William Haines: Halcyon Days of Hollywood

Designer William “Billy” Haines (1900-1973) was a classic renaissance man. Beginning his career as an actor in the early days of Hollywood, Haines with his boy-next-door good looks, starred in many films both silent and sound, becoming the number-one box office star of 1930. After leaving the film industry in 1936, he opened an antique store and went on to become one of Hollywood’s premier decorators, working friends and acquaintances from his influential circle of celebrities and bon vivants.

Haines was known for his interest in how people truly live, not just decorating for snob appeal. He and his team of designers created sleek, classic pieces that were low profile, functional yet elegant. His best friend and client Betsy Bloomingdale stated, “he designed all of my pieces low to the floor. That way people were grander, not the furniture.” In a bold move for the time, he dared to create an all-white living room, then took a 360 and generously splashed bright, brilliant colors through the home of Carole Lombard.

Haines designed interiors for the home of Ronald and Nancy Reagan while he was governor of California. In a prized commission, he was chosen as the interior designer (along with Ted Graber) for Walter and Leonore Annenberg’s estate, Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage. This spectacular mid-century modern estate designed by architect A. Quincy Jones was known for its pink roof and has been frequented throughout the years by both political leaders and celebrities alike.

William Haines Malibu Chair and Ottoman

Capturing the essence of California living, The Malibu Chair and Ottoman originally designed in 1950, is the perfect pairing for quintessential outdoor elegance. The powder-coated steel frame is upholstered in a white rayon blend, can be used indoors or out, and has been re-issued through williamhaines.com.

william billy haines sofa

This stunning statement piece, known as The Valentine Sofa, showcases Haines’ mastery of sleek, sexy, functional design. This sofa with a low tufted seat and leather-wrapped arm either in right or left orientation was first introduced in 1950 and lucky for us is currently still in production through williamhaines.com.  

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Italian architect and designer, Marco Zanuso (1916-2001) born in Milan, was one of the postwar designers shaping the international idea of “good design.” After receiving his degree in architecture at the Politecnico di Milano, he began his career as an architect, designer and city planner. Additionally, Zanuso was editor-in-chief of Domus magazine, the preeminent publication on architecture and design founded by Gio Ponti in 1928, from 1947-1949. As one of the leaders in the Italian Modern Movement he was a pioneer in furniture design, working with metal tubing and creating a new joining mechanism that allowed a fabric seat to be suspended from a tubular steel frame.

In the late 1940s, Zanuso began collaborating with Arflex, an Italian manufacturing company, to create a furniture collection using a newly developed polyurethane foam and elastic tape. It was for Arflex, he designed a series of pieces that would become icons of the modernist movement, among them, the Lady Armchair (1951) and the Sleep-o-matic sofa (1954). Between 1957-1959, Zanuso began collaborating with German industrial designer Richard Saper. It was with Saper, he created work devoted to the relationship of the user to the object. Together they pioneered a new aesthetic known as techno-functionalism, designing objects such as the Grillo telephone (1966) and the Brionvega (1962), the first fully-transistor television. These pieces were characterized by bright colors, synthetic materials and sculptural shapes. Zanuso’s work can be found in museums throughout the world including MoMA, the Met and the Triennale in Milan.

Marco Zanuso “Lady” lounge chair

One of Zanuso’s iconic pieces, the “Lady” lounge chair (1951), was the first armchair to incorporate expanded polyurethane and foam rubber. The armchair showcased a new system of springing, while the slender brass, slim-line legs suspend the body of the chair in an animated fashion.

Marco Zanuso “Sleep-o-matic” sofa

Forward thinking Zanuso designed this “Sleep-o-matic” sofa (1954) for Arflex with an internal metal mechanism that can easily be opened to become a sofa bed. Tubular metal structure with foam rubber padding.

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Cees Braakman: Aesthetically Functional

Dutch designer Cees Braakman (1917-1995), born in Utrecht is best known for the strong influence he had on furniture design in the Netherlands. Beginning his career at the age of 17, he began working for the furniture manufacturer UMS Pastoe. At the time, his father was the company’s head draftsman and manager. Inspired by the work coming from the Herman Miller Company by Charles and Ray Eames, and by their technical approach to design. Braakman came to the United States to learn more about the process, eventually heading back to his country eager to work with a new material, bent plywood.

While at Pastoe, Cees Braakman developed several lines of popular furniture, clean, elegant lines and a wonderful sense of proportion highlighted his work. Braakman placed particular attention on his modular storage solutions, launching in 1955, these Made-to-Measure cabinets, constructed of a variety of woods, some of which were to be assembled by the end-user, earned him a silver medal at the 1957 Triennale in Milan. He would eventually follow in his father’s footsteps, taking on the role of manager at Pastoe until 1978.              

Mid-Century Chair c.1950s, Model FM08 for Pastoe, boasts a shell covered in black vinyl, perfectly perched over four elegant, yet spider-like black steel legs. With comfort in mind, Braakman added two loose cushions to the design.

Classic cabinet from his “Japanese Series,” manufactured by Pastoe in the 1960s. The cabinet is made of teak, with one white laminated door on a black steel base. The black inset handles make a strong design statement and are a highly recognizable element from this series.

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Dan Johnson : Sculptural Modernism – Post War California Furniture Designer

The majority of the postwar California furniture designers found inspiration in free-form biomorphic shapes with forward-looking parabolic forms utilizing experimental materials, designer Dan Johnson (1918-1979) was an exception. While Johnson’s earlier furniture pieces (late 1940s) looked more familiar, with folded planes of wood, blocky modern forms, and integrated pulls, his style drastically shifted after moving to Rome in the mid-1950s. Opening Dan Johnson Studio, he began creating pieces marked by their elegant sculptural form, looking back to Roman antiquity to find inspiration. Working in cast bronze, Johnson designed a series of spectacular sculptural pieces with his most well-known being the Gazelle chair. This mid-century silhouette combines function with a rare curvilinear shape. The graceful Gazelle chairs and tables were likely inspired by the animals depicted in early Roman hunting scenes. Johnson later wrote to a friend, he is taking “a modern approach to the ancient Roman stuff I appreciated so much.”

Dan Johnson lounge chair

This early rare Dan Johnson lounge chair utilizes an iron frame and steam bent walnut plywood armrest to create an elegant shape, c. early 1950s.

Dan Johnson Satyr table

Inspired by Johnson’s residency in Rome, this Satyr table and four Gazelle chairs are a truly fantastic set. Cast in bronze with cane seats and backs, the blue-green patina, aged finish shows the influence of his connection to the past.

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Stylish Sunset Strip Mid Century Condo

Sunset Strip Mid Century Condo in an architectural building

Stylish Sunset Strip Mid Century Condo, unit #209 in an Architectural building at the base of the Hollywood Hills.

This charming unit features an open floor plan, high ceilings and oversized windows to allow that year-round California natural light.

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