Get to know... owner of Post Modern Home, Drew Clark
DARIEN — In a corner of Post Modern Home, beneath an overhanging silver lamp and beside an original glass table designed by influential architect Mies van der Rohe, is a deep, cozy armchair of distinctive style and apparently unknown origins.
“Oh, I couldn’t tell you where I found it. It could’ve been at an auction, but it could’ve been at an auction 100 miles away,” Drew Clark said.
The Darien native started out his career in advertising before opening Stamford Antiques Center. When a fire burned the center to the ground, Clark turned to the town where he grew up, setting up a mid-century modern home furnishing store on the Post Road.
The chair resting in a corner of Post Modern Home, according to Clark, is significant in that it precisely embodies a certain period in design history.
“You look at this chair, and you know it’s a 1950s chair. It’s not 1960s, it’s not 1970s. It’s a 1950s chair, and it’s the kind of thing a movie set designer would go for,” Clark said.
Though that particular chair — with its price tag of $2,250 — has yet to find its way to Hollywood, Clark has contributed furniture for movies, most recently providing several pieces to outfit the office of Bernie Madoff in the 2017
Tracking down such items is no simple task. Clark’s time is devoured by constant searching, much of which is done on the internet, but some of which requires visits to estate sales, flea markets and auctions throughout the country.
“I have no life. I spend my life searching,” Clark said. “I travel all up and down the coast, going into little shops, going into used furniture dealers.”
As a result of his searches, however, his inventory has expanded to the point that he now rents space in Bridgeport to hold the overflow.
The interior of his Darien establishment has the chaotic look of an art gallery between exhibitions. In the most cluttered parts of the store, narrow walkways appear between the china cabinets, tables and chairs, some of the latter stacked on shelves atop one another. Paintings and prints fill the walls, including a silkscreen by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein featured prominently near the front of the shop, across from which stands a cardboard cutout of Marilyn Monroe, which, on sunny days, may be placed near the road to attract the attention of motorists.
According to Clark, there are no specific rules that guide his searching, no set of criteria with which to vet a potential pick. Instead, he uses an intuitive approach, relying on his years of experience to determine whether or not a piece meets his aesthetic and commercial needs.
“I’ve been doing it long enough that I have kind of a feel for what moves,” Clark said.
For all of his hard-earned expertise, however, Clark pointed out that much of the job is dependent on chance. “There are so many people picking that it’s all a matter of luck. It’s just sheer timing,” he said. “You don’t know when they’re going to pull up with a new truck and unload. It’s absolute serendipity.”
The mid-century modern style favored by Clark is a historical touchstone of the region, thanks to architects like Philip Johnson, who chose New Canaan as the laboratory for his experiments with the designs that would come to characterize the form. Clark suggested the current preference for the furnishings was bolstered by the popular success of the TV show, “Mad Men,” which vividly re-created the visual environment of 1950s New York as it was experienced by people such as the advertising executive Don Draper.
Once Clark settles on a particular object as worthy of inclusion in his shop, he and his team of local artisans are likely to alter it in some fundamental way.
“We can either lacquer or refinish. We can put a new stain on and make repairs to the wood, and firm up and re-glue the legs to chairs or tables, or we reupholster,” Clark said. The result, Clark hopes, is a distinctive piece of furniture.
In the case of the chair, it came to the shop with a maroon, 1950s fabric that underwhelmed Clark. Instead, he picked out a different fabric — a Greek key pattern that he said is especially desirable at the moment — and reupholstered the chair, creating a new item altogether with, naturally, a heftier price tag.