George Nakashima furniture auctioned by Leslie Hindman – Consumer News

on Sep13

12 September 2017 | 3:56 pm

Midcentury modern wood furniture pieces hand-built by George Nakashima three decades ago to complement a restored Frank Lloyd Wright home in suburban Riverside are going up for auction.

Nakashima, whose furniture is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., designed modern American furniture using traditional Japanese techniques, including joinery without nails or wood. Born in Spokane and trained in architecture in Japan, Nakashima was “one of the most preeminent furniture designers in America in the 20th century,” said Luke Palmer, modern design specialist at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, which is holding the auction. “He’s synonymous with modern American furniture and minimalist design.”

His work was “simple and elegant, made of beautiful woods,” said Susan Shipper-Smith, who owns the Coonley Playhouse home with her husband, Ted Smith. Those attributes, she said, made it the ideal complement to Wright’s architecture.

Among the pieces the couple commissioned from Nakashima are chairs that subtly suggest an old schoolroom. The structure was built in 1912 as a schoolhouse operated by Queene Ferry Coonley, designed for her by Wright, who had built a mansion a block away for her and her husband Avery Coonley, in 1907.

In classic midcentury style, Nakashima’s designs showcase the lines and grains of the individual pieces of wood that make up each piece. (See photos below.)

Now prepping the house to be sold, the couple is auctioning their collection of midcentury furniture, including 16 Nakashima pieces. The auction is Nov. 14, and most of the pieces are on the auction house’s website. Along with the Nakashimas, there are a few terra cotta plaques by Pablo Picasso, an original side chair designed for the Coonley house by Wright, and chairs, tables and a desk by Gustav Stickley.

The Nakashima items include a pair of upholstered stools, whose value the auction house estimates at $5,000 to $7,000 (for the pair), a low coffee table with an estimated value of $6,000 to $8,000, and a pair of cabinets, estimated at $40,000 to $60,000 (for the pair). A walnut side chair that Wright designed for the building is estimated at $4,000 to $6,000.

When Shipper-Smith and her husband bought the house on Fairbank Road overlooking the Des Plaines River in 1980, it had been used as a home for 60 years, converted by the Prairie School architect William Drummond, who had worked for Wright. The couple was moving from Philadelphia and bought the house “out of love and blindness,” she told the Chicago Tribune in 1987. The house needed extensive restoration, and Shipper-Smith left her work as a financial management consultant to oversee the project. Ted Smith, now retired, was on the faculty at Loyola University’s medical school.

Admirers of Nakashima’s work, the pair went to Pennsylvania to tour his studio and found that his designs were in rhythm with Wright’s architecture. Some of the pieces they ordered were among Nakashima’s most-prized designs, Palmer said, such as a Kornblut cabinet, a cube of wood cantilevered of a cross-shaped set of legs.

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