Harvey Probber: MCM Rosewood Dresser

Harvey Probber Rosewood Dresser

Design has a fourth dimension; the intangible quality of aging gracefully. — Harvey Probber

I’d never heard of Harvey Probber before we acquired his dresser. But the moment David and I laid eyes on its sleek lines, dark, sumptuous rosewood veneer, and perfectly matched grain, we wanted it.

A little research: Probber emerged as a leading designer when American modernism flourished in the mid-20th century.

Harvey Probber is part of that unsung second wave of mid-century modernists. Though he hasn’t achieved the ‘label’ recognition of Eames or Noguchi, I think he’ll become considerably important on the secondary market over the next few years. — James Zemaitis, former director of 20th-century design at Sotheby’s. Source

MCM American furniture designer
Harvey Probber, Source


Our son Michael fielded the initial inquiry. A woman wished to sell her father’s Harvey Probber dresser. A quick look at the outlandishly inflated prices on 1stdibs led to two discoveries: original Harvey Probber pieces are rare and expensive.

I set up a time for us to meet the client at her dad’s retirement community. David and I discussed the highest amount we could offer, stopped by the bank, and hoped for the best.

The dad had acquired the piece in the 1960s and loved it. His room in the nursing facility provided just enough space for a single piece of furniture beyond his bed and nightstand. This was what he kept. But alas, he faced a move to a smaller room. The seven-foot credenza with original glass top couldn’t join him. Because of her father’s health issues, the daughter served as negotiator.

We told her the amount of cash we could offer and her face fell. I found myself apologizing  and explaining that we’d have to cover the costs of transporting and cleaning it — and it needed a lot of cleaning. Beyond that, we’d pay rental costs to display it until we sold it to someone proud to own a Harvey Probber.

She had to discuss our offer with her two sisters. Sure, that’s fine. And she’d get back to us, one way or the other. But as we left, David speculated that we’d never hear back. I reassured him that we did what we set out to do. We made a reasonable offer, up front with no gimmicks. What more could we do?

A few days later she phoned and agreed to our offer. I’ve got to tell you, we were amazed.

Harvey’s Dresser

Probber used exotic woods for his cabinets and tables. This dresser, with finely crafted details, is rosewood:

Harvey Probber Dresser

We immediately dropped it off at our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. The legs  showed damage from a senior citizen’s walker, a constant presence in the dad’s life. Mop buckets could have caused the nicks, too.

David used Timbermate Woodfiller on the legs, filling in and evening out the corner edges. He applied ebony stain over all 8 legs. When dry, he sprayed a clear semigloss lacquer and topcoat on the legs.

Next came Howard’s Restor-a-finish on the wood surface. David carefully hand rubbed until the finish shone. The dresser had a few scratches, but the Howard’s minimized them. And David polished obsessively. His reward was a luxurious finish.

Have a look: This generous top middle drawer holds jewelry.

Harvey Probber DresserThe maker’s label:
Harvey Probber label
David achieved this brilliant sheen:
Harvey Probber Dresser
Harvey Probber Dresser

Harvey Probber (1922-2003)

So, who was Harvey Probber? While in high school, Harvey took a job at a used-furniture store and soon began to sketch his ideas for furniture. At 16, he sold his first sofa design for the glorious sum of $10. After high school, his formal training was limited to a few evening classes at the Pratt Institute. He learned furniture production on the job at Trade Upholstery in NYC.

The key to salvation was in bits and pieces of plane geometry . . . they were meaningless alone, but when fused to conventional shapes, profoundly altered their character. — Harvey Probber

After World War II, he started his own business, Harvey Probber, Inc., in 1945, and spent the next four decades designing furniture.

His greatest contribution came from developing modular furniture in the late 1940s. That is to say, he developed upholstered unit furniture — 19 pieces — that could be juggled into endless configurations. He named this the Sert Group in homage to architect and city planner Jose Lluís Sert. Expanding on that concept, he developed Nuclear Furniture, which included various shaped occasional tables with interchangeable pedestals.

Imagine rearranging your living room with these quadrants, half-circles, corner sections, and wedges. Oh, it would be magical. Check out the examples provided:

Probber Modular Systems Concept
Probber Modular Systems Concept 1945, Source

Production Continues

In 2012, licensed by the Probber estate, M2L began manufacturing selected authentic reproductions from Harvey Probber’s collection.

Probber ‘s designs won awards. The Museum of Modern Arts, for instance, selected his  Elastic Sling Chair and Upholstered Nuclear groups for their 1951 exhibition.

Harvey Probber
Harvey Probber Sling Chair, ca. 1948. Source
Harvey Probber sectional
Harvey Probber Nuclear | Sert Sectional, designed 1946. Source

Starting in the 1970s Probber focused exclusively on contract design. He always maintained his interest in modular seating, urethane foam and luxe upholstery fabric. It’s a delight to review his eclectic designs:

Harvey Probber Cubo Cluster
Harvey Probber Cubo Cluster, designed 1972, Source
Harvey Probber Deep Tuft
Harvey Probber Deep Tuft Sofa, designed 1972. Source
Reproduced by M2L
Harvey Probber Mayan Sofa, designed 1983. Source

Thanks for your interest in Harvey Probber and our absolutely gorgeous rosewood dresser. Until next time!

Ann Marie and David
DIY Vintage Chic

Brand: Reasons to Paint and Style Your Mall Space

Brand Reasons to paint and style your mall spaceReasons to Paint and Style

If you rent space in an antique/vintage mall, you’re conveying a statement about yourself and your goods. Beyond the immediate goal of selling items, carefully consider how to paint and style your space because these activities achieve intangible results. Painting and styling strengthen your brand, visually communicate your products, and encourage clients to enter the space.

Strengthen Your Brand

We want people to recognize our business as a source for curated Mid-Century Modern furnishings. One of the ways to enhance our brand lies in the presentation of our space in Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. Toward that end, we advise you to spend time considering wall paint colors.

Shoppers often tell us that we present a stylish booth filled with engaging items. That’s flattering to hear, but we really work at making our space sophisticated and attractive. If we sell something big, we’ve already identified a replacement piece that is quickly moved in from our warehouse.

Until last month, here’s how our booth looked:

Brand: Reasons to Paint and Style Your Vintage Mall Space

We originally chose orange for the back wall because it’s a strong color representative of the Mid-Century Modern style. Its vibrancy stopped shoppers and encouraged them to look around. A pale gray covered our two side walls because full-on orange would overpower. These colors served us well. Unfortunately, we’d hammered a few too many nails in the sheet rock. Since the orange back wall sits in front of a store window, beams of sunlight flashed through our booth. Change is vital, so we seized the opportunity to reimagine our space.

We selected a neutral backdrop to showcase the colors of our furnishings. The unanimous winner: Steamed Milk by Sherwin-Williams.Sherwin Williams Steamed Milk

Here’s Phil rolling paint on one of our gray walls. Already, the booth looks brighter.
Brand: Reasons to Paint and Style Your Vintage Mall Space

Visually Communicate Your Products

Looking to shake things up, we pulled out a few pieces that hadn’t sold and brought in furniture new to the booth. Pictures and mirrors went up on the walls. A word of caution:  deciding on the arrangements, especially hanging a gallery of pictures, takes time.

Creating vignettes is important to us. Within our space we attempt to show a living room area (the yellow sofa sold quickly), a dining table and chairs, bedroom and kitchen furniture, and a bar area.
Iris Abbey Booth

Those of you with an eye for detail will notice that we swapped out dining tables. White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, manufactured this exquisite dining set below. The Caldwell MCM table in the photo above will go onto a Craigslist listing, and perhaps our Etsy site.
White Furniture Co. Dining Table

The cushy slipper chairs in this next photo come under the Mrs. Howard label, an upscale local designer. The saucy wench in on the framed canvas is Claudine, painted by her husband Marcel Dy, a prolific artist. At the age of 54, Dyf married the nineteen year-old Claudine and set to work painting her in a multitude of poses for the remainder of his life.

Iris Abbey Booth

We like to stock lamps because they warm the space. Take a look, above, at the variety of our floor lamps. Also, I think the carved wooden statue of the three women would be a terrific gift for a girlfriend to celebrate friendships, or a grandmother to recognize the importance of intergenerational relationships. I painted and waxed the carving and can’t believe it hasn’t sold yet.

After the gold sofa sold, we slipped a black sleeper sofa in.Black Sleeper Sofa

Encourage Clients To Enter

Although it’s a challenge, we recommend you leave space for clients to move freely. If it becomes difficult to look at even one single item, you may lose a potential sale.

Offer a variety of textures and colors so that clients want to touch. This tulip table, with pearlized table base and chairs, is newly acquired, as is the black lotus floor lamp. Michael, our son, found both those items.
White Furniture Co of Mebane dining table Iris Abbey Booth April 2, 2017

Everything you do reflects your brand, so take your time before making decisions. Think  things through for bigger results.

We’re glad you stopped by. Catch you later.

Ann Marie and David

4 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

MCM Dining Table Sets

After several barren weeks of estate sales devoid of bargains and success, our luck finally changed. We bought 2 Mid-Century Modern dining table sets in one weekend (along with several additional pieces), to add to the 3 dining sets we have distributed between our booth and warehouse.

This seems a good an opportunity to discuss what characteristics we look for.

  1. Clean Lines

    Mid-Century Modern dining table sets should convey a sense of lightness, sleekness. The shape should capture your attention. As a rule, MCM tables and chairs are more compact and, therefore, perfect for smaller spaces. Once you begin studying tables and chairs, their differences become evident.

  2. Manufacturer

    We always check the name of the manufacturer before buying Mid-Century Modern dining table sets. That means one of us is slithering around under the table and tipping over a chair. If we find a name like Drexel or White Furniture, we’ll stop our investigation right there. An unknown manufacturer, however, isn’t dismissed; we just double our efforts to make sure the pieces structurally sound and aesthetically appealing.

  3. Wood Grain

    Although MCM designers experimented with other materials such as plastic, glass, vinyl and shaped plywood, the tables we buy are made of wood. Tabletops are covered with good, wood veneer, which is a thin slice of actual wood. This process changed in the 1970s when furniture companies began to incorporate particle board and MDF to save money.

  4. Condition

    How much work will the pieces require? Our biggest expense is outsourcing a table for sanding and refinishing. Are the pieces sturdy? If any legs are wobbly, can we easily fix them? We hope for good padding and original fabric on the seats. Both of these, if problematic, can be remedied. All these elements, however, add to costs that can lower our profit margin

Now that we’ve covered the characteristics we consider when evaluating MCM dining table sets, let’s look at our sets.

  1. Drexel Profile

This dining set belongs to Drexel’s Profile Collection, designed by John Van Koert. Drexel manufactured Profile between 1955 – 1961. This set dates from 1956 and includes table, 6 chairs, and 3 leaves.

Mid-Century Modern dining table sets

First, look at its shape: tapered legs, gentle curves, borders on the table top, and chair spindles. It’s Drexel made, so the quality is excellent. Rich brown color, made of pecan and walnut woods. When we encountered this piece at an estate sale, I froze in horror seeing  that heavy metal container on the bare wood.

The chairs look great. I made sure to dust between every one of those exquisite spindles. One chair has a small stain on the fabric, but I think we can clean and avoid the recovering process.

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

2. Caldwell Furniture Company

Caldwell Furniture of Lenoir, NC, manufactured this table and chair set in 1961. My research hasn’t led me to any rich details on Caldwell’s. The company started in 1906 and Thomasville bought it in 1968. Despite knowing very little about the manufacturer, this is a well-designed table.  I like the way each side gently bows. Caldwell Furniture, Lenoir NC

The tabletop had sustained topcoat damage. Davis stripped the top and outsourced the table and its 2 leaves for refinishing. The final result reveals a highly grained walnut with contrasting light and dark grains.

Here are 3 of the 4 recovered chairs. The backs remind me of bow ties. We recovered, and seriously upgraded, the 4 dining chairs seats, which we wrote about in a previous post. At present this MCM dining set sits in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

MCM Dining Table Sets

3. White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC

White Furniture, known for high quality, manufactured this set, probably in the late 1970s. It came with 6 chairs and 2 leaves.White Furniture MCM Dining Table & Chairs
The chair spindles gently curve, the legs taper. The oval top contrasts with the square and rectangles of the chair and there’s an Asian sensibility to these chairs.  David believes the wood is walnut but we haven’t studied it enough to identify the finish. As for the condition, the table needs refinishing.

The square cushions are in great shape, generously padded and covered in a white vinyl. I’m not a fan of vinyl, but it can be useful if children are anywhere near food. Here’s a chair detail:

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

4. B. F. Huntley of Winston-Salem, NC

My research hasn’t led to any unusual discoveries. A small business, Huntley’s started in 1906, sold to Simmons in 1929, burned in 1935 and reemerged as Huntley once again before Thomasville bought it in 1961. Although the table has a series of stenciled numbers on the bottom, each company had its own system of identification. I can’t say definitively when Huntley made this set without a code to decipher the numbers.

This drop leaf table came with 6 chairs and 1 leaf. Ironically, a previous owner had the table refinished but neglected/forgot the leaf. As a result, the leaf doesn’t match the table’s newer finish. David claims the table needs work, and Michael tells me the seats need recovering.

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

When David and Michael picked up the set from the estate sale, they — and the sales rep — realized it was a drop leaf. The rep claimed, had she realized that when pricing, she’d have marked it higher.

What I appreciate about the chair design is the “H” back, and the upper back slat reminds me of a surfboard. At a glance the padding and fabric looked OK to me but I haven’t studied it. I know at least one of the chairs wobbles.

Mid-Century Modern Dining Table Sets

5. Drexel Today’s Living

Milo Baughman designed Drexel’s Today’s Living Collection, Our set was manufactured in 1952. The shape of the table holds interest because its thickness narrows down from the center.  I wrote about our struggle to acquire these pieces at an estate sale.

Milo Baughman Drexel 1952

The woods are elm and beech; the finish is beech. Between its wood color and the matching orange fabric, there’s a sense of lightness. Happily, we kept the chair seats as is.

Lastly, our son Michael will choose one of these Mid-Century Modern dining table sets for his personal use. He narrowed his selection down to two sets (#1 and #5), both manufactured by Drexel, Michael’s considering either the Drexel Profile set by John Van Koert (4 chairs, 3 leaves) or the Drexel Today’s Living set designed by Milo Baughman (6 chairs, 2 leaves).

If Mid-Century Modern dining table sets appeal to you, which would you choose?

Ann Marie and David

DIY Vintage Chic

Pause and Revitalize #27: Let the Ladies Reassure

How are you doing? It feels like I’ve put in a lot of effort lately without much to show. Just spinning my wheels with nothing tangible to hold in my hands. Today I talked with my college friend, who always cheers me, despite her dealing with a horrible cold.

So, as Barb did for me, I want these encouraging words to make you feel better. Today’s messages all come from women. Let the ladies reassure us, now and always.

I wholeheartedly ascribe to their calls for more enthusiasm, risk-taking, and imagination.

Colette, French novelist nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. 1873 – 1954
You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm

You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm. — Colette

Erica Jong, American novelist and poet. 1942 –
motivational quotes

And the trouble is if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. Erica Jong

Lauren Bacall, American actress and singer. 1924 – 2014
inspirational quote
Imagination is the highest kite one can fly. Lauren Bacall

Thanks for stopping by,

Ann Marie

A sampling of more Pause and Revitalize posts, which I try to post on Wednesdays. They get me through the mid-week hurdles.

William James quote
Pause and Revitalize #26
Yo-Yo Ma quote
Pause and Revitalize #24
Encouraging Words
Pause and Revitalize #20
Langston Hughes quote
Pause and Revitalize #14

Discover Quirky Art For Inspiration and Delight

Sometimes art jumps out and finds us unexpectedly. I never go to an estate sale or thrift shop intending to  buy art.

Discover Quirky Art

Mass produced and generic pieces comprise most of what we see. Then every so often, we stumble upon something worthwhile. David and I have managed to find a few quirky pieces which are literally hanging around our house. I’m sure some of the art will make it into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery once  wall space clears. See what you think.

Cashmere by Antoinette Letterman

Years ago, my son, Michael, and I came face-to-face with this giant, languid, Himalayan white cat on the wall at our vet’s office. Michael quoted the line Rose purrs to Jack in the movie Titanic: “Draw me like your French girls, Jack.”

We didn’t buy our vet’s picture. Instead, we found another Cashmere in a local shop and eyed her for over 2 years. Originally priced at $1,100, the dealer offered a phenomenal discount the day we bought her. Perhaps because we also bought a couple of pieces of furniture, or perhaps because a 5′ painting of a cat requires commitment, wall space, and a certain sensibility.

Art that inspires

To give you a sense of size, this framed canvas rests on a triple dresser. I added the bowl for perspective, then decided to insert 15-pound Boston, my big boy.

Cashmere’s history is layered. I first found this comment on a thread:

The typical “Letterman” painting is not a painting at all. Most of them were manufactured (using a silkscreen-like process) in the Far East (China or perhaps the Philipines) during the 1970s and sold at JC Penney for a retail price of $150 to $400 dollars.

The original artist was typically a “company man” or woman and therefore not acknowledged. They were contract or salary employees whose work-product became property of the company they worked for.

Their work was copied much like a computer graphics image is used (copied) to create T-shirts using multi-colored passes and a silk-screen pattern.

The “signature” is typically blocked style letters with the lower (horizontal) portion of the L extended under the ‘etter’ part of the word Letterman.

If you’re a collector of “That 70’s Show” paintings.. these might have some nostaligic value. 🙂 but otherwise, they are simply quality (cleanable) oil PRINTS that are hard to find at a reasonable price today.

The canvas is usually medium to good quality and the frames are lower quality (soft) wood and almost always painted and sometimes trimmed with plastic/metallics as well.

For those who may be skeptical.. simply compare two similiar paintings and the evidence will be apparent. Right down to the “simulated” brush-strokes possible with silk-screen technology.

One could stand in the isle of Penney’s and choose paintings of the same image from a choice of different sizes and even different color schemes.

Further research led me to artist Antoinette LettermanShe claims — and I believe her — she met Cashmere in Pennsylvania and painted her for her owners. The artist later moved to Texas and painted a second Cashmere.

Allegedly, Letterman’s image of Cashmere was stolen and reproduced for the mass market. Supporters urge folks to give Antoinette proper attribution. She liquidated her art stock around 2007, so I’m uncertain if she still conducts business.

I have no idea whether we have an original Letterman or a print. Since there are only 2 originals, I’d say that’s a long shot. But either way, we love Cashmere.

Stalking Lioness

I liked this realistic beauty as soon as I saw her but the estate sale had her priced at $300. By day 3 the price dropped by 50%  — still too high. Weeks later, I came across the lioness in another shop at an affordable price. I can’t make out the signature, but doesn’t that frame add to the lioness’ majesty?

Stalking Lioness

Cubist Lute and Bowl of Fruit by Salvador Mestre

David and Michael carried this colorful cubist style art home. The artist, Salvador Mestre, used copper wires to contain the enamel or epoxy paint, creating cloisonné. Alas, my cursory research to date reveals nothing on this 20th century artist.

Salvadore Mestre

Hot Air Balloon

This arrived with the Salvador Mestre piece, but there’s no name. It appears very similar in style with its copper wire and enamel. I can’t verify that it’s by Mestre. I like the warmth of the metal background and the patchwork pattern of the balloon.

Hot Air Balloon

Boats – Oil Painting by K. Gastarini

An Impressionistic oil painting of boats signed by K. Gastarini offers a yellowing sky and turquoise sail, all reflected in the water. We found this in a bedroom furnished with French Provincial furniture at an estate sale. I think the yellow band on the frame is a bit much, but I enjoy the painting. More research needed on the artist.
Boats oil paintingA closer look:
Boats oil painting detailThis concludes the viewing of a portion of our quirky art collection. Now, we collected these pieces over the last 2 or 3 years with the intention of putting them into our booth. It takes time to acquire, and time for space to become available on our booth’s walls.

But remember, when you’re not looking for art, it will find you.

Ann Marie and David

Pause and Revitalize #26: I Work Hard

I just returned from a visit to my physical therapist and, let me tell you, I work hard. It’s still the torn rotator cuff, but I’m improving. As soon as I got home I took a couple of Ibuprofen to get a jump on the pain.

I can still accomplish tasks today, but I want to reach to those of you who work hard and share words of inspiration.

So, let’s do this. I’ve thrown in a quote from Winston Churchill, the man who inspired the people of England to keep on keeping on while the Germans dropped bombs over their cities.

William James, American philosopher and psychologist. 1842 – 1910

William James quote
Believe that life is worth living and your belief will create the fact. William James

Colin Powell, American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. 1937 –

Colin Powell quote
A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. Colin Powell

Winston Churchill, British Statesman and Prime Minister. 1874 – 1965

Winston Churchill quote
If you’re going through hell, keep going. Winston Churchill

Work hard, at least as best you can, torn rotator cuffs and such notwithstanding. Hope you have a productive day!

Ann Marie

Recovering Dining Chair Seats: Mid-Century Modern

Recovering dining chair seats, perhaps the easiest upholstery project, still requires organization.

Recovering Dining Chair Seats

Peeling Away the Years

I always love seeing the layers of history. The photo below shows the jaunty floral fabric wrapped around the original batting and wooden seat. It’s 90’s and awful, I know. The staples are already out, so let’s see what’s underneath.

Recovering Dining Chair

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a plump seat. Instead, imagine a pancake. One layer down and we’re at the dirty, original, yellow fabric stapled securely in place.
MCM Yellow Stripe Fabric

How about delving down more layers? Here we are at the thin, sad interior batting:
Dining Chair Old Batting

Foam and Batting

Luckily, Joann’s offered a 50% discount on their $59.99 high-density foam the day I ordered online. After seeing it in person, I absolutely recommend the high density. A roll of 2″ x 18″ x 82″ is perfect for covering 4 dining chair seats.2" high density foam
I traced the wooden chair seat onto the 2″ foam with a thick black marker. David grabbed the electric knife and cut out four pieces of foam.
Dining Chair Foam CutThe foam will provide a far more comfortable cushion. Below, there’s the wood seat, 2″ foam, batting, and the ivory microfiber upholstery fabric. By the way, we found the fabric in Joann’s remnant fabric bin. Four dining chairs require 1.5 yards of fabric, which we purchased for $9.
Recovering Dining Chairs

The Process for Recovering Dining Chair Seats

  1. Spray glue on the wooden seat and the pre-cut foam. Let both sit and get tacky before adhering together. NOTE: David prefers using 3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive. After he unsuccessfully used the spray pictured, he went out and bought the 3M spray and tried again.Recovering Dining Chair
  2. If rounded edges are desired, spray the glue on each raw edge of the foam and compress. We used a punch awl to help with the fold.Recovering Dining ChairRecovering Dining Chairs
  3. Cover with batting and staple down.Trim excess. Recovering dining chair
  4. Cover with upholstery fabric; use hands to smooth the fabric, and staple. Cut excess.Recovering Dining ChairRecovering Dining ChairRecovering Dining Chairs
  5. Fold the corners neatly, making sure to cut excess fabric to eliminate bulges of batting and fabric.
  6. Fold corners and trim excess material before stapling.Recovering dining chair seats
  7. Optional but simple, this next step involves stapling a cambric dust cover to the seat’s underside. It finishes off the piece by hiding all your fabric edges and staples.Recovered Dining Chair Seats
  8. And a quick photo of the recovered chair seats:Recovered Chair Seats

Sure, the hands-on experience proved more challenging, but we saved a lot of money and, really, that’s all there is to recovering dining chair seats. They’ll look stylish with the matching dining table.

Thanks for stopping by. David and I will be back with a new project in no time!

Ann Marie and David


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Pause and Revitalize #25: Do not stand at my grave and weep

As the year winds down, In Memoriam lists crop up to remind us of life’s fragility. In the spirit of hope I share a poem I first encountered in 1989 when my brother died of cancer.

At the time the author was unknown, but has since been identified. Mary Elizabeth Frye, an American housewife and florist, wrote it in 1932.

A while back I created this image for Pinterest, For everyone who has ever lost anyone, I share this with you:

Mary Elizabeth Frye, American Housewife and Florist, 1905 – 2004

Do not stand at my grave and weep
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.   — Mary Elizabeth Frye

Happy New Year,

Ann Marie

A sampling of previous Pause and Revitalize quotes:

Celebrate Creativity
Pause and Revitalize: #23
inspirational quotes
Pause and Revitalize: #22
Motivational Quote
Pause and Revitalize: #21
Pause and Revitalize
Pause and Revitalize: #20

2016: Top Mid-Century Modern Style Posts

2016: Top Mid-Century Modern Style Posts

Take a look at the top 5 posts I wrote in 2016. They all deal with Mid-Century Modern style. Not a stunning surprise.

When David and I started Iris Abbey, we planned to paint and sell furniture . Our work, though beautiful, didn’t sell. We developed a belief that our local market is pretty saturated.

Our son, Michael, directed our focus to Mid-Century Modern and we haven’t looked back.

Every so often I sneak a painted piece into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, but the majority of what we sell is Mid-Century Modern, as you’ll see from these posts.

Cara Greenberg coined the term Mid-Century Modern in her 1984 book by the same eponymous name. This Christmas, Aunt Linda gave Michael a signed, first-edition copy of Greenberg’s Mid-Century Modern.

In furniture, modern came in all price brackets. Those who could afford it filled architect-designed homes with furniture from smart department stores which, in those days, promoted furniture even more vigorously than fashion. A sophisticated home of the early Fifties might have featured, for example, a pair of Eero Saarinen’s all-enveloping Womb chairs in bright red, or had as its pièce de résistance the free-form walnut-and-glass coffee table of Isamu Noguchi, its sculptured two-part base subject to rearrangement at its owner’s whim. — Cara Greenberg, Mid-Century Modern, 1984

1. 5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Mid-Century Modern Living Room
Source: Chris Barrett Design

The best of it was designed by architects who, during the war, when nobody was building houses, had turned their talents to furniture–or who, in desperation for furnishings that made sense in the smaller, sparer postwar house, decided to design their own.  — Cara Greenberg, Mid-Century Modern, 1984

Step into 1956 and see . . .

2. Kent-Coffey’s Sequence Collection 
Kent Coffee Sequence bedroom furniture

3. Painted Smooth Finish on MCM Furniture

Sometimes, because the damage is too great or the piece isn’t significant, we opt to paint. With Mid-Century Modern pieces we’re judicious with how much we paint. Take a look at these two pieces:
Mid-Century Modern Dixie chest and nightstand

4. Clothes Press by White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC

White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, is a furniture company close to my heart. I’ve written about them in other posts, but here’s an unusual clothes press:

How Much is My White Fine Furniture Worth?

5. Broyhill Premier Saga Desk Meets Heywood-Wakefield Chair

We found a Mid-Century desk, stylish and curved. Alas, no chair. What are the odds that we’d find a single — not part of a set — Heywood-Wakefield chair? It’s not a perfect match, but close enough to convey the spirit of the times, especially with the period upholstery fabric we ordered.

Broyhill Premier Saga Desk

That’s it for 2016. Next week I’ll share my top posts of all time.

Ann Marie and David

How Much is My White Fine Furniture Worth?

How Much is my White Fine Furniture Worth
Last year I wrote a couple of posts about the White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, often  referred to as White Fine Furniture. Thanks to the attention these posts garnered, I still receive emails and comments from readers asking about the worth of White Fine Furniture pieces that they own, or wish to buy or sell.


While I’m not a licensed appraiser, I strive to provide general information to people who contact me. Knowledge of one’s local market remains key. We live in Jacksonville, FL, and our nearest metropolitan areas are Atlanta to the north, and Miami to the south. Dealers from those locations often stop by Avonlea Antique and Design Gallery and try to negotiate our prices downward.

We brought a high-end chair into our booth, for instance, that we priced for a higher-income household in Jacksonville. The chair just needed the right person to come into Avonlea and fall in love with it. Sadly, things didn’t quite work out the way I planned.

Instead, a non-local dealer made a much lower offer. She explained that she was unwilling to pay the asking price since there was no way she would make money on the resale. While we passed on her initial offer, eventually we settled on a more reasonable amount.

You may face a similar scenario. Consider these options:

  • decline the offer and hope the right client comes in someday, or
  • try to negotiate and complete the sale

Sure, we made a slim profit, but the exercise proved dispiriting. Our chair could — and will — command a higher price in a different market. But our business needs actual sales.

Keep this in mind: that perfect customer with deep pockets and a burning desire for your merchandise may not come along any time soon. What do you do then?

My Advice

Whether buying or selling furniture, a negotiation dance is usually expected. I send an email to readers who ask me about a valuation on specific pieces. Here are excerpts from my typical letter:

First of all, White Fine Furniture is built to last for generations. It’s sturdy and beautiful. You know that it is superior to any furniture made today. The problem is, not many other people understand this about furniture. They tend to buy as inexpensively as possible and replace in a few years.

I haven’t seen photos of your set, but that’s OK because I’m not an appraiser. I can, however, offer my opinion.

Your location is a factor. I live in Jacksonville, FL, between Atlanta and Miami. We have dealers and buyers from those areas come to visit us because we sell cheaper than those metro areas. If you are in a big city, you have more options.

Unusual styles (like Mid-Century Modern) command better prices than traditional styles. I saw a gorgeous White bedroom set at an estate sale that was priced slightly over $2,000. I had to walk away because I didn’t have the money and I knew I wouldn’t make much profit on it.

If you’re in a larger market, check with local antique malls. The procedure used by the antiques gallery where I have a booth is to accept electronic info and photos from community members wishing to sell, and direct this info to a dealer(s) who handles that type of merchandise. From there, it becomes a private negotiation between the dealer and the seller. The dealer wants to acquire the items for the lowest possible price and the seller wants the highest price. We all know that and hope to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.

Consignment stores are a possibility but they take a sizable chunk out of the selling price. My understanding is that consignment stores usually reduce the price on your/their pieces each month. Furniture not sold during an agreed period may be picked up by you or donated by them. If you need to get rid of your furniture immediately, however, this is a serious option.

You could place photos and descriptions of your items on Craigslist.

My number one piece of advice — I should have started with this — is to contact a dealer in your area and get info about your market. This refers back to my discussion of Jacksonville vs. Atlanta and Miami.

White Fine Furniture Legacy Lives On

Sometimes people with actual ties to White Furniture Company, aka White Fine Furniture,   contact me. I get very excited when this happens.

How nice to find folks still enjoying some of the finest furniture ever produced. I worked at White’s for three summers while I was still in high school. Many of the folks pictured I knew and admired their skill (even at 16 years old I knew a craftsman when I saw one) these men and women took pride in their job. I picked up wood scraps and delivered them to the boiler to be burned for heat and other energy needs.) At times I would stand and watch for 15 minutes at the skill it takes to cut out the scalloped huge table tops, it was amazing to watch these guys handle these huge pieces with ease. The exact measurements used, the quality of wood, the skill to finish the pieces, the packaging for shipment was second to none. White’s also knew the skill it took to put out furniture of this quality and paid their employees a better than average hourly wage. My uncle worked there nearly 50 years, he and many others were able to raise families and put kids through college because of these fair wages. The book [Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory] does give a good look of the factory near the end, but the over 100 years before is the real story of American pride. I so miss the folks I worked with there, but my memory of each one always make me smile.  — Dennis

Recently, I received this comment:

Just a little something to add to this wonderful post. I am a White and my father was the last White president of the factory before it was sold. I grew up with a house full of White furniture and I took it for granted as children do. I was recently telling a friend that I honestly didn’t know until I was an adult that furniture could break! For 46 years I have been used to drawers that always perfectly, smoothly open and solid pieces that never have any problems. I am very thankful to be a part of this legacy. Thank you, Ann Marie, for this wonderful tribute to my family’s heritage.     — Becca

My White Fine Furniture Posts

If you are interested in reading my Number 1 post of all time, head over to White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC – Part 1

Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory
Andrew inspecting bedpost, photo by Bill Bamberger

Continue on to White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, Part 2,
How Much is my White Fine Furniture Worth?

finish up at Clothes Press by White Furniture Company, Mebane, NC.How Much is My White Fine Furniture Worth?

Our Newest White Fine Funiture Acquisition

I began writing this post yesterday and — BOOM — this morning we purchased dining table, 6 chairs, and 2 leaves manufactured by White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC. It needs work, and that’s David’s kingdom — but I love the Mid-Century Modern look of the chairs.
White Fine Furniture
White Fine Furniture logo

Good luck on your next negotiation.

Ann Marie and David

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