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Monday, October 31, 2011

Ward Bennett

Ward Bennett (1917-2003) was born in New York, the son of a vaudeville actor. At age 13, he went to work in the garment district, starting as a shipping clerk. He made a trip to Paris in 1937 and spent a year studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière with the sculptor Constantin Brancusi.

After a year in California as a window dresser for I. Magnin and Bullocks, he returned to New York, where he worked as clothing designer and window dresser by day. At night he studied with Hans Hofmann. His ceramic works were shown at the Whitney Annual Exhibition in 1944. His jewelry designs were exhibited in a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art.

He began to make a name for himself as an interior designer in the mid-1940s, employing a minimalist style, a monochromatic palette and luxurious accents, such as rich leathers and furs. He was one of the earliest American designers to use industrial materials in the home and pioneered the conversation pit.

In 1964 he began to collaborate with Brickel Associates, designing furniture and textiles. In 1987 he began working with Geiger. He also designed for Tiffany and Company, Sasaki and Hermes.

His designs are displayed in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection, as well as in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

From and


Chrome and glass side table

Leather sofa

Roll arm chair

Envelope chair

Club chairs

Pi chair

Sled chair

Scissor chair

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Back in the day: Counting cancans

Whether you called them petticoats, crinolines or cancans, no fashion-forward girl would have gone to school without at least half a dozen of them underneath her circle skirt in the mid-50s. I still remember gathering mine up and trying to stuff them in the kneehole of a desk. Being a stylish elementary schoolgirl was hard work!

The standard issue, practical model that all mothers bought for their daughters looked like this one: white nylon tricot hip yoke above tiers of nylon net bound in satin.

One of my most vivid and pleasant memories of 5th grade is gathering in the girls' bathroom to "count petticoats." Call me crazy, but I think 10 or 15 giggling girls showing off yards and yards of net is more fun to reminisce about than long division.

This girl wouldn't have had a prayer of winning
with one puny petticoat!

While the actual count was important, color was a bonus. We all begged our mothers to buy our petticoats in rainbow hues, because your coolness factor climbed with every colorful layer. I had all these baby blue and pale yellow.

While I had a red felt poodle skirt, scarf and saddle shoes similar to these, the real signal that summer was almost over and the beginning of the new school year was imminent came when my mother started talking about going to the fabric store to buy "dark cottons" for my wardrobe of shirtwaist dresses.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Show me the green

Lately I've been bringing pots inside in anticipation of winter, which in Texas can refuse to come at all or blow in overnight in the form of what the natives call a Blue Norther, a fast-moving, windy cold front that drops the temperature drastically.

My house is full of newly re-potted tropicals, so I thought I'd revisit the topic of mid-century plants. Apparently, there is a lot of interest in this subject, since all my posts on authentic plantings, indoors and out, stay at the top of my most-viewed list.

One of my newest favorites is the tiny Tillandsia, a variety of bromeliad that grows without soil. There are many varieties of this "air plant," that is ideal for a small desk planter. It only needs to be misted occasionally and needs no other care. Its roots serve the sole purpose of attaching them to surfaces like wood, metal, stone or shells. I put one of these on my new desk just this week. (If you'd like to read more about Tillandsias, this site has some great information about their care and about mounting them. You can even make a spectacular "green wall" with this plant...not mid-century, but so cool I had to mention it.)

The planting I'm really excited about is a new succulent pot that I just put together. I've had the pot on the patio full of asparagus fern, but that particular plant drops so many leaves if brought in for the winter that I usually stick it in the ground and hope it makes it till spring. That freed up the pot to come indoors, and now it's full of EcheveriaHaworthia and Crassula. My mother and grandmother always had pots of succulents, particularly the "hens and chicks" variety, so this is an authentic mid-century plant from my childhood.

I also re-potted a Dracaena marginata, another plant that I think looks good in a mid-century or contemporary setting. I like them because they're very adaptable and are easy to grow in almost any indoor environment. They will tolerate low light and only need to be watered about once a week.

I bought a bullet planter a few months ago and finally got around to putting something in it. My choice was a rubber tree plant (Ficus elastica), which I consider to be the quintessential mid-century plant, since they were so popular back then. They do well in low to medium light, which is perfect for me since my back yard has so many large trees. I only get filtered light through my French doors, even during the winter.

Of course, my old standby is Sansevieria trifasciata, commonly called snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue, which can go for ages without watering. The only thing that could possibly be more low-maintenance is an artificial plant. Mine has grown to 53" tall and has a permanent place beside my scoop chair.

If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and are having trouble finding top quality plants, I highly recommend a trip to Archie's Gardenland, which is just off Camp Bowie Boulevard, a few blocks from my neighborhood. They consistently have the best selection of tropicals that I've found.

And in case you're curious, my planters aren't vintage. I got the bullet planter at our store, and the rest came from Lowe's and Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts.

Air plant (and vintage Royal Haeger earth wrapped vase)
Succulent pot on my hearth
Close-up of succulent pot with
Echeveria, Haworthia and Crassula
Straight dracaena
Dracaena marginata
Rubber plant
Ficus elastica
Snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue
Sansevieria trifasciata

Update: I just found a great Etsy shop where you can buy beautiful tillandsia terrariums. Check out Sea & Asters.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The latest scoop

The chairs that have generated the most comments, both in the store and on the blog, are Carter Brothers scoop chairs. One of my first posts in September of 2010 was about my own chair. More recently it made an appearance in a post I did about a repro George Nelson clock.

For those of you who haven't followed the blog since its inception, Carter Brothers, Inc. of Salisbury, North Carolina, produced the two-cushion Model #200 scoop chair until sometime around 1958. After that, they made the one-cushion model. In the 1950s, the chairs sold for $19.95-24.95, depending on the upholstery.

We recently had an orange scoop chair in the store that sold so quickly it made our heads spin, and now we're excited about a high-backed yellow scoop chair and a low-backed avocado green one that we've just put on the floor.

Carter Brothers scoop chair in a patterned vinyl
Carter Brothers scoop in yellow
Recently sold Carter Brothers scoop chair
My Carter Brothers scoop chair, Model #200

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New isn't always better

I'm not much of a coffee drinker in warm months, of which there are many in Texas. However, when the weather turns cool, I crave the comfort of a nice big cupful to start the day. And then several more before the day is over.

For years I've quested after the perfect coffeemaker. I can't tell you how many I've tried. I've been drinking Gevalia coffee for 15 years or more, so of course I've used their free coffeemaker. I've gone through countless other types, including the one that grinds the beans for you and takes up half the counterspace in your kitchen. Lately I've toyed with the idea of buying a Keurig.

Then it came to me. If an old-fashioned electric percolator was good enough for my mother and her friends Mary Ann, Ruby, Helen, Nellie and Adrienne, why not give one a try? I found an 8-cup Farberware (superfast and fully automatic, it promised) on eBay for less than $10. The seller said she had found it in her parents' attic and guaranteed that it was spotlessly clean, inside and out.

I won the auction, and when the pot arrived, I saw that she had been 100% accurate in her description. Not a coffee stain to be found. I'm guessing it was a gift that was rarely, if ever, used. This model can still be purchased today for around $50-60, so I don't know how old mine is...but it was undoubtedly a bargain.

I've been waiting since our record-breaking heat wave this summer for the weather to get cool enough for coffee to sound good, and today was the day. A cold front came in and the temperature plummeted from the 80s to the 40s. I rolled out the Gevalia, the filters and the Fiestaware sugar packet holder, filled the pot with water, plugged it in and let 'er rip.

Almost instantly the familiar gurgling sound from my childhood started, sweetly different from the sound a Mr. Coffee makes. And sure enough, superfast, I had a pot of the most delicious coffee I've ever made. As I sipped my first cup from a vintage Corning Glas-Snap like my mother used for bridge parties and coffee klatsches, I could almost hear Mom and "the girls" chatting and laughing.

Just like Mom used to make, Corning Glas-Snap cup and all
(for hot or cold beverages)
Farberware coffee pot, Corning Glas-Snap cup
and assorted Russel Wright and Fiestaware pieces
Superfast and Fully Automatic...really

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In the store, Part 3: More furniture

We added a few more pieces to the floor that I think will be popular. My SIL found a  couple more credenzas and another great Danish chair with cane trim. He is going out of state again today to pick up a pair of Ib Kofod-Larsen chairs and another C. Jeré wall sculpture. We have picked up a few chairs from the upholsterer and still have a few more there which are supposed to be ready soon, so we'll have a lot to show you in the next few days.

Long Danish style credenza

9-drawer Danish style credenza

Danish chair with cane sides

Also, a trio of tables made of teak and travertine marble have returned home and are for sale again. A couple bought them, and when my SIL was loading them, one of the large pieces of marble slid off and shattered, so he refunded their money. After searching for replacement marble all over Dallas and finding nothing, he was finally able to locate a perfectly matching piece in Fort Worth. Coincidentally, the piece that broke had been repaired at some time in the past, leaving a line down the center of the table. Now the set is in absolutely beautiful condition. So beautiful, in fact, that I'm tempted to bring them home. Nothing says swanky like teak and travertine!

Teak and travertine step tables and matching square side table

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paul Maxwell

Paul Maxwell
Paul Maxwell (1925- ) was born in Frost Prairie, Arkansas. He received a degree in art from Principia College in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1950. He also studied at Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California, in Lausanne, Switzerland, and at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas, where he was an art instructor.

Maxwell founded the Contemporary Arts Foundation in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was commissioned to create sculptures for Will Rogers International Airport in that city.

He has created murals at the Dupont Center in Irvine, California, the Security Life Building in Denver, Colorado, as well as the Dallas Apparel Mart in Dallas, Texas. The 60' x 150' mural in Dallas was a backdrop for the MGM film classic Logan's Run.

Maxwell is a painter, printmaker and sculptor, but he is best known for a patented printmaking technique which was named after him. Maxwell pochoir is similar to serigraphy; however, it uses a unique acrylic molding paste which permits work in a heavy, precisely controlled relief that can be applied to various surfaces, including paper, canvas, wood. This process uses techniques and materials that make possible a substantial relief element in printmaking (allowing for a much greater three-dimensionality than had ever been possible before in any printmaking medium.

Maxwell's works are exhibited in corporate collections and in museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art, DeCordova Museum, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Oklahoma Art Center, University of Texas Museum of Fine Arts and Smith College Museum.

Abstract Still Life with Bottles, 1964
Transition II, 1966
Shunning Color, 1967
Troika I, 1969
Vignette, 1970
Junction, 1971
Portal, date unknown
Blue, White & Green, date unknown
Wall Piece, date unknown
White Sphere with Yellow, date unknown

Monday, October 24, 2011

In the store, Part 2: Some wow for your wall

Some great wall decor made its way into the store over the weekend. My SIL was able to buy a signed and numbered Paul Maxwell pochoir acrylic relief and two signed C. Jere' metal wall sculptures.  All these pieces are fairly large and will provide a great focal point in any mid-century or modern room.

To be honest, when I heard about the park scene, I wasn't too excited, because the C. Jere' "scenes" are usually a little too cute for my taste. However, when I saw this one, I instantly fell in love with it. The tree is beautiful, with its branches extending forward over the people and umbrellas, creating a very dimensional piece that is so visually pleasing I'd be thrilled to have it in my house.

I predict that the large clipper ship will be sold quickly. The freestanding C. Jere' ship we had recently was gone in just a matter of days, and this one is no less impressive.

When we got the Maxwell piece, we couldn't read the signature, so we didn't know what we had, but our instincts told us it was something good. Luckily, a customer came in the store before we even had it hung on the wall and mentioned in passing that he works as an art restorer. We asked him if he knew the name of the artist, and he immediately identified the piece for us. Serendipitous, for sure!

Paul Maxwell pochoir relief
C. Jere' ship
C. Jere' park scene

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hold my place

Some of you may have noticed that Nick from Mid-Century Midwest and I were having some difficulty receiving items we had ordered from The Foundary.

A couple of weeks ago they offered reproduction George Nelson clocks by Verichron at prices so low I couldn't afford to pass one up. I ordered the spindle clock (which I think is what Nick ordered too).

The delivery date we had been given came and went...and went...and went. Nick and I were calling the company almost daily to find out when our clocks were going to arrive and griping back and forth about it on our blogs. We weren't as upset as we would have been if we'd paid for vintage Nelson clocks that had tragically been lost in the mail. But we did expect to get the repros we spent our hard-earned money on!

Mine finally arrived yesterday, and I have to say that it more than met my expectations. I've said in several posts that I don't find reproductions as déclassé as some people do. In fact, I think they are perfectly fine if you're not a collector and just want a "look." I also think they're satisfactory place holders for collectors who are still looking for an affordable vintage piece, which is why I bought the clock. I'll keep scouring eBay and CL and auctions for a steal on a real Nelson clock, but in the meantime I'm rid of the cheesy mirror that was hanging in my alcove.

Obviously, the Verichron spindle clocks aren't Nelson twins, but neither are the Vitra re-issues, which cost almost $500. The vintage Howard Miller Model #2239 Spool/Spindle clock was 22.5" in diameter and had a black hour hand and a white minute hand. The spindle clocks currently sold by Vitra are 22.75" in diameter and have white hour hands and orange minute hands.

The Verichron spindle clock is only 19" in diameter, and it has a white hour hand and orange minute hand like the Vitra clock does. The only really unfortunate thing is that they printed "George Nelson" on the face. (Ack!) While it's obviously not the real thing, for the price I paid, it will do just fine till a vintage Nelson drops out of the sky into my lap.

Here's hoping that Nick's finally arrived too.

Vintage George Nelson spindle clock for Howard Miller

Vitra George Nelson re-issue

My Verichron repro

So much better, in my opinion, than
the Hobby Lobby mirror I had there!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

In the store, Part 1: Good design

The Bertha Schaefer sofa, the Baumritter chairs, the Broyhill Saga and Barney Flagg Town and Country Flair bedroom suites and the Hansen credenza all sold within a few days of each other, leaving the floor empty, so my SIL brought a few things over from the warehouse and set about doing some serious buying.

He won a Peter Proztman desk and chair at auction. Designed for Herman Miller in the early 60s, these pieces are still in pristine condition. The chair is upholstered in a beige and white check, and the desk is exotic African wood with two pencil drawers and a smoked Lucite-sided file drawer.

On a trip out of state, he got a gorgeous Danish table and six chairs by Hornslet Mobelfabrik. The table has sliding leaves and extends to 106" in length. This is probably the nicest Danish dining set we've had in the store so far.

He met a local architect who sold him a chrome and glass André dining table, which was designed by Tobia Scarpa. The interesting thing about this table is that it comes with a smoked glass top, as well as a clear glass top.

The same person sold him 8 Cesca armchairs by Marcel Breuer. These are in amazingly good condition, without any damage at all to the caning, and he's selling them at an unbelievably low price. I predict that these will be scooped up quickly.

Chrome and African wood Herman Miller desk by Peter Protzman

Close-up of African wood grain

Herman Miller chair by Peter Protzman

Danish dining set in teak by Hornslet Mobelfabrik

André dining table by Tobia Scarpa

Cesca chairs by Marcel Breuer and André table by Tobia Scarpa