Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Inventory Roundup!

New Inventory Roundup

We’ve gotten a bunch of great new stuff in over the last few weeks, and thought the best way to introduce it to everyone (everyone who hasn’t yet become a fan on Facebook, of course, which is the best way to keep abreast of all the cool stuff that comes through our doors on a practically daily basis) would be to round it all up in one blog post! So, here we go.

Pair of E. Gomme/G-Plan mahogany dressers

Although mid century furniture that was made in England tends to not have quite as good a reputation as true “Danish Modern”, these dressers prove the exception to the rule. G-Plan was the range of modern furniture produced in the 1950s and 60s by E. Gomme Ltd., a UK furniture maker that had been in existence since the 1920s. The gold stamps on these dressers, which bear both the "E. Gomme" and "G-Plan" names, mark these as dating from the early '50s. These dressers have a strong Italian influence, have nice sculptural bases, and high quality construction. Refinished, they will be stunners!

Queen size walnut beds

We have two of these fantastic walnut queen size beds, both complete with headboard, footboard and side rails. We are in the process of refinishing one right now. They have beautiful lines, and remind me of George Nakashima’s production work for Widdicomb.

Pair of high back embossed crocodile leather high back lounge chairs by Oly Design Studio

We don’t usually represent contemporary pieces, but sometimes something falls into our lap that’s too fantastic to refuse – like these amazing wingback chairs by Oly Design Studio, one of the foremost names in high end contemporary furniture. These were consigned to us by a couple who purchased them only a few years ago, but since have remodeled and no longer have a good place for them. They retailed for $3200 each, and are literally good as new for $3750 for the pair!

Swedish Industrial Stool

There’s something about Swedish industrial pieces that make them stand out from a lot of the other industrial stuff we come across. So simple, yet so well designed, this little stool is a marvel. Adjusts from 17”-25.5” by means of a lever. Love it!

Machine Age Leather Task Chair

With its ergonomic seat, leather upholstery, and brass tacks, this little chair has all the style you could as for in a vintage secretary/task chair. Great looking and surprisingly comfortable!

Industrial Steel Canister

I’ve been really getting into industrial small stuff lately (as you can see by some of the new listings!), and this one might be my favorite. It’s just so bold and graphic, the colors really pop!

Cast Iron Serving Tray

Keeping with the “industrial small stuff” theme, this has got to be the most impressive serving tray I’ve ever seen. Measuring an impressive 27” x 15” and weighing nearly 25 lbs, this piece is not for the faint of heart!

Hollywood Regency Gold Gilt Faux Bamboo Coffee Table

Then, on the complete other end of the design spectrum, we have this amazing Hollywood Regency coffee table with a gilded iron base and a ¾” thick glass top. The base combines a bamboo motif with a lotus flower, for that final push over the top! Oddly, this table was made in Mexico (instead of Italy as one might expect), but it’s actually much better made and sturdier than many of the Italian gold gilt pieces I’ve seen over the years, which tend to be rather flimsy.

Pair of Sculptural Walnut Laurel Lamps

We tend not to go out on a limb with lighting – but these were just too good to pass up. Laurel definitely put out some sort of ho-hum designs over the years, but these are definitely not one of them – and in our opinion, are in the class of Laurel’s highly collectable Paul Evans-aping brutalist metal lamps.

Sweet pair of “Waffle Glaze” pottery lamps

I love these! The glaze reminds me of those delicious Dutch “Stroopenwafel” cookies. We refinished the wooden bases and finials to give them a little extra pop.

Industrial metal cabinet with finished interior

This piece ended up being QUITE a project. I purchased it a few months ago on my last trip to Seattle. When I bought it, the interior shelving was crude and primitive, and although usable, was not something I wanted to represent. So, we went all out and had all new shelving made. The shelves are made of furniture-grade birch plywood, and the shelf hangers are solid walnut. The shelves themselves are easily removable, and if you needed a few extra inches of clearance to get a large item in there (such as a TV), the walnut shelf hangers are also removable.

2-Tone Walnut Console Table by American of Martinsville

We've had this little guy kicking around for a long time - and I finally decided that it was time it got refinished, and MAN, what a difference! It's previous existence as a boring brownish table has been banished, and now it's truly a potential center of attention for any room!

Well, that about catches us up - although there are a few other pieces that we are working on currently (such as a cute mahigany draw-leaf dining table that we just finished, an awesome little painted steel industrial cabinet on casters that needs to be cleaned and wet-sanded, and a fab pair of 1960s slipper chairs that need complete restoration) that we haven't even had the chance to photograph yet - so keep tabs on the Facebook page to make sure you don't miss anything!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Solid Wood vs. Veneer

One of the most common questions I get asked on the sales floor of my shop or via internet selling channels is "Is it solid wood?" Usually this is in reference to a dining table or perhaps a sideboard or chest of drawers, and usually the answer is "no, it's a veneer". Evidently, this is usually the WRONG answer, resulting in a downcast look from the in-person customer and a dropping off the face of the earth from the virtual customer.

Just last week, a woman living in NYC emailed to inquire about a specific dining table. After a few emails back and forth, the inevitable question popped up: "Is it solid wood"? I replied "no, it's a veneer". She wrote back "well, we like the look of the table a lot but we're really only looking for tables that are solid wood".

The table in question

Since she had provided me with her phone number, I decided to call her and probe a little bit and see what her her desire for a solid wood table was based on. As I suspected, it turned out that she was under the impression that solid wood tables were somehow "better quality" then their veneered counterparts, and that most pieces made by major Danish designers such as Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl were made from solid wood.

I told her that yes, there is ONE Finn Juhl dining table that I know of that's made from solid teak - however, practically every other mid century dining table that I can think of, even those by big name designers including Juhl and Hans Wegner, are veneered (the glaring exception to this being some 1950s American modern furniture, such as that produced by Heywood Wakefield and designed by Paul McCobb and Russell Wright - but these pieces, although solid wood, were produced from lower cost woods such as maple and birch).

I went on to explain that while solid wood is all very nice in theory, in practice, it really doesn't make that much of a difference when compared to a quality piece of veneered furniture. In fact, if they aren't cared for properly, solid wood tables and case pieces can actually present a problem, in that solid wood is MUCH more prone to warping and cracking than veneered wood. Other than that, the only other real advantage I can think of to solid wood is aesthetic (which, even then, is in the eye of the beholder), and the fact that solid wood pieces are a bit easier to bring back from severe damage than veneered pieces are, since you don't have to worry about sanding through the veneer. However, the process for dealing with severe damage such as a cigarette burn or a deep gouge is exactly the same with a solid wood piece and a veneered piece - you still have to fill the void and color match the fill to the rest of the finish.

So, when dealing with mid century modern furniture, the issue of solid wood vs. veneer is almost a non-issue. Solid wood simply doesn't offer that many advantages, and pieces that are solid wood are not particularly worth more than those of similar quality that are veneered. As I said above, it pretty much boils down to an aesthetic/taste issue more than anything else. By the same token, some people may like teak wood better than walnut, but one is not inherently better or worse than the other.

Having said that, being able to distinguish solid wood furniture from veneered furniture IS a useful skill when looking for vintage furniture for your home, and there are a few simple ways to distinguish between the two (keep in mind that when someone selling a piece of furniture, especially on a venue such as craigslist or eBay, claims that a piece of furniture is solid wood, there's a very good chance that it isn't).

The first (this applies mainly to tables) is the presence of edge banding, as you can see on the detail of a Hans Wegner dining table below:

Edge banding simply serves to cover up the unfinished edge of the piece of veneered wood that comprises the main tabletop. Edge banding can range from as thin as 1/8" up to over 1" in thickness. Thicker edge banding on a table is a definite sign of quality. Even if you didn't know that the table above was designed by Hans Wegner, the fact that it's banded in a 3/4" piece of solid teak would give you a clue to its quality. If a piece of furniture has a bullnose edge like the one on this table, but you can't find any evidence of edge banding, the piece is probably solid wood.

Another very easy way to tell solid wood (once again, mainly for tables) is to look at the underside of the piece - does it look like the same piece of wood as the table top? If not, then it's probably veneered! Veneered tops will usually have a nicer wood on top (such as teak, walnut or rosewood) and a less expensive/less attractive veneer on the bottom.

The third and final way is to look at the edge of the piece of wood and see if the graining on the top carries through on the edge - the way marbling does in a good piece of steak. If this is not the case, you are looking at a veneered piece. Below, you can see the detail of the edge of a solid teak coffee table designed by Finn Juhl to get a visual on what I'm talking about:

While a solid wood piece is not necessarily better or more valuable than a veneered piece of comparable quality, the presence of solid wood in a piece does give you an idea of the quality, even if you don't know anything else about the piece. The fact that a piece is solid wood might also potentially give you a clue that the piece is handmade, or at least custom made, since so few factory made pieces of mid century furniture (apart from the major exceptions, as noted above) were made of solid wood. So, while the presence of solid wood is definitely a tool that you can use to determine the quality of a piece of furniture, it should not be the sole determinant in your search, unless you have very deep pockets and a considerable amount of time on your hands. Likewise, if you unexpectedly find yourself with a piece of solid wood furniture, think of it as a bonus, and a nice selling point if you ever want or need to re-sell the piece!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Even Our Competition Says We're Better

About a month ago, a client came to us with a Knoll sofa that he wanted to have reupholstered and refinished. See the original sofa below.

From this pic, the sofa doesn't look all that bad, but on closer inspection, the fabric was quite worn and shabby, and the frame was pretty beat up as well. We reupholstered the sofa in fabric that the client provided, and refinished the frame back to a natural walnut. As you can see below, it turned out beautifully.

Naturally, the client was quite pleased with the results. When he came to pick it up, I asked him where had gotten the sofa. He told me, and to my surprise, he had purchased it at another shop in Portland that specializes in mid century modern furniture, and who also have their own upholsterer! I said "well, that's odd, I'm surprised that they didn't just reupholster it themselves". He replied that they had planned to redo it, but that he had found it before they had gotten the chance to do it. I replied "well, even so, I'm surprised that they didn't just have their guy reupholster the sofa for you!", to which he said "well, they're the ones who sent me over to you. They said 'go to Janus Home, their guy does better work than ours'".

I have to admit I was a little speechless, but definitely quite flattered. I certainly believe that my upholsterer does better work than just about anyone else in town, but to have it confirmed by my competition was really quite pleasing.

Which is to say - if you have any old pieces (not just mid century, we can work on antiques as well) that you'd like to breathe new life into, bring them on down! We our fully endorsed by our competition!