Vintage Views: A Modern Line

This time on Vintage Views, we talk with David Call, owner of A Modern Line. A Modern Line is a mid-century modern furniture and mid-century art store in the Historic District of Tampa, FL. And David has probably forgotten more about Heywood-Wakefield than I'll ever know.

Tell us a little about A Modern Line. How do you get started in the MCM game?
A Modern Line specializes in all things mid-century, pretty much across the spectrum. We tend to focus a little more on affordability over high-end, designer-attributable pieces, although we still find some real jems here and there.

Being born in the '50s, there's always been a bit of nostalgia for what surrounded me growing up. Although my family home was pretty traditionally furnished, my aunt and uncle always owned ranch homes that were impeccably decorated with the latest styles.]

It was a combination of that and meeting my wife, who has been in the vintage clothing and collectible business forever. Her brick and mortar store's 15th anniversary is coming up soon and she has been instrumental getting A Modern Line off the ground. I had a lot of pieces that I'd refinished and rehabilitated as a hobby that were stacking up faster than we could sell them through my wife's store, so it just made sense to move in this direction.

You recently refocused your efforts to solely to mid-century, under the new store name of A Modern Line. How's that adjustment going? 
We originally opened in January of 2011 with a partner that was a professional interior designer and were under the banner of Kaleidoscope for the Home. Although we carried a lot of mid-century and there was a good response, the store was getting a bit too cluttered and I felt it was hurting sales. MCM needs some space to display it correctly, without being overdone. 

We split our partnership in January 2012 and re-opened under A Modern Line in February and the response has been great. The overall feel of the store is a lot cleaner and more stripped down than before, and customers know what to expect when they walk in the door. It's certainly been a draw for customers, sellers and consignors.

Do you have a specialty within mid-century, or do you buy/sell anything mid-century?
Although I specialize in Heywood-Wakefield Modern Line furniture we have some of everything in the store, even a few modern pieces that work well with our regular inventory, although I try to keep them to a minimum. Every time period from the the late '40s through the early '70s has it's own following and we try to keep a nice mix in house. We decorate in different vignettes around the store and pull together pieces and accesories accordingly.

You also offer refinishing and rehab services. How and why did you start offering those services?
My Heywood-Wakefield passion started about 11 years ago when I purchased a Heywood-Wakefield dining table and four chairs and inquired about having it refinished by a (supposed) Heywood-Wakefield specialist. I almost fell over on the price quoted and decided I would give it a shot myself. 

It turned out to be a big learning curve, very labor intensive and I didn't have access to the correct finishes. I was also working with very limited tools, just an old electric pad sander and hand tools. But it turned out pretty well and we sold it quickly in my wife's store for a nice profit. 

I fell in love with the construction and quality of the pieces and how simply and efficiently they were made. Since that starting point, I've accumulated all the tools needed to make the process as easy as possible and, just as importantly, the correct finishes. I've come miles in experience since that first attempt.

I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not a full-blown professional refinisher and I'm careful how I pick my battles, especially with customers pieces. However, I'll happily take on any Heywood-Wakefield problem pieces as I've been able to save some very badly abused candidates.

Do you have a favorite finish in general? And with Heywood Wakefield, are you a wheat or champagne man?
I love all the darker mid-century walnut veneers and you can't beat a nice, vintage, Danish-oiled teak.

I personally like the champagne finish on Heywood-Wakefield a little better than the wheat, and it tends to sell a bit better too. But I have customers who are big wheat fans and don't care for the champagne. I normally only offer the wheat and champagne finishes for Heywood-Wakefield, however I have redone some pieces in darker finishes at customers' request. I do advise them before refinishing that this is not going to help the resale value if they intend to ever resell the piece.

And speaking of your masterful refinishing jobs, any tips for someone trying to get a scratch out of their favorite piece?
It's difficult to just touch up most pieces of Heywood-Wakefield; most need a complete refinish to bring them back to life. If indeed you have a piece of Heywood-Wakefield that is in really good condition except for a couple of minor scratches then I would recommend one of the lighter Restor-A-Finish products.

I'm also a big fan of Howards products for DIY projects that just need a little cleaning up. I've used their products for years and we sell them here at the store. I also utilize furniture touch up markers for light spots, they are available from many sources, but I personally use Mohawk products.

Where do you find most of your furniture and how often do you get new things in?
I don't get out to the estate or auctions, although I know a lot of dealers that work these venues to pick up some nice pieces. Most of the better deals I end up buying come from individuals walking through either my or my wife's door. I also have pickers that come to me with a deal from time to time that I find hard to pass up.

I will check the local Craigslist periodically if I need something more specific and we do get out to the thrifts and antique malls from time to time.

Have any tips or secrets for people doing their own hunting at estate sales, etc?
Educate yourself on what your looking for. If you don't know what you're looking for, you'll never find it.

Although I can't speak to estate sales or auctions, I'll offer two tips that may seem a bit obvious (even though no one in this business gives away their best connections):

  1. If you're hunting your local Craigslist postings, you'll find the bargains generically listed and not under a MCM listing.
  2. Antique malls can produce some really nice finds, as true antique dealers have little love for MCM items and want to move them.

What's your favorite piece that you've had in the store?
That's a tough one to answer. Several of the Heywood-Wakefield pieces and a couple of the Aritocrat sofas. A GE Granville low-profile console stereo in working condition. But, close to the top of the list, a pair of locally made Foster-McDavid scoop chairs from the 60s with matching ottomans that I had rehabbed. 

If you're in Tampa and looking for a deal on mid-century furniture, you should head to A Modern Line.
A Modern Line
6415 N. Florida Ave.
Tampa, FL. 33604

Sunday: 11am-4pm
Wednesday-Saturday: 11am-6pm


  1. Thanks for the nice write up! We've been out of town for the weekend for a little R&R and I'm just now getting caught up...