Designer for Hire

Seriously vintage


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Claudine Villardito turned childhood dress-up games into an expensive habit. And that habit became Black Cat Vintage, one of Tucson best-kept secrets.

Claudine Villardito: no more need for rifling through her mother’s closet. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Visitors to the first annual Tucson Modernism Week will be in for a treat on opening night. A series of live ‘sculptures’ will pepper Chase Bank on Broadway Boulevard, the venue of the opening reception, the models dressed head-to-toe in clothing from the 1950s and 1960s.

The clothes come courtesy of Black Cat Vintage and its owner, Claudine Villardito, a woman whose childhood games of dress-up were different than those of most girls.

Claudine’s mother, Tucson businesswoman Gale Maly, owned designer rags by the likes of Chanel and Christian Dior. Yet she let her daughter rifle through her clothes closet, which was when Claudine’s passion for vintage began.

Claudine as style icon Audrey Hepburn.
Photo courtesy of Black Cat Vintage

At college in Chicago, she would scour estate sales and soon was building up not only a collection, but a wealth of knowledge. “I would stop people in the street and ask about their clothes. I could tell vintage from twenty paces away,” she says.

Claudine looks on vintage clothes collecting the same as she does saving cats (another of her habits). “I felt the urge to save these things because I didn’t know what was about to happen to them. I anthropomorphize these clothes. It’s got personality, a name, it’s a friend and I know that it needs me.”

Still, once she got married and settled in Phoenix, her husband told her enough was enough. Their closet was “the size of a phone booth” and they simply couldn’t keep all the clothes. A bad car accident forced her to be sedentary for 18 months (she was studying veterinary medicine at the time), and she started researching vintage clothes preservation, archival and restoration.

Now back in Tucson, where she largely grew up, Claudine and Black Cat Vintage are appropriately situated in a 1957 building  on Tucson Boulevard near Broadway. Here, on any given day you’ll find a window display of polka dot and tiki swimwear, or a vignette with vintage sewing machine, kitchen appliances and I Love Lucy-themed mannequin. But despite the colorful store front, Black Cat Vintage does most of its trade online and is strictly by appointment only.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Claudine gently explains that she cannot sell to “a student wanting something for a costume party”, that her beloved clothes will go only to serious collectors and wearers, people who will treat them right. It’s that personal attachment thing, she says. “I try to seek out people who are going to enjoy them, so for the most part my clientele are enthusiasts. The second group of clients would be collectors themselves, who want to invest. And lastly there’s the small clientele of costume directors. I’ll give them a discount for the press it allows.”

Photo by Gillian Drummond

The clothes, hats and purses, ranging from 1920s flapper jackets up to 1970s items, hang in a tall warehouse-type space that resembles the wardrobe of a film set. Clients are seen individually, so that they have the whole space to themselves.

Quietly but persistently, Claudine has gained respect in the vintage community. Consignment store owners call her with the inside intel on an estate sale that’s about to happen. Relatives of mid century designers call her wanting to re-build a clothing collection. Singer Lily Allen began her own vintage clothing store in London with pieces from Claudine. One of Claudine’s pieces appeared in the second season of Mad Men.

Betty Grable’s dress. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Each item she purchases is cleaned and treated for pests. If repairs are needed, Claudine does the hand-sewing, or uses an expert machinist and a re-weaver. Her clothes carry not just history but gossip and, of course, glamour, from Hollywood Golden Age actresses to mid century socialites here and in Europe. Hanging in the racks is  a dress by the designer of Grace Kelly’s wedding dress. There’s also an outfit by Jacques Fath, a prominent French fashion designer and contemporary of Christian Dior. Fath secretly copied one of his haute couture pieces for a French socialite and, realizing he wasn’t supposed to reproduce it, refused to put his label on it. Instead he signed it on the hem.

Claudine’s favorite is a dress custom-made for film star Betty Grable. In black satin with brown velvet flocking, it was a one-of-a-kind. The cost? A cool $12,000 – and even then only to the right person, says Claudine.

At Tucson Modernism Week’s reception, Claudine and Sydney Ballesteros – who is fast making a name for herself here for her vintage fashion styling – will put on a fashion exhibition with a difference. They will dress six women in clothing popular between 1955 and 1965 and place them on pedestals around the Chase Bank building. “They will represent living sculptures evocative of the time being celebrated,” says Claudine. There will even be placards on each pedestal, museum-style, explaining the clothing and its era. Claudine will be on hand to take questions – and you can bet she won’t be stumped for answers.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

 

 

Tucson Modernism Week’s opening reception will be held at one of the city’s landmark mid century buildings, Chase Bank at 3033 E. Broadway. The event is free but reservations are required.

It’s the Wild Mod West


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Meet Max Gottschalk and Cade Hayes, two furniture designers separated by five decades but who share many similarities. In their own unique ways they are purveyors of a southwest-meets-modernist aesthetic that’s uniquely Tucson. By Gillian Drummond and Madeleine Boos.

Max Gottschalk with his chess set.
Photo courtesy of Stan Schuman

Calexico. Sonoran hot dogs. The backdrop of High Chaparral. A glimpse of Linda Ronstadt, Gabby Giffords or Paul McCartney. People come to Tucson for many things, but seminal furniture designers is not one of them.

Sling Chair – Max Gottschalk
Photo by Nicky HedayatZadeh
Courtesy of Red

Yet the city was home to a man who inspired a slew of architects and designers in Tucson and beyond: the brilliant and eccentric Max Gottschalk.

A man who wore expensive leather shoes with the backs intentionally cut out of them, didn’t go anywhere without his navy blue blazer – even in Tucson’s triple-digit heat – and had been known to play the cello naked, Max Gottschalk was the stuff of legend.

Sling Chair – Max Gottschalk
Photo by Nicky HedayatZadeh
Courtesy of Red

This little-known modern industrial designer – whose name was linked to the invention of the open-air freezer and the original bar code – lived and worked in Tucson from  the 1950s to 2000. Like that other Arizona legend, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, he had disciples. Those still living describe him as energetic and avant-garde (see column below).

Max Gottschalk used a blend of ‘raw’ and industrial materials in his furniture. The relaxed lines of his pieces, mainly chairs, and the materials used capture the spirit of the time. But the way he executed them was distinctly Max: thicker leather, welded and bolted steel, all with a rugged spirit of the American West.

His ‘K’ chair has been likened in form to the Barcelona chair, a refined modern classic by architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. Says architect and friend Frank Mascia: “You could sit in a K chair for hours.”

Cade Hayes
Photo by Jeff Goldberg – ESTO

Five decades later, history may be repeating itself with an architect and furniture designer named Cade Hayes. Along with best friend Jesus Robles, Cade makes up the architecture firm DUST. But in his spare time he makes chairs out of blackened steel and stitched leather. Some of them are backless, or their backs have great gaps in them. One resembles a praying mantis. Another is named Tree Pose because of the yoga-like shape of the legs.

But while the chairs may look like style takes precedence over function, Cade – like Max – is adamant that it’s the opposite. “The goal is to make them comfortable, otherwise I wouldn’t put them out there,” says Cade, who adds that the backless ones are pretty comfy too.

They weren’t always that way.  His first chair, made of wood, was distinctly uncomfortable, says Cade, and eventually fell apart. The second, made of steel, was strong enough but the leather was too thin, and because of that it grew difficult to sit in.

Lessons learned, Cade soon hit his stride. He now uses half hides and shoulder cuts of cow from Tandy Leather in Tucson, which he cuts, stretches and, for the most part, hand-stitches himself. He sources steel from Santa Rita Steel & Hardware .

Crow Chair – Cade Hayes
Photo by Cade Hayes

Prior to last month he had produced only about 13 chairs, many of them different shapes. All of them sold, largely with the help of Eric Firestone Gallery, now based in East Hampton, NY. His chairs have made their way to San Francisco, New York and Minneapolis, and prices range from $2000 – $5000.

He made another 27 to stage a property designed and built by DUST on Tucson’s west side, featured on this year’s AIA home tour. “It was a matter of logistics,” he says of this self-imposed rush order. “It was cheaper to make them myself than to find an authentic piece or rent reproductions of mid century furniture. But would I do it again? I don’t know!”

Why steel and leather? “I think it’s because it’s what’s here. There’s not a lot of wood in the desert. And I like to juxtapose the cool hard steel with something natural,” says Cade. He used to watch his welder dad as a kid. Then when he began tinkering with furniture design at college, he asked his dad for some welding lessons.

Pecos Chair – Cade Hayes
Photo by Cade Hayes

And why chairs? Cade says his fascination comes from the fact that they have to be comfortable. “For me, chairs are the most difficult pieces of furniture to build. A chair holds your body.” They’re a study, he says, in “proportion, material and strength”, and have to accommodate people of various sizes.

His business partner Jesus is in on the furniture-making too, building tables out of native wood, like mesquite, and blackened iron. For two people used to working on building projects that take years to come to fruition, furniture-making is instant gratification.

Tree Pose Chair – Cade Hayes
Photo by Cade Hayes

“You’re able to explore materials and connections and details in a tangible way, to work with your hands and understand the craft,” says Jesus. Adds Cade. “And it’s relaxing. It’s like meditation. There’s not a client, there’s usually not a budget.”

Cade grew up in New Mexico and went to architecture school in Texas, (he came to Tucson to work for architect Rick Joy.) He says he only learned of iconic furniture designers after he began making his own. It’s no surprise, given the mid century modern bent to his designs, that he names other designers from that era as favorites. And among them is Max Gottschalk; he owns two of Max’s chairs, one a gift from Rick Joy.

Cochise Chair – Cade Hayes
Photo by Cade Hayes

Rick was a friend of Max’s and owns ten of his chairs – many of them gifts from the man himself. “He was just so authentic and far-reaching. He was constantly trying new things,” Rick says of Max.

He describes Cade’s chairs as “very masculine but refined”, adding: “A great deal of craft goes into making them, in the same way that Max did his.”

Other influences for Cade include Arizona-born mid century furniture designer Walter Lamb, Danish designer Poul Kjaerholm, and Brazilian architect and designer Mendes de Rocha.

Eric Firestone Gallery used to sell Max Gottschalk’s work too, and as it happens the two share the same Tucson saddle-maker, R. Lloyd Davis and Sons. But that, and the Southwest-meets-modernist aesthetic,  is where the similarities between the two end. 

Whereas the 35-year-old Cade is thoughtful and soft-spoken, Max had a larger-than-life persona and knew how to be the center of attention, say those who knew him. 

Cochise by Cade Hayes

Max Gottshalk: a complicated, creative genius

Max Gottschalk came to Tucson as an industrial designer working for Hughes Aircraft, and from the 1950s he was churning out furniture designs with what seemed like passion and duty in equal measure. His followers at the time say he couldn’t help himself; his creative genius drove him to keep designing.

Sculptural Leather Lounge – Max Gottschalk
Photo by Nicky HedayatZadeh
Courtesy of Red

Tucson architect Stan Schuman met Max while Stan was an architecture student at the U of A. Enlisted to draw his furniture designs for eventual mass production, Stan became Max’s protege and confidante. The mass production didn’t happen; Max was reportedly so busy designing that he wouldn’t devote time to marketing, and thus never found the wider recognition he was said to crave.

“K” Chair – Max Gottschalk
Photo by Madeleine Boos

“Max was incredibly interesting and physically draining,” says Stan. “He had the kind of energy that could suck the life out of you. Max couldn’t stand a void in the conversation and felt obligated to fill it, and he had a depth of knowledge about more subjects than anyone I’d ever met.”

Local architect Frank Mascia taught with Max at Pima Community College where students fondly referred to his interior and industrial design classes as Max I, Max II, Max III, etc. He remembers a “pointy-headed guy figuring out how to put a helicopter in your garage”.

Frank likens him to Frank Lloyd Wright, an avant-garde presence and “one of the most original thinkers I’ve ever met”.

Tucson sculptor Curt Brill remembers his first meeting with Max and the designer’s uncanny way of sizing people up. Not even knowing Curt was going through a break-up Max stared at him and said, “You should forget about her.”

Bar Stool – Max Gottschalk
Photo by Madeleine Boos

Brill is the keeper of a Marlon Brando mold, a life-sized mask Max was said to have made of the actor while they shared an apartment in New York.

Max was the son of classically trained musicians and a friend of jazz musician Bobby Short. He was known to play the cello, but only in front of the window of that same New York City apartment, in the nude.

Stan remembers picking Max up one mid-summer Tucson day. The temperature was 106 degrees, yet Max was wearing a heavy wool overcoat. Asked why, Max replied: “I don’t let my body dictate.”

A collector, he counted among his possessions various chess sets, engineered contraptions from expensive stereo systems, and cars ranging from a 16-cylinder Ferrari to a Volkswagen bus and a Corvair.

Curt Brill recalls that Max was the first person he knew to buy a hybrid Prius.

Max insisted the car salesman drive him to Curt’s home to ring a gong in an effort to ritually punctuate the moment. Then Max handed over the money for the car.

“You had to go with it or you’d miss half of Max,” says Brill. “He had a huge belief in himself but he also wanted people to find the best in themselves, and explore their potential.”

Max’s Signature

Max’s furniture shows up in furniture galleries and auction houses throughout the world and goes for $1200 and up. Or you may come across a Max Gottschalk in a neglected corner of a Tucson home. Check for the unmistakable signature leather imprint.

* For more on the golden age of mid century modern furniture design, including Max Gottschalk, visit Tucson Modernism Week’s free lecture by architect/designer Andie Zelnio, 3pm, 2930 E. Broadway. More at www.tucsonmod.com.

 

Tips for a Mid-century Modern Make-over


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If you like the mid-mod look but finances are tight, try these easy and affordable ways to boost curb appeal. By Patty Warren.

The Fontenot Door courtesy of Crestview Doors.

If you’re partial to a bit of retro style, chances are we’ll see you on the Tucson Modernism Week home tour next Sunday.

And if seeing all that mid century glamour leaves you frustrated, worry not. There are ways to get the mid mod look without breaking the bank.

Tucson is heaving with ’50s, ’60s and ’70s homes  – many of them standard red brick ranch houses – that with a little bit of tweaking can have serious curb appeal.

The mid century era was all about simple, sleek and streamlined, says Pam Kueber of the blog Retro Renovation. “You weren’t going to put in a lot of frou-frou. It was about less is more.”

The exteriors of mid century homes were uncomplicated, with simple roof lines. Added to that, their modest size – 1500 sq ft tops, when it came to standard subdivision houses – means that present-day tweaking is a manageable job.

Pam is not a purist when it comes to retro-renovating. She says she uses a mix of period pieces – scouring yard sales, eBay, Craigslist and her local Habitat for Humanity store – and brand new pieces with a mid-mod style.

Mid century has become so popular these last few years, she says, that the avenues for buying are “many many more alternatives” when it comes to sourcing your accessories.

Urban Mailbox by Box Design.

1.  The Mailbox In keeping with all that is mid century modern, these have clean, simple designs, are often two-tone, and with numerals in a retro-style font.

But remember: the US Postal Service has guidelines on positioning and placement of mailboxes. So before you install a new one, make sure you’re doing it properly.

Metro letterbox by Box Design.

 

Postino wall box courtesy of Crestview Doors. Price: $77

Wall mailbox by Box Design. Prices hover around $250

2. The Doorbell 

Sometimes it’s a benefit to go mid-mod 60 years too late. Today’s LED technology means there are modern interpretations of retro doorbells – the mid-mod look with a 21st century spin.

Square door bell by Spore. Photo by Craig Warren

True blue door bell by Spore. Photo courtesy of Spore.

 

 

 

 

3 Story’s own Patty Warren chose an LED product from Spore  with a custom finish for the front doorbell to her remodeled ’70s home on Tucson’s west side (prices start at $90).

“Classic Square”
by Rejuvenation.

“Star”
by Rejuvenation.

“Round”
by Rejuvenation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or you can stick with a classic doorbell that doesn’t look like it’s changed one bit, with prices from $30 each.

3. The Front Door Modding your front door doesn’t have to mean replacing the whole thing. The Doorlite Kit from Crestview Doors offers ‘lites’ in clear or textured double-pane glass that you can install in your old door.

3 Lite Doorlite Kit from Crestview Doors.

Doorlite Kit by Crestview Doors.

All you need are basic DIY skills and a few hours for the revamp. Add a retro shade of paint like this one opposite and you’ve got yourself a new door for a fraction of the usual cost. Price: $60 to $300, depending on the number and size of ‘lites’.

Or if you do want to splash out,  Crestview Doors provides energy-efficient mid century designs with insulated reeded glass panels. The reeded glass provides pattern and texture as well as privacy.  Price: from $500.

For the finishing touch, replace your door hardware with period glam. Check out these styles below from Rejuvenation, with prices ranging from $185 – $280.

Samba Door hardware.

 

 

 

 

Titan Exterior Door Set

 

 

 

 

 

4. House Numbers

There’s not a lot of room for whimsy in the clean, simple lines that define mid century. But when it comes to your house numbers, you can have a little fun. Choose from the bright primary colors that were popular in the mid-20th century, get funky with the positioning of the numbers, and use some rounded period fonts to make a striking statement. Price: from $20 per number.

This Richard Neutra design is from Design Within Reach. Prices range from $20 to $40 a number. Photo courtesy of Design Within Reach.

Metropolitian Retro house numbers by Atlas Homewares.

 

 

 

 

 

Avalon house numbers by Atlas Homewares.

5. Lighting

Wrought iron and carriage-style lamps were the two main features found in doorways in the middle of last century, says Danny Levkowitz, owner of Sun Lighting, which opened its doors in Tucson in 1953. The fixtures he’s selling today have the same look but are better quality, he says. They can also carry LED bulbs and they meet Tucson’s dark sky ordinance requirements.

The modern movement abandoned the use of wrought iron in favor of  new materials ,aluminium, stainless steel and chrome for a forward and futuristic look.

Vida exterior wall sconce by Rejuvenation. $ 260

Otis Wall Sconce by Rejuvenation. $212

Enterprise Exterior Wall Sconce by Rejuvenation. $215

Double Bullet Sconce
Photo Courtesy of Stardust Modern.$225

Geometric Laser Sconce by Euro Style Lighting. $170

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you do want to go authentic and source a period sconce or outside light, Pam Kueber of Retro Renovation suggests having it rewired or at least inspected by an electrician before you install it.

What is Modernism anyway?

The middle years of the 20th Century in America sparkled with optimism, hope and visions of a bright future. A new style of architecture and design developed, using bold colors and materials like concrete, chrome and plywood.

Here in the desert Southwest, the mild climate and the mountain views inspired a local version, Desert Modernism, with horizontal lines, use of natural and native materials, deep overhangs and indoor/outdoor spaces.

You can see examples of Desert Modernism in the sub-division of Indian Ridge Estates, located Southwest of Sabino Canyon, and throughout central Tucson.

For more, visit Tucson Modernism Week’s Home Tour, Sunday November 11, 9am-12.30pm.

Pleased to Meet You


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Hirsh’s Shoes has been on Tucson’s Broadway Boulevard since 1954 and is still thriving. Owner Sid Hirsh talks marathons and his rocky relationship with Siri.

The store was a stand-alone building when it opened in 1954. Photo courtesy of Hirsh’s Shoes

Sid Hirsh: still loving shoe selling after 58 years.
Photo by Gillian Drummond

Are you an early bird or a night owl? “I’m not a night owl, I never really have been. I get up about 5 o’clock and most mornings I go out and exercise.

“I was a big runner and a hiker. I ran marathons and double marathons and I did the rim-to-rim-to-rim of the Grand Canyon 12 times. A bike accident injured  my leg so now I just go walking.

“I don’t watch TV, even though we have two of them in the house. I read, mostly magazines and newspapers, and I love NPR radio. I start falling asleep about 8.30pm and I’m in bed by 9.”

Favorite accessory? “My iPhone. It’s the 4S version so it’s got Siri on it, but she doesn’t like me. She keeps giving me instructions on how to hold the phone. So I have some fun with her. I have my calendar on it, I check my emails, and I check my bank account every day. My wife Marsha will not touch a computer but she will do everything on her iPhone.”

Favorite faux pas? “I’ve made my share of mistakes, and more since I’ve got older. Usually I’ll be talking to someone and forget their name.

“I was doing an online order the other night and instead of hitting 1 I hit 11. I called them at 7am the next morning but they work so quickly now, the order had already gone out. So I had to return ten pairs of shoes.”

Dream customer? “Anyone who buys shoes from us. It’s a sit-and-fit store. We actually fit people, and we have highly skilled staff.”

If I weren’t a shoe store owner I would... “I’ve been selling shoes for 58 years and I can’t imagine doing anything else. My mother opened the business in April 1954 as a boutique children’s store and I joined in the November. I was going to be a history teacher. I had been studying for a master’s degree in history and did just one year of it before I was drafted into the Army.  I had a wife and  baby and I needed the job. But I’ve enjoyed it, and I would have starved as a teacher.”

If I could change one thing I would… “I publicly said that if there comes a day when they widen Broadway I’m going to close the store. I’ve gone through two street widenings and I’m not going to go through a third. You have a good couple of years of being out of action. It’s a lot of money and with it comes a lot of heartbreak.”

Hirsh’s Shoes specializes in pedorthic footwear and dance shoes and accessories, and employs five full-time and two part-time employees. The building was owned by the Hirsh family and designed by noted architect Bernard Friedman. At one point the business grew to five stores across Tucson. Sid, aged 82, still works there five to six days a week.

Hirsh’s Shoes today. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Square Feet


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Michelle Hotchkiss real estate agent

Photo by Ellie Leacock

Michelle Hotchkiss, real estate agent and mid century fiend, has square feet and a nose for great property. Each issue she brings us her pick of the week.

Where it is:  The historic Harold Bell Wright Estates. Wright was a best-selling early 20th-century writer who moved to Tucson in 1912 to help his tuberculosis. In 1950, Harold Bell Wright Estates was created from the land surrounding his home, with the streets bearing the names of his fictional characters and book titles.

Listed by: Habitation Realty and VRBO.com

The damage: $4200 per month, furnished.

You’ll love it because: This place looks as stylish and swinging now as it did in 1959. Designed and built in 1959 by Tucson architect Tom Gist, it features beautiful burnt adobe masonry, ribbon windows, vintage cabinetry and authentic ’50s and ’60s furniture. It sits on a street named after The Winning of Barbara Worth, Harold Bell Wright’s bestselling 1911 book that became a silent western starring Gary Cooper.

Here comes the but:  It’s yours for just a limited time.  This is a luxury rental/vacation rental that’s available for a three-night minimum and a three-month maximum.

Want a sneak preview? It’s featured this weekend on the Tucson Modernism Week home tour.  and owner Michael Fassett will give a free lecture on Tom Gist as part of TMW. Find out more in Et Cetera.

Find more of Michelle’s property picks at Atomic Tucson.

My Space


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In the latest in our series on people’s favorite spaces, 3 Story’s own Patty Warren tells the tale of a repro lamp.

“My husband Craig can find some wonderful Christmas presents. Not every year, but often enough. This past year he did exceptionally well. He found me a Frank Lloyd Wright lamp. Not an original, but a reproduction, bought at a reasonable price too (gotta love those E-bay bargains).

“I had seen a miniature version of the lamp in a catalog we get and said to him that this might be kind of cool in my office, not knowing he had already bought the bigger one and it was sitting in a storage closet. He buys and sells a lot on eBay so I’m so used to boxes being in there I don’t even question what’s in them.

“The lamp is a study of planes in space, creating a tower of soft glowing light, and I love it.  But the question was, ‘Where to put it in our house so I could appreciate it?’

“My home office is the one place in the house that is all me. It’s where I do my architectural work, at a large u-shaped desk. Even when we took six months to remodel the house, I had to have my office space. I had my drafting table, and Craig made a makeshift desk out of old kitchen cabinets.

“I have a re-upholstered retro armchair that’s a refuge from work, drawings and the computer.  I escape to it, to take personal calls from our son or to browse through my books. The Frank Lloyd Wright lamp was going to replace a mid century table lamp that sat next to the chair. We’d never liked the lamp shade and, apart from the interesting wood base, the rest of the table lamp was  boring. So we took it apart.

“We found a remnant of Richlite, a ‘green’ countertop product made of compressed paper and resins, through Originate on 9th Avenue. It’s matte black and it easily screwed onto the wood base. With the table assembled, we placed the FLW lamp on top and  my space was complete.”

To see more images  of Patty’s house, look for the December issue of Tucson Lifestyle Home & Garden.

 

 

Et Cetera


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It’s Tucson Modernism Week

The city’s first celebration of all that’s mid century modern aims to entertain, educate and inspire.

Tucson Modernism Week has been a long time coming. That’s the view of mid century modders in the city, people who’ve traveled to the likes of Phoenix and Palm Springs for their mid-mod home tours then returned to Tucson and thought: why not here?

This was what was on Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery’s mind after she returned from a trip to Palm Springs last year.

Elizabeth Przygoda

“I thought ‘Why aren’t we doing something like that in Tucson?’ I spoke to a couple of people here about it before I was put in touch with Demion Clinco at the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation. He took the idea and ran with it,” says Elizabeth, co-founder of the event and a Tucson-based landscape designer.

Demion Clinco. Photo by fotovitamina

 

 

 

Demion Clinco, president of the THPF and the event’s other founder, has recruited a small army of volunteers to get it off the ground. He admits that they’ve created a lot of work for themselves; it could have been simply a home tour and an expo, but all of them wanted to push the bar higher.

The result is perhaps a misnomer, as the ‘week’ only lasts three days. But organizers are packing in about a week’s worth of event in that three days, from lectures to film screenings to pop-up shops, a cocktail party and, yes, a home tour. And next year they do intend to stretch it to a whole week.

The geographical focus of the three days will be the stretch of Broadway Blvd between Country Club and Campbell, an area that used to be called The Sunshine Mile. Organizers say not only is it historically significant, with a wealth of period architecture and store fronts, but it’s under threat because of proposed widening of that stretch of road from six to eight lanes.

“Broadway Boulevard was the spine of the city and there are mid century modern treasures up and down it. These are assets that we should be celebrating,” says Demion. “I would hope that maybe this event can serve as a springboard to re-imagine and  re-envision what this street can be.”

Here are our top 3 picks for Tucson Modernism Week:

1. A conversation with Anne Rysdale

One of Ann Rysdale’s two-story buildings on Broadway Boulevard. Photo by Jude Ignacio and Geradine Vargas.

 

If you love The Shelter and The Tucson Inn motel, then you won’t want to miss this free event. Anne Rysdale, born and raised in Tucson, was responsible for those buildings and more (including dozens of homes in Winterhaven, Colonia Solana and El Encanto). And she was the only registered practicing female architect in Arizona from 1949 to the early 1960’s.

 

 

 

 

2. Tom Gist: One of a kind, a Tucson modernist

Tucson-born Tom Gist fan Michael Fassett delivers this free lecture on a designer and architect who was prolific in Tucson. Tom built homes out of burnt adobe with a strong inside/outside living theme (sliding doors, large expanses of glass). He custom-made cabinets and installed mahogany woodwork. In keeping with the modesty of the post-war time, his homes were never huge, always affordable, and simple. And he produced detailed typed documents on everything – making Michael’s job as de facto Gist archivist all the easier.

Not only does Michael own Tom Gist property in Tucson, his interest in the mid-20th century has led him to become active in the local community. Michael serves on the board of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, and has helped with nominating Gist homes for the National Register. When he’s not scouring eBay, Craigslist and estate sales for period pieces, Michael is a Los Angeles-based obstetrician.

 * See Michael’s Tom Gist home in our Square Feet section.

Michael Fassett. Photo by Gillian Drummond

3. Coast Modern

This film, tracking pioneers of West Coast modernist architecture along the Pacific Northwest coast line from Los Angeles to Vancouver, opened to great acclaim at Vancouver’s Doxa Festival. Tickets are $10 per person. Click here for details.

Calling all mini authors and illustrators

The Tucson Festival of Books is running a competition for young authors and illustrators, and the deadline is looming! Check out the details and encourage your kids to enter by December 1.

A book signing with Bill Carter

The Southern Arizona-based writer and filmmaker Bill Carter will be talking about his books and films and signing copies of Boom, Bust, Boom.
When: November 17, 5pm-6pm
Where: MOCA Tucson, 265 S. Church Ave
More info: 520 624 5019 

If you love koi…

… then you may want to pay a visit to The Southern Arizona Koi Association‘s 33rd annual Koi Show and Auction. There will be judging, a vendor fair, auction and raffle. Or you can just gaze upon this graceful, colorful fish.

Where: Kino Veterans Memorial Park, 2805 E. Ajo Way, Tucson, AZ, 85713
When: Saturday November 10, 9am-4pm and Sunday November 11, 9am-3pm.
For more info: 520 747-7278 or www.sakoia.org