Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hank Tosh, MCM Furniture Savior

Because we're coco-poofs crazy about MCM furniture, we've had Hank Tosh on our radar for some time. Hank owns and operates Toshmahal on Hampton Road in Dallas, where he restores and refinishes furniture and also does custom framing. This man truly appreciates midcentury and deco furniture and is an artist at what he does. Hank says he's been restoring and refinishing furniture for about as long as he has owned furniture, about 18 years. He's serious about his craft, but he's also one of the nicest guys on the planet (just don't tell him you own a sander!). Hank was kind enough to answer our gajillion questions, some sillier than others (Does he watch Mad Men? Um, no.)

Why such an interest in midcentury pieces?
I have been into midcentury-era things as long as I can remember and had collected and fixed up many things of my own (plus I had a little background in finishing and woodworking from working in other mediums) before I started doing it for a living. I do work on earlier pieces as well, just normally, since I do work for a lot of dealers around town, this ends up being the majority of what I work on.

We'd love to restore every MCM piece in RetroMania. How did you learn how to do it?
I started many years ago when I first moved to Dallas, doing gruntwork like sanding, and stripping -- a little staining -- at Lakewood Furniture under the tutelage of Billy Keith Leatherwood (RIP). he taught me quite a bit. The rest I have learned by reading everything I can get my hands on, lots of trial and error, experimentation, and my trusty friend and mentor, Rik Wood, who is a 3rd generation craftsman and worked in Dallas for many years with his father.

How come so many people buy great midcentury pieces and then "ebonize" them? What's up with that?
There are a lot of designers out there who seem to know more than their refinishers and like to do bad things to good furniture. It is unfortunate but true. Sometimes it is just because they want to match everything so badly, but other times it is because the piece may have been damaged and just looks better that way. I think ebonizing is still a good look, sometimes. Fortunately, I think a lot of designers are coming around to the idea that it is not necessarily a bad thing to have many different natural woods in the same house or the same room, so hopefully it will make for less of this. I really don't like to ruin good furniture. I am in the 'restoration' business and it hurts me a little to 'paint' something or to make something a white laquer that should be a light mahogany or a light walnut.

Can you give us a little insight into some of those old finishes that we see on midcentury furniture and nowhere else -- stuff like the dark-gray/light-black stain that shows the wood grain, and also the yellowish brown that resembles spicy mustard)?
Most of this is done with oak or ash because they have a very open and deep grain to them. They will rub a glaze or a mixture of color
into the grain and then use a stain or a toner over that and then clear it. (this is a very simplified description, but it is all based on
the fact that the deep grain holds the color of whatever you rub into it when you wipe it). The lighter finish you are referring to has many
names, but many people did it: One is called the 'limed oak' finish. The darker is just a variation of this. There are also finishes that
were done with mahogany (called a white mahogany, or a bleached mahogany) that are also quite a process. It also takes a lot of work
to restore these pieces. Somehow, in the late '60s I think, faux finishing got really big and people started hiding beautiful wood grains.
I say, if you want plastic or fiberglass, then buy it and don't ruin the look of a beautiful wood grain. I think today, more people are wanting to see the wood grain and the natural color of the wood.

Is Heywood Wakefield the "gateway drug" of midcentury furniture? (As in: You start there and the next thing you know, you're into the heavy stuff.)
Well, there is a lot of Wakefield out there. The great thing about the early Wakefield is that some of it is actually just on the verge of
deco and entering into the modern realm, which I love. Another thing is that (and there are also many misconceptions about this) it is
made of solid maple (not birch. Only the newer stuff is made of birch), so you can literally bring some of this stuff back from the grave.
It definitely leads to other stuff ... Conant Ball, Paul McCobb -- also all solid maple. I have done many Wakefield pieces and am actually one of
the only people around who knows these finishes. It took me a little while to perfect the recipes, but I have them, for both the Wheat and
the Champagne (there are, even from the factory, about 3 different variations on each finish).

As a refinisher, what pieces are your favorite projects?
All of the Danish walnut stuff. A beautiful Walter Kagan chair was definitely one of my favorites. And, of course, all of the Heywood Wakefield stuff, because I really love both deco and modern.

You've got such an interesting niche here in DFW: How did you become the go-to restorer/refinisher for area midcentury dealers like Sputnik Modern?
Most of these clients hear about me word-of-mouth. It is the best way to get business and the only way to survive as a small-business person. It boggles the mind, how some businesses can get away with some of the travesties I've witnessed. It just makes my head spin.

If you could recommend one product for keeping wood furniture looking nice, what would it be?
I always top everything off with a good coat of carnuba wax. I don't get the beeswax because it is usually cut with some chemical. I use one that has a good, thick feel to it. (Trewax) The one I use has enough carnuba in it that it acts as a great cleaning agent as well as adding a little extra protection to the finish against some of the moisture it might encounter.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Cliff May house in Dallas

The Andrea Lane area in Dallas (north of I-30, west of I-635) is lousy with Cliff May houses, it seems. The latest one to come to our attention is at 2651 Andrea Lane with a price of $146,000 for 1,291 square feet. There's been some updating, but from what we can tell, nothing that looks too egregious.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cliff May Bargain in Dallas

This just in from reader comments:

"Just wanted to let you know in case you or any of your readers are interested. There is a Cliff May house in forclosure, 2647 Andrea Lane going for $28,900! I'm sure it needs tons of work, but it would be a good flip or redo for someone looking for Mid Century Modern. We live on the same street in a Cliff May that has been redone, and would love to see it sale to another mid century enthusiast. Not sure who is listing it,there is a sign in the yard. Thanks!"

If anyone out there has details, let us know at dfwmcm AT gmail DOT com.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

6704 Woodstock Road, 76116 $254.9k

This is best straight-up Mid-Century Modern house in Fort Worth, Texas for the money. I wish I was in the market. Go ahead and feast on these pix. Lots of wood paneling and other original features. Hope this home finds the right buyer. I'd hate to see this house poorly "updated."

Forest Park Train Turns 50

The Forest Park Miniature Train ride doesn't have the cool MCM Diesel anymore, but the train ride is still rolling through Trinity Park today. Thanks for the memories!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What a Maniac!

Well, we've done it now ... we've got a little shop, where I'm partners with two other mid-century fanatics, who scour heaven and earth to keep the shop packed to the gills with one-of-a-kind finds for regular joes and janes like us -- people who appreciate great design and craftsmanship in furniture and housewares but can't pay an arm and a leg. The name, appropriately enough, is RetroMania. If you're in the neighborhood, stop in and get your goggle on. We're in Butler's Alley, an up-and-coming strip of shops behind Butler's Antiques at 2221 8th Ave. (south of Mexican Inn and north of Braum's).
Here's an idea of what you'll see.

This 9-foot midcentury sofa has the original fabric! (The cushions are sporting new foam.) The base is ebonized wood with curved-under Asian-style legs. Dunbar lines. Too lovely. It's $599, and there are 10% discount coupons at West and Clear and at Theater Jones.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sigel's Sign Will Be Saved

The sign at the Sigel's Lemmon Avenue location in Dallas appears to be safe, the Dallas Observer reports. The sign, a long-time monument to googiness in Big D, will be soon leaving its current location due to the demolition of the Lemmonwood Shopping Center, but officials at the company are saying not to worry, the sign will find a new, yet-to-be-determined home. Whew.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

R.I.P. Maurice Jarre

There are probably three movie themes that say the 1960s for me -- Goldfinger is one. The other two belong to three-time Academy Award winner Maurice Jarre, who died last week at age 84. Those are Lawrence of Arabia (above) and Doctor Zhivago (below).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury

Midcentury aficionados, better book a room at the Hotel San Jose (or a friend's couch), because you've gotta see this show at Austin's Blanton Museum of Art.
The exhibit, which takes its name from a 1957 Miles Davis compilation album, features more than 200 objects, including: Eames furniture, films, and archival materials; Noguchi sculpture; Julius Shulman's Case Study House photos showcasing the architecture of Richard Neutra, Pierre Koenig and others; fantastic abstract paintings ... oh, just hit the link. The show continues through May 17.

above Julius Shulman photograph of Case Study House #22, (Pierre Koenig, architect, Los Angeles, 1959-60) right Karl Benjamin's Black Pillars,(1957) 48 x 24 inches, oil on canvas

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Design Within Reach

The rumor is that Design Within Reach is opening a store in Fort Worth, on West Seventh. Hey, DWR, what took ya so long?

Yates-Ottmann Building in Fort Worth

Fort Worth actually may be waking up to the realization that it needs to protect its midcentury architecture: The Yates-Ottman Building, 1020 Summit Ave. (north of the Hospital District and I-30) has been designated one of the city's historic and cultural landmarks. Historic Fort Worth, Inc. recently decided to try to educate the public about these local treasures, and getting the Landmarks Commission's seal of approval is a big step forward.
Thank you, HFW! But you've got your work cut out for you, having to outrun the bulldozers and the builders of faux-Tuscan McMansions. (We've lost so much history already.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Craigslist Furniture Update

It's high time we indulged our sweet tooth with a dose of retro eye candy!

  • 1950s Bar with Three Stools, $350:

    Suddenly, I have an overwhelming desire for a Haleukelani Cocktail ...

  • Midcentury side tables, $75 each:

    They're just begging for a fantastic Raymor lamp, maybe some Stig Lindberg ceramics. Hope they have more luck than I've had!

  • Midcentury Steelcase Metal Desk, $125:

    Cool American beauty. Makes one feel downright patriotic.
  • Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    RIP - Blossom Dearie

    Blossom Dearie, the great jazz vocalist with the little girl voice, died Saturday at age 82. New Yorker critic Whitney Balliett once said that her tiny wisp of a voice "would scarcely reach the second storey of a doll's house," but her phrasing was as sophisticated as anything the great Frank Sinatra crafted. Watch her above on The Jack Paar Show in the early '60s.

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    3900 Bellaire Drive, Fort Worth, Part Deux

    Our inner Gladys Kravitz took over when, a few days after we wrote about our lust crush on this baby (scroll down a few posts), an "Open House" sign appeared! We had to see the inside, along with quite a few other gawkers, including a couple of architecture students.

    The gate to the back entry. Every home should come with its own 2-foot-tall Egyptian-style guards. The only way I would've loved this more is if the little guys had hopped down and whipped me up a Rusty Nail.

    Buttah. A gorgeous, gleaming terrazzo floor that (we heard) extends the length of the house, much of it under the carpet.

    Life would be so much simpler with an intercom system like this.
    "Nick, darling, could you bring more cracked ice to the rumpus room?"

    Plant your rubber tree in this corner while belting out "High Hopes."

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    Robsjohn-Gibbings Mesa Coffee Table

    Every collector has a Holy Grail, an item you dream of finding when you walk into an estate sale. This is mine: the T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings Mesa Coffee Table. This one pictured above sold at auction last fall for $66,000! To put that in context, in 2002, you could have bought that table at auction for less than $20,000. Would that I could have a 401(k) that could do that. But such is the demand for Robsjohn-Gibbings furniture -- it's little known by most estate sale hounds, but crazy sought-after by collectors.

    Of course, then there's the one that got away -- the Robsjohn-Gibbings tripod tables. This pair here is going for $5,600, refinished. I saw a pair at an estate sale on Warnock in South Fort Worth for $10 apiece. They had already sold. I cried a little that day.

    Monday, January 26, 2009

    Plycraft Mania

    Plycraft is perhaps best known for their knockoff interpretation of the Eames 870 Lounge chair. However, I've always found the Plycraft lounger below to be a much more distinctive design. I found the one below at an estate sale ... somewhere in DFW (I don't remember where.) But I've seen these from time to time at other sales in Fort Worth.

    What's odd is that after I bought this chair, in started to pop up in other pieces of MCM ephemera I bought, including this Robert Goulet album. Of course, the real mystery there is who put the tin foil on the floor.

    Then there's the picture of the bachelor pad your Dad moved to after the divorce. Nice socks!

    But my favorite is this hi-fi room from a period home improvement book. As PeteW would say, it's totally googie.

    Friday, January 23, 2009

    I Only Read It For The Furniture, Too

    Don't tell Felicia about this, but those old Playboys have some pretty googie furniture in there. For instance, check out this post from the Mid-Century Modernist. It's mostly SFW with the naughty bits blocked out, but the furniture is easy to see. And that's what's important, isn't it?

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Clown Burger in Haltom City

    Generally, Haltom City kind of scares me. Mainly, it's because it seems like every tornado that roars through Fort Worth makes a bee-line for H-town. But, on the other hand, they've got lots of great Vietnamese food there.

    And, of course, they have Mid-Century Modern signs. There's lots of googie signage in the Beach Street/Belknap area like Clown Hamburgers. Photographer David Kozlowski took this image, and he said that you could get an entire ClownBurger feast for less than buck on Wednesday to celebrate this place's 50th anniversary. Sorry I missed it!

    6421 Camp Bowie, Fort Worth 76116

    I've always wondered about this building at 6421 Camp Bowie, and Cosmic Cool sheds some light on it. Turns out this building was designed by the Houston architectural firm of MacKie & Kamrath and constructed in 1956-57, this building was originally home office headquarters for Commercial Standard Insurance Company.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    3900 Bellaire Drive S., Fort Worth 76109

    This gorgeous beast goes on forever. We can just see ourselves rollerskating through all 5,451 fabulous square feet. The price per square foot on this bad boy is an amazing $101 -- somebody buy it before we squander our IRAs! What's that? They've already been squandered?

    Long, low lines. Sigh. And check out the built-ins in the background. Think of all the collectibles they would hold: ceramics, dishware, barware, tiki glasses ... Let me just get my drool bib.

    Hollywood Regency would be quite at home here.
    Lucite, this is your time to shine.

    RIP, Bob May

    Bob May, the voice ofthe actor who played the Robot on the 1960s' sci-fi classic Lost in Space, died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 69. May's signature line, "Danger, Will Robinson" obscured the fact that he could also sing a bit, as evidenced by the clip above.

    Monday, January 19, 2009

    Steelcase Furniture and the Modern Office

    I think that sometimes we overlook the simple industrial beauty of Steelcase office furniture because it is still easily found in many office environments today. But this post at The Mid-Century Modernist shows off the Steelcase sex appeal quite nicely. One question, though: WTF with the bear skin?

    Sunday, January 18, 2009

    Westwood Drive, Arlington 76012

    Where cool lives
    Not in our neck of the woods, but we were driving by and had to snap a quick pic of this gem.

    2301 Ridgmar, Fort Worth 76116 - $122,500

    MCM-licious condos. Yum.
    Thank god places like this still exist, huh? Gives one hope.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Capitol Records Building -- Totally Googie

    Is there anything any googier than the Capitol Records Building down on the Strip? A friend duked me with a bunch of old Architectural Digests from the 1950s last year, one of which included this spread. Of course, there's lots of other cool stuff in there that I plan to share soon. Until then, enjoy!

    I want everything in the waiting room below.

    Don Draper? Why aren't you in the conference room?!

    I wonder if Frank Sinatra ever hit anybody in here?

    Monday, January 12, 2009

    Cool Finds

    We're back to our estate- and garage-sale cruising now that the holidays are over. At a church rummage sale, we found this copper chocolate set for $2.

    This 34-by-14-inch "motel art" -ish oil painting of a turbaned gentleman, (by the artist known as "Drake") cost $1.

    Got this General Electric "Telechron" lucite-and-metal battery-operated (!) clock, below, at an estate sale the day after Christmas. It cost $12, a little more than we like to spend, but we decided it had enough zing to justify the cost.

    We know. You hate us. It's OK.