Recently, at the elite Christie’s auction house, a pair of club chairs built by western furniture legend Thomas Molesworth sold for $80,500. That price seems even more amazing when you look closely at the photo (above). Clearly these chairs supported quite a few dusty cowboy bottoms in their day!
At the same auction this Molesworth sofa sold for $25,000, the matching set of chairs went for $22,500 and the small leather and wood coffee table fetched $20,000.
Molesworth built furniture from 1931 to 1961 at his shop in Cody, Wyoming and many of the wealthy and prestigious leaders of that time were his customers. Publisher Moses Annenberg was so enamored of the style that he commissioned 245 pieces for his ranch in Wyoming. The Rockefeller ranch in Jackson, and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s house in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania also featured Molesworth’s furniture.
While Molesworth originals may be priced out of reach for most people, this classic Western style is still accessible thanks to a group of furniture makers who continue the icon’s legacy.
Interior designers often choose Molesworth style furnishings for their lodge and ranch projects because they add lively color and pattern, and they never go out of style. They are characterized by a combination of features including:
* Vertical pole detailing
* Silhouettes of cowboys, Indians or wildlife carved into the wood
* Wood burls – chunky rounded outgrowths on tree trunks and roots
* Large brass tacks
* Native American motifs
* Brightly colored leather and chimayo weaving
One of the most influential of Molesworth’s proteges was J. Michael Patrick, who founded New West Furniture in 1986. His commitment to promoting the artistry of Western furniture led to the launch of the Western Design Conference, held annually in Jackson, WY to honor the best in western furniture and fashion.
Patrick and New West Furniture produced hundreds of designs over the next 17 years and racked up many prestigious awards, including the coveted Metropolitan Home Design 100.
Sadly, this pioneer of the western furniture resurgence died in a car accident in 2003. The designs that made New West Furniture so popular were filed away. Recently Tim Lozier, one of New West’s top designers and builders, began recreating some of the iconic designs. Working from photos from old catalogs, Lozier is building chairs, sofas, tables and beds which incorporate the best of New West and Molesworth style.
[These pieces and more are available through RusticArtistry.com.]