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Second Coming: 5 Family-Owned Midcentury Design Companies, Revived


Second Coming: 5 Family-Owned Midcentury Design Companies, Revived

February 2, 2016

Evidence that creativity is hereditary: Four defunct American design studios that had their heyday in the fifties or sixties have been revived of late by a new generation, the sons and daughters of the seat-of-the-pants originators (and, in one case, by a mother-daughter team) who bring their own stamp to bear on the designs. Each of these entrepreneurs grew up immersed in their star parent’s aesthetic, and then spent years fielding requests for the pieces to be brought back into production. And the goods are still fabricated in the United States, except in the case of our fifth selection, the Hansen Family, a happening European furniture line that draws from generations of talent.

Irving Place Studio

At the vanguard of the studio pottery movement then and now: Irving Place Studio of Venice, California, is a collaboration between Dora De Larios, her daughter Sabrina Judge, and son-in-law Aaron Glascock. It takes its name from the workshop De Larios founded in 1968: see our post Ceramics that Once Lived in the White House. The group produces tableware that deftly celebrates the past-present partnership. “We are carrying on the tradition of hand-thrown pottery in California,” says Judge.

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Above: Mother and daughter, Dora and Sabrina, in their LA studio. Photograph via Rip & Tan.

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Above: A sampling of glazes. Go to Irving Place Studio to see the latest pieces available from the pottery’s online shop and a small group of vendors, including Jenni Kayne.

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Above: Irving Place Studio’s speckled white glaze on unglazed dark brown stoneware is known as the Hot Chocolate Series.

Smilow Design

Judy Smilow reintroduced her father Mel’s furniture line four years ago and hopes to eventually offer Smilow options for every room. Judy herself grew up in a glass house in Usonia, the Frank Lloyd Wright cooperative in Mount Pleasant, New York, fully furnished by Mel. She studied art at Parsons and went on to work as a graphic designer for MoMA and to create her own glassware and furniture lines. Along the way, she came across her late father’s original drawings and was “struck by how the furniture and aesthetic had really stood the test of time.” She’s been rebuilding the family legacy ever since.

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Above: The Rail Back Armchair, a 1950 Smilow design, has been reissued in a solid walnut frame with graceful slatted back and matching ottoman; a companion sofa is also available. The foam cushions are upholstered in a range of fabrics, including the customer’s own. All Smilow pricing on request.

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Above: The 1956 Woven Rush Bench, one of Mel’s iconic designs, has been newly reintroduced in a range of woods with natural or black rush; custom sizes available. It’s shown here in solid walnut. Smilow also offers Rush Chairs and Ottomans.

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Above: Based on a 1950 Smilow original, the walnut Credenza has interior shelves and a leather-lined drawer. The outer case comes in three finishes: natural (shown), lacquer, and ebonized.

Robert Long Lighting

Robert Long Jr. was but a toddler when his parents lost their lives in a car accident. Raised by relatives in Savannah, Georgia, Long got to know his father via his 1960s benchmade lighting designs, traditional forms reinterpreted with a modernist sensibility.

Now based in Sausalito directly across from Robert Long Lighting’s original studio, Long has reestablished the company using vintage catalogues and even several of his father’s suppliers to make replicas and careful updates. Learn more at A Bright Son: Robert Long Jr. Reopens His Father’s Lighting Company.

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Above: The Oliver Chandelier in unlacquered brass holds six candles in spring-loaded holders for easy replacement; $2,600 (supply of candles included).

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Above: Made of solid brass components with a cast-iron weighted base, the George Table Lamp, here in oil-rubbed bronze, also comes in seven other finishes, including polished nickel and oxidized copper; $1,450.

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Above R: The Cooper Sconce, $775, is available in five finishes, including oil-rubbed bronze, with clear or seeded glass globes.

Cherner Chair Company

Norman Cherner was one of the pioneers of prefab housing and molded plywood furniture. He’s best known for the Cherner Chair, a 1958 design that he almost didn’t get credit for: It was commissioned by Plycraft as a stronger, more cost-effective alternative to George Nelson’s Pretzel Chair, but once complete, Cherner was told the project had been canceled. When he later spotted his chair in a showroom, he took Plycraft’s owner to court—and won.

Thanks to his sons Benjamin, an architect, and Thomas, who founded the Cherner Chair Company in 1997, Norm’s iconic designs not only live on but are available in myriad variations.

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Above: The Cherner Armchair in walnut. Reissued using the original drawings and molds, it’s $1,199 from DWR.

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Above: In recent years, Benjamin Cherner has come out with a line of Cherner molded plywood tables as companions to his father’s seating. The Cherner Oval Table, here in a walnut veneer, comes in a range of finishes and lengths; the 84-by-38-inch size is $2,799 from Hive.

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Above: The Cherner Side Chair (shown in natural gum) is $899 directly from Cherner (see the Cherner Store for the full range).

The Hansen Family

A kindred spirit of these other companies, the Hansen Family furniture line is the brainchild of interior designer Gesa Hansen, a graduate of the Bauhaus University and Nagoya University of Arts in Japan. Now based in Paris, Hansen comes from a long line of furniture designers (both parents, for instance) and architects. In creating her midcentury-accented Remix line, she says she turned to her roots: “Archived for several decades, family sketches have been combined with the functional requirements of our times.” The pieces are made at the Hansen carpentry studio in Germany, which Gesa and her father reopened. Photography by Nathalie Mohadjer.

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Above: Hansen at home: Take a look at her apartment in our post A Scandi Furniture Designer in Paris.

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Above: The Remix Desk is made of oak and has an extendable work surface. It’s available from Pamono for $2,153, and from Connox for €1,360 ($1,482.85).

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Above: Designed for Tivoli Audio, the Remix Sideboard offers compartments for a radio and other sound equipment; €2,090 ($2,278.79) from Connox.

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Above: The Night Couch neatly converts into a bed. It’s available in a variety of fabrics; $2,928 from Matter & Shape in Paris. Find other retailers by inquiring at The Hansen Family.

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Product summary  Item 6 182Item 7 183

Second Coming 5 FamilyOwned Midcentury Design Companies Revived portrait 8
The Cherner Chair Company

Cherner Armchair

$1,199.00 USD from Design Within Reach

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