It only takes so much as a day in Palm Springs, a pass over Laurel Canyon or a drive along the Silver Lake Reservoir to know that modernism is a way of life in Southern California. From the home of Charles and Ray Eames nestled away in Pacific Palisades to the case study homes of Pasadena and beyond, the streamlined ease of modern architecture inseparably complements our varied and diverse local landscapes. Modern lines are the Southern Californian road map to coasting through our day with that sense of exhale and ease we Californians are so well-known for.
Adding to the daily immersion that we experience as residents of this modernist mega-culture, we’re also about to be served an additional dose of interior design eye candy. The AMC original series Mad Men is making its much anticipated return to our television screens on March 25 for Season 5, and each time I turn on my television I can already feel an impermeable sense of furniture envy setting in.
Fortunately, that Don Draper look is available at all price points. There’s certainly no shortage of options to choose from when it comes to adorning our own homes in this timeless and culturally representative style. If you want the tried-and-true mid-century pieces from their original manufacturers, you can always go straight to the sourceby heading to Jules Seltzer Associates on Beverly Boulevard. If affordability and convenience are also a part of your palette, you can tap into the offerings put forth by CB2. If you enjoy the hunt, you need only head to the monthly Rose Bowl swap meet, which is notorious for its modern furniture offerings (those who arrive early have first pick, but the admission price is higher). It’s as though our blacktopped highways also serve as a yellow brick road to the land of modernism for all.
Need help sorting through options? Enter local interior designers Brian Patrick Flynn and Christian May. With their keen eye and shopping expertise, each designer has taken the time to point out a few favorite pieces that represent L.A.’s history of modernism, while also offering up helpful tips for longevity and value.
Christian May is an L.A.-based interior designer and the author of lifestyle blog Maison21: Decorative but not
Serious. He likes his lighting dim and his men bright. He can be found at maison21.com.
The Egg Chair
$800 (reproduction) - $6,000 (original)
This might be my favorite chair of all time. It was designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958, but over 50 years later it still looks like it came from the future. You can get the real deal for about $6,000 from the Republic of Fritz Hansen (the original manufacturer), or you can buy one of many reproductions online for $800-1,200. You could save money by buying one of the less expensive reproductions and then splurge a bit by having it recovered in a cool print for a one-of-a-kind look.
The “Smart Round Marble-Top Coffee Table” by CB2
“I love this table! It’s of contemporary design, but the marble top and chrome base give it the look of a mid-century modern classic, similar to iconic pieces by Florence Knoll. I recommend it all the time to clients, because it looks way more expensive than it actually is, and its rounded shape and just right size make it perfect for tight quarters.
Treluci Piccolo Black Floor Lamp by Sonneman
This lamp is based on a mid-century modern classic, but has been updated a bit for modern living. It retails for about $1,400 (at Lamps Plus), which might seem a bit of a splurge for a lamp, but since it is both a sculpture and a functional accessory, it gives a major amount of look in return.
Brian Patrick Flynn
Designer Brian Patrick Flynn is known for his work with residential interiors as well as production design. Based in Atlanta and L.A., Flynn is also the design producer for the hit HGTV reality/competition series HGTV Design Star and the creator/writer of the popular design blog Decor Demon. Brian’s spaces are characterized by their unexpected use of color, masculine details and mashup of traditional and mid-century styles.
George Nelson Saucer Pendant
“When it comes to lighting, I almost always prefer one-of-a-kind, vintage or custom lighting, but my one exception to the rule is a brand-spankin’-new Nelson pendant. To me, the Nelson pendant is kinda like Sandra Bullock—regardless of personal taste, everyone loves it, wants to be friends with it and would warmly welcome it into their home.”
Saarinen Executive Chair From Knoll Studio
“When I first bought my house in Atlanta, I obsessed over having Saarinen Executive Chairs from Knoll in my dining room. After two years, I finally scored some and had them recovered in a violet-toned Knoll boucle. I love them so much that I’ve eaten dinner on them zero times. Some may call that weird, but I call it responsible.”
Emeco Navy Chair
“Since my overall design aesthetic leans toward masculine, I tend to use the Emeco Navy chair a lot. So much so that I have 26 of them in my storage unit. I think they’re a brilliant investment because they are lightweight, work well in many different settings—plus the new 111 Navy Chair is an eco-friendly, plastic version that just happens to come in the most perfect shade of red ever.”