Doug Childers/Homes Correspondent
David Bass can tell you exactly when his interest in mid-century modern design got serious.
“In the mid-2000s, I saw an Eames dining chair with metal legs in a vintage store,” said Bass, who works in public relations. “I had heard the name ‘Eames’, and the price was good. So I bought it.”
It wasn’t in great shape, and Bass eventually parted ways with the chair. But that purchase sparked Bass’s interest in the collection of mid-century modern pieces, which feature minimal design and clean architectural lines. On a personal scale, this chair was like a big event in the calendar: Before Eames, After Eames.
Today, Bass has an extensive but carefully curated collection of furniture designed primarily in the 1940s and 1950s by a variety of prominent mid-century figures, including Eames, George Nelson, Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen.
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However, becoming a mid-century collector was not a simple process. Bass immersed himself in the history of the style, learning about the works of great designers as well as those whose work is lesser known.
“Initially, I wasn’t as invested in authenticity as I was in aesthetics,” Bass said. “I was satisfied with the designs of the imitation period.”
Eventually, however, he moved away from vintage knockoffs and began collecting new, licensed pieces that are made to the designers’ original specifications.
“I want the pieces to be new, but authentic,” Bass said. “I still have a few pieces that I once owned, but they are in perfect condition.”
The move last year from a 600-square-foot condo in Manchester to a modern-style 1,740-square-foot townhouse in Church Hill North gave Bass some room to expand his collection. It wasn’t a painless experience, however – he had to replace a George Nelson-designed bed that the movers couldn’t maneuver around a tight bend in the staircase of the new house.
“I even considered hiring a crane before giving up,” Bass said. “But he went to a good house.”
Bass’ most recent acquisition is a small tray table designed in 1970 by Hans Wegner – a relatively new design, compared to most of the Bass collection.
“I needed a small coffee table in front of the couch in my office,” Bass said. “It’s one of Wegner’s lesser-known pieces. It’s functional, and I didn’t have anything from him, so I added a new designer. I like it to be a bit more obscure.
He added, “It’s important to find that balance between icons and lesser-recognized pieces.”
Bass’s love of mid-century aesthetics recently led him to found FLUX, a grassroots organization designed to bring modern enthusiasts together in Greater Richmond.
“It will be a combination of scheduled events and pop-ups,” Bass said. “There will be exhibitions and conferences organized. You won’t know what to expect next.
The first scheduled event, a gallery exhibition of modern architectural models, will take place on October 20. (Details can be found on the band’s Instagram account, @fluxconnect.)
In the meantime, Bass offers simple advice for people who want to become collectors.
“Start small and see where it leads,” he said. “Maybe buy a single piece, like a side table.”
Or a cheap Eames dining chair that needs a little TLC. After all, it worked for Bass.
Editor’s Note: This is the first episode of the occasional “Collectors at Home” series.