Thursday, January 30, 2014

Drexel Precedent Furniture (Midcentury MARVELOUS, 1947)

Good morning!

Well, folks, I've fallen in love-- not to worry, Bab's place in the firmament is still secure, but I think I truly have lost my heart to this line of Drexel furniture produced in year of our Lord 1947. The Precedent line was featured, if you remember, in that House Beautiful spread I shared with you last week. I was digging through an August 1947 issue of Home and Garden when I came across this TWENTY PAGE SUPPLEMENT on Drexel Precedent and the furniture dealers from whom you could buy Drexel Precedent. Seeing as I had googled this furniture group when I did the last post and only found scant listings and modern photos of Precedent pieces, I thought, for your viewing pleasure (and for safe-keeping, MCM reference wise), I would share with you the whole nine yards worth of bee-YOOT-iful home furnishings on today's blog.

What are we waitin' for?! Let's dig in!

Neutra-looking house on the cover...You KNOW this issue's going to be good...
For starters, House and Garden was a great magazine that had a print run from 1901-2007. Initially beginning its century-long history as an architectural publication, the magazine's emphasis shifted shortly thereafter, with Condé Nast's acquisition of its holdings in 1915, to interior design. And people, we are talking SERIOUS. INTERIOR DESIGN. I plucked the massive, dusty bound volume marked July-Dec 1947 from its shelf here at the Nashville Public Library and glutted myself practically all day yesterday on its colorful pages. What caught my eye most, as I said, was the spotlight on Drexel Precedent. I feel like Aunt Pity in GWTW looking over some of these rooms. Fetch the smelling salts, and take a look with me:

Edward J. Wormley designed the Drexel Precedent line, and according to the accompanying text, the complete line could be had at any of the twenty-four dealers named on the first page of the advertising supplement. I was telling my coworker Amy that even though many of these furniture stores probably don't exist anymore, and if they did, they're not selling 1947 furniture on their respective floor rooms, I was miffed that the closest Drexel dealer to Nashville was either St. Louis (Craig Furniture Company) or Cincinnati (the alluringly named Shillito's). I'm going to have to drive four or five hours to get my hands on these modern living room, dining room, and bedroom suites? Gimme a break! Still, I'd walk to the Show Me state if someone would let me get my grubby little paws on just ONE PIECE of these amazing collections of tables, chairs, bedframes, china cabinets-- I was seeing stars!

One of my favorite things thus far about 1947 interiors are the c-o-l-o-r-s you get, and one of the best examples is the panel that opens the collection in the photo above. While I know it might be a long time or maybe never before I have so graciously appointed a living room as the one in this two-page overlay, I CAN take heart in the gorgeous combinations of primary and muted hues, symmetrically placed furniture, and just elegantly comfortable vibe reflected in the designer's choices here. Inventory-- a pair of slim china cabinets flanking a pair of benches...geometric, nubby, rectangular rug...cherry red étagère...figural lamp with possibly some pan-Asian influence going on...and those apple green walls. THIS, PEOPLE. IT'S WHAT I WANT. IT'S WHAT I NEED! The vivid pink color against those turquoise, yellows, and blonde wood. I feel like later in the midcentury things either got very hard-edged in their atomic bent, or they got pale greys and pinks and blues, but these warm, primary-ish colors really, really appeal to me right now. As does the stated purpose in the Precedent line, which is, I quote, "To make your home lovelier...more livable." It's like they can see inside my thoughts! 0_o 

The photo above, and the next two, are my top three favorites, thought they're all my favorites:

I just made a noise that sounds like someone socked me right in the breadbasket. "Uuugh!". While a lot of these rooms are aspirationally set in penthouses, the text assures me that I'll "discover how perfectly simple it is to create gracious and charming rooms...whether you live in a penthouse like this or a cottage in the country." What about a ranch-style three bedroom of modest size in Inglewood? Well, you fill in the blanks for yourself, but I promise, after a home visit, you'll be reassured of how happy a home I could make by adopting these gorgeous room sets. See the orange tile floor, the black iron stair-rail, the grey carpet, and blonde wood, all complimented by the sky blue wall and ceiling? I hope someday I have a ceiling high enough to allow for it to be that same color as the wall. I am actually dying over the African art on the mile-long buffet, the red-background painting to the left, and the Calder-esque mobile. Isn't it funny when you see a bunch of disparate things that are so harmoniously arranged, it all of a sudden seems strange you didn't think of it naturally, in the first place? I forgot to mention it on the outset, but each panel is accompanied by a large text box, as you can see here, that reads, "It's news because it's so __________! " I truly think they ran out of adjectives at one point, but bear with 'em.

Some of you are going, "too cluttered, too crazy!" about the room above, but I am crazy about the fussiness of combining new and old and LOTS OF BOTH in a small room. My next big design project in the house (yes, I allow myself the luxury of talking like I'm on HGTV sometimes...see me making a hoity-toity face while purring the word "dessssiiign project") is tackling the green room's complete nonsense of decoration and furniture arrangement. My problems in that room are threefold-- a) I love everything in there, b) none of it really goes together, c)there's way too much of it and not enough storage/room. I'm going to have to make some hard choices, but I hope to use the photo above as a kind of inspiration-- see how much STUFF is going on while the place still looks functional and cozy? Can I get a witness? I hope this is how my efforts turn out.

Look, another penthouse:

The "flexible" in this scenario refers to the fact that you can split up the sectional into interchangeable groupings-- two chairs apart, two chairs together to make a loveseat, one chair on its own-- heck, you could arrange these classroom style if you wanted, row by row, or face them all away from each other if the notion struck your fancy. I definitely like the idea of being able to move these from room to room and the furniture accomodates the change, rather that having to buy one set for one room and well, if you don't like the way it's set up, you'd have to buy an entirely new room of furniture to be rid of it. PS: THOSE. LAMPS.

One of the neatest things about the Precedent line are the arm chairs, and specifically, the cable lacing on them. They remind me of a seismographic read out or one of those plastic-lacing kits you would do in kindergarten to improve manual dexterity...and I love them. I wonder how hard it would be to DIY something like this (with the supervision, tools, and know-how of my pappy? Not so hard. With my own bare hands? Probably pretty hard). Wouldn't it be cool to have a knockoff? I found one real deal, cushionless piece on Ebay, but it was a leeetle out of my price range. Don't you love that pallid bust of Pallas o'er the china cabinet (I know, I know, it's not Pallas Athena, I just wanted to say that for once in context...). The drapes, with their floral on black on oh-please-let-that-be-some-kind-of-velvet, are gorgeous, too.

Holy smokes, where did you rip off that ancient funerary statue, MCM homeowner? Remind me to be on a look out for some enormous piece like that when I hit the flea market next month. It looks like it might come to life in the night, but heck, we needed something to shake things up around here. Notice again the fearless use of beiges and browns here. I feel like we have lost that altogether as a culture-- people see taupe or wood finish and go "OH I WONDER IF THAT WOULD LOOK BETTER IN A SHERBET ORANGE?! FOR CONTRAST, YOU KNOW?! We could even mask out a chevron pattern to 'preserve the original integrity of the vintage wood!' " I got my blood boiling reading Apartment Therapy's Before and After earlier, which sometimes, can be very good (comme ci) and sometimes, can be very bad (comme ça; sorry, buddy, that is awful). Have these people ever heard of curtains, rugs, wall hangings? THESE things can bring a shock of gorgeous color to the homefront. But boyo should have left the damn sidetable like it was, or bought something closer to what he wanted! I digress. Did you notice how many chairs are at the table below? Twelve. I counted 'em!

I lied earlier, I have four favorites, and this is the fourth. I am almost convinced to try indoor plants again after seeing how much life and style they bring to these rooms, and I am actually chewing on a knuckle over how much I love that wood paneling in squares and all the built ins (see the lamp above the radio? I die). All the little echoes of yellow and blue and red in this room....again, perfect.

Look at the built in lights in this one! I think you would have to have, as always, a way higher ceiling, but I do think this is mondo pretty and functional, too. I wonder if you've noticed in some of  these 1947 spreads-- often, when faced with filling up a large space with a small piece of furniture, they just bunk up two or three pieces of furniture next to each other. In this illustration, you can see a central chest of drawers and mirror flanked by two smaller cabinets and mirrors to create this enormous, banquette like dressing station. Also, to the right, two wide-seated chairs are grouped together to form an almost bench. I thought about how these might shift when you sit in them, but if you discreetly quik-tied them together in an inconspicuous place, problem solved!

Nice wall map! The plaids and stripes and navy aren't my favorite, but I still wouldn't kick those chairs out of bed for eatin' crackers.

This room is called the "Brazil room" in the byline, thought I'm not a hundred percent sure first, I thought the pattern on the wallpaper had some kind of Eiffel Tower motif, but upon closer inspection, maybe it's just tropical flora? No idea. I love, love, LOVE the curtains, though, and the idea of having a little bench to pull my boots off of an evening.

One thing people were big on (besides combining furniture, besides color palettes to knock your socks off) were metal window blinds in "fashion colors". I love the look of these because every time I see a non-plastic, wider than your thumb shade like this, I immediately think of film noir detective offices and the-life-I-could-have as a film noir femme fatale. This bedroom has the blinds, but they're pink-- I don't know if that takes away from their charm or adds to it. The splashy wallpaper and powder-horn-base lamps are calling out to me.

Same room from a different angle...I love all the MIRRORS, doesn't this room have a ton of light thanks to those?

This "likable" room is so modern you wouldn't bat an eye to see it in 2017 rather than 1947. So classic and pretty, and those modern lines complement the antique setting just fine!

Dining room scene-- I love how that side table can convert into seating for an additional twelve people, providing that you bring your own chairs. And the decorative screen matches the wallpaper to the right matches the curtains to the left...well played, Drexel! Well played.

Who says purple and yellow and grey can't go together? (Me, but I was wrong, look how pretty!). I love the oversized fighting Audubon birds in the print and the smaller bird prints underneath.

I would find this problematic if I lived there, like a lot of glassfront midcentury designs. When I was a kid and we were driving around residential neighborhoods at night for whatever reason, in transit from one place to home, maybe, my mom would look at the houses illuminated from the inside and naked to the street, lobbing a disparaging, "Guess they can't afford curtains," at the otherwise well-manicured, high-tone home. Did your parents ever stress and stress and stress over the use of closed curtains at night over forward facing windows? It seems like, in retrospect, it was almost a mania with mine!

This room is lovely...we have a funny little electric keyboard set in a baby-grand body in the den of our house, and I wonder if I could make ti look as swank as this with the appropriate furniture... I need floor space more than furniture to make this wish come true, but a gal can dream!

Don't these crates remind you of Yaffa crates like you used to have in high school, except see-through? I don't like these ad hoc display pieces nearly as much as I like the primitive painting (tapestry?) on the wall, but it's the only flaw I've seen in this whole design cavalcade so far!

I think I might have missed a room or two in the process of uploading to my email and downloading the computer and uploading back to Blogger (ugh, technology! Plus the Blogger app can be such a pain), but I'm sure you're tired of these rooms by now anyway!

So! Which is your favorite room? Do you spy with your little eye a piece of the Precedent line that just makes your heart go pitter patter? What colors appeal to you in these scenes? Have you seen any vintage decorating lately that just makes you want to start moving the furniture around? Let's talk!

That's all for today, but I'll see you tomorrow for Photo Friday! Take care. Til then!


  1. overwhelmed!
    can totally understand why you love this :-)

  2. Wow!! Thanks so much for sharing these pictures. I would happily move into any of these rooms-but I think the "Reasonable" dining set is to die for!! Love that room so much. I think my sister actually had the furniture from the room "Flexible", they picked it up at a sale-a convent that was closing down in the 1980's. It was very good looking, but not comfortable as I recall-they had it in their family room.

  3. I just came home with an almost mnit condition presedent side chair from my local thrift store, started doing some research to see how I want to fix it up ( promise no chevron pattern!) and yours is the first site to come up! Love the pictures!

  4. Just came from an estate sale with 2 of the step tables and the large corner table. They are all labeled as PRECEDENT by Drexel on the underside. Paid $250 for all. The 2 step side tables were $220 together. I said I wanted the corner table also but couldn't pay $210. She asked me if I could pay $250 total. I said I sure could! A wonderful man helped me load them. So glad to have found some photos of the entire collection. Do you have any idea what the green inlay is on the top. It appears to be original. The corner table has some fade on this area. I was thinking of using black contact paper since the top is indented and it would not damage the original surface. Any ideas? There must have been 20 pieces in this home of the Precedent line. Thinking about returning for the bed!



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