News & Politics

2006 Great Home Design: Classical Furniture

Where to find midcentury modern collectibles, from Scandinavian teak to startling designs by Noguchi, Knoll, and other masters.


This low-key, slightly scruffy shop is easy to overlook in the small Bethesda space it shares with Second Story Books.

Cantilever, which sells mostly Scandinavian and American pieces, does most business online because of the demand for midcentury modern in other cities. The owners, however, prefer to “place” their pieces with area buyers and will offer them a better price. For example, a Hans Wegner Peacock Chair, which might go for more than $5,000 in New York, is $3,200 here.

There are less-pricey buys: six Gerte Jalk dining chairs recently were $400. But most of the rare and lovely teak cabinets, dressers, and tables are in the high price range. A fabulous Danish sideboard with rollback doors runs $2,500, a rosewood-rimmed coffee table $2,200.

Cantilever, 4914 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-215-7077;


Daniel Donnelly’s showroom is a museum of mid-20th-century design. It has vintage pieces as well as licensed reproductions of celebrated works like the Eames La Chaise ($5,500).

Donnelly’s own line of new furniture pays tribute to those masters, adhering to classic proportions and materials. No cheap knockoffs here, and Donnelly’s philosophy of staying true to form ensures his works will never look dated.

Prices reflect the quality of the goods, but a bit of hunting might bag some good values. A pair of Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs circa 1970 recently sold for $5,500. A new Saarinen classic Womb chair and ottoman start at a competitive $3,000.

Daniel Donnelly Modern Design, 520 N. Fayette St., Alexandria; 703-549-4672;


Die-hard modernists will find here well-preserved and often rare items from the last century. Some pieces are so elegantly simple—like a $495 white laminated Parsons dining table from the 1970s—that they integrate well with decors ranging from sleek contemporary to traditional. Swedish and Danish modern are the shop’s bread and butter.

A divine Danish teak extension dining table ($750) and pair of matching Frem Rojle chairs ($595) were a recent excellent buy. Collectors of groovy vintage will relish the well-recognized conversation pieces, like the Aarnio hanging bubble chair ($1,295).

Owner Travis Smith has designed many area clubs and restaurants and can offer great advice for homes. He can also search his many sources for hard-to-find pieces.

Good Eye, 4918 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-244-8516;


The showroom for this trove of midcentury treasures has been scaled back by its move to the basement, but the smaller collection moved upmarket. Once a co-op of several dealers, the two owners took over and cleared out the smaller, yard-sale-like items.

Now the focus is furniture, and the pieces are finer but still hail from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. The fast-rotating stock includes plenty of Swedish and Danish modern designers, such as Hans Wegner, as well as classics from Eames and Knoll.

Prices reflect the upscale move a bit but still range in an affordable $100 to $1,500, which helps its draw among the younger U Street crowd. While much of the kitschy stuff was cleared out, accessories still abound with vintage barware, lamps, vases, clocks, ashtrays, and bowls.

Millennium Decorative Arts, 1528 U St., NW; 202-483-1218;


Unlike its sister store, Random Harvest, Random Harvest Studio carries no antiques. The collection doesn’t aspire to true reproductions of modern classics, either. Instead, its focus is on classic contemporary and transitional—many adding an Asian flavor. That means affordable furniture that plays nicely with other styles or enhances a room of authentic pieces.

There are unique pieces. The bar-height Stockholm card table with tiny slide-out shelves ($795) fits nicely into a breakfast nook. The popular steel scoop bench ($595) offers an ultra-mod accent for the end of a bed. The store sells a lot of banquettes (around $2,800)—the latest look is to group them with chairs around a dining table.