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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bertha Schaefer

Bertha Schaefer (1895-1971) was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi. She obtained a B.A. from Mississippi State College for Women and a diploma in interior decorating from the Parsons School of Design.

In 1924 she opened Bertha Schaefer Interiors where she worked to incorporate fine arts and architecture with interior design. In 1944 she opened the Bertha Schaefer Gallery of Contemporary Art. Her firm and gallery featured American and European painting and sculpture and was instrumental in launching the careers of many artists and designers.

Her exhibitions often included economical designs that were well-crafted and beautiful and were suited to postwar mass production. In particular, she promoted lighting fixtures, and as early as 1939 was using decorative fluorescent lighting. Her firms work included interior and furniture design for private homes, apartments, hotel lobbies and restaurants. In 1954 she designed a model bathroom for General Electric.

Schaefer's designs caught the attention of Joe Singer of M. Singer and Sons Furniture Company of New York City. She designed furniture for that company from 1950 to 1961, often working with Gio Ponti.

Her professional accomplishments and academic contributions brought her invitations to participate in many round-table discussions and design juries sponsored by museums and universities. She won design awards from the Museum of Modern Art (1952) and the Decorators Club of New York (1959). She was also a member of the American Institute of Decorators, the Home Lighting Forum, the Illuminating Engineers Society, the Architectural League of New York, the American Federation of the Arts and the Art Dealers Association of America.


Dining set, with Gio Ponti

Upholstered armchairs


Coffee table

Coffee table


Sofa we just won at auction
It was sold as a Schaefer piece, but we're not sure.


  1. I'm in love with the yellow chairs, the sideboard and the desk!

  2. Interesting how many women were in the arts and design "back then".

  3. I want that desk! It's beyond cool. I love this post! I really dig these bio posts anyway, but then you surprised me with that amazing sofa as the last picture!

  4. @Flo: That desk just blows me away. I've always hated ugly letter trays on desks, but that built-in one is too cool.

    I'm glad you enjoy the bio posts. I always have so much fun researching them and getting to know the designers. I was disappointed that I couldn't find a picture of Bertha Schaefer. I found several in Google images of Bertha Schaefers, but I don't think any of them were the designer.)

  5. The travertine and walnut tables are often misattributed to Bertha Schaefer but are actually by Gordons Fine Furniture of Johnson City Tenn.

    1. You're so right! Back in August of 2011 when I wrote this post, we were still new at this game and hadn't caught onto all the misattributions. I had forgotten that I included photos of those tables, so I've taken them off and will write a new post today (9/17/2015) correcting my mistake. Thanks for the reminder.