Influence and background. A.K.A. Who is Taylor Hilaman?
The son of an interior designer and a lifelong student of art, Taylor Hilaman of Hilaman & Co. Vintage Acquisitions is a collector, buyer and dealer for all things authentic mid-century modern in St. Augustine, FL. His latest venture was sparked by a true love for original Mid-Century pieces and a quest to restore our connection to them.
Era aside, what draws you in?
“It represents peak Americana in design and culture. Think of the generation who was coming home from the war, moving into their homes and searching for new pieces…finding out the provenance,learning the histories, and researching the designers.”
How do you find these pieces?
“Perseverance. Keep going and get off of the main roads…I never know what I am really going to find. I might be looking for artwork or furniture and stumble upon pottery. If I am looking for pottery, I might stumble upon furniture so you really have to keep your eyes and your mind open. Go through the small towns. If you don’t stop, you can’t find it.”
How do you build a collection for Hilaman & Co.?
“I get a lot of inspiration from looking at old catalogues. Bergdorfs, Nordstroms and Neimans sold these pieces. They had tastemakers curating their collections. Just like today, you can buy the real deal or versions of it. I try to avoid the copies or lower level price point pieces. I always think of what would have been merchandised together…I love walnut. You can throw tons of color at it. Walnut absorbs the color and you’re able to accessorize in waves. Also looking to historical interior designers who were sourcing from different manufacturers, I try to keep a mix of pieces within each vignette. With a piece of American or Danish furniture, I’ll add some Italian ceramics, maybe a Scandanavian piece, and then an American lamp merchandised as they would’ve been sold in their time period.”
Restoration. What’s involved in getting these hidden gems up to showroom standards?
“It depends on the amount of the abuse. Over the course of 50 plus years, the connection has been lost. Many of these pieces have been handed down, gifted or moved several times. It is usually not the original owner that paints the expensive Danish piece. There may be water rings from glassware or chips in the veneer. Each piece needs a different level of restoration…most of the time it involves stripping it down, sanding, repairing and refinishing with a period appropriate finish that is also functional for its intended use…this part of the process is about bringing it back to its former glory.”
Advice for the new collector:
“Research is key. Decisions don’t need to be based on monetary factors alone. Expose yourself to as much as possible when it comes to the Mid-Century. We’re talking about 2 decades at least of heavy production from 100’s of different companies of 1000’s of different items…they all had different styles. The deeper you dive into it, you may find that one thing that you absolutely love and you can begin basing your collection off of what you like. You will start recognizing qualities of pieces, designers…certain designers didn’t just design furniture. They may have designed dishes,lighting and all sorts of other things. It is easy to pigeon hole yourself into a designer, which is not a bad thing at all.
Your top 3:
1.Ray and Charles Eames
3.Irving Harper for George Nelson
“I know I’m leaving out a ton of great designers. Those are my top 3 American”.
Top underrated. Why?
“Paul McCobb. I may catch flack from other people for this but his overall collection for Calvin, for Irving or for Lane…he had such incredible style. If I could have an entire house of Paul McCobb that would be fabulous”.
What piece are you currently jonesing to add to your personal collection?
“A George Nelson CSS unit… There are a hundred different configurations. Or an original Eames 670 lounger”.
Has the furniture and what you’re doing at the shop inspired your art?
“I’ve always loved Mid-Century design. The more I’ve been learning about artists like Alexander Calder, I get inspired to create these 2D mobile-like pieces…My favorite is when I get a really good abstract collage and balanced composition, it is sort of stress relieving. It’s an internal feeling and wantto make these.”
Craving more mid-century? Follow along @hilaman_and_co or visit Taylor at the shop. You just might find me there.