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  • Provenance

    Jan and Rocco DiMarco, Bloomfield Hills, acquired directly from the architect
    Thence by descent to the present owner

  • Literature

    Edward Durell Stone, The Evolution of an Architect, New York, 1962, pp. 70, 72, 103
    Mary Anne Hunting, "From Craft to Industry: Furniture Designed by Edward Durell Stone for Senator Fulbright," The Magazine Antiques, May 2004, pp. 111-12

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present table is a rare example from the Fulbright Industries furniture line designed by Edward Durell Stone, produced between 1950 and 1952. The formal qualities of Stone’s architecture – consecutive lines, a motif based on a square divided into quadrants – are evident in the structure and pattern of the tabletop. The bentwood base echoes the porticos that lined the lower portion of many of his iconic building facades.

    In 1949, Stone was asked by his childhood friend, United States Senator James William Fulbright, who was also president of J.H. Phipps Lumber Company, if he would design some pieces to be produced by the new furniture division of his company, Fulbright Industries. The business had been in decline for decades as the wagons and plows that the company had historically supplied with parts were replaced by tractors. Fulbright hoped a new product line directed at a growing market might re-invigorate the business. His concept brought together Stone (by then an internationally-recognized architect), his company’s lumber stock and manufacturing capabilities, and the craft traditions of the Ozarks. The resulting designs incorporated wagon and plow parts such as yokes and wheel spokes with regional basket-weaving techniques into pared-down furniture forms.

    There must have been some nostalgia in this partnership between old friends, alongside a hope that in bringing their shared history and professional interests together they might be able to address the challenges their home town was then facing. Unfortunately, it was not a seamless endeavor, as the designs required a higher level of skilled workmanship and modern technology than anticipated. Though critically well-received, complexities of production ultimately inhibited the line from receiving the attention and commercial success that it deserved. Production delays resulted in it missing the deadline for the 1952 “Good Design” selection committee meeting of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. It also failed to be included in the Architectural League of New York’s March 1950 exhibition on the El Panama Hotel which had been designed by Stone with the Panama City architectural firm Méndez & Sander. The interior decorator Florence Bates Hayward had filled the porticoed lounge of the hotel with Fulbright Industries furniture, but it was decided that there was no reason to advertise furniture not yet ready for sale. Department stores and the major furniture companies of the period, such as Knoll and Herman Miller, declined to offer the line. Eventually it was picked up by Gordon Waldron, but the marketing emphasized the furniture’s suitability to modern tastes and living rather than the intersection of American traditional crafts and international modernism that had informed its conception. Advertising proclaimed it as “the perfect answer to your quest for furniture that is at once forthright, sophisticated and comfortable,” and yet it was perceived as rustic outdoor furniture too simple to demand the price that its construction demanded.

    The line was therefore short-lived, and few remaining examples have come to market. Mary Anne Hunting writes that Stone “made a concerted effort to endorse the furniture— to both institutional and private clients as well as to friends and employees.” It seems plausible that the original owner, Jan DiMarco, a friend and colleague of Stone’s, may have been a member of this audience. DiMarco was a painter and interior designer who studied at Cranbrook and whose Bloomfield Hills home, a converted indoor pool with an attached ballroom and a kitchen from an eighteenth-century American farmhouse, which they named "The Deep End," had been designed by Edward Durell Stone. A 1960 article in the Detroit News Pictorial Magazine on the home quotes Mrs. DiMarco as saying “we have one house covering three periods of America.” A fitting context for the present table, which elegantly merged the best of American craft and modernism.

Property from a Private Collection, Virginia

92

Rare coffee table

circa 1951
Oak.
14 7/8 x 40 1/2 x 40 1/2 in. (38 x 103 x 103 cm)
Manufactured by Fulbright Industries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Estimate
$10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for $12,500

Contact Specialist

[email protected]
+1 212 940 1268

Design

New York Auction 6 June 2019