lamp
Interlochen Stool
Interlochen Stool
Pontiac Side Table Ciseal
Pontiac Table
 

Oak: King of the Forest

For it’s beautiful grain and unmatched durability, oak keeps us coming back for more.  It’s a timeless material that always seems to be in style, and it’s hardness ensures it will last a lifetime.  See oak in all it’s glory on our Aspen Magazine Rack, Tahquamenon Stool, or Alden Side Table.  Each one will keep you mesmerized at the gorgeous grain of oak.

Aspen Magazine Rack
Aspen Magazine Rack
Tahquamenon Stool
Tahquamenon Stool
Alden Table
Alden Table
 

Walnut: Timeless Warmth

Walnut may be woodworkers' most favorite of all the species to work with.  Not only is it a dream to shape, but it’s deep, rich brown color interspersed with an occasional blond streak keeps us coming back for more.  Let this alluring wood draw you in on our Ray Tablet Stand, Mission Firewood Holder, or Traverse Table Lamp.  Walnut’s depth and warmth are calling you.

Ray Tablet Stand
Ray Tablet Stand
Mission Firewood Holder
Mission Firewood Holder
Traverse Table Lamp
Traverse Table Lamp

Introducing the Pontiac Table

Pontiac Table Ciseal

We're so excited to welcome the Pontiac Table to our collection!  We've been designing and prototyping and working out the kinks for months, and it's finally ready for it's big reveal.  This brand new design has captured our hearts with it’s timeless lines, and we’re sure it’s going to be a favorite for years to come.

Pontiac, Michigan
Photo: Metromode
 

The Pontiac Table is named after the city of Pontiac, Michigan.  This city just north of Detroit started as a mill town and then found itself at the center of automotive manufacturing.  Now it’s reinventing itself once again with an emerging art, food and craft beer scene to complement new small businesses that are moving into the beautiful downtown area.  From it’s downtown with it's big city feel to the parks, trails, and lakes on it’s outskirts, Pontiac has a lot to love.

Pontiac Table Ciseal

It seemed fitting to name our new table after this versatile city.  The Pontiac Table is based off of tried and true mid century design elements, and we reinvented the classic look with a bent plywood flair.  The top is hand layered and pressed to shape in-house.  From there, the pieces are carefully trimmed and then joined together with impeccable craftsmanship.  And we couldn’t go wrong with the hand-turned, solid wood, classic mid century tapered legs.  The Pontiac Table fits right at home beside the bed, next to the couch, or between a couple of lounge chairs.  Learn more about the Pontiac Table in our shop and be sure to get one of your own!

Pontiac Table Ciseal

Inspiration Friday: Walt Disney's Original E.P.C.O.T.

The big thinkers of the Mid Century era continue to inspire me in my perspectives on life and work, and one of my biggest inspirations is Walt Disney.  I previously wrote about my fascination with Disney concept artist Herbert Ryman on this blog.  My favorite of Ryman’s work is his concept drawings for Walt Disney’s original E.P.C.O.T. (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) project.  You’re perhaps familiar with Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park, but what many don’t realize is that Epcot started off as a much bigger idea.  

Although what we see on Disney’s Florida property today is a collection of theme parks based off of Disneyland in California, Walt Disney’s original intention was much more than adding some East Coast theme parks to his portfolio.  He wanted to shift the paradigm of urban planning.  Disney’s original EPCOT plan was to create a new Utopian City of Tomorrow.  In The Florida Film, a 24-minute blueprint for his Florida project, Disney said: “By far the most important part of our Florida Project — in fact, the heart of everything we’ll be doing in Disney World — will be our experimental prototype community of tomorrow. We call it EPCOT.”   

EPCOT Concept Art(Photo: theoriginalepcot.com)
 

About his motivation for creating E.P.C.O.T. Walt explained, “I don’t believe there is a challenge anywhere in the world that’s more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities.”  Veteran Disney animator and executive John Hench explained, “Solving the problems of the city obsessed him.  When Walt went to New York, he complained about the noise of garbage cans waking him up in the middle of the night. He thought if you could set an example, people would make changes in their own home town.”

Even in the early 1960s, Walt Disney saw that America’s cities were in need of an upgrade.  Since most Americans in the 1960s were desperately enamored with the automobile, urban planners prioritized projects that would ease the increasing traffic.  Bridges and highways came first with people and neighborhoods relegated to whatever was left of the budget and landscape.  Seeing the cultural and environmental cost associated with more and more concrete, Disney created what has proved to be a forward-thinking strategy that we’re just starting to implement today.  

Rendering of E.P.C.O.T./Progress City
Rendering of E.P.C.O.T./“Progress City” 1965 (Photo: Progress City USA)
 

Disney’s original Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (E.P.C.O.T.) was to be a community of the future that would be a proving ground of new ideas for urban living.  Walt Disney described it like this: “E.P.C.O.T. will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are emerging from the forefront of American industry.  It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed.  It will always be showcasing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems.”  Walt and his Imagineers had learned a great deal about environmental and building architecture in relation to crowds while developing Disneyland, and he wanted to see how those lessons could be applied to cities.

EPCOT Radial Design
EPCOT Radial Design 1966 (Photo: theoriginalepcot)
 

The plan for E.P.C.O.T. was to build a brand new community concept from the ground up.  Taking inspiration to Disney’s clean, controlled environment and layout of Disneyland Park in California, it would be designed in a circular shape with a central hub.  The central hub would be the foundation of the community with business and commercial activities centrally located with easy access via a modern transportation hub.  The main mode of transportation would be Monorails and PeopleMovers, and all automobile traffic would be underground to keep pedestrians safe above ground.  The rest of the community would fan out from the hub like spokes on a wheel.  Community buildings, parks, and schools would fill in the area around the hub.  On the perimeter of the community, suburb-like residential neighborhoods would provide bucolic housing for the 20,000 or so residents.  

EPCOT's Transportation LobbyE.P.C.O.T.’s Transportation Lobby (Photo: Progress City USA)
 
The Greenbelt
The Greenbelt, 1966 (Photo: theoriginalepcot)
 

Sadly, Walt Disney passed away before the Magic Kingdom opened and his vision of E.P.C.O.T was not able to be brought into reality without his continued cultivation.  Some of E.P.C.O.T.’s ideas came to fruition in the theme park that bears it’s name.  Epcot's Future World is filled with futuristic thrill rides which encourage guests to stretch their preconceived notions about transportation, design, science, and the world around us.  The theme park's World Showcase is a slightly altered version of the original E.P.C.O.T. International Shopping District where you can sample food and drink from around the world.  Walt Disney World itself is a testament to Disney’s crowd management and mass transportation ideas with it’s ability to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors each day and efficiently provide transportation, housing and food.

Concept for the “Spanish District” of EPCOT’s International Shopping Center
Concept for the “Spanish District” of EPCOT’s International Shopping Center (Photo: Progress City USA)
 

Disney’s hope was that if the E.P.C.O.T. prototype was successful, it could be replicated in other areas around the country.  Even today, the E.P.C.O.T. concepts are inspiring urban planners and developers who want to make living within a city more efficient and enjoyable.  In Detroit, for instance - a city that’s been very rooted in the automobile culture for decades - we’ve seen an increase in people moving into more urban areas where developers have begun to create little cities within the city.  These little cities create a compact combination residential space, office buildings, hotels, shopping and entertainment districts in one walkable area.  The addition of Detroit's first light rail line is another E.P.C.O.T. concept that promises to ease the traffic getting to and from the city and the outlying suburbs.  So, in many ways, Walt Disney’s vision is being realized still today.

International Shopping Center
International Shopping Center, 1966 (Photo: theoriginalepcot)
 

While the development of the full EPCOT project never came to be, the overarching ideals still ring true today - perhaps more than ever.  The concerns about automobile traffic, land management, and city planning that Walt addressed in the 1960s are still things we’re working to improve on and find solutions for.  It’s exciting to me to see Walt Disney’s ideas being implemented in my hometown to make city life a bit easier and enjoyable today - 50 years after his passing.

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