Sunday, September 4, 2011


Next month Modlife will celebrate its 7th Anniversary - which in this economy is close to "dog years." And in lieu of throwing my annual champagne parties I opted to give the showroom a remodel - we closed down for a week in July and completely painted the floors and walls for a fresh clean look.  Then I tackled the kitchen which was long overdue.  There we went for a high -gloss red and I vow to make more panninis and order out less.
Miraculously, in spite of closing down for a week and suffering from record high heat temperatures in Chicago, the store experienced record high sales, rentals and design revenues which we have never seen even before the recession.  And when sales are up - inventory goes down.  So I got the chance to go out on the road and scout for more inventory which is one of the responsibilities I enjoy most of this business.  As a result I uncovered a mother load of Robsjohn Gibbbings and Widdicomb furniture, some gorgeous Chinoiserie pieces by Renzo Rutili for Johnson Furniture Co., Atomic chairs by Karpen, and even some Bergere French chairs which I have some rock star ideas about reinventing.  Many of these pieces have already been sold through our global web portal, - which got me thinking it was time to renovate the website as well.  This is the 4th web design since my second year in business and certainly my favorite.  I think it has a better vision of the direction of Modlife in not only showcasing the pieces in our inventory but, also spotlighting the potential we see in all good design furniture be it a chair in your livingroom, your mother's chaise lounge, your grandfathers credenza or a coffee table found in the back alley.  Send us a picture and we can help you reinvent it into one of your favorite pieces of furniture.
So stop by and see our fresh look at our showroom on Lincoln Avenue, and if you are not in the Chicago area please visit our new website:  And as always, thank you for being a Modlife customer and checking us out from time to time.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Those Zany Screwball Comedies of the 1960s

Growing up in the 1960s, for my family was a era of television.  Saturday mornings were dedicated to cartoons and the evenings were usually spent watching family sitcoms and those "zany screwball comedies" which often didn't require your full attention because they all had the same slapstick, simple plots, and a host of Hollywood's comedic actors.  You will always find Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra hiding other mens' wives in bedrooms, Doris Day running from Rock Hudson because her virtue is at stake, Elke Summers taking a bubble bath and Ann Margaret dancing for no apparent reason.
Very often these movies blended the same lame plots which positioned television not so much as something that required viewing as much as background noise while playing gin rummy or Monopoly, petting the dog or doing your homework.
The classics have sustained time because they were well written, directed and probably adapted from a Broadway play or novel - like the great films of Billy Wilder, Joseph Mankiewicz and Hitchcock - these films roped you in and got your undivided attention, even as kids, when the dialogue was more intelligent and the subject matter less, "adult."  But with the "Swinging Sixties" the movies seem to dummy down the dialogue and  pushed the envelope on the subject matter making it sexier and screwball.  And who can forget the beach movies with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello - which I cannot recall a single plot, just a string of scenes of teenagers doing the twist on the beach.
I remember when the technology of VHS and video stores became mainstream I was addicted to spending nights researching foreign and classic films that  I either haven't seen in decades- or ever- and thinking how fortunate to live in a era when you can go to a video store and for a few dollars rent a movie and watch it in the privacy of your own home.  And in time I seemed to absorb every film made by Lina Wertmuller, Luis Malle, Bertolluci, Cassavettes- even Woody Allen!  But in time it seemed I've seen it all and the only thing left to watch was new releases and more recently- Reality TV.  And while the Housewives of New Jersey and Jersey Shore and.. well anything New Jersey makes for good TV (I mean we all like to watch a train wreck) I don't share America's infatuation with vampires or forensic science stories).
Recently, I moved into a loft converted from a 110 year old church which although has been modernized for some reason or another I could not get a television cable connection into the family room.  Well, as necessity is the mother of invention, I was forced to install a wireless blue-ray DVD which includes Netflix and the "Instant Que" to retrieve a huge library of movies and television series which we haven't seen in video stores - some of them released for the first time in decades.  While many of them were not the classic family comedies that we've loved for our lifetime and never forgot those quotable lines... most are still enjoyable films that at least make for good background noise while cooking, petting the dog or surfing the ipod.
And in the genre of those screwball 1960s comedies, while the plots may be mundane, the saturated technicolor is mesmerizing, the corny dialogue is a language of it's own and the set design is... well inspirational!   I've always said that much of my inspiration in design came from these 1960s movies and the set decoration in some of these films still enliven my design senses.  All those crazy, zany movies at the press of a button... this may require an intervention!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Beating to a different DRUMM

An appropriate follow up to my blog post on brutalism is the works of Don Drumm, one of the great American 20th century artist who has contributed to the brutalist art genre with his whimsical and abstract metal works.
Drumm opened his gallery in Akron, Ohio in 1971 in a renovated residence off the beaten path and has to date followed the same philosophy of renovating residence as homes for his 8 galleries that serve both locals and an online store. Working primarily in pewter and cast aluminum, the Drumm Gallery sells art and gift items including jewelry, art glass, pottery and, most notably the original works of Donald Drumm.
His works are both decorative and functional serving as casserole dishes, bowls, plates, bells, planters and on the higher end of his price points, furniture. Pieces in the gallery can cost as little as $25 and have fetched thousands in auction houses such as Wright in Chicago.
Like many of contemporary artists in metal making that continue their trademark into the next century, the more collectible pieces are typically the abstract productions from the 1970s.
You can peruse the large contemporary collection at or scout for more collectibles on ebay. Modlife has just uncovered several pieces at a recent buying trip including some rare outdoor hanging art objects featured on and in our Chicago showroom.