Posts Tagged ‘room divider’

Furniture makers of Middle Earth

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Todd Merrell Antiques, magazine ad

Every time I see this Todd Merrell Antiques magazine ad, which I find weirdly compelling, I invariably end up at his website and am suddenly transported into some dark Middle Earth underworld, where I feel I might be asked to retrieve an amulet with the help of a talking dog with eyes as big as saucers or something. Normally, dark, blocky, pseudo-primitive  furniture doesn’t appeal to me, but this particular antiques dealer collects pieces that are so well-made, so uniformly amazing, so farfetched, and – despite their number and diversity – so consistent in their level of fantasy, that I find it hard to resist any of them. Of course none of these objects is the slightest bit affordable. But together they point to something really funny about the early 70s – something that perhaps had its roots in the 50s or earlier – that brought together vague tribal fantasies, Middle Ages sci-fi, Beowulf, some sort of odd minimalist baroque, the rustic, the pagan and the just plain weird. Maybe what’s appealing about the dark, fantastical solidity of this stuff is that it’s a welcome relief from the relative spindliness and occasional prissiness of all those Danish teak settee legs and arms, or from the over-hygiene of minimalism, I don’t know. But these objects undoubtedly originate in some sort of rebellion against the disenchantment of a tamed machine-age aesthetic. I think that everyone, especially every midcentury-modern purist and every fussy 60s minimalist, desperately needs one mad, pagan piece of furniture, just to work against whatever it is you’ve got going on, and also, you know, to open an enchanted portal into the underworld. Details and many more pieces on Flickr.

Lounge Chair and Ottoman with street lamp, Jack Rogers Hopkins

The chair above includes lamp, bookshelf, ottoman, heads of deer to rest your hands upon, as well as dominion over a mountain forest kingdom.

Rocking Chair by Jack Rogers Hopkins - lo res

And for your queen, this rocker. (Both wooden chairs above are by Jack Rogers Hopkins, USA, 1970s.)

Paul Evans Paste Console

A bronze wall-mounted chest by Paul Evans, USA, 1969, provides storage for vintage board games, 1970s Playboys, your fur cape, bottles of mead, your sword, whatever.

Sculpture Front Console, signed, Paul Evans. USA 1968

If I had the Paul Evans credenza above, I’d store the anti-Voldemort amulets (the ones my nephew requires to go to sleep) in it.

Serving Cabinet / Bar by Phillip Lloyd Powell

Forget Narnia! This wardrobe opens onto candlelit forest groves full of bacchanalian dancing all night long, and no martyr-y lions. Serving Cabinet, Phillip Lloyd Powell, 1960’s, USA

Pair of Room Dividers by Monteverdi Young 1950's, USA
Pair of Room Dividers by Monteverdi Young, 1950’s, USA


Exeunt all, through the doorway to Valhalla.

DIY: paint your linoleum floor white

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

East Van apartment,

East Van apartment,

When I moved into this typical 1930s apartment in Vancouver’s east side in 1999, the first thing I did was paint over the kitchen’s dingy gold linoleum flooring. The linoleum was the worst thing about that apartment. Everyone always says not to paint linoleum – or any surface you walk on, for that matter – but the painted floor turned out to be durable, easy to deal with and gave me no end of pleasure. You would think a white floor would really show the dirt, but it didn’t seem to (partly because I rarely wore shoes in the apartment, out of deference to my downstairs neighbour), and the glossy painted finish was way easier to clean than the scuffed, dirt-attracting lineolum had been. You can see the old linoleum below (along with some fake protest signs made by an artist friend):

East Van apartment, kitchen

It’s ridiculously easy to do: Degrease the floor as much as you can, either with a proper degreasing liquid or just some strong soap, let it fully dry and then sand the linoleum thoroughly. 80 or 100 grit is fine – you can go finer but avoid anything finer than 150 because the grit does tend to clog a bit. Buy a couple of cans of a tough, dedicated floor paint. Most paint companies carry floor paint, but I got mine from Home Depot – I can’t remember the brand but it was water-based, not too smelly, and could be tinted any colour you wanted. I used a semi-gloss pure designer white. Between coats and when recoating, make sure you only walk on it in white socks, and follow the recoat times to the letter. Before moving heavier items back in, wait a week while the paint hardens. I didn’t want to move the fridge, so I just painted around (and under) it.

East Van apartment, kitchen

The result was quite interesting, because the texture of the lineoleum showed through in a pleasing way (see photo with the vacuum cleaner). The white floor made it feel much more mod in there, which was was great because all the pieces of furniture I owned back then were dingy antiquey items I ended up with when my grandfather’s house was sold. As an aside, that interesting corner cabinet in the kitchen was a typical old Vancouver cold cellar – these were cooled by a vent to the outside and were meant for storing vegetables and cheese etc. Apartment kitchens from this era also frequently had hot water tanks in plain view, because these were added later. Hence the homemade birch screen below, which is a 5’x5′ sheet of Baltic birch cut in equal thirds, sanded and finished with varathane, and then re-assembled with two long piano hinges. All together, this doesn’t amount to a proper kitchen renovation, but it was a cheap cosmetic fix that made the apartment feel a lot nicer. The whole job cost about $200 if you include the birch screen.

East Van apartment, kitchen

East Van apartment, kitchen

Pole shelving – turn this ugly example into something better

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

60s DIY bookshelf/room divider

Yet another 60s DIY project from The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement, Greystone Press, 1970. While the bookshelf directly above is cringe-worthy (almost in the “so bad it’s good” category, but not quite), it could be very mod if it were updated and re-made properly with more attractive materials. One advantage of pole shelving is that unlike wall-mounted shelving (previous post), you can bring it out from the wall and let it function as a room divider. If you do want to place it against a wall, the fact that it is anchored from floor to ceiling means that you don’t have to screw into the wall, either when you’re not allowed to alter the wall in a rental, or when your plaster wall is disintegrating and too weak to support heavy shelves. See some pole-mounted cado-style shelving here. The trick is to figure out how to anchor your poles—once you’ve done that, suspending the shelves is easy and there are many ways to do it. Some Apartment Therapy tips here and we found a blog called Pole Shelving which shows a number of styles and provides many links to tutorials. Below, from Time Life: aluminum poles used as room divider in New York apartment, has three pole shelves held on by clamps. Taken in December 1953 by photographer Peter Stackpole, the bookshelf cost $142.50 at the time and were made by a company called Polecats Inc. Rakks and ISS are two big current suppliers of these systems. But somehow the 50s example has a bit more style.

Time Life pole shelving, 1953 by Polecats

Click below for a similar project but that uses boxes rather than flat boards, and comes with excellent DIY instructions.



Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Softwall, flexible room divider by Molo Design

Just a few blocks up the road from my studio is the workshop of Vancouver’s Molo Design. You’ve probably seen their accordioning softseating or their softwall room dividers which are now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. A few times a week Molo’s unmarked shopfront morphs into a new fantastical environment while they test or photograph new pieces, and I always check it as I go by. You can see the shopfront window below. Molo’s pieces are pretty environmentally friendly, hold up well and are some of the most beautiful room dividers I’ve ever seen, in white and now in kraft paper as well. The kraft paper walls are here, and Molo also does beautiful double-walled glassware.

Molo Design, softseating and softwall

Molo Design, softseating and softwall

Molo white softwall

1960s DIY projects – geometric wall treatment, vertical lanterns

Monday, January 12th, 2009

60s DIY relief wall treatment

Here are two quite beautiful DIY projects from the 60s, both found in The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement, Greystone Press, 1970. Most of what you find in the book is a bit kitschy, but these two ideas seemed brilliant. The instructions are a little minimal, but a pair of fairly resourceful people could probably figure them out. Caption for the white relief wall treatment above: “Cover a wall with lattice molding. Between two 1x2s, space as many strips of lath as you need and nail them in place. Cut a diagonal strip at top and a circle in the middle. Nail and cement the lath to the wall, but slightly offset the sections. Paint the entire surface in flat white.”

60s DIY lamp made from bamboo lanterns

This lamp is attractive, and with the new LED Christmas light strings, it would be easy to make without threat of burning the rice paper. These lampshades are cheap to buy, but the effect when they’re strung together is more than the sum of its parts. “Paper lampshades come in a multitude of shapes and sizes – here we have a cylinder, an oblate spheroid, and globes in three sizes. This cheap but glamorous installation was made by sewing the shades together with wire wrapped around the wood frames. Illumination is provided by a Christmas tree light string carrying small frosted bulbs of low wattage.”

Wooden pony walls.

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008


Dordogne farmhouse from The Style Files

Dordogne farmhouse from The Style Files, pony wall

Bed/pony wall combo, photo by Edina van der Wyck

Granted these are already amazing spaces, but wooden pony walls can work in smaller spaces also. They divide up space, provide housing for pipes and wiring (and even storage), and warm up the room considerably. Farmhouse in the Dordogne from the Style Files; red bed/pony wall combination by photographer Edina van der Wyck.