Owner of sbmidmod, Tracey Strobel. Photo by Erick Madrid for the Santa Barbara Independent.
An appealing array of home furnishings and artful objects—featuring the mid-century modern motifs of clean lines, bright colors, organic and geometric shapes, bold patterns, mixed textures, and contrasting materials—are on display at sbmidmod, a new addition to the Funk Zone. Located on Anacapa Street next to the popular Mony’s Mexican restaurant, this eclectic retail space showcases the timeless appeal of the design style.
A self-described research geek with a degree in ancient history, owner Tracey Strobel has spent almost two decades collecting, studying, restoring, and selling mid-century pieces. She got started hunting down furnishings for her own home. “Then it became a situation where I had one or two too many pieces and I thought I could maybe sell them … and it
snowballed into a business rather rapidly after that … and 18 years later, ta-da,” she laughed.
A Richard Schulman print of actor Anthony Hopkins, sits in the corner of sbmidmod. Photo by Erick Madrid for the Santa Barbara Independent.
Strobel began selling in the early days of eBay. “I’ve done the grunt work,” she said. “I worked estate sales, I’ve had spaces in antique malls—including a current space at the Antique Center Mall—and I’ve been incredibly grateful for those experiences because you
learn a lot from the people around you. One of the things I love the most about this job is that you’re constantly learning.”
She finds her inventory everywhere, from online searches to estate sales to tips from her network of antique dealers. As to what excites her about the mid-century modern aesthetic, Strobel said, “I love the minimal lines. I love the simplicity, and honestly, I view all of these pieces as functional art. It’s a lamp, yes, it gives you light, but it’s beautiful to look at and it inspires an emotional reaction for me. I can’t explain it better than that.”
Kitty corner, a tribute to cats in art form, at sbmidmod in the Funk Zone. Photo by Erick Madrid for the Santa Barbara Independent.
The research geek that she is, Strobel added, “There is also the component of knowing who the designers are and having the opportunity to research and learn about someone new.” The other appeal of the era is the craftsmanship. “It’s so well-made,” she said. “When you take care of these pieces, they will last for generations. It’s also important to me—though it’s pretty simple and rather obvious—that antiquing and buying vintage/used furniture helps the planet.”
As to the risk of opening up a new retail space during the uncertain days of a pandemic, Strobel said it was really a matter of stumbling onto a building that spoke to her. She was out on a bike ride in February when she spotted the “For Lease” sign in the window of a gutted building. “All I could see was the brick and the studs,” she said. She quickly made an appointment for a walk through. “It just landed with me,” she said.
Strobel signed a lease two weeks later. The timing was good. “I was really ready to have a
place where people could come in and shop, but also where I could research and do my work,” she said. “This is essentially my office that people can come and shop in.”
“It’s definitely an obsession,” she laughed. “You’ve got to have a passion for this in order to make it last a long time. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work.”
Originally published in the June 24, 2021 issue of the Santa Barbara Independent. To see the story as it originally appeared in print click here.