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Description

Background and Provenance

(This description was written in 2009. We have ONE pair of these chairs left. I’ve had them since 2005 and have come across none in this design since 2013. I have been in this business for 18 years and have come across Biltmore chairs I could seriously consider buying only 2 or 3 times. (The first Biltmore chair lot was a set of 6 armchairs. I have sold 2 pairs- to Australian buyers for more than I’ve sold anything for including Featherston chairs. This is the last pair from that set.) THEY’RE EXTREMELY RARE & COLLECTABLE. Enquire for price. This pair is available for HIRE as well.)

Furniture in this tubular aluminum design is probably Australia’s most interesting furniture secret. Designed by the American designer, Warren McArthur in the 1930’s, this style of furniture catapulted McArthur to fame and captured the imagination of the country. In America, design buffs, celebrities and movie stars were enthused by McArthur’s designs and instead of silver some of the metal frames were done in anodized colours such as peach and pale blue. It has been often said that nobody at the time possessed the design capabilities of the Europeans; except for the American, Warren McArthur. Today design connoisseurs comment that his work was in a league above and beyond what was happening worldwide at the time. What I believe sets it apart is the seamless infusion of industrial styling with a feeling of soul.

What’s most interesting from an Australian point of view is that Australia was the only country world-wide (outside of America) to be granted a license to produce McArthur’s designs. I have heard an interesting story about how this came to be but I’m yet to verify whether this is just a story or the truth. The license was granted to Namco, some say in the 1930’s but I believe it was later; maybe the early 1940’s or even mid-40’s. Some of the designs picked up in Australia were different to those in America. I have only come across this particular chair design once or twice while trawling American websites (the American version of this chair was produced by the Warren McArthur Corporation). I believe this piece is Australian (by Namco in the late 1940’s) and is certainly McArthur’s patented design. It’s obvious these are vintage pieces from the 40’s. It is highly likely that Warren McArthur’s work will increase in value in Australia in coming years- it’s still yet to be really noticed here, but I believe it will happen. America went through a stage about in the early 2000’s when the value of McArthur pieces went through the roof. The same is likely to happen here in Australia- those who recognize the merit of McArthur’s work sooner are bound to be impressed later when his items increase in value. I have a few McArthur pieces in my own home as I have appreciated his designs from when I first saw one of his chairs amongst a barrage of industrial junk (and had no idea about the background of the piece).

It would be great if these chairs find an Australian buyer I am opening this listing to American buyers (IF  THEY ORGANISE THEIR FREIGHT!). Biltmore chairs have stood the test of time in all ways possible. The construction is incredible- they’re lightweight and strong- the curves and angles are sensational and still “pack a punch” 80 years later. After the majority of modern designer furniture has ended up as landfill this pair from the 1940’s will only become more valued. There are few better ways to invest in your home and reduce your carbon footprint.

For chairs that are about 80 years old and fully original, they are in excellent condition. Structurally all the pieces are solid and sturdy- NO noticeable dents, NO bent metal, NO cracks in the metal etc etc- the structural brilliance of McArthur’s work has been longed praised and resulted from his engineering background. McArthur patented the “beehive” joins and these became the trademark of all his furniture. The frame is tubular aluminum and it has a brushed silver anodized finish. This anodized finish has various small marks, scuffs and scratches over the years but overall both frames look as good as you could expect cosmetically as shown in the close-up pics. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The cushions are original with original upholstery. The seats are constructed of timber- they’re very heavy- with inner-springs, hessian webbing and cotton webbing- foam cushioning had no been invented yet. There is NO damage to the timber/spring construction at all. The original vinyl upholstery looks extremely good as shown in the photos. It is very rare to get these original cushions with inner-springs. These cushions make the chairs great to sit in because the angles are spot-on and there's a nice level of support. If you want these in a different fabric I'd suggest covering over the top of the original upholstery to retain the history of the chairs. The upholstery going over the top would need to be thick though- talk to your upholsterer. Re-upholstery is cheap and easy- these are loose cushions sitting on a frame. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ All the original "hockey-puck" feet are in place which further contributes to the value of this pair. One back cushion might be put on the wrong way in the photos so they may even look better if they were put on right. If you study the photos closely you'll see that the aluminium mounts that guide the back into the frame are there for one chair and not the other. This is how they left the factory 80-odd years ago! The other back cushion doesn't have any holes in it from where these may have been in the past. Not many of these chairs have them anyway so this is a pedantic observation. The padding under the armrest vinyl is coconut fibre or horse's hair (shown in one photo). This pair never had the vinyl removed to show this. This photo is over a different pair from this set that has already sold and further verifies the vintage of this rare pair. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ I sold the last pair from this set directly off my showroom floor (I never listed them online) when I had a showroom in Newtown, Sydney. The showroom closed 12 years ago (back in 2007) but if I can remember rightly I kept the best pair from this set for last. For 80-year-old chairs they present as well as you could expect. Again if you ever want to re-upholster these chairs I suggest putting new upholstery over the top of the original vinyl. Pairs of these chairs are worth AU $10 000 in America (in 2019)- having a pair in fully original condition elevates the value. They're really collectable! ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Measurements. Across- 65cm. Total height with cushions on- 78cm. Seat height at highest point- 47cm. Armrest height- 53cm. Depth of Seat- 61cm. Total depth- 75cm. For freight- (with the cushions lying flat in the frame). These are average size for a single-seater lounge arm chair. (To go in a lounge room.)
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