Monday, July 12, 2010

The Journey Continues (Pt. 5) - The Roaring 80s

With the introduction of Reaganomics in the early 1980s the economy took off like a rocket. New York and Miami in particular went into overdrive, with all sorts of opportunities for doing custom furniture and cabinet work.

A chance meeting in Manhattan resulted in an opportunity to build custom wall units and other furniture - mostly for audio/video applications. For a few years our biggest customer was a showroom called Richard Mark, which was located in the New York Design Center at 200 Lexington Avenue.

Richard Mark was actually 2 companies in one location. The first company was called Audio/Video Concepts and it focussed on high end audio/video. In those days the thing to have was a Kloss Novabeam front projection T.V. and an integrated sound system that was either rack mounted or fitted into a template as individual components.

The other company provided custom furniture to accomodate the various electronics - mostly in the form of wall units and built-in cabinetry. The most popular coffee tables of the day were designed to enclose floor mounted projector units.

The photo above shows a built in wall unit that is ready to receive a Kloss projection screen. In the case of this installation the projector is ceiling mounted. There are grills in the top corners to receive tweeter speakers, while the midrange and subwoofers are located in the bottom. The electronics are fitted into a custom template.

As an indication of how old this photo is please note the large reel-to-reel tape deck at the top of the stack. The finish is high gloss Tay Wood, while the interior finish around the television was typically satin black - to reduce glare.

The built-in above was made a few years later and shows a subsequent generation of electronics. The front projection screens were eventually phased out in favour of rear projection televisions, although templated fittings for stereo components remained in vogue. The finish is cream colored lacquer.

This built-in was made for a private residence in Trump Tower. The louvered panels on either side were actually vented doors to conceal HVAC ductwork. The finish is high gloss birds eye maple.

This bar was custom made for a private residence in Philadelphia. The columns are white lacquer fitted with neon tube lights. The main body, top and trim is high gloss red Tay Wood.

This is a custom built-in for a private residence in Toronto. The wood is white washed quartered oak, with speaker grills fitted into the lower doors. Each unit has remote controlled motorized center doors to conceal the television (on the right) and stereo components (on the left).
This black lacquer wall unit was designed by Ariel Muller Designs, and was built-in to a private residence in Toronto. The design is actually quite clever because while it accomodates the large rear projection television that was the norm in the late 1980s, it was also possible to modify the unit later to receive the flat screens popular today.
This custom wall unit is actually a wardrobe unit for a master bedroom. The upper center doors are motorized, and slide side to side via remote control to reveal a television behind. The finish is high gloss Wimbledon White lacquer.

These are the bed and night stands the complement the wardrobe wall unit. The bed platform and headboard are upholstered.

In the photo above we made the desk and built-in cabinetry, which was finished in white washed quartered oak. Designed by Po Ku of Quess.

By the late 1980s we were working with some of the most recognized names in the New York design scene, including Dakota Jackson and Ron Seff. Although we did produce a number of free standing furniture pieces for Dakota, we were typically called upon to create some of his more complex pieces - especially wall units.

The wall unit above is Dakota Jackson. It was made primarily of quarter figured anigre in a high gloss finish. The plinth and accents are Cordovan Mahogany, with the tower being finished in teal lacquer. The rear projection television is custom fitted behind a template, while the pullout trays for audio components can be seen as ghosted images behind the sandblasted glass door.
This is another custom creation for Dakota Jackson; installed in a private residence in Tennessee. The main cabinetry is quartered figured anigre high gloss, while accents are antiqued silver leaf.

This is a detail photo of the vitrine area. The back is concaved with an alternating diamond pattern of quarter figured anigre and charcoal dyed birds eye maple. The glass shelves are cantilevered into the opening through slots that extend to the back of the cabinet. Custom lighting was fitted through special tubes, and I have to credit Mark Logan (Dakota Jackson's right hand man at the time) for constantly staying ahead of the curve by engineering new technologies in advance of fabrication.

In the afternoon of October 19, 1987 I received a telephone call from Joan Meltzer at the Richard Mark showroom.

"Did you hear the news?" she asked.

"What news?"

"The stock market - it crashed. It's down over 500 points."

At the time the news didn't phase me all that much. I wasn't playing the market, so a 22% drop in its value didn't affect me one way or another - or so I thought.

While the feverish momentum of business continued for another couple of years, this was a turning point that would lead to an epic decline. Where we were now working overtime with a staff size of over 20 people, by late 1992 we'd be hanging on with fewer than 5.

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