Few people have lived the old adage about “taking your work home with you” quite like Julian Goldklang and Desiree Myers, the husband-and-wife duo behind Berkeley-based Mid Century Møbler. The pair created the biggest mid-century furniture business in Northern California but didn’t stop there — they moved into an original custom “round house” from 1967. And yes, when we say round house, we mean just that — a circular home that’s decked out in full, original mid-century style.
Read on to learn about how Julian launched the business (with a “dude, no” from a roommate), and how the couple built Mid Century Møbler together from the ground up. Then get all the inside info about their one-of-a-kind home, and whether they snuck any 21st-century pieces inside.
Mid Century Møbler is the largest mid-century furniture dealer in Northern California. First and foremost… how did you launch the business?
I started the business in about 2009 out of a small one-car garage in San Francisco. I’ve been a collector of all things cool since I can remember, and the business kind of started out of a need to pair down my personal collection, which had outgrown my apartment. I guess it officially started when I came across a whole house full of mint Broyhill Brasilia furniture I found at this estate in Novato. The family wanted $100 for everything, so I spent the day making trips to and from Novato to San Francisco, loading everything into my 18th Street apartment.
My roommate came home one day (he had been out of town for a few weeks), and found this pile of furniture in the dining room up to the ceiling from this estate. He was like, “Dude, no.” So I found a garage for rent on Craigslist and started filling it with the Brasilia pieces, along with any other mid-century gems I could find on Craigslist, local estate sales, and flea markets. After all the estate sales ended at 4pm on Saturdays, I would drive around Eichler neighborhoods looking for open garages with mid-century furniture inside, asking people if they wanted to sell.
Selling pieces out of that garage really took off, and I eventually found myself needing more inventory, so I started sourcing from Europe and moved the business to storage containers on 25th and Pennyslvania to house all the incoming inventory from England and Denmark.
Around that time, I met Desiree, who was also a vintage collector, and we clicked. We started dating and working together, and we expanded the business from storage containers to a 5,000-square-foot warehouse off of Cesar Chavez in the Mission. We eventually got married, while running and expanding the business, and then moved it to Berkeley, since we had outgrown our San Francisco warehouse. With that move, we ended up finding and purchasing our house, and the rest is history.
Where does your personal passion for mid-century come from?
I’ve always loved mid-century modern since I can remember. I grew up with all Danish modern furniture my dad bought (and still has) at Mobilia in Palo Alto in 1967. We also vacationed in Palm Springs during my childhood, so maybe it just became ingrained. In high school, I became obsessed with hot rods and 1950s cars, and eventually bought a 1958 Pontiac Starchief when I was 15. I spent two years fixing it up in my high school auto shop and spent the summers of junior and senior year cruising it around with a local car club.
From there, the obsession expanded to objects, furniture, and architecture. The 1950s and 1960s were a truly unique era for design, and the further you dig into it, the more you seem to uncover.
You specialize specifically in mid-century furniture from the 50s and 60s, sourced in Scandinavia and throughout Europe. With all the mid-century reproductions out there, how do you ensure that your pieces are authentic? What is that process like?
Almost every piece we purchase comes from the original owner in Scandinavia, who typically bought the piece new in the 1950s and 1960s. Even when we don’t meet the original owner, the piece speaks for itself. Cup rings, patina, and wear tell you a piece is authentic. Most of what we carry tends to be either old growth teak or Brazilian rosewood, which is also listed as endangered, so no new pieces can be produced in these materials anymore.
How did your company manage sourcing during the pandemic? Did you have to pivot how you did things, and how are they faring now?
Desiree and I usually travel to Denmark and the UK a few times a year to source and meet up with our contacts over there. With the pandemic, we haven’t been able to travel, so we’ve been mostly relying on our pickers and contacts in Europe to help us source. Everything has been done via email and photos over the last year, which works, but definitely isn’t as much fun as being able to source ourselves.
How have online avenues like Chairish affected Mid Century Møbler? Has it expanded your footprint more nationally, or with more of the general public?
Chairish has been a great resource for us. Our clients come from all over. So they might find us on Chairish and then come into the store to see the piece in person. Or they might see a piece on Instagram and then purchase it off our site. With the way people shop and find pieces these days, you have to be a little bit everywhere for people to find you.
What are some of the trends you’re seeing in terms of the types of pieces people are shopping for now? And are there any current trends you’d like to see disappear?
In the last few years, I’ve seen the PoMo (postmodern) pieces from the 1980s and 1990s becoming more popular. More geometric, soft forms seem to be becoming more popular. I’m also seeing more of the Memphis Milano style coming back which I think is really cool. Companies like Dusen Dusen are bringing this era to a whole new group of design enthusiasts who didn’t grow up with it (and some of us who did).
Okay, with the business out of the way, we need to talk about your house! You live in a custom round house from 1967, with all the trimmings of mid-century living. How did you find it and furnish it? And did you renovate?
Yes! Our home was designed by Leon Meyer and built by Meyer and Taylor Modern Structures Inc in 1967. It’s the second round home Meyer designed and built, and one of two to have the folded plate roofline (the other is his own home, built in 1966). Furnishing it is definitely a challenge. The outer walls of the house are concave, and the interior walls where the bathrooms are are convex. Because almost all furniture is rectilinear, it makes it extremely difficult to find pieces that will work. The way we have furnished it over the years is really dictated by the pieces we find and fall in love with in Denmark. The more unusual and rare items get added to our collection. Anything that is curved or compliments the house in some way is usually considered and brought home to see if it will work in the space.
We are in the process of renovating / restoring the home back to its original state. The previous homeowners did a great job maintaining the house, but they painted the bathroom walls and added fixtures that don’t go with the house, so we’ve been working to collect vintage lighting, drawer pulls, flooring, and more from the era that would have been used. When it’s finished, the house will look like it was just built in 1967.
Have you snuck in anything that’s new production, or have you stayed true to the mid-century ethos everywhere?
All of the furnishings in our home are either vintage or original to the house. We’re sticklers for originality, and with access to so much vintage, we’ve decided to keep everything original. The only new things we have in the house are our television, computers, and some modern touches like Hue lighting. Our goal is to create a “house of the future” from 1967, where aesthetically everything is 1960s, but there are futuristic and modern 21st-century touches that you don’t see, like smart lighting, electric car charging, and smart locks.
How do you restrain yourself from keeping all your mid-century finds for your own home? Are you ever tempted to hold on to something that you know you need to sell as part of the business?
It’s really tough. We tend to fall in love with a lot that we can’t keep. Our house is only about 1,250 square feet, so sometimes you just have to enjoy a piece while we have it in the store, knowing we’ll never be able to take it home. The really special pieces tend to come home with us, and anything else I can’t fit in the house but don’t want to sell becomes a permanent fixture at the store, which will eventually find its way into a future house we own.
What are a few iconic finds you’d love to own yourself? Are there any “gets” out there you’d still love to have?
There are too many to name! A few off the top of my head would be the Ultrafragola mirror by Etorre Sotsass for Paltronova, a pair of Svend Aage Holm Sorensen rockets lamps I should have bought years ago, and either a Clairtone Project G stereo console or a JBL Paragon console. And a Kuba Komet. And… a Verner Panton’s Visiona 2 Fantasy Landscape.
All images courtesy of Mid Century Møbler