Category Archives: Travel

modern ‘hood: cliff may’s rancho estates

Orange and gray modern ranch

If I ever build a house, I’ll drop a stack of Cliff May home photos on my architect’s desk for inspiration. In southern California, May was a pioneer of building characteristics that we think of today as the hallmarks of midcentury modern ranches — clean lines, open floor plans, and an indoor-outdoor feel. So on a recent trip to Los Angeles for Andrea’s work, we spent an afternoon in Long Beach cruising May’s Rancho Estates tract neighborhood, built in 1953-54.

The Rancho homes have opaque facades and high privacy fences that reveal little about their interiors. If you’re nosy curious like I am, you can mine real estate sites such as Rancho Style for photos of light-soaked rooms, swanky pools, and lush courtyards. Although I had to imagine what modern treasures lay beyond the walls, I gleefully shot the sculptural plants, rock gardens, colorful gates, and vintage cars visible from the street. Unless otherwise noted, all photos were taken by me from public property.

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Charcoal and yellow ranch home

Modern concrete and stone courtyard with red gate

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LACMA showcases stanley kubrick’s modernism

I shared highlights of my day at Los Angeles County Museum of Art with you here. But–sneaky me–I reserved a special morsel till now: the Stanley Kubrick exhibit. On display through June 30, this multimedia look at the late director’s career features film clips, movie posters, original costumes and props, production photos, story boards, and much more. While Andrea hovered mesmerized over a backlit display of movie lenses (my husband’s a gearhead), I did inner cartwheels over the modern furnishings and props from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I last saw the movie in college, and my strongest memories are of HAL 9000, the eerily soft-spoken computer that undermines the mission. I’m excited to watch 2001 again, primed to spot organic seating, Danish flatware, and futuristic timepieces.

The Djinn loveseat and chair, designed by Olivier Mourgue in 1965, are better known as “2001 chairs” because of their prominent appearance in the film.
Production photo of the space hotel, where scarlet Djinn chairs and loveseats provide the only pops of color.
The Discovery I astronauts dine in style with Arne Jacobsen’s minimal flatware.
Kubrick commissioned Hamilton to design substantial-but-sleek watch props for the 2001 flight crew.

my favorite modern exhibits at LACMA

Last weekend we balanced our flea market marathon with a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I had heard good reviews, but nothing specific. I wasn’t prepared to see important works, icons of modernism, that confronted us before we even made it inside! Here are my favorite moments.

On our way to the ticket window, we fell into trance watching three Alexander Calder mobiles in a lovely water garden.
Next we walked through Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” installation, a mashup of primitive boulder art and modern engineering.
We spent several minutes in the courtyard watching these kids play with “Penetrabile,” by Jesús Rafael Soto. This little girl’s broken arm didn’t hold her back one bit!
Just after entering, we wound through Tony Smith’s monumental “Smoke.”
I’m in love with the color combination in Matisse’s ceramic “La Gerbe.” A local couple commissioned it for their patio in the 60s.
Didn’t expect to turn a corner and run into Josef Albers’s “Homage to the Square” paintings.
Looking closely at Lichtenstein’s “Cold Shoulder,” I was surprised to see many pencil marks and paint smudges. I always assumed that his imitations of mechanical printing were extremely precise. This discovery made me feel I could ease up a bit on my own perfectionism.


favorite finds at the rose bowl flea market

A literal stadium full of antiques and crafts lured me to Pasadena.

Andrea and I just spent a long weekend in Los Angeles, exploring midcentury neighborhoods and relaxing near the beach. Sunday we drove to Pasadena for the monthly Rose Bowl Flea Market. I’d been looking forward to this shopping trip for weeks. This was a flea market in CaliFORNia, a modernism mecca! I was armed with a carry-on bag filled with bubble wrap and newspaper, thinking I’d load up on vintage goodies for my Lustron. Too bad I didn’t stuff one of those pockets with sunscreen and a giant water bottle. We saw only about a quarter of the vendors because the intense heat was draining us and frying my skin. How hot was it? 102F. The guys selling cheap hats and frozen lemonade made a killing. I did come away with two lovely Fire King bowls, some fun photos, and a lot of know-how for next time.

This orderly rainbow of Fiestaware got my heart thumping.
Too bad this basket chair wouldn’t fit in my suitcase!
I narrowly escaped a 60s sundress splurge.
Did someone whisper to the flea market flippers that I was coming? My favorite shades of seafoam and turquoise were everywhere!
My only take-away: two Fire King bowls to use as planters.