Thursday, February 23, 2017

From Ruffles and Bows to Harry Bertoia

Editor's Note: Enjoy this from Guest Blogger Diane Orr from a few years ago about making and loving a home 

By Diane Orr

James Herron Antiques, Fort Worth Show
 of Antiques & Art
John and I married in the fall of 1953.
For the record, October 3, 1953.
How mid-century can you get.

Daddy had given us some money and we spent it on shiny brand new hard rock maple Early American furniture. Oh, it was beautiful.

We packed everything in the feed store’s bobtail truck and drove to our first house, 706 Cherry, in College Station. All the houses looked alike and we were on a cul de sac.

I had milk glass for wedding presents, cranberry glass, blue and white Spode china. I found a calendar of antique cars and framed 12 pictures in small black frames. We had rooster prints and chicken prints to hang over the back of the couch. I Pennsylvania-Dutched every inch of the walls that weren’t already covered. John’s mother made muslin curtains for the windows with ruffles all the way down and bows for tie-backs.

Oh, it was beautiful. 


We met the architects.

They were our best friends. Tiny and Muff were with the fledgling CRS firm and Jim was a senior architectural student at Texas A & M.

Jim and Joan’s one room apartment had low slung beds and canvas director chairs to sit on. Joan was a potter and the dishes were all handmade. Jim built a huge wire and bamboo birdcage for a partition between the kitchen and the living room and a population of finches thrived.

Muff and Tiny’s house had plastic molded chairs around an oak pedestal table. There were canaries in Mexican cages, white dishes, Swedish Facette stainless flatware. Muff kept fresh flowers in a tall clear glass cylinder vase, more pottery everywhere and floor to ceiling windows that brought the woods inside.

I loved that house.

Before we moved back to Fort Worth, I had an Early American garage sale and neighbors gleefully hauled off everything. I waved a fond goodbye to rooster pictures.

There were four of us now and, to save money, we rented a small FHA duplex in a field of other duplexes and started over.

I bought two iron butterfly chairs with aqua canvas slings. We had a George Nelson Bubble lamp and Muff had given me a birdcage for the finches.

Mother gave us a four piece place setting of white Russel Wright dishes from Cox’s department store, $12.99 a set. We splurged on 16 pieces of Facette stainless flatware and two years later we built our flat top roof mid-century dream house in Wedgwood. Jim was the architect.

The closet doors were painted Frank Lloyd Wright colors. Jim could get a 50% discount then from Knoll and he ordered six wire Bertoia chairs for our dining room ($44.00 each). Mother kicked in again and bought us the round oak pedestal table like Muff’s.

For the living room, we had a high back Bertoia “Bird” chair in black and brown upholstery that rocked a little. But when the twins were born, I got an Eames molded plastic rocker. We were stuffed in that wonderful little house.

Then Thomas came and, with five children, we had to move.

Jim was studying at the time under Louis Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania. For his masters project, he designed us the most exquisite house I have ever seen, five cubicle bedrooms for the children, nestled in the hill of the lot we bought.

He made a model of the house and the grounds and I worked for two years trying to get someone to build it. The foundation bid came in more than the whole budget, but I wouldn’t give up.

When Mrs. Tibbit’s obituary was in the paper, a friend called John and said her house was for sale in Park Hill under a trust. The family wanted a quick sale. John called the young bank trustee, inquired about the price, and bought the house over the telephone.

He was a little sheepish when he came home and told us. “You don’t have to live there,” he meekly said.

The neighborhood, however, was perfect, good schools, close in. You could buy big old houses cheap then. Mrs. Tibbit’s house was built in 1928, solid Oklahoma rock, two stories high with a red tile roof, turrets and a basement. The front was covered with cemetery Cedars. I would call it dismal. Besides, it had only three bedrooms.

Then came Mariana.

Mariana was an architect in Fort Worth who lived in a mid-century house of her own design. I went over to meet her. There were pre-Columbian figures and pots stashed everywhere and all built-in furniture. The cups for tea were handmade, the teapot elegant. A ficus tree and ferns dominated the living room.         

Mariana made the inside of our fortress mid-century modern. We’ve been here 46 years I think and the Noguchi lanterns hanging in every room are fragile to the touch. The six Bertoia chairs are each one broken at the same stress point. I should tell Harry. We have a Corbusier chair in the living room and an Eames chair so old the leather seat is crackled white. As you can tell, I’m a sucker for big names. The desk top that I am writing on now is the same Formica slab that was our coffee table in the little house.

Jan found for us at Canton, in a box of hotel utensils, 30 or 40 pieces of the Facette stainless. The Russel Wright has grown to 20 place settings and I gave both girls the fancy wedding china.

We have spent a fortune re-caning Bauer chairs but it was worth it. The bamboo blinds on all the windows have a soft patina. Stainless hinges are on the old doors.

Mariana made the garage our den and the room attached to the garage the boys shared. An oversized carport pulled it all together.

There are worn Navajo rugs on the floors. There are tansu chests for our clothes. Being an English teacher by trade, I cherish every forlorn paperback. The walls are bookcases. I bought 12 white Luxo lamps when Tonny Foy closed his business. For $20 each. We use those to read and work by.

A few years ago, we took the low ceiling out of the garage and put glass in the eaves and added a small loft. I hate to say it, but it looks like a cathedral. Mariana’s son Brian did that.

I’m even embarrassed to tell you, but there is a Corbusier feathered canvas sofa in the future. At 80 years old and 83 years old, we love to live in this house.

I wish everybody had a house to live in that they love. 
Gordon Harrison, Fort Worth Show
 of Antiques & Art

Editor’s note:
The story continues several years later, with new Noguchi lanterns ordered from the Noguchi Museum in New York, an architect for a grandson and finally the feathered Corbusier sofa, after only a few tries. The Bertoia chairs are used every day. They are still cracked at the stress point.       

Friday, February 17, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Fort Worth Show Benefit Booth - Friends of the Fort Worth Public Library

Word Play! That’s the theme of the March 3,4,5 Fort Worth Show of Antiques & Art. Words on art, words carved on wood, engraved on silver, sewn onto textiles, embossed on a tiny thimble or emblazoned on a vintage sign.
And there will be words in books! Lots of books! 

The Fort Worth Show welcomes the Friends of the Fort Worth Public Library as our 2017 Benefit Booth.  Their booth will offer a huge used book sale, with bushels of books for bargain lovers.  

“The Friends” is a membership group that has supported the Fort Worth Library System for over 50 years. Through paid memberships, their public book store and well-shopped book sales, they raise funds for hundreds of library programs at branches throughout the city. They help fund library computer equipment and classes, as well as the “Worth Reading” program which encourages year-round reading by youth and adults. They sponsor the Texas Literary Hall of Fame to honor Texas writers.

While the Library has a Library Foundation for large grants and gifts, the Friends of the Library offers a grassroots community of support.

Bunny Gardner, president of the Friends of the Library, gave me a tour of the 50,000 square foot book store run by Friends volunteers at 5332 Trail Lake Dr., just south of I-20 near Old Granbury Rd. She said it was one of the largest Friends bookstores in the US, processing over 250,000 donated pieces a year.

You can tell that Bunny’s background is in retail: the store is pristine, bright and well-organized with current titles priced to sell. There are pleasant areas to sit and read, a sales counter and an entire back wing for processing donated books.

At Friends book sales several times each year, an annex facility is set up like a library for people to buy books.   “It’s a lot of work to sell a book for $1. That’s why we work with volunteers,” says Bunny. Some of the volunteers at The Friends store are retired from a profession or a corporation. I met Paul, a volunteer who has a trucking company, and who will be transporting the books for sale to the Fort Worth Show. Thank you, Paul!

Items for the sale include:  

--Children’s books, non-fiction, history, art and interior design 

--21 boxes of western and Texana books from the collection of historian and collector Doug Harman

-- a 1911 set of Encyclopedia Britannica in its original shelf 

--New and like-new books for gifts, graduations & weddings    
--Two vintage boxed sets of the Oxford English Dictionary, with the original magnifying glass that came in the drawer at the top of the case. Tiny Print! Plus, The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, which tells the odd, odd story of the formation of the OED, involving an American writing from an asylum.

--In addition to thousands of books, the Friends will also sell new photo scrapbooks, gift items, gift certificates and donated antiques.  

Bunny's favorite book in the store today? All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, winner of the Rome Prize, a novel about a young French girl going blind in the midst of violence and resistance in Europe during WWII.

At the Fort Worth Show you will receive an invitation to the Friends April book sale and an opportunity to help support your public library. Follow The Friends at

Book Store Hours:  Wed, Thurs, Fri, 10-6   Sat 10-5
5332 Trail Lake Dr. just south of I-20 at Old Granbury Rd. Fort Worth

In another time, my mother would drop me off at the old downtown library. I would descend the stairs into Children’s Department and hours later emerge with a stack of checked-out books as big as I could carry. I can still remember the good smell of new books in the old library. These days libraries get by with a lot of help from their Friends.

Shop the Friends book sale in the Benefit Booth at the Fort Worth Show of Antiques & Art, March 3,4,5, 2017 at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.