We're all familiar with the Midcentury era from our vantage point 60 to 70 years after the fact. TV shows like Mad Men created a compelling vision of what it was like to live in a world of slim-fitting suits, short, sexy cocktail dresses and a bottle or two of scotch in every file cabinet.
But here, where I live, in Palm Springs (arguably the birth-place of Midcentury Modern Architecture) there was something else going on. The Rat Pack and Hollywood stars were all here, but they were dressing up in custom-made western wear, taking trail rides into the mountains, and parading down Palm Canyon Drive for the biggest social events of the year in Palm Springs; Western Week and Desert Circus (both western themed events).
The movies and TV shows of the 50s and 60s were obsessed with the American West and the cowboy way of life. Gene Autrey (my wife's favorite), Dale and Roy Rogers and John Wayne, to name just a few, built their careers on the cowboy personas they projected.
On Christmas morning in the 1950s kids across America proudly wore their brand new six-shooter cap gun in its tooled leather holster, slung low around the waist, and their new cowboy hats while imagining themselves riding on horseback as The Lone Ranger or shooting it out under the blazing mid-day sun on some deserted, dusty western main street. I was one of those kids.
The West that was portrayed, just like the the Midcentury image we have imagined and recreated, was an invention that held little relation to the real life world of the actual gritty and brutal cowboy lifestyle.
But that's where it gets interesting. Midcentury basement rec-rooms were decked out as cowboy lounges that were a mash-up of the old West executed with a whimsical style and color palette pulled straight from a Midcentury Modern design sensibility. And that is what ModWest is all about.
Cowboys in front of Modernist cabins promoted by plywood manufacturers. Modernist chairs covered in cowhide. Flat, graphic, stylized cutouts of cacti and steer heads. Refurbished wheelbarrows that held the latest stereo record player.
ModWest celebrates the intersection of Midcentury Modern and the Wild West and seeks to promote an understanding and appreciation of ModWest that existed in architecture, design, music, movies, TV and all other aspects of MidCentury Modern culture.
I hope you enjoy perusing this site and discover and embrace the joy, beauty, naivete, invention and optimism of everything ModWest!
Richard Hovel / ModWestern since 1953