DC Hillier in his Montreal home
Photo © Daniel Leblanc
Hillier's collection of stools and tables by Nanna Ditzel for Domus Danica (1968)
Photo © Daniel Leblanc
DC Hillier's Instagram Page
Hillier's Clairtone Project G Stereo (1964)
Photo © Daniel Leblanc
Hillier's Corona Chair by Poul Volther (1963)
Photo © Daniel Leblanc
Hillier's Floris Chair Prototype by Günter Beltzig (1967)
Photo © Daniel Leblanc
Hillier's collection of stools and tables by Nanna Ditzel for Domus Danica (1968)
Photo © Daniel Leblanc
Hans Wegner's Round Chair—a.k.a. “The Chair” (1949)
Image © Nordlings
The rare NV-45 Settee (1945) by Finn Juhl, one of Hillier's favorite MCM designers
Image © Wright
Just a few years ago, DC Hillier launched a Facebook group to connect with others who share his passion for midcentury modernism. There was no commercial aim; it was just meant to be a casual, semi-private outlet for posting nostalgia-laced archival images of furnishings, interiors, and architecture, while crowd-sourcing attribution information and back-stories for found objects of design. Fast-forward to today, the group boasts over 80,000 members—and counting!
“Mid Century Modern,” as the closed Facebook group is called, may have begun just for fun, but it’s become a robust online hub where design professionals and amateurs alike meet to exchange anecdotes and pictures of their always joyful encounters with 20th-century design. Inspired by the voracious appetite for midcentury modernism that he’s tapped into through his group, Montreal-based Hillier recently launched the education-oriented website MCM Daily—with its attendant MCM Daily Facebook page, currently at around 25,000 likes—and his own Twitter and Instagram accounts, the latter of which is pushing 50,000 followers.
Born in a small fishing village on the east coast of Canada, Hillier never guessed that his “free” time would become so full. He still maintains his day job as a residential renovator and interior designer, but his online life is increasingly making an impact IRL. As fellow MCM fans, we just had to get to know the man behind all the midcentury mania.
Wava Carpenter: Your online bio mentions that you came to love midcentury modern design while attending film school. Can you tell us more about how the love affair began?
DC Hillier: Actually, there is a personal connection for me between design and film. When I was about 12, I saw the James Bond film You Only Live Twice on TV. I was utterly transfixed by the set design. It was my first spark of modern design awareness.
When I attended the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto to study film and media, I took a few design courses. While I loved studying film, modern design quickly became my new passion. I devoured every book and magazine I could find on the subject—I still do, in fact!
WC: What prompted you to launch MCMDaily.com? What’s the mission?
DC: MCM Daily Magazine is a spin-off from my Mid Century Modern Facebook group, which initially was just a fun way to post a few photos of great pieces of classic design and chat about it with others. What caught me by surprise was that there are a large portion of members who are just as eager as I am to learn about the pieces and the designers and manufacturers behind them. I started MCMDaily.com as a resource for anyone who not only wants to look at great design but also wants to understand more about design, and the designers as well.
WC: Can you tell us more about your prolific activity on social media? How long have you been developing these channels, and how do your curate your online presence?
DC: While I had websites for myself and for my Clairtone collection, Facebook was my first online social interaction. Since 2012, I’ve been running the Mid Century Modern group, and then a few years later I started MCMDaily.com and its Facebook page and Instagram account.
I learned soon that each social media venue is a different beast and needs to be treated differently. Instagram, for instance, is constant and quick, so information needs to be delivered in a short and concise manner. Whereas the Facebook group has a friendlier sense of community and you can post multiple images with more info. It’s more relaxed.
As far as how I choose what to post, I always endeavor to show not just the well-known classics but also the more obscure and lesser-known pieces of design. I also try to post as much as I can from female designers of the period, because they have too often been relegated to the fringe of design history and deserve to have their work spotlighted.
WC: Can you tell us more about the community you’ve created online? I imagine your activities there must be both gratifying and time consuming. How has your online presence affected your “real life”?
DC: Ha! It does indeed impact my real life, and I’ve been called out on it by friends. It’s been several years now of “life online.” And with the group, the online magazine, and Instagram, I spend at least three or four hours a day on it—sometimes longer. But the people who follow my posts and the members of the Facebook group are an incredible bunch. They’re equally eager both to learn about something I care about and to share what they know. I discover something new every day from them! I mean, tell a kid growing up in a small, isolated fishing village with a penchant for design that he would one day be “friends” with 75,000 people who also like modern design? I’d say I’m pretty lucky.
WC: Can you tell us more about your own collection? What are some highlights? Which pieces do you live with everyday?
DC: I’ve been collecting for several years now and have many pieces I’m quite happy with. But if I had to choose a few favorites, I’d say: a pair of early-issue EJ 5 Corona Chairs by Poul Volther, because they not only look great but also are incredibly comfortable; and a prototype Floris Chair designed and made by Günter Beltzig (and one of three he took to the Cologne Furniture Fair in 1968). I wasn’t sure what I had until I contacted Beltzig himself and he kindly confirmed what it is and the story behind it. And finally, a collection of fiberglass pieces—barstools and low tables—designed by Nanna Ditzel for Domus Danica in 1968. I live with all these pieces, and I never tire of them.
WC: What is your approach to collecting? Are you on the look out for certain pieces? Certain designers? And is it about investment or chance encounters?
DC: When I started collecting initially, it was simply a random acquisition of anything that caught my eye that I liked (and could afford!). But as I came to learn about designers and international approaches to modern design, I found myself quite drawn to ’60s European design. The “plastic fantastic” pieces that were often more flights of design fancy than functional objects. But they do have a charm! I’m currently on the lookout for a pair of high-backed Culbuto Chairs by Marc Held.
I don’t think about investment value when I find a piece. It’s true that I’ve bought many items in my collection for much less than they are worth, but I don’t give it much thought.
WC: For you, what is midcentury modern? Do you embrace all the material culture created between, say, 1930 and 1970? Or is there a set of aesthetic criteria that you look for?
DC: The question, “What is midcentury modern?” is one of strife for many online! But as there was no actual design movement or school of thought called “midcentury modern,” the phrase is simply a blanket term for many design movements from the 1940s to around 1970. Much in the same way “Victorian” is a blanket term for several design styles in the 19th century.
When one learns about modernism and the various international interpretations of it, the answer becomes simple. For me, it’s design with no precedent. There are no “neo” or “revival” styles in modern design. When I look at a Hans Wegner chair, for instance, I am not looking at a chair that is drawing on preset style history. It is new, original, often simple, and approachable. That to me is modern.
WC: Which one piece of midcentury design do you feel best encapsulates the era, and why? Which one designer?
And for me, the designer who best encapsulates the era is Finn Juhl of Denmark. He introduced the world to Scandinavian modern with pieces that were beautifully designed with a delicate, soft touch. Juhl’s restrained use of color and mastery of the materials is unrivaled.
WC: Why do you think midcentury modern design continues to attract such a large number of fans?
DC: That is a good question and one I’ve thought about many times. The continued popularity of midcentury modern design may simply come down to the fact that it often feels that we live in rather ephemeral times, with everything being instant and disposable. We do not hang on to our consumer products for very long these days. New furniture may be cheap, but it’s been designed to be replaced in just a few years. When our parents bought a sofa, it was going to be in the home for ten years or more. There are many photos that show children growing up on just the one sofa. And that’s endearing. And while I shouldn’t wax poetic about it, unlike some flat-pack item, a great piece of midcentury modern furniture has history; it has a sense of permanence. They are beautiful, well-designed things that are very easy to live with and almost reassuring to have around.
WC: What’s next for you?
DC: Currently, I’m working on adding more media content to MCMDaily.com. I’ll be adding videos and will be starting a regular podcast about modernism. I’m also starting a consulting business for furniture and design evaluation and hope to be working with auction houses as well as individual collectors and sellers. And, yes, I will continue to talk about modern design to anyone who will listen.
* Special thanks to Galerie Yves Gastou for the image of the rare Culbuto Chair.
Wava CarpenterAfter studying Design History, Wava has worn many hats in support of design culture: teaching design studies, curating exhibitions, overseeing commissions, organizing talks, writing articles—all of which informs her work now as Pamono’s Editor-in-Chief.
More to Love
Scandinavian Teak Easy Chair by Louis van Teeffelen for Wébé, 1950s
Free-Standing Desk by Erich Stratmann for Idee Möbel Programm, 1955
Extendable Danish Teak Dining Table by Henning Kjaernulf for Vejle Møbelfabrik
Teak Sideboard by Takashi Okamura and Erik Marquardsen for O. Bank Larsen, 1960s
CB06 Birch Plywood Wardrobes by Cees Braakman for Pastoe, 1952, Set of 2
Pavatex Hardboard & Birch Wardrobe by Piet Zwart for Bruynzeel, 1950s
Solid Wood & Leather Dining Set, 1970s
Pine Stool by Lisa Johansson-Pape for Stockmann, 1950s
Vintage Solid Oak Organic Side Table, 1960s
Mid-Century Karmstol Armchair by Kai Lyngfeldt Larsen for Søren Willadsen
Mid-Century Teak Shelving Unit from WHB, 1960s
Vintage Square Teak Coffee Table by Grete Jalk for Glostrup
Vintage Danish Teak Armchair by Helge Sibast for Sibast
Mid-Century Modern Palisander Sideboard from Musterring International, 1967
Adjustable Angle Lady Chair from Arflex, 1951
Cast Aluminum & Glass Dining Table from Dexo, 1980s
Light Blue Teak Daybed, 1960s
Mid-Century Walnut Shelving Unit from WHB, 1960s
Antique Italian Brass and Pink Marble Baroque Wall Mirror & Console
Lunario Table by Cini Boeri for Gavina, 1971
Dutch Teak Highboard by Marten Franckena for Fristho, 1962
Butterfly Chairs with Canvas Seats by Jorge Ferrari Hardoy, 1960s, Set of 2
Rosewood Dining Chairs by Johannes Andersen for Uldum, 1950s, Set of 4
Mid-Century Danish Dining Chairs from Glyngøre Stølefabrik, Set of 5
Scandinavian Teak Lounge Chair, 1960s
Scandinavian Teak & Leather Lounge Chair, 1960s
Danish Modern Teak Coffee Table, 1970s
Vintage Danish Teak Chairs by Hans Olsen for Frem Røjle, Set of 5
Mid-Century Teak Veneer Coffee Table, 1960s
Danish Modern Teak Coffee Table, 1960s
Vintage Rosewood and Leather Bastiano Three-Seater Sofa by Tobia Scarpa for Knoll
Vintage Danish Model 80 Teak Chairs from Niels O. Møller, Set of 6
Mid-Century Modern Teak Chairs from Habeo, 1960s, Set of 4
Leather Gamma Easy Chair by Rudolf Wolf for Gaasbeek & van Tiel, 1960s
French Steel & Brass Faux Fireplace, 1960s
Dutch Teak Coffee Table by Louis van Teefelen for WeBe, 1950s
Model 1263 Chairs and Dining Table by A.R. Cordemeyer for Gispen, 1960s
Vintage FB03 Combex Birch Plywood Armchair by Cees Braakman for UMS Pastoe
Dining Set by Rudolf Wolf for Elsrijk Steel Furniture, 1950s
Belgian Coffee Table in Rosewood, Wicker and Slate, 1960s
Modular Shop Display Cabinet, 1920s
German Brass & Mosaic Swallow Coffee Table, 1950s
Valet Stand from Fratelli Reguitti, 1950s
Swivel Chair FK-83 by Preben Fabricius & Jorden Kastholm for Kill International, 1960s
Mid-Century Result Chairs by Friso Kramer & Wim Rietveld for Ahrend De Cirkel, Set of 6
Italian Solid Brass Appliques, 1950s, Set of 2
Vintage Lounge Chairs by Knut Hesterberg, 1970s, Set of 2
Sculptural Table by Knut Hesterberg for Bacher, 1971
Cassapanca Di Buona Memoria Chest by Emilio Tadini for Interflex, 1987
Illuminated Sculptural Table by Philippe Jean for Galerie Eric and Xiane Germain, 1970
Vintage French Table Lamps by Philippe Barbier for Maison Barbier, 1970s, Set of 2
Vintage Chelsea Rosewood Chairs by Vittorio Introini for Saporiti, Set of 8
Saddle Stitched Leather & Brass Floor Lamp by Jacques Adnet, 1950s
Vintage Elephant Chair by Bernard Rancillac for Roudillon
FK 6725 Tulip Chairs by Preben Fabricius & Jørgen Kastholm for Alfred Kill, 1964
Italian 872 Leather Sofa by Gianfranco Frattini for Cassina, 1958
FB18 Scissor Chairs by Jan van Grunsven for UMS Pastoe, 1950s, Set of 2
Sofa by Willy Rizzo for Studio Willy Rizzo, 1969
Appliques by Pietro Chiesa for Fontana Arte, 1950, Set of 2
Model 800 Lounge Chair by J.A. Motte for Steiner, 1956
Table Lamp with Rotating Light Source by Angelo Lelli for Arredoluce, 1960s
Vintage Model D2080 Zodiak Lamp by Ton Alberts for Raak Lighting
Sadima Chaise Longue by Luigi Colani for BASF, 1970
SZ11 Easy Chairs by Martin Visser for 't Spectrum, 1960s, Set of 2
F671 Loveseat Sofa by Kho Liang Ie for Artifort, 1960s
Pianura Lounge Chairs by Mario Bellini for Cassina, 1971, Set of 2
Vintage SZ09 Nagoya Leather Easy Chairs by Martin Visser for 't Spectrum, Set of 2
Vintage Ash and Mahogany Credenza Bar by Joseph Andre Motte for Group 4 Charron
Vintage Geometric Cabinet by Ico Parisi, 1976
Model 877 Rosewood Lounge Chair & Ottoman by Gianfranco Frattini for Cassina, 1959
Model Hall Lounge Chairs by Roberto Menghi for Arflex, 1958, Set of 2
Delfino Lounge Chair & Ottoman by Erberto Carboni for Arflex, 1950s
Nappa Leather Regent Chairs by Marco Zanuso for Arflex, 1960, Set of 2
Outline Light Object by Aldo van den Nieuwelaar for Nila, 1980s
Suede Lounge Chairs by Willy Rizzo for Studio Willy Rizzo, 1969, Set of 2
Mid-Century Dining Chairs by Louis Sognot for Arflex, Set of 12
Mid-Century Senior Chairs by Marco Zanuso for Arflex, Set of 2
Mid-Century Lady Chairs by Marco Zanuso for Arflex, Set of 2
Italian Sculptural Lounge Chairs, 1950s, Set of 2
Floor Lamp by Werner Epstein for Inter Néo, 1970
Model Luar Stainless Steel Op Art Dining Table by Ross Littell for ICF, 1972
Vintage Pilade Coffee Table by Franco Campo and Carlo Graffi for Home
Vintage Dining Set by Willy Rizzo
Terni Executive Desk by Ico Parisi for MIM, 1958
Madame Slipper Chairs & Ottomans by Fritz Neth for Correcta, 1950s
Number 106 Kyoto Table by Shiro Kuramata for Memphis, 1980s
Pamplona Walnut Chairs by Augusto Savini for Poggi, 1965, Set of 4
Leather Lounge Chairs by Pieter De Bruyne for Arflex, 1961, Set of 2
Rosewood Taormina Cabinets by Ico Parisi for MIM, 1958, Set of 2
Model 790 Lounge Chairs by J.A. Motte for Steiner, 1960, Set of 2
Finnish Leaf Coffee Table by Tapio Wirkkala for Asko, 1950s
Vintage Shelving System by William Watting for Mikael Laursen
Mid-Century Modern Walnut Sideboard with Drawers, 1960s
Mid Century Side Chairs by Arne Hovmand Olsen for Mogens Kold, 1958, Set of 2
Italian Lucite Plexiglass and Brass Coatrack, 1970s
White Wicker Chair by Rohé Noordwolde, 1960s
White Metal Pendant from Artimeda, 1970s
Modernist Marble and Chromed Steel Coffee Table
Pine Wood Floor Lamp from Temde Leuchten, 1970s
Early Edition Desk Chair by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen, 1961
Italian Metal Pendant, 1970s
UFO Pendant by Harvey Guzzini for Guzzini, 1970s
Dutch Space Age Aluminium Ceiling Lamp, 1960s
Scandinavian Teak and Frosted Glass Ceiling Light, 1960s
French Wrought Iron Umbrella Stand, 1930s
Dutch Marble and Steel Coffee Table
Italian Adjustable White Space Age Ceiling Lamp
Italian Credenza by Pier Luigi Colli for Fratelli Marelli, 1950s
Large Italian Pendant by Harvey Guzzini for Guzzini, 1970s
Les Arcs Leather Sling Seat Chairs by Charlotte Perriand, 1970s, Set of 4
French Dog Lamp by Boris Lacroix for Disderot, 1950s
Dutch Pendant Lamps, 1960s, Set of 2
Danish Rosewood and Aluminium Pendant
Belgian Industrial Metal Locker, 1960s
Dutch Teak Easy Chair by Louis van Teeffelen for WeBe, 1960s
Swedish Lounge Chair with De Ploeg Fabric from Akerblom, 1960s
Mid Century Brass Floor Lamp, 1960s
Dutch Teak Nesting Tables from Pastoe, 1960s, Set of 3
Scandinavian Teak and White Chest of Drawers, 1960s
Scandinavian Modern Teak Dining Set with Extendable Tabletop
Industrial Stools by Ahrend de Cirkel, Set of 10
Vintage Tree Coffee Table
Vintage Bamboo Coffee Table by Dirk van Sliedrecht for Rohe Noordwolde
Stabilux Shelving Unit from Ahrend de Crikel, 1970s, Set of 3
Large Oak Architect's Flat File or Map Table from a Dutch University
Scandinavian Foldable Service Trolley Denmark, 1960s
Facet Table by Friso Kramer for Ahrend de Cirkel, 1970s
White Royal System Shelving Unit by Poul Cadovius for Cado
Teak Shelving System by Poul Cadovius for Royal System
Italian Yellow Murano Glass Pendant from Vistosi, 1960s
Model 790 Lounge Chairs by J.A Motte for Steiner, 1960s, Set of 2
Italian Teak & Brass Pendant
Dutch Space Age Pendant, 1960s
Dutch Raak style chandelier, 1960s
Modular Shelving Unit by D. Dekker for Tomado, 1950s
Rosewood Wall Unit by Poul Cadovius for Royal System, 1964
Midcentury Tripod Side Table by De Ster Gelderland
Brutalist Brass and Stone Palm Tree by Daniel Dhaeseleer, 1970
Vintage Walnut and Brass Night Stands, Set of 2
Red 3107 Butterfly Chairs by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen, 1991, Set of 10
Dutch Stacking Chairs from Galvanitas, 1970s, Set of 14
Ice Glass Wall Lights from Kalmar, 1960s, Set of 2
Leather Gamma Easy Chair by Rudolf Wolf for Gaasbeek & Van Tiel, 1960s
Mid-Century Modern Ice Glass Wall Light from Kalmar, 1960s
Large Ice Glass Icicle Wall Lamp from Kalmar, 1960s
Mid-Century Modern Large Ice Glass Wall Light from Kalmar, 1960s
Ladies' Chair from Gimson & Slater, 1960s
Danish Rosewood & Leather Chair by Hans Olsen, 1950s
Vintage Brazilian Travel Trunks Set, 1930s
Dutch Rattan Chairs from Rohe, 1960s, Set of 2
Dutch Rosewood FDT 1205 Credenza from Fristho, 1965
Dutch Compass Leg Chairs from Marko, 1960s, Set of 2
Ice Glass Wall Sconce with 4 Lights from Kalmar, 1960s
Vintage Gooseneck Black Desk Lamp by Christian Dell for Kaiser Idell
Danish Teak Armchair with Brown Leather Cushions, 1960s
Rosewood Armchair by Kai Lyngfeldt-Larsen for Søren Willadsen, 1960s
Danish Rosewood Armchair by Kai Lyngfeldt-larsen for Søren Willadsen, 1960s
Delta 2000 Swivel Leather Office Armchair from Wilkhahn, 1970s
Danish Organic-Shaped Teak Wall Mirror, 1960s
Vintage Danish Teak Coffee Table by Tove & Edvard Kindt-Larsen for France & Daverkosen
Vintage Brass, Teak and Glass Three-Armed Ceiling Light from Lightolier
Modern Teak Coffee Table with Lipped Edges from Imha Modell, 1960s
Vintage Teak Armchair from France & Søn
Vintage Danish Teak Armchair from France & Søn
Dutch Solid Birchwood Shop Displays, 1950s, Set of 2
Foldable Scandinavian Pine Childrens Desk, 1970s
Belgian Easy Chair, 1950s
Brutalist Metal & Pressed Glass Lantern Pendants, 1970s, Set of 6
24-Lightbulb Space Age Pendant by Gaetano Sciolari, 1960s
Brutalist Rosewood Coffee Table with Bronzed Etched Flower Motif, 1960s
Walnut Africa Chairs by Afra and Tobia Scarpa for Maxalto, 1970s, Set of 8
Ninfea Lounge Chairs by Gio Ponti for Fratelli Reguitti, 1958, Set of 2
Wenge Stacking Chairs from Ahrend de Cirkel, 1970s, Set of 8
Dutch Elm Dining Set, 1970s
Industrial Birch Plywood Stackable Chairs, Set of 10
Square Danish Rosewood Coffee Table, 1960s
Brass, Wrought Iron & Leather Emperor Chair, 1960s
French Minimalist Lighting Sculpture, 1970s
Danish Modern No. 138 Teak Sofa by Finn Juhl for France & Søn, 1960s
Vintage Indonesian Rattan Peacock Chair and Table, 1970s
Dutch Teak Daybed with Removable Legs, 1960s
German Architects Drafting Table from Kuhlmann, 1950s
Danish Child Seat by Nanna Ditzel for A/S Kolds Savvaerk
American La Fonda Base Armchair by Charles & Ray Eames, 1970s
Glass Raindrop Pendant by Raak, 1970s
Model 305 Stackable & Linkable Chairs by Kho Liang le for CAR, 1963, Set of 10
Minimal Italian Pendant by Hans Agne Jakobsson, 1960s
Scalpellato Bowl by Pietro Chiesa for Fontana Arte, 1940