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.
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.
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.
Yikes! A stained gold brocade.
Undeterred, I kept popping those staples and encountered a new surprise — a third layer of fabric.
I had made it down to the original orange fabric. How perfect for these chairs, but the edges showed brittleness and staining was evident:
The final step, uncovering the foam. It appeared to be 1960s polyurethane foam.
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.
Although 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.
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’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:
At 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.
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
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