Furniture makers of Middle Earth

Todd Merrell Antiques, magazine ad

Every time I see this Todd Merrell Antiques magazine ad, which I find weirdly compelling, I invariably end up at his website and am suddenly transported into some dark Middle Earth underworld, where I feel I might be asked to retrieve an amulet with the help of a talking dog with eyes as big as saucers or something. Normally, dark, blocky, pseudo-primitive  furniture doesn’t appeal to me, but this particular antiques dealer collects pieces that are so well-made, so uniformly amazing, so farfetched, and – despite their number and diversity – so consistent in their level of fantasy, that I find it hard to resist any of them. Of course none of these objects is the slightest bit affordable. But together they point to something really funny about the early 70s – something that perhaps had its roots in the 50s or earlier – that brought together vague tribal fantasies, Middle Ages sci-fi, Beowulf, some sort of odd minimalist baroque, the rustic, the pagan and the just plain weird. Maybe what’s appealing about the dark, fantastical solidity of this stuff is that it’s a welcome relief from the relative spindliness and occasional prissiness of all those Danish teak settee legs and arms, or from the over-hygiene of minimalism, I don’t know. But these objects undoubtedly originate in some sort of rebellion against the disenchantment of a tamed machine-age aesthetic. I think that everyone, especially every midcentury-modern purist and every fussy 60s minimalist, desperately needs one mad, pagan piece of furniture, just to work against whatever it is you’ve got going on, and also, you know, to open an enchanted portal into the underworld. Details and many more pieces on Flickr.

Lounge Chair and Ottoman with street lamp, Jack Rogers Hopkins

The chair above includes lamp, bookshelf, ottoman, heads of deer to rest your hands upon, as well as dominion over a mountain forest kingdom.

Rocking Chair by Jack Rogers Hopkins - lo res

And for your queen, this rocker. (Both wooden chairs above are by Jack Rogers Hopkins, USA, 1970s.)

Paul Evans Paste Console

A bronze wall-mounted chest by Paul Evans, USA, 1969, provides storage for vintage board games, 1970s Playboys, your fur cape, bottles of mead, your sword, whatever.

Sculpture Front Console, signed, Paul Evans. USA 1968

If I had the Paul Evans credenza above, I’d store the anti-Voldemort amulets (the ones my nephew requires to go to sleep) in it.

Serving Cabinet / Bar by Phillip Lloyd Powell

Forget Narnia! This wardrobe opens onto candlelit forest groves full of bacchanalian dancing all night long, and no martyr-y lions. Serving Cabinet, Phillip Lloyd Powell, 1960’s, USA

Pair of Room Dividers by Monteverdi Young 1950's, USA
Pair of Room Dividers by Monteverdi Young, 1950’s, USA


Exeunt all, through the doorway to Valhalla.

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11 Responses to “Furniture makers of Middle Earth”

  1. Eva Says:

    Where on earth do you find these things? On earth?

  2. Eva Says:

    (sure — I read the source, but I couldn’t help asking)

  3. John Hopper Says:

    I love all of these pieces and I want them in my home! Of course, I can’t afford them and I would probably have to live in a home carved from a living tree, but that could be fun!

  4. Lindsay Says:

    Eva: I know what you mean – they seem very improbable. Maybe I found them using magic.
    John: I want all of these too! And I live in a bright white-and-blond-wood environment, so that’s saying something. Based on your training, would you be able to say what any of the design schools/references are, for these pieces?

  5. John Hopper Says:

    When I first saw them I thought that they were art pieces rather than furniture. Rather like a John Piper ceramic coffee table top if he’d also designed the table, and not just the ceramic part.

    Paul Evans, for example comes from a fine art background, while Phillip Lloyd Powell was a self taught furniture designer who was keen on using odd, unusual and found materials, he died last year. It makes me think that these are art, or at least ‘fine craft’ pieces, which is probably reflected in the price. Both men would probably not have had any furniture design schooling and so would not have necessarily had any pre-conceptions as to what furniture design should be.

    The Paul Evans ‘credenza’ makes me think of the large number of ceramic murals that were produced by artists, for public buildings throughout the 1950s, 1960s and into the 1970s, many of which have sadly disappeared or are in danger of. But that’s another topic and another issue.

  6. Lindsay Says:

    Thanks for your comments. And I think you must be right – these are art pieces. They have that distinct look (and quality level), and I imagine there are also technical reasons why these would be difficult to produce in larger runs. And of course you’re right about the ceramic murals – the credenza is definitely in that mold. I wonder who originated that style, and when? We still have some of those here in Vancouver, particularly on downtown apartment buildings and civic buildings, but they’re definitely endangered and many hate them. Why are the 70s so hated? I’ve had to overcome that bias myself. Anyway, it’s always interesting to hear your take on things.

  7. John Hopper Says:

    It is a shame that so much from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s are disappearing before our very eyes. There is a belated campaign in the UK to try to preserve some of the public artwork from this period, particularly large scale ceramic work. Future generations will probably castigate us as we have generations before us, for our total disregard for protecting the heritage of the later twentieth century generations that come after us.

    No one can save everything, and that is not expected, but public artwork has a role to play in the history of art and design and should be saved for generations as yet unborn.

    Well that’s my pontificating done for today!

  8. Lindsay Says:

    Boy, do I know how you feel.

  9. Lost City Arts | Ouno Design Says:

    […] accident when searching for works by Harry Bertoia, and lost half an hour on their site. Like this shop, Lost City unerringly finds eccentric art and furniture pieces which seem substantially more […]

  10. Pine Wardrobe Says:

    Wow, it’s a wonderful site. Thank you for the beautiful pics of furniture which are real and rustic. They have perfect finishing and the splendid color gives them a totally different look. The rocking chair by Jack Rogers Hopkins, USA, 1970s is really great and simply the best for me.

  11. Andy Smith Says:

    What a beautiful period the 70s, I wish I would live in that period, one of the best in the last 100 years so far, in my opinion.

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