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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Titillating teak

At my age, not many things leave me breathless, but a gorgeous piece of teak still can.
The latest thing on my To Drool For list is a Jens Quistgaard ice bucket. I don't think I've ever seen anything with quite as commanding a presence. The svelte contours and the oversized handle keep calling my name, but until I find one at a bargain price, I will probably resist its charms.

Other look-but-don't-touch item are the $3500 Emil Milan salad bowl set and Henning Koppel for Georg Jensen ice bucket, but more reasonably priced items, like bowls and trays, can always be found on eBay. One of my favorite eBay finds is still a teak tray which holds five smaller teardrop shaped coaster/snack trays.

As much as I use and abuse my teak tea cart (which serves as a table for my laptop), occasionally my heart still skips a beat when I stand back and admire its design, especially the tray top which lifts off the cart for serving. Before writing this post, I gave it a good polish, vowing never again to mistreat my faithful friend again.

Jens Quistgaard ice bucket

Emil Milan salad set

Henning Koppel for Georg Jensen ice bucket

Teak and silver bowls

My teak hostess set

My teak tea cart

My teak tea cart with tray removed

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bitossi for Raymor...marked or unmarked?

Guido Bitossi founded Manifattura Cavaliere Bitossi e Fioglia in 1921. The family had been involved in making roof tiles for centuries, and the 1921 enterprises added floor tiles, household ceramic items and art pottery to the line. During World War II, the Bitossi factory escaped bombing, and when they war ended, they began exporting art pottery to American companies like Raymor.

During this early period of 1921 through the 1950s, Bitossi ceramics used the painted mark of a capital letter "B" followed by a period or sometimes an underscored capital letter "B: with or without a period.

That said, many pieces of Bitossi are unmarked. Quite often large and important importers would request that the manufacturer's name be omitted so that consumers would not be able to obtain them anywhere else. This was, and still is, quite common and is the reason so much Italian pottery goes unidentified. 

Sometimes importers might actually own the design rights to a line of ceramics. Raymor is a good example. Owning the design rights allows the importer to contract with any company or number of companies to produce the wares. An importer might have two or more factories producing his line in order to ensure a constant, uninterrupted supply should one factory experience an equipment failure or a worker's strike, which was common in post-war Italy.

Experts readily admit, as does the Bitossi company, that many early pieces left the factory without the Bitossi mark. Mid-century pieces and marked as such are collectible and relatively expensive. Such pieces, whether created by Londi, Fornasetti, Sottsass, Rashid or other great 20th century designers, are works or art.

However, if an item is not clearly marked, it is probably best not to spend a large sum of money on it. Ceramiche Bitossi is willing to help the collector.  If you send a photo to the company, they will authenticate the piece for you.

From a post by Walter Del Pellegrino on 

George Nelson Meridian drink tables made by Bitossi for Raymor, 1950s

Aldo Londi, Bitossi (blue pieces in his Rimini Blu glaze)

Aldo Londi, Bitossi for Raymor

Aldo Londi, Bitossi for Raymor

Bitossi multicolor ceramics

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The New York-based company Raymor was a well-known American distributor of modern domestic products, evolving from Russell Wright Accessories, with which the company's founder, Irving Richards, had been linked since 1935. The company's range included designs by Gilbert Rohde, Donald Deskey, Walter Dorwin Teague, Ray and Charles Eames, George Nelson, and Eva Zeisel.

In the post-Second World War period Raymor also imported modern Scandinavian and Italian designs, including work by Arne Jacobsen, Tapio Wirkkala, Hans Wegner, and Ettore Sottsass. From 1947, when the Richards Morgenthau side of the business was formed, the company also manufactured lighting, ceramics, and glass in its own factory in New Jersey, many items being designed by Irving Richards himself. Although known both as Raymor and Richards Morgenthau & Co., the former was more closely identified with design and imports, the latter with sales.


I've recently become fascinated with Raymor vases and bowls and got this 14" bowl on eBay a couple of days ago for $13.

I've found several more pieces I plan to bid on, and I'll post pictures of whatever I win.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

In the manner of...

When searching for vintage furniture, the term in the manner of crops up frequently.  Sometimes it's used to denote a piece of furniture that is not marked and whose provenance is unknown.  Other times it's used to indicate a piece that is very similar, but not quite of the same quality, as a known work by an acclaimed designer.

I'm fascinated by the number of designs that are borrowed so liberally.  I have a vintage Lane coffee table in my study/guestroom.  I've always loved it, and after my post on Grete Jalk, now I know why.  It's practically an exact replica of one of her designs...same upturned lip on the top, same legs, same bar supporting the  magazine shelf underneath. The only discernible difference is that there are nine spindles on Jalk's and seven on the Lane.

I guess the term for that is Nobody cares about your Danish patent.

Grete Jalk teak coffee table for Glostrup Mobelfabrik, 1960s

My walnut Lane coffee table, 1960s

Friday, November 26, 2010

Grete Jalk

Danish-born Grete Jalk (1920-2006) studied first at the School of Arts and Crafts, Copenhagen. Later she studied under Kaare Klint at the Danish Technical College. After apprenticing as a cabinetmaker, she opened a studio of her own in 1954 and began showing her work at the annual exhibitions of the Copenhagen Guild of Cabinetmakers.

Jalk´s pieces are often described as sculptural. Of all her work, the famed Plywood chair (1963), manufactured by Poul Jeppensen, best embodies this quality. It differs from any previous experiments with molded plywood by virtue of its sheer technical daring; despite being composed of two pieces, the effect is seamless and elegant. She also designed a well-known tubular steel chair for Fritz Hansen in 1964.

Jalk´s work as a furniture scholar is likewise noteworthy. Her 1987 book, The Art of Danish Furniture is an important contribution to the topic.

In 1946, she won the prestigious prize of the Copenhagen Joiners' Guild, and in 1963 she was awarded the Daily Mail International Furniture Competition award. She exhibited at the 1951 Triennale di Milano, the 1968 "Two Centuries of Danish Design" exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and in 1968 at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris.

Along with her colleagues Finn Juhl and Hans Wegner, Jalk´s early work helped to propel Danish design to the cutting edge of international style.


Laminate chair



Coffee table

Pair of armchairs


Flip-top bar cart - TheModernHistoric


Adjustable stool

High back armchair

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day...and don't feel guilty about that extra dessert.  You have a whole month to work off the calories before the next holiday rolls around!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Two for the price of one

If you love things mid-century AND love to eat, then you're in for a treat! The Hungry Texan is a blog worth checking out, especially with the holidays coming up. Blogger Sylvia comes from a family of restaurateurs and publishes some of the most wonderful recipes I've ever found.

Sylvia's site is unique in that it covers all sorts of great Texas fare, including old family dishes served in their restaurant, as well as a section devoted to drinks and one to canning (or "putting up," as we call it in Texas). But she also includes a sections devoted to Dallas area restaurants, crafts, and fantastic retro and Texana shopping finds.

You'll love Sylvia's gorgeous photos of food, but you'll also love that you get little glimpses of her mid-century furnishings  If you enjoy collecting handwritten recipes rather than just bookmarking them on your computer, you'll love her free downloadable blank "Hungry Recipe Cards."  She also offers printable recipes.

This is one of the warmest, most personal sites I've found. You'll feel like you know Sylvia after you've visited, so really you're getting THREE for the price of one:  great food, great mid-century and a new friend.

Sylvia's sweet potato pie

Sylvia's canning inventory, 2010

Box for handwritten recipes, just like grandma's

Vintage Kelvinator

As an added bonus, Sylvia is the wife of Hank Tosh of Toshmahal, the master mid-century furniture refinisher and restorer I posted about recently, whom Sylvia likes to call Mr. Hungry Texan.  Talk about a dynamic duo!  Is there anything these two can't do?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back in the day: Nostalgia non sequitur

I was making myself some lunch yesterday...a tuna wrap on the tastiest new product I've found in a while, a huge flatbread aptly called "Flatout," which has 9 grams of fiber for you health nuts and only 1 WW point for those of you who like to keep up with things like that.

I was rummaging through all the jars and bottles in my refrigerator, making a mental note that I need to quit being such a sucker for every new food fad that comes down the pike, and I finally decided that a tad of mango wasabi would give the tuna salad just the punch I wanted.  OK, OK...I'm getting to the nostalgia non sequitur part.

Inexplicably, squirting that mango wasabi in the bowl triggered a childhood memory along with the realization that since the 60s, when I first set up housekeeping on my own, two condiments could always be found in my refrigerator, as well as in my mother's Kelvinator when I was a kid:  French's yellow mustard and Miracle Whip.  No matter how many fancy salad dressings or gourmet mustards I buy, those two sit steadfastly at the back of the shelf waiting patiently for me to return...and I always do.

Every meal in the 1950s was eaten at a gray cracked ice Formica and chrome table that looked exactly like this one, exactly at 5:30 on the dot, Cleaver family-syle, after which my mother washed the dishes, and I dried them with embroidered cup earn my whopping weekly allowance of 25 cents.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Robin Day (1915-2010)

Robin Day, British furniture designer and husband of textile designer Lucienne Day, died November 9 at age 95.

After World War II, Day turned his hand to exhibition and poster design. In 1948 he and Clive Latimer won first prize in the storage section of the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture organized by MoMA. The cabinets in their flexible, multi-functional storage system were fabricated from a tube of molded plywood cut into sections--a radical innovation for the time.
Day's success brought him to the attention of a British manufacturer, Hille, which had specialized in period furniture, but was eager to modernize. Seizing this opportunity, he designed a series of simple, functional chairs, tables, desks and storage units that harnessed the latest wood and metalworking techniques. Many of his designs were low-cost, such as the beech-framed 1950 Hillestak chair with its molded plywood seat. Whereas pre-war furniture was solid and bulky, Day’s designs were pared down and seemed to float above the ground. “What one needs in today’s small rooms is to see over and under one’s furniture,” he told a journalist in 1955.

Day’s inventive response to technology reflected the positive, forward-looking mood of the early post-war era, with his sparing use of materials and economical approach to construction. From the outset Robin Day was a deeply moral and highly principled designer, who was not interested in making a design statement, but in solving practical problems in the most rigorous, efficient and cost-effective way. “A good design must fulfill its purpose well, be soundly constructed, and should express in its design this purpose and construction,” he stated in 1962.

The commission to design furniture for the Royal Festival Hall marked a turning point in Day’s career. The project included restaurant and foyer furniture, auditorium seating and orchestra chairs, each with specific functional demands. His talents were also evident in the two room settings he designed for the House and Gardens Pavilion at the Festival: one low-cost, one high-cost, both equipped with his latest storage furniture and chairs.

Robin Day married Lucienne Conradi in 1942. It was their passion for design that drew the couple together and formed the basis of their personal and professional relationship. Acting as mutual catalysts, they spurred each other on to realize their ambitions and to produce their most original work.  Lucienne Day died in January of this year at age 93.


Polypropylene stack chair, 1963

Hillestak chair, 1950

Royal Festival Hall lounge chair, 1951

Robin and Lucienne Day's living room

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another brain picker

Do you have any information about this chair?  My daughter and SIL bought it about three years ago at an estate sale, and it's one of their favorite pieces, but it remains unidentified.  Help!!

Update: Turns out it was an Ib Kofod-Larsen chair. They sold it before they realized what it was.


Kromex, a division of Alcoa Aluminum Company, began producing kitchenware and serveware around 1957. Products included canister sets, salt and pepper sets, coffee and tea services, drinking glasses, spice sets, ice buckets, cake servers and trays of all sizes. Although very popular, the items were produced for a very short time.

At the time Kromex was manufactured, Alcoa was already primarily an industrial firm. In the early 1960s the company was purchased by Reynolds Aluminum, who phased out production of items for household use and concentrated on industrial production.

I recently found two Kromex tidbit servers on eBay that are in mint condition. They look like they were stored in someone’s china cabinet and never used. I got one for $4.99 and the other for $9.99. They’ll be great for serving homemade candy and slices of cheese logs over the holidays…made from my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes from back in the 1950s and 60s, of course. I’ll post more old family recipes in December.

In this post, I’ve included a recipe for a candy I remember my mother making in the 1950s. I’m sure she found it in Good Housekeeping or Ladies’ Home Journal, because she was always clipping recipes from magazines and stuffing them into her battered Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with the red-and-white-check cover. The ingredients may sound a little odd, but it was one of my favorite holiday candies…sweet, slightly salty and delightfully crunchy.

My recent Kromex finds on eBay...just in time for the holidays

Martha's Butterscotch Crunch (c. 1956)


½ c. peanut butter
6 oz. package butterscotch chips
3 oz can chow mein noodles
2 c. miniature marshmallows

Combine peanut butter and butterscotch in double boiler.  Melt completely.  Stir well.  Add noodles and marshmallows.  Allow marshmallows to melt slightly.  Drop by spoon on waxed paper.  Chill until set.