“Mid-century modern” and “mid-century modest” blur in a house full of vintage Lightolier

vintage lightolier lightsI talk a lot about both “mid-century modern” and “mid-century modest” — but a point I want to underscore with this story — with these photos — is that in mid-century homes, the two styles were often combined. Perhaps better said: These seven vintage lights — all from the same house — show how “pure” mid-century modern design began to take on more decorative flourishes consistent with the mainstream market’s preference for … pretty. How… the styles began to blur.

Okay: I’m still working out how to say this exactly… complicated by the fact that I don’t quite know how to draw a circle around “what is a pure mid-century modern” light. But I’ll continue in any case — I welcome your comments — especially from readers properly schooled in the finer points of mid-century modern design.

The lighting above is one big set that came out of a mid-century house in Colorado Springs. The set is currently for sale on craigslist — and also just listed on ebay — thanks to reader Amy, who spotted it — and thanks to the seller, who gave me permission to show all these photos. Ogle the pieces and you can see: It runs along a continuum from “almost” lacking in unnecessary ornamentation… to atomic looking — but with flowers!… to flat-out mid-century modest, clearly seen in the Early American style scallop-edge coppertone light fixture. The fashionable owner put all of these fixtures in his fashionable house — presumably with no aesthetic cognitive dissonance whatever.

I prompted the seller to check and she reports that yes, all but the kitchen light are Lightolier. I found two of them — Pacemaker collection — in this vintage catalog from reader Gretchen of Eichlerific. vintage lightolier chandeliervintage lightolier chandelierAbove: The vintage Lightolier chandelier is fantastic — a real show stopper.

vintage lightolier ceiling fixturesAbove: These ceiling spot lights are lovely, notable for the slip-over glass decorative shade thingies that aren’t really there for any purpose but decoration.

lightolier pacemaker lightvintage lightolier pacemakerAbove: The two pieces I identified as being part of the Lightolier Pacemaker line.

lightolier sconceAbove: I loved these wave-shape, ribbed sconces by Lightolier. LOVE THEM.

early american style light fixtureAnd above: The coppertone Granny Ranch style fixture for the kitchen. People loved their flashy, sophisticated modern — but they loved their comfy cozy Early American, too. YES: The two can live in happy harmony!

Another example of the modern-modest mashup:

Photo by Efrain Diaz-Homa

Above: Frank Lloyd’s houses are known to have had pink bathrooms. Here is what reader Kevin said in our story about the Gordon House:

Both the kitchen’s Chinese Red Micarta plastic laminate, and the pink ceramic tiles were fairly standard specifications for Usonian houses. I have seen both in quite a few Usonian homes, and have some original Wright specification booklets, and those two items are common. The third Mrs. Wright sort of fancied herself a color expert, so there is some thoughts that she could have been responsible for favoring the tile color. The Wright house I used to live in did indeed have the pink bathrooms, but not the Chinese red Micarta. The Wright apprentice designed home we now live in also has the original Chinese red plastic laminate, which I have posted on here a while ago.

  1. pam kueber says:

    I adore “eclectic”! I pretty much find it impossible not to BE eclectic. Good design of all eras — is wonderful — if it makes its way to you, go for it.

  2. Carol says:

    My Mom has a mid sixties ranch and has the exact coppertone fixture in the kitchen. The adjoining den has the huge wagonwheel chandelier in the coppertone. Some of her fixtures are very MCM. The bath plumbing fixtures are the coolest I’ve ever seen. Soooo Jetsons. My Grandmothers mid 50’s house has an awesome traditional knotty pine kitchen with grey cracked ice laminate and a huge peninsula, “multi-level bar”, with curved shelves on the end. Her overhead light fixtures hug the ceilings and are atomic. She even has the built in “colonial-ish” telephone nook in the hallway. These homes are definitely a mish-mash of both styles. Both houses have the maple trim. Granny has the traditional and Mom has the sleek. Both houses have trim that has turned “orangey-ish”. Both houses are 95% original and very charming. I’m now glad they never remodeled except for paint and paper. My Mom has a home that still looks “fresh” in design, and Granny has the, well, Granny house. Both houses are brick, one edgy terracotta color in long thin bricks and one red traditional. One has a cut limestone “wall” of a fireplace with a 10 foot long hearth and the other, traditional red brick flanked by built-in bookshelves. I grew up with these houses, and at 50 appreciate them even more due to my addiction to this website. Thanks Pam and Kate!

  3. Carol says:

    I learned after about 10 years that my rule of thumb in buying something should be; If it makes me go “Ooooooooh” and I catch my breath when I first see it, I buy it! Even though things may come from different decades, a person always gravitates to a certain “look”. This “look
    ” is generally cohesive when you bring something new home. Sometimes I may shuffle something around, but it always works. Buy what you love first and foremost. I can’t imagine going to a furniture store and buying rooms full of furniture. I’ve tried since my 20’s, and I just can’t do it!

  4. Steve says:

    Kind of reminds me of how one often finds craftsman bungalows with original colonial revival light fixtures rather than the expected mission style. I think homeowners have always liked what they liked and were not bothered with “architectural dogma”.

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