Make Your Own Mid-Century Knockoffs

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In 2005, New York design trickster Rob Price-working under the collective name Thwart Design-released a series of designs called Design Without Reach. The idea was to mock the then-excruciatingly popular Design Within Reach line of mid-century modernist furniture (the store has since fallen into financial trouble along with, oh, the rest of the universe).

Design Without Reach was playful without being snotty: George Nelson's iconic ball lamp was reimagined as a series of Tootsie Roll pops; Marcel Breuer's famous chair was redone out of tape and paper clips. The point was simple - Design Within Reach wasn't all that in reach, and neither was mid-century design. The closest counterfeit we could have, then had to be somehow funny, witty, a riff.

Cut to five long and recession-heavy years later, and Bruno Bornsztein, the publisher behind Curbly.com, an online DIY community that posts everything from "Top 10 Uses For Coffee Grounds" to "Clean Like a Maid!", has just released a book-available online for a $9.99 download or in print for $18.00-called Make It! Mid-Century Modern (or MCM, for short.) In it are instructions for creating your very own Mid-Century Modern (sorry, MCM) standbys like a Charles and Ray Eames coathook, a Calder mobile, and that very same Nelson lamp that Price made out of lollipops. Here, though, it's a little more serious, a little less tounge-in-cheek."My writers and I did a brainstorm, and everyone was just really excited about the prospect of writing about mid-century modern design," Bornsztein says. "Also, with the popularity of Mad Men, it just seemed like a good idea." Not to mention that, he believes, the popularity index of mid-century modernism is "very high" right now. "I'd say it has overtaken other trends like shabby chic," he argues.



While Price's point is that these objects are valued through shared agreement and not purely for their absolute formal aesthetic, Bornsztein's interest in bringing mid-century design to the masses is much more practical, not to mention personal.

"I think it's actually much cooler than just going out and buying an expensive original (though that's cool too)," he says of following the books incredibly detailed and user-friendly instructions, put together by a group of Curbly contributors and spanning difficulty from very easy (etching cream-detailed Martini glasses a la the Eames) to a little more difficult (a Mondrian pillow) to outright bonkers (an Alexander Girard-inspired ottoman). "When you make something yourself, it has a really different feel to it, and it's more an expression of your personality. You can put your own stamp on it."

While it's debatable how much room for a personal stamp any of these mid-century designers actually intended to leave, and Price's projects are totally hilarious, it's Curbly's contribution that brings these designs truly within reach. Provided you've got a glue gun.
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