Friday, January 14, 2011

Furnette

Furnette Industries, Inc. was a furniture manufacturing concern located in the Bronx, NY. According to a June 11, 1962 New York Times article titled "Modern Furniture Can Be Assembled in the Home" Furnette started operation in 1945, little else is known about the early years of the company.

What we do know is that in 1955 Furnette started promoting a line of contemporary furnishings titled the Gallery Group, designed by Mark J. Furst and Robert Fellner (who also owned the company). Their mix and match design philosophy attracted some attention in the media and that is where our story begins. Along with their case pieces the new Gallery Group had a series of brass framed shelf units or hutches remarkably similar to Paul McCobb's designs.

This first illustration is a Halpern and Gillman advertisement from page 17 of the November 11, 1957 issue of the New York Times. This particular hutch is the most common of the group by far and, in my experience, almost always misattributed to Paul McCobb. Hell, if I didn't know better I would have thought that this was a Paul McCobb design, but my research very clearly proves otherwise.

Furnette wall cabinet and hutch designed by Robert Felner & Mark J Furst

A modern photo (below), culled from a recent craigslist posting, of the same Furnette hutch illustrated above with drawers flipped

Furnette brass hutch designed by Robert Fellner and Mark J. Furst

Another Halpern and Gillman ad (below) showing more of the Gallery Group hutches, this one taken from the New York Times November 10, 1958 page 20.

Furnette designed by Robert Fellner & Mark J Furst

The next few photo's are modern photos, from various sources, of the brass hutches pictured in the above ad.  

Identical shelf unit (below) to the one picture top left of the above Halpern and Gillman November 10, 1958 advertisement (photo courtesy of www.wright20.com)

Brass shelf designed by Robert Fellner and Mark J. Furst for Furnette


A much better representation (below) of the unit sketched in the middle left of the above Halpern and Gillman November 10, 1958 advertisement (photo from www.wright20.com).

Furnette breakfront top designed by Robert Fellner and Mark J. Furst

There are subtle differences in construction between the Directional and Furnette brass shelf units. The McCobb/Directional brass frames were brazed (a process similar to soldering but done at higher temperatures) where the Furnette pieces are screwed together from underneath. It is because of this difference in construction that the Furnette shelves can not follow a straight line when interrupted by a brass upright causing some of their larger designs to have a slightly lopsided/uneven look to them  such as in the photo above where the center shelf is at a slightly different level from the top of the drawers. Admittedly it takes a studied eye and a fair amount of highly esoteric knowledge to know to look for these subtleties let alone be able to easily spot them.
 
Photo (below) of the unit pictured on the bottom left of the November 10, 1958 Halpern and Gillman advertisement (photo from www.ragoarts.com)

Bench, Cabinet and shelf unit designed by Robert Fellner and Mark J. Furst

Yet another Furnette shelf unit designed by Robert Fellner & Mark J Furst (below) as pictured in the Yonkers Herald Statesman September 25, 1958.


The breakfront pictured below, designed by Robert Fellner and Mark J. Furst,  is also amongst those Furnette designs misattributed to Paul McCobb (scan taken from The New York Times April 26, 1959 page 80)


[1] New York Times "Brass Touches Brighten New Room Dividers of Wood" January 19, 1955 page 31

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Room Divided

There are very few new ideas in the world of furniture design when you get right down to it. Chairs are chairs, tables continue to be tables. So it's a very rare occasion when a truly new and original design concept comes into being. Paul McCobb managed to do this with the introduction of the open shelf room divider in 1952.

The following images detail the majority of Paul McCobb's  open shelf room divider designs.

One of the most iconic and easily recognized of all of Paul McCobb's designs is the 1952 Irwin Collection #7905/9305 brass and mahogany open shelf room divider (below) the very first design of it's kind.

Page taken from the 1952 Irwin Collection catalog

The open shelf room divider concept was replicated again and again throughout the Paul McCobb design groups of the 1950's. A l954 addition to the Irwin Collection added the 1092/1093 Room Divider (below).


Page 55 of the 1956 Directional Designs by Paul McCobb catalog


and the 36" #7903 Room Divider top was also added at about this time (below)


Page 20 of the 1956 Directional Designs by Paul McCobb catalog

1953 saw the addition of the #1596 wrought iron and maple room divider for the Planner Group (below)


Page 6 of the 1953 California State Fair Art Exhibit brochure


For 1954's Calvin Group the 1066/1095 66" Buffet Cabinet with  60" Breakfront Top was added (below)


Page 34 of the 1956 Directional Designs by Paul McCobb catalog

This #495/496 aluminum and walnut room divider was added in 1956 for the Linear Group (below).


1956 publicity photo from the McCobb family archives


1957's Perimeter Group had it's own take on the room divider with it's all beech #2697 Room Divider top (below right).
Page 5 of the 1957 "Perimeter Group designed by Paul McCobb" brochure

And finally in 1959 the Planner Group got a second room divider design, the #1597 model in solid maple (below) as a replacement for the long discontinued #1596 wrought iron and maple room divider.


Bloomingdale's advertisement, NY Times June 5, 1960 page 33

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Country Workshop

If you have been following the blog you will already know a bit about Clifford Pascoe's designs for Modernmasters (see: "A Tale of Two Chairs" and "The Daybed that Paul McCobb should have designed...")  which were very clearly based upon Paul McCobb's 1951-1952 Planner Group offerings and Arthur Umanoff's designs for Peter De Jardin's Tropic Shop (see: "Sincerest Form of Flattery") which channeled the design synthesis of Paul McCobb's Planner Group and his designs for Directional.

Another of the copycats was Country Workshop owned by Josh Millstein. Country Workshop sold  their unfinished furniture directly from their factory in Newark, NJ to local patrons. They also sold mail order via ads in national magazines such as House & Garden and Living for Young Homemakers. 

Country Workshop was in operation, to my certain knowledge, from 1951 to 1974. One of the earlier references that I have been able to find is in a January 28, 1952 New York Times article titled "Free-Stand Wall Provides Storage":
"The Country Workshop, 95 Rome Street, Newark, is offering small bookcases, chests or other pieces of unpainted furniture. These are made of solid poplar. The cabinets are furnished with sliding doors of Novaply. The chests have woodfaced drawers.
The single-shelf bookcases, the cabinets (which have one shelf) and the three-drawer chests come in four different sizes, all twentynine inches high. The smallest bookcase, nine and a half inches deep and twenty-four inches wide, costs about $10.
The units have detachable legs five inches high or may be stacked on a matching bench, available in five different lengths. Two desks one with three drawers on one side and two legs on the other and the second supported by three drawers on each of its two sides complete the collection."
Reading this initial description one might not think much it but I  have seen their work frequently being confused with Paul McCobb's designs.

Country Workshop advertisement. New York Times Sunday Magazine March 30, 1958, page 75

The Country Workshop cases and benches were 16" deep where the McCobb Planner Group designs are 18". Many of the Country Workshop case pieces are virtually identical to the Planner Group cases barring this small detail. 

The stock configuration of attached legs were 5" tapered peg legs mounted at 90 degrees to the cases (straight up and down) but there was also an option of splayed tapered peg legs identical in appearance to their Planner Group counterparts as seen in the ad below,  the only significant difference being that the Country Workshop legs used a metal screw to attach to a threaded metal socket where the Planner Group legs are tapped with wooden threads much like a broom handle. 

Popular Science December 1954 page 172

Country Workshop craftsmanship was of inferior quality, lacking the through-dovetails used by Winchendon Furniture to invisibly join the sides, tops and bottoms of the Planner group cases.

Amongst other things Country Workshop was one of several manufacturers who made a variant of the Clifford Pascoe/Modernmasters bentwood and iron chair (see below) which was so remarkably similar to Paul McCobb's own Planner Group #1535 chair (A copy of a copy! Confusing isn't it?). The major difference between the Country Workshop chair and the Modernmasters chair was that the Country Workshop's chair had a continuously curving backrest, the metal frames were, for all intents and purposes, identical.

Country Workshop (L) and Modernmasters (R) chairs side-by-side.
New York Times March 8, 1953 page 84.

Country Workshop also had two desk designs along the lines of the iconic Planner Group #1560 desk. The main difference being that the Country Workshop desks (there were two distinct designs) had three drawers instead two. Not an improvement to my mind.


Country Workshop Advertisement.
Living For Young Homemakers February 1952 page 22

In 1958 Country Workshop introduced their own version of the Planner Group "Golf Pull". It is their use of this drawer hardware which causes the most confusion amongst the uninitiated.



House & Garden March 1962 page 102

Pictured below is a Country Workshop "4 Deep 4 Shallow" 48 inch chest of drawers  complete with  McCobb style drawer pulls. The design is depicted in the lower left corner of the large Country Workshop March 1958 ad. The similarities in design/construction and use of like drawer pull hardware make it almost impossible for those not exceptionally well versed in the ins and outs of mid-century furniture identification and Paul McCobb in particular to tell the difference. 

1960's Country Workshop "4 Deep 4 Shallow" 48 inch chest of drawers
for sale at Lost City Arts