Mid-Century Modern

Tips for Styling a Mid-Century Modern Booth

Staging Vintage Furniture Booth

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

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

Tips for Styling a Mid-Century Modern Booth: Location

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

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

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

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

Paint Color

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

Benjamin Moore Summer Nights 777

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

Styling Mid-Century Modern Booth


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

Vintage Furniture Booth Arrangement
Photo by Raven McKie

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

Styling Mid-Century Modern Booth
Photo by Raven McKie

. . . dining furniture on the right.

Kent-Coffey Perspecta Dining Set

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

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

Showcasing Our Smalls

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

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

Wall Decor

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

Staging Mid-Century Modern Booth
Photo by Raven McKie


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

Staging Mid-Century Modern Furniture
Photo by Raven McKie


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

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

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

Ann Marie & David

Previous Posts

Wall art
Wassily Kandinsky Color Study. Squares with Concentric Circles

Mid-Century American of Martinsville Dining Set

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

American of Martinsville

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

Mid-Century Modern Chairs

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

American of Martinsville

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

American of Martinsville

Yikes! A stained gold brocade.

American of Martinsville

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

American of Martinsville

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

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

American of Martinsville

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

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

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

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

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

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

MCM Dining Table

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

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

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

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

Now the details really pop.

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

American of Martinsville

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

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

American of Martinsville

American of Martinsville’s Dania II

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

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

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

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

On Display

American of Martinsville

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

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

Ann Marie and David

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Drexel Profile Dining Set: Back to the Future

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

Estate Sale Acquisition

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

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

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

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

Designer John van Koert (1912 – 1998)

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

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

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

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

Towle Contour

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

Towle Contour Flatware
Towle Contour Sterling Silver Flatware. Source

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

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

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

Drexel Profile: Age, Style and Wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drexel Profile Buffet

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

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

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

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

Drexel Profile dining setDrexel Profile dining set

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

Ann Marie and David


Sweet Inspiration Link Party – The Boondocks Blog

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Buying and Selling Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Buying Selling MCM Furniture

Finding Mid-Century Modern

We’re still novices in the business of buying and selling Mid-Century Modern furniture. A lot of steps, consequently, go into our deliberation process. First of all, we have to locate a worthy MCM piece. Our son, Michael, possesses the superpower of finding interesting pieces. Sometimes they’re conveniently local, other times a journey is required.

The condition of the pieces is important, but not always a deal breaker. We evaluate the finishes, the structural integrity of pieces, the lines, and the historical significance. If missing any hardware, or in too rough shape, the piece gets rejected immediately.

David always has final say about buying wood furniture because he’s the one who must weave his magic spell to bring it back to life. We consider how much work is needed, and how much we hope to make, and, therefore, how much we can offer to pay. Of course, this isn’t done in a vacuum. We’re in a competitive market with other interested dealers and eager collectors waiting to pounce.

Our largest source for mid-century modern furniture, by far, comes from regional estate sales. Occasionally we locate pieces on Craigslist and we once bought a designer sofa off the Swip Swap group.

Buy It, Repair It, Hope for the Best

We’ve learned a few things about buying and selling Mid-Century Modern furniture over the last 3 years. Most of our purchases need work. This is a given, and the amount and type of work must be weighed against the potential to make money. It’s always a gamble.

A few items are currently in our queue. We bought them and believe we can offer them — once refurbished — to discerning buyers.

1. Pair of MCM Chairs

We purchased these original Scandinavian chairs for a good price and the knowledge that the latex foam is deteriorating. It hardens and becomes crunchy when that happens.
Buying and selling mid-century modern furnitureAlso, the fabric has some wear at the armrests, and there’s a stain on one seat.
MCM Scandinavian upholstered chair
We’ll take these chairs to the upholstery shop for a repair estimate. Their bones are great and, if the price is right, the upholsterer will to strip the fabric and latex before reconstructing again. Our final decision: what can we sell them for — and make money?

Wait, are you wondering why I don’t handle this myself? After all, didn’t I sew custom Halloween costumes for my son each year? Yes, and that was the only time I brought out my grandmother’s old sewing machine. I’m great at costumes. These chairs hover way above my skill level. Especially if we hope to sell them.

2. Two Swedish Teak End Tables

These came from the same house as the chairs. Designed by Yngvar Sandstrom,  A.B. Seffle Møbelfabrik manufactured them in the 1960s. They had annoying residue from tape and paint specks.
Swedish end table damage
Swedish end table marks
Those issues turned out to be an easy fix. David cleaned these up with teak oil and put them in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

3. Drexel Profile Dining Table and Six Chairs

We chose to invest in this set. That means we bought it in the first minutes of the first day of the estate sale. And paid the asking price. Only 4 chairs are in the photo below, but it comes with 6 magnificent chairs.Buying and selling mid-century modern furnitureManufactured by Drexel in 1956 and designed by John Van Koert, this represents a rare, important set. All pieces, including 6 chairs and 3 leaves, appeared in excellent condition. For comparison, the pricey 1stdibs website lists a set like ours for the aspirational price of $13,500, with an extra $2,200 for shipping.
Drexel Profile dining tableWe think the chairs are covered in original fabric; they just had a couple of spots that cleaned right up. David applied lemon oil to all the wood and placed the set prominently in our booth.

4. Picasso Museum Poster

This Picasso poster came out of home filled with unusual art. I wish I were better at identifying types of art like giclée, lithograph, serigraph, and such. This piece, a portrait of Picasso’s muse and lover Dora Maar, came from the 1982 – 1983 exhibit at Museo de Tamayo, Mexico. I envision a gold mat and a sleek black frame will enhance the lovely Dora.
Picasso poster

Risky but Good Choices

It’s common to second guess our purchases. Will they ever sell? Will they sell at a price that allows us to make a profit? These next photos show furniture we bought, repaired, and actually sold. Basing success on sales alone, these were excellent choices.

1. Caldwell Table & Chairs

This Caldwell dining table and chairs needed work, We sent the table to our wood whisperer who transformed it so the walnut gleams like tiger stripes. David and I reupholstered the chairs. A delightful couple from Tallahassee bought the set.
Caldwell Furniture, Lenoir NC

2. Blue Bridgewater Sofa

This sofa had great features — low back, tufting, comfort — but the previous owner had hacked the front part of its skirt off. We needed to painstakingly rip out the staples and stiches to remove the remainder of the skirt. It sold pretty quickly.
MCM Blue Sofa

3. Broyhill Sculptra Bedroom Set

We bought the dresser, chest, nightstand, and headboard as a set; they didn’t require much work. The King sized headboard offered an attractive feature. With its Sculptra line, Broyhill introduced a King sized headboard.

Broyhill Sculptra Bedroom Set

One of the drawer slides on the chest stuck because the glide on the side of the drawer had a dent. This proved a simple mechanical repair. David then applied Watco Light Walnut Danish Oil to all the pieces and put the set on display in our booth.

Then we had the opportunity to buy a second nightstand from downstate, sight unseen, and shipped up to us. It made sense to offer two nightstands — it could mean a quicker sale. That second nightstand, however, started David’s nightmare because it was stained cherry, not light walnut. He stripped the cherry and after countless mixture attempts and multiple re-strippings, he finally hit on the correct blend of light walnut and golden oak stains to achieve the perfect match.

Broyhill Premier Sculptra Nightstands

4. Kent-Coffey Sequence Bedroom Set

Before we bought these pieces, David’s close evaluation revealed that the chest’s three drawers had no center bottom slide pieces. Additionally, some drawers required re-gluing the dovetail joints because the original adhesive had deteriorated. But none of the veneer or case structure needed work. David had the knowledge and expertise to make repairs.

Kent Coffey Sequence Bedroom Set

He glued and clamped the drawers. Using a wood slide as a template, he fabricated the missing pieces. A couple coats of Watco Danish Oil on the dull finish and thin topcoat made it ready for the showroom.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, David is instrumental in bringing wood back to life. He makes our buying and selling Mid-Century Modern furniture possible. By saving the furniture, he upcycles them into other families’ lives.


Sometimes we choose unwisely. Here are a couple examples:

1. Selig Sofa

MCM Selig blue white sofa
The decision to buy this piece was based on my gut. I loved this beauty, a long and low MCM Selig sofa. We spent more money than we should have. Because two ladies had taken up residence on the couch during the sale, we didn’t realize that some of latex foam had hardened and turned a bit crunchy. Latex foam composition breaks down over the years and becomes hard and brittle. Crunchy.

Our upholsterer gave us an estimate that was well out of our price range. We’d never recoup our costs. We put it in our booth hoping that a discerning buyer would purchase it and reupholster it to his or her taste. That didn’t happen and we couldn’t keep it on the floor indefinitely. We ended up donating it to the Salvation Army. 

2. Rust and Orange Chair and Ottoman

Rust and Orange chair and ottoman
We acquired this chair and ottoman for a song on the last day of an estate sale. I wasn’t enthusiastic, but Michael saw potential. The chair’s shockingly low price was a conciliatory offering by the estate sale rep after another dealer nabbed a gorgeous Mid Century console table — even though we had pulled its sales tag.

Although sturdy, the chair had stain issues and the accursed crunchy foam. Our original idea was to clean the stains and replace the  bottom Latex cushion. The cost for a foam replacement cushion wouldn’t prevent the rehab. However, the stains on the seat back fabric wouldn’t come out and concerted cleaning efforts left a faded area around the stain. We considered reupholstering the chair and ottoman but decided it wouldn’t be a financially sound choice. I momentarily tossed around the idea of painting the fabric, but with our warehouse hitting capacity, it became another Salvation Army donation.

Buying and Selling Mid-Century Modern Furniture

So, that’s our process. We make decisions on buying and selling Mid-Century Modern furniture, take risks based on numerous factors, and always hope for the best. Don’t all small business owner rely on boundless hope?

If you’re a small business owner, be sure to watch the Small Business Revolution videos sponsored by Deluxe Enterprise.

As the holidays approach, support your local small businesses. Small Business Saturday falls on November 25th, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Iris Abbey

Ann Marie and David

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Use African Tribal Decor To Enhance MCM Style

African Tribal Decor

Ethnic cultural furnishings, particularly African tribal decor, complement the clean lines of Mid-Century Modern style. Handmade objects made of metal, carved wood, and hand-woven textiles provide rich texture. Pieces like the ones discussed below will add an inherent sense of exoticism to any room.

I’ll focus on Africa because we acquired several remarkable pieces recently at an estate sale. The homeowner lived and worked in Zimbabwe as an electrical engineer for several years. His African tribal decor collection went far beyond mere tourist souvenirs.

West African Cast Brass Mask

I sought out — and paid for — an appraisal of this metal mask. Look at the detail: a bird, with a long, curved beak perches on the face. Its defined eyes appear on the side of the head, and a comb sits atop the bird’s head and wattle hangs from neck. I’m not even guessing at the type of bird.

The face shows masculine features; the wide eye openings have decorative edges. Decorative scarification runs from below the eyes down to the chin, as well as exaggerating the eyebrows. The delicate loops frame the entire face remind me of antique lace trim.

The appraiser told me this piece dates from the second half of the 20th century. It appears to borrow features from Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. Never intended for tribal use, the craftsman made it for the art market.
African tribal decorAfrican tribal decor

Zamble Guro African Tribal Mask

For these next masks, I did my own research. If I’m wrong, I’d appreciate your input. I believe this mask represents the mythical male Zamble of the Guro tribe of Ivory Coast. Zamble integrates animals into his features. This mask presents his antelope horns, crocodile mouth, leopard eyes.
African tribal decor
At one time, bright paint highlighted the mask. Very little remains, but his painted red tongue endures.
Zamble Guro Mask

Kpelie Mask, Senufo People

A more delicately carved mask, this one presents the female Kpelie, appreciated for beauty and fertility. Senufo men of the Ivory Coast and Mali, however, wore this type of mask during boys’ initiation ceremonies, harvest festivals and funeral rituals. The horns represent male characteristics. Scarification appears on the cheeks.
Kpelie Senufo Mask Africa

African mask – origin unknown

This elongated mask, propped up against a bookend, offers bright color and clean design. It’s carved from a single tree branch, and I adore the narrow eyes, long nose and colorful cheeks.
Elongated African Mask
All of the wooden masks we bought are hand carved:
Elongated African mask

Copper and Brass Metal Wall Art

When we first came across photos of this piece, it appeared to be a shield. On closer examination, it may be a massive bowl. We’re using it as wall art in our booth. Made of copper and brass pieces, hand riveted, it makes a terrific dramatic statement.
Africa display

1626 Map of Africa

I’m sure the above map is a reproduction, but Englishman John Speed created the original in 1626. Highly decorative and wonderfully speculative, it gives us mountains, lakes, and rivers that don’t really exist. But for the early 1700s, it’s great. The Aethiopian Ocean appears in place of the Atlantic Ocean. Drawings of traditionally clad natives border the map’s sides, while the top border presents 8 African cities. Our map’s connection to African craftsmen comes through its framing story. Mahogany wood frames the piece, done in Harare, Zimbabwe.

African Mud Cloth

I’ll take this occasion to mention our mud cloth, probably from Mali, and acquired at a previous sale. Also called bogolan, these are fabulous, unique textiles. David created a mud cloth canopy in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery to draw attention to our Africa display.
Africa display mud cloth
Hand-woven cotton forms the basis of our mud cloth. Narrow strips were stitched together to form the whole piece. Tree bark and branches were used to develop the dyes. The artist painted cowry shells and designs with paint made from fermented river mud, aged up to one year. Because of the process and artist, each cloth is unique. I like the idea of using textiles for a contemporary home’s African tribal decor. Instant pillow, tablecloth, or bed covering.

If you are interested in more information on the making of mud cloth, here’s a video:

Thanks for stopping by for a look at our African tribal decor. We’d love to hear about ethnic items you’ve picked up during your travels or at sales.

Ann Marie and David

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4 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

MCM Dining Table Sets

After several barren weeks of estate sales devoid of bargains and success, our luck finally changed. We bought 2 Mid-Century Modern dining table sets in one weekend (along with several additional pieces), to add to the 3 dining sets we have distributed between our booth and warehouse.

This seems a good an opportunity to discuss what characteristics we look for.

  1. Clean Lines

    Mid-Century Modern dining table sets should convey a sense of lightness, sleekness. The shape should capture your attention. As a rule, MCM tables and chairs are more compact and, therefore, perfect for smaller spaces. Once you begin studying tables and chairs, their differences become evident.

  2. Manufacturer

    We always check the name of the manufacturer before buying Mid-Century Modern dining table sets. That means one of us is slithering around under the table and tipping over a chair. If we find a name like Drexel or White Furniture, we’ll stop our investigation right there. An unknown manufacturer, however, isn’t dismissed; we just double our efforts to make sure the pieces structurally sound and aesthetically appealing.

  3. Wood Grain

    Although MCM designers experimented with other materials such as plastic, glass, vinyl and shaped plywood, the tables we buy are made of wood. Tabletops are covered with good, wood veneer, which is a thin slice of actual wood. This process changed in the 1970s when furniture companies began to incorporate particle board and MDF to save money.

  4. Condition

    How much work will the pieces require? Our biggest expense is outsourcing a table for sanding and refinishing. Are the pieces sturdy? If any legs are wobbly, can we easily fix them? We hope for good padding and original fabric on the seats. Both of these, if problematic, can be remedied. All these elements, however, add to costs that can lower our profit margin

Now that we’ve covered the characteristics we consider when evaluating MCM dining table sets, let’s look at our sets.

  1. Drexel Profile

This dining set belongs to Drexel’s Profile Collection, designed by John Van Koert. Drexel manufactured Profile between 1955 – 1961. This set dates from 1956 and includes table, 6 chairs, and 3 leaves.

Mid-Century Modern dining table sets

First, look at its shape: tapered legs, gentle curves, borders on the table top, and chair spindles. It’s Drexel made, so the quality is excellent. Rich brown color, made of pecan and walnut woods. When we encountered this piece at an estate sale, I froze in horror seeing  that heavy metal container on the bare wood.

The chairs look great. I made sure to dust between every one of those exquisite spindles. One chair has a small stain on the fabric, but I think we can clean and avoid the recovering process.

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

2. Caldwell Furniture Company

Caldwell Furniture of Lenoir, NC, manufactured this table and chair set in 1961. My research hasn’t led me to any rich details on Caldwell’s. The company started in 1906 and Thomasville bought it in 1968. Despite knowing very little about the manufacturer, this is a well-designed table.  I like the way each side gently bows. Caldwell Furniture, Lenoir NC

The tabletop had sustained topcoat damage. Davis stripped the top and outsourced the table and its 2 leaves for refinishing. The final result reveals a highly grained walnut with contrasting light and dark grains.

Here are 3 of the 4 recovered chairs. The backs remind me of bow ties. We recovered, and seriously upgraded, the 4 dining chairs seats, which we wrote about in a previous post. At present this MCM dining set sits in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

MCM Dining Table Sets

3. White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC

White Furniture, known for high quality, manufactured this set, probably in the late 1970s. It came with 6 chairs and 2 leaves.White Furniture MCM Dining Table & Chairs
The chair spindles gently curve, the legs taper. The oval top contrasts with the square and rectangles of the chair and there’s an Asian sensibility to these chairs.  David believes the wood is walnut but we haven’t studied it enough to identify the finish. As for the condition, the table needs refinishing.

The square cushions are in great shape, generously padded and covered in a white vinyl. I’m not a fan of vinyl, but it can be useful if children are anywhere near food. Here’s a chair detail:

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

4. B. F. Huntley of Winston-Salem, NC

My research hasn’t led to any unusual discoveries. A small business, Huntley’s started in 1906, sold to Simmons in 1929, burned in 1935 and reemerged as Huntley once again before Thomasville bought it in 1961. Although the table has a series of stenciled numbers on the bottom, each company had its own system of identification. I can’t say definitively when Huntley made this set without a code to decipher the numbers.

This drop leaf table came with 6 chairs and 1 leaf. Ironically, a previous owner had the table refinished but neglected/forgot the leaf. As a result, the leaf doesn’t match the table’s newer finish. David claims the table needs work, and Michael tells me the seats need recovering.

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

When David and Michael picked up the set from the estate sale, they — and the sales rep — realized it was a drop leaf. The rep claimed, had she realized that when pricing, she’d have marked it higher.

What I appreciate about the chair design is the “H” back, and the upper back slat reminds me of a surfboard. At a glance the padding and fabric looked OK to me but I haven’t studied it. I know at least one of the chairs wobbles.

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

5. Drexel Today’s Living

Milo Baughman designed Drexel’s Today’s Living Collection, Our set was manufactured in 1952. The shape of the table holds interest because its thickness narrows down from the center.  I wrote about our struggle to acquire these pieces at an estate sale.

Milo Baughman Drexel 1952

The woods are elm and beech; the finish is beech. Between its wood color and the matching orange fabric, there’s a sense of lightness. Happily, we kept the chair seats as is.

Lastly, our son Michael will choose one of these Mid-Century Modern dining table sets for his personal use. He narrowed his selection down to two sets (#1 and #5), both manufactured by Drexel, Michael’s considering either the Drexel Profile set by John Van Koert (4 chairs, 3 leaves) or the Drexel Today’s Living set designed by Milo Baughman (6 chairs, 2 leaves).

If Mid-Century Modern dining table sets appeal to you, which would you choose?

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

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

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.

  • 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)
  • 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.
  • 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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Broyhill Premier Saga Desk Meets Heywood-Wakefield Chair

Our son Michael found this elusive Broyhill Premier Saga desk on Craigslist and dispatched David and me to buy it. I love the way it curves in the front.

Broyhill Premier gave this description of its Saga Collection:

Mad for modern? Have your heart’s desire with SAGA by Broyhill Premier. . . SAGA is a fresh twist to the Scandinavian furniture story . . . vigorous in design and striking in simplicity. Skillfully proportioned for today’s room sizes in warm, beautifully grained Walnut.

Broyhill Premier Saga Desk

In 1957, to provide sophistication, style, and quality to their growing customer base, Broyhill Furniture established its Broyhill Premier line at the old Lenoir Chair Company plant in North Carolina. They added a sales force and a quality control program. And then they developed ad campaigns.

I found an example of one of their campaigns from 1960, when Broyhill Premier and Air France cosponsored an Abroad at Home contest. How sophisticated.

Broyhill Premier and Air France AdThe rules were simple:

Join in the fun . . . enter the “Abroad at Home” contest!


Think of it . . . winging your way luxuriously across the Atlantic aboard a new AIR FRANCE Boeing 707 jet . . . off on a European holiday with all of your expenses taken care of by Broyhill Premier.

Here’s how it can be you . . . living it up for 12 wonderful days in your choice of Paris, Rome or Scandinavia.

First . . . visit your local franchised Broyhill Premier furniture dealer or AIR FRANCE ticket office for an official “Abroad AT Home” Contest entry form. A quick call to Western Union Operator 25 will give you the name of your nearest Broyhill Premier dealer.

Now . . . choose where you want most to visit . . . Paris, Rome or Scandinavia. Then, finish in 50 words or less this sentence:

“I would like to take my husband (or wife) to (Paris)(Rome)(Scandinavia) because. . .”

Let’s pause a moment in the excitement of this contest to study a full-page advertisement for the Saga collection and read its thrilling caption:

Broyhill Premier Saga Ad
Framed amid windswept crags and fjords, Saga adds a new chapter to the century-long story of fresh and vigorous Scandinavian design. See the beauties of Scandinavia for yourself as a winner in the “Abroad At Home” Contest. But, first, see the new Saga collection at your Broyhill Premier dealer’s . . . forty pieces sculptured in hand-rubbed walnut . . . priced from $39.95.

Now, on to the remaining rules:

Then mail, with your name and address to:
“Abroad At Home” Contest
Box 33-B, Mt. Vernon 10, New York

Your entry must be postmarked no later than midnight, September 15, 1960 and becomes the property of Broyhill Furniture Factories. Winners will be notified by mail on October 15, 1960 with the judges’ decision accepted as final.

Three first prizes will be awarded . . . one for each of the three new Broyhill Premier furniture collections. For TRIANON, 14 days for two to Paris. For INVITATION CLASSIC, 14 days for two to Rome. And for SAGA, 14 days for two to Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo. With all expenses paid.

As a winner . . .you will fly from your home to New York on one of the country’s leading scheduled airlines. From New York, you will fly to your destination in Europe, Economy Class, aboard a new AIR FRANCE jet. And l’economique est tres chic when you fly on the world’s largest airline.

At your destination, you will be transferred to your hotel, first class of course. There you will partake of everything for which your favorite city is so famous. You will go sightseeing, dine in the finest restaurants, dance at the top nightclubs, have ample time to explore on your own and for shipping. All of your expenses, with the exception of those of a personal nature will be paid for . . . every arrangement taken care of by experienced travel personnel.

This is such a magical contest; I love the linking of international travel with furniture. But let’s head back to our Iris Abbey escapades.

David cleaned up the Premier Saga desk and Michael hunted for a chair. First, David filled the chipped veneer on the left side of the desk top with Timber Mate Wood-filler Walnut. He then used Watco Danish Oil Medium Walnut to bring back the rich depth of the original Broyhill finish.

Michael came up with a chair that looked a close match. Heywood-Wakefield manufactured this dining chair in 1954-55 in two finishes, Champagne and Wheat. This chair is Wheat. While not the exact shade of the Broyhill Saga Premier Saga Desk, the Heywood-Wakefield M 953 chair is just a few tones away and makes an elegant pairing. It has a bow tie back, which seems perfect for the gentle curve in the desk.

The fabric, however, looked a bit sad. We pulled some vintage fabric and gave this girl a facelift. Here’s her Before shot:

Heywood-Wakefield Dining Chair

And After:

Heywood-Wakefield chair recovered

We’re selling the desk and chair as a set in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. The combination of these two utilitarian pieces, from quintessential American manufacturers of MCM furniture, creates a unique pairing: a Broyhill Premier Saga Desk and a Heywood-Wakefield M 953 Bow Tie Chair.

The serendipitous mating of these pieces embodies the best of American furniture manufacturers’ foray into Danish design that resulted in what we call Mid-Century Modern furniture. Styling, simple elegance of line, and solid wood. No particle board.

Did you find this post insightful? Share it with your friends!

Ann Marie and David

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