Houston Modern Market and Lawndale Design Fair Meet in the Middle

Eames chairs, a hallmark of MidCentury Modern design.
Eames chairs, a hallmark of MidCentury Modern design.
Flickr user Ergonomik

Design lovers in Houston now have almost a continuous week of events celebrating form and function, thanks to changes in Lawndale Art Center's long-established post-war market and a new event co-sponsored by Houston Mod that starts next weekend.

The inaugural Houston Modern Market will showcase post-war art, furniture and architecture via gallery displays at Winter Street Studio, as well as through lectures and tours of Houston. The event takes place April 8-10.

But first, tonight is the preview party for Lawndale's recently revamped Design Fair, which runs through Sunday and helps kicks off Modernism Month in Houston.

The Houston Modern Market is not to be confused with the Lawndale show once know as the MidCentury Modern Market, though the former was inspired by the latter, according to organizers.

"Lawndale, for 15 years, had a small fundraising event called the MidCentury Modern Market," said executive director Christine West. "Last year we decided to freshen up the event, bring it into the 21st century, so we added some contemporary design into the mix."

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Changes to the event, now known as the Design Fair, include a focus on the green movement and internet technology, she said. But that left little room for many of the collectors who continued to focus on MidCentury design.

"Lawndale isn't in the business of putting on these events. We couldn't accommodate the vendors in this space."

That's where Brian Hoffner stepped in. The Houstonian is a lover of MCM art and architecture, making frequent trips to Palm Springs, Ca., to study how the city has preserved its post-war buildings and charm. Hoffner had been a patron at many of Lawndale's MCM Markets and had met several vendors who wanted to continue to show their wares even after Lawndale's event changed. That's what led him to start the Houston Modern Market. Emphasis on Houston Mod, since a portion of the proceeds of next week's show go to the non-profit dedicated to promoting Modernism in Houston.

Hoffner refers to himself as a "Renaissance man." The 29-year veteran of the Houston Police Department also started his own company, Live Good Design, which aims to bring artists and lectures focusing on MCM design to Houston, as well as promoting events like the Houston Modern Market.

"I started Live Good Design because I'm a lover of Modern architecture," he said. "The same feeling that people have in Palm Springs, we're trying to develop that in Houston."

Hoffner said he supports the Lawndale's efforts to contemporize their Design Fair.

"Good design is good design in all eras, and bad design costs just as much as good design. (Lawndale's event) suits their facility real well. What they're doing with the Design Fair, it needs to be done," he said. "It just left a void in Houston for the people who are passionate about MidCentury design."

Hoffner cited festivals like Mod Miami and the Denver Modernism Show as inspiration for what he wants to do in Houston.

"You own a piece of art because it makes you feel a certain way and when you walk by you can't help but put your eyes on it," he said. "A home should give you the same feeling.

"We've got a huge amount of good MidCentury modern architecture in Houston, and communities are just beginning to realize it. So why don't we have a week-long party in Houston to celebrate it?"

Though this is the first year for the Houston Modern Market, Hoffner's eventual vision is to connect Lawndale's Fair with his festival by providing lectures and tours between the two weekends.

"We're hoping for a week to 10-day event combining both markets," he said.

West doesn't think that's a bad idea either.

"Maybe Lawndale and Houston Mod could be the beneficiaries of a joint event," she said. "We think there's plenty of room for the celebration of design in Houston."

Lawndale's Design Fair starts tonight at 6 p.m. with a preview party. Tickets are $75 for non-members and $60 for members, which includes admission throughout the weekend. The fair takes place Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 and all proceeds benefit Lawndale Art Center. The address is 4912 Main Street.

The Houston Modern Market will also have a preview party at 6 p.m. April 8 at Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter St. Tickets are $50 and also include admission to the market on Saturday and Sunday. General admission on those days is $10, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Houston Mod. The market is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

While they last, you can also get a half-price ticket to the Houston Modern Market via our Houston Press Deal of the Day.

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