Odd Bedfellows Make a Beautiful Pair: Combining Studio Glass and Classical Furniture

Jul 1, 2020

Antiques are an important part of the Kelly and Randy Schrimshers’ daily life and are found throughout their Greek Revival home in Huntsville, AL. Their collecting initially focused on the Classical style of the 1810s, 1820s, and 1830s, seeking museum-quality examples from the major Atlantic port cities of that era: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. According to Randy, “Everyone loves the colonial material, but once you get bitten by the Classical bug, everything else is dull.”

Surprisingly, the exuberance of form and material found in their furniture ties into another collecting passion: contemporary art glass. As a trial, a few pieces found on vacation were placed on top of the furniture, and they discovered the appeal of mixing these vastly different collecting arenas. Randy and Kelly acknowledge that a benefit of collecting contemporary material is the opportunity to meet the craftspeople, which they find enriching.

The Schrimshers kindly shared a few of their combinations of early-19th-century furniture and studio glass for our readers’ enjoyment. We hope you appreciate the contrasts of material, color, line, and surface. The takeaway here is that we should not be afraid to mix vastly different elements in a contemporary interior. Take a chance, and you will likely be pleased by the conversation created by the contrast!

Perched on top of a c. 1815 card table attributed to the New York firm of Deming & Bulkley, is a monumental glass piece by Stephen Powell (1951–2019), a part of his Teaser series, which the Schrimshers purchased directly from the artist in 2011. He was born in Birmingham, AL, and initially trained as a ceramicist at Centre College in Kentucky and Louisiana State University. He turned to glass in the 1980s and was a prominent figure in the field for nearly four decades. The card table illustrates the energy of Deming & Bulkley’s best work from this period, with movement and whimsy created by the carved dolphins scrolling between the floor and plinth and plinth and top. The use of contrasting gilt and vert antique surface treatments on these elements add to the elegance of the design. The table is flanked by two ebonized and gilt fancy chairs from New York City.

Stephen Powell glass piece on Deming & Bulkley card table

Stephen Powell glass piece on Deming & Bulkley card table

The next pairing represents the coming together of two heavyweights. On top we find a 10-piece Green Glass Seaform Set with Yellow Lip Wraps by the internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. Dated 2000, the Schrimshers acquired this at auction. Supporting the Seaform Set is an exceptional c. 1825 center table attributed to the New York cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe. Those who visited the Winter Show in January may have seen this stunner in the booth of New York City dealer Carswell Berlin. One of a group of four tables of this type tied to Phyfe, this spectacular example featured fine gilt decoration over faux-rosewood grained striped maple. The stencil ornamentation on the apron and plinth is enhanced with delicate pen work.

Duncan Phyfe center table with Green Glass Seaform Set by Dale Chihuly

Duncan Phyfe center table with Green Glass Seaform Set by Dale Chihuly

Detail of Duncan Phyfe center table. Photo courtesy of Carswell Rush Berlin, Inc. NYC.

Detail of Duncan Phyfe center table. Photo courtesy of Carswell Rush Berlin, Inc. NYC.

A third set joins a Boston card table with “Yellow and Blue Overlap” by John Kiley (2010), a Seattle native whose career as a professional glass artist began in 1992 at the age of 19. He attended the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington and the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and is a widely appreciated artist in the contemporary glass community. Purchased through Schantz Gallery in Stockbridge, MA, John Kiley’s spherical work fuses together separate sections allowing the membranes that connect them to serve as passageways for enhanced visual experience. The card table, acquired through Clark Pearce, is attributed to Thomas Seymour, possibly when he was foreman for either James Barker or Isaac Vose between 1816 and 1819. With Seymour’s perfect sense of proportion, the use of accurate Greek and Roman architectural details and the exquisite carving of Thomas Wightman, he set a new standard for American Classical design with this iconic table.

John Kiley glass, Vose card table, and Jonathan Fairbanks painting

John Kiley glass, Vose card table, and Jonathan Fairbanks painting

At the Delaware Antiques Show last November, Pearce facilitated the purchase of a pair of Philadelphia paint-decorated klismos chairs. Among the most radical expressions of Classical design in America, this pair, part of a set of ten, are stunning and thoroughly documented. Made for “The Pavilion,” the summer retreat of Major David Lenox and his wife, Tracy Lukens Lenox, on the Delaware River, they were paint-decorated by John Phillip Fondé, the young son of an Italian painter who immigrated to Philadelphia with his family. The Schrimshers’ chairs are currently undergoing conservation, and the example shown here is in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Others from the set are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Philadelphia side chair, 1816

Philadelphia side chair, 1816

 

The Decorative Arts Trust thanks the Schrimshers for sharing their private collection with us, and we hope we can visit more private collections in person soon! 

For updates on Trust programs, check the Trust websitesign up for the e-mail list, or follow us on social media. The Trust continues to promote and foster the appreciation and study of the decorative arts through digital resources and through supporting emerging scholars through grants and scholarships. Consider becoming a member or donating an unrestricted gift to help us continue our mission. 

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