Furniture

Stories from the Past and Present: The World of Retro, Part 1

At Past & Present Home Gallery, we see lots of trends: everything from restoring furniture to its former glory to up-cycling salvaged pieces into something completely new. We see decorating trends move from chic and formal to rustic and completely random. All that to say, “What goes around, comes around.” If something is going out of style today, just wait a while and it’ll come back. This concept holds especially true in the world of “retro.”

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Retro: Reminiscent of the Recent Past

When most of us think of “retro” design, we think of the era of soda fountains and diners, Sputnik lights, and olive green rotary phones. And we wouldn’t be too far off. But before we get the theme song from Happy Days stuck in our heads, let’s hear the story of one of the most iconic pieces of “retro”: the chrome and laminate dinette set. And to truly understand the impact that these nostalgic little tables and chairs make on us, we must first look at the stories from two different industries—chrome and laminate.

Chrome: for a Brighter Tomorrow

What “chrome” is and how it’s made is a very scientific yet interesting study. However, what we need to know for our story is that the compounds of chrome have been mixed with other metals for more than a century to bring about materials such as stainless steel and it wasn’t until the 1920’s that using chrome as a finish was discovered and was first used on jewelry. As the process of chrome plating became more popular, manufacturers of furniture utilized it along with the discovery of tubular steel to create some of the most iconic pieces of the Art Deco era and bring the furniture market into the modern times.

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These strong, linear, (and shiny) furniture designs took the world by storm and even during World War II, the use of chrome continued to spread. As the war ended and families returned home, they looked to these new designs to help them usher in a brighter and happier future. In the 1950’s, chrome was at its highest in the use of consumer goods. One could find a chrome finish on everything from buttons to car bumpers, vacuum cleaners to flour canisters, and so much more in between. The metal was “new” in that its manufacturing processes had been around for only a few decades. It was modern and would help remind people to keep looking forward to a brighter tomorrow. And it was shiny. Who doesn’t like bright, shiny things?

At Past & Present Home Gallery, we are currently hosting several examples retro chrome pieces including the ever-nostalgic dinette sets. Stop by the store and discover other retro designs in the Diva Den and Man Cave, too.

Can’t wait to see you at Past & Present Home Gallery, the antique store with character!

Meet the Characters: Antique Barnwood Tables

At Past & Present Home Gallery we love seeing how items from the past can be re-purposed for use in our modern age. We see artists and DIY-ers come up with some very unique ideas for lights, lamps, shelves, and so much more. Recently, we had the opportunity to meet a local artist who is creating some very impressive furniture.

Antique Barn is Reclaimed into One-of-a-Kind Tables

A local artist is slowly dismantling a 113 year old barn and using the antique wood to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind tables. These impressive pieces come in high-top sizes with matching stools as well as farmhouse tables with matching benches. Come in to today to see them in person!

Can’t wait to see you at Past & Present Home Gallery, the antique store with character!

Meet the Characters: Antique Leopold Desk

We are often asked at Past and Present Home Gallery if our building had ever been a bank. The answer is actually no, because the 700 square-foot vault that is now home of the Man Cave housed furs, and not currency, for the Bartholomew Fur Company until it closed in 1995. However, with the many antique treasures and vintage finds that come through our doors, we get to host bank related items on a regular basis. Our current guest is this 1920’s desk from the Leopold Desk Company.

The Banker: An Antique Leopold Desk

The Leopold Desk Company began in Burlington, Iowa in 1886 as the Northwestern Furniture Company and specialized in the construction of bookcases and sideboards for offices. In 1888, the company changed its name to the Rand-Leopold Desk Company and began manufacturing other types of office furniture including desks. In 1900, the company changed its name again to the Leopold Desk Company. Whatever the name of the company, it was a thriving business that utilized local timber, mostly the maple and oak from area farms, to create some of the most desired desks on the market. It is estimated that during the company’s peek it produced close to 30,000 desks per year.

The desk hosted at Past and Present Home Gallery is from “The Banker” series manufactured between 1920 and 1930 and seems to be a mixture of two of that line’s patterns: it has the size and modesty panel of Pattern 2866 with the drawer pedestals from Pattern 2366. The center drawer on our desk is also different from the catalog's illustration with square edges instead of rounded. While we are unable to verify if this specific desk was ever used in a bank, with its grand size, beautiful features, and well maintained condition it must have helped someone accomplish something important. And it can help you accomplish your tasks that are just as important.

General Officer Furniture Leopold Desks 1920-1930 catalog page 19. Retrieved March 8, 2017. Special thanks to the University of Iowa Digital Library.

General Officer Furniture Leopold Desks 1920-1930 catalog page 19. Retrieved March 8, 2017. Special thanks to the University of Iowa Digital Library.

Come in to Past and Present Home Gallery to view this beautiful desk along with all of the other amazing antique and vintage furniture pieces in our showroom. While you’re here, make sure to browse through the lower level and check out the non-bank vault known as the Man Cave. Can’t wait to see you at Past and Present Home Gallery, the antique store with character!