For mother-daughter duo Glenna and Tyrina Blomer, finding, restoring, and selling mid-century furniture is a passion project. When the pair ran out of space for mid-century gems in their own home, they decided to share their finds by opening a Houston showroom, where they sell art, furniture, lighting, and accessories by such icons as Milo Baughman, Le Corbusier, Knoll, and others. Here, Tyrina tells how it all came to be.
When did your love affair with mid-century style begin?
Tyrina: I was actually born in the ’60s, so I call myself a mid-century baby. I like to think that while all of these designers were making incredible things that I now love and collect, somehow I was innately absorbing it.
Then I spent my teenage years in Miami during the entire Hollywood Regency period—everything was lucite and chrome and brass. I think that had a really big influence on me. When I bought my first home, I started finding myself very attached to the things I was raised with. Today, our house has a very “Miami penthouse” look. It’s full of Milo Baughman, Harvey Probber, and Charles Hollis Jones.
What are some of the first items you collected?
I started collecting old chrome appliances such as mixers and toasters. I used to buy two or three osterizer blenders from the late ’60s and piece together all the parts—the bottom of the blender, the glass, the lid—to have the perfect factory-new piece. And mind you, they weigh 30 pounds [laughs].
Somewhere along the line you and your mother made the move from collectors to dealers. How did that happen?
A couple years ago, we said, “Hmmm, it’s starting to get a little full in here.” I think every dealer has that moment. So we opened a small gallery at Memorial Antiques and Interiors, a really high-end design house here in Houston. We’re the only mid-century dealer in there—everything else has a very Veranda magazine look with shabby chic furniture. We sell chrome and brass furnishings, incredibly gorgeous lucite lamps, bar carts from the ’50s. One of the mottos at Memorial Antiques is “mix it up,” and our pieces marry well with that French provincial look.
Where do you source your pieces?
I take buying trips to a lot of the bigger cities—Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, L.A. I just got back from New York. The shipping is always a bit of a challenge, and sometimes you have to wait two months to get the pieces. It’s always like Christmas around here.
We also hit the local high-end estate sales. Interestingly, Houston is a big oil hub and a lot of the oilmen traveled during the ’50s through ’70s. We were lucky enough to go to a sale recently where the man had been stationed in Italy in the ’50s. The pieces were pristine and very, very hard to find.
You also restore pieces that aren’t pristine, right?
Last year we opened a studio where we rewire lamps, reupholster furniture, and bring all the glass and chrome as close to its original glory as possible. We try to stay authentic to the period. I’ll search through old design magazines because I want to know how a piece looked when it was put out. We have a whole library about nothing but ’70s décor. It’s rewarding to both of us, taking beautiful pieces from the ’50s up to the early ’80s and making them look close to brand new.
With so much furniture available that is brand new, why buy vintage?
Mid-century pieces are heirlooms. People go into Ethan Allen and buy the Moroccan armoire, but it’s not a piece their children will ever appreciate. The pieces we’re selling are hugely collectible. They’re pieces that are going to go up in value—investment pieces. Ten years from now, you’re not going to be able to touch anything by Charles Hollis Jones. In fact, back in the ’80s, he rented a warehouse and started buying up all his stuff. He knew the pieces were just going to go up in price.
What do you recommend to someone just getting started?
I think it depends on your budget. If you’re young and you want mid-century, it’s probably best to start out with accessories. Go ahead and buy that bar cart, and put an oversized lucite ice bucket on it with a Chase barware set from the ’20s or ’30s. Buy a beautiful blender to use when serving margaritas to your friends on the weekend.
The most important thing you can do is buy what touches you—buy what catches your eye and what you’re going to want to live with, regardless of what it is. You don’t have to bring in your favorite pillows and say, ‘I need to match this in just this color green.’ Buy what you love.
Love Tyrina and Glenn’s collection of fabulous mid-century pieces? Shop their collection now on The HighBoy!
Photography by Bobby Diba.