Flickr Widget

Friday, August 31, 2012

Selling Modernism: Rapson-Inc.

Much of my blog focuses on the designers of modern furniture and accessories. This is the first in a series of posts about how those pieces reach the public once they have been manufactured. The series will take a look at some of the pioneers in retailing of modernist design, as well as businesses around the world today that sell exceptional modern home furnishings.

In 1940, Elliot Noyes, a student of Walter Gropius and the first curator of the Industrial Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, organized a competition called Organic Design in Home Furnishings. The participants included the world's most talented modernist designers and architects. In the years following World War II, their designs went into production, but there were few retail outlets selling the products.

Ralph Rapson and his wife Mary decided to open a store that would sell specifically this type merchandise. Rapson continued to work as a practicing architect and architecture professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and, in his spare time, he selected the designs for the store. Mary was responsible for the financial, promotional and operational end of the business.

Rapson-Inc. opened in 1950 at 282 Dartmouth Street, one block from Copley Square in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. Mary proposed that their inventory be made up primarily of Rapson's own designs, along with pieces acquired on credit from Knoll Associates, with whom her husband had been collaborating on several projects.

The long, narrow store was decorated with Angelo Tasta's fabrics hung from ceiling to floor, Knoll chairs hung on the wall, storage cabinets of Rapson's design to display smalls and a living room vignette used to show customers how to incorporate modern design into their own homes.

In the early 50s, Rapson received a commission to design a number of American embassies throughout Europe, so they closed the store and moved abroad, but in the late 1990s, Toby Rapson, Ralph's son and business partner at Rapson Architects, worked with Ralph and a team at the firm, along with master craftsman Jonathan Loeck, to put some of Rapson's designs back into production.

After Ralph Rapson's death in 2008, Toby Rapson separated the furniture design business from the architecture firm, and Rapson-Inc. was reborn, using the original bowtie logo from 1950. The company now makes furniture from the large collection of original Rapson designs, determined to produce a top-quality product by remaining mindful of Rapson's observation that "there's a lot of half-assed Modernism out there."

From and

Rapson Inc., circa 1950

Rapson Inc., circa 1950

Rapson, Inc., circa 1950

Rapson-Inc. logo

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mid2Mod to carry Ralph Rapson furniture

We are proud to announce that Mid2Mod will be one of ten brick-and-mortar stores and three online stores in North America to carry Ralph Rapson designs.

I wrote a post about Rapson in January of 2011. His grandson Ian R. Rapson happened upon it and left a comment in June of that year thanking me for the post and letting me know that he had linked back to my blog on the Ralph Rapson Facebook page. A month later, he contacted me to let me know that his family had begun selling furniture designed by Rapson. For the past year, my SIL has communicated periodically with family-owned Rapson-Inc. and finally reached the decision to become a dealer. The order has been placed, and I will post an update when the pieces are actually in the store.

The minute I saw the line, I was immediately enamored of the Greenbelt rockers and hoped to own one someday. (I even included it on my Pinterest board entitled "Things to buy before I die.") I'm pleased to say, that is looking more and more like a reality now. Not only am I a huge fan of Rapson's furniture designs, but I also have tremendous respect for him as an architect, so it's an honor for our family to be working with his family.

The chairs will come in maple or walnut with either natural, red or black cotton webbing or black leather straps. We hope to expand our selection to include the entire line in the store eventually. Here are the models we will have on the floor to start:

Highback Rapson Greenbelt rocker
Rapson Greenbelt rocker
Rapson Greenbelt lounge

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fifty years from now: Britt Bonnesen

Britt Bonnesen
Britt Bonnesen (1971- ) is a Danish glass designer. She worked in the fashion industry for 10 years before starting her own home interiors shop. She is currently a designer for Normann Copenhagen and has been an integral part of the company since its inception.

Her grandfather, uncle and father worked all their adult lives as glass blowers for Holmegaard, and she gives them credit for her passion for glass design. She has a "little black notebook" full of design ideas that she plans to make a reality someday. I predict that she will continue to evolve as a designer and make a lasting name for herself in the field.

She says she takes some of her inspiration from the fashion industry, as well as the design hotel industry, which fascinates her because of its attention to detail, "from atmosphere, food, interior and the staff uniforms down to the hand soap."

Her most popular designs are the Swing vase, the Rocking Glass and the Brick cushion.


Rocking Glass

Swing vase

Liqueur glasses for Normann Copenhagen

Brick cushion

My Bonnesen Swing vase

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Change of plans

I mentioned my less-than-gorgeous early 50s sofa and chair set in yesterday's post. I'd had it on Craigslist for a couple of weeks with only one inquiry that didn't pan out, so I had decided to keep it and find a chair that would work with it.

My SIL and I loaded up the boys and drove to BFE to get the striped chair and ottoman yesterday afternoon. The seller was asking $100, but my SIL worked his magic and talked her into taking $80. I sat in the truck with the boys, because at this point, he's a much better judge of furniture than I am...and a much better negotiator.

He came back to the truck waving a $20 bill, and when he got in, he said, "Good call! That chair is definitely vintage and definitely great quality." He said that, judging from the tilt of the ottoman, it might even be Dunbar, but he'd have to look it up to be certain. He assured me that whatever it turns out to be, it was a great deal at $80. The upholstery is predominantly gold (almost orange) and cream stripes, and while I don't think I'd go so far as to say I like it better than I thought I would, it's fair to say I can tolerate it better than I expected.

We got back to the store, I grabbed a lamp I wanted to buy from him, and I headed back home. As soon as I walked in the door, I noticed that I had an email about the sofa and chair on Craigslist. Sure enough, someone wanted to know if they were still available and if he could come get them right away.

I called my SIL and told him to hold the turquoise daybed in the warehouse for me...and to bring it with him when he drops off the boys on Wednesday. He said he would, so I immediately emailed the person who inquired about my set and told him to come right over.

Since the sofa situation has changed drastically, now I'm doing the room in shades of turquoise, dark teal, green and gold. Maybe just a few bright colors here and there for good measure, because I love them so much. Here are some mood board hints:

Monday, August 27, 2012

To buy or not to buy?

Isn't that always the question?

Here's my dilemma. I'm in a redecorating frenzy, and I'm changing every room in the house, but I really don't want to spend much on the grandsons' playroom. I almost gave in and bought another Gus piece from my SIL the other day. Honestly, though, with one boy not quite three and the other just a little over a year and a half, do I really want to invest a lot of money in that room? There are still a lot of spills and messes just waiting to happen.

Right now I have an early 50s sofa and chair set upholstered in that indestructible nylon fabric made to resist a nuclear blast. It's a solid brown, and while it may not be the prettiest piece of furniture in the house, it's highly functional. The boys love making forts with the pillows, and I love that it's survived unscathed through hundreds of diaper changes, a number of leaky sippy cups and various and sundry supplies that have mysteriously made their way from the art table to the cushions. (Holden says, "Maybe Bubby did it, Grammo!" Grayson is starting to talk, so he'll be able to counter-blame soon.)

I've made a few changes in that room so far...a different rug and pillows and pictures...and I plan to get a new lamp or two from my SIL in the next few days. The rug is a moss green with muted multicolored squares scattered across it, including a couple of shades of orange and a teal and a gold that I plan to play on. It also has some cream colored squares.

I've located a really inexpensive chair and ottoman locally, and while I'm not a big fan of the striped upholstery and don't have any immediate plans to have it recovered, the orange/gold/brown/cream would coordinate with the existing furniture and rug and give me something super-comfortable to sit in while hanging out with the kiddos...and I wouldn't really care if they crawled up in it with sticky hands. The chair is in excellent condition, and the fabric is spotless. I actually like the lines of the piece better than I like the sofa and chair I already have. It's just the stripes I'm iffy about...but that could easily be changed, I suppose, if I couldn't learn to live with them.

So how do you vote? Workable or not?

To buy or not to buy?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Credenza crazy

For a while it looked as if our credenza supply had dried up, but lately my SIL has found some that are simply incredible. If you missed the George Nelson EOG, you really should check it out.

This week we've added a beautiful Danish credenza in rosewood with a dropfront bar, as well as a lovely Dyrlund with sliding doors. (Strictly speaking, it should probably be called a sideboard, since it has lined drawers, but the sliding doors make it perfect for a media cabinet.) I think you'll like both of them.

Danish credenza in rosewood with dropfront bar
Open view of Danish credenza
Danish credenza's dropfront bar 
Dyrlund credenza
Open view of Dyrlund credenza
Dyrlund drawers

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Petal power

The latest buzz around our store is about the Richard Schultz petal coffee we just put on the floor. This beautiful piece has been completely restored, with newly lacquered petals and a freshly powder coated base. The table is 42" in diameter and would look fantastic with a sectional sofa.

Richard Schultz petal coffee table

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chair crush

I found another chair to crush on, but was not meant to be mine. It's the open A-Frame arm chair #5480 by Edward Wormley for Dunbar. My SIL posted photos of it on our Facebook page on Wednesday when he put it on the floor. I love its elegant curves, its gorgeous cane back and brass sabots and its beautiful alligator upholstery. Apparently, someone else loved it as much as I do, because it sold yesterday, just as soon as people realized we had it.

Edward Wormley A-Frame chair for Dunbar

Back view

Front view

Upholstery close-up

Legs close-up

Back close-up

Arm close-up

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lawrence Peabody

Lawrence Peabody (1924-2002) was an American architect, interior designer and furniture designer. He was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and he studied at Rhode Island School of design, receiving a degree in 1950, after having served in the U. S. Navy. He also studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. While there, he met and fell in love with Bette Taarland of Norway, who was a professor at the school. They married in 1952.

In 1955 Peabody started the design firm Lawrence Peabody and Associates in Boston. Clients included Sears, Roebuck & Co., Kohler, Regal Rugs, Boyd Lighting, Chapman Lamps and Richardson Brothers.

Peabody also helped design numerous hotels in the United States and Caribbean, including the Carriage House in Kohler, Wisconsin, Malliouhana Hotel in Anguilla, British West Indies and Fager Island in Ocean City, Maryland.

Peabody owned a home in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, and along with friend DeWitt Peters, the founder of Haiti's Le Centre d'Art, he helped promote interest in primitive Haitian art.

According to his daughter, his mission in life was to beautify everything, and many of his designs were in response to what he felt was kitsch and ugliness in furniture design.

From and

Prototype fiberglass chair

Walnut bench/coffee table

'His and Hers' lounge chairs for Selig

Calico ash credenza

Rocker for Richardson Nemschoff - 20cModern

Dining set for Richardson Nemschoff - Kenny K

Lounge chairs

Outwitted fabric for Sears

Tempest fabric for Sears

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just one of those days

You know the kind of days I'm talking about...when you do something that makes you want to kick yourself.

About a week ago, I started watching an eBay auction for a Tapio Wirkkala Pollo vase. The seller had the starting bid at the incredibly low price of $24.95, and only one person had bid. Of course, I had no way of knowing how many people were watching exactly like I was, but I had an odd, tingly feeling that this one was under the radar.

If you've read my blog for long, you know that I love Wirkkala, and I particularly love the Pollo and the Kingfisher. The vases aren't particularly rare. On any given day you can find several on Etsy and eBay. However, finding one at a really good price has become somewhat of a challenge.

The day I found this particular Pollo, I decided to wait it out till the last possible second before bidding, so as not to tip my hand. I set an email and a pop-up reminder so I wouldn't forget to bid. As planned, I got my email reminder yesterday morning and went straight to eBay to check on the current price. Hadn't budged from $24.95. Great. I was ready. Later in the day, I got my pop-up reminder. Still $24.95. The feeling that I was going to win this one was getting stronger.

Then I got busy writing a post, and I got sucked into the inescapable vortex that is research. One link led to another, and before I knew it, I was avidly reading about a completely unrelated topic and had lost track of time altogether. I remembered the auction a couple of minutes after it ended. 

The ironic upside to this tale is that I was also bidding on a large Wirkkala Kingfisher for the store yesterday too, and I got it.

The lovely 8 1/4" long Wirkkala piece I won on eBay

But there another upside? The seller said "no chips, cracks or crazing," but apparently no one asked about smears, smudges or stains. Do I see a reddish brown mark on the side, near the bottom, starting faintly at the center and getting more pronounced as it curves upward and stops right under my caption? Hmmm...I think so. Could it be that getting busy saved me from the crushing disappointment of opening a package containing a (gasp!) flawed Pollo?

Ah, I feel much better. Yesterday the stars must not have been aligned for me to get the perfect bird. Let the search continue!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back in the day: Farewell to summer

With summer drawing to a close (and my having to take time our of my busy redecorating schedule to do some work for the school district...hmmmph!), I was reminded of my own first day of school.

When I started first grade 58 years ago, outfitting a child for school was much simpler than it is today. My mother made me a few cotton dresses and bought me a pair of saddle oxfords and socks, and my wardrobe was complete.

Mary Janes, saddle oxfords and cotton dresses
Typical 1954 school dress - maybel57
Another popular plaid - antiqueelegance
Saddle oxfords

School kids didn't carry backpacks back then. We had book satchels. Mine was a similarly cheery red guessed it...plaid.

Book satchel - FlossyBobbsey

And into that satchel my mom would pack my lunch and my school supplies...meager by today's standards, but I was still proud to have them. Most important was the Big Chief tablet, without which you couldn't call yourself a proper first grader.

Big Chief table

Mom also packed plenty of No. 2 pencils and threw in some extra erasers. Because she knew what a perfectionist I was, she anticipated that I would run out of eraser long before I ran out of pencil.

No. 2 pencils
Eraser caps

My prized possession was the 16-count box of Crayola crayons. (I still remember how excited I was to get my first 48-pack, but rarely in my life has anything matched the ecstasy I felt when the 64-pack came out in 1958. Now there are 96 crayons in the largest box? Incredible!)

8-, 16- and 24-pack Crayolas - TheBackOfTheBasement

Then there was mucilage. No Elmer's Glue or glue sticks. Just nasty, drippy mucilage that would dry crusty on the rubber applicator cap. Half the time it had already started to leak out the slit in the applicator before you even got it home from the store.

LePage's Mucilage - zette71

As long ago as it all sounds (and was), in some ways it seems like only yesterday that I posed, satchel in hand, in our driveway for a first-day-of-school snapshot. I know I saw that photo somewhere not too long ago. I'll have to look through the picture box today.