I first connected with Natalie Louw through the “Pettit and Sevitt Owners and Friends Club”. When I made the connection between Natalie and The Mid-Century Store I thought she would have an interesting story to tell. As The Mid-Century Store is one of the sponsors of “Beaumaris Modern” and will be represented at the Beaumaris Modern Open House event (Sunday 28th of October 2018) I took the opportunity to have a chat with her.
Natalie, thankyou for taking the time to talk to Secret Design Studio about The Mid-Century Store.
Q1) I know that some people love mid-century architecture, and others are more passionate about mid-century furniture, but your passion seems to be equally shared. How and when did your interest in mid-century design develop?
A1) I partly blame my husband Philip for my love of all things mid-century. When I met Philip, he had a wonderful apartment filled with Fritz Hansen, Eames and Aalto Furniture. He also had a healthy obsession with Bang & Olufsen. Over the years, we have added to our collection but something about having children tends to curb the expenditure! I also grew up in Mount Eliza so I’m quite sure I can blame my upbringing as well!
Q2) While you live in Sydney I understand that you are a proud owner of a beautiful mid-century home in New Canaan, Connecticut. How did that happen?
A2) We were living in New York City with two young children. As much as we loved living in the city it was hard going raising two kids in the city. The first mid-century modern house that we looked at was in a town called Pound Ridge in New York State. The Hertzberg House was by architects Blake & Neski. We were completely taken with the house but it was isolated and Pound Ridge has no train line. A little practicality and sensibility set in. The broker suggested we look in New Canaan which had a train line and as Philip discovered a train with an evening bar car. Very mid-century! One of us enjoyed their evening commute.
We had a broker drag us around twelve houses in New Canaan in one day. Most of the houses weren’t exactly meeting our brief which was simply to only show us mid-century moderns but that didn’t dissuade the broker from trying! We lost our daughter in one house that was approximately 9000 sq. ft. of awfulness! We did however fall in love with New Canaan.
We looked at two wonderful mid-century houses on Chichester Rd before DeSilver House by John Black Lee + Harrison DeSilver. It was decided before we had even got out of the car, DeSilver House was the one. We are delighted to be in contact with previous custodians of DeSilver House. It is a house that has and continues to provide a wonderful place to raise families.
Q3) I understand that you have been involved in mid-century modern real estate both in Australia and America. What are the differences in the market and the buyers between these two countries?
A3) Yes, I have sold many houses of architectural significance in Sydney over the years. I think buyers of architecture are generally very respectful regardless of country. When you are selling architecture, you are selling to a small and very specific market. Getting the right balance between the marketing of an architect-designed property and the actual selling of the house is at the fore front for me. The commission in Connecticut and New York ranges from around 5-6% but it is split between the listing agent and the buyer’s broker. Obviously, Australia’s commission rate is slightly more palatable but then you aren’t generally splitting a commission between two agents. As the custodian of a mid-century modern home I have insights that assist both the vendor and the prospective buyers.
Q4) How long have you been back in Australia, and how did The Mid-Century store happen?
A4) We have been back in Sydney for a good few years now. I wanted to be able to bring a selection of American mid-century furniture to Sydney but also to introduce the wonderful artists and designers that I have met along the way. It also gives us a good excuse to head back to Connecticut!
Q5) What does The Mid-Century Store sell, and where do you source your stock?
A5) We sell mid-century modern furniture that we have sourced from Connecticut and New York State. Individual pieces with provenance and a story to tell. Our current homewares are sourced from artisans and designers from Omaha, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Michigan, Connecticut and New York State. We also work with Modanest, Home Industry in East Balmain and Peggy Jacobs of Ikke Design, all based in NSW.
Our next shipment will focus on Jens Risom Design Inc. We also love the artisans and designers of the Hudson Valley, New York and we are currently curating a selection of homewares from the Valley to bring to the store in 2019.
Q6) There are a few other stores catering for the mid-century market, but they all have different characters, or “flavours”. How would you describe the “flavour” of “The Mid-Century Store” and stock?
A6) We are focused on bringing American mid-century design to the store. When sourcing products for The Mid-Century Store we are looking for products that are beautifully crafted with a nod to mid-century modern architecture. I’m constantly in awe of the designers and artists that I meet.
Q7) Do you have a favourite budget buy? And a favourite item at the other end of the scale?
A7) In the lead up to Christmas I’m completely taken with Ruth Boland’s Handwoven Maple Wood Star Ornaments. Ruth is a member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. a non-profit organization.
It is one of the oldest and most prestigious craft organizations in America. It was established to help rural New Hampshire craftspeople sell their crafts during the depression years. The league continues to thrive and maintains a longstanding tradition of supporting and preserving the art of fine craft making.
At the other end of the scale… I have a wonderful Jens Risom Design Inc Credenza that I sourced in Connecticut. Jens Risom lived and worked in New Canaan for most of his life. His designs are timeless, beautifully crafted and this is the one piece that I might just not let go of!
Q8) Have you ever regretted letting an item of stock go?
A8) I made an executive decision before launching The Mid-Century Store that I had to leave my attachment to the furniture and homewares that I sourced at the front door. I’m proud to say that I am a spectacular failure on that front! All the pieces I source have their own story, I like to share that story with my clients. I love pieces with provenance.
Q9) What services can you offer the discerning mid-century shopper?
A9) I work with collectors in Connecticut and New York State and source individual pieces for my clients. I love a challenge, nothing is too hard with a little tenacity and patience.
Q10) I understand that the Mid-Century Store is working on having a shopfront. Where can potential buyers go to browse stock and make purchases?
We are currently looking at a collaborative space in Sydney. It’s an exciting opportunity for The Mid-Century Store and I’m looking forward to announcing more details very soon.
Q11) What is the process that my Melbourne clients would follow to buy from The Mid-Century Store?
A11) I welcome your clients to contact me at any time regarding their interest in our pieces. We have many of our pieces on our website but it’s by no means our entire catalogue. We have some wonderful pieces in our warehouse. A beautiful John Widdecomb of Michigan Solid Walnut table for twelve anyone? I love receiving calls from clients who are looking for help in sourcing individual pieces.
Q12) What are your plans for the future for The Mid-Century Store?
A12) It’s exciting to see how The Mid-Century Store has grown this year. We will be focusing on specific American mid-century designers in 2019 and will be expanding our homewares collection to compliment this direction.
Thanks for your time, and I hope you enjoy meeting lots of Melbourne people at today’s Beaumaris Modern Open House event.