When I went to New York for the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, I decided to spend a day at the New York Design Center at 200 Lexington Avenue. This showroom space was steps away from where I was staying and houses showrooms that are not represented at the Boston Design Center where I usually shop. I started at the top and worked my way down. About mid-way I stumbled on the floor occupied by 1st Dibs. Ten years ago, 1st Dibs revolutionized the antiques marketplace by giving dealers, first in select markets and then world-wide, the opportunity to sell their inventory online. Now, in another revolutionary move, it has established a 33,000 square foot display space for 50+ dealers on the 10th Floor of 200 Lex. And unlike other trade showrooms in the building, 1st Dibs@NYDC is open to the public.
Meandering through the space, I was struck by the eclectic range of antiques and vintage goods, ranging from Continental to Asian to American. Now I'm a girl whose design sensibilities took hold in the late 60s and 70s. I don't gravitate to mid-century furnishings because to me, they seem like relics for curbside pick-ups--hand-me-downs for basements or off-campus housing. So I was very surprised to find myself attracted to the lighting that came out of this era. And the thing that resonated most for me was how influential the Cold War and the Space Age were to the designs that emerged during this time.
For perspective, I remember watching my mother glued to the television set during John Glenn's historic orbit of the earth and the release she felt when he safely emerged post-flight from his Mercury capsule. I also remember rehearsing bomb drills in elementary school and the ever-present civic defense logos that emblazoned secure bomb shelters. One of my friends even had a bomb shelter in her basement built of cinder block and outfitted with bunk beds, canned goods, flashlights and transistor radios with an over-abundance of batteries. To me, it just looked like a fun place to play.
Atomic annihilation was not a palpable fear for me back then. But I can see how taking the forms that evoked fear and humanizing them into everyday objects helped assuage the fear for others. Here is a selection of the fixtures I saw at 1st Dibs that struck this chord in me. How do you perceive them? If you're in your 30s or younger, do you react differently?
Italian Brass Atomic Chandelier 1950s Doesn't this look like a mushroom cloud? Verner Panton Panthella Lamp 1971
Venini Sputnick Chandelier 1960-70s Murano Sputnick Chandelier
Swarovski Crystal Sputnick Chandelier. Less than 2000 produced. Lacquered Chandelier