Design History

How Much is My White Fine Furniture Worth?

How Much is my White Fine Furniture Worth
Last year I wrote a couple of posts about the White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, often  referred to as White Fine Furniture. Thanks to the attention these posts garnered, I still receive emails and comments from readers asking about the worth of White Fine Furniture pieces that they own, or wish to buy or sell.

Location

While I’m not a licensed appraiser, I strive to provide general information to people who contact me. Knowledge of one’s local market remains key. We live in Jacksonville, FL, and our nearest metropolitan areas are Atlanta to the north, and Miami to the south. Dealers from those locations often stop by Avonlea Antique and Design Gallery and try to negotiate our prices downward.

We brought a high-end chair into our booth, for instance, that we priced for a higher-income household in Jacksonville. The chair just needed the right person to come into Avonlea and fall in love with it. Sadly, things didn’t quite work out the way I planned.

Instead, a non-local dealer made a much lower offer. She explained that she was unwilling to pay the asking price since there was no way she would make money on the resale. While we passed on her initial offer, eventually we settled on a more reasonable amount.

You may face a similar scenario. Consider these options:

  • decline the offer and hope the right client comes in someday, or
  • try to negotiate and complete the sale

Sure, we made a slim profit, but the exercise proved dispiriting. Our chair could — and will — command a higher price in a different market. But our business needs actual sales.

Keep this in mind: that perfect customer with deep pockets and a burning desire for your merchandise may not come along any time soon. What do you do then?

My Advice

Whether buying or selling furniture, a negotiation dance is usually expected. I send an email to readers who ask me about a valuation on specific pieces. Here are excerpts from my typical letter:

First of all, White Fine Furniture is built to last for generations. It’s sturdy and beautiful. You know that it is superior to any furniture made today. The problem is, not many other people understand this about furniture. They tend to buy as inexpensively as possible and replace in a few years.

I haven’t seen photos of your set, but that’s OK because I’m not an appraiser. I can, however, offer my opinion.

Your location is a factor. I live in Jacksonville, FL, between Atlanta and Miami. We have dealers and buyers from those areas come to visit us because we sell cheaper than those metro areas. If you are in a big city, you have more options.

Unusual styles (like Mid-Century Modern) command better prices than traditional styles. I saw a gorgeous White bedroom set at an estate sale that was priced slightly over $2,000. I had to walk away because I didn’t have the money and I knew I wouldn’t make much profit on it.

If you’re in a larger market, check with local antique malls. The procedure used by the antiques gallery where I have a booth is to accept electronic info and photos from community members wishing to sell, and direct this info to a dealer(s) who handles that type of merchandise. From there, it becomes a private negotiation between the dealer and the seller. The dealer wants to acquire the items for the lowest possible price and the seller wants the highest price. We all know that and hope to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.

Consignment stores are a possibility but they take a sizable chunk out of the selling price. My understanding is that consignment stores usually reduce the price on your/their pieces each month. Furniture not sold during an agreed period may be picked up by you or donated by them. If you need to get rid of your furniture immediately, however, this is a serious option.

You could place photos and descriptions of your items on Craigslist.

My number one piece of advice — I should have started with this — is to contact a dealer in your area and get info about your market. This refers back to my discussion of Jacksonville vs. Atlanta and Miami.

White Fine Furniture Legacy Lives On

Sometimes people with actual ties to White Furniture Company, aka White Fine Furniture,   contact me. I get very excited when this happens.

How nice to find folks still enjoying some of the finest furniture ever produced. I worked at White’s for three summers while I was still in high school. Many of the folks pictured I knew and admired their skill (even at 16 years old I knew a craftsman when I saw one) these men and women took pride in their job. I picked up wood scraps and delivered them to the boiler to be burned for heat and other energy needs.) At times I would stand and watch for 15 minutes at the skill it takes to cut out the scalloped huge table tops, it was amazing to watch these guys handle these huge pieces with ease. The exact measurements used, the quality of wood, the skill to finish the pieces, the packaging for shipment was second to none. White’s also knew the skill it took to put out furniture of this quality and paid their employees a better than average hourly wage. My uncle worked there nearly 50 years, he and many others were able to raise families and put kids through college because of these fair wages. The book [Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory] does give a good look of the factory near the end, but the over 100 years before is the real story of American pride. I so miss the folks I worked with there, but my memory of each one always make me smile.  — Dennis

Recently, I received this comment:

Just a little something to add to this wonderful post. I am a White and my father was the last White president of the factory before it was sold. I grew up with a house full of White furniture and I took it for granted as children do. I was recently telling a friend that I honestly didn’t know until I was an adult that furniture could break! For 46 years I have been used to drawers that always perfectly, smoothly open and solid pieces that never have any problems. I am very thankful to be a part of this legacy. Thank you, Ann Marie, for this wonderful tribute to my family’s heritage.     — Becca

My White Fine Furniture Posts

If you are interested in reading my Number 1 post of all time, head over to White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC – Part 1

Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory
Andrew inspecting bedpost, photo by Bill Bamberger

Continue on to White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, Part 2,
How Much is my White Fine Furniture Worth?

check out Clothes Press by White Furniture Company, Mebane, NC,How Much is My White Fine Furniture Worth?

and finish up with Can You Name My White Fine Furniture Collection?

Our Newest White Fine Funiture Acquisition

I began writing this post yesterday and — BOOM — this morning we purchased dining table, 6 chairs, and 2 leaves manufactured by White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC. It needs work, and that’s David’s kingdom — but I love the Mid-Century Modern look of the chairs.
White Fine Furniture
White Fine Furniture logo

Good luck on your next negotiation.

Ann Marie and David

Burl Wood Bar: George Nakashima’s Style

Burl Wood Bar

We found this amazing burl wood bar at a naval aviator’s estate sale. The wood reminds us of George Nakashima’s pieces. A gifted craftsman, Nakashima used matching burls, reversing them to create mirror images. Most of all, he loved natural slabs.

I want to believe we have a Nakashima, but the odds are not in our favor. Unfortunately, I can’t verify our burl wood bar because there are no maker’s marks. Even if this isn’t a genuine Nakashima, the craftsmanship that went into it is truly extraordinary.

Wood Burl Bar

George Nakashima, Woodworker

George Nakashima (1905-1990) stands as a premier craftsman of the 20th century. Born in the forested northwest U.S., in Spokane, Nakashima earned degrees in architecture from the University of Washington and MIT before exploring the world, living in France, Japan, and India.

He settled in Seattle in 1940 and married Marion, whom he met while in Japan. The bombing of Pearl Harbor forced Japanese Americans on the Pacific Coast into internment camps. George, Marion and 6-week old daughter Mira relocated to Camp Minidoka in Hunt, Idaho.

Proving that hope can exist anywhere, George learned traditional Japanese woodworking skills from Gentaro (Gentauro) Hikogawa in Camp Minidoka, by using hand tools and joinery techniques. The Nakashima family left the internment camp in 1943 — unusual since the war continued another two years. A sponsor helped George, enabling the family to move to New Hope, Pennsylvania. They began to build.

Nakashima’s tables come at a premium price today, if you can find them. In his philosophy, the spirit of the tree guides the transformation of wood into an object that enhances people’s lives. Here’s a compelling video on George’s legacy:

Burl Wood

A burl is a tumor, a growth, in a tree’s grain. Hunski Hardwoods provides this information:

A  burl is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. It is usually found on the trunk, at the base of the tree, and sometimes underground in the form of a rounded outgrowth. It is caused by some kind of stress, such as injury, virus, fungus, insect infestation or mold growth. Burl wood is the wood that is harvested from that growth, and it holds hidden treasures of unusual design.burl woodburl wood

Burls result in a uniquely patterned wood, which is highly prized for its beauty. It is valued and sought after by artists, furniture makers and sculptors. Burl wood can be found in many tree species and is used in making furniture, different types of veneer, inlays, turning wood, gun stocks, music wood, and other household items. However, finding burls is rare.

Getting back to our burl wood bar, the front and top feature burl. A mirror image, like a Rorschach ink blot, appears on the front. It’s veneer. A solid burl walnut slab, however, rests on the top. The cut created a 2″ slab sculpted along the edges using recurves. This kind of line frequently appears in nature and complements the graining, swirling patterns visible on top and the raw edge.

Refinishing

After pulling our bar out of storage, a frustrated David discovered its walnut top showed evident damage — the polyurethane top coat had broken down. So, David undertook the labor-intensive and time-consuming job of stripping the bar top down to bare wood and refinishing it.

Wood Burl Bar
These next two photos provide details of the raw wood after stripping and sanding:

Burl Wood Bar
Stripped and Sanded Top: Example of Grain and Color of Wood

Burl Wood Bar

Here is the finished top:
Burl Wood Bar
The pattern of the grain flows like water. At certain angles the flat surface seems etched in three dimensions.

Burl Wood Bar

The front panel of the burl wood bar has the same effect. A close look at the mirror-image veneer reveals the outlines of three burled patterns that appear to be layered one on top of the other. This image draws the eye to the three-dimensional aviator insignia.

A cornerstone of Naturalism is the belief that humans become better in nature. The harmony of the natural world creates tranquility within ourselves. Studying this piece for hours allowed David to appreciate that truism, and after many hours of physical contact with the bare wood of the top, he found himself in a tranquil, Zen-like place.

The lines created by wood grain patterns affirm a harmonious connection to the trees that provided the raw materials for this wonderful sculpture. In a world of design where form follows function, George Nakashima believed the spirit of an individual slab of the wood led the woodworker to the design. This bar, properly maintained, will carry on the inner beauty of its trees for decades if not centuries.

Naval Aviator Insignia

Burl Wood Bar

Of course, we researched the insignia on the bar: Naval Aviator. The pilot probably commissioned a craftsman to make his bar and carve the insignia. Happily, our son Michael picked up a few photos at the aviator’s estate sale:

Naval Aviators
Text on back of photo: Vigilantes over the Bay of Naples, Italy with Mount Vesuvius in the background

Naval Aviators

The Naval Air Station (NAS) sits on the other side of the river from us, on the west side of Jacksonville. It doesn’t take a genius to speculate that our aviator served there and bought a home nearby.

Copper Foot Rail

Surprise! We thought we’d find a brass foot rail underneath all that tarnish. Nope. It turns out our bar is equipped with a sturdy copper rail. Since David immersed himself stripping and sanding, I got to scrub the tarnish off the rail. I donned rubber gloves and gathered up my lemons and salt.
Burl Wood Bar
Unfortunately, I scrubbed so vigorously that I undid some of my physical therapist’s success on my shoulder. I’m dealing with a torn rotator cuff. Therapist Erica had words with me on what I may and may not do.

David finished up the rail with Howard Brass and Cooper Polish. I had scrubbed the tarnish off, he told me, so all he had to do was put the shine back on the copper. He decided that using the Howards product would be easier and less time consuming than finishing up with a  natural product. That quick rub restored the brilliant cooper glow.

We hauled this piece to our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery on Friday afternoon, in time for the evening Open House. Many appreciative folks stopped by to look at the bar and run their hands along the top. It’s a sensual experience.
Burl Wood Bar
Rarely, a piece of furniture comes into our lives and — because of the artistry in the making –finds a backdoor into our emotional self. This burl wood bar had that effect on David.

Thanks for stopping by. Remember, you can also find us on Facebook and Pinterest.

Ann Marie and David

Dahls Tapet Textile Roller Lamps: Danish Industrial

Danish Industrial

Two unconventional lamps at an estate sale intrigued David. I didn’t give them a second look. While they didn’t match, he was captivated by them as pieces of sculpture. Safe to say, they came home with us.
Dahls Tapet Textile Roller Lamps

Dahls Tapet

David discovered the wooden bases were repurposed print rollers used to produce fabric and wallpaper in Denmark. The trademark on one lamp identifies the manufacturer as Dahls Tapet of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dahls Tapet
Dahls Tapet
In old French the word tapet means carpet. The Danish word tapet translates, in this case, to fabric or wallpaper.

Dahls Tapet remains a venerable Danish company with a long history.

It is more than years since the first Dahl – Andreas Frederik Dahl – made its debut in the wallpaper industry.

In 160 years, the family Dahl has been the benchmark in the wall covering by showing boldness, not least when it comes to fashion, colors and trends. We have seen the writing on the wall.

Our collections are composed so that they show a versatile, forward-looking and, above all, an exciting selection and – of course – the more traditional wallpapers.

Printing Process

Someone, perhaps a hardy Dane, sat in Copenhagen on a cold winter day, transforming wallpaper-design rollers into bases for lamps. His work Complicated matters for us, because our Danish friend wired the lamps for Europe’s electrical current.

WorthPoint sold these five bases by Dahls Tapet in 2006 and dated them between 1960 – 1965. I assume ours are from the same period.
Dahls Tapet Textile Rollers
The rollers are constructed from heavy strips of wood, teak or oak, and they’re hollow. Brass inserts form the backbone of the pattern. Within each brass outline is heavy felt or cork. This felt or cork held ink that marked the fabric or wallpaper as it passed by the roller.
Dahls Tapet Lamp Brass and Felt
Each lamp contains a hidden steel camber (ring) on top of the cylinder. The cambers allowed the roller to operate smoothly on a spindle. The process of creating wallpaper or fabric required several rollers, bearing different parts of the pattern, to be transferred. This resulted in a printed sheet of wallpaper or fabric, the tapet.
Dahls Tapet Lamp Cylinder

Our neighbor, Anne, an interior designer and professional wallpaper installer extraordinaire, immediately recognized their original purpose. The brass directional arrows delineated the correct direction to hang the paper. You may recall that David and I painted Anne’s antique piano with Annie Sloan Chalk paint.

Making Wallpaper and Fabrics

This 1968 British film demonstrates the printing process. Probably Dahls Tapet used a similar technique. The use of rollers appears at the 2:42 mark on the film.

David Explains Electricity

I left the original European style connector with its two round prongs plug on one of the lamps and added a U.S. standard adapter for electrical outlet compatibility.

European Two Round Prong Plug Source

Electrical Adapter Source

I inserted LED bulbs made for our standard 110v power source. Why LED? I’m happy you asked.

Those of you who travel know that U.S. electrical appliances, such as hair driers, will not work correctly in other countries. The electrical service standard varies from country to country. Their appliances and even light bulbs are made differently and some have different sized bases. For instance, a standard U.S. lightbulb base is classified as E26 (26 mm). An E27 (27mm) is standard for most of Europe.

I mention this because we had difficulty finding an off-the-shelf Energy Saving bulb to work in the lamp. The CFL bulbs didn’t work.

I took apart the lamp fixture on both lamps to make sure the electrical cord was supplying electricity. Next, I used a multimeter set to measure AC voltage and touched its attached positive/negative tips to the bottom button in the base of the lamp and the side wall of the lamp.

Light Socket Source

One point for the good guys. It registered 110v.

I recommend steady hands. If you haven’t worked with electricity before, I assume  someone else will handle your electrical wiring. I have a healthy respect for electricity. Like snakes. Let it flow — but not through me. Unfortunately, I haven’t been completely successful in maintaining that maxim.

I tested several working CFL bulbs but none of them lit, so inserted an LED bulb and switched on the lamp. Just as Mr. Edison and Mr. Tesla envisioned, light beat back the darkness, literally and figuratively.

I imagine a Danish electrician wired these lamps using the E27 standard lamp base, but the pitch and depth of thread on U.S. E26 LED lamps allowed the bulb’s bottom to seat on the base contact as well as the metal sides of the fixture. The electrical cords connected to two terminals inside the fixture, one on the bottom and one on the metal shell.

Lightbulb Positive Negative Connection

Danish Design History

David gets all the credit for his attraction to the artful design of these lamps. Let’s face it: they’re a part Danish design history. I love that design and industry intersected with Iris Abbey. We base our business model on finding and restoring the best examples of vintage and Mid-Century Modern furniture.

The formerly functional rollers — industrial components of decorative design — transform into highly decorative lamps for a contemporary, vibrant home. As with all of our furniture, we hope to give items a second, third, or fourth chance to infuse the living spaces of new generations.

One last look: this time seeing the lamps are in our crowded booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.
Dahls Tapet Textile Roller Lamps

Thanks for stopping by. We love to read your comments.

Ann Marie and David

Ficks Reed Furniture: Mid-Century’s Exotic Rattan

Ficks Reed Furniture

Interior decorator John B. Wisner designed these fabulous mid-century rattan pieces for the Ficks Reed Company. I believe they are part of the Far Horizons Collection, introduced in 1954. During this period, exotic decor from Asia intrigued the American market.

Ficks Reed Far Horizons

A center seat or perhaps a table existed at one time, but was long gone when David and Michael purchased the set. Today the two chairs form a love seat that is accompanied by a pair of matching end tables.

While researching, I discovered that they’re made from rattan, not bamboo. If you’re like me, you may be hazy on what separates the two. In 1954 the Schenectady Gazette clarified the difference:

A tropical vine, sometimes stretching as long as 600 feet over the jungle floor, has become one of the most desirable materials for summer furniture. Rattan, found in the Philippines and East Indies, when fashioned by a firm like Ficks Reed Co. of Cincinnati into high-styled furniture, bears little similarity to the thorny bark-covered vine gathered by natvies in the interior or the jungle.

Distinct from bamboo which is a hollow grass or tree straight and brittle — rattan, solid throughout, is extremely pliable and can be wrought with skill into innumerable articles for the home. Source

Let’s take a closer look at the construction of our pieces: The graceful, upward sweep of the arm tipped with brass caused this particular feature to be named an “elephant tusk.”
Ficks Reed Chair Frame
Ficks Reed logo
Ficks Reed rattan side table

In 1885 Louis Ficks formed the National Carriage and Reed Company in NYC. Five years later, he relocated his company to Cincinnati, soon added a partner, and changed the company’s name to Ficks Reed.

The company initially produced woven reed and wicker baby carriages, but built its reputation on its luxury wicker and rattan furniture over the course of its 125-year existence. Every piece, whether residential or commercial, was hand worked to the highest quality. Today Ficks Reed means exceptional quality and increasingly rare pieces.

In additional to John B. Wisner, Ficks Reed worked with designers such as Dorothy Draper, Paul T. Frankl, and Paul László. Luxury hotels promoted their Ficks Reed decor. Here are some examples:

The Greenbrier, West Virginia – Interiors Designed by Dorothy Draper
Ficks Reed at The Greenbrier
Ficks Reed The Greenbrier
Ficks Reed The Greenbrier

The Colony, Delray Beach, Florida

Ficks Reed The Colony Delray Beach FLFicks Reed The Colony

End of an Era

By January 2011, Ficks Reed was out of business, yet its legacy lives on. SWI Vintage acquired dozens of its pieces and transformed them, through lacquer and textiles, into furniture celebrating the vibrancy of Palm Beach. They sold quickly via One Kings Lane:Ficks Reed Dorothy Draper Bench
Ficks Reed Green Schumacher Loungers
Ficks Reed White Schumacher Chairs
Our Ficks Reed love seat and side tables are beautiful, but I suppose there’s always the possibility I could lacquer our pieces. Choices are pink, green, white, navy or natural. Any recommendations?

Ann Marie and David

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Selig Mid-Century Modern Sofa Needs Reupholstering

From time to time we buy mid-century modern sofas, usually at estate sales. They’re not the easiest to transport or store, but a good sofa can become the focal point for a space. Take a look at this fantastic pale yellow one:
MCM Yellow Sofa

Its clean, simple lines capture one’s attention. The brass-capped wooden legs contrast vividly with the cream coloring. The sleek minimalist design and soft hue keep it light and airy. There’s nothing to suggest an overbearing object. It’s no wonder this piece didn’t last long in our booth.

On the other hand, this curved orange one sold quickly for a very different reason. Brash and bold, its color demands attention. Imagine it as the focal point in a living room.
MCM Orange Sofa

Ideally, the sofas we buy are well cared for and possess no serious issues. If we have room in the booth, we can haul the sofa directly from the sale to Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. This happened only once.

Sometimes a piece needs spot cleaning before it goes into the booth. We can handle that.

Our new sofa exceeded our abilities. I fell in love with this blue-and-white Selig Mid-Century Modern sofa when I gazed upon it in the dim light of an estate sale’s living room. I was drawn to its fabric, lines,  and size. It’s so spacious in both width and length.

Granted, it had issues but David didn’t have a chance to examine it closely because a flock of women crowded around it and tested it out. That was encouraging, right? He usually flips furniture and examines the bottom. I pushed for us to leave a bid with the estate company. We did. And we waited.
Mid-Century Modern Sofa by Selig

At home I began my research. The Selig Manufacturing Company, based in Massachusetts, imported much of their furniture from Scandinavia and Italy in the 1950s through 1970s. They focused on high-end contemporary pieces. Here are some examples currently at 1st Dibs (which tends to list prices higher than our regional market):

Mid Century Modern Sofa by Selig
Mid Century Modern Sofa by Selig – $3,400
Danish Modern Upholstered Sofa by Selig
Danish Modern Upholstered Sofa by Selig – $5,800

This next photo shows the rare and timeless Z Lounge Chair designed by Poul Jensen of Denmark for Selig:

Z Lounge Chair and Ottoman by Poul Jensen for Selig
Z Lounge Chair and Ottoman by Poul Jensen for Selig – $3,900

There were inherent risks in buying this Selig sofa.

Pros:
  • It was manufactured in the late 1950s or 1960s, possibly in Scandinavia or Italy, making it an authentic Mid-Century Modern piece
  • The heavy frame is made of hardwood and held together by glue, not staples
  • It has clean lines and looks fabulous
  • It can provide space for an adult to nap (important to me)
Cons:
  • The original rubber latex foam, plush and expensive when new, has dried and hardened in a few spots, mostly along the top of the back cushions and along the edges of the seat cushions. These are areas where body oils probably brushed against the fabric.
  • The fabric shows patches of discoloration, probably from the sun.
Conclusion:
  • This is a perfect candidate for reupholstering but our skills are too modest for what’s required.

A closer look:
Selig Blue White Sofa

The owner took excellent care of this sofa. Original tags are still attached:
Selig Blue White Sofa Tags

Two packages of original fabric pieces stayed with it all these years:
Selig blue white extra fabric

We won the bid.

Structurally, this Selig Mid-Century Modern sofa is far stronger than anything made today. We visited our upholsterer for advice. After cooing over its fabulousness, she advised us to do nothing. Just keep it as a blank slate and let the new owner make the choices.

Our intent is to offer this sofa as an investment piece, with the knowledge that it needs work. It’s now in our booth and . . . we wait.

Any thoughts? Has anyone ever undertaken this kind of upholstery project?

Take a last look:
MCM Selig blue white sofa

Ann Marie and David

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Finding Milo Baughman at Drexel

Acquisition

A few weeks ago, my son and I ventured into an estate sale madhouse. A lot of times a seller mistakenly identifies a sale or item as Mid-Century Modern (MCM) when it isn’t. My son  makes a game out of it, Ignorance or Malice? The rules are fairly self-explanatory. I just think it’s an attractive hook used to lure interested shoppers. Since there does seem to be so much confusion, I put together a primer on MCM.

But this sale wasn’t like the others. What it had were numerous photographs — posted earlier in the week — of an incredibly cool household.

The pack of buyers frothed rabid that morning. Fortunately Michael and I signed in as numbers 3 and 4 among the early dawn enthusiasts. Michael was still on crutches — a broken ankle from rugby. The melee didn’t favor his physical impairment, and being out of practice with first-day estate sales because of his job, the cutthroat frenzy took him by surprise.

The first people swarmed into the home like locusts — and we were among them. I reached the dining room first. I came face to face with the lovely table pictured below. “Where’s the price tag on this dining table?” I like to think that I presented my question in a calm and civil manner, but chances are the hapless worker witnessed a wild-eyed customer shouting incoherently about tags. After a chaotic few seconds I located the tag snatched it up. Others crashed toward me. This was the craziest sale I’d ever attended.
Milo Baughman Drexel 1952
Later, I learned Michael had headed to a bedroom but couldn’t grab sale tags speedily with his crutches hindering him. Faster shoppers outmaneuvered and frustrated him. We left the sale after an hour or so, only to be confronted by a line of shoppers still waiting to be ushered into  the home for the sale.
Milo Baughman Drexel 1952

We also purchased the matching china cabinet and lots of smalls over the next few days as prices dropped.

Research

Research came next. Who manufactured the dining set? The table, cabinet and chairs  provided a big clue: Drexel, all made in 1952.

Matching those exact pieces on the internet proved difficult. I came across suggestions that pioneer modern furniture designer Milo Baughman (pronounced MEE-lo BAWF-man) designed the set, but I wanted irrefutable proof. By training, I am a researcher.

Days later I cheered when I found a Chicago Tribune newspaper article from June 22, 1952, focused on Chicago’s big summer show of new furniture and accessories. It offered the first proof that linked Baughman with Drexel’s Today’s Living Collection. The important part of the article is in bold:

One of the largest new collections ever to be shown at once was brought out by Drexel Furniture company and includes a new Precedent group, “Precedent ’53,” of 35 pieces, designed by Milo Baughman in silver elm and beech. . . Baughman designed another modern group in elm and beech, with a spice finish, called “Today’s Living.” It is designed for young families with limited space. Source

I researched on Google, Google Scholar, our local library — they informed me I had exhausted their knowledge. I sent emails to Drexel Heritage with photos, especially the numbers.

Today's Living Dining Table -Stenciled Numbers
Today’s Living Dining Table – Stenciled Numbers. 100-4 is the model; 752 identifies the month and year the table was made: July, 1952

Drexel Heritage sent a pdf of the 1955 Today’s Living Catalog, which helped us verify our pieces.
Drexel's 1955 Today's Living Catalog Buffet
See? Our buffet numbers match the catalog number.
Drexel Today's Living Buffet numbers
Drexel 1955 Catalog Today's Living

Verification

My key question remained: Did Milo Baughman design the 1952 Today’s Living Collection for Drexel? And– at last — the confirmation email to me from Drexel Heritage:

“Yes, from the information we have that is correct.”

Baughman worked at Drexel in 1952, just a sliver of his successful life. The next year he moved on to Thayer Coggin, where he acquired his stellar reputation, and continued with them for the next 50 years. In the 1960s and 1970s designers at the High Point Market eagerly awaited the unveiling of Baughman’s newest pieces.

Several museums feature his designs, including New York City’s Whitney. The Furniture Hall of Fame inducted Baughman in 1987.

We’ll leave you with examples of his later designs. First, the man himself:
Milo Baughman

Burl Buffet by Milo BaughmanBurl Buffet by Milo Baughman / Thayer Coggin. Source.

T-Back Lounge Chair by Milo Baughman
T-Back Lounge Chair designed by Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin. Source.
Circle Sofa by Milo Baughman
Circle Sofa by Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin. Source.

We’re so fortunate that Drexel Heritage is still a functioning furniture manufacturer. Despite this fact, however, the Drexel rep still couldn’t provide me with a copy of the 1952 Today’s Living Collection catalog.

Researching source material such as catalogs and information on notable designers can be difficult, but this story has a happy ending.

Thanks for stopping by, and we love reading your comments.

Ann Marie and David

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Bauhaus and the Wassily Chair

A reproduction Wassily chair from the 1980’s turned up on Craigslist the other day. Before anyone else could pounce on the deal we snapped it up. It’s a beauty. An amalgam of white leather and steel tubing, the original was a chair ahead of its time. Despite its sleek lines and modern looks, Marcel Breuer designed the Wassily chair while working in the Bauhaus studio in 1925-26.

Wassily Chair Repro
Wassily Chair Repro, White Leather

Bauhaus

Eighteen-year old Breuer began his studies at Bauhaus in the city of Weimar, Germany in 1920. It later moved to Dessau and then Berlin. Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus as an arts and crafts school — now regarded as the most influential modernist school in the 20th century. Sadly, the forward-looking school closed its doors in 1933 after the Nazis assumed power.

Bauhaus Dessau
Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany – UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site

Gropius envisioned a confluence of art, society and technology in this school. Masters encouraged students to design highly functional, aesthetically pleasing goods that could be mass produced.

Members of the Bauhaus believed everyday items could be artistic as well as useful. Their work, intended for the populace at affordable prices, had the potential to elevate citizens and society. Envisioning a better tomorrow, they merged art and industry.

Heavy hitters from the art world such as Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee taught at the Bauhaus. Students trained in workshops under the supervision of masters. The carpentry, ceramics, metalwork, wall painting and weaving workshops defined the Bauhaus.

Marianne Brant’s tea infuser and strainer, for example, reimagines a teapot by applying  abstract geometrical forms. It’s pleasing to the eye, and offers a functional, dripless container. Only 3-inches tall, it was designed to hold concentrated tea that could be poured into a cup of hot water. This handmade beauty was never mass produced.

Bauhaus tea infuser
Tea infuser and strainer designed by Marianne Brandt, ca. 1924

Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s Bauhaus lamp looks contemporary yet, like Brandt’s tea infuser, was designed in 1924. Geometric shapes define it: a round base, cylindrical shaft and spherical shade. The Bauhaus lamp was handmade. Today it is produced by Techno-lumen of Bremen, Germany.

Bauhaus Lamp
Bauhaus Lamp designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld, ca. 1924

Marcel Breuer

Graduating the Bauhaus in 1924, Breuer returned in 1925 to become master of the carpentry workshop. Just as significant, that year Breuer bought his first bicycle: light and strong, with handlebars made of tubular steel. He began experimenting with chair designs.

Mass production made me interested in polished metal, in shiny and impeccable lines in space, as new components of our interiors. I considered such polished and curved lines not only symbolic of our modern technology but actually to be technology.” — Marcel Breuer Source

Marcel Breuer Sitting on Model B3 Chair
Marcel Breuer Sitting on Model B3 Chair, 1926

 

With its minimal design, essential lines and planes, and taut canvas the Model B3 Chair proved simple and affordable. In the second half of the 20th century it collected awards from the Museum of Modern Art and was recognized as a “Piece of Art” in (West) Germany in 1982.

Originally known as the Model B3 Chair, its later name of Wassily Chair resulted from an encounter Breuer had with Wassily Kandinsky, artist and Bauhaus master. Kandinsky saw the prototype, admired it, and Breuer made the next one for Kandinsky’s personal quarters. In fact, Breuer furnished the entire Bauhaus with his chairs.

The name change, from the romantic Model B3 Chair to the Wassily Chair, occurred in the 1960s when an Italian manufacturer rereleased it with leather instead of canvas fabric and incorporated the anecdote involving Kandinsky into a name change. Knoll now manufactures it, offering it in leather and cow hide.

Wassily Chair by Knoll
Wassily Chair by Knoll, $2,498

I’ve learned that the Gropius-designed Bauhaus building in Dessau, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, offers a bed-and-breakfast experience. You can “Spend the night like a Bauhausler” and walk in the steps of modernist masters.
Bauhaus Dessau Bauhaus Dessau
Meanwhile, our Wassily Chair repro sits in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. Doesn’t it look inviting?

Wassily Chair Repro
Wassily Chair Repro
Ann Marie and David

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