The Mod Squad

Prowling the showrooms of Soho

To have your faith in vintage shaken, visit the bright and airy Modernica showroom (57 Greene Street, 219-1303), where it takes a collector's eye or a salesperson to tell you that the apparently period furniture on display is all brand-new. Find out here what a George Nelson bench looks like fresh out of the box. And you can have as many as you want, since Modernica sells the complete line of Herman Miller reissues. When you can buy a brand-new Noguchi dining table replica for $795, a George Nelson bench for $499, or a Frank Lloyd Wright lamp for $413, you wonder whether you want it because it's a good and attractive piece of furniture, or because it's a chic antique. Asked whether Modernica's ethos will change if midcentury modern furniture is eclipsed by another era, store manager Lisa Fortin says, "We generally don't get the kind of buyer who cares about that kind of thing. People buy the furniture here because they like the way it looks and because it works. And space is an issue for a lot of people in this area, and this furniture just doesn't take up much room. Even if they're not aware of it, they're also responding to the fact that there was thought in design back then." In addition to the reissues, Modernica manufactures furniture inspired by the best designs of the '50s and '60s. Their angora mohair velvet upholstery has a Wyzenbeek fabric-rub-test rating of 76,000 double rubs (whatever that means, it sounds pretty durable). How many vintage furniture stores can boast of such a test drive? Charles Eames himself would probably be impressed. Though the accretion of years has its historical appeal, vintage wasn't one of Eames's main questions. To review before you sign that credit-card slip: Does it solve a problem? Is it serviceable? How is it going to look in 10 years?

C.I.T.E. (100 Wooster Street, 431-7272): the indestructable pieces of the past
Robin Holland
C.I.T.E. (100 Wooster Street, 431-7272): the indestructable pieces of the past

One of four articles in our Shelter Supplement.

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