Every now and again I get some readers who write in and share their tips on how to make modernism affordable. The following is by Michael Cohen. Let him know what you think.
I was intrigued by your discussion and frustration about modernism’s promise (or broken promise) of affordable, quality design for the masses. My little secret to buying modernist design is loyally cruising sample and floor sales. Of course, I live in NYC so the showrooms are more accessible than for someone who lives in Des Moines. But here’s a few tips: Terance Conran has a floor sale starting on July 7 and ddc has ongoing 50% off clearance in the basement as well as online. Also, Design Within Reach usually has some decent sales ongoing. Then, one of my favorite used/vintage dealers, Mod Haus, has a huge warehouse in Boston and some of it goes up on their website.
I love stores like LIMB (290 Townsend Street, San Francisco) to find inspiration or places like the Future Perfect to snap up independent designers but it’s no secret that the affordable purveyors like IKEA or West Elm don’t even approach the quality. I think the real secret is being flexible. If you’re looking for a bookshelf, table, chairs, or whatever, don’t let the “need it now” mindframe become overly pervasive. By next season, that fantastic piece you covet will be on sale. Then, even if its more than you would pay at The Container Store, you’ll get a quality piece that will last decades.
Also, I always try and cruise the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair which is NYC and open to the public as well as the press. There’s always a unique piece at a student exhibition, some funky Euro-inport, or otherwise inexpensive piece that I find. Of course you can’t really buy it there unless you’re in the trade, but smaller designers are often willing to make a deal and sell you a single piece at wholesale. One last bit to help some readers trust what I’m saying here: I write for Zagat Shopping (better men’s category) and other consumer titles so I’m fairly tuned into the consumer shopping experience. I’m always s evaluating shopping experiences but usually can’t afford the stores I go to. So I make sure that I really enjoy the pieces that I get. To me, it’s better to have fewer pieces that you love than tons of pieces that you only like.