Retro Renovation Talks about Mid-Century Modest

Pam from Retro Renovation makes an appearance on Etsy's blog to talk about mid-century modest (video above, but the article is worth reading too). She talks about her mid-century kitchen renovation, affordability (much easier with mid-century modest) and adding those special details to a room. And we all know it's about the details.

A friendly reader pointed out that those using an RSS reader can't see the video. It's something weird with and I can't figure out how to make it show up. You can check it out here though.

Mid-Century Modern Retirement

A friend sent me this fueledbycoffee cartoon a few days ago and it's starting to make appearances on a lot of the mid-century modern blogs I read. Figured I should share it too in case you haven't see it yet.

Mid-Century Neighborhoods in Austin: Highland

Highland, Austin TX
There isn't much information to be found about the Highland neighborhood, but we did consider it when we were looking for a mid-century home so I felt it should be added to the list of mid-century neighborhoods in Austin. As our real estate agent put it, "it has the style of home you're looking for (mid-century) in a neighborhood that hasn't been found by everyone else yet." A lot of people might consider Highland a bit rough around the edges right now, but it's fairly family friendly and getting friendlier. And generally, mid-century homes are a little cheaper in Highland than in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Highland is directly north of the Northfield neighborhood (aka North Loop), which is one of the best spots for vintage shopping in Austin, and east of Brentwood. It shares a lot connections with Brentwood, including a combined neighborhood plan.

Housing Data From the 2000 census
Total housing units: 7,081
Homes built between 1940 and 1959: 1,142 (16.3%)
Median housing value: $89,300
Median mortgage: $887
Household population: 17,790
Average household size: 2.59
Average family size: 3.47
Owner-occupied housing: 66.2%
Renter-occupied housing: 33.8%
Median age: 27.1

Highland Neighborhood Association

Mid-Century Shopping in Austin

I put together a list of some of my favorite vintage stores in Austin, TX. If you're in town, you should check them out. If you go on a weekend, you'll probably see me there. Happy hunting.

Mid-Century Door Knob Advertisement

When I was looking for answers to the latest reader question about mid-century door knobs, I came across the above advertisement for Schlage backplates. It's a great reference for the type of mid-century door knobs you should/could put in each. The Schlage Astra on top of a brushed chrome circular backplate is really interesting.

There's also some great ideas for front door colors for those looking to add pop while looking to use authentic mid-century exterior colors.

Mid-Century Austin Find: Vintage Credenza

I'm not in the market for another mid-century sideboard, we already have three. But if I was, this one would make a nice addition to the collection. I haven't priced vintage credenzas in a while, but if this is in as good condition as it looks, it's also reasonably priced.

Mid-Century Door Knob Question

One of our readers has a question about mid-century Schlage backplates.
I'm a big fan of mid-century modern and love all the beautiful treasures you blog about. I'm in Los Angeles and in the process of house shopping. A few mid-century homes are at the top of my list and I'm already planning to decorate in true retro style. I bought two of these backplates on eBay (they're brand-new old stock from Schlage).

I plan to use them on interior doors. My question is, what type of doorknobs fit these? The inner circle is about 1".

-Herbert E.
Hi Herbert. Looks like what you have there is a Schlage Astra escutcheon in polished brass.

I've only ever seen this mid-century backplate with one door knob, both in mid-century door knob ads and in real life. Which made me wonder if there's a reason for that.

From the research I've done, it looks like this design is actually a piece of a mid-century door knob set, not an ornamental adornment like most backplates or escutcheons.

Most backplates sit behind the door knob and aren't actually part of the set, which means you can use pretty much any door knob, vintage or modern. That doesn't appear to be the case with the Schlage Astra. That's why is has a 1" circle with threads, the knob actually screws into escutcheon. Here's a close up photo of the knob and backplate together.

Photo from: Eureka Modern

This is going to limit you to what knobs you can use with this backplate. They're going to have to have the right threads and the right width to screw into the Schlage Astra. You're best bet would be to track down the original door knob that went along with this set, but that could take a lot of looking. If you have a helpful door and/or hardware store in the area, they might be able to help you find a modern fit. It never hurts to go in and talk to them about it. I've found that most local places or small shops love seeing vintage items and are happy to help you try to make them work.

The fact that you're planning to use these on interior doors might give you a few more options, since the knob won't have to fit perfectly for security reasons. In theory you could tack or glue the backplate to the door itself and use any door knob with a 1" center and enough width to clear the added bulk of the escutcheon.

If you able to find a modern door knob that will work with it, you'll need a 5" backset adapter because the Schlage Astra backplate is 7" tall by 4 3/8" wide.

Hope that helps.

If you have a question about anything mid-century, send them to and I'll do my best to answer them for you.

Room Service Vintage, Austin, TX

Photo by: Dan Machold

One of my favorite vintage stores in Austin, Room Service Vintage, received a write up in Impact News. Besides being a nice little read about a great local store, there are some very telling quotes within the article.

According to Room Service's store manager, “Austin’s a tough place to find resale stuff anymore, so we have to find it ourselves — my husband and I are taking a trip to go to Minnesota.”

And, "We get customers that come in two or three times a week because they see how quickly we move stuff around. The store is like a treasure hunt for a lot of people.”

I can attest to that last bit, Room Service Vintage is like a wonderful treasure hunt. And when you see something you like, you should buy it right away. I'm still kicking myself for not purchasing a love seat that I loved but needed a day to think about; it was gone when I went back.

Other point of note, Room Service Vintage is starting a frequent shopper program that will offer rewards to returning customers. I'll have to stop in and get my card soon.

Curb Appeal for a Mid-Century Ranch Home

Retro-Luxe recently used Curb Appeal Concepts, and after digging around their site for some curb appeal tips for my mid-century home, I came across this wonderful quote:
Ranch homes were specifically designed without adornment. Their color schemes should reflect the more subdued colors found to blend in with natural surroundings. Usually only one trim and one body color are warranted, with perhaps a third color used sparingly, if at all. The front door steps back demurely from the view of the street. The end result should be a palette of ecologically inspired, low-key hues.

Drama, interest and individuality are expressed in artful, well-tended landscaping. The elongated house is but a quiet backdrop. Nature and people are the main characters in a predominantly Ranch neighborhood, not the houses themselves.

It's just as wonderful a concept now as it was then.
I think that's the perfect way to express the concept of a mid-century ranch home. And it falls exactly in line with what I found for authentic mid-century ranch exterior colors. Sadly, it's what Curb Appeal Concepts has to tell clients who own mid-century ranch-style homes who don't want to live in mid-century ranch homes (who are these people?).

Lucky for us, it falls in with our exact idea of how we're going to paint our house. We picked final colors this weekend. Now that the hard work, of picking colors, is over we need to get to the actual work, of painting.

Multi-Colored Pendant Light

A while back I was obsessing about 50s style diner pendant lights (or dive bar lights depending on your point of reference). I was looking for the style of light pictured above and couldn't find anything. I should have known that Retro Revolution would have the answer. The exact light I had in mind was the Moe Light Fiesta multi-colored pendant light in red, orange and yellow. Fellow nerds will know it as the lights that they had in the bar on Scrubs.

However, my better half pointed out that if you hang a pendant light in an area that was formally a formal dining room, people will expect you to put a table under it. That, or you should expect people to bump their heads on it. So my obsession with finding a multi-colored pendant light is over. However it looks like Moe Light made a Fiesta hall light too.

How Livable is a Modern House?

Idea House II from "McCall's Book of Modern Houses" (1951)
Designed by William Friedman and Hilde Reiss with architect Malcolm Lien

A great little story from an old Life, "How Livable is a Modern House?" Spoiler alert: very.

Some great photos of a modern home, the Idea House II, and an interesting read on how the "average" mid-century family felt about the new design and furniture movements coming at them.

Mid-Century Typography

I'm an advertising copywriter by day, so typography is important to me. I'm terrible at it, but luckily I work with some extremely talented graphic designers in Austin who are able to make my words look pretty.

If you're like me, your love of mid-century design has more than once led you to say, "that's a really neat font, you don't see that around anymore." Well, a new blog is out there to help you find that font, Mid-Century Modern Typefaces Identified. It's a blog that gives you what it promises with its name.

Mid-Century Modern Studios

I'm happy to say that Austin is home to a lot of great independent companies and many of them tie into the modern design and mid-century design and aesthetic that I love. I'm sad that I didn't know about Kanga Room Systems till I read about them on Apartment Therapy. Don't know about Kanga either? Here's how they describe themselves on their site:
Kanga Room Systems, Inc. is North America’s premier designer and manufacturer of revolutionary, high quality, prefabricated wood product kits for stand-alone outdoor rooms and accessory structures used for home, ranch, business, and industrial sites. We feature a variety of cabins, sheds, studios, add-on rooms, storage, and children's playhouses, and playrooms available as build-it-yourself prefabricated kits or we'll assemble it for you with our premium installation services.
The short of it is, they make really neat backyard studios and play houses for kids. I'd love to give the little one this modern play house.

Kent Coffey Perspecta Dining Table

Mr. Modtomic sure knows his stuff. He commented that my last mid-century Austin find might not be a knock off Broyhill Brasilia dining table, but might be a true blue Kent Coffey Perspecta dining table.

I can't find any images of a Perspecta dining table, so I can't confirm. But the look is spot on. It wouldn't surprise me if on the bottom of this table (which is somehow still for sale on craigslist) you found a Kent Coffey maker's mark.

Now I have to go do some more research on the Perspecta line because I'm quickly falling in love with it.

Mid-Century Austin Find: Knock Off Broyhill Brasilia Round Table

This table for sale on Austin craigslist is not a Broyhill Brasilia Round Table with pedestal base, but it had me fooled for a second. This is what a Broyhill Brasilia round dining table looks like: it has a split so you can add leaves and the swoops are closer to the ground. But, even knowing this table isn't the real Broyhill deal, it's still a gorgeous table at a decent price.

The Cult of the Modern Office Chair

I'll be honest, I think a lot of people put too much emphasis on office chairs. Sure, you sit there all day and they should be comfortable, but, for some, it becomes almost a fetish. That being said, when a modern chair includes "according to Herman Miller, the most complex part that they have every built in their 80 year history," I'm at least interested. Enter the SAYL chair:

From the Herman Miller UK site:
Good design and comfort should be available to everyone, everywhere, its human nature to seek lWe asked designer Yves Béhar to design a highly affordable chair that would incorporate everything Herman Miller is known for—innovative design, leading ergonomics, quality engineering, and environmental stewardship. Béhar, who calls San Francisco home, began by looking at designs that deliver the most with the least. And then he took a look at his city's best-known landmark: the Golden Gate Bridge.

This was the inspiration for Béhar and the design of SAYL. He used the principles of bridging to carry heavy loads and applied this to his design. By using a suspension tower to support an unframed back it would reduce materials, weight, and environmental impact. The flexible elastomer suspension material could be stretched in a way that provided the greatest tension at points where support is needed and the least in areas that would allow for the most expansive range of motion.

So why "SAYL", rather than, say, "Bridge"? The side view will show you where this name came from. As you can see the chair resembles a full mainsail, reflecting the sailing vessels that pass under the Golden Gate Bridge. Replacing the "i" in "sail" with a "y" is a nod to the innovative Y-Tower structure of the work chair.
I'll probably never own one, but I will admit it is really pretty.

Mid-Century Suitcase as Decoration

I like using everyday items as unexpected design details. For example, we're using this beautiful red mid-century American Tourister hardshell suitcase as a design element by our front door. It reminds me how important travel is to my life and adds a nice splash of color to an otherwise boring corner of the house.

The inside is just as pretty.

Modern Outdoor Patio Furniture

One of the goals on our to-do list is to turn the carport into an outdoor living area. It should be pretty easy to do: install a fan, buy some new patio furniture, maybe an outdoor rug and call it a day. Well, we got one of those steps done. We picked up the West Elm Tillary sofa, ottoman and corner piece, and it should be a perfect fit for under our carport; after I spend a few hours putting it all together that is.

There were a few other modern patio furniture sets that we considered, that might be a better fit for your space:

The Havana sectional from CB2 was a close second

The Wood Slate seating collection, also from West Elm, has a nice, clean look to it

The Naples 7-piece patio furniture set from Overstock is OK, but we wanted something that didn't look like wicker

Same goes for the Savannah patio furniture set at Costco

The Red Star Traders Cantina set at All Modern is pretty swanky, but we really wanted something with a sofa

Picking Authentic Exterior Colors for Our Mid-Century Ranch

Decisions, decisions. We have narrowed down our exterior paint colors to a select few. After looking into authentic mid-century exterior paint colors we decided to go with a blue door - we'll install a new door and fit it with a Crestview Doors Westhaven kit.

And we've narrowed down the field of gray to a select two. We'll be putting one of them on most of the trim on the house. I think what we're going to do at this point is get sample cans of each and see them on a larger scale, without totally committing. That way we can get it right on the first try and hopefully never have to paint again.

Awesome Austin-Made Address Numbers

There's no question that Eames house numbers would be a lovely addition to any home, but I wanted to give a little local love to a couple of people who are making equally interesting address numbers.

Modplexi address plaques come in a wide range of colors (red, orange, yellow, blue, light blue, coke bottle green, green, black, brown, grey and clear) and can be made to hang verticle or horizontal. A few of my neighbors have Modplexi address numbers and they look pretty spectacular next to any door.

Austin Outdoor Studio makes house numbers out of 1/4" hot rolled steel, which will quickly develop a deep rust brown patina. The plaques can be created in a variety of fonts and have studs on the back for easy attachment to a home.

Neutra and Eames House Numbers

I first mentioned Neutra and Eames house numbers a while back, and if you've been patiently waiting to pick some up, today is the day you've been waiting for. Heath Ceramics is going to start selling the Neutra and Eames house numbers today.

We're still planning on a more Eichler house number look, but I can see these Eames address numbers being a nice addition to any home.