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Modern Love

This collector can’t resist the lure of Charles and Ray Eames.



PERHAPS YOU SAW Steve Cabella’s collection of furniture, art and crafts at the College of Marin in 1981. That exhibit was one of America’s first midcentury modern shows. More recently, his collection has starred in shows in England, Japan, Los Angeles and SFO’s International Terminal, with upcoming exhibits scheduled for museums in Denver and Milwaukee. Cabella’s San Anselmo shop the Modern I specializes in midcentury modern design, and as a collector he focuses on Charles and Ray Eames, the famous Southern California furniture designers, architects and filmmakers. Cabella also consigns special items for dealers at the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show, held October 25–29 at Fort Mason.

COLLECTOR Marin native/design historian Steve Cabella

YEARS COLLECTING? Since 1974.

HOW MANY PIECES? 1,000-plus.

WHY EAMES? They represent the best of California design. Their designs are honest, just what they need to be, nothing more. Their design sense permeates everything they do — including how chair shadows would look.

FIRST PURCHASE? I collected art deco, then bought a DCM — an Eames dining chair with a metal base — for five dollars at a garage sale. I looked at it for a week, then gave away all my other furniture. I realized Eames was the answer to what to live with and collect.

FAVORITE? An iconic LCM [lounge chair metal] plywood lounge chair. First made in 1946, it is still made today.

PRICES? Collectors can pay $10 for a vintage magazine featuring the Eameses’ work to almost $500,000 for a Ray Eames sculpture (I don’t have anything of this value). Eames chairs are still being made and the fair market value is about the same for new and old. Good design doesn’t really lose value if it is well taken care of.

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