Modern master

Mark Fahey

Photo By Larry Dalton

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in, and celebration of, mid-century-modern architecture and furniture. Magazines like Dwell, Atomic Ranch and Modernism have flourished as homeowners have rediscovered the simple utility and sleek beauty of the design era spanning from 1945 to 1979. This also happens to be the world that Mark Fahey still lives in. When he was a child in the ’60s, he noticed his parents had some “really cool furniture” compared with that of his friends’ houses. And when he moved out at 19, his mother gave him a Danish modern coffee table. Thus began his life’s work. As owner of Time Bandits, a used-furniture store specializing in mid-century modern, Fahey is more preservationist and historian than businessman. He is a passionate spokesman for modern design as he searches for rare furnishings to fill his store at its new location at 3527 Broadway. But Fahey’s interests aren’t limited to furnishings—he’s also very well educated on the history of modern architecture in the capital region and outspoken about the need to recognize and protect it. You can see some of Fahey’s inventory at

You work hard to preserve these pieces, keep them up, share them and sell them. Why is it important to do that?

Like anything, these are the antiques of the future right now. … Just like anything else that’s been collectable over time, pieces that are representing a unique period in history are going to attain higher value over time. The interesting thing with this, compared to a lot of antique phases, is that these furnishings are very functional … and their value now is just skyrocketing, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

What do you think has brought on the resurgence of interest in this particular period?

Several things. I think we’re in a big social war right now in our world actually, and people are looking for things that are comfortable that remind them of better times. Right after World War II there was definitely optimism. … So, a lot of these furnishings, these designs represent that kind of thing. Most of this furniture was designed by architects, unlike any other period in furnishing history. So, it’s important to recognize that there was a lot of thought put into these things and a lot of good experimental construction that’s turned out to be ways that stuff is mass produced now.

How else does this furniture connect to the architecture from the era?

These furnishings were put into modern homes because if you had a modern house—and the architects would do these homes—there was nothing that the general public could go purchase that would look right. If you put a big Victorian wing-backed chair into an all glass, steel post and beam home, you know, it would look silly. … But the architects realized our homes looked much better if we’re doing built-in cabinetry and shelving, along with sleek designed furniture that doesn’t take away from the architecture of the home.

That architecture style is known as mid-century modern, and it’s having a resurgence, too. Where can we see examples of this in Sacramento?

If you drive down South Land Park, you’re going to see predominantly mid-century architecture: the long sprawling houses that Frank Lloyd Wright really made popular much, much earlier, and Cliff May ranch-style homes—a lot of them done here by a famous local architect, Carter Sparks. You see Eichlers farther down, and as you get into Greenhaven, you see ranch homes coming into the ‘70s with similar attributes. After the ‘70s, we start to lose that, and we go into homes that are ostentatious—giant McMansions is what a lot of people are calling them. … South Hills Shopping Center on South Land Park Drive … is a good example of a mid-century-modern little strip mall that has not been remodeled. Sadly, I understand, it’s about to get a Tuscany revival and look like the Roseville mall. … But, if you start to look around, Sacramento has some of the most amazing examples of mid-century architecture. … Pancake Circus is a perfect example … that has been unaltered.

Historically, Americans have torn down building that later became a style of architecture that was very popular. In the 1960s and ‘70s, all over America, we were tearing down Victorian homes. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, we were tearing down the arts-and-crafts-style homes, and now we’re tearing down the ranchers and the modern homes. Every one of those segments is, and will be looked at as, extremely valuable architecture.

How do you think mid-century style is affecting design today?

Lazy Boy’s Oldham series is definitely a good example of it. Some of his work right now is extremely close to what was done in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. There is new, good furniture being done and good design—form follows function; you can’t say that enough. It’s happening again. America seems to be embracing, although slowly, good design again. … America embraces Ikea, which hires young designers; they put out a phenomenally good-quality product for the price—a great, entry-level, clean-line, modern design. And when you graduate from Ikea, you move to more expensive pieces, some of the mid-century reissues or some that have never gone out of production.