More Than A Hint of Thomas O’Brien

May 6, 2012

I don’t remember where I got this image, it could be a promo shot from Hickory Chair, it might have been in Elle Decor, or House Beautiful (their images usually have a watermark) but no matter… it’s the masculine yet pretty stylings of this room, the layers  and playful details that make me love it.  This room goes a bit 5th avenue for me, old school with a twist.  Urban sophisticated.  My style icon Thomas O’Brien is responsible for much of this furniture.

The exceptional lattice work on the back of the side chair is O’Brien’s refining and reworking of a simpler antique Georgian chair that he had seen at auction. An elegantly extended high back and more complex carving give the chair a scale that works for today, both as an occasional and a dining room option. In all, this is a caliber of chair that is increasingly hard to find from new furniture makers, which demands absolute finesse in fabrication. The Side Chair is designed two ways, to be used independently, or mixed together. A carved wood version with the lattice work back can be grouped ensuite with the arm chair for a more traditional dining room presentation. A second variation offers a fully upholstered seat and back, with the same distinctive, graceful shaping of the chair top. Standard nailheads front and rear help to outline the unique silhouette of the seat back. Also available is the Sebastian Arm Chair and Sebastian Upholstered Back Side Chair. Shown in optional Oxford finish.  Also in the shot – one of many pieces this season to feature paw or claw feet – the diminutive side table with a big personality is named after Thomas O’Brien’s dog Jones. It is a close translation of an antique occasional table found in upstate New York, with a charming, unusual, triple paw configuration of each foot. The paws are on such a bold scale that the design seems more gutsy and whimsical than nostalgic. Elaborate acanthus leaf details join each leg to the tabletop, and the carving overall is very true and fine. Shown in standard Dark Walnut finish, but this piece looks amazing – and a tad less serious – painted in the image above.

I could be wrong but I’m almost sure the armchair in the photo is the Paolo.  This continental-style design is based on French and Italian forms of the late 1930’s, with echoes of clubby origins on a luxury liner or Pullman car. For those who like a more angular style, flared arm panels reach beyond the high back, while distinctive block feet give the chair a dressy carriage. The Paolo Ottoman (2203-29) serves well in pairs and shows the same clean piping detail as the chair, a Thomas O’Brien trademark.

This low, three-drawer chest couples a spare 1950’s design with Neoclassic Brass Hepplewhite knobs. The evenly proportioned drawers, with blind parting rails, create a level, measured face, while the thin case, inset apron panel, and subtly flared legs impart a late mid-century sophistication. Standard in Antique Ivory with Neoclassic Brass knobs as shown above. Available in dozens of optional finishes and in Customer’s Own Hardware. To visualize optional finishes and hardware visit “Customize Your Furniture” on the Hickory Chair website.


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