Volume Examines Modern Furniture

May 28, 2010

Modern Americana: Studio Furniture from High Craft to High Glam (Rizzoli, November 2008) by Todd Merrill and Julie V. Iovine, is the first-ever authoritative examination of the great studio furniture craftsmen and designers who, from 1940 to 1990, defined American high style. The lavishly-illustrated book is laden with historical details about twenty-seven designers - a unique cast of characters - whose furniture epitomizes the best in design during these decades. All the greats are here: Wharton Esherick, Wendell Castle, Tommi Parzinger, James Mont, Paul Evans, Philip and Kelvin LaVerne, Karl Springer, Samuel Marx, John Dickinson, Silas Seandel, and many others. Merrill, a leading expert in the field of 20th-Century furniture and Iovine, an internationally-recognized design and architecture writer, identifies and documents each of their signature styles and in doing so, opens our eyes to their legacy and importance in the history of furniture-making in the United States.
European designers of the same genre and period have been documented in hundreds of publications, but no single book exists for American studio and custom furniture of the post-war period. "With interest in this field at an all-time high among collectors, auction houses, museums, designers, and shelter magazines, I decided the time was ripe to write the definitive book about these modern masters," said Merrill, whose eponymous gallery is located in Manhattan’s NoHo.
According to Merrill, "Modern Americana" doesn’t define a style or a singular moment in time as much as it identifies an attitude or an approach. The book showcases designers and craftsmen of unique individual vision who maintained aesthetic control over the creative process from start to finish, whether an item was hewn by hand or executed by a small staff, or even produced in a small factory. Merrill sees these modern American designers on a continuum with the country’s important early custom cabinet-makers like the Townsend-Goddard family and Duncan Phyfe.
Dividing the craftsmen-designers into four groups, Merrill and Iovine analyze the principles, articulated or felt, that guided them in the creative process, and placing them in historical context. The book is richly illustrated with photographs of the designers, their furniture, sketches and drawings, and glamorous interiors.
The first group, the Studio Artisans, includes Wendell Castle, Michael Coffey, Wharton Esherick, Sam Maloof, J.B. Blunk, Arthur Espenet Carpenter, and Jack Rogers Hopkins. The second group focuses on Designer-Craftsmen such as Paul Evans, Phillip Powell, Silas Seandel, Vladimir Kagan and George Nakashima. Third are the Custom Designers including Charles Hollis Jones, James Mont, Tommi Parzinger, Karl Springer, Edward Wormley, Harvey Probber, T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, and Philip and Kelvin LaVerne. Fourth are the Decorator-Designers such as John Dickinson, William Haines, Paul Lazlo, Samuel Marx and Arthur Elrod.
Modern Americana: Studio Furniture from High Craft to High Glam is not only an information-packed reference book about the most important furniture designers of our time, but a social history that gives context to the designers and their creations. It is a "must-have" for collectors and connoisseurs whose passion is mid-20th century design.
About the Authors: Todd Merrill is to mid-20th-century furniture and design, what Leigh Keno is to 18th- and 19th-century American furniture. For nearly a decade, Merrill has devoted his career to promoting American and European post-war designers, and is now considered one of the leading authorities in the field. Merrill has developed an international reputation for presenting an eclectic and glamorous mix of the finest late 20th-century furniture, and his eye for the extraordinary is a magnet for interior decorators, collectors and stylists, who recognize his talent for discovering the best there is to offer in modern design. A third generation dealer of important antiques and fine furniture, Merrill’s gallery has been featured in publications ranging from The New York Times to Elle Décor. His grandparents were early 20th-century dealers in Americana and American Folk Art, and his father is a well-known auctioneer in New England. Merrill lives in Manhattan and Southampton with his wife, Lauren.
A design and architecture writer with an international reputation who served as a senior design reporter at The New York Times for over a decade, Julie V. Iovine is currently the Executive Editor of The Architect’s Newspaper. Among the international publications she writes for are Art & Auction, Architectural Digest-Germany, Art Review in London, Interior Design, The New York Times "T" Magazine, and Town & Country. She is the author of several design books including Michael Graves (Chronicle); Chic Simple: Home (Knopf) as well as a contributor to the forthcoming books John Pawson: Home, to be published by Phaidon, and Provoking Magic: Ingo Maurer (Smithsonian). She lives in Manhattan with her two sons, Christopher and Cooper.


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