If you’re a fan of design, then you’re going to be a big fan of Adam Schleser of Schleser Modern. This Brooklyn-based furniture seller has a perfect curation of Mid-century pieces that will have any furniture lover scrambling to figure out where they can add a new piece in their home. We were lucky enough to chat with Adam about his process, inspiration and dream projects and we definitely learned a thing or two along the way!
Hi Adam! Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into selling vintage? What’s your background?
Professionally, my background is in e-commerce, however I graduated with a BA in anthropology. I’m also an art handler, avid musician and all-around tinkerer and collector. Years ago, when I moved into my first “real” apartment, I was hunting for a coffee table. Along with many other people, under the spell of Mad Men and the growing trend, I discovered the keyword “Mid Century Modern” and it’s been all downhill (uphill?) from there, as they say.
Is this a hobby or a full time business?
Full time business. It began in my part time, while I was working as a merchandising coordinator for a daily deals website. Very recently I shed all ties to bosses and employers and it feels incredible.
Along with many other people, under the spell of Mad Men and the growing trend, I discovered the keyword “Mid-century Modern” and it’s been all downhill from there, as they say.
What items do you find to be the most difficult to sell? The easiest?
It’s a mixed bag. One never really knows. I curate to a very specific audience and they generally respond well to my collection, however sometimes it just takes longer for someone to recognize what it is that I love about a piece. That might be code for me saying “sometimes, I make mistakes”. For example, I really want to pick up this funky blond, Merton Gershon “Urban Suburban” buffet for American of Martinsville, but it’s an unfortunate truth that blond furniture is a slow sell.
Do you ever get attached to a certain piece and don’t end up selling it?
Rarely. Now and again it happens, and I will swap out a piece from home, but for the most part keeping it won’t outweigh the thrill I get out of fixing, photographing and selling furniture.
What’s your favorite piece that you’re currently selling?
A very special R-Way desk with a floating top in oiled walnut. It came as part of a set which is always a treat. I restored it top-to-bottom and just love looking at it. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
Your focus seems to be on Mid-century Modern. Who are your favorite designers from that period?
I’m currently on an early American Modern kick, lately I find myself inspired by furniture designers like Gilbert Rohde (one of the main progenitors of American Modern—I like to call him “The Real George Nelson”) and T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings (he has a hilarious book, by the way, ‘Good-bye Mr. Chippendale’). I also think a lot about Frank Lloyd Wright’s interiors and the masonry screens of early “International Style” champion Edward Durell Stone (there is a documentary on Stone and Arkansas architectural history, ‘Clean Lines, Open Spaces’, that I highly recommend)
What is your dream piece of furniture that you would like to one day have?
The entire Gilbert Rohde walnut living and dining group, as can be seen in the 1940 Herman Miller catalogue. I’m actually going to Pennsylvania this week to pick up the utility chest (albeit in completely wrecked condition).
How do you recommend to someone how to start introducing Mid-century pieces into their home? Is there a go-to item you would recommend for MCM beginners?
I don’t try to impose Mid-century modern design on anyone. In fact I really love seeing when people diverge and do something completely unique to their functional and aesthetic needs. For example, two of my good friends love to collect from the street—late 19th / early 20th century stuff. Old oak pieces, metal tables, mixed in with milk crate “bookcases”, a mannequin, grandma’s crocheted blanket and assorted collections of old books, trinkets and worldly ephemera.
I think what matters most in someone’s space is that they spend time there—and when they do, it will become apparent what they need. One of the hardest things to overcome in furnishing a living space in New York City is to allow yourself to feel at home. So many of us are constantly worried about our next move (and for good reason), but we need to allow ourselves to spread out a little and get comfortable. Get some tchotchkes, act on impulse a little. Buy that throw pillow or kilim rug you’ve been eyeing. Get the mattress off the floor. Stop using that rickety Ikea table as a desk. Buy vintage! It will look better, last longer, retain its value, and to boot—it’s good for the environment.
What blogs or websites do you visit regularly?
I spend a lot of time scanning Estate Sales listings and eBay. When I really feel like drooling I head over to Wright auctions. I am often reading from random woodworking blogs and browsing Design Addict discussion boards. Instagram has become a great place to be inspired and spread my brand. Please check out my feed @schlesermodern!
What’s the personal style of your home?
Mostly Mid-century. I have a Steelcase sofa I really love, a cabinet maker desk with built in lunch tray that was custom made for a nunnery, KLH model 5 Speakers and too many Artemide Tizio lamps. Oh, and I have this monumental white enamel, four-door Ikea storage unit that I use as a dresser. It’s discontinued, which is the only Ikea furniture I feel comfortable recommending.
Any local makers/designers/artists that you’re crazy about? We’re always searching for new designers to support!
My new goal is to meet young makers and designers. I have plans to sell more contemporary furniture, and hopefully be part of the movement that is changing the face of design for the future. In regards to artists, my friend Leah (a.k.a. @frumperella) is a huge inspiration for me. Her watercolors and mixed media sculptures and writing consistently induce jaw drops. My insta-friend Patrick (@pizzadonkey) makes amazing cut glass pieces and killer illustrations, and you should also see the work of my friend, photographer, graphic designer and art director, Quan Mai (@geneticboi).
There are tons of beautifully designed interiors in Brooklyn—in your opinion, what are the nicest interiors of shops/restaurants you’ve seen?
In regards to places of business, I love the New Orleans stylings of Richard Julian’s Bar Lunatico in Stuyvesant Heights (not to mention the amazing music), Sunny’s bar in Red Hook is a real trip through time, and the newly renovated King’s Theater on Flatbush is mind blowing. I’m also always astonished by the giant ground floors of early 20th century Brooklyn apartment buildings, with their vacuous grand foyers, ancient floor tiling and sometimes very exciting plaster mouldings.
If you could style the interior for any company, who would it be?
One of my dream projects is to help my barber deck out his shop. I want to do the whole thing. Parquetry flooring, repurposed church pews, oak counters and a killer hi-fi sound system. And of course, high quality portraits of the staff.
Aside from New York City, what other cities do you find inspiring in terms of design?
I love Seattle, a beautifully modern city with a wonderful integration of it’s natural and lush surroundings. I’ve never been to Arkansas, but I saw Marlon Blackwell speak at Cooper Union and he sold me on that place—there is so much exciting architecture going on. Blackwell’s St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church in Springdale is a must-see, as well as his commercial and public spaces in Fayetteville and Little Rock.