Since we began the process of redesigning our showroom a few months ago, we’ve rekindled our love for mid-century modern furniture. Our friends at Killer Junk Studios provided many of the pieces that we’ve placed in our showroom, as well as feature in the lookbook for our current collection of Short Run Shirting. Killer Junk Studios owned by Bart Schultz and Tron McLaughlin specialize in iconic post-war modern American furniture and decorative arts. We sat down with Bart to discuss design and how his hobby of collecting furniture eventually turned into a business.
What initially attracted you to design?
I grew up in a house full of vintage furniture from the early 1900s and I think that’s why I was drawn to furniture, because I lived with it my whole life. I started loving modernist design as I got older and that’s how I fell into collecting. Tron is also a collector and it got to the point where we were collecting so obsessively that we had to begin letting go of some of our pieces. This hobby blossomed into a business and now we sell and ship all over the world.
Is there an era of design that you and Tron focus on collecting and selling through Killer Junk?
Within the last couple of years we’ve really focused on the earlier mid-century modern pieces from the late 40s to early 50s. The early mid-century modernists were the innovators that grew out of good use of available materials. We see our focus as getting back to the roots of design.
Does this focus force you to be more selective with your buying?
You go through a phase where you want to buy everything that you can get your hands on, but then you realize that there are just too many different categories and decades of design. The pieces we put in Ledbury’s retail space are pieces that stand the test of time. They look like they could have been made yesterday, even though they were made 60 years ago.
There seems to have been a renewed interest in mid-century modern design in recent years – what do you think is the cause of this?
I’ve talked to a lot of people about this and I had noticed that the renewed trend began to take off shortly after 2000. Trading Spaces was a big TV show at the time and that’s when you started to see everything retro modern from the 50s and 60s. Then Mad Men came along and opened up this period of design to a whole new group of people. Suddenly nearly every TV commercial, magazine article, or apartment therapy feature includes something mid-century modern.
Who are some of your favorite designers from this period?
I don’t think you can appreciate modernism without appreciating Charles and Ray Eames – not just furniture but their entire portfolio. Then there are some others who are probably a little less well known – George Nelson, Paul McCobb, Harry Bertoia, Eero Saarinen, and Dan Cooper. Some pieces can be difficult to get a hold of but they are fascinating.
I would imagine that there’s a phenomenal amount of research that goes into what you do.
We’re constantly researching because there’s such a high demand for certain pieces that you have to be on top of it. I find the research even more exciting now than I did when we first started. You become obsessed with the history, characteristics, and story behind each piece. This is important because collectors are looking for the earliest examples of each piece. It’s a constant learning process but it’s fun.
As far as your own personal space, how is your design aesthetic?
Everything is from the 40s and 50s but it’s not a museum. We live with it and use it, which is a testament to the construction and quality of the pieces. When you live like this, you truly have your own personality and stamp on your home because you aren’t copying and pasting what you see in a magazine. I think it’s so much more fun to go out and find pieces you fall in love with and make them work together. By doing it this way, you really appreciate every single thing that you live with and you don’t buy a bunch of stuff that you don’t really need.
The new collection of Short Run Shirting is now available.