As the founder and editor of Midcentury Magazine, the UK’s authority on all things mid-century, who better to kick off our series of home tours with real people? Tabitha Teuma started Midcentury Magazine over four years ago when she was renovating her own South London property, and it has gone from strength to strength since then.
The striking yellow-covered issue 8 is available to purchase now.
When and how did you decide to start the MidCentury Magazine?
I was largely inspired to set up MidCentury through the renovation of my own 1960s London apartment seven years ago. Mid-century properties were rarely featured in mainstream interiors magazines, with only scant details given on furnishings – in short, I struggled to find the information I needed. Having edited an arts journal for a couple of years, I was looking to start my own magazine and I could see that, despite several US titles, there was no UK publication dedicated to the subject. I’d go to furniture fairs in London and see a couple of magazines from the States, with advertisements for high-end New York dealers (that I certainly couldn’t get to, or afford to buy from) and articles on homes in California or Cincinnati that bore little resonance to my lifestyle here in the UK. So in 2011, I set out to create my own magazine, one that celebrated attainable mid-century interiors, architecture and design, for people just like me!
What issue are you most proud of?
On the one hand, I’m most proud of issue 01, simply for the fact that we actually got the publication off the ground! The first is always the hardest and my partner, Tom, and I did the whole lot ourselves in those early days, from raising ad revenue, to approaching potential stockists, to writing articles. However, it’s really the latter couple of issues (07 and 08) that I am most proud of in terms of the product itself – I feel that we’ve also reached a sweet spot in terms of content – having run various reader surveys over the past couple of years, we’re now more in tune with what our subscribers want! Our designers Esterson Associates, who run the highly regarded graphic design publication Eye, came on board from issue 05 and their designs continue to form the crux of our aesthetic.
What article are you most proud of?
This is a tricky one – it would probably have to be one of the recent interior shoots. Among them, the Mary Medd house in Hertfordshire in issue 07 and the Span house in issue 08. Plus the incredible David Shelley house in Nottingham that we featured in issue 05 – that was a real treat – please don’t make me choose just one! We get to work with some amazing interiors photographers and usually take an active role with styling, priding ourselves on not providing ‘props’ – everything in the houses we feature lives there permanently. They’re real spaces and the pieces photographed generally have a story behind them.
Who have you most enjoyed featuring or interviewing in the magazine?
The Orla Kiely interview in issue 07 was a bit of a coup for us – I’ve been following her designs for the last 15 years or so, long before she hit the mainstream, so I was thrilled when she allowed us into her home to run an interview. Equally, I was lucky enough to interview Cherrill Scheer for issue 02, who was at the heart of the Hille empire at its height in the 50s and 60s – mid-century royalty as far as I’m concerned! I’d love to time-travel back to 1960s London and interview the pioneering textile designer Lucienne Day at the height of her influence in producing some of the first mass-produced pattern designs this country had seen. I’m sure there’d have been plenty to talk about, had I been lucky enough to be invited into her Chelsea home!
Tell us a little bit about your home
We now live in a 1960s bungalow in Buckinghamshire, which we’re gradually renovating – we’ve reclaimed some beautiful pieces of Iroko timber for our kitchen and a lorry load of hardwood parquet blocks that came out of a 1960s gym hall, which we used throughout the property. We’ve scoured reclamation yards in search of original 1960s copper-coated door handles that match the few surviving original ones in the house. However, it was the penthouse apartment of a 1964 high-rise on the Dulwich Estate in South-east London that first sparked my enthusiasm for domestic mid-century architecture.
What made you choose to live in the property and area?
I moved to the flat in 2008 and was able to appreciate the spacious, light rooms first-hand. It made a refreshing change from the Victorian conversion flats I’d been used to – the block was nestled in woodland and in summer, when the foliage was out, it felt like living up in a tree house, away from the hustle and bustle. The room dimensions were amazing by modern standards – most developers nowadays would no doubt try to squeeze an extra bedroom into the space – and the quality of the original fixtures, like the solid Jarrah timber flooring and enormous Crittall steel-framed windows. The story went that this extra storey was added by the builders, Wates, as an afterthought at the end of the project, once the two-bedroom flats beneath had been sold.
What is your favourite room in the property?
The flat benefitted from a spacious roof terrace that had uninterrupted views over the London city skyline – a peaceful place to sup a gin and tonic after a tiring commute on a summer’s evening!
What trends are you seeing within the mid-century furniture industry at the moment?
As the mid-century aesthetic establishes itself as a distinct genre, people are coming to recognize quality of workmanship as a key factor when making a purchase, regardless of whether a piece has a designer’s name attached to it. As prices increase in general, it’s noticeable that names and brands are becoming less important to buyers at a lower price-point. Scandinavian furniture will I’m sure always receive the widest recognition, but tastes are evolving and the Dutch mid-century aesthetic is now very popular too. The designs were far more pared down and utilitarian than even the Scandinavian counterparts, with more metal utilized than timber – I used to hear people liken the pieces to the sort of thing they’d come across in the school common room, but not anymore!
What’s next for Midcentury Magazine?
Having just published issue 08, we’re now working on issue 09, which is due out in November. We’ve teamed up with GoCardless to offer subscriptions by Direct Debit for the first time and we’re now able to focus on building our subscriber base. We’re also hoping to begin commissioning some of our own products – we started with a limited edition letterpress print from London print duo The Counter Press, launched to time in with a piece on Le Corbusier in issue 08 – the making of which was documented in this short film.
Interiors photo credit: Tino Tedaldi
Tabitha portrait photo credit: Bruce Hemming