Above: The sculptural ‘Model 1114’ coffee table designed by Carlo Mollino and made by Apelli & Varesio for Singer and Sons in 1950. Photo: Ross Floyd for Wright Auctions
There is not a great deal of information readily available about the American furniture manufacturer M. Singer and Sons, a New York-based company that manufactured high end and well-made pieces. After the Second World War manufacturers in all sectors ramped up production to meet the increased demand caused by a market eagerly looking for anything ‘new’ after the austerity and sacrifice of the war years.
Some companies, particularly furniture manufacturers, resumed business as usual producing products pretty much the same as before the war. However, public tastes had changed. With a costly war (both in human toll and monetarily) that saw previously unheard of atrocity abroad and tremendous cutbacks and rationing at home the public had little desire to return to business as usual. People wanted new, they wanted clean, and they wanted modern. Those companies that failed to meet these demands soon found themselves out of business.
Desk designed by Bertha Schaefer and manufactured by Singer & Sons in 1955
In the late 1940’s, in his quest to answer this need for modern, head of Singer & Sons Joe Singer discovered the works of Italian designer and architect Gio Ponti. The two struck up a deal that would result in the introduction of Ponti’s – and eventually other Italian’s – designs to the American market. Often working with American designer Bertha Schaefer, Ponti would also help create original works for Singer and Sons and throughout the 1950’s the company would produce some of the most exquisite American Modern pieces ever created. Ponti would introduce Joe Singer to other Italian designers – notably Carlo Mollino and Ico Parisi – and soon Singer and Sons was a showcase for an entirely new Modernism previosly unknown to the American consumer. An Italian Modern born out of centuries of artisanal craft and refinement.
There’s no need to mince words. Singer and Son’s furniture was never cheap. It was designed for those with a little more money to spend on a desk than most. Today prices for some of the pieces easily reach in excess of six figures at auction. But some of the pieces, particularly the Bertha Schaeffer designs, are quite affordable and whether eye-wateringly expensive or only a few hundred dollars they are all equally well-made, well-designed works of art.
Some of the pieces produced and distributed by Singer & Sons. Click on the image for full view.
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