Classical Furniture Upstaged by Flower Power

Classical Furniture Upstaged by Flower Power


FlowerMaps.com presents: Classical Furniture Upstaged by Flower Power: NECESSITY may be the mother of invention, but surely boredom is part of the equation, too. What else but idle hands would drive an otherwise sensible person to transform an icon of modernist restraint into a giddy evocation of pure hippie chic? Buy flowers now!

”Eszter Haraszty had no respect for this stuff,” said Liz O’Brien, a leading Manhattan dealer of 20th-century furniture. In her move last week from her Soho gallery to an eponymous new space at 800-A Fifth Ave., Ms. O’Brien brought along one of Haraszty’s homemade reinventions — a bentwood Thonet settee, painted shining white and dressed in white linen embroidered with voluptuous Iceland poppies. There is so much stitchery over stitchery, in fact, that each flower is about an inch thick. Though the effect is entirely unlike that intended by its Victorian manufacturer, Michael Thonet, the settee, which is priced at $5,250, has a happy-face joie de vivre that Ms. O’Brien called ”a perfect statement of its time.” Buy flowers now!

Make that the 1960’s, not the 1860’s, when the steam-bent wood furniture manufactured by the company Gebruder Thonet came into international vogue. With her blond Twiggy-style crop, Gabor-sisters accent, thigh-high skirts and bug-eye sunglasses, Eszter Haraszty was an Age of Aquarius heroine, one part Carnaby Street to two parts Woodstock. Though her name is unknown today, the Hungarian-born Haraszty, who died in 1995 at 74, was an American design guru in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, thanks to the ebullient color sense and swashbuckling patterns she championed as the director of KnollTextiles, the fabric division of the modern furniture company started in 1937 by Hans G. Knoll. Buy flowers now!

Just as quickly as she made her mark there, however, Haraszty resigned. First, she married a television producer, and then she abandoned Manhattan for Los Angeles, where Haraszty set to work revamping an unprepossessing house in Coldwater Canyon. The cottage was recast as a paean to flower power. Fireplaces were encased in yellow-and-white flowered tiles, thickly flowered rugs paved the floors, and giant red poppies, Haraszty’s favorite flower, were painted on the cobalt-blue garage door. Out in the garden, the designer and her husband built a petal-shape altar to sunworshipping: six scarlet vinyl mattresses set atop individual brick platforms, all radiating from a Chinese paper parasol painted with giant red and pink blooms.


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