Tuesday, March 10, 2015


A very enlightening pair of console tables presented themselves to me on an estate appraisal in Coral Gables about five years ago. It was for the estate of a long time social and professional friend. While preparing an appraisal on behalf of his estate, I approached this pair of consoles he routinely insisted were 18th Century. To my eye, there were very obviously 19th Century and had an assertively Victorian demeanor to them. The pair comprised 2 consoles of the sort that had one actual leg and had to be attached to the wall. They were admittedly of a Rococo revival style and the walnut frames were characterized by exuberant curves and an above average quality of carved detailing and decoration. Each console was surmounted by a conforming shaped white marble top. See one of the pair below. Both were identical.

Seen frontally with no intense scrutiny, there was nothing very apparent to belie the fact that the pair of consoles had undergone any manner of deliberate alteration. After examination under each console however, a very clear tell tale sign of alteration was the presence of a pair of square holes in the underside of the surface of the console on an under plank of wood supporting the marble and which was located close to the part attached to the wall. See the underside with the holes below.

One thing an appraiser, museum curator, dealer or auction house specialist soon learns on the job is that holes like this are not haphazard on a piece of old furniture. They are always there for a reason. This pair of evenly spaced holes under each console were a clear indication that the tables once had another piece of marble and that marble had also made accommodation for a decorative mirror frame or decorative superstructure that could have incorporated some display space of a sort.

A very elaborate example of what I am sharing here is seen in this example of a seemingly intact such console surmounted by a very elaborate superstructure. It is also English and very Victorian indeed!  It was sold at Sotheby's, London as Lot # 512 sold on 27 April 2010. Though an admittedly more elaborate example from the same period, it is in the same style and has the same age and gives a good indication of the possible superstructure that very likely adorned the top of each console in the pair my company LFAS handled and which is illustrated above.  The lessons learned are more than one. First, don't always be led by the initial impression. A good artisan's job is to make any alterations appear as if they never occurred. Secondly, the "history" or "biography" of a piece of antique furniture is almost always evident when looking at areas that were never meant to be seen, such as underneath, behind, inside. Just knowing about furniture styles, while a good thing, is not enough for an appraiser. An appraiser worth his or her salt has to constantly be inquiring, poking, prodding and seeking answers about why the "innards" of a piece of furniture are where they are. If they don't serve an obvious structural purpose, chances are such blocks of wood, metal rods and straps, or cut out sections are an indication of a significant structural alteration made during that piece of furniture's long life and long after it first came out of the cabinet maker's workshop.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


While engaged to assist a client representing the estate of a lady who lived until 2014 in a whimsical and amazingly well conserved 1950's residence located in Miami Shores in South Florida, I received what was probably my long overdue introduction to something in the master bedroom. The room  was appointed with some very fine examples of a line of American manufactured Broyhill furniture which I soon learned  was part of the much sought after "Brasilia" line this widely popular furniture maker sold until it was discontinued in the early 1970's.

Below are images that show how the furniture was displayed at the estate sale held on a Saturday in November of 2014 by my company LFAS. In the first image, you see 2 long dressers surmounted in the display by a coffee table.


In the image below, one of the pair of nightstands that was offered at the sale is depicted, I regret it is rather obscured... But it is discernible. 

Thanks to my associate Carlos Talavera, who I had engaged to help with the sale and who was aware of this line as he is so much on 20th Century design in general, I was encouraged to investigate this line of furniture.  It was a very rewarding learning experience!  The very name of Broyhill's line  clearly indicated a design inspiration source which would have  been very logical in the early 1960's when it was offered to it's customers. It obviously originated in the creation of the 20th Century's most unique and exciting cities, Brasilia, the new goverment capitol of Brazil which was founded in the mid 1950's and planed and developed from 1956 to 1960.

Below is a view of one of the city's most important buildings, the Alvorada Palace, designed by Oscar Niemeyer and built between 1957 and 1958. It is the official residence of the President of Brazil.

Its clean calculated and almost feline caressing curves are obviously among the design sources for the team of designers working for Broyhill in the early 1960's.

Perhaps appropriately, Broyhill demonstated razor sharp marketing acumen by officially launching this line of living room, dining room and bedroom furniture for the American home that wanted to be modern and stylish at the Seattle World's Fair of 1962.  An appropriate choice it would appear as the Worlds Fair's of 1962 and the slightly later New York World's Fair of 1964/5 wallowed in sinuously curvulinear pavilions and designs of all sorts such as Seattle's iconic Space Needle (seen below) which is a clear design "cousin" of Broyhill's Brasilia line of furniture.

Below are various examples of Broyhill Brasilia furniture. It is frequently seen for sale on eBay and 1stdibs.com. However, a principal source for Brasilia in mint condition is an online seller who directly offers an inventory entirely and exclusively comprised of examples of Broyhill Brasilia! The company name is The Brasilia Connection. They can be reached via their online store at Brasiliaconnnection.com.  The images below are a good example of what is being shared online.  In fact, many of these images were found on a Mid Century enthusiasts page on Facebook!

My thanks to Christian Larsen, curator of the much admired museum of design, The Wolfsonian, FIU in Miami Beach for additional enlightenment on this intriguing line of 1960's American furniture.

 The upright display cabinet that also doubles as a room divider is clearly one of the most original examples of the entire line.