Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Thrill of the Hunt: Meet Carlos and Christine Villalta of MidCentury Modern Finds

Carlos and Christine Villalta of Dogpatch's Midcentury Modern Finds with some of their products at their headquarters in Dogpatch, San Francisco. 
As long time fans of all things midcentury modern, we enjoy wasting time surfing the internet for furniture we no longer have room for and accessories that we just might find a spot for.

We were pleasantly surprised to happen upon the website Midcentury Modern Finds (MCM Finds) -- not just because they have a great selection of midcentury furniture and accessories, but also because they are located in Dogpatch.

MCM Finds is located in the San Francisco Storage building -- the same large storage facility at 23rd and Illinois where one-time Dogpatch business, Seven Stills, started and customers of Dogpatch Dance  still boogie, dance and twerk.

Married couple Carlos and Christine Villalta run MCM Finds together. For Christine, it is her full time endeavor and for Carlos, a part time labor of love on weekends and in the evenings after he finishes work at the SFMTA where he has worked for many years.

MCM Finds looks for designs from such American designers as George Nelson, Harry Bertoia, and Florence Knoll;  Brazilian Modern Designers such as Joaquim Tenreiro, Sergio Rodrigues and Jorge Zalzupin as well as French designers such as Raymond Loewy, Pierre Paulin and Charlotte Perriand.

MCM Finds primarily sells to interior designers who know they will find a highly curated line of furniture and accessories to chose from for their clients. They also sell direct to the public.

Why do you do what you do?

I enjoy the different forms and materials of the items we find.  We often have to research our finds to discover the designer and the background of the piece.  I love the research.  You never know what you will find.  We both really love the unique pieces -- we would rather have a great piece by a lesser known designer than a well known piece by a brand name designer.

Brazilian midcentury modern is one of our favorite styles and Sergio Rodrigues and others made some amazing pieces.  Brazilian modern uses a lot of jacaranda wood in its pieces which is similar to rosewood.

As a kid I was always painting and making things for my room.  I grew up in Sausalito and went to school in Santa Cruz where I focused on fine art with an emphasis on ceramics and photography.  I also studied in Mexico City and eventually moved there in 1996 -- to me as a young student it was much more exciting and culturally rich than Santa Cruz! In Mexico I modeled to pay the bills but a friend let me use part of her shop space as a gallery and I curated the art and put together shows there.

In 2001 I was ready for a change so I moved to Barcelona where I taught English, among other jobs. I then moved to Paris for a few months but headed back to the U.S. later that year.  Now that I have two young children I marvel that my parents let me do all that traveling on my own!

I met Carlos in 2001 at a Salsa concert at the Great American Music Hall and we were married in 2005.

We started going to flea markets together and bought furnishings for our home. We loved changing the items we had so when we were done with one item we would sell it on Craigslist.  We didn't realize at the time that what we were buying was called midcentury modern -- we were just buying what we liked and looking for high quality products.  We had success selling on Craigslist and we soon realized we had an actual business so in 2009 we officially started Midcentury Modern Finds.
A  Jens Risom Chair and Arthur Umanoff Magazine Rack from Midcentury Modern Finds 

I love the thrill of the hunt and the feeling that I have found something special.  We work with a network of pickers who are always looking for items for us but I also go to flea markets and auctions to find inventory.

I also really enjoy knowing where our pieces end up. Customers will often send us photos of the pieces in their home.

I grew up in El Salvador but came to California when I was 17.  I took lots of art classes at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. I particularly liked the silkscreening classes and took classes from Michael Roman as well as other classes from Rene Castro.  They really inspired me.  I actually got a job working for the city of SF in their silkscreening department back when they used to silkscreen all the street signs.  Technology has taken over that process so I made the move to the department of parking and traffic. I've been with the city for 26 years.

My grandmother in El Salvador had Danish style furniture from the 1960s and I loved the clean lines of that furniture. Because the furniture is so well known now people often forget that when the furniture came out in the late 50s and 60s just how unusual the designs were from what came before. These designs are so knocked off now that some people don't realize the great craftsmanship of this furniture.

Why Dogpatch?
We have lived in SF for a long time so we knew about the Dogpatch neighborhood.

We originally stored all the extra furniture in our garage but we quickly ran out of room.  We found a storage unit at Cesar Chavez and Indiana.  We stored the furniture there and met clients there but we still had to bring it to our house to photograph each piece so we were going back and forth a lot.

We actually found our current space when we brought over a piece to photograph in front of the brick wall at the Potrero Power Plant.  We are in our second space at this location.  We are in about 1000 square feet. It is so great to have enough space to store the furniture and also take photographs of them in this space. And there is a loading dock so trucks can pull right up to our space

We also love that this facility is family owned.  We feel good about meeting clients here in this space. We like the feel of the neighborhood as well -- it's still a working class neighborhood.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
Probably something in interior or furniture design.  When I was in school I wasn't aware of industrial design so I would love to explore that area of design.  We would like to add to our business perhaps with designs of our own.  And I might get back into ceramics -- Carlos just found me a kiln so who knows!

Since I have a full time job I love the creative outlet that this gives me.

Editor's note:  Items in first photo from left to right
Fritz Hansen chair by Frederik Sieck (Danish)
‘Globe 2000’ Floor lamp by Frank Ligtelijn for Raak (Dutch)
Angelo Lelli for Arredoluce floor lamp (Italian)
C. Jeré lamp on top of vintage walnut side table (American)
Norman Cherner for Plycraft chair (American)