Copeland's Usonian Furniture

To control SPAM, you must now be a registered user to post to this Message Board.

EFFECTIVE 14 Nov. 2012 PRIVATE MESSAGING HAS BEEN RE-ENABLED. IF YOU RECEIVE A SUSPICIOUS DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINKS AND PLEASE REPORT TO THE ADMINISTRATOR FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION.

This is the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy's Message Board. Wright enthusiasts can post questions and comments, and other people visiting the site can respond.

You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, *-oriented or any other material that may violate any applicable laws. Doing so may lead to you being immediately and permanently banned (and your service provider being informed). The IP address of all posts is recorded to aid in enforcing these conditions. You agree that the webmaster, administrator and moderators of this forum have the right to remove, edit, move or close any topic at any time they see fit.
SDR
Posts: 19698
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Bingo. The answer is probably that Copeland has copious supplies of nice cherry solids, and the technology to turn it into furniture parts, and that they feel -- perhaps after the appropriate market research -- that their customers would appreciate and value the solid-wood content of their product offering.

This tells us, maybe, that they believe that the majority of their potential customers are uninformed as to Wrightiana but nevertheless wish to sign on to the cachet of the Wright name. I'd be interested to hear otherwise . . .

SDR

peterm
Posts: 6207
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:27 am
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

You're right... It can even be marketed as an improvement on the original.

As U2 sang, "even better than the real thing".

SDR
Posts: 19698
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Well, we can't discount the idea that a "cover version" might be an improvement on the original -- it's happened before.

Ask me about my light-weight mahogany-and-copper substitution of Fallingwater -- on the waterfall site of your choice !


SDR

Palli
Posts: 238
Joined: Tue Jul 12, 2011 11:20 pm
Location: Oberlin, Ohio

Post by Palli »

I wish Copeland had retained the Taliesin nomenclature: hassock. An ottoman is generally seen as fully upholstered stool used as a heavy, stable extension of an armed easy chair. In contrast, the Taliesin hassocks were light and portable serving as very functional seating in the informal home. Only a few hassocks were really designed as containers as that limited their portable function.

Solid wood furniture construction is not unheard of among Usonians; even when the house wood was redwood, a soft and poor choice for freestanding furniture.
It would be interesting to document which Usonians plans do read as ply specifications for millwork.

SDR
Posts: 19698
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

I agree. It should be easy to determine which pieces of Usonian furniture were meant for plywood, however: any panels over c. 12 inches wide, and shown as 3/4" (or less) thick, would have been intended for plywood, in this period -- wouldn't you say ?

A possible exception would be the sides of hassocks such as those made for the Lamberson house -- though even there plywood wouldn't be ruled out, I should think. You're right -- someone could do a survey of the drawings.

Peter and Stafford Norris could provide some input on the Lamberson hassocks and the choice of solid wood for them. I can think of a couple of reasons for using solids on those . . .

SDR

dtc
Posts: 739
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:04 am

Post by dtc »

For many years the Dobkins hassocks were put into a metal storage unit with a dirt floor.(8 total) 2 were still in service in the house when we took possession.
Because they were made of solid Mahogany I was able to repair as needed (numerous animal bites, claw scratches, urine stains) and re-finish them with the original shellac and paste wax.
If they were made in plywood they would needed to be trashed.
As Palli mentioned they were intended to be used at a moments notice.They were not intended to be storage containers.

Roderick Grant
Posts: 10338
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

I don't know where the idea came from that FLW's furniture did not show end grain. Get out your Heinz book, "FLW Interiors and Furniture." The first photo is of the Willets dining table (frontispiece). While the end of the table top has a cross piece, it is not mitered at the corners, so its end grain is exposed. The Oak Park dining table (pg 17) has exposed end grain. Tables at the Oak Park Studio (27), Dana House (34, 35, 45, 46), Bradley (54), Booth (156); from the Usonian Era, Rosenbaum side chair in plywood (198), David Wright plywood chairs (208) ... on and on. I don't know why end grain, especially of solid wood is such a bad thing.

peterm
Posts: 6207
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:27 am
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

I can think of no tabletop from the later period that does not have solid wood edging around the entire top, especially the type which was chosen by Copeland to reproduce. Again, end grain is not a bad thing, it was just not used the way that Copeland used it.

As for the solid wood hassocks, the wood is typically running in the horizontal direction with mitered corners, so no end grain is revealed. The Lamberson hassocks are drawn with the grain running this way.

The plans are clearly labeled, at least at Lamberson: 3/4" plywood, with solid wood edging. I would be curious what other Usonian furniture plans show.

SDR
Posts: 19698
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

There are alternatives to the construction of coffee tables like the one at the head of this thread. Here are two examples:



Image

Paul J Trier house, 1956. Photo from a 1989 publication authored by David A Hanks, showing pieces from the Domino's Pizza Collection.



Image

W and M Palmer house, 1950. Photo by Paul Rocheleau



R Grant's comments prodded me to do some research. I have a different Heinz photo book, which doesn't show the Willits table. But here is what I found:

To start, a brief 1965 exhibition at the U of Illinois, mounted by a "Committee of Architectural Heritage" whose purpose was to fund restoration of the Robie house, resulted in a booklet containing the following exhibits. First, a photo of a small dining table from the Dana house. Then, a drawing of that table, purported to be a measured examination, shows the surprising construction of the top; I show a detail of the drawing below.

The photos seems to show end grain of giant planks, while the drawing reveals a three-ply construction, with end blocks mitered to a veneered top panel.


Image

Image

Image



Thus, if that drawing is accurate, we see that an effort was made to present the appearance of solid wood, concealing a perfectly respectable and conservative composite construction.


Then, I looked at some of other tables. Here are two pieces from the Coonley house, a desk and a small table. In both cases, the edges of a slab top have been pieced from veneer or (more likely ?) solid pieces -- in the same way as shown in the section drawing above, and not unlike the appearance given by the much later Trier table further above.





Image
Photo: Art Institute of Chicago


Image
Photo: T A Heinz


Here is another Dana table. Each top panel (plank ? veneered board ?) is capped on the end with a piece of side-grain wood. The orientation of the grain on these blocks is most evident on the far-right and far-left ends of the table. I don't see any pieces which clearly display the growth rings seen in end-grain wood.

Image
Photo: T A Heinz


Here is a curious hybrid of the two construction methods shown so far. In this table from the Isabel Roberts house, the end of the table is fitted with a collection of mitered pieces (note the seam along the top, and the nails added over time to keep the pieces in place) which do not, in most cases, align with the seams in the top. Although the grain of the pieces is difficult to read, the misalignment makes it clear that these are not simply exposed plank ends.


Image
Photo: T A Heinz


While I agree completely that there is no sin in exposing end grain, in fact it appears that, to Wright or to his furnituremakers, it was preferable -- to conserve wood, or to simplify the job of the stainers and finishers ? -- to find alternatives to simple plankwork, of the kind that pleased a different generation of woodworkers . . .

SDR

peterm
Posts: 6207
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:27 am
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

Agreed... The end grain examples are all Prairie.

The Trier photo shows the standard Usonian detail which I find preferable to the Copeland detail.

sjnorris
Posts: 77
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:04 pm

Post by sjnorris »

Please correct me if i'm wrong but I don't believe the examples shown are end grain but rather veneer. The way the veneer is laid up is called waterfall , where the top veneer continues over the edge.

SDR
Posts: 19698
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Yes. In your experience is the term "waterfall" reserved for those cases where the grain of the top is continued directly onto the vertical surface ? I suppose it might be used for any work -- like the Palmer tables shown above -- where the edge has vertically-oriented grain ?

It may well be that the Prairie-period tables shown here have veneered edges -- but the student (?) section drawing of the small Dana dining table suggests that, in that case at least, the ends are made of 3/4" blocks mitered to the top -- wouldn't you say ?

Those tops whose age has permitted visible evidence of wood movement, reveal gaps between mitered parts, as I see it. The Roberts and Coonley tops, at least, show open miters, to my eye. This suggests not veneer, but solid pieces -- though of course veneered solids could move in the same way . . .

SDR

pharding
Posts: 2253
Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: River Forest, Illinois
Contact:

Post by pharding »

This is an interesting discussion. I would add that obviously Copeland Furniture takes some liberties with the Prairie Period Furniture and that they are continuing that pattern with the Usonian pieces. I give them high marks for craftsmanship. However personally I believe that they could be more refined in the design and detailing of their FLW pieces. It would cost them very little to get the professional design input that would make these pieces so much better.

SDR where did you find the photographs of the Isabel Roberts dining room furniture?
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

SDR
Posts: 19698
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Paul, my three Heinz photos are found in a small volume called "FLLW Furniture Portfolio" (Thomas A Heinz, Gibbs Smith, 1993). The images I present are enlargements of portions of the published photos.

SDR

pharding
Posts: 2253
Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: River Forest, Illinois
Contact:

Post by pharding »

Thanks. I have that book. I did not realize that they were in there.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Post Reply