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April 12, 2018

Meet the Marvelous Susan Halla – Maven of ‘Make It Mid*Century’

By Sara In AZ

Make It Mid*Century….have y’all heard of this fabulous new company yet?! If you haven’t, well then grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a spell…we have a fun interview with Susan Halla, the Owner/Founder of Make It Mid*Century, but first let’s check out some of the fabulous products they offer!

Make It Mid*Century offers a HUGE array of exterior door kits so you can modify any existing flat panel exterior door to the mid-century door of your dreams! Make It Mid*Century offers many, many more exterior doors kits than I have shown here, you must check out their catalog to see all of the beautiful options they offer!

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I think I need smelling salts now…….SO many exceptional designs…..I can’t even begin to pick a favorite!

These door kits are all DIY, so you must purchase a basic, flat panel, exterior door from any big box store and then buy the exterior door kit of your choice from Make It Mid*Century. If you are nervous about actually cutting into the door on your own they also offer several choices, like the ‘Janice’  which is applied molding on the top of the door. Make It Mid*Century will supply you with absolutely everything you need in order to finish your project….screws, gaskets, etc. You just provide the man-power! All of their products are specifically selected to withstand exterior use and meet all code requirements.

Make It Mid*Century offers some gorgeous interior door kits too, so you can have the mid-century door(s) of your dreams inside as well!

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The ‘Beverly Jane’ …be still my heart! As with the exterior door kits, there are many more interior door kits available too….be sure to have a look, they are all stunning!

Make It Mid*Century also has some fantastic garage door kits!!!

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The ‘Anthony’ and the ‘Gregory’……SWOON!!!!!!! The garage door kits come in two styles – one for raised panel doors and one for flat panel doors and they use all exterior grade materials rated for durability. Be sure to check out all of the other garage door kit options on the Make It Mid*Century website today!

Make It Mid*Century is also selling mid-century inspired shutters!

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Check out the website for even more designs!

And last, but not certainly not  least…….SPARKLE LAMINATE!!!!!!!EeeeEEeeEeeEEeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!! How completely and totally exciting is it to have glitter laminate available again!!?!??

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I, for one, am super thrilled to see this laminate make a comeback! Here is a picture of the sample laminate chips. I have seen the laminate in person and I think it is really beautiful!

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Hop on over to Make It Mid*Century to get the full scoop on this fabulous laminate!

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Halla Owner/Founder of Make It Mid*Century…and Susan was even kind enough to send along some pictures of her amazing mid-century house and collections. Read on for our interview Q&A and pictures!

Q – What can you tell us about yourself? How long have you been into mcm/vintage? What first sparked that interest?

I think I’ve always been into mid-century.  I might have been born that way!  I’ve always been into architecture and preservation (thus my undergraduate degree in architecture and my master’s degree in historic preservation.)  In grad school, I wrote many a research paper, but two really speak to the mid-century era.  I wrote one about the rise and fall of Lustron and another about the historical implications of the mobile home on the American cultural landscape.  Mobile homes hit it big during the mid-century period.  Who knew?  My mother is also in the architectural field, and when I was a kid, and we were driving around various neighborhoods, I was always pointing out different details of houses that piqued my interest.  I am a bit of a geek!

 

The very first house that I bought after grad school was mid-century – but very modest mid-century and not very modern.  My current house is also mid-century and has a few modern touches that I love.  One of my favorite “rooms” in my house is our back porch – it’s covered by the roof, so it’s very indoor/outdoor living.  A few years ago we tore down the old (wobbly) railing and designed and built something that was much more in keeping with the vintage style of the house

Porch Before:

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Porch After:

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That is stunning railing Susan, I love it!!! I think I’m coming over for drinks on the patio this summer when it’s 120 here in Phoenix!

Q – Do you have any weird vintage collections? What is your favorite vintage possession?

I don’t think any of my collections are weird.  😉  I do collect Metlox Poppytrail California Freeform.  (And if anyone has the coffee pot, carafe or the tumblers and would like to sell, let me know.  They are the last items I need for my collection.) I also have a small – but fun – collection of ashtrays which I have mounted on a wall over my martini cart.  I also have a collection of blue/turquoise glass which works perfectly in the glass block windows on either side of my fireplace.  Last (really not last – I have a lot of stuff) is my collection of Libbey Staccato.  I started with the pilsner glasses but then found the pint glasses which are rarer.  I then found a second set of the pint glasses, and when I received them, I found out that they are about ½” shorter than the other pint glasses I have.  Weird!  Why would they have made a second set of pint glasses that are slightly smaller?  Is it just a one-off?  I’m sure that I will never know!

Susan’s cool collection of ashtray’s! I love the idea to display them that way!!!

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Some of Susan’s lovely glass collection:

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Libbey Staccato glasses:

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Oh my, those are fantastic Susan!

Here is Susan’s gorgeous Metlox Poppytrail California Freeform collection!

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And here are the last remaining pieces she is looking for  to complete her collection – if anyone has these for sale (or knows someone selling them) be sure to let Susan know, her email address is at the bottom!

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Q – I believe you said you have an MCM house…what is your favorite part of your house?

My house is not mid-century modern, but it is mid-century.  Outside of that amazing porch, one of the selling points of the house was the original, metal, Kelvinator kitchen cabinets.  I hate the countertop (and someday will put in a new one), and when I do, I’m going to have the cabinets repainted.  Right now they are off-white with a tinge of pink which looks….off.  (Let it be known that I did not clean to take these photos, so you can even see the dishes sitting in the sink that I need to wash.)  I also love my fireplace – and I love that it is still wood-burning.  My last two houses both had gas logs which gave me no heat but sure showed itself in the gas bills!  I love the Roman bricks that it is made from with just the few that are popped out for a sort-of mantle.

 

Oooh!  I can’t forget the sputnik light we added over the toilet in our main bath.  Because who doesn’t need a sputnik light over their toilet?

 

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Stunning room Susan….and you know that I LOVE me some Heywood Wakefield!

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That is a PERFECT light for over the toilet Susan!!!

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Oh my gosh, you are killing me with those metal cabinets Susan……so, sooooooo fabulous!!! I adore that Nu-Tone built in clock as well! I can just picture some of your beautiful Aqua sparkle laminate in there!

Q – What is your favorite food?

Oh, lordy.  That is a hard one.  Whatever my favorite food is, I’m sure it’s bad for me!  And it’s probably chocolate.  A local restaurant nearby makes a chocolate port wine cake which is TO DIE FOR.  Let’s go with that one.

Chocolate cake….I am down with that any day of the week as my favorite food!

Q – What led you to found ‘Make It Midcentury’? What has been your biggest joy and hardest obstacle so far?

I had some really crappy things happen to me at the firm I was working for before I ended up starting this business.  I knew I had to get out of there or I was going to self-destruct.  Knowing that I loved mid-century and had yet to do anything with my master’s degree, and also knowing that I am good with my hands and have designed and built many of the updates in my own house, I wanted to wrap all that together in some business that I could offer to other like-minded home-owners.  It’s such an obscure business that when I tell someone about it who is not in the mid-century world, they don’t get it.  At all.  It is fun to be embedded in this world, now, and to be able to talk about something like metal kitchen cabinets and have people be just as excited as I am about it.  My biggest joy?  Finally getting a little press!  It’s been an uphill battle so far to make a little noise in the industry, but it’s finally starting to happen.  After all, I’m answering questions right now for THE Sara from Mid-Century Every Day! Seriously, I’ve been reading you guys for what seems like forever and following Retro Ruth’s escapades over on midcenturymenu.com.  I feel like I’ve hit the big time!  I think my hardest obstacle is covered in the next section….

Ahhhhhh, you are too kind Susan, thank you…and we are more than happy to spread the word!

Q – What can you tell us about your fabulous sparkle laminates? Will there be any other patterns offered in the future?

I am nothing if not completely honest.  While the reviews have been positive, there have been one or two mixed reviews of the laminate because it is not as sparkly as the old product.  I will say our product is made with all of the same products as the old laminate, but I’m investigating a couple of avenues to see if I can improve the sparkle.  I even worked with the original paper supplier that manufactures the glitter paper – it seems to be the top coat of melamine inherent in all modern-day laminates that is dulling the shimmer of the inclusions. My suspicion is just that the current chemical formula of the melamine top-coat is thicker or more opaque than it was in the 1950’s and 60’s and there isn’t anything I can do about that.  I am still super excited about how it turned out and know that it’s the closest thing to the old stuff on the market today.  I think, too, it could have a place in some of the more contemporary designs going on today.  Contemporary design seems to have gold accents on everything, and the white  SparkleLam with gold flakes would be amazing in some of the newer designs for furniture! 

 

I am also looking to expand the laminate line to include non-glitter laminate patterns.  Those will be significantly more cost-effective because there is not the additional time and clean-up required of the products with the sparkle inclusions.  Does anyone have any suggestions for patterns that they would love to see?

Thanks for your honesty Susan, I appreciate it. I suspect that you are probably right in that the top-coat process is different than it was back then and thus will affect your end product look. I think it is still a stunning product at any rate!

As for laminate patterns I would personally love to see…this is a picture of an old magazine rack/ashtray I have….every time I see the starburst laminate piece on the bottom I think to myself, “If only that were made now……”

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How about you dear readers, what laminate patterns would you love to see??

Q – Are there any plans, in the future,  to incorporate more midcentury home products to your existing line-up?

One thing that I’d love to work on (and have had in the pipeline forever) are some mid-century inspired decorative tiles that can be used in conjunction with the colorways of some of the bigger tile manufacturers out there.  The goal is that you could remodel a bathroom using 4×4 pink tiles from someone like Dal-Tile or B&W and use our patterned tiles or liner tiles to match.  How amazing would that be?  We’re in the research and development phase with that one.  There are two ways to create decorative tiles – screen printing and ceramic printing.  Screen printing is the cheap and easy way to go – but the colors can fade, and they are easily scratched because the image is printed on top of the tile.  Ceramic printing melds the colors of the pattern into the glaze of the tile and becomes permanent and non-fading.  Ceramic printing is a much larger investment but is more permanent.  One drawback is that ceramic printing does not have the same vibrancy of color as screen printing.  Some of the big manufacturers (like the cool tiles from Oscar and Izzy) are screen printed, and it seems to be working well for them.  I’m torn.  What do your readers think?

 

Another random thing I am looking into offering on the website are longer backsets for door handles so that you can have that retro doorknob in the center of your door.  I have some old connections in the hardware industry from being an architect that I am going to use to see if I can start sourcing those.

 

I’d also love to get feedback from your readers on ideas for other products they might want to have.

Readers – any thoughts on the tile…screen printing vs. ceramic printing? I personally never knew there was such a big difference!

The center doorknob is a fantastic idea to try to revive Susan! I believe currently all you can get is a 5” backset…or something in that range?

One thing you may want to consider looking into, that I have heard people mention over and over and over again…that they WISH was STILL available…..the Starburst Bathroom Hardware so popular in the 50s and 60s. Rejuvination re-issued a set similar to the vintage set some years back, but it is now discontinued. I personally preferred the look of the vintage “Star” over the star pattern that Rejuvenation used.

Here is a picture from my bathroom of the vintage Starburst Hardware in use!

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You’d probably have people clamoring at your doorstep if you re-issued these Susan!

This has been so much fun!  Thank you all so much for covering our business on your fabulous website.  Tell your readers to keep in touch – they can email me directly at susan@makeitmidcentury.com

 

Thank you Susan, it was so much fun getting to chat and having a peek inside of your lovely home!

Readers – PLEASE let Susan know your thoughts in the comments below….are you in love with a certain laminate pattern you’d love to see re-issued?? Is there a certain mid-century home product you’d love to see on the market? Please don’t be shy, let her know with your comments!

In closing, please be aware that  Make It Mid*Century  is hard at work on launching an e-commerce website (hopefully coming soon!), currently they have a downloadable catalog for you all to peruse and enjoy. I’d recommend signing up for their newsletter…….I signed up, it’s both fun and informative…and you will be in the know about all of their new, fabulous products!

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8 Responses to Meet the Marvelous Susan Halla – Maven of ‘Make It Mid*Century’

  1. Uncle Atom Reply

    April 12, 2018 at 9:09 am

    OK, this is ridiculously amazing – I’m glad you didn’t publish this on April 1, the pain would be too much to bear if this were all made up 🙂

    I can’t wait to dig in to the details of what is now available!

  2. deb Johnson Reply

    April 12, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Susan, thank you for daring to make your dream come true, and enable dreams for the rest of us! I am hoping to order a front door kit soon – I love the choices.

  3. Susan from Boston Reply

    April 12, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Hi Sara & Susan,

    It is so refreshing to see someone working so hard to preserve a style, that in my opinion, rates above all the granite, stainless, open-shelving HGTV/DIY you see today. I could be wrong, because I am not a historian, but it seems like decade style dropped off after the 1980s. Kitchen/bathroom designs after the 1990s is difficult to pinpoint in style, at least in my opinion. This is what I love about mid-century. When you see something from the mid-century era. You immediately recognize it. BOOM! That’s mid-century. Huzza.

    It saddens me when I see people gutting mid-century homes. My neighbor purchased a mid-century home from the only owner on record. The house was beautiful. Knotty pine kitchen. Knotty pine in the den. The bonus room in the basement with original 9×9 asbestos VAT flooring, knotty pine walls, knotty pine bar… the house is a gold mine of mid-century. Had that house been for sale when I was looking I would have paid any price to have it. Sadly, my neighbor has been slowly and systematically destroying this house (in my opinion). First to go? That knotty pine kitchen. Gone. Now it is all granite and stainless. Her mid-century black and white bathroom? Gone. That gorgeous basement rec room full of knotty pine? It is partially dismantled. It literally hurts my heart when I see people gutting beautiful mid-century homes for something more “modern”. For the life of me, I will never understand why people want their homes to look like everyone else’s. Why? I’d rather stand apart.

    Anyway…

    What we need is a television show on HGTV that showcases people like you Sara, and you Susan (and all the other retro bloggers). People who are trying to *preserve* mid-century, not destroy it.

    Ok, so, to answer one of the many questions posed in this blog. Susan, I have to agree with Sara. I’d love to see a starburst laminate like Sara’s magazine rack. Currently in my home, my pantry has the original gold glitter laminate and it is in amazing shape – it has really held up. Talk about quality product.

    This might be overkill but what about mid-century wallpaper? I know other companies are doing it, like Bradbury & Bradbury (I think) but their designs are limited.

    Although, I also love the idea of door hardware: outdoor/indoor, even cabinets… wowza! How cool.

    Gosh, we could really go down a rabbit hole with ideas on what to produce.

    Let me close this long-winded comment with: I am, as ever, utterly grateful for people like you Susan and Sara, as well as all the other retro bloggers out there, who are keeping mid-century alive, as well as assisting those of us who are trying to restore our homes back to their mid-century glory.

    Thank you.

  4. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    April 12, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Yay! I’m so glad to see this piece. I had been admiring Susan’s business since product #1 and have been so pleased to see it growing and expanding with even more amazing products that we can now incorporate into our homes. We all know that this was greatly needed! She sees the voids and is filling them. Yay! again! I admire her so much for what she’s doing.

    I’m with you Sara on the starbursts idea! I’d love to see that in both laminate and bathroom hardware. I know we plan on getting one of the door kits whenever we can swing it. Which one to choose though…hmmmmmm.

    Something that I’d like to see on the market are some great retro looking drawer liners and contact paper. The ones that you see in stores are so ho-hum and a lot of the vintage ones that you might find a roll of here and there have broken down or worse, contain pesticides! I wonder how many people got sick from those!

    Keep fighting the good fight, Susan! You’re our hero!

  5. Susan Halla Reply

    April 12, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks again, Sara for the great article!

    Uncle Atom and Earth Kitsch – those names are SO FANTASTIC!

    Deb – I’m here for you whenever you are ready. We also do custom – since everything is made-to-order, we can do just about anything.

    Susan from Boston – great name for you, too. I’m a little partial to it. I’m just waiting for HGTV to come calling! I’d be pretty entertaining on TV.

    You all have some great ideas. Keep them coming! And email any time – with questions, ideas, or just to say “hello”. I love meeting people who are as passionate as I am for mid-century!

  6. Dixie Lou Reply

    April 12, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    WOW! So grateful for this blog! Fantastic products that are well designed and authentic looking. Great job all around! Glad I stumbled upon this! I am excited (and grateful) that your products exist and eager to see what you’ll create next. Keep up the fabulous work!

  7. Stacy Reply

    April 12, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    This was such a fun post to read from start to finish! These products are so fun and fabulous! I love Sara’s idea for the starburst laminate! I would also love to see some vintage wallpaper designs. Most of the repros on the market today are usually very mod/geometric. I’d like some more mid-century-modest options. Maybe even some kitschy options.
    I’d also like the second the contact paper suggestion! Love that idea!
    Thanks so much!

  8. RetroRuth Reply

    April 14, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    What a fun interview! Susan, I LOVE your house! And I also think that the starburst laminate would be exactly what I would love to see in the future. And I am totally eyeing those garage door kits!

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