Desk II: OOPS – A Graphic Blog with Words

I present another cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t take time to fully examine design elements, even ones that seems relatively minor. A badly placed sliver of wood can muck things up in unexpected ways.

Let’s examine this typical slant front desk:


A desk like hundred others I’ve seen.

Take a quick look at the back of the desk:


Interesting but not really germane.

A unique feature is this decoration on the bracket feet:


Not something I’ve seen before but there is so much furniture I have yet to see.

Today’s lesson exists in the gallery:


Looks ordinary and conventional. And it is, six drawers, a prospect and two document boxes (the door in the center and those skinny drawers on either side of it).

A closer view of the central area starts the narrative of the fail:


Quite handsome. No handles but big moldings.

Usually, if there are no handles on the boxes, there is some assist mechanism inside the prospect:


As is true here, a cutout in the back of the prospect that allows you to get your fingers behind the boxes and nudge them out.

The size of the molding on the right document box keeps the door from opening fully in turn prevents you opening any of the three drawers:


Hope there wasn’t anything you needed in the drawers.

The other problem you run into is that to open the door wide enough use the drawers, you need to remove the right document box. But if you open the door wide enough to get to the cutout in the back of the prospect, the door blocks the removal of the document box.

Not related to that issue the shrinkage of the wood making the sides of the document box:


A couple of splits and a little simple math.


I saw another example of questionable design in a secretary I saw at MESDA (Museum of Southern Decorative Arts) in Winston Salem. It was in this secretary:


An above average secretary. Lots going on here.

Then you see the back of the prospect door:


Was it known in advance that they needed to provide clearance for the drawer pulls or did they discover it the first time they tried to close the door?

One of the truly great mysteries of furniture design. We will never know.

It is claimed that George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate (in Asheville, NC, built 1889 to 1895) was one of the first residences to have fully plumbed bath tubs. The tubs all have overflow drains. Was this need anticipated or discovered?

A Museum With Room Service.

Waiting at baggage claim in Cape Town, South Africa last year, my wife and I struck up a conversation with a local. We were there on vacation. My wife was celebrating a numerically significant birthday and wanted an adventure. She must have subtly or casually communicated this information to the travel agent for we received better treatment then we deserved for the entire trip. All with congratulations.

Our new friend asked us where we staying while in town. We answered The Cape Grace Hotel. This pleased our companion greatly. They said in their experience, it was one of the finest hotels in Cape Town and possibly all of South Africa. We were excited to be staying at such a fine hotel but grew fearful that they might not accept our Days Inn points, not that we are always able to stay at a place as nice as a Days Inn.

We claimed our luggage and the rental car and headed out in search our lodgings. I brought my own GPS so there would be one less random thing to confuse me. I’m certain they have GPS’s there but I know how mine works. All I had to do was buy the South African map.

After a short, efficient drive, we arrived at the hotel. I circled the parking lot twice looking for the pop-up trailer that I assumed would be our home for the next few days. Not finding it, we went inside to check with reception. Turns out we had a room IN the hotel. We chose to ignore their apparent lack of due diligence and accepted the key.

The Cape Grace is a very nice hotel as I expected. What I wasn’t expecting was the fact that the common areas were populated with high-end antiques. Like this armoire:


The South Africans have a fondness for contrasting tones.

There are antiques in the lobby, in the hallways, in the elevator lobbies and any other place a guest may wander.

More case pieces with this dresser:


Continuing with the contrasting wood.


With this interesting bead detail on the drawer sides.

Near the dining room was this unique storage bin/shelf unit:


Holding yet more antiques. I didn’t check in the bin.

At the hallway ends are collections of stacked antiques.


Dressers and cabinets and chests, oh my…

This is one of my favorite contrasting pieces:


Contrasting wood and wedged dovetails. I’m gonna have to build me one.

They have painted furniture as well:


Three of many.

This, they claim, is one of the most iconic of Cape Furniture, the riempiesbank:


Named derived from the thin leather strips plaited (braided) to form the riempies seat.

And there are tools all over the place:


Nice wall hangers.


You can see a reasonable sample of the Cape Grace Collection by clicking HERE.


Desk – A Graphic Blog

Look at enough furniture and you can see some very unusual things. Some things that you would not expect but make sense if only sort of and in context. Like this desk:


It’s a desk. Says so on the price tag.


With a fold-out writing surface.

Odd mix of hardware.


Drop pulls on the doors. There are fans of drop pulls amongst you and this is a chance to show some non-Victorian drop pulls.


Chippendale pulls and escutcheons.


This desk has character in that not all things are perfectly aligned.


My finely honed instincts lead me to believe these might not be the original pulls.


Lots of storage on top.


Drawers and shelves in the center.

Unique doors.


Very shallow chamfer on the door panel. Unusual for a chamfer to extend to over 1/3 of the panel width.


Dovetailed drawers proving this desk is very old and of the highest quality.

Now it gets interesting. (Finally!)


Pigeonholes in the left compartment.

The interesting part.


The door stop is a part of a folding rule that Sam*, the apprentice, has ruined. Cleverly, the screws are not inline minimizing the chance of splitting. The astute among you (with much knowledge and too much time) can probably discern which rule it’s from.


The right compartment might or might not have been pigeon holes with missing parts. Might have been vertical file storage. Here the vertical in continuous while on the left, the horizontal are continuous.


But one common element is the use of a bit of Sam’s broken rule as a door stop with offset screws.

This shop was also the home of:


The Roorkhee stool, or something like it.



The metal Windsor chairs.


Lots of Stickleys

There were five Stickley brothers, all involved in furniture production in the late 19th to early 20th century. Between and amongst them, they were involved with nine furniture companies but never more than three of the brothers in any company.

The oldest and most well known Stickley was Gustave (later truncated to Gustav). He was a major proponent of the Arts  & Crafts movement. He so believed in the movement that he expanded his business beyond furniture to include metalwork and textiles, home building and a magazine, The Craftsman. His Craftsman Workshops was absorbed by L. & J.G. Stickley in 1916.

Leopold and John George Stickley founded L. & J. G. Stickley, Inc. in the early 1900’s. Incorporation is easier if you don’t use a fictional name. They had their own line of Arts and Crafts furniture and expanded the line when they acquired their brother Gustav(e)’s company. Their company is the only surviving Stickley company and is know now as Stickley Audi.

Stickley was able to survive by changing with the times. In the 1910’s, the American public turned away from Art & Crafts and Mission furniture and enthusiastically embraced Colonial Revival furniture. Colonial revival had its roots in the 1870’s Centennial celebrations. It exploded in the early 20th century with a wave of nostalgia for the simpler and more innocent times (that might have never been). Wallace Nutting, one of the ringleaders and most opportunistic merchants of the era, was quoted as saying: “Whatever is new, is bad.”

Gustav Stickley offered a few Colonial and Chinese Chippendale pieces for sale in the early 1900’s. L. & J. G. made a more extensive collection in their Cherry Valley Furniture.

I am bringing this up because I noticed 12 (or 13) pieces in a recent local auction. I thought it unusual to see so many vintage pieces from one maker and felt compelled to share it with you.

And here it is.


We know it’s Stickley ’cause it says so.


L & J.G. Stickley Chippendale Style Corner Cupboard – Sold for $340.


This is a construction detail not consistent with historic practices. If you make a reproduction of this piece, would you have to use screw hole plugs?


L & J.G. Stickley Chippendale Style China Cabinet – Sold for $260


L & J.G. Stickley Colonial Revival Bookcase – Sold for $260


L & J.G. Stickley, Colonial Revival Hutch – Sold for $260


L & J.G. Stickley, Chippendale Style Chest of Drawers – Sold for $210


L & J.G. Stickley Chippendale Style Chest of Drawers – Sold for $240


L & J.G. Stickley Chippendale Style Diminutive Dresser – Sold for $150


L & J.G. Stickley Double Pedestal Dining Table – Sold for $340


Set of Eight Banister Back Dining Chairs-Sold for $225. Not identified as Stickley but from the same era and estate.


L & J.G. Stickley, Colonial Revival Side Table -Sold for $130


Another screw hole plug. How 50’s.


L & J.G. Stickley Queen Anne Style Candlestand – Sold for $70


L & J.G. Stickley Colonial Revival Drop Side Table – Sold for $100


L & JG Stickley Trumeau – Sold for $75

Trumeau definition, a mirror having a painted or carved panel above or below the glass in the same frame


A trumeau mirror or pier glass is a wall mirror originally manufactured in France in the 18th century. It takes its name from the French word trumeau, which designates the space between windows. In England it is normally known as a ‘pier glass’.


Further Research Provides No Answers

Back in June, I sent Chris Schwarz some pictures of an alleged Mexican workbench discovered at an antiques shop in Santa Fe, NM. He was amused and after a few exchanged messages, I suggested the best thing to do would be to offer it to the readers to provide some insight.

And this he did. In HIS Lost Art Press blog.

I was initially a tiny bit miffed but he was right to do it. He has well over a million followers and I have around 17. 23 if you don’t count my family and friends. I still don’t understand it but numbers don’t lie. His blog was titled Solve the Mexican Workbench Mystery and you can read it by clicking on the title.

Some context:


The Bench


The screw


The chop


The joinery


The details

Mr. Schwarz wrote:

My first (and fifth) reaction:  A Narwhal and some ship’s tackle had a baby. And it didn’t live….

I was even more surprised to read some readers’ comments in which they speculate that  it is either assembled incorrectly or an invention made from spare parts by an unscrupulous dealer.

Two weeks later, while researching a different topic, I happened upon a Popular Woodworking blog from February of 2014. The blog featured a picture of this Mexican bench:


Similar but two unfortunate Narwhals involved.

You can find the PW blog HERE.

Fell free to form your own conclusions.





Running For Office?

You are running for (insert elected position here). You feel you just need something for your campaign office or TV commercial set so add a level of sincerity or gravitas. I attended an auction preview and found what I believe is just the ticket. From 1962, I offer you credibility in a frame.


The family your pollster tells you need.

This might not reflect your exact demographic but I’m sure your campaign manager can spin it…

At this auction I also found this Continental Tall Graduated Chest of Drawers owned by a closeted patriot:


It sold for $60.

I looked in the top drawer and found this:


Secret voter?

They love their country and are proud of doing the right thing. They just didn’t want anyone else to know.



Ya Thought I was Kidding.

In a recent allegedly satirical blog I wrote:

You know bistro height tables are passé but you are such a hipster that you are on the leading edge of the early 2000’s retro movement.

The Rolling Stone today reported:

MTV Launches ‘Classic’ Channel Dedicated to 1990s

MTV plans to rebrand VH1 Classic as MTV Classic starting on August 1st. According to a statement from the company, the new channel will focus on “an eclectic mix of fan-favorite MTV series and music programming drawn from across its rich history, with a special focus on the 1990s and early 2000s.”


They’re baaaack! I, for one, didn’t miss them.

If It’s Good Enough for D. M. Goodwillie…

A while back in A Different Hinge You Won’t Use I wrote about the ring/loop hinge that I found on three different munitions cases. As is typical, I had never seen these hinges until I came across three of them in a relatively short period of time. Over two days I found three more examples in Asheville, NC  this time all food related. Two in one shop. I wouldn’t usually write about more of the same if it weren’t for the fact there were more unique feature.

First is this red crate labeled RICE:


See, it says “RICE”.

Somewhat crudely made:


Not Thos. Moser.

And the hinge:


From the outside.


And inside.

What I found unique was the latch:


A wire latch.


This is on the lid.


And inset on the carcass.

What is driving me crazy is that I know I have used a latch just like this. I have the sense memory of using it and recall how often you can release one side while the other hangs.

Across the shop, I found a crate used for transporting water bottles for Buck National Beverage:


Is there a legal definition of promptly?


A familiar looking hinge.

And another wire latch:


Only one wire in this latch.


On the carcass.

The inside of the crate is not well finished. I was having trouble trying to get a picture of the printing therein because of the texture.


Can’t quite read due to the texture.

A flash helps.


It’s Goodwillie. D. M. Goodwillie. Of the Chicago t777

Another rare item is this handle:


A nail on handle insert.

The function of the backing plate is unknown unless it is to keep fingers from being  smashed by freely moving bottles. Or to keep the box sealed against our little insect or rodent friends.


A safer handle?

While poking about, I found an auction listing showing a similar box claiming the box was from 1919. I also found an obituary in the July 17th, 1934 Chicago Tribune for a Douglas Monroe Goodwillie, 38, who died suddenly of heart disease.

The next day I found this newer box at another shop in Asheville:


A newer, bright shiny box. Joinery seems to be nailing strips at the corners.

This box looks more like a promotional item than a shipping container.


Bright, shiny familiar hinges. Made by Hager, a maker of many types of hinges.



Ring/loop hinge looks the same except for the shine.

And, finally, a bonus box not used for edibles:


Another box with nailed-on joinery.


Nail-on, fastener-free hinge.

This box also seems to be more promotional than functional.


From our favorite multinational consumer products company.

Now that I’ve beaten this topic to death, we move on.



Home from the Campaign

You just got back from a tour of duty civilizing and acculturating those in the far corners of the Empire, er, Commonwealth. You like everything about being out there in the field. Your Campaign furniture greatly enhances your gender identity. You bring most of it home with you but some of it does not fit your urban, hipster lifestyle. You’ve just purchased a vintage bistro height table. You know bistro height tables are passé but you are such a hipster that you are on the leading edge of the early 2000’s retro movement.


Your new bistro height table from the local quality consignment store.

One issue is that your favorite Roorkhee chairs don’t really work with your bistro height table.


One of your Roorkhee chairs.

Your civilian brother-in-law can only afford a set of Kaare Klint Safari chairs.


The Kaare Klint Safari chair, nice but no genuine brass rivets.

Now there is a solution to your conundrum. I present the Roorkhee safari stool:


The Roorkhee stool, or something like it.


Equally handsome in the reverse.

It’s got wood. It’s got leather. It breaks down. It’s got straps.


The stool you’ve been looking for!

Now, your task is to go out there and find the right clip on instant man bun. You may be in the service, but you have a reputation to uphold.


I Don’t Know That Much About Belgium

I really don’t much. I know it produces some of the world’s greatest chocolate, waffles and beer. Contributions to painting and architecture are well-known. In the 1980’s, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Ford Prefect used “Belgium” inexplicably as an expletive. NATO and the European Union have their headquarters there. My wife made a business trip there a few years back and it is on the short list of places to visit in the near future

In a recent blog, I surmised that a Belgian made but French-styled chest might be from Wallonia, the Francophone region in southern Belgium. I received a mini lesson in a comment:

Don’t assume that the present French-speaking part of Belgium was always linked to France nor that the present Flemish speaking part was not. In the middle ages the County of Flanders was under the French crown until 1384. Then most of Belgium was part of Burgundy until 1678. Belgium was again part of France from 1794 to 1815.

More details on wikipedia (although there are small differences depending in which language you read it)
We have also been ruled by Romans, Spain, Austria, Netherlands, etc… and occupied by Germany. That is why Belgians are Europeans.


I’ve only seen two pieces identified as being from Belgium. I’m sure I have seen others but only two labeled as such. The one mentioned in the previous blog:


A tall, sophisticated chest.

That chest and a desk I saw three years ago. I’ve been holding it back and waiting for a chance to display it in context. I was taking fewer pictures back then and now wish I had more. The desk looks something like this:


Just another dang slant front desk. Interesting stretchers.

Just some simple decoration on the lid:


Looks just like something by Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light®.

A simple yet ornate gallery:


Nicely veneered door.

Dovetails we like and a different take on legs:


I believe that is what they call a perforated leg. But I could be wrong…

More Belgian furniture as I find it.


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