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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Modern design for Oxford library

Bodleian Library, Oxford's main research library, recently held a chair competition to find a contemporary replacement for chairs last updated in 1936.  The library is undergoing a refurbishment and will reopen in October 2014. In its 400-year history, only three other chair designs have been used in the reading room.

Requirements were fairly simple: The chair must be well-crafted, sculptural, comfortable and quiet.

The winning entry was designed by the Barber Osgerby design studio, run by partners Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby. The chair's vertical spine echoes the spines of books on the shelves. It forms a strong back that is attached to a horseshoe-shaped base, making the chair silent in use. The seat's circular form repeats the shape of the base. The designers knew that the rear view of the chair was what most people would see when it was in use, so they took care to make it especially attractive. Isokon Plus will manufacture the chair.

The winner was chosen from 60 entries, including runners-up by Matthew Hilton of SCP Ltd. and Amanda Levete of Herman Miller.

Photographs by Jamie Smith

Barber Osgerby's winning chair pictured inside the Bodleian Library

Winning design

Winning design and runners-up
l to r: Barber and Osgerby, Levete and Hilton

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In the store: Terrific tables

Two fabulous tables, one a game table with chairs and one a pedestal dining table, have made their way to the floor of the store. The fully restored dining table was designed by Milo Baughman for Founders. It is made of Honduran mahogany and has brushed aluminum trim on the base. The game table was designed by T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings for Widdicomb. It is also mahogany and has been completely restored.

Milo Baughman table for Founders, without leaves

Alternate view of Baughman table with leaves

Robsjohn-Gibbings game table for Widdicomb

Robsjohn-Gibbings game table

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Timeless mid-century designs and fabrics

For those readers living within easy driving distance of New York City...or those of you so drawn to the subject matter that it's worth flying there...I would like to announce a couple of events you may want to attend, brought to my attention by Jade Dressler at the New York School of Interior Design.

Taking place tomorrow is a panel discussion entitled Return of the Classics: Timeless Mid-Century Design. It is being held on Wednesday, October 30 at 6:30 p.m. in the NYSID Auditorium at 170 East 70th Street, NYC. Tickets are $12 for the general public, $10 for seniors and non-NYSID students. NYSID students get in free.

The panelists will discuss why 20th-century design is still so apealing, and these experts will revisit the best designs of several decades past, some that never lost popularity and some that are just now being revived. Panelists include Susan Lyons, president of DesignTex, Steven Stolman, president of Scalamandré, Inc. and Larry Weinberg, 20th-century design historian and dealer. The discussion will be moderated by Donald Albrecht, curator of architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York.

It's not too late to register! Tickets are $12 for the general public and $10 for seniors and non-NYSID students. NYSID students get in free.

Also of interest is the current exhibition in the NYSID gallery, Mid-Century Maestro: The Textiles of Boris Kroll. Kroll is credited with the first introduction of bright color for upholstery fabrics and designed textiles for the Continential Airlines premier 747 jet service to Honolulu, featuring colors ranging from hot pink in first class to turquoise blue in coach.

The exhibition runs through December 7 at the NYSID gallery, 161 East 69th Street, NYC. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, you can email or call 212-472-1500 x405.

Eames LAR chair with Kroll Mirage upholstery

Kroll fabrics

Monday, October 28, 2013

In the store: Adrian Pearsall chairs

We just got a fantastic pair of his-and-hers lounge chairs designed by Adrian Pearsall. They're a gorgeous bright orange hop sack in very good condition. These chairs are just as comfortable as they are cool!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

In the store: Florence Knoll sofa

New in the store is a beautiful two-seater sofa by Florence Knoll. It is all original and is in excellent condition. This piece is a real classic!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Arthur Umanoff

I've been looking almost since I started this blog for information on Arthur Umanoff, finally deciding that there was nothing to be found. However, just yesterday, I ran across a blog on the subject started by Jonathan Goldstein in June of 2012. (I should have known that Jonathan would have already uncovered any information out there.) Unfortunately, the last post on that blog was in July of 2012. I'm speculating that Jonathan, who has been writing a book about Paul McCobb, has been too busy on that project to spend much time on Umanoff. If you're not familiar with Jonathan's outstanding research on McCobb, you might like to check out Planner, Perimeter, Predictor, Paul McCobb

But...back to Umanoff. A little more searching on my part turned up a comment made by Jonathan in a Design Addict thread back in 2011. It has as much information about Umanoff as I have seen anywhere. According to Jonathan, Umanoff was a graduate of Pratt University in the early 1950s. Around that same time, he became a partner in a company called Post Modern Ltd., where he was involved in every phase of the design process. The designs that came out of Post Modern were distributed by the Elton Company, which also distributed the designs of Tony Paul, a partner in the company.

The wrought iron and slat chairs, tables, bars and bar carts that most people recognize as Umanoff designs came out of his work with Shaver Howard, a company for which he designed into the 1970s. A bit of a controversy arose in the 1960s when Storkline Inc. took some of these designs and made them child-size. The chairs were fine, but the miniature bar raised some eyebrows. Umanoff responded by calling it a "milk bar."

Also in the 1960s, Umanoff designed furniture for Madison Furniture Industries and designed clocks for the Howard Miller Clock Company. In the 1970s he designed for Directional, Thonet, Dillingham, Rouse/Jackson and David Morgan.

I hope Jonathan finds time to get back to the Umanoff blog. I'm eager for the next installment.

From, and

Arthur Umanoff

Hanging wall desk by Umanoff for Elton

Early plywood swivel desk chair by Umanoff for Elton

Slat desk and chair for Raymor

Swing chair for Elton

Iron, wood and masonite cabinet for Elton

Bar for Raymor

Wine rack for Shaver Howard

Taverneau tray

Howard Miller clock

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fuller House is the site of VIP party

Remember the A. Quincy Jones house that was in danger of being demolished? Later I updated the story to let you know that it the price had been lowered, increasing the chances that it might be saved. Finally, I was able to report that the house had been purchased by an undisclosed buyer and was slated for renovation.

I'm extremely pleased to let you know that the 14-month renovation is complete, and the home was the site last weekend of a VIP party at the end of the Fort Worth Kitchen Tour, which included the Fuller House, now owned by Mike Jones.

I recently received a comment on one of my posts about the house from the architectural consultant on the project:

...I am glad to say that the house has not only been saved but has been brought back to life once again. I have learned a great deal about this home during the restoration. We are currently giving tours of the house so our community can see this great mid century modern before it goes back into private hands.

Here are a couple of photos of the renovated kitchen. I'm sure it will make all of you very happy to see the happy ending to this story.

Renovated kitchen of the Fuller House, now owned by Mike Jones

Fuller House kitchen

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Not cavalier, just comfortable

When you sell vintage pieces for a living, you see a lot of beautiful things, even though some aren't so beautiful when you find them. You haul them back and forth between the refinisher's and the upholsterer's shops, lug them up and down stairs and into trucks and trailers. You sit on the chairs and sofas, you eat hamburgers at the tables, and your kids play hide-and-seek behind the stacks of inventory in your storeroom. You become familiar with them...and while familiarity doesn't breed contempt in this case, as the old saying goes, it does affect your attitude toward them.

First, there was the Lou Hodges table that my SIL almost put at the curb. Seriously, moving can make even the most dedicated vintage furniture lover crazy tired. Fortunately, he got a good night's sleep before he tossed the piece and eventually partnered with Gerard O'Brien at Reform Gallery in Los Angeles to sell it.

Lou Hodges table, almost tossed

Then there was the Richard Galef trash can (like this one I found on Etsy) that was used for dirty diapers when both the grandsons were babies. I'm sure there are lots of people who would treat a designer piece with a little more respect than that. (Although, in defense of my daughter and SIL, I will say that it took us a long time to identify it as a Galef piece. She got it at an estate sale for $1.00.)

Richard Galef trash can for Ravenware - OrbitingDebris

And, finally, there is the Planner Group coffee table by Paul McCobb that sits, as we speak, in my daughter and SIL's living room. I'll post a picture of one I found on Gerard's site, because the one we all use on a daily basis is so covered with mail and toys that you can't even see the top of it. We sit on it, eat on it, spill on it, play with toy trucks on it, stand on it and generally treat it as if it's indestructible, which it's proved to be so far.

Planner Group coffee table by Paul McCobb

Does this make us jaded? Unappreciative? Cavalier? I don't think so. These are tools of our trade, just as wrenches and hammers are the tools of other trades. Once they're fully restored and in our store, we handle them very carefully, so they'll be as perfect as possible when customers take them home. When they're in our own homes, we don't abuse them...but we do use them, just as people have been using them for the past 60-some-odd years. We figure if they've held up that long, they'll hold up for a good while longer.

The moral of this story: When you find a piece you just can't live without, buy it. Enjoy it. And don't be afraid to really live with it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tomorrow's House

In 1945 George Nelson, who was a consulting editor at Architectural Forum magazine, and Henry Wright, managing editor of the same, published a book entitled Tomorrow's House. The book jacket explained right away what was contained within the pages: a complete guide for the home-builder, including the latest materials, equipment and appliances. Chapters were also devoted to the latest technologies and the latest styles in interiors and exteriors.

This was truly one of the definitive guides for home buyers, builders, architects and mortgage lenders of its time. Take a look at some of the beautiful photographs that set the standard for postwar housing. If this makes you want to thumb through the book in its entirety, you can do so here.

Book jacket of Tomorrow's House

Tomorrow's House

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Just when you thought you'd heard of everything

And just when you swore you didn't need one more collection...Did you ever think about collecting vintage glass insulators from the early- to mid-20th century?

My father was an electrical engineer, so I grew up with insulators of every shape and color used as paper weights and door stops. He would see one he thought was especially pretty and bring it home to my mother, and she would find a place for it.

When reader Bill of the blog Fountain Pens & Typewriters mentioned that Festivo candleholders look like insulators, I did a little searching and learned that the old colored glass ones like my dad brought home are now quite collectible.  You may be asking yourself, "How pretty could an insulator be?" Well, take a look at these. You may be surprised.

Glass insulators in use on a pole

There's even a collectors guide, The Definitive Guide to Colorful Insulators, by Mike Bruner.

And, probably of most interest to readers of this blog, people are repurposing these beautiful old insulators and making some gorgeous pendant lights from them. Who knew?


Bloggers Kylie and Pippa are raising money for cancer research. Please visit their blogs and help them if you can.