The quest for mid-century modern furniture started about four months ago. I was thinking to myself, goddamn I could use some new office furniture, but I really don’t want to take money away from my heroin addiction. So how does one go about getting a decent, functional set of furniture that looks like something someone would want to have, but on the cheap? When shopping for furniture, or prostitutes, the first stop on my list is always Craigslist. I started out just looking for a nice chair and ottoman combo, for my reading slash guitar playing nook. During my search (for chairs, not hookers) I stumbled upon one of those iconic, 50’s style Eames chairs, and they looked exceedingly comfortable and stylish.
Naturally, anything that can be labelled “vintage”, “retro”, or “shabby chic” (whatever the fuck that means), has at least two extra zeros added to the price. The authentic chairs themselves were going for thousands of dollars, and were mostly worn out or damaged from being older than the Mormon church. The Eames chair falls under the genre of “Mid-Century Modern”, as in from the middle of the 20th century. As I started seeing more stuff from that era, I came to grow quite fond of it. Something about the simple, industrial elegance of that shit gets my creative juices flowing.
One of the more iconic pieces of Mid-Century Modern (MCM) furniture is the Tanker desk. I’m not sure why they call it that, maybe because it’s made out of steel and weighs as much as a fucking tank. But the desks themselves were really common during the middle of the century, and can look pretty nice once you put in a little bit of restorative work. Fully restored desks generally sell for over $1,000, but that’s if you take them to a body shop and have them bead-blasted and put an automotive quality finish on them. The un-restored desks generally sell for between $100 and $300, depending on where you are. Some of them are pretty beat up, but after about a month of searching around the Austin area, I was able to find both a Tanker desk and a Tanker Bookshelf in pretty good condition. The desk and the bookshelf ran me $100 and $80, respectively.
Here is a picture of the bookshelf, pre-restoration. It was a greyish-white color, and the paint was actually in pretty good condition.
Here is the desk, which was in remarkable condition, considering how little I paid for it. It was originally a dark grey-black color.
Before painting, I removed all of the hardware, hammered out a few dents, and tried to sand out any visible imperfections. I used Rust-Oleum spray paint and primer in one. For the desktop I used a steel grey color, and for the desk body and bookshelf I used gloss black. There was plenty of space in my garage, and I tried to put down butcher paper over a large enough area that I didn’t end up with a layer of spray paint on the floor. Spoiler alert, I fucked that up.
Turns out I grossly underestimate how much paint that I would need. Over the course of the job, I probably used up 4 cans of grey, and 10 cans of black paint. At a total cost of about $70. Also rags, I used a shitload of rags. I was originally going to paint the inside of the bookshelf the same color as the desktop, to create a little bit of contrast; I decided against that though, because once it’s filled with books and shit, you won’t be able to see that anyway, so who cares?
Overall, the desk was pretty easy to paint, it adhered to the surface well, and the glossy finish came out really nice. The bookshelf was a different story, certain areas refused to adhere to the paint, and it would bubble and bead off. Naturally, this sent me into a berzerker rage, which cost me significant quantities of beard hair. Luckily, I grow beard hair at three times the normal raite for a human, and the losses were easily replenished.
Drunk Paul also thought it would be a good idea to buy a modern reproduction Eames recliner and ottoman from Amazon. Sober Paul’s anger was short-lived though, because this thing is really fucking comfortable. Here are some pictures of the new gear, happily tucked away in my office slash reading slash guitar room.
Sorry for the shitty cell-phone pictures, I have a digital camera somewhere. Actually, it’s in that box in the corner of the pictures, I just realized that as I write this. Fuck.