Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Where does a Mod live?

Where does a Mod live? I've often asked myself that question. There's certainly more existential, meaningful and important questions that I could be asking myself but the readers of this blog are probably not looking at me for spiritual guidance.

Back to the question at hand. Where does a Mod live? The short answer: somewhere cool. I always thought that every aspect of what Mod is, relates to what is cool. The music, the clothes, the symbols, the scooter, the art. All cool and timeless. Why should his or her residence be any different?

When I look at photos of the first pads of the members of the Rolling Stones, I immediately think that there's some inspiration that can be derived from them.

Mick Jagger's London flat
Brian Jones
Bill Wayman
Exactly 5 years ago, I wrote a post called Do I Live in a Mod Pad? In retrospect, that was the wrong question to ask. That question is open to interpretation and personal taste. Over the years, I was honoured to have my former loft featured in a few magazines and newspapers. You can read about it here and here. I look back at the first loft I owned in a former cookie factory with fond memories. 

When I was asked to participate to the Quebec version of the American reality TV show called Four Houses, I didn't hesitate one second. This should be fun, I thought. Honestly, I had a blast. You can read about the experience here. Plus, I had the added bonus of winning the show.

So when they approached me again last summer to be part of an All-Stars episode to kick off season 4, I was ready for a second round. There were a few criteria you had to meet to be part of the All-Stars episode. One, you needed to live in a new place or you had to have significantly changed your decor. Who wants to see the same place on TV twice, right? Luckily, I had just bought a new loft the previous year. And second, you had to be a memorable guest. According to a survey they did, I scored big on that second one. The producers appealed to my ego and it worked.

So? Did I prevail again this time? I'm afraid not. Not only did I did not win but I came in last place. Was I disappointed? Not for a second. Did Stephane's contemporary penthouse condo deserve to win? Without a doubt. Did I regret my dismal showing? Absolutely not. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!

I came in this second round with basically the same attitude I had the first time. I simply felt honoured and grateful to be asked. My strategy was not to win but to have fun and make it entertaining for the people watching at home. When they screen tested me, the producers asked me why I wanted to be part of the show for a second time. I told them that they had cut half of my dumb jokes the first time and that I still had plenty more asinine comments to make.

What my other competitors might not have grasped is that what you leave as an impression on camera is way more important than winning. They were all focused on putting their hands on the silly $1000 prize. I wasn't. They were taking themselves way too seriously. One participant was an interior designer so you can imagine how determined he was being portrayed. How far a chair should be positioned as opposed to a dinning table and where pocket doors are suitable in a house were the least of my concerns. I was there to have fun. You'll have to trust me on this but it showed on camera.

Even if my competitors monopolized most of the conversations on camera, I didn't let that phase me. I knew that most of their monologues would eventually be cut during editing. I was patient. Better to come up with a few punchy zingers than go on and on filling up moments of silence. My instinct served me right. I ended up with most of the air time.

Now that you have been put into context, is my place suited to everyone's taste? Certainly not. Unique? Hell yes! Cool? Well... I hope so! Do I wish to be a source of inspiration? That's the whole point of this post. Do you picture a Mod living here? That is the question.

For those who are not familiar with the Four Houses concept (Ma Maison Bien-Aimée in Canada), it's pretty simple. You have four contestants that visit each others houses without the proprietor being present and then you give a score out of ten. Highest score wins. 

I was hosting the first visit. So I got a maximum of a minute to greet my fellow contestants before I opened the door and let them visit. It's hard to make a significant first impression in front of cameras when you're meeting people for the first time and you have a total of 60 seconds or so. I believe that was a disadvantage. They had no idea who I was. But that's no excuse. I lost fair and square.

When the whole weekend of taping was done and the final score had been revealed, Anne-Marie, the only women in the group came up to me to apologize for giving me a low score of 5 out of ten. 

- Why do you feel that way? I asked.
- To be honest, while I was visiting your place, I thought a crazy person was living there.
- Anne-Marie... You have no idea how happy that makes me feel to hear you say that.

Needless to say, I took what she said as a compliment. In my warped sense of accomplishment, I had won. At least, I wasn't like the others. I was different. Isn't that what a Mod is all about? Even if my views were skewed by the results and it was hard for me to be completely objective, the other 3 contestants all had a very similar contemporary modern style. For me, they were interchangeable.

When you awarded a score to your fellow competitors, you also had to give feedback in form of a few positive points and a few negative ones too. "Original" was a recuring theme associated with my place. The thing that seemed to have unanimously turned off my guests was the fact that I had too much stuff. That's a fair assesment. If they only knew how much stuff I got rid of when my wife and I moved to our new home. And the place is larger!

The score being put aside, my main objective had been attained. I made the crew and the producers laugh and smile for two days. I knew that if that was happening, the people at home would feel the same. During my last appearance on camera, I did something I had planned to do weeks before. I knew I wasn't going to win. So when I pulled Anne-Marie's score card with a large 5 on it, I got up, tore the score card in two, threw a major fit and left the camera frame just to come back a few seconds later with a big smile on my face. The whole crew was stunned and speechless before bursting out laughing. After wrapping up the segment, I asked the assistant-director: "In the four seasons of taping, has something like this ever happen?" "Not even close!" was her answer. I was happy and content.

So what is the moral of this story? Is my humble abode the type of place where a Mod would live? Obviously, I think so. But who am I to say? First off, I live in a century old sewing machine factory. How much more Mod can that be?

You'll find evident by the photos in this post, that my vision of a Mod pad doesn't include having roundels everywhere and having a Union Jack in every room. It's more subtle than that.

Choosing furniture for your home is like buying a suit. You can buy the cheap, mass produced, off-the-rack item or you can go for a high quality product. And just like clothes, you will always pay more for a piece made by a well-known designer.

Of course, if you have a limited budget and you can't afford some expensive designer piece, go vintage. Scoure those flea markets, garage sales and junk shops and you'll eventually score. Patience is the operative word. Take this mid-century modern lamp for instance. It took me 8 years to find a pair that I like to put on my nightstands. Finding a nice single lamp is not a problem but finding an identical pair is a tour de force.

This 50s chrome cash register is another example. It took me about 10 years to find one to put in my kitchen. You might find me obsessed but it's worth it just to see the expression on a friend's face when they open the drawer for the first time.

That's why, for me, decorating a home doesn't take a few months but it takes 20 years. I started buying vintage pieces while I was in college.  Luckilly my parents were very understanding when I stored this large Coke button in their garage before moving into my first apartment.

Mid-century modern furniture is prevalent in my place and I think it suits the Mod aesthetics flawlessly.

My basement on the other hand is more late 60s plastic Space Age. My inspiration was the Word Fair that was held in my city of Montreal in 1967.

Plenty to do while in the basement washroom

Even if my inspiration stems form Expo 67, it doesn't mean that relics from the 80s haven't made their way into the basement.

I apply the same principle to buying art as I do about my furniture. All the art I own is original. Since I can't afford gallery prices, I always buy direct from the artist. Everytime my wife and I travel, we always try to bring back a piece of art from the place we visited. Buying local is always a winning strategy. Some might be reluctant at buying art over the Internet. I have no such qualms. Some of my favorite pieces were bought over the computer for remarquably low prices.

And yes, attention to detail is as important in home decor as it is in dressing up for a night on the town.

One of four screen used 007 Top Secret files seen in James Bond's The World Is Not Enough.
Repurposing and giving new life to old objects is a hobby of mine. How about transforming an obsolete TV into an aquarium?

When I saw this old Canadian postal box in an antique shop, I immediately thought: dirty clothes hamper!

The New York fire hydrant has no use whatsoever.

Have you noticed the pendant lighting? They were made from vintage metal clarinets.

I also had a cymbal retrofitted as a lamp and a snare drum as an end table.

Need a reading lamp? An old dentist tower will do the trick. You can use the tray to hold shot glasses and a bottle.

It took me a while to find a 50s X-ray viewer but I thought it would be perfect to show off a wedding photo that I had printed on acetate paper.

This now useless dictaphone has found a new life as a bottle rack.

So here's what I hope you get out of this post. Next time you think of redecorating your home, be whimsical, daring and fun. Think outside the box. Come to think about it, just be a Mod.

All the stunning photos were taken by the talented Simon Laroche. Make sure to visit the Simon Laroche Photographie Facebook page here.