Room Without a Key: StudioSmith

Oct 2, 2008 by

Prepare yourself for a visual journey through mid-century modern delight!  Barry Smith, of STUDIO SMITH, a communication design firm, was kind enough to open his office doors for a Room Without a Key tour.  Generous Barry also shared a fabulous secret with us, especially for those in the Chicago area: Jubilee Furniture Company is an amazing source of mid-century modern treasures at garage sale prices!

Barry, with his excellent taste in vintage design, now takes the {pH} floor in taking you through his inspirational office!

Left Photo: This art is by the American born Black Finnish artist Howard Smith.  Howard Smith moved to Finland 45 years ago and has made an impressive career in Finland as a designer of ceramics and textiles. The Howard Smith art from Goodwill, the lamp from a mental health sponsored thrift. Right Photo: Various shots around the redesigned and refreshed office space. (pH Note: It’s great to see all the mid-century modern elements together in context!  I’d also like to call dibs on that amazing lamp.)

(pH Note: This “secret” box is what drew me to Barry’s office in the very beginning). The box is painted metal from IKEA.  I left the key in it for effect. Fun to see people want to open it. I keep vitamins, extra light bulbs, plus coffee and tea in it. It really looks like an electrical utility box, right?  (pH Note: Industrial magnet clips keep the fabulous Moo cards in place.)

Left Photo: Newest, best ever vintage score. 80 bucks. Original, signed Le Corbusier LC2 Petite, serial number 1370, with original Cassina Spa manufacturer label (pre-Knoll licensed model), and the Atelier International label to boot. (pH Note: What did I say earlier about his fantastic mid-century modern source secret?!) The magazine rack is a mid-century modern piece, dated 1951 and designed by Richard Galef for the company Ravenware. Thrifted via Goodwill. $1.99.  Right Photo: Featuring Vintage Ben Seibel Pyramid small pitcher and compote dish, Canonsburg Temporama mug, store exterior signage, 3D star, sweet Federal Glass packaging. I often swap these items out for new things to start a discussion with fellow colleagues and internal clients. One, to share good design and to show how it can be obtained cheaply, often for less than the price of a Starbucks. (pH Note: So true!  Especially if you have creativity and good taste.) Two, it’s a subtle way to mentor younger designers and grow clients about the value of design. Also, to tangibly show that real people were behind these everyday items, and to promote the idea of a designer as curator. (pH Note: Amen! Good design is timeless.)

Left Photo:
(My first) Catherine Holm score!  Right Photo: Looks like this Caslon clock uses one of my all time favorite fonts. This Caslon flip clock works really well. It makes nearly no sound, and just beyond this photo on the right is a dial which turns continuously, counting down the seconds. The only sound is a
rather unnoticeable tick as the minute hand falls down to expose the next number. This clock is really everything I like about mid-century design. I especially enjoy the colors against the stainless body.  (pH Note: the typography is so attractive, and the tiny tick downwards must bring subtle vintage charm to the office’s ambiance.)

THANK YOU so much Barry for the wonderful experience of your office that is a true tribute to great design and mid-century modern inspiration!  For more design eye candy, visit this set of studiosmith’s photos.

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  1. Great photos. Looks amazing!

  2. I cannot believe that he got that Corbusier chair for 80 bucks! And, that bowl ~ we have one at our lake house exactly like it ~ it was my husband’s grandfathers and I thought it was so retro that we kept it when we refurbished the place last year! What’s it worth I wonder?

    Great post Grace. Ciao amica,


  3. Lari

    The ‘secret key box’ is my favorite too. Those cats on top are so intriguing. Are they vintage? I will now have to stop by ikea to see if I can make my own version of the box, although I’m not sure I can make mine as cool :)

  4. Oh, this makes me wish I lived in Chicago and could go shopping!
    That key box is so perfect and clever.

  5. Jon

    I absolutely LOVE the beautiful font clock! Perfect blend of style and function. Also, this is something I could wake up to every day.

  6. Amy

    Well, this is all completely fantastic, Barry… you have great taste and an uncanny knack for great scores… good favor I can tell, ha! Thanks so much for sharing your office space… it’s ace!!

    And Grace, you made another fine selection here… thank you and keep ’em coming, my dear!! :~)

  7. Hi all. I really appreciate all of your interest and feedback on my office space. I especially appreciate Grace, whose name suits her well. The vigor and wit she brings to her photos, her ETSY store, this blog, and I suspect everything she does is inspiring to me. If you spend some time on my blog, you’ll see how the joy of contributing and sharing is a commonality Mid-Century Modern collectors as well as the friendships that develop as a result.

    As for the Catherineholm bowl, I am a somewhat newcomer to enamelware in general, but if you follow the comments on my Flickr photos, you’ll get a virtual education. I am grateful and fortunate for the many who comment on my images, and who add information. Spend some time looking through those if you are truly interested in learning more. I have always said that Flickr is my research assistance. Another great way to tell it’s value is to do an advanced search on eBay using “completed listings”. This shows previous sales results, and there’s no better way I know of for determining value than seeing what others have been willing to spend.

    As for the black ceramic cats, yes, those are vintage, and in like new condition. I very often see but don’t purchase awesome things on a nearly daily basis, but am a sucker for mint condition. Identifying the manufacturer has been challenging, but check eBay now and again, as I have seen their twins listed on two seperate occasions. They ususally go for around 20-40 dollars. Or you may luck out and find them at thrift.

    Again, thanks Grace for the post. And thanks to you all for your comments.

  8. wow. love it all! such great, classic design.
    just discovered your etsy shop. you have great finds and lovely photography. I shall strive to be as good in my new vintage shop, foundvintagestyle…

  9. anon

    Hi. FYI, it’s not Catherine Holm. It’s Cathrineholm (note the missing “e”, and the single word), enamelware named for the ironworks factory used by the 1960’s company that produced Grete Prytz Kittelsen’s Lotus line, among others …

  10. great site great site great site BRAVO!

  11. click

    I dont even remember how i reached your site but it doesnt matter, cause i’m so happy i found it, it really made me think, keep up the good work

  12. directory

    Your website is beautifully decorated and easily navigated. I have enjoyed visiting this site today and hope to visit many more times in the future.

  13. Thanks for sharing this helpful info!

  14. Nice post….plz help me i also want to post here….

  15. Very useful reading. Very helpful, very useful indeed…

  16. I often think of my past and use it as a means to analyze where I am and where I want to get to.

  17. Oh, and by the way…don’t worry about my Doberman. He won’t bother you. But, whatever you do,

  18. he got that Corbusier chair for 80 bucks! And, that bowl ~ we have one at our lake house exactly like it

  19. If you like it, further programs only submit,you must almost on one headlong to do these workouts.


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