Pickin’ through Chester County, by Tara Dugan
TECHNOLOGY is a wonderful thing. Even in my line of work, where I spend my days venerating the design of furniture and home accessories from the middle of last century, I recognize that it is, ironically, Silicon Valley that makes it possible for us to appreciate the goods from days gone by and places far away. The internet and data storage capabilities gobbled up Borders and threaten the shelves at the Chester County Library because they provide information faster and from better sources around the world. Case in point: a four-drawer table that didn’t speak English.
I was perusing the furniture at Briggs Auction in Garnet Valley (about 25 minutes southeast of West Chester off Route 322) when I spotted a little Danish (or so I thought) modern table. It was small in scale, with four drawers and made of lovely teak. I was the successful bidder, so I brought the piece home and began my usual cleaning and research process. I soon located a tag inside a drawer, completely intact, with lots of information. One slight problem, none of it was English.
Now, I took as much high school French as anyone, but Mme Bergner could not have prepared me for this label, with its exotic punctuation and consonant blends I hadn’t seen since my childhood ABBA poster. Had to be Swedish. Google to the rescue!
The dominant wording on the label read “Bra Bohag,” which led me not to a manufacturer but rather to a funky little shop in Edinburgh, Scotland. Bra Bohag specializes in Mid-century Modern, so I ventured an email asking about my piece of the same name. Louice, the Swedish proprietor, responded quickly with a wealth of information and references, which added up to tell the tale of the table.
A Stockholm department store called Nordiska Kompaniet (like Harrod’s in London) commissioned high-end furniture and accessories from several companies from the ’50s through the ’70s. This design consortium includes well-known names such as Ljungs Industrier AB (later to become Dux, makers of the famous bed and cool window display on South 17th Street in Center City) and AB Svenska Mobelfabrikerna, as well as my own mystery label, AB Nybrofabriken Froeska. So, my piece had been made by that company under the Bra Bohag name for Nordiska Kompaniet in Stockholm sometime between the ’50s and ’70s.
I also now know that this furniture is rarely found outside of Sweden, and I am lucky to have it here in Chester County. Unless you have a Scandinavian brother-in-law, where else could you get that kind of information so quickly but from your computer?