Bennington Modernism

Earlier this year the Bennington Museum opened a new permanent exhibition dedicated to the modernist artists who worked in and around Bennington from the early 1950s through the mid-1970s. Among the artists of national and international stature with local ties were Pat Adams, Willard Boepple, Anthony Caro, Paul Feeley, Helen Frankenthaler, Patricia Johanson, Vincent Longo, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Dan Shapiro, David Smith and Tony Smith. 

Has anyone been to see the exhibition? What do you think?


Searching for True: Lecture by Architect James Cutler, FAIA

Each of the buildings shown here was designed by Cutler Anderson ArchitectsCome hear architect James Cutler discuss his work next week in Burlington! 

WHERE:  Burlington City Arts Center, Lorraine B. Good Room (2nd floor), at the heart of Church Street Marketplace in Burlington
WHEN:  Thursday, October 30, 2014  (6pm social hour, 7pm lecture)

Spring Creek Ranch, Collierville, TN ~ 2007
Grace Episcopal Church, Bainbridge Island, WA ~ 2003
Bodega Residence, Bodega Bay, CA ~ 2010


The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller

The fantastically-named thinker, designer, architect and author R. Buckminster Fuller came up with some of the most intriguing ideas of the 20th century, including the geodesic dome. In fact, in 1979-1980 Fuller was a proponent of building a giant dome over the City of Winooski. Obviously, it was never built but it's fun to read about: The Golden Onion Dome

Rendering by John Anderson of the City of Winooski 
under "The Golden Onion Dome"

On October 30, 2014, a performance titled "The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller" will be staged at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington. This multi-media "live documentary" is narrated by Sam Green, with live music performed by Yo La Tengo. It promises to be a great evening!

Tickets are available through FlynnTix. Get yours now!


Vermont Design Week: 9/22 - 9/27

The mid-20th century was a great period for modernist graphic design. Paul Rand, Cipe Pineles, Saul Bass, Herbert Matter...learn about their work here.

See what's going in the design world today during Vermont Design Week. Is anyone participating in the events they have planned?


You Could Own a Home Designed by D. James Hill!

And who was D. James Hill, you ask? In the 1950s and 1960s, Hill was one of the most creative and progressive architects working in the Burlington area. You can read more about his life and work here.

As luck would have it, there are two houses for sale right now designed by Hill. The first is located in Burlington's New North End, at 170 Ethan Allen Parkway. Built in 1958 for the Richards family, it features a front wall of glass and split-level floor plan. Click the photo below for a link to the real estate listing.

170 Ethan Allen Parkway, Burlington, D. James Hill, 1958

The second one is in South Burlington, at 260 Spear Street. Hill designed it in 1954 for Dr. Louise Raynor, who was a professor of botany at UVM. The house was featured in the Burlington Free Press when it was built, and you can read the article and see a photo of the house taken shortly after construction here. Click the photo below for a link to the real estate listing.

260 Spear Street, South Burlington, D. James Hill, 1954


A Quick Introduction...

Hi Folks,

Thanks for following The Vermodernist! As you probably know, Eric and Jen are moving from Winooski to Chicago at the end of the year. They have graciously handed over The Vermodernist reins to me, to continue what they started.

And who am I? I moved to Burlington ten years ago to study historic preservation at the University of Vermont. I am now the State Architectural Historian at the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, with a soft spot for mid-century modern architecture and design. I live in Burlington's south end, in a 1956 ranch house with my wife and two kids.

Some of you may know my website - www.vermontmodern.com - which contains a wealth of information about modernist architects and architecture throughout the state. It is constantly being updated, so check in often to see what's new.

There is a lot going on in Vermont these days that has roots in the modernist movement, and I'm excited to have The Vermodernist to share current news items, details about special events, and interesting finds with all of you.

But enough about me...look for new posts on The Vermodernist soon!



This Weekend: Vintage Airstream Trailer Open House in Vermont

When looking at Vermont foliage there's no need to abandon your need for admiring fantastic feats of retro-fabulousness!

This Sunday, October 13th from 2-4pm at Branbury State Park there will be a Vintage Airstream Trailer open house.  Check out the details here as they appeared in this week's Seven Days


Head Into Fall - Vermodernist Style

Despite early October feeling almost as warm as June here in the Green Mountain State, the influx of leaf peepers and changing colors signify these warm temperatures are not to stay.  Figuring out what to wear on these warm fall days can be a challenge, but mixing warm weather gear with items to take the chill away will prove to be the winning weather and style combination.

Check out some pieces that we love. Some are old, some new (particularly love the ModCloth mint cute dress), and some from Vermont too!
Head Into Fall - Vermodernist Style


When Vintage Won’t Do: Creating a Modern, Retro-Inspired Home Office in Vermont

For years Eric and I welcomed friends and family into our various apartments and current home and were proud of our space as we pointed out the origins of many of our favorite pieces.  The vintage credenza, old radio turned into a bar cabinet, our lane cedar chest, and our Victrola record player.  Despite the pride we took in much of our home, the one room that always got bypassed or dismissed as a work in progress was our home office. 

I work from home full time and Eric runs his wedding photography business from the space as well.  We spend a lot of time in the space, yet it was always our dirty little secret of design failure.  The space was cluttered with IKEA-by-way-of-Craigslist finds that served to be functional, but did not necessarily mirror our retro style nor fully serve all our storage needs.

(note: we had already moved out much of the clutter prior to taking this photo)
Whenever we found ourselves at vintage stores or thumbing through the pages of Atomic Ranch or vintage home blogs we could never quite put our finger on what we wanted to do with the room.  A modern home office for two with plenty of places to hide dozens of cables is not a design problem that the mid-century modern family or furniture designer of the times had to tackle.
We looked at modular systems, idea blogs, and modern solutions that took vintage design into account, but these too had issues.  Many lacked customizable options that would accommodate a petite lady and average heighted man.  Our space is also limited as the room also serves as our guest accommodations and the home to our piano. 

We contemplated creating something ourselves with IKEA options or other DIY solutions. However, after much searching and truth-telling, we realized that we weren’t sure the “Y” could “DI.” Our largest home improvement project to date was changing out a kitchen faucet and that required four trips to a home store and many “phone a friend” and family member SOS calls.  The DIY route also wouldn’t necessarily result in a smaller price-tag given the amount of tools and supplies we would need to purchase just to even think of performing such a job. Despite fearing what we might be getting ourselves into, we decided to seek the help of local professionals.

After using the online IKEA  design tool to come up with a basic sketch of what we wanted along with receiving some Formica countertop samples, we turned to South Burlington cabinet maker Simpson Cabinetry.  Na├»ve to any formal home renovation projects, we went into it thinking it would be just like some 30 minute show on HGTV. Much like everything that appears on a 30 minute HGTV show, this wasn’t exactly the case.

We encountered Wil at Simpson Cabinetry  when we stopped by on a random Saturday.  Given that the samples of their work appeared to be contemporary, "stereotypically Vermont" kitchens, we weren’t sure if our vision of a two-person retro-inspired home office could be translated into reality. But Wil picked up on our aesthetic quickly and helped put our vision into cabinet-maker vocabulary and sketches as we settled on white painted flat slab cabinets and drawers, topped by a boomerang patterned Formica countertop and chevron/boomerang handles from Rejuvenation. 

The design process was a relatively straightforward one with us being able to tweak an initial set of drawings allowing for a slightly lower than standard desk height and the maximum amount of storage we could fit. Getting the cabinets actually installed in our home was a bit more slow going as we needed to have a fire alarm box raised in height on our wall and then needed to wait for a time slot to open up in Simpson Cabinetry's busy schedule.

Three months later Wil and Al made numerous trips around the maze of our condo building and did a fantastic job installing our very awesome and very vintage-inspired, but functionally modern home office.

The desktop is Formica Charcoal Boomerang and the Boomerang drawer pulls are from Rejuvenation.  They offer plenty of room for our work stations, electronics, and even provide space to display our PEZ and Robot collections.


We’re thrilled with the results and would encourage anyone who is having a similar dilemma to skip the piecemeal approach and wait it out until you can afford to get what you want done properly.


Day Trippin' via Amtrak in Vermont

Today is our 5th wedding anniversary. We were looking for something fun, different, and Vermont-centric to do this weekend to celebrate. Ever the fan of nostalgia, Eric suggested that we hop on Amtrak for a day trip somewhere in southern Vermont or Massachusetts. He had admittedly unrealistic romantic notions of dining and enjoying a cocktail in a lovely dining car while the scenery whizzed by. Jen, a long time Amtrak veteran from her college days (where she endured 10+ hour trips back and forth between New York City and Rochester, NY) was quick to disabuse Eric of any such notions. "It'll be late, crowded, and probably will break down along the way, " she told Eric. Thankfully she was wrong.

But where to go?

A quick search of the Amtrak web site revealed that The Vermonter traveled daily between St. Albans, VT (one stop north of us) and New York City (and in fact continued on all the way to Washington, DC for any especially brave souls). There are several stops in Vermont, including Waterbury, Montpelier, Randolph, White River Junction (WRJ), and Brattleboro. We'd been to nearby Hanover, NH (where Dartmouth College is) before, but we'd never stopped in neighboring WRJ. After some quick research, we decided that it looked like a cool little New England town that could be a lovely place to spend a day in October. WRJ it was! A note for those interested - for a limited time Amtrak is running a special where tickets between any 2 stops in Vermont are only $12!

Unfortunately, there is only one Vermonter train each way per day. Meaning on Saturday we'd catch the 9am train from Essex Junction, VT southbound arriving in WRJ at 11am and we'd board the return train from WRJ at 6:45pm. We hoped there would be enough to keep us busy.

Heading south on the Vermonter

A Step Back in Time

When we stepped off the train in WRJ it did have a certain feeling of stepping back in time about 50 or 60 years. The downtown is a relatively compact old school New England sort of town. There are a lot of old buildings with signage from the 50s or earlier. Very few cars (or, in fact, people) were downtown so I would not describe it as bustling by any means. But it was lovely. When an 80 year old driving a 1950s vintage two tone Chevy drove by, we looked at each other and said, "that seems about right."

Jen did a bunch of research before our trip and the destination we were mainly looking forward to was a shop called Revolution, a clothing store that specializes in clothes from independent designers from the region as well as a lot of great vintage stuff. It did not disappoint. Jen picked up a cute colorful wrap skirt by Mountain Ash Design, and Eric found a fantastic vintage, Made in USA dark green tweed blazer, probably from the 1960s. One of the shop  owners, Kim, was extremely helpful and friendly and gave us tips of what else to check out in town. We highly recommend checking out Revolution if you're in the area.

Eric was tempted by this blue tux jacket, but alas, it was not meant to be!

 After Revolution, we wandered over to a couple of architectural salvage shops. The first was the non-profit ReCOVER Store whose proceeds help fund the COVER organization. Their mission is to "build community and foster hope through cooperation and fellowship among all home repair and reuse participants."  The shop was filled with reclaimed material - everything from lovely vintage glass light fixture shades, to tile, to flooring, to bed frames, and even kitchen utensil and tools. The second shop we visited was Vermont Salvage which was bigger and sold only architectural/larger salvaged items.

Need a claw foot tub to complete you vintage bathroom? Plenty (as well as just the claw feet). Or how about a gigantic wooden mantle, or even a set of pews from a church? Check. Many to choose from. There was a set of cubbies from an elementary school with the children's names written on masking tape still stuck to the wood. There was a huge half-circle window that was probably 100 years old. Doors, desks, lockers, file cabinets, toilets, sinks of all sizes, benches, windows, even old school tall men's room urinals - they had it all. If we lived in a Vermont farm house instead of a 1,065 square foot condo, I could easily see myself going absolutely crazy in a place like that. There was an old EXIT sign that lit up that was only $20 which tempted me and would fit in our condo, but we didn't purchase it. They also have a fair amount of smaller stuff - hinges, switch plates, some pulls, knobs, faucets, etc. - and no other knick-knacks. Everything is strictly architectural/building salvage stuff. If you are in WRJ and enjoy this kind of thing, don't miss this store.

Next stop was a visit to the Center for Cartoon Studies, a school that "offers a two-year course of study that centers on the creation and dissemination of comics, graphic novels and other manifestations of the visual narrative." They have a small gallery/visitor center that was open when we were there. We stopped in and admired some original comic strips they had on display from the 1950s including a few vintage Nancy strips.

It's in a really cool old building with a few really nice vintage signs, including this one from the old Colodny's Surprise Department Store.

One of the more eclectic stops in WRJ was the Main Street Museum.

The museum's Web site describes it as "An eclectic display space for material culture and an experiment in a new taxonomy. Originally thought of as an "alternative" museum, the museum's present form and activities resemble the 18th and 19th century "cabinet of curiosities" and point to an interest in the historic roots of museums and museology."
Personally, we thought the museum was akin to taking a brief peek into the mind of someone like John Waters.  The museum contained everything from taxidermied animals to a rubber doll leg and a large image of a salad all with intriguing descriptions. 

Part freakshow, part get your freak on, this was definitely a great stop on our trip! 

With some time to kill prior to our train we grabbed a cup of coffee at the Tuckerbox Cafe, which provided a nice end of the day shot of caffeine and place to rest our feet.

The bulk of the shops in town closed at 5pm on Saturday, which left us with an awkward hour and a half to kill prior to hopping the train back north.  We headed to the Food Co-Op to purchase some provisions for our train ride to avoid dining on a dinner of Amtrak snacks. 

All-in-all a lovely retro-fabulous day in Vermont, and proof that there is always something to explore in the Green Mountain State!