CA-Modern’s Literary Delicacy

New summer issue covers a range of topics almost as uncertain as the year 2020 itself
  Fridays on the Homefront
From fashionistas to fireplaces, motor scooters to masters unsung—it's all here for you in the new Summer '20 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

"I don't know about you," your neighbor drawls while leaning over the fence, "but I'm not buying any green bananas these days."

Even if you are not quite so pessimistic, it's easy to concede that the future may be as uncertain as it's been in recent memory.

Even the new Summer 2020 issue of CA-Modern magazine, which was just published this week, pays a nod to this lack of certainty, celebrating several topics that are either fragile or fleeting: fashion, glass, and 'butterflies.'

Fridays on the Homefront
San Francisco's Union Square of the mid-century and the fashion scene that thrived within it come alive in 'Downtown in Style.' Illustration: W. David Shaw

"Today, with department stores shrinking and closing, it can be hard to picture Union Square of the 1950s and '60s, when it was ringed with stores attracting women, always in hats…always in gloves," writes Dave Weinstein, Eichler Network features editor in his story about the fickle finger of fashion, particularly as experienced by mid-century modernists around the Bay.

In his feature, 'Downtown in Style,' Weinstein takes a fond look back at a more prosperous, predictable time, when people shopped windows made of glass, not URLs.

"It takes a lot to impress San Franciscans," purports Weinstein, "but in August 1954 Cyril Magnin did it. He placed in the windows of his family-owned department store, Joseph Magnin Co., garments so startling the San Francisco Chronicle splashed the story on the front page. The Union Square shop had 'scooped' the world's greatest fashion designer, Christian Dior."

One can imagine that at least a few of these mid-century window shoppers took their mid-century fashions straight from Union Square back home to a house also assertively modern, perhaps even one sporting an unusual, V-shaped roof.

Fridays on the Homefront
In 'Return of the Butterflies,' you'll meet Frank Wynkoop's 1950 house design (above) whose gentle butterfly leans dramatically over the Carmel shoreline.

In 'Return of the Butterflies,' as one of CA-Modern's most popular stories from the past returns as a Summer 'Classic Revisited,' Weinstein poetically begins, "Suddenly, like a flight of butterflies alighting on a eucalyptus tree, they arrived, houses with jaunty, V-shaped roofs. They were custom houses at first, in wealthy suburbs in the East and along rocky shorelines in California. But by the mid-1950s houses with butterfly roofs were popping up in suburban tracts across the country, especially in Southern California."

Weinstein goes on to detail the resilience of this eye-catching design form in recent homes in the Berkeley Hills, Manhattan Beach, Tucson, and Decatur, Georgia. Along the way, he traces the most prolific use of the style to mid-century architect William Krisel in the Palm Springs area.

The term 'butterfly' suggests beauty and fragility, perhaps making the style an appropriate metaphor for life in the age of COVID. Art glass represents those qualities even more, and the latest installment of our 'Unsung Masters of the Mid-Century' series, also part of the new Summer CA-Modern (available only in the print edition), celebrates practitioners of this medium.

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