Tips for Styling a Mid-Century Modern Booth

Staging Vintage Furniture Booth

What better time to share tips for styling a Mid-Century Modern booth in an antique mall? Firstly, we’re approaching our 5th anniversary at Avonlea Antiques & Interiors in July. Secondly, we’ve just moved into our newest booth — no, let’s call it a show space.

Yes, you are looking at a Kent-Coffey dining set from the 1960s: table, chairs, buffet, server, and china cabinet. Photo by Raven McKie

Tips for Styling a Mid-Century Modern Booth: Location

Our new booth sits 3rd down from the front door, still on 1st Street in Avonlea. Consequently, it gets plenty of looks and foot traffic, making it an excellent location. The square footage roughly matches our previous space, but this one stretches a tad longer and sits a bit shallower.

Change was already in the cards. The vignette in our former booth, while lovely, remained static for months. A color swap, or even a complete makeover appeared inevitable. Before settling on a plan, however, the impossible happened: prime space in the mall came available. Location became our deciding factor.

In short, it took a village to achieve our new booth’s magic and we love them all. Raven, Michael, Suszi and Steve, envisioned the styling. Randy, Phil and Eddie handled furniture and art placement. David and I are so grateful for their involvement, because — simultaneously! — we are grappling with health issues.

Lane Mosaic dresser, mirror and end tables, 1970s; Drexel Today’s Living dresser and full/queen bed frame designed by Milo Baughman in 1950s; George Noguchi repro coffee table. Photo by Raven McKie

Paint Color

Credit goes to Randy for painting the floor. Phil spackled and painted the walls Benjamin Moore Summer Nights and Oatmeal. This Summer Nights blue is so much richer than the sports-team blue in our last booth.

Benjamin Moore Summer Nights 777

See what I mean about our previous booth’s color? Despite my wanting cobalt blue, we wound up with a blue that’s radiant on the Gators’ uniforms at the University of Florida. Sadly, our furniture just did not pop with this color.

Styling Mid-Century Modern Booth


Can we all agree that any type of moving is hard? That’s my son, Michael, below. The move devoured his free days, in addition to exhausting him. Here, the wall appears as his sole support. I assume he’s girding himself for the final push to empty our old, yet loved, space.

Vintage Furniture Booth Arrangement
Photo by Raven McKie

We prefer to create small areas representing rooms. Bedroom furniture on the left side of the booth . . .

Styling Mid-Century Modern Booth
Photo by Raven McKie

. . . dining furniture on the right.

Kent-Coffey Perspecta Dining Set

Let’s swing in for closeups of the Kent-Coffey Perspecta dining table and chairs, china cabinet, server/bar, and buffet:

Styling Mid-Century Modern Booth
Photo by Raven McKie
Styling Mid-Century Modern Booth
Photo by Raven McKie
Styling Mid-Century Modern Booth
Photo by Raven McKie
Styling Mid-Century Modern Booth
Photo by Raven McKie

Showcasing Our Smalls

Lovely Raven meticulously arranged our booth’s many smalls, showcasing the cut crystal and colored blown glass directly beneath the light fixture atop our Ikea case. By keeping the case unlocked, a customer may now open the door to hold a piece and study it more closely. Previously, a prospective buyer had to ask one of the floor staff to retrieve the cabinet key and return to the booth to unlock it. In other words, a cumbersome process that made impulse buying difficult. Streamlining, we hope, will make these stunning pieces more accessible and easier to sell.

Photo by Raven McKie
Photo by Raven McKie
Photo by Raven McKie
Carafe and glasses
Photo by Raven McKie
Shannon Crystal Whiskey Decanter and glasses
Photo by Raven McKie
Teak Candlestick Trio
Photo by Raven McKie

Wall Decor

Art nourishes the soul. Moreover, I taught years worth of humanities courses in my past life. We, therefore, consciously stage our “rooms” to include a variety of wall decor. A happy discovery occurred when we learned how well the blue paint enhanced the framed 3-D art.

Staging Mid-Century Modern Booth
Photo by Raven McKie


Michael wired the hanging lamps to the ceiling, while Suszi and Steve made sure similar elements clustered together. For instance, this vintage bar with the fold-down formica flap is capped by the framed Contratto sparkling wine poster. Serendipitously, Michael positioned this lamp to highlight the bar’s striking surfaces and contents. The gold detail on the glassware, as a result, really pops.

Staging Mid-Century Modern Furniture
Photo by Raven McKie


Well, here you’ve caught me. Clearly, we need a larger rug under the dining table. But for now, we’ll make do with the rug under the George Noguchi repro coffee table and the cheerful coir welcome mat. Meanwhile, I’m searching for a larger rug.

Styling Mid-Century Modern Booth
Photo by Raven McKie
Coir Mat
Photo by Raven McKie

Above all, we’re grateful to Avonlea Antiques & Interiors team for advice, inspiration, and experimentation over these (almost) 5 years. The team’s involvement styling a Mid-Century Modern booth was a gift. Meanwhile, do I need to say again that Avonlea’s an amazing place? If you’re planning a trip to Jacksonville, FL, or just driving through to another destination, make a point of stopping by!

Ann Marie & David

Previous Posts

Wall art
Wassily Kandinsky Color Study. Squares with Concentric Circles

Lane Mosaic Collection: Not Brutalist Style

Lane Mosaic

First of all, I don’t believe the Lane Mosaic Collection represents Brutalist style. Let me explain why. Actually, it’ll take 2 posts to go through my reasoning.

I’ve tried — diligently — to bring you primary sources on the Lane Mosaic collection. Even the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., for example, couldn’t help me find original catalogs and advertisements. My next option, after all that, involves heading to our main library and slogging through microfiche.

Lane Mosaic Collection

Therefore, let’s just plunge in and examine our pieces of the Lane Mosaic collection on display at Avonlea Antiques & Interiors:

Lane brutalist

Lovely. I see warm blocks of wood arranged like tiles across wooden surfaces. The collection’s name fits perfectly: Mosaic. The warmth of the wood, lively grain, and geometric design contribute to the hipness and edginess of the 1970s, but without being too weird for the family home.

Lane Furniture Mosaic Collection

Lane mass produced its furniture for middle-class families. The company, above all, never intended to alienate its core market by producing anything too avant-garde.

Lane Mosaic Dresser

Lane manufactured three collections in the 1970s that I group together: their Lane Mosaic Collection, Staccato, and Pueblo. Staccato’s design looks similar to Mosaic. As Lane’s advertisement proclaimed, Staccato represented “a very today design.”

Lane Staccato Furniture 1974 Ad
Lane Staccato Furniture 1974 Ad. Source

The Pueblo collection, on the other hand, reminds me of Mexico’s pre-Columbian roots. Take a look at this Aztec calendar stone. The bas-relief carving contains a variety of geometric shapes:

Aztec calendar stone
Aztec Calendar Stone. Source.

Now the ad for the Pueblo collection:

Lane Pueblo Furniture Ad
Lane Pueblo Furniture Ad. Source.

Finally, a closeup view showing the details. Is it modern art, as the advertisement suggests? Or does the design suggest pre-Columbian indigenous art?

Lane Pueblo Dresser
Lane Pueblo Dresser. Source.

Brutalist Architecture

Frequently this furniture style is called Brutalist, but I disagree. Especially when applied to a pleasing-the-masses company like Lane Furniture.

I understand how Brutalism applies to architecture. Le Corbousier, of course, gets credit for coining the term bréton brut or raw concrete for the style that flourished — architecturally — from the early 1950s to mid-70s.

Concrete served as the primary material for these buildings, usually educational and governmental, because of its comparative cheapness.

Adjectives describing concrete brutalist architecture include blocky, cold, monolithic, monumental, raw, unadorned, and utilitarian.

The style, however, was intended to foster egalitarianism and utilitarianism. Architects pursued a democratic aesthetic. 

Examples of Brutalism

The Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego, for example, looks like an alien spacecraft. Made of concrete and glass, it appears massive. It seems capable, however, of levitation. Its piers soar upward, like the dreams of those using this library.

Brutalist architecture
Geisel Library, University of California San Diego. It is named in honor of Audrey and Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Source.

The Barbican Estate rose from the ashes when Luftwaffe bombs demolished 35 acres of London in 1940. Today, with its blocks, towers, terraces and columns, the Barbican combines theaters, performing arts venues, and 3 of the city’s tallest residential towers. This phoenix was designed to realize the utopian dream of high-density urban living amid restaurants, shops, schools and entertainment.

Brutalist architecture
Barbican Centre, London. Source.

Architects Kallmann, McKinnell, and Knowles, winners of Boston’s City Hall design competition, envisioned a democratic structure.

The whole thing was conceived with that sense of openness and aspiration to be very public, to be grand, to represent the civic realm. 

Mark Pasnik, architecture professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology and co-author of Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (2015)
Brutalist architecture
Boston City Hall. Source.

Brutalist detractors, to be sure, argued the style is too austere, too imposing, too soulless. At the far end of the spectrum, depressing Soviet concrete apartments also represent Brutalism. No star architect designed this block, although the building serves its purpose: humble, simple, functional abodes for the masses.

soviet concrete apartments
Soviet Concrete Apartment, Halichnaya Street, St. Petersburg. Source.

Be Selective When You Judge

I concur with Michael Kubo, architect, architectural historian, and co-author of Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (2015), who asserted:

There’s a tendency to condemn the entire period based on its worst examples . . . People point to all of the second- or third-rate, relatively cheaply built buildings in concrete . . . as a way of condemning the best buildings. Source.

Some Brutalist buildings, now 50 years old, show cracks and deterioration. They need rethinking. Uninspired buildings, for instance, can be torn down and replaced with more contemporary styles. But other more appealing Brutalist works can be repaired and enlivened. Some Brutalist buildings are transitioning into friendlier facades.

Boston’s City Hall added lights!

Boston City Hall Illuminated

Part 2 Preview

Designer Paul Evans sometimes receives credit for creating Lane’s Mosaic, Staccato and/or Pueblo collections. I can’t, however, find anything to verify that. . . 

Further, is it possible to come with a name for furniture that doesn’t involve the term Brutalist?

Until next time,

Ann Marie and David

Wall Art Adds Emotion, Color and Vitality To Rooms

Wall Art

Wall art adds emotion, color and vitality to rooms. If you’re wondering what to do about your bare spaces, don’t be timid about choosing wall art, especially large pieces.

Our booth at Avonlea Antiques & Interiors features mainly Mid-Century Modern (MCM) decor, but I want to show you how art from any period can enliven your space.

First of all, choose a piece that brings you joy. It’s perfectly acceptable to pause in front of your art while passing through a room, or sit on a chair and look into it, even for a minute. Art helps give you balance in your life.

An easy way not to become desensitized to your art is to move your pieces around. That way you can make new discoveries each time you look.

So, let’s see what speaks to you in terms of emotion, color and vitality with images currently in our booth.

Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles

Wall art

Wassily Kandinsky created his original study, hardly bigger than a sheet of copy paper, in 1913.  He applied washes of watercolor in concentric rings and used it as a reference to study the interaction of colors. Ironically, his small reference became his most famous work. Kandinsky believed colors evoke feelings and affect your mood. Of course, the red and yellow double mats of this poster enhance the energy of the vivid colors.

If you want to know more about Kandinsky, check out this video:

Aperitif in A Studio

Step into this cozy artist’s studio. How bohemian! Join the ladies taking a break in the  cramped surroundings, sipping aperitifs and nibbling sweetbreads. They huddle around a small table as an artist’s assistant pours the aperitifs. While this visually looks like an intimate group, notice they aren’t interacting. Perhaps it’s simply a work break.

The woman on the right, clad in black down to her shiny silk stockings, studies a portrait. Another woman turns away. The artist features one model by placing her near the center, clothing her in an undergarment, highlighting the whiteness of her breasts, and giving her red hair.

Wall art

Contemporary Brazilian-born artist Juarez Machado’s (1941 –   ) style reminds me of the Expressionists of the late 19th and early 20th century. The Expressionists sought to convey emotion rather than physical reality. I believe there’s much to study — to feel — in Machado’s Apertif.

Kyst (Coast)

The more I learned about this Danish art poster, the more I liked it. A 1996 exhibit combined the works of a photographer, poet, and artist. They focused on the Danish coast between Roskilde to Køge Bay. Perhaps the three gentlemen had received a cultural grant from the Danish government to interweave nature and culture.

wall art

Look at how different the mood is between the painting’s churning water, and the lone boat in the black-and-white photo. As for interpreting a line of Danish poetry in cursive, I’m not going there. But add in the huge amount of white space, this poster looks so clean, so Scandinavian. It’s a lovely wall art poster.

Still Life

wall art
We found this painting at an estate sale. I suspect the artist had lived in the house and, alas, there’s no visible signature. The first thing you see is the artist’s impasto technique, whereby he or she heavily layered the paint so that it shows visible brushwork and cuts of the palette knife.

Still Life Impasto Unknown Artist

The paint — its texture and colors — draws your eyes along the canvas. The color choices are interesting, with the red cherries lusciously bursting on a plate. The blue bottle lands slightly behind the white pot which reflects the colors around it.

Juxtaposition of  the highly ornate frame with the modern image creates an interesting, not necessarily harmonic, contrast.

Contratto Advertisement

Self-taught artist Leonetto Cappiello, called the Father of Modern Advertising, created this advertisement for Contratto Liqueur in 1922. In that period, merchants paid artists to create a single image — vibrant and colorful — to sell their wares.

One of Cappiello’s best known ads, this Contratto poster features a lovely woman easily supporting an oversized glass of bubbly Contratto. There’s movement everywhere: the flowing champagne, her swirling floral skirt, and the gauzy fabric of her barely-there top floating behind her.

wall art

As for color, it bursts forth. Her blue hair, golden champagne, white froth, red top, olive skirt with yellow flowers pop out against the black background. What emotions do you feel? I find her joy contagious.

Wall Art and Frames

You can find art at estate sales, garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets, Craigslist, on sale at online poster sites, friends moving to another city — everywhere. Also, I hoard interesting frames so that I have choices. David picked up 2 large frames at the end of an estate sale for $2.50 each.


So, what are you waiting for? Just look for art that speaks to you. Because frankly, you deserve it.

Until next time,

Ann Marie and David

The Dedicated House – Make it Pretty Monday;

My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia – Inspire Me Monday

Embracing Change – Creative Inspirations

Design Enthusiast Style Showcase

Boondocks Blog – Sweet Inspirations Link Party 

DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkins: Hand Stitched

Today I’m talking about DIY upholstery fabric pumpkins. Yes, there are loads of instructional videos and posts explaining how to make DIY fabric pumpkins. Does the world really need another tutorial? Absolutely, because we’re focusing on DIY upholstery fabric pumpkins.
DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin
My pumpkins — 3 so far — resulted from a conversation I had with my son:

Me: Should I order some Etsy pumpkins for our booth? It’s that time of year.

Michael: You know, Ellen (another dealer) makes pumpkins over the weekend, puts them in her booth, and they sell during the week.

Oh! Sure. Why not? There’s no reason I can’t whip up a few, I suppose. In fact, let’s do it with the leftover upholstery fabric used to recover dining chairs:
American of Martinsville

DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkins Tutorial

First of all, I looked at several DIY pumpkin sites and modified the design so it would work with thick upholstery fabric.

Make sure you cut your fabric twice as long as its width. I went with 16″ x 8″, but it’s your choice.

By cutting on the bias, you’ll create the greatest amount of stretchiness for your pumpkin. I based my very rough template on Made To Sew’s cut-on-the-bias one.
DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkins
Line the arrow up with the fabric’s selvage — that’s the side with a frayed edge or white band. Use chalk, marker, or pencil to outline this template on the right (pattern) side of your fabric.


Fold the fabric in half, with the right sides together, and pin.

Hand Stitch – No Machine Needed!

Don’t knot your doubled thread, just put  3 small stitches on top on one another to anchor it.

I sewed a running stitch using regular thread, then went back and filled in the spaces between the stitches with filament thread because I don’t want visible gaps. Unfortunately, my incredibly fine filament thread became nearly invisible while I sewed.
Running stitch
Press open the seam.

With your thread doubled, sew a running stitch along a single side of the fabric. Leave thread tails at either end because you’re going to gather. Note: You are not sewing sides together. Simply sew along the circumference. You can see my stitching and tails along the bottom of the fabric:
DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin
Pull the threads to gather the fabric. Since you’re working with thick fabric, don’t expect a perfectly tight circle.
DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin
Once gathered, tightly wrap thread around the fabric.
DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin
Flip the pumpkin right-side-up. Here’s how it will look empty:
DIY Upholstery Fabric PumpkinAnd filled with poly fiberfill:
DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin


Begin to stuff with poly fiberfill. No matter how much you put in, it won’t be enough. Keep going.
DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin
For the top of the pumpkin, sew a running stitch along the top circumference, but first turn over about 1/8″ of fabric.
DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin
Gather your fabric with the two thread tails. Remember, it won’t close tightly because of fabric thickness. Mine had an opening about the size of a quarter.

I used a limb clipper to cut a wooden branch for the stem, then plugged in the hot glue gun. After slathering hot glue on the base of the branch, I pushed it down into the pumpkin as far as it would go.
DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin
After the stem was in, I sewed a few stitches around the opening to tighten it a bit more.


It’s time to decorate with fall decor! I assembled leaves, ribbon, and picks of berries and reached for my glue gun.
DIY DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin
After decorating, I decided I didn’t like the length of the stem. It needed trimming, courtesy of the limb cutter. Frankly, I think the stem is too thick for this pumpkin, but since I’m working on a deadline to bring you breaking tutorials, I can’t be choosy.
DIY DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin
Ta-da! One of the DIY upholstery fabric pumpkins sits on scattered autumn leaves.
DIY DIY Upholstery Fabric Pumpkin
Thanks for stopping by. Right now, all 3 pumpkins are in our booth at Avonlea Antiques & Interiors. Let’s see if anyone else thinks they’re charming.

Ann Marie and David

Featured at:

Participating in:

Sweet Inspiration Link Party, Inspire Me Monday, Electric Red Barn Wonderful Wednesday

Creative Inspirations Link Party     

Designthtusiasm Style Showcase

Drexel Profile Dining Set: Repairing Damage

Question: When you find multiple pieces of the classic Drexel Profile dining set but there’s obvious damage, should you buy them? On the one hand, the Drexel Profile collection is rare and elegant — manufactured between 1955 and 1961. Not only that, a couple of pieces in this set included heavy travertine stone tops, something I’d never seen in person. On the other hand, refinishing wood and repairing travertine stone are investments when one plans to resell.

The deciding factor, as always: costs vs. profits. Could we afford to buy all the pieces, do the repairs, and recoup our costs with a bit of profit?

Sure, let’s go for it — because it’s a Drexel Profile dining set.

Amazingly, lightning struck twice this year. We found another Drexel Profile dining table and chairs set at an estate sale. And that’s not all. We encountered the matching buffet, cocktail table, and small cupboard. This time, the wood is light walnut:

Drexel Profile dining set

We sold our previous Drexel Profile dining table, chairs, and buffet to an appreciative buyer a few months ago. John van Koert designed the collection for Drexel , which is a wonderful example of the clean lines of Mid-Century Modern design.

Pick Up Thrills: Drexel Profile Dining Set

David and Michael set off to pick up the furniture on the final sale day. Unforeseen delays — unloading other pieces at our warehouse, traffic, a train, and the trip down to St. Augustine — disrupted a simple pickup.

The estate rep left me frantic messages but I couldn’t reach anyone: neither David, Michael, nor even the estate rep. Technology — it’s great, huh?

Totally unknown to me, another couple of potential buyers hovered around our Drexel Profile dining set at the sale. They wanted it, and the situation looked brighter for them with each passing second because my pick-up team was missing in action. The clock ticked. David and Michael screeched to a halt in front of the estate sale a mere 25 minutes before closing.


The 6 chairs required the least amount of work. Of the three styles of chairs Drexel manufactured for the Profile collection, I love these spindle-back chairs the best.

Drexel Profile Dining Table and Chairs
The white vinyl is original. Usually we recover the seats, especially after 50+ years. but the material is in good shape. After a thorough cleaning, these chairs are ready for our booth.Drexel Profile Chair


When we found the first Drexel Profile table that’s now sold, it was pristine, with very little cosmetic damage over the years. Not so with this beauty. Years of exposure to sunlight caused the original finish to lighten. It presented a sunbleached finish, accompanied by scrapes, rubs, and deep scratches. David usually handles our furniture repairs, but when he needs a consult, he pulls in our wood whisperer. They talked and the wood whisperer agreed to sand out what he could and restore the lacquer top coat.

Drexel Profile Dining Table

Look at this table with its 3 leaves. This baby goes on to infinity:

Drexel Profile Dining Table


The buffet required the greatest amount of work. The wood needed refinishing. As with the table, the buffet suffered from sun bleaching. There were some minor veneer issues on the door edges and minor scrapes scratches on the cabinet. Our wood whisperer did a light 220-grit sand and sprayed several coats of lacquer to return the buffet to its original light walnut coloring.
Drexel Profilel Buffet

Alas, the travertine stone didn’t just have a crack. It came in two pieces. Visually, this was the worst problem.
Drexel Profile buffet travertine top

We’re speculating that someone — definitely not us — caused the break by trying to improperly lift the stone from the base. Most people will try to lift one end of the marble slab so another pair of hands can get a grip on the other end. But this method puts an incredible amount of stress on the unsupported center. Sometimes one gets away with doing that, but at some point this slab broke in the middle.

Public Service Announcement: Always lift stone tops from the center in order to evenly distribute the weight and the force exerted on the stone.

On the upside, the travertine comes from Italy:

Drexel Profile Travertine

David got an estimate for a new slab: $250 to $300, which would be fine if we planned to keep the buffet forever. But it want to resell it, so we needed another, cheaper option.

David talked to a countertop installer who could handle the repair. He’d make it strong enough to sustain future lifting — as long as movers did it properly. (See PSA above.) And with the repair, the buffet’s travertine would match that of the cocktail table.

The repair didn’t make the break totally invisible, but now one must look carefully to see it.
Drexel Profile repaired travertine top

This is the buffet, without travertine top, in the Drexel Profile 1960 catalog . . .

Drexel Profile Buffet

. . . and glowing in our booth at Avonlea Antiques & Interiors:

Drexel Profile Buffet

Cocktail Table

That’s what the catalog calls it: cocktail table, not coffee table, with travertine top. It just required a cleaning and some mild restoration to the finish. David used Watco Dark Walnut Danish Oil to darken its finish.
Drexel Profile Coffee Table

Drexel Profile Cocktail Table


Just look at this cutie, the final piece of our Drexel Profile dining set. It had a large piece of veneer missing on the left side at the lower edge of the cabinet. Our wood whisperer cut in a new piece of veneer, then sanded and sprayed on a new top coat. It’s back to the original coloring and looks brand new. Here’s my quick photo under fluorescent lighting, . . .
Drexel Profilel Cabinet
. . . compared with the Avonlea Antiques and Interiors official photo on its Market page:

Drexel Profile Cupboard

Finally, the 1960 Drexel Profile catalog’s image of the cupboard:

Drexel Profile Cupboard 1960 catalog


Unfortunately without limitless funds, we’re always running up against costs vs. potential profits. Sometimes we roll the dice and gamble, but this wasn’t one of those times. We knew we’d have to invest in these pieces to get them ready for interested buyers. With the buffet, I’m hoping we can break even. But this is a fabulous set that deserved to be brought back to life.

We’ve decided to sell the pieces to this Drexel Profile dining set separately. The likelihood of finding a buyer who wants to purchase all the pieces is slim. So far, everything is in our booth except for the dining table and chairs. I can’t wait to see everything together. It’s really a glorious set.

Thanks for stopping by.

Ann Marie and David

Participating in:

The Dedicated House’s Make it Pretty Monday

Mid-Century American of Martinsville Dining Set

We recently revived a MCM American of Martinsville dining set. Manufactured in the 1960s, the table and chairs combine the beauty of Scandinavian lines, the warmth of walnut wood, and the sturdiness of American craftsmen.

American of Martinsville

When David and Michael brought the set home, a quick assessment revealed that everything needed work. The chairs: cleaning and recovering. The table: refinishing.

Mid-Century Modern Chairs

Chair seats became my responsibility, so let’s start there. A striped, canvas fabric covered the seat, very utilitarian but a bit casual for this set.

American of Martinsville

I began removing the staples and soon discovered the next layer. Someone previously ripped off the black dust cover, but the under fabric appeared to be a formal gold brocade.

American of Martinsville

Yikes! A stained gold brocade.

American of Martinsville

Undeterred, I kept popping those staples and encountered a new surprise — a third layer of fabric.

American of Martinsville

I had made it down to the original orange fabric. How perfect for these chairs, but the edges showed brittleness and staining was evident:American of Martinsville

The final step, uncovering the foam. It appeared to be 1960s polyurethane foam.

American of Martinsville

David went outside to pull the foam off the wooden boards and clean them up.

By the way, I generally buy my supplies from Joann.

  • 2″ high density foam from their online site. An employee once asked why I use 2″ instead of 1″. Because American bottoms appreciate 2″ foam.
  • Polyester batting
  • Fabric. I usually select a neutral color, preferably from the remnant section. For these chairs, however, I wanted something special. I tried to match the original fabric as closely as possible.

You can read my earlier post on recovering MCM dining chairs here: Recovering Dining Chair Seats: Mid-Century Modern

The narrow backs are cane over walnut, making it more durable than cane alone. An added bonus, the lumbar arch of each chair offers back support along with its graceful curve.

American of MartinsvilleAlthough we have 5 dining chairs, the captain’s chair did not go into our booth. Apparently odd-numbered chairs unnerve customers. They tend to say, “Hey, you’re missing a chair.” This way, if we offer 4, we have the ability to throw in a bonus chair should the buyers show interest.

MCM Dining Table

David took charge of the dining table. Sadly, there are no before or during photos.

The chair leg joints all needed tightening, so David removed the legs from the side rails (aka apron) and discovered a few of the dowel pins that align and strengthen the joints had broken off. Nothing is ever easy — or quick.

He drilled out the broken ends and created fresh holes for new dowel pins to be glued and inserted. Each leg required gluing and clamping, then the sides had to be joined to the legs. More gluing and clamping. Finally, he assembled the whole frame, trying to keep it level and square. Once more, gluing and clamping. He gave each of these individual sections a full 24 hours for the glue to set.

The refinishing process involved lightly sanding the old finish with 220-grit sandpaper and then applying 5 coats of spray lacquer.

Now the details really pop.

The wood grain pattern, with its dynamic, flowing arches, is called a cathedral design. A  woodworker achieves this effect, one of the most desirable patterns for tabletops, by sawing a log using a flat cut. Often only half of a table shows the cathedral effect, but — bonus — this table has matching cathedrals.

American of Martinsville

The original craftsman laid out and joined these 4 cathedral graining wood veneer panels in a Reverse Diamond Pattern. Abutting the ends of the patterns is tricky and requires careful cutting to make an exact match at the apex of each triangle. Reverse Matching Triangles give the face of the table the same matching pattern on all four sides. The result, as you clearly see, is one gorgeous tabletop.

Of course the x-shaped inserts, the hallmark of all American of Martinsville tables, appear at each table corner:

American of Martinsville

American of Martinsville’s Dania II

American of Martinsville is a storied American furniture maker, whose bold designs helped furnish homes throughout the 20th century. Our chairs definitely belong to the Dania II collection, as seen in this 1963 ad. I circled the chair in red:

American of MartinsvilleAt this point, I can’t verify the American of Martinsville furniture collection and time period of our table. Probably Dania or Dania II, but more research is necessary.

This next ad, also from 1963, doesn’t feature our table and chairs but offers a description of Dania II:

Why The Bride Set Her Cap for Dania II Too! She knew it would lead the life they love — casual, easy-going, impromptu. She wanted to begin it right — flair without frills — simplicity with just a touch of sophistication — and unbelievable storage space. She was delighted at so much Dania II to choose from. Smart component wall units with numerous shelves, drawers and trays. Occasional tables for every conceivable purpose. Inviting chairs and sofas, smartly upholstered. Even a spacious cabinet for their growing record collection. And all in warm walnut with a durable matte lacquer finish. Now the three of them are set for a long and happy life — new bride, new groom, new Dania II. One of the many contemporary designs for living, dining and bedroom by American of Martinsville for young people who want authoritative design, quality craftsmanship.
American of Martinsville

On Display

American of Martinsville

We moved this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern American of Martinsville dining set into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Interiors. I want to give a special shout out to our son, Michael, the Avonlea photographer, for his beautiful photos.

On Avonlea Antiques’ new website, customers can make online purchases. It’s worth checking out, and items are added each week. This dining set isn’t on the Avonlea website yet, but stay tuned. It’s coming soon!

Ann Marie and David

Link Parties:
Inspiration Monday @ Refresh Restyle

Make It Pretty Monday @ The Dedicated House

Dressing Downton at the Lightner Museum

We spent an afternoon with our old friends the Crawley Family of Downton Abbey. That is to say, we visited the Dressing Downton exhibit during its final days. Our earlier plans kept getting thwarted, so I’m delighted we managed a visit before they turned out the lights.

The Lightner Museum of St. Augustine hosted Dressing Downton, Changing Fashions for Changing Times. The museum spent two years curating their stored pieces to create period vignettes highlighting 36 costumes from the Downton Abbey series.

Museum staff did a fabulous job creating eras that spanned pre-WWI to the Roaring 20s. My phone photos don’t do justice to the elegant displays.

Cora Crawley, Lady Grantham

American by birth — and stylish — Cora donned this stylish Edwardian silk day dress, complete with black frogging in Season 1. Her broadbrim hat delicately froths with ribbon, netting and flowers. Lord Grantham, meanwhile, sports a white linen suit appropriate for warm weather.
Dressing DowntownMoving into the 1920s, Cora remains chic despite her conservative apparel. The  seamstresses of the television series built this silk evening dress around the front panel laden with beads and jewels. The pannier sides deliberately exaggerate the hips. What woman doesn’t want that?
Dressing Downton

Astonishingly, the jacket below was originally sewn from an embroidered tablecloth dating from the 1920s. Lady Grantham wore the outfit to Edith’s wedding.
Dressing Downtown

Violet, The Dowager Countess

Violet’s two-piece day dress reflects Edwardian fashion. She would have worn an S-bend corset to accentuate her chest and push out her bottom. The purple color signals she’s emerging from black mourning clothes following the death of relations on the Titanic.
Dressing Downton

Lady Mary Crawley

Lady Mary modeled sensational outfits throughout the series. Obviously, I didn’t take this photo of her in the dramatic red silk evening dress that conveys Mary’s confidence. My photo doesn’t do the dress justice. She wore this gown in Season One (1913), at dinner with the Turkish diplomat.

Lady Mary evening dress

Mary, dressed in this riding habit, arrived on her steed when she first met Matthew at Crawley House. Way to intimidate!

Lady Mary riding habits

Another frock from Season 1, when Lady Mary wore this green silk evening dress with black net overlay and black and silver starbursts. She chose it for Matthew’s first dinner with the family. In the background, center, stands maid Anna’s functional black cotton dress with white lace trim, covered by a white cotton apron.

Lady Mary evening dress

World War I ushered in utilitarian fashion for the ladies and military uniforms for the gentlemen. Lady Mary’s outfit below includes a crepe skirt and satin scoop-neck blouse. The blouse’s front panel and cuffs incorporate original floral chiffon fabric.
Lady Mary WWI

Yet even during wartime, Lady Mary proved resourceful. She wore this dusty-pink silk evening dress with black net overlay for Sir Richard Carlisle’s first dinner at Downton Abbey. It drips with beads and sensuality.

Lady Mary evening dress 2

Lady Sybil Crawley

Lady Sybil’s velvet maternity dress appeared  in a nursery setting. The neutral velvet, at times grayish green, is enhanced by gold embroidered borders.
Sybil maternity dressI learned that this formal cradle would be used to present baby to guests in the parlor rooms. I expect the nanny would hover and whisk baby away when the viewing ended.

Lightner Museum bassinet

Dressing Downton No More

Dressing Downton at the Lightner Museum has closed. In fact, St. Augustine marked the final leg of its American travels. Enthusiasts shouldn’t despair because the new Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, now in New York City, will travel to other cities. Have a look:

Thanks for stopping by.

Ann Marie & David


Sweet Inspiration Link Party – The Boondocks Blog

Amaze Me Monday – Dwellings, The Heart of Your Home

Make it Pretty Monday – The Dedicated House

Fridays Furniture Fix – Unique Junktique

Vintage Charm Party – My Thrift Store Addiction

Blogger’s Pit Stop – Sizzling Towards 60 and Beyond

Drexel Profile Dining Set: Back to the Future

Autumn offered the perfect time to move the Drexel Profile dining set into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. Families planning a holiday gathering may discover they need a larger, more stylish table. And this is quite the set.
Drexel Profile Dining Table 1956

Estate Sale Acquisition

While scouring ads for our next lead, David and I stumbled across a promising find. An estate sale company had posted photos promoting their upcoming sale, and it looked right up our alley. This dining set had two things going for it: it was manufactured by Drexel and  is an impeccable example of Mid-Century Modern in design. The upholstery on the handsome spindle-back chairs appeared to be in excellent condition — and better still, possibly original.

Here’s a photo of the set at the estate sale. In person, the dining set proved even more impressive than hoped. I was floored (and more than a bit miffed) to see this heavy metal container on the bare wood!
Drexel Profile dining set

Estate sale prices are highest on the first day, yet David and I ventured out expressly for that dining set. While I flipped a few of the chairs over, David got down on his back and wriggled under the table to confirm its Drexel heritage. We bought the table, 6 chairs, and 3 leaves. A bit pricy, but what a fabulous design!

When David and our son Michael drove back to pick up the set, David decided to purchase the matching Drexel Profile buffet. Altogether, we made a significant investment in these pieces.

Designer John van Koert (1912 – 1998)

Stymied by my research efforts, I asked librarians in Florida and North Carolina for help with the elusive van Koert. We kept returning to his New York Times obituary, the most informative. During his career, Van Koert designed jewelry for Harry Winston, flatware for Towle Silversmiths, furniture for Drexel and later, Serried Ltd. in North Carolina. He died at the age of 86 in 1998.

Post-World War II modernist design, especially Scandinavian, appealed to van Koert. He served as director of the “Design in Scandinavia” exhibition that traveled through the U.S. and Canada between 1954-57. Brimming with more than 700 objects used daily, the exhibit featured items by Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish designers.

Design in Scandinavia exhibition
By Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn Museum) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
The show promoted Scandinavian design, a term synonymous with

beautiful, simple, clean designs, inspired by nature and the northern climate, accessible and available to all, with an emphasis on enjoying the domestic environment. Source

Towle Contour

A few years earlier, the president of Towle Silversmiths, looking to branch out into this new, modern direction, hired van Koert as head designer about 1949. Under van Koert’s leadership, Robert J. King designed the Contour pattern for American sophisticates appreciative of the contemporary aesthetic. The flatware debuted in 1951, with beverage service appearing in December 1953.

Towle Contour Flatware
Towle Contour Sterling Silver Flatware. Source

Towle Contour beverage set
Towle Silversmiths
Newburyport, MA, active 1882 – present
Robert J. King, American, born 1917
John Van Koert, American, 1912 – 1998
Contour beverage set, 1953 (designed 1951-52)
Silver and polystyrene

The Drexel Profile collection marked van Koert’s first foray into furniture design and Drexel touted his experience in modern design.

The distinctive style of Profile reflects John Van Koert’s work in the silver industry. “Contour,” the notable sterling flatware pattern designed for the Towle Silversmiths, has much the same sculptural feeling in its modeling. Contour met with instantaneous success and in a very few years has become the classic among modern flatware patterns in the United States. Drexel Profile catalog, c. 1956, p. 7.

Drexel Profile: Age, Style and Wood

Drexel manufactured the Profile collection between 1955 and 1961. Our set dates from  1956. Profile information comes from its catalog with this cover, which I’m estimating around 1956:
Drexel Profile catalog c 1956 cover

There are no abrupt angles in Profile. Tapered legs curve gracefully into the tops of tables and backs of chairs. The sculptured look is emphasized in case pieces by a gentle curve that joins the case at the top, the latter extending slightly outward both in the front and back.  Drexel Profile Catalog, c. 1956

Walnut and pecan wood form the basis of Drexel’s Profile collection. The catalog claims Drexel used the “finest walnut” on the larger pieces, such as the table and buffet. The chairs are a combination of pecan wood with walnut veneer.

Drexel produced three styles of Profile dining chairs: the spindle back, a panel back, and an upholstered back. I’ve been told the spindle back is the most desirable.
Drexel Profile Dining Chair

This page from the catalog shows our dining table and chairs:Drexel Profile catalog c. 1956

The dining table conveys an aerodynamic sensibility, very typical of an era celebrating fast cars and jets. I love the flared legs stretching out from table and chairs — very dramatic. Also, the tabletop’s two outer lines visually lengthen it. Once the 3 leaves are added, this table goes on to infinity.
Drexel Profile dining table

Drexel Profile Buffet

Although the Drexel Profile buffet’s shorter legs attempt to replicate the flare, its silver hardware and swooping lines pack the real punch. Here’s a photo on the day David and Michael retrieved the set:
Drexel Profile Buffet

A better view, I think, of the swooping lines of the upper buffet. The swoops appear not only in the front, but in a modified version at the back as well.
Drexel Profile Dining Set

As for the hardware, the Drexel Profile catalog (c. 1956) reads:

The flowing silver plated hardware, as elegant as fine sterling, especially reflects Van Koert’s work in silver design.

Drexel Profile dining setDrexel Profile dining set

All in all, this is a gorgeous set. When we first brought it into the booth, a customer asked if we would sell him the table only. We declined. Let’s try to keep this set together a bit longer.

Ann Marie and David


Sweet Inspiration Link Party – The Boondocks Blog

Amaze Me Monday – Dwellings, The Heart of Your Home

Make it Pretty Monday – The Dedicated House

Fridays Furniture Fix – Unique Junktique

Vintage Charm Party – My Thrift Store Addiction

Blogger’s Pit Stop – Sizzling Towards 60 and Beyond

Repaired Heywood-Wakefield Bedroom Set

This post, a continuation of the previous one, focuses on David’s heroic efforts that resulted in a repaired Heywood-Wakefield Bedroom Set. To the purist, the finish in this Miami Bedroom set is darker than traditional Hey-Way colors, but faced with the prospect of stripping the chest, vanity, nightstand, and bed frame, David opted to keep the finish and make cosmetic and structural improvements.
Heywood-Wakefield Miami vanity

Paint and Wood Scratches
Heywood-Wakefield damage

Some of the scratches had resulted from a painted piece being dragged across the chest and foot/headboard. Other scratches, non-paint, came from years of use. David’s process:

  • Apply Watco Danish Oil and let it sit on the piece for 5-10 minutes.
  • Coat a small piece of 0000 steel wool with the oil and rub lightly. That helped remove the paint scratches from the surface. The non-paint scratches were light enough that they disappeared with the oil treatment. It’s important not to rub too hard with the steel wool because you risk rubbing through the top coat.
  • Use a Minwax Wood Finish Stain Marker to blend light scratches into the rest of the finish. The scratch is still there but adding color to it reduces its visibility.

Hardened Nail Polish

Although we didn’t get a photo, David dealt with droplets of old nail polish stuck to the bottom of the vanity drawers. Using a razor blade and 100-grit sandpaper, he removed most of the unsightly mess. the 100-grit also removed the old finish and whatever discolorations had appeared over the years. He finished with a 220-grit finish sandpaper to smooth the wood in preparation for shellacking the interior drawers.

Smoothing the Drawer Slides

Using 600-grit sandpaper on each drawer’s underside, David smoothed out the edged surfaces that affected how well the drawers slid in and out. He then turned to the inside of the piece where the drawers reside. He sanded the center channel slide and center drawer guide, along with the bottom edges of the drawers. More sanding on the drawer edge slide and the bottom openings of each drawer front to reduce friction. David sometimes adds wax for smoother sliding, but it wasn’t necessary for this project.
Repaired Heywood-Wakefield bedroom set
Because of excessive wear dating back to the early 1940s, David inserted tack slides to prevent the drawer from catching or sticking on the initial movement in or out of the opening.
Repaired Heywood-Wakefield bedroom set

Realigning the Worn Drawers

The grooves worn into the drawers’ bottom rails threw off the vertical alignment. That resulted in an upper sitting — scraping — the top of the drawer beneath. Years of constant scraping had worn away finish.

Heywood Wakefield used solid wood for the drawer fronts and the side walls. The drawers are heavy. Add the weight of the contents and you can understand how deeply grooved the bottom rails became over 75 years of daily use. Refer to the photo above to see how deeply those side grooves cut into the wood. That’s why David added those tack glides.
Repaired Heywood-Wakefield bedroom set

Repaired Heywood-Wakefield Bedroom Set

And there we have David’s process. We moved the set into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. Here are the nightstand and the full bed frame, which can be converted to fit a queen-sized mattress.

Heywood-Wakefield Miami bedroom setAnd the chest:

Heywood-Wakefield Miami Chest

What Can You Do?

You may not need a repaired Heywood-Wakefield Bedroom Set right now. But you can take steps to help your older furniture. If you have sticky drawers — hard to open or close —  pull them out  and take a look at the sliding path. Sometimes sanding the bottom edges with high-grit sandpaper and rubbing wax on the sliding areas will make them much smoother to use.

If your drawer sticks underneath, add tack glides to realign. Problem solved.

Happy Woodworking!

Ann Marie and David


Heywood-Wakefield Miami Bedroom Set

We didn’t know with certainty that Michael had found a Heywood-Wakefield Miami bedroom set on Craigslist. Even when David and I examined it, we suspected but couldn’t confirm that Heywood-Wakefield manufactured it. No labels or logos — except for the refinisher.
Furness's Refinishing label
And the wood didn’t have an authentic Heywood-Wakefield finish:
Heywood-Wakefield Miami nightstand
We bought the set from a television production assistant who acquires props for television shows. Is that cool or what? I don’t know where or if this set appeared on TV, but  we found it sitting in his garage. We toted off the vanity, chest, nightstand, headboard and footboard. And a vanity seat that doesn’t match.

When we arrived home, David pulled out his Heywood-Wakefield books and verified the heritage. The original pieces came in Champagne or Wheat finishes but our refinished bedroom set appears to sport a medium-to-dark walnut finish. However, there are areas where the original birch’s golden hue bleeds through the darker walnut color.

Heywood-Wakefield Miami Bedroom Set

Heywood-Wakefield manufactured the Miami bedroom collection for a very short period, between 1941-42, as part of their Streamline Modern furniture line. This popular series became notable for the curved front design.

The Niagara collection, which we do not posses, shows an more extreme example of the bowed front and curved drawers, achieved by steaming and bending solid wood. Leo Jiranek designed both the Niagara and Miami collections.

Heywood-Wakefield Niagara Vanity

Jiranek’s Heywood-Wakefield Miami bedroom set presents a boxier shape than the curvy, sexy Niagara. Yet the gently curved edges convey graceful lines, pleasing proportions, and high utility.

This next photo shows a Miami vanity with an original finish. The matching seat is authentic Heywood-Wakefield. Alas, we own neither this vanity nor stool. I want that stool. Our vanity matches the vanity shape but has a darker brown color. Isn’t that mirror fabulous? Bakelite clips hold the mirror in place.

Heywood-Wakefield Miami Vanity
Heywood-Wakefield Miami Collection Vanity, 1942-41. Source

David’s Woodworking Heroics

In generally good condition, the Heywood-Wakefield Miami bedroom set still needed work. David conducted an inventory of what he had to do. Our next blog post will detail how he improved the worn finish and sticky drawers.

  1. Remove random paint splotches — a cautionary tale to those who paint near furniture. 
    Heywood-Wakefield damge2. 
     Remove top surface paint and blend scratches.
    Heywood-Wakefield damage

    3. Sand all the drawer interiors to remove crud. Here’s an aerial view of the bottom of the nightstand’s top drawer. We’re looking at cigarette burns and unknown spills.
    Heywood-Wakefield damage
    To repeat, David sanded all the drawers. This next photo shows the nightstand’s bottom drawer space. Did a family of dirty pixies live in there? Anyway, once David  finished his sanding, I applied shellac.
    Heywood-Wakefield damage4. Adjust drawers for smooth sliding.
    Heywood-Wakefield damage
    Heywood-Wakefield damage

Finished Products

David staged this photo of the full/queen bed frame on the front lawn right after he finished it,
Heywood-Wakefield Miami Full Bedrameand the nightstand with the lower drawer that drops down. That bottom drawer, once filthy and inhabited by pixies, reveals a much improved interior:
Heywood-Wakefield Miami nightstand
David and Michael moved the Heywood-Wakefield Miami bedroom set — the chest, vanity, full/queen bed frame, and nightstand — into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.
Heywood-Wakefield Miami Chest
Heywood-Wakefield Miami vanity
Heywood-Wakefield Miami bedroom set

Heywood-Wakefield and WWII

The U.S. entrance into World War II in 1941 reshaped Heywood-Wakefield’s production and ended the Miami line. In 1943 the company published a brochure to explain its wartime effort of “a grim, strange cargo” at the expense of “complete and harmoniously designed furniture packages,” Source for this and following quotes, p. 29.

Taking a patriotic stance, Heywood-Wakefield explained their conversion to their customers: “like ourselves . . . [our customers] wish we could serve them better; but they prefer that Heywood-Wakefield ‘serve our country best.'”

Instead of furniture, their Gardner, MA, factory shifted into producing bomb nose fuzes, ack-ack projectiles, gun stocks, saw and pickaxe handles, and barracks chairs. Ready Room chairs, a combo of Heywood-Wakefield’s reclining bus seat, a school room writing desk, and a personal locker, were churned out for U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. Practice shells helped train soldiers on five-inch guns, and field hospital stretchers carried the wounded.

Heywood-Wakefield US military bunk beds WWII
U.S. Military Bunk Beds, WWII. Made by Heywood-Wakefield. Source

With steel tubing unavailable for beds, Heywood-Wakefield converted its bentwood into ambulance beds. Their brochure states:

Yes, we can make wood ambulance beds in a furniture factory with comparative ease . . . but, please God, grant that we or any other manufacturer may be called upon to produce as few as possible for our boys and those of our allies. p. 30.

Leo “Jerry” Jiranek

A quick word about the designer, Princeton-educated Jerry Jiranek. He began his association with Heywood-Wakefield around 1935 as a freelancer. For 67 years he designed for companies Bassett, Broyhill, Ethan Allen, Heywood-Wakefield, Garrison, Kroehler, Lane, Thomasville, Along the way he acquired the title “Dean of Furniture Designers.” In the mid-1960s he established the Jiranek School of Furniture Design and Technology in NYC to educate people in the furniture industry.

Heywood-Wakefield — A Timeless Love

A woman visited our booth today, looked at the set, and said, “That’s Heywood-Wakefield, isn’t it?” As a young college graduate many years earlier, she had fallen in love with the design. She’s now a grandmother getting ready to downsize, but she still loves Heywood-Wakefield. Always beautiful, always timeless.

Come back for our next post to see how David worked his magic.

Ann Marie and David

Read details on how David repaired this bedroom set.

Participating at:

Make It Pretty Monday – The Dedicated House

Amaze Me Monday – Dwellings

Fridays Furniture Fix – Unique Junktique

Sweet Inspiration Link Party – The Boondocks Blog

Vintage Charm Party – My Thrift Store Addiction

1 2 3 16

© 2014 Designed by Jax Computer Chic   ➸ADMIN LOGIN