Ever since silver fox Roger Sterling started swiveling around the early-'60s offices of Sterling Cooper in 2007, prices for mid-century modern design have basically doubled. If you think San Francisco rent is expensive, try filling your new $3200 1-BR with furnishings that aren’t called Billy or Ivar.
Of course, the end of a recession may have amped up the Mad Men fever, but if one wishes to immerse oneself in cool, rectilinear surfaces and positively drown in function, one is going to shell out a pretty penny. And apparently, “Danish Modern” is the new “spiritual.” It can mean anything you want it to mean. Take a look on Craigslist, where the Bay Area alone averages hundreds of listings a week and Danish is a free-floating keyword.
Take this set of side tables ($140 for the pair) manufactured by the Virginia-based Bassett, tagged “Danish,” “Denmark,” “Scandinavian,” “Eames Era,” and, most curiously, “atomic.” You could snap those up for ten bucks, or used to be able to, if you got lucky. Retro, yes; Danish, no.
Or this $900 “tallboy” walnut dresser, of which I would have to devote four of the five drawers to T-shirts. We exist in a world where stylish secondhand clothes can be had for cheap but non-hamper storage space comes at quite a premium over the $1.99 I’m used to paying for what I think of as a “tallboy.”
How about a $2300 seven-piece Scandinavian dining set? The posting compares the rake-like chair backs to peacock feathers and helpfully notes that “we saw the same chairs in the Disney World Epcot Center Finland pavilion so it must be designed by one of their best.” There is no Finnish pavilion at EPCOT, and Finland’s kinda sorta technically not in Scandinavia.
Then there’s this rosewood credenza, of exquisite provenance, for $2500. It’s the real thing and frankly, I covet it like I do the tasting menu at Noma. At 88-inches in length, however, I don’t know where I’d put it because I live in a classic SF flat where every room connects to every other room. To block a door, even an unused one – or worse, to use it as a stand for a flat panel TV and a place to toss the mail – would probably violate both feng shui and the ironclad principles of the Bauhaus.
And just think about those new 220-square-foot micro-apartments, where a Formica dinette set with vinyl-covered chairs hogs up precious floorspace.
Of course, someday, Danish modern design will be as passé as it was in 1990. San Franciscans of 2033 may reject home furnishings altogether, choosing to store everything from calendars to back tax returns to beloved children’s doodles in the cloud. I hear the cloud itself is teak with walnut inlay and tapered legs. IKEA sells a particle-board version called Nimbus that comes in birch and beech veneers.