Monday, September 26, 2011

Do you know Bart Swindall aka Magnaverde, true master of High and Low?

If you have been blogging or reading blogs for a while, you probably know Magnaverde. Recently looking through my inspiration folder, I came across Magnaverde's Chicago Apartment as feature in O Magazine in 2008.

I haven't been blogging very long, but I have been reading design blogs since 2007, which I think is when they hit the ground running. Correct me if I am wrong.

Anyway, I've always liked to read comments on long time bloggers' blogs like Decorno, and I have stalked That Homesite for like ever. Magnaverde's comments are always thoughtful and genuinely helpful. A breath of fresh air.

So is, or was, his apartment. (I don't know if he still lives there.) The design was REAL. I can't remember where I read this, but a while back he tried the all neutral, beige trend. However, after a while, he was honest enough with himself to realize that he couldn't keep up with the neutral look. By the way, Bart custom fit the white slipcover to his sofa using store bought SureFit slipcovers. Brilliant and cheap!
Anyway, let me just preface this with saying that I still love neutrals and whites and grays, but I so appreciate his ability to fearlessly add color to his surroundings. He proves that colors don't clash, they all "match," they all work.

He attributes his audacity when it comes to color to simply being on a budget, buying second hand, and dealing with the upholstery the pieces already have. I think he's being humble. He clearly has a good eye and buys carefully. He invests in pieces that stand the test of time, whether that means that he purchases them or finds them for free and modifies them into what he wants. Either way, it's admirable. Taking your time in decorating your home and avoiding the impulse to fill that empty space with whatever the big box is offering on sale is certainly a virtue in my book. The temptation to fill empty space with whatever is easy is too great.

Bart Swindall has mastered that virtue. When his Chicago apartment appeared in O Magazine back in 2008, the article stated that "Swindall repurposed styrofoam packing blocks and slide carousel boxes (painted black) to serve as pedestals for his lamps." Seriously genius. I mean really. Look at that photo below. Does that look like styrofoam?

As for the lamps, he found them at a thrift store and spray painted them black and gold.

Bart created the bookcase below by attaching a vintage door frame to a steel bookcase.

He also dipped an antique table in plaster (it's reversible). Maybe as an ode to John Dickinson?

Below is Bart's apartment sans the white/neutral look.

You can't see it in the photo below, but I believe that in the dining room, Bart had a chandelier he made out of shower curtain rings and a plastic grocery store tray. Apparently, he hung it to figure out scale of a future light fixture only to have it stay there for a year, grow on him, and find a permanent home. Talk about mixing high and low...Apparently it hung there 4 feet away from an antique Roman marbelized urn probably worth God knows what....Ha! A risk taker no doubt is that Mr. Swindall...

When I found these pictures in my inspiration folder I realized how timely it was that this article ran in O Magazine in mid 2008, when we were on the brink of the economic collapse. Either it was a coincidence or the writers at O are psychic. Either way, it was wonderful to see how an apartment that looks so pulled together, so classic, and exhibits such confidence, is the result of a lot of thrifting, antiquing, ingenuity, and a sense of humor. You don't have to spend a fortune to have a nice place full of life.

Sure Bart Swindall is a historian, and the nod to history is obvious in his apartment, but it's not a serious home. It's a home with a sense of humor. The plastic shower curtain ring and tray chandelier, plastered table, styrofoam stands, and lastly, a vinyl ball he bought from the toy aisle placed on a bronze tripod making it look like it was a rare work of glass art. Who woulda thunk it? About that last one, the vinyl ball, I remember reading on gardenweb that when kids would go to Bart's house, they would recognize the ball for what it was straight away. They would reach for it to play with it, as their parents gasped thinking they were about to break a relic.

So with all that said, I started to wonder about my own place. Had I taken any risks? Did my home have a sense of humor? Was it a combination of things that we loved, a combination of high and low, ingenuity, work, and a sense of humor? My home is still a work in progress, but I hope someday it is just that.

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