Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Calvacade of Mid Century Textiles and Design (Schwartz, Dorn, Liebes 1947)

Good morning!

How's tricks? I told you yesterday there was just not enough room in one blog post to share with you ALL the forward-thinking designers from Home and Garden's summer 1947 feature...and even with today's entry, there are still about eight people I won't get to....if wishes were fishes, right? However, I did single out three particular shbam, pow, plop, whizz interior designers from that article who also happen to be into creating textiles. Is there anything these forties' design mavericks can't do?

Let's jump right in, come take a look!

1) Harold M. Schwartz

In spite of the bubbly, optimistic text accompanying the entry on Harold M Schwartz in this spread, I was not able to find much about him through a cursory Google search. You can see a desk and chair that belonged to him on going for a whopping, no-way price of eleven grand as well as a pair of chairs he designed for almost four thousand dollars (seriously-- are there people who shop on this website? Who do I have to marry/[expletive deleted]/kill to play the game on this level? Would I even WANT to play the game on this level?), and this dresser on ebay, but that's all the internet would cough up besides some non-related gastrointestinal specialist with the same name.  HOW. ABOUT. THIS ROOM. THOUGH. Color leaping off every wall....a vanity set that is making my eyes water I want it so bad, and a mirrored door on the closet to make the room look like it goes on another forty yards. Yes, ma'am, one please.

Considering the dearth of information I came across, here's the good word from the article on HMS:

Remember how much Nelson hated whimsical furniture yesterday? I feel like this guy Schwartz combines the frilly, fussy, decorativeness of forties' interior design (I'm on board) with those clean modern lines in furnishings that make one feel like a Jetson (and or someone in a Scandinavian living catalog; sidenote: I found this ikea living catalog website the other day and my house will never be clean enough  now). Don't even get started on how you couldn't live in a Pepto Bismol pink room-- that is YOUR loss, sir. Not mine. That room is great! Also, do you notice that kind of ash-brown finish of the wood? What is that called? I see a lot of this color in both faux wood and wood early 1950's bedroom suites, but I don't know what it is, exactly, other than neat.

Here's a closeup of the fabric on the bedspread and the slipper chair, which was ALSO designed by Schwartz (read more about his renaissance man like career up in that text box):

Here's the vanity, which CONVERTS from a dressing table into an all-business desk with room for a typewriter and files. "Huh!" I say, wonderingly. "Isn't that something?" The same goes for the side table, which wings out into a tray for your snack dishes:

I'll have to keep an eye out for ol' Schwartz in upcoming issues of this magazine; I really do want to know more about how his designs progressed (and how he ended up doing with that brownstone renovation!).

2) Marion Dorn

It was nice to see that the world of design in the late forties' was not completely dominated by men-- here, Stanford class of 1916 (!!) graduate Marion Dorn sits ensconced in a room draped entirely with her own textile designs. And what designs they are. Inspired by nature and driven by an innate sense of proportion and color, Dorn is KILLING IT with these prints of everything from Mayan masks to magnolia leaves. I about died when I saw the picture you see above, because coupled with that coral red carpet, this is exactly the kind of birdcage I would like to build myself. Just give me a chance to feather it out, folks.

Some closeups of the designs:

Born in California around the turn of the century, Dorn relocated to England in the twenties' and used the country as her professional base of operations for sixteen years, returning to America in 1940 as WWII began. An article by Valerie Mendes from The Journal of the Decorative Arts Society 1890-1940 (which is a real thing, and is available on JSTOR), "Marion Dorn: Textile Designer" follows her development in that field during her time in London, where she enjoyed success as a well-known maker of rugs, curtains, linen panels, all in her signature, hand-screened batik. See how the Home and Garden author mentions her designs, though incorporating floral patterns and leaves, never feel "trite"-- I think that's what so interesting about them. While floral toile gives me the heebies and reminds me of someone's mom's guest bathroom in the mid nineties' (or capris, or bad wallpaper...I know you know what I mean, it's very "mom"!), this is the kind of floral print in vibrant colors and bold sizing that I can really get behind-- they're pieces of art you can hang the same as a painting!

If you like these, the Victoria and Albert Museum of London has several textiles of Dorn's in their collection, which you can see online here. The 1938 furnishing fabric featuring hands holding bouquets may be my favorite, but they're all gorgeous.

3) Dorothy Liebes

Last but not least, this full page, color insert on Dorothy Liebes. Dorothy who? Liebes was a textile designer who was hot, hot, hot in 1947, mentioned in contemporary news articles as the "best and most successful textile designed in the US". And that ain't just flattery; take a look at the beautiful patterns on this page and wouldn't you want your next two piece suit/curtains/couch/whatever draped in a decorative piece of Liebes's loom art? I would. The gold thread with pink and black is just perfect-- reminds me of a Schiaparelli evening jacket, but for your front window!

The photo below is from a 1947 Life magazine article on Liebes and the aforementioned San Fransisco studio, which mentions industry praise for her use of traditional weaving materials ("cotton, wool, and silk") blended with the unexpected ("leather, bamboo, copper strips, cellophane, Lucite, beads, grasses, gold and oilcloth" about variety, here). Isn't the studio THAT much more impressive in color? Look at all those skeins.

So! What about it? Are you ready to re-do the entire textile scheme of your house? Is there such a thing as a textile scheme? ((scratches head)) What 1947 panel or piece of furniture are you jonesing the worst over? Let's talk!

That's all for today, but I'll see you guys back here tomorrow! Have a great Wednesday, and I'll see you then. Take care.


  1. Really nice prints! I saw blue wall-to-wall carpeting in The Seven Year Itch the other day, and I thought of you.

    1. Aw, thanks for thinking of me, Sarah! I'll get colored carpet and textiles in my house ONE OF THESE DAYS! Can't get over that first room in this post.

  2. if i could get my hands at some of this..............
    i made my wedding dress from a ca. 50´s home dec fabric that we find in grannys stash. gorgeous hues of turquoise, cream and sand, fat texture, abstract barock pattern.
    have to work on it when i will wear it again (and i wanted a "wear again" dress in the first place) because i grow´d out of the bodice :-/

    1. That wedding dress sounds AMAZING!!!!! You are so talented to have made it yourself, too, I can hardly mend a hem.



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