“I LIKE STORAGE PIECES,” says Doug Meyers, as my eyes travel around the living room of his Columbia Heights home. “Surprise, right?”
The man has a point: Lining the walls of the Victorian row house are rosewood buffets, sideboards, walnut wall units combining shelves with cubbies that lie behind tambour doors. Although the place looks a little like a furniture showroom, in fact it’s a home that Meyers rents with housemates, who allow him to furnish the main level with mid-century modern pieces he’s been collecting for 15 years or more. How else would they get to live with an orange velvet sectional sofa that’s 50 years old and still going strong?
The storage pieces serve Meyers as more than eye candy. “I’m a hoarder,” he acknowledges. He flips open cabinet door after cabinet door, opens a succession of drawers. All are filled to the brim with small mid-century accessories.
Meyers prizes Danish pieces over American ones, dark wood over light. “The Danes know their designers the way we know our presidents,” he says, pointing to a dresser by Finn Juhl, considered by most to be the father of modern Danish design. It’s a special piece he values at about $12,000. He also has a Model 45 chair by Finn Juhl and matching settee that he bought as an investment.
Meyers loves the stories that accompany each piece he has bought, often from older couples downsizing. “They’ve had the furniture for 50, 60 years, and it’s in perfect condition–it’s been loved,” he says.
And for the past four years Meyers has been able to sell that furniture to the children or grandchildren of their original owners. Yes, as these things often unfold, the collector–mentored by painter (and fellow collector) Robin Rose–became a dealer, turning eight storage units packed with furniture into a shop, Modern Mobler, with locations on upper Georgia Avenue NW and on Howard Avenue in Kensington, Md.
Meyers came to Washington from his home near Atlantic City to attend George Washington University, where he got an undergraduate degree in finance and a master’s in taxation. But the mid-century modern call was stronger than his job recruiting financial and tax professionals for companies (his recruiting career ended with a position at Choice Hotels, “the best company I ever worked for”).
Now he rotates furniture in and out of his living room, selling to a wide customer base. “The largest bloc is people in their 30s and 40s, often with their first house. They say they’re ready for ‘real furniture now.’ ” The scale of mid-century pieces, Meyers points out, is also good for those who live in small condos downtown. “They don’t have room for 90-inch sofas.”
The popularity of “Mad Men” on TV has made Meyers’s living room furniture more valuable. But more important to him is this: “These pieces are the best design of their day,” he says. “If you take care of them, they will last another 50, 60 years.”