Phew! (Big Deep Sigh) This incredible desk has been in my personal collection for over 30 years! It is a big step for me to decide I have no place to put it in my downsized life. So, once again, my loss is your gain. It is an incredible piece of American furniture history. Attributed to Gilbert Rohde for Troy Sunshade and categorized in many design styles; Art Deco, Machine Age, Streamline Modern, Art Moderne, International Style, and Bauhaus to name the ones I can think of. It features a shallow rectangular body of painted wood with a shallow center drawer providing knee space and three drawers on each side. The handles or pulls are painted tubular steel running horizontally the length of each drawer. The body is supported by three chromed tubular steel legs with the outside pair joining in a flattened arch just under the desktop; and the middle leg curving under the body of the desk. A horizontal chrome tube connects the three legs at the floor. The top overhangs slightly and is banded in triple ridge aluminum banding with the valleys painted black. The top itself is comprised of two materials. The sides above the drawered sections is also known by many names; Bakelite, Catalin or Cat-O-Lite, to name three. And the center section is a red faux leather sometimes called Fabrikoid. This “optometrist desk” as it is sometimes called was designed circa 1934. It is in wonderful antique condition. We have only cleaned and polished this piece rather than restoring as we felt it shows nicely with its age-related flaws.
Gilbert Rohde (1894-1944) was the son of a cabinetmaker and born and raised in New York. He is considered one of America’s premier furniture and industrial designers who helped to define American Modernism. Particularly from the late 1920s to WWII as a designer and advisor for Herman Miller Inc. But Herman Miller was not the only company where he initiated modern design. You can include Heywood-Wakefield, the Widdicomb Company, and Troy Sunshade in the list and his early work was sold at Lord and Taylor. Rohde was educated in New York City public schools, but it was a 1927 trip to France and Germany that solidified his future in design and style. He was a designer, a teacher, and a tireless advocate for modern furniture and interiors in American homes, apartments, offices, and commercial and institutional settings. His work was published in design and architecture magazines and newspapers and is held in museums worldwide. According to internet articles “Gilbert Rohde, by focusing on design for mass production, hoped to make modern design the national style of America and to bring modern design to the greatest number of consumers”.
The Troy Sunshade Company was founded in 1887 by Frank Douglas and Gus Stouder and is still in business today but they don’t make furniture! In the beginning they produced carriage sunshades but seeing the need to change with the times particularly during the Great Depression when they developed a new enterprise: Chrome Furniture. They continued this venture and expanded it through the 1950s and 1960s until the furniture division was sold to Gleason Corporation of Milwaukee in 1970. Today Troy Sunshade manufactures a large line of cloth products. Gilbert Rohde was a main thrust in the design of their chrome furniture during the 1930s.
You won’t find a more beautiful and fitting piece of 1930s American furniture design. Make it yours!