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: Accessories: Desert

Modernism Rules in the Land of Sand and Casinos

February 11, 2001

MID-CENTURY MANIA REIGNS--AND ITS EXUBERANT, INVENTIVE FURNISHINGS SEEM PERFECT FOR THE desert. After all, noted architects Richard Neutra, John Lautner and Craig Ellwood created one of the most important concentrations of Modernist architecture in the world in Palm Springs. Furnishings of the era (1946-1960), often created by architects turned designers, were based on new technologies and materials developed during the war--Fiberglas, cast-aluminum, acrylics and Formica. Mid-century interiors today are filled with a well-edited mix of these sculptural pieces, ranging from such classics as Eero Saarinen's lightweight Fiberglas tulip table and chairs to the molded plywood lounge chairs, laminated elliptical tables and colorful aluminum, plywood and masonite paneled storage units of Charles and Ray Eames. The often startling color combinations that reflected the optimism of the postwar era--blue and green, orange and pink--have been abandoned and replaced with gallery white walls, the better to display the highly collectible pieces with their ever-increasing price tags. Bold geometrics based on modern art and atomic age symbols are motifs in fabrics covering pillows and chairs, while glass windows are often draped with nubby floor-to-ceiling open-weave fabrics. Underfoot, Scandinavian rya rugs add texture and bold abstract designs to liven up smooth hardwood floors. Accessories such as George Nelson's ball clock, an Alvar Aalto undulating vase and sculptural Georg Jensen silver pitchers add to the decor that has inspired a whole new generation of mid-century devotees.

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Vintage Edward Wormley sofa in camel hair, $8,500, at Orange, Los Angeles. Vintage wooden swag lamp, $150, and Delta table, $595, at Futurama, Los Angeles. Jonathan Adler pillows, $105 each, at Shelter, Los Angeles. Philip Solman sculpture, $3,800, at Twentieth, Los Angeles. Shag rug, $540, at Lawrence of La Brea, Los Angeles.

Sky painting courtesy of Outside, Los Angeles

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