maison21 loves lucite- loves, loves, loves! after reading a couple great posts lately regarding lucite furniture and accessories from fellow bloggers alkemie and absolutely beautiful things, maison21 thought he'd share a little lucite lore of his own with y'all.
the first post miason21 was inspired by was "sources for lucite furniture" from the san francisco-based blog alkemie- if you haven't been to her blog, go read up on the sources she's listed for the lucite and then read her gorgeous and hunger-making series of posts on french pastry maker, ladureé,. be sure to visit this week, as one of my favorite blogging friends, the delightfully colorful and upbeat, all things bright and beautiful is guest blogging from hong kong!
maison21's second inspirational post was from the well established down-under design blog, absolutely beautiful things. one of the first design blogs maison21 started reading, and one of the inspirations for starting a blog of his very own. anna from abt posted this great oversized, monogrammed lucite graphic tray from iomoi (pic is from abt). proving that great design minds think alike, maison21 was all set to order one of these trays (the smaller, cheaper version, mind you) as a christmas gift for a friend but at the last moment switched instead to this modernist lucite dog bowl feeder from everyday studios in san francisco, purchased via supermarket (i realized the tray is more my house, the feeder more the style of my friend's home).
lucite is such a beautiful and versatile material, with incredible optical properties, but a material that is surprisingly fragile when one considers it's a form of plastic. it is one of maison21's absolute favorite ways to add a little shine and glam to a room without overwhelming it with sparkle (you know like with a bedazzled zebra figurine). over the years maison21 has owned (and sold) more lucite than he can remember, and had both success and heartbreak in trying to bring neglected pieces back to life. now, it's time to pass on some of that knowledge to you, grasshopper...
as stated, lucite is plastic and the name "lucite" is actually a trade name, owned by dupont- the generic term is acrylic and the technical name is "polymethylmethacrylate". even though lucite is a trade name, as a term it's pretty much interchangeable with acrylic, and we definitely prefer to use the term "lucite"- it sounds more a little more upmarket than "acrylic", which sounds to us like a badly pilled 70's knit sweater. if you want to sound all fancy and english like madonna, you can call lucite "perspex", the trade name from across the pond.
the chemical compound lucite is compsed of, was discovered in 1928 (wikipedia) and brought to the market in the early 1930's which is why you'll see it first used in deco and moderne pieces from that era. of course lucite's use as a decor material really took off with the forward thinking designs of the 60's and 70's, and some of the many designers that used the material extensively during that period are dorothy thorpe, neal small, charles hollis jones and karl springer. (links are to 1stdibs for more examples of their work)
dorothy thorpe candlesticks sold by maison21
neal small tables at treadway-toomey aucitons
charles-hollis jones table sold by maison21
springer lamp at lobel modern on 1stdibs
as mentioned, lucite is a somewhat delicate material, and care should be exercised in use and in cleaning. household cleaners like windex shouldn't be used as they can cause surface crazing. "crazing" is a series of hairline cracks to the material. they are especially visible when struck by strong light but can't be felt on the surface, and often can develop deep inside the material. they can't be polished out, even when they appear to be near surface. besides chemical cleaners, crazing is most often caused by extremes in temperature, so try to avoid exposing your lucite to heat. extreme heat can also sometimes cause the lucite to turn cloudy, another condition for which there is no cure. note- the same optical qualities that make lucite so pretty can cause it to heat up when left in direct sunlight for prolonged periods, so keep that in mind in hot climes. below is a lucite ice bucket from maison21's personal collection with some severe crazing to bottom portion- maison21 isn't sure how damage occurred as he acquired it in that condition, but he assumes it was used for it's intended purpose, holding ice, then immediately rinsed in hot water causing the frost like crazing (actually the most extreme example i've ever seen- which makes it kind of cool!). lucite is still quite usuable and pretty when crazed or clouded, but one should be aware that is not it's original state- don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
so how do you clean lucite if you can't use cleaners or hot water? mild dish soap with cold or lukewarm water does the trick, along with a clean, soft cloth or sponge-. NEVER use a scrubby sponge as you will scratch the lucite badly. if the item is really dirty, rinse it under running water first to remove any dirt particles before wiping with cloth or sponge, because if there gritty particles on the lucite while wiping, you will scratch it.
there are also commercial sprays available to clean lucite- one of maison21 favorites is called "brillianize" and you can order it direct from their website, or some hardware stores carry it as well. maison21, being a big ol' ebay hag, likes to buy his from follow sellers there. it's really the best way to keep your lucite looking new and fabulous.
if you don't want to invest in a special product to make your lucite shiny, a cheap and easy way to shine up dull lucite is with a regular car wax, like turtlewax- just buff with a soft cloth and you'll be amazed at how good even the dullest acrylic will look. turtlewax has an advantage over brillianize in that it can remove faint scratches as well. the disadvantage as that sometimes it can leave a bit of a haze, visible in certain lights.
if lucite has sticky residue, like from a price tag, nail polish remover will remove it quickly and easily.
now if lucite is not just dirty, but is scratched as well, the solution is another commercial product called "novus 1-2-3". novus is a three step system: 3 for heavier scratches, 2 for fine scratches, and 1 for general cleaning (1 seems to be very much the same as brillianize). once again, you can order these from the company's own website, or get them off ebay. to buy them locally, you'd need to go to a specialty plastic store (maison21 goes to hasting's plastic in santa monica). the novus products produce remarkable results on even the most scratched up lucite- just follow the directions, and you'll be pleased with how new your item looks. and while it can't remove deep scratches, novus will at least polish up those scratches, reducing their visibility- the below sculptural vintage bowl was in pretty bad shape when maison21 found it, but looked rather amazing after a little novus and a lot of elbow grease! for really deep scratches, you can use use 600 grit sand paper followed by a buffing compound applied with a buffing wheel, but that's waaaaayyy too DIY for maison21- he just isn't that butch of a lesbian (no offense meant to my sapphic sisters- you girls know you are naturally good at stuff like that). maison21's advice is that if the lucite is that messed up, send it to a professional!
now maison21 is sure he isn't the only one with a lucite obsession- would anyone else care to share photos of their favorite lucite objets d'amor? (and link, if applicable)- he'll post a follow up post with pictures if enough of his threes of readers care to respond...
also, if you try any of m21's tips, email to let m21 know how much you love the results! or if you need further advice, maison21 is happy to help!