Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lewis has been on the road

Yesterday Lewis delivered a piece, and he went shopping in West Virginia. Here is a photo of some of the pieces that he bought.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Where did parsons table come from?

Lewis and I were talking about parson's tables. They are so useful such clean designs. There are side tables, consoles, coffee tables, dining tables, inside and outside tables, but where were they originated. Did some parson make one for his home, thus the name parson's table? Well I just had to find out. So I googled parson's table in wikipedia. I found that it was designed in Paris, in the 1930's at The Parsons School of Design, hence the name Parsons Table. It was designed by Jean- Michel Frank. The table has had a life of it's own ever since. I just went around the shop to see how many parsons tables we had. We have at least ten. They all were different.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Piero Fornasetti

Lewis has given me the joyful task of discussing Fornasetti. He was born and lived most of his life in Milan Italy. He spent 2 years at an Art Academy there but was expelled for insubordination. I knew I liked that man! Creative people rarely fit into molds. His greatist inspiration was the face of the operatic soprano Lina Cavalieri, which he had found in a nineteenth century magazine. Over the years he drew over 500 images using her face. When asked why he continued to do so, he said that he really didn't know why that he had started doing so and had never stopped. It was the ultimate variation on a theme.

He had several shops where he made his wonderous masterpieces many were tromp l'oeils. Fornasetti's work was enhanced by his working relationship with Gio Ponti. He made wall paper, china, furniture, obelisk, mirrors etc.. His subjects included celestial beings, buildings and meaningful objects such as keys, watches, clocks. His furniture was often hidden behind a city scape or faux malachite. Some pieces looked like bookcases loaded with faux books and shelves. He let his imagination go wild and created some of the most magical pieces imaginable. To learn more about Fornasetti I can recommend the book, "Fornasetti, Conversation with Philippe Stark", by Brigitte Fitoussi.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

That crazy floor lamp! and a fornasetti vanity mirror....

Hey this is Lewis, and man we've been crazy busy. 1stdibs has been keeping us running and trying to keep up with the demand and still doing all the shop duties, and buying is being rough.  Whenever I have a second to myself I try and keep learning. 

The floor lamp we picked up last week, it ends up was designed Maurizio Tempestini for Lightolier.  I tracked it down by noticing the construction was similar to some other vintage 1950's Lightolier Lamps.  And with some quick googling and going through old auction books I was able to track it down!  It's a pretty cool lamp as I've never seen it before!  The one I found had similar construction just a different shape, so it's always cool to find something new!  Just got a phone call from a new client, she was telling me about 2 James Mont lamps she had in her house and I told her where she bought them....   I need to get out more!!
So a few weeks ago I picked up this vanity mirror.  It's gold over bronze and stamped on the back 'made in italy'.  I'm willing to bet it's made by Piero Fornasetti.   He did many whimsical objects and furniture pieces, and I could write a whole blog post on him.  Maybe I'll pass on that task to my mom!


We were going stir crazy from being inside and having shopping withdrawals. Lewis had a delivery to make to the D.C. area, so we decided to venture out toward the mountains of Virginia. Our snow had almost melted, but D.C. had it a lot worst than we did. We down through the Shenandoah. We were amazed I felt like I was in New England rather than in Virginia there was still so much snow. We shopped on the way but found only a few neat things. There was this great pole floor light from the fifties,which Lewis says he's never seen one like it before.

Then we found a Virginia Metal Crafter's key nut bowl that we had never seen before, great style similar to something Fornasetti would have made.

One our most unusual finds was a silver plated Italian wine bottle opener shaped like a man, not the modern ones produced today.

It was marked sommelier and engraved made in italy on the interior.

Lewis found a wonderful etruscian style coffee table custom made by Minton Spidell. Minton Spidell is known for their high quality pieces and their custom finishes. This table however was used outdoors and gained a super great crackled almost rusty eggshell finish. Nature does the nicest aging something man can not come even close to accomplishing

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New modernism in America

Paul Frankl was one of the several Europeans who came to America and helped us forge a new purely American style. When he came to the States he landed in New York City in the early teens. He was surprised to find that there was no trace of the modern trends that were forming all over Europe. He set about to form a truly American modern style. He was pleased to see the skyscrapers that were being built in the twenties and some of his first furniture designs were designed after these. He designed skyscraper bookcases, chairs, vanities, and even a sky scrapper daybed. He also designed chairs he called speed.

He moved across the U.S. to California and developed a beautiful line of modern Rattan pieces that have become iconic. He truly was one of the forerunners of the new American Modern design.The more I read the more fascinating the journey of modern design becomes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dorothy Draper who knew?

Recently we have acquired right many of Dorothy Draper designed pieces. When I looked at her pieces and where she worked who knew that a lady of my grandmother's generation could accomplish so much in a time when ladies stayed home and kept house. Sure ladies in the twenties and thirties worked, but usually they had to work. They were our maiden aunts or they had the misfortune of losing their husbands. Most women of that period did not work. Dorothy Draper not only worked , she flourished. She was married to a doctor in fact he was President Roosevelt's personal doctor after he contracted polio. Coming from a wealthy family she grew up with Eleanor Roosevelt. It was perhaps because of her social connections that she began to achieve something that many other women of her era were unable to do. One connection led to another. The Homestead Hotel in West Virginia is perhaps one of the most noted places she decorated. We have a lot of pieces from the Homestead Hotel. We have been partially "Draperized" the term that other decorators of the era used when discussing her design work. Her work is also referred to as Modern-Baroque. The book "In The Pink" about Dorothy Draper by Carlton Varney reintroduced Draper to decorating and her work has influenced modern designers such as Kelley Wearstler.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Samuel Abraham Marx

So much for getting plastered. It's time for me to learn something about a really important American furniture designer and architect. Samuel Marx was born in Mississippi in 1885. He went to MIT and graduated in architecture. Marx is, and has been a major influence in furniture design. Liz O'Brien's recent book, Ultramodern, describes Samuel Marx as an Architect, Designer, and Art Collector. She asserts his role in the modernist movement. Marx was influenced greatly by Robsjohn Gibbings and altered a lot of Gibbings designs. His style of furniture had clean almost architectural lines. He was also influenced by Jean-Michel Frank, who was a deco designer. It was said in the 40's that is was hard to say where the architecture ended and the furniture began. His prices have gone through the roof. I wish we had some. .

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Let's get plastered!

Plaster is one of my favorite materials.  I love the readiness and availability of it, and it's history.  Plaster is made from Gypsum, and has a long history in architecture and the arts.  Think frescoes and mold making to walls and architectural elements, to furniture, lighting and sconces.  I think plaster adds a timeless appeal to modern interiors.  I love sculpture models out of plaster and love the idea of the immediacy of it.  Plaster gains patina over time and since it is so dry it absorbs oil and moisture from the air and from the touch.  The patina is a living record of it's life written on it's surface.  Plaster has it's history and it's future transcending design and different periods from Egyptian plaster use to the works of designers such as Serge Roche or John Dickinson's plaster furniture.  Jeff Koon's also worked in plaster such as his early food models such as 'bread with egg', following in the footsteps of people like Claes Oldenburg, and Cy Twombly's sculptures in wood and plaster.  I even like when there are repairs visible in the plaster. This shows that somebody loved something enough to fix it.  Even if the piece is made out of such a cheap and readily available material, the value should only increase with each repair.  The years spent polish brass until it gains that softness and warmth that only old brass pieces can have.  It's the patina which is what people want, the years of handling and the value which comes through it.  I even love the crazing of old lucite pieces, and pieces made out of old resins.  The Japanese have a word for it called Wabi-Sabi.  The finding of beauty in an imperfection, people who love old things find the beauty in the age and the patina... the burl of wood, the cracks in a lacquer finish or the oxidation or patina of a metal...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Too much snow for Virginia!

This can't be Virginia! We never have snow like this! I lived in Vermont for a while. When I look at the streets in town it looks like what I remember from living in the north. Lewis talked about animals in design. Animals have appeared in design and art work since the beginning. The cavemen painted them on their cave's walls. Man has had an affinity and admiration for animals. Throughout art history animals have appeared in paintings, in sculpture and in pottery. We just found a great brass magazine rack by Jansen in the shape of a swan. There are a lot of reproductions of this piece. Jansen had a lot of their brass and metal work done in Italy. This one is marked made in Italy on the center spine. The quality of the workmanship is definitely that of Jansen and the back ribs are more wishbone shaped.

One of my favorite periods is Art Deco.

Art Deco was a period of art, architecture, design, furniture and other art forms created from about 1925 through the 1940's. The furniture of this period was influenced greatly by the Biedermeier furniture of the mid 19th century which originated in Germany. Biedermeier furniture was based on utilitarian principles producing truth through design.Local woods were used making simple but elegant pieces. Furniture of the deco period also represented truth through clean, simple, and refined designs. Art deco was a fusion of Biedermeier, Futurism, Cubism,and Constructivism. It had no philosophical roots, art deco was pure decorative and utilitarian.

Art Deco furniture's classic clean design makes it easy to use with other classic design periods.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

No rest for the wicked!

Greetings Everyone!  This is Lewis, and it's a Sunday here at work and yes we're closed!  Welcome to the glamorous life of a family run business.  ;)  We had a blizzard the last 2 days and we had the shop closed.  Note to self, buy an answering machine!  Most people think dealers that are on 1stdibs are jet setters and they fly into different auction houses across the country to bid on things, well not here.  So I'm in working on photography and shooting and listing things today in the snow(risking life and limb), and at this moment I'm taking a break!  I just wanted to let you know that blogging is actually a lot more fun than I thought it would be.  It's the adoring fans, yes both of you.  haha...  So earlier this week I promised to show some of the stuff I've been buying recently.  Here's an insider tip.  Once I post things on 1stdibs, they are located at my storefront before the Wednesday New Listings are sent out so everyone can have a sneak peak.  They take them off of the storefronts on Tuesday night I believe.  I'm not allowed to post my things on here before they go onto 1stdibs, so check them out early on my storefront if you get a chance.  We also have a website located at 
So remember earlier this week how I said it was Brutalist Lamps week, well last night I got an email from the couple who were interested in the lamps saying the're going to take it!  Which saved us because the last 2 weekends we've had terrible snowstorms(which we never have).  I had 2-3 people wanting the same lamp at the same time, so remembering who's who and where was getting a little hairy.  I'll post something a little more exciting tomorrow.  That snowpile is in front of our shop and to give an idea of scale the Arthur Court rabbit is 19 inches tall!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kitsch and Animals in Art & Design

Recently one of my good friends and local dealer Maurice Beane wrote a blog posting on Claude & Francois-Xavier Lalanne's quirky animal based designs and how they have recently reached record prices at auction.  It started me thinking about design and how sometimes it's the luxurious quirky kitsch pieces which end up being high style. 

When most people think kitsch they think of cheaply made items in bad taste, but there's a thin line that seperates the good from the bad.  This line is dictated by the quality of construction, the ideas behind the design and sometimes a nod to pieces that evoke memories from childhood, or flights of fancy.  I personally love walking this line.  There must be a big demand for such items as the prices can be driven astronomical proportions.  Take for instance Jeff Koons Puppy vase.  When they first came out I almost bought one instead of buying a vespa(which i never used).  Oh the mistakes I've made.  I think the vase was around 1500 bucks, and I was debating buying it.  In 2008 Gagosian Gallery reissued(3,000 more introduced to the market) of the vase for 7,500 dollars.  The Blogger Katiedid  has a super blog posting on the Jeff Koons Puppy vase and she has the same regret for not getting one when they were cheaper.

Anyways these kitschy high style items seem to hold their own in the market.  Recently I've been noticing a lot of Nymphenburg Porcelain showing up in magazines and on blogs everywhere.  I especially like the trophy mounts, rhinos, and the skull.  However as always I wonder about justifying the cost to myself, maybe I'll be able to pick a few up on the secondary market.

The vintage Arthur Court pieces have seemed to gain recent appeal also, the larger scaled pieces and champagne coolers in the shapes of different animals seem to be always hip.  I tend to like the standing rabbit one the best as it's reminescent of Jeff Koon's balloon rabbit sculpture.  We have the following one in our shop, and we usually have other Arthur Court pieces available. 

 However there still  are many italian majolica items which I love almost more than any of these and for the most part they are still affordable and readily available, but people are tending to catch on to them.  I love design and it's interesting looking at design from a dealers point of view.  Many vintage and antique dealers are already buying up the larger high end pieces by contemporary designers such as Michael Aram, and one of my favorites Ted Muehling.  Ted Muehling has also done some design work for the Nymphenburg Porcelain Company, bringing us almost full circle.  Hope you enjoyed my wandering thoughts on kitsch and animals in art and design.  I think I've just scratched the surface on this topic and I'll most likely link back to this in the future.  If anyone else has any comments or would like to add onto this post feel free to comment about it.

Friday, February 5, 2010


OK now here's the scoop. Maison Jansen, the house of Jansen, was founded in the late 19thc by Jean-Henri Jansen it existed from 1880 til 1989. The piece below came out of a collection of things from the Waldorf Astoria and in the same style as Jansen.
In 1920's Stephane Boudin joined the firm. He acted as the designer for Maison Jansen to the Kennedy White House. He redid the Blue Room and the Red Room in traditional American style. Jansen's style was usually French influenced. They were known for their reproductions of classical french pieces. Maison Jansen started out selling antiques and then started producing their own designs based on the classics. Hey, that's what Robsjohn Gibbings did too! We have a beautiful daybed by Maison Jansen which is pictured below. The daybed is made of nickle plated steel and bronze, which was contracted out to an Italian craftsman to produce from Jansen's designs.We sold a great piece from the 1940's by Jansen. This had a piano black lacquer finish and the interior of the very large cabinet was salmon lacquer the real give away confirming it to truly be Maison Jansen was the huge brass lion head pulls, and concentric circle pulls used repeatedly in their designs.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Brutal Lamps Week!

This is Lewis, giving Mom a break she's just been really busy today and the shop couldn't be 1/10th of what it is without her...   Okay enough of me being sappy let's get to the good stuff!  The shop has been crazy busy today, taking photos of things to send out to different clients and decorators all over the world.  It's been a mad rush this week. We've been so busy online with all this snow on the ground but it's a good thing because foot traffic has been slow. 

This week we've had a mad rush on brutalist lamps.   In the last week we sold the above lamp to a decorator in New York City.  The lamp above was designed by Laurel Lamps of New York City but was produced by Flemington Iron Works of Flemington, New Jersey.  Flemington Iron Works also had the designer/fabricator  Harry Balmer working for them, who also designed forged steel furniture.  Brutalist lamps have been gaining popularity for years and it's about time they get the respect they deserve.  We've had major interest on the pair of Paul Evans Style Brutalist lamps by Laurel Lamps ever since I listed them.  I've gotten some awesome pieces in the last week, and I'll post some of those for all of you tomorrow!  Have a great one!  You know this blogging thing ain't too shabby.  I'm starting to warm up to it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Robsjohn Gibbings

Don't forget Mom, Robsjohn Gibbings also designed a lot of custom pieces for his interiors and created iconic lamps through Hansen Lamps.  Hansen outsourced the lamps to a Spanish Manufacturer called Metalarte.  Before they were outsourced they had a German metalworker in queens making the lamps for them named Carl Knecht.  Hansen Lamps produced some of the most beautiful  yet simplistic and well machined lamps of the time.  The business is still in business today and they still create the iconic tripod lamp that Robsjohn Gibbings designed however the company is now called Hinson Lighting.  Earlier period pieces would have been created by Hansen.  Many of the earlier ones have 'Hansen Lamps New York' stamped on them, however not all of them do.  Todays been a little slow in the shop with all the snow we've been getting, so it's a good day to blog!  I'm getting anxious to hit the road and go out buying!  This wintry mess better not last too long.
I loved the designs I was discovering. I had absorbed an idea of what the designs of the period looked like, but new very little about the artist and the designers themselves. Lewis now knew so much more than I did. I guess there comes a time when the child teaches the parent. So now it is time for me to learn about these modern giants. Maybe I can teach him something. We have a few pieces by Robsjohn Gibbings, I know what some of his pieces look like so now's the time for me to delve into what he was all about.

T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings was trained as an architect. He designed interiors of Ocean liners. He acted as a salesman at one time for an Antique dealer, who sold Jacobean and Elizabethian furniture. No wonder he liked cleaner lines. In the 30's and 40's he was the most important decorator in America. He wrote books most notibly "Goodbye Mr. Chippendale", a spoof on modern decorating. He designed 200 pieces of furniture for the famous Casa Encantata, these tend to be the majority of his most expensive pieces. In some of his pieces he used restrained use of greco-roman influence along with his clean modern lines.

We have a preproduction lamp listed on our 1stDibs web page. Did you know that Robsjohn Gibbings designed furniture for Widdicomb and some John Stuart Furniture. Also check out other pieces of his furniture with us and other 1stdibs dealers. Now you will have a good working knowledge of what his furniture looks like.

I've always loved mixing it up. We have 18th century pieces mixed with Deco and Robsjohn-Gibbings. Throw in a pair of good murano lamps and some extra large natural shells, that's what style is all about. What really bothers me is a room that is matchy matchy. It takes guts, but mix it up a bit, and wow what a difference a little imagination makes. When you walk into our shop you will find a wide range of wonderful things. I am lucky to be surrounded by so much great stuff. Who will I look up next? Maison Jansen! We have a few of his pieces. I heard that he designed for the Kennedy White House. What else will I find out?

Let me clear my throat!

Leigh Lewis Trimble:I'm the Mom and I'm in business with my son. Living in Virginia, I thought antiques were the pieces that you found in Williamsburg. We started out hunting 18th century pieces. I need to be in business with one of my sons, because I had polio as a child. I'm currently confined to a wheel chair and could not manage this alone. We travel up and down the east coast and across the states in search for hidden treasure. We hope to share our passion for design.

D. Lewis Trimble:

My youngest son was very resistant as a teen and college student to antique shopping with his older brother Chris and his Mom. It wasn't until he went to one of the Brimfield antique shows and purchased a piece of pottery. My son was a great fan of Jasper Johns who included outlines of George Ohr's pottery in some of his paintings. After some research he realized that the piece he purchased was a George Ohr. This marked a new found interest in the hunt for wonderful things.

When I thought about modern furniture. I thought danish modern, kidney shaped tables and plastic. I was completely unaware of what really high end design from the 40's, 50's, and 60's was all about. Remember I'm from Virginia. We were steeped in traditional furniture etc. It took Lewis introducing me to some of the classics of 20th Century designs. The quality of design, the purity of the line and form, the imagination in the use of the materials was enough to convince me that these pieces equaled if not surpassed some of the revered 18th century pieces. I have found that good modern design draws it's influence from the class pieces. These pieces stand well on their own and mix well with older pieces. A whole new world of design opened up before me. I was hooked.


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