Sixteen Fifty Nine
A Mid-Century Renaissance
Don Draper and his fellow “Mad Men” have been very good for Mike Johnson.
The hit series has kicked off a renaissance of interest in mid-century modern furnishings and the swanky decorative accessories of the 60s — exactly the focus of Johnson’s Wisconsin Avenue shop, Sixteen Fifty Nine.
Antiques run in Johnson’s family — his grandmother owned a shop in Michigan — and he recalls “going to auctions since I was a little kid.” It wasn’t until he left a long career in corporate sales, though, that his passion for collecting turned into a full-time business. Sixteen Fifty Nine has just hit the seven-year mark.
He started the shop because “I had been collecting mid-century modern, but felt the lines I was looking for were not as accessible as they could be” in existing outlets. Johnson specializes in iconic designers like Dorothy Draper, T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, Paul Frankl, and Donald Deskey, creators whose work is not being commercially reproduced today.
Draper (Dorothy, not Don) is currently represented at Sixteen Fifty Nine by a striking jade-green lacquered dresser with white accents and nine-ringed drawer pulls. (A similar pair in a black-and-gold color scheme made an appearance in Candice Bergen’s fictional Vogue office in the “Sex and the City” movie.)
You also can’t miss a pair of Bernhardt loveseats, produced in the 1950s by the company’s Flair division, upholstered in an eye-popping lime-blue and green (which had, in true ’50s style, been preserved under plastic slipcovers). The pieces would not look out of place in a contemporary showroom.
“I like to do things that are very clean-lined, that come across as a current piece of furniture,” Johnson says of his collector’s eye. “I always try to throw odds and ends into the mix” as well — such as his array of mid-century pottery, paintings and photos.
As more buyers and dealers climb on the sleek mid-century modern bandwagon, Johnson finds that locating top-quality merchandise is becoming more difficult. “I get excited when I find a big-name piece of furniture.”
Johnson points to a massive buffet in Sixteen Fifty Nine’s window as a current favorite among his pieces, describing in detail its provenance from Michigan’s Mastercraft Furniture Company. With four doors elaborately paneled in Carpathian burled elm and a travertine marble inset top, it is indeed a beauty.
And it’s exactly the type of piece you could imagine Don Draper lounging beside.
Sixteen Fifty Nine
1659 Wisconsin Ave.
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Sixteen Fifty Nine: A Mid-Century Renaissance