The first thing was a pale green hairdryer. You could either hold in your hand or place it in a stand. If the latter, you attached the vinyl hood that came with it over the nozzle, placed the hood over the curlers all over your head, and sat there reading a magazine while the snazzy contraption transformed your wet hair into a perfect Sixties coif.
I think I actually gasped. What was an item from my past doing in one of my mother's favorite antiques shops?!?!
Surely this was an anomaly, I thought, as I delved deeper into the cluttered shelves where Mom often found forgotten treasures from the '30s or '40s that would complement her meticulously traditional home. I'd tagged along that day because the store's owners apparently knew which way the home decor wind was blowing and wisely added vintage and mid-century to their front signage.
OK, I know when I was born and I know that a sizable chunk of my childhood took place during the mid-20th century. Of course, I was too young to appreciate it then, but I eventually learned that while I read Fun with Dick and Jane and played Tiddlywinks, Vernon Panton created his curvaceous molded plastic chair to provoke homeowners' imaginations, Hans Wegner made Americans fall in love with Danish Modern, and Charles and Ray Eames proved that modern, ergonomically correct furniture is just as comfortable and infinitely more attractive than any Barcalounger.
Unfortunately, my parents preferred homes and home furnishings with historic precedence, especially of the Colonial Revival sort. And growing up in a small Southern town instead of, say, Southern Florida or Los Angeles, the only clues I received of a Modernist movement afoot elsewhere in the nation were what I saw on TV and in the movies, like the Petris' house/set on the Dick van Dyke Show and the actual John Lautner-designed gem that appeared in an early James Bond films (Decades later, another Lautner house guest-starred in The Big Lebowski).
But icons of mid-century modernism were not what bothered me that day in the antiques store. What rocked me back on my heels was the detritus of my childhood - hair dryers, record players (as opposed to stereos), metal TV trays, and all sorts of toys - that appeared among the dusty, disheveled inventory. Soon enough, I would also discover that the emblems of my college years - fringed leather vests, beaded headbands, Grannie glasses, bell-bottom jeans, and anything macram - had become vintage.
Those once-disturbing discoveries are also in the past now. Not only have I accepted the fact that my membership in the youth culture has been cancelled permanently, but I've become proud of the fact that I was there, so to speak, during the golden age of mid-century modernism -- even if I didn't realize it at the time. (Kind of like being alive and, in this case, conscious of it, when the Beatles were still a band - a fact that my daughter envies to no end!)
I was on this earth when the groundbreaking Modernism that originated in the Bauhaus, De Stijl, and on Le Corbusier's drafting table in France finally acquired a certain lightness in the mid-20th century that catapulted its popularity. I was alive when mid-century designers began to teach materials new tricks and created bent plywood, tubular steel, strong molded plastic, and walls made entirely of glass (the latter thanks to structural steel).
Case in point: Frank Sinatra's Palm Springs estate.
Speaking of Sinatra, who reportedly had these all over his houses: Remember floor-stand ashtrays? And remember when a stereo was a credenza-sized piece of furniture?
Guest post by architectural publicist Kim Weiss.