Google the phrase “Mid Century Modern Furniture Louisville,” and one place comes up, time and time again: Repurposed Modern in Lyndon. Unless you are a mid century modern aficionado, you probably have not heard of this store, tucked back off Lyndon Lane near Robison Park. Owner Janet Rauscher caters mainly to serious mid century collectors, considering herself much more a curator of all these fine pieces, rather than a retailer. Technically, it is a consignment store, but in actuality it is more like a museum-quality auction house.
This era of post-World War II design is an incredible moment in time, when designers from all over the world were concentrating on new, sleeker looks for their homes. The war was over, suburban sprawl and development were happening, and people were buying furniture for their homes. The economy was moving forward with an influx of jobs and eager workers; with that came a rise in entertaining and gathering, and a need for the furniture to fit those functions.
The designs from this era are remarkable for their quality, their comfort and their innovation; they are all built to last. It’s that quality that makes this furniture and decor so collectible. Owner Janet Rauscher says that what sets her store apart from a regular consignment store is the condition of the furniture. It’s museum quality and in excellent condition. For this reason, people from all over the nation and the world come to her to sell their beautiful collectible items and to buy as well.
Her store is not a typical retail store. Each room is curated, blending many different designers, eras and types of design, inviting the customer to look around and get a feel for the aesthetic of the time.
Let’s take a quick tour of all of these mid century modern delights, and we will show you some of the highlights of this “collection” of design.
Seating designed and produced during this time was quite revolutionary. After an era of large, overstuffed, formal seating, this new way of thinking brought sleek, ergonomically pleasing furniture. Most of the seating was very minimalist, practical and meant to function forever. Interestingly, most of was meant for office or commercial settings. It was sophisticated buyers of the time who started putting it in their homes as well, seeing the inherent value of the design. Finding this type of seating, which we will profile below, especially in multiples, is very rare.
The designs of husband-wife team Ray and Charlie Eames are still present today, from museums to offices to private homes. The chairs mold perfectly to the body, making them the pinnacle of comfort without the excessiveness of overstuffed upholstery or pillows. One of the most famous Eames chairs is the lounge chair and ottoman, in which we had the fortune of sitting during a visit to Speed Art Museum director Ghislain d’Humieres’ home. While there is no lounge chair or ottoman here, Repurposed Modern does have 11 of these executive chairs and four of the plastic molded chairs shown below. We have previously profiled this executive chair in our recent Luxe Loves article, and it is definitely luxurious. If you think a plastic chair is hard and uncomfortable, sit in this one and feel your body melt.
Knoll’s Brno Chair
Simple, clean and timeless, this Brno chair was created by the famous designer Mies van der Rohe and manufactured by Knoll. This chair was named after the town Brno in the Czech Republic, where the designer had a residence. These chairs are elegant and sleek but very simple, and if you looked too quickly, you would miss them and not know the treasure that was right in front of you. There are two of these available at Repurposed Modern.
With its simple, sturdy, low-to-the-ground design, the slipper chair was popular during this era as well. The armless, cushioned chair is good for lounging or watching television. It’s sleek, comfortable and easy to move around for entertaining purposes.
This kitchen table and chairs is actually from the 1970s, and shows the popular trend of smoked plastic chairs, chrome bases (on chairs and table) and a dark glass table. Textures were shiny, easy to clean and accessible.
This bar from the 1950s shows the trend of vinyl and plastic, making it popular for entertaining spaces because it was easy to clean. The chairs and the front of the bar are both padded, indicating the comfort and inviting nature. The yellow is a classic mod color as well. This entire setup retails for $699, drinks and bargirl not included.
Ray Wilkes Chiclet Sofa
Besides the Eames chairs, this is one of the most notable pieces in the store. Designed by Ray Wilkes and manufactured by Knoll (same manufacturer as the Brno chair above), these pieces were part of the “Chiclet Collection” because the pieces looked like Chiclet gum. These modular sofas were intended to be used in an office lobby or waiting room. The pieces could be placed all together or broken out into a sofa and a club chair, as shown below. This collection, which Wilkes designed in vibrant colors of royal blue, green and yellow, was meant to be subjected to much use and wear and tear, so even now, they are in mint condition. They might appear stiff and unyielding, but truly, they are deceptively comfortable. The sofa portion is $1,286, and the club chair is $825.
At first glance, this looks like a day bed to the untrained eye, but this huge, extra long sofa, with its turned up sides in place of armrests, is known as a “gondola sofa.” This piece blends Asian influences with sleek design and could probably sit five adults comfortably. Find it for $2,250.
Lighting from this era is a hot commodity, and finding original lampshades from this time is rare as well, but Repurposed Modern sells them both. The oversized nature of these shades and lamps is a direct result of the more open design of gathering spaces in peoples’ homes at this time, and with larger rooms such as living rooms and dens, larger lamps were needed to adequately light the space. The lighting from this era is so unique and so well made that just one piece of lighting could really set the tone for your entire room.
A lamp very similar to the one pictured below was profiled in our modern house article from last month, and it was purchased at Wright Auction House in Chicago. This is a Guan Yin Head table lamp by James Mont, a famous designer whose lamps filled the homes of such celebrities as Bob Hope and Irving Berlin. This lamp has the original shade and retails for $675.
Pendants from this time range from ornate to sleek, but the common thread with all of them is that they are all unique. Of all the lighting we saw at the store, we can safely say we have never seen anything like it that is currently for sale. Lighting was meant to be a focus, not just an afterthought to light the room.
Other Notable Pieces
Floating Side Table
No, this is not something from the “I Dream of Jeannie” set. This is a floating side table, meant to hang from the ceiling and land just where you would need to set a drink or a book next to your couch or seat. It is very ornate, made of metal and mother of pearl. This retails for $500 and would be the perfect conversation starter in any home.
Rosewood Coffee Table
This may look like a normal coffee table, but it’s not. Notice that it has two leaves, but one leaf is covered in a black laminate, making it perfect to set drinks on, and the other side is made of the same rosewood, perfect for setting dry items on. This table was meant for entertaining and practical enough to provide a large functional coaster as part of it. It’s heavy and gorgeous and made of rosewood. This sells for $1,850.
Who thinks of a trash as being high style? This one was designed by Westnofa out of Norway and is made out of teak wood. It even has a handle for easy disposal. Quite frankly, this is such a nice piece we would struggle to throw garbage in it. It retails for $320.
This store is a Louisville treasure chest of furniture and decor. Definitely spend some time and see the furniture just to understand the level of quality and design that is there. And if you buy a piece or two, all the better! It really is remarkable!
Repurposed Modern is located at 8101 Warwick Ave., Louisville, KY 40222. Hours are Monday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, by appointment only; Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more at (502) 327-9845.
Photography by Christine Mueller Photography.
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