By Karen Parr-Moody
Nashvillians continue to be mad for mid-century modern – and at Atomic Tulip, such wares are inspired by little green men. No, we’re not talking about trolls: We speak of the space-age design craze sent into orbit by the Space Race of the 1950s and 1960s.
The Cold War competition saw Russia’s Sputnik satellite launched in 1957, followed by the Russian moon landing in 1959 and the U.S. Apollo missions of the 1960s. Such extraterrestrial adventures made the era’s furniture designers see stars, and such designs are reflected in many of the MCM finds at the Atomic Tulip booths (one booth, B-357, is at the original GasLamp One and two are at GasLamp Too under the T-357 designations). There, the out-of-this world furniture born of that era’s new materials, including stretch fabric and molded plastic, is on view. Think: Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair, with its space-capsule shape, and Verner Panton’s cantilevered stacking chair, with its iconic letter “S” curves.
(Photo of Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.)
While it’s not easy being as green as a Martian, Atomic Tulip owner Stacy Blackman strives to sell the look.
“I try to find the space-age stuff and Pop Art,” Blackman says. “It’s the hardest to find around Nashville – or even when I venture out. People really get excited about it.”
What Blackman calls “weird lamps” are among such “space-age stuff.” These are the sculptural and organic styles that often feature unusual finishes.
Currently, there is a lamp at Atomic Tulip’s GasLamp Too booth that fits the mold: a yellow globular lamp on top of a pedestal that looks like that of the iconic Tulip chair designed by Eero Saarinen in 1955 and 1956 for Knoll ($125).
Lamps throughout the 1960s were often designed imaginatively as neo-organic forms with curves inspired by both space and nature. A pair of lamps designed in this vein are currently featured at Atomic Tulip.
By Paul Mayén, the rattan lamps feature iron hairpin legs ($325 each). Mayén was an artist known for sleek designs made of aluminum, chrome, glass and wood; his designs are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Stacy Blackwood started Atomic Tulip six years ago due to what she calls “a love of 20th century anything.” The space age and Pop Art aspects of that era’s design have a particular ability to transform a room, she says.
“People can put it in their house and when people come in, they’ll go, ‘Oh my gosh! Wow!’ It’s the fun that you see again and again when people decorate eclectically with a couple of those mid-century pieces.”
Another great example of such styles is this bohemian mid-century modern floor lamp.
It features a bamboo pedestal with a glass tray and a woven rattan shade that covers a globe-shaped bulb ($225).
This table lamp reveals what Blackwood calls “the sculptural side of mid-century modern.”
Made of wire, it is sculpted int0 the shape of a tulip ($89).
These tubular chrome chairs upholstered in blue fabric are imbued by retro-modern sensibility ($175 each).
They feature tufted detailing, a gorgeous detail.
When Blackwood was 22 years old, she had a job at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo in New York City performing computer support.
“It was great because I got to go to the art openings and enjoy the aesthetics of the building every day,” Blackwood says. “Also, I would wander around SoHo, in and out of the shops, looking at the mid-century modern furniture.”
Now Blackwood loves offering pieces at Atomic Tulip that tap into others’ creativity.
“By having those pieces available, they can have fun with them,” she says. “I think, ‘This is cool; can someone have fun with that?’ That’s the rewarding side of having the booths. And that’s the cool thing about GasLamp.”
(Photo of Verner Panton’s chair at top courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London; all other photos courtesy of Stacy Blackwood.)