Written by Joanne Barrett
There’s a new vibe surfacing in the Grey Lynn shopping strip on Great North Road with the emergence of some very cool businesses. Among them is Mid Century Swag.
As Coco Chanel once said, fashion fades… only style remains timeless. When it comes to selecting unique designer décor furnishings, Mid Century Swag owner Jodi Newnham has a keen eye for timeless pieces. And to showcase these unique furnishings in a way they deserve, her recently acquired retail space located next to Greenpoint Florist in the Grey Lynn shops, makes the perfect stage setting.
Jodi says, “I love that my showroom is situated in the Grey Lynn shops - all my neighbours are awesome.”
Long before Jodi established Mid Century Swag, she dabbled in a few careers. She says the path we initially think would be our lifetime calling, often changes as we grow and experience life. And when we least expect it, opportunities come along and play to our desire to reinvent or extend ourselves.
After leaving school, Jodi attended art school majoring in contemporary jewellery design and painting. But like many young Kiwi, she got the travel bug and went on her big OE to London where she lived for six years working in hospitality and travelling the world.
After a while, she says she felt the need to return home and redefine her career. Jodi studied pattern making, garment assembly and fashion illustration at AIT thinking this was the industry she wanted to be in. But after a short stint working in production, she was desperate to do something more creative. The idea of interior design appealed.
“It wasn’t until I had my first child and was living in my own home that I became interested in, home interiors. The logical step - a Diploma in Interior Design.”
Jodi says her years of experience as an interior designer combine well with what she offers at Mid Century Swag - a collaborative approach, which is exciting. For clients with interior design projects, she works with them as a design consultant, and for retail customers looking for a special piece, she always hands out home décor advice. She says it’s hard not to.
Despite all the advice, Jodi says the rules to interior design are few and gone are the days where it is considered wrong to mix period styles. With this eclectic approach, however, there is, a knack to making an interior scheme work, and she won’t always recommend her clients only buy what they love. Sometimes a buying decision must be made with purpose and functionality in mind.
She says it is important that all her customers purchase something they love, or, that they leave feeling satisfied and confident the piece they have purchased will work and serve its purpose in their home.
“I’m not a purist when it comes to decorating the home. I love mixing styles with careful consideration to how pieces relate to each other. I like a little bit of the unexpected, too.”
As you step into Mid Century Swag showroom, you see that the pieces Jodi sources are undoubtedly distinctive and of exceptional quality. She says the frustrating thing is that almost all of what she handpicks to fit her selection criteria, seems to be available overseas and not always readily available in New Zealand. She sources and ships pieces from Los Angeles, California and to broaden her offering she is looking to Europe to set up a connection there.
It was her love for contemporary art and 20th Century design that led her to an opportunity with a connection to the United States.
Jodi says, “Despite my overseas connections, local involvement is very important, too, so I exhibit some of my own artworks and those of local artists. My future vision is to increase the gallery space and showcase many more local artists’ works.
“Everything I have instore is special and to pick one favourite sofa or table is a tough call. If I had to choose, it would be our Soriana sofa designed by Afra and Tobias Scarpa for iconic Italian furniture company Cassina. It looks amazing from every angle; it is voluptuous and appears to have this chrome corset-like frame cinching its shape into submission.”
“The Soriana sofa is an iconic collectors’ design piece, they do not manufacture this design anymore. I admit I have kept an armchair and ottoman for myself.”
“I have since sold one of the Soriana sofas and an armchair so now I only have one sofa left in the showroom. I don’t mind when some of these pieces hang around, I get to enjoy them a bit longer, but it’s always a buzz when it goes to a new home to be loved.”
When it comes to her carbon footprint, she says, apart from the short and easy daily commute to the showroom, she believes Mid Century Swag is more than just a furniture recycling business, it fits the principles of sustainability.
“I like individuality and pieces that have had an element of human touch in their making with careful consideration around design and manufacture. I’m of the opinion that we have become terrible consumers with the availability of cheaper, mass-produced disposable goods. I think it’s important to do your research, buy wisely and consider your purchase as a long-term investment, rather than buying something that is mass produced, cheap and on trend now.”
In developing her business there have been many learning curves along the way. Nevertheless, Jodi has worked hard to build enduring and trustworthy relationships and she continues to invest money with the vision of maintaining a business model that is financially viable and environmentally sustainable.
Jodi concludes, “Although there has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears, the good news is my business has progressed, is more fine-tuned and, like my style, it continues to evolve. I’m a restless creative always looking for new challenges.”