Proprietor Brian Mueller said he fell in love with art deco design as a child in his father's Los Angeles neon sign shop.
By Adam Townsend
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August 9, 2012
Adding to the funky vibe that has developed in the Los Molinos "surf ghetto" area of San Clemente over the past couple years is Mueller's Art Deco Museum & Garage.
Proprietor Brian Mueller, sporting glasses with wire earpieces and thin tortoiseshell frames that wouldn't look out of place on Franklin D. Roosevelt, runs the small exhibition as an adjunct to his business designing, engineering and selling parts used to restore classic cars.
Art deco was a design movement in both interior design and architecture, as well as automobiles that had its heyday from 1918 to about 1947. Clean lines, streamlined shapes and stark, modernistic re-interpretations of classical sculpture and imagery characterize the aesthetic.
Mueller spoke with Patch in the research library of the four-room museum as big-band jazz played softly in the background.
"I've been collecting art deco things for 40 years," he said. "I traveled extensively through the U.S. and Europe, shipping things back, storing and warehousing them. I finally decided, before I kick off, to start displaying them so other people could enjoy them."
The front office is set up with art deco-style furniture and bric-a-brac, as is the extensive art deco research library. A wide, open-air hallway displays neon signs from the era, hearkening back to the neon sign business Mueller’s father had in L.A. on Sunset Boulevard.
The real showpieces are the 20 classic Chevrolet and GMC vehicles from the art deco period; mostly trucks.
Mueller said he fell in love with the graceful curves and elaborate, sloping chrome grills of these work trucks because his father owned several. He would use them to haul neon signs down to San Diego on Saturdays to install them, Mueller said.
Mueller set up his business on Los Molinos and opened the museum in October of 2011. He held a grand opening in May.