Mid-Century Modern Makeover

Ask Bryce Curran if the mid-century modern furnishings in his Portsmouth home are a collection and he will likely respond, “More like an addiction.”

Admitting to “constantly looking for stuff,” he wasn’t always this way. In fact, when some of his friends found out he was looking for mid-century dishes, they wanted to know, “What’s going on with Bryce?”

As with so many things in our lives, it all started with his mom. After college and the purchase of his first home, Curran, a Sherwin Williams store manager, found he had no design direction. One day at his mother’s house—which he calls “stylish”—he was flipping through a magazine pointing out what he liked, and his mother said, “That was from the 50s.” 

Approving of her son’s mid-century leanings because it reminded her of her childhood, she and Curran’s grandmother went to Ronn Ives’ Futures Antiques store—then in Norfolk, now online—and purchased the first three pieces in Curran’s soon-to-be-growing collection:  a Paul McCobb corner table, a Majestic lamp with fiberglass shade, and a hanging Danish swag lamp.

Making the most of his own subsequent purchases, Curran frequents secondhand shops like Thrift Store City and DAV Thrift as well as eBay and Craigslist. As his obsession grew, so did his knowledge. He read, researched and studied antiques online to educate himself, with Atomic Ranch being a favorite magazine. Hot on the heels of his growing expertise came a proclivity for higher-end design and the willingness to “save up and buy one piece each year.”

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Estimating that the complete transformation of his 1955 ranch house is “40 percent there,” Curran acknowledges that his wife, Michelle, “didn’t know what to think at first, but can now name designers.” And while she likes the look, she wishes that her husband wouldn’t purchase pieces without first knowing where he is going to put them.

Prized possessions to date include a sleek Paul McCobb credenza—for which Curran searched daily for two years—Murano glass Geode bowls and art glass.

paul mccobb credenza

murano glass geode bowls

But, if you want to really see his eyes light up like his pair of aluminum Christmas trees with their rotating color wheels, ask him to describe his Charles and Ray Eames plywood leg splint (his only Christmas gift one year).  That’s right. A splint; one designed for soldiers in WWII. With its sculptural biomorphic form, it hangs on the wall like an object of art ... much like the one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, in their household, Michelle threatens to put Curran in it if he missteps.

Charles and Ray Eames plywood leg splint

Though this young collector wasn’t alive in the 50s, he derives deep satisfaction from filling his home with furnishings, accessories and decorative objects that serve as antidotes to what he calls “our throwaway society;” that is, our tendency to purchase cheap, poorly made products that, while stylish, won’t last. While the couple now has three young children—a 2-year-old and 4-year-old twins—Curran wants his family to live comfortably with the collection, and has accepted that things will get broken.

Remaining on Curran’s wish list are a new front entry door; several pieces by George Nelson: bubble lamps, a Thin Edge bedroom set and an array of clocks; Guido Gambone pottery for which he admits he would dig into his 401K; and a well-priced mid-century home with post-and-beam construction.

Until that time, he will be content with his traditional ranch house with its modern trimmings and his Frank Lloyd Wright “Falling Water” Lego set, received as a gift. 

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