Creative Genius: Hip Haven's Kelley Sandidge
A love for midcentury modern turned into an Austin, Texas business.
If, like me, you have a thing for the Mad Men-meets-The Jetsons space age style, clean lines and sense of play in midcentury modernism, then you should probably know about the Austin, Texas-based company Hip Haven.
Created by Kelley Sandidge in 2002 to capitalize on her love of midcentury design, Hip Haven offers planters, lighting, chairs, accessories and planters like their perennially popular Retro Bullet Planter that pay tribute to classic Fifties-era design. All made in America, Hip Haven’s products revisit a moment when Americans began to enthusiastically embrace design on the home front, an interest that so many 21st century DIY hipsters pursue today.
Made+Remade chatted with Sandidge about her inspirations, the sway retro design has had on her life and why she doesn’t want to be a businesswoman in the 1950s.
How did you get interested in midcentury design?
My interest in the style dates back to my art student days, where my formal education on modernism in art, architecture and industrial design began. I recognized and liked the style, as I had grown up surrounded by it in my grandparents’ home. My grandmother was an abstract painter, and not only did she have original paintings by numerous artists from that era, but she also had amazing furniture, lighting, ceramics and textiles that I found uniquely beautiful, even then.
Another factor that influenced my collecting was that during the 1980s and ‘90s, midcentury furniture and accents were under-appreciated and could still be found with ease at garage sales and thrift stores. At the time, it was an affordable and versatile way for a young, design-inclined person to decorate. By the time the century turned, I had inherited my grandparents’ furniture, and was completely immersed in the midcentury design style, with an emphasis on the Scandinavian styles of the 1960s.
Tell us about your own home in Austin. Is it a classic midcentury home? Is it a museum of midcentury modern design?
My home was built in 1974, so it still has elements of the style, but it isn’t classically midcentury modern. For me, it is the next best thing—a limestone ranch with very simple lines, which makes it a nice, blank canvas for my ideas.
When we bought the house, it was admittedly in pretty rough shape, and while it’s still a work in progress, the renovations we’ve completed so far have all been aimed at emulating the midcentury style we love. I even added wood paneling when the original walls couldn’t be refinished, which most people might find crazy!
And yes, our home is essentially a modernist museum. I have a large collection of paintings by both my grandmother and other artists, as well as collections of ceramics, textiles, vintage radios and clocks.
Do you have a lot of original midcentury modernist pieces?
My house is full of Russel Wright’s Modern Mates collection from Conant Ball. Most of these pieces were inherited, but I did recently acquire a few more items to round out my collection. I also have a Danish teak credenza, a Plycraft lounge chair, and a 1950s Grundig Majestic Radio and Record Player console, which I adore.
What is it about midcentury design that floats your boat?
I like the simple lines, the anthropomorphic forms, and the pairing of human-made with natural materials. I also appreciate how perfect a backdrop the style is for my other passions, such as midcentury paintings and folk art.
Any other design eras that delight you?
I also enjoy styles from the 1920s and ‘30s — the first real wave of modernism. The designs were more lavish and over-the-top than what came later, so they don’t blend as well with my midcentury collections, but I still love them.
Any advice for thrifters out there who dream of one day stumbling across an Eames or Saarinen chair?
Your best bet would be to go hunting around smaller towns or regions of the country that aren’t as trendy or youth-oriented. In my hometown of Austin, it’s next to impossible to find a bargain anymore.
The trend has gone international as well. I have extended family in England and just 10 years ago, we were able to find amazing pieces for just a few pounds. Now it seems as though vintage finds are snapped up and on their way to London before they ever make it to a charity shop.
Do you ever have to license designs, or are the designs you do for Hip Haven more spin-offs/inspired-bys than copies?
All of my products emulate originals that were made by many different companies back in the day. I borrow favorite elements from all of them to create a fusion that isn’t identical to one design, but rather inspired by many.
So, while midcentury modern style is our inspiration—with its varied influences from atomic to primitive—we choose to incorporate accents that depart from the genre, and to experiment with new colors, finishes, modern technologies and design twists that allow our products to be interpreted in new and interesting ways, more relevant to the present.
Your designs have been featured in a lot of high-end hotels like the Standard Hotels and even at Facebook’s corporate headquarters. Any new, sexy clients in the works?
We’ve just shipped lighting fixtures for our third Rag & Bone clothing store. So far, that project is going well, [and] I’m hoping more stores will be in the works! We are always looking for new hotel and restaurant jobs, as they seem to be a hot spot for exciting, commercial interior design projects.
Do you actually wish you’d lived in the Fifties?
Gosh, no! I love the designs of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but as a woman in business, I feel that my opportunities are much broader today. I wouldn’t refuse a day trip in a time machine, though!