mel bogart ashtray stand for felmore

"Mel Bogart ashtray stand for Felmore"

ad for Felmore ashtray stand by Mel Bogart from Interiors magazine, Dec 1953

I was happy to stumble across this ad in the December 1953 issue of Interiors magazine that revealed the mystery of a piece from our collection! This piece was described here in my earlier post, “i like it, whatever it is (#1)”. We’re using it as a catchall under our mail slot, but it was indeed an ashtray stand as I suspected.

"mel bogart ashtray stand for felmore"

It’s the number 620 ashtray stand by the designer Mel Bogart, and it was created for the Felmore company in Van Nuys. Since the date of the ad is late 1953 I’m assuming the piece was made that same year. Bogart also designed furniture for Felmore, including daybeds and tables, as well as fireplace tools. I believe he was an architect too, but I need to confirm that.

Felmore also had a retail outlet called Felmore Associates in Pacific Palisades in the 50’s.

Posted in 50's, felmore, iron, mel bogart | 4 Comments

domus in the early fifties

"Mario Tedeschi bookcase and surreal photo"

Mario Tedeschi bookcase with a nice surreal photographic tableau

For an enlightening diversion of mid century eye candy, I highly recommend exploring the range of incredible design that was given to the world by Gio Ponti’s Domus magazine of Italy during that time. A few years ago Taschen reprinted excerpts from the magazine’s run from 1928 to 1999.

The pictures here are all of Italian designers’ work, but the magazine would feature current design from around the world including the U.S., Scandinavia and the rest of Europe and Japan.

view of the sea from the proposed San Remo condo designed by Carlo Mollino and Mario Roggero

view of the sea from the proposed San Remo condo designed by Carlo Mollino and Mario Roggero

Roberto Mango floor light for Heifetz Co. and MOMA lighting competition

Roberto Mango floor light for Heifetz Co. and MOMA lighting competition

Carlo Mollino chair for the Casa Orengo in Turin

Carlo Mollino chair for the Casa Orengo in Turin

lounge chair by Carlo Mollino

lounge chair by Carlo Mollino

an installation by Erberto Carboni for the Montecatini pavilion at the 1952 Milan trade fair

an installation by Erberto Carboni for the Montecatini pavilion at the 1952 Milan trade fair

rod and ball mobile sculpture by Ettore Sottsass Jr.

rod and ball mobile sculpture by Ettore Sottsass Jr.

brass and plexiglas bowl by Sottsass

brass and plexiglas bowl by Sottsass

Murano glassware by Vinicio Vianello

Murano glassware by Vinicio Vianello

Olivetti showroom in New York

Olivetti showroom in New York

Gino Sarfatti hanging light – model 2072 for Arteluce

chaise designed for mass production by Gregotti, Meneghetti and Stoppino

chaise designed for mass production by Gregotti, Meneghetti and Stoppino

Posted in 50's, arteluce, carlo mollino, domus magazine, ettore sottsass jr., gino sarfatti, italy, mario tedeschi, roberto mango | Comments Off on domus in the early fifties

fletcher benton “synchronetic” kinetic art sculpture

This is a short video of a Synchronetic L-110, which was a limited edition kinetic art optical sculpture produced by Fletcher Benton Studios for Galeria Bonino in New York in 1969.

Fletcher Benton is a sculptor who currently lives in San Francisco and who explored kinetic art earlier in the 60’s. Most of his kinetic pieces are larger and more unique, however he created this edition of around 100 for sale through his new gallery at the time in NYC.

There is a hexagonal pattern of small holes in the front, and what I imagine is a disk with a similar pattern behind the front that is motorized. When the disk slowly turns and is lit from behind, you get the cool Moiré pattern. The disk can turn for quite a while before you see a pattern repeat, which is cool.

I came across this at a recent auction here in the area and it makes a great conversation piece for visitors, not to mention a nice alternative to TV. And, the missus has proclaimed it as her favorite of the pieces I have come across recently and dragged back to the cave – so that’s another plus!

Posted in 60's, california, fletcher benton, kinetic art | Comments Off on fletcher benton “synchronetic” kinetic art sculpture

design workshops of san francisco

"design workshops table""design workshops table""design workshops credenza"

While leafing through old copies of Interiors magazine today I came across a cool little article in the September 1947 issue called “Made in California” that showcased a few different furniture designs from the Golden State. The pictures above caught my eye, and I learned that there was a modern furniture design company in San Francisco back then called Design Workshops.

The company was on Bluxome Street at the time, and one of the designers who created the above pieces was named Walter Harada. They made desks, tables and cabinets and combined machine construction with hand work. They are still in business and are now located in Oakland, and as you can imagine after over 60 years they have grown, and they have moved on from doing custom furniture work.

I really like the pieces in the photos and was very happy to discover a post-war modern furniture company in San Francisco that I had never heard of.

The pieces are simple and probably don’t come off as too earthshaking today, but what is noteworthy to me is that this was 1947! Pretty forward-looking for the time if you ask me. For wood furniture shown in that issue they really feel at one with the Eames and Aalto pieces.

And I might add, there was a heck of a lot of really ugly not-modern-at-all furniture and design in your average copy of Interiors from 1947 – I’m referring to the ads, since the editorial department had it going on big time. There was no shortage of provincial decoration and floral patterns getting cranked out back then!

I look forward to digging around some more and will try to find out more about the history of Design Workshops and Walter Harada.

Posted in 40's, california, interiors magazine, san francisco, table, walter harada, wood | Comments Off on design workshops of san francisco

j. b. blunk – “the planet”

"j. b. blunk's "the planet""

j. b. blunk's "the planet" at the Oakland Museum of California

It has been gratifying to see the return of J. B. Blunk’s epic “The Planet” at the recently remodeled Oakland Museum of California, and I had been meaning to pay it a nice long visit for awhile.

It is a lot of fun to get lost in the details of this beautiful piece. Especially cool is the interaction between the natural shapes of the burl and the carvings and shaping that Blunk did with chainsaws and other tools.

Between visitations by excited kids who really enjoy sitting and playing around “The Planet”, I took a bunch of pictures:

"j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet"

"j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet""j. b. blunk - the planet"

"j. b. blunk - the planet"It’s great to see how the visitors to the museum who come across “The Planet” immediately interact with and enjoy it.

If possible, I highly recommend a visit to OMCA so you can see this magnificent example of California craftsmanship with wood in person, not to mention the rest of the excellent works on exhibit. (Margaret De Patta, this means you!)

more —>

OMCA – Oakland Museum of California

oral history interview with J. B. Blunk, May 16 2002 from the Smithsonian Archives of Amercan Art

Posted in california, craft, j. b. blunk, OMCA, wood | 2 Comments

“creating modern furniture”

"mabel hutchinson door"

entrance doors by mabel hutchinson

These pictures are from the 1975 book “creating modern furniture” by Dona Meilach. It is a how-to book for craftspeople with lots of great basic information about building your own furniture, mainly out of wood.

However, it interests me (the non-woodworker) because it is profusely illustrated with examples by many of the leading lights of the craft furniture world of the early 70’s. It is an amazing time capsule. Lots of incredible hippie furniture in here!

If you are familiar with the “california design” series from the Pasadena Art Museum, you will recognize many of these craftspeople. The book is widely available used and I recommend tracking it down.


"mabel hutchinson"

mabel hutchinson at work

"hutchinson tumbler"

tumbler for the wood pieces used in mabel hutchinson’s patterned doors

The scraps from wood work done by Milon Hutchinson and Jocko Johnson are shaped and then tumbled like stones in this makeshift tumbler. It uses a motor attached to a belt that is attached to an old bicycle wheel.

"jack rogers hopkins and his womb room"

jack rogers hopkins and his “womb room”

"tom tramel music stand"

music stand by tom tramel

"dining set by dan wenger"
dining set of redwood, leather and steel by dan wenger
"another fine steel and leather sling chair by dan wenger"

another fine steel and leather sling chair by dan wenger

"rocking chair by edward g. livingston"

rocking chair by edward g. livingston

:chair by hal e. davis"

chair by hal e. davis


"pair of doors by federico armijo"

pair of doors by federico armijo

"door by federico armijo"

another door by federico armijo

"coffee table by william a. keyser"

coffee table by william a. keyser

"pull-up chair by jocko johnson"

“pull-up” chair by jocko johnson

"door by svetozar radakovitch"

"another door by svetozar radakovitch"

another door by svetozar radakovitch

"lounge by james nash"

lounge by james nash

That was a lot of work – time for a well-deserved rest, you guys! Excellent furniture!

Posted in 70's, california, craft, dan wenger, edward g. livingston, federico armijo, hal e. davis, jack rogers hopkins, jocko johnson, mabel hutchinson, svetozar radakovitch, tom tramel, william a. keyser | 4 Comments

the pacifica mystery

"pacifica logo"

Through the years, while obsessively leafing through auction catalogs of 20th century design, I have often come across wrought-iron furniture pieces that I liked that were described as being from “Pacifica Designs”, or “Pacific Ironworks”, or “Pacific Iron”, or some other variation. Luther Conover and Milo Baughman are two designers who were sometimes associated with these descriptions.

I had heard that there was a San Francisco Bay Area store back in the fifties that may have had this name and wanted to find out more. So, when I got the time, I did some research – including old-fashioned “book-learning” with old copies of Interiors magazine, etc. –  and now I think I have a much better idea of the origins of these terms.

It turns out that back in the day there were two different endeavors that were going on, and I believe that over time the two got mixed up and the names were confused.

The first was the furniture manufacturer Pacific Iron Products based in South Pasadena, and then Los Angeles. They made some classic post-war wrought-iron California furniture. Judging from mentions in Interiors magazine they existed from at least as early as the late 1940’s. Milo Baughman did indeed design some seating and tables for Pacific Iron, for example:

"chair designed by milo baughman for the pacific iron "california" line - from interiors, january 1950"

chair designed by milo baughman for the pacific iron "california" line - from interiors, january 1950

However, to me the more extensive and influential piece of the puzzle is the California-based Pacifica marketing campaign of home furnishings that began in 1952. This marketing program was orchestrated by furniture retailer and impresario Harry Jackson, one of the owners of Jacksons furniture stores in the Bay Area and Sacramento, with the help of Henry Humphrey, the editor at the time of the home living magazine House and Garden.

Mr. Jackson had traveled to Japan, China and other Asian countries before and after World War II, and was inspired by the designs he saw during his travels. For the Pacifica campaign he brought together and presented existing furniture and textiles that he felt served his theme of casual modern furniture with an Asian influence. These pieces came from dozens of manufacturers (including Pacific Iron, which must have contributed to the confusion of their company name with the Pacifica campaign), most of whom were based in California. He also approached designers and manufacturers and encouraged them to create new designs that would work within the Pacifica idea.

"arts + architecture ad for modern color and pacifica - may 1952"

may 1952 arts & architecture ad for modern color, inc. as part of the pacifica campaign - dorothy schindele, designer

The April 1952 issue of House and Garden devoted its cover and a 36-page spread to Pacifica designs.

Naturally, other furniture companies were encouraged to get on the bandwagon and rope in existing lines of furniture into the hot new craze for Pacific Rim-inspired design – witness this ad from the same issue of House and Garden that had the Pacifica feature:


ad for wrought iron furniture by potter art iron studios - house and garden, april 1952

Hmm… yeah, not really!

Incidentally, to my knowledge there were no pieces of mid-century furniture or other designs that were manufactured under the “Pacifica” name.

In June of 1952 arts & architecture magazine devoted a nice three-page spread to the Pacifica marketing campaign:

"arts+architecture pacifica interior june 1952"

june 1952 arts & architecture - pacifica article excerpt - note designs by luther conover and muriel coleman

"wrought iron and wicker tray table by luther conover - june 1952 arts & architecture"

wrought iron and wicker tray table by luther conover - june 1952 arts & architecture

Here is a list of some of the manufacturers and designers who had work promoted under the Pacifica marketing campaign:

Manufacturers: Sherman Bertram, Glenn of California, California Contemporary, Modern Color Inc., Pacific Iron, Luther Conover, Grossman-Moody Ltd., Brown-Saltman, Kneedler-Fauchere, See-Mar of California, Van Keppel-Green, Waldron Associates, Calif-Asia Rattan Company and more

Designers: Milo Baughman, Dorothy Schindele, Luther Conover, Peter Rooke-Ley, John Keal, Harry Lawenda, Muriel Coleman and more


Posted in california, iron, LA, luther conover, milo baughman, pacific iron, pacifica | 11 Comments

honolulu’s IBM building – vladimir ossipoff

"Ossipoff's IBM building - Honolulu"

view of the front of the IBM building from Ala Moana

I am happy to report that unlike the Queen Emma building, the IBM building is still looking good!

This Honolulu mid-century modern landmark was designed in 1962 by Vladimir Ossipoff and is one of the most recognizable modern buildings on O’ahu.

"close-up of the sun shade - IBM building"

close-up of the IBM building's sun shade

Mr. Ossipoff’s sun shade design is especially elegant – the grid pattern is created with long vertical concrete elements that don’t connect to each other. This allows rain to wash through and not collect in the boxes.

Also the angles of the pattern prevent pigeons from nesting and “befouling” the screen. Genius! As you can see the shade looks very clean.

"IBM building corner "

The pattern of the sun shade also manages to evoke both the look of computer punch cards and Polynesian patterns. Every time we see it on our visits to Honolulu we are really happy to see it.

(More about Vladimir Ossipoff here.)

Posted in architecture, hawaii modern, vladimir ossipoff | 2 Comments

queen emma building

"queen emma building march 2012"

queen emma building, honolulu - march 2012

I am sad to report that one of the most distinctive and original modern buildings in Honolulu Hawai’i has finally been altered for the worst.

The Queen Emma Building in downtown Honolulu was designed in the 1960’s by Jo Paul Rognstad and had two great architectural details that made it stand out. The first was an inventive decorative sun shade made of metal that covered the windows, the second is the brick “pimples”.

In Hawai’i using sun shades on the exterior of buildings is an efficient method to cool the building while allowing wind and rain to pass through. (Another classic modernist approach to the sun shade is Vladimir Ossipoff’s IBM building, also in Honolulu.)

The sun shades have now been removed – here are some pics from 2008 showing the sun shades:

"queen emma building - january 2008"

queen emma building - january 2008

"queen emma building sun shade"

queen emma building sun shade - january 2008

"queen emma building sun shade detail"

sun shade detail - january 2008

"straight-on detail view of the queen emma building sun shade"

straight-on detail view of the sun shade - january 2008

The second cool detail of the Queen Emma Building is the geometric pattern of extruding bricks on the exterior walls. These were nicknamed “pimples” by the locals.

The building itself was sometimes referred to as the “Pimple Building” and came in second in a poll for the ugliest building in Honolulu conducted by the columnist Charles Memminger in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2005.

I could name a hundred uglier buildings in Honolulu, but then that’s me!

"queen emma building - exterior brick pimples"

exterior brick "pimples" - march 2012

"queen emma building corner brick pimples"

corner brick "pimples" - march 2012

"queen emma building brick pimples detail"

brick "pimples" detail - january 2008

"queen emma building closeup showing busted pimple bricks"

closeup showing busted "pimple" bricks - january 2008

The building had been in limbo for a number of years, having been bought and sold and construction/destruction started and stopped a couple of times since 2006. During our last visit in September 2011 the sun shades were still on the building. But it seems like with the improved economy construction has started up again, and now the transition to the building’s next incarnation as condominiums is under way.


Posted in architecture, concrete, hawaii modern | 1 Comment

I like it, whatever it is (#3)

"iron and jute sculpture"My very good friend in the southland came across this piece a couple of years ago at a garage sale while he was driving around. He characterized the garage sale as having your garden-variety kids clothes and toys and general consumer flotsam, and then this metal-and-jute piece and its companion.

There was a lighting fixture inside that he said looked very dangerous and was probably some after-market kluge job. My friend wisely removed the lighting fixture and now has it in the corner of his living room as a cool sculpture. To me it looks like a giant mutant peanut.

The iron frame is pretty thick and the whole piece stands about four feet tall. There was another similar piece that had the fat blobby part higher up and the skinnier part on the bottom, so the other piece was sort of the mirror image of this piece.

"iron and jute sculpture top close-up"

close-up of the top

"iron and jute sculpture inside close-up"

inside close-up

It looks to date from the seventies but really, who knows? It is very cool whatever the heck it is.

Posted in california, iron, LA, whatever | Comments Off on I like it, whatever it is (#3)