As the weather warms I’ve become anxious to set off and peddle wares at a regional show or two; at the very least I need to make the weekly trips into Georgetown for the flea market there. This set me to thinking about the DC Big Flea. It happens mid March and although I missed it this year we managed to make it in last year.
The setup was a variety of modern house wares and furniture. As it came together I started to see a style/ theme that didn’t have an explicit name. The tried and tested names associated with modern furnishings lacked a descriptive quality I was looking for. The inventory assembled for the show weren’t the high end designer pieces that are associated with Mid Century Modern. That style is divorced from much of the ornament and decorative flourish found on earlier styles. It veers toward abstraction with a greater importance placed on planar surfaces, minimalistic curves or angles and linear repetition.
Atomic modern is a way of decorating and encasing consumer goods and mechanical contrivances that evokes speed and futurism; think the fins from a ’50’s Cadillac wrapped around your vacuum cleaner. The shapes and imagery of Atomic Mod reveal the optimistic feelings towards then new technology and materials ultimately driving our lives towards greater comfort and mobility. There is some blur in from late Deco into Atomic Mod as the plasticity of newly developed materials created an emphasis on futurism in form.
And finally, Maximalism or as it is more widely known, Hollywood Regency. I’ve learned less about this but from what I’ve seen, there is a dramatic and eclectic inclusion of styles, materials and forms. The furniture is a mash-up of Mid Century with revivals from styles like Gothic and Baroque. The materials are sumptuous and the scale is often grand. There is significant attention paid to pattern, repetition and contrast.
Just these three styles encompass quite a bit but failed to encapsulate the small collection of inventory in the show. Farmhouse Mid Century, in my formulation, is an eclectic style. It is primarily house wares and domestic affects, there is an emphasis on objects that will be both used and appreciated aesthetically. The forms are simple, with plenty of influence from Mid Century and Atomic, almost like if you set out to make primitives in these style. These are the economically and stylistically more accessible pieces from those modern movements. These are the more humble and less exclusive younger siblings or the country cousins. They may be less sophisticated but really know how to roll up their sleeves and work. At the same time there is a naivety that comes through with the bright and upbeat colors. Nostalgia and Americana are important and kitsch peppers this style as well. The shapes and forms don’t ignore pre-modern styles. Elements from the past and modernism may be found in the same piece.
Farmhouse Mid Century is about economy, utility and a simple joy found within the larger spectrum of Modernist design. Head out to your local flea market and you’re bound to find it in the making; accessible and often low key. But with a little cultivation Farmhouse Mid Century is thoroughly enjoyable and useful.