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Claudia Myers column: Log house to midcentury modern requires difficult design decisions

I spent hours pushing around little scraps of paper with “bed” or “table” written on them.

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Claudia Myers
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As you may know, a successful relocation depends largely on timing and getting everything to fall into place. It’s a good thing we made the big return to the city when we did, because had we waited another five years, the move would have killed us.

My lists were overflowing the dining room table. Things to keep and things to send to Goodwill or Savers. What to put where? Maybe the kids want some of this stuff. A resounding “No! We don’t have room” answered that! Plus, where do we find furniture for our new midcentury modern home? I wanted it to be of that period, not just new furniture.

Planning a complete home layout using only pictures of rugs, bookcases, dressers, paintings, tables and chairs we didn’t even have yet was a challenge. Out came the graph paper and pencils. I spent hours pushing around little scraps of paper with “bed” or “table” written on them. I used reams of paper, downloading and printing pictures of 37 varieties of sofas. I sent for enough little fabric swatches to cover any one of them.

We’d found “the right house” and now there was the log house to sell. The first family to look seriously had to decline. The dad, in his excitement at passing the bar and moving to a new city, had gone shopping. He’d come back owning an antique billiards table.

Do you know how very large a billiards table is? I was told that, with cue clearance, they needed about 20 by 25 feet, roughly the dimensions of the main great room in our log house. Imagine that! I guess the rest of the family didn’t like the idea of a Great Billiard Room, so they went elsewhere to find the perfect space.

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Eventually, our log house sold, as our Realtor assured us it would and there was a deadline looming. Time to make decisions on the big issues. Exactly what color should we paint the walls in our new bedroom, and, no more procrastinating, where are you really going to put those 49-plus boxes of books?

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The ornate Victorian furniture we’d collected over the years had to be sold. Eclectic is one thing; jarring is another. Not only didn’t it “fit” aesthetically in the new place, it also wouldn’t fit physically. We were puzzled to find that there were at least four interior doors that were so narrow that none of our existing upholstered furniture would fit through them.

I advertised on Craig’s List and eBay and a young couple came all the way from Kearney, Nebraska, to buy our Victorian Renaissance bedroom set. The “Bird Lady” marble-top table went to a collector in New Jersey. The rest of the roomfuls were sold in an estate sale event, even the big Austrian sideboard. The carved gargoyles, Chuck and Eddie, were going to a new home. A few other things we hadn’t meant to sell got swept up in the moment as well. We’re still looking for the big turkey platter.

Just when we were moaning about only having two Persian rugs and a leather sofa that we couldn’t get through the back door, I found a business in Texas specializing in MCM furniture and they had what we were looking for: a pencil-leg dining room table and chairs, a massive light-wood sideboard and a Danish Modern desk and cabinet for Tom. Even a tall cabinet that looks like it’s standing with its big block feet in first ballet position.

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“But wait, it’s in Texas!” you say? Not to worry. Before delivering our remaining household goods, our moving company took their truck to Texas and picked up our houseful of retro pieces and brought them back. Above and beyond? Yes!

Another truck was right behind them, bringing the Ikea purchases we decided were just right for our time of life, meaning they didn’t have to last forever and were perfect to hold the 49-plus boxes of books and all the pottery pieces we’d collected. We became very good at putting things together using only pictures and those ingenious little turn-and-lock fasteners. I was having the time of my life decorating a home from scratch.

We left the northwoods with mixed emotions. Our great adventure. We loved catching sight of the wildlife around us. We’d observed moose and bears, deer, coyotes, wolves, many varieties of owls and other birds during our 23 years there. What’s in town? Big, fat, gray squirrels. Rabbits.

The first week we were in our new city home, looking out the kitchen window. Wait! Is that what I think it is? We watched as a well-fed black bear ambled down our driveway, not even 10 feet away. He crossed the street, sat in the neighbor’s yard for a while, then hoisted himself up to continue onto the creek. Later, here he came back again. Up our driveway and around the side of our house, along our fence line.

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I began to think we were living in Duluth’s version of Elizabeth Taylor’s movie “Elephant Walk,” where they built a magnificent home on the pathway the elephants used to get to their winter grounds. The animals eventually got so incensed at having to get around this structure that they gathered a huge herd and tramped through the house, destroying it.

What if our house had been built on the bear path and some Saturday we’d look out to see all the neighborhood bears waltzing on our front lawn? Groovy.

Next: Color me, color you — my wacky color theory.

Read more from Claudia Myers
First of all, it's impossible to organize your entire life all at once. It's too enormous an undertaking for anybody. You’ll just give up.

Claudia Myers is a former costume designer for The Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at the College of St. Scholastica. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and a local antique dealer, specializing in Persian rugs.

Related Topics: HOME AND GARDEN
Claudia Myers is a former costume designer for The Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at the College of St. Scholastica. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and a local antique dealer, specializing in Persian rugs.
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