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Thursday, July 30, 2015


AU CURRENT. David Skelley is easily one of San Diego's leading Modernists.
GUEST BLOG--By Phyllis Kessel--It’s a well-trod path of nostalgia that leads me to Boomerang for modern in San Diego’s Little Italy. As owner David Skelley wrote to me on the occasion of his 25th year in business, “You’ve been there since the very beginning.”
This month David celebrates his 30th year of unearthing and selling mid-century modern furniture classics by the likes of Aalto and Eames, Nelson and Panton, Wegner and Wormley.

I’m still here, relishing the comfort of dropping in for stimulating conversation often, as I did yesterday, and we both wonder where the time has gone.

Phyllis Kessel, aka Phyllis Van Doren, recently retired after 35 years as an editor at San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine.

Thirty years ago both the kitsch and the true stars of the 1940s-1960s were a hard sell in San Diego. David first set up shop on Park Boulevard in 1985, in a tiny former garage space of the retro 1920s Egyptian Court Apartments.

Boomerang for modern in 1985
The outpost for vintage goods immediately caught my eye on my rounds as an editor for a local shelter magazine. He also remembers sending press releases (pre-email) and I would have been on the list.

This was the start of a long editorial relationship, keeping an eye on David’s constant expansion that was catnip to an editor with design news stories to discover and monthly columns to fill.

As his taste and knowledge of the best designers of the period grew, so did the need for space and David took the leap across the street in 1987. LP records of the period were part of the aura. A surreal experience for him was when a jazz icon of the 1950s, my husband Barney Kessel, wandered in with my 1940s kitchen clock for repair. Soon the space-age clocks and vintage lamps that might have landed at Cape Canaveral were supplanted with more classic enduring furnishings.

David then lived upstairs on the Adams Avenue end of Park Boulevard in University Heights, close to a Mexican take-out. (When I came to do a story he recommended their lobster tacos.)The perfectly curated interiors of that apartment loft made for an eye-popping eight page spread and trending story in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine.

After ten years at the Hillcrest location, David moved Boomerang to a neighborhood that was building its own design steam, the awakening Little Italy. The sophistication of the interiors was evidence of his continuing scholarship as a moving force in mid-century collecting across the country. (Besides he now was next door to my favorite pasta shop, owned by the Assenti brothers.) 
Boomerang for modern in Little Italy
Here David was able to shed new light on local talent that had fallen into the shadows such as Malcolm Leland, Dot Kimura and Min Koide and early international innovators who were not on our radar. When David bought a condo in a Jonathan Segal building, I was there for another photo spread.

Boomerang continued to reflect a bit of my past, hence nostalgia. My 1950s college apartment in West Los Angeles was minimally furnished with a 1946 Eames dining table and chairs from the Herman Miller showroom on Beverly Boulevard. German porcelain dishes like so many white moons and Gense stainless Swedish flatware from Van Keppel-Green in Beverly Hills were the perfect complement to Eames design.

In 1957 when I moved to San Diego, you shopped for contemporary design of the period in showrooms like Dean Marshall Interiors and Armin Richter and Associates, Allan Adler in the Green Dragon Colony, the Design Center on Fifth Avenue.

Today it’s always a pleasure to slip into a really good vintage chair at Boomerang and tune in to modern design with David Skelley.

Boomerang for modern
2475 Kettner Boulevard
11:30 am to 5-ish Mon.-Sat.
Or by appointment.
Closed Sundays

"Papa Bear" chair by Hans Wegner in the window of San Diego's Boomerang for modern
Artist/Architect James Hubbell
with David Skelley, 2013
Artist Malcolm Leland with David Skelley, 2006

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