November 25, 2012

Sitting Pretty

I hope y’all enjoyed your Thanksgiving! While Andrew stayed back in Virginia nursing a throbbing tooth ache and downing painkillers, I went ahead and spent the holiday at my mom’s lovely home in Pennsylvania. She has a sofa in her formal living room that my DIY-loving dad reupholstered himself in fine wale corduroy almost forty years ago—and amazingly, it still looks good!

My mom’s traditional living room and “vintage” sofa.

It reminded me of some pieces we saw a few weeks ago at the National Gallery’s “Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700–1830” exhibition. On display were examples of Federal Style (1780 – 1810), a restrained Neoclassicism which is characterized by “sober mahoganies, straight tapered lines, and modest carving,” as well as French-inspired Empire Style (1805 – 1830) which featured “antiquities-inspired carving, gilt-brass furniture mounts, and decorative inlays.”

What caught my eye the most? The variety of yellow chairs:

Armchair, New York, 1795 – 1810, mahogany.

Side chair, Boston or Salem, 1790 – 1800, maple; paint.

Side chair, attributed to John Finlay and Hugh Finlay, Baltimore, 1815 – 1825, maple; paint; cane seat.

Side chair, Philadelphia, 1810 – 1820, mahogany with mahogany and rosewood veneers and ebony inlay; brass. This chair is a variation on the ancient Greek chair known as a klismos, which has a horizontal, tablet-shaped top, deeply curved back, and curved front legs.

Grecian couch, attributed to John Finlay and Hugh Finlay, Baltimore, 1810 – 1830, walnut and cherry; paint; gold leaf.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a jenrocksfashion post if I didn’t relate the yellow embroidered upholstery to a visually-similar designer look, so here it is:

Stella McCartney dress, Resort 2013 RTW Collection.


Runway images via

Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700–1830 is currently on view.

National Gallery of Art | 4th and Constitution Avenue, NW  Washington, DC 20565 | 202.737.4215 |

Update on October 18, 2013: Cute interactive on the history of fainting couches.