19 February 2010

Modernism everywhere

Last week, I had clients in town looking for a condominium with ocean views.

At the second appointment, the listing Realtor showed us her father’s place; dad wants to move in with his family. A nice apartment with good ocean views from every room. 

When we walked into the second bedroom, we stepped into a time bubble. The room was completely wallpapered in grass-cloth; it looked fabulous.

The agent opened a cabinet door of a big old wall-unit, and very sweetly explained that she had promised dad to show us his built-in bar.

There it was, complete as when he set it up: liquor bottles, slightly blind-looking glasses, old-fashioned stirrers, cocktail napkins. All a bit dusty, all there. I wasn’t the only one who felt dad’s presence and the spirit of the room; we quipped that it was time to play a Rat-Pack LP, sit down and enjoy a whiskey sour.

Later that day in Fort Lauderdale, we entered another condominium, owned by Canadians who haven’t used the place enough to justify keeping it. They furnished it when they bought it, and have not updated anything since.

And that made it a modernist’s dream. Little swiveling red club-chairs, lucite, chrome-and-glass tables, a squarish yellow sofa. Incredible. I had to bite my lip not to ask if I could buy some of the furniture right off the spot. But that’s not really professional, so I kept my mouth shut and biting my lip instead.

More showings the next day – and that sound again, the one you only hear when being transmogrified. It happened, innocently enough, in a bathroom.

I beamed from ear to ear entering the bathroom and seeing this wallpaper, but then cringed, thinking about a buyer remodeling the place and ripping out a precious detail like this. Sigh.

As a Realtor, you can’t really walk around asking sellers to sell only to certain types of buyers. But I sure felt like it: Please sell only to folks who appreciate late 50’s wallpaper, 60’s club-chairs and grass-cloth. And who promise to leave them intact.

For those of us who love and appreciate mid-century modernism, sometimes you can stumble across it everywhere – if we just open our eyes. And to us, it’s worth saving.

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