Mid-Century Modern furniture

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.

Chairs

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

Table

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

Buffet

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

Cupboard

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

Conclusion

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

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The Dedicated House’s Make it Pretty Monday

Harvey Probber: MCM Rosewood Dresser

Harvey Probber Rosewood Dresser

Design has a fourth dimension; the intangible quality of aging gracefully. — Harvey Probber

I’d never heard of Harvey Probber before we acquired his dresser. But the moment David and I laid eyes on its sleek lines, dark, sumptuous rosewood veneer, and perfectly matched grain, we wanted it.

A little research: Probber emerged as a leading designer when American modernism flourished in the mid-20th century.

Harvey Probber is part of that unsung second wave of mid-century modernists. Though he hasn’t achieved the ‘label’ recognition of Eames or Noguchi, I think he’ll become considerably important on the secondary market over the next few years. — James Zemaitis, former director of 20th-century design at Sotheby’s. Source

MCM American furniture designer
Harvey Probber, Source

Acquisition

Our son Michael fielded the initial inquiry. A woman wished to sell her father’s Harvey Probber dresser. A quick look at the outlandishly inflated prices on 1stdibs led to two discoveries: original Harvey Probber pieces are rare and expensive.

I set up a time for us to meet the client at her dad’s retirement community. David and I discussed the highest amount we could offer, stopped by the bank, and hoped for the best.

The dad had acquired the piece in the 1960s and loved it. His room in the nursing facility provided just enough space for a single piece of furniture beyond his bed and nightstand. This was what he kept. But alas, he faced a move to a smaller room. The seven-foot credenza with original glass top couldn’t join him. Because of her father’s health issues, the daughter served as negotiator.

We told her the amount of cash we could offer and her face fell. I found myself apologizing  and explaining that we’d have to cover the costs of transporting and cleaning it — and it needed a lot of cleaning. Beyond that, we’d pay rental costs to display it until we sold it to someone proud to own a Harvey Probber.

She had to discuss our offer with her two sisters. Sure, that’s fine. And she’d get back to us, one way or the other. But as we left, David speculated that we’d never hear back. I reassured him that we did what we set out to do. We made a reasonable offer, up front with no gimmicks. What more could we do?

A few days later she phoned and agreed to our offer. I’ve got to tell you, we were amazed.

Harvey’s Dresser

Probber used exotic woods for his cabinets and tables. This dresser, with finely crafted details, is rosewood:

Harvey Probber Dresser

We immediately dropped it off at our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. The legs  showed damage from a senior citizen’s walker, a constant presence in the dad’s life. Mop buckets could have caused the nicks, too.

David used Timbermate Woodfiller on the legs, filling in and evening out the corner edges. He applied ebony stain over all 8 legs. When dry, he sprayed a clear semigloss lacquer and topcoat on the legs.

Next came Howard’s Restor-a-finish on the wood surface. David carefully hand rubbed until the finish shone. The dresser had a few scratches, but the Howard’s minimized them. And David polished obsessively. His reward was a luxurious finish.

Have a look: This generous top middle drawer holds jewelry.

Harvey Probber DresserThe maker’s label:
Harvey Probber label
David achieved this brilliant sheen:
Harvey Probber Dresser
Harvey Probber Dresser

Harvey Probber (1922-2003)

So, who was Harvey Probber? While in high school, Harvey took a job at a used-furniture store and soon began to sketch his ideas for furniture. At 16, he sold his first sofa design for the glorious sum of $10. After high school, his formal training was limited to a few evening classes at the Pratt Institute. He learned furniture production on the job at Trade Upholstery in NYC.

The key to salvation was in bits and pieces of plane geometry . . . they were meaningless alone, but when fused to conventional shapes, profoundly altered their character. — Harvey Probber

After World War II, he started his own business, Harvey Probber, Inc., in 1945, and spent the next four decades designing furniture.

His greatest contribution came from developing modular furniture in the late 1940s. That is to say, he developed upholstered unit furniture — 19 pieces — that could be juggled into endless configurations. He named this the Sert Group in homage to architect and city planner Jose Lluís Sert. Expanding on that concept, he developed Nuclear Furniture, which included various shaped occasional tables with interchangeable pedestals.

Imagine rearranging your living room with these quadrants, half-circles, corner sections, and wedges. Oh, it would be magical. Check out the examples provided:

Probber Modular Systems Concept
Probber Modular Systems Concept 1945, Source

Production Continues

In 2012, licensed by the Probber estate, M2L began manufacturing selected authentic reproductions from Harvey Probber’s collection.

Probber ‘s designs won awards. The Museum of Modern Arts, for instance, selected his  Elastic Sling Chair and Upholstered Nuclear groups for their 1951 exhibition.

Harvey Probber
Harvey Probber Sling Chair, ca. 1948. Source
Harvey Probber sectional
Harvey Probber Nuclear | Sert Sectional, designed 1946. Source

Starting in the 1970s Probber focused exclusively on contract design. He always maintained his interest in modular seating, urethane foam and luxe upholstery fabric. It’s a delight to review his eclectic designs:

Harvey Probber Cubo Cluster
Harvey Probber Cubo Cluster, designed 1972, Source
Harvey Probber Deep Tuft
Harvey Probber Deep Tuft Sofa, designed 1972. Source
Reproduced by M2L
Harvey Probber Mayan Sofa, designed 1983. Source

Thanks for your interest in Harvey Probber and our absolutely gorgeous rosewood dresser. Until next time!

Ann Marie and David
DIY Vintage Chic

Recovering Dining Chair Seats: Mid-Century Modern

Recovering dining chair seats, perhaps the easiest upholstery project, still requires organization.

Recovering Dining Chair Seats

Peeling Away the Years

I always love seeing the layers of history. The photo below shows the jaunty floral fabric wrapped around the original batting and wooden seat. It’s 90’s and awful, I know. The staples are already out, so let’s see what’s underneath.

Recovering Dining Chair

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a plump seat. Instead, imagine a pancake. One layer down and we’re at the dirty, original, yellow fabric stapled securely in place.
MCM Yellow Stripe Fabric

How about delving down more layers? Here we are at the thin, sad interior batting:
Dining Chair Old Batting

Foam and Batting

Luckily, Joann’s offered a 50% discount on their $59.99 high-density foam the day I ordered online. After seeing it in person, I absolutely recommend the high density. A roll of 2″ x 18″ x 82″ is perfect for covering 4 dining chair seats.2" high density foam
I traced the wooden chair seat onto the 2″ foam with a thick black marker. David grabbed the electric knife and cut out four pieces of foam.
Dining Chair Foam CutThe foam will provide a far more comfortable cushion. Below, there’s the wood seat, 2″ foam, batting, and the ivory microfiber upholstery fabric. By the way, we found the fabric in Joann’s remnant fabric bin. Four dining chairs require 1.5 yards of fabric, which we purchased for $9.
Recovering Dining Chairs

The Process for Recovering Dining Chair Seats

  1. Spray glue on the wooden seat and the pre-cut foam. Let both sit and get tacky before adhering together. NOTE: David prefers using 3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive. After he unsuccessfully used the spray pictured, he went out and bought the 3M spray and tried again.Recovering Dining Chair
  2. If rounded edges are desired, spray the glue on each raw edge of the foam and compress. We used a punch awl to help with the fold.Recovering Dining ChairRecovering Dining Chairs
  3. Cover with batting and staple down.Trim excess. Recovering dining chair
  4. Cover with upholstery fabric; use hands to smooth the fabric, and staple. Cut excess.Recovering Dining ChairRecovering Dining ChairRecovering Dining Chairs
  5. Fold the corners neatly, making sure to cut excess fabric to eliminate bulges of batting and fabric.
  6. Fold corners and trim excess material before stapling.Recovering dining chair seats
  7. Optional but simple, this next step involves stapling a cambric dust cover to the seat’s underside. It finishes off the piece by hiding all your fabric edges and staples.Recovered Dining Chair Seats
  8. And a quick photo of the recovered chair seats:Recovered Chair Seats

Sure, the hands-on experience proved more challenging, but we saved a lot of money and, really, that’s all there is to recovering dining chair seats. They’ll look stylish with the matching dining table.

Thanks for stopping by. David and I will be back with a new project in no time!

Ann Marie and David

 

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2016: Top Mid-Century Modern Style Posts

2016: Top Mid-Century Modern Style Posts

Take a look at the top 5 posts I wrote in 2016. They all deal with Mid-Century Modern style. Not a stunning surprise.

When David and I started Iris Abbey, we planned to paint and sell furniture . Our work, though beautiful, didn’t sell. We developed a belief that our local market is pretty saturated.

Our son, Michael, directed our focus to Mid-Century Modern and we haven’t looked back.

Every so often I sneak a painted piece into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, but the majority of what we sell is Mid-Century Modern, as you’ll see from these posts.

Cara Greenberg coined the term Mid-Century Modern in her 1984 book by the same eponymous name. This Christmas, Aunt Linda gave Michael a signed, first-edition copy of Greenberg’s Mid-Century Modern.

In furniture, modern came in all price brackets. Those who could afford it filled architect-designed homes with furniture from smart department stores which, in those days, promoted furniture even more vigorously than fashion. A sophisticated home of the early Fifties might have featured, for example, a pair of Eero Saarinen’s all-enveloping Womb chairs in bright red, or had as its pièce de résistance the free-form walnut-and-glass coffee table of Isamu Noguchi, its sculptured two-part base subject to rearrangement at its owner’s whim. — Cara Greenberg, Mid-Century Modern, 1984

1. 5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Mid-Century Modern Living Room
Source: Chris Barrett Design

The best of it was designed by architects who, during the war, when nobody was building houses, had turned their talents to furniture–or who, in desperation for furnishings that made sense in the smaller, sparer postwar house, decided to design their own.  — Cara Greenberg, Mid-Century Modern, 1984

Step into 1956 and see . . .

2. Kent-Coffey’s Sequence Collection 
Kent Coffee Sequence bedroom furniture

3. Painted Smooth Finish on MCM Furniture

Sometimes, because the damage is too great or the piece isn’t significant, we opt to paint. With Mid-Century Modern pieces we’re judicious with how much we paint. Take a look at these two pieces:
Mid-Century Modern Dixie chest and nightstand

4. Clothes Press by White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC

White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, is a furniture company close to my heart. I’ve written about them in other posts, but here’s an unusual clothes press:

How Much is My White Fine Furniture Worth?

5. Broyhill Premier Saga Desk Meets Heywood-Wakefield Chair

We found a Mid-Century desk, stylish and curved. Alas, no chair. What are the odds that we’d find a single — not part of a set — Heywood-Wakefield chair? It’s not a perfect match, but close enough to convey the spirit of the times, especially with the period upholstery fabric we ordered.

Broyhill Premier Saga Desk

That’s it for 2016. Next week I’ll share my top posts of all time.

Ann Marie and David

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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Ingmar Relling’s Siesta Chair: A Design Icon

Norwegian Ingmar Relling (1920-2002) designed his Siesta chair in 1964. The following year it placed first at the Norwegian Furniture Council’s design competition. Siesta gave Relling a premier spot in Scandinavian design history along with international acclaim. In fact, this chair is recognized as the icebreaker leading to Norway’s entrée into international furniture markets.
Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair

The Vanishing Barcelona Chair

Last weekend we acquired a pair of low-back Siesta chairs of our own. I wish I could claim it was expected. Despite these Norwegian beauties catching our attention online earlier in the week, we opted to go to another estate sale for, what we thought, a bigger prize.

Friday morning we groggily stood in a line many miles away. Numbers 1 and 2 on the sign-in sheet. David, normally gregarious, communicated in monosllyabic responses. We were on a mission: Michael sent us to snap up a fetching Barcelona chair (or well-made reproduction) wrapped in a rich white leather.

Barcelona Chair repro
Barcelona Chair repro. Original designed by Mies van der Rohe, 1929. Source

The doors of the sale opened and we raced inside, only to learn a disappointing and infuriating truth: someone had removed the Barcelona chair the previous evening — before the sale began.

There’s no telling what happened. Was it removed by the family, as the estate agent apologetically explained? Or was it something more nefarious, as some dealers muttered darkly: a price agreed upon before the general public could lay claim to it? Bad business, indeed.

Oh, and the snappy 1979 red MGB with red piping on the upholstery seams that, unbeknown to us, had captured David’s imagination? It was no longer there either. David wanted to at least drool over it for a few minutes. He believes everyone should own an MG at least once. Fortunately he already has enjoyed that experience.

David texted our son, Michael, with the sad news that the Barcelona Chair had vanished. The two shared moment of shock and anger. Michael opined on one of his favorite estate sale topics: the need for a cohesive set of guidelines to bring order to a largely ad hoc business. We listened politely. But, taking stock of the situation, we had gambled on the Barcelona chair and miscalculated badly.

Enter, Siesta Chairs

We headed home to regroup. While I gulped down a glass of cold pomegranate juice, David phoned the estate sale with the “Westnofa” chairs. Surprise — they were still available. When we heard the asking price, we knew why. If they survived until 9 am the next morning, when everything at the sale dropped by 30% . . .

After talking it over that night, the three of us came to a decision: we’d buy them. David took the lead on this one, leaving at 7:15 am for a 45 minute trip across the St Johns River. He signed in as number 2 on the list. The doors opened and he made a beeline for the chairs and fended off another shopper who came in behind him. He kept the purchase quiet until he triumphantly returned with a pair of matching Siesta Chairs. Very exciting.

Sadly, it was too much to hope for matching ottomans. Not that we’re complaining. David likes the thrill of the hunt and the adrenalin rush of the purchase. He compared his adventure to a Deerslayer moment, with Ingmar Relling’s Siesta chairs in the sight of his imaginary long rife. And he got two with one shot.

A lot of craftsmanship went into the Siesta chair. This is a serious merging of design and function into luxurious comfort. Laminated, bent beechwood create the bones, while a soft leather seat welcomes your tired body. More interestingly, the color changes with the light. Here’s a shot of it around midday — brown, right?
Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair
And in late afternoon light it appears burgundy:
Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair

Look at the back! Cords and canvas offer trampoline-like comfort. We’re not kidding — not only is it incredibly light, the Siesta chair is also sensationally comfortable.
Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair

Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair

Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair
Occasionally people claim that Westnofa manufactured these chairs. That would be wrong. Westnofa, created in the 1950s, was an umbrella Norwegian organization intended to promote trade in international markets. Vestlandske originally manufactured Siesta. In 1997 Ekornes bought Vestlandske. Currently Rybo produces this timeless chair.
Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair
We love Rybo’s description of Relling’s process:

Simplicity, minimalism, elegance and uncompromising quality are key concepts in all Relling’s designs. Sleek, clear lines, not to mention the obvious correlation between design and function, were essential for Ingmar Relling, who always was closely involved with the chair’s development after it left the drawing board. Even in the design phase, it was crucial for Relling that the chair should be eco-friendly – with optimized use of materials, wood from sustainable forests, maximum durability and reusability. This is typical of Ingmar Relling, who, as well as being a designer, was a dedicated humanist, interested in dimensions extending beyond the purely aesthetic. Source

Function equal to form. Comfort interwoven with responsible design. Something to ponder, maybe, after I melt back into the chair’s soft embrace. Ingred Relling Siesta Chairs

 

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Pinterest.

Ann Marie and David

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Broyhill Premier Sculptra Bedroom Set

Our striking Kent-Coffey Sequence bedroom set sold recently and left a hole in our booth. We quickly filled it with new acquisitions: 4 pieces of a Broyhill Premier Sculptra bedroom set. It stretches along one side of the booth: chest, dresser, nightstand and headboard hanging above. This headboard is unique because it’s one of the first king-sized headboards that Broyhill Premier produced.

Broyhill Premier Sculptra Bedroom Set

Our pieces are dated 1964 but Broyhill Premier introduced the Sculptra Collection in 1957 and continued its production into the mid-1960s. Designed to have a Scandinavian sensibility, the Sculptra line boasted sophistication and style aimed at a voracious upper-middle class audience.

Broyhill Premier Sculptra Bedroom Set

Boyhill Premier Sculptra logo
Source

Despite her strong lines and subtle charm, the Sculptra line is often overshadowed by Brasilia, a sister collection introduced by Broyhill Premiere in 1962 that sought to capture the spirit of Brazil’s new capital.

Broyhill Premier Brasilia Collection
Broyhill Premier Brasilia Collection

While Brasilia has the drama of swoops and arches, Sculptra offers rectangles and restraint. The carved elliptical pulls — shaped like cat eyes — offer a delightful contrast.

Broyhill Prremier Sculptra Chest
Broyhill Premier Sculptra Chest

The closest we come to a swoop is this delicate dip on the top of the headboard. Sadly, this set does not include a footboard.

Broyhill Premier Sculptra Headboard
Broyhill Premier Sculptra King Headboard

Creation of Broyhill Premiere

The story of Broyhill furniture stretches across the 20th Century, composed of a family of entrepreneurs  whose vision and guidance kept the company afloat. Following the end of World War II, Broyhill Furniture faced ruin. Despite an initial post-war surge of buyers, by 1949 demand had all but dried up. The company found itself in dire straits, as lagging demand forced the company to cut its workers’ hours down to three days a week.

Luckily for the company, Ed Broyhill proved to be visionary. He allowed his business to adapt. Faced with a market indifferent to the large, opulent pieces produced by his company, Ed turned to his son Paul to modernize and diversify the company’s lines. The sleek, modern pieces marketed by Paul Broyhill bolstered the sagging fortunes of Broyhill furniture and paved the way for the creation of the Broyhill Premiere collections.

Established in 1957, Broyhill Premiere sought to capitalize on a rapidly expanding market. Changing tastes led Americans to demand sophistication and style, but above all, quality. The collections were aimed at young, affluent families looking for an alternative to their parents’ massive and ornate furniture. Broyhill Premiere found immediate success, but was not profitable until the 1960s.

Continued commercial success allowed for the expansion of both the company and the furniture collections. The company issued a letter in 1966 explaining their philosophy of the Sculptra line. Here’s a portion of it:

October 10, 1966

Sculptra
In recent years modern designers have been paring away at the excesses in scale, weight and ornamentation in art, architecture, furniture design, and countless other related fields. A new reverence has developed for clean, uncluttered, but graceful lines which are functional and well proportioned. Designers and furniture craftsmen in the Scandinavian countries of Europe have undoubtedly thrust themselves into the forefront of this new “Puritanism.” Their success has been evidenced by the fact that a great deal of the furniture produced in the past few decades which adheres to this principle has become known throughout the world as “Scandinavian Modern.”

Sculptra is an outstanding example of this “imported look” of Scandinavian Modern. It is master-crafted by Broyhill Premier in beautifully grained American walnut. Sculptured moulding bonded to the faces of doors present an outstanding principle design motif. Carved elliptical recessed drawer pulls contribute to the elegant simplicity. A curved stretcher between the gently tapered legs arches gracefully to support leg pieces. A unique moulded gallery rail sweeps upward from the top of many case pieces to add to the sculptured effect.

As you can see, our wooden pieces have endured years of use. This is a Before shot showing  the wear that comes with age and use.

Broyhill Premier Sculptra pulls
Broyhill Premier Sculptra pulls

David rubbed it down with Watco Danish Oil to revive the rich brandy walnut finish. Here’s an After shot in the late afternoon sun:
Broyhill Premier Sculptra Oiled Wood Detail

Notice that the finish has been completely rubbed off the center of those cats eyes. Years of fingernail contact with the wood caused that. The handles are metal and originally painted in wood tone. David used a brush to saturate that bare area with Watco.

The result is mixed. He plans on removing the handles, masking off the drawer and spraying the cutout surfaces with Touch Up Solutions’ Aerosol Toner-Dye Extra Dark Walnut. The dye will add a uniform walnut color to the visible areas in the center of the drawer pills. He estimates it will take 15 minutes, tops.

We found all 4 pieces in very good shape — pretty amazing. Minimal finish issues were easily solved by using Watco Danish Oil Medium Walnut to even out the color and renew the top coat. Of course, “easily solved” is a bit misleading. The finished product represents three grueling 8-hour days of cleaning, oiling, rubbing, oiling, rubbing . . .  you get the idea. One coat is never enough. The 60-year-old wood/finish soaked up the Danish Oil.

This is important: David made sure he didn’t leave oil on the wood past the specified drying time. If left too long, the oil becomes a sticky residue. Be sure to follow the instructions on the container.

Broyhill Premier Sculptra Bedroom Set

While I appreciate the strong lines and subtle curves of the entire set, I think the King Headboard is a crucial selling point for our collection. Unlike the assortment of undersized Twin and Double size so prevalent in Mid Century Modern furniture, the King Headboard didn’t exist before the mid-60s. I’m inclined to believe in the scarcity of these big headboards. In over a year-and-a-half of searching estate sales, this is the first King we’ve come across. I could be wrong though. If you’ve had better success, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check out our Facebook page and Pinterest.

Ann Marie and David

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5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Mid-Century Modern (MCM) denotes a style of design and architecture that stretched roughly from 1933 to 1965. Some would limit it to 1947-1957, but I prefer the wider range.

Cara Greenberg gets credit for coining the term in the title of her book, Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s (Random House, 1984).

Furniture made in the middle of the 20th century isn’t automatically Mid-Century Modern furniture.

Craigslist sellers and estate sales often slap a Mid-Century Modern label on their wares because they know the style is popular. Perhaps they don’t know the difference. Perhaps they hope buyers won’t know the difference.

For those who remember the I Love Lucy TV show, Lucy and Desi moved to colonial home in Westbury, Connecticut in 1957. Here’s their Early American dining room in the television studio. It’s Colonial Revival in style — casual and rustic yet traditional. And unlike real homes, unusually large.

Lucy and Desi's Colonial Westport Home
Lucy and Desi’s Colonial Westport Home

This next photo provides more realistic proportions for a room, but both examples show sturdy maple dining sets, farmhouse curtains, braided rugs, and hutches displaying serving ware.

Early American 1950s Living Room
Early American 1950s Living Room

Now, here’s the Birkenstock House, an home in New Canaan, Connecticut, built in 1962. Geographically, it’s about 10 miles away from Lucy and Desi’s fictional Westport home. Stylistically, it’s a world apart.

Birkenstock House
Birkenstock House. Architect: Victor Christ-Janer. New Canaan, 1962

5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

1. Lines

Clean lines, curves and smooth surfaces create an understated look. Less becomes more. The heavy, boxy, ornamented pieces of the past were banished and replaced with slimmed down furniture in open spaces. Suddenly, MCM homes became light and airy.

Mid-Century Modern
MCM Family Room: Open and Colorful

2. Materials

Furniture continued to be made from wood, but now with international influences. Scandinavian design and teak wood soared in popularity. Broyhill’s popular Brasilia line, introduced in 1962, imitated the waves and lines of the Brazilian capital. Despite this being a large piece, designers managed to visually reduce its mass.

Broyhill Brasilia china cabinet
Mid-Century Modern Broyhill Brasilia Style Server and Hutch, 1st dibbs, $2,950

New materials — and uses for them — emerged in World War II. Post-War designers conscientiously applied plastic, plywood, glass, and/or lucite to their creations, integrating these materials into the design.

Mid-Century Modern Designers
A few of America’s greatest designers, assembled in 1961, Playboy. Left to right: George Nelson, Edward Wormley, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, Charles Eames and Jens Risom

Design husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames (pronounced EE-ms) experimented with a variety of inexpensive materials. Their work with molded plywood, for instance, resulted in the much coveted (if it’s original) Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. We own a couple of replicas at our house.

Eames Chair
Rosewood Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. 1stdibbs, $4,700

This 1950s bar, made of bamboo, vinyl and formica, holds center stage in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

Dry Bar and Stools
Royal Chrome Dry Bar, Stools and Matching Wall Shelf, 1950s

3. Colors

Color exploded. Neutral walls receded to emphasize shapes and colors in the room.

Mid-Century Modern Living Room
Source: Chris Barrett Design

A bold accent wall, on the other hand, as in our Iris Abbey booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, gives a pop of excitement — just not too much.

Heywood-Wakefield living room furniture - $1,995
Orange Accent Wall in Iris Abbey Booth

4-5. Pattern and Texture

In the photo below, textures flex their power. The shag rug, rough stone fireplace, smooth glass table, sleek ceramic lamp, and furniture fabric all work together. Patterns emerge in the abstract painting, pillows, and pottery. The wood and glass of the coffee table suggest the lines and shape of a modernist sculpture.

Form follows function for all of the pieces seen in this room. Again, I’ll mention the lightness and airiness of the space. The sofa sits on a floating frame. This serves to lift and suspend the heaviest piece of furniture, giving the same ethereal feel as the lounge chair.

Midcentury Modern living room
Source

In our last photo, what textures can you identify in this photo? There’s natural wood and brick, tile flooring, ceramic lamps, a nubby rug, the metal chandelier, fur throw, and fabric on the pillows, chairs and sofa. I like the exotic bookcase that features items from the owners’ travels.

MCM Living Room
Contemporary Living Room in MCM Style

Despite some of the prices seen here, you can find Mid-Century Modern furniture to fit your budget. If you are not a collector, you don’t need an original. Replicas are an alternative. All you need is one statement piece and you can build your room around it.

5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

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Ann Marie and David

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MCM Heywood-Wakefield Bedroom Set: A Rainy Quest

The Heywood-Wakefield Tipoff

Our son Michael emails me Craigslist links. Sometimes just a single item that catches his eye, other times dense jumbles of links for furniture and knickknacks assembled during a scouring of Craigslist. Once or twice — I believe — he has muttered about my mistimed response rates.

Thursday morning I opened Michael’s email and found this Craigslist photo:

Heywood Wakefield Sculptura Dresser

Since I wasn’t interested in the stack of empty boxes, I studied the Heywood-Wakefield Sculptura dresser and other Hey-Wake items in sitting in St. Augustine, about 40 miles south of us.

I called David to look over my shoulder at our computer screen.
“What do you think?”
“Let’s call now,” he said.
He phoned, negotiated a price, and said we’d pick up that evening. Michael couldn’t accuse us of failing to act promptly on this one.

David texted Michael about the sale but the message didn’t go through. Michael remained in the dark. I soon texted him asking if he could help move furniture that evening. No, because he had rugby practice. He still didn’t know we arranged to buy the Hey-Wake. His absence would complicate matters because I don’t excel at moving solid wood furniture.

The Estate Sale

But first we visited a local estate sale and pick up a few small items. Anything large would be impossible to transport because we had a Kent-Coffey chest in our SUV. Speaking of which, even if we moved that piece out of our vehicle, could we fit all the Hey-Wake pieces in? Our best guess: no.

How’s this for luck? We encountered an Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery colleague at the estate sale, a generous man who lends us his enclosed trailer from time to time.
“May we borrow your trailer for a move tonight?”
“The answer is ‘yes, you may.'” This white-haired gentleman brims with Southern gentility. I love him.

A quick aside, here’s an abstract painting we bought at the estate sale. Not exactly small, but flat.

Blue Circle Abstract Painting

The Trailer

The trailer is magnificent. Double rows of wall hooks to secure items. Shelves of blankets, padding, straps, hooks, clamps, and jars of bungee cords. We left the estate sale, drove home in the rain, loaded up our hand truck with 12 ” pneumatic tires (a Christmas gift to David) next to the Kent-Coffey chest, and went to pick up the trailer. Only the trailer. We’re still far from heading out of town.

At some point our information caught up with Michael and he offered to skip rugby practice to help us. No, no. We’ve got this wired. It will take about 50 minutes to drive there; we’ll take the drawers out, load them separately, then deal with the cabinet.

Rain, cold and dark engulfed us as he headed to St. Augustine. We could handle that. But the ambiguous directions unraveled us. The furniture couldn’t be at an exact address. No, the seller gave cryptic clues leading to an unmarked building: look for a long dark country road, a driveway 100 yards away from something, a McDonalds (which we never saw), a traffic light, a 2-story house with solar panels on top (couldn’t see it in the rainy blackness).

I exchanged phone calls with the seller. He grew increasing brusque as we became more frustrated. Poor David had to turn the SUV and trailer around a few times in tight quarters on dirt driveways.

This was pretty much our view from inside the vehicle:
Rain Storm at night

The seller drove out to the road and watched for us. And phoned me:
“Did you just go through that traffic light?”
“Yes, where are you?”
“Pull over to the side and wait. I’ll get in front of you and you can follow me.”

Were my tears from joy or exasperation? We eagerly followed him down the road. All he needed was a lighted “Follow Me”  sign to make it clearer to us. By the time we backed into place next to the 2-story building that did indeed have solar panels, the rain had lessened. A small kindness that we gratefully accepted.

The Find

We examined the Heywood-Wakefield pieces and silently rejoiced: a Sculptura dresser, manufactured 1952-59; an Encore side table/nightstand from 1950-55; a Dog Bone (named because of the cut out) footboard and solid headboard.

The two bigger pieces looked banged up but David knows how do bring Hey-Wake back from the dead. The seller showed us other Mid-Century Modern furniture upstairs and asked us to consider buying the pieces at a fair price. He felt we lowballed him on the Hey-Wake, but acknowledged reviving them will take a ton of work. I must point out again: we negotiated the price before we drove down. As far as his other furniture, we weren’t in any shape to consider it.

Out came the drawers and we began to load and secure.

Daylight

We pulled out the furniture the next morning, the sky a brilliant blue and sun pouring down. You can see the damage more clearly but David is encouraged because he’ll be working with solid wood — no veneer. We’re looking at dresser damage in the photo below, followed by the marred nightstand.

Heywood-Wakefield Sculptura Dresser Damage
Heywood-Wakefieldl Encore Nightstand Damage

The Dogbone footboard sits higher than the headboard in the photo below because it’s perched on the rear fender of the trailer. The side rails and the both head and footboard have extensive finish issues.

But once again, Heywood-Wakefield used solid pieces of wood to build their furniture. We don’t have to worry about sanding out a deep scratch in the wood because there’s no thin piece of veneer to confound the restoration. David thinks this will be a fun project but it comes with a learning curve. I have no doubt he will  bring the pieces back to the original Hey-Wake Wheat finish.

Dogbone footboard

Things always look so much better in the light of day — dazzling enough to forget about our damp recovery efforts. I did, however, announce a new policy: I only do pickups during daylight hours.
Heywood-Wakefield Sculptura dresser, Encore nightstand, Dogbone headboard and footboard
Heywood-Wakefield Bedroom Set

I plan to share a cheerier post about St. Augustine, our country’s oldest established city, sometime soon. You didn’t get much historical scenery in this update. Here’s a link to an earlier post about a Heywood-Wakefield Living Room set that we acquired. It’s beautiful furniture.

If you liked this post, share it with your friends.

Ann Marie and David

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Mid-Century Modern Vanity and Upholstered Stool

The Discovery

We drove to an apartment complex for a look at a Mid-Century Modern desk listed on Craigslist. Michael had made arrangements for us to evaluate and purchase, if acceptable. The pictures didn’t offer much information and a description was nonexistent. Still, it caught our son’s eye, so maybe worth a look. When we discovered a Broyhill Premier Saga desk, David and I knew it was more than acceptable.

The seller and I chatted while David went out to arrange blankets in our SUV. She asked — with David still muddling about in the back of the car — if I’d like to see something else. Sure.

This glowed in a back bedroom. Oh my gosh. David appeared and took photos to send  Michael. I ignored him and told her we’d take it. The monster mirror wasn’t attached, so no need to unscrew it. David and Michael could return tomorrow to load and transport these vanity pieces. Very carefully.

Mid-Century Modern

I speculated that Heywood-Wakefield manufactured it, but that was just a gut feeling. And wrong. When I showed pictures to someone much more knowledgeable, he suggested it was made in England.

It’s a lady’s vanity, where she keeps her lingerie and perches on a stool to apply her makeup. Her jewelry drawer sits below the that fantastic full-length mirror.

Still, I did not have a manufacturer. I posed the question on a couple of Facebook furniture groups. Nothing definitive emerged from the many and varied suggestions. David speculates Mid-Century Modern. More research needed.

The vanity itself didn’t require much work but every lady who owns a vanity should have a stool.

The Stool’s Wood

We needed a vanity stool, and my knowledgeable friend produced one from his stash. Alas, its mahogany color was too dark and too red. But David plunged into this project. He stripped and sanded the finish. After several attempts he achieved a finish somewhat approaching the vanity’s color by coaxing a warm medium Walnut overlaid with Fruitwood stain. The wood really does look like it matches the vanity.

Mid-Century Modern

Upholstering the Stool

The original fabric, dark, dirty and completely unsuited to its new task, needed replacing.

Vanity Stool Original Fabric
I had a period fabric, a remnant, that would work. It’s much brighter and seems better suited to Florida. If you’re really paying attention to my projects, this fabric went on a Heywood-Wakefield desk chair (M 953 A) a few weeks ago.
Vanity Stool old and new fabric

Here’s the original material: jute webbing, batting and the fabric.
Upholstery materials

The original jute webbing lacked tension; it sagged pitifully. David applied pressure to the webbing and it drooped down to touch the table beneath.
Jute webbing

We removed staples from half the stool. David used a pliers to pull the pieces of webbing taut while I stapled them down. Much better. We could bounce a quarter.
Vanity Stool Tightening Jute Webbing

Starbuck found her peaceful nook for a nap: she stayed there for hours.
Vanity Stool Sleeping Starbuck
We cut foam and placed it on the jute. Then came the batting, followed by the new piece of fabric. I cut it larger than the original because the additional foam and batting commanded a bigger piece.

With an embroidery needle and fishing line, I basted around the top edge of half the fabric, leaving long ends. When I pulled the two opposing ends, half the fabric gathered, theoretically allowing me to create smooth sides. Repeat on the other side of the fabric, so I could then gather the extra fabric, cut and staple to the bottom. But…. I didn’t cut the piece big enough and we struggled — and struggled — to create smooth sides.

What’s a day without creative struggle? It’s character building.

Vanity Stool basted fabric
The Display

We moved the vanity and stool into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.
Mid-Century Modern Vanity and stool

Here’s a closer look at the completed stool:
Mid-Century Modern Vanity Stool

We created a MCM vignette by arranging Heywood-Wakefield living room furniture, hanging a silver-framed mirror over the sofa, a silvery abstract painting on the other wall, and adding the wonderful Mid-Century Modern vanity and upholstered stool. Did I mention I love that full-length mirror?
Heywood-Wakefield living room furniture

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends. Better still, come to Avonlea and take this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern Vanity home with you.

Ann Marie and David

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