Everything We Love About Mid-Century Design, in One Dining Room
Natalie Myers schools us on California cool, once again.
Published Jul 25, 2018 3:00 PM
There are few designers who perfectly encapsulate the style movement that is California-cool. Natalie Myers is one of them. With an unconditional adoration for mid-century design, the principal designer and owner of Veneer Designs has taken to transforming Los Angeles’ many modern homes (including her own!). Her latest project—a 1960s ranch nestled in the foothills of Mandeville Canyon—is only further confirmation of her expertly trained eye.
“When I came on, it was a blank slate. I could do just about whatever I wanted,” Myers recalls. Following an extensive restoration led by Lewis/Schoeplein Architects, the clients (a young family of four) were excited to embrace the home’s true character. Wanting to avoid the time capsule trap exemplified by the likes of Mad Men, Myers set out on creating a kid-friendly space that felt equal parts current and nostalgic.
“Because it’s an open floor plan, I knew that I really wanted the main areas—the living room, dining room, and the den—to all connect and have the same vibe, but also each be their own space. I wanted it to feel clean and modern, but also reflect on the mid-century roots of the house.”
Only the second residents to call this light-filled ranch home, Myers’ clients consider their new abode a hidden treasure. “It’s really cute. They still have the original real estate brochure that the first owner had when she bought the house before the area had been developed,” she says.
Given its rich architectural history, the home’s decorative style predominantly skews toward mid-century modern, and rightfully so. Peppered with iconic pieces—like George Nelson’s famous ball bubble pendant lights and Ray Eames’ plastic shell chairs—the dining area alone is reminiscent of an earlier era. Nearby, a double-sided tiled fireplace, a feature which inspired the various other geometric elements within the room including the Hygge & West wallpaper and Block Shop print in the corner, doubles as an eye-catching backdrop.
“The curves flow together and inform everything, which was a fun moment,” adds Myers.
When it came to furniture, the family was effectively starting from scratch. Keeping the home’s two tiniest inhabitants top of mind, Myers carefully selected each new piece based on scale, style, and more importantly, durability.
“In the mid-century time period, furniture designers really thought through how people function in a space. So you have these time-tested pieces that just work, like the Eames plastic shell chair. It’s perfect for a family with two young boys who are just going to get stuff on everything,” explains the designer. “If you have a mid-century house and you want to find a few classic pieces, pick the pieces that have stood the test of time and that are also family-friendly.”
Essentially indestructible, the solid custom walnut dining table by Croft House LA is certainly sturdy enough to withstand a five-year-old and a three-year-old. In the same vein, Myers opted for a simple basket weave rug from West Elm—an inexpensive find that can easily be swapped out when wear and tear begins to show.
Often consumed with the challenges of living tiny, rarely do we talk about the issues that arise from having too much space. With few big box storesselling furniture
that can fit the size and scale of larger homes in the suburbs, Myers’ biggest challenge on projects is often finding ways to convince her clients to take a chance on custom pieces—a back and forth process that can be equated to one giant (and expensive) trust fall.
“Just having clients take that leap of faith to trust you with these more custom pieces is tough. Here, I think she did trust me, but most clients don’t have a sense of scale or dimension, so you have to draw it out for them and blue tape the floor to show them that what works in the plan will work in real life. Putting the money down and then waiting eight to twelve weeks for things to be made is hard,” explains Myers.
One of the home’s more subtle strengths is its print collection. Primed for visual impact, an almost comically giant red apple in the sitting area takes a more literal tone, while back in the family room, two bold blue creations present a more abstract point of view. Large-scale desert landscapes—a telltale marker of Myers’ presence—extend a serene, bohemian energy throughout the home.
With little rhyme or reason (which, if we’re being honest, is how we think everyone should shop for art), Myers gravitates toward pieces that she likes. Not unlike the rest of us, she finds noteworthy artists and creatives simply by stumbling across their work on social media; her saved file, a secret haven for inspired objects.
“All this art is geometric, but it’s modern; it’s a little abstract, but feels organic,” says Myers. “Larger prints are a great way to fill large bits of white wall space that are expensive to fill with original paintings. Once you have the art in place, you bring in the accessories like the pillows, textiles, and throws to tie it all together so there’s a unititing thread that flows through everything.”
Here are a few artists Myers is digging right now:
- Karina Bania
- Katie Brennan
- Bobby Clark
- Thomas Hammer
- Anna Ullman
- NG Collective
- Leah Bartholomew
- Bethany Roberts
- Petros Koublis
- George Byrne
Where large-scale prints don’t work in the house, wallpaper stands in its place. Like their framed friends, Myers chose treatments that complemented the overall design vernacular of the home. Adhering to a style as complex and specific as mid-century modern can be tough, so we asked Myers: What patterns actually work best with this aesthetic?
“Geometrics and graphics,” she reveals. “Anything that’s too ornamented would look wrong. Larger scale, minimal, pared down to their most basic geometry and color fields is really the only way to go with mid-century houses because the architecture is all about the shapes and the forms. If you try to do a wallpaper that’s too ornamented in that kind of a house, to me, it looks like you put wrapping paper up on your wall.”
Myers’ main objective when designing the kids’ rooms was to create a space that would require little refreshing over time. A playful mix of fun wallpaper, patterned accents (layering the flat weave rugs on top of the wall-to-wall carpet introduces a sense of depth), and adult-approved furniture tie everything together.
“[The client] is only going to hire a designer once. She’s not going to hire a designer every two years to redo her kids’ rooms. I really wanted something that they could grow into in high school and not be embarrassed by or [get] bored of, so I got them real furniture from Room & Board and kept the art more fun and kiddish,” she explains.