Vintage Story – Modern50

I buy and source vintage from a lot of places – but Modern50.com always has inventory that stops me in my tracks. The kind of stuff that you never even knew you might want – like a wooden roof rack or a Chocolatiers stainless steel tub.

In full disclosure I tried writing up my notes from my interview with “Dino Paxenos” from Modern50 but this guy is very hard to contain on paper. So we scrapped my attempt, and the following interview write up is pure Dino. Stand back.

Image – Industrial Steel Bar Serving Cabinets. Pictures Modern50.com

How Did You Get Started?

In 2003, I was an illustrator, a desk jockey, a bonafide member of the corporate elite, with a big steady eddie paycheck and bennies, lots of bennies.  The internet train we were robbing was breaking up while re-entering the earth’s atmosphere and this large distraction opened up huge opportunities to run a concurrent business out of your office pod.  A guy down the hall was writing a book, my boss opened up a Thai “Home Cooking” joint down the street, and “Furry” the graphic designer ran an online travel agency, inbetwixed pushing rainbow colored pixels.  So my buddy and I started and ran Modern50, thrift stores lunches and dumpster diving dessert.  There was a real freedom in finding things, and as a typical artist even the best jobs always feel like house arrest.

How do you buy?

Mid-century Modern was my first learned love, and from 2003-06 that is really all I did, Herman Miller fiberglass “shell” chairs by Charles and Ray Eames.  But as my perusing of catalogs and reference materials continued, the modularity of so many modernist designs started to sink in and I broke apart what I liked about a certain items and combined those characteristics with the another totally different piece, genre or style did not matter any longer.  It was like furniture assemblage.  And If I had had any purist tendencies to begin with, they had definitely vanished.  There is a rush involved with finding great pieces and a big disappointment getting beat to the good stuff, I had to expand my repertoire – and at the same time increased my chances of finding great things to share. I went to school, and took art classes; my real “art school” experience was my first four years as a commercial artist at a big IT company.  I am self-taught antique dealer, but the term self-taught doesn’t apply to pickers, junkers, dealers, sellers.  It’s on the job learning, learning when your back is against the wall.  That’s the lessons that tend to stick.  The picking thing, someone else flipped my switch, and I just lost myself in it.  My mind spreads latterly and obsessively through my whims – in the beginning it was voraciously reading catalogs and books, making lists of search terms, saved searches, etc. for craigslist and eBay.  Over time, I’ve learned to listen to my intuition – trusting myself when a piece strikes a chord.  And enjoying the sound of it, not drowning it out with doubt or pragmatics.

Tell us about some of your favorite finds

Jim Houser was one of those artists whose work really got me unstuck, got me drawing and painting more, he’s a real emo painter! A little light and airy, I prefer dark, but it was belly button cartoons, and I dug it!  The first time I saw his work was in 1997, at the home of Mary Chen, one of his biggest collectors, his painted skateboard decks all over the walls were mesmerizing.  Some years later at an auction, my old business partner Eric pointed out a furniture porter wearing a Toy Machine “Lurker” hoody.  I bought it right off his back, when the morning chill wore off.  Another lucky find, I once rented a truck, and the waiting room was full of Sergio Rodrigues rosewood sheriff chairs and sofas.  In the end more than the piece itself is the circumstances surrounding it that make it special – where, how, and who, like a fisherman’s tall tales, the travails to the piece often define its importance to you, it helps me relax during the anxious “grindy” times, like estate sales, the competition to get dead or dying peoples stuff, it just doesn’t bring out the best in pickers.

How has your business evolved with the Internet?

Most of my volume is done through the internet which makes photography critical in giving the buyer confidence to commit to a piece. I’ve always loved photography and spend a lot of time photographing my finds. People want to be shown how these items can be viewed in their full glory vs. their original condition when they were “picked.”  Even though, I do keep a little scrapbook of the finds “in their natural habitat.” Cheesy, and sentimental, and nerdy “prolly” too.

What is a typical day like?

Buying is like chasing, especially when the deal is pre-set, there is often a lot of driving involved.  Those days are like gypsies.  Other days are quiet with my coon cat, Pooffoot doing internet stuff; emails, website, online shopping, content scraping.  And with a cup of coffee, down to my shop to tinker, clean, fix and polish my finds. I like to make things with the least amount of change using found objects to assemble a new piece.  Every day is different – it could be an idea for a photo shoot, helping a buddy style a pad, or an idea for the next one-off product line. Here at the modern lodge I live with and around a lot of collected junk, about 6000 sq. ft., eventually things come together and make their way onto the website.

What would surprise people about you?

My lack of personal hygiene, probably.  Because I find things that people really connect with I am often asked for advice on interior design. I consider myself obsessed with the parts and pieces but going into “full picture” or “master plan” mode is tough for me. This often happens, impromptu, in the client’s house while dropping off a few pieces of furniture, after a few cuss words and a sheepish “I don’t care.” if I haven’t lost them, I kinda get into it.

Old Aspen Wood Alpine Ski Roof Rack

Vintage Industrial Chocolatiers Stainless Steel Tub

Vitrolite Slab Industrial Coffee Table

Picking! Bertoia Chairs in the Boot

Dino Paxenos Art – Ink on Salvaged Maple Panel

A peek into Dino’s space – great Jim Houser skateboard art

Thanks Dino

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