One of the fine things we bought at Ida Carlson’s Barn was this funky mid-century modern endtable. It has a very “nordic” style, made from flat pieces of wood and in that fun atomic acute-angle style that people love from the 1950s:
It has a very odd shape — it looks different no matter what angle you look at it from. There’s spaces underneath for books, a tall slot at the back for your large-format Life and Look magazines, and the classic kidney-shaped top means it’ll both fit everywhere and not quite fit anywhere. Of course, we had to buy it.
Fast-forward a few weeks later, and we were thumbing through old handyman magazines. We’re always looking for ideas for our house, and it’s always fun to look for interesting design styles. As I was flipping through the October 1955 issue of Home Craftsman magazine, I saw a familiar shape:
No, our endtable wasn’t shown in an advertisement or in the background of an interior design article: our little mid-century modern table was one of the featured projects in this issue. Here’s the plans for it:
The design is by Home Craftsman’s staff designer, Arthur Collani. Aside from simple projects for the magazine, Collani also wrote a couple books of furniture plans for Home Craftsman’s own series of how-to books. One book, Build Your Own Modern Furniture, was extremely popular — and wouldn’t you know it, our table appeared in that book, too! Collani never reached the renown of Eames or other high-end furniture designers, but since his books ended up in small public libraries across the U.S. his furniture probably graced more homes overall. Any hobbyist with basic tools could make Collani’s furniture, which, today, fits right in with the high-end midcentury furniture of the day. This auction and these two galleries show that his home-hobbyist designs are on par with Eames even on the pricetag. All it takes is 50 years to go from “hobby kit” to fine furniture, as long as mid-century modern stays popular.