Repurposed Modern: Celebrating The Past

Staff Writer

Entering Janet Rauscher’s deceptively large furniture store is like a comforting step back in time. Childhoods from decades gone by come racing back as each visitor strides into a long forgotten past, faced with an endless vista of forties’ modernity, the fifties’ nuclear age and the unmistakable era of the baby boomers. Bright colors weave with functional chrome or dark wood minimalist forms, filling numerous rooms with valuable tokens of eras past. All this is the vision of Rauscher, owner of Repurposed Modern, Louisville’s newest and arguably most innovative furniture store.

“I’ve been collecting mid-century furniture for years, way before it became fashionable,” explains Rauscher, who spent 24 years working in industrial design before opening up her store on Warwick Avenue, near Westport Road in a 3000 square foot space that’s a personal and dedicated homage to furniture and household items spanning the forties, fifties, sixties and very occasional items from the seventies.

“There is no store in Louisville that presents furniture from just the mid-century,” says Rauscher when asked to explain the inspiration behind her store. “When you go to an antiques store, you just find a piece in the corner with some stuff thrown on top of it. I want to present it in the environment for which it was intended. I thought it would be great to showcase it in a way that showed of its beauty.”

With the success of shows such as “Mad Men,” demand for the sleek furniture and household items from mid-century modern America has peaked. People looking to furnish and accessorize have turned to those decades for inspiration, something Rauscher thinks can only be a good thing as she does not “think there has been a period of design as prolific since that period and as functional.”

“You don’t have to own a mid-century home to own this kind of thing,” she goes on to explain. “Even if you just pick a few pieces to put into your home, it warms up that space and gives it character.”

While the furniture in the store is highly curated, Rauscher’s method of finding said items is anything but as she scours estate sales and house clearances around the land to unearth pieces that may have been long forgotten or simply no longer loved as much as they could be with a new owner.

“Part of what I’m trying to do other than showing off this mid-century beauty is also have a little bit of fun with it,” says Rauscher as she points to a seemingly endless beer can collection, from the 1970s. “It always takes people home. It’s why people spend hours here. I think they find objects that they have forgotten were part of their childhood.”

So whether you’re remodelling a loft in NuLu or looking for a restoration project, Repurposed Modern might be the best place to start as Rauscher admits “she has a warehouse full of projects.” But overall the real reason to visit is to have the chance to purchase furniture that Rauscher has carefully found to be in almost mint condition from decades where she feels great design met function and quality construction.

“I look for things in good condition, because that’s what protects the value of something. I buy high quality that can be kept for a very long time because that’s the other thing about the mid-century modern period – none of it was made in China. It was all handmade in the U.S., so for the most part, the quality is unmatched. So the pricing may be comparable to new items but the quality is not.”

Courtesy Photos