Back to school with Midcentury East

Run, don’t walk through the gates of Goldfinger’s Haggerston School when the Midcentury East show returns to the London Borough of Hackney on 15 October 2017 – for pieces like this psychedelic film poster from exhibitor Orson & Welles will be in high demand.

It has been longer than I care to note since this time of year yielded a timetable and new school books, but there is still something about the autumn air that brings a blank page ready for new adventures.

Seasons dominated by an increasing desire for midcentury design can be traced to the tastes of Petra Curtis and Lucy Ryder Richardson, the duo behind Midcentury Modern®.  Modern Shows, including Midcentury East is the expansion of Showhome, a one-off event set in Lucy’s sixties house with a mix of pieces they both loved.  Fifteen years later and the pair have achieved multiple gold stars for their design shows, sourcing for clients like Saatchi & Saatchi and The Modern Marketplace, their directory of the best C20 dealers and C21 designers. “We did it organically and are really proud of the way we tackled every step without getting into any debt and managed to be there to pick up our kids from school” says Lucy, with the brightest gold star feeling for working mums.

The first thing Lucy tells me is that her and Petra still love their jobs.  Perhaps immersing oneself in the post-war period, where people appreciated the little things, a time when designers created within constraints and built things to last is a good way to find fulfilment?  I interviewed Lucy for answers, news about their next show and advice on making a modern business.

Artemide Alistro Morsetto desk lamp from exhibitor Punk the Clock 

Is the eco-friendly side of antiques in that their environmental cost has already been paid an important consideration for antique dealers to attract new customers? 

I don’t think it is as important as turning a deal or they would all be driving electric vans. Our dealers love quality and heritage and are very proud of the pieces they bring to the show. They are all concerned with the authenticity of the piece and longevity of product use with the fact that these pieces from the midcentury were not created to self destruct to encourage more sales like so much modern landfill. The eco side of it is very important to me, Petra and our customers. We keep paper to a minimum and print on both sides of everything. We never over-print show maps. We are more likely to under print as we hate waste.

You have created a strong loyal following for your shows and marketplace. How do you stay front of mind?  

With a huge dollop of passion and by telling stories. Our Inside Modernism blog insidemodernism.co.uk shows you our inner workings as a business and Destination Modernism destinationmodernism.com shows you the kinds of places we, and a few midmod fans, love going to.  We are on Instagram and Twitter almost daily and Facebook about twice a week and try to make a You Tube video when we can. We really enjoy meeting the families of all the C20th designers whether it is at the shows or through interviewing them – we enjoy feeling immersed in that world as a kind of escape from this one.

 Illum Wikkelso chair from exhibitor Twentieth Century Antiques

Responsibilities follow you even further when you have your own company and it becomes harder to define work time and you time, because the business is you time too.  What advice would you give someone just starting their own business? 

Make time for social media. It is essential to any creative company these days with Instagram Facebook and You Tube being the main ones.  Have people sign a mailing list and build up a following.  Send an email out once a month. Give them something for free. Dont just ask them to give you money.  We give them blog posts about destinations, find archive footage to share on Facebook, that kind of thing and when we can afford it we have the occasional party or launch.

What is the first thing you do when you get a moment for you?

I meditate and spend time with my two children Molly and Bert and  friends and family whenever I can.  I love dancing to soul music when the kids are busy. Modcast and Soul Affair on Facebook are great groups to join if you want to get in with that scene.  Petra has three kids and two are studying in Eindhoven and Berlin so she likes visiting them.  We both still love a good antiques fair and the Barbican and South Bank are always favourite spots for a mooch about in London. You don’t see brutalism much better than that.

If you’re planning to pay a visit to Midcentury East, here are Lucy’s tips. 

 

 Bring your ping pong bats and balls for you or the kids as there are ping pong tables out the back by the catering vans.

 

Don’t worry about bringing a car as most dealers deliver at the end of the day and if they are booked-up we have a delivery man on-site.

 

 Make a day of it by booking somewhere good to eat like Bunbunbun a Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsland Road or Beagle London next to Hoxton overground.

 

 Visit the Geffrye Museum, Hackney City Farm (if with kids) or head to the market on Columbia Road and haggle for the last flowers and plants at rock bottom prices at 3pm.

 

  Then head for La Cabina or Happiness Forgets for a cocktail and if you are really splashing out book a room at Ace Hotel…it’s 15 minutes walk away.

Between you and me, hush hush, Lucy and Petra have been asked to produce a show at Hepworth Wakefield gallery next year and Lucy is onto writing her second book after the success of 100 Midcentury Chairs and their stories.  

The result of relentless research, tracking down the families of design greats for the real facts- you can sit comfortably with this chair book to pass the time until October’s Midcentury East.

Midcentury East

15 October 2017

Erno Goldfinger’s Haggerston School, Weymouth Terrace, London, E2 8LS

9am early entry for trade and collectors is £15

10am-4pm is £10 or check out advance ticket deals here

©Photographs courtesy of Modern Shows

Reclaimed Kitchen Before and (almost) After

Transforming my kitchen into a walk-in wardrobe might sound crazy, but as you can see above, my windowless eighties kitchen was destined for new life.   I reused bits from the old kitchen and moved it to the back of the living room to make the most of the biggest room in my flat.

Sourcing inspiration and materials took me from my mum’s shed to New York where the sketching started.  This is my photo diary.

Sketching my kitchen at The Butcher’s Daughter a.k.a the vegetable slaughter house of New York City.

Running around Manhattan, I might as well have been wearing nothing but a fig leaf in the lack of layers I packed for a New York winter.  I finally made it to reclaimed renovation heaven The Demolition Depot. Doors, windows, shutters, sanitaryware, stone, irreplaceable artefacts and cats, lots of cats.

I didn’t go as ornate as this radiator, but my drop-in at Demolition Depot confirmed my preference for black.  Fun rad fact: matt black is one of the best choices for radiant heat (the kind that heats bodies). Can you tell I’m now obsessed with any tricks to keep myself warm…

Remember when I found a Belfast sink sitting in my mum’s back garden?  Well, this time I almost took this wooden sink surround.  I should add, my mum is also in the middle of a renovation, she doesn’t normally store salvage in her shed.  However, I decided my worktop needed to be one long strip of something to avoid overcrowding the small kitchen with too many materials.  That one stays with you ma.

SalvoWEB had me seeing salvage from London’s Kings Cross station and I chose the glazed 1940s staff noticeboard above to fashion as my overhead kitchen cabinets.  I had been eyeing-up vintage English Rose kitchens, but this design decision put me on a different train towards Historische Bauelemente where I found these gymnasium floorboards (circa 1910) salvaged from a school near Berlin.   These will be the doors for my old kitchen carcasses.

Organ pipes from The Architectural Forum salvaged from a church in East London were transformed into a decorative extractor fan pipe for the Arts and Crafts fireplace from Haes that I styled as my cooker hood and splashback.  And breathe.  My most ambitious use of salvage so far…

I will be back with the big (small) reclaimed kitchen reveal soon.

Woman, Reclaimed

One year ago I left my corporate fashion job to follow a more conscious life.

My job gave me pleasure and pain, and enabled me to buy my first home in west London. Like a secret diary, I started to blog about my journey into a more sustainable existence (shoe collection excluded), as head of PR for a shoe brand at the time…. I vowed to do-up my new home with as many old, reused and reclaimed things as possible.

One bedroom, one bathroom, one garden, one kitchen… now my walk-in wardrobe, and one woman taking her first steps into a salvage yard.

One foot in fashion, one foot in salvage, often up to my knees in reclaimed building materials, but refusing to part with my knee-high boots, whilst dancing in mud with reclaimed radiators from the roaring 20s.  I started to question, are these industries really so different? Both can be intimidating, but as soon as you cross the facade, you find the heart of great stories. The reason I fell for fashion PR in the first place.

Fashion at an unsustainable pace, ticking-off trends rather than expressing personal taste left me cold compared with the storied pieces of individuality I was dressing my home with.  This is when I decided that I not only needed to claim to love my fashionable life, but reclaim it.

Designing my home with reclaimed materials was a style choice as well as an ethical, environmental one. Reclaimed Woman is my attempt to find fashion and home fashions that don’t compromise ethics. A space to retrieve yourself, be real, inspired and conscious, because the examined life is worth living.