The 'It' chair

One of the chairs, again credited to Hudson’s ownership, is pictured in Macquoid and Edwards’s three-volume Dictionary of English Furniture. The caption describes it as an “Armchair of painted wood with back and legs formed of loopings; the dipped seat points to a date of ca. 1765.”4 The writers clearly still did not take the chair very seriously, commenting, “The capricious taste of the time led to the production of many eccentric designs, like the example of ingenious looping shown in figure 118, made by one of Chippendale’s contemporaries in beech to satisfy a demand for fantastic novelties.”5

Without sales figures, of course, it is hard to quantify the popularity of Macquoid and Edwards’s books. Even so, something of the Dictionary’s influence can be gleaned from the fact that revised editions were issued in 1954 and, as the Shorter Dictionary of English Furniture, in 1964. Even Macquoid’s History made additional appearances, reprinted in 1972, 1987, and 1988. The loop chair appears in all versions.

These are the kinds of books that dealers, collectors, architects, and decorators covet. One influential decorator who must have had the first edition of the Dictionary was Elkins. From the 1930s until her death in 1953, she created sumptuous interiors from California to New York. She is especially remembered for her collaborations with her erudite brother, the architect David Adler (1882–1949), in Chicago and its suburbs. Her signature style was a mix of eighteenth-century antiques with the work of contemporary designers such as Jean-Michel Frank (1815–1941) and Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966). Elkins also designed furniture herself and had antique forms copied by her team of craftsmen in California.6 Her version of the loop chair appeared in two projects from the early 1930s—on the “living porch” of the residence of Evelyn Marshall Field (1888–1979) in Muttontown, New York,7 and in the Lake Forest living room of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Wheeler (Fig. 5).

Shearron, who grew up in Lake Forest and loves Elkins’s work, has combed through periodicals in search of it. Although there are literally dozens of loop chairs out there listed as “vintage” Frances Elkins, he thinks the two sets of four made for Field and Wheeler are probably the only ones she had made. “I’ve seen every photograph of her work and they don’t show up in any other projects,” he reports.

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[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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