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The Furniture Record

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Capturing Furniture in the Wild
Updated: 48 min 3 sec ago

Is There Really Any Such Thing As Coincidence?

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 10:44pm

Remember this from a few days back?


To remind you, this is George’s.

Thursday, I found this:


Also George.


You be the judge.

There Are Old Mansions in the Northeast Too or So I’m Told.

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 7:19am

I have been told that I focus too much on southern plantations and that rich people have been building large houses in the northeast since the 17th century. And not just in Newport.

Back in October, I realized that the Yale Art Gallery exhibit of Rhode Island Furniture, Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830, would be ending soon and I needed to make an effort to see it.

Searching around, I found cheap flight, a cheap hotel and a cheap rental car. Almost cheaper than staying home. Before I left, I finished my chores, the lawn, the laundry and the litter boxes. Early the next morning, I drove to the airport for a dawn flight to Boston.

This trip happened so quickly that I hadn’t really planned for much of anything. Yale was on the schedule for day two. It was day one. I was in a rental car and no clear idea of what I would be doing between 8:30 AM and bedtime. I pulled out the iPhone and started looking at some online resources.

I decided to visit Old Sturbridge Village in the afternoon. All I needed to do was find something fabulous en route. Three minutes later, I found a target and spent another two minutes trying to start the keyless car. I resolved that inconvenience set off for the Gore Place.

1804 to 1806, Governor/Senator Christopher Gore and his wife Rebecca built their mansion in Waltham, Mass for $24,000.  In 1827, Christopher dies. In 1834, Rebecca dies. Having no heirs, the estate is auctioned and runs through traditional series of owner that presided of the inevitable decline. In 1921, The Waltham Country Club purchased the estate. They build a golf course and tennis courts on the grounds and use the mansion as a clubhouse. The Great Depression hastened the bankruptcy and failure of the country club in 1935.

The buildings fall into disrepair and are scheduled to be torn down to make room for new housing. A group of Bostonians with a view toward preservation raised money to buy the estate and formed the Gore Place Society.

Like other auctioned estates, the furniture is scattered by the auction. The Gore Place Society is faced with repopulating the mansion with appropriate furniture. What they did was to acquire Boston built furniture for much of it and track down and return the actual pieces when available.

This server is in the mansion:


An unusual and handsome server.


The green acanthus leaf indicates it is a Boston piece. The diamond pattern is the Gore coat-of-arms indicating it was owned by the Gores.

This commode is of the estate:


Much nicer than George’s.


To remind you, this is George’s, not the Gores’.


This simple bed was the Gores.


Of Boston but not the Gores.


Neither Gore nor Boston but still nice.


And this little gem just fill a niche.

To see all the pictures I have, click HERE.




A Plantation From An Earlier Visit.

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 10:22pm

I still have a few plantations left from my most recent family avoiding New Years trip to New Orleans. I will get to them but first I thought I would clear another from my backlog of fascinating places with furniture. I’m still sorting the glass negatives from my visit to the Titanic right before it sailed. Good stuff but I’m still working on the narrative.

I had work in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in July of 2015. To save the company a few hundred in airfare, I offered to fly in and out of New Orleans and drive up in a rental car. I have a condition that requires me stop every so many miles and walk around for a few hours. It’s a burden I bear but such is life.

On the return to New Orleans the timer went off as I was approaching the Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, St. James Parish. (Wikipedia article HERE.) Not wanting to risk my health, I stopped and wandered about for a bit. I even paid money and took a tour of the mansion.

First, about the name Oak Alley:


This explains the name.

Not entirely, the oak alley was planted in 1710. The mansion was not built until 1837.


A view from the balcony.

Oak Alley was built from 1837-39  by Jaques Roman on the grounds of his sugar plantation. It was built entirely with enslaved labor. Jacques Roman died in 1848 of tuberculosis and the estate was then managed by family. As seems to happen so often, the family lacked the skill, knowledge and discipline to manage the estate. when the patriarch dies, the family is not prepared to continue running the business. The Civil War and the end of slavery did not help the plantation’s fortunes. in 1866, the plantation was sold at auction.

Oak Alley then passed through a series owners as its condition deteriorated. In 1925 the property was acquired by Andrew Stewart as a gift to his wife, Josephine. She commissioned architect Richard Koch to supervise extensive restoration and modernize the house. When Josephine Stewart died in 1972, the grounds and mansion were left to the Oak Alley Foundation. Oak Alley was then opened to the public.

Based on the history of this mansion, you can feel certain that the furniture within is not original to the estate. The best you can hope is that the owner has assembled an interesting collection of period appropriate furniture and accessories.

Well, they did. Or so I think, but I’m no expert. One of the first things that caught my eye was this overhead fan in the dining room . It’s function was to circulate the air and the resident flies:


It was operated by staff, possibly not paid staff.

In the master bedroom was this rolling pin bed:


A bed with a rolling pin that was practical and ornamental.

The claim was made that the rolling pin was used to smooth out and pack the stuffed mattress. The mattress was stuffed with Spanish moss and other available organic materials. Insects aside, the problem has that this material tended to bunch and not compress uniformly. They used the rolling pin as a daily fix for this problem.

I have seen many similar beds and this is the only bed about which the rolling pin claim is made. It is also the only bed I’ve seen that the rolling pin is not securely attached. I’m not saying that the rolling pin was not removable and used for leveling the mattress. I’m just saying that I’ve not found any independent corroboration.

Not that it really matters.

There was this very attractive office:


I would like this office. And I am will to accept gifts.

On the property, they have built six replica slave cabins. The cabins are furnished with period appropriate vernacular furniture. As troubling as I find the whole notion, I took pictures:


Not the same quality as in the big house.


I find this furniture as interesting as the antiques in the mansion.

To see the entire set of mansion and slave cabin furniture pictures, click HERE.

This Blog Took A While To Write. Not Sure It Was Worth It.

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 12:46am

Way to sell a blog, huh? Right up front, warning the reader that they might be facing fifteen minutes of their life they’ll never get back. If you’re smart, you’ll click-through to Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic blog. Today I hear she is covering when to use Alabaster, when Pure White may be a better choice and under what conditions Snowbound is right. Dover white was covered in a previous blog.

Today’s topic is Modern Designs from the Barcelona Museum of Design. This exhibit filled an entire floor of the aforementioned museum in the aforementioned city. From their opening placard:

From the World to the Museum

Product Design, Cultural Heritage

In almost everything we do throughout the day, we use one or more objects. If we want to sit down, we use a chair; to do laundry, we use a washing machine; to see each other, we turn on lights… These objects, which have a host of different designs and purposes, accompany us throughout our lives and show us how just as the world changes, so do objects.

How is it, then, that certain objects come to be a part of the Museum’s collection but not others? Each of the pieces on display is considered a representative sample of the design of its time, of the different material and technical contributions proposed by their designers, as well as of their sociocultural resonance.

Product design is one of our great forms of cultural heritage. After all, when we set our sights on Barcelona or Catalonia, now or a few years from now, we will only be able to understand how we lived if we if we know that objects we had by our sides, and some of them are now part of the Museum’s collection.

I thought it was a very interesting exhibit. The problem arose when trying to write the blog. It wasn’t all that different from the modern designs we are used to. Modernism seems to have transcended borders. (I always wanted to use transcended in a blog. Well, not always, but for a while.)

Does this chair scream Spain when you see it?


The classic Butterfly chair in leather.

A quick story about this design. As a wee lad, I was drug to a store where my mother located one of these chairs in yellow fabric with black piping discounted because of a large scratch on the frame. She claimed the damaged chair and raced to back the stack to see if she could find another imperfect unit. Not finding another and lacking a tool to install a matching scratch, mother then started arguing with an assistant manager to discount a second chair because one chair just wouldn’t do. He relented, not because of her clear and remarkable logic but the belief it was worth the $10 to be rid of her, thus rewarding bad behavior.

I am still traumatized by the sight of these chairs.

This chair is also familiar:


I’ve not seen this exact chair but certainly some close cousins.

And their motorcycle, like most motorcycles, has a wheel in the front, one in the rear connected to a centrally mounted engine by a chain, with a seat, handle bars and a tail light:


An early ’70’s Montesa Cota 247 trials bike. I think. Let me know if you know or think you know better. The elongated, one piece gas tank is a nice touch, though.

These chairs are all familiar:


Have you seen most of these? I believe I have.

Why does furniture of this era remind me of 1950’s Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoons?


Used without permission or knowledge of Warner Bros. Studios or their successor companies.

Of course, there is some unfamiliar furniture to be seen:


Pink and green is back…

And this chair is among one of the most creative cross uses of technology I’ve seen:


The face is familiar but I can’t place the name.

The exhibit provides this explanation:


Kinda makes you want to see what you have squirreled away in the basement, doesn’t it?

Another placard in the exhibit states:


With type big enough I didn’t have to retype it…

If interested, you can see the entire photo set HERE.

Maybe He Just Doesn’t Like to Share.

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 8:51pm

This is George’s chamber pot:


It’s not complete but you get the idea.

George must be very proud of his chamber pot in that he took the time to inlay or have inlayed his name on the lid. George feels better knowing that it is indeed his chamber pot. Can you imagine George’s horror waking up in the middle of the night and using somebody else’s chamber pot. That must be why he put his name on it.


Simply “GEORGE”.

Or, I could be wrong. It could be this chamber pot was made by the George Chamber Pot Company of McKeesport, PA. Expensive way to display your company’s logo.

It could be the model name or style. You know, the George chamber pot.

Or maybe it was a retirement present. What better gift for your retiring 19th century executive than a monogrammed chamber pot?

Maybe he just doesn’t like to share…


(Representations of) Furniture at the Chrysler Museum of Art

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 10:42pm

Driving back from our research trip to Virginia’s Eastern Shore, we stopped in Norfolk for lunch and our first visit to the Chrysler Museum of Art. Our lunch was good, only sandwiches but well prepared with fresh ingredients. The museum was nice, too.

There was furniture scattered around and a nice exhibit of Art Nouveaux. All this will be covered in the near future.

I quickly documented all the furniture there and was ready to move on but my wife had other ideas. It was still raining hard and she was not ready to leave. We hadn’t yet seen the glass, the European and American paintings and sculpture, ancient and non-western art or photography. And what is the difference between modern and contemporary art?

There were two paintings in the European gallery of particular interest to me, they were period domestic scenes with furniture. Most of the furniture I see is in auction gallery or antiques shops. There is no context for the furniture. Historic mansions and museums like Winterthur and MESDA do show entire period rooms but these are all curated and idealized representations of the past.

Painted period rooms might be closer to the way things actually were. The artist was living there and then. These might not be 100% accurate but, like Wikipedia articles, close may be good enough.

The first is The Surgeon by David Teniers the Younger, Flemish, 1610 – 1690:


Typical multi-provider practice of 1670’s Flanders.

David Teniers the Younger Flemish, 1610–1690 The Surgeon, 1670s Oil on canvas Is there a doctor in the house? Not in this one. The medic in this picture is a lowly barber surgeon, a quack who preyed on the ignorant and poor. Surrounded by his potions and aided by two dimwitted assistants, he operates on a patient’s back, ignoring his painful yelp. The monkey crouching nearby is an age-old symbol of foolishness. He “apes” the patient’s pose, suggesting that the man is chained to the ignorant belief that the barber surgeon will cure him. Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. 71.480


Here are some benches and stools.


The other practitioner is treating a victim/patient sitting in a Savonarola or Dante chair.


Some seating and crockery. Down front there appears to be a cow’s skull. But yet we know Georgia O’Keeffe wouldn’t be born for another 200 years.


This monkey is not furniture but it is interesting.

The other painting of interest is Home by Sir Joseph Noel Paton, Scottish, 1821-1901.


Reunion of a Scottish soldier with his family upon his return from service in the Crimean War (1854-1856).

Sir Joseph Noel Paton Scottish, 1821–1901 Home, ca. 1855–56 Oil on panel Noel Paton’s scene brims with details that bring its story of military valor and family strength to life. The Scottish soldier seated at center has just returned from the Crimean War. Slumped in a chair, his wife and mother fold over him. He has suffered serious wounds—his head is heavily bandaged and he has lost an arm in battle. But despite the sacrifices the family has made for home and country, the open Bible proclaims its spiritual strength in the face of uncertainty. The promise of a better future is embodied by the child sleeping peacefully in the cradle behind them. Museum purchase and gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.


A Hepplewhite chair, a cradle and a table.


An amoire acting as a catch-all.


A table and what looks like a slyod knife.


Nice piggins and a good selection of platters.

There Are No Rules.

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 9:04pm

Let’s recap what we know about chairs. There are one-legged chairs:


One leg is enough.

Two-legged chairs:


Obidos, Portugal


Go with me here.

Three-legged chairs:


Obviously a Canadian chair.




Ancient in appearance.

And the conventional four-legged chairs:


Primitive chairs.


Modern chairs.


Abstract chairs.

Today, we were on the Eastern shore of Virginia tracking down the final resting place of my wife’s dead relatives. By 2:00 PM, we were out of places to look and relative to look for. As it happens, there was a large antiques mall just a few miles up the road. And it was raining. We went.

I wandered around a bit and thought I had found the elusive five-legged chair when I saw this one:


It looks like it has a spare leg out front.

Upon closer examination, I realized it only has four legs but the are incorrectly placed:


Mistakes were made, heads will roll.

These furniture makers have no respect for tradition. Furniture making is no place for original thinking. The furniture gods are surely angry.

One more look:


There are no rules!

Of course, it would be hard to rock back. Maybe lean side to side…

Yup, That’s My Mom…

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 10:20pm

I was looking through the family picture album and came across this one:


My Mother at a café near Florence in 1958.

We were there on vacation. We passed this café and stopped to look at the furniture. We could tell the chairs were Thonet. Turning them over we saw they were branded  Thonet and Made In Poland.

We couldn’t tell about the table. My Mother did the only reasonable thing and checked the table for markings. I could easily walk under the table but I couldn’t read so my use was limited.

Ever the lady, she even managed to keep her legs crossed at the ankles.

And, yes, she was wearing pearls.

(With apologies to Gianni Berengo Gardin and others)

The Missing Link

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 8:49am

As you all must realize, all our blogs go through extensive editing and quality contoll checks. The link for the flickr photo set accompanying today’s earlier blog, Primitives From Hickory Mountain,  was disabled shortly after posting. I believe we were hacked. I am going through the forensic evidence and now believe it was either the Russian FSB, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, the North Korean Bureau 121 or, most likely, the dreaded Landespolizei, the Liechtenstein National Police Force. We have had issues going back many years.

There is a small chance I deleted it when I went back in to edit the link to make the link open in a new window, but I doubt it. Beginner’s mistake.

If you were unable to see the photo set (as opposed to not wanting to see the photo set), you can go back and reread the blog (it’s that good) or click on the link HERE.


Primitives From Hickory Mountain, NC

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 10:11pm

Last blog, I featured some of the workbenches from a local antiques shop renowned for their primitives.  Renowned might be a bit strong but it’s late and I want to get this done.

As I wrote, they have more than a few workbenches:


Perfect for an apartment woodworker. Or, now, the tiny house woodworker.

They are more than workbenches. They have lots of pie safes:


A very odd pie safe.

with a very odd latch:


I don’t believe this latch was made for this pie safe. Who knows.

And chairs. Lots of chairs:


Most of them have woven seats.

Lots of trunks and chests:


I believe this is considered to be a domed chest.

Chinas and cupboards:


What it is depends on who you ask.

No antiques store is complete without dressers:


A bit too fancy for a primitive.

And a smattering of painted pieces:


If I knew more (anything), I could describe and interpret the paintings on this piece.

To check out the full set, click  HERE.

Primitive Ways of Work.

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 10:42pm

A local antique shop specializes in primitive/vernacular furniture. Specialize is the wrong word to use. Specialize indicates a consciousness of thought. A strategy. I think these people just buy and sell stuff they like. It’s more of a that’s who they are than a marketing decision.

A few weekends back they had their annual open house. I knew it was an open house because they had printed and distributed flyers saying there would be an open house. There might have been free coffee but since I don’t drink coffee, I neither noticed nor cared. Next year I will be sure to take note for those of you out there that might be concerned.

Can you have an open house without free coffee?

The only difference I could discern was that there seemed to be more people there than typical. Probably because the owners printed and distributed flyers and customers assumed there would be free coffee.

They had a good assortment of primitive and vernacular furniture as well as the flyers and free coffee. As you would expect, a good percentage of this furniture is work related. As in that work in an foreign and abstract concept to me, I was fascinated by this furniture. I thought I might share some with y’all so we might all be enlightened.

This stool might be a work stool, no one can prove it’s not:


It certainly is primitive.


But is it vernacular?

This is a broom maker’s bench:


I know this because the tag says so.

I can’t remember the vocation associated with this bench:


I hope it wasn’t a cabinetmaker.


Or at least not a drawer specialist.

This is the token conventional workbench:


Well, kinda, sorta conventional.


It does have a tool tray.


And an end vise.


One square bench dog.

Only small work done here:


Only a little ugly.

A bench with storage:


Great natural patina.

A larger bench with storage:


Big drawer below, seems like it would be hard to open.

Big bench, different configuration:


A mercantile bench, perhaps?

Some storage stacked up:


Stacked here but not in real life.

I’m sure this is not a salad spinner.


But it is a mixer of some sort.

There is a tool chest:


A typical chest.


Only one till left.

Leaving their shop, I headed to nearby dealer located in a strip mall. From well-worn wooden flooring to fading linoleum No benches or tool chests but there were leg vises:


It looks complete. It just needs a new home.


I really like the aftermarket plumbing hindle…

I can’t wait for next year’s open house with the implication/inference of free coffee.

In The Beginning It Was Simple…

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 11:05pm

In the beginning it was simple, like this tilt-top table/bench contraption:


The simple tilt-top table.


Looks simple.

It’s a convertible table/bench. The top pivots around the rear pins and is locked in down position by the front pins. It should be symmetrical and the top should be able to hinge around the front pins.

Typically, there is storage in the base.

Let’s make it more complicated.


No pins in the rear, hinges.


No indication there ever were any pins in the rear of the table/bench. This is the design and not a repair.

The hinges look seriously undersized yet it exists.

Now let’s engineer it and make it more complicated and harder to produce.


Same basic idea but the folding top sits lower.


The table top pivots and tracks about a bolt and slots in the battens.


The table is locked in the down position by the engagement of another slot in the batten around a pin.

This base also has storage.

Another difference is that this unit has 2X4 legs and not sides made from boards.

The only advantage of this construction I can see is that the table top sits lower in the bench position. This could be useful if you need the wall space for your art collection:


Margaret Keane’s classic No Dogs Allowed. Art like no other.

Finally, the Arts & Crafts/Mission variation of this idea:


Everything’s better in oak.

Here, the top pivots around bolts with vertical movement provided by slots on the supports. For added stability, the “feet” on the supports rest in cups on the seat.

Many ways to achieve the same goal.

On The Creative Process…

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 10:46pm

Saturday night we went to an auction where we got to leave stuff. Let me rephrase that. Saturday night we were honored to donate various hand-crafted items to an auction benefitting our friends’ church camp. This is at least the sixth year we have been so honored. At least.

This year we donated four lots from the shop and one item given by my wife that did not functionally or aesthetically meet her expectation when received. Perfect for someone, just not her.

First lot was these wheeled wooden toys, subdivided into four lots:


Meet the truck, hippo, tanker and bulldozer.

Regular readers may think this looks an awful lot like our Toys For Tots offerings. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are entirely different. Just look:


There was a pig/bear in the Toys for Tots collection. Totally different.

Next was this dovetailed and painted nail carrier:


Any dovetail shortcomings are covered by paint.

It started life as the dovetailed nail carrier designed by Chuck Bender, late of 360 Woodworking. I showed the unfinished project to the camp director and his wife for approval. They suggested milk paint. I used General Finishes milk paint which really isn’t but that’s a story for another day.


My first prototype as Mr. Bender intended.

Keeping with the spirit of the church camp benefit auction, I donated a wine carrier based on a dynamite box:


Remember this one?


It is built to carry stuff. Usually just not California sparkling wine. I can’t call it Champagne.

Lest you worry that I might run out of dynamite boxes and various sized reproductions, be assured, I have more.


How do you spell OCD?

More on these later.

I, on occasion, build things as a proof of concept, or to see hows it’s done or because I want to. These items don’t always have a place to be and languish in the shop. This auction does give a forever home to some of these forgotten projects. Won’t you help?

There was one purpose built item, this unique pizza peel:


It’s called a pizza peel and I don’t know why.

It was my wife’s idea. I made her one a few years back. I didn’t love it. It was meant to be a prototype but it worked and she liked the look. I always knew I could do better.

Below is the sausage making. If you wish to continue believing I am brilliant and a design genius, stop reading now. Otherwise, prepare to be disillusioned.

I thought about it for a long time but didn’t start until I realized on Friday that it was due to be delivered on Monday. I raced to the shop and started looking through the wood pile. I found some 5/4 by 7.5″ wide maple long enough for the body. Then I found some 32″ long 6/4 walnut for the handle. My thought was that I would inlay an 8″, 10″, 12″ and 14″ circle for proper pizza dimensioning. The peel need to be at least 16″ wide. After four squaring the stock, I was short of design goals. I dug around and found some 1/4″ cherry, laid it out and still came out a bit narrow. More digging came up with the last of the thin walnut for the ears.

Off to the band saw to resaw the stock. The walnut was no problem. The wider maple was a problem. Either a dull blade or overly aggressive feed rate through the saw lead to the blade deflecting changing 1/2″ design goal to a 3/8″ design concession.

After the glue-up, a few passes though the drum sander, the 3/8″ design concession was almost met. You would never know if you didn’t have calipers. It sanded out well.

I used the previous peel as a template and the band saw made quick work of the dimensioning and shaping. An assortment of sanders made it pretty. Time with a spoke shave tapered the lip and contoured the edges.

At just under 3/8″, the handle was too thin. Back to the wood pile to retrieve the thin walnut and cherry and more glue and clamps. More time with the spoke shave and integration was complete.

On to stringing. A plunge trim router with a 1/16″ bit and home made circle jig made quick work of defining the circles. I had holly of the appropriate dimensions. Looking through my thin stock, I found some mahogany of the proper size. I used my table saw and a fine toothed 7.25 ” blade to rip off some 1/16″ stringing. Mahogany is a bit brittle but manageable.

More sanding and the peel was ready for a finish. Salad bowl finish went on and enhanced the colors. The maple went darker than I hoped and the holly popped more than anticipated. That is my only disappointment with the peel.

I think it turned out well in spite of my best efforts. The more woodworking one does, the more one is rewarded with accidental successes.

The peel went to good friends of ours, both turners. Last year he won this platter I turned:


The glued up platter from last year. I was trying to replicate the look of a Native American painted plate. Another example of the dominate culture appropriating indigenous artistic achievements.

(More on this platter later.)

At this rate, they will shortly have more of my finished pieces than I have.

This peel will never see the inside of an oven they claim. It will be mounted on the wall as art. I wish I knew that before I spent all that time tapering and thinning the leading edge.

My wife won this nice little bench:


By local woodworker Jeff Chelf.

This is a bench I could have built. The problem is I haven’t.

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Injection Molded…

Sat, 04/08/2017 - 10:55pm

While doing some research recently I stumbled across a relatively new iconic chair in the making. The research facility I wandered into was a local retailer that specializes in Danish and Modern furniture. A chair caught my eye and seeing a likely sale, the owner excitedly started telling me about what she called the trio or Masters chair:


The Kartell Masters chair. Around $300 Made of modified batch-dyed polypropylene.

The description of this chair is as follows:

Philippe Starck and Eugeni Quitllet pay homage to three different midcentury-modern masters in one sleek, versatile indoor-outdoor seat. The Masters Chair (2010) weaves together the back silhouettes of Jacobsen’s Series 7™ Chair:

oak-series-7-chair-front-arne-jacobsen-fritz-hansen_1024x1024 (1)

The Arne Jacobson 3107/Series 7 chair, from around $200 up.

The Model 3107 chair is a chair designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1955 that uses the previously invented technique through which plywood can be bent in three dimensions. Over 5 million units have been produced exclusively by Fritz Hansen.

There is a scandalous history to this chair from 1963 available HERE. Not click bait, honest.

The next chair honored is the Eameses’ Molded Shell Chair:


Charles Eames 1950 molded fiberglass chair  from around $550.

Arguably one of the 20th century’s most beloved designs, the Eames Shell chairs remain a sought after design classic nearly 55 years later. The molded fiberglass chairs are the result of Charles and Ray’s 6 years of experimenting with molded plywood to create a single shell form. Unable to successfully create the single shell with molded plywood at the time, Charles & Ray saw an opportunity to fulfill their vision using a new material: fiberglass.

There is a history of the Eames chair HERE.

And the third honoree is Eero Saarinen’s Tulip™ Armchair:


Eero Saarinen 1957 Tulip Arm Chair from around $1,100.

Eero Saarinen developed the Tulip Armchair as part of the pedestal series in the 1950’s. The Saarinen Tulip Chair, the corresponding pedestal table, and other furniture he developed, represent the peak of Eero Saarinen’s career in which these lasting icons of modern classic furniture were brought to the forefront. 

Eero Saarinen called himself a “form giver,” and everything he designed – from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to his Womb™ Chair to his Pedestal Table – had a strong sculptural quality. “The underside of typical tables and chairs makes a confusing, unrestful world,” said Saarinen. In a 1956 cover story in Time magazine, he announced that he was designing a collection to “clear up the slum of legs in the U.S. home.” Later that year, he completed his Pedestal Table and Tulip Chair Collection (1956) with its cast aluminum base inspired by a drop of high-viscosity liquid.

Eero Saariens was talented architect and designer and you should read more about him HERE.

I know that this is a plastic chair and not to everyone’s liking. Not of wood and not built using traditional methods. Still, it is interesting to understand the history, the present and future of furniture. Furniture does not exist in a vacuum. It is influenced by what has come before and will influence what comes after.

They can’t all be Windsor chairs. Well, they can be but what fun would that be?

I Knew It.

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 9:48pm

Yesterday’s blog was all about a folding Chinese that keeps showing up live and in print. I showed a picture from Ole Wancher’s 1966 book The Art of Furniture. (Ole Wanscher (1903 to 1983)  to repeat, was a renowned Danish furniture designer and author of several books on furniture and design.) This be that picture:


Another look.

My Danish language copy of Møbeltyper (Furniture Types  – 1932) arrived. Also by Ole Wanscher. On page 15 you find the 1932 version of the chair:


Folding chair of varnished wood with fittings of enamel inlaid silver. China. Qing Dynasty (1735-99) . Maurice Dupont: The Furniture of China.

The Chinese chair has been iconic for quite a while.

An Inspirational Chair?

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 10:45pm

This chair really gets around. As seen at a recent, local auction:

A Set of Chinese Huanghuali Folding Horseshoe Chairs and Table


The right chair. This lot has sold for $21,000.


And the left chair.

Description:   Late 20th century, very finely crafted set in the Ming dynasty style, made with huanghuali wood and brass mountings, round top rail continuing in a curve to the arms terminating in out swept ends, each arm supported by the hooked upper extension of the front leg suspending a long shaped spandrel, the back carved splat with qilin and clouds, a soft mat seat with a front stretcher, the hinged round section legs terminating in rectangular base stretchers, the footrest mounted with a central brass plaque of three conjoined lozenges, raised on a shaped apron and small feet, with brass strap fittings and joint pins, includes a folding side table in the same style, a very handsome set.

Folded, it looks like this:


Smaller but not what I would call small.

The chair looked vaguely familiar but Chinese furniture is not an area of primary interest of mine at this point in history. I took my pictures and moved on.

Looking back through the library, I found this chair in my pictures from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO:


The chair with friends.

Close-up of the same:


A finer weave on the seat than its auction cousin.

I am now slightly more interested.

I just received my copy of Christian Holmsted Olesen’s 2014 book, Wegner: Just one Good Chair. On page 123, I found:


There it is again.

(Hans Jørgensen Wegner was a world-renowned Danish furniture designer as was Ole Wanscher.)

Looking for a copy of Ole Wanscher’s book Furniture Types, I found (and could afford this book instead:


More affordable than Furniture Types.

One page 247, I found this:


Yet another example.

Apparently, this is an iconic chair and I didn’t know it.  Why didn’t anyone tell me?

It is interesting that this 18th century Chinese chair is an inspiration for Danish Modern furniture.


I guess I can see a family resemblance.

And I’m not done looking at books.

I found a Danish copy of Furniture Types (Mobeltyper) that should be arriving shortly.

I just received my second copy of The Art of Furniture by Ole Wanscher. Seems I forgot to cancel one on Abe Books when I decided to go with the ex-library copy. I like ex-library copies in that they not only generally have a dust jacket but the dust jacket has a protective mylar sleeve.

It is fortunate that the second copy was only $15. Anybody out there interested in my spare?

The Numbers Spiked Again.

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 10:59pm

From time to time, the views for this blog spike. I would like to think that the brilliance of my writing has finally been discovered by the masses. Then I examine the stats and realize that one of the cool kids with the popular blogs has thrown me a mercy link. As expected, my numbers return to normal within a few days. My brilliance has not swayed them. They abandon me.

I’m OK with this. I have my 47 loyal followers/readers. If you include my family and friends I have 42. (It doesn’t make sense to either but I’ve checked the math. Numbers still don’t lie.) I’m OK with this in that if I had thousands of followers I might feel the pressure to write informed and well-reasoned blogs instead whatever it is I’m writing now.

In this case, it seems to be John Hoffman’s partner, Chris Schwarz of Lost Art Press, etc. what threw me link. I’ve known him for years (You can check out our history HERE.)  He doesn’t owe me anything. He’s really just that nice.

I have seen a few minor spikes that come from one Rude Mechanic on Instagram. Odd name.

Defying conventional thinking, I will just write a normal blog and not try some stunt blog to try to snag new readers. Eventually you would just be disappointed and leave.

In the referring blog, mention was made of settles. According to the wildly popular Wikipedia: A settle is a wooden bench, usually with arms and a high back, long enough to accommodate three or four sitters. I don’t always agree with them but in this case I think they are right enough.

I have photographed enough settles to know that there doesn’t seem to be any one predominant type of settle.

There are some really formal ones:


Fancy settle with storage.

A settle for loners and thinkers.


Room for one settler, maybe two. No more.

Settles that followed my wife home.


Front view. It makes a great sail on the porch.


The front is well made but


the back is fascinating. Or is this the front?

Click HERE to see album

And do come back.


Chairs Both Woven and Caned

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 8:18pm

Last week I had the opportunity to attend an informal meeting of the professional refinishers’ group at the shop of Martin O’Brien, well-known Winston Salem conservator and cabinetmaker. One of the presenters was Brandy Clements of the Silver River Center for Chair Caning in Asheville, NC.  She is the first person named Brandy I’ve ever met, male of female, Thankfully it was Brandy and not Brandi or Brandee. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


A picture of Ms. Clements that allows her to maintain her anonymity. She’s the one in black.

Ms. Clements demonstrated both caning and weaving techniques and gave background information on different materials and the history of each. Good stuff all.

Needing to make this blog about me, I went into the archives to see if I had and pictures of chairs with caned or woven seats. Turns out I found 110 pictures without raising a blister. Pointing and clicking can be painful.

I’ve largely avoided becoming too involved in chairs because, to paraphrase a popular poet/philosopher, “Who knew chairs would be hard?” There’s so many different types of them. Casework is comparatively simple by comparison.

What I found were some fancy seats:


From Lisbon which they tell me is in Portugal.

Elegant seats:


Lisbon has several historic buildings with amazing furniture.

Some very nice chairs:


More from the auction house.

Some better than nice chairs:


From Hart’s Square near Hickory, NC.

Some utilitarian chairs:


From the LSU Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge, LA.

Some chairs with stretched leather seats:


Also from the Rural Life Museum.

Chairs of all sizes:


A small rocker from a Greensbooro antiques dealer.

And finally no collection would be complete without a chair from the Far East:


A Chinese Huanghuali Folding Horseshoe Chair.

The whole set is available for your viewing pleasure HERE.

More Fun and Games!

Sun, 03/26/2017 - 9:14pm

Just when you think we know everything about gaming tables, more information surfaces. I was at the preview of a local auction house when I came across this rather chunky example:

Georgian Game Table 

DSC_6185 - Version 2

This lot has sold for $260.

Description:  19th century, mahogany, mahogany veneer, oak secondary, unusual dual hinged top with storage compartment, gate leg, cabriole legs with pad foot.

Most game tables have some style or elegance, not this one.The heavy apron and the graceless pad feet lack a pleasing aesthetic.

But that’s not why I called you here.

It is a four-legged table with the fourth leg being a traditional gate leg:


The hinged fourth/gate leg.

Note the sprung hinge on the right side. This is important.


The gate leg deployed.

The hinge is still sprung. Also note the screws on the lower table surface.


When you open the table, it’s round. Closed, it’s a thicker semi-circle. Geometry works.

DSC_6193 - Version 2

And here you can almost see the crack running 2/3 of the way across the table.

What caused the crack? The lower table section is hinged to the frame covering the storage below:


The storage below. This explains the chunky apron.


And here you see the crack and the hinge placement that keeps the opened table top from lying flat. Failure is always an option.

This isn’t the only design challenge. If one tries to access the storage area with the table closed, the sections stacked, when the sections are opened beyond around 30°, the table falls over. Empirically determined. The table is not very deep and when the weight is shifted too far to the back, bad things happen. If I recalled my vector analysis, I could calculate the tipping point.

I did not bid on this table.

On a more positive note, I found two examples of another method of table support. I reveal to you the extension gaming table:


A small extension table.


And here are the extension rails. Note the dowel pins.

I found the above at the Raleigh Antiques Extravaganza.

A few hours later I found this one at a Raleigh consignment shop:


Another extension game table. Two in on day after never seeing one before.


A view from above. The leg is not one piece but a glue-up.


The obligatory front view.

On the back rail was this label:


I always enjoy finding labels.

The dealer believes that these tables are from the 1930’s. A search for the patent shows that Patent 2,153,262 was granted April 4, 1939. There were simple practical and novel improvements in extension tables in Patent 2,316,448 on April 14, 1943.

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 10.58.31 PM

Patent art for the extension table.

I couldn’t find much on the Big Rapid Furniture Mfg. Co. of Big Rapids, Michigan other than by their own admission they are Manufacturers of Medium Priced Furniture. They obviously survived beyond 1939.

Shells and Shell-Like Carvings

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 10:42pm

Given the right tools, expert instruction and hours of practice I believe I stand a good chance of becoming a mediocre carver. It’s something to which I aspire. Eventually. Aim for the stars…

I was watching the famous and talented Mary May do another carving demonstration today. Not for the first time and not, I hope, for the last. We are at a furniture seminar at MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) in Winston Salem, NC.

I have a special relationship with MESDA, I give them money and they let me into the museum. I give them more money and they let me come to seminars. With food. All very civilized.

Knowing that it will be a while before I create my own most excellent carvings, I choose to honor them with the only way I know, take pictures and share skilled people’s work.

This is a set of pictures of carved shells and shell-like objects I have dcoumented between January of 2016 and now.

Shell-like carved objects come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and styles. There is:


The realistic.


The abstract.


Ones that just suggest the form.


Innies (Concave)


Outies (Convex) Usually applied.


Overhead shells.


And shells on which you sit.

You can see the entire flickr set HERE.