Posted December 09, 2014
Not too long ago, a trio of chairs from the Rapson Greenbelt Line made the journey from Minneapolis down to the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. Mid2Mod is a relatively recent addition to the scene there, specializing in great vintage furniture, and also the best new designs for the home. Joe Eggleston, pictured below, owns the shop with his wife, Jennifer, and his mother-in-law, Dana, keeps their blog fresh with a bottomless pool of all things mid-century, featuring beautiful photos and articles about the 'greats' and the equally great lesser-known designers from then and now. Dana recently published a lovely article on the watercolors of Ralph Rapson (Travel watercolors, October 18). The detail and life in his sketches never cease to amaze me. I want to thank Joe and Dana for taking time out of their days for this interview. It is always so interesting to hear the personal stories behind people's businesses and passions, so thanks again.
Tell me about Mid2Mod's beginnings. When and how did you get your start in the mid-century modern furniture retail business?
My wife Jennifer, my mother-in-law Dana, and I opened a mid-century booth at an antique mall in early 2010, which turned out to be a time-consuming hobby rather than a profitable business, so when our lease was up in November, we had a huge yard sale and got rid of our inventory. After three grueling days of selling, I looked at my pregnant wife and my exhausted mother-in-law and said, "Be honest. Aren't you going to miss selling mid-century furniture?" At first they thought I was joking, but that very night we started tossing around plans to have a store, and four months later, I quit my job as a data analyst and opened Mid2Mod. What started as a vintage store has grown to include exceptional new furniture too, such as the Rapson-Inc line. One of our goals is to help customers combine the two in their homes to create a unique personal space.
Deep Ellum sounds like a lively artistic neighborhood, and a perfect place to open Mid2Mod. What is it you like most about the area?
What I like most about Deep Ellum is its eclectic nature. There are all types of stores, restaurants and music venues here, and everyone is welcome. I also love the rich history of the neighborhood. It was established as an industrial district in the 1800s and was home to a cotton gin and a Ford automobile plant, but its real claim to fame is its importance as a jazz and blues scene in the 1920s, hosting the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly Ledbetter and Bessie Smith.
In your opinion, what is the most interesting mid-century piece to pass through Mid2Mod's doors?
My favorite piece was a George Nelson Comprehensive Storage System (CSS) wall unit, but Dana would probably say her favorite was an orange daybed by Richard Schultz for Knoll. She was trying to talk herself into buying it, but a customer got there first. She still grieves the loss.
Who is your favorite 20th century designer and why?
Naturally, Ralph Rapson is one of my favorites, which is why I decided to start carrying the line in my store. Another favorite is Poul Kjærholm. I love the simplicity of his design, and the matte finish he used on steel makes his pieces really stand out.
Finally, what do you like about the Rapson-Inc line?
Boomerang for modern, established in 1985, has been a longtime pioneer in the revival of modern design. The shop, in the trendy North Little Italy district of San Diego, is a treasure trove of modern accesories, lighting, art and home furnishing, all arranged in inviting, home-like settings. We are so pleased that Ralph Rapson designs have found a San Diego home here!
Below is a short Q & A with David Skelley, owner of Boomerang for modern and pictured in the last photo. It comes as no surprise that he is just as delightful and sunny as his shop! I agree with David, it really is the people and stories that make modern design so wonderful.
1. It looks like you have been in the modern retail business at Boomerang for nearly 27 years. What initially drew you to mid-century modern design when it wasn't so popular in the 1980s?
In the late seventies an eccentric friend had me over to his home to show me some of his garage sale furniture finds which happened to be mid-century modern. I absolutely loved them. This was new and fascinating to me so for months and months I dove into the design section at the library to find out as much as I could. (pre-internet you know!) I somehow knew this was my calling and there was nothing to be done about it other than to open a small shop and try my hand at selling the stuff. You’re right, the eighties were a hard sell but it eventually caught on. Though I still have people coming into the shop telling me they hear this stuff is “coming back”! -I just agree with them and tell them that it’s been coming back at Boomerang for the last 27 years!
2. What is the most unique/exciting piece to grace your showroom?
Currently it’s hard to choose as so many special pieces have come in over the past couple of months. Though if I’m going to choose it would be an entire dining suite by designer Martin Borenstein for California’s Brown Saltman circa mid-fifties. The series is called “Variations” as the pieces are modular and expandable on demand. The buffet has separate units that are joined by sliding walnut couplers and the dining table has two benches each with three cushions. The center one is removable and the two outer ones can slide inwards to form a two seat bench for when the table isn’t using the leaves. Very ingenious and fun.
3. What do you enjoy most about running your business at Boomerang?
The great designs that flow through the shop are always a joy but really it’s the people. The customers, some of whom are seasoned and knowledgeable collectors and other wide-eyed newcomers who are just discovering this rich era of design. –And the amazing people I buy from. Most happen to be the original owners who happened to be quite progressive in their day and their stories add so much color, depth and even passion to each item!
4. How long have you had the Rapson Rockers on display in your showroom?
I have had the Rapson rockers in my showroom since their reintroduction starting with the Bentwood rocker and now I have low back and high back Greenbelt rockers in the showroom.
5. What types of response have you gotten from customers?
Nothing but high praise. I have a couple who own a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house very interested in my high back as these chairs were specified for some of his homes.
6. What do you personally like about the Rapson Rocker? What’s NOT to like?
They are stunning and sculptural from every angle. They are beautifully crafted and solid as a rock. The joinery and upholstery attention to detail are perfect. Plus they fit the human anatomy and rock like the dickens!
7. Have you long been an admirer of Rapson architecture and design? If so, what do you like about it and which projects are your favorites?
When I first became interested in this period of architecture and design I discovered the “Case Study House” program and Rapson’s delightful Greenbelt House. But what I really got a kick out of were his super amusing hand drawn illustrations with crazy looking people and animals doing crazy modern things in their Rapson designed homes.
We would like to extend a most sincere thank you to David for taking time to write such wonderful and entertaining responses for this interview. I will surely write a post about Ralph Rapson's wildly inventive drawings, but for the meantime, some of his best known drawings can be found in the books, Ralph Rapson: Sketches and Drawings from Around the World and Ralph Rapson: 60 Years of Modern Design.
Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc.
Posted December 09, 2014
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