Thursday, September 4, 2014

This could have been the new Alfa Romeo Spyder

Mazda just announced the 2016 Mazda Miata. It is a big improvement in weight reduction; tipping the scale at 2200 lbs. Mazda and Fiat (parent company of Alfa Romeo) originally had a co-agreement to co-develop the Miata along with the Alfa Romeo Spyder. This would have been similar to the Toyota-Subaru co-development of the BRZ/FR-S. That would have been so sweet. I like the Jaguarish F-Type back-end and I could totally see Alfa re-working the front end with more Italian cues. At 2200 lbs, that would have made a sweet little Italian roadster.

Unfortunately, Fiat pulled out of that agreement early this year. They decided to take Alfa in a new direction (Solely Italian designed and manufactured). Too bad, I guess we won't be seeing a 2016 Alfa Romeo Spyder/Spider.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MidCentury Modern furniture prices in 1961 vs today (2014). Eames, Nelson, Bertoia, Mies

This picture above has been called the original Mad Men of MidCentury Modernism. It is a very popular image that has been blogged and pinned about on various social media websites devoted to Design and Mid-Century Modernism. The picture is truly epic with all the iconic greats - Nelson, Wormley, Saarinen. Bertoia, Eames, and Risom. However, what is more amazing is the article that it came from - The July issue of Playboy in 1961.

What is amazing is the run down of prices of most of the major iconic pieces of furniture in 1961. The list includes the Eames Lounge/Ottoman, the Saarinen Tulip chair, the Bertoia Diamond Chair, the Mies Van Der Rohe Barcelona Chair and various George Nelson pieces.

The conclusion is very simple. Iconic Modernist furniture was equally expensive (in many case, much more than what it cost in 2014) back in the 1960s.

Here are a few clippings from that article to give you an idea.

Now, if you adjust for inflation using, a CPI inflation calculator ( ), most pieces have pretty much stayed the same. There are some exceptions like the Eames Wire Bikini Chair but most have stayed the same. I assume the manufacturing techniques may account for some of the differences but it is important to know these current icons are still made by first world factories that pay and employ workers with good salaries. The Eames Lounge and Ottoman is still made in Michigan by Herman Miller and if you compare the price in 2014, it is actually cheaper than it was in 1961!

Here is an example. The Mies Van der Rohe Barcelona Chair (sans Ottoman) went for $825 which, according to a CPI adjustment, sells for $6576 in today's dollars. Or in other words, at $5429 it is roughly 19% cheaper today with a $1147 savings. The George Nelson Swag Desk is essentially the same price today as it was in 1961. The Tulip and Eames Shell chair saw a hefty increase over time. I can see why the complex manual manufacturing of the wire chair could have increased but the Tulip chair is almost double of what it was in the 1960s. Still, if you compare the 1961 price, $645 adjusted for today is still expensive back then.

Here is a chart comparing some of the items in 1961, their CPI adjusted price and the retail price in 2014. Looking at the CPI adjusted price in the middle column, many of the items cost way more than their 2014 equivalents.

Price of furniture in 1961 vs today.

Item Price in 1961 CPI Adjusted Price Price in 2014
Mies Barcelona Chair $825 $6576 $5429
Eames Aluminum Group Lounge Chair $244+$112 $1945 + $892 $2359 + $809
Bertoia Diamond Chair $117 $933 $1166
Nelson Coconut Chair $384+$113 $3061+900 $5175
Jen Rinsom Armchair $237 $1889 $1100
Hans Wegner Armchair $230 $1833 $3570
Eames wired shell chair DKR2 Bikini $56 $446 $739 - $1509
Saarinen Tulip chair $81 $645 $1542
Eames Lounge and Ottoman 670/671 $468 + $185 $3730+$1474 = 5204 $4600
Nelson Swag Desk $278 $2216 $2149
Nelson Swag Chair $95 $757 $599
Nelson Diamond Clock $30 $239 $300-$540

Thus, it is funny to read about how people complain that many of these pieces of "Designed Beyond Reach." which is an obvious jab at DWR (Design Within Reach) retail stores. The fact is, the price is very fair considering how much they originally sold for in 1961.

Regardless of the plus or minus differences between the items listed above, the conclusion is that they're  all expensive back then.

I've also done some research on general pricing of mass produce furniture from lesser known brands and the conclusion is still the same. Things cost much more vis-a-vis today. A dining set in 1966 has the price equivalent of $2000 today which cost more than your average flatpack MDF pieces today.

For example, here is a mass produced no name dining set. In 1966, it went for $279. In today's dollar, that set would cost $2111 using a CPI adjusted calculator. This is about right. $2000 would get you a decent set from Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn. Shopping at IKEA, well, you can probably get a set for $500. However, you can't compare mass produced MDF particle board flat-pack with manual  first world labour workmanship.

I hope this blog post helps discredit the idea that things are outrageously expensive today. Simply, good designer furniture is not cheap. It wasn't cheap in 1961 and it isn't cheap in 2014. I constantly read a misquote of the Eames saying furniture should be "cheap for the masses." For decades, this quote/statement has been taken out of context. From what I understand, they meant it to be designed for the masses and mass produced. The 670/671 Lounge and Ottoman was never a cheap, low-end product.  If you compare the prices for most of the items presented, they have kept up with inflation.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Furnishings on AMC 's new Halt and Catch Fire

I just started watching TV again after a 15 year hiatus. I binged watch Mad Men and now started with Halt and Catch and Fire.

The show is set in 80s and it has set design that tries to recapture the essence of the period. The color grading typifies the boorish greys of the early 80s. One of the thing I notice is Joe MacMillian's apartment/penthouse.

Joe MacMillian is the 80s version of Donald Draper. Instead of 60s MCM, the show is mostly 80s boring Americana with the exception of Joe's pad.

As you can see here, he has good taste. Le Corbusier LC2 arm chairs gives his penthouse a very Euro looked. Not pictured but the first thing I notice was his Arco Flos Lamp from the very first episode. He is always swing a bat to break it.

I still haven't decided if I will continue to watch. The premise is interesting but I think it is trying to hard to be the 80s version of Mad Men.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sleeper sunglasses. American Optical Original Aviators. Awesome shades for under $50.

I wear a bunch of Sunglasses but nothing gets me excited as these American Optical Original Pilots. In the company of the Persol 714 Steve McQueen and Classic Ray-ban Wayfarers (pictured above), the AOs are legendary and iconic in their own right.

These shades sell for $50 to $100 on amazon. They're not found in luxury boutiques or high-end optician offices. Rather, they can be found at  many military surplus stores. I got mine for under $50.

So what is the story behind these? Back in the 50s and 60s, American Optical (AO) and Randolph Engineering where the two companies commissioned by the US military to produce sunglasses for servicemen. These were contract design sunglasses witha bayonet temple to allow pilots to wear with their flight helmets on. Buzz Aldrin can be seen wearing them in space on the Apollo 11 mission.

Sure, Steve McQueen may be sporting a Persol but we have the entire Alpha men Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts wearing these bad boys.

Neil Armstrong, 1st man on the moon with AOs.

Interestingly, the famous fictional character, Don Draper from Mad Men wears a Randolph Engineering version. Both the American Optical and Randolph versions are identical in construction as they were built to the single Military's specifications of the time.

However, I think the creators of Mad Men made a mistake as AO was the only company contracted by the Military in the 60s and Randolph Engineering didn't take over until the early 70s. So if Draper wore these as service issued in the Korean War, they would have been AOs.

Again, these shades are total sleepers. Incredible value. Some Hollywood types have been even known to sport these. Judging from a simple Google search, they're popular with many leading men.

These are definitely grand pa shades that are pretty cool. I just hope they don't become too popular that hipsters will try to drive up the price of this hidden gem.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Murdered out, All Black Herman Miller Eames collection

I love black. I love all black, flat black, "murdered out" if you want to call it that. The new Eames collection in all black looks pretty good to me.

Notably, the Aluminum group chair with black metal finish is pretty sexy.

Here is a very nice picture of some of them.

The black wood may be a tough call depending on your decor but if I had the right room, I'd do it.

Even the hang-it-all now comes in all black.

And a close up of the task chair

The all black lounger goes for a whopping $5,800.

I like it but not enough over a nice palisander version. Then again, it depends on the room and decor. It could definitely work in a all white room with lots of lighting.

The DSW with black leg is another good looking piece.

The next 15% Herman Miller sale comes up in June. Maybe I'll get another  DSW for the closet room.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Shanghai Lounge Chair

Today, modern furniture are often associated with famous, late, deceased architects and iconic designers. It is rare to see new designers make a name for themselves. Go to any furniture store and you'd be hard press to know who designed a chaise at Crate and Barrell or who designed a stool at IKEA. Now if you show me a Bertoia or a Saarinen, I can easily identify. Often, when you go to any big box store, more than likely, the design you are looking at are often derivative. In some cases, they're flat-out replicas of an original design. Is anything new anymore? Well, I hope that designers will take a chance on new design ideas. But a majority of them don't.That is just how it goes. Today, I see a very interested, unique design lounge chair I'd like to share.

Introducing the Shanghai Lounge Chair by INC furniture. I gotta say, I like it. I totally dig the leather on that rich wood.

More info here:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Photo of the Day: Naomi Watts and a Cornucopia Modern design

Found this on Mid-Century Modern Freak Tumblr.

(photo credits: Norman Jean Roy & Satoshi Saikusa)

This photo is just pure awesome in my book. 
Here we have:
  • Mies Van der Rohe Barcelona in fabulous white pairs
  • George Nelson Bench (I never thought it would go w/ Barcelona chairs until now)
  • Arne Jacobsen Swan Chairs
  • An Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman
  • And in the way, way back a whole group of Eames Aluminum Group chairs used as dining chairs.

This is so swag and cosmo, there is no words to describe it except, fly! Oh, I forgot, Ms. Naomi Watts looks pretty cool too.