A Designer Estate

A few weeks ago Mr. Butter and I spied an estate sale that looked right up our alley.  We’re a rather odd couple (if you haven’t realized that already): a good evening for us is grabbing a beer and sitting in front of our computer researching estate sales, an unknown item, or a designer we’ve recently discovered.  Two PhDs really know how to live it up!  There we were, on a Tuesday evening, exclaiming over Eames tables and other goodies we spied as we sifted through the photos.

So we got up early and trekked to the house, and there we waited with our friends, Sarah and Josh, who joined us for the early-morning festivities.  Once we were lined up near the front door one of the workers at the estate sale mentioned that the owner of the house was a designer for Herman Miller — and not just any designer, but Robert Propst, the inventor of the cubicle!  When she said told the crowd, a hush went over all of us and I felt very lucky to be second in line for the sale!

It all made sense now.  Mr. Butter and I both noted that the house had shelving units that resembled cubicles!  After a little research we found out that Propst had designed a number of houses on the property to showcase how his system could be transported from the office to the home.  The house was basically an open shell and the modular shelving systems created the various “rooms” in the home.  I have to admit, the kitchen seemed practical, stylish, and very usable.

We found some wonderful items for our shop and for ourselves as well, including the Kaj Franck-designed enamel bowl with “Propst” labeled on the bottom.  (If we end up selling anything from the sale, we’ll make sure to make a note of it in the etsy listing.)  Our friends snagged an amazing (and I mean, amazing) George Nelson bar cart for a song.  I have to admit, I was very jealous.

But the entire experience left a bitter taste in my mouth.  Many mid-century designers are passing away and I’m not sure they are being honored as they should be.  It’s my hope that many of us who attended the sale will give the items we bought a special place in our homes.  I know that I will.


  1. Reply
    Scott November 18, 2011

    Looks like it was an amazing experience. I share your grief about the passing of so many great Midcentury Modernists. I think the best we can do (as you are doing here) is to spread the good word about their work, lives, and impact on our contemporary culture. I’m glad you got to experience just a little link with that shared past, and then share it with us all. Keep up the good work!

  2. Reply
    Barry A. Smith November 19, 2011

    Dream estate sale. Too bad I have not been paying attention lately or I would have been there. Looked thrilling. Absolutely thrilling.

  3. Reply
    Eliza Dipper November 20, 2011

    Such an insightful conclusion to a nice post. I so agree. But you guys are doing your best to change that, if nothing else? Love the items you picked up there.

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