The versatile Parsons Line – Tables for table freaks

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The Parsons Line is probably Don S. Shoemaker´s most rectilinear and functional furniture design line. This time he overlooks the charms of nature in favor of a rigorous abstract approach to design. While there were significant changes in the manufacturing techniques of the post-war time like aluminum casting and bonding wood, this industrial furniture production brought back the concept of built-in obsolescence or disposable furniture. As a response to this movement Don maintained the principles of craftsmanship and use of precious woods that are evident in this line which most purely expresses immutability, strength and vastness. He kept loyal to his principle of beauty and handcrafted furniture.

This line included everything that his passionate followers and collectors could think of to have their homes or flats completely furnished á la Shoemaker: coordinating suites of furniture for living room and dining room, matching cabinets and sideboards, all kinds of table sizes, service carts, office as well as bedroom sets, etc. I will try to present all of them to you within a reasonable period of time.

I will start with the Parsons tables, as there were a total of 11 different sizes to choose from! No other of Don´s design lines had this versatile number of table sizes and shapes.

The vintage SEÑAL, S.A. catalog page above shows us three Parsons table sizes: a rectangular dining table, a side table and a square coffee table. The design of these tables is pure and rectilinear. All of the Parsons tables came with a clean parquetry top and were produced in rosewood. Here we have a pair of Parsons tables coming in different sizes:

These tables were meant to fit in your living room, your dining room, your bedroom, your office, or any imaginable space to keep your home impregnated with the unmistakable Shoemaker style! Personally, I prefer Don´s organic design lines, but a significant number of his clients favored these furniture pieces.

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

Descanso Line – “Descanso” Coffee Table and Lamp Tables

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When going through the literature on American furniture designers from the Mid-Century I found interesting similarities between the lives of Don S. Shoemaker and Wharton Esherick, known as the “Dean of American Craftsmen”. Both started their artistic careers as painters, both were designer-craftsmen pursuing their own unique visions striving towards perfection in craftsmanship in a time when this was already considered to be a relic of the past. Both chose to establish their studio/home in remote areas, Wharton in the Pennsylvania hills, Don in a small uphill village overlooking the city of Morelia. Despite an isolated existence both  were always up to date on what was going on in the world and absorbed influences from emerging movements into their designs. As Wharton Esherick did, Don also developed over the years a following of devoted customers who became addicted to his work, returning year after year for another piece.

During the late 1950’s and the 1960’s we saw the upraising of Brazilian furniture designers Sergio Rodrigues with his “Poltrona Mole” and Jean Gillon with his “Jangadá”. Don´s “Descanso Set”(*) was highly estimated by his Brazilian counterparts, as long as he was an absolute perfectionist and went even further by adding to his “Descanso Line” a matching Descanso Coffee Table and a pair of Lamp or Side Tables:


(*) Check my post on the “Descanso Set” from 2010

The Descanso Coffee Table with its two Lamp/Side Tables was produced with parquetry top in solid cueramo hardwood, Zebra wood or for the more demanding tastes in cocobolo. The cocobolo Coffee Table depicted here belongs to my personal collection and I use it together with a cocobolo “Descanso” Lounge Chair and Ottoman.

Another interesting feature about these Coffee Tables and Lamp and/or Side Tables is that the table top is detachable. I have included a close up on the table´s legs for you, a delightful design.

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

Coffee Tables – The “Cuerno” Tables

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In previous posts I have already touched base on Don´s very personal style coffee table designs.  I have commented on Don´s distinctive “Sling” coffee table, the sophisticated “Elephant Lounge” coffee table as well as a very rare large coffee table that he designed back in the 1960’s. Don´s coffee tables bear their very own identity; they are one-of-a-kind and matchless to the work of other furniture designers of the same period.

Today I will present “The Marquesa tables” created by Don S. Shoemaker in the 1960’s. The table´s leg design resemble the shape of “horns”,  for this reason they became more known as the Shoemaker “Cuerno” tables and with time, even Don named them that way. The “Cuerno” tables were available in 3 sizes: small (side table), medium (regular coffee table) and large (large coffee table)  produced in tropical woods (mainly rosewood) with a finely handcrafted parquetry top. Below the vintage SEÑAL, S.A. catalogue page for “The Marquesa Tables“:

Two pictures of a “Cuerno” coffee table (medium size) from my personal collection are shown here. This appealing coffee table makes a great match with one pair of  “Sling” Swinger chairs that I have, everybody falls in love with this combination. Pay attention to the” horn” shaped legs (close-up).

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved

Coffee tables – The “Sling” Coffee Table

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The “Sling Casuals” are the classic Don S. Shoemaker furniture pieces from the 1960’s to be found at auctions and galleries. Don selected the finest tropical woods for this exquisite furniture line: zebrawood, cocobolo, rosewood and granadilla. There are vintage pieces that can be found in excellent conditions.

The perfect match was to own a pair of “Sling” swinger chairs or a set of two “Sling” sloucher chairs accompanied with the “Sling” coffee table. These superbly crafted coffee tables could be ordered (see the SEÑAL, S.A. catalog page above) with black leather or wooden top.

I have included a picture of my “Sling” coffee table with the wooden top combined with a pair of “Sling” swinger chairs and two “Sling” footstools.

My next picture shows a vintage “Sling” coffee table now with leather top from my personal collection. Both versions are Shoemaker classics and look outstanding when matched with his “Sling” chair designs.

Also interesting to notice is that the leather or wooden top is removable at the vintage “Sling” coffee tables. (Click on the picture to learn about the details). The second generation had the tops fixed to the main structure of the table. New copies have screwed fixed tops. (I will write a separate post about these as well).

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved

Most underwhelming attribution to Don S. Shoemaker – part 5

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As promised, I will address another Don S. Shoemaker attribution seen for auction and also in galleries:

  • This product of a lesser mind living room set imitates the legendary “Elephant Lounge Set”, created by Don S. Shoemaker in a limited edition of 5. The original set (as I had already described in another post) comprises 2 lounge chairs and an outstanding coffee table. However, this brand  new “want to be” elephant model, forgery, includes a settee, a love-seat, a lounge chair and a coffee table.

The differences to the original Don S. Shoemaker “Elephant Lounge Set” are very obvious:

  • No elephant eyes are present (as the typical Don S. Shoemaker swinging mechanism is absent)
  • The “box seat style” with leather cushion similar to the Sling Swinger Chair was adapted, instead of the nailed leather seat with the typical decoration for each nail, the so called “leather flowers”
  • A funny 3 position mechanism was adapted, the coordination of 2 or 3 of your guests is required to go one step back or forth
  • Blue prints and a manual have to be delivered to your guests for this dangerous maneuvering
  • No curved back-rail (signature of the house) present. After 10 minutes with your back in contact with the straight rail you want to cry!
  • The table´s legs stand on 90°
  • And most important: this love-seat and the settee were never part of  Don S. Shoemaker´s designs.

Of course I will withhold information about some other details in order to prevent production of better imitations!

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved

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