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Featured Shop: Madsen Modern

Mar 19, 2018

by Sharon Steel

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Brandon Madsen grew up hanging out at his father’s furniture store, and recalls walking around the floor in his Sunday suit, hands clasped behind his back, hoping someone would mistake him for a salesman. But it wasn’t until years later—after attending business school, landing a job at a media company, and getting burned out by the frenetic pace—that furniture came full circle for Brandon. Looking for inspiration, “I found myself searching the world for interesting, beautiful things,” he explains. “I was always a student of design, but I realized I wanted to work with furniture, and I fell deeply into the history of Scandinavian modernism.”

Explore the Madsen Modern collection

Along with his brother Brian, Brandon began collecting and restoring vintage furniture as a hobby and soon realized it had the potential to be a full-time business. Together, with the help of mentors at a local woodworking co-op, they completed a series of increasingly complex projects, picking up new skills as they went. As their expertise expanded, so did their ambition: In 2012, the brothers launched Madsen Modern, a one-stop shop for professionally sourced and restored midcentury furniture, with a special emphasis on the Scandinavian modern style. “This work is tangible and immediate,” Brandon says. “I can’t overstate how satisfying it is to put things out into the world at the very highest standard, one that we set for ourselves.”

Read on for the brothers’ tips on incorporating midcentury style into your home decor, and shop the Madsen Modern collection.

What is Madsen Modern‘s mission?

Our goal is to source the most special midcentury vintage stuff, add value to it through restorations, and then sell it to people who appreciate it. Our Etsy descriptions are written to show our customers that they can trust us in several different ways. First, there’s a certain level of expertise—we know exactly what these pieces are and why they’re important. We also know how to restore each piece back to its full potential. And we’re going to handle shipping and get the piece safely to someone’s home. Along the way, we’re helping people fall in love with beautiful, one-of-a-kind furniture.

What is it about Scandinavian modern design that intrigues you?

These designers expressed a new, clarified way of living in their time. They believed beauty was about the form, not elaborate decoration. Their furniture highlights the natural beauty of the wood. There’s this graceful elegance to the best midcentury modern design, especially Scandinavian modern design, coupled with natural materials of a very high quality.

Did you always think you’d have a family business?

It wasn’t at all planned—we slid into it sideways! But we strike a pretty great balance. It shows in our restoration, which is always experimental. Each individual piece of furniture presents a different set of symptoms, which calls for on-the-fly chemistry. There are innumerable tiny decisions: When a dining table comes in, for example, we have to decide on an approach to removing the original finish, the extent to which it should be sanded, and the voids that have to be filled. There’s an abstract notion of the Madsen Modern standard that exists in Brian and me, and our employees are now internalizing that standard as well.

How do you select the pieces that you restore?

Sourcing is one of the most important arts in the business. There’s always an elaborate hunt for things, and it takes a whole lot of hustle. For one, we’re serving as a quality filter. You can’t just make more vintage furniture—if it’s good, you need to find it.

Sometimes people come to us with their special collections, and we also source in the Northwest and around the country, and do a bit of importing as well. We keep a database of things that our customers are looking for, and we’re often able to match things, like dining room chairs or sideboards of a certain size. Once in a while we’re able to really make somebody’s day.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Inconsistency is the only constant. Our business is small, but operating at enough of a scale that there’s rather a lot to do in a lot of different areas. When we started, we basically did all the same things, but over time we’ve developed different areas of emphasis. Brian is now the champion of sourcing, and he leads our restoration team. I focus on sales and marketing and manage the books.

Still, we intentionally keep things interwoven because one of the pleasures of this business is the balanced work-diet it makes possible. On a given day I might bounce between answering customer messages, photographing new products, and helping lay out an upholstery project. Brian could be coaching an employee through a tricky restoration project, dashing out to negotiate a consignment deal, or showing visitors around our shop. The next day will be totally different. It’s never dull!

You often offer custom options for your restoration services, like different choices for upholstery or finishing. What was the thought process behind that decision?

Restoration is at the heart of what we do, and doing it ourselves gives us the opportunity to collaborate. For example, we’ll talk to a customer about how they live and how they want a dining table to perform, which informs the finishing options. With upholstery, we can provide a very high-touch experience, letting people choose the type of fabric they want.

We show some really cool before-and-afters on our Instagram. And we can now proudly point new customers to our Etsy reviews, which illustrate how someone else saw a picture of a vintage piece online, trusted us, and lo and behold, it was as good or better than what they expected. That kind of social proof gives people confidence.

What’s your best tip for someone looking to incorporate midcentury modern style into their home decor?

You could always start with a sofa or a lounge chair, but don’t underestimate the power of a thoughtfully chosen end table with a new lamp! You can really elevate an interior with one or two pieces. Vintage pieces are particularly good for that, because they’re more sculpturally expressive and have this ineffable quality of history embedded in them.

We sell midcentury modern furniture, but that doesn’t mean that we think that your home should be decorated like a period set. That’s not nearly as cool as a mix of new and old things, or old things from different periods, all of which express a diverse personal taste.

So, what’s next for Madsen Modern?

Right now, we’re focused on doing what we’re already doing, and doing a little more of it. As for new things we’ll be selling in the coming months, it’s hard to predict even day by day. We can’t keep enough nightstands in stock. We’ve got a long list of people that want them, and we recently had a beautiful set that sold immediately. Dining furniture is also a big category. People often ask if we have trouble letting go of pieces, but it’s really the opposite. Our favorite thing is the next new thing.

Follow Madsen Modern on Instagram and Facebook.

Photographs courtesy of Madsen Modern.

Shop Madsen Modern

36 comments

  • DecoUno

    DeUno from DeUno said 1 year ago

    Great shop! Congratulations on the feature!

  • artdecadence

    Chrisy McConnell from ARTDECADENCE said 1 year ago

    Divine midcentury furniture..love what you're doing!

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden from TropicalGarden said 1 year ago

    Great midcentury furniture collections! Congratulations on the feature!

  • solomia7

    Monika Moroz from NickoArts said 1 year ago

    Congratulations on the feature of your wonderful shop. I wish you much success.

  • HappyDollbyLesya

    Lesya Harrison from HappyDollsByLesya said 1 year ago

    You doing great job, guys! Congrats on the feature!

  • kgarrett1966

    R.M Garrett from ArtisticAcrylics said 1 year ago

    It's amazing how interactive you both are with collaborating with customers on designs, and the look of their living space, and how best to balance the restored furniture, to flow with the look and feel of their home. I have never heard of people who restore vintage furniture, being so thoughtful with how that piece of furniture affects the environment in some ones home before! You both go above and beyond, because you truly care about your customers beyond the sell, and that's a beautiful thing. I am so happy you found your passion and purpose in life, and through that, the unexpected path of a family business! Thank you for sharing your inspirational story, and I wish you and your family continued blessings in the future!!

  • VenerablePastiche

    Meredith from VenerablePastiche said 1 year ago

    Beautiful work on these old lovelies! Thank you for rescuing them for future generations. Congrats on the feature, and wish you weren't so far away ... I'm hunting for a new dining table!

  • agirlwithfeathers

    Carolina from Agirlwithfeathers said 1 year ago

    Wonderful Scandinavian style! Congratulations on the feature!

  • LoveButtons

    Julia K Walton from FireHorseVintageHQ said 1 year ago

    I just love the simplicity and elegance of these designs. Wonderful shop! :o)

  • TreasuredMemoryLane

    Sujata from TreasuredMemoryLane said 1 year ago

    Beautiful furniture designs! What a great story of the journey of being a pretend salesman as a kid to a real one today! Love that blue chair! Congratulations on the feature!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 1 year ago

    Beautiful furniture and great work! Congrats!

  • rachbing

    Rachel Bingaman from BingArt said 1 year ago

    Love these mid century modern pieces! You can see how much energy and effort has gone into each piece. Congrats!

  • mariakampanaraki

    Mary Veneri from Skoulo said 1 year ago

    I love the simplicity of Scandinavian design. It is very pleasant when your hobby became your daily work. Congratulations!!!

  • LadyInPurple

    Jennifer Tyson from LadyInPurpleBoutique said 1 year ago

    Congrats on the feature Brandon and Brian! Your shop is really amazing!

  • truthbeautyandlove27

    Colleen O'Neal from truthbeautyandlove27 said 1 year ago

    I love the Scandinavian ideal of using high quality materials in a simple way, one of my favorite type of furniture and your shop does a beautiful job of show casing that ideal!

  • ClassicMemories

    ClassicMemories from ClassicMemories said 1 year ago

    Love your shop and your items. Congrats on the feature.

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 1 year ago

    Beautiful shop! Congratulations on the feature!

  • rhondastubbs2

    Rhonda Stubbs from RhondaCorner said 1 year ago

    WOW! What a great shop and concept. Your finds are great looking after a loving touch from you two. Great work! Congratulations on your feature.

  • cardhugs

    Rosemary Lambert from cardhugs said 1 year ago

    Looks to be well made.

  • ButterflyFeetShop

    Sherri from ButterflyFeetDigital said 1 year ago

    Nice shop, congrats on the feature!

  • zsjardin

    zsjardin said 1 year ago

    I've always loved Scandinavian Furniture and am delighted to know you are working on that furniture . We have a rocker we bought when we were in grad school. We paid $15.00 for it then, and it still catches my eye 40 years later.

  • pillowlink

    Rosita from pillowlink said 1 year ago

    Amazing work! Congrats!

  • SeeDollyRun

    Michele Lea from NawteaKittea said 1 year ago

    Absolutely gorgeous shop! Congrats on the feature!

  • HeyChica

    Hey Chica from HeyChica said 1 year ago

    Amazing shop! Several years ago I found a teak sideboard in perfect condition and it's still my favorite piece of furniture.

  • oneredindian

    Shirley from Shirlbcreationstoo said 1 year ago

    What a beautiful collection. I have always been a fan of mid century modern. I will keep an eye on your beautiful shop. Congratulations and the very best to you both.

  • GTDesigns

    renee and gerardo from GTDesigns said 1 year ago

    Perfection and such a beautiful, bold, rich line of art!! This shop was previously heart-ed by us ... no wonder!! Congrats on this amazing feature!!

  • bozhenafuchs

    Bozhena Fuchs from FuchsArtStudio said 1 year ago

    It's a really good job! Congrats on the feature!

  • VadimMoroz

    Vadim Moroz from VadimMorozArt said 1 year ago

    Very nice shop! Congratulations on the feature!

  • elizabethforster

    elle and belle Forster from elleandbellejewelry said 1 year ago

    Nice work, Brian and Brandon. Love your pieces. Enjoyed your story...always good to see people doing what they love. All the best!

  • diasyflores

    Mariana from diasyflores said 1 year ago

    Congratulations!!!

  • farragio

    farragio from farragio said 1 year ago

    Oh my goodness, your pieces are gorgeous!

  • nqiivoys

    Nga said 1 year ago

    It nice ,I really like it

  • larenaissancegirl

    RG from LaRenaissanceGirl said 1 year ago

    Awesome shop story! I really liked seeing the action shots behind the scenes. Congrats on the blog feature!

  • tabbey13

    Teena from Abbeyoaks said 1 year ago

    Really nice furniture!!

  • totalhandmade1

    ourania from myTotalHandMade said 1 year ago

    Amazing pieces, great work!!!

  • unatuna

    Oonah from unatuna said 1 year ago

    I love 50's furniture! I recently found some 50's wooden chairs I am planning on fixing up. Thanks for article!

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