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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Phillip Lloyd Powell

Phillip Lloyd Powell (1919-2008) was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania. He studied engineering at Drexel Institute of Technology (now Drexel University) before being drafted. During World War II he served as a weather forecaster for the Army Air Corps and was stationed in England.

After the war, he settled in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He bought a book on building houses and then constructed his own home.  In 1953 he opened a showroom in New Hope and sold Herman Miller furniture and Noguchi lamps.

My SIL discovered Powell's designs and told me about him. My first reaction was, "Wow, that's like a cross between Nakashima and Paul Evans." 

Much to my delight, I found that I was right on the money; he knew both men well. George Nakashima was a neighbor and was the person who encouraged Powell to start designing his own furniture, while Paul Evans was his protégé. In the mid-1950s, a 20-year-old Paul Evans came into Powell's shop and admired his work. Powell, 14 years Evans's senior, became his mentor. They shared a studio and worked together for roughly ten years, during which time they collaborated on furniture and accessories. (Powell shared an anecdote about taking the young Evans to Sears to buy tools. Evans was denied credit, so Powell had to get friends to donate tools so Evans could work.)

It is clear that Nakashima's work had a strong influence on some of his pieces, and he and Evans shared a love for metal and wood designs. However, other pieces have Powell's own unique sense of modernism...a sort of undulating, streamlined organic beauty that is his alone.

Powell's work is known for its beautiful hand carving and for its unique detail. Often his cabinets will open to reveal an interior of silver leaf or fine fabric. Sometimes he incorporated found objects or artwork into his pieces. For a more in-depth look at the man and his work, I found John Gehri Zerrer's site quite worth a look.

From and

Table, in collaboration with Paul Evans



Table lamp

Walnut and slate side tables



Cabinet, with steel and gold leaf

Coffee table

Marble side tables

Sofa with marble table

Powell at his New Hope home

This photo inspires a sense of wonder at Powell's magical silo home with the breathtaking door and spiral staircase he built by hand. However, it likewise evokes a bit of sadness, as Powell fell to his death from that staircase coming home late one night during a rainstorm in 2008. He was almost 90 years old at the time and had, from all accounts, lived a full and joyful life.


  1. Wow, what a twist in the story of his life there at the end! The furniture is gorgeous.

  2. @DearHelenHartman: Yes, sad when anyone suffers an accidental death, but from what I read, he'd had a wonderful evening with friends, and when he got home, he slipped on the wet stairs.

  3. really sad to have fallen todeath..:(...lovely designs...nice to know about suchwonderfully creative people...loved the post!!!!!